We explore the more practical next-gen vehicles that you might actually see on the road in the future
By Pierce HooverPosted 06.15.2011 at 3:30 pm 0 Comments
As with most prototype vehicles, we've had our share of design and mechanical problems. Fortunately, these challenges have--so far--not stopped us, but have slowed our progress, putting us three days behind our original projected schedule. Of course, as Dwight Eisenhower famously said, planning is everything, but plans are nothing.
Virginia's mountains provided the first real obstacles on our trip--but also some windy inspiration
By Pierce HooverPosted 06.15.2011 at 10:10 am 1 Comment
The first line of western Virginia's 3,000-plus-foot peaks presented our first real challenge of the 2001 Ecotour, just as they did to the early pioneers moving westward. (You can make your own connections.) Fortunately, instead of having to slash our way over rhododendron-covered slopes, we could gear down and inch upward on paved roads.
We're five days into our cross-country road trip. The rolling hills of Virginia's Piedmont are behind us, and we're into the Appalachian mountains. Up to the 200 mile mark, we were averaging 25 watt-hours per mile – well below our 35 watt-hour target. Now, as we are addressing our first significant climbs, the per-mile wattage has increased, but not alarmingly when averaged over a two- or three-day period. The climbs can be real battery drainers, pushing the watt-hours per mile upward into the 40-plus range.
Day two of our tour started with a picturesque ride on back roads through Virginia’s Piedmont country, with rolling hills and horse farms. Mid-morning found us in the small town of Ashland, where we stopped into the Station Café for a cool drink. The day was already into the 90s, but the front door to the Café was standing open. Inside, ceiling fans kept air moving, and the atmosphere was quite pleasant. It was a marked contrast from some earlier stops, where we were met at a restaurant door by a blast of arctic-cold air.
With the majority of kinks worked out of the vehicle's design (we ended up adding a light but functional fairing, or shell-shaped windshield, and a sun awning), it was time to address the actual logistics of a cross-country road trip.
By Pierce HooverPosted 05.31.2011 at 9:36 am 1 Comment
Just weeks away from the start of the tour, we found ourselves with a working chassis, but without a body-like structure. Assembling and tuning the electric drive system had taken longer than we expected, but now we had to turn our attention to the problem of what this car would even look like.
By Pierce HooverPosted 05.19.2011 at 10:55 am 7 Comments
We expected efficiency to be the key challenge as we constructed our cross-country, ultralight electric vehicle. After all, we'd decided the car would use no more electricity than a continuously burning 100-watt light bulb. But durability turned out to be equally important. This car wouldn't be like the high-efficiency concept EVs that are confined to indoor tracks at universities and research facilities--this would be taking me and my son over mountains. Lots of mountains.
By Pierce HooverPosted 04.26.2011 at 5:34 pm 0 Comments
The goal of our 2011 Popular Science EcoTour is to cross the U.S. on the energy equivalent to that consumed by a single 100-watt light bulb left on day and night--in other words, 2,400 watt/hours per day. That's not a particularly large number when applied to electric vehicles, considering the average golf cart carries 6,000 to 8,000 watt hours in a 400 to 500 pound battery pack, with a best-case range of 30 to 40 miles on a full charge.
The spark plugs driving combustion in your car may soon be getting an optical upgrade, thanks to a team of Japanese researchers. Laser ignition systems, which are exactly what they sound like, could replace spark plugs as the primary means to ignite the fuel-air mix in engines, boosting fuel efficiency and cutting down on carbon emissions.
By Pierce HooverPosted 04.19.2011 at 1:03 pm 2 Comments
In just over a month, my son and I will set out from New York City on a 4,500-mile, summer-long road trip. We're not worried about rising gas prices, because we'll be making the trip in a vehicle that gets the equivalent of 1,000 mpg or better. It's a cart-sized two-seater that we built with the help of a few friends, and it runs off the electrical energy equivalent to that consumed by a single 100-watt light bulb.