Archive for April, 2012

Is Thomas Edison the Father of the Electric Car?

An online exhibit put on by the National Museum of American History makes the case that Thomas Edison is one of the fathers of the electric car, if not the actual father. 

Made up of a series of photos and weighty and informative captions, the exhibit shows the electric vehicle that Edison designed in 1900 that was powered by “an entirely new battery chemistry to improve the range of electric automotives, locomotives, and trucks.”

For around a full decade, the inventor worked at improving the alkaline batteries that powered his vehicles until 1910 when he finally admitted that gasoline-powered cars had won the (first) battle.

Now we’ve got to wonder what he would think to learn that electric vehicles often pollute worse than hybrids!

Eco-Rickshaws in India Unpopular

New Delhi is a cutting edge city with cutting edge issues. Its city leaders need to ensure that its people have enough transportation to get them to and fro while at the same time not so much that it further clogs the already-sluggish New Delhi streets. Also, the leaders are forever fighting to do what they can to keep air pollution at manageable levels.

One way the leaders of India’s second largest city have done this is through the supporting of vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), an effort that has made New Delhi home to one of the largest fleets of CNG vehicles on the planet.

Unfortunately for the green-minded folks of the city, not everyone is keen on being carried around town in CNG-fueled rickshaws, India’s famous three-wheeled vehicles. This becomes more widespread as the wealth of the city’s residents increase. The battle to come up with the proper mix of policy, incentives and laws is tough and likewise one that is shared by lawmakers throughout the world’s second most populous nation. And, there is no thought that this balancing act will get any easier any time soon since the nation’s urban population is expected to reach nearly 600 million within the next two decades from the mere 340 million it is today.

Chevy Volt’s Need for Sustainable Charge Mode

The Chevrolet Volt’s trail of missteps and poor sales has been well documented. Now, some electric vehicle industry observers are saying that it is the Volt’s lack of a sustainable charge mode that has helped keep an otherwise sound vehicle down and not its headline grabbing high price, banning from HOV lanes in California and battery fires.

These proponents of sustainable charge modes are arguing that General Motors is well aware of how marketable and useful this mode is. After all, GM has added this mode to the Chevrolet Ampera, the European version of the Volt.

The charge-sustaining mode is used by drivers when they want to put their vehicle into gas-burning mode, which in turns saves the battery power for when zero-emission mode is required. This is necessary in old Europe, a land containing many areas where only zero-emission vehicles are allowed at certain times of the work week.

If, in addition to its current Standard, Sport and Mountain modes, the Volt had sustainable charge and zero-emission modes, consumers would be more eager to purchase the vehicle since they could better control how long their vehicle charges lasted.

Some observers believe that Chevrolet will eventually produce Volts with these additional modes. In fact, even Chevy executives have said that if they can get the Environmental Protection Agency to agree to the concept, they would be open to doing so.

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It turns out that electric cars are just too quiet. Moreover, the wheezing and the whining that they do emit are not sounds that endear them to a driver, let alone to a Bruce Springsteen lyric.

Automakers are awakening to the danger posed by this silence. Humans truly love those things that entice all of their senses. Just as appearance, sound, smell, texture and temperature can turn a tasty treat into a favorite food, the same can be said about falling for a new car. We want our new cars to smell new, to tease the eyes, and to thrill the ears.

Audi is at the leading edge of this audio battle. The word on the hushed road is that there may come a day when drivers are able to select what type of sound their car produces from, presumably, a menu including spaceship sounds, migrating geese, and dragsters.

Thomas Dolby Still Blinding Us with Science

Thirty years since we last heard from him, English Musician Thomas Dolby has made his way across the pond to pull a steampunk-themed time-traveling trailer over our American roads.

Considering that Dolby is a self-described tech and electric vehicle junky, some were hoping that an entry into the teardrop shaped trailer would give them a chance to zip into the future to see just how widespread electric vehicles had become. Unfortunately, these same Dolby-ites could only shake shake shake their green-blooded fists in the air when they realized that the Dolby time capsule was just a mocked up concept deal possessing no real time traveling powers.

However, despite the empty promise of his trailer, Dolby and his wife have been leading a green lifestyle for many years. His recording studio in the U.K. has a wind turbine and solar panels on its roof to provide its power. While, many years ago, when living in Los Angeles, he and his wife used an electric Ford Escort that was powered by a dozen batteries as their family’s second car.

Prius C Killing It!

Not everyone is begrudging the high cost of gasoline, no, certainly not the good folks at Toyota. As the average nationwide price of a gallon of gas hovers close to $4, sales of the brand-new Toyota Prius C have been tremendous. In fact, Toyota has just announced that in a mere three days, the Japanese automaker has sold more than 1,201 of the hybrid hatchbacks.

This noteworthy number is more than the number of Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts sold in the entire month of February, including leap day. The official MPG for the Prius C is 53 MPG city and 46 highway. However, when the lads at tested their Prius C, they pulled 58.2 mpg miles out of it.  

There has been quite a bit of discussion as to why the Prius C has been such a hit, while the Leaf and the Volt have been, respectively, left floating in the wind and shorted out. There are two main causes for this disparity in success. First of all, the Prius C is vastly cheaper than both the Volt and the Leaf. Don’t believe it?  Check these local Prius leases.  Secondly, the popularity of the previous Prius models paved the way for the new hatchback.