Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hilo to Kona and back, twice, in a four-seater electric car. On one charge.

The impossible just takes a little longer.

The German firm DBM energy is claiming it has solved the intractable problems of electric cars. (Here’s their website, but you’ll need to read German.)

They’re claiming they can produce an electric car that can get from Hilo to Kona, and back, twice, on a single charge—and have plenty of juice left to charge your cell phone and your iPod.

Electric vehicles always worked, but they couldn’t go fast, and they couldn’t go far, the batteries took up all the storage space, and it took forever to recharge them.

Well, a lot of folks with very large brains have been working on those issues for a few years, and little by little, the barriers are crashing down.

You’ve got your fast cars, like the diminutive but speedy Tesla Roadster.

And if you pack enough batteries in, you can go far, like the Japanese team this year that filled a Daihatsu with batteries and drove it 625 miles (they had to take out the passenger seat to make battery space, and average speed was 25 miles an hour).

One solution has been what some engineers smilingly call a “workaround.” The hybrid, for instance: an electric car that also has a gas engine for backup. Or the battery-swap solution: if it takes forever to charge a battery, just change the batteries when you need a charge. Of course, that means you need a lot more battery packs—ones for driving and ones for charging.

Neither is elegant, but they can work.

DBM Energy has a lithium battery technology called Kolibri AlphaPolymer. It holds a great big charge, and according to DBM, it recharges in six minutes from a standard outlet. The company says it has outfitted an Audi A2 with its batteries, kept its four seats, and driven 375 miles with power to spare.

It’s not clear whether any independent agency has tested these claims, but DBM Energy already runs its batteries in things like warehouse forklifts, where they presumably get a pretty good workout.

Have they done the impossible? And what might the impossible cost? We’ll see.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2010

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