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Low Emission Cars Continue to Gain Popularity 744

Rio writes "A company may soon offer American motorists a new option to save on high gas prices -- vehicles powered by lithium batteries. From the article: 'Just plug in these cars for about five hours or so and you'll get about 300 miles on a single charge.' The vehicles cost about $35,000 or about double what buyers would pay for a gas-powered model." Relatedly acidrain writes to tell us The BBC is reporting that a prototype of the new "Clever car" (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) is starting to make the rounds on European test tracks. The car is one meter wide and less polluting than normal vehicles. It has a top speed of 100 km/h (60mph) and uses a novel tilting chassis to make it safe and maneuverable.
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Low Emission Cars Continue to Gain Popularity

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  • BMW C-1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by nacturation ( 646836 ) <nacturationNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:42AM (#15202814) Journal
    The BMW C-1 [google.com] looks way more comfortable than the reclining Clever car. It didn't require a helmet (in Germany, France, and Spain) but they only made 2000 then discontinued it due to poor sales. Despite the fact that this article is just a PR piece, I can't see it helping sales much.
    • Re:BMW C-1 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:52AM (#15203034) Homepage Journal
      Why bother with either really? Motorcycles can get 45 or so miles per gallon and they are safe provided:
      a) you don't act like a fucking idiot
      b) soccer moms in behemoth SUVs stop talking on their phones long enough to see you.

      A is probably easier than b though...at least if you live in the states.
      And Smart cars can get up to 60 mpg on regular unleaded(though YMMV). These kinds of vehicles just seem like an odd crossover between motorcycles and smart cars.
      • Re:BMW C-1 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pnatural ( 59329 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:02AM (#15203209)
        I had a conversation with a veteran motorcyclist who explained the method he used to avoid getting in accidents: assume that no driver can see you, ride as if you were invisible.

        He went on to explain that he had been riding bikes for 20+ years, and had never been in an accident. When you think about it, it rings true.

        I have explained this to my children, but have expanded it to be inclusive of all motor vehicle activity. Never assume that the other person on the road can see you. Do the thinking for every driver within your range of vision, and you will be much safer.
        • Re:BMW C-1 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Ramadog ( 535075 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:23AM (#15203260)
          assume that no driver can see you, ride as if you were invisible.

          My version is assume they are all out to kill you.

          It is quite scary they way a car driver can pull up at the stop sign on the side road, look directly at you then continue through the stop sign cutting you off. Headlight off, headlight on, dark coloured clothes, light coloured clothes the cars drivers just don't see you.

          But then look at the number of car drivers pull out in front on a semi because they did not see it. If they don't even see large trucks what chance do motorcycles have?

      • Re:BMW C-1 (Score:5, Funny)

        by penguin-collective ( 932038 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:18AM (#15203244)
        Why bother with either really? Motorcycles can get 45 or so miles per gallon and they are safe provided:

        So, you're saying motorcycles are safe provided their riders never make mistakes and provided that all other drivers on the road start behaving sensibly. Well, neither is gonna happen, which means that motorcycles remain risky.

        Munich for breakfast, Tokyo for lunch, NYC for dinner.

        You're... Godzilla?
      • Re:BMW C-1 (Score:4, Funny)

        by AGMW ( 594303 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:23AM (#15203257) Homepage
        b) soccer moms in behemoth SUVs stop talking on their phones long enough to see you.

        Whilst driving to Guildford from Kingston yesterday morning, on the A3, I was being tailed by a large people carrier with a "lady" holding a mobile (cell) phone to her ear. I indicated that I had seen her vehicular faux pax in the usual way (pretended to hold a phone to my ear, etc).
        She pulled up along side me and wound down her window to harange me whilst we were both driving along in heavy traffic at 30 or 40 MPH. Apparently, it's none of my "f***ing" business what the numb-nuts in the vehicle behind is doing and I should, apparently, mind my own "f***ing" business (now you know why I put "lady" in quotes!).

        It was at this point that I noticed the small and frightened looking, girl in the front passenger seat.

        With people like this on the road I think I'll stick to cars thanks very much!

        Interestingly, there was just the psycho-mom and the small girl in the 7 seater people carrier too ... so, two stereotypes for the price of one! Best value on the A3 today! Get 'em while they're hot, they're lovely!

      • Re:BMW C-1 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @06:42AM (#15203440) Homepage Journal
        2% of road users are motocyclists here in the UK,
        as are 20% of road fatalities.

  • by terrencefw ( 605681 ) <.slashdot. .at. .jamesholden.net.> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:44AM (#15202818) Homepage
    This soooo reminds me of the Sinclair C5 "urban" low emissions car.

    http://www.sinclairc5.com.nyud.net:8080/ [nyud.net]

    I'd be terrified of being smushed by a truck while driving one.
  • and... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by r00t ( 33219 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:44AM (#15202821) Journal
    How much will the power cost me?

    What is this going to do to the power grid which has been known to collapse, famously with the northeast blackout and the rolling blackouts in California?

    How about the transmission line waste? What if I let my car sit for a week or two?

    Aren't these the batteries that tend to explode if you look at them funny?

    Just what does battery production do to the environment? How about leaks and recycling?
    • Re:and... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cliffski ( 65094 )
      good questions, but lets ask those same questions about normal gas cars that most people use now. Especially as the trend in the US is for those cars to get bigger and LESS fuel efficient, rather than the more sensible direction towards greater fuel efficiency.
      Any new system will have problems, but this sounds like a step in the right direction.
      Sadly, its always the extreme versions like this that get the PR. I wouldnt have bought a C5, and I wouldnt drive this, or even a Smart Car, but given a choice betw
      • Any new system will have problems, but this sounds like a step in the right direction.

        Who modded this insightful? Can somebody please point out the insight for me?

        You've answered not one of the concerns raised about electric cars. Please explain how an electric car can take energy from chemical to kinetic to electric to chemical to electric to kinetic and possibly be more efficient or cleaner for the environment than a gas car. There is absolutely no way that this is a step in the right direction until we h
        • Re:and... (Score:3, Interesting)

          cheap clean electricity sources to power it:

          -Bio-fuels (I know..right now they burn as much energy in production as you get out of the final product)
          -Nuclear (In some countries)
        • Re:and... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pseudonym ( 62607 )
          Please explain how an electric car can take energy from chemical to kinetic to electric to chemical to electric to kinetic and possibly be more efficient or cleaner for the environment than a gas car.

          Electric cars don't burn energy while sitting at traffic lights.

        • Re:and... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JonathanR ( 852748 )
          Without resorting to the 'alternative energy' sources, there are several factors in favour of EV:

          CCGT (>50% thermal-electrial efficiency)
          Peak efficiency of IC auto engines is pretty irrelevant in real world use. Expect to see less than 15 percent efficiency for normal driving.
          Regenerative braking (yeah, hybrids do this too, but still suffer from the above disadvantages).

          The disadvantage of highly efficient vehicles (electric and others), is you then start having to be 'inefficient' with energy use
        • Re:and... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:48AM (#15203016) Homepage
          Once cars are electric, you can use any system you want (such as solar) to initially generate that power source. Oil-powered cars require oil, its a transport system with zero flexibility. If we find a way to extract energy from internet flamewars in the future, electric cars can switch to that power without modification.
          So its a step in the right direction.
        • Re:and... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JollyFinn ( 267972 )
          U235+n=> (Xe,Zr,Cr,Ru..)+3n +heat . Would be preferred method ;)

          As for efficiency. Gasoline powered cars are in overall about 15% efficient.
          http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/atv.shtml [fueleconomy.gov]

          The electricity tranportation is over 98% efficient. The electrical engines are over 90% efficient, and can be done without gearbox and regenerate at braking. And the batteries have upto 95% efficiency.

          So with fossile fuel plants that are in range of 600MW can get efficiency of 60% . There is big difference here.
          So its basicly
    • It's simple (Score:5, Funny)

      by joggle ( 594025 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:32AM (#15202959) Homepage Journal
      What is this going to do to the power grid which has been known to collapse, famously with the northeast blackout and the rolling blackouts in California?

      You get yourself a backup diesel generator.

    • Re:and... (Score:5, Informative)

      by skids ( 119237 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:39AM (#15202984) Homepage
      >What is this going to do to the power grid which has been known to collapse, famously >with the northeast blackout and the rolling blackouts in California?

      Known to collapse during the day, when the ACs are cranked. If the electric cars start causing the power companies problems they just move their off-peak rate breaks to the morning, and the owners just install a timer (actually with cars like this the timer is usually built into the charging station) Then they can recharge using all that extra baseload capacity that ends up going to waste because we can't just shut down coal and nuke plants when we aren't using them, unlike combined cycle spinning reserve.

      > How about the transmission line waste?

      Yep that's waste, for sure.

      > What if I let my car sit for a week or two?

      Lithium batteries are famous for not self-discharging very fast. It's NiMH that do that, and even then it takes more than a week or two to lose very large amounts of power.

      > Aren't these the batteries that tend to explode if you look at them funny?

      Li-Poly are touchy, however the new Li metal phosphate batteries are very stable, and considering their superior performance they will likely supplant Li-poly for this application very rapidly.

      > Just what does battery production do to the environment? How about leaks and recycling?

      Well, to answer the second question first, normal lead-acid car batteries are one of the biggest success stories in recycling ever. When you own a battery pack that large, you're damn sure going to recycle it because the scrap value is pretty high. These aren't camera batteries you don't just throw them out.

      As to the "leaks" concern, modern non-lead-acid batteries rarely "leak" -- their insides aren't liquid in the first place and they tend to be in hermetically sealed metal cylinders. It takes a lot of effort to get them to spill their guts. I suppose if you make a habit of parking your dead cars on your lawn and allowing the body to rust such that the batteries get a bath every time it rains, in a decade or so you might actually manage to generate an evironmental hazard. People that do that are pretty rare though, especially when the salvage value of the battery is so high, and for the most part the neighbors will complain before that happens.

      The fabrication is not especially environmentally destructive. Li is mined from some of the most barren areas on the planet (dry lakebeds in South America.) The rest of the chemicals and materials are fairly common and probably even have a market surplus problem as is. There is some concern in that the supply of minable Li is limited, but by the time it is exhausted decades will have passed and we'll be onto the next battery tech or fuel cell or whatnot.

      Anyway, pure EVs and PHEVs (where fuel use is low enough to consider biofuel without too much inconvenience) are an important first step, not necessarily because they will be cleaner on face value, but because they open up the owner's option. The owner could buy renewable energy credits from the power company, or they could charge from solar panels, or like I said for PHEVs they could use biofuels since they don't have to fill up much/often. It's that flexibility that will finally put the automobile owner in control of their own energy choices. That's a heck of a lot better of a situation than we have now.

    • The ideal way to do this would be to charge your car overnight with relatively cheap off-peak electricity from the "base load" plants.
    • Re:and... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:52AM (#15203033)
      How much will the power cost me?

      Well, by all accounts- much less. Electricity doesn't have the insane levels of taxes gasolene and diesel do (this is the primary reason it costs a fortune to fill up at the pump.) Even home heating oil (which is basically diesel) isn't taxed, and they dye diesel so anyone can inspect what's in the tank (or a piece of clear tubing installed just for this purpose- I kid you not, it's on ever VW TDI) and see if you're using home heating oil and avoiding taxes.

      What is this going to do to the power grid which has been known to collapse, famously with the northeast blackout and the rolling blackouts in California?

      Rolling blackouts in California were not caused by lack of generation capacity. They were caused by Enron calling up plant operators and saying "Hey. Shut down for maintenance. Find an excuse. Any excuse." Watch "Enron, The Smartest Guys In The Room"...they have tape recordings of the traders calling up grids and plant.

      Also, right now, we've got gas shortages throughout the country because the EPA mandates MTBE (a known carcinogen, by the way) be in summer fuel, so all the refineries supposedly have to essentially "re-tool" for summer fuel. They happen to also go down for maintenance in "preparation" for the summer driving "season."

      So in short- gasolene isn't without its problems as well.

      How about the transmission line waste?

      Probably compares to the waste in transporting gasolene or diesel.

      What if I let my car sit for a week or two?

      Lithium batteries don't self-discharge as badly as other battery technologies (mainly lead acid.)

      Aren't these the batteries that tend to explode if you look at them funny?

      Sort of. "Normal" lithium ion cells catch fire or explode if overcharged, discharged too quickly, charged too quickly, punctured, and so on. They vary greatly in what their discharge rating is (ie 5C,= 5 x capacity in Amp-Hours). There's a company in Japan that seems to have solved most of these problems with stability; I forget how. There's a Massachusetts startup that designed the packs in one of the tool manufacturer's new lithium ion construction tools; they claim insane recharge rates, and more safety as well (and using more common raw materials.)

      As to your other questions, no idea. But I will tell you that for a few years, EMTs and firefighters were pissed as hell that Toyota and Honda didn't have a clue as to accident procedures involving hybrids with high voltage packs...ie what was safe to cut with a buzz-saw or jaws of life (ie roof pillars and such), where the cables were, how the battery pack contactors worked, and so on. For a while, departments had a "don't approach the vehicle if..." policies in place.

      • Re:and... (Score:3, Informative)

        Rolling blackouts in California were not caused by lack of generation capacity. They were caused by Enron calling up plant operators and saying "Hey. Shut down for maintenance. Find an excuse. Any excuse." Watch "Enron, The Smartest Guys In The Room"...they have tape recordings of the traders calling up grids and plant.

        And not a single prosection. Caught red-handed enacting possibly one of the largest, most ongoing acts of economic sabotage in world history and they got away scott free. Big companies truel
      • Puhleeze. (Score:5, Informative)

        by dtmos ( 447842 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:45AM (#15203295)
        You were doing well until you repeated that old hybrid-EMT scare. Any first responders that were afraid to approach a hybrid weren't well informed in their profession. I can't speak for Honda, but not only did Toyota work with national first-responder organizations to get their comments on the design of the US model, it made presentations on its design at their national conventions, made publications about it in the trade press, and distributed literature about the car freely and widely. The locations of the high-voltage elements of the car have been available on the web since time immemorial, and Toyota, at least, spent a lot of time repeating over and over that there's no high voltage in the roof pillars (how do these rumors get started?!?).

        Both Toyota and Honda were and are exquisitely well-aware of accident procedures involving their cars; that's why the high-voltage lines in the Prius are armored International Orange cables isolated from the ground of the chassis, surrounded by identified conduit, and centered under the car floor, where the jaws of life and other EMT tools are least likely to be used. The battery itself is placed in the statistically safest place in the car (just over the rear axle), and protects first responders by an accelerometer-based circuit breaker, a Ground Fault Interrupter, and interlocks. Criminy, what do you want?
      • Re:and... (Score:3, Informative)

        by szembek ( 948327 )
        the EPA mandates MTBE (a known carcinogen, by the way) be in summer fuel

        That's BS, they do not. MTBE is not even allowed to be used, sold, or imported into NY state. I am pretty sure Connecticut is the same way, not sure of any others. http://www.pcnr.com/News/2000/0531/Front_Page/may 3 1Front_Page5670.html [pcnr.com] If you live in a state which still allows MTBE maybe you should contact your legislators and push them to stop!

        From http://www.epa.gov/mtbe/gas.htm [epa.gov]:
        The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAA) require
    • Re:and... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Technician ( 215283 )
      How much will the power cost me?

      An EV on the highway uses about 20KW of electric power. 300 miles at 60MPH is about 5 hours. Simple math says about 20KW X 5 = 100 KWH. A KWH in many palces is about 15 cents in the US. 100 X $0.15 is about $15. It seems to be less than a tank of gas by quite a bit.

      What is this going to do to the power grid which has been known to collapse, famously with the northeast blackout and the rolling blackouts in California?

      As with any unstable power source having a redundant st
    • Re:and... (Score:3, Interesting)

      California blackouts occurred more on the news than in reality, much like the 10's of thousands of dead in New Orleans and in the Trade Towers.

      The lithium bateries that have been exploding are cheap Asian garbage batteries that people have been buying off of Ebay for $2 instead of the OEM ones for $40

      Finally if lithium battery production becomes much like lead acid batteries is currently, the recycle rate will hit near 90% after only a few years.

    • I've recently been introduced to a wonderful Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, which usually secretes only a small amount of a sodium chloride / urea solution. Through imaginative manufacturing, the costs of these vehicles have been reduced greatly. I believe they are mostly used in European and Asian countries, as they are a bit small for Americans, outside of an interested hobbyist. They run on kinetic power, and the fuel cell takes any kind of organic matter to be powered: scientists are still discussing the
  • by skids ( 119237 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:50AM (#15202833) Homepage
    They may have their niche, who knows. Considering kits to convert PHEVs can be added now such that the price for the whole prius + PHEV is about what those cars go for, they'll have to keep their shoulders to the wheel to stay competitive. The PHEV kits are only going to get cheaper, so they better keep as good track of the latest battery tech [a123systems.com] as EnergyCS [energycs.com] and the other PHEV folks do.
  • The first link states that "The cars can travel up to 100 mph, according to the report" while the second link agrees with the submitter (100km/hr; 60 mph).

    Also, while I appreciate the clever name, isn't this more than an Low Emission Car? Isn't it entirely electric?

  • Battery Disposal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eideewt ( 603267 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:52AM (#15202844)
    People keep saying all this "what about the waste when the batteries are disposed of" stuff. Are they on to something? Are there any battery experts here who can tell me if that's a valid concern?
    • Re:Battery Disposal? (Score:5, Informative)

      by thoolie ( 442789 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:09AM (#15202891)
      I am not an expert, but I have done battery development for Milwaukee Electric Tool (V28) and Johnson Controls (Hybrid Systems), mostly on the electrical control side, not so much chemistry.

      I can tell you that the standard lead acid are the most recycled product on earth (or just about). The vast majority of lead acid batteries are re-used (the lead and plastic). The only thing that really gets thrown away is the acid, which I believe is soluable in water. The NiMH are another story, they are a heavier metal and need more electroncis to properly charge and discharge them, probably the worst of the three.

      Li-Ion, OTOH, are great due to the fact that it is mostly organic materials. So, they are much less harmfull to the environment while being able to pack a lot more power (or engergy depending on application). The down side, as mentioned, is the reactivity. This has been more-or-less compensated for by a combination of engineering methods in the assembly of the battery as well as in the battery managment system used to control the battery. If you google SAFT, you can see what I'm talking about (although JCI has the best Li-Ion technology available, not to mention what is coming down the shoot).

      Please be ready to see all of the older lead acid/ alcaline / NiMH batteries replaced by Li-Ion in the next ten years due to their inherantly more efficiant means of storing energy. Sorry for the spelling, it's late and I should be sleeping :)
    • Re:Battery Disposal? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 )
      That's a good question, particularly as all current lithium cells just up and die 3 years or so after they've been manufactured, regardless of how they've been used. Don't take my word for it, Google. So that's going to cost you, what, half the new purchase price of your car every 3 years? Not a good deal.
  • Car or... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cataclyst ( 849310 )
    Is it just me, or does it look more like a souped up go-kart than a car...

    Judging from the photos, doesn't look like this thing has ANY trunk/passenger/leg/head space. Other than that, it looks great and I can't wait to buy one[/sarcasm]
    • Of course it depends on local consumer expectations.

      Here in Vancouver the Swatch/Mercedes Smart Car seems to be selling briskly. While I noticed a few in truck-happy Alberta, there're all over the place in the GVRD.

      A lot of businesses use them as company cars and them seem to hold their own during rush hour traffic. Of course parking is a breeze too.

      I'd imagine even something like a souped-up go-kart would have a lot of appeal among the granola types here ...
  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:55AM (#15202855) Homepage
    It's nice to have the smaller cars, but the immediate reality is you're going to have to match feature-for-feature (outside of the high-emission, low-efficiency parts) in performance and otherwise without ending up in the Lexus or BMW range, and doing so without the driver noticing. That includes similar size and performance without having to take any notice as to driving a low-emission car, with the down-the-road option of converting existing cars over to low emissions parts that do the same but retain the body and performance of the previous engine/drivetrain as close as possible (again, without the price being beyond a conventional swap of such kind).

    Not all of us care to drive something that would result in a guaranteed pre-packaged closed casket burial in the event of the Absolutely Unavoidable Collision- especially if such vehicle performs in a manner that would predispose it to being a 5'x8'x5' object with relative ease in ordinary operation.
  • by ivi ( 126837 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:57AM (#15202858)

      Not unlike Star Trak era Lithium Crystals, I suspect that
      crim's will go after such vehicles for their energy banks.

      More value also pushes up the cost of insurance for them.

      How do fuel-cell technologies work in this app'n domain?

      What do Toyota Priams run on, Lithium Cells or Fuel Cells?
  • by geneing ( 756949 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:59AM (#15202863)
    Just remember that Lithium batteries begin to loose capacity after only 100 recharge cycles. My laptop battery is down to 1/2 the original capacity after ~110 cycles.

    Would you buy a car that would only last you 150 days before very costly repairs? QED

    • You have to give up lifetime for range or vice versa with current technology. Deep discharges are damaging but if you stick to shallow discharges you don't go as far.

      I get different estimates running the arithmetic differently. If the range on "a charge" is 300 miles, then 100 cycles is 30,000 miles. There's some Toshiba vaporware [dpreview.com] which is supposedly good for a thousand cycles. That would mean 300,000 miles, during which you'd be exempt from replacing the head gasket, the alternator, the starter, the cataly
  • Mwahaha ! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:03AM (#15202871) Homepage
    Who's laughin now bitches !? **puts clown nose back on & gets in the car**
  • too slow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Unsus ( 901072 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:03AM (#15202875)
    >It has a top speed of 100 km/h (60mph) I want to save money on gas, but not at the expense of doubling the time it takes to drive home.
    • Cripes! Where do you live that lets you drive home at 120mph during rush hour?!
  • by edgedmurasame ( 633861 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:03AM (#15202876) Homepage Journal
    Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport
    Is that part of the name or an instruction for fellow drivers on what to do to a low-emissions vehicle?
  • by simX ( 928983 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:21AM (#15202925)
    Grrrr... "relatedly" is not a word, and it should never be one. Dict.org doesn't have an entry, and the built-in Mac OS X dictionary doesn't have an entry. Arggh! I hate made-up words.

    </language nazi>
  • Top Speed (Score:3, Informative)

    by stilz2 ( 878265 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:21AM (#15202926)
    Submission says: "It has a top speed of 100 km/h (60mph)" Article says: "The cars can travel up to 100 mph, according to the report." ?
  • Don't Forget (Score:3, Insightful)

    by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:24AM (#15202940)
    The BBC is reporting that a prototype of the new "Clever car" (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) is starting to make the rounds on European test tracks. Look for their new model the OMGYGTD ("Oh, my God. Your going to die.") coming to a U.S. road near you.

    This would be perfectly fabulous if there were federal regulations on vehicle sizes permitted in urban or other zones, but it sounds like a logistic nightmare for lawmakers to get a gradual migration to this going at any level that would prove effective. It's not really a phased migration thing. You can't put such a small car on roads with normal compact and larger cars. It's a safety nightmare. You can't really build a whole additional set of roads for these things other since municipalities like mine are already looking at $700 million dollar annual deficits.

    Time to visit Europe!

  • Clever Car = Carver (Score:4, Informative)

    by WarwickRyan ( 780794 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:25AM (#15202941)
    It really needs noting exactly how poorly researched the BBC News article on that car is.

    Drivetrain asside, the vehicle is effectively a clone the dutch-designed Carver http://www.carver-europe.com/ [carver-europe.com].

    So, why am I accusing that BBC journalist of being lazy? Well, the Carver has appeared on the BBC excellent flagship car show Top Gear http://www.bbc.co.uk/topgear/prog19/carver.shtml>. You really would expect that a BBC Journalist reporting on automobiles would have some knowledge of them. Or, at the very least, have watched Top Gear for a couple of years.
    • As well as appearing on the Science Channel and I beleive the Discovery Channel, which I beleive are both backed by the BBC.

      It is really sad that they claim this is innovative when it is Carver that had a working design first.

  • by boomgopher ( 627124 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:26AM (#15202945) Journal
    To do my part in saving the Earth, I will replace my current vehicle with an electric or hybrid car, because they grow naturally from sunflower fields. I know they grow in sunflower fields because if they didn't, the energy saved by the increase in MPG wouldn't be enough to compensate for the energy used to create these heavy industrial products. If so, I would feel bad, and I don't want to feel bad, and I want to feel good when I buy things.

    • "...the energy saved by the increase in MPG wouldn't be enough to compensate for the energy used to create these heavy industrial products."

      Well duh. Hybrids still swallow less energy in use than normal cars (or SUVs, for that matter). The creation of both hybrids and normal gas guzzlers probably takes as much energy, so there is a difference. We aren't going to get cars built with zero energy any time soon, anyway.

      From an extreme environmentalist's point of view the only solution would be to dump car
      • Re:doing my part (Score:5, Informative)

        by pimpimpim ( 811140 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:25AM (#15203127)
        I'll respond to your post and not to the GP, because I have the impression that GP is trolling here, against common sense and taking the effort of checking his statements. That is, Toyota really looked into the total lifecycle (manufacturing, usage, waste treatment) of their product (this is, or should be, common practice [wikipedia.org]) and found that the break-even point of emission is at 20.000km [ninemsn.com.au]. There is a toyota pdf folder on this [toyota.co.jp], but I can't read it due to some japanese character set missing. I'll therefore quote the text from the other review here:

        According to Toyota - and the company is commendably frank about its car's environmental equations - Prius doesn't even begin to break even on greenhouse gas emissions until it's been driven around 20,000km. This is because extracting and manufacturing the raw materials to make a Prius consumes more energy than a conventional car. The extra energy required means more carbon dioxide is emitted to make a Prius than a conventional technology car.

        So no, hybrid cars don't grow on trees, but they do win in the end on total emission. Toyota cars are known for their reliability (the main German automobile organization have found toyota to be the top reliable car for years in a row already), so expect them to overcome this 20.000 km barrier many, many times over. (estimated battery life seems to be about 160.000km [wikipedia.org] at minimum).

    • Re:doing my part (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dbIII ( 701233 )

      To do my part in saving the Earth, I will replace my current vehicle with an electric or hybrid car, because they grow naturally from sunflower fields

      Very funny - but the whole point is about shifting the pollution out of the CBD and shifting the power consumption to the middle of the night when those base load stations are still running (hot things that take hours to cool down) but not much power is being consumed.

      The first hybrid car I saw was to be used in a lead mine - fuel outside and electric undergro

  • by jonasy ( 890089 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:33AM (#15202963)

    I don't think these special vehicles like TFA car will achieve any real commercial success. Most people want a safe, comfortable and practical car. And you most certainly don't want anybody to laugh at you while riding it...

    No, I believe the future (until fuel cells are available) lays in hybrids [hybridcars.com], like the Toyota Prius, even though they're still not completely environmental friendly - fuel consumption is not better than most diesel powered cars. But battery powered only cars have their problems as well, darn expensive, well you have to plan your trips carefully, batteries have a limited life span and probably more important batteries are not environmental friendly.

    Here [autoblog.com] is an interesting hybrid from Saab, running on 100% ethanol and batteries. It's a good looking convertible, and runs 0-100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds, not very bad from a fossil fuel-free car. Only problem is that 1) you can't buy the car yet 2) you can't buy 100% ethanol (and producing large amounts of ethanol is also a problem).

  • http://www.arielmotor.co.uk/04/frames.htm [arielmotor.co.uk]

    Its engine is the Honda 2.0 litre Vtec engine. Fast _and_ economical (It's a 4 banger, after all). If I was to blow an equivalent wad of cash on an impractical car like that mentioned in TFA that has half its value in the silly _battery pack_, I'd much rather spend it on something _fun_ and impractical.

  • Give me an Ariel Atom with a propane tank feeding a VW TDI motor.

    It would still be virtually zero emission, and go like hell.
  • This [ifenergy.com] is actually what might gain popularity. 157mpg obtained with clever design for lightweightness and aerodynamics. At least it can fill a gap and extend the "mileage" (no pun) we can get out of Petrol till Hydrogen power or alternatives take off.
  • by rmckeethen ( 130580 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:00AM (#15203054)

    Having spent most of last year living carless in the big city, I'm here to tell you that personal cargo capacity is very important factor in designing an efficient and useful low-emissions vehicle for urban transport, a factor that the 'clever' car designers seem to have ignored. Where am I going to store my groceries in this thing? I suppose the passenger seat might do the trick, but with that kind of limited space, why am I driving a car anyway? I can take a taxi just as easily, or even a bus. Hell -- maybe I could even buy a bike, which might help reduce both my fat ass and be good for the environment. What's the use in owning a car that costs twice as much as a regular car, but which has no room to transport me and the occasional junk I buy at the store?

    As I see it, no urban vehicle is going to catch on with buyers unless it has some, even if limited, cargo carrying capacity. Small size is great -- especially when you consider the parking situation in most cities -- and fuel efficiency is wonderful, but if it doesn't move both me *and* my stuff, what good is it?

  • by salec ( 791463 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:16AM (#15203100)
    For a technology to mature, the way is paved with suboptimal experimental designs and "proofs of concept". The thing is, something may be bitched about and downgraded untill there is immediate, burning problem that needs to be addressed, such as oil shortage which is looming in not so distant future. Every problem addressed here can and will be solved when pressing needs arise. Right now, it seems like a solution for distant, someone else's problem (GHG emissions->melting polar caps->oceans rise, but no worries for some of us as we are on high enaugh ground) while, on the other hand, designers are obviously 'not meaning it seriously', or in other words they pity wackos with money to burn who will pay for these toys.

    It should be noted that first gas cars where also hobists' toys, inefficient, unreliable, short radius authonomy and explosion-prone, but all the problems where gradually solved, one step a time. OTOH, internal combustion engine cars had no viable competition at the time (if we exclude trains, which were constrained to ... railroads!). Today's performance is result of competition inside the same category. That is why their initial quirks where tolerated - they had no substitute.

    Now, it is all like a sumo match - if you press hard enaugh, you will get what you want. If we are determined to press the electric cars, people will find it worthwile to spend some effort inventing solutions for its' present problems. You have noticed that Lithium batteries are response to problem of heaviweightness and bulkiness of acid-lead batteries, but instantly there comes the next problem - endurance of these new batteries. There is a number of other problems, such as recharging time, authonomy, scaleability (you cannot go to nearest battery station and buy just a little "juice" to get car there, or carry small canister in luggage compartment), that may need complete change of viewing point (micro or nano capsulled batteries, ... ?).

    Perhaps new cars will have modular engines, that would allow us to reconfigure and equip them differently for different uses, i.e. when commuting between work and home, use electric subsystem, but when you go on intercity trip, swap it with internal combustion module. Or, even better, make complete powertrain electrical and just swap main battery block with electric generator(, or fuel cell), depending on intended use or personal preference. Of course, there is downside: this would require you to own a garage, or else pay for changing services and rent-a-module.

    Like every time before in tech history, military will be judge of what goes and what s(t)inks. When there is mil-grade electric vehicle in comission, there will be cheaper, less robust, fancier versions for civilian use. But, why would military do such thing? Well, for one, transport of energy supplies could potentially be cheaper, faster and more reliable then transport of fuel supplies. I mean (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_power_tran smission [wikipedia.org]). That would create enormous advantage for invasion forces, especially if chain of satellite relays is used to beam energy from homeland power grid up to the first satelite, then from satelite to satelite, then down to any arbitrary point on the surface of the Earth. Aside from military uses, a nation in possesion of such system could allow own electric power companies to export, sell energy to any other nation, or even make other nations totally dependent ("a hand on a switch" instead of "hand on a oil tap")to this nation, create advantage for national civil engineering corporations to win any bid anywhere because of the low logistics costs... I believe there is a lot of goodies involved in it for serious, resourceful powerseekers.
  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:17AM (#15203101) Homepage
    Instead of buying this, you could buy a regular car and take the $18,000 you saved and buy carbon credits. $18,000 of carbon credits in the USA, which has an underpriced market because laws don't create demand, would offset the burning of, I kid you not, close to one MILLION gallons of gasoline. Yup, enough to take an 8mpg hummer and drive it around the Earth over 300 times!

    So buying one of these is like driving a Hummer almost 8 million miles. Doesn't seem so good.

    At the more expensive price for European credits ($13 per metric tonne CO2) it's still like driving the Hummer for a million miles.

    How can it be that dramatic? The genius of pollution credits is they move the money spent on emissions reduction to where it can be done most efficiently. You can cut emissions by buying an expensive electric car, sure, but somebody else can do it far more cheaply by improving the output of a factory, or putting up a wind farm, or planting a grove of trees -- which are all things that allow people to sell these credits.

    Now you may not like the credits, or think the numbers should be different, but the numbers in this case are so off the scale that there's no way that you will do a better job of helping the environment, at least today, with this sort of tech. At best you can feel good while being a gross polluter, and hope you're encouraging a market so that they eventually become cheaper and a thus more efficient way to reduce emissions.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:06AM (#15203215) Homepage
    If they put a decent sports bike engine in the Clever Car it
    would sell by the bucket load as a recreational vehicle for those
    who don't want the risks of a motorbike.

    But as an everyday enviromental commuting vehicle? Hmm. Not so sure.
    Ok , it might have good mileage but having gas cylinders right at
    the back of the car where they're a prime target to be hit and crushed?
    Not to mention the vehicle itself doesn't exactly look volvo-esque in
    its ability to protect its occupants plus its got very little storage

    Also at one metre wide its hardly going to be able to squeeze
    between traffic like a bike can especially when it leans over hard.

    Seems to me its got all the disadvantages of a bike (dangerous, little
    storage space) and a car (slow, stuck in traffic) , and none of the
    advantages of either.

    Its ONLY selling point is its mpg and novelty value. Well sorry, but in
    a competitive market you need more than that to sell a vehicle.
  • Clever Car (Score:5, Funny)

    by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @05:11AM (#15203224)
    new "Clever car" (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport)

    Sure, but it's not such a clevut acronym.
  • by EMIce ( 30092 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @06:06AM (#15203356) Homepage
    Civics get around 40mpg highway, which really isn't all that bad. If people just dropped their SUV's for smaller cars, that would go a very long way in reducing carbon output. Being in my 20s, I want something fun and semi-sporty to drive but practical in terms of initial cost, maintainence, and gas mileage. I don't really trust hybrid technology to be as reliable and inexpensive to maintain as simpler models over the long term. I think many of those in my age group and budget range (~$16,000 new) have similar requirements and while there are some cars that mostly fit the bill, what I'd really like is something that fits these critera and is RWD.

    I currently drive a Civic, which is nice, but it's not RWD. Why look for RWD? RWD kind of has gotten bad rap over the years, because it can oversteer in wet/icy conditions, or when gassed too hard - the steering becomes so sensitive that the rear end of the car can slip towards the outside of the turning circle. When done in a controlled manner, this can a lot of fun, the rear end of the car literally steers around you, and you feel the car pivoting around from behind. Steering FWD is boring in comparison, the rear end always follows the front end, up by the hood. Now oversteer does not mean that RWD cars handle poorly, just that they become acutely sensitive to steering when on slippery roads or when gassed hard. A good driver understands that he can use this to his advantage, as the same overly sensitive steering that can throw the car off path can be used to correct it.

    Here is a google video demonstrating oversteer -
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-257087518 7883460710&q=oversteer&pl=true [google.com]

    Search for oversteer or drift and you will find lots more.

    Modern tech could also make such a car more practical. On cars equipped with ABS, which is most models these days, stability control can be added to selectively enable/disable oversteer prevention at the push of a button. Software within the car's computer detects oversteer and cuts engine spark/power and/or hits the brakes on individual wheels (using the ABS hardware) to largely cut out out oversteer. Car review magazines refer to stability control as the "nanny," for good reason. This sort of tech would help make a compact RWD car attractive to a wider range of buyers, who might not want to be so conscientious of their driving all the time, but want to have some fun once in a while.

    Another thing that could widen the appeal of such a car would be to make it tweakable, say through adding a USB engine computer interface, or offering an MP3 capable stereo option that has USB inputs for external drives and takes customizable firmware. While this would most definitely appeal to the \. crowd, I think over time the appeal could carry over to a wider audience, as youth today are much more tech saavy and a lot of customizations could be made by third parties. Neither of these options would cost a ton, and could translate into some serious sales.

    I hope Honda will eventually make such a car, perhaps in the same class as it's new budget Fit model, but that doesn't seem likely. If anyone takes the leap I think it will be Nissan, they have been doing more unconvential designs lately, being the underdog. They still don't match the quality of the big two Japanese auto makers, but I would serisouly consider it if such a model arrived.
  • Nah, that's too slow (Score:3, Informative)

    by popeyethesailor ( 325796 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @08:37AM (#15203774)
    How about something that does 0-60 in 3 seconds, with a top-speed of 200mph?

    There's a company called Hybrid technologies that's launching this car, which also run on Lithium-based batteries.

    Here's a business week story [businessweek.com] on them. It looks a bit like vaporware though, so a grain of salt is recommended.

  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:08PM (#15205865) Homepage Journal
    Considering that the vast majority of our electricity comes from oil-fueled and coal-fueled generators which burn thousands of pounds/gallons of fuel per hour each, there is a huge power loss due to resistance of the conductors between your house and the generator (not to mention losses in the various transformers along the way) and battery charge cycles are at best 20% efficient, this is NOT a low-emission solution; you are merely displacing the emissions to another location (the NIMBY syndrome), and not only that, you've generated a lot more toxic waste that companies show little interest in recycling (the lithium-ion batteries) which need to be replaced every 50,000 to 75,000 miles.

    I'll stick with my current car, thank you. It gets better fuel mileage than almost everyone who criticises me for driving a "gas guzzler" (I get 26-27mpg combined, I've gotten 32-33mpg on long trips - when driving like a sane person anyhow, 180mph+ runs on I-70 get crappy mileage ;)) - and it should be getting even better mileage this summer now that I just had brand-new RC fuel injectors and a Corsa exhaust installed (the nice quiet stock exhaust finally rusted to the point where I can't have it repaired :( An exhaust lasting 179K miles on a '91 car is not bad), replacing the stock GM crap. Not only that, it burns amazingly clean such that one time the techs running the dyno remarked he doesn't usually see economy cars burn that cleanly, let alone a sportscar. But then again, I keep it tuned and have the alignment checked regularly. My business partner's car with a six-cylinder burns dirty and every inspection costs him a few hundred, because he doesn't keep up with maintenance (he changes his oil every other year whether it needs it or not). If you keep your car maintained, run good oil (I run Mobil 1 or Castrol Syntec in my vehicles - I hate ExxonMobil but still buy their synthetic oil, I usually cannot find RedLine oil), and use detergent-based fuel injector cleaners every now and then, your car will run very cleanly. Let maintenance go, run the crappiest, cheapest engine oil you can, you will wear out the engine far more quickly and will have problems with emissions after a few years.

    The idea of a hybrid intrigues me, but I'd feel far more guilty about the production costs and toxic waste generated from the battery packs which need to be replaced far too often than I do about driving a conventional car. What would convince me to buy a hybrid is using the hybrid technology in combination with a V8 to enhance performance - there is no reason one can't get 35+mpg normal driving and sub-4.1 second 0-60 times in the same car (obviously you wouldn't get good mileage driving like a bat out of hell). The upcoming Lexus is interesting (and out of my price range right now) but I'd like to see what its specs will be. If the specs are comparable to my car and I can afford it at the time (no way in Hell I can afford it at the moment unless I sell my car which "ain't gonna happen" in my liftime), I might buy it.

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan