Green IT: Electric, Green Cars for 2009 and Beyond

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-04-13
 
 
 

Electric, Green Cars for 2009 and Beyond

The IT industry has taken a more active role in the automotive world in recent months. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are major investors in Tesla Motors, the company behind all-electric, zero-emission vehicles such as the Tesla Roadster and the Tesla Model S. Meanwhile, Intel, Microsoft and other shops have been designing microprocessors and software platforms designed to bring features such as speed recognition, 3G connectivity and mobile-device integration to the daily auto commute. Since the New York International Auto Show is taking place this month, April 10 to 19, eWEEK is taking a look at six vehicles that represent the various ways that companies big and small have been exploring the environmentally friendly future of personal transport.

Electric, Green Cars for 2009 and Beyond

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The 2009 Tesla Roadster runs on a 375-volt AC induction air-cooled electric motor with variable frequency drive, allowing it to go from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds. The vehicle outputs 248 peak horsepower (185kW) and 276 ft/lbs (375 nm) of torque.

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According to Tesla Motors, its most recent EPA driving cycle tests at an EPA-certified facility found that the car could travel 231 miles/city, 224 miles/highway, and 227 miles/combined on a single charge; during prototype tests, the manufacturer saw 267 miles per charge "for city driving that makes use of the Roadster's regenerative braking."

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Billed as the "world's first mass-produced electric vehicle" (deliveries start in 2011; base price is $49,900), the Model S will have three battery-pack options for a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge. At the end of the trip, drivers can either recharge the battery from an outlet, which takes around 45 minutes, or else perform a battery swap, which the company says will take around 5 minutes.

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The Model S can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 120 mph. It carries up to five adults and two children. It offers 100 percent torque, 100 percent of the time.

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The P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) prototype represents a collaborative effort between Segway and GM. It can carry two passengers at speeds up to 35 mph for 25 to 35 miles on a single charge of its large-format lithium-ion battery. The vehicle uses Segway's dynamic stabilization to keep from tipping over.

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The P.U.M.A. prototype's regenerative braking capability sends charge back to the batteries when the user comes to a stop. The vehicle also features drive-by-wire digital controls and a digital dashboard displaying speed, battery life and other information.

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The Segway x2 is a ruggedized version of the original Segway, featuring deeply treaded 8-inch tires, fenders designed to resist bumps and scratches, and a higher ground clearance for users who want to take it off-road. The two-wheeled vehicle has a 12-mile range off-pavement and a max speed of 12.5 mph.

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Accessories for the Segway x2 include an off-board charger, capable of charging two spare lithium-ion batteries simultaneously, and an LED taillight.

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Mitsubishi's upcoming electric car, the i-Miev, will have a test run in Oregon by the end of 2009, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, and will launch in Japan over the summer. The compact vehicle, reportedly powered by high-density lithium-ion batteries, will supposedly be able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just under 9 seconds.

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According to the Mitsubishi Website, the target range for the i-Miev is around 99 miles under ideal conditions. The top speed will be roughly 82 miles per hour. The company asserts that, even when the CO2 produced by the electrical plant to charge the car is taken into consideration, the i-Meiv still only produces a third of the CO2 of a "gasoline minicar."

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The Honda FCX Clarity, which made its debut in 2007 (first customers actually took delivery in July 2008), is powered by combining hydrogen with oxygen in its fuel-cells to make electricity, which in turn runs the electric motor. The "waste" is water. Top speed attained on a test track was 100 mph.

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The i-Miev can travel some 240 miles, according to the company, before needing to be refueled at a "designated hydrogen refueling station." It can fit four passengers, and comes in a deep red color called Star Garnet Metallic.

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