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Thread: Alternative Cars/Vehicles

  1. #91


    Air Cars: A New Wind for America's Roads

    A new carmaker has a plan for cheap, environmentally friendly cars to be built all over the country.

    By Jim Ostroff, Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

    October 28, 2008

    An air-powered car? It may be available sooner than you think at a price tag that will hardly be a budget buster. The vehicle may not run like a speed racer on back road highways, but developer Zero Pollution Motors is betting consumers will be willing to fork over $20,000 for a vehicle that can motor around all day on nothing but air and a splash of salad oil, alcohol or possibly a pint of gasoline.

    The expertise needed to build a compressed air car, or CAV, is not rocket science, either. Years-old, off-the-shelf technology uses compressed air to drive old-fashioned car engine pistons instead of combusting gas or diesel fuel to create a burst of air to do the same thing. Indian carmaker Tata has no qualms about the technology. It has already bought the rights to make the car for the huge Indian market.

    The air car can tool along at a top speed of 35 mph for some 60 miles or so on a tank of compressed air, a sufficient distance for 80% of consumers to commute to work and back and complete daily chores.

    On highways, the CAV can cruise at interstate speeds for nearly 800 miles with a small motor that compresses outside air to keep the tank filled. The motor isn't finicky about fuel. It will burn gasoline or diesel as well as biodiesel, ethanol or vegetable oil.

    This car leaves the highest-mpg vehicles you can buy right now in the dust. Even if it used only regular gasoline, the air car would average 106 mpg, more than double today's fuel sipping champ, the Toyota Prius. The air tank also can be refilled when it's not in use by being plugged into a wall socket and recharged with electricity as the motor compresses air.

    Automakers aren't quite ready yet to gear up huge assembly line operations churning out air cars or set up glitzy dealer showrooms where you can ooh and aah over the color or style. But the vehicles will be built in factories that will make up to 8,000 vehicles a year, likely starting in 2011, and be sold directly to consumers.

    There will be plants in nearly every state, based on the number of drivers in the state. California will have as many as 17 air car manufacturing plants, and there'll be around 12 in Florida, eight in New York, four in Georgia, while two in Connecticut will serve that state and Rhode Island.

    The technology goes back decades, but is coming together courtesy of two converging forces. First, new laws are likely to be enacted in a few years that will limit carbon dioxide emissions and force automakers to develop ultra-high mileage cars and those that emit minuscule amounts of or no gases linked with global warming. Plug-in electric hybrids will slash these emissions, but they'll be pricey at around $40,000 each and require some changes in infrastructure -- such as widespread recharge stations -- to be practical. Fuel cells that burn hydrogen to produce only water vapor still face daunting technical challenges.

    Second, the relatively high cost of gas has expedited the air car's development. Yes, pump prices have plunged since July from record levels, but remain way higher than just a few years ago and continue to take a bite out of disposable income. Refiners will face carbon emission restraints, too, and steeply higher costs will be passed along at the pump.

    Zero Pollution Motors doesn't plan to produce the cars in the U.S. Instead, it plans to charge $15 million for the rights to the technology, a fully built turnkey auto assembly plant, tools, machinery, training and rights to use trademarks.

    The CAV has a big hurdle: proving it can pass federal crash tests. Shiva Vencat, president and CEO of Zero Pollution Motors, says he's not worried. "The requirements can be modeled [on a computer] before anything is built and adjusted to ensure that the cars will pass" the crash tests. Vencat also is a vice president of MDI Inc., a French company that developed the air car.

  2. #92

  3. #93
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Ugly Ugly little cars.

    No matter how good a meal tastes, you still have to make sure it does not look like a pile of dog turds to get people to buy it en masse.

    All these econocars have one major flaw, they look like toys. You HAVE to check your ego at the door to pony up for one of these guys.

    I just hope that they use this as a base for their design and go further with it. Make a car that can compare with what is available now with combustion engines. Once yuo get close to that, people will be willing to lose a bit of face to save a bit of $$ or feel better about themselves environmentally.

  4. #94


    Mini E concept | LA Auto Show
    Coming Soon, Mini’s Electric Kool Aid Test

    The Mini E concept in Los Angeles.

    Published: November 19, 2008

    Is it real? Is Mini, the iconic minicar maker, ready to take the plunge into electric vehicles? Only time, and 500 models set to be released for long-term test drives, will tell.

    What they said: “The know-how gained from this project will help us perfect the Mini E’s innovative drive system and speed production of a mega city car,” said Natalie Bauters, a Mini spokeswoman.

    What they didn’t say: While General Motors has been plodding along and burning through the dollars developing its Chevrolet Volt “extended-range” electric vehicle (now due in late 2010), Mini, with help from its parent, BMW, took a mere 10 months to develop the Mini E.

    What makes it tick? A 150-kilowatt electric motor that produces 204 horsepower, a high-performance lithium-ion battery pack (good for 150 miles on a full charge) and a single-stage helical gearbox that sends the power out to the front wheels. From a standing start, it will hit 60 m.p.h. in about 8.5 seconds; maximum speed is limited to 95 m.p.h. Unfortunately, the battery pack’s size wipes out the two rear seats, making the Mini E a somewhat impractical two-seater.

    How much, how soon? Not available in any store. But the Mini E will start appearing on a street near you (if you live in the Los Angeles or New York City metro areas) early next year. You can sign up on a special Web site {here} for a place in line, to be considered to lease one of the 500 test vehicles for a year. Warning: some 9,500 people have already signed up, the company says. But don’t despair, the field could be winnowed down considerably by the monthly lease fee of $850.

    How’s it look? Like good green fun, in a convenient to-go size container.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  5. #95


    BMW launches Mini E electric car

    BMW's Mini brand has joined the growing number of car-makers saying they will have EVs ready for private individuals to buy. BMW announced Oct 18 it will build 500 units of the Mini E model by the end of 2008, for a US pilot program.

    The car will make its public debut at the Los Angeles car show next month, which -- at a guess -- means the battery powered Minis will start to hit streets in early 2009. It will be sold to both corporate customers and some private individuals in California, New York and New Jersey, BMW said.

    BMW says the Mini E's lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in only two-and-a-half hours -- most EVs today take 6-8 hours -- using a special 'wallbox' outlet. The wallbox is one touch that makes the Mini E stand out from the EV crowd. Mini will install the boxes in tester's garages and they'll provide greater amperage than a standard mains socket. Hence the fast charging time.

    One obvious drawback here is that the batteries are bulky, even though they’re a big improvement over earlier generations of batteries. The conventional Mini Cooper is a four-seater, but the Mini E is only a two-seater, with the rear seat taken up by batteries.

    The Mini E’s electric motor generates 204 hp and BMW says the car has a range of up to 150 miles. Top speed is 95 mph, but driving that fast cuts the range.

    Copyright © 2008 CBS Interactive Limited. All rights reserved.

  6. #96
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    What makes it tick? A 150-kilowatt electric motor that produces 204 horsepower, a high-performance lithium-ion battery pack (good for 150 miles on a full charge) and a single-stage helical gearbox that sends the power out to the front wheels. From a standing start, it will hit 60 m.p.h. in about 8.5 seconds; maximum speed is limited to 95 m.p.h. Unfortunately, the battery pack’s size wipes out the two rear seats, making the Mini E a somewhat impractical two-seater.
    Very nice, but a frown on the battery pack size. Hopefully we will find a way to get around that, but for a city vehicle (with no real NEED for a full back seat) this looks really sweet.

    I wonder if they tooled around with the idea of solar powered roof... They probably can't get that to look good (or cost less) yet though....

    (I was trying to figure out how they were going to plug it in here in the city though. Not many streets or garages have outlets available.......)

  7. #97

    Default Gallery of BMW Mini e EV

    All above are courtesy of smart planet

  8. #98


    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post

    Very nice, but a frown on the battery pack size. ...

    (I was trying to figure out how they were going to plug it in here in the city though. Not many streets or garages have outlets available.......)


    A new Experience - Driving Pleasure Without Emissions: The MINI E.

    MINI E - Technical Specifications.

    The BMW Group will be the world's first manufacturer of premium automobiles to deploy a fleet of some 500 all-electric vehicles for private use in daily traffic. The MINI E will be powered by a 150 kW (204 hp) electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox nearly without a sound and entirely free of emissions. Specially engineered for automobile use, the battery technology will have a range of more than 250 kilometers, or 156 miles. The MINI E will initially be made available to select private and corporate customers as part of a pilot project in the US states of California, New York and New Jersey. The company is looking into expanding the MINI E pilot to include Europe. The MINI E will celebrate its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 19 and 20.

    The MINI E's electric drive train produces a peak torque of 220 Newton meters, delivering seamless acceleration to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 152 km/h (95 mph). Featuring a suspension system tuned to match its weight distribution, the MINI E sports the brand's hallmark agility and outstanding handling.

    By introducing the MINI E, the BMW Group is underscoring the resolve with which it works towards reducing energy consumption and emissions in road traffic. The BMW Group is drawing on its unique technological expertise in the field of drive systems to develop a vehicle concept enabling zero emissions without renouncing the joy of driving. Putting some 500 cars on the road under real daily traffic conditions will make it possible to gain widely applicable hands-on experience. Evaluating these findings will generate valuable know-how, which will be factored into the engineering of mass-produced vehicles. The BMW Group aims to start series production of all-electric vehicles over the medium term as part of its Number ONE strategy. The development of innovative concepts for mobility in big-city conurbations within the scope of "project i" has a similar thrust, as its objective also includes making use of an all-electric power train.

    The energy storage unit: cutting-edge lithium-ion technology engineered specifically for use in the MINI.

    Based on the current MINI, the car will initially be available as a two-seater. The space taken up by back-seat passengers in the series model has been reserved for the lithium-ion battery. When in use in the zero-emissions MINI, the battery unit combines high output with ample storage capacity and a small footprint with power ratios that are unrivalled in this field of application so far. The lithium-ion storage unit will have a maximum capacity of 35 kilowatt hours (kWh) and transmit energy to the electric motor as direct current at a nominal 380 volts. The rechargeable battery is made up of 5,088 cells grouped into 48 modules. These modules are packaged into three battery elements that are compactly arranged inside the MINI E.

    The energy storage unit's basic components are based on the technological principle that has proven itself in practice in power supplies for mobile phones and portable computers. The MINI E's lithium-ion battery can be plugged into all standard power outlets. Its charge time is strongly dependent on the voltage and amperage of the electricity flowing through the grid. In the USA, users can recharge a battery that has been completely drained within a very short period of time using a wallbox that will ship with every MINI E. The wallbox will be installed in the customer's garage, enable higher amperage, and thus provide for extremely short charging times. Wallboxes fully recharge batteries after a mere two-and-a-half hours.

    Driven by electricity: reliably, affordably and free of emissions.

    A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kilowatt hours of electricity from the grid. Based on the car's range, a kilowatt hour translates into 5.4 miles. Besides the benefit of zero-emissions driving, the MINI E thus offers significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine as well.

    The heavy-duty battery delivers its power to an electric motor, which transforms it into thrilling agility. Mounted transversely under the MINI E's bonnet, the drive train unleashes its full thrust from a dead standstill. This provides for the car's fascinating launch capability. The MINI E's intense driving experience is augmented by its dynamic deceleration potential, which is also directly coupled to the accelerator pedal. As soon as the driver releases the gas pedal, the electric motor acts as a generator. This results in braking force, and the power recovered from the kinetic energy is fed back to the battery. This interaction ensures extremely comfortable drives - especially at medium speed with constant, but marginal, variation. In city traffic, some 75 percent of all deceleration can be done without the brakes. Making substantial use of this energy recuperation feature extends the car's range by up to 20 percent.

    Signature MINI agility in a new guise.

    Weighing in at 1,465 kilograms (3,230 lbs), the MINI E has an even weight distribution. Minor modifications made to the suspension ensure safe handling at all times. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system has been adapted to this model's specific wheel loads.

    The MINI E's brake system comes with a newly developed electric underpressure pump. Its Electrical Power Assisted Steering (EPS) is the same as the one used in mass-produced MINIs. Both brake and steering assistance react to driving conditions and are thus extremely efficient. Even the air conditioning's electrical compressor only operates if desired or necessary.

    Design: unmistakably MINI, undoubtedly new.

    At first glance, the MINI E is obviously an iteration of the brand. But its design, which is the blueprint for the zero-emissions two-seater, has been complemented by a number of visual cues that point to its revolutionary drive concept. All of the units produced for the pilot project will have the same paintwork and bear a serial number next to their side turn signal lights.

    The MINI E's coachwork sports an exclusive combination of metallic Dark Silver on all panels but the roof, which is clad in Pure Silver. What distinguishes the zero-emissions MINI is a specially designed logo in Interchange Yellow, depicting a stylized power plug in the shape of an "E" set against the silver backdrop. It has been applied to the roof, in smaller dimensions to the front and back, to the charger port lid, the dashboard trim, and - combined with the MINI logo - to the door jamb, in slightly modified form. The color of the roof edges, mirror housings, interior style cues and seat seams will match the logo's yellow tone as well.

    Moreover, the central gauge and the battery level indicator behind the wheel of the MINI E, which replaces the MINI's rev counter, feature yellow lettering against a dark grey background. The battery level is displayed in percentage figures. The central gauge includes an LED display indicating power consumption in red and power recuperation in green.

    MINI E customers will be part of a pioneering mission.

    A 500-unit, limited-production MINI E series will be manufactured through the end of 2008. The project will thus attain an order of magnitude that clearly exceeds the size of currently comparable test series. Putting the MINI E on the road on a daily basis will be a pioneering feat to which both the drivers and engineers of the first zero-emissions MINI will contribute as a team.

    MINI E customers will join forces with BMW Group experts to assist in the project's scientific evaluation. MINI E engineers accord high importance to staying in touch with the drivers on a regular basis, as this will help them analyze driver behavior besides vehicle characteristics in order to gain the most accurate and realistic picture of the demands placed on a vehicle with a purely electrical drive in the select usage areas.

    Special charging station and full service for every MINI E.

    The cars will change hands based on a one-year lease with an extension option. Monthly lease installments will cover any required technical service including all necessary maintenance and the replacement of wearing parts. At the end of the lease, all of the automobiles belonging to the project will be returned to the BMW Group's engineering fleet where they will be subjected to comparative tests.

    The MINI E's lithium-ion battery can be charged using a wallbox provided to MINI customers. Only lockable garages or similar buildings will qualify as homebases and power stations for the MINI E.

    Maintenance by qualified specialists.

    The electric drive's high-voltage technology requires that maintenance work be done by qualified personnel using special tools that are not included in MINI service partners' standard toolboxes. In light of this, a service base will be set up on both coasts, staffed by service engineers that are specially trained to perform maintenance and repair work on the MINI E's electrical components. In the event of drive malfunction, these experts will provide professional support at the customer's local MINI dealer or the service base's specially equipped workshop. Technical inspections will take place after 3,000 miles (just under 5,000 kilometers) and at least after six months.

    Production in Oxford and Munich.

    The MINI E has already gone through the major phases of product development for mass-produced vehicles and passed numerous crash tests on the way. Aspects investigated besides passenger protection were the impact of collision forces on the lithium-ion battery and finding a non-hazardous location for it in the car. The MINI E's energy storage unit emerged completely unscathed from all of the crash tests mandated by US standards, which are especially high.

    Production of the approximately 500 cars will take place at the company's Oxford and Munich sites and is scheduled for completion before the end of 2008. MINI's UK plant will be responsible for manufacturing the entire vehicle with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery, with the brand's series models rolling off its assembly lines concurrently. The units will then be transferred to a specially equipped manufacturing complex situated on BMW plant premises where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics and transmission will be integrated.

    © BMW of North America, LLC

  9. #99
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Sounds good, I kind of missed the "can be used on standard outlets" part because of the way they kind of tagged it onto the special outlet description.....

    Unfortunately, it still does not deal with the ability/inability to charge it while in a more urban setting. But I guess that is what Extension cords are for!!!

    (BTW, I am really excited about this. I was wondering why they did not use the Mini for an electric car model! AAMOF, I told my wife about it a few weeks ago!!!!! Spooky! Maybe I should tell her about the stock market jumping up a few thousand and wait and see what happens.... )

  10. #100


    Zero Emission Hydrogen Powered
    Fuel Cell Sedan

    Review by Jason H. Harper
    Nov. 26 (Bloomberg)
    -- It’s not every day that you get to kick the wheels on the car of tomorrow. After all, the question of what will power future automobiles is a guessing game, with candidates ranging from electricity and compressed natural gas to hydrogen fuel cells.

    Honda made an expensive bet in that guessing game by designing the hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity. It’s costly (perhaps $500,000 each to produce), yet the sedan emits only water.

    Both Honda and Chevy are testing fuel-cell vehicles by making them available for lease by select customers. Hydrogen’s big upside is its cleanliness and ability to be produced from many sources, even water and human waste.

    Fuel-cell stacks are akin to mini power stations in which the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen is converted into electricity, which then powers an electric motor. Since hydrogen is a gas, it’s stored under pressure in reinforced tanks.

    There are big hurdles to clear because the technology is expensive and an entire hydrogen refueling infrastructure will need to be created. (Honda’s previous FCX, first delivered in 2002, cost about $1 million each to produce. Executives are coy but say the Clarity costs about half that.)

    I pick up the Clarity in Manhattan with the intent of driving it dry, as I’m curious about the refueling process itself. Is it complicated?

    I turn the key, push the start button and the center gauges soon turn blue, indicating it’s ready to drive. Like a hybrid or electric car, there’s no start-up noise.

    I motor into traffic, trying not to ignore the fact that while the Clarity is as exotic and expensive as an Italian supercar, nobody else -- including errant yellow taxis -- knows this. Best to avoid fender benders.

    Refueling Station

    I’m on my way to Allentown, Pennsylvania, about 90 miles away. There I will find Air Products & Chemicals Inc. and its hydrogen refilling station. The Clarity has a range of 190 miles of highway driving, 280 of combined city/freeway. (Like hybrids, fuel-cell vehicles get better mileage in town, at slow speeds with less wind resistance.) A full tank is just enough for one back-and-forth trip.

    In the Clarity’s case, hydrogen is delivered as pressurized gas, and one kilogram is roughly equivalent to one gallon of gas. Over 200 miles in the day, I average 55 miles per “gallon.” Yet the tank only holds about four kilograms of hydrogen, and if you run out, a flatbed truck is in your immediate future.

    Only in California

    The Clarity has its own production line, which over the next three years will put out some 200 cars. Only Southern California customers are currently getting them since the state has the most hydrogen stations. Customers are pre-vetted, and leases cost $600 a month for three years, including maintenance and insurance. (So far, only a few have been delivered.) Honda is obviously not making money on the project, but it does suggest a certain seriousness.

    New York won’t see the Clarity soon. General Motors Corp., though, is offering its fuel-cell Chevy Equinox SUV at no cost to some 100 drivers in New York, Southern California and Washington, D.C. New York drivers can use a Shell station in White Plains.

    The Clarity was expressly designed as a fuel-cell vehicle, and the result is an elegant and handsome four-door sedan. With no big engine in the front, the hood and overhang are quite short and offset by a raked windshield. The Clarity is basically one long swoop, with a high back trunk to minimize air drag. Futuristic, though not aggressively so.

    Easy Handling

    I’m surprised to find that it drives just about like any other Honda. It’s easy to negotiate in traffic, handles nicely and doesn’t feel especially sluggish. Nor did I have any problem keeping up with fast traffic on the highway.

    It looks like a real car, too. The test version has a metallic burgundy paint job, attractive wheel rims and an interior that would make an Acura proud, with GPS navigation, cooled and heated seats and tons of room.

    Electronic gauges monitor gas mileage, hydrogen levels and range, and how much power is recaptured while braking (a technology shared with hybrids). A small circle at the center expands and contracts depending on how much power is being used -- an intuitive way of gauging how efficiently you’re driving.

    My range is dwindling as I near Allentown, and I’m glad to find Air Products, which has some 85 hydrogen stations in 15 countries. They’re expecting me, and representatives explain the simple refueling process.

    I insert a narrow hose onto a nozzle inside the car’s gas latch and then turn a locking lever. It’s a “closed system,” so the hydrogen neither leaks nor releases fumes. The pump performs a check of the pressure inside the car’s hydrogen chamber, then begins fueling.

    Minutes later, I’m back on the road to New York.

    No doubt hydrogen technology has a long way to go to become practical, yet if the Clarity is any indication, the actual process of driving and refueling could be a painless one.

    The Honda FCX Clarity at a Glance

    Engine: Fuel-cell stack and electric drive motor, with 134 horsepower and 189 pound-feet of torque.

    Transmission: One-speed direct drive.

    Speed: 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 10 seconds.

    Gas mileage per kilogram: 77 city; 67 highway.

    Best features: Emits only water but drives like a gas-fueled car.

    Worst feature: The fear of running out of hydrogen and being stranded.

    Target buyer: The true environmental front runner (who also lives in Southern California).

    (Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

    To contact the writer of this column: Jason H. Harper at

  11. #101


    ^ If any company could sell this idea, it would be Honda.

  12. #102

    Default "Greased Lightning"

    Of all alternative vehicles I have posted on this thread, the type with most upside for future development are electric-motor vehicles. (At least if you read the press that churns out most of the literature on this topic.)

    Tesla is a personal favourite because it is being sold at this moment, has both classic sport-car design and performance to match. But will it survive short or long term, when luxury-sport itself is in a troubled period worldwide, and electric vehicles are still associated mostly with fuel economy and not performance?

    I have held back on the very fringes of electric vehicle exotica because I convinced myself that they were beyond ambitious. But in the interest of getting a few more of them out here before they possibly disappear from any discussion, I begin with this British idea - "Lightning GT".

    Lightning GT

    British maker unveils unique electric-powered supercar.

    23rd July 2008

    There’s no shortage of electric cars at this year's British Motor Show, but none are quite like the stunning Lightning.

    Built by the Lightning Car Company, based in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, this running prototype combines elegant GT looks with electric power. With styling that has hints of Corvette, Aston Martin and Marcos, the Lightning looks fantastic. And this British firm has big plans to develop its new car into the first fully zero-emissions supercar.

    Powered by 30 batteries, it generates 36kW and can be charged in only 10 minutes. With the help of regenerative braking, the firm hopes the car will have a range of nearly 200 miles and a 0-60mph time of less than four seconds. It’s powered by four electric motors - one on each wheel - and if investors are found to help develop this unique car, the firm hopes to start sales by the end of next year. Prices are expected to be around the £120,000 mark.

  13. #103


    Lightning GT - The World's First Green Supercar?

    By Chuck Squatriglia
    March 03, 2008

    The all-electric Lightning GT might just be the world's first green supercar. It's as clean as the Tesla Roadster, as quick as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and as pricey as the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640.

    The Lightning Motor Co. is Britain's equivalent to Tesla Motors -- a small company that believes electric vehicles are the future and the best way to sell them is to make them as fast as they are sexy.

    "Without a significant positive shift in perception," the company says, "electric motoring will remain a large compromise in the eyes of driving enthusiasts and therefore fail to impress the masses."

    The Lightning is impressive indeed.

    The company says four in-wheel motors generate 553 lb-ft of torque -- that's about as much as the tire-shredding Dodge Viper SRT produces -- and 120 kilowatts apiece (for a combined total of about 643 horsepower, putting it in the same ballpark as the Corvette ZR1). Lightning claims the car will do 0 to 60 in 4.0 seconds and hit a top speed of 130 mph. Range is 250 miles.

    The car features an aluminum honeycomb chassis, carbon-kevlar bodywork, regenerative braking and 36 kilowatt nano lithium titanate battery the company says will charge in just 10 minutes and maintain 85 percent capacity after 15,000 charges. Look for a full slate of features, from anti-lock braking and traction control to air conditioning and leather.

    What's all this speed and luxury cost? Almost $300,000.

    Lightning seems serious about building the car. It's spent the past two years refining the design and lining up suppliers like Altairnano and PML Flightlink to provide the batteries and motors, respectively. Altairnano's Nanosafe batteries power the world's fastest EV dragster, and Volvo is using PML's Hi-Pa drive wheel motors in its ReCharge plug-in hybrid concept, so there's no question the hardware works. But as Tesla has shown, building a car from scratch is no easy feat, and Lightning's got its work cut out for it.

    We'll keep you posted.

  14. #104
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Sweet looking vehicle.

    I guess they found something that the military proved years ago, when you are making a prototype, make it as expensive and as impressive looking as possible! (Well, SOME military developments.......).

    Hopefully these uber-toys will eventually translate down to what Joe the Joe can use w/o taking out a now-hard-to-find home equity loan!

  15. #105


    Ferrari Reveals Its Strategy for Fuel Efficiency

    By Alistair Weaver, Contributor Email

    It would seem that the environmental message has even reached the hallowed halls of Maranello. Over the next decade, Ferrari will introduce a host of new technology that will make its cars lighter, smaller and more aerodynamic in a bid to improve their fuel efficiency. The company famous for its scarlet cars is going green.

    "Ferrari has always been a byword for innovation," said Ferrari's general director, Amedeo Felisa, during an exclusive presentation at the company's Fiorano test track. "Traditionally, our strategy has concentrated on power density and the power/weight ratio. Now we must focus on energy efficiency. We must rethink everything to create a new mindset and a new paradigm."

    Felisa acknowledges that if the Prancing Horse is to live to be a hundred, then it must breathe cleaner air. This is the future of Ferrari.

    Since the early 1990s, Ferrari has focused its attention on generating aerodynamic downforce. "The F355 of 1994 represented our first attempt to generate downforce," explains Ferdinando Cannizzo, formerly an engineer for the Ferrari Formula 1 team. "Its predecessor, the 348 of 1989, still generated lift." The 1999 F360 Modena that followed the F355 was the first Ferrari to feature a sculptured aerodynamic underbody, while the 2002 Enzo introduced front and rear air diffusers.

    The lessons learned in the past decade will not be wasted, but there will be a change of focus. "There will be a dramatic reduction in aerodynamic drag," says Cannizzo. Lower drag means lower fuel consumption and a higher top speed, but it does create problems. By creating a slippery, low-drag shape, you risk compromising aerodynamic downforce, reducing cornering speeds and also creating dangerous instability at higher velocities. This is the inherent contradiction that causes heartache for race teams the world over.

    Ferrari's solution is to employ technology that's banned in racing — movable aerodynamic parts or "active flow control." In other words, you create downforce only when it's needed. "We will use the car's energy in a more efficient way," says Cannizzo. Ferrari is working on a new "humped" underbody design and will also seek to match the air intake to the airflow needed by the radiators.

    Rolling Resistance and Weight Reduction
    The rolling resistance of today's tires has been reduced fourfold since 1900, but Ferrari is targeting a further 33 percent reduction at 150 kph (93 mph). This will require a philosophical shift. Traditionally, the tire has been developed and set up for the car, but in the future, the car will be set up to suit the tire. In other words, Ferrari will adopt the same philosophy for its street cars that it has employed for its Formula 1 cars.

    Felisa admits that Ferrari has targeted a curb weight for its future sports cars of just 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds), which is 300 kg (661 pounds) less than the Enzo supercar. This would offer a dramatic increase in performance without the need for more powerful engines. At the Fiorano event, Ferrari showed a plastic-and-cardboard mock-up of a 1,000-kg car called the FXX Mille-Chili ("1,000 kilos," in Italian), which looked like a scaled-down Enzo.

    In pursuit of this goal, Ferrari is advocating a broad portfolio of solutions, the most radical of which is the introduction of a fixed driving position — only the pedals and steering wheel will move to accommodate different drivers. Ferrari estimates that this will allow the designers to reduce the length of the passenger compartment by around 3.1 inches. The driver will also sit in a more reclined position, which helps reduce the height of the cabin by 2.4 inches. The steering wheel will adjust for reach and rake, but it will have a fixed hub featuring a greater array of controls. Such refinements should reduce the overall vehicle mass, lower the center of gravity and improve aerodynamics.

    We can also expect to see increased use of lightweight carbon-fiber construction, particularly for suspension components and the nose box. The use of carbon fiber for the latter will also improve crash protection. Ferrari is also working with Brembo to lower the weight of the brakes, further reducing unsprung mass and improving the center of gravity. Even brake-by-wire technology is being considered.

    Ferrari is no stranger to turbocharged engines. The legendary F40 supercar of 1987 notably featured a twin-turbo V8, and Ferrari even produced 2.0-liter turbo cars in the 1980s in response to idiosyncratic Italian tax legislation. Jean-Jacques His, Ferrari's engine guru, says, "Although turbocharging was abandoned by Ferrari, it is something we might come back to." Ferrari also is hoping to improve the throttle response of a turbo engine relative to the normally aspirated alternative, while also lowering its fuel consumption. "We want a turbo engine that can achieve high revs," says His.

    Other engine technologies in the pipeline include direct injection and lower (700 rpm) idling speeds. The technicians are also working with Shell to ensure that future engines can run on fuel with a higher percentage (up to 20 percent) of bioethanol.

    Ferrari also expects to have developed a prototype road car with a regenerative braking system by the end of the year, technology scheduled to be introduced in Formula 1 in 2009.

    Contemporary F1 cars use a seamless-shift transmission system that provides an uninterrupted flow of power. While Ferrari does not believe such a system would be viable on a road car for reasons of refinement and durability, the company is targeting a reduction in shift times. The F599 GTB Fiorano is Ferrari's current speed king with shift times of just 100 milliseconds, but the new F430 Scuderia will swap cogs in just 60 milliseconds thanks to the introduction of new software. This is as quick as Michael Schumacher's F1 Ferrari achieved in 1999.

    The next target is 30 milliseconds, which Ferrari believes is the quickest time possible using current technology. In the future, it might even be possible to use the energy produced by regenerative braking technology to fill in the torque gap between gearshifts.

    The Ferrari Future
    A green Ferrari is a very interesting development, but it's important not to overstate the impact of green technology on the formula for speed to which we've become accustomed.

    Ferrari intends to reduce the carbon-dioxide emissions of its cars to around 250 grams per kilometer (402 grams/mile). This would be a major achievement — the F599 GTB Fiorano currently emits 490 g/km (788 grams/mile) — but it would still make any Ferrari one of the dirtiest air polluters on the road. After all, a Toyota Prius emits carbon-dioxide emissions of just 104 g/km (167 grams/mile).

    Yet there can also be no denying that this initiative has not come a moment too soon. There are already rumors that the European Union may impose a carbon limit of 250 g/km on road cars in the not-too-distant future. Other supercar manufacturers will have to follow Ferrari's lead.

    It is reassuring that while these changes will have a dramatic impact on future Ferraris, they do not sound the death knell of the high-performance supercar. Ferrari's core philosophy has not changed. "Ferrari will continue to sell a dream, not a means of transport," says Ferrari's president, Luca di Montezemolo. "A Ferrari is like a woman. You have to desire and want her."

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