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Transportation Technology

Alternative Energy Policies a Boon For Inflatable Electric Car 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the inflatable-submersible-still-struggling dept.
Brian Stretch writes with a story about the Mini Utility Vehicle prototype from XP Vehicles, an electric car that is partly inflatable. The recent struggles of the auto industry and a political climate that supports the development of alternative energy vehicles have given the car a better chance at actually hitting the market. Quoting: "Building a car takes many years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars traditionally. XP is able to cut a lot of the costs and timeframe because its car has 70 percent less parts than a regular car, and the company is using novel materials that require simpler factory devices, and production and manufacturing processes that lower the cost to deploy. ... The seat is inflatable, the dashboard is inflatable, and the internal structure and carrying racks are inflatable, or a mesh suspension. Instead of requiring six-axis robots, XP uses radio frequency welders that look like giant waffle irons. The factory equipment is much less expensive and the car simply has less parts that could fail. The motors are built into the rear wheels in most XP prototypes. The first cars to reach the market will have two rear hub motors and a motor controller, that's it."
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Alternative Energy Policies a Boon For Inflatable Electric Car

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  • It takes certain talent to imagine a boon in inflatable cars...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Sulphur (1548251)
      XP with an airbag. Does it come in screen blue?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      Imagining a boon in inflatable cars is bad enough, but a boon in inflatable electric cars?!

    • wish I had mod point, definitely funny and very subtle.

      • I've been discussing such ideas with a physicist friend of mine for 10 years now! He actually built structures from compressed air for fun.
        30cm thick Bridges that can hold trucks using steel cables wrapped (in a pattern) around essentially a balloon. Towers.... etc.

        Some company even made an inflated airplane WING! yes-- a balloon airfoil for a wing. truly impressive-- (BTW they use a fair amount of structure in the balloon-- but its less material and weight than anything conventional.)

        They should do more wi

        • by russotto (537200)

          What I'd like to know is why aren't there any custom motors operating higher than 3-phase around 400V? Would also like to know why we are so low on electronics experts that most are still stuck using DC motors...

          I imagine the voltage limitation has to do with preventing arcing between the windings. But so-called "DC brushless" motors aren't DC motors in the conventional sense; they're more like 3-phase AC motors run with actively switched DC instead of AC.

          • Cool. I was wondering what the limitation could be and honestly never thought about resistance being a possible limitation. I thought it might be a heat issue due to the wire being too thin or something. Perhaps its a combo of all factors?? I don't see why a coating with enough resistance couldn't be found; but its cost or size might be a diminishing return problem.

            What I'd like to find is some data from somebody trying to make an ideal motor for the situation-- lighter and with less copper being better (3

  • by hbr (556774)

    From TFA:

    all of the Lithium is located in countries that are hostel [sic] towards the U.S. - which is a bit of a problem ...

    ... which I guess means that they only reserve substandard accommodation for their US visitors, whereas everyone else gets 5-star. Rough deal.

    • all of the Lithium is located in countries that are hostel [sic] towards the U.S. - which is a bit of a problem ...

      Bolivia, China, Chile and the United States are the main sources of supply.

  • Brilliant!

    They can expand production facilities cheaply by buying up old whoopy-cushion factories and doing minimal re-tooling! They could even re-hire the old employees, as the same skill-sets would apply!

    However, I don't think I'll be the first in line to buy a new "Whoopy-Mobile". It would simply be too embarrassing to deflate at a public parking facility.

    Strat

  • by mendred (634647) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @05:37AM (#28493215) Homepage
    From reading the article, it looks as if the company has put in a lot of thought and effort into making a product that not only is technically advanced but also have developed a marketing strategy and are tailoring their product for a segment- The point about removable chargeable batteries was something that had kept crossing my mind everytime i had seen an article on electric cars and I am glad someone has gotten around to implementing it (I am unsure if anyone else has..if so please feel free to correct me!) . They appear to be getting their basics right and in addition are trying to put in some real innovation (inflatable parts).I hope they get their funding problems sorted. I for one would be rooting for them!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AuMatar (183847)

      I think that no one is going to trust an inflatable car. I do like the idea of removable batteries though. I've had it myself in the past- removable batteries sold at gas stations solves the refueling and infrastructure problems with minimal investment/retooling costs. Just drop off your old battery and pick up a new one. Charging doesn't even need to be done at the station, if the power requirements are too high- ship them to a recharger and back. But something like this needs to happen- if you can

      • "Pick up a new one"? Seriously, have you ever tried to pick up a car battery? I'm talking about the regular kind, not the kind with enough juice to propel an automobile for hours. I think I might have found a flaw in this plan of yours.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AuMatar (183847)

          Yes, they aren't *that* heavy. Only 50 pounds or so. But that doesn't matter- you'd be bringing your car with you when you pick it up. So you make it so they slide in and out onto a special cart, and the only lifting you need to do is onto the cart. If you're too infirm to do so, the clerk can do it. That's an easily solvable problem.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Lonewolf666 (259450)

            If you have a "refueling station" where you can swap the battery for a full one, fine.
            But TFA explicitly talks about taking the battery to your apartment for charging. And since we're talking about a battery pack to drive a vehicle (not just start the internal combustion engine), the battery will be a LOT bigger and heavier than a traditional car battery.
            Even with modern battery technology (some Li-ion variant) I guess the battery will be at least a 100 kg (about 220 pounds) part.

          • by sjames (1099)

            Perhaps the cart could include a scissors jack mechanism. to raise and lower the battery pack from below.

          • by BobPaul (710574) *

            A diy electric car using deep cycle lead acids might get 40 miles on 400lbs of batteries. The telsa roadster gets almost 300 miles on around 1000lbs of lithium-ion batteries. You wont go very far on 50 lbs of battery, even in a very light weight car.

        • by Joce640k (829181)
          That's why we invented wheelbarrows! (...so the Irish could learn to walk on their hind legs - ba-doom-crassh).
        • by PhilHibbs (4537)

          Car batteries are made of lead, that's why they are so heavy. These are not lead batteries.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by flyingsquid (813711)
            Car batteries are made of lead, that's why they are so heavy.They should use their advanced inflatable technology and just replace the lead batteries with lightweight, inflatable batteries.
        • by Legion303 (97901)

          "have you ever tried to pick up a car battery?"

          How scrawny are your arms that this is a problem for you, anyway?

      • by myxiplx (906307)

        "I think that no one is going to trust an inflatable car."

        Why not? As they say in the article, a good chunk of your car is now your airbag. If they're confident enough to send a door panel for the police to shoot at, and can design a car that passes crash tests *without* writing it off, it sounds like they're on to something.

        This is one to watch closely I think.

        • by Lehk228 (705449)
          survive crash tests and still be recoverable? how much you wanna bet some convenient misfortune befalls developers before they can gut the current auto industry. because that is what they are on track to do. for not too much more money you could even get the "inflation" done with a rigid foam instead of just air for people too freaked out by a car being nothing but air and composite.
        • by Korin43 (881732)
          The problem is that even though the car sounds completely fine, the vast majority of people won't trust it once they hear the word "inflatable". Keep in mind how many people drive SUVs because they're scared of small cars..
      • by PhilHibbs (4537)

        I think that no one is going to trust an inflatable car.

        If they show footage of it surviving major impacts that would crush other vehicles, and surviving a full clip of AK47 ammo without bursting, maybe they might. (the bullets just go straight through, though, so you might not survive...)

        • by sjames (1099)

          (the bullets just go straight through, though, so you might not survive...)

          Of course the same can be said of many regular passenger vehicles as well.

      • by sjames (1099)

        It's not like the frame is inflatable. The parts that are inflatable are the parts passengers' heads tend to collide with in an accident, it's probably safer if those parts are inflated rather than solid.

      • by BobPaul (710574) *

        I think that no one is going to trust an inflatable car.

        I would. Thick material under high pressure cann be extremely strong and durable.

        if the power requirements are too high- ship them to a recharger and back.

        Bad bad bad bad idea. There goes your carbon/energy savings. Now we have semis shipping depleted batteries across the country for charging. Want to know why we use power lines instead of semi-shipped batteries to power our homes? It's vastly more efficient.

        Your right that this is important, but either charge overnight at the station or, if necessary, string more powerlines. If you have to burn diesel fuel to charge a battery at

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I for one would be rooting for them!

      Aww, come on. This is soo obviously a fake. Read the article again, without i-wish-this-to-be-true-goggles.

      An inflatible car that survives crash tests. A bullet proof car at less than 1.400 lbs. "The dashboard is a preinflated airbag that has a rear projection screen." With an OLED video screen. And all that with a cost to market of $70m.

      Yeah, right.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Exactly. This is one of the first in many of "businesses" that will soak the taxpayer in the name of building a new national energy policy. Meet the new boss...
      • Aww, come on. This is soo obviously a fake. Read the article again, without i-wish-this-to-be-true-goggles.

        Why do you hate the future?

      • by sjames (1099)

        Remove the bullet proof and it starts sounding more likely. Now note that they don't claim it's bullet proof, just that the bullets won't deflate the car like a beach ball when they go through it.

        Much of the cost of developing a car is in the crash testing because they have to total the car. The XP is expected to remain serviceable after the test, so will cost a lot less to test.

        The $70M probably doesn't include the cost of developing OLED projection technology itse'f, there are plenty of others who will ha

    • by BobPaul (710574) *

      The 4 door model Tesla Motors is working on will have removable batteries. They are working to get swap stations setup across the country.

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @05:37AM (#28493223) Homepage

    Bolivia is suspected to have substantial stocks of WMDs; especially under Salar de Uyuni

  • less parts to fail.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @05:44AM (#28493257)
    ... means nothing when the few parts you do have are prone to disaster.

    never fear though - this is yet another imaginary product (they have nothing more than a computer rendering ffs), you need not fear that your car will deflate on you any time soon.

    RTFA for such gem's as this "What we have discovered is that the insurance industry is not going to let electric cars run extension chords all over the place because you trip and fall" - genius, just pure genius.

    • by pbhj (607776)

      ... means nothing when the few parts you do have are prone to disaster.

      never fear though - this is yet another imaginary product (they have nothing more than a computer rendering ffs), you need not fear that your car will deflate on you any time soon.

      Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) have been around for quite some time.

      Self-sealing gloop (like mountain bike tyres) FTW.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Self-sealing MTB tires mostly don't work. They work against cactus spines and similar, but mostly nothing else. My local bike shop guy even runs normal tubes, and just scabs them every time they fail. (He doesn't sell normal tubes though... just the expensive ones. sleazy)

    • by WytErp (1586467)
      Don't forget the battery "swap by mail-in subscription service" -- looks like you'll be able to use any old Netflix envelopes you have lying around...
  • . . . maybe this is breakthrough that we have been waiting for on the "Flying Car" front?

  • by linuxguy (98493) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @06:10AM (#28493367) Homepage

    State of Utah has more than its fair share of investment scams:

    Here is one of several articles I have seen on the topic:
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20070107/ai_n17107556/ [findarticles.com]

    And after story about the inflatable car, I got the impression that these people were looking to scam investors, and/or the federal govt.

  • by operator_error (1363139) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @06:11AM (#28493379)

    Develop a plan.

    Execute it well.

    Possibly get bought buy a larger rival. Or, the way things are going... build up resources until a 'larger' competitor with access to markets is bought.

    No tears for GM or Chrysler, please; I'm a stockholder and I want to see honest, prudent, and environmentally responsible returns.

    Release the Cruft.

    God-speed!

  • by johannesg (664142) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @06:15AM (#28493393)

    They are now too expensive as well, and their work will be outsourced to cheaper waffle irons that are presumably located somewhere in Belgium...

    • by pbhj (607776)

      They are now too expensive as well, and their work will be outsourced to cheaper waffle irons that are presumably located somewhere in Belgium...

      And when the waffle irons get too expensive we'll return to Oriental [child] labour ?

  • by naeone (1430095) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @06:33AM (#28493459)
    so when we now hear of a car being blown up in an incident it doesn't mean its terror related
    • by joetee (13215)

      The car being "Un-Blown" would be worse: Think what a BB-gun or hypodermic needles would do, let alone one poke by a Laser beam!

  • by cyrano.mac (916276) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @07:23AM (#28493657)
    The comments here have shown me one thing: it's all in the mind of the buyer. Cars like this don't turn over on a roundabout, neither will they be blown away by the wind. But they won't sell, cause customers (at least in the US) seem to have a different mindset. Most of the commenters seem to want a heavy, typical American concept which consumes a lot, of course. Now maybe it's a hoax, maybe not. But they'd better look at Euro, Asian and African markets for a concept like this. Over here, we've had a number of electric vehicles on the road since 20 yrs. or so. Most of them based on existing small cars. Most of these projects were fairly succes full given their niche market, because people don't mind driving a really small car. Tata (India) will be present in the US market real soon. First with a small car with a classic engine, later on with an air powered car. They have the size, money and production facilities to make this work. Others are coming too. But will they be able to change US' customers mindset?
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Most of the commenters seem to want a heavy, typical American concept which consumes a lot, of course. Now maybe it's a hoax, maybe not.

      You're dumb. What the commenters want is to not die. Conceptually I would love to drive a tiny car like this if only I would fit in it (I am two meters tall) but realistically someone with a midsize car and no clue could come along and vaporize you. With vehicles like my super cab F250 on the road, and people who should in no wise be permitted to pilot a bicycle let alone an automobile often driving them, a small vehicle like that is mostly a pre-formed coffin.

      Others are coming too. But will they be able to change US' customers mindset?

      Nope. It's a chicken-and-egg situation. If you

      • by downix (84795) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @09:55AM (#28494383) Homepage

        You know, this fallacy really needs to die. I saw a front end collision between a Smart car and an F450, yeah that super-big thing, all decked out with rims and everything. The F450 wound up on top of the smart car. And what about the Smart Car driver? He opened his door, and walked out. The F450 driver, hospital with major injury despite wering a seatbelt.

        That was the day I realized that the "big cars are safe cars" idea was a complete fraud.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ColdWetDog (752185)
          I think I ran over a Mini Cooper the other day.....
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          That was the day I realized that the "big cars are safe cars" idea was a complete fraud.

          Big cars are not automatically safe, nor are small cars automatically unsafe. The Smart is an excellent example of a well-engineered small car. There are numerous counterexamples, however; furthermore, they are far more numerous. I have a big unsafe car (1992 F250 4x4 Diesel... although if I took a front-end from one of those in a Smart I'd be worried about ending up with an International-Navistar Diesel V8 in my mouth) and a big safe car (1982 MBZ 300SD) and prefer to have some mass and some extended crump

          • 1. I'd rather avoid a collision than survive it. Smaller cars tend to be easier to manuever, so...

            2. Larger cars tend to cost more and have more safety features as a result. I genuinely suspect it's dollars more than intrinsic size that determine any safety advantage that larger cars have here.

    • by topnob (1195249)
      Actually I'm from Australia and I guess Australia is in the Euro, Asian and African market as well.....wait isn't that the REST of the WORLD!! Anyway I was waiting for my friend to pick me up in his tiny car(which he bought after he traded in his fuel guzzler(v6 commodore Aussies out there)), and nearly every car that went past was small, there were only a couple of SUVs(like 1 in 10 or so). It was weird, i mentioned it to my friend when he picked me up and hes said everyone's buying small cars these days
    • by toppavak (943659)

      They have the size, money and production facilities to make this work. Others are coming too. But will they be able to change US' customers mindset?

      I think you nailed it on the head right there- the problem isn't technology but culture. Not just the culture of the consumer either, but the culture of the company in charge. Tata is, historically, a very socially-focused company. Its historical roots are deeply intertwined with the Indian people and it shows in a lot of the work they do. Amartya Sen has an excellent essay on the history of Tata in The Argumentative Indian. Americans and American companies need to learn to dream again.

    • by Quothz (683368)

      But will they be able to change US' customers mindset?

      Probably depends on the price point. People bought Pintos - even used ones. But you're right: If this isn't vaporware, these guys have a lot of social inertia to overcome. I confess I'm surprised at how much resistance there is to the idea here - the general public will probably be much harsher.

      Side note: What's wrong with you people?!? One hundred and nine comments and not a single Dr. Schlock [sluggy.com] reference?

    • But will they be able to change US' customers mindset?

      Absolutely not. Nobody is going to put their family in this inflatable go kart deathtrap; it would be humiliating to drive such a crappy little car. Americans prefer a larger, heavier, and safer vehicle (preferably stylish too although that is not always possible) above fuel economy. Do we complain about higher fuel prices? Sure we do. Is it enough to get us out of our SUV family haulers or large sedans? Of course not. The problem with the small-car people is that all of their arguments are bunko for the ty

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So go ahead and call me a grammar Nazi. At least I'm not the illiterate clot.

    • Saved me from posting the same thing.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by julesh (229690)

      less

            determiner & pronoun 1 a smaller amount of; not as much. 2 fewer in number

      (source: Compact Oxford English Dictionary)

      Sounds like meaning 2 is correct in this situation. Yes, fewer is better, but I don't think less is actually incorrect.

    • So go ahead and call me a grammar Nazi. At least I'm not the illiterate clot.

       
       

      Screw the grammar, how about the spelling in the article?

       

      "What we've discovered is that the insurance industry is not going to let electric cars run extension chords all over the place"

       

      "all of the Lithium is located in countries that are hostel towards the U.S."

  • The first cars to reach the market will have two rear hub motors and a motor controller, that's it.

    You mean there is no batteries ? ;-)

  • by Biff Stu (654099) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @07:57AM (#28493769)

    My inflatable date will just love it.

  • No, seriously, there's no bloody way I'm getting into a car with a control system running Windows. I don't want the dashboard telling me "A fatal exception has occurred...".

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Turzyx (1462339)
      dude1: Man, I can't believe it, my car crashed!

      dude2: Oh my god! Are you OK!?

      dude1: No, I meant.... Oh nevermind.
    • by topnob (1195249)
      Thats actually exactly what I thought as well....Make sure you reboot it nightly just in case.... lol
    • by downix (84795)

      I'm just imagining when a new skin turns out to have a virus. Every so often your speedometer pops up with "Your system is infected with 69 viruses, please purchase Antivirus 2009 to correct"

      • by Dexx (34621)

        A clever virus would just up your speed a few mph so you get ticketed frequently.

  • I wish them the best, but their project is doomed. The EV market is clearly going towards batteries, the comments in the article about the scarcity of lithium (11th most numerous element in the ocean) are laughable. In current battery costs, only a small percentage goes towards the lithium raw material purchase. At least EVs more or less piggyback off the current electric grid, which obviously couldn't handle transportation demands, but its a start.
    The problems with fuel cells are numerous. Where do yo
    • Do not say stupid things like "11th most numerous element in the ocean". (a It's a pain in the ass to extract the first two. (b relative abundance != abundance, and (c it's meaningless to determine how easy it will be to extract.

      A much better number would be .1 to .2 parts per million (source: wikipedia). So to obtain 1 kg of lithium, you'd only have to process 5,000,000-10,000,000 kg of seawater. Gee, I wonder why no one is doing this?

  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @09:35AM (#28494239) Homepage Journal

    Speaking of innovative body construction and drive train technology, here [amazon.com] is car which is constructed almost entirely of injection molded parts, and whose biomass powered drive train qualifies it as a zero emissions vehicle.

    On top of that, it has that elusive quality that makes a car a hit: style. Within the target market segment, its appeal is undeniable. Best of all, it's not a concept car. You can buy it today.

  • The web comic Sluggy Freelance ( http://www.sluggy.com/ [sluggy.com] ) has had an ongoing character for years that developed all sorts of inflatable tech. I was halfway expecting to see the name Dr. Schlock in the article.

    Dave.

  • Badly Faked (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Andy_R (114137) on Saturday June 27, 2009 @10:05AM (#28494451) Homepage Journal

    The pictures in the linked article are of a 2003 model MCC Smart [wikipedia.org]. It's been stretched out a bit, they didn't even bother to make the wheels fit into the wheelarches after stretching!

    • by bXTr (123510)
      A bit off-topic, so apologies up front. The Smart looks too much like the Urkelmobile for my taste, but their Smart Roadster looks decent.
  • Power is not measured in kWh...

    ...That's a unit of energy (in case you didn't have time to RTFA). If they can't make a simple table without screwing up their units, can they really make a car?

  • is this really a need crying out to be filled? I thought a smart car was already plastic hung on a metal frame. Maybe for things like the seats materials science could come up with a durable and rigid foamed substance that was still light but wasn't actually inflatable? Same for the dashboard. Why not a rigid material?

  • The strongest parts of a car are already inflateable. However, those parts are quite heavy. Inflateable parts are not necessarily lighter than metal parts.
  • I would rather like to have a RealCar.

    I will read the article now.

  • 'XP started out with an investment from Microsoft, which offered a majority of its software products and a very large number of its licenses to build some process management. XP is basing its collaborative space around the Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server [pddnet.com]'
  • Phase 3 -> Profit

    I guess we will have to charge for the air to inflate the vehicle's parts!

    -PIT

  • ...It will be coolest to have a car that's partly deflated.

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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