When EVs Roam Capitol Hill
By Bill Moore
The organizers of this year's Electric Drive Transportation Association conference lucked out; the weather for late November felt more like late September or early October. The sky was clear over Washington, DC as dozens of conference attendees milled about in front of the U.S. Capitol building waiting for their opportunity to get behind the wheel of a million dollar fuel cell vehicle or a $14,000 low speed electric car courtesy of Canadian-based ZENN and U.S.-based GEM.
On the high-end of the price spectrum were four fuel cell vehicles from Toyota, GM, Hyundai and Honda, each pictured below. The ZENN and GEM offered a different perspective for conference goers: affordable if slow speed transportation, ideal for running around congested urban neighborhoods and small towns.
Missing from the line-up were plug-in hybrids -- with the exception of Electro Energy's prototype -- and highway-capable electric cars like the eBox, the Tesla Roadster, the Wrightspeed, and the Phoenix sport utility truck. However, Miles Motors did have their electric car in the exhibit hall, but not available to drive. EV World will be flying out to Southern California for the AltCarExpo in December and we're hoping to see many of these high-speed electric cars then.
The day following the Ride & Drive in DC, on the West Coast in California, GM announced that they would be developing -- they announced no immediate time table -- a plug-in hybrid that utilizes GM's soon-to-debut two-mode hybrid system.
The newest generation of the Toyota FCHV hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Based on the Highlander platform, the vehicle performs comparable to the 4-cylinder gasoline model, but gets between 40-60 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, giving the vehicle a range of about 200 miles.
Diminutive ZENN microcar is manufactured in France. Canadian company ZENN imports it as an engine-less "glider" that it equips with electric drive, making it one of the most car-like EV's available in North America. It is currently powered by conventional lead batteries, but the company has a agreement in place to install the EEStor "super-battery" when it becomes available. According to company president Ian Clifford, a five hundred pound EEStor power pack will give the car 100 miles+ range. He is confident that EEStor will pull the wraps of their mysterious "battery" very soon; his exact word was "imminent" and that I could, in fact, hold my breath for their announcement.
Hyundai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. I didn't get a chance to learn much of this model, but I did discover that there is now also a Kia version as well. It was on display in the exhibit area.
General Motor's Hydrogen3 fuel cel car based on the Opel Zafira from GM Europe. I drove the car the short trip around the west front of the Capitol. My brief impression is that the car is refined and responsive. As soon as the hood was opened, people crowded around to peer inside to see how the magic happens.
Honda FCX fuel cell sedan is based on the original EV-Plus electric car. It is the first fuel cell car to be leased to a consumer in Californa. The next generation of the FCX -- which was not at the conference -- boasts sleek, dramatic styling and improved performance.
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