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Is it realistic to think that renewable energy will become common in RVs in our lifetime?

February 23, 2013 by Bob Difley · Comments Off 

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By Bob Difley

windlens2Inventors and inventions are a dime a dozen, as the saying goes. Proof is the number of patents filed in the US Patent Office every year (over 500,000 in 2010). Few ever make it to the marketplace, and even fewer become profitable. But that is where creativity takes root, and if the venture capital flows and the public accepts the product–take the iPhone or iPad for example–sales can go viral.

What does that have to do with RVing. I’m sure the inventor of the first commercially viable cell phone was not thinking of how useful a mobile, untethered, phone could be to the RV traveler making his nightly campground reservation on the fly, checking ahead to restaurant seating availability, taking calls from excited grandchildren while cruising down the highway, or calling in emergency services when away from nearby help. It took some RVers to actually look at the new invention and ask, “How can I use this to make my life better?”

The same holds true with inventions and progressive ideas today. The shortsighted seldom see the long term benefits, only the short term shortcomings of new ideas that need help along their path to usefulness. And that’s where the electric vehicle industry is today. Many people see the shortcomings–heavy expensive batteries, short periods of use before requiring recharging, long recharge periods, not enough charging stations, etc.–without seeing that with increasing acceptance comes increasing innovation and improvement, and eventually–if the early adopters inspire the general public to get behind the concept bringing it mainstream.

windlens-ed02One such innovation that could be a game changer on the electric vehicle scene is the wind lens by Japan’s Kyushu University, which they have demonstrated can produce three times the power of today’s wind turbines to supply electricity to the power grid. But that alone is not enough to get excited about.

What is exciting is looking at some other statistics, such as  ”The International Clean Energy Analysis (ICEA) gateway estimates, as noted by Karl Burkhart writing on the Mother Nature Network, “that the U.S. possesses 2.2 million km2 of high wind potential (Class 3-7 winds) — about 850,000 square miles of land that could yield high levels of wind energy. This makes the U.S. something of a Saudi Arabia for wind energy, ranked third in the world for total wind energy potential.”

For RVers, the first step toward moving away from fossil fuels and into electrical power, might be an electric vehicle (EV) tow car that could be recharged while driving down the road or overnight (from the grid which is supplied by cheaper, non-fossil-fueled or coal powered energy) at the campground. With the sale of more EVs comes more charging stations where you could stop for a bathroom break and lunch and plug in to a charger and pump up your battery for an additional 25 to 50 or more miles of range.

With experimentation by UPS, municipal bus fleets, and urban truck fleets in electric trucks, the increase in size from cars to trucks indicates that smaller RVs could soon become electrified–or hybridized, using both an electric motor and a supplemental gas engine for extended range–bringing great increases in mileage for RVs.

What happens in the future ultimately ends up with consumers. If they can step out of their comfort zone and start embracing EV technology, the chances of switching to electrical power will happen sooner, rather than later. But it is coming. An electric powered vehicle was named Car of the Year by Motor Trend Magazine in 2011 (Chevy Volt) and 2012 (Tesla Model S), both highly acclaimed and fanatically praised by their owners.

If you haven’t yet, take a look at what is happening in the EV field here, here, and here. You might be surprised.

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

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Does the future of RVing include smart highways?

January 4, 2013 by Bob Difley · Comments Off 

By Bob Difley

There are a lot of smart scientists working on a lot of futuristic projects, many of which will impact RVers and the way we enjoy our lifestyle. Take electric (EV) and hybrid electric (HEV) vehicles that are getting all the media play and new EVs are popping up like spring wildflowers–not only in the US but also in India, China, Japan, Korea and just about every country that makes automobiles.
So far, it’s been a hard row to hoe getting people to accept a different concept in their vehicles than what they are accustomed to, such as THE MILEAGE range between fossil fuel vehicles and EVs, time to fill up with gas or diesel fuel compared to chargging a battery, ability of electricity powered vehicles to carry or pull the loads that would be required for RVs, and cost differentials–EVs and HEVs are much higher compared to internal combustion engines (ICE).
But these smart and innovative scientists and entrepreneurs are working on this stuff. They’d rather that we changed our perspective on how we look at vehicles but also realize that until electrics are offered that have the same or better range, charge (fill up) time, and cost as an ICE operated vehicle, the populace is unlikely to adopt the new concept.
So they are going about their business by inventing better batterties, ones that will weigh less, are smaller, offer more usable power, and charge quicker. And a Dutch firm has re-invented highways with solar powered glow-in-the-dark surfaces charge during the daylight hours and light up at night. They also responde to road conditions like ice or rain, and the lanes have built-in electric car chargers–magnetic fields under the asphalt–to charge your EV battery as you drive.
These are not just concepts. They actually work and are now undergoing a pilot program with the intent of installing these road upgrades throughout Europe. If these concepts work, how long will it be before these innovations come to the RV business? And what would it mean? Would we see:
RVs that obtain mileage figures similar to fuel efficient small cars
Dingy vehicles that charge themselves while driving or beingg towed
Highways that light up like snowflakes (photo) when ice is present
Battery improvements and highway charging abilities that enable large RVs to go electric
And . . . what else? What do you see as the possibilities for EVs in the RV industry? Are scientists thinking yet that far down the road? What would you like to see in electric vehicle and battery development? Who knows, the scientists might read this blog also and come up with an answer.

dynamicpaintThere are a lot of smart scientists working on a lot of futuristic projects in secret laboratories around the world, some of these projects could impact RVers and the way we enjoy our lifestyle. Take electric (EV) and hybrid electric (HEV) vehicles that are getting all the media play. New EVs are popping up like spring wildflowers–not only in the US but also in England, India, China, Japan, Korea, Italy, Spain and just about every country that makes automobiles.

So far, it’s been a hard row to hoe getting people to accept a different concept in their vehicles than what they are accustomed to, such as the mileage range between fossil fuel vehicles and EVs, time to fill up with gas or diesel fuel compared to charging a battery-operated car, ability of electricity powered vehicles to carry or pull the loads that would be required for RVs, and cost differentials–EVs and HEVs are much higher compared to internal combustion engines (ICE).

But these smart and innovative scientists and entrepreneurs are working on this stuff. They’d rather that we changed our perspective on how we look at vehicles but also realize that until electrics are offered that have the same or better range, charge (fill up) time, and cost as an ICE operated vehicle, the populace is unlikely to adopt the new concept.

So they are going about their business by inventing better batteries, ones that will weigh less, are smaller, offer more usable power, and charge quicker. And a Dutch firm has re-invented highways with solar powered glow-in-the-dark surfaces that charge during the daylight hours and light up at night. They also respond to road conditions like ice or rain, and the lanes have built-in electric car chargers–magnetic fields under the asphalt–to charge your EV battery as you drive.

These are not just concepts. They actually work and are now undergoing a pilot program with the intent of installing these road upgrades throughout Europe. If these concepts work, how long will it be before these innovations come to the RV business? And what would it mean? Would we see:

  • RVs that obtain mileage figures similar to fuel efficient small cars
  • Dingy vehicles that charge themselves while driving or being towed
  • Highways that light up with snowflakes (photo) when ice is present
  • Battery improvements and highway charging abilities that enable large RVs to go electric with no fuel costs (other than the cost of charging the batteries from the grid)
  • And . . . what else? What do you see as the possibilities for EVs in the RV industry? Are scientists thinking that far down the road yet? What would you like to see in electric vehicle and battery development? Who knows, some scientists might read this blog also and come up with a solution.

For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

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War over oil? $5 pump prices?: Looking again at electric vehicles

February 25, 2012 by Bob Difley · 97 Comments 

By Bob Difley

gasoline_prices_2012The passing of the $4 a  gallon gas price this week didn’t seem like so much of a threshold as a speed bump on its way to $5. The Iran controversy is driving Wall Street speculation on the price of oil–which already has pushed prices well over $100 a barrel that will probably stay there for some time to come–resulting in exponential rises at the pump.

It doesn’t help to rationally point out that the rise in the price of oil does not warrant such extreme escalation of pump prices, everyone is going to get what they can get out of it before the closing of the strait of Hormuz, the next war in the Middle East, OPEC raises oil prices,  and Wall Street speculators drive oil futures prices sky high and we all park our rigs.

Whew. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. But whenever the price of oil jumps, the news ratchets up the hope that the political cavalry will ride in with more drilling for domestic oil, escalating natural gas to the fast track to get it to the market sooner, and pushing development of alternative energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc.

So I found this one little tidbit in the world of electric vehicles (EV) that sounded like it might have possibilities.  The problems with EV are multiple, including battery output limiting the vehicles’ range, cost of batteries, lack of charging infrastructure, dynamics limiting vehicle size, weight, and power, etc., and the desire of car owners to have the same or better features and passenger comforts that today’s gasoline vehicles offer.

An engineering challenge affecting range, weight, and power has been how to include air conditioning and heating in EV and how to cool the main battery. In an internal combustion engine (ICE) the compressor that runs the A/C is driven by a belt off the engine–which EV do not have. On hybrids, which do have an ICE, the current designs of belt driven A/C reduce the amount of charging that goes back into the main battery, create a drag on the engine (which are smaller than in regular vehicles), reducing efficiency and range.

A Japanese company called Denso has developed a new inline electric compressor, which will make its global debut on the Ford Focus Electric that goes into full production the first part of this year, as well as Fusion and C-Max Hybrids and Energi Plug-in Hybrids, also due in 2012.

“Denso’s new e-compressor is smaller, lighter and quieter than previous generations, maintaining the same cooling capacity while consuming less power,” reports Autonet.ca. “This means it pulls less juice from the battery and helps extend the lithium ion battery range when the air-conditioning (A/C) is running. For hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), the e-compressor helps make the car less reliant on the internal combustion engine.”

The company states that the e-compressor will also cool the lithium-ion battery, enabling it to maintain optimnal temperature that in turn will improve EV range and battery life. This could be one of those parts of the whole EV development that helps it overcome its inherent problems and gain acceptance in the broader market–and make it more practical for us RVers that are hugely affected by both rising fuel prices and the need for range. Anyway, this looks like another development to keep our eyes on–unless the end of the world comes first.

Happy travels!

Check out my website for RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (or for Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (Kindle version).

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Update: Developing electric vehicle battery technology

January 21, 2012 by Bob Difley · 21 Comments 

By Bob Difley
2011 Chevrolet VoltA lot of hype and optimism attach to press releases and news reports on not only the future growth of electric vehicles (inevitable) but also in what will be the jump start to propel them  fully into the mainstream.

Though electric vehicle market saturation is only in the single digits, we hear a lot about the Nisson Leaf and Chevy Volt (photo), and it seems that every other automobile and light truck manufacturer – including dozens of start-ups around the world – are jumping on the bandwagon and trying to catch up with the market leaders.

For RVers, we can hope for development of electric dinghys that will re-charge from the main RV engine while towing or from a plug-in at campgrounds and public re-charging spots while on the road. Light trucks must have enough torque to pull a small trailer or carry the weight of a small motorhome.  And of course, range and cost are currently the problems.

Hybrids, where you have the power and range of a supplemental gasoline engine such as in the Prius and Volt, are the logical interim step to full electric like the Tesla or Leaf. But they will not become a hit with most mainstream car buyers until a battery–or other energy storage system–can deliver on reduced size, lighter weight, lower price, and a range of at least 300 miles.

Progress is being made by research institutions such as Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LAL) in Berkeley, California, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Examiner.com posted an article called Li-based Batteries Fueling U.S. Electric Vehicle Goals stating that,

Several future battery alternatives being investigated at LBL include lithium-sulfur and lithium-air, which have the potential to generate much higher energy densities than Li-ion technology; thus fuel electric cars for longer distances.

In short, the lithium–sulfur (Li-S) battery is a rechargeable galvanic cell, which is relatively light and having an internal density similar to water. Sulphur is also significantly less expensive of a raw material than lithium, which offers inherent cost advantages.

In comparison, the lithium-air (Li-air) battery is a battery chemistry that uses the oxidation of lithium at the anode and reduction of oxygen at the cathode to induce a current flow. Li-air batteries have a much higher energy density than conventional Li-ion batteries, since they utilize the oxygen in air, eliminating the need for a Li-air battery to store fuel (oxygen) at the cathode.

How long this will take to becoming a viable commercial solution is a guess at best, and include factors such as whether the new batteries are environmentally-safe to dispose of or recycle at the end of a minimum 15-year lifespan.

ORNL is working on a related battery also, the Examiner continues:

ORNL has been more focused on a key battery component, the anode, where electricity is extracted in the system. The anodes of most current commercial lithium batteries are composed of graphite, which is a form of carbon. However, scientists at ORNL incorporated a special form of the compound, titanium dioxide, into the anode instead, which significantly enhanced performance. In recent tests, at the same level of current, it took the ORNL battery only six minutes to be 50 percent charged; thus generating a five-fold improvement over a graphite-based lithium-ion battery in the same period.

ORNL’s new battery has the potential to be used in a plethora of heavy-duty applications, beyond just hybrid electric vehicles including power grids and energy storage systems for wind and solar power generators, and this institution believes the best-case scenario would thrust it onto the market within five years.

It is an interesting time as we develop electricity as a vehicle power source–6 minutes to recharge a battery to 50% is impressive–and ween ourselves off foreign (read OPEC) oil.

Check out my website for RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (or for Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (Kindle version).

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Photovoltaic spray paint turns steel into solar panels

September 29, 2011 by Bob Difley · 16 Comments 

By Bob Difley

solar-spray-paintA European steel company and a university in Wales are putting their collective heads together to develop a spray-on coating that would  transform sheets of steel into solar panels. No Joke.

Not only that, but it is efficient, also, with the ability to work even in diffused sunlight. Perfect for states (and countries) in the higher latitudes and those without much bright sunlight.

Forward-lookers ate visualizing the automotive industry where photo-sensitive dyes could be applied to generate electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cells.

Imagine the applications of such a product. No more need to invest thousands of dollars in not-so efficient solar panels for your RV’s roof, and–get this–no range limit for electric vehicles. No more need for users of smart phones, laptop, iPads, or other devices to cart around power cables to re-charge. The power options could be limitless.

Fat chance you think? Another hair-brained idea from 20-something science majors who have been smoking something. Think again, if you think the spray-on solar technology is years away from reality.

The technology of  ’printing’ these dyes onto steel sheets has already been mastered by a subsidiary of the European steel maker, which is working on a new plant for the production of these steel sheets. They didn’t say whether the spray-on would work on fiberglass. I can’t imagine making RVs out of steel plates just to turn them into giant solar panels. But–you never know . . .

Check out my website for more usable RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (now available in a Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (also in Kindle version).

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Could this be the electric vehicle battery breakthrough?

June 11, 2011 by Bob Difley · 13 Comments 

By Bob Difley

battery_fluid_coreThose who are less than enthusiastic about the future of electric vehicles cite the immense size and weight of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, the length of time it takes to recharge them, and their limitations in output, for EVs to become mainstream in the near future.

However, a couple of scientists at MIT have been working a new type of battery that has a liquid core, instead of solid state materials as are now used, and their findings have been positive according to The Independent. They say that with this type of battery, it could be half the size of current EV batteries, be cheaper to make, and provide a ten-times improvement in energy density.

In addition to these advantages, the new batteries could be swapped out at charging stations, similar to battery swapping stations for current battery configurations now being installed in Israel and Denmark by the company Better Place , but still have the ability to be recharged at home or at charging stations when time permits. The time taken to swap batteries would be similar to the time taken now to refuel with gasoline or diesel.

Another possibility would be to design the batteries so that the discharged core liquid could be pumped out and replaced with a fully charged fluid. The researchers said that this could be the breakthrough that the battery industry was waiting for to make EVs a more viable replacement for current gasoline and diesel powered vehicles.

These steps could pave the way for electric motorhomes and trucks with capabilities of current models while decreasing our use of foreign oil and with no pollutant or CO2 emissions making less of an imprint on the earth–not to mention using a lot less of $4/gal gasoline.

Check out my website for RVing tips and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (now available in a Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.

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Electric and hybrid motorhome update

August 2, 2010 by Bob Difley · 10 Comments 

By Bob Difley

Capstone Turbine Corporation, that calls itself  “the world’s leading clean technology manufacturer of microturbine energy systems” announced that they will embark on an eco-friendly project with a major producer of heavy duty trucks that “will utilize a Capstone 65kW microturbine as a clean, efficient range extender in a hybrid electric drive system.”

“The electric hybrid vehicle market is in a significant growth phase, with essentially every manufacturer of trucks, buses and automobiles looking for the right solution to serve their customers. Capstone’s microturbine technology offers many benefits for these applications, including our extremely low emission levels that meet the most stringent CARB and EPA 2010 requirements without any exhaust after-treatment,” said Darren Jamison, Capstone President and CEO.

The Capstone press release also stated, “The Capstone microturbines are able to operate on traditional liquid fuels such as diesel and biodiesel but can also utilize alternative fuels such as natural gas without sacrificing efficiency.”

This is another example of how manufacturers and inventors are experimenting with electric and hybrid drives, and  starting to move to heavy duty vehicles, which would be suitable for large motorhomes, and maybe tow vehicles also. I wonder how long it will be before these types of innovations prove themselves–and filter down to the RV market.

Porsche-918-SpyderHowever, you may not have to wait that long before you can purchase the perfect toad to pull behind your microturbine hybrid motorhome. Porsche announced that they intend to go forward  with production of the Porsche Spyder 918 as they are closing in on the 1,000 firm orders they said they needed to  proceed.

The Spyder is a plug-in hybrid supercar that will accelerate from 0-60 in 3 seconds, tops out at 198 mph, gets a whopping 16 miles on electric only, has a maximum fuel efficiency of about 78 mpg, and a combined 718 horsepower.   What more could you ask of a toad? Maybe a little less than its $650,000 price tag.

Website: Healthy RV Lifestyle

Ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on  America’s Public Lands

111 Ways to get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck

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Freightliner continues introductions of alternative-power vehicles

March 15, 2010 by Bob Difley · 10 Comments 

By Bob Difley
Freightliner is continuing to introduce alternative-power products for the commercial vehicle industry with the introduction of its highly anticipated plug-in all-electric walk-in van (WIV) chassis. The new chassis model is the only one domestically engineered and the first in the industry to be completely all-electric (includes HVAC system) in North America.

The all-electric chassis, developed in partnership with Enova Systems, a leading developer and producer of electric vehicles and hybrid-electric drive system technologies for commercial vehicle OEMs, is built on the Freightliner MT-45 WIV chassis platform. On select delivery and service routes, Freightliner’s studies showed a 100 mile range on a single charge and that customers could save up to $15,000 per electric vehicle annually compared with traditionally powered walk-in vans.

Freightliner presented the pre-production all-electric WIV chassis model at the 2010 National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show.

Freightliner designed this truck from the ground up and is going after the walk-in van market though itis another step toward electric powered RVs, admittedly still years away. But what would prove beneficial to the RV market would be acceptance by the walk-in van market, enabling mass production and a lowering of costs by the time it reaches motorhome manufacturers. Freightliner introduced  the first hybrid-electric Class A motorhome chassis in December 2008.

Check out my eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, for tips on finding the ultimate in RVing and camping freedom.

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When Will We See Hybrid Motor Homes?

November 26, 2009 by Lug_Nut · 29 Comments 

gas-pumpIf you are hoping to reduce costs by buying a hybrid motor home in the near future, you had better not hold your breath.  If such a vehicle does become available, you  may  need to have deep pockets.  While an electric/gas hybrid may very well cut your fuel consumption substantially, you will probably never reach a ROI (return on investment).   In fact you will probably lose big time.

 

Basically, this is the way they operate.  They are propelled by either an electric motor or a gasoline engine, depending on the current circumstances.  The battery pack only receives a charge while the vehicle is coasting or braking.  When additional power is required, the gas engine takes over.  While the gas engine is propelling the vehicle, no charge is supplied to the batteries.  The gas engine will actually shut off, if and when it is not required, for example at a stoplight.  It will restart automatically when needed. 

Many hybrid automobiles today are basically short time vehicles, or better put, disposable.  This is largely due to the cost of the prime battery pack that powers the vehicle while it is in the electric propulsion mode.  These batteries generally are covered by a 100,000 mile warranty and can cost anywhere from about $3,500 to $8,000 to replace.  The suggested life of the battery packs are anywhere from 8 to 10 years, based on 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year.  Higher yearly mileage would of course reduce this.  When this vehicle reaches 10 years old it would be doubtful that it would have a value worth replacing the battery pack, not to mention other components.  So, it would probably be considered scrap.

hybridThe cost to purchase an average hybrid is around $5,000 more than that of a conventional vehicle.  Based on a Toyota Camry, the hybrid will use about $500 less fuel for 12,000 miles as compared to a straight gas powered unit.  That alone would take 10 years to recover the extra cost.  Add to that, the car may well have no resale value at that time.

 

 

It is for the above reason that few lease companies will ever handle today’s hybrid offerings.  The resale, even after a three year lease, may be questionable.  They are today, a great unit for the environment, but a costly vehicle in the long run for the owner.

So, now let’s apply this to a motor home.  Well, first off, we will need a lot more battery power.  This would probably require anywhere from 6 to 10 times more than that of a relatively light hybrid automobile.  The battery replacement could run $40,000 to $60,000, or more.  The capital purchase costs may increase $80,000 to $100,000, or more.  I would doubt the batteries would last 10 years, perhaps 8 if they were driven low mileage and were carefully maintained.  Well, 8 years old, and the batteries require replacement?   What’s the unit worth?  Maybe nothing.

Well, maybe the auto market will slowly switch to a 10 year vehicle life.  If the vehicles worked well and were priced right, it might fly.  But, I doubt we will see people scrapping an 8 or 10 year old RV, that’s just not going to happen.

Don’t take me wrong, the development to date of hybrid autos is remarkable, and certainly reduces the fuel consumption.  It is unquestionably a greener way to drive, but I don’t believe it is a cheaper form of transportation.  Some people may drive one to aid the environment regardless of costs, others because they are under the false belief that it is cheaper.  Regardless, the future developments and our reliance on oil will bring more cost efficient vehicles to the market place in the near future.

With a Green View     -     Lug_Nut      -       Peter Mercer

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Could this be the breakthrough electric vehicles need?

October 17, 2009 by Bob Difley · 19 Comments 

By Bob Difley

GM Design Team Wins Award at Los Angeles Auto ShowCan anyone deny that the world is entering potentially one of the most disruptive periods of change in the transportation sector since the internal combustion engine was invented over 100 years ago? The activity surrounding and driving alternative energy vehicle development–hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or all electric (EV)–produces news stories everyday with words like newer, better, larger, smaller, more efficient, and breakthrough in the headlines.

Auto manufacturers and venture capitalists are pouring money into technological advancement of vehicles, batteries, EV  technology, charging systems, and infrastructure.  Garage entrepreneurs and small cap tech companies are scrambling to grab a piece of what could be a very enormous pie, especially when the pie expands to include pick-up truck, delivery truck, RV, and bus size vehicles.

In a step closer to realizing these goals, now IAV Automotive Engineering, a German company with facilities in Michigan, has acquired a patent for their Star Trekie EV wireless road charging system, that magically beams energy to your EV. The technology requires installing electrical conductors into roads that would generate magnetic fields which would charge an EV’s battery as it drives. RFID tags would identify your EV and bill you for the amount of energy used.

This could be a game changer–if it works–and a disaster for all the companies scrambling to establish battery charging and swapping station infrastructures, such as Shai Agassi’s company Better Place. The IAV electric car charging system would not only eliminate range anxiety–one of the biggest hurdles for the EV industry–but the whole system is also resistant to weather and mechanical wear, and has the ability to charge vehicles traveling at high speeds on major highways and freeways as well as while parked.

So far, IAV’s testing shows an impressive 90% efficiency of energy transfer between conductors and vehicles. And to add one more efficiency plus to the system, the conductors have sensors that detect when a vehicle is near so they only operate when necessary. IAV expects that this technology will be commercially available within just three years.

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