Nothing in the history of the automobile compares to today's frantic effort to breathe life into electric cars and hybrids.
In the following slideshow we've gathered together 15 images, which touch recent developments emerging from the auto industry's ongoing efforts in alternative power train technologies. Our vehicle choices range from Toyota's hybrid gas turbine concept car of 1969, to polished production hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Explorer, to backyard electric conversions, such as the drag-racing Crazy Horse Pinto. Our emphasis is on the delivery of electric power, with or without a gasoline counterpart.
Click the image below to view a slideshow of alternative energy vehicles:
Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive is an evolution of the hybrid powertrain that powered the game-changing Toyota Prius. The Synergy Drive replaces a traditional geared transmission with a drive unit that includes an electronic continuously variable transmission. The system allows power to be split between the wheels and an electric generator. (Photo courtesy of Toyota)
To keep up with our Chevy Volt coverage, go to Drive for Innovation, and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Volt across America to interview engineers.
I wouldn't be surprised if the oil companies and auto companies at some point in the past thought about supressing alternative-fuel vehicles. But the truth is, they've never needed to do it. Battery technology has never really reached a point where it would need to be supressed. Its energy density is a fraction of gasoline's energy density. Its cost is still too high. Universities and national labs have worked hard on the development of this technology for decades and the results have been steady, but slow. Bill Gates has said that he has invested in five battery start-ups and has said that battery innovation "may not be solvable in an economic way." It's a little hard to believe that all of these people and organizations -- national labs, universities, Bill Gates' start-ups -- have all been bought off by the oil companies.
I totally agree with you Chuck. It's my feeling that the Oil Companies are the culprit behind the lack of advancement of alternate energy. The stockholders have a lot to loose, if any apparatus put on the market that either increased fuel mileage or eliminated petrol fuel altogether. I also think that this the reason why Nuclear Power Generation advancement has been suppressed over the years. When was the last time you heard of a Nuclear accidenton board a Navy vessel? Granted, spent fuel storage is still a problem, but again, that technology also has been suppressed. You right that all these people want to plug in their Green Vehicles, that are still being charged by Fossil Fuel Generators! That makes a lot of sense to me!! LMAO over that one! =)) What has happen in Japan, was an accident waiting to happen. A sad,sad lesson hard learned, you don't put your emergency back-up systems at or below ground level in areas that could be subjected to tsunami flooding. That was a Black Eye to Nuclear Power and all the advancements that had occurred up to this point in time. Dan, Santa Rosa, California, USA
Quoth Scotty.."Ya canna change the laws of physics Cap'n"
With regard to electrically powered vehicles, I admire the perseverence and optimism of all parties concerned and champion their achievements. Unfortunately, as a builder of electric vehicles, (kiddie-ride trackless trains), I would be the first to acknowledge that we have really not advanced terribly much at all.
Daimlers' four stroke engine was built in 1876. One hundred and thirty years later, we still have the same problem that any reciprocating engine is only capable of a finite speed before it self destructs. Looked at realistically, if a design student of today were to announce "I've invented a device which accelerates a chunk of metal from rest, to four times the speed of sound, to rest, over a distance of 70 millimeters, and then reverses that action and repeats it 200 times per second, and it will power the worlds transport", people would laugh.
Alessandro Volta "invented" the first true battery in 1800. The Ni-Cad battery was patented in 1899. Edison was also developing Nickel-Iron batteries at the end of the 19th century. Electric cars and trains were common in the early 1900's.
Sadly, in 110 years, there has not been the "Quantum Leap" in technology that we had hoped for. ( although it was evidenced in air transport.)
The same problems that dogged Edison: limited range, charging time far exceeding usage time, weight of battery packs etc. are still dogging current developers and there appears no immediate solution.
For me, the saddest aspect is that all the "well meaning but totally ignorant brigade", (Politicians, Media types, "Green" Pressure Groups and the bulk of the general public,) have no concept of the embodied energy in electric vehicles or the cost of replacement and disposal of batteries.
Worst of all, the worlds' generators will still keep spinning 24/7 and pumping out CO2 in order to keep these "Energy Saving" vehicles topped up.
Ivan is proposing a "financial" solution to help promote the introduction of the electric car.
However, I believe that any technology that requires "financial help" is suspect.
And the electric car confirms this. The energy required to build an electric car, the power grid and power plants, has no energy pay back, and the emmissions of all these investments are many times over the CO2 emmissions savings in the future and happen during the initial investment period.
We (as a nation and as a planet) are facing many challenges and it certainly is making for some interesting times! Electric cars are certainly one of the areas of interest - principally because they are part of the bigger conundrums - our ever increasing need for energy, for transportation, etc versus limited sources for energy and a increasing awareness of many tradeoffs that need to be made (e.g. global environmental changes).
One of the pluses to electric cars (outside of the inherent 'coolness' factor) is that electricity is a good common denominator between energy sources (e.g. coal, nuclear, solar, wind, natural gas) and a inherently mobile energy consumer (i.e. the vehicle). So no matter how the electricity is generated, it can be used in the vehicle.
Yes, I would still love to have an electric car. Although I would certainly need an auxiliary engine on board for a long cruising range.
"I'm a bit disatisfied that we've not yet travelled to the stars?"
Well, sorry, we don't have time to do that, and we have real work to do down here. As for electric cars, they've been trying to get battery energy density and recharging speed closer to the performance of fueled vehicles, and still lag way behind. Sure would be nice if somebody came up with a fuel cell that would take liquid fuel, so we could use existing infrastructure and not need so many batteries.
I consider myself a proponent of electric vehicles however there seems to be a lot of new hydrocarbon sources. One book I studied indicated that no matter what happens politically with the AGW issues, the world is going to use all available hydrocarbons. Coal oil and gas will be burned to create the energy we need to fuel the electric power plants and provide the fuel for our cars.
Battery technology is almost ready to give us the same range and convenience we expect from our gas fueled vehicles but it will still be a few more years. Until then, we might have some hybrids, some vehicles powered by apparently abundant natural gas and some electric vehicles.
It seems the transition to electric might never be complete and the availability of cheap hydrocarbons will extend the life of vehicles with these fuels.
If we assume for the purposes of discussion that electric vehicles are much better for most drivers, the economy and the environment perhaps the best way to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles is to raise the hydrocarbon costs significantly. Anyone for extra taxes on gas to promote electrics?
I think Astrobuf summed it up aptly when he said engineering fads come and go, regulatory mandates change, interest rises and then wanes--it's the lack of consistency that makes perfecting EV technology so elusive.
Then again, if you look at how far the Internet and information technology sector has advanced in 25-plus years, it's crazy to think we can't enjoy similar progress on the EV front. Again, it boils down to lack of consistency and focus. Well said.
Beth: About 100 years ago, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are said to have decided they would lick the electric car battery problem within five years. We're still waiting...There was a great article about this last year in Wired.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.