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Thread: Alternative Cars/Vehicles

  1. #121


    10 years ago what did Cadillac stand for? Who was it's target?

    So why is it building the CTS-V now?

    You tell me.


    About why Corvette should do an electric ... let me explain it this way: Because it is different, AND the electric, if done right, can beat a gas powered vehicle in acceleration. Making it so the wheels do not slip AND being able to give full torque at 0 rpm gives electric a distinct advantage (as shown by both the Tesla and Lightning).

    It is also seen as something new and different. I doubt, seriously, that they are pushing the green standard on these cars as much as they are pushing the performance and style. The green is like the "salad" at the side when you order your steak. They know this.

    When I see the "smart" car, I think "green" (and not in a flattering way). When I see the Tesla, I think fast.

    So that's why I think it would be a great idea for the Corvette.

    Last edited by Fabrizio; December 4th, 2008 at 04:10 PM.

  2. #122
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Sep 2003



    I just don't think it will sell.

  3. #123

    Default Ranking Fuels (Not Vehicles)

    Comparing Alternative Fuels For Cars

    ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2007) — Norwegian scientists have drawn up a league table of alternative fuels for cars. Their analysis is based on a well-to-wheel approach that takes into account manufacturing, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and local and regional pollutants.

    Bottom of the table, unsurprisingly, are petrol vehicles, but coming in a close second last are hybrid vehicles that can run on compressed natural gas or petrol. Top of their league are fuel cell powered vehicles using hydrogen gas obtained from natural gas methane.

    Karl Høyer of Oslo University College and Erling Holden of Western Norway Research Institute, Norway, and reported in Inderscience's International Journal of Alternative Propulsion their analysis of fuel chains including petrol, natural gas, and alternative fuel sources such as methanol and ethanol, hydrogen and biofuels.

    "Alternative fuels are not in themselves a road towards sustainable mobility," the researchers say. However, their analysis places petrol and hybrid vehicles firmly at the bottom of the league table when all energy factors from source to consumer use are taken into account. "Any alternative fuel we considered is better than the cars that are used mostly today," they add.

    Currently, there is no consensus regarding sustainable transport development. Even if a particular energy reduction goal is set for the transport sector there is no agreement on actions that should be taken to achieve this goal. Different lobbying groups have different approaches to the problem and opponents of any particular approach can usually find evidence to suggest a particular approach is not sustainable. The ongoing biofuel debate is a case in point.

    Nevertheless, there are several factors that must be considered in assessing a particular alternative fuel: the efficiency route, the substitution route and the reduction route. Each has its strong defenders, say Høyer and Holden, but in reality there are substantial grey areas between them. One important facet of the debate that is often overlooked, is to ensure the three impact categories - energy use, carbon emissions, and nitrogen oxide pollution - are considered together. "This is a highly problematic task and should only be carried out with great care," the team adds.

    They used a simple ranking system to create their league table, based on giving each energy form a weight from 1 to 16 depending on its impact in these three areas. When the weights are added up from well to wheel, they provide an overall value for each energy chain. For example, extraction of natural gas, processing into liquefied hydrogen, storage, and end use in a fuel cell car. The energy chains giving the lowest sum-figures are the highest in the league table and those with largest figures are considered potentially the most environmentally harmful.

    Interestingly, the team's analysis puts a fossil-based alternative, natural gas conversion into hydrogen for fuel cells at the top of the list. In contrast the direct use of natural gas in hybrid cars is lower down the list in terms of efficiency, energy, and pollution. Biological methanol for use in fuel cell vehicles is way down the list despite biomethanol being a potentially renewable resource unlike natural gas. "It must be emphasised that no single chain comes out with the best score on all impact categories," the researchers say, "There are always some sorts of trade offs involved. Thus, there are no obvious winners; only good or bad trade offs between different impact categories."

    Reference: Int. J. Alternative Propulsion,
    Vol. 1, No. 4, 2007 pp 352-368


    Adapted from materials provided by Inderscience Publishers.

    Copyright © 1995-2008 ScienceDaily LLC — All rights reserved.

  4. #124


    Feature: Alternative-Fuel Technologies
    Alternative Fuels are Making News, Thanks to Anxiety Over Oil Volatility and Global Warming. Will One of them Power the Family Sedan of 2020?

    By Frank Markus

    At the dawn of the motoring age, there were no paradigms to break, no well-trodden paths to follow. Entrepreneurial automakers made things up as they went along, trying different sorts of internal and external-combustion engines fueled by everything from wood and kerosene, to naptha, diesel fuel, peanut oil, alcohol, electricity, and a refinery byproduct that had been marketed under the trade name "Petrol" as a lice treatment and grease remover-gasoline. With a bit of work on the formula, gasoline quickly shook out as the fuel of choice for the personal automobile, owing to its abundant supply, cheap price, and high-energy content.

    Illustration by Doug Fraser

    A century later, the paradigms are shifting. Securing enough cheap, easy-to-reach oil to feed our 400-million-gallon-per-day gasoline habit is proving geopolitically challenging, and competing with China and India for the cheap oil isn't simplifying matters. Ideas like conservation and energy independence are migrating from the hippie fringe to the patriotic mainstream in the name of national security. Then there's the growing global concern that human consumption of fossil fuels may be warming the planet catastrophically. This world view, valid or otherwise-and we're not touching that hot-potato here-is shaping the public discourse with an eye toward regulating carbon-dioxide emissions. Might the traditional gasoline engine's grip on the future of personal mobility be loosening? Hybrid-electric vehicle sales are snowballing. Sophisticated new diesels are reemerging as a premium engine choice capable of improving performance a little and fuel economy a lot, with agricultural biodiesel playing the energy-independence card. And with some help from corn-belt lobbyists, homegrown ethanol is now making a major power-play with over six million flex-fuel vehicles on the road and refining capacity increasing rapidly.

    Can any of these alternatives do to gasoline what Petrol did to its rivals a century ago and become the fuel of choice among mainstream sedan buyers in 2020? Or will the tried-and-true spark-ignition engine evolve sufficiently to retain sales dominance? We've polished our crystal ball, spoken to myriad experts, and rounded up sedans representing each technology to answer that question. Let's meet the players.

    The Defender: Gasoline Pros

    • It's everywhere, powering most of the 201,496,000 cars and light trucks on the road.
    • Boasts high-energy density (see "Energy Content in a Gallon") and emissions that are easily cleaned.
    • Functions well in all temperatures from Alaskan cold to Death Valley hot.
    • Well-understood technology presents ample opportunity for further performance, economy, and emissions advances.

    Volkswagen Passat

    Gasoline Cons

    • A nonrenewable resource.
    • Foreign-supplies increasingly volatile, greater competition for them coming from India and China, domestic reserves expensive to extract and refine.
    • Hydrocarbon and NOX emissions can be further reduced, but each gallon produces 19.4 pounds of CO2, so improved efficiency is the only CO2 -abatement option, and diesel and hybrid technologies are more efficient.

    Wild Card: Several companies are at work on homogeneous-charge compression-ignition gasoline engines. This clever system runs like a diesel engine under certain conditions-unthrottled, lean, direct-injected with compression ignition-deriving about 80 percent of diesel's fuel economy benefit (13 to 17 percent better than traditional gas engines) at about half of diesel's cost penalty (thanks to cheaper fuel-injectors and emissions gear). There are a number of unconventional gasoline engine designs on drawing boards around the world, some of which promise more dramatic improvements in fuel economy and emissions. All would require extensive retooling investment, but under the right pricing or regulatory conditions, one of these may make sense. See for links to the Scuderi Split-Cycle, APT OPOC, Radmax Rotary, and other thought-provoking designs.

    Gas/Electric Hybrids Pros

    • Recovers braking energy for reuse when accelerating to deliver 50-percent fuel savings in town without compromising performance.
    • Approximates diesel economy at a similar cost with far lower NOX and particulate emissions.
    • Proven reliable over millions of customer-use miles, so high battery costs haven't plagued midlife resale values.
    • Gas engine can be finely tuned for max efficiency over a narrower engine-speed range, negating need for pricey variable-intake geometry and valve timing hardware.

    Toyota Camry Hybrid

    Gas/Electric Hybrids Cons

    • Upfront costs ranging from $1000 to $4000 today (see "What You Pay For").
    • Battery pricing ($600-$3000 per car) unlikely to drop, given rising nickel prices.
    • Battery pack adds 200-300 pounds-a lot of extra mass when cruising, hence most full hybrids earn higher economy figures in town than on the highway.
    • Hybridizing offers few benefits to larger vehicles for towing or long driving trips.
    • Cold weather diminishes battery performance, causes engine to run more to warm heater, reducing fuel economy in the winter.

    Wild Card: Plug-in hybrids promise miles of purely electric in-town commuting on battery power before the combustion engine kicks in, delivering 40-50 mpg. But the fine print cautions that even a 20-mile electric range requires six times the on-board energy storage that a full hybrid totes. Lithium-ion batteries promise to triple the energy density of nickel-metal-hydride, and they tolerate deeper discharges when powering laptop computers, but they suffer "unfriendly failure modes" (such as catching fire), and they haven't demonstrated longevity beyond the lifespan of a laptop battery. Thermal management during recharging will be another key problem to solve, cautions Bill Reinert of Toyota's Advanced Technology group, who believes viable plug-in hybrids are at least five to eight years off.

    Diesel Pros

    • Compression-ignition design is roughly 20 to 40 percent more efficient than spark-ignited Otto cycle, thanks to high-energy fuel, high compression/expansion ratios, reduced pumping losses.
    • Advantage applies in town, at idle, on the freeway, in hot or cold weather.
    • Reinforced to withstand high combustion pressures, diesels generally last longer.
    • Fuel is heavier, oilier, more carbon dense, hence less inflammable and safer to handle than gasoline or ethanol.

    Mercedes Benz E320 Bluetec [Diesel]

    Diesel Cons

    • Cost penalty of up to 30-plus percent.
    • Ever tightening NOX and particulate emissions regulations threaten long-term viability (see "Technologue," page 36).
    • Fuel is slimy, smelly if you get any on you during refueling, though the exhaust of a 2007-compliant diesel has little or no odor.
    • Even high-pressure pilot-injected diesel engines are noisier, requiring more sound-deadening material.
    • Biodiesel requires standards defining the quality of B2, B5, and B20 blends (referring to the percent of biodiesel in the blend), as it can be made from various feed stocks with differing chemical compositions.

    Wild Card: Thermal depolymerization refineries promise to take discarded biomass, old tires, vehicle shredder-residue, and other carbon-rich waste that otherwise presents disposal challenges and make clean, renewable, domestic oil out of them. The process simulates what time has done to dinosaurs and dead plants by cooking the material under high pressure to produce clean oil and could provide a viable alternative domestic source of diesel fuel. Pilot plants are up and running, but recent estimates peg the per-barrel cost at around $80-not quite economically viable.

    Ethanol/E85 Pros

    • A renewable source and growing feedstock recycles carbon.
    • Can be grown at home, improving national energy security.
    • Pure ethanol has a 116-octane rating, so it burns slower and cooler, produces fewer emissions in the cylinder, and is tolerant of higher compression ratios.
    • Liquid fuel easily distributed throughout the existing infrastructure, but must take care to keep water out of the fuel.
    • Gasoline engines require no modifications to run on a 10-percent ethanol/gasoline blend and only modest changes to burn an 85-percent blend (E85).

    Ethanol/E85 Cons

    • Low-energy content drops flex-fuel vehicle fuel economy by about 30 percent on E85 (optimizing an engine to run on E85 only could recover much of that penalty, improving performance as well.
    • Fuel not widely distributed, though station count is 1300, up from 400 in early 2006.
    • Sandia Labs cautions that growing ethanol could overstress water supplies (See "Can We Eat, Drink, and Drive Merrily on Biofuels?").

    Wild Card: While cellulosic ethanol production is being discussed as a slam-dunk, done deal, according to Bruce Dale, a biotechnology professor at Michigan State University, there are four or five competing technologies under development now, using various feed stocks, and the first billion gallons of cellulosic production won't arrive for four to five years. Bill Reinert also points out that moving tons of biomass material around will be trickier than piping crude oil and that seasonal growth and year-round demand may present storage challenges. Cellulosic production is ethanol's holy grail, because the parts of the plants that don't yield alcohol can be used to fuel the refining process, dramatically improving the fossil-energy input and CO2 footprint of the resulting ethanol (see "Well-to-Wheel Energy & Emissions").

    Test-Driving the Future

    To help forecast the future prospects of each technology, we rounded up four sedans, close in size and shape, representing the state of the art in each category. Our traditional gasoline nominee is the VW Passat 2.0T. Turbocharging a small-displacement direct-injected engine is a great way to couple the cruising efficiency of a small engine with the performance of a big one. Expect to see more of this in the future.

    Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, as featured in our Camry tester, is an economy-optimized full hybrid, so we chose it over the Honda Accord's Integrated Motor Assist system, which is geared toward performance.Mercedes-Benz is first to market with a next-generation diesel engine-albeit one that as yet meets only 45-state emissions compliance. Next year, pending EPA approval, a urea tank and a new catalyst will be added to achieve 50-state compliance (see "Technologue"), but that shouldn't affect performance noticeably.

    Our choice of E85 sedans was fairly slim (trucks compose most of the E85 fleet): Chevy's Impala/Monte Carlo, FoMoCo's taxicab Crown Vic and its siblings, Mercedes-Benz's C230, and the new Chrysler Sebring.

    Chrysler's DOHC V-6 produces considerably more horsepower per liter than the lower-tech domestics, and the Mercedes uses an antiquated fuel-line sensor to determine the fuel blend, so we opted for the Chrysler. Ironically, flex-fuel Sebrings are available only in the California-emissions states, and at the time of publication there's only one public E85 station in California; New York has six; Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont have none (see for a chart of alt-fuel availability by state).

    We drove the cars around our SoCal offices for two weeks in search of peculiarities and frankly found few. The Camry Hybrid feels the most different from a normal gasoline-engine car, in that it seldom accelerates from rest on electric power only, and its engine sounds don't always correlate with vehicle speed. Its regenerative brakes also feel a bit peculiar, though one adjusts to them quickly. The Bluetec Benz never sounds or smells like a truck, it accelerates ferociously, and if one didn't notice the lower redline and shift speeds, it could pass for a gas engine. Apart from the faint whiff of moonshine when refueling, the Sebring transitions from gas to 85 operation seamlessly. According to Loren Beard, Chrysler's manager of environmental and energy planning, and Roger Clark, of GM's Energy Center, neither company reports a change in peak output ratings when running on E85, but both advance spark timing, which improves torque and responsiveness at low speeds (on the order of 20 percent under 1500 rpm).

    For purposes of this test, we're not that interested in comparing vehicle performance, we want to zoom in on the engines (and motors). In an ideal world, our performance testing regimen would've involved buying the cars, ripping their engines out, installing each on a dynamometer, and running an identical battery of power and efficiency tests, thereby eliminating such variables as transmission ratios (CVT, four- and six-speed automatics), differing aerodynamics, and curb weights ranging from 3413 to 4036 pounds (happy to say, our fleet's peak output ratings were tightly clustered between 187 and 208 horsepower). We're not rich enough to swing that, but we might just be clever enough to simulate that approach.

    We put each car through our standard battery of acceleration tests (running the Sebring on both E85 and gasoline, registering a 0.1-second advantage in 0-to-60-mph and quarter-mile acceleration when running on the higher-octane E85-see for full performance specs). We also performed rigorous fuel- economy comparisons, driving in convoy for 90 miles on the freeway at nearly constant speeds averaging 58 mph, then in San Diego city traffic for 57 miles averaging 21 mph. Our final test was a 12-mile-long 2890-foot climb up Mount Palomar averaging 32 mph-a test conceived to see if we could deplete the Camry's battery, rendering it a lumbering obstacle. (We couldn't. Partway up the mountain the system recharged the battery, drawing more power from the gas engine and plunging gas mileage to below that of the diesel-15.8 versus 16.2 mpg.)

    To focus on the engine technology, we calculated the amount of work each drivetrain performed during eight seconds of full-power acceleration, taking into account measured vehicle curb weights and factory aerodynamic drag data. (Power is the rate of doing work over time, which is why we chose a time interval, rather than a distance or velocity mark, and eight seconds gets each car to around 60 or 70 mph, above which potential inaccuracies in our aero-drag estimates grow in significance.)

    To normalize the fuel-economy figures, we corrected highway ratings to an average aerodynamic drag area and altered city and hillclimb data to an average vehicle weight. It's as if we slipped identical NASCAR-spec body shells on each car, hacked 383 pounds out of the Mercedes, and ballasted the others to an average 3653 pounds. These normalized figures were combined into a single economy rating, weighted 50 percent city, 40 percent highway, and 10 percent hillclimb. (The EPA's Combined rating is 55 percent city/45 percent highway.) Then we multiplied our peak work number by this fuel-economy number to conceive a work-efficiency figure (BTU-mpg) to represent the envelope of performance each technology offers. Finally, we divided that figure by the energy content in each car's fuel to get an index of carbon efficiency to gauge bang-for-the-carbon-buck, expressed in carbon-miles.

    Studying the results, we see that, while the gas-electric hybrid achieved the best city, highway, and normalized combined gas-mileage figures, diesel is the most work-efficient technology. This is primarily because, as the heaviest and quickest-accelerating car in the test, the diesel engine did the most work (814 BTU). That's 26 percent more than the lighter, slower Camry and 24 percent more than the lighter, almost equally quick VW. By achieving the second-best normalized fuel economy (27.8 mpg), trailing the hybrid by just 15 percent, the diesel's work-efficiency topped the field at 22,643 BTU-mpg-a narrow eight-percent lead over the hybrid. Accounting for the fuel energy reverses this finishing order, giving the hybrid a narrow 3.5-percent lead in carbon efficiency. The E85 engine accelerated the slowest, registering the least amount of work (534 BTU). Its low-energy fuel predictably delivered the poorest fuel economy (18.8 mpg), sewing up a work-efficiency figure 31 percent behind the gasoline VW engine's-that's almost exactly the difference in fuel energy, as the nearly equal carbon-miles ratings suggest. Similarly, we calculated the Sebring's work efficiency on gasoline (substituting EPA Combined figures, as the Sebring didn't make the econ runs on gasoline) and found an almost identical index of efficiency.

    Diesel and hybrid are closely matched winners in the efficiency race, but both have a long way to go before achieving price parity with gasoline or E85. Current E85 flex-fuel technology has what it takes to match gasoline on carbon-efficiency, and we can assume that engines optimized for use exclusively with E85 could eclipse today's gasoline engines on carbon-efficiency and performance. An E85/electric hybrid, with an engine tailored to operate exclusively on E85, within a full- or plug-in hybrid's narrow rev range would be a formidable competitor on carbon efficiency and would be utterly untouchable on fossil-carbon efficiency. But in today's flex-fuel context, E85 has no market-driven future until the fuel is priced more than 30 percent less than gasoline.

    Handicapping the Race for 2020

    Ask any futurist to make a prediction, and if he isn't wearing a pointy hat and carrying a staff, he'll likely ask what your assumptions are. The three assumption scenarios relevant to this discussion are:Status quo, incremental changes in emissions and fuel-economy regulations, predictable increases in global demand, no catastrophic geopolitical or natural disasters.

    An unforeseen and dramatic change in the supply or cost of oil.
    A sudden, dramatic change in public policy regarding climate change (CO2 caps, a hefty carbon tax, etc.).

    Our government bets heavily on the first scenario, and a study by Oak Ridge National Laboratories determined that, as long as diesel manufacturers meet the current emissions regulations in reasonable numbers, and if hybrid manufacturers can cut another 15-20 percent out of their cost, then by 2012 they see diesel taking a 7.2 percent share of the market with hybrids accounting for 14.9 percent. With another eight years of linear growth (our math, not the government's research), diesels would achieve almost 10 percent and hybrids a quarter of the market in 2020. Perhaps not surprisingly, Toyota's Bill Reinert is similarly bullish on hybrids. "Hybridization greatly improves the overall efficiency, regardless of the fuel of the engine while preserving performance. There's no silver-bullet fuel, so we have to make powertrains as efficient as possible." GM's Roger Clark opines, "Diesel is also in the running, but for heavier vehicles. It depends on the performance objective. In light-duty pickups, it's ideal. In a small [commuter] car, hybrids-especially E85 fueled ones-are ideal." Diesel's future will depend largely on emissions regulations. If fuel saving (or CO2 reduction) becomes a national priority, we may see some relaxation-or at least no further tightening-of NOX control beyond the current 2012 regulations in order to encourage diesel proliferation. But if regulators act on health research findings that suggest smaller particulates are even more damaging than the large ones being trapped by today's emissions controls, diesel could be in trouble.

    Throw in either of the other scenarios, and most pundits go bullish on ethanol and biodiesel. Clark believes, "E85 is probably the number-one way to reduce CO2, by upward of 60 percent, especially with switchgrass or other cellulosic material. E85 hybrids are the way to go." His colleague, Mary Beth Stanek, GM's director of environment and energy, quotes research showing that ethanol from biomass could offset 35 percent of our transportation needs with grain-based ethanol meeting another four percent. "So of the 160 billion gallons [the transportation sector will] need by 2020, 39 percent or 60 billion gallons can be met by ethanol without being disruptive to land or food sources." Reinert is less convinced. "E85 trades geopolitical issues for drought and other agricultural problems." Chrysler's Loren Beard is optimistic about biodiesel, especially when biomass-to-liquid processes are perfected that don't rely on pricey soybean oil.

    So what will the new-vehicle fleet look like in 2020? The optimist places faith in our world leaders to keep us in scenario number one, in our automotive engineers to keep diesels and hybrids legal and affordable, and in our biochemists to deliver affordable cellulosic ethanol and biomass diesel in sufficient quantities to cover the growth in our nation's demand for fuel. Such optimism envisions a market in which the upper-middle-class suburban garage has a diesel SUV, wagon, or lux-sedan that the family uses for vacations and long highway commuting, plus a hybrid runabout for stop-and-go grocery-getting.

    Pricey plug-in E85 hybrids (and pure electric or hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles) will sell in boutique volumes to septuagenarian Ed Begley Jr. and others like him on the enviro-fringe. The widest, most price-conscious slice of the market (65-percent-plus) will continue to buy gasoline-powered vehicles, and the gas going into them will contain up to 10-percent ethanol. E85 will be more widely available and more gas-engine cars will accept it, but hefty government incentives likely will be required to drop the price below 70 percent of regular-unleaded and encourage market acceptance.

    The pessimist's view in this matter is a whole lot less cheerful, way more expensive, and perhaps best left to alarmist filmmakers to present.

    The Uninvited Alternative Fuels

    Methanol/M85 So-called "wood alcohol," also can be made from natural gas or coal. Various M85 flex-fuel vehicles were sold in the 1990s, but methanol has been largely abandoned because it's corrosive and more volatile than ethanol and has even lower energy content (62,500 BTU/gal).

    Natural gas & LP gas It's clean, plentiful, and even reasonably cheap. Taxis and buses use it, as does Honda's Civic GX (earning buyers a $4000 federal tax credit). But public "gas" pumps are few and far between, the tank eats half the trunk, and it affords only 200-300 miles of range, so it's not destined for the mainstream.

    P-series fuels We never heard of them, either. These natural-gas derived liquids (pentanes, ethanol, and biomass-derived methyltetrahydrofuran) are clear, colorless, 89-93-octane blends that could be used in flex-fuel vehicles if they ever see wider production.

    Hydrogen We'll get letters, but the sad truth is that despite the squillions of dollars being invested in fuel-cell vehicles, the horizon for their cost, efficiency, and fuel availability to reach the point of widespread customer acceptance is, on purely practical terms, well beyond our 2020 timeframe.

    Argonne National Laboratories developed the definitive model for measuring a fuel's total life-cycle energy input and emissions output, from the fuel source to the pump, then from the pump to the wheels when the fuel is burned. In the energy-per-mile analysis, ethanol suffers by comparison with petro-fuels, due to the energy consumed farming, shipping, and refining it. Cellulosic refining requires even more energy, but burning the unfermented leftover wood or switchgrass material provides most of the energy, which is renewable and CO2 neutral (hence the negative bars on the CO2 graph).

    If fuels were priced strictly on their energy content, the sign on the left shows how each would relate to gasoline, while the other sign reflects reality pricing influenced by supply-and-demand peaks (gasoline), the general health of the economy (diesel, which is primarily an industrial fuel), localized supply (biodiesel and E85), and disparate taxation (all).

    Now: $1250-$4100* Future: $1000-$5000

    • High-voltage battery pack sized according to the level of hybridization, increasing in size/cost from mild, to full, to plug-in
    • A generator and one or more electric motors, depending on design, AWD, etc.
    • Sophisticated power controller directing voltage into and out of the battery pack
    • Cooling system for powertrain electrical system
    • (Note that engine cost can be reduced, due to smaller size, narrower operating range)
    • Between now and 2020, the cost of batteries and other hardware for today's charge-sustaining hybrids is likely to drop, but larger plug-in hybrid batteries capable of tolerating charge-sustaining and charge-depleting strategies will be expensive (an Advanced Automotive Battery report to congress suggested $3000-$5000 for the battery alone).

    Now: $1750-$2500* Future: $2300-$3250*

    • Water separator in the fuel line (moisture emulsifies in the fuel and is corrosive to injectors)
    • Sophisticated direct fuel injectors capable of metering multiple squirts per cycle at 20,000-30,000 psi
    • Engine block, pistons, rods, crank strengthened to withstand extremely high-combustion pressures
    • Extensive sound deadening required to quiet clatter at idle
    • Turbocharger(s), often with intercoolers and/or variable-nozzle turbines
    • Costly emissions controls to clean NOX and soot
    • We can probably expect emissions regs to ratchet even tighter between 2012 and 2020, probably to 0.02 grams/mile NOX. Smaller particulates also may be controlled, all of which will drive diesel costs up.

    Now: $100-$200 Future: NEGLIGIBLE

    • Fuel-system materials upgraded to resist corrosive alcohol
    • A water separator in the fuel line (alcohol attracts water, even from atmospheric humidity)
    • Fuel pump and injectors rated for higher flow during E85 operation
    • Fuel sensor or engine-control programming to detect fuel composition via oxygen-sensor feedback
    • Flex-fuel E85 capability is likely to become standard across mainstream gasoline drivelines, so the modest price differential will disappear. Traditional gas engines will likely gain in sophistication and cost as well.

    © 2008 MotorTrend Magazine

    Last edited by Zephyr; December 18th, 2008 at 01:42 PM.

  5. #125


    U.S. will fail to meet biofuels mandate: EIA

    Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:17pm EST
    By Timothy Gardner

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States will fall well short of biofuels mandates on the uncertain development of next-generation fuels made from grasses and wood chips, the government's top energy forecasting agency said on Wednesday. "The key risk factor is rate of development of cellulosic biofuels technology," Howard Gruenspecht, the Energy Information Administration's acting head, said at press conference in Washington introducing the agency's annual energy forecast. "Near term growth of cellulosic ... is certainly a question mark."

    The country, the world's top producer of the main biofuel ethanol, will only blend about 30 billion gallons of fuels like corn-based ethanol and the advanced fuels into gasoline by 2022. That is about 17 percent short of the U.S. mandate of 36 billion gallons by that year, the EIA said in the forecast.

    The United States enacted the mandate, known as the Renewable Fuels Standard, late last year in an effort to provide jobs and begin to wean the country off foreign oil. It calls for corn ethanol, but also an increasing amount cellulosic ethanol made from fast-growing grasses and trees, and biodiesel made from non-food sources. Cellulosic is not yet made commercially.

    Loopholes in the mandate that allow regulators to waive the requirements, if needed, could also result in lower blending, Gruenspecht, said. So far, such waivers have not been approved. In August, U.S. environmental regulators rejected a request from Texas Gov. Rick Perry to halve the mandate, which he blamed for boosting corn prices and making it costly for farmers to feed livestock.


    Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the ethanol industry group the Renewable Fuels Association, said, "Is the mandate ambitious? Absolutely." But research in cellulosic production being carried out on college campuses and federal research labs will help the country meet the target, he said.

    Meeting the mandate could provide President-elect Barack Obama with challenges if he does not adjust policies. Obama has said he wants to boost the use of alternative motor fuels above the mandates.

    His choice for agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, the top ethanol producing state, has recommended phasing out subsidies for corn-based ethanol and reducing tariffs on imports of Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane. Steven Chu, Obama's pick for energy secretary, is also a strong proponent of advanced biofuels.

    This year's oil price collapse and the credit crunch has hurt many biofuel companies financially and cut the amount of fuel some of them are making. VeraSun Energy Corp, the largest publicly traded ethanol company, filed for bankruptcy protection in late October. This month, company lawyers said eight of VeraSun's 16 plants were in "hot idle" mode, or ready to operate but not currently producing ethanol.

    Ethanol producers are also pushing for changes in blending regulations to allow more of the fuel to blended into gasoline that is burned in regular cars. Currently rules limit gasoline to 10 percent ethanol, while specially made "flex- fuel" cars can burn fuel that is 85 percent ethanol. For the moment U.S. ethanol capacity is too high, which is helping to make distilling ethanol barely profitable. U.S. capacity to make ethanol is slightly above the 2009 mandate for blending of 11.1 billion gallons of biofuels into gasoline.

    (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe in Washington; editing by Marguerita Choy)

    © Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

  6. #126


    Alternative Fuel Car Explodes in Fiery Ball After Driver Lights Up

    Written by Nick Chambers
    Published on October 31st, 2008

    A London manager for an energy saving company has found himself the recipient of some incredible luck after walking away from his converted Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Peugeot that had, moments before, exploded. The incident occurred while he was driving at 30 miles per hour after lighting a cigarette.

    As a manager for a company that deals in providing energy savings solutions to their customers, Peter Tidbury thought it made perfect sense to purchase a Peugeot 607 that had been converted to LPG. From an article in the Daily Mail, Mr. Tidbury had this to say:

    “I changed to LPG because it is a lot cheaper and as well as money saving is a lot greener than petrol. I work in the energy saving field and we all have to be more environmentally conscious these days.”

    He had just filled up on LPG at a local gas station and was told that there would be a funny smell after filling up, so he though nothing of the fumes. He rolled down the window to air out the smell, and then closed it. A bit later he rolled down the window again to light a cigarette and that’s when the explosion occurred.

    In his own words from the Daily Mail:

    “I was doing about 30 mph and as I lit the cigarette there was an almighty explosion. The windows went out, the bonnet went up and the boot went up just as you see in the Hollywood movies.”

    “I was belted in and braked sharply. I can’t remember this but I was told that I was directing traffic around the car whilst my suit jacket was still smoking.”

    “For me it is miraculous. It was not my day to die. I firmly believe that the hand of God was on me that day.”

    The cause of the accident is purely speculation at this point, but it seems that the leading theory is that a leak somewhere in the line between the LPG tank and the filler cap allowed the gas to seep into his cabin.

    Mr. Tidbury says that he won’t buy an LPG car again, but would consider riding in one as a passenger. He has his current sights set on a larger BMW diesel car as a replacement.

    Apparently, the accident has set Peter Tidbury on a healthier path too. He says, “My immediate thought after the accident was also to quit smoking. I’ve tried before but have now set myself a target to quit by Christmas.”

    Source & Image Credit: Daily Mail Online

    Gas 2.0 is a Green Options Media Production. Some Rights Reserved

  7. #127

    Default Actually a Dual-Fuel Alternative Car ...

    A well-done article indeed, on another intriguing entry into hydrogen fuel alternatives, although less boldly. And it is from a marque I have especially admired over the years.

    Hydrogen is not LPG, and we do have Honda to compare this BMW. But we must note that this is not exclusively hydrogen, as is the case with the Honda version, but rather a dual-fuel use: hydrogen and gasoline.

    We don't have hydrogen stations here yet, nor a plan that commits us to this technology in the works. I reflect on the fact that I have enough problems getting nitrogen for my tyres locally - which is preferred over air - so I doubt if we will get as far as having a hydrogen source in any near term. BMW is, nevertheless, in its sixth generation, which demonstrates that they are determined to push this technology, wherever they can.

    September 9, 2008
    Feature: A short drive in the BMW Hydrogen 7

    Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

    BMW Hydrogen 7.

    Imagine a vehicle that performs the same as your gasoline car, but sends nothing more harmful than water vapour out its tailpipe. Does it sound too good to be true? Some people believe it is; others, like engineers at BMW, think it's the way of the future, and they say they've got the car to prove it.

    The car is the Hydrogen 7, and the automaker recently brought several of them to Canada for journalists to drive. They're part of a fleet that the company is testing, including giving them to high-profile drivers to use in their daily activities, ranging from car collector Jay Leno to opera singer Placido Domingo. These models are actually the sixth generation of BMW hydrogen vehicles, and the first hydrogen car in the luxury class to pass through the standard development process for volume production. But don't run down to the dealer to trade in your 3 Series just yet: while these cars work, and work very well, it will be a long time before hydrogen vehicles become a daily reality, if they ever get there at all.

    BMW Hydrogen 7.

    "This is about sustainable energy, air pollution and global warming," said Jason Perron, an engineer with BMW's Clean Energy Project. "Fossil fuels are finite, and there are geo-political issues surrounding them. Energy independence is important, and this is the direction we are taking. We feel that the internal combustion engine still has a future, especially with renewable fuels like this one. We expect a future with all types of vehicles, such as electric, fuel cells, hydrogen and biofuel capability."

    The Hydrogen 7 is a dual-fuel vehicle with a regular internal combustion engine that burns either hydrogen or gasoline; it carries both, fuelled through separate fillers on its flank. Other hydrogen vehicles, including those currently being tested in real-world conditions by Honda and Ford, use a fuel cell that converts hydrogen to electricity, and then uses that electricity to power an electric motor that drives the car.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to the systems. In its favour, hydrogen is virtually free of harmful emissions, sending only heat and water out the tailpipe (putting your hand behind the Hydrogen 7's pipe is similar to putting it over a kettle). Unlike oil, hydrogen can be produced almost everywhere - even in your driveway, should Honda prove successful with its experimental Home Energy Station, which will produce it from the house's natural gas supply. And a fuel cell can be combined with a plug-in electric system to produce a car that runs exclusively on batteries charged on household current, and then switches to a clean-emission system to continue driving the electric motor once the batteries wear down. One concept version of the Chevrolet Volt uses this.

    But right now, the disadvantages to hydrogen are daunting, so much so that some critics say they are insurmountable.

    BMW Hydrogen 7.

    The price of fuel cells will have to come down considerably before they'll be viable for consumers: Perron said they're between $150,000 and $175,000, which is one of the reasons why BMW uses a conventional engine. Secondly, storage is a major problem: the Hydrogen 7 can only carry enough liquid hydrogen to go about 200 km (a button on the steering wheel seamlessly switches between hydrogen and petroleum at any speed, so the car overall has a range of about 700 km). And finding the fuel is almost impossible, as a network of consumer liquid hydrogen filling stations simply doesn't exist. In order to demonstrate the vehicles in Toronto, BMW had to set up a mobile station. The Canadian National Exhibition grounds, where the presentation was made, has a hydrogen production station powered by a wind turbine, but it produces gaseous hydrogen and couldn't be used to fill the cars.

    There's also considerable controversy over hydrogen itself, which isn't necessarily a "green" fuel. It can be made from water, using electricity to crack the hydrogen and oxygen apart; that's renewable if the electricity comes from water or wind turbines, or from solar panels, but many power plants are coal-fired. Today, though, hydrogen is most commonly (and most cheaply) made from natural gas, which is a fossil fuel; it can also be produced from other sources such as biomass, methanol, coal or oil. Hydrogen is also an energy carrier, not an energy source, and there's always a question of whether the method used to produce it requires more energy than the hydrogen ultimately provides. The production and distribution of hydrogen may be out of the automaker's hands, but it will be a major factor in whether vehicles like these are ever a common sight on our roads.

    A special mobile filling station was set up (top);
    The hydrogen tank sits in the trunk.

    They certainly weren't during my test-drive, and the car got more than its share of stares, although it was due almost entirely to the large decals put on the doors specifically for such events: normally, only discreet badges and the large chrome secondary filler door give any clue as to the Hydrogen 7's alter ego. Inside, the only differences are the hydrogen/petroleum button on the wheel, a gauge in the driver information centre that indicates the remaining hydrogen, and slightly less legroom in the rear seat, which has been moved forward to accommodate the hydrogen tank. (Although the system can be fitted to any model, BMW chose its largest sedan because it could hold the largest possible tank.)

    That tank mounts in the trunk, and even if it has a long way to go before it can hold enough hydrogen for everyday use, it's certainly a marvel of engineering. To stay liquid, hydrogen must be a beyond-bone-chilling minus-250C. BMW says the tank has an insulating effect equivalent to a 17-metre-thick jacket of Styrofoam, and if it held regular ice, it would take around 13 years for the block to thaw completely. I don't know about you, but I'm seeing a tremendous market opportunity for BMW-brand beer coolers.

    A button on the wheel switches between hydrogen and gasoline.

    The tank has also been extensively crash-tested - including being hit from behind by a truck - as well as dropped and shot, but the company says it has yet to rupture one (tests on the "injuries" to the crash-test dummy suggest that the tank even helps provide extra rear crash protection). Should it be necessary, an emergency system expels hydrogen through safety lines in the C-pillar and out through a vent in the roof; if the car lands on its top, there are secondary lines to a vent in the bumper. Special lock buttons on each door are hooked to sensors that continually check for hydrogen in the cabin, and should any be detected, the buttons will flash a red warning. (It isn't hazardous to breathe gaseous hydrogen, but any spark will ignite it.) Perron says that hydrogen isn't any more or less dangerous than gasoline, "just different."

    Driving the Hydrogen 7 is similar to driving the regular model, except that the V12 engine has been dialed back from 438 hp to 260 hp to run smoothly on both fuels. It also takes longer to crank over when it starts, because it's purging the system, and there is a slight clattery noise when it switches from one fuel to the other, because the port injection system lacks sound insulation (it's inherent to this particular engine, not to hydrogen itself). Overall, it's business as usual behind the wheel, with smooth acceleration and performance on par with a luxury sedan; only those familiar with the V12's regular rocket acceleration will notice any difference. It's tough to give an exact figure because hydrogen is measured in kilograms, but the engineers estimate that the car averages the equivalent of 13.0 L/100 km on hydrogen, which is about what the regular 760Li gets on gasoline.

    The filler clamps securely to the vehicle (top);
    BMW says the filling system may one day be completely automated.

    Fuelling it up is another story. The hose clamps to the car's filler neck, purges the system, and then dispenses the liquid hydrogen. At the temporary station, it takes between six and eight minutes to go from empty to full; at permanent stations, which BMW has available in Munich, a cryo-pump pushes the fuel in, requiring only three to four minutes. The company says that the fuelling process can be done by the driver and doesn't require a trained attendant, such as with propane; in future, stations might be completely automated, with hoses that find the filler necks and fuel the car without the driver getting out from behind the wheel.

    But if such a service station is still in the future, so is the car it will eventually fill. BMW is already looking ahead: its next hydrogen vehicle will be a version of the new X6. And it's not the only one, as the U.S. Department of Energy recently announced up to US$15.3 million over the next five years for hydrogen storage research and development, part of an overall US$1.2 billion the government has committed to hydrogen fuel cells. Perhaps one day you might put a fuel made from water into your tank, and get the same back out from the tailpipe. But don't give up your gasoline card just yet.

    Jil McIntosh is a freelance writer, a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and Assistant Editor for

    © 1999-2007, CanadianDriver Communications Inc., all rights reserved.

    Last edited by Zephyr; December 24th, 2008 at 02:58 AM.

  8. #128


    Test Drive BMW Hydrogen Car

    to Access YouTube Video

    Video – Courtesy YouTube / gabemac;
    Image – Courtesy Eco Chauffeur

    Runtime - 10:33

  9. #129


    Science News

    BMW Hydrogen 7 Emissions Well-below Super-ultra Low-emission Vehicle Standards, Government Tests Confirm

    (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Argonne National Laboratory)

    The BMW Hydrogen 7 Mono-Fuel demonstration vehicle, a near-zero emissions
    car, undergoes testing at Argonne's Advanced Powertrain Research Facility
    (APRF), the principal U.S. Department of Energy facility for assessing
    advanced hybrid electric vehicle technologies. APRF is a unique facility in
    North America because it is the able to detect trace levels of emissions.

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2008) — Independent tests conducted by engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory on a BMW Hydrogen 7 Mono-Fuel demonstration vehicle have found that the car's hydrogen-powered engine surpasses the super-ultra low-emission vehicle (SULEV) level, the most stringent emissions performance standard to date.

    "The BMW Hydrogen 7's emissions were only a fraction of SULEV level, making it one of the lowest emitting combustion engine vehicles that have been manufactured," said Thomas Wallner, a mechanical engineer who leads Argonne's hydrogen vehicle testing activities. "Moreover, the car's engine actively cleans the air. Argonne's testing shows that the Hydrogen 7's 12-cylinder engine actually shows emissions levels that, for certain components, are cleaner than the ambient air that comes into the car's engine."

    It was not an easy task to measure the Hydrogen 7's emissions. "A gross polluter is easy to measure, but the cleaner the car the harder it is to test," said Don Hillebrand, director of Argonne's Center for Transportation Research. "Most labs test at the SULEV level. Argonne's vehicle testing facilities are unique in that they are able to detect even trace levels of emissions. In this case, it was near-zero emissions."

    After an extensive evaluation by BMW, "Argonne's Advanced Powertrain Research Facility was found to be the only public test facility in North America capable of testing hydrogen vehicles at these low emissions levels," said BMW's Wolfgang Thiel, manager, operating support emissions analysis. "Zero is a very small precise number -- we are pushing the boundaries of emissions testing."

    Technical and program information about the Hydrogen 7 tests will be presented by Wallner and BMW North America's Jason P. Perron Wednesday, April 2 during the National Hydrogen Association Annual Hydrogen Conference, March 30-April 3, in Sacramento, Calif. Argonne will join BMW's Christoph Huss, senior vice president, science, traffic and vehicles regulations, in a press conference to present the test results during the Society of Automotive Engineers 2008 World Congress, April 14-17, in Detroit.

    BMW has put the hydrogen model into limited series production. Although the vehicle is not yet available for sale to the general public, it is being made available to "influential public figures," whose use demonstrate a new era in clean energy, BMW has said. In the meantime, the greatest challenge to widespread use of hydrogen cars is the limited number of hydrogen refueling stations.

    Argonne's transportation research program and facilities are primarily funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which supports the development of vehicle technologies and alternative fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil, and enables the U.S. transportation industry to sustain a strong, competitive position in domestic and world markets.

    Copyright © 1995-2008 ScienceDaily LLC — All rights reserved

  10. #130

    Default Another Electric Vehicle (EV) from the past - Tama (1947)

    Tama Electric Vehicle (1947)

    After the war, Tachikawa Airplane Company (later the Prince Motor Company) diversified into automobiles, building an electric car at a borrowed factory in the town of Kitatamagun Chofu, Tokyo. Since gasoline was rationed in this period and the availability of fuel was low, the company focused on electric vehicles. Two prototypes (EOT-46) were completed in 1946, consisting of a converted Ohta truck with a battery stored under the cargo bed and a motor replacing the engine under the hood. The next year, in 1947, the EOT-47 prototype was completed with an independently designed body. It incorporated new ideas such as headlamps that were directly connected to the fender and an alligator style hood. The much-awaited ES-47 passenger version was completed in May and named "Tama" after the site of the factory.

    The Tama was a 2-door sedan with a top speed of 35 km/h and a maximum range of 65 km on a single charge. In June, the company changed its name to Tokyo Electric Motorcar Co. and continued to release a succession of improved models. The 1949 model known as the Senior was capable of 200 km on a single charge.

    photo by baku13, 23 Oct 2006

    photo by baku13, 23 Oct 2006

    Courtesy of Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan, Inc.

  11. #131


    Amazing how with today's technology, automakers make it seem impossible to build modern EV's.

  12. #132


    Fascinating: I was not aware of the Stir-lec I. Read the copy. This is 1969!

    Why o why did GM not go through with these ideas?

  13. #133


    So an external combustion engine charges the batteries and the batteries run the car through an electric motor. Pollution goes down, but I bet efficiency doesn't; every time you convert energy you lose some of it. I'll wager this car got the mileage of a standard Opel Kadett.

    But it topped out at 55 mph!

    No wonder the idea went nowhere.

  14. #134

    Default Even these are Alternative Vehicles, this time with Aerodynamics and Stylistic Flair

    Wednesday, December 27, 2006
    Concept Trucks by Luigi Colani

    Sexiest Truck on the Planet

    "Luigi Colani is a legendary Swiss-German industrial designer, whose concepts have rounded, organic forms, which he claims are ergonomically superior to traditional designs."

    Words fail me as I gaze on the audacious curves of these full-size trucks, some of which seem to float above the ground. First "Colani Trucks" (based on Mercedes platform) appeared at the end of the Eighties, and several variations were made since then.

    (photos by (c) W. Heix, NeueWeltClub and JSDI, Japan) Click to enlarge.

    Spitzer / Colani model:

    Mercedes-based model:

    Other variations:

    Avi Abrams - IAN MEDIA Co.- All Rights Reserved.

  15. #135

    Default Luigi is really Lutz

    Luigi Colani - Translating Nature

    by Brett Patterson
    13 Jun 2007

    One of the most influential designers of the past half-century, Luigi Colani, is the subject of an exhibition at the Design Museum in London. With a career spanning almost six decades, Colani has applied his unique design style to produce cars, trucks, boats, aircraft, ceramics and consumer goods, as well as creating futuristic concepts for as-yet unrealized transport systems and architecture. There are Colani tea pots, mineral water bottles and sun glasses, but much of his work remains in the form of dream-like models or photographic montages. While operating firmly outside the mainstream of the automotive design industry, Colani's work has had a huge influence on automotive designers. CDN met with Colani in London, where he explained his design philosophy.

    Born Lutz Colani in Berlin in 1928, his father was a movie set designer from Switzerland, his mother an actress from Poland. Colani studied sculpture at the Akademie der Kuenste, Berlin, and moved to Paris in 1947 to study aerodynamics at Universite de Paris-Sorbonne. Lutz became 'Luigi' with his 1952 newspaper feature on a jet-powered motorbike, under the brand name 'LuCo'. At the 1954 Geneva Motor Show he presented a sports coupe based on the Fiat 1100, for which he won the Golden Rose prize. He later won the 'Golden Shoe' fashion prize for his 'elevator' high-heel shoe design.

    Colani explained to CDN that in his early studies he was strongly influenced by the world of classical sculpture, and that he "frantically tried to mix both high technology and beauty", to mix function and form in a way found in nature... "I respect nature".

    A prime characteristic of Colani's design work is rounded, organic forms, which he terms 'biodynamic'. He is famous for avoiding straight lines in his work: "Everything on the microcosmic as well as the macroscopic plane is made up of curves... I can only obey the laws of nature."

    'Yellow egg' city car (2006)

    The exhibition 'Translating Nature' includes Colani's studies of sea life, and animations that mix aquatic life with Colani's own 'bioform' designs. Colani explains that his father advised him as a child: "Try to go in the garden and look at the plants and animals, and try to imagine, all the problems were solved over millions of years". Colani sketches a cross-section through a bird's wing, explaining how all the aeronautics design answers are already there, shaped by evolution, from variable wing geometry to wing leading-edge slats.

    Colani presented an ideal vehicle aerodynamic form with his 'C-Form' concept in 1968, a vehicle where the whole body forms an inverted wing. The concept was featured in Stern magazine, and has influenced a generation of student designers with its architecture of four wheel-pods suspending a central cabin form. The 1982 'Le Mans 82' sports coupe and BMW 'M2' were studies that while somewhat baroque, defined a unique form language seen years later in vehicles such as the Corvette Indy and Porsche 959.

    'C-Form' aerodynamic study (1968)

    Colani's aircraft designs have ranged from lightweight personal aircraft to huge heavy-lift flying wings and re-usable spacecraft, all photographed by Colani in a distinctive style that presents scale models as if full-size, with meticulously modeled sets and tiny figures to complete the illusion. Colani has also been involved in production aircraft design, his 1976 Fanliner the first plastic sports airplane with a Wankel rotary engine.

    Colani moved to Japan in 1982, where he was named 'Designer of the Year' in 1984. "I stayed 10 years in Japan, with the aim to help them extrapolate from their own culture, instead of trying to copy Europe". He designed the groundbreaking 1986 Canon T90 camera, which applied bio-forms to previously angular camera design, and featured a prominent forward-set hand-grip with ergonomic controls that has become a standard architecture for most cameras since.

    Colani comments that his vacation time while in Japan was spent diving, studying the forms of undersea life. "What an institute!" he exclaims.

    Colani has some strong views on the mainstream automotive industry: "Amongst today's car industry management there is not one that understands the real problems". Colani believes the whole emphasis on new vehicle development is wrong: "We have hundreds of electric motors to do jobs normally done by human hands. Car design should not be about the small details. It should be about the bigger picture... Cars should be "simpler, less features, streamlined, lightly built." He uses a slogan (in German): "langsam, leise, lustig, liecht" - meaning slow, quiet, spirited, light. Colani believes the mainstream manufacturers are all missing the point, "to build cars to go from A to B with a smile... to give answers to problems of our time".

    Luigi Colani in signature white attire

    We asked Colani if he considered himself to be a designer or an artist. He answers: "I'm not a designer, I'm a 3D philosopher".

    Colani sketches a crankshaft from a Jaguar racecar, showing how he modified it with smoothly shaped counterweights to reduce drag within the crankcase. The car went on to win LeMans. Colani explains that he "looks at, and works with the philosophy of the machine", and is often involved in areas some would consider the realm of the engineer, but which really come within the realm of '3D philosophy' and a broader view of the role of the designer. "We need a new generation of thinkers - philosophers," says Colani. He is currently assisting in the development of a new BMW aircraft engine for a Russian commercial airliner.

    30 years ago Colani built the first streamlined trucks, during periods of 'fahrverbot' (driving bans) in Germany. The trucks achieved a 25% reduction in fuel usage. In the Shell marathon "we covered 1800km with 1 liter of fuel". Colani is the world record holder since 1991 with a four-seater using 1.7 liters/100km of gasoline.

    Streamlined bulk tanker truck (2002)

    Colani is currently working on new truck with Siemens, aiming for a 50% reduction in fuel consumption. His prototype build facility in Karlsruhe, Germany, employs between 5 and 30 people depending on the projects underway. Colani lives in a baroque castle in Harkotten.

    He is currently on a global publicity trip. He explains that if Europe doesn't react positively to his proposals following this trip, then he will be going ahead with projects in Shanghai, where the Chinese government has offered space and support. Colani has lived in Shanghai for 10 years, and is Professor of transport Design at Tsinghua University.

    Commenting on design in China: "Chinese designers will only need 3-4 years more to catch up to world standards". His message to China, as it was for Japan, "Don't copy European influences". Colani believes that China will fast become the most advanced in ecological solutions "because they will have no other choice".

    Colani is currently doing research for Air China, for a flying wing airliner. China needs high-capacity passenger aircraft: "There are 12 747's flying in each direction between Shanghai and Beijing every day". A flying wing has 5 times the capacity of a conventional aircraft.

    He explains he is looking for "capital to sell his life's work, to stay in Europe, and to found a 'club of Europe's brains', to fight the coming challenge from Asia". "If I go to China, and they jump on me with their ability to build quality... If they can get first hand information on what the world needs, they could wipe out Europe".

    At 79, Colani shows no sign of slowing down. His recent projects included a sidestick controller for the Airbus A320, a gas-powered truck for Qatar, police uniforms, and a "logical and healthy (and nice looking)" shoe collection in Japan. Colani says he may get into more fashion work, a field which he regards as "even more stupid" than the other fields of design.

    We asked Colani which is his 'favourite' amongst his past work. "All were advanced thinking in their time, but there is not one I love best, the focus is always on the child I am nursing at that time."

    © 2008 Car Design News Ltd

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