December 30, 2016

How long till we will all be driving low-emissions vehicles?

Well, OK, riding a bike or walking would be the best transport, but let’s have a quick look at some of the EVs around (Electric vehicles).  These get you further and not just one passenger at a time!

Recently on a trip to Los Angeles, I was inspired to rename the city ‘Silver Prius Town’ as there are so many of that model driven there.  Charging stations are all over the place for full electric cars and it seems that pure ‘gasoline’ cars are been given a healthy nudge.

There are plenty of bikes being ridden too.  It is a very different city from the way it was in the 1980s when I first visited and later when the Hummer was the Car de Jour.

But change is coming slooooowly.  I wondered how many other alternatives there are (viable ones, that is) and found this little gem:  the GM En-v concept car.  Kind of hilarious, it has some great ideas that remind me of The Jetsons.

GM’s EN-V concept car was launched in March 2010, and has given the world a taste of what we just might be driving in cities just a few years from now. I just saw extensive discussion of this car on the Canadian TV show ‘Daily Planet’ and it has great relevance to city driving.

The bubble shaped electric car is known as an Electric Networked Vehicle which will have zero emissions ( in fact, as it is largely recycled it has negative emissions!) and will rely on an electric motor for power. The three vehicles Miao (Magic) Jiao (Pride) and Xiao (laugh) were developed in partnership with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and are on display at the SAIC-GM pavilion during the World Expo which started in April 2010 in Shanghai. The EN-V’s are only two seater, which is apparently GM’s notion of space saving in future cities where it is expected to be extremely crowded.

The platform for the EN-V was developed in partnership with Segway (RIP Mr. Segway by the way, and long may the Segway tours continue in California – what a hoot that would be for a day out!)  to give it its balance and light cargo hauling abilities. The EN-V is also able to ‘turn on a dime’ according to GM. Furthermore, by using utilizing GPS technology the EN-V can be driven autonomously or you can flip it into manual mode if you wish to take hold of the wheel. The Lithium batteries that power the EN-V are good for 40km round trips, which are enough for the majority of peoples daily commutes and can be charged up from a regular household outlet.  (Yes, Americans, you DO have kilometers in your land. As well as miles.) It doesn’t run into things, is on the point of being able to park itself and also isn’t ‘driven’ but is programmed to go where it needs to.  As a 2-seater, it has no space for the kids.  Split them up and put them in other En-v cars.  They will be safe enough.  Drive in a convoy.

There is also a pretty amazing hydrogen motor bike – emissions neutral which is similarly called an ENV.  A nicely designed bike, the ENV H2 motorcycle uses CORE cell technology, which contains the hydrogen and battery components in one unit and is removable from the motorcycle. The Intelligent Energy ENV, with its 6kW, 48 volt motor and 1kw fuel cell, has a top speed of 50 mph and a range of 100 miles. The speed and range are expected to be increased by the time the ENV reaches its production version.

In order to reach peak acceleration, power is drawn from both the fuel cell and battery pack as needed. The ENV also uses disc brakes and a belt drive system for better control and traction. According to Intelligent Energy, the ENV is one of the first hydrogen motorcycles designed from the ground up rather than relying on previous technology.

The Intelligent Energy ENV will most likely be the first H2 vehicle to be mass-marketed to the public. It is expected to sell for $6,000 to $8,500 when it rolls out. The Intelligent Energy ENV missed the first rollout date in the latter part of 2006 and now, since they’ve partner with Suzuki they were supposed to rollout in the later part of 2007. But this date was also bumped.  The British company had also decided to move their headquarters to California, which has 16 hydrogen refueling stations throughout the state (and is expected to have 100 stations by the year 2010) in order to be closer to their target market. So far it doesn’t seem to have been released.

On the market though is the Zero X motorcycle which is a brilliantly designed electric motorcycle that is well represented on the market (and Jay Leno owns one).  It is almost silent and has spawned a new sport called “Electricross’.

Back in L.A. and watching local TV I was amazed at the fact that hybrids come in all brands in the USA.  The cars are gradually benefiting from economy of scale and prices are lowering as the uptake is increasing.  The Toyota problems have benefited the other competing brands and that’s a good thing, I believe.

OK, so the electric vehicles are not perfect and there are generally some emissions in their manufacture, but I think we are on the right track at last.  Let’s cut the oil addiction and clean up the air, construct the vehicles from recycled frames and bodies or some other sustainable material, and hopefully, by the time the Indians and Chinese all can afford vehicles, it will be the clean-air kind they will buy, not the gas-guzzlers gushing fumes.

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