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Page added on October 30, 2009

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Clever 'chopped' cars promise cheap electric commuting

IT COULD take a “perfect storm” to create electric cars that match gas-powered cars’ range – a mix of motor-industry investment, infrastructure change and advances in battery technology. Instead of waiting, a new project aims to build cheap vehicles good enough for short commutes.

Huge effort has been expended on untested new technology, says Illah Nourbakhsh, leader of the Charge Car project at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He suggests an alternative: “Let’s use the cheapest hardware possible by making the smartest possible management software.”

His team has designed a novel electric-car architecture that he says can be used to cheaply convert used cars into electric ones. They took a Toyota Scion to a local “chop shop” to prove that the conversion works.

The Scion’s petrol engine, fuel tank and exhaust were swapped for a set of lead-acid batteries, four motors and a supercapacitor, which is able to soak up or discharge power much faster than a battery. The load on the battery is minimised by relying heavily on the supercapacitor, which is charged by recouping braking energy.

New Scientist



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