So Sorry, But EV Distance Record Remains Unbroken

By Bill Moore

Posted: 06 Dec 2009

Japan EV Club founder Tadashi Tateuchi just drove from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 555.6 km (345 mi) on a single charge of their converted Daihatsu Mira mircovan's 240V Sanyo battery pack. That easily breaks the 501 km (313 mi) record set by Simmon Hackett and Emilis Prelgauskas driving a Tesla Roadster across Australia this past October.

Whereas the Aussies had the open road of the Australian Outback on which to make their record run (for a Tesla Roadster), Tateuchisan reports that he had hilly terrain and dense Japanese traffic with which to contend. However, the Mira was also stuffed to the kimono with 74kWh of batteries, a good 21 more than the 53kWhs standard on the Tesla. According to Autoblog Green, the trip took nearly 14-hours, with two rest stops, though no recharging was done.

The JEVC adapted the Mira to electric drive using a 14kW (nominal) brushless DC motor connected to the van's 5-speed manual transmission, a fairly typical hobbyist approach to doing an electric vehicle conversion. There are no reports available in English that discuss the chemistry or configuration of the pack, the BMS, charger or controller used. Presumably, the batteries were NiMH since Sanyo is only just now beginning lithium cell production. If so, this would have added weight to the vehicle compared to the lighter lithium batteries in the Tesla. Toyo Tires donated the car's Eco Walker low rolling resistance tires.

But as exciting as both the earlier Tesla record of 313 miles and JEVC's 345 miles, they are still not even close to the unofficial record set in March 1995 by Jim Worden driving a prototype Solectria Sunrise a record 601 km (377 miles) on prototype NiMH batteries supplied by GM-Ovonics at the time. Unlike the Tesla and the Mira, the Solectria was a family-sized sedan just slightly smaller than the Ford Taurus, then the most popular car of its day. While only a handful were ever built, no battery electric car or hydrogen fuel cell, for that matter, capable of highway travel has come close to Worden's record run from Boston to New York on I-95 using less than 30kWh of energy.

However, in fairness to both Messer's Hatchett and Tateuchi, according to Jim Hogarth, who oversaw the Solectria development program on behalf of Boston Edison, one of the projects investors, Worden used every trick in his hypermiling, solar car racing handbook to preserve and coax the last bit of energy out of the car during its March 1995 run. In Hogarth's opinion, in addition to the car being grossly under-powered, the average driver would never have come close to achieving comparable performance in the Solectria. Simon Hatchett and Tadashi Tateuchi likely came much closer to driving their vehicles the way most people would drive them. Additionally, the JEVC conversion using a DC motor isn't the most efficient way to propel a vehicle. The AC drive pioneered in the EV1 and later the Solectria series of electric vehicles, including the Sunrise -- and still in production at Azure Dynamics -- certainly would have helped the Japanese team improve their performance..

All three of these efforts demonstrate, however, that electric cars can deliver mileage comparable to many gasoline engine vehicles and do so on a fraction of the energy and with zero tailpipe emissions. All are achievements of which each team can be very proud.

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