EV's of EVS 20
By Bill Moore
TO PARAPHRASE Mark Twain, reports of the death of battery electric vehicles have been greatly exaggerated.
Sure, EVS 20 had its share of fuel cells and hybrids and 42-volt wonders, but in EV World's view battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are clearly re-emerging as viable forms of transportation, despite OEM denials or wishes.
Scattered around the exhibition hall in the Long Beach Convention Center and out in the Ride and Drive parking area were a brand new crop of electric bikes, electric motorscooters, electric neighborhood vehicles, electric convertibles, electric SUVs, and an electric delivery van. These are not the problematic machines of the past powered by noisy electric motors and heavy, quickly-drained lead-acid batteries. They are sophisticated pieces of engineering that take full advantage of a brand new class of high-power, high-energy density batteries, and advances in electronics.
We had a chance to test drive several of these exciting new products including the much-anticipated Vectrix scooter, the incomparable Wavecrest Labs M750 electric bicycle and the ITS E-Car delivery van. Just as the focus has begun to shift to hybrids and fuel cells, along comes a brand new pack of battery companies from Asia, Canada and the USA that no longer promise dramatically better performance, they are actually delivering it.
In the coming weeks, EV World will take a closer look at many of these remarkable pieces of engineering, but we wanted to immediately share with you, our readers, some of the more interesting vehicles we found in Long Beach. Not all the BEVs at EVS 20 are depicted here. Some we didn't get to test and others we didn't get to photograph, so our apologies to those we may have missed.
|Electrovaya Maya 100||One of the real show-stoppers of EVS 20 was this converted Chevy Tracker mini sport utility vehicle, built in Canada. While its DC-motor and Curtis controller can hardly be considered state-of-the-art, its lithium ion "Super polymer" batteries are, giving this boxy, relatively heavy sport 'Ute a range of 200 miles on a single charge. This vehicle and its battery technology are definitely on EV World's radar screen for 2004. We've already arranged to interview Electrovaya CEO Sankar Das Gupta in the near future. Watch for it when we launch of new edition of EV World, January 1, 2004|
|Ford Escape Hybrid||Dr. Philip Chizek -- marketing director of Ford's fuel cell program -- assures EV World that the long-awaited Ford Escape Hybrid is, in fact, on track for a Summer 2004 launch. He informed us that a limited number of these gasoline-electric hybrids are quietly being tested by various fleets around the US in obviously hush-hush research programs. We've asked to be placed on the list for early media test drives; with our first planned destination the Black Hills and Devil's Tower for a close encounter of the gasoline-hybrid kind.|
|Honda EV Plus||Believe it or not, there are still a handful of these excellent electric vehicles still on the road. This one is in the Aquarium of the Pacific livery. Unfortunately, all of these car will eventually end up being returned to Honda for dissection and demolition. On the bright side, however, their technology paved the way for the electric componentry found in Honda's fuel cell cars and gasoline-electric hybrids, though battery EV advocates would have preferred the company had kept the car in production.|
|Honda FCX||Here's where some of the technology that powered the EV Plus wound up; the much-acclaimed Honda FCX hybrid fuel cell vehicle. Five of these cars are in daily service with the City and County of Los Angeles, with two more cars on the way, destined for San Francisco. At $2 million a copy, it will be some time before you and I find these Hondas in our local showrooms.|
|Ford Focus FCEV||Ford chose its successful Focus passenger car as the test bed for its fuel cell program. The company has a small fleet of these cars in operation at its Dearborn research labs and at the California Fuel Cell Partnership in West Sacramento. Because of its partnership with Ballard, all of these cars are powered by the Vancouver, BC company's fuel cell stacks.|
|GM E-Machine||Cut-away close up of the motor-generator that provides 2.5kW of electric power for the Chevy Silverado/GM Sierra "Contractor's Special," due out in limited numbers next year. The electricity from this starter-generator, mounted inside the transmission of the truck, powers four 120 volt power outlets, two in the cab, two in the bed of the truck. It also provides the quick-start power for the 42-volt, auto stop-start system on the truck, improving the big V-8's fuel economy by an estimated 10-12 percent. While strictly not a hybrid, GM engineers anticipate someday mating this system with soon-to-debut "displacement-on-demand" engines, which should improve fuel efficiency another five percent.|
|Ford Hydrogen Research Vehicle||Ford created the H2RV -- and its various permutations -- to explore the feasibility of modifying a conventional internal combustion engine to burn pure hydrogen instead of fossil fuels. Earlier efforts demonstrated the need for both hybrid-electric assist and a turbo charger in order to more closely replicate the power present in the gasoline-fueled version of the vehicle. In our very brief drive around the Long Beach Convention Center we found H2RV response even though, as noted by our Ford "co-pilot," the turbo-charger had developed an annoying whine, a sure indication that trouble lie ahead.|
|GM Hydrogen3||Based on the Opel Zafira platform available in Europe, this liquid-hydrogen fuel cell minivan runs strictly off its fuel cell stack. It does not reply on battery or ultra-capacitor-based hybrid architectures. GM has a small number of these vehicles in the US, Japan and Europe.|
|ITS eCar "Innovan"||The product of a collaborative effort by two of the auto industry's more flamboyant and aggressive CEOs: Robert Stemple formerly of GM and Lee Iacocca of Ford and Chrysler. This prototype van was manufactured in Germany and is intended to be used in all-electric mode in European city centers where polluting gasoline and diesel vehicles are increasingly being banned. While the ride over a potholed parking lot and around the Convention Center proved a bit bouncy, undoubtedly due in part to its short-coupled chassis, the eCar Innovan is quiet and non-polluting.|
|Dynasty IT||Now under new management with a new name and firmer financial footings, Dynasty Motor Car Corporation has resumed production of its VW-Beetle look-alike, the IT. The company is busily turning out cars and signing up dealers, as well as introducing new models. Classified a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), the car seats four and has a top speed of 25 mph. We plan to revisit this car in the coming months.|
|2004 Toyota Prius||Like the thoroughbred it is, this car just doesn't have any bad camera angles that we can find. We didn't get the chance to drive it in Long Beach, but we're told on good authority that Toyota will provide us with a loaner after the first of the year for an extended test drive. We'll then be able to share with our readers a more detailed evaluation of the car, especially in cold Nebraska winter temperatures and weather.|
|Toyota RAV4 EV||You're looking at Southern California Edison's landmark RAV4 EV. This battery-electric sport utility vehicle has more than 110,000 miles on it's original Panasonic NiMH batteries. At least four other RAV4 EVs in the utility's fleet now have more than 100,000 miles on their original battery packs. All of them are used daily by meter readers and are still able to get 75-80 miles on a single charge despite their age. Although Toyota has ceased production of the vehicle -- and SCE is doing everything it can to get its hands on any that are being returned by other fleets -- these mini-SUVs have single-handedly rewritten history and disproved the argument that battery EVs can't compete with gasoline cars in terms of their reliability and longevity SCE estimates the batteries are good for at least 130,000 miles and they're operating costs have been a fraction of gasoline models.|
|Reva R-Car||First debuted at EVS 14 in 1997, the diminutive R-Car made its return to the US after some seven years absence while Bangalore-based Reva launched production in India. According to company president, Chetan Maini, the car has been essentially re-engineered in the intervening years and is now enjoying sales success and government support all across the sub-continent. A dealership was just opened in Israel and some 50 of the battery electric two-seaters are running around the island of Malta. Plans also are afoot to introduce the car into the US as a neighborhood electric vehicle.|
|TM4 Range-extender Motor||Desiree Tremblay of Quebec shows off the TM4's latest innovation, an integrated gasoline generator that is coupled to the company's electric motor and controller. The gas engine is a two cylinder Lombardini engine similar to the one in the Renault Kangoo EV with Range Extender. In the Kangoo, the engine is separate from the electric motor. TM4, which is a unit of Hydro-Quebec, will be supplying these motors for a new French EV currently in development. We'll be writing more about this development next year, as well the the company's on-going hub motor efforts.|
|TNO New Beetle Hybrid||Based in the Netherlands, TNO is a scientific research and development agency. One of its spheres of interest is sustainable transportation and this VW New Beetle is the result of some of its multi-faceted engineering efforts. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to learn much about the vehicle other than its rear seat is crammed full of lead-acid batteries, so this is still very much a research project and something no destined for production anytime soon.|
|Parker Hannifin Direct Methanol Fuel Cell||This 800 Watt direct methanol fuel cell fits snuggly inside the helmet case on the back of the new Vectrix electric motor scooter. Its not intended to power the scooter, but provide a constant trickle charge to the 125-volt NiMH battery pack, greatly extending the 250km range (at 40kph) of the scooter. Work continues on the program with the aim of integrating the fuel cell into the scooter chassis before offering it as a option.|
|Vectrix Scooter||In our view, this was the hottest ride at EVS 20. In development since before EVS 14 back in 1997, Vectrix intends this battery electric motor scooter to out-perform any 125 cc gasoline scooter on the market and from what we experienced, they achieved it in spades. It has power, speed, range and stunning styling. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, Vectrix plans to initially sell them in Europe for somewhere around $6,500US. With a top speed of 100kph, this will be the ideal clean commuter vehicle for many folks. Vectrix has invited EV World to tour their facility, which we hope to do in the Spring of 2004 as production ramps up.|
|Wavecrest Lab's Smart Coupe EV||Take a brand new DaimlerChrysler smart coupe from Europe, remove the rear gasoline engine, add batteries and a brand-new pair of Wavecrest Lab hub motors to the rear wheels and you've got the sweetest looking electric sports car in the world, albeit one that still needs to undergo a lot more testing and refinement. Wavecrest just barely got the car done in time for EVS 20, so its slated to immediately return to the company's new Detroit development center for evaluation. Video shot just before the show proves the battery electric car works, but how well is still to be seen.|
|ZAP EV's||EVS 20 boosted its share of new "hopefuls" and "hard core" companies. One of the latter is ZAP who rollout a Segway-like personal EV but with a twist. This one -- presumably out of Asia -- solves the thorny issue of vehicle stability when the batteries fail by adding a tiny pair of caster wheels beneath the rear of the rider platform. It isn't anywhere as sophisticated or technologically eloquent as Kamen's gyro-stabilized Segway, but it also avoid certain patent infringement issues. Behind it is ZAP's Chinese-made EV, which made its debut at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum.|
|Zytek smart||The MCC smart is a popular platform for converting to electric drive, especially since it was originally envisioned by its developer, Swatch, to be a battery-powered EV. At least three companies, eMotion, Wavecrest and UK-based Zytek are developing electric versions of the car. Here Jonathan Horsley stands behind a static display of Zytek's electric drive for the smart, pictured in the background. In correcting an earlier version of this story, he tells me that Zytek does, in fact, have plans to bring it to the US in limited 'cluster' trials with fleets in 2004. Then they plan to offer a highway capable version to US consumers in 2005. So, hang in there EV-lovers, hope is on the horizon!|
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