Using cheap hardware to build electric cars may lead to short commutes

October 31st, 2009 - 2:05 pm ICT by ANI  

London, October 31 (ANI): A new project is aiming to use the cheapest hardware possible to build electric vehicles good enough for short commutes.

“Let’s use the cheapest hardware possible by making the smartest possible management software,” Illah Nourbakhsh, leader of the Charge Car project at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told the New Scientist.

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.

The car might feel like the poor cousin of production electric vehicles, but Nourbakhsh’s team reckons that commuters don’t need high-spec cars.

Nourbakhsh said that a car that can travel only 32 kilometres per charge would allow 53 per cent of Americans to cover both legs of their daily commute, while 48 kilometres would suit 71 per cent.

As part of the project, Nourbakhsh is appealing for people with GPS devices or iPhones to provide GPS logs of their commute.

The data will be anonymised and made public.

It will inform the design of software that combines knowledge of an area’s typical commuting conditions with live GPS data so that a converted car can prepare for hills, junctions or other features that will affect its energy use.

A converted electric car can prepare for hills, junctions or other features that will affect its energy use

In return for their data, volunteers will be given an estimate of how much they could expect to save by commuting in an electric car, once simple information such as local fuel and electricity prices are factored in.

So far, about 1600 kilometres of commuter data has been uploaded.

According to Nick Carpenter, technical director of engineering firm Delta Motorsport in Silverstone, UK, “If enough people contribute to this project it will be fantastically interesting and potentially valuable data. This is how people actually use their cars.” (ANI)

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