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Early Contenders for the Automotive X-Prize

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the i'll-take-an-aptera-please dept.

Transportation 309

longacre writes "With the official entry period for the $10 million Automotive X-Prize contest just around the corner, Popular Mechanics offers a preview of the most promising entries. Among the 100-mpg vehicles that Detroit (and Japan) have claimed impossible to build comes a hybrid designed by a class of inner-city high school students in West Philadelphia. Also displayed is a futuristic-looking electric model with a range of 300 miles. We discussed the beginning of this contest earlier this year."

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I dont get this xprize thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23269692)

How about a xxx prize ? That's were the money is.

Re:I dont get this xprize thing (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270278)

How about a xxx prize ? That's were the money is. You deserve to be money-shot!

And you won't // Re:I dont get this xprize thing (1)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270638)

you spend so much time on /. that there's hardly time for anything else.

boobs? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23269710)

BOOBS!

Re:boobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23269778)

Genius!

Give this man the xxx-prize!

Love the snark... not (4, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269774)

> Among the 100-mpg vehicles that Detroit (and Japan) have claimed impossible to build...

I know it is fun to rip on 'evil' corporations and all, but there is a bit of difference between some glorified go-cart some kids cobble together and what will pass the Dept of Transportation crash tests. Detroit and Tokyo live in the world where trial lawyers will rip ya a fresh asshole if a jury can be convinced your design wasn't 'perfectly safe.'

Re:Love the snark... not (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269862)

Try to argue that, say, the Aptera is something that "some kids cobbled together". 45" crumple/deflection zone (designed to ride up and over in an accident, extending deceleration time). In-seatbelt airbags, like are used in small planes and are being used in some new luxury cars -- instead of exploding toward you, they explode upward from your lap, between you and the dash, and shield your whole body. F1-style roll cage (with only a couple hundred pounds of weight in the batteries and a composite skin, it's obvious that the frame comprises a large chunk of the Aptera's 1500lb weight), with double the NTSB standards for roof and door crush strength (and yes, they've tested it with a crush rig). It's been digitally crash tested from the beginning (like BMW and many other auto makers do nowadays), and will be physically crash tested this fall. Yes, they're not required to do crash testing, since it's a three wheeler; they're doing it anyways. ~7' wide front wheelbase and low-mounted batteries for rollover resistance, combined with aerodynamics to produce downforce at high speeds. And of course, tadpole trike configuration, not delta (which tends to produce oversteer).

Sure, it's not for everyone. With only 2+1 seating, it's not a "family car" (although their next model will seat more people); it's a commuter car. But as far as commuter cars go, I think it's a beautiful design. I can't wait to test drive it (test drives and factory tours are to start this summer).

Still (2, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270126)

There are reasons that the Aptera has three wheels and not four, and they are entirely regulatory and not technical. Part of that is just the red tape required to prove that the car meets the requirements, but not even Aptera claims that they meet or exceed all the government requirements for passenger vehicles, just the ones they considered most important for safety.

I have little reason to disbelieve auto manufacturers when they say it is impossible to build a 100 MPH automobile, according to the legal definition of automobile. Not that it matters to me at all whether the vehicle I buy is technically classified as an automobile or not.

Re:Still (3, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270178)

There are reasons that the Aptera has three wheels and not four, and they are entirely regulatory and not technical.

Actually, there are good technical reasons, too. Three wheelers are lighter, cheaper to build, and have less drag (and weight and drag reductions correspond to battery reductions, which further makes the vehicle lighter and cheaper). As for the regulations, safety regs are just one kind (again, since they're doing crash testing voluntarily, what's the problem?). There's also emissions regs (irrelevant to the Aptera) and lots of real world driving requirements (something that customers are lining up around the block to take care of for them ;) They're starting in low production rates from reservation only, so most people will have a lot of real-world driving behind them before they buy. Also, they've driven the prototypes a lot, and will have test drives starting this summer), as well as a ton of paperwork and delays.

I have little reason to disbelieve auto manufacturers when they say it is impossible to build a 100 MPH automobile, according to the legal definition of automobile.

Loremo meets the legal definition of an automobile. It's tiny, mind you, and a good example of why a definition based on the number of wheels is a stupid standard.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270750)

designed to ride up and over in an accident, extending deceleration time

At which point you'll decapitate the other driver. But hey, the same underlieing logic worked for SUVs.

. . . not delta (which tends to produce oversteer).

As a rule, oversteer is good fun. The problem with a delta tri-wheel is the whole "death" bit. Just ask anyone who's still manufacturing three-wheeled ATVs.

The Aptera is a magnificent achievement, especially for high school kids. But it's not designed to meet the same requirements the big automakers have to deal with, and it's silly to make the comparison.

Re:Love the snark... not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270010)

Interesting point.

Counterpoint:

The Differences Between Me and Hans Reiser

(a) I use ext3

(b) my wife? alive and well

(c) this morning something big and brown came out of my asshole

Re:Love the snark... not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270042)

Are you trying to make some kind of a racist homophobic joke?

Re:Love the snark... not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270124)

if not wanting to get fucked in the ass by my black cellmate (majority of prisoners == black) is wrong/racist/homophobic, I don't want to be right

YMMV

Re:Love the snark... not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270230)

I don't know where you live, but in the US the prison population is only about 40% black.

Re:Love the snark... not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270514)

How much of the general population is black?

Re:Love the snark... not (4, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270080)

Detroit and Tokyo live in the world where trial lawyers will rip ya a fresh asshole if a jury can be convinced your design wasn't 'perfectly safe.'

Well then perhaps they should start with the automakers that make over sized Soccer-Mom Assault Vehicles and over powered Impotence Compensators. The trend towards ever larger and more powerful cars is what is increasing the danger of our roads. [berkeley.edu] The gains made by auto safety improvements has only served to As Click and Clack pointed out in a recent Nova show about the "Car of the Future", no commuter needs 500hp, and that is ridiculous to even offer it. [newscientist.com] Automakers will be quick to point out that consumers (as a broad trend) buy the most horsepower they can afford for the car type they buy. But huge monster cars are not a true necessity for a car to be a success. Lets look at one of the most successful cars of all time. The 1967 VW Beetle weighed 1850lbs and had 53hp, [wikipedia.org] and they worked just fine. With modern techniques it should be easy enough to make a vehicle with enough room, with a curb weight of under a ton. Then a simple 75 hp engine can get you where you are going just fine. There is no need to go 0-60 in under ten seconds if most cars on the road do it in fifteen seconds. Perhaps if there were tighter regulations on vehicle size (without a special license) and size to horsepower ratio limits, then there would be more room for innovative cars like the Aptera. Structural engineering of cars is really only half the crash test, the other half is the size of the other car they collide with.

And getting all of those SUVs off the road is easy, it's called $10-a-gallon gas.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

Everyone Is Seth (1202862) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270330)

Just because you don't want or need a car that has any power at all, doesn't mean that all cars should have a 75hp engine. Also, your link to the Berkeley page was an article that was largely speculation, and had nothing to do with the horsepower of a vehicle. Some of us buy cars that we actually like to drive. I don't just use my car as transport, but I am also smart enough not to endanger other drivers on the road. If you want to blame anything for vehicle accidents: stupid driving. There is your problem. Not fast cars. Stupid drivers. And expensive gas has the largest effect on lower income families - most of whom drive smaller vehicles anyway.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270342)

There is no need to go 0-60 in under ten seconds if most cars on the road do it in fifteen seconds.

You have clearly never merged onto a freeway in Los Angeles. Particularly on the 110 north of downtown. It doesn't matter how fast other cars accelerate; it matters how fast they're moving toward your rear bumper as you try to get up to highway speed.

Seriously -- try to merge on this [scvresources.com] (source [scvresources.com] ) ramp with a 53 hp motor. Yes, that's 65-miles-per-hour freeway traffic on the left, a stop sign on the right, and maybe 20 feet of merge between the two. It's 100% real and not atypical on the 110.

There is a point at which a car becomes so slow that it's unsafe. In LA, that's well before a 20-second zero-to-sixty. On some freeways, 15 seconds is a little dicey.

I'm not saying that anybody needs 500 hp -- you're probably right about that. But 53 hp is probably insufficient in many conditions too.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270434)

Look, if you want to go 60 years backwards in terms of automotive transportations, go ahead and get yourself the abovementioned beetle to enjoy its "fine" performance and the excellent 32 mpg. Nobody's stoppping you. I myself would take one of those M5 [wikipedia.org] thingies the germans seem to be offering before people such as yourself will manage to destroy all that is good in this world.

PS
Even if you force everyone else to drive around in cardboard cars, you could still crash into concrete wall and no amount of "S-MAV" regulation is going to prevent your knees from failing badly at acting as a crumple zones.

The refrain of fascists in every age.... (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270496)

> Perhaps if there were tighter regulations on vehicle size (without a
> special license) and size to horsepower ratio limits...

Yup, that's always a good answer when stupid people don't realize how much smarter you are, ram a gun in their face and yell DO IT MY WAY YOU MORON OR DIE! That is after all what ALL government 'regulation' devolves to, obey or else.

Listen up ya junior league nazi, if people WANTED underpowered crackerboxes they would buy them and Detroit/Tokyo/etc will be happy to make em in whatever qualtity moves off the lots. It is obvious what your problem is, cranial rectal inversion. Your complaint is the universal refrain of of type A Democrats.

Basically I divide the current world into three groups. Type A and B Democrats and everyone else.

Type A Democrats (Socialist Party members everywhere else in the world) believe that without the enlightened rule of their ilk the poor savages who make up the bulk of the population would revert to canibalism in a matter of days, totally unable to manage their own affairs. The masses aren't to be trusted to make the slightest decision, that is what the annointed elite is for.

Type B Democrats believe themselves to be helpless, totally dependent on the boundless mercy of Type A Democrats. These wretches are mostly created by the Type As (see Welfare Socialism and Government Schools) and are kept alive for the sole purpose of voting Democrat.

Everyone else wishes you santimonious pricks would leave us the hell alone. If we decide that horsepower is a good thing, for whatever reason, it is our decision to make, not yours. So why don't you piss off?

And in case there is any doubt, the preceeding was indeed flamebait. Totally true. But flamebait all the same.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270590)

People don't commute in 500hp cars, we race them at the drag strip or on circuits or just go out for a cruise, wrench on them in the driveway and garage, and love them because we love the technology.

People don't need quad core quad sli quad whatever else mega-computing rigs, burning away precious natural resources growing their edick with 3d benchmarks either. But some dorks love putting them together.

I'm sick of goofballs who don't know cars, and who openly hate cars, telling me what I need to drive, and how it should be designed, and what products people should be able to market. I have a great need for a car that goes 0-60 in under 10 seconds, you try to merge on the DC beltway in a 1989 geo metro every morning for a week and see how it works out.

And for the record, the old beetles were clunky shitwagons prone to overheating on long road trips due to their air cooled design. They may have been acceptable in tightly packed european communities, but they were terrible highway cars.

Also note for the record Click and Clack are dickweed greens.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270690)

"Lets look at one of the most successful cars of all time. The 1967 VW Beetle weighed 1850lbs and had 53hp, [wikipedia.org] and they worked just fine."
Not it didn't.
1. It wouldn't come close to meeting modern safety requirements.
2. It wouldn't come close to meeting modern emission.
3. Don't even think if driving it in the mountains.

I do agree that modern cars seem way over powered. I had a VW golf GTI in 1986. It made all of 90 HP and was pretty dang quick for it's day. I just bought a Mazda 3 and was shocked that I couldn't get the "small" 2 liter engine in the hatchback. The 2.3 liter motor is way more powerful than I need. Yea it is fun to drive but I never have to even get close to flooring it the pass or merge. I think the 2 or even a 1.8 would have been good enough.
But the 67 VW is a hunk of junk compared to a modern car in most ways. Yes it is a classic but so is a Model T.

Re:Love the snark... not (2, Informative)

maddskillz (207500) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270256)

Did you RTFA? The car the kids "cobbled" together looks pretty impressive to me. It's hardly a go-kart, at 2500 lbs. Maybe lighter then a normal car, but not outside the realm of possibilty. They just took an already excellent engine (VW TDI) and added hybrid technology, then ran it off biodiesel.
I wish we had projects 1/10th as interesting when I was in high school

Re:Love the snark... not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270426)

I'd buy one. It's a great looking car, and IMHO, a biodiesel hybrid makes a lot of sense. I'm not saying I'd get rid of my RS/4, but it definitely would not be my commuter car any more...

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270696)

A biodiesel hybrid makes zero sense. The extra weight of the hybrid system generally doesn't make up for gains in acceleration. The only reasons they ever make sense is because gas engines are such pigs when accelerating. Even there, I'd prefer to see it done through a flywheel [wikipedia.org] rather than electric motors.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270582)

The point isn't that highschool kids can out-engineer Detroit. They can't. Detroit's problem is they are not willing to push into the future. Watch "Who Killed the Electric Car." They built a great car and then utterly refused to believe anybody would want to buy it, even when customers were stepping forward with checkbook in hand.

Or look at Hybrids. Detroit dinked around for decades with fuel-efficient prototypes, but refused to believed they could sell. Then Toyota came along with the Prius and spanked them. Detroit learned nothing from the 70s.

Re:Love the snark... not (1)

longacre (1090157) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270660)

If you'd RTFA, you'd know the high school team's entry is simply a modified and very much DOT approved Toyota Corolla.

Go Aptera! (3, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269790)

I'm cheering for Aptera [apteraforum.com] not just because I'm in line to buy one (indirectly, through a California intermediary), but because technologically, they really deserve it. A drag coefficient of only 0.11 (Prius=0.26), combined with a low cross-sectional area -- i.e., they let physics dictate the shape. Speaking of the shape, it's an inverted wing, so more downforce the faster it goes. That, combined with a wide (~7 foot) front wheelbase and low-mounted batteries for a low CG, lead to strong stability against rollovers. The design is a tadpole trike [autospeed.com] for stability, weight reduction, and drag reduction. Long 45" crumple/deflection zone, in-seatbelt airbags, with roof and door crush strengths double the NTSB standard. Composite construction for light weight and safety (stronger than steel). Lithium phosphate batteries, which should last the life of the vehicle. The ridiculously low drag and rather light weight approach allows them to use only 10kWh of batteries, meaning faster charges, charges on only wall current, lower potential maintenance/repair costs, and a whole host of other benefits (uses only 80Wh/mi @ 55mph, 140Wh/mi @ 85mph). I could go on for hours; it's an impressive piece of work. I'm simply not as impressed by the other contenders.

Oh, and they recently brought on the head of production for the Ford GT, Dodge Viper, and half a dozen other high end cars to head up their manufacturing. First cars go out the door this December; mine should be late next summer. Can't wait!

Re:Go Aptera! (2, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269916)

Im cheering for some light rail in America. Seriously, Im sick of the solution being ANYTHING but building some decent public trans. Yes, Im aware that the US is a large place, but the US is a country of cities and there's no need to connect them. So why dont we have intra-city light rail? Well, we do but car ownership kills it anywhere there might be parking.

Perhaps its time to start putting train and trollies back into our cities.

Re:Go Aptera! (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270144)

Rail only makes sense in densely populated areas. I live in NYC, and it makes a lot of sense here - and thankfully they aren't afraid to spend billions where they need to.

But even here, it is an expensive way to move people. Fares are subsidized, and it still takes me 1/2 hour to go about 2 miles across town (since I have to walk or take a slow crosstown bus to the station).

Since much of the population lives in suburbia, there is no way you could create rail serving that part of the population in anything approaching an affordable way. Maybe they shouldn't live out there, but really that's up to them and their $4 gas. Besides, surface rail is as slow or slower than buses when it has to share the road with cars.

I think many cities are building new trains, BTW. In NYC, they are putting in a brand-new subway line on 2nd Ave. Here's a page describing many of the new lines planned, proposed, or underway [lightrailnow.org] .

Re:Go Aptera! (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270206)

Not all cities are the same. My mothers house is a 15 minute DRIVE to the store. The Planned communities around here mean up to 5 miles with no commercial space. You gonna run light rail to each house? Not so light... The light rail that is in Houston is eliminating cars on the road, but only by hitting them.

Re:Go Aptera! (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270592)

You know, there's some light rail just south of me in San Jose. I've tried it and I wasn't impressed. You need to build most of the infrastructure of a heavy rail system, you can't take the things on the roads, the things are short and underused and expensive.

San Francisco, to the north, has these little things called "streetcars" (I'm on one now) that seem to work a lot better (they can actually share the road with cars when they need to without big ugly railroad crossings in the way, or you can run them along a right-of-way or underground too, so they can get to interesting places a lot more readily).

And then there are BUSES. Which are awesome because you don't need to build track. (Of course, if your traffic is already a mess, they'll be just as slow, but that's a separate issue from fuel efficiency now, innit?).

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269998)

What do ya think you will do with that car? This is the question I have for most of these exotic vehicles.

Based on their own numbers you get a 120 mile distance to dead so you wouldn't want to get more than forty or fifty miles afrom home and that is going to be with the climate control off. From their webpage it looks like you can get a hybrid drive as an option but they don't have any details as to how much cargo space you sacrifice for the gas engine/generator.

Do the math. A basic el cheapo econobox will set you back less than half the (almost certain to increase when they finally get ready to ship) prelim pricetag on this plastic car and that will buy a LOT of gas, even it it hits $5/gallon. Unless you are planning on putting a lot of miles on it (and unless you are going for the hybrid option you can't) you are better off with a regular vehicle. Or just go buy a Harley.

Lets run the numbers. Assume a commute that runs 35 miles, 70 both ways. On a good econobox you can get 35mpg so it works out to two gallons per day or assuming gas hits $5/gal you pay $10/day for gas. Average of about twenty work days per month and ya get $200 for gas to commute. Now compute the difference in the monthly note for the econobox and the savings on the light bill from not plugging in every night and gulping down a few KWH (remember it takes more than 10KWH to charge a 10KWH battery) and it's probably a wash. If your commute is less the economics get worse pretty fast.

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270058)

[quote]What do ya think you will do with that car? This is the question I have for most of these exotic vehicles.[/quote]

Commite, shop, and all of the stuff I normally do with a car except for long trips**. Duh. :)

[quote]Based on their own numbers you get a 120 mile distance to dead so you wouldn't want to get more than forty or fifty miles afrom home[/quote]

Depends on whether there's merely a normal household power socket on the other end, but let's go with that. So?

[quote]and that is going to be with the climate control off.[/quote]

Small car, efficient heat pump, solar-powered climate assist. Sure, it'll impact range, but probably not as much as you're picturing. Also, there's no initial cooling load, as it has a solar-powered vent fan that keeps the car just above ambient temperature when you're not in it and it's out in the sun.

[quoteFrom their webpage it looks like you can get a hybrid drive as an option but they don't have any details as to how much cargo space you sacrifice for the gas engine/generator.[/quote]

None. The generator displaces 2/3rds of the batteries; it has a shorter electric range, but the 5-gallon gas tank gives it a range of 600-700 miles.

The Aptera has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space.

[quote]Lets run the numbers. Assume a commute that runs 35 miles, 70 both ways. On a good econobox you can get 35mpg so it works out to two gallons per day or assuming gas hits $5/gal you pay $10/day for gas. Average of about twenty work days per month and ya get $200 for gas to commute. Now compute the difference in the monthly note for the econobox and the savings on the light bill from not plugging in every night and gulping down a few KWH (remember it takes more than 10KWH to charge a 10KWH battery) and it's probably a wash. If your commute is less the economics get worse pretty fast.[/quote]

I find it funny that you said "let's run the numbers" and then didn't actually run the numbers. That's pretty amusing. :) Let's *actually* run the numbers.

Econobox: $13k, +$2k in taxes, -0k deductions.
Aptera: $27k, +3k in taxes, and let's assume that deductions roughly cancel out taxes (could be a lot more, but let's be pessimistic).

Price difference: $14k

$10/day = $3650/year
Aptera goes 120mi on 10kWh = 80Wh/mi (0.08kWh/mi). Charging is usually ~93% efficient, but let's be pessimstic and say that it raises power consumption to 0.09kWh/mi. I pay $0.05/kWh, but the average in the US is more like $0.10/kWh, so let's go with that. That's 4/5th of a cent per mile. * 70 miles, * 365.24 days, that's $230/year.
Net savings: $3420/year. Time to pay off the difference: 4 years.

See what happens when you *actually* do the math? Electricity is dirt cheap, and the Aptera uses very little of it.

There's also maintenance, but when you consider that a good lithium phosphate pack should last the life of the car, and even if you had to replace it, by the time you had to replace it, LiP should cost under $0.20/kWh, you're only looking at a couple thousand dollars thanks to the small pack size (thanks to the efficiency). I.e., it'd cost far less than you save by eliminating 90% of the moving parts in the drivetrain compared to a normal gasoline car. It doesn't even have a transmission, let alone all of the breakable parts of an ICE. So the payback time is even sooner.

Math (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270290)

I assumed anyone at slashdot could take the math the rest of the way and apply it to their situation but apparently you need some help with yer figuring.

Lets use your figure of $15K for an econobox. We will leave out interest (hell, everybody is doing zero interest financing every other week anyway....) to keep the numbers simple. Besides, it doesn't make much difference because it hits both sides about equally. And we are ignoring insurance, and not putting numbers on maintaince, etc.

So lets do the 60 month deal and pay $250/month plus $200 a month for gas. Total cost is $450/month to commute in an econobox.

Now the electric will run about $26.5K, or $441/month plus $20/month for electricity . If you go for the hybrid version you are looking at $500 + electricity AND gas.... probably between $520 and $560 per month. You won't know for sure until you actually drive it a few months. And no you won't be getting anywhere the stated mpg, those are always a lie (marketing 'facts' if you don't like the word lie) on hybrids.

On a 48 month note the math gets worse at $512 vs $562 electric or $645-$685 for hybrid. And remember that a small difference in the assumptions will make a big difference in the math. Make it thirty miles to work instead of thirty-five and the gap opens up about $28/month. Gas at $4/gal instead of $5 rips open a $40/month gap.

On the plus side the electric car has 'kewl factor' in it's favor up against insane cost to repair as a negative because exotic always equals expensive when you roll into a garage. Being an untested design you can forget those dreams of saving on maintaince. You probably shouldn't count on a long service life either, whereas you can consult consumer reports when buying an econobox and buy one that will have a good chance of having a service life longer than the notes and/or extended warranty.

Re:Math (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270360)

So lets do the 60 month deal and pay $250/month plus $200 a month for gas. Total cost is $450/month to commute in an econobox.On a 48 month note the math gets worse

Yes, you're right -- in your custom-made scenario designed to hurt the Aptera (2/3rds the gasoline consumption as in your previous example), the payback period is longer than four years, and closer to five. *ooooh*. What a terrifyingly long period to wait for payback. And this assumes that there are no significant tax breaks for the Aptera. For example, the $6k tax credit (not deduction -- credit) in the new energy bill.

On the plus side the electric car has 'kewl factor' in it's favor up against insane cost to repair as a negative because exotic always equals expensive when you roll into a garage.

And you'll be rolling onto a garage when? You don't even need oil changes. The only things that can be expected to "break" with any relevant period are the brake pads/rotors and the tires -- and these are all standard components, not exotics. The tires are the same Potenzas as on the Insight, for example. And even on these things, you're looking at a lot less braking, since there are only three tires, not four, they have less weight on them, there are only two disc brakes, not four, and they're not used as much (thanks to regenerative braking). Oh, and you might wear through the drive belt a time or two, but again, not some exotic part there.

I already covered battery maintenance. The electric motor is sealed and should last for the lifespan of the car. That's it -- that's the entire drivetrain right there. What, exactly, are you thinking is going to be breaking all the time? The AC?

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270378)

There's also maintenance, but when you consider that a good lithium phosphate pack should last the life of the car, and even if you had to replace it, by the time you had to replace it, LiP should cost under $0.20/kWh
I'm generally supportive of the idea, but this bit jumped out as being potentially "not so great"

I could be completely wrong here, but apart from the OLPC, LiP cells have never entered into commercial use, and not very much is known about their longetivity, or how well the economics of scale will apply to their production if/when they become popular.

Assuming that LiP cells share the same time durability as "traditional" LiCoO2 cells, 24 months seems like a better timeframe.

Similarly, although potentially not a big deal for you, the lack of storage space could be a big issue to some people, as the "econoboxes" tend to offer a fairly decent amount of cargo space (and at least 4 seats). Most of the "cheap" manufacturers are also attempting to woo customers by offering extensive warranties on their vehicles.

Used cars are also another option. A nice used vehicle can be had for under $10,000, which causes them to win virtually every cost-benefit analysis you can think of, even when considering the reduced lifespan and lower gas mileage.

The Aptera also doesn't look particularly safe. In fact, I'd be hesitant to go anywhere near a highway in one. It looks about as safe as a motorcycle (eg. not at all).

Non-traditionally-designed vehicles are pretty sweet, and I'd encourage their development. However, the first few generations (at least) aren't going to be at all economical.

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270472)

I could be completely wrong here, but apart from the OLPC, LiP cells have never entered into commercial use, and not very much is known about their longetivity, or how well the economics of scale will apply to their production if/when they become popular.

LiP cells have entered wide use in power tools, and are taking increasing roles in RC airplanes, RC helicopters, robotics, and other tasks. A BEV will stress the cells a lot less than any of the above things. Automotive uses for LiP are relatively new -- none mass produced yet, and ones built in limited quantities have only been on the road for a few years

Assuming that LiP cells share the same time durability as "traditional" LiCoO2 cells, 24 months seems like a better timeframe.

That's just the point of them -- that they *don't* share the durability of LiCoO2 cells. That's the primary reason that they get rid of the LiCoO2 cathode and replace it with a more stable one that has lower energy density. LiP is to LiCoO2 as nickel-iron was to lead-acid at the turn of the century (nickel-iron "Edison cells" being what powered the Detroit Electrics -- Jay Leno's 1909 electric car still runs on its original nickel-iron cells).

Batteries do not fundamentally have to have short lifespans; it all depends on the particular chemistry. A123 expects their cells in the volt to be good for 7000+ charge cycles. LG chem expects 40 years out of their spinel cells. And a BEV stresses its batteries less than a PHEV like the Volt.

Similarly, although potentially not a big deal for you, the lack of storage space could be a big issue to some people, as the "econoboxes" tend to offer a fairly decent amount of cargo space (and at least 4 seats).

The Aptera has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space. That's not small. It's also "long", which will help for carrying awkward-shaped items, and has a big hatch to make getting to them easier.

Used cars are also another option. A nice used vehicle can be had for under $10,000, which causes them to win virtually every cost-benefit analysis you can think of

If you put $2-3k in gasoline costs on a vehicle every year, it's hard to come up with a comparison where a 10k vehicle wins for more than a few years. Even a free vehicle will lose in under a decade's time. And this assumes that the cheapo vehicle lasts for that long in comparison to the brand new Aptera.

The Aptera also doesn't look particularly safe. In fact, I'd be hesitant to go anywhere near a highway in one. It looks about as safe as a motorcycle (eg. not at all).

Please explain what's unsafe about a composite shell (several times stronger than steel), an F1-style roll cage that comprises a good chunk of the vehicle's total weight, a 45" crumple zone, a deflection system designed to make the car ride up and over in an accident, double the NTSB standard roof crush strength, double the NTSB standard door crush strength, and the most advanced airbags available. While you're at it, explain how it will roll over with a 7" wheelbase, a low CG, and downforce from the shape.

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270664)

Net savings: $3420/year. Time to pay off the difference: 4 years.
Hold up, hold up! You forgot to pay opportunity cost. In more concrete terms: you still need to pay interest in that $14,000 difference, one way or another (through a loan, or through investing/saving less). That's going to be, oh, say, at 9% interest (paid or lost), $1260/yr, for a net savings of just $2160/yr, or 6.4 years to pay back the difference.

And maybe you can get better interest rates than that, maybe not. Maybe you have better things to do with your credit, maybe not. Either way the numbers don't look quite so rosy anymore.

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270674)

Looking though the numbers, you seem to be assuming that the average person drives 70 miles in a day. That seems to be a high ball number.

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270088)

Good points, and don't forget the upcoming turbodiesel hybrid/econoboxes with ~50 mpg figures!

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270210)

Using diesel will gain you a bit of efficiency, but remember that diesel is a denser fuel which takes more crude to produce. And already, there is trouble with the refiners trying to keep up with demand. So diesel costs more than gasoline (16% currently), and probably will in the long term - especially as cars begin to use diesel for the useless "MPG" marketing comparison.

Obviously, there is some benefit to using diesel or the truckers wouldn't all be running around with it - but it's not as big a jump as the MPG figure would imply.

I'm deeply skeptical of diesel hybrids, because the efficiency difference between a diesel and gasoline engine mostly vanishes as you approach full-throttle and the throttle plate is no longer restricting the air. Hybrids are going to tend to run the gasoline engine close to its peak efficiency or not at all.

diesels (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270562)

Diesels because of the higher compression tend to be built much tougher than gassers. They also have higher torque per cubic inch displacement over equivalent sized gassers. The engines typically last for more hours/miles.(most designs, some really bad ones were just pitiful like those GM diesel conversions way back). with that said, sure, you can get both good mileage and a long lasting gasser engine, there's been some amazing advances in materials science/engineering/chemistry in the last few decades. You can get 300 bhp cars now that get a lot better mileage than 300 bhp cars way back when. They are more complex under the hood, but don't need as much maintenance. But newer vehicles fail hard, no degrading slowly, it is drives/no drives today mostly, no more "shoot, running rough, need a tuneup!" action like when I was first started to drive. (that was poking the sabre toothed badgers hooked up to the buggy in the ass with a stick and going "Mush, mule, heyaa! go!, now, ((**&^% go! ;)) We got two mountain crosses per haunch of wild musk ox and *we liked it*

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270118)

Blah, forgot to use italics tags rather than [quote]s. Also, forgot to fill out my "**":

** -- Actually, if they do offer more charging options, or if I can get that aftermarket, I *may well* take it on long trips. We already have infrastructure: RV parks, which can usually be found every 20-50 miles, and are found in even the most remote locations. Sure, fast chargers would be better (lithium phosphate batteries can take a charge in 5-10 minutes if sufficiently cooled, if needed), but RV parks should be good enough. The 50A RV outlets are split phase, 120/240V (sort of like what comes into your house) -- there are two 50A 120V circuits sharing a common neutral. Assuming 117V actual per circuit, that's 11.7kWh. Times 93% charging efficiency, 10.881kWh. That should charge an Aptera from dead to full in around an hour (not sure how much the pack will need to slow once it gets nearly full, but LiP should be good about that). So, that's 2 hours of driving for every one hour of charging. Sure, not as good as for as gasoline car, but as far as stopgaps go, not bad at all. I certainly have no problem spending time relaxing in some wooded area with vacationers and children, perhaps a pool or areas to hike, where I could eat lunch to the sound of chirping birds, and whatnot.

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270318)

That's nice but what about the rest of us who need to commute to suburbs?

Should've known better than to live in a place that requires that kind of commute eh? Well I hope the city dwellers know better than not to build city walls :)

Re:Go Aptera! - NOT (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270396)

You live further than 50 miles or so away from work *and* there is no way for you to connect to a normal household power outlet there, *and* the business wouldn't be amenable to installing an outlet, *and* the city won't either? In this situation which applies to just a couple percent of American commuters, get a PHEV or wait for the next gen of batteries.

Little problem.. (1)

Saint V Flux (915378) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270048)

Little problem with that car and several other cars that site showed -- they're ignoring the "practical" (meaning seats four people) and "something people would want to buy" aspects of the X-Prize.

Sorry, but besides being horribly impractical, it's horribly ugly and few people would buy something like that.

It may have some cool things about it (such as the drag coefficient), but it's still completely unmarketable.

Re:Little problem.. (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270158)

That 'practical' may not be... I'm under the impression *most* passenger vehicles carry 1 to 2 people for most of their journeys. I'll try hunt down that to being evidence; my own anecdotes as a taxi driver suggests that most trips carry a maximum of 3 people or jump to 6 or more (I drive a 10 seater vehicle). Most of my jobs are for single person jobs and watching the cars around me I'd hazard that that is true for private vehicles as well. (Y'get a feel for it after you've been doing it a while -- which can be wrong.) The exceptions are families going to school, and south east asian residents visting Australia.

Re:Little problem.. (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270270)

Exactly. And I see families with children where all of their vehicles are big, under the excuse that the kids need to fit. *In each vehicle?* So those members of the family that work end up commuting every day in a big, mostly empty vehicle. It'd make a lot more sense to have one be a comfortable, small, efficient commuter car and another be big enough to haul around the whole flock.

I have no problem with people having big cars to carry around their families. What I do have a problem with is people who have big cars that they drive almost exclusively with just one or two people in them. Very wasteful indeed.

Re:Little problem.. (1)

Saint V Flux (915378) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270326)

It's stated in the rules for the car X-Prize that it needs to hold four people (or maybe they have two categories). Now, you and the other guy who replied to you talk about how so many people drive with just themselves in the car - which is true. However, sometimes you need to have more people or you have luggage and such. Do you really expect a family of 3-4 to buy two one seater cars (one each for the parents to drive to work) plus a sedan for when the whole family goes somewhere? Hardly.

I'm all against people who buy a freaking Panzer because once a decade they might actually put it to real use, but saying that a car seating five (a typical sedan) is excessive is just wrong because most people can't afford to have half a dozen cars for every conceivable occasion.

Re:Little problem.. (2, Insightful)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270410)

Except, car ownership is increasing, family sizes are decreasing(at least in western cultures -- and they are putting pressure on the rest of the world to do the same). They are buying cars for every occassion except effectiveness anyway; people are moving closer to schools despite still driving them those 2 - 5 blocks (Australian experience warning), and public buses are being run empty. I have no problem with people buy the most practical for their families purposes, but having 3 prestige vehicles needs to be peer pressured out of existence. Admittedly, owning a 100mpg vehicle could be simply that.

Re:Little problem.. (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270422)

I should add that you are correct that it doesn't fit the rules. Can't argue with that.

Re:Little problem.. (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270356)

Okay, got some links that suggest passenger occupancy rate is ~1.13

  • 1 [europa.eu] ,
  • 2 [in.gov] ,
  • 3 [wa.gov.au] ,
  • and of course the search [google.com.au] ...

Fairly indicative of a misuse of vehicles. I'd doubt that they adjusted for tradesmen vehicles that only carry 2 people like the venerated ute and the like, but even with them being included, I'd hazard that the occupancy would not rise far past 2 people/vehicle.

As for being ugly, the main problem for the masses, isn't that it is ugly but that it is outside conventional expectation. I certainly don't think it is ugly, but my reaction was that it was impractical. Having thought a bit about my own use for vehicles, I'd say it is not truly impractical for me... but I can't help think that it would be. The vehicles that fit into the suv categories are almost always ugly, but fit into convention. Heck, most vehicles are effectively oblongs stacked together! That ain't pritty! The appeal is in the impression that they can be versitile as the boxes that inspired (heh) them. The second metric of beauty would be flowing lines, I reckon, which complements symetry.

Re:Little problem.. (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270480)

Fairly indicative of a misuse of vehicles.


And you want to suggest that people buy four different cars so that when driven they can drive the one that has exactly as many seats as they need? Excellent thinking there.

Re:Little problem.. (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270586)

No, I want to start running cars closer to the average needed size. Boot is not so big? Put the groceries in the back seat. Need to take a load of rubbish to the dump? Hire a suitable vehicle. Family + 4? Buy a suitable vehicle. I'm not asking for legislation that everyone have these vehicles, just that they think before buy that second/third massive car (vehicle ownership is increasing...) and ask is there a better solution? Sheesh! I'm just pointing out that they can have a fair use out there, so no need to decry them as a wasted cause before they are out. I'm encouraging a lifestyle change, not a restriction...

Re:Go Aptera! (1)

tknd (979052) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270170)

Someone I used to work with landed a job with Aptera. We keep pestering him to drive the prototype down here for lunch.

From some of the pictures he sent us, the area they work in looks pretty cool too. Like your average tech startup company, except they have prototype parts and equipment lying around instead of just desks and computers.

Re:Go Aptera! (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270306)

Heh, neat :)

The company just recently posted a video tour of their current production facility [youtube.com] (they're in the process of moving to one ten times as big for full-scale production). It's pretty neat, and gives a good idea of just how far they've come, from Steve Fambro building a little wooden car in his garage (it's now a plant holder), to an empty steel frame they built to make sure that the suspension system would work (it's now a wall decoration), to the Mk0 and its spartan interior, to the ever-impressive Mk1 pre-production prototypes.

Can't wait for the test drives; this should be really fun ;)

Re:Go Aptera! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270382)

That car looks like a sperm with wheels. Seriously WTF

There is a winner already! (1)

pjabardo (977600) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269826)

The bicycle.

Re:There is a winner already! (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269948)

I can go about 20 miles on a gallon of chocolate milk.

Re:There is a winner already! (1)

swimin (828756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270284)

I hope you can do better than 20mpg.

By my calculations, you can go almost 100mpg with a human engine on a road bike, on flat ground, burning chocolate milk as fuel.

Re:There is a winner already! (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270062)

I get about 4 miles per taco. Seriously, though, biking to work is a shitload more fun than driving.

In West Philadelphia? (1)

yayotters (833158) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269832)

...high school students in West Philadelphia
In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground where I spent most of my days Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys said were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
And said you're moving in with your aunte and uncle in bel-air

:]

Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269834)

100 MPG is highly deceptive when the vehicle is a plug-in hybrid. Much of the power would not come from the fuel, so 100 MPG would only be applicable on short trips. Unless that number does in fact come from non-plug-in testing. I mean sure it is still more practical than an all electric car, as the internal combustion engine eliminates the range limit, but what about the use of Lithium Ion batteries? Is that safe? My understanding is that these batteries can explode under certain circumstances. Might not an automobile accident be sufficient to cause such an explosion?

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269922)

I think the X-Prize has standards for how to calculate MPG when part of the energy comes from electricity.

The gasoline-only Loremo is 100mpg, although it's so small you expect to see clowns stepping out of it. The Aptera Typ-1h gets 130mpg in charge sustaining mode (i.e., *after* its battery pack has been drained).

But I agree with you -- giving MPG numbers for PHEVs is an unfair approach. You really need two numbers: all electric range, then MPG in charge-sustaining mode.

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269984)

Well electrics need to be measured in something other than MPG because that's just confusing and not correct. It should be like Miles per Amp Hours (MPAH).

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270016)

Should be measured in miles per kilowatt-hour (mpkWh), surely?

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270328)

Id like to see miles per kilojoule standardized.

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270190)

Yes, they count total carbon footprint in their prize. It isn't just 100 MPG, but under a certain emissions (counting emissions from producing electricity for an electric car) AND the fastest to win the race.

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23269932)

Unless the accident somehow overcharges the batteries, no, they won't explode. lithium ion batteries DO tend to explode, if they're crammed with more juice than they can hold. They might explode in your garage if your charger is faulty. But in an accident? Not going to happen.

Look at r/c helicopters that get plowed into the ground at 100mph.. they're totalled, the batteries mangled, but no fireball..

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269980)

R/C helicopters nowadays are switching over more and more from li-poly to lithium phosphate. Tesla uses neither -- they use laptop cells. These can catch fire from being punctured. The electrolyte in lithium phosphate cells is usually still mildly flammable, but they don't have the runaway heating risks that conventional laptop cells (LiCoO2+graphite) usually do; it'd be quite the challenge to make a lithium phosphate cell burn by charging it wrong. Lithium phosphate and other stable li-ion chemistries (titanates, spinels, etc) are steadily becoming the new standard for EVs. You don't have as high of an energy density, but the lifespan and safety benefits more than make up for it. Also, in mass production, they should be a lot cheaper, since their raw ingredients are all dirt cheap.

Of course, battery tech is advancing so fast, who knows what will be the standard in five years. It's amazing how fast things are moving.

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270090)

"Of course, battery tech is advancing so fast" since when? in the 5 years I have been in the business 18650 cells have gone from 2.2 Amp-Hrs to 2.4 Some new ones maybe 2.6. More for Li-Poly. some of the Safer cells I have seen have an energy density of as little as half Li-Ion. Twice the room for the same power. other not that bad but still less. Advancement, or trade off. True they do not burn like like li-ion.
In 5 years batteries will not kill the gasoline engine. Only the cost of fuel can do that.

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270214)

Great. That's *one type of cell* with *one specific chemistry* (and, by the way, just last week there was an announcement that one company got them up to 180Wh/kg, over the standard 160Wh/kg; I could dig it up for you). Let's look at other chemistries. Lithium phospate cells didn't even exist in the 90s. In 2001, A123 started pushing for the tech, and by 2005, they were in power tools, and today, there are about a dozen different EVs being developed around them (and they may well become standard in regular hybrids, too). That is *fast*. Titanates were the same way (and to a lesser degree, spinels). Now there's Toshiba's SCiB, which I believe is now on the market -- not sure of the chemistry, but it's another li-ion variant that doesn't lose much charge density (~20% or so) to gain stability. Now Argonne is contracting for its layered cathodes, which provide stability *and* ~40% more energy density than LiCoO2 cells. And in various stages of development, there is Hybrid Technoloogies' "superlattice" cathode, lithium vanadium oxide anodes (already used in Subaru's G4e prototype), tin nanoparticle anodes, silicon nanoparticle/carbon nanotube anodes, silicon nanowire anodes, as well as major advances in ultracapactors, lithium sulphur batteries, sodium ion batteries, and about a dozen others.

Remember cell phones in the early 90s? Remember the giant bricks? That's largely advancing battery tech for you.

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (1)

Whatanut (203397) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270014)

I could be entirely off the mark on this one... but aren't we currently filling vehicles with a potentially explosive substance to make them go? I understand there are probably risks with Lithium Ion. But there are risks with most things that produce power. That doesn't mean the right saftey precautions can't be put in place.

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270066)

Next, you'll be telling people that everything around them is radioactive...! Go to your room! When you are ready to stop being reasonable about energy, you can join the rest of the human race

Re:Plug-in hybrid with lion batteries? (1)

BooRolla (824295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270276)

gasoline tends to explode under certain circumstances, yet somehow we survive...

In Soviet Russia... (1)

InSovietRussiaTroll (1282606) | more than 6 years ago | (#23269994)

The party enters you!

One thing that bothers me.... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270012)

Some of these guys are claiming "they invented" some of the technologies involved here. I do not see any new tech here. I DO see novel uses of existing technolgies, but that is about it. I might have missed something.

Give you an example. The Fuel Vapor "Ale'". Essentially, the idea is to introduce a "dry" gas consisting of air and evaporated gasoline into the engine, rather then a mixture of fuel droplets and air.
Back in the 1960's, a couple of drag racers(cannot, for the life of me, remember both the names. One was Moody) managed to get 80mpg from a STOCK Chevy 350. How did they do it? They simple stacked non-fuel introducing venturis underneath the remote-mounted carburator. The constant shift from a low to a high-pressure area broke up the fuel droplets allowing them to "evaporate" before entering the engine. What it did was allow for COMPLETE combustion of the fuel. I did the same thing on my 1961 Falcon Ranchero using the existing PCV plate under the carb(only ONE additional venturi), rejetted and went from 26mpg to 35mpg. In addition, that 1961 Ranchero burned cleaner then the 1992 Honda Civic that I 5-gas tested at the same time I tested my old Ford. A LOT cleaner, with no catalytic converter.

Why have you never heard of this? Because once they proved it worked, Standard Oil offered them a HUGE amount of money for the patent (they still hold it) and promptly shelved the entire idea. To sell you more oil......

Anyways, my point here is not to detract from the goals of these people, but to point out that a lot of this technology ALREADY exists, and credit should be given where due.

Re:One thing that bothers me.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270072)

The patent would be on file with USPTO, and probably expired by now (patents are only exclusive for 20 years). Go ahead and use it.

Re:One thing that bothers me.... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270164)

I DID use it. For my own uses. I actually considered charging shop customers to do the same thing to their vehicles.

From a current standpoint, it is not a good idea. The shift should be away from the use of petroleum entirely and on to better sources of ELECTRICITY, i.e., solar, geothermal, etc.

Simply placing a hydrocarbon-consuming electrical generator on the vehicle (like rail locomotives have been doing for decades) may help to alleviate the problem, but not eliminate it.

Not that I don't believe you, but ... (1)

blitz487 (606553) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270346)

... What's the patent number?

Any patent granted during the 60's has long since expired.

I call B.S.

Re:Not that I don't believe you, but ... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270594)

I was referring to the IDEA, NOT the patent.

Why the fuck would I do a patent search on something I was just tinkering with and had no intent on marketing?

Other then the fact that Standard had a patent solely to screw over the general populace and fill their pockets, I don't care about patents. Probably the single most devastating factor to progress humans have invented.

And in case you didn't know, it is COMMON practice for patent holders to modify the original idea with some "novel" use then simply go reapply the day the original patent expires.

New use, new patent.

MORE MODS NEEDED! (1)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270102)

Looking at the past 10 or so stories, comments aren't percolating to the top (or sinking to the bottom) at anything near the normal rate.

Why? (2, Interesting)

Enahs (1606) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270180)

There are decades of high-mileage cars. You just have to ask Exxon, Shell, etc. pretty please for all the plans they bought to keep 'em off the market. :->

Seriously, I remember reading about several such contenders in magazines such as, well, Popular Mechanics, and they never materialize.

In fact, what's with mileage going DOWN over the last 15 years? Why do I have to buy a hybrid to get a 35MPG Altima, when I owned a 6-cylinder '95 Intrepid with a 3.5L V6 just a few years ago that got a measly 35MPG when I drove with a lead foot? Who do they think they're fooling?

People, you may be mad about the price of gas, but you should be a lot madder.

Exxon and Detroit are Not to Blame. (4, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270320)


In fact, what's with mileage going DOWN over the last 15 years?

Look at the horsepower. Given the same engine size and roughly the same fuel, for the most part,additional efficiency has been applied to produce more horsepower to the engine. In the 1980s and even into the 1990s, fuel efficient cars were so utterly anemic that the best thing to do to get any kind of performance would be to buy a truck or a 1970s muscle car.

No more.

Nowadays, you've got 4 cylinder engines supercharged up to 300hp, and GM's new V6 in the Caddy CTS is a naturally aspirated 6 that makes the same horsepower as the V8. If you want a V8, you are usually talking at least 350 hp to start, going all the way up to 500 or even close to 600 hp once you put a blower on it.

Just look at the 0-60 times. First 7 seconds was good for a stock car, then 6, and now mid 5's are common. A supercar gets you to the speed limit in 3 seconds.

Speed sells. People like to go fast and accelerate quickly, and that is what car makers made.

Most people aren't mad about the price of gasoline, except in a bitter sense, because they intuitively know that Detroit didn't victimize them - 35mpg cars have been there all along, and they know it wasn't some crazy oil conspiracy. Rather, they know it was their own dumb fault for buying a gas guzzling vehicle when we should have learned having been burnt by this first in 1973, then 1979, and certainly we would be burned again.

The thing is, yeah, the price of gas sucks. But everyone knows that the pandering by all of the candidates is not the real solution. I mean, sure , idiots can rise up like Obama blaming the "oil companies", or almost as nearly as bad, McCain trying to get the gas tax repealed, but, if you ask most people if they would rather have just drilled the shit out of the country to get every last drop of oil, turned Colorado into looking like the moon in order to get all the shale, many, shockingly, (and I would almost say foolishly) would rather preserve the environment. I guarantee you, if you really wanted to lower the price of fuel, you could put in the right environmental waivers and tax breaks, blow off global warming, and we'd be back to about $2/gallon gasoline within 3 years.

Really, most Americans intuitively know that they need to get out of their low mileage vehicles, and get higher mileage vehicles, if they are so pissed off about fuel. For some, its the environment and concerns over global warming. For some, cars aren't mystical beautiful things, just transportation and they'll consider the train. For some, its a racial hatred of arabs and a political hatred of chavez. So really, no matter how you arrive at it, a bit of conservation either saves the planet, screws the arabs, and saves some money, so, really, it's all good.

This isn't stuff we didn't know about before, but we know that now is the time to get on it.

Re:Exxon and Detroit are Not to Blame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270546)

most Americans intuitively know that they need to get out of their low mileage vehicles, and get higher mileage vehicles

The problem is that they aren't doing it, and because they aren't doing it, the rest of us are still paying for their lack of foresight. I drive the 35 mpg car that isn't "zippy" (as my sister calls her car), but there isn't a "smart person" spigot that I can get discount gasoline from, I have to pay the same rate all the other gas guzzlers pay.

Advanced Batteries, Advanced Transmissions (1)

nido (102070) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270266)

Firefly Energy's new advanced Lead-acid battery [fireflyenergy.com] is suitable for use in Hybrids. Energy capacity of NiMH, without the nickel and a fraction of the lead. The key innovation is replacing the lead plates with carbon foam.

As neat as hybrid/electric cars are, they don't do much to solve the energy dilema, because there are already hundreds of millions of hydrocarbon burners on the road today - 200+ million in the United States alone. Tom Kasmer's Hydristor [hydristor.com] offers an intriguing potential to retrofit the entire fleet for a few thousand dollars apiece.

As I understand it, the Hydristor is basically a infinitely-variable hydraulic transmission that stores energy in a pressurized oil tank. When the operator wants to accelerate, this stored pressure is drawn down to spin the wheels. In the retrofit configuration, the car's transmission is gutted and the Hydristor replaces the torque converter.

More info [wikipedia.org] on the Wikipedia... Most interesting, to me, is the potential to increase the efficiency of the geothermal heat pump. Tom Kasmer has posted on a continuously variable transmission yahoo! group - check there for more technical details.

(p.s. third time I've written this post - lost the last two versions trying to log in the middle of typing. Whoops! The dynamic login feature needs fixing, methinks - first time I hit 'login' at the top, and the second time I used the 'options' button below which gave me the login dialog.

Version #2 was the best of the three...)

Bicycle Beats Them All (2, Interesting)

gz718 (586910) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270282)

Sadly 40% of all trips made by car are less that 2 miles, i.e. 10mins by bike. So really all this money, time, energy, and man power is put towards solving only 60% of the problem.

Anyways, go to google maps, right-click on where you live and select "Directions from here" then right-click on where you work and select "Directions to here". If the result is less than 5mi, you should be biking to work.

Help the planet, help the country, help yourself, ride a bike.

http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/why/environment.php [bikeleague.org]

Re:Bicycle Beats Them All (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270430)

A few problems:
1.Where do you put the bike when you get to work. Most office buildings just dont have anywhere secure to lock a bike so it wont get stolen (in some cases people just lock their bikes in places that aren't designated as bike storage and then have them removed by security or the like)
2.Its not going to look very professional if you turn up to work after having just done physical excercise, all sweaty and etc. The last place I worked provided showers to take care of that but most workplaces dont.

Re:Bicycle Beats Them All (1)

tfogarty (1018352) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270458)

Very true. A few people I work with bike to work and they have to come in extra early so they can get themselves ready for the day, i.e. presentable. Still, the idea of using a non-gas powered mode of transportation is an ideal I wish I could attain, but am unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices for since I live about half an hour away from work.

Re:Bicycle Beats Them All (1)

-Tango21- (703195) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270494)

Exactly. If I lived within a 15, heck 25 minute bike ride to work I would probably do it. I mean, I spend about $250 a month on gas with a car that gets 25+ mpg and 90% of that is work related. So, yeah, it would be worth approximately $250 * 90% = $225 a month to me to get to work a little early. That's enough money to really change my lazy habits.

Unfortunately, biking to my job won't work out since it would be a _26_ minute bike ride. That's the primary reason people don't ride bikes anyway. We are lazy, fullstop.

Re:Bicycle Beats Them All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270516)

Demand needs to occur simultaneously with supply. Mentioning to your facilities team "Hey, a bike rack would be nice" is trivial. The more people bike, the less parking space is needed - do you think showers cost more than an extra 5-10 parking spaces?

Re:Bicycle Beats Them All (1)

clarkcox3 (194009) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270484)

Hell, if the results are less than 15 miles, you should be biking to work.

Re:Bicycle Beats Them All ... twike beats bike (1)

anon mouse-cow-aard (443646) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270684)

for distances over 15km. to work...

http://www.twike.com/ [twike.com]

still get your exercise, but still get to work.

The Philly Car is 250k (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270464)

Among the 100-mpg vehicles that Detroit (and Japan) have claimed impossible to build comes a hybrid designed by a class of inner-city high school students in West Philadelphia

Detroit and Japan never said it was impossible to build these sorts of cars. They just said it was impossible to build these cars for 250k. Seriously, there's no secret conspiracy between Detroit and Japan and the oil companies. If Ford or GM or Toyota could invent a car that ran on air (ala Ayn Rand's Gault-mobile), then, they would invent. Every motor company has researched just about every sort of way you can put people from point A to point B in a car... Chrysler has worked on gas turbine engines... Japan has gone crazy with turbo and superchargers and Mazda has the rotary engine, and GM tried diesel once and even once upon a time Ford actually looked at putting a small nuclear reactor in a car. It just turns out that, that hydrogen carbon bond is a pretty good way of storing chemical energy, and the most efficient way of carrying those bonds is in something like, well, a gasoline.

Re:The Philly Car is 250k (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270606)

Detroit and Japan never said it was impossible to build these sorts of cars. They just said it was impossible to build these cars for 250k. Seriously, there's no secret conspiracy between Detroit and Japan and the oil companies. If Ford or GM or Toyota could invent a car that ran on air (ala Ayn Rand's Gault-mobile), then, they would invent. Every motor company has researched just about every sort of way you can put people from point A to point B in a car... Chrysler has worked on gas turbine engines... Japan has gone crazy with turbo and superchargers and Mazda has the rotary engine, and GM tried diesel once and even once upon a time Ford actually looked at putting a small nuclear reactor in a car. It just turns out that, that hydrogen carbon bond is a pretty good way of storing chemical energy, and the most efficient way of carrying those bonds is in something like, well, a gasoline.
Sheesh, no crazy conspiracies? No secret back-room deals of quashed super-technologies? You're no fun all all, with your common sense and logic...

I love how all the guys with loads of cash.. (1)

BlueshiftVFX (1158033) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270476)

and an existing market in place (big car companys) aways whine that it is impossible to make a different and better car, and then someone with little experience and little resources, comes along and makes something revolutionary. It's good to get a fresh perspective to shake things up, get all the old fattys that have fallen into a rut, moving again.

MPG is no replacement for HP. (1)

XStylus (841577) | more than 6 years ago | (#23270552)

100mpg can be done, and Detroit knows it. However, a 100mpg car won't sell to anyone except Prius worshipers and Greenpeace flakes in Sacramento.

Even if gas prices keep skyrocketing, highly efficient vehicles will not be embraced by the driving masses (at least, not in the US) unless it has 250hp, seats eight, and treats a boulder like a speed bump.

Oh, and a dual exhaust is a must. Got to have that satisfying throaty roar.

Stylesheet creator on crack... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23270622)



I'm new here, and I tried to RTFA. That has to be the least readable article I've seen on a site that one wouldn't expect to get a laugh from.

Black bold text with blue links for the article text, and WTF is that under the photo anyway?... light blue intentionally invisible caption text?

Oh yeah, and the whole thing is flush left...

Maybe I'm just sensitive today.
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