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Transportation Toys Technology

High Efficiency Hybrid Car Planned For 2009 371

Posted by Zonk
from the way-better-than-the-gas-guzzlers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "You may have heard some of the hype last month when California-based Aptera let out first word of its allegedly super fuel-efficient (and cheap) Typ-1 electric vehicle. A video test drive and gee-whiz specs breakdown at the Popular Mechanics site proves that this thing is for real. The plan is to have a vehicle that goes 120 miles on a single lithium-phosphate pack charge for 2008, with a 300-mpg model to follow by 2009. Aptera is also mentioned in Wired's new cover story as one of several early front-runners for the Automotive X Prize."
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High Efficiency Hybrid Car Planned For 2009

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  • But, will it fly? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@@@trashmail...net> on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:19AM (#21779106) Homepage Journal

    Where's my flying car?

    Non-fossil fuel vehicles will start selling when they are made as inexpensively as traditional vehicles. And, when they have the range, capacity, and easy and quick refuel capabilities.

    Until this point is reached, they don't stand a chance in the American system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You missed a couple of points as well, something HIGHLY important to a lot of American suburban/rural owners. Horsepower, towing capability, and size. The size issue is being figured out with some of the hybrids, but a pure electric car is going to be only for travel purposes, NOT general-use. If you have a boat or a trailer, they're presently useless. If you get killed because you get run over by a truck, they're unsafe.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dolby2 (196255)
        Is this to say that electric engines don't have enough "horsepower", torque and can't be used for towing? I always thought that electric engines were the pinnacle of torque and power. Hence Diesel Electric freight trains (obviously not economical for a passenger car or even tractor trailer), and such. The only thing holding them back is range, recharging time and cost.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:18PM (#21779948)
          You're behind the times. All the big fleet operators in the US are testing diesel electric hybrid trucks now(fedex,ups, coca cola, etc), and are going to be investing in them to expand their fleets as the older trucks wear out and get replaced, and two companies in england are shipping all electric trucks well into the multi ton delivery range. *Shipping*, as in normal, you can buy them right now. Cab companies all over are switching to hybrids from crown vics, and as soon as plugin hybrids start coming from the majors they will be using those. This stuff is not theoretical anymore, all these new drivetrains are hitting the market now and in 2008, the automotive industry is going through significant disruptive technology change *right now*. Over seas, in india and china, big moves to electric vehicles, several large companies shipping them in 2008. The range is plenty good enugh now, and will only get better the next few years, ton of battery breakthroughs this year, as in this car in the article, read about their battery tech. Rough analogy, electrics and hybrids are at a similar status as computers in say 92-3, and that was "good enough". Earlier adopters get the benefits, just like with computers. Heck, the prius has been out ten years now! And most of them still on the road, and most of them still running on the original battery packs!

          You'll be seeing diesel electric drivetrains in normal cars and pickups real soon now. Real soon. Suburban guys and contractors are gonna eat them things up off the lots as soon as they hit. Same power as a big gas engine, twice the mileage, same towing capacity, double duty as the home or jobsite backup generator. Americans *like* pickups and SUVs, that style is *not* going away, that's where a big part of the market is, so plugin hybrids will be coming to a lot near you soon in pickup and SUV models. It might be the japanese have them first, but who knows, detroit is getting desperate and I bet there's some skunk works action going on there. They can be motivated at times to actually produce. The shareholder pressure and market pressure is now intense, that will have an effect.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GregPK (991973)
        One thing you missed about electric engines... They have wayyyyy more tourque than a comparable weight V8 engine. Hell the telsa has soo much tourque that they haven't been able to find anything outside of a single gear transmission strong enough to handle it's power output.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by curmudgeous (710771)
        These vehicles are intended as suburban commuters, not general purpose load haulers. I understand that lots of people own boats, campers and trailers, but how many need to tow them seven days per week? Also, how many families already have more than one vehicle just because they don't want to drag the recreational stuff around everywhere?

        I don't expect we'll see many of these in rural areas, nor will they be suited for regions with lots of cold weather (battery performance drops with temperature), but for
      • Re:But, will it fly? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Friday December 21, 2007 @02:47PM (#21782392) Homepage

        If you get killed because you get run over by a truck, they're unsafe.


        Midsize cars, large cars, minivans, and import luxury cars are all statistically safer for the driver than an SUV. Subcompacts are more dangerous for the driver, but because SUVs and pickups are more than twice as likely to kill someone else in an accident, that's only because of all the SUVs on the road. Obviously SUVs and trucks have their place, but the exemption in fuel efficiency standards for them should be removed, and they should be taxed like any gas guzzler.

        The point, though, is that you can drive a midsize car, and you're just as safe as you would be in an SUV, and you're not putting the OTHER drivers at risk to get your safety. If you *really* want to be safe, then you want an import luxury car or a minivan, both of which are also significantly safer for other drivers than SUVs.

        Courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab [lbl.gov] study on safety.
    • Other incentives (Score:3, Interesting)

      by onkelonkel (560274)
      How about employer incentives. Your employer puts up solar panels in the employee parking lot for anyone driving an electric car to work. You park your car in the cool shade under the panels and plug in for a free 9 hour recharge. Wouldn't work everywhere, but in industrial park / business park settings in places like california or arizona it would work fine. High tech, "don't be evil" companies could lead the way.

      Actually, make it simple. Put an AC plug next to every parking stall. In cold places we do i
      • by penguin_dance (536599) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:47AM (#21779498)
        Things I'd rather see:

        How about employer incentives like working from home, so we don't have to drive there in the first place?
      • by Firethorn (177587) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:53AM (#21779572) Homepage Journal
        Your employer puts up solar panels in the employee parking lot for anyone driving an electric car to work. You park your car in the cool shade under the panels and plug in for a free 9 hour recharge.

        It'd be cheaper to simply put up a carport and pay the electric bill each month. Discounting massive subsidization of the solar panels, of course.

        Actually, make it simple. Put an AC plug next to every parking stall. In cold places we do it for block heaters. Employers pay for all sorts of perks to attract good employees. Why not add free recharge to the list.

        This would work well, I think. Especially if you have the carport charging plugs be on a circuit that allows discretionary turnoffs by the power company - this would increase baseload and not peak.

        The power company is willing to cut quite a deal per kwh for these deals, as baseload power can cost them a third or even less than their more expensive peak sources.

        People complain about how slow charging will be - but a major difference between pouring gasoline into a car and charging the batter is that pouring gasoline pretty much needs to be an attended activity - charging a car you only need the 30 seconds or so to attach the plug, then remove it before you leave. Heck, you could even set it up so that the act of backing out of the slot disengages the cord, which is on a auto retraction wheel. With 130 miles of range current, I still wouldn't need to charge every day.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

        Please go out and find Who killed the electrical car [imdb.com]

        According to that documentary, there already were "electric charge stations" all over the USA, until someone decided they didn't want to produce those cars anymore.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eno2001 (527078)
      Yeah... that's what we really want. The general public, airborne. Think about all the idiot drivers in SUVs that flip their vehicles regularly. Do you really want those mouth breathers FLYING? At high speed? If we ever do get flying cars (vertical take off and landing vehicles, or VTOLs), it won't be long before these VTOLs are slamming into the sides of office buildings (forget terrorists) and crashing through people's rooftops. Drunk flying anyone? Mid-air collisions? The only way I'd be OK with f
      • by Afecks (899057)
        They will obviously require AI pilots. If we can solve all the other problems first I think getting a computer to fly a light aircraft is relatively simple compared. I can't wait for AI drivers too.
      • by wattrlz (1162603)
        I'd settle for a good training course. Most actual pilots (no offense guys) don't have much more than that and seem to do well enough.
        • Yeah, but there are far fewer pilots than there are drivers. I can't imagine if my daily commute was airborne...
      • by Cyberax (705495)
        It's much easier to make autopilot for airborne vehicles than it's to create a self-driving car. So I hope we'll have fully automated flying machines with computer autopilots which CAN NOT be turned off in midair.
      • by Archimonde (668883) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:17PM (#21779930) Homepage

        The only way I'd be OK with flying cars was if the average population not only had an IQ of 180 to start


        Problem is, if the average population has IQ of 180, then technically, it has IQ of 100.

      • by saboola (655522) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:25PM (#21780046)
        Yeah... that's what we really want. The general public, going fast without horses. Think about all the idiot riders on four horse carriages that roll their carriages regularly. Do you really want those mouth breathers going faster? If we ever do get horseless carriages, it won't be long before these CARs are slamming into the sides of farm houses and crashing through people's porches. Drunk driving anyone? Head-on collisions? The only way I'd be OK with horseless carriages was if the average population not only had an IQ of 180 to start, but also had a really strong sense of REAL personal responsibility. That is to say, "Not only do I care about taking care of myself, but I care about the wellbeing of every human being that I am around". Until that happens (yeah right), I'll be casting my vote against the common neanderthal getting a vehicle that is not pulled my animal.
        • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Friday December 21, 2007 @01:51PM (#21781386) Journal
          saboola parodied a comment about flying cars by looking at the transition from horses to automobiles with the same language.

          Somehow, he was rated insightful, when he really isn't. Flying cars and driving cars may have epistemological equivalence (both = vehicle operation) but they are not ontologically equivalent. Example: hacking up a cooked turkey and brain surgery are both examples of (episteme) knife wielding, but they are not the same (ontologue) activities and have radically different social values and results.

          Similar to the brain-dead postmodernists who insist that theory has no value, because "it's all theory".

          All he did was act contrarian in a very adolescent manner - the kind of numbskull pigheaded idiot logic I expect from a dull second year university student - the kind I normally give a C- and a recommendation to do some follow up research to get the grade up.

          RS

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by smilindog2000 (907665)
      Let's check your list:
      • inexpensive as traditional vehicles: $29K - yep
      • range - the plug-in hybrid can go coast-to-coast - yep
      • capacity - 2 1/2 seats... in between roadsters and a 4-seater - yep
      • quick refuel capability - Runs on gas - yep

      I know you wanted first post, so I don't blame you for not reading TFA. However, you got it 100% wrong. Better luck next first-post.
  • 300 What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    with a 300-mpg model to follow by 2009.

    Uh, how do you measure MPG in an electric car?

    • by peragrin (659227)
      that's exactly what I want to know.

      Though 300 MPC makes sense. Miles per charge.
      • by KillerBob (217953)
        120 MPC on the Typ-1 e, and 300 MPG on the Typ-1 h.

        you know... "e" for Electric. "h" for Hybrid.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      From TFA:

      Aptera has two innovative models that are almost production-ready at $30,000 and below: for next year, the all-electric, 120-mile-range Typ-1 e that we drove; and, by 2009, the range-extended series gasoline Typ-1 h, which Aptera says will hit 300 mpg.


      Read the articles. That what the links are for.
      • Re:300 What? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Firethorn (177587) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:06PM (#21779740) Homepage Journal
        I've read the articles, of course, but I feel the need to respond to the part you quoted.

        You see, I feel that the 300mpg figure is cutting it very close to being fraudulent, and at least deceiving.

        Because I really doubt that if you drained the batteries at the start that it'd get 300mpg, or even if you drove it over the test course in such a way that the battery was equally charged at the beginning and end. Say, 50% charge - enough room for regenerative braking to be utilized, not so low that the car's trying to charge the battery back up.

        As such, I'd like to see some new figures quoted - average mileage per kwh, plus a figure for how many kwh the battery stores, then gas mileage as I proposed.

        '300mpg over the first 300 miles' isn't as useful as '1 mile per kwh city, 250 kwh pack, 50 miles per gallon gasoline, 10 gallon tank'.*

        *Plus the standard disclaimers about driving habits, patterns, routes make a difference here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! (33014)
      It's an irrelevant question when we are talking (as we are) about a hybrid car, which runs on gasoline but uses electrical storage to modify how and when the gasoline engine runs.
      • Re:300 What? (Score:4, Informative)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:41AM (#21779404) Journal
        I don't think irrelevant in either case. When someone asks for the MPG, they're asking for the fuel efficiency. In the hybrid case, where gasoline is its only external fuel, that should be simple to calculate. When it's "all electric", you take the fuel that powers that electricity -- using a representative number for the electricity generation -- and compare that to how much distance it gets you.

        Though for the optimal apples-to-apples comparison, you might as well just take a given gasoline price and compute how much it costs to power one mile of travel for that price, vs. some existing car being used today.
        • Well, in the hybrid case it's not quite so simple. Because they switch between electric and gasoline depending on driving conditions you can't really gauge the performance in the same way you could a regular car. I suppose you could run it totally off the gas engine and measure the MPG for that with the understanding that in actual operation you going to see massively better performance, but that kind of makes the MPG figure useless for a comparison to non-hybrid cars. I suppose that could give some sort of
          • by eno2001 (527078)
            Hey dingo brain... The point is that regardless of performance, if you are going 300 miles and you only use one gallon of gas, then you're doing much better than a conventional gas powered automobile Even if you want to be a total bean counter and factor in the cost of the electricity used to charge the batteries enough to make that 300 mile trip (which is stupid in my opinion) the fact is you will pollute less and use far fewer resources. Quit being such an arse ya bugger.
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          Though for the optimal apples-to-apples comparison, you might as well just take a given gasoline price and compute how much it costs to power one mile of travel for that price, vs. some existing car being used today.

          Even with $3/gallon gasoline, my car is 10 cents a mile for fuel cost. I know what I pay per kwh, so a figure for how many kwh at the plug it takes to move a mile would make the calculation rather easy.

          It'd also help highlight the difference between a reasonably fuel efficient car and a 15mpg t
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by skelly33 (891182)
          The above responses, I think, are over-complicating the assessment. The calculation should be as simple as work performed/energy consumed. There's probably an official reference somewhere, but I quickly found this page [uwgb.edu] mentioning 125,000,000 joules in a gallon of fuel.

          This page [aptera.com] on the Powertrain & Energy tab says that the 10e (electric model) uses a 10Kwh battery pack.

          1 joule is 1 watt/second. So we take 10,000 watt-hours, multiply by 3600 (# seconds per hour) to get 36,000,000 joules total energy p
    • by eno2001 (527078)
      It's not electric. It's hybrid. So it still uses gasoline. Just not as much. RTFA.
    • by GooberToo (74388)
      Uh, how do you measure MPG in an electric car?

      I typically see it done by determining the amount of energy obtained from a gallon of fuel. Based on the energy, you now have a basis for comparison with the energy required to charge your batteries. Since you can compare a gallon of gas with a unit of energy and you can measure the distance traveled, you can now roughly translate to a mpg rating.

  • Not Very Pretty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dirkdidit (550955) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:25AM (#21779196) Homepage
    I don't know what it is about these cars of tomorrow, but they do not look attractive at all. Apparently the people who buy these cars feel like they need to announce to the world that they just bought an overly expensive golf-cart all under the guise of saving the planet.

    When are we going to see high-range electric cars that don't look like something out a bad video game?
    • Re:Not Very Pretty (Score:5, Interesting)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:28AM (#21779230) Homepage Journal
      This one [teslamotors.com] pretty enough for ya? :-D
    • Re:Not Very Pretty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Loke the Dog (1054294) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:41AM (#21779414)
      When american culture stops idealizing the 60's.

      In other words, this is how effective cars look. Sure, you can make the detals a bit more aestethically pleasing, but this "futuristic golf car"-look will generally stick because it gives a perfect mix between performance and efficiency. They do what they were designed for well, and those who desire this mix of performance and efficiency will learn to like this look, because it will symbolize what they desire.

      So basically, this is a case of the beuty being in the eye of the beholder. However, I do think this car was unusually ugly, but its over all style was good.
    • When are we going to see high-range electric cars that don't look like something out a bad video game?


      Or we could, I dunno, stop giving a shit if our cars are "pretty". I for one, will buy an "ugly" car if it means killing our support of foreign oil.

    • I don't know what it is about these cars of tomorrow, but they do not look attractive at all.

      Its a matter of taste, I guess, but that's actually one of the most attractive cars I've seen in a while. I suppose if your idea of "attractive" is "looks exactly like every other car on the road", that wouldn't be the case.

      Apparently the people who buy these cars feel like they need to announce to the world that they just bought an overly expensive golf-cart all under the guise of saving the planet.

      The car in the

    • IMO.

      -Rick
    • Wow, everybody is giving dirk shit for this comment, but it rings pretty damed true for most of the population. I would like to know why they can't stick this kind of thing in a Miata or an MR-2?

      Now, on the flip side, this is an extreme version. Top speed in a car is highly dependent on the frontal area and the drag coefficient. Frontal area is going to be a somewhat limited value to play with, since most "small" or "sporty" cars are going to be similar in size - you have to have a cab area which allows a
    • by Rhys (96510)
      Looks more like a light aircraft, sans wing, to me.
  • Electrics burn coal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:28AM (#21779226) Homepage Journal
    On many of these electrics, you do need to plug-in to get your initial charge. Isn't that causing just as much, if not more, pollution than burning oil locally?

    I'm still not sure that anyone can actually decipher all the different impacts that "environmentally-friendly" vehicles or machines have. I know I read an article this year that spoke of the CO2 emissions for just peddling a bike or taking a walk, so even not using machinery seems to have an impact.

    Then again, I'm not a big fan of the global warming scams out there, nor am I a fan of peak oil theory. I just need to see the whole picture, rather than what some people will say is a small portion of the picture, but ignores other ramifications of decision making.

    One area we're visiting in India in January is a town on a hill that allows no cars or trucks (you usually can only get there by train). Same in Switzerland (entire towns with no machinery). Yes, the air is cleaner, but so are the people living there. If we all use electric vehicles in those towns (let's say), another town that generates the energy is going to get the brunt of the polluting. I'd rather pollute MY area, so we can see the direct effect, than push it off to a poorer neighborhood where we won't.

    Global yadda-yadda-yadda, I think it is more important to focus on the damage you can actually see than try to control the world's climate.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DarthTeufel (751532)
      RTFA?

      In order to win the X-Prize, they must take into account the upstream (ie powerplant) green house gas production that it takes to power the car.

      Aptera right now is 350 MPG, and estimated cost of $24-27k.

      Thats pretty bad ass IMO
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      On many of these electrics, you do need to plug-in to get your initial charge. Isn't that causing just as much, if not more, pollution than burning oil locally?

      Someone really committed to save the planet will want to use one of the many alternative energy sources available. It's possible to live almost completely off the grid and still have plenty of electricity. For the average person, solar panels or wind turbine power will allow you to get energy from renewable sources. When you get good power from these, you sell your excess back to the grid and then pay for energy from the grid when these aren't putting out enough juice. Everybody wins. You get cheap po

      • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:46AM (#21779476) Homepage Journal
        I completely understand that part -- our own home(s) are moving to get off the electric grid, but not for ecological reasons (we want to save money as the dollar plummets).

        Solar isn't clean, that's for sure. The 3 solar-panel investors we speak with have told us of the ecological burdens of producing solar panels. We're still moving to solar (and to geothermal A/C and heat) for our primary residence to lower the long-term cost of energy, but we know that we're likely causing as much damage to the environment elsewhere to bring our cost-reductions home, over the long run.

        We have a few greenie friends who really think they're saving the environment, but the more I research it, the more it seems that there is nothing you can truly do to reduce your carbon footprint, even if it seems logical. There are too many parameters to wade through to calculate what a certain mode of transportation or energy generation costs.

        I'd love one of those basement-nukes, even if it cost $5b. Run the thing at 5c/KwH, and feed the rest of the power back to the grid for a nice refund each month. After a decade of inflation, I wonder how much energy would cost.

        I also don't feel safe in some of the lighter cars. My favorite car happens to be a diesel Land Rover, but it's outside of my price range. I do like feeling safe, and I like something that can handle Chicago winters. Our little Subaru (2.0l I4) is fairly decent on gas mileage, but I'd love a diesel if they ever started making one. It handles great in snow and ice, is definitely safe (my wife totalled one of my Subarus years ago at 75MPH and walked away), but it's still no eco-friendly machine.

        For me, the best reduction of polluting we've done is cut our driving significantly, but we travel by plane much more than before, so I'm sure that's a negative reduction :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KillerBob (217953)
      Coal power is an awful lot cleaner now than it was 100 years ago. It's not perfect, but the average coal plant produces *significantly* less pollution than the cars owned by the houses it powers.

      And that's completely ignoring the fact that in California, the law requires that your power company provide you the option to buy "green" power: power produced by wind, solar, geothermal, or hydroelectric sources. It tends to be a little more expensive than normal power, but I'm guessing that the kind of person who
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gambolt (1146363)
      Depends on what you compare it to. Compare it to a Hummer and it's a huge improvement. Compare it to any of the hybrids currently in production and it's in the same ballpark. There are also regional differences since some places are more dependent on coal than others. The car is thus more environmentaly friendly when you drive it in Ohio than when you drive it in California.

      It does make efforts at reducing electricity consumption seen kinda silly since switching to plugin hybrids will cause such a huge
    • You see, some will burn coal - from plants with scrubbers and pollution controls (we hope), and some will run on nuclear. Some will be powered entirely by wind, others by wave action, solar power, natural gas, oil, etc. Remember - a large plant has a far greater efficiency than an ICE, even if you include the line losses (Remember how far that gallon of gasoline had to travel to get to your local gas station).

      By removing the need to burn a specific fuel, i.e. a narrow range of liquified hydrocarbons, an ele
    • I don't think the big advantage of the current generation of hybrids is their power source. After all, as you say, if it's not coming from burning gas, it's coming from somewhere else. Right now, most of our somewhere elses are still too polluting and/or diminishing scarce natural resources at an unsustainable rate.

      What I do think hybrids are already good for is straight-up efficiency in typical driving. If I'm driving around town, I spend a significant amount of time stationary or moving very slowly on t

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:54AM (#21779588) Homepage Journal
      ``On many of these electrics, you do need to plug-in to get your initial charge. Isn't that causing just as much, if not more, pollution than burning oil locally?''

      It depends on how you generate your electricity. I would have thought that's obvious, but apparently it isn't to many people.

      ``I'm still not sure that anyone can actually decipher all the different impacts that "environmentally-friendly" vehicles or machines have.''

      I agree. The only thing that is certain for now is that they _do_ cause pollution. Exactly how much, I couldn't say, but it means that the environmental friendliness is only relative.

      ``I know I read an article this year that spoke of the CO2 emissions for just peddling a bike or taking a walk, so even not using machinery seems to have an impact.''

      Of course. The human body consumes O2 and emits CO2. But there is something worth noting: the carbon we emit typically comes from renewable resources (i.e. plants or animals). This means it is released after recently having been absorbed, so the net effect is 0. Contrast this with burning fossil fuels, where you are releasing carbon that had been buried for millions of years into the atmosphere.

      ``Then again, I'm not a big fan of the global warming scams out there, nor am I a fan of peak oil theory.''

      Global warming is a fact, and that mineral oil extraction will peak at some point is given. Whether these are things we should be afraid of or feel guilty about is a different matter.

      ``I just need to see the whole picture, rather than what some people will say is a small portion of the picture, but ignores other ramifications of decision making.''

      It is very hard to get a clear picture, with all the clueless people shouting so loudly. One the one hand, there are people still pretending and trying to convince others that the changes that are happening to the environment aren't really there. On the other hand, you have people who have blind faith in some clean technology and think it will solve all problems if only the evil governments and oil companies stopped fighting it. Millions of people just parrot one camp or another, and they're all wrong. In the meantime, there _are_ good ideas that we could implement, but they are mostly left by the wayside because they don't stand out among all the wrong-headed noise makers.

      ``I'd rather pollute MY area, so we can see the direct effect, than push it off to a poorer neighborhood where we won't.''

      That, of course, is the main problem with any kind of pollution. The effect isn't felt in full by the people generating it, and thus doesn't factor into the cost of things. Therefore, cleaner alternatives almost universally seem more expensive. Thus, it makes economic sense to pollute. It's hard to do something about this without resorting to heavy-handed, commitee-decided, wrong-headed measures. Like, for example, in the Netherlands, where there is a tax cut on hybrid cars. Think about it. It's on hybrid cars. Not on clean cars. If it's a hybrid, it gets the cut, no matter how polluting it is. If it's a clean car but not a hybrid, it doesn't get the cut. Madness!
    • by CommieLib (468883)
      Economic analysis? That won't make you feel smug.

      Seriously, though, there have been studies done...I can't cite them offhand, but the conclusion I recall is that while you have the inefficiency of conversion and distribution (which is enormous), it is still swamped by the economies of scale you reap by producing them at plants rather than in-engine.

      Now that is strictly an analysis of the energy consumed, without regard to the environmental impact. That aspect is going to depend on the local method of pr
      • by RingDev (879105)
        Seriously, though, there have been studies done...I can't cite them offhand, but the conclusion I recall is that while you have the inefficiency of conversion and distribution (which is enormous) I did a research paper on distributed generation a few years ago and came across reports that cited the distribution loss of centrally generated power was only like 4-8%. Still a sizable amount, but not nearly as significant as I had expected it to be.

        -Rick
    • On many of these electrics, you do need to plug-in to get your initial charge. Isn't that causing just as much, if not more, pollution than burning oil locally?

      Actually, you probably burn less coal than what is needed to distill the gas from the crude. Add that to the fact that you are centralizing the problem, so that cleaning filters/optimizations/alternative power generation has to be done once, and you get huge wins.

    • by Bryansix (761547)
      Ha, this was modded informative when it's just a fallacy being perpetrated by one person after another. The studies have already been done and even with burning coal electric cars release less CO2 then gasoline cars. If you are so concerned about emmisions from your electric car, then install solar panels on your roof of your garage and use that juice to charge the car overnight. Also this company is releasing a hybrid model. So if you "want to pollute your own area" then you can. But it won't pollute very
    • by TomorrowPlusX (571956) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:05PM (#21779724)

      On many of these electrics, you do need to plug-in to get your initial charge. Isn't that causing just as much, if not more, pollution than burning oil locally?

      Obviously, the electric car is consuming energy which has to be produced, somehow. In a magic future it will be generated by wind, solar, geothermal and some sort of better-thought-out nuclear like pebble-bed reactors. Right now that energy will be produced by oil/coal so yes there will be pollution.

      That being said, automotive IC engines are completely and utterly piss-poor at converting oil to torque. They are shamefully poor at it, with efficiency down in the 20-30% range. Modern electricity generation plants ( using coal or oil ) convert quite a bit more of the chemical energy in the fuel to electricity. They're really quite good at it. They can run hot, they don't need gearboxes, etc etc. Even better, these facilities can have scrubbers and other carbon reduction measures which are too expensive for cars. Also, of the electricy consumed by an electric car, far more of it can be converted to torque simply because electric drivetrains are so simple and direct. No need for transmissions, and no need for differentials or CV joints ( provided the motor is in the wheel as some electrics do )

      So, yes, electric cars are not non-polluting. But, the amount of fuel burnt to move an electric car 100km is quite a bit less than even the best hybrid IC car can pull off. And looked at in the long term, electric cars are so simple I see no reason for a well built electric not to last 30 years ( provided good maintenance ). During those 30 years your city/town may have upgraded to a new power generation mechanism which is cleaner. Thus less pollution. Can your IC engine car do that?

      That being said, I'll continue to ride my bicycle to work, and only use my ( tiny, 2 door stickshift ) car when it's really necessary

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Worst case scenario, power from the plug comes from coal. It's still cleaner than burning gasoline.

      The way I look at is this. I have x dollars to spend on a car. If I spend those dollars on a conventional car, I get to buy much more gas. Every dollar spent on gas sends money to Saudi Arabia and the Wahaabi extremists who want me to die. Every dollar spent at the pump keeps us in Iraq, and in the larger picture in the middle east as a whole. Every dollar spent at the pump increases the chances that

  • Three wheels? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by asquithea (630068) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:30AM (#21779250)
    An interesting and radical design -- but the three wheel arrangement bothers me:

    Single wheel drive? According to the video, much of the weight is over the front, but the driving wheel is at the back. That might be OK for California, but I wonder how well this vehicle would cope with a little ice and snow.

    I see that they've done it that way to simplify the transmission, but I'd much rather have four wheels.
    • Re:Three wheels? (Score:5, Informative)

      by kalislashdot (229144) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:36AM (#21779330) Homepage
      It has to have 3 wheels, so it can be classified as a motorcycle. Once you got to 4 wheels it is a car and is required to have airbags, crumple zones and seat belts, and a whole slew of safety features.

      So the fact that is this not a car but a motorcycle I think they are labeling it wrong, A 300MPG Car???, nope a 300MPG enclosed bike is what it is. Heck my wife's scooter gets 70MPG.

      The previous post talks about rain a snow? Do you ride a motorcycle in the snow. Nope, same goes for this.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        The previous post talks about rain a snow? Do you ride a motorcycle in the snow. Nope, same goes for this.

        With proper tires, driving in rain or snow becomes a lot safer.
        You can't expect your "all season" radials to be up to the task.

        You should see a motorcycle with spiked/studded tires roaring around in the snow, it's pretty impressive and they don't lack much for traction. As in any 'bad' weather conditions, your stopping time will increase no matter what you're driving/riding.

      • Once you got to 4 wheels it is a car and is required to have airbags, crumple zones and seat belts, and a whole slew of safety features.

        Watch the video. It has airbags, crumple zone, seat belts, and a whole slew of safety features.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MonorailCat (1104823)
      The weight distribution will be such that the rear wheel is loaded more heavily (%wise) than any driven wheel of a 2wd car.

      This car is probably not going to be a good choice for a climate with a lot of winter weather. Were this type of car to gain widespread acceptance, a model could be designed with tiny wheel motors in the front two wheels (maybe a few HP), something to help the car get going on low traction surfaces without contributing much weight. The rear wheel would still offer most of the motive f
  • ...when these things actually start looking like cars. Yes, I know that when I drive to work I usually don't have to have room for groceries and the whole family but if that thing doesn't cost below 10k bucks then I don't see myself having an extra car sitting in the garage just for getting family and stuff to places twice a week.

    I want to see a car that has the same range, power and space and a comparable price as today's cars. THEN I will GLADLY buy one... new even.
    • Yes, this is one of the biggest issues when it comes to personal transportation. The most efficient way is that everyone has access to several cars, ranging from this tiny car to small trucks. When they want to do something, they pick the one that suits their needs most.

      But this is expensive if you don't share the cars in a pool together with other people, but people don't like to do that.
    • by Firethorn (177587)
      I think you've hit upon the reason that not everyone drives a high-efficiency communter car - I drive a vehicle similar to one, and I've had to borrow larger vehicles more than once.

      Add a family and I'd need a larger vehicle, but a commuter doesn't save enough money to justify owning an extra vehicle just for that. Taxes, insurance, and capital cost(buying or leasing it) kill the fuel savings.

      So people buy a vehicle to meet 95-100% of their needs, even if the vehicle is only used to capacity 5% of the time
  • By making it a Trike (3 wheel) its largely counted as a motorcycle so all the crash testing requirements go out the window (including side impact, which would shread this little egg).

    But the bigger worry is that trikes are far less stable in a turn, because it is at a much earlier point that they start to roll over.

    The Corbin Sparrow [wikipedia.org] had a real tendency to roll over. Alpina may be better by having a wider front wheel footprint, but the pod shape has a higher center of gravity. I hope either they have real
  • by dlevitan (132062) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:37AM (#21779348)
    The problem with all these super fuel efficient cars is that they're too expensive for a second car, too small for a primary car and overall, they look like toys. I'm sure its a wonderful car to drive, but it can't (for most people) be a primary car. It would be great for a trip across town to pick up groceries or to commute to work, but you need something else as well that can hold more than two people and has much more cargo space. Even a shopping trip to more than a few stores can often fill up a whole trunk in a sedan, and that car looks like it has very little cargo space. Which then brings up the next problem - if its a second car most people can't afford to spend $30k on a second car that's only for commuting. If the price ever gets down to $10-15k, I'm sure plenty of people will buy, but until then, its just not affordable.

    Finally, the last point, the car looks like its flimsy and just a toy. I wonder if they've done any crash testing on it. If a minor collision completely destroys the drag profile and requires $15k in repairs then insurance is going to be astronomical for the car. How sturdy are the body panels and how easily replaceable are they? How does it do in a collision with an 18-wheeler? It's going to be hard to convince (especially) Americans that a car like that is safer on the roads than an SUV.

    I wish them luck, and maybe in a few generations it will be popular, but it's going to take a lot of work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pavera (320634)
      First of all, nothing does well in a collision with an 18 wheeler. I saw an accident earlier this year where a range rover had its entire cabin area removed by an 18 wheeler. 18 wheelers will always kill people and completely maim cars when involved in accidents with passenger vehicles, unless we want like .5mpg tanks with 1ft of armor plating... even then I'd give the 18 wheeler a 50/50 shot.

      It states in the article that this car passed government testing in a 45mph frontal offset collision. I don't kno
  • Wii would like to play!

    Does it come with a gamepad?
  • I've seen a skabillion... well, must have been forty or fifty stories... about companies that are just about to introduce a great electric car.

    So far, only one has ever made it beyond the press release and concept car stage: the General Motors EV-1.

    I'll believe the Chevy Volt when I see one in a showroom, and ditto the Aptera and all its brethren.

    And deduct ten points for a Flash-heavy website about "a creative experience that puts you inside the mind of an Aptera engineer. The journey is a picturesque seri
    • by Firethorn (177587)
      How about a little something for those of us who think numerically?

      They don't want us, because we'll never buy their product, because 5 minutes with a napkin and a pen and we'll figure out that it's a bad idea.

      Capabilities are not enough to justify the price.
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:42AM (#21779418) Homepage Journal
    One of the problems with hybrid cars is the inability to obtain large format NiMH cells. The technology needed to produce these cells is patented, and the patent holder has declined to license it to anybody producing large format cells.

    (I should mention for the conspiracy fans among us that the patent holder is Chevron).

    Anybody who wants to build an electric car or hybrid car design that requires a large battery capacity can't use the safe and proven NiMH technology. This makes the plug-in hybrid, which needs more electrical storage than an ordinary hybrid, the domain of aftermarket kits only.

    Lithium Phosphate, once it becomes economical to produce, might well make better hybrid, or even plug-in hybrid technology a commercial reality. While not quite as good as Li-ion, it's inherently safer and (if reports are to be beleived) superior in performance to NiMH.
    • by raddan (519638) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:53PM (#21780508)
      Lithium-ferro phosphate is the chemistry used in the cells for the XO [laptop.org] OLPC laptop. Here an excerpt from ACM Queue's recent inteview with OLPC CTO Mary-Lou Jepsen:

      We started to look into other battery chemistries, such as lithium-ferro phosphate, which people haven't really used yet in consumer electronics. This chemistry charges in heat up to 60 degrees C. It's also about as safe as NiMH. We can put nickel-metal hydride or lithium- ferro phosphate or, eventually, other battery chemistries into our laptops, which was another accomplishment. It was a real pain. We did that in the embedded controller. We also have a little fuel gauge in each battery that so we can keep track of its life cycle.

      Our battery has a five-year life. You can go to 2,000 charge/recharge cycles. The lithium-ion battery in my ThinkPad is supposed to last for 500 charges, but in practice it's more like 200. So, moving to lithium-ferro phosphate is really cool because you don't have to spend additional money on periodic battery replacement costs, regardless of the environment.

      Also, lithium-ferro phosphate is pretty environmen- tally friendly. Some early studies we did suggested that it possibly can decompose into fertilizer (with processing). Typically we think of batteries as environmentally bad, but there's some indication that lithium-ferro phosphate isn't that harmful. We haven't quite gone through all of the rigor on this, however, and it does require some processing to decompose it into fertilizer.
      Full article is here [acmqueue.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      (I should mention for the conspiracy fans among us that the patent holder is Chevron).

      With all of the publicly available information surrounding the patents on large format NiMH batteries it pretty self-evident that the company, which is Cobasys, has an agenda to keep the technology out of the marketplace. How many corporations do you know that will deny themselves an additional revenue stream by not licensing their patents, especially patents that are due to expire very soon? Anyone?
  • $30,000 (Score:5, Informative)

    by kurtis25 (909650) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:48AM (#21779506)
    Call me when the middle class can get a fuel effiecient car. If I have to decide between that and a $15,000 Corolla which gets 30 mpg. I would have to choose the Corolla becuase the extra $15,000 is the current equivilant of 5,000 gallons of gas or about 150,000 miles of driving. If I drove my Corolla 100,000 miles I would pay $25,000 (car + gas) if I drove the Typ-1 e 100,000 miles I would have paid $32,500. If I got the Typ-1 h I would pay 31,000 to go the same distance (assuming it costs $30,000).
    • if I drove the Typ-1 e 100,000 miles I would have paid $32,500.

      Actually, that gets kind of complicated. If you get the battery-only version, you'd never use any gas at all. The real question would be how much you'd have to pay for its electricity. Anyone have an idea what it would cost per unit distance to charge one of these things?

    • Re:$30,000 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GnarlyDoug (1109205) on Friday December 21, 2007 @01:59PM (#21781544)
      WHen I use the term 'IC' in my post I am referring to straight internal combustion cars.

      Gas is going up in price. You can expect $4 or even $5 per gallon in the not too distant future. As this climbs, standard vehicles will become more and more expensive relative to hybrids. In addition you mention 100,000 miles, but that is low. Most modern cars are good for 200,000 miles or more. There are Priuses that have over 300,000 miles on them on the road today.

      A $25,000 50 MPG Prius, run for 200,000 miles at $3 per gallon will cost you $12,000 in gas. Your $15,000 30 MPG Corolla will cost you $20,000 in gas. The Prius would cost you only a net $2,000 more in this scenario, and that does not include the unscheduled maintenance cost penalties you pay (see below).

      If gas goes to $4 per gallon it is about $17K vs. $27K, making the Prius a wash. If it goes over $4 per gallon, the Prius is cheaper.

      As hybrids become more effecient and cheaper, these numbers will dramatically swing against owning a regular car. A 300 mpg hybrid like the article mentions that costs $30,000 will only cost $2,000 to $4,000 in gas over the lifetime of the car even at $5 per gallon. Such a car is free in comparison to the cost of the Corolla. You would literally save in the low tens of thousands of dollars by buying the 'more expensive' hybrid.

      There is another big factor. Scheduled maintenance costs on hybrids are about in line with regular cars, but their unscheduled maintenance costs tend to be much lower. Cab companies and fleets like this one [hybridexperience.ca] are starting to publish the reliability and maintenace results of using hybrids. The data is still sketchy, but even with the early hybrids (2001 models or so) that these sets of data apply to, the data indicates that you can save from $1 to $2 per 50 miles (very rough estimate) or so in unscheduled maintenance costs (ie, unexpected repair costs) over the life of the vehicle for a good hybrid vs. a regular IC vehicle. In other words, if you drive 200,000 miles you, statistically speaking, save about (200,000/50)*(1 to 2) = $4,000 to $8,000 over the lifetime of the car. Now that is a statistical average of course, and you might get a car that costs you almost nothing over that time. But that again you might not.

      Hybrids are also holding their value much better than regular cars. You don't take a huge hit to the value of a hybrid just becuase you drove it off the lot. Go look around you'll find used Priuses going for almost as much as new ones.

      Finally, I'll point out that Toyota (since we compared Corolla to Prius) no longer makes or sells regular IC cars in Japan. It's hybrid only. They are only making their older cars for America and some other markets, but they have already shown that they consider all non-hybrid lines to be end-lined soon.

      In short I would not buy a high-end new IC car today. If you're not ready for a hybrid or you don't drive enough for it to make economic sense to you, then do your best to buy a cheaper used regular car and wait. In the next few years you will see IC cars fall out of favor. For a period of time IC cars will become dirt cheap as demand for them drops through the floor, making the greatest buyers market in history for IC cars. Then IC cars will all but disappear. It's a pretty standard model for technology that has reached the end of the line.

  • until they start making cars that are in the same media price range as average family car and more importantly doesnt look like a giant sperm-cell on 3 wheels (see video to understand what i mean!)
  • It takes a whole lot more than one prototype and a short video to make a usable car. For example:
    • A real car needs to have a *suspension*. So it can go over bumps and potholes without jarring the passengers against the roof or breaking a wheel. This car seems to have a very limited travel suspension.
    • A real car needs to be able to go in a straight line without constant driver corrections. Center-rear wheel drive cars are not very directionally stable.
    • A real car needs to have heating and cooling systems
  • So will the firmware for this be written in native perl 6, and will it come bundled with a free copy of Duke Nukem Forever?
  • What's Taking Them? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:17PM (#21779918) Homepage Journal
    It's nice that this is up and coming, but that sort of thing is also known as "vaporware". We've been hearing announcements of cleaner vehicles for years and years. Even Lada demonstrated one last century! And what do we have? A handful of hybrids...

    Why is it taking so long? Why is it that I can see things that could be improved, and it's not being done? For example, why do the two hybrid cars I can buy here have gasoline engines and a fuel economy comparable to a diesel in the same price class, when they could (1) burn diesel, which has a much better fuel economy _and_ is cheaper here, and (2) use the combustion engine _only_ for electricity generation, so that it can run at its optimum efficiency? And, while I'm at it, why not a more efficient engine (e.g. Sterling or Wankel instead of Otto)?

    And why do we have cars that can run on up to 85% ethanol (the rest being gasoline) instead of 100%? And why do diesel cars not run on straight vegetable oil right out of the factory, even though you can get them converted for about 2 thousand euros, after which they can run on straight vegetable oil _or_ diesel?

    Come on, people! It's not like there are unsolved technical problems here! The solutions are known, they are just not in mass-manufactured cars.

    And governments! The (well, some previous) government here has refused to lower taxes for CO2-neutral fuels because "the environmental benefits are not clear". This despite studies having found that using straight vegetable oil instead of diesel reduces CO2 emissions _even_ if fossil fuels are burnt in every possible phase of the production and transportation. If it wasn't for that, straight vegetable oil would be cheaper than diesel here.

    And all the misconceptions people have. "But electricity generation emits CO2, too!" Well, depends how you generate your electricity, don't you think? "But the crops for producing vegetable oil will use up valuable arable land!" Well, not if you use crops that don't, or algae, which grow in deserts and on salt water and have a much higher yield anyway. And on and on.

    I don't claim _I_ have all the right answers, but it's sad to see how messed up the situation is, considering the things that _are_ known and _could_ be used.
  • Not in California (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yahma (1004476) on Friday December 21, 2007 @01:34PM (#21781110) Journal

    You've got to be kidding me! I am surprised the designers of this vehicle are based in California, because something like this would never work here. With the oversupply of Soccer Mom's behind the wheels of a giant SUV chatting away on their cell phones, this is surely a death trap.

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for high MPG cars. I personally am considering the 2009 Jetta TDI [edmunds.com] which gets a combined 50+ MPG, which is better MPG than most Hybrid vehicles without the huge markup in price and weight for the battery technology. And it has the added bonus of being designed for the Autobahn with 5 star crash ratings and based upon a tried and true technology..

  • by busydoingnothing (794514) on Friday December 21, 2007 @02:38PM (#21782236) Homepage
    What many people don't know is that the electric car actually predates gasoline and diesel vehicles [wikipedia.org], but for so[big]me rea[oil]son, disappeared into obscurity (I guess we could blame lousy battery technology, too). As recent as a decade ago, the GM EV-1 provided a viable solution to current car technology, but again, disappeared into obscurity. The story of this car can be seen in the documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? [whokilledt...riccar.com] . It's a damn shame that such a solid alternative was sent to an early grave. Hopefully this time around, with the focus on global warming, car companies will get smart and embrace this technology.
  • A bit OT... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StarfishOne (756076) on Friday December 21, 2007 @06:41PM (#21785586)
    But every time when news items like appear, it is usually followed by discussions/sub-threads like "Global warming is not real!", "Global warming is not caused by mankind", "If we don't do something now about the environment, we're all going to die!", etc. etc.

    I'm often wondering why there's apparently so little line of though along the following line:

    "No matter if global warming is real or not and no matter if it's caused by mankind if it's real... I just don't want to live in as smog-filled city with thousands of vehicles producing all kinds of products that my family and I will breathe in, 24/7/365!"

    Active environmentalists or not, global warming supported or not... I hope we can all agree on the fact that no-one likes to breathe in what comes out of the exhaust of all those vehicles on the road today, right?

    IMHO, this alone makes it completely worthwhile to switch to greener/electrical alternatives. Not just for the perceptual difference in air quality, but also to prevent X cases of disease Y every single year.

    Thank you!

    *steps down from soap box*

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