A Palo Alto start-up with powerful backing on Thursday unveiled an ambitious $1 billion plan to help make the Bay Area the nation’s electric-car capital.
Endorsed by all three of the Bay Area’s big city mayors, the plan would provide the re-charging infrastructure that must be in place before most consumers would consider buying or leasing an electric car.
Better Place, headed by former high-tech executive Shai Agassi, plans to install about 250,000 charging ports, 200 battery-exchange stations and a control center to service Bay Area electric car drivers. The goal is to have most of the system in place by 2012.
“We need to put together a new industry, and it needs to scale very fast,” Agassi said at a press conference in San Francisco. He was flanked by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed as well as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Agassi’s business plan is to distribute electric vehicles much the way telecoms distribute cell-phones. Customers will subscribe to drive a certain number of miles and get an electric vehicle at a discounted price. Better Place will own the battery.
“We buy batteries and clean electricity and we sell miles,” he said.
British engineers have unveiled plans for the world’s first 1,000mph car, a muscular streak of gunmetal and orange designed not to break the world land speed record but to shatter it.
Bloodhound SSC, named after the British cold war supersonic air defence missiles, will attempt to beat the existing record by more than 250mph.
The £12m car is to be announced today by Lord Drayson, the science minister. Working from an aircraft hangar in Bristol, the team’s engineers have been working on the project in secret for the past 18 months. Calculations suggest the car could reach 1,050mph, fast enough to outrun a bullet from a .357 Magnum revolver.
The car was proposed by Drayson, a racing car enthusiast, as a project to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers, who are in desperately short supply in UK. The Bloodhound team plans to have the car built within a year, with the record attempt expected in three years.
The project brings together mathematician and fighter pilot Andy Green, who set the current land speed record of 763mph with Thrust SSC in 1997, and Richard Noble, who directed that attempt. The car will be the first to meld a jet engine for a Eurofighter Typhoon with a rocket booster. Together they will produce 20,000kg (45,000lb) of thrust.
Scientists from Australia’s Monash University have made what one professor is calling the most important development in fuel cell technology in the last 20 years. The scientists have managed to redesign fuel cells, so that in the future, they will make hybrid cars more reliable and cheaper to build.
And the breakthrough component in their design comes from Goretex, a popular outdoor and sporting clothing brand.
Applied to the layer of breathable fabric that Monash University’s Dr Bjorn Winther-Jensen says has revolutionized the outdoor clothing industry, is a newly designed and tested air-electrode that acts as both the fuel cell electrode, and catalyst. The layer is applied at just 0.4 of a micron in thickness, which measures out to be about 100 times thinner than a human hair.
“The same way as waste vapour is drawn out of this material to make hikers more comfortable to less prone to hypothermia, so it is able to ‘breathe’ oxygen into our fuel cell and into contact with the conductive plastic,” Dr Winter-Jensen said.
“The benefits for the motoring industry and for motorists are that the new design removes the need for platinum, which acts as the catalyst and is currently central to the manufacturing process,” said Monash University’s Professor Doug MacFarlane from the Australian Centre for Electromaterials Science (ACES).
Imagine the scene: You’re driving your car to an office building in New York City, five minutes from a job interview. No worries. You have already dialed into the car’s memory the parking garage where it’s going to stay, and prepaid the bill. You shut the door. And off it goes. Driverless. And the chances of the car getting into an accident while it travels five or six treacherous city blocks are less than if the hopeful job applicant had tried to park it himself under time pressure.
Does it sound too good to be true? A sign of the end of civilization as we know it? Too far into the future to care? It depends on whom you ask. But some researchers, engineers, and auto companies believe that such automation is not only on the way to becoming commonplace in the next 20 years, but essential to reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles from the U.S. to China and everywhere else. Oh, and as the technology necessary to achieve the “autonomous” car arrives in stages every few years — some of it is already here, in options such as electronic stability control and blind-spot detection — it promises to sharply reduce traffic fatalities.
There are already lots of ‘digital assistents’ in the cars already manufactured today or in the near future. The article names a few…
- Electronic stability control
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind-spot detection
- Lane-departure warning
- Collision mitigation
Over the coming years. we will see more and more technology sneak into our cars. And the technology will become more capable. Slowly but surely, cars will go from assisting us to taking over control of the car.
There are many benefits to this. I’m looking forward to it, although I do not expect truly autonomous cars sooner than 10 years from now.
With gas prices going through the roof and regulators requiring cars to be ever more miserly, Volkswagen is bringing new meaning to the term “fuel efficiency” with a bullet-shaped microcar that gets a stunning
Volkswagen’s had its super-thrifty One-Liter Car concept vehicle — so named because that’s how much fuel it needs to go 100 kilometers — stashed away for six years. The body’s made of carbon fiber to minimize weight (the entire car weighs just 660 pounds) and company execs didn’t expect the material to become cheap enough to produce the car until 2012.
But VW’s decided to build the car two years ahead of schedule.
If this type of technology is feasible, then why has the world gotten its panties in a bunch over the energy problem?
Oh yes, I forgot. Big oil.
This news article is good news, though. Good enough to take our minds off how bad we’re getting screwed by the upper 1%.
If even for a few seconds…
If you can, imagine a vehicle that runs on air, achieves over 100 gas-equivalent mpg and over 90 mph, has zero to low C02 emissions, seats six, has plenty of space for luggage, cuts no safety corners, and costs no more than an average economy to mid-size vehicle.
This is the expected performance of the revolutionary Air Car that Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) is introducing to North America. The vehicle runs on the Compressed Air Technology (C.a.t.) developed by Motor Development International (MDI), a 15-year old company based in Nice, France, and headed by inventor and Formula One race car engineer, Guy Negre. ZPM is the exclusive representative for MDI in the United States.
Italian car designer Leonardo Fioravanti (of Pininfarina fame) has developed a prototype car with a windshield that doesn’t need wipers. It can brush away water and dirt all by itself.
The car, dubbed Hidra, uses a special aerodynamic design along with four sophisticated surface treatments to the windshield to keep the driver’s view clear. The first treatment filters the sun and repels water. The second is made of nano-dust which is able to push dirt to the edges of the glass. This dust is activated by the third layer, which senses dirt and activates the second layer as necessary. Finally, it’s all topped off by the fourth layer which is a conductor of electricity to power the whole mechanism.
Fioravanti claims that this technology could go into mass production within 5 years, but it already works and has been installed on the Hidra concept car.
Morgan Motor Co., the tiny British automaker so old-fashioned it still uses wood frames, is stepping well into the future with LifeCar, a hydrogen fuel cell hybrid it says will prove “a zero-emission vehicle can be fun to drive.”
Morgan will unveil the hand-built aluminum-bodied coupe next month at the Geneva Auto Show, and although there’s no word on whether LifeCar will ever be more than a one-off concept, the company hopes to show hydrogen is a viable – if distant – alternative to fossil fuels. Morgan has spent more than two years working with a British defense firm, two universities and a hydrogen supplier to develop a car it promises will “minimize the fuel cell cost and provide the fuel economy for a 200 mile range.”
As impressive as the LifeCar is, what makes it truly remarkable is a company so small as Morgan built it. The company, founded in 1912, employs 156 people who built 650 cars last year – all of them by hand in a small factory in rural England. Yet it is standing alongside Honda, General Motors and BMW with a hydrogen-fueled vehicle that works.
Google said Tuesday it is getting in on the development of electric vehicles, awarding $1 million in grants and inviting applicants to bid for another $10 million in funding to develop plug-in hybrid electric vehicles capable of getting 70 to 100 miles per gallon.The project, called the RechargeIT initiative and run from Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, aims to further the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – cars or trucks that have both a gasoline engine and advanced batteries that recharge by plugging into the nation’s electric grid.
“Since most Americans drive less than 35 miles per day, you easily could drive mostly on electricity with the gas tank as a safety net,” Dan Reicher, director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for Google.org, wrote on the organization’s Web site. “In preliminary results from our test fleet, on average the plug-in hybrid gas mileage was 30-plus mpg higher than that of the regular hybrids.”