Viva la France! French engineer Guy Nègre has been working on the concept of an air-powered car for the past 15 years. Thanks to a new contract with India’s main car manufacturer, Tata Motors, Nègre’s technology is about to reap the benefits of a major corporate backer; not to mention access to a massive, growing market. Geeks Are Sexy lays out the details on the tech,
“The principle that makes this car work is very simple. Instead of using gas to create an explosion and make the pistons move, the vehicle’s engine is powered via three compressed air tanks located under its chassis. Environmentally speaking, this means all that goes out the exhaust pipe is cold, pure air, which can even be used as an air-conditioning source on a hot summer day.”
With a top speed over over 70mph and a range of almost an equivalent amount, the Veunturi solar car allows you to draw stares while commuting to work in Formula One style. 3.6 sqm of photovoltaic cells operating at 21% efficiency work to power what is considered the first ever commercial vehicle that’s capable of using absolutely no fossil resources. From the site,
“Capable of working with very little energy (16 kWc motor) and of recharging even when in motion, this vehicle of another era does not need to be permanently exposed to the sun in order to move. Its last-generation NiMH Venturi NIV-7 batteries ‘liquid cooled’ in fact enable it to restitute stored energy, whether solar or from the electricity supply, making it the first electro-solar hybrid vehicle. To attain this level of performance while using very little energy, Astrolab has been designed like a Formula 1 : its carbon monocoque chassis is ultra-light and serves as an oversized protection cell ensuring the safety of its occupants in the event of a collision. Its profile recalls the aqua-dynamic design of great racing yachts.”
According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study, there is so much excess energy on the U.S. grid nightly that if every light-duty car and truck in America today used plug-in hybrid technology, 73 percent of them could be plugged in and “fueled” without constructing a single new power plant. So much for the myth that electric vehicles will cause more emissions.
The Portland Press has a great article on the potential benefits of harnessing this excess energy and making the switch to plug-in vehicles. Apparently, each night there is a large amount of renewable power generation capacity that sits idle. Tapping into this source by plugging in our vehicles at night would harness a vastly unused portion of the U.S. grid. From the article,
“Studies have shown that plug-in hybrids produce at least 67 percent fewer harmful emissions than a standard gasoline-powered car. Even when accounting for emissions from the production of electricity, national studies have shown greenhouse gas production would fall by almost 40 percent if plug-in hybrids became commonplace. Plug-in hybrids could easily be expected to get over 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, and owners would do most of their refueling at home where the equivalent cost of electricity is about $1 per gallon.”
The electric car renaissance is barely spreading ink on the canvas and already plans are in motion to have a viable charging infrastructure in place. Earlier this week, Tesla Motors — the crew behind the highly anticipated 2008 Tesla Roadster — received a grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop a 16KW station that could be installed at hotel chains across the state. While the stations would be commercially based, we have no idea if they might also be autonomous through solar power; much like the stations Vectrix is planning on introducing in Europe.
Tesla also recently announced plans to form a new division that will sell batteries to other car manufacturers.
“The electric-car startup said it will initially provide advanced lithium-ion battery packs from the new Tesla Energy Group to Think, a Norwegian maker of electric cars. The deal is expected to bring Tesla $43 million over the next two years. The new division will also develop and make battery packs for Tesla’s two-seat roadster that is set to go into production this fall, and for a four-door sedan set to debut later this decade.”
Community Solutions recently issued a report about modifications necessary to our transportation infrastructure in a future world where we experience declining oil supplies. (Community Solutions, if you aren’t familiar with them, is the group that created the documentary “The Power of Community: How Cuba survived Peak Oil”) They are proposing a system they are calling the Smart Jitney, which is essentially a souped up ride share program designed to reduce the amount of cars on our roads. And I have to say, I like it. I like it a lot.
I recently read through a report by Alliance Bernstein about the future of automobiles where they placed all the marbles for our future transportation needs in the plugged in hybrid basket. Essentially making quite a few difficult, and risky, assumptions that we will be able to sequester power plant emissions (unproven), generate clean energy for our homes and cars (not at the levels we are generating now), and create a new infrastructure built around a totally new type of car (to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars). In short, they are making some huge leaps there to support their given choice for transportation.