The electric car, hybrid or plug in, continues to be an elusive goal.
One model sports optional 2 wheel or 4 wheel in-hub mounted drive motors. With a large battery pack and a curb weight of 3300 pounds, it’s a bit ponderous. But it has a 50 mile drive radius and rarely requires any maintenance. What year will this vehicle be ready? 1899. It’s the Lohner-Porsche.
Recognizing that the weight the battery pack was a major obstacle, Ferdinand Porsche, still working for the Lohner Coachworks, came up with a hybrid model. The vehicle used a small gasoline engine to power a generator and a single motor mounted on the rear axle of the vehicle. Porsche raced the car himself in the Semmerling competition near Vienna, and with top speeds of 75 miles per hour, won against a very competitive field which included Benz gasoline powered cars. The 75 mile per hour top speed was unprecedented, especially from an electric hybrid. The year? 1900!
So all things old are made new again. If the 2200 pound weight of the Lohner Porsche battery pack could be reduced by 4:1 by using Lithium batteries, then a curb weight around 1500 pounds should be feasible. The reduced weight of the vehicle leads to significantly greater driving range. The Smart Car electric model is expected to have a range of 120 miles per charge. Which, actually, is enough for a lot of vehicle applications.
In wheel drive motors are not my favorite solution, but if the weight can be reduced, then problems relating to suspension dynamics can be managed. And that’s exactly what the folks at Protean Electric are doing. They have produced a number of conversion vehicles as demonstrations of their electric motor technology. And if the motors perform as expected, they will carve out a niche in the plug-in and hybrid electric vehicle world.
There are a couple of important points that need to made here.
#1) based on the “Absolute Value of Technology”, the only thing that matters is the vehicle costs per transportation mile. That is made up to two components, the purchase price and the expected cost per mile driven. Admittedly, if you can run an electric vehicle at $.04/mile, it is cost effective to own, even if the car costs more up front, because over the life of the vehicle, the low operating cost will overtake the purchase price.
The IRS deduction for vehicle operation is $.50/mile. Electric hybrids and especially plug-in electrics are not expected to have any major maintenance costs. Even if you add insurance, the cost per operating mile will be significantly lower.
But the higher price of the vehicle will be an obstacle from a pure economics standpoint. For this reason, some manufacturers have considered the option of the local power utility company supplying the battery pack and maintaining it. Since this is the single largest expense, leasing it to the vehicle owner in the monthly power bill is a good deal.
The second major point to be considered is plug in electrics, even with limited drive range, are the biggest contributor to American energy independence. These vehicles will directly reduce oil imports every day they are operated. Because almost none of the electricity in the United States is generated using fuel. It’s either coal, natural gas or nuclear.
So if we really want to get after the issue of energy independence and stop funding governments that support terrorist activity, the electric car is the path forward. As are 40+ mpg gasoline cars, and drilling and refining of oil in the US.
Let’s get after it!