The Tour de Sol Reports, 1997

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The AutoAuditorium System
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A Fully Automatic, Multi-Camera System
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The following is copyright Michael H. Bianchi.  Permission to copy is granted provided each Report is presented without modification and this notice is attached.  For other arrangements, contact me at +1-973-822-2024 .
For more on the NESEA Tour de Sol, see the web page at

Official NESEA Tour de Sol information is available from the sponsor, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) at 413 774-6051 , and 50 Miles Street, Greenfield, MA 01301 , and .  All media enquiries should be addressed to ...
        Jack Groh
        Groh Associates
        401 732-1551 telephone
        401 732-0547 fax
	401 952-0886 cell/pager

Table of Contents

Report #1: 1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol
Report #2: How Many Ways Can You Stuff Electrons into a Car?
Report #3: ... And Not One Of Them Is Legal To Drive It!
Report #4: Looking for Volunteers
Report #5: Taking Charge: Putting All Those Watts into the Vehicles
Report #6: Team Profile: `Hyades'
Report #7: Team Profile: Hopper EV
Report #8: Team Profile: Sungo
Report #9: Team Profile: `Connecticut EV/NAVC'
Report #10: Team Profile: `Wolverine'
Report #11: Team Profile: `GarnetOne'
Report #12: Team Profile: `Project e-'
Report #13: Michael Shnayerson to speak at Tour de Sol
Report #14: Climbing Mount Washington
Report #15: Final Itinerary
Report #16: Interview: Nancy Hazard, Race Director
Report #17: Registration and Testing in Waterbury CT
Report #18: Team Profile: Ford `Ecostar'
Report #19: Team Profile: `UEHS Solar Tiger'
Report #20: Days 1, 2, and 3 Range Results
Report #21: The Entrants
Report #22: Team Profile: `The Electrifly'
Report #23: Another EVent: Electric Auto Show in Brookline MA
Report #24: Tales From The Charging Trailer - Part 1
Report #25: Another Look: `GarnetOne' from Swarthmore College
Report #26: Team Profile: `Kineticar'
Report #27: Team Profile: `Re-Charger'
Report #28: Final Results
Report #29: A Reporter's Final Thoughts
Report #30: Autocross Results
Report #31: Team Profile: `Suncharger'
Report #32: Team Profile: `Helios the Heron IV'
Report #33: Team Profile: `Solar Saurus'
Report #34: Team Profile: `Electric Lion'
Report #35: Interview: Gary Carr
Report #36: Interview: Ruth MacDougall - Working and playing with EVs
Report #37: Team Profile: `Sol Survivor IV'
Report #38: Notes from Waterbury Before the Start
Report #39: Monday, Day 1 of the Rally
Report #40: Interviews: Gregg Fritz and Lin Higley from Ovonic Battery
Report #41: Team Profile: `59 Berkeley'
Report #42: Team Profile: `Sunpacer'
Report #43: Team Profile: `Ecovox'
Report #44: Tails of the Charging Trailer, Part 2
Report #45: Eric Udell's Pictures on the Web
Report #46: Team Profile: `Electric Hare'
Report #47: Team Profile: `Millenium Falcon'
Report #48: Team Profile: `Tsunami'
Report #49: Team Profile: `NFA Sol Machine'
Report #50: Team Profile: `Evolution'
Report #51: Team Profile: `Charger Bicycle'
Report #52: Tuesday morning, Day 2 of the Rally
Report #53: Team Profile: `Solectria Force NiMH'
Report #54: Interview with Andrew Heafitz: `The Solectria Delivery Van'
Report #55: Team Profile: `Ford Ecostar'
Report #56: Team Profile: `Electra'
Report #57: Team Profile: `Toyota RAV4-EV'
Report #58: Team Profile: `Tsunami'
Report #59: Team Profile: `V.C. I.C.E. Breaker'
Report #60: Tuesday afternoon, Day 2 of the Rally
Report #61: Wednesday morning, Day 3 of the Rally
Report #62: Team Profile: `Enterprise'
Report #63: Interview: Topher Waring
Report #64: Team Profile: `Yankee Pedler'
Report #65: Wednesday afternoon: Day 3 of the Rally
Report #66: Interview: Howard G. Wilson
Report #67: So, What Is New and Different?
Report #68: Battery Meltdown
Report #69: Day 4, Thursday morning
Report #70: `Hyades' Tries to Stay in the Rally
Report #71: Interview: James Worden
Report #72: Friday Morning, Day 5 of the Rally
Report #73: Solar Index Data
Report #74: Interview: Kate Skelly, NESEA School Tour Guide
Report #75: Too Much Snow on Mount Washington, So ...
Report #76: At the Finish Line in Portland
Report #77: Interviews: John Ward on World Solar Challenge and NESEA Tour
Report #78: Friday Night's Picnic and Before Saturday Morning's Autocross
Report #79: That's All, Folks!

 The following is copyright Michael H. Bianchi.  Permission to copy is granted
 provided each Report is presented without modification and this notice
 remains attached.  For other arrangements, contact me at  +1-973-822-2024  or
 FAX: +1-973-822-2085  or  E-mail: . 
 -      -       -       -
 For more information on the American Tour de Sol, visit the web page at
 -      -       -       -
 Official American Tour de Sol information is available from the sponsor,
 the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) at 413-774-6051. 
 All media enquiries should be addressed to ... 
        Jack Groh
        Groh Associates
        Sustainable Public Relations
        (401)732-1551 tel
        (401)732-0547 fax
 -      -       -       -

Report #1: 1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol


Maybe I'm biased, but I think the next great EV event is the NESEA American Tour de Sol, May 17 through 24 in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  50 vehicles are expected, representing everything from personal projects, elementary school, high school and college built vehicles, current offerings from corporations, and previews of things to come.  There will be cars and trucks, plug-in EVs, solar-assisted EVs and hybrid EVs.  The Hybrids will be using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), and Methanol.  And it is a challenging route! See the Itinerary, below. 

As in 1994, 1995 and 1996 I intend to follow the race from Registration to Celebration and present here the backgrounds of the teams and the current of events.  ((A little electric humor, there.))

If you would be interested in helping with the race, anywhere along the way, contact NESEA.  I'm sure they will be glad to hear from you. 

Mike Bianchi

1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol Itinerary (Approximate and subject to change.)

                                17 May: Saturday
  9:00AM  - 5:00PM    Registration & Vehicle Testing
 12:00NOON- 5:00PM    Public Display of the Vehicles in Library Park at the
                      Waterbury Super-Charged Solarbration

                                 18 May: Sunday
  9:00AM-10:00AM    Libra AA Running Club Foot Race
  9:00AM- 5:00PM    Vehicle Testing and Display at the Waterbury
                    Super-Charged Solarbration

                                 19 May: Monday
 ROUTE: From downtown Waterbury follow 69N (Rutledge & Wolcott Streets) thru
Wolcott towards Britol.  Right on 72N to 229 to 6E to 10N. Continue on 10N thru Farmington, Avon, Wheatogue, Simsbury, Hoskins, Granby, Southwick (MA), Westfield, Southampton and Easthampton to Northampton. (68 required miles plus extra laps)
  8:00AM-12:00NOON  Vehicle Display, Library Park, Waterbury
 12:30PM- 1:00PM    Starting Ceremonies, Grand Street, Waterbury
  1:00PM- 3:00PM    Drive to Northampton, MA
  2:30PM- 6:00PM    Vehicle Display at Smith Vocational High School
  3:00PM- 5:30PM    Extra Laps.  Last lap started at 5:15 pm. (3.7 miles/lap)

                                20 May: Tuesday
 ROUTE: From Smith Voc., follow 5 and 10N thru W. Hatfield, N. Hatfield, S. 
Deerfield and Deerfield to Greenfield display.  From Greenfield 5N thru Bernardston, N. Bernardston, Guilford, Brattleboro, Putney and Westminster to Bellows Falls display.  From Bellows Falls 5N thru Ascutney, Windsor, Hartland and N. Hartland to White River Junction. (107 required miles)
  8:00AM-10:30AM    Vehicle Display at Smith Vocational HS, Northampton
 10:30AM-11:00AM    Restart Ceremonies and drive to Greenfield, MA
 11:00AM- 1:00PM    Vehicle Display on Miles St. at NESEA headquarters,
  1:00PM- 1:45PM    Restart Ceremonies and Drive to Bellows Falls, VT
  1:45PM- 5:00PM    Recharging stopover, Union HS, Bellows Falls, VT
  5:00PM- 6:30PM    Restart and drive to White River Junction, VT

                               21 May: Wednesday
 ROUTE: From downtown White River Junction follow 4E to Lebanon. 10N thru
Hanover, Lyme, Orford, Piermont, Haverhill and N. Haverhill to Rt. 112E thru N.  Woodstock to Loon Mt.  Resort in Lincoln. (71 required miles plus extra laps)
  8:00AM-10:30AM    Vehicle Display and media event, downtown White River
 10:30AM-12:15PM    Restart Ceremonies and drive to Loon Mtn Resort, Lincoln,
 10:00AM- 1:00PM    Northern New Hampshire Junior Solar Sprint Race, Loon Mtn
 12:15PM- 5:30PM    Vehicle Display
  1:30PM- 8:00PM    Extra Laps.  Last lap started at 4:30 pm unless driving
                    continuously (35 mi on rt 93 or 5 mi on secondary rd)
  7:00PM- 9:30PM    Dinner at Loon Mountain Resort

                                    22 May: Thursday
 ROUTE: From Loon Mountain Resort take 112E to Bear Notch.  Rd., then 302E. 
thru Bartlett, Glen and Lower Bartlett to N. Conway Center. (48 required miles plus optional Mt.  Washington drive.  Charging available 1:30- 4:00pm)
 10:00AM-11:30AM    Restart and drive the Kancamagus Hwy to North Conway
 11:30AM- 3:30PM    Vehicle Display at Energy Fair, Schouler Park, N. Conway
  3:30PM- 6:30PM    Mt.  Washington climb (optional). 

            Mount Washington Auto Road Hill Climb Optional Event

The Mount Washington Carriage Road, the oldest man-made tourist attraction in America, was opened to the public in 1861 and has since been the means by which over 3,000,000 people have reached the summit of the Northeast's highest peak.  Very few, however, have ever done so in an electric vehicle.  While no "Tour miles" will be awarded for this achievement, successful candidates will have one of the finest photo opportunities since F.O. Stanley made the first motorized ascent in his famous Steamer in 1899.  That "This Car Climbed Mount Washington" bumper sticker wouldn't look too bad on your bumper, would it? Mount Washington's climate is described, without exaggeration, as "the worst weather in the world".  Our plans will be contingent on winds somewhat calmer than the record 231 m.p.h. and a winter's snowfall a bit lass than the record 47 feet.  Extra charging time will be available for the brave takers-on before leaving North Conway, and participating vehicles will be expected to get there under their own power. 

 21 miles each way to base of Auto Road from N. Conway
 Auto road is 7.6 miles from base to top
 Average grade is 12%
 Maximum grade is 18%
 65% asphalt, 35% packed gravel
 Elevation at the base: 1563 feet
 Elevation at the summit: 6288 feet

                                 23 May: Friday
 ROUTE: From N. Conway take 302E thru Redstone, Conway Center and Fryeburg to
113S thru Brownfield, Hiram, W. Baldwin, E. Baldwin and Steep Falls to 25E through Standish and Gorham to 114E to 22E into Portland.  Total miles: (62 required miles)
 10:00AM-11:40AM    Restart and drive to Monument Square, Portland, ME
 11:30AM- 4:00PM    Finish Line Ceremonies and Vehicle Display,
                    Monument Square, Portland
  4:00PM            Drive to S. Maine Technical College for Celebration Dinner

                                24 May: Saturday
  8:00AM- 9:00AM    Parade to downtown location for Maine Solar Blast events
  8:00AM- 9:00AM    Electrathon registration pre-inspection
  9:00AM- 2:00PM    Maine Solar Blast
  9:30AM-10:00AM    Electrathon Event and Awards, and Autocross pre-inspection
 10:00AM- 1:30PM    Junior Solar Sprint Event and Awards
  2:00PM- 3:00PM    NESEA American Tour de Sol Awards

Report #2: How Many Ways Can You Stuff Electrons into a Car?

The NESEA American Tour de Sol is my favorite electric vehicle EVent because it attracts so many different variations of the breed and you can see them on the hoof, in their natural habitat, driving on the highways and backroads of (this year) New England.  What I like is seeing all the different technologies people and companies have come up with attempting to create cleaner, more environmentally benign cars and trucks. 

Let's talk energy sources and storage.  With 36 of the 50 slots spoken for, this year will have more different ways of obtaining and storing electricity than ever before. 

In the storage department, we will see at least 6 different battery chemistries:

        Flooded Lead Acid
        Gelled Electrolyte Lead Acid
        Nickel Cadmium
        Nickel Metal Hydride
        Sodium Sulphur
        Zinc Air

The Zinc Air battery is different from the others, since I am told it is an example of the swap-out-the-battery approach to recharging since it isn't just a matter of running the chemistry backwards to fill it up with voltage. 

In the generation department, we will see plug-ins, plus photovoltaic assistance, plus fuel-and-battery hybrids.  The fuels will include:

        Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) which is methane
        Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) which is propane
        ReFormulated Gasoline (RFG)

The US DOE (United States Department of Energy) Hybrid Category has nine entrants so far, including seven colleges and universities, a high school, and (a personal favorite) Tom Hopper's personal project. 

Tom's `Hopper EV' is never the same twice.  The first time I saw it it used bicycle components and had a T-bar steering handle.  Tom had climb through the window to get into this narrow, one-person commuting vehicle. 

The next year, it had a new frame, motorcycle wheels and components, a new motor, and the throttle and regenerative braking controls were knobs on the steering wheel.  Only the mechanical brake was a foot pedal. 

The following year there was a new motor and controller, and conventional brake and accelerator/regen-braking foot petals. 

Last year it became a hybrid, burning soybean oil in a trailer-mounted engine- generator set.  It drove all the way from Concord New Hampshire to New York City, the race itself from NYC to Washington DC, and then home again to Concord without a trailer. 

So, what has Tom done this year? I'm told he has > cut the vehicle up < and turned it into a 2-place hybrid, burning methanol in the engine/generator. 

It appears that this year will include some new rivalries.  Ford has brought their Sodium-Sulphur powered `Ecostar' to several past NATdSs, but this year Toyota has their `RAV4-EV' entered with its Panasonic Nickel Metal Hydride batteries.  Solectria will be represented with at least a couple of their `Force NMH' sedans with Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, but west coast rival BATT will be there with their `BatVan' using a Kummerow Zinc Air battery.  I would not be surprised if we see some distance-per-charge records set and reset this year. 

Oddly (to me at least), the Solectria `Sunrise' which went 373 miles on a single charge of its Ovonic NMH batteries last year is not yet listed.  I do hope it will show up. 

Report #3: ... And Not One Of Them Is Legal To Drive It!

Anyone who has read my reports from the past three NESEA American Tours de Sol knows that I really like the elementary school kids from the Riverside School in Lyndonville VT. 

In 1994, they showed up with `Helios the Heron', a vehicle which never quite moved under its own power.  Still they trailered it from stop to stop and talked to everyone about what they tried to do, why it didn't work, and what they were going to do next time! They got lots of knowing, sympathetic smiles from adults who knew it would never work.  Like me.  They were able to > push < it under the banner at the end of the race in Philadelphia. 

The next year, they're back! And this one actually moves under its own power.  It didn't get very far, but the fact that it moved at all impressed a bunch of us.  It had a personal best of 16 miles that year. 

Last year, `Helios the Heron III' had a longest-run of 39.1 miles.  These kids are getting the hang of this. 

Well, they are coming back again with `Helios the Heron IV'.  And this time ...  well, here is Andra to tell the story:

                                 Sent:    Friday, 28 March, 1997
                                 Subject: Helios the Heron IV and other matters

Dear Mr. Bianchi,

Allow me to introduce myself and the car that my classmates and I are working on.  My name is Andra Hibbert and I am an eighth grader at Riverside School [grades 4th-8th].  Riverside currently has fifty-nine students and eleven faculty/staff, four of which are part-time. 

As you probably know this is our fourth year in the Tour de Sol.  In previous years we have built our vehicle from scratch using a Honda chassis, plywood, and lots of duct tape.  This year we are using a 1971 Volkswagen microbus and converting to an electric vehicle.  We are using twenty twelve- volt batteries, nine of which are used.  There will be ten in series and two banks wired in parallel. 

We have a GE 21 horsepower forklift motor, a Curtis controller, and Deka Dominator gell cell 12V batteries. 

The main reason we switched to a microbus is for insurance reasons.  Our insurance company said that we couldn't have student passengers if our vehicle was homemade so we made the switch.  Also `Helios III' just wouldn't make it through inspection this year, you guys are getting tougher!!!

At this point we don't really have a team, so to speak.  The selection process has just begun.  We do not have committees on our team; we just all work together. 

Everything about our vehicle has some student participation, whether it's designing the battery box or writing the brochure.  This is one of our shop [industrial arts] project so we are obligated and very motivated to be active in it.  Everyone in the school becomes very attached to "our baby." Almost everyone cried last year the first time it went out the driveway and went less than a mile when the chain fell off!!

Our vehicle will, as in previous years, be driven by Karen Budde, our Latin teacher.  After the race we plan to use our car as a utility van for the school to drive students to special events. 

-Andra Hibbert

So come to the NESEA Tour and see the "Future EV Designers of America, Junior Division."

Report #4: Looking for Volunteers

The 1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol starts with two days of registration and inspection of the entrants.  Saturday and Sunday, May 17th and 18th, the teams will assemble at Library Park in downtown Waterbury Connecticut to have their vehicles scrutinized.  When the cars are not actively being inspected and tested, they will be on display as part of Waterbury's Supercharged Solarbration.  In addition to the NESEA Tour vehicles, this fair includes entertainment, food, and exhibits. 

The inspection and testing serves two purposes.  First it collects technical data, recording the weight, acceleration, braking and other performance and design information.  Secondly, as this is an event that occurs entirely on public streets and highways, there is a great interest in the safety aspects of the vehicles' design and construction.  This will be of particular interest because of this year's optional Climb Mount Washington leg.  The cars, trucks and motorcycles that go up must also come down.  The NESEA folks who run the Tour are very concerned about issues like overheating motors, controllers, and batteries during the 4700 foot climb, and overheating brakes during the descent. 

Another major concern is electrical safety.  Just as you would not want a fuel leak in a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (and we will be looking for those in the Hybrid Category entrants) you do not want an electrical leak.  The NESEA Tour rules require less than 1 milliamp (mA) of current through a 10,000 Ohm resistor when measured between the chassis and the most-positive and most-negative poles of the fully-charged battery.  That requirement comes from the fact that 5 mA through the human body can be lethal and 10,000 Ohms is a ball-park value for the resistance of the body hand-to-hand.  This sounds like an easy requirement to meet, but experience shows us that sometimes it is overlooked.  Often a small amount of moisture or other contamination on the battery modules, connectors or wires can create a leakage path that can get you in trouble.  With battery pack voltages getting near 200, and in one case 340, Volts, this is a technical detail that requires design attention. 

Looking over the vehicles is interesting, informative and fun.  (It is how I got my start.) If you have the interest and can be there Saturday and Sunday, May 17th and 18th, NESEA would love to have you volunteer.  Those with knowledge and experience with cars, fuel systems, or electricity are particularly welcome, as we need many eyes to look all over the vehicles.  They will also need folks to write down weights, measurements, and information, time accelerations, measure stopping distances, and the like. 

If you would be interested in being part of the "scrutineering", give NESEA a call at 413-774-6051.  FAX: 413-774-6053.  E-mail:  I know they will be glad to hear from you. 

Report #5: Taking Charge: Putting All Those Watts into the Vehicles

We take electricity pretty much for granted, except when it isn't there when we expect it.  This is because over the years many, many electrical engineers have studied the problem of getting electric power from here to there and reduced the answers to a very regular discipline.  But that doesn't mean it is always automatic or simple.  A couple of years ago, Rob Wills, Technical Director of the NESEA Tour, told me some interesting stories of how the introduction of computers and other office machines which used switching power supplies caused all sorts of problems in the power systems.  In short, these machines used electric power in a manner that the power grid had not been designed to handle.  The solution involved changes both to the engineering practices used by the power companies and the power supply makers. 

Electric vehicles (EVs) present a similar challenge.  An event like the NESEA American Tour de Sol is an opportunity to learn what the problems and solutions will be when electric cars and trucks are more common.  The NESEA Tour brings together about 50 vehicles that need charging every night and Bob Goodrich is one of the people who figures out how to give each the juice it wants and needs. 

Bob is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Norwich University in Northfield VT.  (He is the retired, former Director of Research at Northeast Utilities, which serves Connecticut, western Massachusetts and New Hampshire).  This year he and his students have improved the NESEA charging station so it can supply and measure up to 225 kiloWatts (kW) of power each night.  They are actually expecting the vehicles to need about 175 kW.  In addition to providing the power, they will also be measuring several parameters to see just how each vehicle's charger effects the current.  They will be able to see just how clean or noisy a charger is, how much current it is drawing, and, with a little help from instruments on-board each vehicle, what percentage of the power delivered actually goes to driving it down the road.  The current will actually be measurable in three standard ways:

        in True Root-Mean-Squared (RMS) Amperes,
        in Peak-Response RMS Amperes, and
        in Average-Response RMS Amperes. 

Those last two measurements are common in relatively inexpensive ammeters; the first is usually only available with the most expensive instruments.  A waveform monitor built into the system will allow each team to see just what it's charger is doing.  And a computer control will automaticly collect data from each electrical outlet in use throughout the night. 

The charging trailer is organized into a couple of main panels and some sub- panels.  Each will be able to measure the total current, and the main panels will also be able to see the total waveform and energy, and they can calculate power factor (a measure of how accurately the delivered energy will be measured by the power company). 

The promise of EVs is that they can help reduce the pollution and environmental impact caused by personal and industrial transportation around the world.  Collecting all this data has already helped power companies and the people who build EVs see how dependent they are on each other to get all the details right.  When they do, the results can be quite impressive.  The past two NESEA Tours have already demonstrated that even when oil is burned to make the electricity that charges an electric car, that car gets many more miles per gallon of crude oil than the equivalent gasoline-powered car. 

Report #6: Team Profile: `Hyades'

Some of the vehicles that show up for the NESEA American Tour de Sol come from other venues with a well established history.  `Hyades', from Lawrence Technological University in Southfield Michigan, as already earned honors at the June 1996 FutureCar Challenge.  There it won 2nd Place Overall, and Best Engineering Design, Best Use of Advanced Technology, and Best Development and Use of Advanced Materials.  Sounds impressive.  What did they do to earn such accolades?

Starting with a 1996 Ford Taurus, the Lawrence Tech students designed and built a parallel hybrid vehicle that combines a 90 horsepower (hp) Diesel engine with a 43 hp permanent magnet motor.  The result is a car that drove from Dearborn Michigan to Chicago Illinois at an average speed of 65 miles-per-hour carrying 4 people and delivering 65 miles-per-gallon! How did they do that? Here are the specs:

 Vehicle Type                    1996 Ford Taurus
         Hybrid Configuration    Parallel
         Curb Weight             3857 pounds
         Acceleration            0 - 60 mph in 11.5 seconds
         Top Speed               112 mph (governed)
         Transmission            Modified Automatic, without torque converter
         Range   Hybrid mode     up to 600 miles
                 Electric mode   70 miles

 Engine  Type                    Volkswagen Turbochraged Direct Injection
         Displacement            1.9 liter
         Power                   90 hp @ 4000 rpm
         Thermal Efficiency      43%
         Cooling System          Water Cooled

 Fuel    Type                    9 gallons, Diesel
         Energy                  325 kiloWatt-hours (kWh)

 Motor   Type                    Unique Mobility 3-phase, 18 pole,
                                 permanent magnet, brushless DC with controller
         Power                   43 hp
         Efficiency              90%
         Cooling System          Water Cooled

 Battery Type                    Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydride
         Number of Modules       13
         Pack Voltage            194 Volts
         Energy                  16.25 kWh
         Weight                  510 pounds
         Charge Time             Up to 7 hours

The base vehicle was extensively modified to cut down air drag and weight.  A low-profile Prismatic mirror system reduces the "blind spot" and lowers drag.  An air suspension system lowers the vehicle ride height when at highway speeds.  Low rolling-resistance tires are mounted on aluminum rims and the brake rotors are also aluminum.  The front fenders are made of aluminum, the hood and wheel skirts of carbon fiber composite materials, and the tinted safety glass is also light-weight. 

The drive train starts with a modified transmission.  Both the engine and motor connect to it and they can each propel the car alone or together, hence the designation "parallel hybrid".  The batteries also supply the electrically powered hydraulic steering system, the programmable logic controller (PLC) and the usual 12 Volt accessories, although the running lights are high intensity Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).  In normal mode, the electric motor accelerates `Hyades' from rest to about 10 miles-per-hour.  Then the clutch engages, starting the diesel engine.  The engine and motor operate simultaneously to provide motive power.  The amount of electric motor assist is regulated by the PLC to maximize powertrain efficiency.  To improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, the diesel is never allowed to idle more than a few seconds.  It turns off when the brake pedal is depressed or when the accelerator is released for more than five seconds. 

The team is very proud of their accomplishments.  Lawrence Tech's school motto is "Theory and Practice" and the team's focus is "Reliability and Dependability".  As the school's largest student project, it involved some 80 people from the electrical and mechanical engineering, engineering technology and management undergraduate programs, plus several graduate students pursuing their Master of Automotive Engineering degree.  Faculty advisor Dr. Greg Davis noted that at the 1996 FutureCar Challenge, `Hyades' did not require service during the entire week of competition.  After the event, their's was the only FutureCar to drive from Dearborn to Chicago for a press conference at Argonne National Laboratory.  That's when they got their real-world, four-passenger performance of 65 miles-per-gallon at 65 miles-per-hour. 

`Hyades' will be one of nine hybrid EVs at the NESEA American Tour de Sol, starting May 17th in Waterbury Connecticut.  If you would like to meet some of the people inventing the future of transportation, come join us. 

Report #7: Team Profile: Hopper EV

Tom Hopper has brought his single-person, 3-wheeled `Hopper EV' to each of the past 4 NESEA Tours, and each time it has been significantly different from the previous appearance. 

In the 1996 Tour from New York City to Washington DC, `Hopper EV' was a bio- diesel hybrid, with a 2-wheeled trailer containing 5 usable gallons of fuel, a small diesel engine and a generator.  It was a series-hybrid, where the fuel- generated electricity was used to either charge the batteries or run the electric motor, and the electric motor moved the car down the road.  With this arrangement, Tom estimates he was getting 300 to 400 miles per tank of fuel (60-80 miles-per-gallon) and the vehicle was consuming between 90 and 100 Watt- hours-per-mile.  For the first few days of the Tour proper, the fuel was pure soybean oil (which made the exhaust smell somewhat like fried food).  But later in the week it got a bit chilly and the oil started to gel, so Tom added about 20% petroleum diesel to the mix to give it somewhat better cool-weather properties.  He hears that mixing of bio-diesel and petro-diesel is common as people try to come up with a mixture that has an acceptable exhaust odor, acceptable pollution numbers, and acceptable performance.  But he isn't paying much attention to bio-diesel this year.  Why?

Because `Hopper EV' is about to get an engine/generator that burns methanol.  Tom and Randy Kezar, a mechanic and student at New Hampshire Technical Institute where Tom teaches, are adapting a 90 cc Honda overhead-cam motorcycle engine so it can burn either methanol or gasoline.  It will have two carburetors, one for each fuel.  The engine has had its transmission removed and will directly drive a rare-earth permanent magnet generator to charge the batteries.  The final decisions were not made when we spoke in mid-April, but the intent was to mount the engine/generator directly on the vehicle instead of having a trailer.  Using methanol is not an economic decision.  With half the heat energy per volume as gasoline, and costing twice as much per volume as gasoline, it will be four times more expensive to run.  But methanol is one of the fuels that people say could help decrease air pollution, so I'm not all that surprised to see Tom trying it. 

What > did < surprise me was that in addition everything else Tom's doing, `Hopper EV' is about to become a two-person car.  Before the driver sat sort-of astride the battery box which ran down the middle of the vehicle.  Now the car is 5 feet 2 inches wide in the front and the two riders will sit with the battery box between them.  The single rear wheel has been changed to two, but they are only 18 inches apart and Tom says there will not be a differential because "the wheels are so close together I don't worry about the tires scrubbing." The motor and controller are the same Solectria AC induction motor and Universal Motor Controller (UMoC) as last year, but the toothed-belt drive has a new drive ratio to lower the torque about 5%.  Tom felt he might have too much torque when he busted a Kevlar belt. 

The following statistics have to be taken as somewhat preliminary, I think, as the vehicle was not yet assembled when we spoke. 

 Vehicle Number  94
 Vehicle Name    Hopper EV
 Range           60 miles EV, 300 miles HEV
 Max Speed       75 mph
 Weight          1350 lbs
 Car Dimensions  10' x 5' 2" x 4' 4"
 # of Passengers 2
 Useful Load     475 lbs
 Construction    Purpose-built; Aluminum
 Motor           Solectria; AC Induction; 21 kW cont. 
 PV Array        100 w; AstroPower; Monocrystalline
 Batteries       Optima/460lbs; VRSA Spiral Core; 5000 w-hrs 144 v; Series
 Controller      Solectria; UMOC
 Tires; Wheels   Michelin/Yokohama, 145/75R13; 4
 Brakes          Hydraulic disk front; Hydraulic disk rear; Solectria UMoC

The `Hopper EV' represents another aspect of the NESEA American Tour de Sol I enjoy so much.  Along with the prototypes and commercially produced vehicles from the corporations, and the wonderful team efforts from the schools and clubs, we also see the efforts of individuals who also advance the state of the art.  And it will be just one of over 40 innovative vehicles at this year's NESEA Tour.  As they say, "Well worth the trip."

Report #8: Team Profile: Sungo

(The following is based on a conversation with Tom Hopper, faculty advisor to the NHTI Solar-Electric Car Team.)

The New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI) in Concord has had at least one vehicle all the eight previous NESEA American Tours de Sol.  `Sungo' will be back again after picking up a pile of honors at the last NESEA Tour and after setting a new unofficial record for Electric Vehicles (EVs) that have climbed Mount Washington.  This small, cute commuter vehicle still has its twin permanent magnet motors and controllers each driving the rear wheels.  An electronic differential keeping the power delivered balanced for good handling.  It is about 230 pounds lighter this year, in spite of the fact that the plastic windshield has been changed to glass.  I suspect the weight loss is because they have exchanged the 2 strings of lead-acid batteries it ran last year for a single string of Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries from Ovonic.  With the lighter weight, they hope to consume much less than the quite respectable 90 Watt-hours-per-mile they got last year.  With luck it could be as low as 75 Wh/mile.  They would not be surprised if they achieved 150 or even 170 miles per charge.  Less weight should also improve handling. 

Like all of the advanced batteries, NiMH cells are not very tolerant of being overcharged.  So the 220 Volt ac BADICHEQ battery management system that was used last year has been modified to properly handle the NiMH pack.  The BADICHEQ can measure the voltage of each battery module separately as they charge and discharge, and thus can detect a module that is "out of balance" with the rest of the pack.  It also has an auxiliary power supply so it can add extra current to the out of balance modules to keep them at the same state of charge as the rest of the string.  The result is a "happy" battery pack that gives the best possible performance.  And if a module is failing BADICHEQ and call it out for replacement. 

The team has also learned that while the NiMH chemistry works well when cold, it is very sensitive to high temperatures and requires an aggressive cooling system.  Battery compartment cooling is proving to be a fairly big part of the project this year. 

 Vehicle Number  72
 Category        COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Vehicle Name    Sungo
 Team Name       NHTI Solar-Electric Car Team
 Range           150 miles
 Max Speed       75 mile-per-hour
 Weight          1300 lbs
 Car Dimensions  8' 10" x 5' 0" x 6'"
 # of Passengers 2
 Useful Load     560 lbs
 Construction    Purpose-built; Aluminum; Fiberglass
 Motors          2 Solectria; Brushless DC; Total = 32 kW cont., 107 kW peak
 PV Array        96 w; AstroPower; Monocrystalline
 Batteries       Ovonic/380lbs; NiMH; 13.2 kW-hrs/ 120 v; Series
 Controller      Solectria; Mosfet
 Tires; Wheels   Continental; 135 70R-13; 4
 Brakes          Honda ATV 4-trax ; Honda ATV 4-trax ; Solectria regen

Report #9: Team Profile: `Connecticut EV/NAVC'

The NESEA American Tour de Sol is not a race in the usual sense.  Getting there first is not the point.  To me, it is a traveling celebration of the potential (that's a pun if you want it to be) and the reality of electrically powered transportation in America and the world.  NESEA is particularly interested in entrants which demonstrate the environmental benefits of electric vehicles in a practical package and that can meet every-day needs. 

The team sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, The Rideshare Company, and the Northeast Alternative Vehicle Consortium (NAVC) provides such a demonstration.  They are back for their third run with Number 50, a 1995 Solectria Force with Electrosource Horizon batteries.  They may have the oldest Solectria vehicle in the NESEA Tour this year.  The car is a 1995 body style, but uses 1994 technology - the old belt drive Solectria used before they developed an enclosed gear box.  As such, it shows that even older EV technology still performs to meet today's needs. 

The people on the team are David Fabricatore of The Rideshare Company, a non- profit commuter service organization (, and James Sime and John Hudson of the Connecticut Department of Transportation's research facility. 

The Rideshare Project currently has 5 Forces on the road in Connecticut being used day-in and day-out as commuter cars.  As David said, "everyday people are using the vehicles to get to and from work.  Isn't that one of the reasons we are doing the Tour de Sol - to show people that these things actually work? We've logged over 53,000 miles on the 5 vehicles since June of 1995.  Some of the vehicles have 15,000 miles on them," depending on the route. 

They have web pages at which include some technical data showing how their energy usage is affected by temperature and distance traveled. 

They are planning on going up Mt.  Washington this year.  They want that bumper sticker - "This car climbed Mt.  Washington". 

Jim and John, who both work at the ConnDOT research facility, performed a valuable service for the NESEA Tour this year.  The Drivers' Manual has had elevation and mileage information for several years, but this year it is especially accurate.  Using a a highly specialized vehicle that measures everything to do with the road and associates it with locations determined by a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, John lead a three-man team who drove the entire NATdS route and plotted the road grades and elevations mile-by-mile.  John's team included David Bowers from ConnDOT and Dan Lewis from NESEA.  Their work also contributed to the rally-route instructions the drivers must follow to navigate the route.  Remember that the cross-country path the NESEA Tour takes is mostly on secondary and primary highways and that it tends to avoid the Interstate roads.  NESEA does everything it can to help the entrants stay on course, but there are still a lot of very detailed instructions that have to be just right if everyone is to find the Finish banner. 

 Team Name       `Connecticut EV/NAVC'
 Vehicle Name    Solectria/Horizon
 Vehicle Number  50
 Category        Production Category
 Range           80 miles
 Max Speed       65 miles per hour
 Weight          2325 pounds
 Car Dimensions  13' 8" x 5' 26" x 4' 7"
 # of Passengers 4
 Useful Load     475 pounds
 Construction    Solectria; steel
 Motor           Solectria; AC GV20; 30 kW continuous/42 kW peak
 Batteries       Electrosource; Sealed PbA; 13,260 W-hrs; 156 V; series
 Controller      Solectria; AC 325GU
 Brakes          Disk front; Drum rear; Solectria regenerative braking
 Gross Weight    2800 pounds

Report #10: Team Profile: `Wolverine'

There are several hybrid-electric vehicles coming this year's NESEA Tour that were originally built and have already competed in the two-year FutureCar Challenge sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Council for Automotive Research (a joint research venture of Chrysler, Ford, and GM).  Part two will be in Warren MI this June 3rd through 11th. 

`Wolverine', the entry from the University of Michigan is such a car.  Matt Griffin, Business Manager for the FutureCar team, tells some of the story:

"The U-M FutureCar Team is approximately 50 members in total; however, I would estimate that about 60% of that figure actually contribute significantly to the project team.  The team is composed of undergraduate students from various disciplines including, but not limited to: mechanical, electrical, aerospace, and computer engineers.  The Team is completely student-organized and student- run, with varying levels of leadership.  As an SAE project team, we do have full support from the University; however, we have limited faculty representation. 

"The great thing about the team is that we can use students from almost any discipline whether s/he be a graphics design student, a business student, or an engineer.  I, myself, am not an engineer--I am concentrating in Computer Information Systems and Computer Science, and I have a fairly solid business background to complement the computer background.  My main function is to coordinate the efforts of the student fundraisers, maintain sponsor relationships, organize logistics for the competition, and various other administrative issues.  As you can see, there are opportunities for everyone. 

"Just to give you a little background on the Team, we are participating in the final phase of a two-year competition known as the FutureCar Challenge.  We had a rough start in the first phase due to a lack of student commitment and organization; however, this year we have greatly improved and are a strong favorite to take first in the final phase of the competition.  We have a much more experienced core team.  Most of the members of this year's core team were on the team last year, so we have significantly more loyalty to the cause.  Everybody knows what needs to be done and how to do it ... so we're ready to rock!!

"We are quite excited to participate in the Tour de Sol.  It'll be a great opportunity for us to give the car a rigorous test run for the Challenge, and it'll be an opportunity for us to show off what we've accomplished thus far.  Not to mention the experience of traveling the East Coast!"

Dan Griffin, Project Manager, in Mechanical Engineering at U-of-M, provided some technical information:

"The University of Michigan FutureCar is a parallel-configured hybrid-electric vehicle that uses a 88 hp 1.9L VW TDI (Turbo Direct-Injected) diesel engine and a 30 hp Fisher Brushless DC electric motor.  They are attached to a 1996 Ford Taurus 4-speed automatic transmission.  The battery pack a 120 volt pack of nickel cadmium batteries from Saft.  A programmable controller will be used to control this configuration.  The (driving) strategy is hybrid and totally passive, meaning it is all programmed into the controller and the driver does not have to worry about a thing. 

"We will employ a regenerative braking system that will allow us to recoup most of the energy lost to friction at the wheels.  We will also have an Exhaust Heat Recovery System and a Heat Battery that will both help to reduce emissions.  A Heat Battery has the ability to store hot coolant from the engine when the engine is turned off.  This coolant can be maintained at a high temperature many days allowing you to pump it back into the engine at the next start up and avoid cold start emissions.  An extensive engine off strategy will be implemented as well to improve fuel economy of the vehicle. 

 "Weight reduction techniques include:
  <> New PNGV (Partnership for a Next Generation of Vehicles) seats from Lear
  <> New aluminum brake rotors from Duralcan
  <> New side windows made of Plexiglas
  <> New aluminum rims from Hayes Wheels
  <> New composite hood
  <> New plastic gas tank from Kautex

 "Aerodynamic improvements include new wheel covers."

Dan also described the regenerative braking system.  Kelsey-Hayes provided the controls which cause the the Fisher electric motor to act as a generator during braking and thus provide a reverse torque on the shaft. 

 Team Name       U. of Michigan Future Car Team
 Vehicle Name    `Wolverine'
 Vehicle Number  5
 Category        US DOE Hybrid Category
 Range           250 miles
 Max Speed       70 miles per hour
 Weight          3400 pounds
 # of Passengers 5
 Useful Load     850
 Construction    96 Ford Taurus; Steel frame; Steel body
 Motor           Fisher; DC brushless; 22.4 kW continuous/26.1 kW peak
 Batteries       Saft; 320 lbs; Nicad; 40 W-hours; 120 V; Series
 Controller      Fisher
 Brakes          Disk front; Drum rear; Kelsey-Hayes regen
 Gross Weight    3600 pounds

(The weight numbers don't make sense to me.  Weight + Useful Load should equal Gross Weight, but ...)

Report #11: Team Profile: `GarnetOne'

The NESEA American Tour de Sol attracts teams of all sizes, ranging from half- a-hundred souls to only a handful.  The `GarnetOne' being entered by Swarthmore College is from a team in the "handful" category. 

Tom Fennimore tells their story ... 

"Our school is for undergraduates only, so we lack a graduate school where more experienced engineering students could aid us.  Moreover, our school has only 1300 students and our engineering department has about 25 students per a class.  There are only five people working on the project which is very small compared to other groups I have spoken to. 

"All five team members are seniors and our plans next year are rather diverse and interesting.  One of us will be doing some tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean.  Another will be attending NYU law school.  A Big Six accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, hired another member on our team while a Wall Street company, Goldman Sachs, hired another in their Investment Banking Division.  The final team member will go on to work in Lockheed Martin's Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) division.  How many schools do you know that graduate engineers which enter into such industries as law school, accounting firms, Wall Street, and fishing?

"Two of us were captain of our school's football team, another was captain of the track team, and still another was captain of the lacrosse team.  The final member was editor of the school paper. 

"Swarthmore College never had an HEV team until this year.  The reason is that we are such a small school (1300 students total, 80 engineers) and thus never had the resources, or the desire, to start such a program.  Most of the schools in the Tour de Sol, and other HEV competitions, are large universities who can take advantage of not only their large engineering student population, but also their large budgets, to establish such programs.  I believe Swarthmore College is the first small college to start such a program. 

"This is the story of how the program started.  The fall of my junior year (November 1995), Kurk Selverian, a current team member, and myself were talking about our senior design course.  Both of us had an interest in automobiles, especially in their future technology.  My dad owned an automobile repair shop, so ever since I was six I have worked on cars.  We joked about how it would be cool to build an electric vehicle.  Since the college never attempted such an endeavor, we went to talk to Prof.  Nelson Macken, the current faculty advisor of the project. 

"Macken was excited about our idea and suggested that we talk to local universities and corporations who had EV programs and ask them about their experiences, specifically what resources are required, how much effort is needed, how long did the project take, and how much money did it cost.  Kurk and I then talked to University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Villanova, and PECO (the electric utility in Philadelphia).  Simultaneously, we researched EVs and searched for contests to enter our vehicle in.  This is when we first came across the Tour de Sol. 

"In mid-March of 1996 we went to the Engineering department and the college outlining our plans to build a EV.  After some debate, our proposal was approved and we could begin our work.  At this time, Pete Hamilton became interested in the project.  Pete has an excellent background in internal combustion engines, and so we decided to expand our project to accommodate Pete's skills and build an HEV instead of an EV.  We also decided to compete in the Tour de Sol. 

"Our next step was fundraising.  All fundraising was done by Kurk, Pete, Nelson, and me.  We put together a brief presentation of our idea and went to local corporations and alumni to sell it.  Our efforts were rewarded by component donations from PECO, several cash donations from alumni, a generous grant from the school, and the donation of a brand new Chevrolet Beretta from General Motors.  This experience provided us with the opportunity to learn valuable presentation, communication, interpersonal, and public speaking skills.  Frequently we found ourselves speaking to crowds larger than 300 people pitching our ideas.  By the summer we had enough money and resources to start ordering components. 

"Over the summer we expanded our team to the current size by adding two people, Al Molnar and Tom Makin.  Also over the summer we ordered all the parts necessary for our conversion so that when we returned in the fall we could begin construction. 

"When we returned to school, our first task was to find a place to work.  The college let us use two garages on the periphery of the campus.  For the first month, we had to play the role of carpenters and installed drywall, fans, heating, electricity, a telephone, and fixed several leaks.  Finally in October we began our construction. 

"Right now (mid-April) we are still working on the car, albeit in the final stages.  Each of us on the team have put in extraordinary hours -- averaging about 30 hours per a week per a person.  We have done all this while still taking a full course load.  Last night, for example, we stayed up until 4 a.m.  working on the car."

So here is a project that has been going on for over a year-and-a-half! It will be interesting to see what a small, tight-knit team can do against the larger ones. 

 Team Name       Swarthmore College
 Vehicle Name    GarnetOne
 Vehicle Number  62
 Category        US DOE Hybrid Category
 Range           150 miles
 Max Speed       75 miles per hour
 # of Passengers 2
 Useful Load     350 pounds
 Construction    96 Chevy Beretta; Steel frame; Steel body
 Motor           Advanced DC; FBI-401-A; 20.9 kW cont./59.6 kW peak
 PV Array        10 w; Solanex;
 Batteries       Trojan/1200 lbs; PbA; 16,200 W-hrs/120 V; Series
 Controller      Curtis; 1221B-7401
 Tires; Wheels   Ameri; G 4s; 4
 Brakes          Disk front; Drum rear; no regenerative braking
 Gross Weight    3700 pounds

Report #12: Team Profile: `Project e-'

One of the great joys of this hobby of mine, being the reporter for the NESEA Tour, is that I get to meet so many teams year after year and see how things have progressed.  `Project e-' (pronounced Eee Minus) started as a pure EV, and then became a hybrid in 1995.  Because this project has been going on for half- a-decade, it has improved and become more capable each year.  I look forward to seeing what they have done this year. 

The students on the team have changed, as they graduate, but the enthusiasm is infectious and is passed along from the upper class to those who follow them.  In time, these "kids" will be among those adults who change the world. 

Stacey Curtis, a Senior at Mount Everett, sent along this information ... 

"The `Project e-' team started five years ago with a S-10 pickup and the heart and dedication of student and staff of Mount Everett High School.  The project never lacked enthusiasm or support from the surrounding communities.  Every year students work on the electric truck doing everything from fund raising to the actual hands on mechanical work. 

"In May the truck and a team of students and advisors leave the area and participate in the Tour De Sol.  While the team is away the school and community stay tuned to area radio stations to hear the latest updates and cheer the team on.  `Project e-' has brought the community and the students together as one in the fight to help our planet.  The communities have become more aware of the continuing effort to make our air cleaner and the team has full support in doing so.  Without their support the team would not be what it is today.  We could not ever replace their continued support and we are looking forward to another exciting year in participating in the Tour De Sol. 

 "Vehicle Specifications

        Make                    Chevy
        Model                   S-10
        Year                    1985
        Transmission            4 speed manual, 4:56 rear end gear change
        Steering                Converted from power to manual
        Motor                   28 HP DC brush motor
        Hybrid Motor            Kohler propane 22HP (12 KW output)
        Alternator              Fisher 3 phase (12 KW, 120 Volts, 92 amps)
        Batteries               120 Volts DC (20 six volt batteries, 350 amps)
        Secondary Power Sources Two 50 watt solar panels
        Regenerative Braking    30 amp alternator with electric clutch
        Charge Time             6-8 hours for full charge
        Range                   300+ miles
        Top Speed               70 miles/hour


        Bob Fedell              senior, co-pilot
        Jake Dupont             senior, driver
        Jason Cross             junior
        B. J. Law               senior
        Robert Martin           junior
        Stacey Lee Curtis       senior
        Jeremy Van Deusen       senior
        Arthur Batacchi         advisor
        Stan Dupont             advisor
        Paul O'Brien            Tech Ed.  Dept.  Head"

This information is from the NESEA database of entrants:

 Team Name       Mount Everett Project e-
 Vehicle Name    `Project e-'
 Vehicle Number  96
 Category        US DOE Hybrid Category
 Organization    Mount Everett Regional School
 Town            Sheffield MA
 Dimensions      16' 0" x 5' 0" x 5' 0"
 Weight          3900 pounds
 Range           250 miles
 Max Speed       70 miles per hour
 # of Passengers 2
 Capacity        900 pounds
 Construction    85 Chevy S-10; steel frame; steel/Lexan body
 Motor           Advanced DC 9", brush, 13 kW continuous/15 kW peak
 Controller      Curtis Model 1221B
 Charger         Fisher/Kohler
 PV array        no
 Battery         US Battery, 1340 lbs, PbA, 27 kW-hrs, 120 V, Series
 Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta GFE
 Brakes          front disk, rear drum, regen

Report #13: Michael Shnayerson to speak at Tour de Sol

It would be nice if the history books could be written first, and then people would just do what the books said.  Edison would invent the light bulb, and Ford would invent the car, and Edison would invent the nickel-iron battery, and together they would invent the electric car, and automobile exhaust would never be a problem.  I read somewhere that is how it was supposed to be.  In fact, at the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, New Jersey, you can see an electric car that Thomas Edison and company built.  (973-243-9122)

Somehow history doesn't work that way. 

Instead, people observe what actually does happen and write about that.  Michael Shnayerson was able to be an eye-witness to the creation of the GM EV1, and he wrote about it in his book, "The Car That Could: the inside story of GM's revolutionary electric vehicle" (Random House, 1996, ISBN 0-679-42105-X).  I had long suspected that GM never had a single agenda when it came to EVs, and I was happy to discover that I was right.  The story was far more elaborate, convoluted and interesting than I ever imagined. 

So you can see how I am excited at the opportunity to hear Mr. Shnayerson speak at the NESEA American Tour de Sol when it stops in Northhampton MA on Monday May 20th.  His talk is scheduled for 6 PM in the auditorium of the Smith Vocational High School, on Locust Street in Northhampton. 

Between 2 PM and 6, the entrants will either be on display on the high school's grounds or running "extra laps" to build mileage for the range-per-charge and total-distance prizes.  The lap route takes them right past the school, so you can see them as they whisper by.  If you are in the area, why not plan to visit? If you cannot make it on the afternoon of the 20th, get there early on the 21st to see the rally continue at 10 AM. 

Report #14: Climbing Mount Washington

(The following is from conversations with Paul Giblin, Director of Marketing and Special Events for the Mt.  Washington Auto Road, Tom Hopper of the New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI), and Olaf Bleck of Team New England (TNE).)

As part of this year's NESEA Tour, there will be a Climb to the Clouds event, but it will not be a race and it will not be timed.  Instead it will be a parade of EVs and Hybrid EVs to demonstrate that clean vehicles can do the same things that today's fuel-burners can do. 

But it is not a competition.  That happens in June. 

The Climb-To-The-Clouds is a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) event each June that looks for the fastest time to drive the 7.4 mile road up Mount Washington.  There are 70 turns on the way up and the elevation rises 4700 feet.  (The next one, titled "The Audi-Mt.  Washington Hill Climb" is scheduled for June 27 through 29, 1997.) It is a professionally run race for SCCA members only.  The organizers place heavy emphasis on the safety requirements that must be met by the vehicles and drivers.  Only the entrants to the SCCA sanctioned race can hold official records.  The last automobile record, set by 3-time winner Paul Choiniere in a Hyundai, was 6 minutes, 45.22 seconds.  There are also records for bicyclists and foot-racers. 

For the past few years, during intermissions in the official runs, several Electric Vehicles (EV) have been allowed to run the course and obtain unofficial times.  In 1994, Andrew Heafitz of Team New England drove the `TNE II' to a 16 minutes 11.10 seconds finishing time, averaging 27.4 mph over the course.  And in June 1996 NHTI's `Sungo', was driven by Corina Kern of NHTI in 13 minutes 55.46 seconds. 

NHTI's `Sungo' will be in the NESEA Tour again this year, and Team New England will be represented by their `1959 Berkeley'.  Both will be running on nickel metal hydride batteries. 

Paul Giblin would like to see EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles participate in the official Mt.  Washington Climb race, but he emphasizes the need for all entrants to pass the same technical and driver experience requirements.  Those interested should call him at 603-466-3328.  There is also a "Climb to the Clouds Custom and Classic Car Show" on June 28th.  He would welcome a showing of electric vehicles for that also. 

Report #15: Final Itinerary

                        1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol
                                Final Itinerary

Here it is folks, hot of the web page at

The Public-Is-Invited portions of the NESEA Tour. 

(Do not look at; it is very out-of-date!)

First, if you are coming as a group, all Press, School Tours, Sponsors, Speakers, Exhibitors should go to "NESEA Central" to check in. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 17 May: Saturday


 9:00AM - 5:00PM Registration & Testing - Gazebo, Library Park
 12:00NOON - 5:00PM Vehicle Display and Testing at the Waterbury
                        Super-Charged Solarbration
 12:00NOON - 11PM Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College:
                        Open house to five pm. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 18 May: Sunday


 9:00AM 5 km run: Libra Running Club.  Start on Grand Street.  All welcome!
 9:00AM - 5:00PM Vehicle Display and Testing at the Waterbury Super-Charged
 9:00AM - 5:00PM Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College: Open house

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 19 May: Monday


ROUTE: From downtown Waterbury follow 69N (Rutledge & Wolcott Streets) thru Wolcott towards Britol.  Right on 72N to 229 to 6E to 10N.  Continue on 10N thru Farmington, Avon, Wheatogue, Simsbury, Hoskins, Granby, Southwick (MA), Westfield, Southampton and Easthampton to Northampton.  (69 required miles plus extra laps)

 9:30AM - 11:00AM Alternative Vehicle Workshop: Library, basement meeting room,
                        organized by CCTA
                        (Connecticut Clean Transportation Association)
 8:00AM - 12:00PM Vehicle Display, Library Park and Grand St., Waterbury, CT
 12:00NOON Move to Grand Street in starting order
 12:30PM - 1:00 Starting Ceremonies
 1:00PM - 2:45PM Drive to Northampton MA
 2:30PM - 6:00PM Vehicle Display at Smith Vocational High School, Northampton
 6:00-6:30 Michael Shnayerson, author of "The Car That Could", Cafeteria, Smith
                        Vocational High School, Locust Street

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 20 May: Tuesday


ROUTE: From Smith Voc., follow 5 and 10N thru W. Hatfield, N. Hatfield, S.  Deerfield and Deerfield to Greenfield display.  From Greenfield 5N thru Bernardston, N. Bernardston, Guilford, Brattleboro, Putney and Westminster to Bellows Falls display and recharge.  From Bellows Falls 5N thru Ascutney, Windsor, Hartland and N. Hartland to White River Junction.  (107 required miles.  62 miles to Bellows Falls plus 45 miles to White River Junction)

 8:00AM - 10:30AM Vehicle Display at Smith Vocational HS, Northampton MA
 10:30AM - 11:00AM Restart Ceremonies and drive to Greenfield MA
 10:00AM - 2:00OPM Ecological Living Fair, Miles Street, Greenfield MA
 11:00AM - 1:00PM Vehicle Display on Miles St. at NESEA headquarters,
                        Greenfield, MA
 1:00PM - 2:00PM Restart Ceremonies and Drive to Bellows Falls VT
 1:00PM - 2:30PM Vehicle Display, Union HS, Bellows Falls VT
 1:45PM - 2:00PM Media Event
 5:30PM - 6:30PM Drive Bellows Falls to White River Junction
 5:00PM - 8:30PM Montshire Museum: EV Rides offered by EVermont and Green
                        Mountain Power
          7:00PM Authors Noel Perin and Mr. O'Connor, and Richard Watts of
                        EVermont will speak. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 21 May: Wednesday


ROUTE: From downtown White River Junction follow 4E to Lebanon.  10N thru Hanover, Lyme, Orford, Piermont, Haverhill and N. Haverhill to Rt. 112E thru N.  Woodstock to Loon Mt.  Resort in Lincoln.  (69 required miles plus extra laps.  35 mile lap on Rt 93S or 5 mile lap on secondary road)

 8:00AM - 10:15AM Vehicle Display and media event, downtown White River
 10:15AM - 12:00NOON Restart Ceremonies and drive to Loon Mountain Resort,
                        Lincoln NH
 10:00AM - 1:00PM Northern New Hampshire Junior Solar Sprint Race, Loon
                        Mountain Tennis Courts
 12:00PM - 5:30PM Vehicle Display, Loon Mountain Resort, Lincoln NH

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 22 May: Thursday


ROUTE: From Loon Mountain Resort take 112E to Bear Notch Rd., then 302E. thru Bartlett, Glen and Lower Bartlett to N. Conway Center.  (41 required miles plus optional Mt.  Washington drive to the summit, weather permitting)

 10:00AM - 11:00AM Restart and drive the Kancamagus Hwy to North Conway
 11:00AM - 7:30PM Vehicle Display at "A Day in the Sun" Festival, Schouler
                        Park, N. Conway
 4:00PM - 7:00PM Mt.  Washington hill climb for selected vehicles (weather

Mount Washington Auto Road Hill Climb; Optional Event, Thursday, May 22

The Mount Washington Carriage Road, the oldest man-made tourist attraction in America, was opened to the public in 1861 and has since been the means by which over 3,000,000 people have reached the summit of the Northeast's highest peak.  Very few, however, have ever done so in an electric vehicle.  While no "Tour miles" will be awarded for this achievement, successful candidates will have one of the finest photo opportunities since F.O. Stanley made the first motorized ascent in his famous Steamer in 1899.  That "This Car Climbed Mount Washington" bumper sticker wouldn't look too bad on your bumper, would it?

Mount Washington's climate is described, without exaggeration, as "the worst weather in the world".  Our plans will be contingent on winds somewhat calmer than the record 231 mph. and a winter's snowfall a bit lass than the record 47 feet.  Extra charging time will be available for the brave takers-on before leaving North Conway, and participating vehicles will be expected to get there under their own power. 

 21 miles each way to base of Auto Road from N. Conway
 Auto road is 7.6 miles from base to top
 Average grade is 12%
 Maximum grade is 18%
 65% asphalt, 35% packed gravel
 Elevation at the base: 1563 feet
 Elevation at the summit: 6288 feet

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 23 May: Friday


ROUTE: From N. Conway take 302E thru Redstone, Conway Center and Fryeburg to 113S thru Brownfield, Hiram, W. Baldwin, E. Baldwin and Steep Falls to 25E through Standish and Gorham to 114E to 22E into Portland.  (62 required miles)

 10:00AM - 11:40AM N. Conway Restart and drive to Monument Square, Portland ME
 12:15PM - 12:45PM Finish Line Ceremonies - Invited dignitaries speak
 11:30AM - 4:00PM Vehicle Display, Monument Square, Portland ME

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -
 24 May: Saturday


 8:00AM - 9:00AM Autocross inspection and registration
 9:00AM - 3:00PM Maine Solar Blast at Commercial, Center and Fore Streets (bike
                        demos, exhibits, more!)
 9:00AM - 1:00PM Vehicle Display and Autocross for NESEA Tour
 10:00AM - 2:30PM Junior Solar Sprints,
 1:30PM - 2:30PM Electrathon,
 3:00PM - 4:00PM NESEA American Tour de Sol Awards Ceremony. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

As in years past, yours truly will be traveling with the rally, inteviewing the teams, observing and noting, and posting items during the event.  Last year, they had me doing stints at the microphone, usually at the FINISH banner of each leg, describing the entrants as they arrived.  So if you see an over- weight, bearded, late forty-something guy who either is sticking a tape recorder in people's faces or hogging the mic at the finish line, it's probably me.  Stop by and say hello. 

                                                                Mike Bianchi

Report #16: Interview: Nancy Hazard, Race Director

Nancy Hazard spends half her professional life making the NESEA American Tour de Sol happen.  (The other half goes into putting together the Sustainable Transportation/Solar Electric Vehicle (ST/SEV) conference every fall.) I caught up with her in the middle of Library Park in Waterbury CT on the first day (Saturday, May 17th) and asked her what she was looking forward to in this year's Tour. 

She was very happy that Toyota was bringing their `RAV4-EV' and entering it in the Production Category, because it represents another electric vehicle that will be on the market soon.  It joins the Ford `Ecostar' and two Solectria `Force' cars in the rally, and Ford is expected to bring a `Ranger EV' to display when we get to Portland Maine on Friday and Saturday. 

She is also excited that there are so many advanced chemistry batteries coming.  Four will be running Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydrid (NiMH) batteries (#76 `Solectria Force NiMH', #88 `Evolution', #72 `Sungo', #35 `Hyades'), plus #99 `RAV4-EV' will have Panasonic NiMH batteries, and #79 `59 Berkeley' will have Lockheed NiMH batteries.  #55 `Ecostar' has a Sodium-Sulfur system.  #50 `95 Solectria/Horizon' has Electrosource's Horizon battery. 

Nancy is also happy about the trends that the NESEA Tour is showing.  People tend to focus on the records set in terms of individual vehicles achieving some benchmark or another.  But over the years there have been improvements in the averages also.  For example, four years ago the average miles-per-charge in the Production Category was 95 miles.  In 1996 the average was 140 miles.  She expects that number to increase again this year. 

The US DOE Hybrid Category is our largest field ever with seven vehicles and some of those showing up have proven capabilities because they were already part of the FutureCar Challenge. 

There are several interesting comparison tests this year.  For the past two years a gasoline-powered Geo Metro drove the course with the EVs, so we could get an apples-to-apples comparison of the efficiencies of gasoline vs. electric powered vehicles.  This was particularly valid as the Solectria sedans are based on Geo Metro platforms.  This year we will have the Metro, plus a gasoline RAV4 for another apples-to-apples comparison.  A particularly fun comparison, if the weather permits, will be to compare the costs of driving up and down Mt.  Washington. 

On top of that, Solarex, the solar cell company, and ENRON, the power company, are providing a vehicle that will drive the route measuring the sunlight so we see how well the cars in the Solar Commuter Category are doing.  That category awards prizes for deriving the largest portion of their power from the sun, referred to as the Solar Fraction.  Last year, the `Sol Survivor IV' won with 30%, even though the car was not quite completed.  It returns to defend its title. 

The One Person Category has four bicycles in it this year.  One, #12 `Charger Bicycle', is backed by AeroVironment and is being sold to police departments as an urban patrol vehicle.  Another, #15 `Yankee Pedler', is designed to be sold as a kit that can be assembled by high school students.  In fact, a motor workshop run by the Yankee Pedlers and Wellington Electric will be run at 8:30 AM on Tuesday, May 20th at the Smith Vocational High School as part of the morning display in Northampton MA. 

This is the ninth NESEA Tour, and almost everything is going very smoothly.  Nancy was smiling broadly as she surveyed the field of entrants arriving. 

Report #17: Registration and Testing in Waterbury CT

Before the NESEA Tour can begin its ramble through the New England countryside, there is a considerable amount of work that must be done to ensure that all the vehicles are ready.  For the Production Category vehicles, this tends to be simple.  But just about everything else here is a one-of-a-kind object, and there is a long list of criteria that must be checked.  Some items on that list are for documentation, but most have to do with some aspect of safety.  Can the car accelerate quickly enough? Can it stop within an acceptable distance, both with the regular service brakes and with the emergency brakes? Are there any electrical leaks that could be dangerous? Do the lights and horn work? The list goes on and on. 

And passing the tests is not always easy.  Significant voltage can appear on the frame just because the battery tops were a little dirty or even because they were washed.  Stop lights that were working last week can go out, either because a wire was disturbed, or because a bulb blew. 

And there are judgment calls.  Gary Carr, who has served on the race organizing committees and has a long-standing interest in EV safety, told me Sunday of a vehicle that had a couple of single-point-of-failure concerns.  Using cables to actuate brakes in a car have become a problematic and now are forbidden in the rules.  But one team overlooked that and now trying to fabricate an acceptable hydraulic brake for their rear wheel.  In addition, there is a point in the frame where one member is welded in a T with another.  If this T broke, a whole wheel would come off.  Can they add the proper bracing before the rally starts on Monday? We will see. 

But the good news is that most teams come very well prepared.  They go through the "scrutineering" process very smoothly.  In fact, for the first time, the rules now awards points for Engineering Excellence that acknowledges some of the things that make testing go smoothly.  There are points awarded for Neatness and Safety Features, Design Innovations and Cleaver Construction, and even Artistic Merit.  To some extent these points are based on qualitative and subjective judgments, but it was felt they were necessary so those teams which clearly did their home-work in preparing for the race had an advantage over those who did not. 

Saturday was a chilly and often overcast or drizzly day in Waterbury, and so there were not as many visitors to the Library Park as one might hope.  The vehicles started arriving just as the many volunteers were sorting out who would be in which testing position.  Each car moved from station to station, first being checked for those things that are easily done and which are most crucial; checks involving paperwork, safety equipment, construction details and electric faults are covered first.  Then come checking the photovoltaic panels, weighing the car, and evaluating the "practicality" features.  Finally there are the dynamic tests measuring braking distances, acceleration, handling (avoiding cones), and hill climbing. 

Sunday, which was much more spring like, brought out many more people and made the inspections and testing a bit easier.  The bright sun made it easier to see inside the darker corners under the hood, and consistently dry streets helped get a better sense of stopping distances. 

Monday morning will have the vehicles on display, and then at 1 PM the 1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol will officially begin with the cars, trucks and bicycles starting their 69 mile drive to Northampton MA. 

Report #18: Team Profile: Ford `Ecostar'

Tracy Piorkowski of Northeast Utilities (NU) was talking about the Ford `Ecostar', Number 55, which is entered in the Production Category.  This vehicle is back for its 4th appearance with the NESEA Tour.  When we don't see it, it and another are used for public relations purposes and special events, such as being the pace car for a electric car race NU cosponsors for high school and college students. 

The vehicle itself is a conversion of a European delivery van.  There is a passenger and driver seat, and a good sized cargo area. 

The `Ecostar' runs the very high energy density Sodium Sulfur batteries and first ran in the 1994 NESEA tour.  It's competition at the time was the earliest of the larger prototype Nickel Metal Hydride batteries that Solectria had in a `Force', but could not race in the Production Category because it was not for sale or lease.  `Ecostar' won the Production Category in 1994. 

(This technical information is from my 1994 NESEA Tour reports.)

 Sodium Sulfur boasts 80 Wh/kg; about 4 times lead-acid.  The battery operates
at 600 degrees F (~300 deg.  C).  If the batteries are charged and discharged in a steady use cycle, the batteries retain that temperature.  If, however, they are not used for a long time, the battery goes dormant, or "freezes".  It takes 12 hours to reheat the battery back to operating temperature.  In the Ecostar, it takes 2-4 days for the pack to "freeze", depending on outside air temperature.  The charging circuitry automatically maintains both charge and temperature.  A single cell provides about 1.9 Volts.  The cells in the Ecostar are long thin tubes, about 14 inches high. 

Since then, the Sodium Sulfur battery has been abandoned by Ford for EV use, although Charles King told me that Ford was still giving excellent support for the `Ecostars' still in service. 

NU is also involved with other EV programs.  For example, United Airlines is placing electric tugs (those flat vehicles with the big tires used to push jets around) and belt baggage loaders built by a company called Carrington at Bradley Airport. 

        Vehicle Name    `Ford Ecostar'
        Vehicle Number  55
        Category        Production Category
        Team Name       Northeast Utilities
        Town            Hartford CT
        Dimensions      13' 9" x 5' 5" x 5' 4"
        Weight          3060 pounds
        Range           100 miles
        Max Speed       70 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        1020 pounds
        Construction    Ford Ecostar, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           GE AC Induction 30 kW continuous/56 kW peak
        Controller      General Electric Model IGBT
        Charger         Ford 5.7 kw
        PV array        imbedded in windshield, powers cabin fan
        Battery         ABB NaS 30 kW-hrs
        Wheels, Tires   4, Firestone
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, regen

Report #19: Team Profile: `UEHS Solar Tiger'

Scott Brazinski, a student at Union Endicott High School, told me about `UEHS Solar Tiger'. 

Their school has been working on it for four years and it finally came together this year.  This is a classic three-wheel rolling "wing" design, with just enough room for a driver under a plastic bubble, although this "bubble" is very rectangular and the driver can sit up straight. 

The front wheels are two motorcycle front forks welded to the frame, with a steering arm bolted on, actuated by a rack-and-pinion steering from a Chevy mini-van.  The back wheel is a motorcycle rear wheel. 

8 6-Volt deep cycle lead acid batteries (Trojan) are charged by a 300 Watt solar array.  A Curtis controller then drives a 6 hp motor.  2 panels of the solar array are dedicated to charging the 12 Volt battery used for the accessories.  The rest of the array charges the 48 Volt drive system batteries. 

Welded steel box tubing forms the main structural frame of the car.  Electrical "thin wall" conduit is bent to shape and supports the body.  The body is shaped aluminum that supports fiberglass and filler that is then sanded and painted. 

Scott said that they have many miles running around the track at school without the body for testing, and about 80 miles with the body mounted.  It is registered in New York State as a motorcycle, with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and license plate. 

I also spoke with Azuka Nzegwu, originally from Nigeria, who has been with the team for two years.  She does all the writing for the club's publicity, newsletters, and press releases to newspapers and radio stations.  She will be sending home news and progress reports during the week.  "Our community has been very supportive with this Tour de Sol.  They have been really great," she said. 

What do they expect to get out of being here? "We are here to learn." Azuka said the team sees their participation in the NESEA Tour as a great opportunity to see how the other teams solve problems and to look for new ideas. 

The time is 9 kids and 3 advisors.  She is the only girl in the club, so she hopes to meet young women on the other teams. 

        Vehicle Name    `UEHS Solar Tiger'
        Vehicle Number  37
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Union-Endicott High School
        Team Name       Union-Endicott Solar Tiger
        Town            Endicott NY
        Dimensions      15' 3" x 5' 9" x 5' 10"
        Weight          1080 pounds
        Range           100 miles
        Max Speed       55 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        150 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built steel, tube frame, Fiberglass body
        Motor           Advanced DC, series wound,
        Controller      Curtis
        Charger         Off-board, Trace Engineering
        PV array        Solarex 300 Watts
        Battery         Trojan/480 lbs, PbA 48 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   3, Cooper Street
        Brakes          front drum, rear drum, no regen
        PR Description  Purpose-built (Trojan, PbA)

Report #20: Days 1, 2, and 3 Range Results

(For those of you who have been waiting and waiting for postings from the NESEA Tour course, my apologies.  The old adage of "never let anything mechanical know you are in a hurry" came through with a vengeance, and my computer suddenly refused to acknowledge the presence of the modem.  The result was that I was isolated.  But I have been conducting interviews and collecting information, and so the Reports will be coming, just not in semi-real time as was intended.  I hope you still find them interesting reading.  My intention is to post final results soon, and then catch up over the next couple of weeks on Team Profiles, Interviews, and Stories from the course.)

The following table serves two purposes.  The first is to document the rally so far. 

        Day 1 was Monday, 19 May 1997. 
        Day 2 was Tuesday, 20 May 1997. 
        Day 3 was Wednesday, 21 May 1997. 

The Test column lists "Tour Miles" awarded during the testing, which is new this year.  In past years the inspection and testing before the NESEA Tour didn't award any credit that lasted past the first day.  Cars were lined up for driving under the Start Banner, by category, with the best accelerating vehicles first, and that didn't really impart any advantage since each vehicle is timed independently.  This year, the various testing and inspection crews awarded "Tour Miles" according to how easily they passed. 

The Driven numbers, Total and for each Day, show the actual distance traveled. 

The Tour numbers are "Tour Miles".  1 Tour Mile is awarded for each mile driven, but then there are deductions for various infractions.  Some infractions have to do with traffic safety, such as obstructing traffic, passing illegally, speeding, etc.  Others are penalties for not covering the course in the maximum allowed time, not completing a leg, being late for a required display, and the like. 

The table is sorted by the "Total Tour" number, within each category. 

The second purpose of this table is to discuss some of the range records achieved in this year's NESEA Tour.  Those comments are after the table, keyed to the Note column. 

These numbers have to be considered unofficial, although they are transcribed from official NESEA printouts.  There still may be adjustments, and there also may be typos. 

 -- Production Category ---     Total   Day 3   Day 2   Day 1
 Vehicle Name            Tour    Tour    Tour    Tour    Test    Note
                                Driven  Driven  Driven  Driven

 76  `Solectria Force NiMH'     568.7   249.0   106.7   125.3    87.7     1,3
                                481.0   249.0   106.7   125.3

 55  `Ford Ecostar'             509.6   197.3   106.7   121.6    84.0     2
                                430.6   202.3   106.7   121.6

 99  `Toyota RAV4-EV'           415.6   116.5   106.7    99.4    93.0     3
                                322.6   116.5   106.7    99.4

 50  `Solectria/Horizon'        387.4   104.1   106.7    99.4    77.2
                                310.2   104.1   106.7    99.4

 -- Commuter Category ---       Total   Day 3   Day 2   Day 1
 Vehicle Name            Tour    Tour    Tour    Tour    Test    Note
                                Driven  Driven  Driven  Driven

 88  `Evolution'                401.3   140.2    71.3   106.8    83.0     3
                                353.7   140.2   106.7   106.8

 72  `Sungo'                    383.0   123.3   106.7    92.0    61.0     3
                                332.0   133.3   106.7    92.0

 45  `Sparky'                   333.8    78.3   106.7    84.3    64.5
                                274.7    83.4   106.7    84.6

 65  `Electric Hare'            322.6    99.6   101.9    60.9    60.2     4
                                288.0   104.1   106.7    77.2

 79  `59 Berkeley'              305.9    66.9   101.7    67.1    70.2
                                244.9    68.4   106.7    69.8

 44  `Solar Saurus'             296.0    68.4   103.8    69.8    54.0
                                244.9    68.4   106.7    69.8

 60  `Millenium Falcon'         292.7    75.8    81.2    67.2    68.6
                                259.9    83.4   106.7    69.8

 48  `Suncharger'               204.1    40.9    71.1    20.2    71.9
                                235.1    68.4   106.7    60.0

 66  `Re-Charger'               179.2    48.6   -15.9    69.8    76.7
                                200.8    68.4    62.6    69.8

 13  `The Electrifly'            44.4    16.0   -33.9    -9.8    72.1
                                173.2    57.2    71.0    45.0

 33  `Enterprise'              -131.3   -79.6    -5.4   -88.8    42.5
                                 84.8    9.4     69.9     5.5

 -- Solar Commuter Category --- Total   Day 3   Day 2   Day 1
 Vehicle Name            Tour    Tour    Tour    Tour    Test    Note
                                Driven  Driven  Driven  Driven

 83  `Sol Survivor IV'           59.3     6.2   -29.2    26.2    56.1
                                177.9    52.3    62.6    63.0

 93  `Helios the Heron IV'       41.4    -3.6   -42.5    48.4    39.1     5
                                179.3    47.4    62.1    69.8

 -- US DOE Hybrid Category ---  Total   Day 3   Day 2   Day 1
 Vehicle Name            Tour    Tour    Tour    Tour    Test    Note
                                Driven  Driven  Driven  Driven

 18  `Kineticar'                699.5   449.2    88.7    99.4    62.2     6
                                655.3   449.2   106.7    99.4

 94  `Hopper EV'                613.7   342.1   106.3    95.7    69.6
                                544.5   342.1   106.7    95.7

 48  `Electric Lion'            537.1   273.8    95.7    97.4    70.2
                                484.9   278.8   106.7    99.4

 96  `Project e-'               476.6   207.6   106.7    99.4    62.9
                                413.7   207.6   106.7    99.4

 62  `GarnetOne'                244.5    67.5    64.0    67.6    45.4
                                244.9    68.4   106.7    69.8

 14  `Tsunami'                 -364.9   -98.4  -166.7   -99.8    0
                                  0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0

 35  `Hyades'                  -364.9   -98.4  -166.7   -99.8    0
                                  0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0

 -- One Person Category ---     Total   Day 3   Day 2   Day 1
 Vehicle Name            Tour    Tour    Tour    Tour    Test    Note
                                Driven  Driven  Driven  Driven

 12  `Charger Bicycle'          429.2     3.6   106.7    69.8    69.1
                                227.5    51.0   106.7    69.8

 15  `Yankee Pedler'            177.9    83.4    94.4   -53.8    53.9
                                213.1    83.4   106.7    23.0

 58  `NFA Sol Machine'          138.3    -0.4    82.9     6.2    49.6
                                208.7    49.0   106.7    53.0

 92  `Sunpacer'                 132.7    15.6    49.7    32.2    35.2
                                219.7    57.0    96.7    66.0

 47  `Electra'                  -22.4    68.4  -101.1   -42.8    53.1
                                129.7    68.4    32.8    28.5

 10  `V.C. I.C.E. Breaker'      -54.5    -9.2   -64.7   -21.8    41.2
                                134.6    44.6    51.0    39.0

 37  `UEHS Solar Tiger'        -335.5   -98.4  -166.7   -99.8    29.4
                                  0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0

 30  `Ecovox'                  -359.9   -98.4  -166.7   -99.8    5.0
                                  0.0     0.0     0.0     0.0

(The opinions expressed below are my own.)

Note 1

On Day 3 (Wednesday) #76 `Solectria Force NiMH' beat it's own range record from last year by over 5 miles in a much more challenging environment.  Last year, this car with earlier versions of the Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydride (NMH) battery achieved 244 miles on a charge driving the very flat roads around Chesapeake City, Maryland.  Wednesday the same car but with new battery pack, beat that record by driving 250 miles in the trip through the White Mountains between White River Junction NH and Lincoln NH and in the very hill area around Lincoln.  James Worden, CEO of Solectria, was at the wheel and certainly used his considerable experience with his own vehicles to squeeze every inch he could out of that car.  Still, for a steel frame and body car running in the Production Category, that is quite an achievement. 

Note 2

The Ford `Ecostar' did not beat its personal best from last year's NESEA Tour.  In 1996, the `Ecostar' from Allegheny Power drove 227 miles in Maryland.  This year the one from Northeast Utilities drove 197 miles over the White River Junction to Lincoln route and around Lincoln.  Both the 1993 `Ecostar' from Allegheny Power and the 1994 `Ecostar' from Northeast Utilities were using Sodium-Sulfur batteries. 

Note 3

The Toyota `RAV4-EV', `Evolution', and `Sungo' are the other 3 passenger cars using Nickel Metal Hydride batteries.  The `Solectria Force NiMH' uses a Geo Metro sedan as its platform, which is a low and fairly aerodynamic vehicle.  The `RAV4-EV' is based on the RAV4 sport utility vehicle and so is about twice as tall as the `Force'.  `Evolution' is built on a Saturn platform, and the `Sungo' is the smallest of the lot, a bit more than half the length and about the same height as the `Force'.  According to the data given NESEA and Day 3's numbers ... 

        Vehicle         Batt.  Energy    Day 3 Range     Day 3 Energy/Mile

        Force NiMH      25.0 kW-hrs     250 miles       100 W-hrs/mile
        Evolution       30.0 kW-hrs     140 miles       214 W-hrs/mile
        Sungo           13.2 kW-hrs     133 miles        99 W-hrs/mile
        RAV4-EV         28.2 kW-hrs     116 miles       243 W-hrs/mile

This assumes, of course, that all vehicles were driven from a full charge to an near-complete discharge.  As in Note 1, remember that these were driven through the White Mountains and in the hills around Lincoln. 

Note 4

`Electric Hare', a high school Volkswagon Rabbit conversion based on the kit from ElectroAutomotive in Felton CA drove 104 miles on a 96 Volt system.  With 24 kW-hrs on board, that's 230 Watt-hours/mile. 

Note 5

The VW microbus converted by elementary school students, `Helios the Heron IV', drove the full Day 1 distance, although it was penalized for being slow, averaging 16 mph.  This was the first time a `Helios' had ever arrived at a Tour de Sol FINISH banner under its own power.  It > is < possible it got some extra help from the nervous energy of the team members who shreaked their approval as it covered the final yards. 

Note 6

`Kineticar', a parallel hybrid, went just shy of 450 miles on a single tank of LPG (Propane).  Talking with the team members from Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College I've learned that this figure, while genuine, is a bit high.  It seems the safe practice for filling a Propane tank is only put in 80% of the full capacity.  However, in cases where the weather is cool and the fuel is going to be used immediately it is common practice to "overfill" the tank to 90% or more.  At the fuel stop before the range-run, that is what happened to `Kineticar'.  NESEA is only giving credit for 379 miles because the tank had been filled to the 95% mark. 

Report #21: The Entrants

Here is the list of entrants that are in the 1997 NESEA Tour, along with some of their general information.  They are in Vehicle Number order. 

 --- Production Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        Town State              Organization
        New this year?          Description (Battery Mfr, Chemistry)

 50  `Solectria/Horizon'        Connecticut EV/NAVC
        Windsor CT              The Rideshare Co./CT DOT
        returning               Solectria Force (Electrosource, PbA)

 55  `Ford Ecostar'             Northeast Utilities
        Hartford CT             Northeast Utilities
        returning               Ford Ecostar (ABB, Sodium Sulphur)

 76  `Solectria Force NiMH'     Solectria - Ovonic Battery
        Troy MI                 Solectria - Ovonic Battery
        updated car             Solectria Force (Ovonic, NiMH)

 99  `Toyota RAV4-EV'           Toyota Motor Sales USA
        Torrance CA             Toyota Motor Sales USA
        new to NESEA Tour       RAV4 (Panasonic, NiMH)

 --- Commuter Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        Town State              Organization
        New this year?          Description (Battery Mfr, Chemistry)

 13  `The Electrifly'           PTBO Clean Air Challenge
        Peterborough, Ontario   Peterborough Clean Air Challenge
        new to NESEA Tour       Pontiac Firefly (Voltmaster, PbA)

 33  `Enterprise'               Techies
        South Portland ME       Southern Maine Technical College
         new to NESEA Tour      1987 Ford Aerostar (Power, PbA)

 44  `Solar Saurus'             Rocky Hill High School Team
        Rocky Hill CT           Rocky Hill Board of Education
        returning               1982 Dodge Rampage (Trojan, PbA)

 45  `Sparky'                   Wooster's Charge
        Danbury CT              Wooster School
        returning               1972 SAAB (Trojan, PbA)

 48  `Suncharger'               Team Canada
        Rexdale, Ontario Canada MSSB, Marian Academy High School
        new to NESEA Tour       1993 Asuna Sunfire (Crown, PbA)

 60  `Millenium Falcon'         Blue Sky Club
        Greenwich CT            Blue Sky Motors
        returning               1985 VW Rabbit Cabriolet (Optima, PbA)

 65  `Electric Hare'            The Wattsmen
        Falmouth ME             Falmouth High School
        returning               1984 VW Rabbit (Trojan, PbA)

 66  `Re-Charger'               UNH Chargers
        West Haven CT           University of New Haven
        new to NESEA Tour       1984 Ford Ranger (Trojan, PbA)

 72  `Sungo'                    NHTI Solar - Electric Car Team
        Concord NH              New Hampshire Technical Institute
        returning               Purpose-built (Ovonic, NiMH)

 79  `59 Berkeley'              Team New England
        Nahant MA               Team New England
        returning               1959 Berkeley (Lockheed, NiMH)

 88  `Evolution'                Chico State AVR&D
        Chico CA                California State University, Chico
        new to NESEA Tour       Saturn (Ovonic, NiMH)

 --- US DOE Hybrid Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        Town State              Organization
        New this year?          Description (Battery Mfr, Chemistry; Fuel)

 14  `Tsunami'                  Cornell University HEV Team
        Ithaca NY               Cornell University
        new car                 Purpose-built sedan (Trojan, PbA; CNG)

 18  `Kineticar'                CSERT-NVCTC
        Waterbury CT            Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College
        new car                 Pick-up (Trojan, PbA; LPG)

 35  `Hyades'                   Lawrence Tech University
        Southfield MI           Lawrence Technology University
        new to NESEA Tour       1996 Taurus (Ovonic, NiMH; Biodiesel)

 48  `Electric Lion'            Penn State SAE HEV Team
        State College PA        Pennsylvania State University SAE
        returning               Ford Escort (Exide, PbA; LPG)

 62  `GarnetOne'                Swathmore College
        Swathmore PA            Swathmore College
        new to NESEA Tour       Chevy Beretta (Trojan, PbA; CNG )

 94  `Hopper EV'                NHTI Tom Hopper
        Concord NH              New Hampsire Technical Institute
        new car                 Purpose-built (Optima, PbA; Methanol)

 96  `Project e-'               Mount Everett Project e-
        Sheffield MA            Mount Everett Regional School
        returning               Chevy S-10 (US Battery, PbA; LPG)

 --- Solar Commuter Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        Town State              Organization
        New this year?          Description (Battery Mfr, Chemistry)

 83  `Sol Survivor IV'          Monadnock Solar Race Car Team
        Peterborough NH         Monadnock Solar Electric Race Car Team
        returning               Purpose-built (Powersonic, PbA)

 93  `Helios the Heron IV'      Helios the Heron
        Lyndonville VT          Riverside School
        new car                 VW Van (East Penn., PbA)

 --- One Person Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        Town State              Organization
        New this year?          Description (Battery Mfr, Chemistry; Fuel)

 10  `V.C. I.C.E. Breaker'      V.C. I.C.E. Breakers
        Walden NY               Valley Central High School
        new to NESA Tour        Bicycle (Power Sonic, PbA)

 12  `Charger Bicycle'          Team Charger
        Monrovia CA             Charger Bicycles
        new to NESA Tour        Bicycle (Panasonic, PbA)

 15  `Yankee Pedler'            The Yankee Pedlers
        Torrington CT           Wellington Electric Co., Inc. 
        new to NESA Tour        Bicycle (Hawker, PbA+NiCad)

 30  `Ecovox'                   Dartmouth Solar Racing Team
        Hanover NH              Dartmouth Solar Racing Team
        returning               Purpose-built hybrid (Diehard, PbA; E-85)

 37  `UEHS Solar Tiger'         Union-Endicott Solar Tiger
        Endicott NY             Union-Endicott High School Solar Tiger
        new to NESA Tour        Purpose-built (Trojan, PbA)

 47  `Electra'                  PVEAA
        Wilbraham MA            Pioneer Valley Electric Auto Assoc. 
        new to NESEA Tour       Bicycle (Panasonic, PbA)

 58  `NFA Sol Machine'          Team Newburgh NY
        Newburgh NY             Newburgh Free Academy
        returning               Purpose-built (TBA, PbA)

 92  `Sunpacer'                 Cato-Meridian High School Tech Team
        Cato NY                 Cato-Meridian High School Tech Team
        updated car             Purpose-built (Ovonic, NiMH)

Report #22: Team Profile: `The Electrifly'

Monte Gisborne is the owner of #13 `The Electrifly' and calls his team the Peterborough (Ontario Canada) Clean Air Challenge.  His car is a converted 1991 Geo FireFly 2-seat convertible, which is basically a Geo Metro with a Canadian name plate.  "It's an excellent conversion because you have all that space just behind the driver and passenger in which to pack your 18, 6-Volt, monobloc batteries." Voltmaster Group 24 batteries are basically Trojans with a different sticker on them.  There are 3 blocs under the front hood, 12 immediately behind the seats, and 3 more between the shock absorber towers.  Monte plans to eventually go to a 120 Volt system.  "There is actually space left over, if you can believe that!"

Completed about a month ago, the main mission of the car was to get here.  After the Tour de Sol it will be Monte's commuter car, and one of the sponsors, the public utility commission of Peterborough, will use it for publicity on off-peak-charging.  Another sponsor, a car dealership, will display it, and it will also be in the Santa Claus Parade in November. 

Monte is one of the few "individualists" here with a personal vehicle.  He has been treasurer of the Electric Vehicle Society in Toronto for 3 years.  The car was his gasoline car, and when it approached 200,000 kilometers (about 150,000 miles) and with winter coming on, he decided it would be a good project to convert it to an EV.  He wanted to look for sponsors, but he needed an objective that would be a focus of the project.  The NESEA Tour was an ideal objective that potential sponsors liked.  The Bill Storey auto dealership was the first to get interested.  "Bill is retired, and he is an extraordinary auto-nut.  He and his family love cars and love racing.  He welcomed me with open arms and asked me to please allow him sponsor me." Storey's company completely redid the car body, fixing accident damage, and painted it.  Word spread.  General Electric, which has a plant in Peterborough since the days of Edison, donated the motor and controller.  Then a local battery dealership signed on, and pretty soon Monte had tires, suspension components, etc. 

Under the hood is neat and clean.  For example, the fuses and relays and wiring blocks are contained in a plastic box with a clear lid and the accelerator potentiometer is completely enclosed.  Monte said that his battery box has a double wall, designed for "all weather" operation.  In the winter, insulation can be placed between the inner and outer walls to help hold the heat and keep the batteries warm.  During the summer, the insulation comes out and air can circulate to keep the batteries from getting too warm. 

Monte's team is himself, his mother (60 years old) and father (65), so this entry is a family affair. 

        Vehicle Name    `The Electrifly'
        Vehicle Number  13
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    Peterborough Clean Air Challenge
        Team Name       PTBO Clean Air Challenge
        Dimensions      12' 7" x 6' 2" x 4' 5"
        Weight          2000 pounds
        Range           80 miles
        Max Speed       70 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        500 pounds
        Construction    1991 Pontiac, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           General Electric, series wound,
                        25 kW continuous/50 kW peak
        Controller      General Electric Model 1221
        Charger         Electrocraft Transformerless
        PV array        Innovative Consumer Products, 15 Watts,
                        charges accessory battery
        Battery         Voltmaster, 1040 lb., PbA 18 kW-hrs, 108 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta GL-R
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, no regen

Monte actually came with two EVs.  The second is an electric scooter.  It looks very much like a two-wheeled child's scooter, with the tall handle bars in front with a headlight, a battery box between the front and back wheels that holds 4 6-Volt blocs, a Curtis controller and a DC motor, and a pair of metal- grid wings on either side of the rear wheel where you stand. 

 Bolted on top is the metal tray of an old Radio-Flyer wagon.  A brass plate
reads "Created by Barry Huron, Oakwood Ontario, 1997".  Monte said, "He lives on a farm and had built a gasoline scooter for his kids.  I said, `You should have made it electric!' About a month later he calls me to come down to his shop, and here is this two wheeled contraption that is a rocket! When you are accelerating, it will draw 100 Amps." Several other teams have used it to scoot around getting tools and parts to get ready.  Monte claims it has a range of 20 to 30 miles.  It does need a horn. 

Report #23: Another EVent: Electric Auto Show in Brookline MA

The New England Electric Auto Association is here, in Waterbury, displaying a couple of their vehicles and promoting their own EVent ... 

                      The Third Annual Electric Auto Show
                        at the Museum of Transportation
                        15 Newton Street, Brookline MA
   a show open to all Electric and Hybrid powered vehicles, past and present

                           Saturday, June  7th, 1997
                                 10 AM to 2 PM

For more info:

        Bill Ryan       617 254-5882
        Ted Werner      860 343-0628
        Bob Batson      508 897-9393
        Fred Harmon     603 891-4913

Report #24: Tales From The Charging Trailer - Part 1

Every evening and morning during the actual running of the NESEA Tour, the Charging Trailer is the focus of attention.  After a hard day's traveling all the vehicles want their juice, and especially those with the large capacity batteries, or those with the low power chargers, want to get on the plug early, off the plug late, and uninterrupted current in between.  No one wanted to hear that their circuit breaker "popped" sometime during the night and they did not get a complete charge. 

But in years gone past there have been disagreements as to why a particular circuit breaker opened during the night.  Teams tend to think the problem is in the trailer.  After all, they don't have this problem at home! The trailer crew tend to point the fingers at the charger.  Feel how hot that breaker is? That charger must have horrendous harmonics! This year there will the ability to look at both the numbers and the waveforms both going into the Charging Trailer and out of each plug. 

I spoke with Chris Morgan and Brain Keenan, both students at Norwich University, who showed me their Dell Pentium PC and monitor mounted on the side of the NESEA Charging Trailer.  They are responsible for the computer system that will both display real-time data and collect continuous data for later analysis.  They started this project in September, got it up and running in April and have been fine-tuning it until now. 

Their color computer monitor was showing current waveforms and energy spectra for the few cars that were plugged in on Saturday, May 17th.  If you were expecting some nice, smooth, sine waves on the screen, you would have been disappointed.  One charger's current looked closer to a square wave with a ski- ramp mounted on top of it.  Another looked more like static; jagged and irregular spikes that completely masked the 60 Hertz period.  The spectrums for those chargers had lots of energy at 120, 180, 240, and even higher multiples of 60 Hertz.  (While most teams have reasonably modern commercial chargers, there are still some older ones around, and the occasional home-brewed circuit.  These "work" but inject so much noise into the line that they would make a power engineer cry.)

In addition to being able to look at each individual plug's data, they are also able to look at the three-phase current coming in from the power grid and also the current being distributed to each of the sub-panels.  This will allow them to study the cumulative effects of having many chargers on a power line, such as when you have a fleet of EVs. 

In addition to writing the computer programs, using the LabView graphical programming system from National Instruments, they also designed and built a pair of circuit boards that perform the matrix switching that funnels almost 100 sampling points down to a single input into the computer.  The matrix also allows them to select what signal is measure against what reference.  For instance, a voltage can be measured line-to-line or line-to-neutral in a 3- phase system; the matrix lets them do either. 

I intend to visit the charging trailer occasionally during the rally to see how well reality conforms to plans. 

Report #25: Another Look: `GarnetOne' from Swarthmore College

Waterbury CT, Sunday, 18 May

Pete Hamilton, Kurt Selverian, and Tom Makin of #62 `GarnetOne' were "pulling a lot of stuff together at the last minute." They are a 5-man team, plus two advisors, with a very ambitious project of creating a hybrid that runs on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).  The current arrangement is a CNG fueled engine turning a Fisher Electric alternator that charges the battery pack.  "We had a more interesting control system, but that exploded about a month ago.  We had a custom-built controller; we are using a Curtis controller now."

The engine is "a Kawasaki 620 cc overhead valve V-twin, using a simple carburetion system (no fuel injectors).  It's the one they use in their Mule series of agricultural vehicles, which is a cross between a ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) and a pickup truck.  It's a pretty simple engine, designed for reliability.  The only modification other than the compressed natural gas conversion was to advance the ignition to get a cleaner burn, better efficiency, and a little bit more power."

The vehicle is very much packed with stuff.  The CNG tank is behind a firewall behind the rear seat.  The CNG engine is in the trunk behind the tank.  The front has the electric drive and there are cables running everywhere in the vehicle and not too neatly.  (I hope they can keep them all straight.)

Report #26: Team Profile: `Kineticar'

#18 `Kineticar' is a converted pickup truck returning to the NESEA Tour, except that is has switched from the Commuter Category, which is only so-called "pure" electric vehicles, into the US DOE Hybrid Category.  Don Narducci, a teacher at Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College, took me through the changes. 

They have added a 1-liter, 3-cylinder, 53 horsepower engine from a Geo Metro under the hood, burning Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG, aka propane).  The output of that engine goes through a Warner electric clutch onto the tail shaft of the DC brushed motor which replaced the original Chevy engine.  This means that the vehicle can be run as a pure electric, pure LPG, or parallel hybrid by having the motor, engine, or both drive the transmission. 

I asked if the electric motor could start the LPG engine.  "No, we've kept the original starter motor because we were not sure when we started this project how well it was going to work.  And it works fairly well.  We also get a big boost when we are going up a hill from the DC motor."

The electric motor is controlled by the so-called "pot-box" which contains a potentiometer.  The LPG engine is controlled by a mechanical linkage to the carburetor.  When in pure Electric Vehicle (EV) mode, you don't want the engine doing anything, so you don't want the accelerator pedal to move the linkage.  When in pure LPG mode, you can just turn off the motor with a switch.  But in hybrid mode, you want to "throttle" both the engine and motor together.  The control linkage that lets the one driver's accelerator pedal in the cab control both the engine and the motor was very clever.  The pedal pulls on a normal throttle cable that in turn pulls on the center of a metal bar and, simultaneously, the pot-box arm.  The metal bar is attached to the throttle linkage on one end, and a pneumatic actuator on the other.  When the engine is not running or not yet up to idle speed, the pneumatic actuator does not pull on its end of the metal bar, so no force is applied to the throttle linkage when the accelerator pedal is pushed.  But once the engine is at idle (or greater speed) the engine vacuum causes the pneumatic actuator to pull on its end of the metal bar.  Now when the throttle cable pulls on the center of the metal bar, the throttle end of the metal bar pushes on the throttle linkage to the carburetor, thus speeding up the engine. 

`Kineticar' is actually `Kineticar II'.  It was in the 1995 and 1996 NESEA Tours as a purely electric vehicle.  `Kineticar I' was a Ford Escort wagon conversion, and all the components from it are in the current truck. 

        Vehicle Name    `Kineticar'
        Vehicle Number  18
        Category        US DOE Hybrid Category
        Organization    Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College
        Team Name       CSERT-NVCTC
        Town            Waterbury CT
        Dimensions      15' 0" x 5' 4" x 5' 0"
        Weight          3600 pounds
        Range           200 miles
        Max Speed       70 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        500 pounds
        Construction    1989 Chevy Pick-Up, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Advanced series 24 kW continuous/48 kW peak
        Controller      Curtis Model 1231C
        Charger         None
        PV array        12 Watt, Uni-Solar, Amorphous
        Battery         Trojan, 1120 lbs, PbA 17500 W-hrs, 96 V, series
        Engine          Geo Metro, 53 hp, 1 liter, 3 cylinder
        Fuel            LPG
        Hybrid Config.  Parallel
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta GA
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, no regen

Report #27: Team Profile: `Re-Charger'

I spoke with Matt Howlett, part of the team with #66 `Re-Charger'.  This Ford Ranger was converted by the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of New Haven Connecticut.  This beautiful dark blue truck with gold lettering, the school colors of course, originally had a 4-cylinder engine in it.  That, and all the associated gasoline equipment, was ripped out and replace with 24 6-Volt marine batteries.  They drive a 28 horsepower DC motor through a MOS-FET controller.  The motor attaches to the original drive train at the flywheel, so the rest of the drive train, clutch, 4-speed transmission, drive shaft and differential, are from the original.  They usually just run in second gear for city driving and use fourth for highway driving.  First is used for steep hills. 

"The project took about 10 months.  The first 4 months went into research and raising money, and the rest went into actual work." The core of the team is 6 students, mostly seniors with a couple of underclassmen, who did this just for fun along side their regular classwork. 

Under the hood also looked very clean to my eye.  A clear plastic cover made it easy to see, but not touch, all the battery connections.  Yet the cover was easily removed if it was necessary to work on the battery connections, measure the specific gravity of the electrolyte, or whatever.  All of the exposed traction electrical connections were covered with an insulating paint. 

Air lifts were added to the suspension to stiffen the front to keep it from rolling in turns, and to lift the back to make it ride level. 

The NESEA Tour rules require that every vehicle have a solar panel and that it be doing something useful.  It's NESEA's way of acknowledging both that the American Tour de Sol started as a purely solar-powered vehicle race, and also to acknowledge their commitment to sustainable energy systems.  In the `Re- Charger' their solar panel charges the 12 Volt battery that powers the Cruising Equipment E-Meter that each vehicle carries to measure the actual energy consumption of the vehicle. 

They had about 300 miles on the truck when they got to Waterbury for registration and testing, and Matt said they had it up to about 75 miles per hour.  They have gotten about 70 or 80 miles draining the batteries to 80% depth of discharge.  They have some pretty good ideas on how to add regenerative braking, but that is now a project for next year. 

        Vehicle Name    `Re-Charger'
        Vehicle Number  66
        Team Name       UNH Chargers
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    University of New Haven
        Town            West Haven CT
        Dimensions      12'0" x 6' 0" x 5' 0"
        Weight          3850 pounds
        Range           80 miles
        Max Speed       50 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        350 pounds
        Construction    1984 Ford Ranger, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Advanced DC, series wound, 21 kW continuous/64 kW peak
        Controller      Auburn Kodiak MOS-FET solid state
        Charger         None
        PV array        no
        Battery         Trojan, 1600 lbs, PbA 4176(?) W-hrs, 144 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear racing
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, no regen

I don't believe the Watt-hours listed for the Battery, above.  I presume it is a typo. 

Report #28: Final Results

Awards given at the Ceremony on Saturday afternoon. 

 --- Production Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        <> Award

 50     `Solectria/Horizon'     Connecticut EV/NAVC
        <> NESEA Daily Efficiency Awards, Day 1 and Day 5, $200 total,
           130 and 142 Watt-hours per mile
        <> Best Production Sedan, Lead-Acid Battery, Trophy
        <> Best Range, Production, Lead-Acid Battery, 104.1 miles

 55     `Ford Ecostar'          Northeast Utilities
        <> Best Production Utility Vehicle, Advanced Energy System, Trophy
        <> NESEA Energy Challenge, Utility Vehicle, Trophy, $250,
           46.7 miles/gallon equivalent of gasoline

 76     `Solectria Force NiMH'  Solectria - Ovonic Battery
        <> NESEA Daily Efficiency Awards, Days 2, 3 and 4, $300 total,
           100, ?, and ? Watt-hours per mile
        <> Best Production Sedan, Advanced Energy System, Perpetual Trophy
        <> James Worden, 1st Place, Autocross, Production, Patagonia Jacket
        <> Best Range, Production, Advanced Energy System, 249 miles
        <> NESEA Energy Challenge, 4 seater-Sedan, Trophy, $250,
           60.4 miles/gallon equivalent of gasoline
        <> Best Production Vehicle using Goodyear Tires, $1000

 99     `Toyota RAV4-EV'        Toyota Motor Sales USA
        <> NESEA Safety Award

 --- Commuter Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        <> Award

 13     `The Electrifly'        PTBO Clean Air Challenge
        <> Blue Sky Club Sportsmanship Award, Trophy, $150,
           "Keep It In The Family Award", for having a mother, father, son team

 33     `Enterprise'            Techies

 44     `Solar Saurus'          Rocky Hill High School Team
        <> Best Utility Vehicle using Lead-Acid Battery, Trophy

 45     `Sparky'                Wooster's Charge
        <> 2nd Place, US DOE Student-Built Commuter Award, Trophy and $750
        <> Best Commuter Sedan using Lead-Acid Battery, Trophy
        <> Society of Manufacturing Engineering, Boston North Shore Chapter,
           Best High School Team, Commuter Category

 48     `Suncharger'            Team Canada
        <> Blue Sky Club Sportsmanship Award, Trophy, $150,
           "Alberta Clipper Award for Warm, Friendly Arrivals from the North"

 60     `Millenium Falcon'      Blue Sky Club

 65     `Electric Hare'         The Wattsmen
        <> 3rd Place, US DOE Student-Built Commuter Award, Trophy and $500
        <> Best Range, Commuter, Lead-Acid Battery, 104.1 miles
        <> Best Commuter Vehicle using Goodyear Tires, $1000

 66     `Re-Charger'            UNH Chargers

 72     `Sungo'                 NHTI Solar - Electric Car Team
        <> 1st Place, US DOE Student-Built Commuter Award, Trophy and $1000
        <> Best Sedan, Advanced Energy System, Trophy
        <> 1st Place, Commuter Category, Perpetual Trophy
        <> Scott Hall, 1st Place, Autocross, Commuter, Patagonia Jacket
        <> NESEA Energy Challenge, 2 seater-Sedan, Trophy, $250,
           93.8 miles/gallon equivalent of gasoline
        <> Society of Manufacturing Engineering, New England Region,
           Student Prize

 79     `59 Berkeley'           Team New England
        <> NESEA Daily Efficiency Award, all 5 days, $500 total,
           95 to 105 Watt-hours per mile
        <> Olaf Bleck, 2nd Place, Autocross, Overall, Patagonia Jacket

 88     `Evolution'             Chico State AVR&D
        <> Best Range, Commuter, Advanced Energy System, 104.2 miles
        <> Blue Sky Club Sportsmanship Award, Trophy, $250
           "For Smiling and Being Helpful Through Adversity"

 --- US DOE Hybrid Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        <> Award

 14     `Tsunami'               Cornell University HEV Team

 18     `Kineticar'             CSERT-NVCTC
        <> 1st Place, US DOE Student-Built Hybrid Award, Trophy and $1000
        <> Best Hybrid Utility Vehicle Award, Perpetual Trophy,
           Registration to ST/SEV Conference
        <> Best Range, Hybrid, 379 miles
        <> Society of Manufacturing Engineering, Connecticut Robotics Chapter,
           Best College Team, Hybrid Category
        <> Best Hybrid Vehicle using Goodyear Tires, $1000

 35     `Hyades'                Lawrence Tech University
        <> Blue Sky Club Sportsmanship Award, Trophy, $150,
           "Never Give Up Award (or Pass Me Another Hydraulic Hose)"

 48     `Electric Lion'         Penn State SAE HEV Team
        <> Joel Anstrom, 1st Place, Autocross, Hybrid, Patagonia Jacket
        <> 2nd Place, US DOE Student-Built Hybrid Award, Trophy and $750

 62     `GarnetOne'             Swathmore College
        <> Blue Sky Club Sportsmanship Award, Trophy, $150,
           "Team Spirit Award", for staying happy in the face of adversity

 94     `Hopper EV'             NHTI Tom Hopper
        <> NESEA Daily Efficiency Award, all 5 days, $500 total
           330 to 600 Watt-hours per mile
        <> Best Hybrid Sedan, Trophy, Registration to ST/SEV Conference

 96     `Project e-'            Mount Everett Project e-
        <> 3rd Place, US DOE Student-Built Hybrid Award, Trophy and $500

 --- Solar Commuter Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        <> Award

 83     `Sol Survivor IV'       Monadnock Solar Race Car Team
        <> 1st Place, Solar Fraction , Trophy, $1000,
           27% of energy from sunlight
        <> Stanley DuPont, 1st Place, Autocross, Solar Commuter,
           Patagonia Jacket
        <> Society of Manufacturing Engineering, Kontucut(?) Valley Chapter,
           Best High School Team, Solar Commuter Category

 93     `Helios the Heron IV'   Helios the Heron
        <> 2nd Place, Solar Fraction, Trophy, $750,
           13% of energy from sunlight
        <> Blue Sky Club Sportsmanship Award, Trophy, $150,
           "You've Got A Friend Award",
           for being the most cheerful and helpful race assistants. 

 --- One Person Category ---
 Number Vehicle Name            Team Name
        <> Award

 10     `V.C. I.C.E. Breaker'   V.C. I.C.E. Breakers

 12     `Charger Bicycle'       Team Charger
        <> Best Bicycle, Advanced Energy Storage, Trophy
        <> Rick Shanahan, 1st Place, Autocross, One Person, Patagonia Jacket

 15     `Yankee Pedler'         The Yankee Pedlers
        <> Best Range, One Person, 83.4 miles

 30     `Ecovox'                Dartmouth Solar Racing Team

 37     `UEHS Solar Tiger'      Union-Endicott Solar Tiger

 47     `Electra'               PVEAA
        <> Best Bicycle, Lead-Acid Battery, Trophy

 58     `NFA Sol Machine'       Team Newburgh NY
        <> NESEA Energy Challenge, One Person, Trophy, $250,
           114 miles/gallon equivalent of gasoline

 92     `Sunpacer'              Cato-Meridian High School Tech Team
        <> Best One Person Vehicle, Trophy
        <> Society of Manufacturing Engineering, Boston Robotics Chapter,
           Student Prize

Other NESEA Energy Challenge numbers (no award):

 94     `Hopper EV'             NHTI Tom Hopper
        45.8 miles/gallon equivalent of gasoline

        RAV4                    Gasoline Control Vehicle
        21.5 miles/gallon (includes 20% distribution lost)

 83     `Sol Survivor IV'       Monadnock Solar Race Car Team
        114 miles/gallon equivalent of gasoline (ignoring solar input!)

 15     `Yankee Pedler'         The Yankee Pedlers
        39,509 miles/gallon equivalent of gasoline (ignoring human input!)

Report #29: A Reporter's Final Thoughts

(In fact, these notes are more of a preamble to the reports that are coming than a summary of reports already published.  But since the communications channels did not have their strings waxed well, things are being done a bit backwards this year.)

Although the Report sent out just before this one was the Awards list from the 1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol, to me those are not particularly interesting.  I don't go to the NESEA Tour to see who comes in first in what category.  I am much more interested in the technology and the stories of the teams.  The NESEA Tour is a wonderful place to see electric vehicle technology in the real world, "on the hoof".  As the tour travels from town-to-town, over real roads, dealing with real traffic, and real road hazards (including a bear and a moose this year), the vehicles get put to the test. 

I am sad to say that the most significant event of the NESEA Tour this year, in my mind, is the same as last year.  Both years only Tom Hopper in his `Hopper EV' drove from home to the event, through the event, and then home again.  It's little diesel engine generator trailer gave it the ability to travel the entire rally on its own.  (In fact, Tom was able to travel one leg of the rally with a dead battery pack because of the engine/generator trailer.  More on that in a future Report.) None of the other Hybrid Category vehicles came under their own power, and I find that sad.  The entire point of having a hybrid EV is to have practical range, good fuel economy, and low emissions. 

The `Solectria Force NiMH' did drive home from Portland Maine to Boston, but it was trailered to Waterbury CT to ensure against any accidents before the race.  It gets half-credit. 

But maybe I protest too much. 

We had more vehicles with advanced energy storage systems (which still means batteries; those promised flywheels have yet to show up) than ever before.  #76 `Solectria Force NiMH', #99 `Toyota RAV4-EV', #72 `Sungo', #88 `Evolution', #35 `Hyades', and even the #15 `Yankee Peddler' bicycle, had Nickel Metal Hydride batteries in them.  The Ovonic Battery people were as proud as they could be.  (They were also massively disappointed when the battery pack in #88 failed.  More on that in a future Report.) Add to those #55 `Ecostar' with its Sodium Sulfur battery and #79 `59 Berkeley' with its Nickel Cadmium battery and it was quite a field of high energy density batteries. 

Solectria and Ovonic once again established a new NESEA Range record with their 249 miles per charge run in #76 through the White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.  This year, as last year, I sense that the major thing standing between us and long range pure electric vehicles is the need to scale up the mass production of high energy batteries so the prices can come down.  The good news is that it is happening.  The bad news is that there are many of us who are getting itchy waiting. 

The fit and finish of many of the vehicles was absolutely top notch this year.  Toyota's `RAV4-EV' is as refined as anything you will find in a showroom, and Ford's `Ecostar' is still in fine shape after 4 years on the road.  Several of the student built vehicles are bright and shinny and tight.  #88 `Sol Survivor IV' is particularly pretty.  I also like the way the teams that built #88 `Evolution' and #8 `Electric Lion' made their somewhat complicated vehicles look neat and well organized.  #12 `Charger Bicycle' is also a fine example of clean implementation.  I'd say that the general quality of the vehicles has risen again, significantly. 

The `Charger Bicycle' gets my nod for most innovative control system.  The electric assistance on the bicycle is not controlled by a twist throttle, as on a couple of the other bikes, or by a constant-setting control seen on the #47 `Electra' bike.  It adds energy in proportion to your own pedaling.  You set the level of added energy you want, 1, 2, 3, or 4 times more, and then pedal.  The system measures your torque using a unique strain-gauge arrangement, and then adds its contribution.  Clever and simple to learn.  But not for the lazy.  If you don't pedal, it doesn't either. 

The Hybrid Category, in spite of my complaints above, did demonstrate that they could go the distance.  #18 `Kineticar' drove 379 official miles (440 actual miles) on Day 3, and #92 `Hopper EV' was right behind them with 342 miles.  These are vehicles that can take you anywhere.  However, the need to find Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for one vehicle caused some interesting problems.  Unable to find CNG at all the stops, #62 `GarnetOne' switched driving strategy.  They plugged in at night and ran pure electric the next day, and then used their CNG to extend their range.  It proved sufficient until they got into an area that had CNG available. 

It is my sense that we had fewer problems with vehicles than in previous years.  I know the charging went a lot smoother.  All problems with chargers kicking out circuit breakers were solved before people went to bed.  While there were a couple of cases where a car didn't get quite enough energy over night, those were usually corrected in time for the next charge.  There are still some very inefficient chargers out there. 

We had two cases of electric vehicles being supported by electric vehicles.  The #47 `Electra' bike was supported by Bill Glickman in his Jet Industries electric van for a couple of days, and also by an Chevy S-10 pickup truck conversion for a day.  And Toyota brought along a second `RAV4-EV' for demonstration drives and also just to take people from site to site as we moved down the road.  Toyota also had a gasoline RAV4 running with us so we could make apples-to-apples comparisons between the fuel-burning and electric version of their vehicle. 

Some of you who have read these Reports over the years must think I have a very soft spot for the kids from Riverside School.  I'll admit that I do.  But I am not alone.  #93 `Helios the Heron IV' is special to us because the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who did the conversion of their 1971 VW microbus (and they DID do it; not their teachers, not their parents) bring along an infectious enthusiasm.  This year, among "firsts" for the Helios team, they started the race with everyone else, they completed the 1st, 4th and 5th legs unassisted, and they were able to fix their one break-down on the road (that took a teacher's help) and complete that leg.  If you wanted to see the future, you just had to watch these kids talking to other students their age at the display stops.  The light in their eyes and those they were talking to told it all. 

So I say again, for my money, the NESEA American Tour de Sol is a great place to see the vehicles and meet the people defining the future of transportation.  Make plans to visit us next year. 

Report #30: Autocross Results

(This is another case of doing a Report out-of-order, but since I know there are many folks out there looking for these, here are the Autocross results and a few of comments.)

The Autocross event was run on Saturday, 24 May 1997, after the NESEA Tour finished on Friday, at the Maine Solar Blast in Portland.  The event was run by the Cumberland Motor Club which it set up on a parking lot.  The Autocross is the one NESEA Tour event where being the fastest and most skillful driver actually means something.  A course of small traffic cones are laid out to mark the route, with yellow cones on one side (I think it was the left) and orange cones on the other.  The car and driver are to navigate the course in the fastest time without knocking over a cone, without knocking a cone out of position, and without leaving the defined course.  The Score is then the course time in seconds, plus 2 seconds for each "cone", and plus 20 seconds for each "off-course".  A Did Not Finish (also known as DNF) occurs if the car never crosses the finish line or fails to stop between the finish line and the final cones that form a "finish box".  Each driver can drive more than once and their lowest Score is their final Score. 

Sounds easy enough. 

But it is obvious to me, after watching these people attempting the course, it was not trivial.  Even though the drivers were able to walk through the course before the runs started, many got confused and had to either recover or just take the 20 second penalty.  Only a few cars came through with a clean finish.  Even Rick Swan, an experienced autocrosser and one of the people who set up the course, had 2 cones in his Mazda RX 7, which was used to give a "baseline" for the route.  Unfortunately, his time was not recorded on the sheet with the electric vehicles, so that number is from my memory. 

While Autocross is an exciting competition that lets people yell and cheer their favorites along, it also shows off other aspects of electric vehicles (EVs).  Several of the organizers were heard to say, "This just doesn't sound right!" They missed the throaty roar of engines.  And of course our Autocross didn't sound right because EVs are intrinsicly quiet.  Each of the hybrids that tried, except `Project e-' for one run, ran without their internal combustion engine running.  Even `Project e-' didn't sound right because the engine noise did not vary with speed or acceleration. 

#72 `Sungo' and #8 `Electric Lion' both have independent motors for their two driven wheels.  `Sungo' has them in the back, `Electric Lion' in the front.  That should mean better control when the car body rolls to the outside in a tight turn and one of the driven wheels lifts partially, (or even completely) off the ground.  On cars with mechanical differentials, the lifted wheel can start to spin quickly and the other then looses torque, until the body rolls the other way and both wheels are firmly planted.  But in these two EVs, the lifted wheel is driven to the speed it is supposed to have and the other wheel retains full torque during the entire turn.  I, for one, am not surprised that they did so well. 

The #79 `59 Berkeley' was driven very aggressively through the course (after all it is a sports car, built for such things), and the tires squealed as it was stopping in the finish box, much to the approval of the audience.  However, a couple of times the rear wheels locked up, and the rear slid to the side.  The car is so short that it easily fit sideways in the finish box and so didn't touch any of the cones, even when it wound up facing backwards!

I've heard many times that 3-wheeled vehicles have a very real problem in tight turns.  #58 `NFA Sol Machine' demonstrated that dramatically when, in a tight turn, the vehicle lifted up on two wheels and started to turn over.  However, the rear of the large solar panel "wing" touched the ground and thus prevented the car from landing on its side.  Instead, it righted itself and was able to complete the run. 

One of runs for #83 `Sol Survivor IV' seemed to be particularly hard on the vehicle.  While it did not suffer any failures, by the end of the run you could clearly hear what sounded to me like failing wheel bearings.  Again, the lack of engine noise let's more subtle sounds through. 

The `Ford Electric Ranger' was brought to Portland for display at the end of the NESEA Tour, and only ran in the Autocross.  This is the vehicle that Ford will be marketing to fleet customers in the near future. 

The Patagonia company donated 6 chinchilla jackets as Prizes for the event, which are noted below. 

        Number  Vehicle Name             Score          Driver
                <> Prize

                Mazda RX 7 (gasoline)    76.???         Rick Swan

        72      `Sungo'                  79.896         Scott Hall
                <> 1st Commuter Category

        79      `59 Berkeley'            85.559         Olaf Bleck
                <> 2nd Overall

         8      `Electric Lion'          82.722         Joel Anstrom
                <> 1st US DOE Hybrid Category

        76      `Solectria Force NiMH'   83.907         James Worden
                <> 1st Production Category

         8      `Electric Lion'          84.142         Dean Saurwise

        94      `Hopper EV'              84.543         Thomas Hopper

        76      `Solectria Force NiMH'   85.552         Andrew Heafitz

        60      `Millenium Falcon'       86.074         Mike Weber

        79      `59 Berkeley'            86.988         Ted Bohn

        48      `Suncharger'             87.313         Paul Farte

        79      `59 Berkeley'            87.384         Andrew Rich

        50      `Solectria/Horizon'      88.398         James Sime

        79      `59 Berkeley'            89.082         Drew Gillett

                `Ford Electric Ranger'   91.171         Tracy Lanciano

        55      `Ford Ecostar'           92.264         Ron Kilar

        96      `Project e-'             93.052         Robert Fedell

        12      `Charger Bicycle'        95.129         Rick Shanahan
                <> 1st One Person Category

        96      `Project e-'             96.915         Jacob DuPont

        45      `Sparky'                 97.117         Christen Johansen

        65      `Electric Hare'          97.847         John Clemens

        85*                              98.096         Corey Banque

        18      `Kineticar'             103.701         Theordore Galluccise

        18      `Kineticar'             104.482         Randy Brown

        66      `Re-Charger'            104.585         Matt Howlett

        66      `Re-Charger'            106.962         Jeff Twarog

        48      `Suncharger'            114.398         Mike Joaquih

        58      `NFA Sol Machine'       115.998         Craig Pratt

        83      `Sol Survivor IV'       120.318         Alex Headman
                <> 1st Solar Commuter Category

        96      `Project e-'            122.605         Stanley DuPont

        66      `Re-Charger'            123.062         Bob McDonald

        60      `Millenium Falcon'      127.357         Fred Whitridge

        93      `Helios the Heron IV'   134.652         Karen Budde

        93      `Helios the Heron IV'   178.259         Topher Waring

        47      `Electra'               193.215         Jim Mell

        18      `Kineticar'             200.905         Eric Rabuse

        66      `Re-Charger'            Did Not Finish  Tom Friello

* This is the number from the score sheet, but there is no Number 85 in the NESEA Tour.  I suspect that this is actually a typo for Number 65. 

Report #31: Team Profile: `Suncharger'

Elias El-Achhap (pronounced "El-e-es El-ash-ap") Michael Joaquin, with Team Canada from the Marian Academy in Toranto Canada, told me about #48 `Suncharger'.  The team is 8 students and a faculty advisor.  This is their third electric vehicle in 3 years.  The other two raced in the APS 500 in Pheonix Arizona and were based on a Geo Metro and a Pontiac FireFly.  Both had 96 Volt systems. 

This car, based on a Canadian Asuna SunFire, was donated to them by GM.  They started working on it about a year ago by taking out the back half of the car, adding the motor, controller, and some structural stiffening.  The team built their own battery boxes, installed them in the rear, and filled them with 20 6-Volt batteries in series.  They hope that the 120 Volt system will give them the range they need for the long Tour de Sol legs. 

The conversion is very neat and cleanly laid out.  The batteries where well contained and tied down, and clear covers over the boxes made it easy to see all the connections.  I was particularly impressed by the extra body members added to help the car deal with the extra weight of the batteries. 

        Vehicle Name    `Suncharger'
        Vehicle Number  48
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    MSSB, Marian Academy High School
        Team Name       Team Canada
        Town            Rexdale, Ontario Canada
        Dimensions      14' 0" x 15' 6" x 4' 0"
        Weight          2200 pounds
        Range           65 miles
        Max Speed       65 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 4
        Capacity        1260 pounds
        Construction    1993 Asuna SunFire, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Advanced 96 V DC 16 kW continuous/50 kW peak
        Controller      Curtis Model 1231c
        Charger         GNB High Frequency/Solid-State
        PV array        Charges auxiliary battery, runs battery box ventilation
        Battery*        Crown, 960 lbs, PbA 2 kW-hrs, 96 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Eagle GA
        Brakes          front disk, rear disk, regen

* It was pointed out to me that the Battery numbers do not make sense.  2 kW- hrs is not nearly enough to drive the course, and 960 pounds is heavy for so little energy.  I presume these numbers are wrong, but they are what was in the NESEA car database and the printed program book.  A quick calculation suggests 20 kW-hrs as a better number for 960 pounds of lead-acid batteries. 

Report #32: Team Profile: `Helios the Heron IV'

I ran into #93 `Helios the Heron IV' and its team of 4th through 8th graders that built it on Sunday morning in Waterbury.  59 students have worked on `Helios' this year.  Addison Shelton was under the bus with his safety glasses on while 8th grader Sarah Root and 6th grader Mia Casey told me what was going on.  "We're putting safety cord over the batteries so it doesn't slip around and we're bolting it down now.  They found it during the testing we have to do and didn't like it.  So we're fixing it."

On the left rear of the bus, there was a little 6-inches by 9-inches door with a label "Danger - High Voltage Equipment" with a voltmeter inside.  It measured the voltage off the solar panel on the top of the bus, about 124 Volts on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  A penny, pop-riveted to the door, serves as a door stop, and a cabinet hook keeps it closed. 

The solar panel on the roof sports 3 different types of solar cells in 10 modules.  Some are round and brown, others are rectangular and brown, and still others are rectangular and dark blue.  "We bought them second hand so they were a lot cheaper than new ones.  Some are off Helios the Heron II and III, and others are new."

The basic vehicle is an 1971 VW Microbus, that was > so < old the wiring was shorting out and several parts were rusted.  They have another 1974 Microbus to use for parts, but many of the part designs had changed, so they didn't always fit.  For example, the '74 brakes didn't fit in the '71, so they had to order new replacements just last Friday.  "We've just had a 60 mile run on Helios on a single charge and without breaking down! A record for Helios! That was just last Thursday.  We made all the miles.  We were putting them on Friday night and then we left Saturday morning." (NESEA requires that each vehicle have traveled 200 miles before it comes to the Tour.)

`Helios' is much easier to work on this year.  For example, the motor controller, current shunt, contactors and other key components of the traction system are mounted on a plywood board that can be easily disconnected, unbolted, and pulled out from under the rear deck.  The wiring is neat, well laid out, and easy to understand.  The batteries are packed into two well constructed plywood battery boxes that have hasps and locks to keep curious fingers away.  A box fan blows into the boxes, and the rear box vents through what used to be the gas filler tube.  The batteries are 20 12-Volt Deka Dominators gel-cells in two strings of 10. 

The motor is bolted to the differential on the rear wheels, and a Generac portable alternator is mounted next to it, with a V-belt between a pulley on the tail-shaft of the motor and the alternator.  A push button welded to the brake pedal turns on the alternator, putting the energy back into the batteries.  The button is slightly above the brake pedal, so the driver can activate just the regen with her toe, and it is also activated when the she just pushes the brake. 

The interior of the bus could have been straight out of the flower-child years.  A "tapestry" (or maybe it was a bed cover) hangs from the ceiling, plastic flower vines decorate the side windows, and decals that say things like "All Roads Lead to Woodstock" and "Why Be Normal?" that came with the bus are still in evidence. 

Topher Waring is the shop teacher at Riverside School.  He told me, "The idea is to actually use the van for school transportation next year.  A pair of bench seats will be added to the two front seats, so Helios will take seven kids and a driver to the library or the skating rink, or wherever."

They had to finish the accessory battery tie-downs, replace a headlight, and figure out why brake lights that were working didn't now, so I left them to their work. 

        Vehicle Name    `Helios the Heron IV'
        Vehicle Number  93
        Category        Solar Commuter Category
        Organization    Riverside School
        Team Name       Helios the Heron
        Town            Lyndonville VT
        Dimensions      14' 6" x 5' 10" x 6' 4"
        Weight          2722 pounds
        Range           80 miles
        Max Speed       60 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        400 pounds
        Construction    1971 VW Bus, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           General Electric, series wound, traction,
                        16 kW continuous/36 kW peak
        Controller      Curtis Solid State
        Charger         None
        PV array        yes, mixed types in tiltable panel mounted on roof
        Battery         East Penn, 1440 lbs, PbA 120 V series, 2 strings
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta GL
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, regen

Report #33: Team Profile: `Solar Saurus'

Returning for it's second year in the American Tour de Sol, #44 `Solar Saurus' has had a few improvements added.  Last year I was very impressed with the clean, neat implimentation.  Salvatore Rondinelli, a just-graduated senior who has been with the project from the beginning, and Gary Reynolds (Tech.  Ed.  teacher) explained the differences.  "This year we put new wheel bearings in the front and the back, new brakes in the back, new front struts, and rebuilt the rack-and-pinion steering." Between Tours it is used in auto shop classes and projects, and one of the teachers uses it on the weekends. 

        Vehicle Name    `Solar Saurus'
        Vehicle Number  44
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    Rocky Hill Board of Education
        Team Name       Rocky Hill High School Team
        Town            Rocky Hill CT
        Dimensions      15' 4" x 5' 7" x 4' 4"
        Weight          3550 pounds
        Range           80 miles
        Max Speed       60 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        350 pounds
        Construction    1982 Dodge Rampage, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Advanced DC DC 19 kW continuous/64 kW peak
        Controller      Curtis PMC Model 1221C
        Charger         None
        PV array        10 W, Solarex Polycrystal
        Battery         Trojan, 1440 lbs, PbA 22 kW-hrs, 120 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear 185 80R13
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, no regen

Report #34: Team Profile: `Electric Lion'

#8 `Electric Lion' from Pennsylvania State University returns for its second year on the NESEA Tour.  It, and #72 `Sungo', are the only two cars with independent motors for each of the driven wheels.  In the `Electric Lion' each front wheel has its own motor and controller, and so can be driven to just the right amount of torque and speed at all times.  The function normally performed by the differential on the driven axle is instead handled by reading steering angle off the steering system, and using that to decide the ratio of wheel speeds in a turn. 

Joel Anstrom and Rich Stroman were describing the car.  `Electric Lion' is a hybrid EV, and can get 40 miles or so in pure electric mode around town, but can cover 400 miles as a hybrid.  The Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG, aka propane) engine is controlled by a computer, kicking in when the batteries get down to about 40% state-of-charge (SOC), and running until the batteries reach 80% SOC.  When running, the engine is near full-throttle where it is most efficient and the emissions are least.  The driver uses what used to be the transmission shift lever to select Zero Emissions (purely electric for in town), Hybrid (for highway driving), and APU (Auxiliary Power Unit on, for competition).  But there is no transmission to shift and no need to control the hybrid system.  A computer pretty much does it all.  At steady interstate highway speeds the APU can not quite keep the batteries from loosing charge.  After about 3 hours, you stop for dinner and the APU refills the battery.  The car can be plugged in, but really doesn't need to be. 

The changes since last year are pretty significant.  In 1996, the controllers, rectifiers and inverters were bolted to the big roll cage and took up the entire back seat.  Those are now all under the hood, and the rear seats can now hold people.  The 12 batteries moved out of the trunk to under the floor, as did the fuel tank.  Last year's fuel was Reformulated Gasoline (RFG); it is now propane. 

Under the hood is very full, what with two controllers, two motors, and an engine-plus-generator.  But they paid more attention to service access, so the controllers are on hinges and just pulling a latch pin lets each rotate up and well out of the way. 

For next year, they are beginning to work on active yaw control.  Some of the higher end luxury cars have a rate gyro in the car that measures the angular speed of the car around its vertical axis.  If that rate differs from what it should be, as determined by the road speed and the steering wheel position, it indicates that the car is beginning to spin due to loss of traction.  If the system sees this, it taps the rear anti-lock brakes to regain proper traction.  In the `Electric Lion', the same function will be accomplished using the positive control that having independently driven wheels gives.  The control strategy could even drive one front wheel while regen-braking the other.  Active yaw control is Joel Anstrom's PhD thesis project.  It is likely that the team's next car will have all-wheel drive based on Joel's thesis. 

Penn State doesn't sponsor the team, but supports them with money and facilities.  Ford donated the original vehicle, Exide provided batteries, Kawasaki gave them the engine, AMP provided connectors and wiring tools, and the team has lots of corporate support, so the car is covered in decals from their sponsors. 

        Vehicle Name    `Electric Lion'
        Vehicle Number  48
        Category        US DOE Hybrid Category
        Organization    Pennsylvania State University SAE
        Team Name       Penn State SAE HEV Team
        Town            State College PA
        Dimensions      10' 0" x 6' 3" x 5' 0"
        Weight          3553 pounds
        Range           250 miles
        Max Speed       75 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 4
        Capacity        700 pounds
        Construction    1992 Ford Escort, steel frame, steel body
        Motors          2 Solectria AC Induction, 7 kW continuous/15 kW peak
        Controllers     2 Solectria
        Charger         None
        PV array        charges auxiliary battery
        Battery         Exide Gold Natilus, PbA, 11520 W-hrs, 144 V, series
        Engine          620cc Kawasaki tractor engine, 22 hp
        Fuel            10 gallons LPG
        Hybrid Config.  Series
        Generator       Fisher(?)
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Eagle
        Brakes          front disk, rear disk, regen

Report #35: Interview: Gary Carr

Gary Carr, of the Vehicle Development Group in Nashau NH, has been involved with the NESEA Tour for many years.  In 1992 he entered with an electric motorcycle. 

This year he was looking at the vehicles for construction safety, brake safety and functionality, acceleration, and handling.  "The vehicle improvements over the years have been tremendous.  Every year the vehicles are getting better and better.  They are getting to be much more professional.  In 1992, and 1993, some vehicles were on the margin of safety, but now they are right up there with really good quality." The NESEA Tour has been emphasizing practicality more over the years and the entrants have responded with more practical vehicles. 

Gary was particularly impressed with #83 `Sol Survivor IV', which was going through testing just as we talked.  "I really like what they have done with that car.  They fared in the wheels, which they didn't have before.  The body is put together well.  Look at the way the door fits! It goes together very cleanly."

For the first time this year, NESEA has been awarding points for vehicle performance during the testing and inspection process.  "The neat feature has been the slalom test for handling.  They are giving Tour Miles for going through the fastest, so teams are actually trying to push it through the cones rather than just coast through.  It makes it more exciting and fun."

Gary sometimes has to the be person who delivers the bad news.  #37 `UEHS Solar Tiger' was taken out of the race, even though they had some very good braking distances in their student designed and built ground-up vehicle, because of a cable actuated brake not permitted by the rules and some poor welding.  A butt- weld was in a high stress location that, if it broke while pushing hard on the pedal, would take out all their braking including their emergency braking.  "It was their first attempt and they didn't know how tight the rules are.  They learned."

Report #36: Interview: Ruth MacDougall - Working and playing with EVs

Ruth MacDougall is an electric vehicle specialist at the Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD) currently setting up a battery management system testing lab.  When completed, it will be capable of testing 4 different battery management systems running full-sized (up to 18 12 Volt module) battery packs over realistic charge-and-discharge cycles.  This project, under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract, will be to compare and contrast several of the systems that attempt to manage batteries as more than just a string of cells in series.  Ruth has found about 20 different products that claim to improve over the basic series charger, and her job will be to report on their performance.  She is certain she will be testing the BADICHEQ system, which is reported to have more than 300 systems installed.  She was not willing to name any others, as her list has not been finalized. 

The testing system uses the ABC150 from AeroVironment that is capable of simulating a wide variety of driving cycles.  It is different from other load testing systems in that it dumps the energy from the batteries back into the power grid, making the Watt-hour meter run backwards, instead of just producing heat in high-power, low-ohm rated resistors.  It is also capable of delivering energy at very high rates. 

But not only has she worked with EVs for the past 6 years, but she has also used EVs as her personal transportation for many years.  A while back she was able to lease a `City-El' three-wheeled neighborhood vehicle.  After about six months, she found that she was not using her gasoline car at all and so she got rid of it.  For the next year she just owned the `City-El', driving to the car rental agency when she needed something that could go further.  It was very practical and economical.  The cost of renting was less than the insurance cost of having a second car. 

But the `City-El' only had about a 22 mile range.  Feeling she could use more, she spent about a year-and-a-half of weekends and evenings converting a Geo Metro hatchback to electric.  She pulled out the rear seat, installed a battery box, filled it with 120 Volts worth of GNB EV batteries giving about 9 kiloWatt-hours, added a BattPro battery regulator system from Wilde EVolutions, tied it to an Auburn Kodiak controller driving a Prestolite motor.  She now gets 45 miles per charge and can go 70 miles per hour.  Ruth hopes soon to be testing Auburn's forthcoming microprocessor-controlled controller.  Auburn is located in Sacramento and thinks Ruth will give their new product a good workout. 

Ruth is here serving on the NESEA Tour jury, and spent Saturday and Sunday looking over the entrants judging the practicality of the vehicles. 

Report #37: Team Profile: `Sol Survivor IV'

Mike Pratt returned from college to be part of the Monadnock Solar Electric Race Car Team from the Conval High School in Peterborough NH.  Conval has built 3 previous vehicles, each more sophisticated the the previous one.  He told me about #83 `Sol Survivor IV'. 

This totally original vehicle ran even though it was unfinished in the 1996 NESEA Tour.  The chassis was done for them by a guy who builds midget racers.  The Fiberglas body was cast from a wooden form they built.  In 1996 it didn't have a door.  The driver and passenger had to crawl through the openings between the sides and the roof.  It was also missing some windows, the wheels were very exposed, and the paint job was your basic unadorned white.  It won in the Solar Commuter Category last year with 30% of its energy coming from the sun.  It also ran up Mt.  Washington in the "Climb To The Clouds" event in June of 1996, and I believe I heard that it came in an unofficial second behind `Sungo' among the EVs. 

This year it is complete and very refined.  A gull-wing door on the right side let's the driver and passenger get in easily and fits into the side of the car very neatly.  The seam almost disappears.  There is now a full set of windows, farings on all the wheels and the front farings turn with the wheels as the driver steers.  A beautiful bright canary yellow paint job with very striking car name, number, and sponsorship logos make for a very impressive package.  These high school kids did not take second place to anyone in terms of the fit and finish of their car. 

Their solar array is new this year, from Solarex.  Solarex is a the division of Enron and was very much in evidence, both in sponsorship labels on the vehicle, and also handing out Frisbees and water jars to the public. 

The passenger sits behind the driver in the long, sleek body.  Aside from helping with navigation duties, the passenger has several instruments to watch.  I'm pretty sure I saw a couple of temperature meters.  And there is a string of terminals on the floor against the left wall that allow the passenger to measure the individual battery module voltages as they are traveling down the road.  (Sort of a BADICHEQ-on-the-cheap way to see if one battery module is getting weak before the others.)

        Vehicle Name    `Sol Survivor IV'
        Vehicle Number  83
        Category        Solar Commuter Category
        Organization    Monadnock Solar Electric Race Car Team
        Team Name       Monadnock Solar Race Car Team
        Town            Peterborough NH
        Dimensions      15' 0" x 5' 4" x 4' 2"
        Weight          1470 pounds
        Range           75 miles
        Max Speed       70 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        312 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built, steel frame, Fiberglas body
        Motor           Solectria ACGTX20, 7 kW continuous/14 kW peak
        Controller      Solectria AC pulse
        Charger         Solectria BC 1000 High Frequency
        PV array        375 Watt, Solarex, monocrystalline
        Battery         Powersonic, 450 lbs, PbA 9600 W-hrs, 120 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Cheng Shin 2.5-18/3.0-18
        Brakes          front disk, rear disk, regen

Report #38: Notes from Waterbury Before the Start

Azuka Nzegwu, the publicity person for #37 `UEHS Solar Tiger', felt they did very well during the testing, since they had only failed one test, "Construction Safety".  About half a dozen people were working on the car, and every one was wearing safety glasses.  (Safety glasses are always a good idea around machinery that can pop springs, or spray chemicals like battery acid or hydraulic fluids, but most times you see them hanging from someone's belt or lying next to them on the ground instead of on their faces.  These glasses looked light and comfortable and did not seem to fog up.) They were gluing soft plastic caps onto each of the exposed bolt ends on the inside of the driver's canopy, to cut down on the sharp edges.  Scott Brazinski said they were also told that they needed a balanced three-wheel hydraulic braking system even though they had a very short stopping distance.  The `Solar Tiger' has a cable actuated brake on the rear wheel. 

(I later learned that `Solar Tiger' would not be allowed to race.  They were not granted an exception for their cable-brake on the rear wheel, and they also had a T-shaped butt-weld in the braking system that if it broke would make them loose all their brakes at once.  On top of that, the steering mechanism was not set up right.  In sharp turns the geometry became unsafe and the supports over- stressed.  The butt-weld could have been fixed, but the repairs required to put hydraulic brakes on the rear wheel and to fix the steering geometry and strength problems were too difficult to accomplish, so `Solar Tiger' spent the rest of the race on display at the NESEA Tour stops.  I did see it driving into position for display a couple of times, and it was clear from the way the front wheels sometimes got out of alignment that they needed a bit of work.  Still, the team used the opportunity to study the other vehicles, ask lots of questions, and get ideas for their next car.)

Looking over `Solar Tiger' I noticed a large plastic funnel and clothes dryer hose mounted on the side of the battery box.  The funnel faces forward so to catch the wind as the car moved.  The dryer hose runs from the back of the funnel to the battery box and thus forces air through the battery box when the car is traveling down the road. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

`Project e-' went through their technical tests smoothly.  I asked what the truck does between NESEA Tours.  "We do car shows, take it to charity events, put it in parades.  We are doing a parade in Monterey Massachusetts when we get back.  Last year I took it to the prom." I asked if it is a good way to pick up girls? "I have one now, so it must work."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Library Park in downtown Waterbury is where the vehicles went through the more static portions of their technical testing, and the streets near the park were blocked off for acceleration, handling, and braking tests.  At each position there was a sign stating what inspection was being performed, to help the visiting public understand the process.  For example, at the "Construction Safety" position the sign said ... 

        "Construction Safety Check:  The vehicles are tested for a variety of
        safety issues including brakes, seat belts, roll-over protection,
        stability, and headlights."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

When Tom Hopper's #94 `Hopper EV' pulled into Library Park, I did a double- take.  It looked the same as last year, with about the same lines, the same length, and pulling the same range-extending trailer, but it had put on some weight! "It's now 18 inches wider," Tom told me, "but the methanol engine/generator didn't make it.  We got it running very nicely, but we had to run M-85 (85% methanol, 15% gasoline) to get it to start reliably, especially in the cold.  Starting with 100% methanol is a hard thing to do." The 15% gasoline adds some volatile components to the mix that make starting and accelerating the engine easier.  But the problem that kept the methanol engine out of the Tour was getting stable engine speeds.  "We finally got a rev- limiter that would work and control the RPMs and not let it exceed a certain point.  But by the time we got that working it was very late in the game, it was exam time, and my renaissance mechanic, Randy Kezar was so busy with school work so he could graduate, we didn't quite make it.  It was a big deal just to get it cut [the frame] into 3 pieces and put it back together again."

To change the `Hopper EV' from a one person car into a two person car meant cutting the battery box out of the middle, extending the left and right half each 9 inches, and then welding the aluminum frame back together again.  The composite body was sliced in half, and the 18 inches added down the middle.  It acquired a small rear window and a wider, glass windshield in the process.  The single rear wheel became two rear wheels, on a single axle without a differential, still driven by a toothed belt.  The widening added much-needed storage under the seats and on a tray behind the seats. 

Tom and Randy will be practicing the old fashioned style of racing, where the driver and mechanic travel together.  "Hopefully, nothing breaks."

The engine/generator trailer has written in the racing stripe, "ZEV NOT". 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

I was chatting with Lin Higley of Ovonic when he told me, "you can go to Paris right now and buy a electric Peugeot for $12,000, battery not included.  They have a choice of batteries.  That is where the real interesting thing is going to happen with electric vehicles.  There are going to be people for whom lead- acid is going to work, nickel metal hydride will be available for people who want superior performance, and there will be every system in between."

And because of the value of the metals in the batteries, leasing the battery pack may be the best way to go.  The customer then doesn't have to worry about what to do with a pack after its life is done and the leasing company gets back something that has high recycling value. 

He also said that the Peugeot drive system is interesting and simple.  The DC motor is mounted down low between the wheels and hooked directly to the half- axles with a little planetary gear on the end.  Peugeot figures that EVs, ultimately, have to be simpler to build and maintain and therefore will be the economic choice for many people. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

The State University of California at Chico's car #88 `Evolution' was having an electrical leakage problem that they were trying to isolate.  The NESEA rules limits the electrical leakage between the most positive and the most negative terminals to 1 milliAmp through a 10,000 Ohm resistor.  The idea is to prevent anyone from ever feeling 5 milliAmps of current which is considered letal. 

`Evolution' is acting strange, in that the leakage starts too high but then decreases to a much smaller number.  I suspect they will be scratching their heads for a while. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

So, I'm walking out of Library park and am about to cross the sunny street when what do I spy but `Helios the Heron IV' parked with four kids, in their team uniform of blue shorts and printed tee shirts, laying face up, spread eagle in the road next to it.  (The road is blocked off.) "What's going on?", I ask.  In unison comes the reply, "We're charging!"

Report #39: Monday, Day 1 of the Rally

It was raining in Waterbury CT early on Monday morning, May 19th.  But by the time I got to Library Park the rain had stopped and things were clearing up.  It was looking good for the Start. 

Your intrepid reporter did not see the ceremonies as I had other duties in Northampton.  I was to be the person announcing at the finish line, so I left early. 

There was evidence of rain in the area, but while it was overcast and chilly at the Smith Vocational High School in Northampton, it stayed dry. 

About 2 hours and 23 minutes after the start, the three advanced battery Production Category cars came through the Finish banner pretty much as a lump, with #55 `Ford Ecostar' and #76 `Solectria Force NiMH' arriving together and #99 `Toyota RAV4-EV' about five minutes behind them. 

If two and a half hours sounds like a long time to cover 69.8 miles, it is.  But the American Tour de Sol is run on an "open course", which means the teams must take traffic, road conditions, and construction as they find them, and they must follow the rules of the road. 

Next under the Finish banner was #92 `Hopper EV' covering the leg in 2 hours 33 minutes, followed by much of the rest of the field over the next hour or so. 

Twelve of the vehicles spent some of the afternoon building up miles by running the 3.7 mile laps near the high school. 

Of the electrically assisted bicycles only #12 `Charger Bicycle' finished within the allotted time.  It made the trip in 4 hours 32 minutes. 

#92 `Sunpacer' covered 66 miles before it had to quit for lack of power. 

#83 `Sol Survivor IV' also had difficulty, due to one battery module being weaker than the rest of the pack.  It covered 63 miles before going on the trailer. 

#48 `Suncharger' was only able to do 60 miles. 

#58 `NFA Sol Machine' ran out of juice at 53 miles. 

#13 `The Electrifly' only covered 45 miles because it got an inadequate charge on Sunday night.  Monte Gisborne told me later that his charger kept tripping out the 20 Amp circuit breaker he had been assigned, so he had to turn his charge current down.  That meant he didn't get enough energy overnight, and hence had to nurse his car in.  He stopped a couple of times to let the flooded lead-acid batteries rest and recover enough to take him a little further. 

#33 `Enterprise' had to stop after 5.5 miles due to a bad battery module. 

#30 `Ecovox' did not start.  The story as to why will be in a later Report. 

#14 `Tsunami' dropped out of the NESEA Tour because their controller did not work.  They went home. 

#37 `UEHS Solar Tiger' also dropped out, due to inadequate brakes they were unable to fix.  They decided to stay with the rally and trailered to Northampton, putting their car on display. 

#35 `Hyades' has not shown up yet. 

But the vehicle everyone was waiting for was #93 `Helios the Heron IV'.  When it pulled out under the Start banner in Waterbury it established another "personal best" for the team.  It was the first time in four years that they were ready to start with the rest of the field.  As the afternoon wore on we were treated to bulletins on Helios' progress as each vehicle that came in was asked by the team where they had passed their beloved blue bus.  The news was increasingly encouraging.  By the time it was called in from our spotter in downtown Northampton the entire team was so excited they could have exploded.  When it finally was seen arriving, I suspect a third of its power was being supplied by the psychic pushing of the kids as they cheered their creation down its last few yards.  When it pulled under the Finish banner, it established two more personal bests: the longest a Helios had ever traveled (69.8 miles) and the first time a Helios had ever arrived at a Finish banner under its own power.  It did take 4 hours 20 minutes for an average speed of 16 miles per hour, just over half the speed of the fastest cars. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

After the public display ended at 6 pm, Michael Shnayerson gave a short talk outlining his experiences observing the creation of the GM `Impact' and `EV-1'.  He started his talk by pointing out the contribution of Howard Wilson of Hughes in the creation of the GM `Sunraycer' that started it all.  Mr. Wilson was in the audience.  After his talk, Shnayerson stayed, signed copies of his book "The Car That Could: the inside story of GM's revolutionary electric vehicle" (Random House), and answered questions. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

At about 20 minutes past 6 pm, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour began. 

Report #40: Interviews: Gregg Fritz and Lin Higley from Ovonic Battery

Gregg Fritz was telling me that the Ovonic Batteries in #76 `Solectria Force NiMH' were not significantly different from last year.  At Ovonic, they are concentrating on getting their products into higher levels of production. 

Ovonic is in the middle of the last phase of their United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) contract which concentrates on reducing the cost of their Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries "through materials development, cell componentry, and the manufacturing process." Cell componentry includes things like tabs, terminals, separators, cans, lids and such.  "We are ramping up the production of our materials at Ovonic Battery Company, which we will supply to the joint venture GM/Ovonic.  As our production increases and optimizes for the materials then the cost will come down.  The same thing is true at the battery level at GM/Ovonic.  They are validating the development process, validating the suppliers, validating the equipment, and instigating the quality control that you need to go to the next expansion [of production] level.  General Motors is very methodical and very good at what they do so when they go to the expansion it will be based on solid data."

The batteries will be sold under the GM/Ovonic brand plate, and be for sale to "anybody and everybody."

Gregg said, "it is important to identify the Nickel Metal Hydride technology as the enabling technology.  You can see the companies like Honda, General Motors, Toyota and Hyundai all working to mass produce, market and commercialize [it].  We feel very good about that.  It's got some further work to be done, but you've got to remember that NiMH has not existed in the higher capacity cells that electric vehicles require [until the past 3 to 5 years].  Maybe we kind of put ourselves in this position by going out and demonstrating it.  We are an R&D house.  Now you know about it; now you want to have it.  Well, it takes time to commercialize something.  It will happen.  It is happening.  It's going to be done right."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

It has been my observation that none of the advanced battery technologies can tolerate the over-charge or even excessively deep discharge the way flooded lead-acid batteries can.  Charging or discharging any of those technologies beyond their stated maximums or minimums appears to be a sure-fire way to reduce the capacity and shorten the life of an advanced battery pack. 

Lin R. Higley from Ovonic is more of a technical sort (like me) so I asked him what Ovonic was doing to manage the charge and discharge of their batteries.  "One of the things that's important in any battery system is your quality, where every cell looks absolutely identical.  With the joint venture and the systems we have set up we were getting very good product, even right from the beginning, and it has just been getting better." They learned at the APS 500 electric car race in Arizona that battery management systems for metal hydride do have to perform temperature compensation, (which I take to mean adjusting the sense of how much energy is in the battery according to the temperature of the cells).  "You have to have a good thermal control system where when the battery wants to generate heat you can get rid of it very well.  The design of the battery of itself is set up to do that.  The system is also very robust and tolerant to imbalances.  There are mechanisms that naturally want to balance the system.  For the system itself that is a huge advantage, both in over- charge and over-discharge." They have used some very simple battery management systems for small battery systems in scooters and electrically assisted bicycles.  For instance a circuit senses the first battery that gets to end of discharge and then announces that you are at the end of discharge.  In the GM EV-1, the battery pack manager is a very sophisticated computer that gives very nice data sets of performance information.  "For a really good battery, it is really very boring.  You cycle them.  They seem the same.  Nothing changes.  That's what we like to see and in most cases that is what happens." For them, they need to look at incoming and outgoing air cooling temperatures and regulate the air flow accordingly. 

The current Ovonic EV module of 12 cells measures approximately 4 inches x 7 inches x 16 inches and weighs about 17 kilograms (about 37 pounds).  It provides about 85 Amp-hours at 13.2 Volts nominal per module (16 Volts at full charge, 11 Volts at full discharge).  (I calculate that to be approximately 1.1 kiloWatt hours per module.)

Cost has reduced to one-fifth of what it was 2 years ago as there is less manual labor in making each successive generation.  And the price continues to drop.  That doesn't mean they are inexpensive yet.  "From $2,700 per kWh last month to $2,000 per kWh this month.  Right now we are in the wonderful position of being oversold.  We are building these as fast as we can."

Report #41: Team Profile: `59 Berkeley'

Back for the third year is the red, cute, little sports car entered by Team New England, #79 `59 Berkeley', driven by Olaf Bleck.  This year it has a brand new set of Nickel Cadmium batteries that was orginially the spare pack for a satellite.  When it was about to be junked because it was no longer needed, one of the Team New England members snatched it up.  (In earlier Reports, these were mistakenly noted as Nickel Metal Hydride; they are not.) The pack is made up of 129 cells in series, and, in a bench test, one cell delivered 54 Amp- hours.  "They are all pre-wired [with military specification] silver wires, 14 guage [rated at] 100 Amps each.  It is just incredible.  When they built them for a satellite they were $4,000 per cell, so when you do the math, there's half-a- million dollars of batteries in there." Thank you taxpayers!

In year's past, the connection between the motor and the front-wheel drive was a chain that tended to have problems.  "This year we have a new golf-cart transaxle which is a single-reduction gear box and differential.  It is extremely quiet and the car accelerates like a dream now."

        Vehicle Name    `59 Berkeley'
        Vehicle Number  79
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    Team New England
        Team Name       Team New England
        Town            Nahant MA
        Dimensions      10' 3" x 4' 6" x 3' 6"
        Weight          950 pounds
        Range           120 miles
        Max Speed       65 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        370 pounds
        Construction*   1959 Berkeley, steel frame(?), Fiberglas body
        Motor           Solectria AC induction, AC GTX20,
                        7 kW continuous/21 kW peak
        Controller      Solectria AC300
        Charger         Solectria BC1000
        PV array        yes, (I didn't get specs)
        Battery         Lockheed, 528 lbs, NiCd 7920 W-hrs, 158 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta
        Brakes          front drum, rear drum, regen

* I'm not sure about the "steel frame" part of the construction spec. 

Report #42: Team Profile: `Sunpacer'

Cato-Meridian High School returns for the sixth time with #92 `Sunpacer'.  From a distance it looks sort of like a giant's door stop wedge.  The front is a rounded aluminum and Plexiglas dome for the driver, but the back is a flat sloping solar panel that comes down to a point. 

I caught Travis Smith, a sophomore at Cato-Meridian, as the team was recalibrating their brakes which had been dragging.  "We had to fix some welds during testing.  It had a few cracks in it."

This totally original design has not changed much, externally, over the years, but they have been improving it.  Since last year they have put in new hydraulic brakes, to comply with the stricter NESEA safety rules, changed to slightly larger tires and new wheel bearings for better coasting. 

Originally, the team was hoping to have a set of Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, but that didn't quite happen. 

        Vehicle Name    `Sunpacer'
        Vehicle Number  92
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Cato-Meridian High School Tech Team
        Team Name       Cato-Meridian High School Tech Team
        Town            Cato NY
        Dimensions      15' 6" x 4' 10" x 3' 10"
        Weight          850 pounds
        Range           85 miles
        Max Speed       50 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        200 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built, steel frame, aluminum body
        Motor           Advanced DC, series wound, brush,
                        6 kW continuous/8 kW peak
        Controller      Sevcon Solid State
        Charger         off-board, transformer/rectifier
        PV array        300 W, Hoxam, Single Crystal
        Battery         Deka Dominator, lead-acid
        Wheels, Tires   3, TBA
        Brakes          front disk, rear TBA, no regen

Report #43: Team Profile: `Ecovox'

#30 `Ecovox' from Dartmouth University was last in the NESEA Tour in 1995.  Running in the One Person Category, it is actually a series hybrid, burning Ethanol-85 as its fuel.  (E-85 is 15% gasoline.) This is the same fuel they tried to use 2 years ago, but back then the had a plastic motorcycle fuel tank that was dissolved by the ethanol.  The result was plastic goop which clogged up the carburetor and took them out of the Tour.  This year the fuel tank is made of metal. 

The body reminds me of an enclosed rowing shell, with two wheels on either side in front and a single wheel inside at the rear.  The construction is Kevlar epoxied over foam-core and then painted, making it light and strong.  The body was built in 1991, and has come to the Tour in several different incarnations.  It was originally called `Sunvox III' and then sported a large, flat solar panel "wing".  It then became a purely electric `Ecovox'.  An then a couple of years ago it became a hybrid. 

But things have not been going well.  On Tuesday morning, Jefferson Dubrule explained why they didn't run on Monday.  "We experience catastrophic chain failure resulting in a completely ripped chain.  We managed to get that fixed.  Then during inspections we ran into a few concerns about the location of our APU (Auxiliary Power Unit).  The night before last, we gutted the car.  I could literally crawl from one end to the other.  We moved everything around and fastened it all down.  We are hoping this will be sufficient to pass the tests.  Among other things we haven't passed any of the driving tests because we didn't have a chain.  We could only sit there and whirrrrrr." When they broke their chain, they thought they were prepared, because the had 30 feet of new chain with them.  But noone thought to bring an extra master link, "and the old one disappeared into the ether.  One of our team members managed to do it all with just a punch and a hammer." They could put the chain on because of their tire changing system that allows them to remove the back tire by just removing one long bolt.  Flats can be fixed in 5 or 10 minutes by just swapping the rear wheel with a spare. 

        Vehicle Name    `Ecovox'
        Vehicle Number  30
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Dartmouth Solar Racing Team
        Team Name       Dartmouth Solar Racing Team
        Town            Hanover NH
        Dimensions      10' 0" x 6' 0" x 4' 0"
        Weight          550 pounds
        Range           140 miles
        Max Speed       60 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        180 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built Kevlar over foam, core frame,/body
        Motor           Pacific Scientific 5 kW continuous/10 kW peak
        Controller      Solectria BRLS
        Charger         K & W BC-20
        PV array        runs fan in dashboard to circulate air for driver
        Battery         Diehard PbA 1500 W-hrs/72 V, series
        Engine/Generator Honda 2500 sx
        Fuel            Ethanol-85 (15% gasoline)
        Hybrid Config.  Series
        Wheels, Tires   3, Avocet Solar racing tires
        Brakes          front drum, rear disk, no regen

Report #44: Tails of the Charging Trailer, Part 2

On Tuesday morning, Day 2 of the rally, I found Steve Kurkoski and Bob Goodrich packing up the charging trailer in Northampton.  "So how did Sunday and Monday night go?", I asked. 

"Most people got a full charge.  There were a couple problems with harmonics so a couple of people were not able to turn up their chargers completely.  But for the most part I think people were pretty happy," Steve said.  The new data collection system was operational and very helpful, showing harmonics, amperage and voltage.  Not all the data is available real time.  (I believe the power- factor number can only be calculated after the data is analyzed, which is unfortunate.) And some of the transducers were not recording energy properly.  They hoped to fix that when they got to Bellows Falls VT later in the day. 

"Has the general quality of chargers improved this year?", I asked. 

"No," said Bob.  "We still have those that have very high harmonic content and we have those with very good harmonic content."

"And are those with very high content keep heating up the breakers and popping them?"

"No.  That problem has been solved because people understand that they have a problem and they work with us to take care of it.  I don't think we have had any inadvertent pops over night.  We have had some early in the evening, [but they have been] working with us to make sure that things were set up properly."

For example, #13 `The Electrifly' had a problem Sunday, and had to turn down his current draw.  But Monday he got about 6 kiloWatt-hours more than Sunday night when the swapped him from a 20 Amp breaker to a 30. 

Report #45: Eric Udell's Pictures on the Web

Eric Udell from Key West Florida, who has built three electric bicycles, made the long trip up to visit the NESEA Tour.  He has put his digital snap shots and a few short comments on the web.  Check out


His e-mail address is . 

Thanks Eric!

Report #46: Team Profile: `Electric Hare'

The car known as #65 `Electric Hare' is entered for the third year by the Wattsmen of Falmouth High School in Falmouth Maine.  On Tuesday morning I asked Chris Chappell how it went on Monday.  "We were quite happy.  First we got off course for a little ways.  We figured we might not have made it, but we turned out pretty good.  We still had charge left to go out and do a two more long laps."

The `Electric Hare' is a conversion of a VW Rabbit based on the kit marketed by Electro Automotive in Felton California.  Two years ago, when the NESEA Tour also finished in Portland, they were the home-town favorites, and they did very well.  Between events it is driven by one of the teachers, loaned to students, and shows up at special events. 

        Vehicle Name    `Electric Hare'
        Vehicle Number  65
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    Falmouth High School
        Team Name       The Wattsmen
        Town            Falmouth ME
        Dimensions      14' 2" x 5' 2" x 4' 4"
        Weight          3000 pounds
        Range           100 miles
        Max Speed       80 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        410 pounds
        Construction    1984 VW Rabbit, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Advanced DC, series wound, 15 kW continuous/30 kW peak
        Controller      Curtis Model 1231C
        Charger         K & W Transformer-less
        PV array        48 Watt, Siemans, Single Cell
        Battery         Traojan, 1200 lbs, PbA 24 kW-hrs, 96 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, no regen

Report #47: Team Profile: `Millenium Falcon'

On Tuesday morning I reacquainted myself with Dr. Rob Pettigole, member of the Blue Sky Club and "Co-Piloto" for #60 `Millenium Falcon'.  He is back with Dr.  Fred Whitridge after a 1-year absence.  This conversion of a VW Rabbit Cabriolet convertible has a few extra batteries on a trailer to give it the extra range it needs in the NESEA Tour.  "We're back with new battery technology and more limited range, unfortunately." This year they are running the Optima "Yellow Tops".  "Our experience so far has been that the stated capacity is a bit optimistic; that has been disappointing.  As far as being able to draw them down and the recovery rate, those have been good."

Barbara Pettigole (Rob's wife) was co-pilot on Monday, when she and Fred just made the 70 miles from Waterbury to Northamption.  "They coasted in.  That was by far the furthest they have gone with this rig. 

"Mt Washington is not looking so good, due to brakes as much as anything.  Coming down the hills, having to ride the brakes, they were getting very hot."

Labels on the side of the car identify other members of the team.  Pilot, Dr.  Fred Whitridge (who owns the car), Technical Stuff, Dr. Vinnie DeMarco who built the trailer and helped with other fabrication, and Anesthesiologist Dr.  Nick Pietrangelo.  It turns out almost all of these doctorates are "honorary", awarded by Fred to increase the perception of prestige for the team.  Dr. Nick is the only one who actually is a doctor and is in fact an anesthesiologist.  (I thought he might be their bar tender.)

Fred and company come to the NESEA Tour for the fun of it as much as anything.  They wear a box of baking soda prominently on their arms during the rally because, according to Fred, last year's rules "stated that battery neutralizer should be available at all times." But they do have their serious side, demonstrated in the fact that the Blue Sky Club also is contributing $1000 in Sportsmanship Awards. 

        Vehicle Name    `Millenium Falcon'
        Vehicle Number  60
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    Blue Sky Motors
        Team Name       Blue Sky Club
        Town            Greenwich CT
        Dimensions      12' 9" x 5' 3" x 4' 6"
        Weight          3250 pounds
        Range           60 miles
        Max Speed       75 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        600 pounds
        Construction    1985 VW Rabbit Cabriolet, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Advanced DC 8" series 20 kW cont. 
        Controller      Curtis Model 1231
        Charger         None
        PV array        30 Watt, Solarex, model Mx30
        Battery         Optima, 900 lbs, SVRLA 13500 W-hrs/120 V series,
                        (additional batteries in trailer)
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta GL
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, no regen

Report #48: Team Profile: `Tsunami'

Two years ago, when the NESEA Tour also went from Waterbury CT to Portland ME by a more southerly route, Cornell University was here with a very unusual design for a hybrid electric vehicle called `Tempest'.  Following in the storm naming tradition, they are back with #14 `Tsunami', which shares some of the same design philosophy.  Started in September 96, this series hybrid is an undergraduate research project that awards class credit. 

The idea behind each vehicle is to have two electric motors that both drive the rear wheels.  One is a series wound DC motor, set to provide power for climbing hills and acceleration.  The other is a very efficient permanent magnet (PM) motor for cruising and regenerative braking.  Both motors drive a gear box which is a rebuild of the one that was in `Tempest'.  Under cruising and low- speed conditions the PM motor carries all the load for efficiency, and a one- way clutch isolates the DC motor.  Under heavier acceleration, as sensed by the position of the accelerator pedal, the DC motor also kicks in and provides the extra power needed.  The circuitry that controls the two electric motors is analog.  (Next year they hope to have a microprocessor in the loop.) A Suburu Justy differential and custom built half-shafts take the torque to the rear wheels. 

The 1.0 liter engine burning Compressed Natural Gas and the generator are under the front hood.  Spark timing, throttle control, and charging voltage regulation was all managed by custom built circuitry. 

The chassis for all this is a custom built welded aluminum frame with honeycomb aluminum floor pans and a custom suspension.  (The frame was originally built for `Maelstrom', the car that came between `Tempest' and `Tsunami'.  That design had 2 Unique Mobility motors, one for each rear wheel, but they didn't work out in testing.  The frame was heavily reworked for `Tsunami'.)

The package is topped with a red custom-built body.  A center layer of Nida- Core, a honeycomb Fiberglas material, was epoxied in between 2 layers of Fiberglas cloth.  Without the glass windshield and Lexan side and rear glazing the whole body weighs 55 pounds. 

        Vehicle Name    `Tsunami'
        Vehicle Number  14
        Category        US DOE Hybrid Category
        Organization    Cornell University
        Team Name       Cornell University HEV Team
        Town            Ithaca NY
        Dimensions      14' 4" x 5' 4" x 4' 4"
        Weight          2240 pounds
        Range           300 miles
        Max Speed       65 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        430 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built, aluminum frame, Fiberglas body
        Motors          Advanced DC, series wound,
                        DC 22 kW continuous/45 kW peak;
                        Unique Mobility Permanent Magnet
        Controllers     Purpose-built PWM/Low side chopper for Advanced DC
                        Unique Mobility controller for Unique Mobility motor
        Charger         Off-board, Japlar Monarch, Transformer/Rectifier
        PV array        ?
        Battery         14 12-Volt, Trojan, 840 lbs, PbA 2500 W-hrs, 175 V,
        Engine          3 cylinder, 1.0 liter, Geo Metro
        Fuel            Compressed Natural Gas
        Hybrid Config.  Series
        Generator       20 kW Fisher alternator
        Wheels, Tires   4, Michelin P165 70-R13
        Brakes          front disk, rear disk, regen

I was unable to get a detailed interview during the Tour de Sol, but after I got home I did talk by phone with team member Mohammed Jafri, who just graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering and who will be returning in the fall for Master of Engineering. 

Before the rally started on Monday, `Tsunami' suffered a ground fault caused by the damp weather.  They were not ready by post time, but they did dry out everything and got the vehicle safe again.  However, in Northampton, while doing some rewiring, there was a bright flash and their PM motor controller was fried.  They decided to pack up and return home.  Mohammed said they hope to be back next year. 

Report #49: Team Profile: `NFA Sol Machine'

Mike Bayer and Mario DeMarco are from Newburgh (New York) Free Academy spoke to me about #58 `NFA Sol Machine'.  They told me Tuesday morning how things went on the Waterbury to Northampton run Monday.  "Yesterday we did pretty good.  We were running better than last year.  We made it 52 miles and decided to tow it from there before we did any damage to the batteries.  If it were sunny we could have gone a full 70 miles.  There was a lot of clouds and some rain at the beginning, and the panels weren't putting out full output until the end.  We're pretty confident that if it had been sunny for the whole route we would have been in good shape."

This 3-wheeled car ran in the 1996 NESEA Tour, and looks very much the same.  All the body panels are clear, revealing an aluminum frame and also making it easy to see all the components.  It is topped with a large, flat solar panel "wing".  The team was very proud of their clear-body design, both because it made it easier to spot problems, and because it helped the driver see every part of the car and it's relationship to the road, curbs, and pot-holes. 

`NFA Sol Machine' was originally listed in the Solar Commuter Category, but in over the weekend in Waterbury, they did a seat-ectomy to change it from a two- passenger to a one-passenger vehicle, and thus switched to the One Person Category.  "We knew that if we had to [carry] two passengers we were going to loose a lot miles off the range." By taking out the second seat, second roll- bar, and second person they saved a couple hundred pounds.  "We knocked down a couple hundred pounds since last year.  We got lighter and more advanced batteries."

"One of the things we need to work on for next year is getting the weight down and making it more efficient."

        Vehicle Name    `NFA Sol Machine'
        Vehicle Number  58
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Newburgh Free Academy
        Team Name       Team Newburgh NY
        Town            Newburgh NY
        Dimensions      16' 0" x 6' 0" x 3' 6"
        Weight          900 pounds
        Range           110 miles
        Max Speed       51 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        250 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built, aluminum frame, aluminum body
        Motor           Advanced DC, series wound, 4 kW continuous/ 20 kW peak
        Controller      Curtis Model 1221
        Charger         Off-board, West Marine, high frequency solid-state
        PV array        560 W, Arco, Single Crystal
        Battery         6 Megatron marine, 276 lbs, PbA 85 W-hrs, 72 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   3, Cheng Shin Motorcycle
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, no regen

Report #50: Team Profile: `Evolution'

Matt Creedon told me that Monday's driving strategy for #88 `Evolution', "was to try to be real efficient, driving slower than the speed limit.  We finally realized that it's not going to help that much.  With the traffic and the hills we just decided to ... keep up with the rest of the crew and get into the home base in time to make some tour laps.  We could have got in quicker and got more laps in.  The vehicle had a lot more range after the 106 miles we completed."

When asked how much energy is on board, Matt said, "We are charging at about 26 kiloWatt-hours from full discharge.  I'd say our range is about 120 miles overall, in realistic driving, up-hill, down-hill, stop-and-go."

`Evolution' is running a Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydride pack placed in large battery boxes under the hood and under the rear seat of this Saturn conversion.  After the conversion, the car empty weighed in at 11 pounds over the original Gross Vehicle Weight of the Saturn with payload.  To compensate, they put in new springs with the proper spring rate, new struts, and suspension torsion bars to get the stock vehicle performance back.  Two strut-tower ties, one in front and one in back, add stiffening to the body.  They replaced the stock Saturn bumper with one four-times stronger that ties into the frame to add additional front end stiffening.  Even so, the bumper can be quickly removed and replaced.  "This car is rock solid."

Under the hood, the battery pack is mounted high, completely enclosed.  4 large cooling fans mounted on the clear plastic cover suck air up from the bottom, through filter material, around the battery modules (which are spaced apart from each other) and out the top.  The drive system is from Alan Cocconi's AC Propulsion Company.  The controller is mounted low, a bit behind the bumper and front frame.  Pulling the lower two of the four mounting bolts allows the controller to be swung down, forward and up to get it out of the way when working under the car.  Behind the controller is an AC Propulsion motor tied to a Honda CX transaxle stuck in first-gear.  It really just operates as a differential with gear reduction. 

During testing there was concern about voltage leakage.  When first measured, they saw 2 milliamps of leakage through a 10,000 Ohm resister between the battery terminals and the car frame, where the controller's case is grounded.  That is double the NESEA rules maximum.  But, over the next minute the current would would reduce to nothing.  Matt was certain that this was due to the inherent capacitance in the controller, and is part of the design.  He was also certain that it did not pose a real safety hazard, and apparently the NESEA judges agreed since they were allowed to run. 

The team is a group of about 30 students who are very dedicated to the advanced transportation industries, but mostly focused on this car.  About 5 people did the actual work on the vehicle.  They do not have a faculty advisor, but the project is part of the curriculum.  Students teach the class which is an upper division mechanical engineering class.  It allows the students to get a lot of hands-on experience.  They don't get a lot of help from the university.  They raise their own money through grants, sponsorship (the car is covered in decals), and alumni. 

This car was a year and four months coming together, although 50% of the work on it was done in the last 3 months.  The previous vehicle crashed in a Scandinavian event, so they spent a lot of time paying attention to details in this one. 

I will admit right here that I was very impressed by this car.  It was beautifully executed, in terms of the engineering, the appearance, and the myriad details.  For example, they ran out of room under the front hood for the power brake booster.  So they moved the vacuum booster and it's electric pump to the trunk.  They then figured the hydraulic and leverage mechanical advantage they needed to exactly match the original linkage, and now the brake feels and operates exactly as it did in the original. 

When I expressed my admiration for what they had done Matt said something that proved to be all too prescient.  (Stay tuned.) "Unfortunately, we only have 350 or 400 miles on this car.  We are going to have problems with it.  I'm only hoping we don't have problems in the Tour de Sol.  You cannot expect the car to be flawless until you have you've got a few thousand miles on it.  We already experienced some wet-weather shorts where [the built-in safety sensors made the] system shut down."

        Vehicle Name    `Evolution'
        Vehicle Number  88
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    California State University, Chico
        Team Name       Chico State AVR&D
        Town            Chico CA
        Dimensions      14' 5" x 5' 4" x 4' 10"
        Weight          3150 pounds
        Range           170 miles
        Max Speed       88 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        900 pounds
        Construction    1991 Saturn, steel frame, steel /ABS body
        Motor           AC Propulsion 30-AC, 60 kW continuous/150 kW peak
        Controller      AC Propulsion 30 Inverter
        Charger         AC Propulsion, Transformerless
        PV array        10 Watts, Solarex, Amorphous
        Battery         Ovonic, 1300 lbs, NiMH 30 kW-hrs, 343 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, Toyo
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, regen

Report #51: Team Profile: `Charger Bicycle'

This year the NESEA Tour has four electrically assisted bicycles competing.  #12 `Charger Bicycle' is a commercially available product that comes out of GT Bicycles and AeroVironment with a > very < original way to control it. 

Rick Shanahan was talking to the crowd in Northampton on Tuesday morning, and was in salesman mode.  "This bicycle sells for $1,495.  It does comes with an optional rock-shock, which is a front suspension, which adds about $200.  The frame is Cromoly and made by GT bicycles."

All the other electric bikes I've seen have a speed control on or near the handle bars.  It might be a twist control, or trigger, or even a switch.  But the `Charger Bicycle' has none of that. 

"This bike you actually > have < to pedal.  It's sort of like power steering in your car, where it does nothing until you start turning the wheel.  When you start pedaling, the bike > matches < your torque," adding up to 4 times the energy you are putting in.  "This bike can make you just as strong as a `Tour de France' rider, for about 20 miles.  A patented device that AeroVironment made, called the `Wavey Idler/Torque System', measures the tension in the pedal chain.  As soon as you start to pedal, the bike wants to jump forward." The bike puts out about 525 Watts.  A `Tour de France' rider is about 375 Watts, peak.  An average human can put out about 100 Watts, and a couch-potato can put out about 60 Watts.  There are 4 settings of added energy level.  On the highest setting, the bike adds power for about 17 or 18 miles, depending on the rider and the terrain.  On the lowest setting, there is extra energy for about 40 miles.  They electronically control the speed of the motor to only add energy up to about 20 miles an hour.  Above that speed, you are on your own.  "We feel that anything over 20 mph should be ridden by the rider.  It means you are a top notch rider.  It makes you honest."

There is a security code that disables the bike until you key it in. 

The battery pack is removable and contains the battery, control electronics, charger electronics, and a power cord to plug it into a wall outlet.  A simple locking mechanism releases it and lets you bring it into the house while the rest of the bike stays behind.  The 24 Volts of batteries inside are sealed lead-acid and deliver about 12 Amp-hours. 

"The reason the bike is really efficient is because as you change gears for yourself, you also change gears for the motor, so the motor is always running at its optimum RPM.  We are looking at about a 60% system efficiency overall."

There are two chains.  One goes from the pedal sprocket to the outer rear wheel sprocket.  (This is not a derailer system.) The other goes from the brushed DC motor, mounted just above and and to the rear of the pedal sprocket, to it's own inner rear sprocket between the outer chain and the spokes.  They both are attached to the rear hub, a Nexus-7 by Shimano, which has the transmission inside, providing seven different gear ratios. 

I was not able to ride the bike, as I had fallen and pulled a leg muscle.  But Rick had both his competition bike and a demonstration bike with him, and he was letting just-plain-folk of all ages go out for a spin around the parking lots.  There were a lot of smiling faces. 

        Vehicle Name    `Charger Bicycle'
        Vehicle Number  12
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Charger Bicycles
        Team Name       Team Charger
        Town            Monrovia CA
        Dimensions      6' 0" x 2' 0" x 4' 0"
        Weight          67 pounds
        Range           40 miles
        Max Speed       35 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        267 pounds
        Construction    GT Bicycles, Cromoly frame, body: none
        Motor           Charger, .5 kW continuous/.8 kW peak
        Controller      Charger
        Charger         Charger, Transformer/Rectifier
        PV array        100 Watt (not part of the product,
                        added to meet NESEA rules)
        Battery         Panasonic, 16 lbs, PbA 240 W-hrs, 24 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   2, Mitsubishi Bicycle
        Brakes          front Cant., rear Clutch, no regen

For more info:
        (818) 357-9980  Ext. 531

Report #52: Tuesday morning, Day 2 of the Rally

I started the second day, Tuesday May 20th, talking with various teams. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Joe Phelps of #44 `Solar Saurus' told me, "We did good, but all those hills dropped our pack down, so we didn't get the range we get in our neck of the woods where it is mostly flat.  It was nerve racking coming up all those hills and drawing all those amps.  We're looking forward to today.  We just have to be careful and not crush the egg shell."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Lucia Bay (pronounced "Lew-chia Buy") with #83 `Sol Survivor IV' gave me some information on why they didn't complete the first leg.  "About 7 miles away from the finish line one of the batteries was weak and died.  We stopped and tried to recharge it by using the energy from the other batteries but it only lasted for another mile.  We decided to pack it up and haul it in." So how could they see the individual battery voltages in their string?

Casey Jordan showed me the row of terminals along the left floor by the passenger's seat.  One of the passenger's jobs is to monitor the voltage of the individual modules.  "If a battery starts to go, theoretically we might be able stop it before it gets too bad.  We weren't able to do that yesterday.  If we can, we're going to replace the battery with a spare we have and hope another battery doesn't quit on us."

Enron, the company that markets electricity and natural gas, has been very generous to `Sol Survivor IV'.  "They provided a lot of money, a lot insight in terms of management and public relations, and a couple of things we [needed to] spur interest in the car and get people around our area to notice us," Nathan Snitko added. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Scott Brazinski of Union-Endicot Central Schools' #33 `UEHS Solar Tiger' was very accepting of the fact that they would only be allowed to display their car.  Brake and construction problems has kept them from running in the rally, so they are displaying at our public events and, after putting 4 years into this vehicle, "We're thinking of going with a whole new car next year.  Now that we know what to expect, we're going to go with something smaller." He particularly liked the `Hopper EV'.  "We have all the internal stuff, like the motor, the panels and the batteries.  If we can get a TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welder we'll be all set."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Ian Fernandes and Mike Joquin said that #48 `Suncharger' only made 60 miles yesterday and then had to trailer in.  They also had a problem with the DC-to- DC converter; it kicked out after 15 miles. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

I ran into Sarah Burrington with #93 `Helios the Heron IV'.  When I asked if they got a good charge over night, she said, "No.  We got about a third charge.  Our charger is old and not all there." They were thinking of trailer some to conserve what they did get, and trying to fill up overnight tonight. 

In spite of these difficulties, team `Helios' is actually in first place in their category.  The other car in the Solar Commuter category, `Sol Survivor IV', didn't finish the leg. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Several drivers of vehicles without regenerative braking told me that they were concerned about their brakes getting hot when they were coming down some of the hills.  But #8 `Electric Lion' has two AC induction motors, one for each front wheel, with regen capability.  So I asked Dean Sauerwine how well regen worked for them.  "Regen always works great in our car.  We can probably get between 20% and 30% of kinetic energy back in the vehicle.  We can modulate and control the regen really effectively." They are actually limited by the batteries.  "We can get as much regen as the batteries can take, but if you put too much current through them you turn them into a resistive bank and boil [the electrolyte]." There is no place else to dump the energy, so you have to then employ the mechanical brakes.  "Maybe if we had a resistive network on the hood, like a locomotive, we'd be set.  That's the limiting factor in most regen [braking systems], the battery technology."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

B. J. Law, with `Project e-', said that their hybrid motor shorted out during the last 10 miles of the Waterbury to Northampton leg, and they had to finish just on the batteries.  When they got to Smith Vocational High School, they found the wire that had come loose, refasten it, and then were able to go out and do 8 extra laps. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#18 `Kineticar' was first in the US DOE Hybrid Category on Tuesday morning.  Ted Gallucci and Randy Brown seemed happy about this.  I asked if the steep hills gave them any trouble? Did the brakes get warm?


Oh? Why?

"We are running a parallel system, so we can use the back-pressure of the engine to slow us down."

Of course! They had also figured out their cost-per-mile at 3.8 cents.  "But we can do better."

It turns out that `Project e-' and `Kineticar' see each other as siblings.  "Our advisor and their advisor are friends and are constantly on the phone to each other.  We work with them a little bit.  When we were in Waterbury we pulled down some information for them off the Internet [since] we were at home and they weren't."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#35 `Hyades' showed up for the morning display on Tuesday in Northampton.  I asked Jim Brown, John Dombrowski, and Dr. Davis, their faculty advisor, where they had been?

"We had some problems in the trailer.  The vehicle came loose, destroyed our radiator and some other parts in the front end.  So we replaced that, rebuilt them, and are all set now."

I had hoped that they would just drive to the NESEA Tour from their home in Southfield Michigan. 

"We thought about it, but we have FutureCar Challenge coming up after this.  We wanted to save ourselves.  We could have done it," Dr. Davis laughed. 

"We did have a few problems with the car that slowed us down as well.  And then on our way here one of our team members got sick.  He is in a hospital in Pennsylvania right now.  He is going to be OK.  I think he developed an ulcer, probably from this project. 

"We are still having trouble with our control system, but we are perfectly drivable in manual mode.  It's much easier in automatic mode.  Mechanically, everything is sound."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Spencer Allen with #72 `Sungo' said that the construction and potholes on Monday were a bit hard on the car.  With small wheels and a short wheel-base, it was a bit rough.  The suspension is "real tight.  It does not like to move if it doesn't have to."

They were seeing about 100 Watt-hours/mile.  They did not get quite the efficiency they expected, so they were pumping up the tires as we spoke, and had also adjusting the drive belts from the two motors to the rear wheels.  They were also adjusting the ride height up a bit to keep it from bottoming out. 

Report #53: Team Profile: `Solectria Force NiMH'

Andy Heafitz is often the driver when Solectria races their cars.  He was standing near #76 `Solectria Force NiMH' when I caught up with him.  I asked him what is different this year. 

"This is the same production car as last year." (Although I think by that he means the same model.  Last year's car was green, as I recall.  #76 is white.) "Ovonic is continually improving their batteries.  This is a brand new pack. 

Last year's pack had been in the `Sunrise' the year before, and had been around for 3 or 4 years.  This is a brand new pack, straight off the assembly line.  So we'll see how good they are when they are brand new." Andy wouldn't make any predictions, but he said they were looking for good things from this car this year. 

The Solectria Force has been around so long in pretty much the same configuration that I forget to get all the details for these reports.  (I also own one, so it is very familiar to me.)

The basic model is a Geo Metro Sedan, gutted of it's gasoline engine, transmission, gas tank, tail pipe, radiator and such.  Solectria then installs two battery boxes.  One, in the front of the car, is low and a bit forward of the wheels, but behind the front frame member.  The other is mounted in the spot where the gas tank and spare-tire well used to be in the trunk.  That hole in the trunk is the only cutting of original metal that Solectria does. 

The AC induction motor and gear box are behind the front battery box, held up and away from the firewall by an aluminum bar between the front shock absorber towers.  This helps keep the gear box noise from coming into the passenger compartment.  The differential is part of the gear box, so the half-axles from the front wheels connect directly to it. 

Regenerative braking is easy to do, once you have an AC induction motor and controller, and the Solectria regen braking is seamless incorporated into the accelerator pedal.  Think of the accelerator pedal as both positive and negative acceleration with zero (coasting) in the middle.  The further past the middle you push, the faster you accelerate.  The further up from the middle you let the pedal rise, the more aggressively you regeneratively brake, putting the energy back into the batteries.  It takes a couple of minutes of driving to get used to, but after that I have found it feels totally natural. 

The design of these vehicles has changed little since they replaced their toothed-belt drive with an enclosed gear box a couple of years back, but there have been improvements.  For example, standard instruments were an Ampere-hour meter, and the owner's choice of a Voltmeter or an Ammeter.  In 1997, the Voltmeter and Ammeter are combined into a single instrument with two needles, one coming in from the left and the other from the right, crossing in the middle and pointing to a scale on the other side.  The needles are only colored on their tips, so it isn't as confusing as it sounds. 

The cabling is neat and and mostly well laid out, and while it takes some time to dismantle things enough to open the front battery box (to look at my sealed lead-acid batteries that don't need any attention -- yep; still there, and still clean and tight) it is a straight-forward operation.  One of their engineers once told me how much they worked at keeping things so you only needed a few socket sizes, a few tools, and because many, many of the bolts were the same size, it was hard to get fasteners mixed up. 

        Vehicle Name    `Solectria Force NiMH'
        Vehicle Number  4
        Category        Production Category
        Organization    Solectria Corporation
        Team Name       Solectria - Ovonic
        Town            Wilmington MA
        Dimensions      14' 0" x 5' 7" x 4' 3"
        Weight          2310 pounds
        Range           120 miles
        Max Speed       75 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 4
        Capacity        490 pounds
        Construction    GEO Metro, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Solectria ACG, 15 kW continuous/20 kW peak
        Controller      Solectria UMOC 330
        Charger         Solectria BC 3300, High Frequency/Solid-State
        PV array        no
        Battery         Ovonic, NiMH, 22,080 W-hrs
        Wheels, Tires   4, Goodyear Invicta
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, regen

Report #54: Interview with Andrew Heafitz: `The Solectria Delivery Van'

One of the vehicles that was listed as coming to the NESEA Tour but did not show up was the `The Solectria Delivery Van'.  I asked Andrew Heafitz what it looked like. 

"The van is an 11,000 pound Gross Vehicle Weight step van, like a United Parcel Service van.  It's got a full cargo space.  It's sponsored by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), NAVC (Northeast Alternative Vehicle Consortium), Boston Edison, and the New York Department of Environmental Protection.  We are building three of them in this program.  We are very optimistic that this could be an excellent niche market.  Deliver vans like that just don't drive very far.  In New York City they average about 10 miles a day." The Solectria van will be able to do 40 or 45 miles. 

A major project goal has been to design it to cost very close to the gasoline version.  "Where our cars tend to be 3 or 4 times as expensive as the gasoline versions, this will be one-and-a-half times."

Companies that buy deliver vans look at the overall mission costs.  What vans cost to buy is just the beginning.  Fuel and maintenance costs also are important.  Solectria's AC induction motor cars routinely come in with very good Watt-hours-per-mile numbers so the fuel part of the equation is in hand.  Electricity to drive a car is about half the cost of gasoline. 

To keep the maintenance costs down, the batteries will be sealed, gelled- electrolyte, lead-acid batteries running at around 300 Volts.  The single motor is about 75 kiloWatts, similar to the ones Solectria is selling for buses to companies.  The controller is Solectria's new high-power UMoC. 

"It will have acceptable performance.  You don't need excellent performance on a van like this.  It's not a rocket.  And it spends most of its time stopped while people are making deliveries.  So electric really makes sense in this case.  We can really make these vehicles cheaper to own and operate than a gasoline vehicle."

Report #55: Team Profile: `Ford Ecostar'

All through the first part of the NESEA Tour, #55 `Ford Ecostar', which has Connecticut license plates, was sporting signs that read "Northeast Utilities".  But on Wednesday morning, in White River Junction VT it suddenly got a new set of magnetically attached signs that read "Public Service of New Hampshire".  I asked Jack Briggs what is going on?

"That's where I work, out of Manchester New Hampshire." We are about to enter his territory.  "The car is performing very, very well." They plan to run laps on Wednesday afternoon, and attempt a new personal-best range record.  "We have a Ford guy here with us who is equally interested in watching the technology and see how it is going."

What does Public Service do with their Ecostar?

"The state has it on loan and they deliver mail around the capital, like 3 or 4 runs a day.  They house it there in Concord, and the guy is well trained on charging it up, and keeps data for us.  They are happy.  They were driving this big monster van around, with a little bit of mail inside.  They think this is great!"

Jack said that of the 105 Ecostars Ford made, most are leased to power companies.  The leases end at the end of 1997.  "We are hoping we are going to replace this with one of the Electric Rangers."

The `Ford Ecostar' uses a 56 kW (75 HP) air cooled AC induction motor, driving the wheels without a transmission.  It weighs 4080 pounds, with a 880-1020 payload capacity.  Top speed is 70 mph; 0-50 mph in 12 seconds.  The battery is about 30 kWh, charged by a 240 VAC, single phase charger that takes 7 hours if the battery is fully discharged.  The energy use is 3 miles per kiloWatt-hour. 

Built in the early 1990s, it's main claim to fame was a high-energy Sodium- Sulfur battery technology that was the hottest thing going, literally.  Sodium Sulfur boasts 80 Wh/kg; about 4 times lead-acid.  The battery operates at 600 degrees F (~300 deg.  C).  If the batteries are charged and discharged in a steady use cycle, the batteries retain that temperature.  If, however, they are not used for a long time, the battery goes dormant, or "freezes".  It takes 12 hours to reheat the battery back to operating temperature.  In the Ecostar, it takes 2-4 days for the pack to "freeze", depending on outside air temperature.  The charging circuitry automatically maintains both charge and temperature.  A single cell provides about 1.9 Volts. 

There is a clever use of solar cells on these vans.  A single line of solar cells in embedded in the windshield glass, at the top edge.  They provide power to keep a small fan running to circulate air when it is parked in the sun, cutting down on heat build-up. 

        Vehicle Name    `Ford Ecostar'
        Vehicle Number  55
        Category        Production Category
        Organization    Northeast Utilities
        Team Name       Northeast Utilities
        Town            Hartford CT
        Dimensions      13' 9" x 5' 5" x 5' 4"
        Weight          3060 pounds
        Range           100 miles
        Max Speed       70 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        1020 pounds
        Construction    Ford Ecostar, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           GE AC Induction 30 kW continuous/56 kW peak
        Controller      General Electric Model IGBT
        Charger         Ford 5.7 kw
        PV array        Ford, Glass, 32 cells in windshield
        Battery         ABB, NaS, 30 kW-hrs
        Wheels, Tires   4, Firestone
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, regen

Report #56: Team Profile: `Electra'

The Pioneer Valley Electric Auto Association, Amherst MA, meets the third Saturday of each month.  They have entered an electrically assisted bicycle, #47 `Electra'.  Karen Jones gave me the particulars.  "Jim Mell is the instigator.  He has followed the Tour for years and wanted his own entry.  Finally he just took the plunge! He was out there all alone and we just gathered around him.  We are learning.  Next year we'll do it, we'll do it right, and we'll win."

A ZAP system was put on a Miyata(spelling?) 18-speed, donated by Valley Bikes in Amherst.  "This is a unit that any person can buy and fit on their bicycle.  We did 28.8 miles the first day, and more than doubled our range the second day because we started learning how to use the system.  We have different drivers every day which gives us an extra challenge." Each driver has to learn from what the previous driver has learned, instead of just building experience. 

Karen has used bikes as her main means of transportation for six or seven years.  She is prepared to ride this bike, but her job is actually to arrange who is to drive each leg.  Would she put such a system on her bike?

"No.  I would never put a motor on my bicycle.  It would be sort of a violation.  I [ride and] love motorcycles.  > I < want an electric car.  Putting an electric motor in a car makes sense.  Putting it on a bike is a contradiction in terms.  But it's a wonderful trial and a wonderful opportunity into the world of electric vehicles for anyone.  It's relatively inexpensive, simple, direct, straight forward so even someone who doesn't have experience with EVs can get a first hand experience. 

"We have people coming from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York.  It's really the motley crew.  We've got engineers and housewives."

The ZAP system bolts a motor onto the frame so that it can drive the rear wheel with a fiction wheel running against the tread of the tire.  A battery is in a canvas bag that hangs from on the bike frame between the handlebar bearing and the seat support. 

On `Electra', a small electric switch that is attached near the center of the handle bar.  It has four positions: Off, Low Speed, Cruise Speed, and High Speed.  (I did not concentrate on the controls as much as I should have.  One of the ZAP system features is the ability to slow the bike down by using the motor as a generator and recovering some energy to recharge the battery.  It was not clear to me how that would be done.  Just having a simple ON-OFF-REGEN switch seems too limited to me.)

Karen is a career counselor in the middle schools and high schools in western Massachusetts, and was very impressed by how the NESEA Tour touches the students that visit the displays.  "The interest around bikes was phenomenal.  I'm really glad that we did this because the kids go away saying, `I can do this!'.  They cannot do Solectria.  This is the avenue [to introduce the idea of electric transportation] into the family."

        Vehicle Name    `Electra'
        Vehicle Number  47
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Pioneer Valley Electric Auto Association
        Team Name       PVEAA
        Town            Wilbraham MA
        Dimensions      8' 0" x 4' 11" x 3' 2"
        Weight          115 pounds
        Range           61 miles
        Max Speed       25 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        165 pounds
        Construction    Azuki, steel frame, body: none
        Motor           ZAP Power Systems, permanent magnet,
                        .4 kW continuous/.6 kW peak
        Controller      ZAP Power Systems, Solid State
        Charger         Solarex MSX 50-L
        PV array        180 Watt, Solarex, polycrystalline
        Battery         2, Panasonic, 44.2 lbs, PbA 588 W-hrs, 12 V parallel
        Wheels, Tires   2, Cycle Pro Bicycle
        Brakes          front Cant., rear Cant., regen

Report #57: Team Profile: `Toyota RAV4-EV'

Ed LaRocque (pronounced La-Roak) is with #99 `Toyota RAV4-EV'.  Toyota has > two < of these electric models of their popular sport utility vehicle here.  One, #99, is in the rally.  The other is here as a chase vehicle and to offer press, VIP, and just-plain-folk rides. 

When I caught up with him on Wednesday morning he was smiling.  "We are having a good time.  Yesterday was a good day for us.  We actually didn't need to recharge [our chase] vehicle.  We went the 107 miles without recharging.  That was a first for us.  We did a one-hour opportunity charge on [#99] just to make sure we could make it."

Do you have a sense of how many kiloWatt-hours you have on board, now, in real- world, up-and-down driving?

"No.  We are still working through that.  We are going to have a good analysis of that.  We are hoping today to set a record on our range with our laps.  We are looking forward to that."

The `RAV4-EV', the `Ford Ecostar' and the `Solectria Force NiMH' have a little grudge match going on to see who gets to go under the banner first at the end of each leg. 

"It's a friendly competition, although frankly we look at this as really good event to move the whole EV movement forward.  We are not really here to win the competition, [although] that would be nice.  We are getting a lot of good press coverage and really supporting what the Tour de Sol is trying to accomplish here."

So, what are the marketing plans for this? When and where can I go out and write a big check and get one of these?

Ed snickered at that.  "Well, we are actually marketing now.  The product will be available [in the] 1998 model year.  It will be available here in the northeast probably soon after the first of the year.  The price on it is $42,000, but with nickel metal hydride that's a pretty good number.  We will have a lease package available.  We'll be offering a three year lease with monthly payments or a one-pay option.  We hope to have that program finalized within the next 30 days. 

"That's fully loaded.  It only comes one way.  The only option for this area might be a `cold package' which features a heavy-duty heat pump, traction control, and rear-seat heaters. 

"The product is going to be available nation wide, although we are keying on three states where we have mandates; California, Massachusetts and New York. 

"We are going to marketing directly to fleet customers to start with.  We are looking at utilities as our first customers.  And municipalities, city, county and state governments, and then corporate commercial accounts.  We think that's the best way to launch the product for the first couple of years."

But what about the private individual who > really < wants one?

Ed was clear.  "Not immediately.  It will be a year or two."

Ed then rattled off the performance numbers.  The top range is 130 miles, and the top speed is electronically governed to 79 miles-an-hour.  A full charge takes 6-to-8 hours, although they get to 50 percent state-of-charge in just a couple of hours.  Zero-to-60 miles-per-hour is about 17 seconds, "but we are working on our performance.  We don't want to compromise the range."

        Vehicle Name    `Toyota RAV4-EV'
        Vehicle Number  99
        Category        Production Category
        Organization    Toyota Motor Sales USA
        Team Name       Toyota Motor Sales USA
        Town            Torrance CA
        Dimensions      13' 0" x 5' 7" x 5' 6"
        Weight          3373 pounds
        Range           130 miles city, 106 highway, 118 combined
        Max Speed       79 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 5
        Capacity        827 pounds
        Construction    Toyota RAV4, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Toyota, permanent magnet, 50 kW @ 2,600-2,800 rpm
        Controller      Toyota
        Charger         Toyota, 220 VAC, 40 Amp, conductive with timer
        PV array        no
        Battery         Panasonic, 984 lbs, NiMH 28,224 W-hrs, 288 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, TBA
        Brakes          front disc, rear drum, ABS, regen

Later on I got to drive the chase RAV4-EV with three other people in the car.  The very first thing I noticed is that the vehicle started to "creep" forward as soon as I took my foot off the brake.  Why?

That's what someone expects to happen when you tell them they are in an car with an automatic transmission. 

Now, the RAV4-EV, like the Ecostar, and the Solectria Force, and many cars that use AC Induction or permanent magnet motors, doesn't have a transmission.  The motor is geared directly to the front wheels, and even going into reverse is just a matter of running the motor backwards.  But Toyota's philosophy, possibly developed through customer testing, is that "ordinary" people like a new car to behave like something they are already familiar with. 

(Personally, I always thought automatic transmission "creep" was a sign of a poorly engineered system, but then I drive a stick-shift diesel, and a Solectria Force.  To me, this is an interesting case of "preserving the aberrant behavior" to satisfy the market.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.)

I did not drive it far enough to get a good sense of the regenerative braking, but it seems to me that part of it must have been on the acceleration pedal, since it did not want to "coast forever" the way a non-regen car does, nor did it have the aggressive slow-down of a Solectria drive system.  I'd guess that, following the same trend mentioned above, they have some regen on the accelerator pedal to make it feel like "compression braking", and the rest on the first portion of the brake pedal. 

Report #58: Team Profile: `Tsunami'

(This is a rework of an earlier report.  I discovered an interview with this team that I had forgotten I had, so, in the interest of completeness ...)

Two years ago, when the NESEA Tour also went from Waterbury CT to Portland ME by a more southerly route, Cornell University School of Engineering was here with a very unusual design for a hybrid electric vehicle called `Tempest'.  Following in the wind-storm naming tradition, they are back with #14 `Tsunami', which shares some of the same design philosophy.  Started in September 96, this series hybrid is an undergraduate research project that awards class credit. 

The idea behind each vehicle is to have two electric motors that both drive the rear wheels.  One is a series wound DC motor, set to provide power for climbing hills and acceleration.  The other is a very efficient permanent magnet (PM) motor for cruising and regenerative braking.  Both motors drive a gear box which is a rebuild of the one that was in `Tempest'.  Under cruising and low- speed conditions the PM motor carries all the load for efficiency, and a one- way clutch isolates the DC motor.  Under heavier acceleration, as sensed by the position of the accelerator pedal, the DC motor also kicks in and provides the extra power needed.  The circuitry that controls the two electric motors is analog.  (Next year they hope to have a microprocessor in the loop.) A Suburu Justy differential and custom built half-shafts take the torque to the rear wheels. 

The 1.0 liter engine burning Compressed Natural Gas and the generator are under the front hood.  Spark timing, throttle control, and charging voltage regulation was all managed by custom built circuitry. 

The chassis for all this is a custom built welded aluminum frame with honeycomb aluminum floor pans and a custom suspension.  The frame, and the steel roll cage, total about 500 pounds.  (The frame was originally built for `Maelstrom', the car that came between `Tempest' and `Tsunami'.  That design had 2 Unique Mobility motors, one for each rear wheel, but they didn't work out in testing.  The frame was heavily reworked for `Tsunami'.)

The package is topped with a red custom-built body.  Kieth Gerritsen described how it was made.  A small clay model of the body was imaged by a laser studio at Cornell.  That data was put into a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program, tweaked to fit it around the frame, and other packaging issues, and then printed as full size images of cross-sections.  They then carved foam to the cross-sections, assembled them, sealed it with body filer; that was the male mold.  The female mold was created in several pieces around the male mold.  That mold was then broken off, reassembled, and used to lay up the final body.  A center layer of Nida-Core, a honeycomb plastic material, was epoxied in between 2 layers of Fiberglas cloth.  Without the glass windshield and Lexan side and rear glazing the whole body weighs 55 pounds. 

One unique feature I noticed was clear plastic panels where you might not expect them.  It looked like there was a hole in the rear compartment that held the electric motors and controllers, but they were actually plastic panels.  They said it was a big help when multiple people were working on the car at once, and during trouble shooting. 

The cockpit is designed to wrap around the driver in a single sweep.  The idea is to have the driver reach all controls, including for things like the radio, without having to stretch.  "A member of the team, [who is not an engineer], has taken a lot of classes in Cornell's Human Ecology School and Ergonomics Design did a presentation showing the ergonomic factors, angles of motion, [and such for this layout]."

The team is close to 30 students.  The project counts as a course, with grades, "but it's a lot of independent work.  It's a big team effort.  Usually when we are working on this noone's really concerned about grades. 

"Up to now we have been doing a new car, from the ground up, every year.  We are thinking that this seems like a good design, and we may stick with this for next year, but optimize it."

Before coming to the Tour de Sol they had done a lot of testing.  The car had been working well and they were very pleased. 

        Vehicle Name    `Tsunami'
        Vehicle Number  14
        Category        US DOE Hybrid Category
        Organization    Cornell University
        Team Name       Cornell University HEV Team
        Town            Ithaca NY
        Dimensions      14' 4" x 5' 4" x 4' 4"
        Weight          2240 pounds
        Range           300 miles
        Max Speed       65 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 2
        Capacity        430 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built, aluminum frame, Fiberglas body
        Motors          Advanced DC, series wound DC,
                        22 kW continuous/45 kW peak;
                        Unique Mobility Permanent Magnet
        Controllers     Purpose-built PWM/Low side chopper
                        for Advanced DC Motor
                        Unique Mobility controller for Unique Mobility motor
        Charger         Off-board, Japlar Monarch, Transformer/Rectifier
        PV array        powers cockpit ventilation
        Battery         14 12-Volt, Trojan, 840 lbs, PbA 2500 W-hrs, 175 V,
        Engine          3 cylinder, 1.0 liter, Geo Metro
        Fuel            Compressed Natural Gas
        Hybrid Config.  Series
        Generator       20 kW Fisher alternator
        Wheels, Tires   4, Michelin P165 70-R13
        Brakes          front disk, rear disk, regen

`Tsunami' never actually ran in the rally, although the did display during the first half of the week.  The last I remember seeing them was in White River Junction. 

After I got home I did talk by phone with team member Mohammed Jafri, who just graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering and who will be returning in the fall for Master of Engineering. 

Before the rally started on Monday, `Tsunami' suffered a ground fault caused by the damp weather.  They were not ready by post time, but they did dry out everything and got the vehicle safe again.  However, in Northampton, while doing some rewiring, there was a bright flash and their PM motor controller was fried.  They decided to pack up and return home.  Mohammed said they hope to be back next year. 

Report #59: Team Profile: `V.C. I.C.E. Breaker'

Seth Cabe was working on his electrically assisted bicycle, #10 `V.C. I.C.E.  Breaker', in White River Junction on Wednesday morning.  The first question was, of course, what is the full name of the bike?

"Valley Central (High School) Internal Combustion Engine Breaker". 

Seth's dad teaches at Newburgh Free Academy and is the faculty advisor for #58 `NFA Sol Machine'.  Seth attends Valley Central, a neighboring high school and wanted to get into the NESEA Tour.  "We had just enough money to get into the race," and pay their day-to-day expenses and entry fee.  The bike itself is a testament to generousity.  The motor, a Schachner made in Austria, is borrowed from Jim Dunn (who runs a "business incubation" center in Rome NY).  The bike is lent by Jamis Bicycles in return for publicity.  The batteries were donated by American Science and Surplus (a mail order company).  And the solar panel was borrowed from his dad.  "So we didn't have to pay for much on the actual bike."

And they didn't have much time either.  They had been planning to use a completely different motor and controller, but "we built the entire bike from 9 o-clock Saturday night until 4:30 in the morning, because Jim Dunn gave us permission to use [this motor] like a week before the race, and we had finals and stuff.  [To make] the battery pack we took two plastic trays from the hotel and took a heat gun and melted them together.  We're very proud of that. 

"It's only me and Chris Chung.  We're not professional bike racers.  He hasn't ridden a bike for years.  I've ridden a little bit, but never raced before.  So it's tough for us.  But we're making it and just glad to be in the race."

The Schachner motor is a series wound DC hub motor on the rear wheel.  A twist throttle on the handlebar connects to the controller, and a display "shows how many Amps you are using and if the batteries are charged or not." There is a multi-gear derailer system to let the cyclist change gears, but the motor is connected directly to the frame and thus has a single drive ratio.  (I don't know if there are any internal gears -- forgot to ask.)

It has mountain bike shocks, and smooth, low-rolling-resistance tire on the front, "but we never got around to putting it on the rear." So the rear tire is knobby.  They did 40 miles on Monday and 52 miles on Tuesday.  "Actually, the first day I got lost.  I ended up in at a police station.  I didn't get back until midnight, which is really terrible since then I had to get up and race the next day.  It wasn't a good start, but our spirits are lifting."

There are four bicycles in the Tour de Sol this year, which is three more than we ever have had before.  By prior agreement, the two which are from companies, `Charger Bicycle' and `Yankee Pedler', are racing against each other.  `Electra' and `V.C. I.C.E Breaker' are from hobbiests, and so kept as a separate sub-group. 

"It's nice, because we get to share bike parts, and help each other out, and cheer each other on."

        Vehicle Name    `V.C. I.C.E. Breaker'
        Vehicle Number  10
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Valley Central High School
        Team Name       V.C. I.C.E. Breakers
        Town            Walden NY
        Dimensions      5' 0" x 2' 0" x 3' 0"
        Weight          68 pounds
        Range           55 miles
        Max Speed       35 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        250 pounds
        Construction    Purpose-built Cro-moly frame, body: none
        Motor           Schachner, series wound DC
        Controller      ?
        Charger         off-board, Elenco, Model XP-581
        PV array        2 Watt, Siemens, monocrystalline, charging batteries. 
        Battery         3, Power Sonic, Sealed PbA, 108 W-hrs, 36 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   2, Continental Bicycle
        Brakes          front Cant., rear Cant., no regen

Report #60: Tuesday afternoon, Day 2 of the Rally

Today is a strange one for the NESEA Tour.  We started in Northampton MA, ran 19 miles to have a lunch and display stop in Greenfield MA, ran another 43 miles up to an afternoon display and recharge stop (for those who need it) in Bellows Falls VT, and then a final 44 mile run up to White River Junction VT.  The stop in Greenfield was optional in the sense that if a car took too long make it from Northampton to there, it could just go on to Bellows Falls. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

The sun was quite cooperative in Greenfield MA, NESEA's home town, and the locals put on quite a show for their neighbors.  The local high school band played, the local eateries set up on the sidewalks, and the Tour de Sol vehicles were a big hit.  School tours, local business people, and shoppers wandered up and down Miles Street, in the center of town, checking out this year's batch. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

But not everyone stopped in Greenfield.  John Northrop with #65 `Electric Hare' said they just missed the cut-off time in Greenfield, due in part to the noon- time traffic, and thus where the first ones at Bellows Falls Union High School.  He said they had used 12.5 kiloWatt-hours out of the 16 they have on board. 

Report #61: Wednesday morning, Day 3 of the Rally

It was a bit chilly and cloudy on Wednesday morning on South Main Street in White River Junction VT, but a goodly sized group of people showed up to see the electric cars displayed near an antique steam locomotive that is a feature of downtown. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Luchia Bay and Matt LeClair with #83 `Sol Survivor' brought me up to date.  "As far as we knew when we left, we had ten good batteries, but as the first day went on our number 10 battery started to get very low on voltage and dragging the whole system down.  We pulled over and hooked it up so we could charge it up using the other nine batteries, using a DC-to-DC converter.  We were able to make another 6 miles finishing 63 out of 69. 

"The second day we made it to Bellows Falls (63 miles) and about 38 miles out of 44 [towards White River Junction] and there number 5 started to die with the same problems, so we just gave up.  It was after 8 PM, and so we were using up charging time.  So we towed it."

Luchia was a bit frustrated by the fact that even though she is the lightest person on the team, she's not able to be in the car, "because I have other jobs to do.  I have to take pictures of the car, and can't very well do that inside the car.  I might [get to ride] later, on one of the hard days [going through the mountains] because I weigh less." Not everyone wants the responsibility of driving, but Luchia was willing. 

Being the lightest doesn't automatically impart any advantage because of the rules require two people weighing 60 kilograms (132 pounds).  Lighter people must carry extra weight. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Tim Chow was showing off a "Go-Ped" which is a very little scooter with a little electric motor driving the rear wheel via a friction drive.  "It's about two-thirds of a horsepower.  It has a lead-acid battery.  This one is 12 Volts, but the production model will be 24 Volts.  It weighs about 40 pounds and it goes about 12 miles on a charge." There are two squeeze handles on the handle bar.  One is the brake, which pinches a pair of pads against the front wheel, the other is the accelerator.  The handle can be pulled up and then folded back to make a pretty compact package.  "It is made in Livermore California by Pat Mont Motorworks and the price will be about $700." The circuit box was open, exposing a very simple-looking circuit made up of one integrated circuit, some capacitors, a couple of diodes, and the power transistors using the box as a heat sink. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

The spirit of competition and the spirit of cooperation exist side-by-side at the American Tour de Sol. 

I came across a yawning `Electric Hare' "Wattsman" (who woke up about 10 minutes ago) who couldn't tell me too much about how they were doing because he had been riding chase for the `Millenium Falcon'.  But he did know that they had used about 18 kiloWatt-hours to cover the 106.7 miles of Tuesday's three legs.  I figure that to be about 170 Watt-hours per mile. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

`Helios the Heron IV' is having charger troubles.  Samantha Marshall and Julia Levendowski brought me up to date. 

They are not getting very high currents, so there aren't enough hours to refill the battery if they drain it too far down.  Monday night they only got about a third of a charge, so they only made it 40 miles on Tuesday.  That's pretty good, considering. 

This morning they feel that got a good charge last night, and this leg is the same length as Monday's leg, although there are a couple of big hills. 

The `Helios' team does a team swap today.  The dozen kids who have been here since the weekend go home and a new group arrives for the latter half.  Everyone shows up for the finish line in Portland Maine. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Kurt Selverian of the #62 `GarnetOne' team told me, "We had some engine problems.  Our coolant system overheated a little bit.  We were running the generator a pretty long time, so that's what caused that.  And our exhaust system is a little loud.  Our gaskets are not holding together as well as we'd like them to so we are modifying that right now.  And we were running a little lean yesterday, so the engine was really warming up.  We are working on it.  We should be back on the road today. 

"[Yesterday] we lost [the engine] about 8 miles out and spent about an hour- and-a-half on the road trying to put it all back together.  We just about made it here."

I figured that they didn't have to stop at Bellows Falls for a recharge, but I was wrong. 

"Actually, we did [stop].  We worked out an agreement with the Tour de Sol.  Since we are on CNG and we don't have CNG [fuel stations] in the area, we had to charge up early in the morning.  At the end of the day, we'll take a trip down to Manchester NH to [refuel].  So we did charge at Bellows Falls, just to save on our CNG."

What it all boils down to is that part of the time `GarnetOne' is running as a pure electric, and part of the time it is running as a CNG hybrid.  The driving strategy tends to be "stay on our battery as long as possible for efficiency reasons, and then once our battery state-of-charge goes low we start up the engine and let it go.  Our 12 Volt battery system needs to be recharged using the engine also."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

`Evolution' didn't show up in Bellows Falls on Tuesday, and I was wondering why. 

"We dumped about a quart-and-a-half of water out of our controller from the rain on [Monday] night.  I think we were a little bit high on our fluid level," they joked. 

Did that keep you from starting on Tuesday?

"No, we actually completed the whole event.  We just had no time to display.  We did a road-side repair.  Dropped the controller out of the vehicle, cleaned it out, got it back in, and the car ran fine."

They were talking about how they had designed the car for easy access to things like the controller and how it was all paying off, and I asked how thoroughly that sort of thing was documented.  (Heathkit started by selling full-size airplane kits.  Maybe they could come back selling EV kits?) Is there a lot of Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings and such?

There is a fair amount.  "It's really hard to spend a lot of time doing documentation when you are a full-time student, and working on this project, and [some of us] hold down full-time jobs as well.  So there is minimal documentation.  But for anything that is safety related we have ample documentation.  The electronics are well documented.  Not enough to hand over to someone and have them replicate the exact vehicle, but we've done enough with pictures and whatnot to document the vehicle for future reference."

Is there anything I'm forgetting to ask?

"When do I get to get a full eight hours of sleep?"


        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#8 `Electric Lion' broke the toothed belt between the engine and the generator on Tuesday, on the leg from Bellows Falls to White River Junction.  They repaired it and were able to finish the leg with only a came-in-late penalty.  Replacing the belt was easy, once the chase vehicle that had it showed up.  Why did the belt break?

"The engine overheated a little bit, and the aluminum expanded which tightened up the belt," beyond it's limits.  Originally, they were going to put an idler on that belt, but they ran out of time. 

Report #62: Team Profile: `Enterprise'

#33 `Enterprise' is entered by a team named "Techies" from the Southern Maine Technical College in South Portland Maine.  It is their first entry in the Tour de Sol. 

Scott Levesque, an auto mechanic and also a recently-graduated student at SMTC, told me about their converted Ford Aerostar van.  They started this extra- curricular project a year ago, and he guesses they did about four months worth of work in that time.  Scott did most of the mechanical work, and his instructor did most of the electrical. 

They got a lot of stuff through donations and sponsorship.  The woman who owned the van donated it to them when she heard about the project. 

Bolted to the transmission is an Advanced DC motor with a belt on the tail- shaft which drives an alternator for regenerative braking.  The Curtis controller, contactors, and other traction components are mounted on a panel that keeps the wiring neat and easy to work on.  The hydraulics for the power steering is powered by an electric pump from a Suburu sports car and an electric vacuum pump and vacuum tank support the power-assisted brakes. 

They lost 2 battery modules on the way up, so they dropped two out of the string and reduced the pack to 120 Volts. 

They were only able to cover 5.5 miles on Monday.  On Tuesday, they had things repaired and were able to get to Greenfield and Bellows Falls.  But they had trouble again on the way to White River Junction.  They made another attempt on Wednesday, but only got 9 miles before it quit on them.  Still they brought `Enterprise' to the displays. 

"Next year, hopefully, we'll have a better system and be able to go long distances," Scott said. 

        Vehicle Name    `Enterprise'
        Vehicle Number  33
        Category        Commuter Category
        Organization    Southern Maine Technical College
        Team Name       Techies
        Town            South Portland ME
        Dimensions      14' 8" x 6' 0" x 6' 0"
        Weight          4740 pounds
        Range           60 miles
        Max Speed       50 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 6
        Capacity        1200 pounds
        Construction    1987 Ford Aerostar, steel frame, steel body
        Motor           Advanced DC, Brushed DC, 22 kW continuous/50 kW peak
        Controller      Curtis DMC
        Charger         off-board, Gould, Transformer/Rectifier
        PV array        no
        Battery         12 Power, PbA, 144 V, series
        Wheels, Tires   4, TBA, All Season
        Brakes          front disk, rear drum, regen (alternator)

Report #63: Interview: Topher Waring

I heard it over and over again in the course of the NESEA Tour.  "Those `Helios' kids really understand this stuff!"

So I asked Topher Waring, shop teacher and faculty advisor to the kids from Riverside School in Lyndonville VT, to talk about how that happens.  He told me a story about putting the Cruising Equipment "E-Meter" into `Helios the Heron IV'.  "The week before the tour," he said, "I can get kids excused from their academic classes.  Previous to that they have to go to all their classes and can only work after school and during their shop class. 

"Anne and Ad (two eighth graders) are my two sharpest kids.  So, I said to them, `Let's look at the schematics together.  And here's the deal.  I'll get you dismissed from all your classes for the day, if you'll put this thing in, the two of you together.' And I said, `It's expensive and I only have > one <.  So take the whole day, and check every wire, and get it right.' And I walked away. 

"[I was] handing them something they knew was valuable, they knew we had to have it to be in the race, because the Tour de Sol people told me last year, `Topher, you've done a great job! Don't come back without [a couple of things, including] an E-Meter. 

"They went ahead, and took the whole day.  At the end of the day they had a working E-Meter.  They had checked every connection twice before they actually connected it, and they had done most of the calibrating, and they had figured out what all the buttons meant.  At the end of the day they knew how to install an E-Meter. 

"Later, in Waterbury, they were able help the `Sol Machine'.  They really did have a sense of what wire went where, and the black wire and the red wire and all that.  They knew what they were talking about.  They had spent a whole day doing it. 

"I'm fortunate enough, and the kids are fortunate enough, that the school recognizes that within a fairly clear set of parameters, there is real value in a hands-on experience.  Before the race the school lets me get kids dismissed for very clear tasks.  What they learn, and the confidence they gain ...  is way more valuable than the French vocabulary they might have gotten that day."

So, what do the kids have to do to wrap up this project academically?

"First they finish writing all the thank-you letters.  They keep journals every day, and they have to rewrite those journals into proper English, turn them in and those are graded.  We take the machine and make sure it is ready to be put up for the summer.  And then there is a final presentation with pictures and text that is [given] to the school this fall by the kids that who remain. 

So what will you do for next year?

"Yeah, next year is a little dicey.  I've been doing it for four years and it's getting to the point where my time vacation-wise is crowding my own projects.  > If < we come back it will be with a very similar car, and not drastically reworked.  But that is an `if' at this point."

Topher is always nervous when a `Helios' is going through testing.  He cannot watch.  This year they had a list of about 23 items to fix, but in the end they were all checked off. 

But there are some things they always have gotten right.  "For instance, we have passed the electrical safety test for ground faults every single year." It makes him very happy, especially when he sees other teams struggling with the problem.  "This year we were so far under the limit that we the judges were pretty impressed."

Report #64: Team Profile: `Yankee Pedler'

Jim Dunn is the Chief Technical Officer and one of the Executive Directors for the Center for Technology Commercialization, "which is NASA's northeast regional technology transfer center in Westborough MA." Last year he was associated with an electrically assisted bike that came to the American Tour de Sol, and he is again this year. 

"We ran into John Austin of Wellington Electric at the Manufacturing Technology show about 5 weeks ago in Chicago, and got talking to them about their motor technology." This conversation took place in late April, less than a month ago. 

Jim had project with Cannondale working on a racing wheel chair.  "It's awesome, with independent suspension on each wheel, disk brakes, and everything." Jim suggested that they could take Wellington's brushless DC, permanent magnet, pancake motor, which is about an inch thick and 5 inches in diameter, and build it, with gearing and everything, into a bicycle hub.  Cannondale agreed to donate the bike.  They talked to Duracell, located in Waterbury CT, who agreed to provide the nickel metal hydride batteries they make for laptop computers.  "So, because everything came from Connecticut we called it the `Yankee Pedler'." (And yes, that spelling is correct.)

The motor on the bike is on the front wheel, replacing the hub.  It has two aluminum plates, I'm guessing 6 inches in diameter, that take the spokes.  They are separated by a black plastic band, and again guessing, about 2-and-a-half inches apart. 

I spoke by phone with John Austin who runs Wellington Electric to get the correct spelling of `Yankee Pedler'.  I also got a lot of information about the motor.  The motors are designed for an operational life of 40,000 to 60,000 hours.  The motor on the bike was designed to contain both the motor and the gearing in a low-profile, tight-profile case.  Internally, the gearing ratio was 24-to-1.  Lubricating oil splashes around inside the motor and helps carry the heat to the the outside shell.  On the bike, the wheel turned in the 200 to 300 RPM range, which translates to about 20 miles per hour cycling speed.  A motorcycle-like twist-throttle on the handlebar controlled the speed. 

John pointed out that the motor delivers 75% efficiency at between 25% and 85% of power.  The torque curve is very flat, so gear-shifting is not necessary.  Although regenerative braking is relatively easy to do on a brushless DC motor, it was deliberately left out of this system. 

        Vehicle Name    `Yankee Pedler'
        Vehicle Number  15
        Category        One Person Category
        Organization    Wellington Electric Co., Inc. 
        Team Name       The Yankee Pedlers
        Town            Torrington CT
        Dimensions      5' 0" x 2' 0" x 3' 0"
        Weight          80 pounds
        Range           70 miles
        Max Speed       23 miles per hour
        # of Passengers 1
        Capacity        200 pounds
        Construction    Cannondale, aluminum frame, body: none
        Motor           Wellington Electric, Brushless DC,
                        .35 kW continuous/.9 kW peak
        Controller      Wellington Electric, 3-phase
        Charger         off-board
        PV array        ?
        Battery         Duracell, 31 lbs, NiMH, 1100 W-hrs/36 V parallel,
        Wheels, Tires   2, TBA Bicycle
        Brakes          front disk, rear disk, no regen

John pointed out some unique opportunities that pancake motors offer the designer.  For example, pancakes can be stacked to increase horsepower. 

While the motor is not yet available as a consumer product, Wellington is working to provide a motor-and-controller kit for under $500. 

OEM inquiries for the motors are invited.  More info:

        Wellington Electric
        860-626-0267 FAX

Report #65: Wednesday afternoon: Day 3 of the Rally

The trip from White River Junction VT to Lincoln NH put us in the middle of the White Mountains.  The roads are scenic, and in some places very steep. 

We set up to display at the Loon Mountain ski resort.  It was cool, overcast, and rained once or twice briefly during the afternoon. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

`Sol Survivor IV' did a little over 50 miles before they had to trailer the rest of the way.  I asked Kyle Shackewyc what they were doing about their weak battery modules. 

"We are going try to [put those two batteries] on individual 12 Volt chargers tonight and try to get them up to peak performance for tomorrow."

Other than the batteries, how is the vehicle doing?

"I think it's handling the roads pretty well considering it's kind of low to the ground and has small tires."

When I asked how much they were using regen braking on these steep grades.  Kyle said that they didn't use it too much, since they wanted to keep their speed up so they could coast part way up the next hill. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

I asked Olaf Bleck how #79 `59 Berkeley' was doing. 

"We did great in terms of actually running, but we just eked it in here today.  The batteries were pretty close to dead as we pulled in.  As far as hill climbing goes, this car is just fabulous.  The way the motor curves work out, going up the hills is a lot of fun."

He is looking forward to going up Mount Washington tomorrow, and then coming again in June to attempt a 12 minute or maybe 11 minute run. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#45 `Sparky' anticipated that the hills from White River Junction to Loon Mountain would be much steeper than they actually are, so climbing them proved not to be a problem.  But they still don't have their regenerative braking system working, so they had to stop a couple of times to let their brakes cool.  After they do a lap or two, they are going to mount some air-cooling shrouds on the front disk brakes, and get the regen braking going. 

They are having no problems with range.  "We are driving carefully, with the egg under the foot, obeying the laws, and getting there."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Jim Dunn, of NASA's Center for Technology Commercialization, in Westborough MA, is looking to use the electric-bike technology we see in the NESEA Tour as an educational tool.  "We are looking to create a program for high schools, teaching electric vehicle technology in a hands-on way." The motors, controllers, batteries and chargers that would be used in the classroom could then be installed on a bicycle, mini-bike or go-cart so they could see what they have learned applied to something close to their daily experience.  And a little competition, something like an Electrathon, would also help get the juices flowing.  On Tuesday morning, at Smith Vocational High School in Northampton MA, they conducted an electric bike clinic for about 60 kids.  "We went through all the different types of electric bikes; friction drive against the wheel, and hub motors, and pedal-assist, and outboard gearing.  We showed examples of all the bikes and the technologies, which were right there, and the kids could ride them.  Then we actually built motors, showing what the innards of a motor are, and had the kids winding coils.  It was pretty exciting." The shop teacher who runs their applied technologies course wants to have them make something simple like a mini-bike.  The kids could weld the frame themselves, and then electrify them. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Jim Dunn also told me that the `Charger Bicycle', #12, had a fairly bad accident on the way from White River Junction to Lincoln.  "They threw a chain, and then it got caught up, and threw the rider off the bike, and they broke a collar bone in a pretty bad fall.  That person is in the hospital."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

As the cars were pulling up around the charging trailer to plug in for the night, we were treated to the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

I asked Bob Goodrich, who is the chief guru of the charging trailer, what has worked better this year than last year.  "No one has had an inadvertent [circuit breaker] trip in the middle of the night." All problems have been solved early in the evening, and everyone got through the night.  "It's because we understand what problems people might have, and try to anticipate them, and help them get through [them].  And secondly, people have begun to understand what the problems might be and come to ask us [for the] information that will allow them to get through the night." The ability to display the actual waveforms to the teams have been a big help. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

I ran across Nick Lacoppola, faculty advisor for Team Canada with #48 `Suncharger'.  He told me that their large external charger has been saving them.  "It puts in 80% of the charge in four hours.  If it wasn't for this charger, donated by Saft NIFE (pronounced "knife"), we would be in trouble." It's about the size of a small refrigerator. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

`Helios the Heron IV' has been having difficulty getting a full charge each night.  Team New England is loaning them an extra power supply to put in series with the charger and boost the voltage a bit higher.  Their usual charger only delivers energy at the top of each sine-wave, when the charger voltage is above the battery pack voltage.  By adding a power supply in series, they hope to deliver energy over a wider portion of the cycle. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Wednesday evening, there was a big buffet dinner for all the teams, volunteers and staff at the NESEA Tour. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

James Worden didn't get to eat dinner with the rest of us tonight.  He spent the afternoon and evening driving laps in the `Solectria Force NiMH' and breaking Solectria's own Tour de Sol Production Category range record with 249.0 miles.  Lin Higley of Ovonic was smiling broadly, laughing, and basicly enjoying the glow. 

Report #66: Interview: Howard G. Wilson

At the buffet dinner Wednesday night, I got to meet Howard G. Wilson.  Howard is serving on the Jury for the American Tour de Sol, after a long, long involvement with electric vehicles.  Monday night, Michael Shnayerson said that Howard was the one who originally proposed the idea of an electric car to General Motors.  He had worked for Hughes Aircraft most of his life.  When GM bought that company in 1985 Howard was the chief technical contact between Hughes and GM. 

"When we came back from winning the 1987 solar car race in Australia, the main thing we had learned was just how much you could do by energy conservation.  The people from Aerovironment (who built the GM Sunrayer) came to me and suggested that we take that knowledge and use it to build a very, very efficient electric car to increase the range." The rest of the story is in Shnayerson's book, `The Car That Could'. 

Howard has had an GM EV1 since early January.  Los Angeles has a special night time electric rate for charging EVs.  Two months of EV driving cost him about $20 to go approximately 1,400 miles (about 1.4 cents per mile). 

I asked Howard what he saw at the NESEA Tour that he found interesting. 

"Every year we see more of Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, and those electric cars are going the furthest. 

"I'm interested in the hybrid vehicles as well because they have a place too.  People tend to think of hybrid vehicles and pure electric vehicles as being in competition one with the other.  They're really not.  The future world will be made up of hybrid vehicles and pure electric vehicles and the ratio between the two will a function of how well the batteries come along and how the manufacturing costs come along.  But there is a place for both of them."

Do you see hybrid electric shipping trucks, semis, or dump trunks in the future?

"There is no reason why all those vehicles couldn't be hybrid vehicles.  It's just a matter of sizing the auxiliary engine for whatever vehicle you are talking about and sizing the battery [according to] whatever you are trying to accomplish. 

"A good friend of mine, Harold Rosen, is doing a hybrid using a gas turbine, and a flywheel for storage.  He hasn't got the idea that the car has to go any long distance on pure energy storage." The flywheel only stores 1/2 kiloWatt- hour of energy, but that's all you need to smooth out the power needs so a turbine works.  The flywheel can quickly provide peak power for sudden demands, serving more as a supercapacitor than a battery. 

"The reason EVs are succeeding now, when they failed 10 or 15 years ago is because of the development of the electronics.  The electronic devices that allow us to run the motors now were not available just 10 years ago. 

"I think the fuel cell is going to be there and the gas turbine is going to be a good choice.  Some of the more advanced gas turbines are very, very low in pollution.  In fact, if the area in which you are operating is like Los Angles, it is quite possible that the exhaust from the gas turbine will be cleaner than the air coming in."

"It's a very interesting field overall.  One of the big problems right now is the chicken-and-egg problem having to do with the cost of the vehicles and the production quantities.  There is no reason why an electric car has to cost any more than a gasoline car.  It's just a matter of the production quantities.  Until the price comes down, you just cannot sell enough. 

"[For the time being, electric cars] are basicly a commuter car or an around- town car.  They are not for long distance running.  The people out there who have commuter cars aren't comparing [new EVs] with a new Ford Escort.  They are comparing them with a 5-year-old Honda, because more people commute in a 5- or 10- year old something.  The cost of a brand new EV, which can only be brand new, is up against a car that may be worth $4,000 or $5,000. 

"My idea for the marketers, is to [promote the idea] that the car you use most of the time, everyday driving back-and-forth, and the one you take out to social events, ought to be your new, nice car." Use your 5-year-old station wagon as your occasional, long distance car.  "Why pay for a new car you are going to let sit most of the time, if you are driving your commuter?"

I was very happy to have the opportunity to listen to one of the pioneers of the modern electric vehicle. 

Report #67: So, What Is New and Different?

Some of the vehicles are returning to the NESEA Tour after already going through their paces in previous years.  To get back in, NESEA insists that there be a reason to come back.  They like to see some sort of improvement or new idea.  So my question to lots of teams is, "So, what's new and different this year?" Here are some of the answers ... 


This is #72 Sungo's fifth NESEA Tour.  Spencer Allen immediately pointed out that they were running nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries from Ovonic, but he also mentioned they had made some wiring changes.  "Simplification -- getting rid of a few wires -- so the people who follow me won't have to beat their heads against the wall too often." They also removed the old Lexan windshield and put in automotive glass which is easier to keep clean, especially in the rain.  The new windshield added about 30 pounds in weight, but having lost about 400 pounds by switching away from lead-acid batteries, they could afford it.  They reworked their front-end geometry to correct problems that bent parts.  They also gave it a real accelerator pedal, that looks and feels like a real accelerator pedal, instead of the lightly sprung potentiometer arm of years past. 

Last year, `Sungo' was running two strings of batteries.  A "big" string of large capacity Electrosource Horizons, and a "little" string smaller capacity of Deka Dominators.  The idea was to switch from the big string when it got "tired", and use the little string for a while.  During that time the "rested" big string would recover some and so you could switch back and get a bit more range.  I asked Spencer how that did? "It worked very well for us," he said.  But they are not doing it this year.  Why? The Ovonic NiMH battery does not "recover" if rested after discharge.  Whatever it gave you, that is what you are going to get. 

Between Tours de Sol, `Sungo' spends its summers attending local fairs and other entertainments.  During the winter it's getting reworked. 

`Project e-'

This is #96 Project e-'s fourth year.  Jacob Dupont said, "There's not much new this year.  We had good luck last year.  We pretty much kept it the same." He then proceeded to point out that they put on a new fiberglass hood, sealed up the battery boxes to keep the water away which caused ground faults, added fans on the battery boxes to keep them well ventilated now that they were more sealed, added a second solar panel that charges the battery that runs the battery box fans, put in a new front sway bar for additional stability, and put on new Conquest tires from Goodyear (a generous sponsor).  They also took it all apart and repainted the undercarriage.  They also repainted the battery box frames with an acid resistant paint.  "It's a marine paint, that is like battleship paint."

Right Jacob; not much new. 

Bob Fedell stopped by also and we spoke about the hybrid control strategy.  Basically, the propane fueled engine-plus-generator is controlled by the driver or passenger.  A control between the seats in the cab is used to start and set the speed of the engine and it is usually just set at that constant speed that tends keep the batteries at about the same state-of-charge.  "We thought about changing it over (to something automatic) but is just seemed to iffy.  Right now we just set it to where we want it and just leave it for the rest of the day. 

There is a Halon fire suppression system (which I don't recall seeing last year) with a pair of nozzles pointed at the engine.  The control to fire it is right next to the engine throttle between the seats. 

Report #68: Battery Meltdown

Thursday morning in Lincoln NH was not a happy one for the members of the Chico State team.  Sometime after 4 am, a security guard noticed "smoke" coming from under the hood of #88 `Evolution'.  He immediately woke the folks in the motor home where the charging trailer crew were sleeping.  Before it was all over, the local fire department had come and poured water into the front battery box to cool down the overheated batteries.  By sunrise the emergency had past and nobody had been hurt, but `Evolution' was definitely out of the race. 

I was able to interview several members of the Chico State team at a time when I am certain they simply wished the world would go away.  Here is the story they told. 

Steve Brennan, from GM-Ovonic, said, "This is not a happy day for us.  We had a failure with the cooling system, we believe, on the car.  The batteries got a little-bit warm and [entered] what we call `thermal runaway'.  [They] just got too hot and started melting plastic.  Something happened and it happened quick, and we didn't catch it. 

"What was primarily coming out was smoke from things that were external to the battery." The parts of the battery box, the polycarbonate separators and hold downs were over heated by the batteries and started to scorch.  The batteries almost certainly put out some steam at some point, which may be what caused the four cooling fans over the front pack to fail.  "We don't have an analysis of when, or how, or why, and we may never know." It was wet all afternoon and evening Wednesday and raining over night, and it's possible that the fans' power supply failed due to the moisture, but Steve made clear they did not know the order of events. 

I had heard of this condition, where nickel metal hydride batteries get warm as they are nearing top-of-charge.  Steve explained what that was about. 

"As they start to get full, they generate a little bit of heat from a chemical reaction called `oxygen recombination'.  This [happens at] between 80% and 100% of charge.  You need to cool the batteries well during that region, or otherwise you'll get thermal runaway.  I believe that's what happened here.  That's where the voltage starts to roll off and go down.  The batteries, when they get hot, self-discharge.  So you are in an accelerated self-discharge.  Once [it starts], it can be very bad.  That's what we witnessed here."

I asked if there are there any caustic materials inside these batteries? Is there anything to be worried about when this happens?

"No.  We have done all this testing, and we haven't seen anything.  There is potassium hydroxide, which is a base, you don't want to get on your fingers.  It will burn your skin a little bit, but it's not as bad as an acid." You treat it with boric acid to neutralize it. 

I asked if boric acid is part of the safety kit. 

"That's a good question.  Usually the cases where you get anything coming out of those batteries are so extreme, we have never seen it before, so this was the first time.  [But] there is evidence on one cell [that it released something].  And it may have released no potassium hydroxide.  What happens many times is that when it releases, it is usually releasing steam.  Even in very bad conditions, like there were today, these are very safe batteries in terms of creating hazards for people. 

"Unfortunately, they create hazards for each other and you get an entire pack to fail together.  At least 50% of these modules are not coming back."

I pointed out that it is well known that the advanced battery chemistries, sealed lead-acid, nickel cadmium, lithium ion, and nickel metal hydride, all have some type of problem at the top of charge.  None of them is tolerant of overcharge like the old flooded lead-acid batteries were designed to be, and there can be other problems.  The ideal solution would be to monitor every block of cells, or even every individual cell, for above-or-below-nominal conditions, and react appropriately.  If fact, I had noticed earlier that `Evolution' was already wired to look at every block and there were several temperature sensors in each battery box.  Why didn't that catch this problem and either shut things down or sound an alarm?

At this point, team members Chris Clements, Matt Creedon Thom Singer, and Ian Turner joined the conversation. 

"Last night we got the data acquisition system working, got all the software bugs out of it, and got it recording temperature data right here on the bench.  And we didn't want to mess around in this rain, because there are dangers of working on the car, while it is charging, in the rain.  When it's not charging, there is no problem.  So the plan was to get it somewhere it [wasn't] charging, it was safe to work on it, and it was at least dry, and hookup the system this morning.  We were a little late."

If the system had been installed, would it have prevented this accident?

"Not at this point.  It would not have shut down the charger, but it would have given us a visible warning," if someone were watching the displays. 

"Ultimately it was the team's fault for not having a person watching it full time.  We got comfortable with charging it the previous nights."

"The [charger built into the car] wasn't capable of generating enough voltage to give us a full charge, so we figured we were safe.  We were probably right on the borderline.  What was happening was the current would just roll-off, and roll-off, and roll-off until we couldn't put more than 2 Amps into it, because we just couldn't generate any more voltage.  With that, the batteries might creep up a few degrees, and turn on the fans, and cool it down."

"[This event] happened rather rapidly, and that's what kind-of odd.  Because we had it roll-off at such a nice, low voltage we think that maybe during the discharge yesterday, [while] we were going for range, [we might have damaged a cell by over discharging it].  There is always the chance that changing the voltage of the pack can change the characteristics of the battery charger, and that is going to give you maybe a higher current, and a higher rate of charge.  Then you get the heat build up." With a string totaling 343 Volts, a dead or damaged 1-to-1.5 Volt cell would not be detectable at the charger's positive and negative connections. 

Steve said that #76 `Solectria Force NiMH' has a data acquisition system (called the DAC) that Solectria developed themselves.  It would have shut down their charger if they had a similar condition, but it wasn't used in `Evolution' because it wasn't designed to work with a pack this large. 

And I know that #72 `Sungo' is using a BADICHEQ system that monitors the voltage of every block and the temperature of each battery box.  I believe the BADICHEQ in `Sungo' would shut down the system in time.  (I have a BADICHEQ in my electric car, and it stops the charge if it gets above 55 degrees C, detects overcharge, or has been charging too long.)

I personally agree with those who suggest that batteries should come with the monitoring capability built into the block, or even into the cell.  Instead of relying on some external circuit to know what is supposed to be going on inside each cell, why not have a data communications standard defined for battery monitoring.  In that way the charger-and-monitor could query each cell for it's key parameters (voltage, temperature, state-of-charge), and the treatment it wants (limiting charge- or discharge-current), and thus maximize the information available.  I proposed that this unfortunate event really makes the case for not relying on an external system that has to figure out what is happening all through a 300 cell pack. 

Steve replied, "We have had a lot of packs where you don't have to monitor that [closely and they] have lasted for ages and never had any problems.  We [sometimes] monitor at the module level and [look for differences between modules].  The [difference] can tell you if a module is [out of step with the others]." This is what the Solectria DAC does and it catches situations like this one. 

Steve was a member of the team before he joined GM-Ovonic, but wanted to say that he and his colleagues at GM-Ovonic were very impressed with the Chico State team and what they have accomplished.  He left me with the impression that the partnership would definitely continue. 

But a car is more than the technology.  For the students who had put > so < much time and effort into this project, this was clearly an emotional ride they did not want to be on. 

"[We] are not happy at all.  Many hours down the tubes."

"In the short term, at least in the Tour de Sol, we want to help out as much as possible.  We are going to volunteer [wherever we can be useful]."

This is not their first major failure.  In Scandinavia, their car was hit by another and that took them out of the race.  But it is the first time they have had a major mechanical or electrical failure. 

Is it too early to ask, "What next?"

"I think we are all going to go home, work over the summer, and make money so we can all come back to school.  A good portion of the group is graduating, but there are people there to take over and continue on. 

"You always learn from your mistakes.  We have learned a that we do need an active data acquisition system that controls everything."

"We have always known that.  The problem is that we never had the time to implement it and we've just taken the chance [of entering the vehicle in competitions] without those precautions and relied on our own skills.  I don't think the car is going to roll without one from now on."

Part of the emotional burden comes from the sacrifices people have made.  "[For] the last year and a half it's just been the car and not really much school."

"Not much social life either."

"I've sacrificed several semesters of finals and grades for projects and competitions.  It's just very depressing to think about the lack of success we've had in relation to the amount of effort we have put into the vehicle, just because of one little overlooked problem or detail."

The chains get more complicated and more elaborate, but there is always that weak link problem, I commented. 

"The trick is to design the weak link so that it is easily identifiable, known, and when it fails it isn't catastrophic."

"Maybe not a weak link, but a fusible link."

I asked, what was the simplest thing that could have prevented the problem?

"Have one person up all night watching the temperatures all the time, rather than have incremental monitoring.  From the time we checked it at 2:30 in the morning, until the time we were going to check it at 5 this morning the batteries had this catastrophic failure."

"Once we get the print out from the charging [trailer], we should be able to narrow it down even farther than that, but the actual cause is still not going to be known."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

A personal observation, if I may. 

These people were so very generous in giving this interview.  This conversation was certainly not what they wanted to be doing this particular morning.  I can only express my gratitude for allowing me to intrude and my admiration for the way in which they answered my questions so openly and honestly. 

True to their word, the team stayed with the Tour de Sol for the rest of the week, displayed their car, which looked undamaged with the hood down, at all the remaining stops, and gave their time and expertise to other teams and the NESEA organizers. 

Report #69: Day 4, Thursday morning

It had rained most of the night, and there were showers off-and-on all Thursday morning, but spirits did not seem too damp ... 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Some of the kids from `Helios the Heron IV' told me that their attempt to boost the charger with an auxiliary power supply did not work out, but they hoped to have enough charge to make the next leg to North Conway NH.  "It was pulling like 20 [Amps] for a while, but then it clicked out [the circuit breaker].  Then we turned it to 16, but it still clicked out.  So we went back to the old K&W.  Mr. Waring already wants a Christmas present.  He wants a [new charger]. 

But they were still looking for a good leg today.  "We know we can do in the 40s.  We did 47 [miles] yesterday.  We did 43 the day before."

"If we get up the hill in the beginning, we'll go all the way."

I asked if anything else interesting happen last night?

"We had a great dinner."

"We got to take showers!"

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

`Sol Survivor IV' is trying to keep their battery pack up to par by adding additional, smaller chargers to the two modules that have been showing up weak, while charging the whole string over night.  They have not been getting the energy out that they expected.  "We going to see if it's a cycling problem, that will get better with the number of cycles we do," Mike Pratt said.  They are not sure if they'll try the drive up Mount Washington this afternoon, but they definitely will be here for the Climb to the Clouds event in June.  "We always to that.  We try to uphold our challenge.  Last year we [came in] second to `Sungo'."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

I ran into three of the riders of #15 `Yankee Pedler', Erica Austin, Bill Tomlin, and Todd Miller, and asked how has the bike been performing?

"Good.  It's been performing real well.  The first day out we had a few problems; we lost a battery pack." It burned out on them.  So they had another pack sent to them, and it arrived Monday night.  The pack is made up of 18 Duracell nickel metal hydride laptop computer batteries wired in series- parallel to deliver 21 Amp-hours at 36 Volts.  They are encased in a triangular container that fits between the three bike frame bars that go from the seat to the pedals, to the handle bars, and back to the seat. 

"I got a chance to ride it around the parking lot this morning.  This is a heavy bike, compared by normal bike.  I should be able to keep it under control.  The roads are going to be a little slick.  But I'm psyched up, ready for that hill."

The bike is controlled by a twist throttle on the handle bar, "twist it back and you go faster."

Does having the motor on the font wheel create any sort of balance problem, since both wheels are being driven instead of just the rear wheel?

"It shouldn't really.  It will have an advantage going up the hill because it will have a lot of weight up front and create some forward momentum.  You won't have to lean over the handle bar as much."

"It does handle better.  In the cornering it actually helps hold the line.  Just like an all-wheel drive car holds better in a corner, this holds better in a corner."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Ted Gallucci of #18 `Kineticar' was happy, but not happy.  "We think we are going to end up with an official number of 372.  We actually traveled 449.2 miles, but there was a discrepancy with the size of our fuel tank.  We are going to be assessed a penalty and will probably be brought down to 372 miles.  The rules say we have the correct size fuel tank, but it may have been overfilled."

I later found out that it is a common practice, if not a totally safe one, for some CNG station operators to overfill Compressed Natural Gas tanks > if < the weather is cool > and < you are going to use the fuel right away.  That's what happened here. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Driving out of Lincoln, and up the Kancamagus Highway, the light rain changed to little flakes of snow.  There was also snow evident at the sides of the highway, and up the sides of the mountains.  The Kancamagus Pass, ten and a half miles east of Lincoln, peaks out at 2855 feet above sea level.  "Trucks Use Low Gear." The grade coming down was as steep as 7% for about the next 5 miles. 

Another sign.  "Moose Crossing Next 8 Miles."

Report #70: `Hyades' Tries to Stay in the Rally

It was Thursday afternoon when I caught up with #35 `Hyades' from Lawrence Tech.  Jenny Spravsow, a driver for the team, spoke with me about the problems they were having. 

"We found we were blowing hydraulic lines for our clutch and our transmission." They started off replacing the ones that broke with the same type of lines, but figured out that they needed were lines with higher pressure ratings.  They spent almost all of Wednesday in the hotel parking lot in White River Junction, replacing all the hydraulic lines. 

"It drives real good.  We got the power assist steering working, which runs off the high voltage, and it drove like a Ford `Taurus'."

I noticed what looked like smoke coming from under the hood. 

"We had a fuel problem.  We blew a line off an injector.  This is residual burn-off."

I had hoped that Lawrence Tech would drive the car to the NESEA Tour, instead of bringing it on a trailer, since they had been able to drive it from Detroit to Chicago last year. 

"This is a totally revamped car.  We didn't stay with the FutureCar from last time.  We have a different transmission.  It is [now] a manual transmission which we are shifting hydraulicly using actuators and a pump.  Right now it is [under] driver control, until our computer control is implemented.  Then it will be totally computer controlled."

What else is different?

"We have put PV (PhotoVoltaic) arrays on top of the car." They run a venting system using fans mounted in the rear roof supports.  "We redid the door skins in carbon-fiber.  The front hood has been redone in carbon-fiber.  The back deck lid has been redone.  And we've got new, low rolling-resistance brakes coming."

They'll be adding a combination air-conditioning/heating system to meet the FutureCar Challenge rules. 

The rear-view mirrors on the doors will be a prismatic system that Jenny said uses a Fresnel lens to give a wider and clearer view.  They are made by deMontfort. 

The keyless door entry system will both unlock and pop the door open, so there are no door handles to create aerodynamic drag. 

What's the same?

"The engine is still the Volkswagon Diesel.  We still have the same nickel metal hydride batteries, [and the same] Unique Mobility motor."

There are about 30 students on the Lawrence Tech team, about a quarter of whom are women.  "More and more women are going into engineering.  Even in the past four years I've seen more women [at Lawrence Tech].  It's really fun. 

"I am on the power train division.  We are broken up into platforms, similar to production cars." Jenny worked on the hydraulics, the air conditioning system, and the electric motor cooling system. 

Report #71: Interview: James Worden

Each year I try to get some uninterrupted time with James Worden, founder and CEO of Solectria Corporation.  This year that happened on Thursday afternoon in North Conway NH. 

He was very happy with his 249.7 (odometer reading) miles record in #76 `Solectria Force NiMH'.  Is this the same style production `Force' with Ovonic's latest batteries?

"This is the same basic production battery, but just the newest one.  In fact the [battery pack] that ran in the green car last year was very old.  It had run in Phoenix.  It ran in the `Sunrise' the year before.  But it was the same production M-20 [modules]." That's pronounced ``Em Minus Twenty''. 

The `Force NiMH' is sold in two versions.  The version with M-60 modules gets 105 miles per charge in the EPA tests, and sells for about $90,000.  About 10 of those have been sold.  The longer range car uses the M-20s, like #76, and is about $120,000.  They've sold about 6.  Except for the batteries, it's the same as the lead-acid `Force', that sells for about $34,000.  Nearly 300 of them are on the road. 

So it is easy to see that the nickel metal hydride batteries are still very expensive.  James had hoped that by now the production levels would be up and the price would have come down.  He is certain that if the price was lower, he would be able to sell many more `Force NiMH's. 

What about the Panasonic nickel metal hydride batteries we see in the Toyota `RAV4-EV'?

"Panasonic is not selling them right now." The NiMH batteries we see in the Japanese cars are not available on the open market yet. 

The problem of NiMH batteries overheating at the top of charge is something that all the cars that use them must address.  What does Solectria do?

"We don't stack batteries, ever.  we have a very simple layout, very clean, with very good cooling.  And we have monitors that, if anything is wrong, the car tells you.  If you don't do something about it, then it gives you an alarm.  And if you ignore the alarm for too long, it just shuts off.  It stops charging, or stops driving, or whatever."

I repeated the idea, which I like, of having a monitor built into each battery module, but James thought it made things too complicated. 

"A battery has to be simple enough that it doesn't have to have a mother for every cell.  I believe very much in simple things.  Right now our car has stayed pretty simple, and there is a chance it can be cheap if we make a bunch of them.  The nickel metal battery, if they make a bunch of them, maybe it can be cheap.  A battery that gives you double or triple the range [of a lead-acid car] is very exciting, [but not if it] costs $40,000 [more].  It is definitely our favorite mix of the advanced batteries." The self-discharge problems of a couple of years ago have been fixed, and "the newest batteries are excellent and really are right."

What is happening with the `Sunrise'? It isn't here this year. 

"The `Sunrise' is now under very heavy development towards production tooling.  It should be unveiled at the 14th International Electric Vehicle Symposium in Orlando Florida [this fall].  That car is being launched as a real car.  We think it is the ultimate in a large size, comfortable, do-all-you-need-to-do electric vehicle."

Where will it be built?

"That's still under development." The point of the roll-out in production tooling is to sell the concept to automakers and partners.  "The low-production tooling we're building will let us make hundreds of cars, like we are making with the `Force' right now.  Hopefully we will be making thousands of the `Force', and this car will come up that curve as the `Force' goes down." The rumor of a manufacturing facility for the `Sunrise', "is an old rumor.  Wherever the right incentives are, wherever the right partners are, that is where the plant will be." The two announcements they hope to make in the fall is that the `Sunrise' is production ready and that they have a partner. 

The `Sunrise' has changed quite a bit from last year, "but the basic character is still there.  We have had to do a lot of cost reduction, and we have to do a lot more, and that has changed some things and how it looks.  But in a lot of ways it looks better.  There are bumper fascias front and back." All the systems are more refined and the car rides smoother. 

The first 10 will probably be sold, before the unveiling in Orlando, to a few friends and supporters of Solectria who will appreciate "a two thousand pound, full-sized, electric car with comfort and practicality."

And what about the Solectria Deliver Van that was supposed to have been in the American Tour de Sol this year, but didn't make it?

"We are very excited about that.  It's an excellent vehicle to do as an electric.  It will be available very soon.  The goal is to make a very cost- effective, very real utility vehicle for delivery fleets around the country and around the world." They are also courting a manufacturing partner or two for this vehicle. 

Anything else Solectria is big on right now?

"The big thing now is to get all the stuff we have developed into the hands of automakers, probably the smaller ones because they seem to be more interested, and build partnerships.  We have a significant partner called Gold Peak Industries in South East Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia).  You'll probably see some Gold Peak symbols on some of our stuff.  This has been a long term relationship.  They bought some cars from us when they got into the battery business."

What about the competition from the hybrid-electric vehicles? At last year's NESEA Tour, Tom Hopper's hybrid `Hopper EV' demonstrated very practical long- range capability, and this year he has real competition from #18 `Kineticar' which did over 370 miles on propane.  Solectria has always done pure-electrics.  Any comments?

"I'm not so much a pure-electric guy, but I'm totally against piston hybrids.  I think they are a big waste of time.  The public awareness and education are tremendous, and I totally support that.  It is definitely more efficient, and should be cleaner, but it is very difficult to do, very complicated, and has more maintenance and problems to worry about than any car you have ever seen.  I believe that when fuel cells are developed and in a little box that are as simple as a controller, or a nickel metal battery, or a lead battery, let's do [hybrids] then.  But small engines are hard to make [clean and efficient].  The complexity of all that stuff, to me, isn't worth doing when in ten years we will have fuel cells and all that will have been a waste of time.  You still need a good electric car to do any of these things, and to really make a good fuel cell car you're going to need a great electric car.  So we put all our time and effort into good car design and drive systems."

So you see fuel cells as the future of the hybrid?

"I see fuel cells as the future for electric, because then you can either plug your car in, or fuel up when you need to go on a trip."

Report #72: Friday Morning, Day 5 of the Rally

We had another beautiful rainbow over the charging trailer, this time in North Conway NH, on Friday morning. 

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Karen Budde of `Helios the Heron IV' was telling stories about her kids.  "So we arrive [at the display area] this morning and the kids do the classic kid thing where they get behind the steering wheel and pretend they are driving.  But instead of going `BRRROOOMMMM' the way most kids would, they sit there and go `Weeeeeeeeeeee' making the high-pitch sound of the controller."

But not all the kids were pretending.  Nina Berriman and Abby Browne were sitting in `Helios', wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses.  One had a clip- board and pen, and the other had a Fluke meter. 

"We have just been testing all the batteries in the car.  That's what we have to do every morning to make sure not one of them is bad or has a low charge because then that will affect all the rest of them.  We use this ``tester thingee'', ahhh the meter, to measure the volts that they give.  We put the probes on each pair of the terminals, and record them [on a sheet of paper].  And today has been the best since Monday.  That means that last night we got a better charge than we have the previous couple of days."

This was the first time I had seen the insides of the `Helios' battery boxes.  Normally they are closed and locked with padlocks.  Each battery module is numbered. 

"This is a fan that we can turn on by a switch on the dash board to cool the battery box.  It's pretty cool.  We open up the old gas [filler cap by unscrewing it] and the fan will blow the hot air out."

The Riverside School kids handed out a 30-page book describing how they built `Helios', and crediting all their sponsors.  I noticed that the book said the bus originally had a moon and stars painted on the body, but now they are gone.  Nicole Poache, Emily Wheeler, Conrad Hertz, and Johanes Ziegler, who are in the team for the second half of the rally, told me that the original paint design was decided, in assembly, as being blue with silver stars.  But once they started painting them on, and putting the sponsors' names on, it didn't look too good.  So, they went back to the assembly to get their approval to drop the stars and switch to the robin's-egg blue body and white roof.  But the books and tee-shirts had already been printed, so they both show stars. 

`Helios' Team B hadn't seen their creation complete a leg until Thursday afternoon.  They were particularly happy when it showed up, and I can tell you some of us adults were more than a little surprised that it made it up and over the Kancamagus Pass. 

So my question was, if you measure the energy of batteries in Watt-hours, that is how many Watts the battery puts out for how many hours, then how do you measure the energy in kids as they cheer their entry over the last few yards and under the Finish banner?

"In the number of hours of sleep they > didn't < get the night before."

Sadly, this is likely to be the last time we see a `Helios' in the NESEA Tour.  "We are not going to be here next year because the school has decided that it costs too much money to build a car."

"Another reason is because our shop teacher gives up vacation, weekends, and after-school hours, and he has missed all his vacations for the past four years.  He just wants to be with his family for his vacations."

"He has given up all his time to be with us."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#62 `GarnetOne' was tied to an Audi with jumper cables.  Their 12-Volt starter battery for the hybrid engine was not getting charged properly when the car was running, so they were charging it from the Audi.  Once started, the alternator provided the 12 Volt needs. 

`GarnetOne' has had it's problems along the way.  "The last few days have been really smooth, but we had an unbelievably amount of road-side fixing to do the first few days.  We broke down outside a Harley shop buying parts and getting a jump start from them.  We managed to limp into [White River Junction] with a dead 12-Volt system, an exhaust system that shook itself to pieces, and an engine that wasn't well at all.  But we've got that all fixed up now and we're running great."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#44 `SolarSaurus' has been doing very well.  "Yesterday we had an exceptional run, and we got a good charge through the night.  Today our best two drivers are driving, so we should do well.  We are very proud this year; no problems at all."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#99 `Toyota RAV4-EV' did 116.5 miles on Wednesday, which is virtually identical to the 118 miles they claim as its average range.  While considerably less than the 249 miles that #76 `Solectria NiMH' did and the 202.3 miles that the `Ford Ecostar' did, Mark Amstock did not seem discouraged at all.  "We believe that its essential to test the vehicle in real-world conditions, at speed limits, with the accessories on, as pertinent to the climatic conditions that day.  We have to prepare the public for commercialization and want to prove to them what the vehicle will do in real-world applications.  If we had driven it at 25 or 30 miles per hour we would have [gotten] much more range out of it.  But that's not how consumers drive.  That's not what they have come to expect in personal motoring. 

"The vehicle has lived up to its ratings and what we claim it will do, in mixed city and highway driving with the heat pump on in reasonably hilly country, and we are very proud of the product we will be offering to fleet customers this fall.  Each of the legs, during the race, we have had journalists, folks that have never driven electric vehicles before, drive the vehicle.  They have achieved over 100 miles consistently with a fair amount of battery left, driving the way they are accustomed to driving their gasoline cars. 

"We wanted to compliment the [student] efforts.  We wanted to demonstrate to the public that these young people are on to something good.  Electric transportation is taking that next step to more main-stream products.  It's coming at you, so get ready."

Given the unfortunate problem the Chico State car `Evolution' had, how does Toyota deal with the possibility of nickel metal hydride batteries overheating at the top of charge?

"Our nickel metal hydride is a different chemistry than the other teams.  We use an AB-Five chemistry as opposed to the AB-Two [that the others are using]." The batteries are from a joint venture called Panasonic EV Energy, which will be selling nickel metal hydride batteries to the world's automakers. 

"The batteries are placed about a centimeter apart in the tray [under the car] to allow for cooling, and there is a fan at the front of the battery pack.  We believe that layout and apparatus is adequate and extremely safe.  We haven't experienced any cellular runaway or anything like that.  The computer control unit does monitor individual cells and [manages] the smoothing process during charging."

The `RAV4-EV' will only be available to fleet customers during the first 3 years.  Toyota expects to refine the product based on the fleet experience before offering products to the general public.  Mark also said that even if someone begged, the car would not be sold to individuals for at least 2 years. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

Bob Goodrich did not want to see me approaching the charging trailer this morning, because he knew I was going to ask how it was going. 

"We had expected to have the data system, every hour, give us an automatic addition onto a computer file.  Unfortunately, it > replaced < the file instead of appending to it.  We have lots of [waveform] data, at 7 o'clock in the morning, after everyone disconnected.  So last night we got up several times to [collect the data before it got clobbered]."

Has all the data from early in the week been lost?

"We have almost all of the energy data.  We didn't get all of it the first day or so.  But the waveform data was what we had hoped to gather automatically every hour for [the entire rally]." So Thursday night they got waveform data at about 7 pm, 10 pm, 1 am, and 5:30 am.  "It takes longer to boot up the computer than it takes to [down load the data from all the individual recording circuits]. 

"One thing we did get was the data on the main line coming in.  We have the three phases and the neutral.  As theory predicts there was lots of third harmonics in the neutral, which is gratifying."

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

The four bicycle entries left for Portland 75 minutes early, so they could arrive under the Finish banner more-or-less among the rest of the entries. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

#35 `Hyades' was able to drive the entire leg from Lincoln to North Conway on Thursday.  Robert Day had high hopes that things would go smoothly on this last leg.  "We have the hydraulic system working well now.  We're really excited about today's trip."

I got to look at the controller wiring and battery boxes in the trunk of the car.  Everything was under clear plastic covers, which made it easy to see the cabling.  All the wires were very neatly laid out and bundled. 

Report #73: Solar Index Data

ENRON and Solarex (an ENRON company) provided a pace vehicle for the NESEA Tour.  It was equiped with a solar panel and recording measuring equipment to get a sense of how much solar energy was available for the vehicles in the Solar Commuter class. 

This is the Solar Index data from the ENRON/Solarex pace vehicle.  Unfortunately, I do not know the data units for the Max, Min, Avg, or Instant columns.  Still, the Avg.  Solar Index shows that we didn't really have much bright sunlight, except for the middle of the day on Tuesday. 

        19 May 1997
         Time           Max      Min    Avg.  Instant Avg.  Solar Index
         1:00 PM        0.68     0.36   0.51    0.39    25.50%
         2:00 PM        0.68     0.04   0.35    0.47    17.50%
         3:00 PM        2.24     0      0.62    0.84    31.00%
         4:00 PM        2.24     0      0.61    1.15    30.50%
         5:00 PM        2.24    -0.04   0.59    0.25    29.50%
         5:33 PM        2.24    -0.04   0.54    0.13    27.00%

        20 May 1997
         Time           Max      Min    Avg.  Instant Avg.  Solar Index
        10:30 AM        0.88     0.72   0.79    0.71    39.50%
        11:30 AM        1.92     0.08   0.81    1.70    40.50%
        12:30 AM        1.92    -0.04   1.25    1.75    62.50%
         1:30 PM        1.92    -0.04   1.41    1.73    70.50%
         2:30 PM        1.92    -0.04   1.42    1.73    71.00%
         3:30 PM        1.92    -0.04   1.4     1.35    70.00%
         4:30 PM        1.92    -0.04   1.38    1.06    69.00%
         5:30 PM        1.92    -0.04   1.26    0.08    63.00%
         6:30 PM        1.92    -0.04   1.19    0.21    59.50%
         7:30 PM        1.92    -0.04   1.07    0.05    53.50%

        21 May 1997
         Time           Max      Min    Avg.  Instant Avg.  Solar Index
        10:20 AM        0.20     0.16   0.16    0.17     8.00%
        11:20 AM        1.04     0.12   0.32    0.30    16.00%
        12:20 PM        2.52     0.12   0.57    0.35    28.50%
         1:20 PM        2.52     0.12   0.49    0.32    24.50%
         2:20 PM        2.52     0.12   0.5     0.32    25.00%

        22 May 1997
         Time           Max      Min    Avg.  Instant Avg.  Solar Index
        10:00 AM        0.76     0.72   0.73    0.73    36.50%
        11:00 AM        1.96     0.48   0.99    0.40    49.50%
        12:00 PM        2.60     0.16   1.01    0.33    50.50%
         1:00 PM        2.60     0.12   0.95    0.54    47.50%

Report #74: Interview: Kate Skelly, NESEA School Tour Guide

Kate Skelly, eleven years old, and her entire family, have been volunteering on the NESEA Tour for four years now.  She held several jobs during the week.  On Saturday and Sunday she was at the brake test area writing down the figures, such as how fast each car was going and how far it took to stop using the service brakes and then the emergency brakes.  Early on I asked if she had any favorites.  She liked #45 `Sparky', a converted 1972 Saab 96 also known as Wooster's Charge, "because it's energy efficient and it looks really neat.  I like old cars."

After it was all over and we were packing up, I asked her again what she liked best.  "I liked giving school tours and helping kids learn things.  I showed them almost all the cars when the tour had enough time, but if it didn't I'd just show them 3 cars I liked.  `Helios the Heron IV', Team New England (`59 Berkeley'), and Penn State (`Electric Lion').  And the `Charger Bicycle'. 

"I like Helios because it was built by kids and it was converted this year, which must have been really hard.  I like Penn State because I'm from New Jersey and I know a lot of Penn State people.  I like Team New England because it's sleek, small, cute like a sports car, and it's energy efficient.  And I like the `Charger Bike' because it had cool colors, it was run by a battery pack and solar.  I did ride it for a while, and that was a lot of fun.  And Rick Shanahan is cool. 

"And I actually got to do some very important stuff this year, and we got to eat Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream."

When I asked if there was anything else she might like to tell me, she cheered, "Tour de Sol rocks!"

Report #75: Too Much Snow on Mount Washington, So ...

Thursday afternoon there was too much snow on Mount Washington, so the auto road was closed.  But there was a backup plan.  A nearby spot known as Cathedral Ledge was challenging enough that five cars decided to run to the top and look at the scenery.  The trip was not timed and not part of the official American Tour de Sol scoring, but it was fun anyhow. 

The cars that climbed to Cathedral Ledge were:

 #44    `Solar Saurus'          Rocky Hill High School Team
 #48    `Suncharger'            Team Canada
 #50    `Solectria/Horizon'     Connecticut EV/NAVC
 #76    `Solectria Force NiMH'  Solectria - Ovonic Battery
 #79    `59 Berkeley'           Team New England

Report #76: At the Finish Line in Portland

The 1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol finished, as it did in 1995, on Monument Square in downtown Portland, Maine.  The city put on a great welcome for us, and the local transit system brought their own electric bus to put on display. 

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The driver of #55 `Ford Ecostar' got a bit too excited when approaching the finish line.  The police pulled the car over for speeding which cost them a couple of minutes and a few penalty points. 

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I asked Jeremy Young with #83 `Sol Survivor IV' how much of their electric energy was provided by the solar panels on the car.  He didn't know off the top of his head, but he found out that if the car was going 30 to 40 miles per hour on a bright, sunny day, about 10 to 20 percent of the energy would come from the panels. 

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Olaf Bleck with #79 `59 Berkeley' was feeling very confident about the Autocross tomorrow, and also the Climb-to-the-Clouds event at Mount Washington in June.  He told me something about the Mt Washington course I didn't know.  The Mt Washington road is twice as steep as Pikes Peak.  "Pikes Peak is 14 miles long with a four thousand foot rise.  Mt Washington is only 7 miles for the same rise."

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Johanas Ziegler was the co-pilot for `Helios the Heron IV' on this last leg of the rally.  How did it go?

"Really nerve wracking! This is our third leg that we ever [finished].  It's a really great accomplishment." They had to pull off to the side of the road once to let the batteries `relax' to increase the amount of recoverable energy.  About 10 miles from the finish line, they also had problems with the the system shutting down.  "We found out that the auxiliary battery [that powers the main contactors] had quit.  So we switched it to the main pack and then the contactors worked [again]." By picking 12 Volts off the traction batteries Topher Waring, their teacher, was able to get the accessory voltage they needed. 

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Karen Jones reminded me that #47 `Electra' had two electric vehicles as chase vehicles for the Tour this year, and that was a first, along with the second `RAV4-EV' that Toyota brought along.  Bill Glickman's Jet Industries van was the support vehicle from Waterbury CT to Northampton MA and, Jeff Skelskie's Chevy S-10 pickup conversion served that duty from Northampton to Greenfield MA. 

Donna Kay-Ness was the rider from North Conway NH to Portland, and the first bike across the Finish line today.  She is used to riding a bike that weighs about 18 pounds, so at 115 pounds this ZAP-augmented bike was much heavier.  (That weight seems too much to me, but that is the value given in the official program.) It was the first time she rode the bike.  "It assisted me quite a bit, going up the hills especially."

I asked her what she thought of the control, which is just a switch for on, off, or regenerative braking. 

She indicated that it was quite easy to use.  "I only used [regen] a little bit.  I found that it would really fatigue my legs.  In order to go as fast as I did, I didn't [use it] too much.  I didn't have to switch [battery packs] once," although they were using a double battery pack. 

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#15 `Yankee Pedler' was ridden by Bill Tomlin and Erica Austin today, and Todd Miller, and Scott Brazinski yesterday. 

"Climbing those mountains yesterday [from Lincoln to North Conway], it was amazing.  I was really happy with the power of the motor, and not having to do as much work as I expected."

"[And we] averaged a little over 19 miles per hour over the Kancamagus Pass, which was better than any other bike."

"I was expecting to have to put a lot more leg power into it.  The motor pulled me along really nicely."

"I like the idea of the motor being free of the chain drive system.  You can pedal when you want to.  You don't have to be pedaling to have the motor running.  It's nice to have that extra push when going up those hills."

`Yankee Pedlar' does not have regenerative braking, by design.  When pedaling or going down the hills, a clutch in the motor completely disengages so the bike free-wheels unrestricted.  That seems to be what most cyclests want. 

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Michael Joaquin with #48 `Suncharger' said they had some transmission trouble last night.  And their brake calipers were sticking to the brakes.  Working on those cost them time on the charger, so they only got 3/4s full.  Still, they made it all the way through, if a little slowly. 

"We were expecting more of a race competition than an endurance [event].  That's why we can't wait until tomorrow for the Autocross."

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#8 `Electric Lion' may be retired from racing now.  It will go on to serve as a operating centerpiece for the club, but Rich Stroman said, "We're planning on starting a new car next year.  We are going to try and apply what we learned through the construction of this one to our next one and hopefully step it up a level."

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#35 `Hyades' was unable to shake their bad luck with hydraulic systems.  They had a stuck relay which kept the hydraulic pump running and building up pressure until a hydraulic line burst.  Jim Swan said, "Initially we burst lines because we had the wrong ratings for our application.  Now we are bursting lines because we have an electrical problem.  Our goal was to come here and shake the car down and find the problems [before going to the FutureCar Challenge in June] and, believe me, all week long we've been finding problems." They decided to skip the Autocross and try to get a full week of work in on the car before the FutureCar Challenge. 

Where did the name Hyades come from?

Hyades is V-shaped set of five stars in the constellation Taurus, representing the horns.  "The five stars are symbolic of a front runner in that constellation, and we wanted to be a front runner in the FutureCar Challenge."

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#37 `UEHS Solar Tiger' was disqualified from the rally before it even started.  Still, this high school team brought their car to every display, set up, and showed visitors what they attempted to do, why they were not able to do it, and what they plan to learn from the experience for next time.  Michael Tulloch, Matt Christensen, Isaac Everett and Azuka Nzegwu shared with me some of what they learned. 

"That regeneration is very important for a car, because it extends the range about 20 miles in most cars, and weight is not a good thing."

And they plan to do a whole new car for next time.  Why? "This one weighs so much.  It has an all steel and aluminum body.  We'll probably go to a better suspension instead of just motorcycle frames."

"There are so many things that need improvement, I do think it would be easier to just start from scratch.  Just being here in the Tour de Sol, even if we haven't been racing, has given us so many ideas that we think we're going to do really good next year."

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Tom Hopper was very pleased with the way #94 `Hopper EV' has been performing and said he had learned some exciting things about series electric hybrids. 

Twice during the Tour he had single battery modules go dead.  "These are the same Optima Yellow-Tops, sealed, valve regulated batteries that I used last year.  They probably have 5000 miles on them.  I've been cycling gently on [my commute] that is only 22 miles round-trip." Just before the driver's meeting this morning, while looking at the voltages he saw that this one module was dead (11.9 Volts) and he did not have a spare.  "So the way I got here was [just on] the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit)."

Tom's wife is driving up with another replacement module so he can drive in the Autocross tomorrow. 

The APU is a diesel engine, burning 90% diesel fuel and 10% soybean oil (aka B-10), that drives a generator.  "I found out another advantage of a hybrid vehicle.  You can have a battery go dead but you can still move, get home, or make it to the garage.  I used today 290 Watt-hours [of electricity from the battery] and 0.52 gallons of fuel," to travel 61.8 miles from North Conway to Portland.  According to the formula for the NESEA Energy Challenge, that's the equivalent of 92.5 miles per gallon of crude oil (assuming oil was used to generate the electricity in the power plant). 

However, the APU is not designed for continuous turnpike driving.  "I'm getting between 4 and 6 horsepower out of the APU.  At 55 miles per hour, you go into deficit, and eventually drain your batteries.  But for driving on country roads, it's just about the right size."

How is `Hopper EV' to drive, now that it is 18 inches wider and a two passenger vehicle, after all those years driving solo?

"It is really a delight to be able to carry two people.  The car feels extremely stable on the road even with aggressive driving.  And having a passenger is more fun.  I'm really looking forward to traveling with my wife." Tom is thinking of designing an extremely light weight roadster body with an open top.  "A fair-weather body."

But the most important change right now is to put new tires on the rear axle and the trailer.  They are very poor tires, with a lot of rolling resistance, and Tom figures he could lower his rolling resistance by 30%. 

Report #77: Interviews: John Ward on World Solar Challenge and NESEA Tour

I spoke with John Ward both just before and at the very end of the NESEA Tour.  These are both

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John Ward, from Sydney Australia, has been involved with the World Solar Challenge since its beginning and is here with the NESEA American Tour de Sol serving in the jury.  We spoke on Saturday morning, May 17th, before his duties began. 

John is employed by the National Roads and Motors Association (NRMA) in the Australian state of New South Wales, and organization akin to our Automobile Club of America (AAA).  The NRMA has been a sponsor of the World Solar Challenge (WSC) since it started in 1987 and John has served as a judge in all of them.  The WSC is for purely solar-powered vehicles running in almost ideal conditions across the Australian outback which is sunny, straight and flat on roads with little traffic and few surprises (other than the three-trailer "road trains" pulled by semi tractors).  No one pretends that the sun-powered vehicles are suitable for much else than solar racing.  The race is strictly a speed race, won by the first car to cover the full 3000 kilometers on just sunlight.  But that turns it into an efficiency race, since the cars must cover that distance on the energy-equivalent of 5 gallons of gasoline (petrol).  Recent years have seen solar cells capable of converting 1/5th of the solar energy to electricity. 

He was also been involved in The Energy Challenge, a contest that looked for practical alternative fuel vehicles that ran in 1991 through 1994.  This was more akin to the NESEA Tour.  It was an event designed to pit all the different competing technologies for less polluting and more efficient transportation against each other.  In particular, they had a scoring system that calculated the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced in the production, use, and recycling of the vehicle, its consumable components and the fuel used over its entire lifetime.  Some of the vehicles were very imaginative, such as the one that ran on coconut oil.  One of their interesting results was that electric vehicles as they existed in 1994 were not a significantly better in overall CO2 output, although they obviously don't produce the CO2 in the same locations as the fuel-burners. 

"Australian fuel prices are similar to those in the United States, and so it tends to be used in a wasteful manner." Also cities like Sydney are densely populated and therefore share the same air pollution problems as any large city. 

A lot of solar energy development is driven by telecommunications.  Solar powered telephone repeaters are common in the rural areas. 

Australia also has an active EV and alternative fuel hobbyist community, building or converting cars. 

        John Ward, Senior Manager
        NRMA Automotive Technologies Services
        1st Floor, 31 Birnie Avenue
        Lidcombe NSW 2141 Australia
        Telephone (02) 9472 4541
        Facsimile (02) 9472 4559

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On the last day in Portland, just before the awards ceremony, John characterized his visit with the NESEA tour as both a good time and a productive time.  "This event is more complex than some of the ones that we've run, and on a much larger scale.  I've learned a lot, and I hope I've been able to contribute as well."

When asked what would leave the biggest impression, John said he found the hybrid electric vehicles the most fascinating, because he had not seen any in person before.  "[In Australia, we don't have hybrids because] we haven't had the government incentives, like in the United States, to encourage the development of them.  I think the hybrids are going to be a real intermediate step that might be more acceptable in the short term to the general public.  As a representative of a motoring organization, I guess the complexity might frighten our road patrol people, but as [hybrids] are introduced [we will teach them] the technology and the skills [they will need].  We'll get on top of that as we would with any problem."

John was also surprised by the challenging terrain the American Tour de Sol toured.  "[Having the electric vehicles go through] those mountainous areas has been quite an eye-opener for myself. 

"And to see these cars like the `RAV4-EV' and the Solectria cars that are so close to production and proving what they can do I think is very exciting."

Report #78: Friday Night's Picnic and Before Saturday Morning's Autocross

It's Friday evening.  The 1997 NESEA American Tour de Sol is all over (except for the shouting -- the awards will be given out tomorrow after the Autocross).  We are sitting at a picnic table outside the cafeteria at Southern Maine Technical College in South Portland, looking out at the harbor.  It is a beautiful night.  The teams and volunteers have just had a big picnic dinner and now are talking, throwing Frisbees, playing catch, and congratulating themselves on a fantastic week. 

And Nancy Hazard has this big smile on her face.  Over a year of planning and work is just about over.  "Besides the camaraderie and the general relaxedness [of the teams], the technology, every year, is just better and better."

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Rick Shanahan spoke with me about the accident involving #12 `Charger Bicycle'. 

Between White River Junction and Lincoln NH, Bob Elliott (spelling?), a rider from a local area club, "was about two miles from the top of an eleven mile climb, standing up, pedaling, and he threw his chain.  All his force was coming down when the chain slipped off, and he went down pretty quickly.  He ended up breaking his clavicle.  I was stressed out about the whole situation.  [And then I find out] that last month he broke his other clavicle.  He didn't seem very phased by this."

Many people rode the Tour legs on the `Charger Bicycle', including 4 or 5 riders from local clubs along the route, 2 volunteers from the Tour de Sol, "and even a 57 year old man riding through his home town.  It's been fun.  Our idea about being out here was to make this fun, have the community get involved and we think we achieved that.  And we won [our category] at that."

I asked if Rick is a principle in the Charger Bicycle company.  He said GT Bicycles and Aerovironment are the parent companies, which do everything from assembly to the accounting.  The Charger Bicycle company has two employees, Bill Webster, the president, and Rick, spending all their time promoting the bike.  "We are just about to explode.  Aerovironment is in the process of kicking us out out of the facility because we are taking up too much room."

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Randy Swisher had a Junior Solar Sprint vehicle in his hand.  I asked him to describe it. 

"I used a piece of aluminum, because it's light weight and it's durable, [as the frame].  The state supplied me with a motor and a solar panel.  And one of our requirements is to carry an empty soda can down the track." The front plastic wheels are small, and the back wheels are larger and have rubber bands on them.  "The plastic wheels were just spinning and not getting any traction.  So I put lobster rubber bands [used to hold their claws closed] to give me some good traction." The cars race in the sun, using guide wires to lead them from one end of the track to the other.  Randy didn't know how much power his solar panel put out.  "All I know is it can get this car to do about 15 miles an hour."

Fifteen miles an hour?!

"I had to chase it down the hallway."

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In addition to the Junior Solar Sprint races, there is an Electrithon race scheduled.  I'm guessing there are more than a dozen three and four wheeled vehicles here, with kids working on them. 

What are the rules in 20 words or less?

Mike Gauley of Bonny Eagle High School in Standish Maine said, "Build a car with a maximum of 64 pounds of battery.  The car must stand by itself [on its wheels when standing still].  Drive it for an hour.  The person who goes the furthest wins."

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Monte Gisborne #13 `Electrifly' is telling stories about coming over the Kancamagus Pass.  "It wasn't overheating, but when I popped the hood and looked at the controller, it was warmer than I've ever seen it before.  So my father, who is team member number one, got a plastic bag, filled it with snow [from the side of the highway], put it on top of the controller, and that brought the temperature down incredibly." So instead of being a liability, the snow proved to be an asset. 

"We had zero mechanical problems with the vehicle through the whole route." Monte also made careful measurements of energy consumption, and figures he got 6 miles per kiloWatt-hour.  He plans to increase the voltage from 108 to 120 for next year, and get a better, more efficient charger. 

He was very grateful to the staff at the charging trailer for helping him get his charger tuned to give him the best transfer of energy into his battery.  They showed him that his charger is only 40% efficient, which caused problems the first day he started charging.  Some careful tuning helped get the maximum energy transfer his charger could deliver, without popping breakers. 

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Ruth McDougal, from SMUD, served on the Jury and drove the RAV4 gasoline car along the same route as the electric vehicles.  This, and a Geo Metro sedan gasoline car, provided the gasoline base-line data for the NESEA Energy Challenge.  She told me that the gasoline RAV4 was measured to be using 21.5 miles per gallon, or 700 Watt-hours per mile.  The `RAV4-EV' was measured at 300 Watt-hours per mile.  Said another way, the gasoline RAV4 used 133% more energy than the `RAV4-EV' to drive the same distances, over the same routes, under the same conditions, at the same times, on the same days; truly an apples-to-apples comparison. 

Report #79: That's All, Folks!

So that is it.  The NESEA American Tour de Sol as seen though the eyes and ears of your humble and hopefully faithful reporter. 

I hope you've enjoyed the ride. 

Mike Bianchi