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Popular Mechanics: 2 PHEV articles: Andy Frank + Military Vehicle
Oct 29, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Cover Story: 5 New ideas to Power our future Energy Solutions for Home, Car and World October 2005 Table of Contents: With an oil crisis looming, scientist are urgently searching for new energy sources. PM evaluates five leading contenders for a share in the post-petroleum world. p. 83 Fueling The Future With the outlook for oil uncertain, it's time for new ideas. Here are five emerging technologies--from buoys that harness the power of waves to bacteria that extract electricity from wastewater. Together they can keep the world humming. [From introduction]: The five bold ideas outlined here will help ease the pressure on fossilfules. Eachis relatively near implementation, and will pave the way for further breakthroughs in production and efficiency.... 1. Wind Energy Controller 2. Next-Generation Hybrid 3. Wave Energy Buoy 4. Microbial Fuel Cell 5. Oganic Solar Cells + Fusion: What's Taking So Long? + Nuclear: Whatever Happened?



With this vehicle, you can commute to work all week without using a single drop of gas--and still drive hundreds of miles for that well-earned vacation.

How It Works: "The vehicle is based on the same platform as a conventional car, but the powertrains are designed differently," says Andrew Frank, professor at the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of California, Davis. He advocates augmenting today's gas/electric hybrid technology with adapters that allow car owners to plug their vehicles into the power grid. (Today's hybrids rely solely on electricity generated during braking to charge the vehicle's batteries.) That extra power boost allows the car to use far less fuel. Frank's design combines a simple two-cylinder gasoline engine with electric power in a stripped-down, ultralight car. Simply plugging the vehicle into a 110-volt outlet recharges the batteries in just a few hours.

Time Frame: Several prototypes already exist, built by a team at UC Davis. It will be at least a year before plug-in hybrids are available to the public, however, in the form of adapters for conventional hybrids. "To build an entire car and get it on the market takes a little longer," Frank says, "about two to three years." Rather than wait, some drivers are already converting their current hybrids--though it costs them their warranties and manufacturers strongly discourage the practice.

Payoff: The annual mileage put on American cars is about 12,000 miles, but the daily average comes out to just over 30 miles, typically accumulated going to and from work. A plug-in hybrid could handle the vast majority of those miles in its all-electric mode. Frank envisions a vehicle that would rely on its gasoline engine only for longer trips and speeds over 60 mph.

The sticker price on a plug-in would be 20 to 30 percent higher than a comparable conventional car. But, assuming continued escalations in gas prices, the investment would be recouped at the pumps. Historically, when gas prices have skyrocketed, the cost of electricity has remained stable. Money would also be saved with lower maintenance. "The cars we designed contain only about 15 to 20 percent of the 700 mechanical parts of a conventional car," Frank says.

Frank sees the vehicle as a steppingstone to even greater fuel efficiency, perhaps in a plug-in fuel-cell hybrid that runs on electricity, liquid fuel and hydrogen. The UC Davis team is already building such a prototype with high-performance metal-hydride batteries. The ultimate fuel source: hydrogen, but researchers are still figuring out how to produce, store and distribute the common gas.

What It Would Take: Plug-in hybrids don't require a change in transportation infrastructure--simply an impetus for manufacturers to put them on the market.

Electricity isn't free, of course. And tapping into the grid to charge batteries will still consume fossil fuels. But cars typically would be plugged in at night, during off-peak hours when excess power is available.

Not So Fast: Critics argue that the extra batteries will be too heavy and expensive, and that the wear and tear of charging them will make plug-ins costly to maintain. Frank counters that the extra weight of the batteries will be offset by the reduced weight of the gas engine, and that new nickel-metal-hydride or lithium-ion batteries will not only reduce the cost, but survive the lifetime of the vehicle--estimated to be up to 20 years or 200,000 miles.­science/­technology_watch/­1758061.html?page=5&c=y Tech Watch Published in the October, 2005 issue. p. 33 The Strong, Silent Type The military's next-generation off-roader gets a test drive in Iraq. BY NOAH SHACHTMAN
includes photo POWER: The RST-V's diesel/electric hybrid engine can push the truck to 70 mph, but also allows for a cool, quiet, all-electric "stealth mode." ARMOR: Bolt-on steel/ceramic sandwiches protect the RST-V from roadside bombs. Transparent armor on windows will stop an AK-47 round. TRANSFORMER: With no drivetrain in the way (motors are at the wheels), the pneumatic suspension can fold the RST-V into a compact profile for shipping.

It's a military SUV, so you'd figure it would be loud. But when the Marines' Shadow RST-V (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Targeting Vehicle) starts up, there's no roar--just a barely audible whine.

The near silence is one of the reasons that a pair of the armored, 8400-pound experimental vehicles should be in Iraq by January. Temperature is another. When the diesel/electric hybrid RST-V flips into battery-only mode, it generates almost no heat, so it's tough for infrared sensors to spot.

The RST-V was designed to squeeze inside the 5-ft.-wide bay of the troubled V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. That's why the RST-V's suspension draws the tires 13 in. into the wheel wells.

These days, "our fate isn't linked to the Osprey," RST-V program manager Rick Duvall says. A cargo plane will carry the two SUVs to Iraq, where the vehicles will serve as a power source for military bases, replacing trailer-mounted generators. The RST-V also will operate as a command center that's fully mobile--and awfully quiet, too.

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