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230mph Electric Car 768

An anonymous reader writes "It ain't cheap, but Hiroshi Shimizu has finally shown off his latest electric car 'Eliica'. It accelerates faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo, and will cruise for 200 miles on a one hour charge. Stories at drive.com.au, and an image video and tech video. Interestingly, Shimizu believes that the Japanese motor industry is deliberately ignoring his invention and instead focusing on complex hybrids, as a simple electric engine dramatically lowers the cost of manufacturing, and will lead to a flood of cheap, mass produced cars from Chinese factories." A UK auto site has a story as well, including a test drive.
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230mph Electric Car

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  • Systemic Problems (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Oculus Habent ( 562837 ) * <oculus...habent@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:03PM (#10884690) Journal
    Shimizu believes that the Japanese motor industry is deliberately ignoring his invention and instead focusing on complex hybrids

    Of course they are. Electric cars may be more efficient and cheaper to build, but you have to plug them in and wait. That's not acceptable, if only once every year when your friend/family member needs a ride.
    • Re:Systemic Problems (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MKalus ( 72765 ) <mkalusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:11PM (#10884737) Homepage
      A couple of years ago somoene suggested a "Battery Exchange".

      Think of it like the Propane tanks you can exchange at the Home Depot or Supermarket. You just simply would drive up to the "gas station", the empty battery gets pulled out, and a charged one installed.

      Done, no muss, no fuss, no waiting.

      This would also make sure that you always have a working battery AND it could also lower the entry level as you wouldn't need to replace the battery pack every couple of months.
      • by miratrix ( 601203 ) * on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:16PM (#10884774)
        Problem here is that batteries rely on chemical reactions and they become less and less efficient as you use it. It's more noticeable in certain chemicals (ie, Ni-Cad) than others (Li-Ion).

        So, unless the charge station periodically takes out the old batteries and replaces them with brand new ones (which will cost a bundle of money, something they'll have to somehow pass on) people will start to see less and less mileage out from their "newly" replaced batteries. Would you be willing to trade in your brand new set of batteries and possibly get something that's close to dying?
        • Re:Systemic Problems (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:50PM (#10884847)
          The sensible thing would be to include built-in watt-hour meters on the batteries. You'd only pay for the amount of juice you actually consumed on that particular battery pack before you swapped it out. If you got an especially weak set of batteries, you would have to swap it out sooner, but you'd pay less for that swap.

          (Unless you're returning a rental car. Then they'd be sure to always bill you for a 100% charge at 5X the standard rate + 23% tax no matter what you actually used.)

          • Re:Systemic Problems (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Malc ( 1751 )
            How do those meters work? Laptop batteries lose 20% of their capacity after one year, yet we still seem to charge them for the same length of time and their meters show them at 100% capacity.
            • Re:Systemic Problems (Score:4, Informative)

              by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:46AM (#10885197)
              These meters would actually measure the voltage and amperage drained from batteries while they are in use. This aspect of the tech is very straightforward and we've known how to do it for over a century.

              The laptop meters you're thinking guestimate a percentage of charge left. The meters we're thinking of are more like the ones on the side of your house. They don't care what you are using in the house or what condition the generating station is in. They simply measure the amount of energy that has passed through them.
        • Re:Systemic Problems (Score:3, Informative)

          by MKalus ( 72765 )
          That was the idea behind it, you had a basic monthly "membership" and then you paid for each "refill" a small amount.

          That idea actually is old, it was initially proposed back in Germany in the late 80s, the idea being used for Busses who would "drag" the battery on a cart behind them.
        • by RebelWebmaster ( 628941 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:06AM (#10884955)
          If people are accustomed to paying for gasoline, would it be out of the question for them to pay a fee when they get a fresh battery? That fee could obviously cover the costs of battery replacements as needed.
        • by PhYrE2k2 ( 806396 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @01:22AM (#10885381)
          This is very similar to Chep pallets. You (as a company who ships stuff) simply reports who you shipped pallets to, and in the end, Chep has a good idea of what everyone has (also noting what breaks). In the end, you get a higher quality pallet than a standard wood one. Similarly, you 'subscribe' to the service, they always know which battery you have and what the life is on it (X charges), and you pay for each 'fill up'. At the end of the month, you get a bill for the number of swaps you made. Include some fancy monitoring gadgets on the top that measure their effeciency of their last few runs and you can easily see what you should expect out of this run (and even calibrate a fuel guage acurately). Think about it :) What we really need is better battery cell technology that doesn't have these issues.
      • by StCredZero ( 169093 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:43AM (#10885185)
        Vanadium Redox batteries solve a lot of these problems. You can fill them with charged solution in the same way you fill up a tank of gasoline.

        These are already in industrial use. They are discussed here [seastead.org]
    • Change insurance! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:16PM (#10884772) Homepage
      Of course they are. Electric cars may be more efficient and cheaper to build, but you have to plug them in and wait. That's not acceptable, if only once every year when your friend/family member needs a ride.

      I disagree - I would happily have one. First, it looks wicked! And second, by far the majority of my driving is less than 50 km / day on weekdays. There would be no problem using it as a commuting vehicle for me.

      What I think really needs to change, is in the insurance arena. I own a 1989 Toyota 4runner. Reliable, but hellish on gas. I own this vehicle, because there are occasions when I *NEED* the carrying capacity and 4WD (hiking, whitewater kayaking etc). Yes, I own a SUV, and I am one of the few with a legitimate use for it.

      Having said this, I don't need an SUV to commute to work. If it were possible for me to switch my plates to a more fuel efficent car - without taking out a separate policy - and only use my SUV when I needed it, I would be saving myself money, and doing a great deal for the environment. As it is, here in BC, if you have two vehicles, you have two insurance policies, there is no sharing allowed.

      An electric car would be perfect for that.
      • They have a car sharing scheme in London, which is pretty cool:

        You sign up and get a smartcard. You use the web to select what make/model car you want, and when you need it from/to. It gives you the pickup location nearest your house.

        When you want to use the car, you go to the point at the right time, and place your smartcard on the windscreen. The doors and glove compartment open, giving you the keys. You then have full use of the car until your time's up. The cars are always gassed, always clean, a

    • Or maybe just because it's ugly as sin? Naaaah.
  • It should be noted (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dozix007 ( 690662 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:04PM (#10884701)
    I think that it should be noted that electric motors always accelerate faster than their combustion counterparts. That is because their torque begins at it's highest during the beginning of the acceleration cycle, not the end like a combustion.
    • correction. Torque in a combustion engine (in cars) is typically in the middle. somewhere between 2000 and 5000 rpm.

      Horsepower is on the high end.
      • Horsepower is on the high end.

        That's because HP is a function of engine RPM and gearing .

    • by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:54PM (#10884873)
      I think that it should be noted that electric motors always accelerate faster than their combustion counterparts.

      This isn't true.
      They only accelerate fast IF YOU'RE STARING THE ENGINE AT ZERO RPM. Most of the time you gas-powered car doesn't sit there at ZERO RPM. It might be fair to say that an electric motor will always accelerate faster from ZERO RPM, but that sounds a lot less impressive (and with good reason)

      Anyone who knows even a little about drag racing knows that you can get all the torque your tires can handle and then some while starting from a dead stop. This is because a gas-powered car has a clutch and transmission.
      • by Xandu ( 99419 ) * <matt.truch@net> on Monday November 22, 2004 @01:23AM (#10885390) Homepage Journal
        I think the point the parent poster was making was that given two 'similarly' sized motors, electrics' have more torque.

        Look at the specs [toyota.com] for the Prius:

        Gas Engine:
        76 hp @ 5000 rpm
        82 ft-lb @ 4200 rpm

        Electric Motor:
        67 hp @ 1200-1540 rpm
        295 ft-lb @ 0-1200 rpm

        Both generate comperable max horsepower (albeit at different speeds), but the electric motor has "torque coming out the ass", and does so even at 0 rpm.
        • by lar1 ( 97256 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @04:46AM (#10886262) Homepage
          Not only does the motor have "torque coming out the ass" even at 0 RPM, but its torque output is actually at its maximum at 0 RPM.

          In fact, the torque vs speed curve for a DC motor is a linear function that passes through the points (0 RPM, StallTorque) and (FreeSpeed, 0 ft-lb) where StallTorque is the maximum torque the motor can produce (the rotor is locked under load) and FreeSpeed is the speed of the rotor under no load.

          Also of interest is the fact that at either of the extremes, that is, at stall or at no load, the motor is actually performing no mechanical work, despite consuming a (potentially large) amount of electricity.

          At any rate, most performance EVs use AC drive systems. My '75 Rabbit conversion, however, uses a 20HP DC motor. And, yes, I can reach and maintain highway speeds (65-70 mph) in a reasonable amount of time.

          http://www.eaaev.org/ [eaaev.org] for some EV info.
  • by JoeShmoe950 ( 605274 ) <CrazyNorman@gmail.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:04PM (#10884703) Homepage
    Generally competition helps the costumers, yet here it is, damaging a very good car
    • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:42PM (#10884811) Homepage Journal
      Generally competition helps the costumers, yet here it is, damaging a very good car

      More correctly, here it is purportedly damaging a very good car.

      The reality is that these things are seldom as straightforward as they seem, and whenever someone claims that the industry is in some giant collusion to keep an innovation down (rather that the more credible scenario that they are mercilessly looking for an opportunity to devastate their competitors and capture the market) you really need to look for the tinfoil helmets, and look deeper than the surface.

      In this case very little is said, at least in the non-slashdotted article, about things like range, yet that has traditionally been the killer of electric cars. The motors and other basic element of designs are very well understood (putting many motors on a car is hardly innovative), but without sufficient power reserves it simply won't sell -- the whole reason why hybrids exist is that they allow them to leverage the tremendous power reserves of gas because batteries on their own are insufficient. Hence why the industry has been vigorously exploring fuel cells and electricity storage systems, but the technology isn't there yet. The car part of the equation isn't the problem.
      • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @01:21AM (#10885372)

        The reality is that these things are seldom as straightforward as they seem, and whenever someone claims that the industry is in some giant collusion to keep an innovation down (rather that the more credible scenario that they are mercilessly looking for an opportunity to devastate their competitors and capture the market) you really need to look for the tinfoil helmets, and look deeper than the surface.

        You are just saying that because you are an industry mole. We all know that Detroit has a carburetor that will get 500 mpg on a gallon of tap water, but hasn't released it to the public because of the vast conspiracy with the oil companies, Saudi Arabia, and the global masonic conspiracy.

  • by Futaba-chan ( 541818 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:06PM (#10884708)
    Shimizu believes that the Japanese motor industry is deliberately ignoring his invention and instead focusing on complex hybrids, as a simple electric engine dramatically lowers the cost of manufacturing, and will lead to a flood of cheap, mass produced cars from Chinese factories.

    Presumably, the Chinese could license and start building these themselves, without waiting for Japan's lead? 200 miles is the critical value that I've been waiting for for a range, assuming that the recharge time isn't any longer than overnight....

    • by InfiniteWisdom ( 530090 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:41PM (#10884805) Homepage
      One hour is definitely less than overnight, assuming you don't live close to the arctic circle
    • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @04:23AM (#10886208)
      No, I think the point is that the Chinese want to wait until owning an electric car is a realistic proposition for normal people, which means densely-distributed filling/charging stations and other infrastructure. They would understandably want Japanese, European and American auto makers to put that stuff in place (probably by pulling political strings, as they certainly can).

      You could have an awesome electric car for sale now, and nobody will buy it, for fear of being stranded.

      I always knew that we've got "combustion lock-in" which always seemed a bit irrational to me. I guess I didn't think it might be because of a conspiracy to shut out emerging auto competition. But is that a crazy explanation? Not really.

      But... here's a way China could really kick our ass if they wanted to: They set up the infrastructure in their own country to run electric cars, get good at making them, and laugh at us while we're sending billions per week to the Middle East. It's not like the Chinese market is small, and I bet they could export the tech to India, Thailand, etc. That's enough to get this caught on. China is beginning to realize that they have the luxury of giving the world the finger. They can make their own DVD format, their own fancy cell phones, etc., and just aim those things at the domestic market... and they do fine! It might not be easy for them to break through with auto manufacturing, but I expect them to try (I don't know, have they already? I know they had some Porsche engineers meeting with the government asking them to propose a Wagen for the Chinese Volk....) The Chinese government might still have enough power to "give incentives" to large numbers of people to buy domestic cars once they're made. Of course, they could do that more effectively still if they start taxing gas at $10/gallon and using the proceeds to subsidize electric cars. It's in their interest anyway; they don't have a lot of domestic oil either.

  • Ugly? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:07PM (#10884714) Homepage
    Just going out on a limb here, but maybe they're ignoring his car because its ugly?

    All kidding aside, I'm not trying to troll, and I know that there's probably some merit to his claims. But for the love of god, why do all these new efficient cars have to be so damned ugly? The prius is hideous, so is the echo, and now this?

    I know some people will disagree, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but come on...

  • recharge time? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Almost_anonymous_cow ( 671896 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:08PM (#10884720)
    The UK auto link in the submission text says recharge time is 10 hours not the 1 hour quoted above. So whos right?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:09PM (#10884722)
    USA may have to invade to stop this.
  • Kinda neat ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:09PM (#10884725) Homepage
    At the risk of sounding like a shill for the /. editors, I recently became a paid subscriber [slashdot.org] and it was pretty sweet for this article as the video's were smooth, will be interested to see if they hold up under a /.'ing ... you may need to head over to MirrorDot [mirrordot.com] if it slows down.

    The "tech video" isn't worth much IMHO (unless you understand Japanese), but the image video was kinda amusing in that it had data shown on the screen, but the Japanese style of commercials is definitely different than I'm used to and was entertaining in a different type of way.

    One more interesting thing not mentioned above is that it has 8 wheels.

  • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:09PM (#10884727)
    Because it looks so damn cool. The designer appears to have overdosed on Thunderbirds during his youth.
  • by ReeprFlame ( 745959 ) <kc2lto@SOMETHINGgmail.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:10PM (#10884734) Homepage
    American hated the concept of Electric Motors in cars for one simple fact. Speed. They like to go fast and with the ones introduced to us, they did not. They were slower, hybrid animals that may have accelerated faster, but were not up to par by American standards. At least in a few years this car proposed will develop into something more hormone ravaged teens will dream and adult driving enthusiasts will utilize. Only now, to develop a ample charging device...
    • by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:19AM (#10885052)
      American hated the concept of Electric Motors in cars for one simple fact. Speed.

      Actually, there are LOTS of reasons:

      • Ever have trouble starting your car on a really cold day? Now imagine if you had to use those batteries to drive around.
      • Ever want to go on a trip?
      • Excited about the idea of replacing thousands of dollars in batteries every N years?
      • Want a car that handles well? That means it needs to be light. Batteries just do not have the energy density of gasoline.
      • I've never seen a electric car with very good crash protection. There's no way my dad is going to give up his Volvo for something that doesn't even have real side doors, [lbl.gov] let alone an acutally safe passenger compartment.

      Sure it doesn't help that most electric cars are slow as hell, but they have tons of other inherent problems too. Every once in a while someone builds a fast electric car (there have been other fast electrics on the front page of /.), but it's never something that would actually work for mass consumption.

      For $10,000 I could make a picnic table faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo but that doesn't make it the wave of the future.
      The thing that sucks is not actually speed, but the inherent tradeoffs demanded by an electric car. You might get the speed but not the range, or like my picnic table you might get the speed and not even show up to compete on the other factors that make a car actually "good."

      One thing at annoys me about this article people comparing acceleration of vehicles that aren't even in the same class. There are lots of cars out there faster than a Porsche IN A STRAIGHT LINE, but Porsches are not built to drive in a straight line.

      The thing I have yet to see is an electric car that competes with ALL the perfomance characteristics of a good car. Automakers could easily fix your speed complaint but they would do so at the expense of equally important factors.
      • It's very clear that you're just trolling, but what the hell... I'll reply anyhow.

        Ever have trouble starting your car on a really cold day? Now imagine if you had to use those batteries to drive around.

        Your batteries aren't what makes your car hard to start (unless you've got a really crappy battery).

        Plus, the batteries in this vehicle are NOT lead-acid like the ones in your car.

        If it was actually an issue, the battery compartment could easily be insulated (a combustion engine compartment could not) a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:12PM (#10884746)
    One of my favorite jokes: "There are liars, there are damn liars, and then there are battery chemists."

    Electric cars don't become economical until batteries do. Don't hold your breath either. People have been working on this for a long time and there doesn't seem to be a breakthrough in the offing.
  • Actually.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:13PM (#10884748) Homepage
    ... that wouldn't be an issue with a replacable cell station.

    Consider the gas station. We pull in, refuel and leave. How could the gas station business model work with an electric car? Simple. No one wants to wait for a battery to charge. But what if there was a cell-swap activity involved rather than a recharge? Perhaps in the future we'll be pulling into a station and they swap out our battery cells instead of adding more fuel? They make a profit by offering bad cell insurance or whatever and they get to own the cells... I dunno... I haven't really thought it through to the detail but on the outside it seems like a good way to continue our general business model and to continue to provide convenience to the end user. And most assuredly, the daily work-commuter would plug his machine in to charge each night.

    But as for the idea that current auto makers intentionally suppressing electric cars? I'll go in on that since there is still too much money at stake for the old ways and the pressure would come from too many sources to determine any particular "bad guys." We just have to wait for the fossil fuels to run out before we can really expect electric cars to really take off...and then we can expect the current oligopoly to find a way to lock up the electric car and fuel systems in some other way... somehow they'll make a privately owned windmill to charge your car illegal...
    • by CiXeL ( 56313 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:29PM (#10884790) Homepage
      If you watched or know the story of Tucker you'd see that you cannot challenge a market with powerful players without being squashed. Theres only one way around this and that is to go overseas and establish the technology in another country under the protective wing of the government and then introduce it as an import everywhere around the globe.

      Tucker was unable to win against the big three auto makers, nor was Delorean.

      Mark my words, the only way we will ever see a flying car or radically advanced automobiles or cheap diamonds is if another government does it first.

      If you dont want the powerful companies that control the US to stifle what you're doing take your innovation overseas and develop it there. That is the only way you can become a real player.
    • Re:Actually.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shirai ( 42309 )
      Another way of making electric cars easier to live with is to have an automatic charging station in the garage much like a digital camera dock at home. One that you wouldn't have to think about. Granted, you'd have to own a garage but you have to start somewhere.

      Basically, you'd drive in and the car would attach to a charger. Given that many people aren't ultra precision drivers, there would have to be some sort of robotic arm that could connect to the car.

      Yes, it would cost money but in mass, it shouldn'
    • Re:Actually.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @05:23AM (#10886372) Journal
      You raise basically two separate points, so I'll address them separately:

      1. No battery comes even close to the energy density of gasoline. I.e., batteries are heavier and larger than the same energy stored gasoline. And unsurprisingly this car is a huge 8-wheeler behemoth just to store enough batteries for a 200 mile cruise.

      Worse yet, you also have to move those batteries. If a car has an extra, say, 500 kilos worth of batteries, it needs to accelerate and decelerate that extra weight as well. I.e., to have the same range and acceleration an electric car actually needs _more_ energy, because it needs to move more weight. Or to put it otherwise, to have the same range and acceleration, it carries batteries not only to match the energy value of a tank full of gas, but probably twice that.

      So the gas station needs to swap all that. Instead of storing, say, 20 kilos of gasoline to refill a car, they need to store some 500 kilos worth of batteries per car served.

      Can you see yet why that's not an economical idea?

      2. We're talking a car that takes 10 hours to refill, has only 200 miles range between refills, is huge, and would cost 170,000 dollars to produce.

      Sorry, no offense, but it seems to me like you don't need a conspiracy theory there. The car manufacturers would actually _love_ to build a better mouse trap than the competitors. But this car is simply _not_ the better mouse trap.

      Yes, everyone keeps saying how it could make a nice car to _only_ drive to work and back, so you don't need more range and don't mind the 10 hour refill time. But how many would actually pay, say, $180,000 for a car to drive to work and back? (Assuming that the manufacturer sells it at only 5.9% more than the production costs.)

      I don't know about you, but if I actually bought an 180,000$ car, I'd expect a helluva lot more from it than this car can do.

      There just isn't a market for this car. That's all. There's no need to reach for the tinfoil hat, when a perfectly logical business reason exists.
  • by Dolphinzilla ( 199489 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:14PM (#10884753) Journal
    Someone actually made "The Homer" a reality !
  • I RTFA and... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThomasFlip ( 669988 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:15PM (#10884767)
    Although it may goto 200 mph on a one hour charge, The only downsides, apart from the tiny cockpit, are that it takes 10 hours to recharge, and a production version would cost £170,000.

    The slashdot post was a bit misleading I think, still pretty cool though.
  • by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:36PM (#10884795) Homepage Journal
    I commute about 600 miles (1000km) per week, almost all on the Interstate. I would love to have one of these things.
    • It bothers me to use the amount of gasoline I do, but the family has to eat
    • It would probably save me $300/month in fuel and maintenance
    • I'd much rather pay to own something than pay money to some multinational corporation
    • I could probably get there *lots* faster >-)
  • Formula 1 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joshuaobrien ( 588416 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:38PM (#10884796) Homepage
    If they can get electric cars to outperform others in Formula 1, that's when they'll break into public consciousness as legitimate vehicles.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:39PM (#10884798)
    There's a bunch of problems with electric only cars which aren't obvious at first glance:
    1. Charging. You need to let these cars sit for a period of time between use to let the batteries top up. Without that, it's just a very expensive paperweight (and not a very good one at that.)
    2. Battery life. A typical Li-ion battery will lose twenty percent of its capacity [wikipedia.org] every year, from the day that they are manufactured. With a pure electric vehicle, that means a 20% drop in range. Would you buy a car that ranges up to 200 km the first year; 160 km the second; 128 km the third; and 102 km the fourth? (ie: a 50% drop in range every three and a bit years.) Would you buy a new set of batteries (see next point) every three years, or even more often?
    3. Cost. How much will those Li-ion batteries cost? (Hint: they're not cheap. My PowerBook needs a battery that costs $US130. And that's just a tiny fraction of what a car engine would need...)
    4. Charge cycles. The more you use a Li-ion battery, the faster it degrades. (The above 20% is regardless of usage, btw -- so even if the car sits in the garage...)
    Those are just off the top of my head. There's probably plenty more. Car manufacturers know damn well that with disadvantages like the above, consumers won't buy. That's why they're not interested. There's no conspiracy here, folks. Move along.
    • by cartman ( 18204 )

      Unfortunately, the difficulties are much greater than that. Li-ion batteries are incredibly heavy, and therefore difficult to transport in a car. The vast majority of the electricity expended is wasted in just carrying the extra weight of the batteries.

      In this case, they probably achieved the 200 mile range by using 10 times the normal number of batteries. But the car probably weighs 10 tons. I bet that's why it's huge, and has eight wheels (including four in the front).

      Just recharging that many Li-ion

      • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @01:53AM (#10885501) Journal
        Li-ion batteries are incredibly heavy, and therefore difficult to transport in a car. The vast majority of the electricity expended is wasted in just carrying the extra weight of the batteries.

        This is pure bullshit.

        First of all, LiIon is about as light as batteries get. Lead Acid and NiMH batteries are FAR heavier, and cars with lead-acid batteries have been getting ranges over 100miles for a long time.

        There is nothing "difficult" about transfering them. They are quite light. Lighter in fact than the engine and transmission in conventional cars.

        Plus, if the batteries were, in fact, as light as air, they'd have to put some lead weights into the car. Without the weight of an engine, or batteries, your car would be in real danger of getting blown off the road in high winds, or even stolen by just being picked up and caried away by a couple guys :-) Would you feel safe driving 80MPH down the freeway, in a car that only weighs 400 pounds?

        But the car probably weighs 10 tons.

        Very unlikely. It would be INCREDIBLY difficult to get up to 200MPH with electric motors having to hault 10 tons. Plus, the story mentions it's amazing acceleration, which would just not be possible if it weighed that much. I'm willing to guarantee it's doesn't weigh more than 2 tons.

        I bet that's why it's huge, and has eight wheels

        That's a ridiculous assumption to make. It's most likely got so many wheels because it needs serious traction for such acceleration. If you look at racing vehicles that have incredible acceleration, you see absolutely HUGE rear wheels. Increasing the number of standard wheels is a more practical way to get the increased traction needed.

        The idea of using batteries to power cars was totally mistaken from the outset, and has been completely discredited by now. Batteries simply don't have the energy density required. They can't be used to power cars until there's a revolutionary advancement in battery technology, but none has been forthcoming after more than a century of research.

        Every single point you made in the above paragraph is just completely and blatantly wrong.

        Of course, we should all be suspicious of those pepole who say: "I have a revolutionary idea that will transform the automobile industry -- but General Motors is trying to suppress me!!"

        Suspicious is fine, but there is plenty of evidence to support that fact. Just look at the story of GM pulling their EV1 from the market, despite great demand, or the similar story behind every other major manufacturer's story.

        Venture capital would chase you to the ends of the earth, if you had a real revolutionary idea.

        Funny how just about every revolution in history proves you wrong. When it happens, it's almost always luck that the revolutionaries get the money they need to make it happen.

        Goddard never found any interest in rockets. Tesla died penniless, despite numerous revolutionary inventions.

        some people overrate the importance of their ideas, and attribute their failure to a conspiracy to ignore them.

        Where has this guy failed? His vehicle is a great success, and with some investors, he could make it more practical than conventional vehicles.
    • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:31AM (#10885108) Homepage
      That's why you want to use a RUF [www.ruf.dk]. It only needs a small set of batteries, because the guideway powers the car on trips longer than ten miles.
    • You need to let these cars sit for a period of time between use to let the batteries top up.

      With the exception of road trips, this is not the slightest bit of a limitation. You plug-in your car at night, and then can drive it all day.

      Even if you drive it more than the max range on a single charge, just leaving it plugged-in for just an hour or so (at work, at home, wherever you've stopped) will help greatly to increase your range. Most people will just need to plug it in once a day. A lot like golf car

  • transmission (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Karma Sucks ( 127136 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:42PM (#10884806)
    Why is there no transmission?

    Don't you still have to balance power vs speed with gears? Or I guess with electricity you can supply power and speed on demand?

    It'll be sad day when standard transmission dies out!
    • electric motors (Score:5, Informative)

      by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:52PM (#10884866) Homepage Journal
      essentially have perfectly flat torque over their entire RPM range. They can keep spinning and making torque at really, really high RPMs so they dont need to be geared down as road speed increases.

      ICE (internal combustion engines) really only produce torque in a VERY narrow range of revolutions, and are limited to a fairly low maximum rev count by mechanical issues..

      an electric motor, comparatively, will spin as fast as you want it to, and make the same torque at any rpm (within reason)

      as someone else pointed out, electric cars always out-accelerate ICE cars in these "electric sports car" tests for two reasons

      1) instantaneous peak torque, held all the way up to V_max

      2) car is a prototype with no basis in reality for production use.

      The average ICE car engine is only usable from 1000 to 6000 rpm. Diesel truck engines are more like 500 to 2200 rpm. The enormous diesel ship engine everyone was sending the link to a few months back runs at _90_ rpm.

      It is not uncommon for an electric motor to spin at 20,000 or more rpm. The only practical displacement motors going this fast are the Formula 1 3L V10s, which spin up to 19k rpm but need to be rebuilt after 1 weekend.

    • Re:transmission (Score:3, Informative)

      by miratrix ( 601203 ) *
      There is no transmission because the motors are all direct drive - ie, they're attached directly to each of the 8 wheels. They are probably using DC Brushless Motor which requires an external motor controller, but does allow you to electronically control both the speed and torque (by changing the spacing between rotor and stator)

      With electric motors, you get high torque at low speeds and you don't need to keep the engine/motor running at the ideal rpm. So you don't really need to worry about transmission
  • by bersl2 ( 689221 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:42PM (#10884812) Journal
    Such a vehicle does not fit into the automotive industry's model of planned obselescence. Your car must wear out quickly so that you will buy a new car.
    • by Down8 ( 223459 ) <Down8 AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:47PM (#10884838) Homepage
      Except that the computer industry's planned obsolescence is even shorter than the motor industry's.

    • by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:48AM (#10885206)
      I own a 1990 Honda Accord. I don't know what pieces of shit you are buying, but my nearly 15 year old car has had absolutely no major problems and I take no special car of it. Hell, I don't even know how to change my own oil.

      Cars are not computers. When people buy a new car every 3 years, it is because they want to. If they are buying a new car every 3 years, it is because it is breaking down, then they are a god damn idiot because they keep buying crap.

      There is no 3vil corporate consipracy to force people to keep getting new cars. Car companies get all of their parts from suppliers. The only thing a car company does is put the stuff together. If a supplier sells a car company bad parts that break down, then they lose their contract. If I buy a car and it turns out to be crap, I just don't buy from that same company again. Take off the tin foil hat. Car companies want to sell cars. If electric cars could be made cheaply and even come close to having the same characteristics as a combustion car in all areas, car companies would be killing each other to sell the most.
  • Don't forget safety (Score:5, Informative)

    by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:52PM (#10884865) Homepage Journal
    It's somewhat misleading to compare these to your car, because your car carries around a lot of extra weight for safety. The article doesn't say how much this weighs, but it wouldn't surprise me if the range were reduced by half by the time they made the thing safe enough to drive on a US road.

    I'm sure I'll hear the usual arguments about how it wouldn't need all that if it didn't have to worry about splatting into a three ton SUV, but drivers (even electric car drivers) screw up and plow into things like trees. Cars have lots of extra metal to save passengers when that happens, and that metal is heavy. It's less heavy in a cleverly-designed Japanese car with crumple zones, as opposed to an American-built behemoth that depends on sheer mass to solve the problem, but it adds to the weight of every production car.

    I'm not entirely certain what this car has that's new that allows it to be faster, and I hope whatever it is will scale to build a real car. Electric cars have a lot of potential to supplant gas and help break the dependence on Middle Eastern oil. But the figures can easily mislead you into believing that's closer than it is.
    • your car carries around a lot of extra weight for safety.

      Really? Care to fill in the rest of the world on what this heavy stuff is? Airbags, seatbelt, and seats don't weight all that much. Consumer cars don't have roll-cages, even though they'd be a huge safety feature, and add very little weight.

      This thing no doubt has a strong frame, otherwise it couldn't reach high speeds.

      So, what are these heavy safety features that cars have? I've certainly not seen them in any cars I've worked on.

  • The Plan! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Shag ( 3737 ) * on Sunday November 21, 2004 @11:59PM (#10884914)
    1. Acquire Citroen DS [btinternet.co.uk]. Cheap!
    2. Shoehorn in extra wheels and electric motor.
    3. ???
    4. Profit!
  • really great stuff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by csimicah ( 592121 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:05AM (#10884947)
    Wow... somebody jammed a ton of batteries (literally) and eight big@ss motors into a chassis to create a car that weighs 5300 lbs yet has a 'tiny cockpit'. Really, really cutting edge stuff. I especially like the elegant solution of integrating power from 8 motors... just use 8 wheels! Really great solution there, just like something Bubba would have designed in the tinkerin' shop behind his barn. CN: There's nothing new or special here.
  • Lest We Forget (Score:3, Informative)

    by somethinghollow ( 530478 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:09AM (#10884979) Homepage Journal
    Don't forget TZero [acpropulsion.com].
  • For the record. . . (Score:3, Informative)

    by noewun ( 591275 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:23AM (#10885069) Journal
    Not [missouri.edu] faster than a 911 Turbo. As a long-time Porsche fan, I feel the need to set the record straight. . .
  • by hackus ( 159037 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:42AM (#10885178) Homepage
    Some issues I see that are not being discussed:

    1) Ok so we decide to do electric.

    How do we deal with the fact that over the past 100 years we have had time to build GAS fuel/support infrastructure to a convienant level?

    I think it will take conservatively half that amount of time till every 7/11 is a EVT quick stop.

    Training new Technicians.
    Converting EVERY Gas station to a EVT stop.
    (Thats a LOT of stations.)
    Manufacturing plants/parts for the Power source.

    2) The car...well the car has a lot of the same issues as the power.

    How well does it work in hot/cold environments? How far can the motors really go?
    Safety Regulations need to be revamped for this technoloy. With no past history, we start from scratch.

    These are justa couple issues, that I see could amount to about 30 years and about a trillion dollars to make it all happen.
    (Everyone Drives EVT's and they are just as convienant to use as liquid fueled or GAS cars.)

    I just do not see how such a wide spread adoption could happen in a really short time, it is really a people issue in my opinion.

    My point is that people I think are not putting into perspective what it takes to build the support structures required to support a pure EVT economy.

    It will take a very long time, and it will cost a great deal.

    I would also like to point out that ANY technology we select for an alternative to get from A -> B will have this problem.

    How do we address it?

    What do you think?

  • by multiplexo ( 27356 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @01:15AM (#10885345) Journal
    I commute between 40 and 50 kilometers a day depending upon what errands I have to run, and my car sits in a a garage at work for hours at a time. If the charging stations could be made cheaply enough you could park your car in a garage and pay for a charge up, and when I come home at night the car is in the driveway for 10 or 12 hours. So that means that doing a full charge every night wouldn't be that much of a problem. I'll bet that I'm not the only person that this is true for. Now we just need to drive the price down on cars like this and improve the life of the batteries.

  • Charging issues (Score:3, Insightful)

    by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl&excite,com> on Monday November 22, 2004 @01:34AM (#10885431) Journal

    I work in the field of electric storage, including batteries, and there is absolutely no reason they cannot come out with a vehicle that can't use batteries that can be rapid-charged, nor set up the charger to do them. (Granted, you would still be looking at a charge time of roughly an half-hour to an hour, little longer than it takes to get gas.) The standard deep-cycle batteries used for applications like RV's and boats cannot be charged like this, but those like the Optima [optimabatteries.com] and Odyssey [odysseybatteries.com] do have this capability.

    This begs the question, then, why is there not a workable electric car out there? 200 miles is plenty for the average person's daily driving, and it would be a simple matter to charge the vehicle every night. (In fact, this is better for the health of deep cycle batteries than full discharge.)

    Further, a half hour recharge would only be a slight inconvenience on cross-country trips, especially since recharging stations could be set up right along the interstate, or set up in rest stops, not requiring the underground tanks and the like that a gas station does. Generally, after driving 200 miles, I for one am ready to get out of the car for a little while anyway.

    The biggest downside that I see is that the cost of replacing the batteries (especially premium batteries like the Odyssey or Optima) would be considerable, given that these cars would have to use banks of 10-15 batteries, at a current cost of about $160 per battery. Of course, the massive boost to production of these would probably create competition and an economy of scale, driving the price down, as more and more migrated to electric cars. The savings on gas (which will only get more expensive) would also be considerable, although a high volume of these cars would create additional demand on the electrical grid.

  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @01:36AM (#10885441)
    The real threat to the existing car industry isn't this. It's the electric scooters that already come out of china for around $50 in bulk. They are light, easy to maintain and do around 20Kph.

    But you can already get electric scooters that go up to 100kph, and just 1Kw of electric motor will get you up to around 50 to 60 Kph.

    How long before a 5 to 10 Kw electric car, weighing around 300Kg, with a lightweight tube-steel frame for a single person comes out under $2000 using the same technology as they build into present bikes and scooters?

    The biggest hurdle to this was cheap electric motors in mass supply. Battery technology was at the right level a few years back. Now the motors are available because of scooters with hub drives appearing. Mostly being built for use *in* China.

    And the niche for a vehicle that carries a single person around at 80 to 100 Kph for daily commuting that could park in a MC bay still exists (Clive Sinclair's M5 was a realisation of this niche, but failed for a number of reasons, although they are still worth more than when new)

    I'm waiting for the $2000 model.... Even if I do have to license it, it will actually make it cheaper to drive to work...

    Besides, I have a much more serious car to drive for when I want to have fun, which is wasted on the daily commute trip!

    • If manufacturers could get a car down to 300kg today then they would. But its not possible with all the equipment people want and with safety requirements. The average family car these days weighs 1.5 tons, take out the weight of the engine (say 200kg), transmission (200kg) and fuel (say 50kg) and you're still looking at over a ton and most of that is down to the bodyshell, suspension, air con systems, comfy seats, electric windows etc etc. Now add back in a large battery and electric motor(s) and the weigh
      • Hyper Car is reasonable and driveable, and does well to beat
        the fuel efficiency requirements to make it viable .

        Chk it out:


  • *yawn* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @02:39AM (#10885784)
    An electric car isn't hard to make. An electric car that goes fast isn't hard to make. An electric car with a long cruising range isn't hard to make. And an electric car that goes fast *and* has a long cruising range still isn't too hard to make.

    On the other hand, making an electric car that can go reasonably fast, has a reasonably long cruising range, has a reasonably long battery life span, and is reasonably affordable does seem to be pretty tough to do. If you want to do some good for the planet in the area of electric cars, work on that problem.

  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @03:56AM (#10886130) Homepage Journal
    All the units I can find on all of the linked pages are metric. It's still plenty fast enough for normal folks, but let's not get ridiculous. The ridiculous part is America clinging to weird archaic units and the even weirder Dubya Bush.

    Someone else mentioned battery exchange. I don't know if I was the source for that, but I described it some time ago as part of the necessary infrastructure for electric taxis. In that case, the battery ownership can be "globalized" to the cab companies, but I think it would be harder to do for privately owned cars.

    Also, the troublesome side effect of battery exchange would be like having different size gas tanks depending on the condition of your current battery. I don't think this approach would be very practical for long distance travel, though it would be fine for commuters and cabs. It depends on your personal confidence level, but in my case, if my daily travel was less than about 2/3 of the normal charge state, I'd feel secure enough. If I was able to charge it up while I was at work or parked elsewhere, that would of course improve the effective range without battery swapping. You'd notice your battery deteriorating over time, but it would be a gradual thing, not like a sudden shock when you exchanged a factory fresh battery for an almost unchargeable one.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?