The Tour de Sol Reports, 1998

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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
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Table of Contents

Report #1: 1998 NESEA American Tour de Sol - Routes, Dates, & Highlights
Report #2: s `Sungo' and `Hopper EV' return to the American Tour de Sol
Report #3: Early Reports on Teams Showing Up This Year
Report #4: Looking for Volunteers
Report #5: Routes, Dates, & Highlights
Report #6: NESEA American Tour de Sol Sponsors
Report #7: Winning by the Numbers
Report #8: The Return of Car 50 from Connecticut
Report #9: Light Happens
Report #10: Team Profile - `Garnet One'
Report #11: Team Profile - `Solar Tiger II'
Report #12: Team Profile - `Viking 23'
Report #13: Demonstration Vehicle - `Viking 29'
Report #14: Other Reporters
Report #15: Team Profile - `Ed'
Report #16: Demonstration Vehicle - `Ford Electric Ranger'
Report #17: Team Profile - `Slipstream'
Report #18: Team Profile - `Helios the Heron V'
Report #19: Friday and Saturday: Registration, Display and Testing
Report #20: Team Profile - `Project e- 2'
Report #21: Team Profile - `Kineticar III'
Report #22: List of Entrants
Report #23: Day 1 Race Summary
Report #24: Team Profile - `The Olympian'
Report #25: Team Profile - CitiVan
Report #26: Day 2 Race Summary
Report #27: Team Profile - `The Electrifly'
Report #28: Janet's Fund
Report #29: Demonstration Vehicle - `Toyota Prius'
Report #30: Demonstration Vehicle - `Toyota RAV4-EV'
Report #31: Autocross Results
Report #32: Day 3 Race Summary
Report #33: Day 4 Race Summary
Report #34: Purring into Washington DC
Report #35: The Rally is Over - The Reports Continue
Report #36: Final Results Are Delayed
Report #37: Team Profile - `Comuta-Car'
Report #38: Team Profile - `Porche 914 Electric Bull'
Report #39: Team Profile - `Hopper EV'
Report #40: Demonstration Vehicle - `Lectra'
Report #41: Team Profile - `Maryland's Saturn HEV'
Report #42: Team Profile - `TU ParaDyne'
Report #43: Team Profile - `Sol Survivor IV'
Report #44: Team Profile - `Spyder Juice'
Report #45: Interview - Rob Wills, Technical Director
Report #46: Team Profile - `Sunpacer'
Report #47: Team Profile - `Honda EV Plus'
Report #48: Interview - Nancy Hazard, ATdS Director
Report #49: Final Awards
Report #50: Another look at the Results
Report #51: Technical Testing Scores
Report #52: Technical Testing - Production Category
Report #53: Demonstration Vehicle - `Chrysler Epic'
Report #54: Team Profile - `Shocker III'
Report #55: Getting the Details Right, Saturday Testing
Report #56: Team Profile - `Solar Commuter Car'
Report #57: Team Profile - `Mach .1'
Report #58: Team Profile - `Ovonic Electric Scooter'
Report #59: Team Profile - `NFA Sol Machine'
Report #60: Team Profile - `Sungo'
Report #61: City Driving, Country Driving, Overnight Charging
Report #62: Team Profile - `Charger Bike'
Report #63: Stopping Midway From Princeton to New Castle
Report #64: Stories From New Castle and Dover Deleware
Report #65: Team Profile - `Re-Chargers'
Report #66: Team Profile - `59 Berkeley'
Report #67: Team Profile - `Electric Lion'
Report #68: Notes from Wednesday
Report #69: An Advisor to a Winning Team
Report #70: Team Profile - `Ovonic-Solectria Force'
Report #71: Onward to the Capital
Report #72: A Reporter's Final Thoughts

Report #1: 1998 NESEA American Tour de Sol - Routes, Dates, & Highlights

Folks, It's time to start planning to coming to the 1998 NESEA American Tour de Sol! Below is the current schedule, lifted from . 

As in the past, I will be acting as reporter and announcer. 

                                                        Mike Bianchi

Dates: May 8-18, 1998

Location: New York City to Washington DC with events in:

        New York
        Morristown, Princeton and Burlington County, NJ
        New Castle and Dover, DE
        Sandy Point State Park, MD
        Washington, DC. 


SAE joins NESEA for a special NYC event: May 7-8

  The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the most prestigious automotive
  engineering association in the world, is joining forces with NESEA on a two-
  day mini-conference May 7-8 called "Making Hybrid Electric Vehicles
  Commercially Viable".  The event, will attract engineers from around the
  world and be the opening event for the NESEA Tour.  NESEA Tour vehicles and
  participants will arrive Friday, and offer tours of the vehicles to area
  students and rides to conference participants and fleet people. 

Tech Testing and Starting Ceremonies in New York: May 9-10

  Saturday and Sunday will include technical testing and starting ceremonies in
  the heart of downtown Manhattan.  The New York City Department of
  Transportation has taken the lead in New York, and they will work with us to
  assure that everything runs smoothly. 

New Jersey Rolls out the Red Carpet: May 10-11

  The New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental
  Protection, the Board of Public Utilities, and several rideshare companies
  and friends will roll out the red carpet in Morristown, Princeton, and
  Burlington County Institute of Technology, New Jersey.  We have found an
  amazingly rural route through this densely populated state that is probably
  second only to California in the number of commuter trips taken each day. 
  New Jersey boasts Power Commute, an Electric Station Car Demonstration in
  three towns, a newly created Office of Sustainability which is attracting
  Green businesses to the state, and an active Clean Cities program. 
  Furthermore, NJ Transit will soon acquire two Orion hybrid electric buses. 

Delaware will host the Range event: May 12

  The NESEA Tour will visit Delaware for the first time this year.  The
  Governor and all the state agencies are working with us to make our two stops
  in Delaware very special.  After stopping in historic New Castle, we will
  follow the coastline to Dover, the beautiful capital of this state, and home
  of the Dover Downs, a Nascar sanctioned race track.  Dover will be the
  location for range demonstration. 

Maryland to host Autocross event: May 13

  We will return to Sandy Point State Park for an educational event for school
  children, an Autocross event, and acceleration testing.  We will again be
  working with the Governor and all the state agencies on this event. 

Washington DC and the Legislative Connection: May 14-15

  Washington will be the final celebration of the 10th annual NESEA Tour, and
  we have a unique opportunity to showcase vehicles and educate decisionmakers
  on how far electric vehicles have come in 10 short years! We are working with
  the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the
  Electric Transportation Coalition, Edison Electric Institute, Potomac
  Electric, Darby Associates and more to make our visit to the U.S. Capital as
  effective as possible.  We plan to visit both the White House and legislators
  on Capitol Hill.  We look forward to working with each team to assure that
  all of your representatives come to meet you, and learn about electric
  vehicles!  The final awards ceremony will be held on Friday, May 15 at a
  NESEA hosted brunch. 

Report #2: s `Sungo' and `Hopper EV' return to the American Tour de Sol

The 10th NESEA American Tour de Sol attracts entrants from colleges and individuals around the country.  I spoke to Tom Hopper, a teacher and team advisor at New Hampshire Technical Institute's (NHTI) electric vehicle racing team.  Tom will also be returning as an individual entrant. 

NHTI's `Sungo' will be coming back once again with some significant modifications.  `Sungo' is a two-person commuter car made from a welded aluminum frame with a composite body that hinges up at the front to let the people get in and out.  In 1997 it one a number of prizes, including 1st place in the Commuter Catagory.  Not to rest on their laurels, the team plans several changes aimed at improving its range and drivability.  Major changes include reworking the rear battery compartment to get better packing of the Ovonic nickel metal hydride batteries and adding 2 extra 12-Volt modules making the total string 144 Volts.  They are also improving the battery cooling ventilation and adding better battery monitoring.  They hope to extend the range to 150 miles-per-charge.  Structural improvements are being made to the front end to make it more rugged.  While they are at it, they are adding 3.5 inches to the wheel base and giving the aluminum frame a thorough inspection, particularly looking for cracks and weakness.  The dual permanent magnet motors and toothed belt drives on the rear wheels have been swapped out for a new pair of AC induction motors that drive the rear wheels through fixed-ratio planetary gear boxes.  They'll also improve the seating a bit, overall `Sungo' but looks very much the same.  "We expect `Sungo' to be tougher, quicker and with greater range, plus fail safe", Tom said. 

Tom was very happy how his personal project did in the 1997 NESEA Tour.  It is a larger 2-person, aluminum frame and composite body car known as the `Hopper EV'.  In the autocross, it's wide stance, front sway bar, and low-and-center battery pack gave it excellent handling through the twists and turns.  And after the awards ceremony, Tom and his co-pilot drove the `Hopper EV' from Portland Maine to Concord New Hampshire, using the diesel-fueled generator trailer.  Since then, Tom drives it every day commuting to work at NHTI. 

But, as in past years, Tom has a few changes in mind.  `Hopper EV' will be entered again as a series hybrid, but this time without the generator trailer.  Instead, a 90 cc engine burning 85% Methanol and 15% gasoline (M85) will attach directly to the car.  Loosing the trailer will lower the tandem weight by 450 pounds, to about 1200 pounds curb weight.  As before, the engine will be under the driver's control. 

The drive train, which was also using toothed belts, is being replaced with the same planetary gear box that is going into `Sungo', and it will be driven by one of the same AC induction motors as `Sungo' uses.  "The problem with belts is they will break in hard acceleration and they wear the small pulleys.  We are very excited about the gear boxes."

On top of that, the roof is going to be raised a bit to give more head room, a larger rear window is going to be installed, and some acoustic sound deading material will be added. 

Report #3: Early Reports on Teams Showing Up This Year

Now it is time, once again, for the annual Reports From the North East Sustainable Energy Association's "American Tour de Sol Electric Vehicle Championship." Each year at this time we present the long distance, out-in- the-real-world EV sporting event from the East Coast of the United States.  This is the 10th anniversary of the American Tour de Sol and it seems it will live up to laurels.  I had the opportunity to speak with Nancy Hazard, Director of the ATdS, and Sheilah Pierce, the Event Coordinator, while they were in Morristown NJ planning the stop here on Sunday May 10th.  A more detailed route and plan of events will be posted later. 

What I wanted to report today is some of the entrants and participants who have signed up. 

Perennial participant Solectria will be represented by three vehicles.  The Connecticut Ride Share folks will return with one of their Solectria `Force' passenger cars, running on Electrosource Horizon advanced lead acid batteries.  Another `Force' will have a pack of Ovonics Nickel Metal Hydride batteries.  And we expect to see the new Solectria `CityVan' package delivery vehicle. 

The New York Power Authority is coming, entering a Honda `EV Plus' with its long-range nickel metal hydride battery pack. 

Toyota is participating in the NESEA Tour as a Silver Sponsor.  While they will not be entering any vehicles in the competition, they are bringing two `RAV4- EV' sport utility vehicles for public display and ride-and-drive demonstrations, _and_ one of their `Prius' hybrid-electric cars that are being sold in Japan.  The `Prius' will act as the Pace Car of the ATdS. 

"We have six or seven hybrids this year," Nancy said, "including a car from the University of California at Davis, and Swarthmore College will be returning.  Tom Hopper will again have the only hybrid that is a personal project."

Among the new entrants will be a high school in Cinnaminson New Jersey.  I have not seen the details yet, but I'd expect this team to get a lot of local press. 

A number of one-person vehicles are promising to be present.  The `Charger Bike', which provides electric assistance _only_ while the rider pedals, will be ridden by a high school team.  The team known as `Project e-', which for years has entered a pickup-truck which was at first purely electric and then hybrid-electric, says they will be entering a single-person vehicle. 

Some others of the entrants will be familiar names.  Team New England will return with their `1959 Berkeley' sports car.  And the `Sol Survivor IV', the slick Solar Commuter car from the high school in Peterborough New Hampshire is expected to be back.  The team from Cato-Meridian High in Cato New York should make it also. 

NESEA says they also have a `Citicar' entered and at least one more bicycle. 

And finally, one of my favorite teams, the 4th-through-8th graders from the Riverside School in Lyndonville Vermont (not one of them legal to drive, yet) will be be there.  Last year they claimed their `Helios the Heron', converted from a 1971 Volkswagon microbus ran on electricity, but I think there was a lot of psychic energy from 40 screaming kids pushing it down the road.  Regardless, they have been one of the most popular teams with the young people who visit the many public displays given during the NESEA Tour. 

As in years passed, the American Tour de Sol will be a collection that will prepresent the art and science of electric vehicles, from the creations of hobbiests to the products of major corporations.  If you want to see real electric vehicles, "on the hoof", I know of no finer place. 

Report #4: Looking for Volunteers

The 1998 NESEA American Tour de Sol starts with two days of registration and inspection of the entrants.  Friday and Saturday, May 8th and 9th, the teams will assemble in New York City to have their vehicles scrutinized.  When the cars are not actively being inspected and tested, they will be on display. 

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. 

Another major concern is electrical safety.  Just as you would not want a fuel leak in a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (and they 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 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 Friday and Saturday May 8th and 9th, NESEA would love to have you volunteer.  Those with knowledge and experience with cars, fuel systems, or electricity are particularly welcome, as they 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: Routes, Dates, & Highlights

The followoing is lifted from the NESEA Web site ... 

It gives a good overview of where the tour will be and what it will be doing and when.  It could be helpful in planning your visit; it's never too early. 

                 1998 NESEA American Tour de Sol --- May 8-14

    Come see the Electric Vehicles of the Future at a Free Event near you
                 and Celebrate with us 10 Years of Progress !

Friday, May 8

NEW YORK CITY/World's Fair Marina, Queens

	11am-3pm SAE/NESEA Hybrid Conference held May 7-8. 
	Call (724) 772-7148 for details. 

Saturday, Sunday, May 9-10

NEW YORK CITY/South Street Seaport Marketplace

	Saturday - 9am-6pm

	Sunday - 9am-1:15pm

	Starting Ceremony - 12:30pm-1:15pm

Vehicles drive to Morristown via the Holland Tunnel thru Jersey City on Lincoln Highway West to 510W thru Newark, Orange, Northfield & Florham Park into Morristown. (25 miles)

Sunday, May 10

MORRISTOWN, NJ/Morristown Train Station

	Morristown Electric Car Festival - 2-5pm

	NESEA Tour vehicles join Festival: 2:15-5:00pm

Vehicles drive to Princeton via 663S thru Harding Township, New Vernon, & Basking Ridge to 525S thru Lyons, Liberty Corner, Mt.  Horeb, Martinsville, & Chimney Rock, to 533S thru Finderne, Manville, Weston, Mill Stone Boro, Griggstown, Bridgepoint, & Rocky Hill Boro, to 206S into Princeton.(39 miles)

Monday, May 11

PRINCETON, NJ/Princeton High School

	7:45-10am Event and Restart ceremony

Vehicles drive to BCIT via Rte 571S thru Penns Neck, Princeton Jct., Grovers Mill, West Windsor, & Post Corner, to 526W thru Dutch Neck & Edinburg, then)South thru Hamilton Square, Mercerville, Haines Corner, Edgebrook, Yardville, Groveville & North Crosswicks, to 660S thru Chesterfield, to 543W thru Mansfield, Columbus, & Jacksonville into Mt. Holly.(37 miles)

Monday, May 11


	Eco Living Festival - 10am-6pm

	Jr.  Solar Sprint event - 9am-11:30am

	NESEA Tour vehicles on display - 11:30am-4pm

	Special student workshops - 1:30pm-2:30pm

	Bicycle event - 4:15pm-6pm

	Restart ceremony 4:00pm

Vehicles drive to.New Castle via Rte 626E thru Timbuctoo to 541S thru Mt.  Holly, Fostertown, & Crossroad onto Marlton Pike & 620W thru Melrose, Pine Grove, Brush Hollow, & Heritage Village to 544W thru Cherry Hill, Haines Corner, Corner Coffins, Lawnside, Magnolia, & Woodbury to 551S thru Parkville, Mt.  Royal, East Greenwich, Asbury, Swedesboro, & Pennsville.  Over DE. Mem.  Bridge to 9S into New Castle. (60 miles)

Tuesday, May 12

NEW CASTLE, DE/Delaware Air National Guard

	7:45am-10am Event and Restart ceremony

Vehicles drive to Dover via 9S thru St.  Georges, Port Penn., Bay View Beach, Thomas Corner, Stups Corner, Taylors Bridge, Flemings Landing, Dutch Neck Crossroads, Leipsic Cowgills Corner, to 8E to Dover's Capitol Complex.(39 miles)

Tuesday, May 12

DOVER, DE/Capitol Complex


	Media event and range event start - 1pm-1:30pm

	Range event on Rte13S - 1:30pm-6:30pm. 

Wednesday, May 13

DOVER, DE/Polytech - Woodside

	7:45am-10:00am Event and Restart ceremony

	Jr.  Solar Sprint event - 9am-1:30pm

Vehicles drive to Sandy Point State Park via 8 & 44W thru PearsonĚs Corner, Davis Corner, and Hartly to 300W thru Everetts Corner, Sudlersville, & Church Hill, to 213S thru Starkey Corner & Centreville to 50W & 18W thru Queenstown Grasonville, Chester, & Stevensville, over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Sandy Point S.P.(67 miles)]

Wednesday, May 13


	A Day in the Sun Festival - 10am-2pm

	NESEA Tour vehicles on display - 11:15am-4:30pm

	Media event and Autocross event - 1:00pm-4:30pm

Thursday, May 14


	Jr.  Solar Sprint event - 9:30am-11:15am

	Media event and NESEA Tour display - 11:15am-4pm

Vehicles will drive from Sandy Pt.  S. P. to DC starting at 9:30am via East College Parkway to179S to 648S to Rte 450 thru Annapolis, to Riva Rd & 214W into Washington, DC.(42 miles)

Friday, May 15


	Awards Brunch and Ceremony - 11am-1:30pm
	by invitation only


The 10th annual NESEA Tour will include ten events in eight communities during the week of May 8-14.  Each community has formed a committee to work with NESEA to make each stopover exciting & informative.  Please join us in thanking the over 150 people working on these events! If you would like to join the fun, please contact us.  Following are reports on events and committee activities. 

NEW YORK: The NESEA Tour will be returning to the South Street Seaport Marketplace for a gala weekend event and technical testing.  On the Friday before, school groups, the automotive press, and SAE/NESEA TopTec participants will be invited to a special display and Ride & Drive in Queens.  The committee, made up of sponsor representatives, the Industrial Designer Society of America, the Long Island Jr.  Solar Sprint, and the Council on the Environment, are working on creative ways to get their members involved.  John Mlynick, musician and NESEA member, will take charge of the stage.  Pre-event activities and publicity are a high priority for the committee.  They are also reaching out to area bike clubs to encourage them to schedule biking events that include the NESEA Tour. 

NEW JERSEY: The NJ DOT's electric vehicle demonstration project, Power Commute, and Pat and Mike Skelly, five-year NESEA Tour volunteers, were the decisive factors in attracting us to New Jersey.  New Jersey's problems with pollution, population density and demographics are also perfect for EVs! We will be stopping in three communities. 

MORRISTOWN, NJ: MCRides, the MorrisCounty rideshare company, is our host as well as host to the Power Commute program.  With a Mothers' Day theme of "Rides for Moms," we will congregate at the train station Sunday afternoon.  Members of the community and Power Commute partners will offer rides, food & music, plus lots of kids will make this a great afternoon! Mike Bianci, long-time announcer and chronicler of the NESEA Tour, is helping here in his home town. 

PRINCETON, NJ: The Princeton High School will be the setting for our overnight stop, and an early Monday morning event for area school children.  The Greater Mercer County Metropolitan Transit Authority, a Power Commute partner, is taking the lead here, and will bring vehicles for rides!

BURLINGTON COUNTY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (BCIT), located near another rideshare program, Cross County Connections, is the host for this all- day Monday event.  Pat and Mike Skelly invited Joyce Goldsmith of Burlington County Waste Management to get involved.  Between the three of them, and BCIT, they must know everyone in Burlington County, and they have gotten everyone involved! A morning Jr.  Solar Sprint event, workshops for kids, shuttle buses from neighboring Mt. Holly, and an evening program will make this a fun and educational event.  Burlington County is home to DEP Commissioner Shinn, who he will come and invite the governor! Entrants can recharge Monday afternoon, before setting out for Delaware. 

DELAWARE: This is our first trip to Delaware, and they are rolling out the red carpet for us.  The Colonial School District is taking the lead on creating a Tuesday morning event for students in NEW CASTLE, and they are working hard to incorporate the technological aspects of the Tour into their spring semester curriculum.  The cars will then drive down along the Delaware River to DOVER.  We expect both kids and state legislators to join us for lunch at the beautiful Capitol Complex.  The entrants will then have an opportunity to demonstrate their range capabilities.  Wednesday morning we will hold an event for the students at POLYTECH-WOODSIDE, who are especially excited to see us, since they have a program that involves EV technology!

MARYLAND: The NESEA Tour will return to Sandy Point State Park, which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay, for a mid-day Wednesday event with area students.  An afternoon Autocross event will be hosted by the Greater DC Area Sports Car Club of America.  The Maryland Departments of Energy Administration and the Department of Natural Resources are taking the lead in reaching out to area businesses, who will both exhibit and become sponsors of school buses.  We all hope to match our success of two years ago when over 1500 students were bussed to the NESEA Tour!

WASHINGTON, DC: Pennsylvania Ave and 3rd Street, with the Capitol building as the backdrop, will be the site of our final celebration on Thursday.  The DC Jr.  Solar Sprint group, the Potomac Region Solar Energy Association, the Gas Guzzler Campaign, the Capitol Children's Museum and the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington have taken the lead in attracting students to the event.  We are working with Darby Enterprises, Copeland, Lowrey & Jacquez, the Electric Transportation Coalition, the Energy and Environmental Study Institute, Edison Electric Institute, Transportation 2000 and others on invitations to the President, the Vice President, agency heads, and legislators.  For those participating in the NESEA Tour, the finale will come at the Awards Ceremony to be held Friday after brunch. 

Report #6: NESEA American Tour de Sol Sponsors

(Lifted from the NESEA Web site ...
The NESEA tour happens because of lots of volunteer effort and the sponsorship of some generous organizations and companies.)

We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to our wonderful NESEA Tour de Sol Sponsors!

Title Sponsor:

	United States Department of Energy

Silver Sponsors:

	New Jersey Department of Transportation

	The City of New York 

	New Jersey Department of Transportation

	Society of Automotive Engineers

	Toyota Motor Sales, USA: RAV4-EV

	U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Bronze Sponsors:

	Chrysler Corporation

	Delmarva Power & Light Company

	Electric Transportation Coalition

	Energy Conversion Devices - Ovonic Battery Company

	GPU Energy

	NEES Companies

	New Jersey Board of Public Utilities & Dep't of Env. Protection

	New York Power Authority

	NYSTEC - Alternative Fuel Technology Center

	Penske Utility Rental

	State of Delaware

	State of Maryland

	The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

	Argonne National Laboratory

Report #7: Winning by the Numbers

The NESEA American Tour de Sol US Electric Vehicle Championship, for indeed that is its name, is an event where being the first under the FINISH banner does not confer any particular honor.  In fact, to be a "winner" an entrant must excel in many different ways _other_ than speed! There are points awarded for the design and execution of the car, the ease with which it passes the various inspections for structural integrity and safety, and a number of other factors before the rally even begins.  Once underway, longest driving range becomes a much cherished prize.  In this, the 10th American Tour de Sol, there are some new prizes worth noting. 

For one, the Production Category has a "public acceptance" prize based on a 200 point scoring system where the category entrants are evaluated on how they compare with cars that run on internal combustion engines (ICE).  Under this scoring, 100 would represent an Electric Vehicle (EV) "equal to" an ICE vehicle in its every day abilities.  (Once again, top speed is not likely to dominate the figuring.)

In the US Department of Energy Hybrid Category there will be a prize sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  The testing will be performed by Argonne National Laboratories and will look closely at the exhaust emissions. 

There will also be a "City Drive" in New York City which will award a prize awarded to the most energy efficiency EV in this most urban of urban settings.  Two years ago in New York City, the `Solectria Force NMH' (Nickel Metal Hydride) and the `Solectria Sunrise' both turned in efficiencies of about 200 Watt-hours/mile on the city driving cycle.  The `Sunrise' will not be here, but a `Force NMH' will be defending the title. 

For the past several years, the NESEA Challenge has awarded prizes based on the best overall oil-well-to-wheel-well vehicle efficiency.  This prize answers the speculation that EVs might just move the pollution from the tail pipe to the power plant, and in fact may in fact increase overall pollution due to electric transmission losses.  The numbers collected in past Tour de Sols say otherwise.  They showed that a gallon of _crude_ oil taken from the ground, shipped to a refinery, made into gasoline, shipped to a gas station, pumped, and burned in an ICE car gets 35 miles per gallon of _crude oil_.  Take the next gallon of oil from that same well, ship it to an electric power plant, generate the electricity, transmit it a house and into an EV's charger, charge the battery, and then drive an otherwise identical car and you will travel 65 miles per gallon of _crude oil_.  And, of course, it is easier to keep a relatively few big, stationary electric generation facility burning oil in top condition than it is to keep millions of small, mobile engines burning gasoline and diesel fuel running as cleanly. 

In this year's NESEA Challenge, each EV will have two meters measuring energy in Watt-hours.  One meter will be on the Alternating Current (AC) line that feeds the charger.  The other will be in between the battery and the motor controller.  This will allow more accurate measurement of the energy losses in the charger-and-battery subsystem. 

As of April 1st, NESEA's count of registered competitors was:

  Production Category            5
  Commuter Category             12
  USDOE Hybrid Category         10
  USDOE Solar Commuter Category  4
  One Person Category            5

total 36

There is also a new Demonstration Category for vehicles which will be on display and providing public ride-and-drives, but will not be awarded any prizes. 

Report #8: The Return of Car 50 from Connecticut

((This is a replacement for Report #8.  Jim sent me an updated version.  The changes are all in the paragraph that begins "Car #50 just received ...".))

One of the joys of serving as a reporter of the American Tour de Sol (this will be my fifth year in that role), is that I get to know some of the regulars and they get to know me.  So it wasn't too much of a surprise to get the following note from Jim Sime of the Connecticut DOT.  It tells so clearly just how things have changed in the car they will be bringing back to the Commuter Category, that I'll just repeat the whole thing.  Since I am mostly interested in the technology of the entrants, this speaks directly to me.  I just _love_ those details. 


  Connecticut Rideshare Solectria Force with Electrosource Horizon Batteries

David Fabricatore and I look forward to seeing you again at the 1998 American Tour de Sol (ATdS).  John Hudson will be driving the support van, as he did in 1996.  This year my son William, age 10, will travel with the team and keep a journal.  It should be both fun and educational for Will. 

John and I are researchers employed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.  This is the fourth year the Department has partnered with the Connecticut Rideshare Co. to participate in the American Tour de Sol. 

David and I will again be the driver/navigator team. 

The ATdS is an important element in the Department's evaluation of production electric vehicles (EVs) as a means of improving urban air quality, reducing the use of petroleum per vehicle mile and dependence on foreign oil.  Our evaluation with car #50 is examining the performance of a production electric car with an Advanced Lead Acid Battery (ALAB).  The ALAB being evaluated is an 85 Amp-hour valve-regulated lead-acid electric-vehicle battery. 

Since last year we have upgraded the motor and belt drive system on our 1995 Force.  The car actually had a 1994-production year motor and belt-type drive train.  The five 4-door sedans purchased by The Connecticut Rideshare Co. may have been the last Forces built before Solectria changed its standard drive train to the quieter direct-drive design. 

Car #50 just received a factory upgrade of its motor and drive train, so under the hood it's essentially a 1998 Force.  A model ACgtx20 replaced the original Solectria motor, model ACgv20.  This new AC induction motor delivers 43-45 HP and is a brushless sealed design and weighs 78 pounds (lbs.).  It is compact and has extremely low electrical resistance.  Nominal power of the ACgtx20 is 12 kW and nominal torque is 20 Nm, while maximum power and torque are 37 kW and 70 Nm, respectively.  Nominal motor speed is 4,000 rpm, while maximum motor speed is 12,000 rpm.  The motor has an efficiency of 92%.  A Solectria model AT1200 gearbox with the standard 12:1 gear ratio replaced the belt drive assembly.  The gearbox is lightweight, weighing 35 pounds.  The factory upgrade also included watertight electrical connectors, an Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) sock to improve radio reception, and a new-design fuse box. 

The car is equipped with Electrosource Horizon advanced lead-acid batteries, a 220 volt charging system and the Badicheq computerized battery management system.  All thirteen Electrosource horizon batteries were replaced with a new set of 85 Amp Hour Horizon batteries.  A pack of thirteen batteries powers the car.  The Horizon is a valve-regulated advanced lead acid battery.  Inside are lead-fiberglass wire woven into lightweight mesh.  The mesh is coated with an electrochemical paste.  The design uses a starved electrolyte system and gas recombination.  They are maintenance free, spill-proof, and can be mounted in any position.  Battery attributes are: rapid recharge, high peak power (450- 500 W/kg, 30 seconds @ 50% Depth of Discharge (DOD), terminal limited), 85 Ah capacity, 41 Wh/kg, 90 Wh/l, 12 V, 24.9 kg per battery, and 400-cycle life at 70% DOD.  [1]

Gus Sfakianos at Neocon Technologies Inc. in Long Island, NY replaced the on- board 12 Amp, 220-Volt Mentzer battery charger with a 22 Amp, 220 Volt K&W Charger.  The charger is still controlled by a Badicheq computerized battery management system, but our Badicheq did receive a software upgrade.  Also, the laptop computer and Badicheq laptop software were upgraded to the new Windows 95 version. 

For the past three years we ran Goodyear Invicta GL radial tires, size P155/80R13.  This is a 44-psi tire with a treadwear rating of 280, traction rating A and temperature rating B.  The Invicta weighs about 14.5 lbs. and has a maximum load rating of 959 lbs. (3,836 lbs. for a set of four).  For the 1998 ATdS, Goodyear sent us Intrepid radial tires, size 175/70R13. This 44-psi tire has a rated load capacity of 1,047 lbs. (4,188 lbs. for four) and a treadwear rating of 380; traction rating A; and, temperature rating B.  The Intrepid weighs about 1 lb. more than the Invicta.  Also, the Intrepid has a 5.25-inch tire width, about 7/8-inch wider than the Invicta.  However, the width of tire-to-pavement contact appears to be only 0.125 inch wider when the width of the "rain channel" is subtracted from the overall width of the Intrepid.  We will pursue a comparison of EV efficiency with these two tire models after the ATdS. 

The wider Goodyear Intrepid tire led us to purchase a wider wheel as well. 

We selected a 10-lb.  Panasport 13x5.5 inch alloy wheel.  The Intrepid/Panasport tire and wheel combination is 2 lbs. lighter than last year's Invicta mounted on a steel wheel with hubcap. 

That's about it for changes to Car #50.  Again, we look forward to seeing you on May 8, 1998. 

        Jim Sime

        Solectria/Horizon #50
        Connecticut EV/NAVC
        Production Category

P.S.  Information and data about Car #50 performance in previous ATdS events is posted on, which links to another site that contains Badicheq data and graphs from 1996 and 1997 ATdS (


 [1] Reisner, D. E., "Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Batteries for Motive
Power," US NANOCORP, Inc., North Haven, CT, 1996. 

Report #9: Light Happens

The day dawned cool and gray over the New York Hall of Science in the Flushing area of New York City today (Friday the 8th of May).  The weather report said to expect showers.  The early arrivers were already setting up a couple of tents and the NESEA traveling solar array, and a couple of electric cars and an electric school bus were already in evidence. 

As the day progressed, the promised showers arrived, but so did more and more American Tour de Sol entrants, and bus load after bus load of school kids.  "How far does it go?" "What do you do when there is no sun?" "High school kids built _that_!?" "How much does it cost?" "Where can I get one?" These were some of the questions heard. 

And your loyal reporter was there, sticking his microcassette recorder under the nose of many a team member, getting their stories and learning about the trucks, vans, cars, bicycles and tricycles entered by corporations, colleges, high schools, a middle school, and individuals.  We expect them to come from as far away as Florida and Canada, Arizona, California and Washington State. 

We'll see the first fuel cell powered Tour de Sol vehicle, from a surprising source.  We'll see one of the biggest entrants, and some of the smallest.  We'll see vehicles with sophisticated computer controls, and vehicles with manual controls.  We'll see a vehicle with 2 gear boxes and 2 shift levers.  We'll see teams that have had woeful difficulties in the past come back to try again, and we'll see winners defending their titles.  We'll see teams trying to run as much as possible on pure sun light, teams that will charge from the grid, teams that will burn fuels to generate their own electricity, and teams that will both charge and burn a fuel.  We'll even see a demonstration vehicle that gets it's electricity from light, but not the sun.  We'll see the only production hybrid-electric car being sold to the public.  And much more. 

So stick around.  Over the next week or so I'll try to be your eyes and ears here at the electric vehicle event where the rubber hits the everyday, city- town-and-country roads of the north eastern United States. 

Oh.  You want to know where the Report title "Light Happens" comes from? It's a bumper sticker on one of the entrants. 

Report #10: Team Profile - `Garnet One'

OK.  I admit it.  When I saw the entrant from Swarthmore College last year, I didn't hold out much hope for it completing the race (an opinion I kept to myself).  It was a bit of a rats nest of wires and tubes.  Not only was the electrical wiring all over the place, and none of it seemed to be labeled or color coded, but the tubing for the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel also seemed a bit distracted; not quite sure where it was going.  But the team proved me wrong.  In spite of a few problems, they kept it going and did quite well.  They even won a prize: the Blue Sky Club "Team Spirit Award", for staying happy in the face of adversity. 

Well, `Garnet One' (Number 62) returns with a new team and a very neat and refined look befitting the lines of the Beretta car used as a platform.  And I said so when I spoke with the team members.  "That's because we basicly changed everything except for the major components like the DC motor and the internal combustion engine.  We rewired the whole car, fixed up mechanical problems we had before, strengthened the battery box, replaced the exhaust system, fixed the cooling system, and added an instrument panel full of analog meters.  Last year all the measurements were fed into a computer and it was a pain in the neck.  It didn't work and it was difficult for the driver and passenger to know what was going on with the car." Although it has taken a lot of time and a few parts, there were not any major expenses to be paid, so funding has not been a major issue. 

The original team members, who created the car as a senior design project, graduated last year and are now working.  The team this year is all new members, and the car has been their senior project. 

Finding CNG was a problem for the team last year, as we traveled up through Vermont and New Hampshire.  They were given permission to plug in to charge for the portion of the route where they could not find fuel.  This year they did their homework and have found fuel all along the way. 

Most of the past 12 months the car has been in the shop being overhauled, but during the past two months they've put about 400 miles on it, getting it ready for the NESEA Tour. 

 Vehicle Number         62
 Vehicle Name           Garnet One
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              Swarthmore HEV Team
 No People in Project   8
 Organization           Swarthmore College
 Town                   Swarthmore PA
 Description            96 Chevy Beretta (Pba + CNG)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Advanced DC; FBi 401A; 21 kW cont, 60 kW peak
 Batteries              Trojan; PbA; 1200 lbs; 16,200 Wh, 120 V Series
 Controller             Curtis 1221B-7401; Transistor
 Charger                K&W; Transformerless
 Construction           Chevrolet Beretta; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 Hybrid                 Kawasaki; 2-cylinders; 317 cc; Series; CNG
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          75 mph
 Range                  150 miles
 Capacity               350 pounds
 Weight                 3700 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Drum; Non-Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Ameri; G4's

Report #11: Team Profile - `Solar Tiger II'

(History Lesson - Part 1)

 There is a history of electric vehicles that is not widely talked about or
even very well known.  During the 1960's and 1970's, there were a number of attempts to bring EVs to the American market that didn't quite work out.  One of those was a thing known as the "Zipper" (Have I spelled that right? It may have one or three p's.), that held two people, had 3 wheels with rear-wheel drive, an ABS plasic body, and reminds one of the little patrol vehicles you see today.  Not many were built. 

(History Lesson - Part 2)

 Last year the team from Union-Endicott High School worked very hard on a
ground-up vehicle that never crossed the starting line.  Severe problems with the brakes and steering kept them from passing the technical inspections, and so they were not allowed to race.  They did display their car at each of the stops along the way, though. 

Fate smiled on the Technology Club in the person of the retired CEO of EZ Red Battery in Deposit NY.  He had the only Zipper truck ever built and was looking to give it a home.  It had been sitting for a while and would need work, but would the Club be interested?

They sure were.  They redesigned the truck bed, changed the batteries from 48 Volts to 72 Volts, put in a modern controller, replaced the steering, replaced the shocks and brakes, replaced the windshield, added a radio, and gave it a new paint job.  Increasing the battery voltage also required reconfiguring the battery layout and adding cooling fans.  Originally the battery blocks were all in the front.  Now 8 blocks are in the front and 4 are in the back.  This layout has improved the handling by balancing the weight better. 

The car has been operational for about 2 weeks, but they have not yet tested the range limitations of the car. 

At the end of my interview, the Western Washington University team helped make a repair by doing a bit of welding to repair a shock mount that broke while the car was being trailed to the Tour. 

Later in the day, I found the car up on jacks again, and they were attempting to repair part of the steering system. 

Here's hoping they can be ready for the start on Sunday. 

 Vehicle Number         37
 Vehicle Name           Solar Tiger II
 Team Name              UEHS Solar Tiger Team
 No People in Project   26
 Months to Build        10
 Organization           Union Endicott High School
 Town                   Endicott NY
 Description            Purpose-built (Trojan, Pba)
 New this year?         returning team, new vehicle
 Motor                  Advanced DC Motors; 72/96; 8.952 kW cont, 12.68 kW peak
 Transmission           2 forward, 1 reverse gears
 Batteries              Trojan T-145; PbA; 17568 Wh, 72 V
 Controller             Curtis 1209B-6402; 48-72 V  400 Amp
 Charger                Zivan K2; Hi Freq.  Isolated
 PV Array               140 W; Solarex; MSX-30L
 Construction           Sebring; Aluminum Frame; ABS Plastic Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          55 mph
 Range                  65-70 miles
 Capacity               N/A pounds
 Weight                 1800 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Drum; Rear Drum; Non-regen
 Wheels Tires           3 Goodyear Hilander-CT; 4.80-12

Report #12: Team Profile - `Viking 23'

The group from Western Washington University keeps coming back with interesting vehicles.  This time, it superficially looks like the car they brought to the 1996 American Tour de Sol, but Rosanne Gile, the team captain who was also on that rally, tells me that it is quite different. 

As before, its front wheels are driven with an electric motor and its rear wheels are driven with an internal combustion engine (ICE).  "We've replaced the 900 cc Honda racing motorcycle engine and with a 3 cylinder, 1 liter Diahatsu burning reformulated gasoline (RFG).  The old motorcycle transmission that was used in the front failed at the last competition, so we've mated a Suburu 4-speed to the motor.  This means we have automotive transmissions both front and rear, where before we had motorcycle transmissions, so we have a different shifting pattern to deal with.  We still have two separate shifters, although they are now on two separate shift levers, where before there was one lever with a gate between them." I notice that the shift levers have different shapes.  I suspect that is to help the driver differentiate them.  It looks confusing, "but you just leave the electric in 3rd most of the time, so there not a problem." And you only have to manage the ICE when it is on.  The general driving pattern is to start out in electric, and add the ICE when you need the power for hills or the range for cruising. 

There is no charging capability from the ICE to the batteries.  So they have to both charge the batteries and add fuel.  Oh, yes.  And there is also the solar panels that cover just about every horizontal surface of the car. 

I asked where they intended to get the RFG fuel during the rally? "We drove to California, picked the fuel up, and we have it.  In California RFG is the standard you buy at the pump."

The car is built real low to the ground, and has a long, sleek look.  The body tilts up at the front to let the driver and passenger in to very laid back seats.  The ICE engine sits across the back of the vehicle so there is no rear window.  Which means there is no rear-view mirror.  Instead a black-and-white TV camera is built into the tail and a small monitor on the dash board shows the driver what's following her. 

This rework of `Viking 23' was done by a team of five people, Rosanne said, taking majors in Vehicle Design and Manufacturing Engineering Technology. 

 Vehicle Number         23
 Vehicle Name           Viking 23
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              Western Washington University
 No People in Project   5
 Months to Build        48
 Organization           Western Washington University Vehicle Research
 Town                   Bellingham WA
 Description            Sedan (Saft NiCd+RFG)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Unique Mobility; permanent magnet brushless DC;
                        37.3 kw cont, 44.76 kw peak
 Controller             Unique Mobility; PCM
 Batteries              Saft; NiCd; 353 lbs; 5220 Wh Series/Parallel
 Charger Offboard       Xantrex; High Frequency Solid State
 PV Array               750 W; BP Solar; Silicon
 Construction           Purpose Built; Carbon Fiber Frame; Carbon Fiber Body
 Hybrid                 Diahatsu; 1000 cc; RFG
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          100 mph
 Range                  550 miles
 Capacity               500 pounds
 Weight                 1900 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Disk; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Firestone; F560

Report #13: Demonstration Vehicle - `Viking 29'

The Western Washington University Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) has brought another car along, for display, and while it looks somewhat like its stable mate, `Viking 23', there is a difference.  It runs on light, but not sunlight.  Instead it is powered by a Thermophotovoltaic (TPV) generator, also referred to as Midnight Sun(R), developed by the VRI and JX Crystals of Issaquah WA. 

Picture a canister a bit smaller than a 1 gallon paint can.  Up the middle of that can, place a ceramic tube.  On the inside wall of the can place solar cells.  Burn a fuel inside the ceramic tube, making it hot and therefore it glows.  The solar cells in turn use the light from the glowing tube to make electricity.  The fuel burns continuously, making the combustion complete, clean, and quiet.  Since the solar cells are very close to the glowing tube, the illumination is much brighter than solar cells on the roof of a car. 

The silicon carbide ceramic tube glows brightly in the infrared light spectrum, at a wave length of about 0.8 to 1.8 microns, and part of the design challenge is to match the brightest part of the glowing tube spectrum to most sensitive wavelengths of the photovoltaic cells. 

In `Viking 29', there are 8 such canisters, burning Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) illuminating gallium antimonide photovoltaic cells at 1700 degrees Kelvin.  The 10 kiloWatts produced is stored in a 10 kiloWatt-hour, 260 Volt pack of Saft NiCad batteries.  That drives a Unique Mobility 75 kW motor connected through a 4-speed, wide ratio transaxle to the rear wheels.  The canisters are surrounded by a water jacket which takes the heat to a large radiator.  All this is surrounded by a body of composite materials in a vinyl- ester matrix. 

A car of the future? Michael Seal, director of the VRI thinks it might be but it is be too early to tell.  The car was finished just before they left to come to the Tour, and so only has about 20 miles on it.  "The car was built for the Department of Energy, and the TPVs were built for the Department of Defense.  The car is going to Washington to be shown the sponsors."

What is the overall efficiency of producing electricity this way? "It's still very early days in this technology.  Right now our best is about 8 percent.  We guess that 30%, or even more, is obtainable.  Our chief competitor is the fuel cell, which has an in-built advantage that it is inherently more efficient than TPV, but it has to run on hydrogen." But if you add in the cost of producing, storing, and transporting hydrogen then TPV can compete.  Plus TPV can run on any available fuel. 

The Midnight Sun generators have been developed in the past 3 years.  The first commercial applications are likely to be co-generation for mountain cabins, motor homes and yachts, where the waste heat can be used for other purposes. 

For more information:

        Michael R. Seal
        Vehicle Research Institute
        Western Washington University
        Bellingham WA  98225-9086

        360 650-3045

Report #14: Other Reporters

You know you are onto something when people start copying what you do.  There is group here called "taking pictures and writing stories and putting them up on a web site." The site is

Report #15: Team Profile - `Ed'

Last year, a team I most wanted to see was the one from Lawrence Tech in Michigan.  They had built a car name `Hyades' that, after participating in the FutureCar Challenge in Michigan, drove all the way to Chicago.  Would they drive to and from the American Tour de Sol? Well, they didn't.  And when they got here they had many problems with bursting hydraulic lines, and so did not do very well at all. 

But, undaunted, they have returned with a rework of the same base vehicle that they have much greater hopes for: `Ed' (which stands for Electric Diesel).  Becky Steketee is the team leader and told me what else, besides the name, has changed. 

`Ed' uses a parallel hybrid design, with both the diesel engine and the electric motor connected to the transmission.  A toothed belt from the electric motor passes through a hole in the bell-housing of the transmission so either the engine, or the motor, or both can drive the car.  The transmission is a manual, but it is shifted by a computer, so the car is driven as if it had a traditional automatic transmission.  The normal driving strategy implemented by the computer is that the car starts off in electric mode.  At about 16 kilometers per hour the diesel gets clutched in and pretty much takes over.  The electric is brought back in when there is a need for extra power for acceleration or hill climbing. 

Unlike some, this car needs both fuel and electric charging, referred to as a "charge depletion strategy".  There is no ability for recharging the batteries from the engine.  (Surprising to me, since the car has regenerative brakes based on the wheels driving the electric motor operating as a generator.  It would seem to be a natural thing to have the diesel engine also drive the motor as a generator.)

Royce Brown told me that the Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery pack has a sophisticated monitoring system.  It watches the temperature and voltage of each battery module, reported on a LCD panel on the dashboard.  If any module (made up of 11 cells) shows a high temperature or an unusual voltage, an alarm is raised.  (Such a system is pretty much a necessity on advanced battery systems, in my opinion.  The high energy density of these chemistries do not seem to tolerate over charge or over discharge at all.  Last year, the car from Chico State University in California suffered a catastrophic overheating of their NiMH pack during an overnight charge.  Their monitoring system was out of the car at the time, being bench tested.  As they say, it ruined their whole day.)

The solar panel on the roof automatically control a pair of fans on the rear roof pillars, one blowing into the cabin and the other blowing out.  When the cabin temperature gets above 85 degrees F, the fans turn on to exhaust the hot air.  It also recharges the accessory battery. 

One thing you don't notice about the car until you try to get into it is that there are no door handles.  I don't mean that they are recessed into the body, or built into the door jamb (as in the Chevy Beretta used by `Garnet One').  I mean there is no door handles.  A button on a key fob causes the door to pop open a couple of inches.  You then just grab the door jamb.  (I think there could be a safety issue here.  What if a person outside is pulling on the door jamb just as a person outside is pulling the door closed? Those fingers are going to get caught! Oooch!)

 Vehicle Number         4
 Vehicle Name           Ed
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              Current Advantage
 No People in Project   45
 Months to Build        8
 Organization           Lawrence Technology University
 Town                   Southfield MI
 Description            96 Ford Taurus (Ovonic, NiMH + Diesel)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Unique Mobility; Brushless DC; 43 kW cont, 58 kW peak
 Controller             Unique Mobility/Siemens; EVPH332
 Batteries              Ovonic; NiMH; 510 lbs; 16250 Wh, 194 V; Parallel
 Charger Offboard       Lockheed Martin; Transformerless
 PV Array               100 W; Solarex; MSX50
 Construction           Ford; Steel Frame; Steel/Aluminum/Carbon Fiber Body
 Hybrid                 Volkswagen; B20;
                        Diesel, turbocharged, direct injection;
                        92 horsepower; 60 mpg
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          112 mph
 Range                  600 miles
 Capacity               750 pounds
 Weight                 3857 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Disk; Regen. 
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear Eagle LS (EV); 15"

Report #16: Demonstration Vehicle - `Ford Electric Ranger'

Tracy Lanciano, a Vehicle Engineer, and Bill Royle, Sales Manager for Alternative Fuel Vehicles, from Ford were in Flushing with an Electric Ranger.  Whenever I see someone from one of the major car companies I always ask the same question.  If I want to be an early adaptor of EV technology, and I am not a fleet owner, can I purchase one of these?

"Yes, you can," said Bill.  "It's $35,000, unless you want to lease it at $633 per month.  You can have one today.  We have a toll-free number, 1-800-ALT-FUEL (258-3835), which will answer questions about any of the eleven alternate fuel vehicles Ford builds.  That includes literature, where's my closest dealer, or where can I get one.  The trucks are not readily available everywhere, by design.  50 of the 4500 Ford dealers are authorized to sell the Electric Rangers.  Those dealers are in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington."

The Electric Ranger will be on display in New York City and Washington DC only. 

 Vehicle Name           Ford Ranger
 Category               DEMONSTRATION CATEGORY
 Team Name              Ford Motor Company
 Organization           FORD
 Town                   Dearborn MI
 Description            Electric pick-up truck
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour

Report #17: Team Profile - `Slipstream'

In the past, the Cornell team has arrived with vehicles named after bad weather: things like `Tusnami', `Vortex', `Blizzard' and `Tempest'.  So `Slipstream' (Number 14) sounds less ominous.  Barkley Hershey and Peter Kung told me about it. 

The design is similar to ones they have used before.  There are two motors driving the rear wheels, an AC induction motor for efficiency and a brushed DC motor for hill climbing and hard acceleration.  On top of that, there is a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueled engine for generating electricity to give the car about 300 miles range.  The DC motor has a clutch on it, to avoid it presenting a load when it is not being powered or the car is backing up.  The AC induction motor is directly connected, and can be driven backwards when the car needs to back up.  The AC motor also provides regenerative braking.  "We only use the DC motor for 20 to 30 seconds max." It all adds up to quite a package. 

The choices between AC vs.  DC are under computer control, as is the decision to start the engine.  The "vehicle automation system" provides the interface between the accelerator pedal and the two electric motor controllers. 

The electric part has been working since February.  The CNG engine has been working since March. 

The 30 Watt Solar panel charges the 12 Volt battery that is used for lights, horn, radio and such. 

The team has half mechanical engineers and half electrical engineers. 

Cornell was having some difficulties.  During technical inspection, the safety people were not happy with the materials used for the fuel lines and clamps.  They were able to get suitable replacements.  They were also have trouble with one of their E-Meters (which measure the motors energy usages) which was resetting every time the car went into regenerative braking.  They hoped to have that repaired soon. 

 Vehicle Number         14
 Vehicle Name           Slipstream
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              Cornell HE V
 No People in Project   25
 Months to Build        12
 Organization           Cornell University Hybrid Elec Veh.  Team
 Town                   Ithaca NY
 Description            Purpose-built (PbA + CNG)
 New this year?         new car - returning team
 Motors                 2; Solectria & Advanced DC; AC Induction & DC;
                        40 kW cont, 80 kW peak
 Controllers            2; Solectria & Auburn Grizzly; AC Induction & DC
 Batteries              GNB; PbA; 3864 Wh, 168 V Series
 Charger Offboard       Japler Monarch; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               30 W; Solarex; 6-1sf thin flm panels
 Construction           Purpose Built; Alum. Ext. Frame; Fiberglas Body
 Hybrid                 Geo; 1 liter; CNG/50 mpg
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          68 mph
 Range                  300 miles
 Capacity               600 pounds
 Weight                 2600 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Disk; Regen
 Wheels Tires           2 Michelin Proxima 175/65-14;
                        2 Michelin Energy MXV4 185/65-15

Report #18: Team Profile - `Helios the Heron V'

I've been doing these Reports for five years now, and each of those years there has been a `Helios the Heron' built by the 4th through 8th grade students of the Riverside School in Lyndonville Vermont. 

This year they are back again with the same VW microbus they had last year, and a group of kids just bubbling over with energy and enthusiasm for what they have done.  The van itself sports many improvements. 

What are those improvements? I didn't have to ask twice.  "We have 5 new solar panels on the side of the bus.  We have regenerative braking hooked up.  We have a two new charges.  We have nine new batteries.  We have a new battery monitoring system."

A battery monitoring system? That's something the college teams are claiming.  "We connected telephone wires to each battery terminal, so we don't have to open up the box" to read each battery's voltage.  "You plug a telephone cord plug into the panel for each battery (module), connect the voltmeter, and it gives you the reading." Last year they opened the battery boxes each morning and read the module voltages by touching each pair of terminals.  This should make the process much easier and safer.  (Some of the other teams should consider such a system.) They also added a "little computer chip kinda thing for each battery" that lights a lamp when the battery is full.  It then passes "the energy will go to the other batteries to make them full."

The new solar panels, donated by University of Vermont Montpelier, add 65 Volts to the 160 Volt panel already on the roof used to help recharge the main battery pack.  They also added a diode to the solar panels so they don't present a load to the system when they are in the dark. 

The regenerative braking is driving an alternator that is connected to a charger that is fed back into the battery box. 

When the van was not at the Tour de Sol, it was used to take the kids to various local events and sports. 

Not everything went smoothly getting ready for the Tour.  "Wednesday, when we came to work on Helios, it didn't move.  We didn't know what was wrong, and when we traced it, we thought it was the controller." They got a new controller from a source 2 hours away.  "We installed the (new) controller, and still it didn't work.  That was last night at about 8 o'clock.  So we were still looking for what was wrong." They kept looking and finally saw that the plug between the controller and the motor where not quite plugged in all the way.  "It took about 5 minutes to fix and that was all that was really wrong."

They also had a ground fault, that proved to be a wire out of place.  It was easily corrected. 

"Also on Tuesday we were working on the E-Meter which tells us how much further we can run.  And we were rewiring it, and it short circuited and it blew up.  A $300 meter.  But we got another one and got it installed."

 Vehicle Number         93
 Vehicle Name           Helios the Heron V
 Team Name              Riverside School
 No People in Project   90
 Months to Build        8
 Organization           Riverside School
 Town                   Lyndonville VT
 Description            1971 VW Van (Deka-East Penn, PbA)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  General Electric; Series wound; 150 kW cont, 300 kW pk
 Controller             Curtis; Solid State
 Batteries              East Penn; Sealed Jell Cells; 1600 lbs;
                        2 strings, 120 V each, charged separately. 
 Chargers Onboard       2, Solectria
 PV Array               400 W; Arco; 1x4 used panels
 Construction           1971 VW Bus; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          55 mph
 Range                  75-80 miles
 Capacity               400 pounds
 Weight                 4000 pounds
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   4684 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Hydraulic Disc; Rear Hydraulic Drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; Steel belt radial

Report #19: Friday and Saturday: Registration, Display and Testing

No, there is no truth to the rumor that we plan to change the name of the event to The American Tour de Nimbus. 

Friday and Saturday, May 8th and 9th, were the first two days of the American Tour de Sol, and it rained quite a bit both days.  People and cars were wet but spirits were not dampened. 

On Friday, at the New York Hall of Science in the Flushing neighborhood of New York City, the teams gathered, registered, hosted scores of school tours, and also met with attendees of the SAE/NESEA TOPTEC on Hybrid Vehicles at a picnic lunch hosted by Ford Motor Company.  As I spoke to the teams, gathering the information for these reports, I could hear the pride in what they were accomplishing.  For some, the old hands at this who have been involved with the NESEA Tour and similar events, this was getting to be a comfortable routine.  For others, especially the first-time school teams, to whom this is all new, the Wow Factor was coming into play.  They were not the only ones who did this, who had to learn the ways of electric vehicles, sometimes with emotionally painful (and we hope not physically painful) experience.  There were lots of others who were doing similar things. 

Saturday was the Day of Inspection at the South Street Sea Port in Manhattan.  The overhead Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive afforded considerable protection from the rain for the teams and the visiting public.  Here the vehicles get weighed, and measured, and tested to ensure that they meet the safety requirements.  A small horde of volunteers scrutinize, looking for things like structural strength, brake effectiveness, and electrical, hydraulic, and fuel system soundness. 

Of particular concern is the dreaded ground fault, where electricity from the main battery pack leaks onto the car frame where it could give a nasty shock.  Finding these things can be tricky and time consuming, especially if the wiring is messy or too well hidden inside a metal car frame.  Even an "all composite" car like `Viking 23' can have such a problem, and they did.  A dirty battery top and dried electrolyte spill on the frame can present enough of a current path to give you a tingle.  A quick clean up solved the problem. 

In addition to the basic safety tests, the vehicle handling around traffic cones, acceleration, ability to start on a hill, engineering elegance, practicality, and educational display and team appearance are awarded points called "Tour Miles".  Extra miles are awarded for passing the technical requirements readily. 

The Saturday New York Times ran a piece on the ATdS feature a picture of cars lined up in Flushing, and one of the `Helios the Heron V' team standing by their pride and joy. 

On Sunday at 1 PM, the movable feast will start to move in earnest, from South Street Sea Port to the train station in Morristown NJ.  Then at 5 PM, we move on to the Princeton NJ High School. 

Report #20: Team Profile - `Project e- 2'

The team from Mount Everett Regional High School in Sheffield MA has been at the ATdS for the past five years with an electric, and then a hybrid-electric pick-up truck known as `Project e-' (pronounced "E Minus").  Not this year. 

They are back with something different.  Very different! A recumbent tricycle, which puts it in the One Person Category, with an H-Power hydrogen fuel cell, which makes it a Hybrid!!

So the first fuel-cell powered vehicle brought to the American Tour de Sol comes from a high school team.  Is there any doubt that these people are helping to invent the future?

Josh Brooks and Jason Cross told me that they just got the fuel cell on Tuesday night, and they just got the brakes working on Thursday.  "With just the electric power we can go about 20 miles per hour and do about 30 miles." With pedaling and with the fuel they see themselves going much further.  "It is really easy (to ride).  Once you get it up to speed and into high gear, it's minimal effort to keep it going 30 miles per hour."

The trike is very low to the ground, with one wheel out in front on a long bar, and a pair of wheels with the seat, battery, fuel cell, and solar panel between them.  It is steered with a pair of vertical levers, one on either side of the rider, who sits with his elbows at his side. 

Push on one lever, pull on the other, and push rod turns the front wheel.  Controls for the motor and horn are on the left hand, brake lights are on the right hand.  Normal bicycle squeeze handles control the front and rear brakes.  Switches on a panel below the rider's left elbow control head lights and system power.  The pedal crank is mounted a bit rear of the front wheel, with a gear and chain that brings the human power back to the rear wheels. 

The fuel cell itself is just an aluminum cube, maybe a foot on a side, with an on-off switch.  Inside a door are a number (4? I couldn't quite see) of small, black pressure vessels which store the hydrogen in metal hydride.  They are filled from an external tank via a gas connection.  That process takes two or three hours.  The battery is also plugged in every night. 

 Vehicle Number         97
 Vehicle Name           Project e- 2
 Category               ONE PERSON CATEGORY
 Team Name              Project e- 2
 No People in Project   25
 Months to Build        3
 Organization           Mount Everett Regional Project e- 2
 Town                   Sheffield MA
 Description            3 wheel recumbent bike
 New this year?         new bike - returning team
 Motor                  Wellington; Brushless DC
 Controller             Curtis; 1204-101
 Batteries              2, Hawker Genesis; PbA; 80 lbs; 1248 Wh, 24 V
 Charger Offboard       Todd Engineering; 24 V, 15 Amp
 PV Array               10.3 W; Uni Solar; Amorphous
 Construction           Purpose Built; Cromolly Frame; Lexan Body
 Hybrid                 H-Power Fuel Cell
 No of Passengers       1
 Maximum Speed          30 mph
 Range                  35 to 80+ miles
 Capacity               225 pounds
 Weight                 150 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Hydraulic Calipers; Rear Hydraulic Disk; Non-
 Wheels Tires           3 Primo V Monster; 20x1.75

Report #21: Team Profile - `Kineticar III'

Another team with a long and distinguished history at the NESEA Tour goes by the tongue-twister CSERT-NVCTC.  In English, that's Connecticut Solar Electric Race Team - Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College.  Eric Rabuse says this is their eighth year with us and they are quite proud that they have always completed all of their legs and never had to tow. 

`Kineticar III' is one of two hybrids running Propane (aka Liquid Petroleum Gas/LPG) as their fuel.  Their parallel-hybrid configuration puts an engine, clutch, motor and transmission in a straight line.  The output of each feeds into the next directly.  A clever lever-and-vacuum-actuator arrangement connects the accelerator pedal to both the engine throttle and the motor controller potentiometer.  When the engine is not running or has not yet started sufficiently to develop power, the actuator keeps the throttle from flooding the engine.  Once the engine is well and truly running, the engine vacuum causes the actuator to change the lever arrangement so the pedal input is also connected to the throttle.  The result is the engine can be started while underway and it integrates its contribution of power automatically.  The clutch isolates the engine when in pure-electric mode. 

This year the team replaced the clutch between the engine and motor with a Maxitorq donated by Carlyle Johnson.  They find that it is much more reliable.  "We have driven 450 miles before the race, and started to develop some good drivers." (This strikes me as a good plan.  Too many teams have their drivers getting familiar with their vehicles as the go under the Start banner.)

Between races, the truck has a community service mission.  "We use it for demonstrations on Earth Day, and go to schools to show the kids what could they be doing in college and what the learning curve is like when you are on a design team making a vehicle.  I didn't know anything about propane, carburization, clutches, hybrid configurations, batteries or motors.  After this project I find I'm on the forefront of this stuff. 

"I've been following the team since I was a sophomore in high school.  I saw Kineticar I (which was a Ford Escort conversion).  This was when the range was under 60 miles.  That got me hooked.  I started a Hybrid Club in school, but we didn't develop a vehicle.  When I got to college, I joined the team.  With an advisor like Don Narducci, who has been doing this since the beginning we have accomplished a lot."

 Vehicle Number         18
 Vehicle Name           Kineticar III
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              CSERT-NVCTC
 Months to Build        3
 Organization           Naugatuck Valley CTC
 Town                   Waterbury CT
 Description            Pick up (Trojan, PBA + LPG)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Advanced DC 9-inch; 24 kW cont, 48 kW peak
 Controller             Curtis; Model 1231C
 Batteries              Trojan; PbA; 1120 lbs; 17600 Wh, 96 V
 Charger Offboard       Lester; Ferro reson. 
 PV Array               25 W; Uni-Solar; Amorphous; charges accessory battery
 Construction           1989 Chevrolet S-10; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 Hybrid                 Suzuki; 1 liter; Parallel; LPG
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          70 mph
 Range                  400 miles
 Capacity               400 pounds
 Weight                 4000 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Drum; Non-Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; P195/60R15

Report #22: List of Entrants

Here is the list of entrants, devined from the first day's data sheet.  I'll flesh out the details as I do the Team Profiles. 

    Car#      Car                     Team
    Production Category
  1  76   Ovonic-Solectria Force      Ovonic Battery Co
  2  50   95 Solectria/Horizon        Connecticut EV/NAVC
  3  77   Solectria CitiVan           NAVC/BECO/UCBC/Solectria
  4  10   Honda EV Plus               New York Power Authority
    Car#      Car                     Team
    Commuter Category
  1  16   The Olympian                Pirates
  2 10b   Shocker III                 NEAT
  3  32   Porche 914 Electric Bull    Shadow Mtn. Electric Matadors
  4  59   59 Berkeley                 Team New England
  5  72   Sungo                       NHTI Solar - Solar Car Team
  6  66   Re-Chargers                 University of New Haven
  7  31   Spyder Juice                Triple Crowne Motorworks
  8  13   The Electrifly              Enviromotive
  9  37   Solar Tiger II              UEHS Solar Tiger Team
 10  24   Comuta-Car                  HVCC
 11  55   Onipa'a                     Tiger Body
    Car#      Car                     Team
    DOE Hybrid Category
  1   8   Electric Lion               Team Electric Lion
  2   7   TU ParaDyne                 Hurricane Motor Works
  3  23   Viking 23                   Western Washington University
  4  14   Slipstream                  Cornell HEV
  5  62   Garnet One                  Swarthmore HEV Team
  6  94   Hopper EV                   New Hampshire Tech Institute
  7  22   Maryland's Saturn HEV       Maryland SAE, Saturn HEV
  8  18   Kineticar III               CSERT-NVCTC
  9   4   Hyades                      Current Advantage
    Car#      Car                     Team
    DOE Solar Commuter Category
  1  69   Solar Commuter Car          Team Solarcat
  2  93   Helios the Heron V          Riverside School
  3  58   NFA Sol Machine             Team NFA Newburgh NY
  4  83   Sol Survivor IV             Sol Survivor
    Car#      Car                     Team
    One Person Category
  1   3   Ovonic Electric Scooter     Ovonic Battery Co
  2  97   Project e-2                 Project e-2
  3  12   Charger Bicycle             Team Charger
  4  21   Mach.1                      Mhyee/CTC
  5  92   Sunpacer                    Cato-Meridian HS Tech Team
  6   9   ZEV Mobile                  Boomtown Realty

Report #23: Day 1 Race Summary

Sunday, May 10th was much the same as Saturday.  It rained and rained and rained.  Much of the time it was a drizzle with a light breeze, but occasionally it was much more with high winds.  But the Tour de Sol goes on.  After all the mission is to show that electric and hybrid-electric vehicles can be practical transportation, and that doesn't mean just when the sun shines. 

So the vehicles left South Street Sea Port, on the eastern shore of Manhattan, drove across town to the Lincoln Tunnel on the western shore, and then through New Jersey to Morristown, a trip of about 30 miles. 

The Hybrids took a longer route, up to the George Washington Bridge, and then across the Hudson River and over to Morristown.  The Hybrids had to do this because there are restrictions on taking bottled Liquid Petroleum Gas through the tunnels.  To keep the rally fair within the Hybrid category, all the entrants drove the same 48 mile route. 

Even so, the first cars under the Finish banner were #8 `Electric Lion' from Pennsylvania State University and #7 `TU ParaDyne' from the University of Tulsa Oklahoma.  It took them just under an hour and a half, and they averaged about 35 miles per hour.  This is not unusual when the Tour goes through metropolitan areas, as the routes tend to be off the major highways.  Heavy weather and the fact that this was Mother's Day probably added to the times. 

#10 the `Honda EV Plus' add the best time on the shorter route, averaging just under 20 miles per hour. 

So here are the results, taken off the Day 1 data sheet compiled by NESEA.  As always, these results are subject to change and the final results are not final until NESEA publishes them.  Your humble reporter is doing the best he can here, but ... 

The teams marked (Not Here) are ones I have not seen and suspect had to drop out before they got here.  However, we have had teams join the rally mid-route, so again this is what I know, not necessarily truth. 

    American Tour de Sol 1998          Day 1 Race Summary

    Car#      Car                        Tour      Total
    Production Category                  Mile      Miles
  1   76    Ovonic-Solectria Force        71.3      275.2
  2   50    95 Solectria/Horizon          71.3      275.2
  3   77    Solectria CitiVan             68.0      275.2
  4   10    Honda EV Plus                 58.9      275.2

    Car#      Car                        Tour      Total
    Commuter Category                    Miles     Miles
  1   16    The Olympian                  69.4      275.2
  2   10b   Shocker III                   69.4      275.2
  3   32    Porche 914 Electric Bull      66.4      275.2
  4   59    59 Berkeley                   56.4      275.2
  5   72    Sungo                         47.7      275.2
  6   66    Re-Chargers                   36.5      275.2
  7   31    Spyder Juice                  10.5      260.9
  8   13    The Electrifly                -1.3      254.0
  9   37    Solar Tiger II               -45.3       28.0
 10   24    Comuta-Car                  -101.3
 11   55    Onipa'a (Not Here)          -101.3

    Car#      Car                        Tour      Total
    DOE Hybrid Category                  Miles     Miles
  1    8    Electric Lion                 89.2      293.1
  2    7    TU ParaDyne                   89.2      293.1
  3   23    Viking 23                     87.3      293.1
  4   14    Slipstream                    83.5      293.1
  5   62    Garnet One                    82.2      293.1
  6   94    Hopper EV                     76.8      293.1
  7   22    Maryland's Saturn HEV         -6.3      252.5
  8   18    Kineticar III                -23.3       39.0
  9    4    Hyades                      -101.3

    Car#      Car                        Tour      Total
    DOE Solar Commuter Category          Miles     Miles
  1   69    Solar Commuter Car            40.5      275.2
  2   93    Helios the Heron V            -5.1      252.1
  3   58    NFA Sol Machine              -71.3       20.0
  4   83    Sol Survivor IV             -101.3

    Car#      Car                        Tour      Total
    One Person Category                  Miles     Miles
  1    3    Ovonic Electric Scooter       58.8      230.3
  2   97    Project e-2                   40.7       40.7
  3   12    Charger Bicycle               35.7       #N/A
  4   21    Mach.1                        28.7       #N/A
  5   92    Sunpacer                     -52.1      189.7
  6    9    ZEV Mobile (Not Here)       -123.3

Report #24: Team Profile - `The Olympian'

Ben Fratto spoke with me about the car known as `The Olympian' from Cinnaminson NJ High School.  "The car was started two years ago by Michelle and Jesse, as it says on the car.  It's powered by 12 Horizon blocks, in series for 144 Volts, and a range extending pack of 10 Yellow Top Optimas for 120 Volts." The Horizons occupy what used to be the back seat area and some of the trunk, and the Optimas are under the hood and at the back of the trunk.  "When (the Horizon pack) goes down to maybe 80 percent, you just change the batteries.  We use the emergency disconnect, next to the driver." Pulling on a red handle separates the big Anderson connectors from the main pack to the controller.  The connector from the spare pack can then be inserted in its place. 

Horizon batteries are pretty sophisticated and expensive batteries for a high school team.  I asked how that came about.  "We sent a picture of our team and a request for some support.  They decided to support us and provided 12 blocks worth about $5000.  We were not sure we could make the 70 miles required by the Tour, so we decided to add the $1000 worth of Optimas."

There are two chargers.  "For the Horizons, its a K&W BC250 prototype at 144 Volts.  For the Optimas, since the BC250 cannot change voltages, we are using a Lester and hoping they don't get damaged during the week.  We sort of bought the Optimas for the week.  I know its a $1000 wasted, but if it gets us through ..."

 Vehicle Number         16
 Vehicle Name           The Olympian
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              Pirates
 Organization           Cinnaminson High School
 No People in Project   10
 Town                   Cinnaminson NJ
 Description            1986 Ford Escort (Horizon/Optima, PbA)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Advanced DC; 9.1" FB1-4001; 21 kW cont, 63 kW peak
 Controller             Curtis; 1231-C
 Batteries              Electrosoure Horizon; PbA; 144 V
                        Optima Yellow Top; PbA; 120 V
 Chargers Offboard      K&W BC250 prototype;
 Construction           1986 Ford Escort; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          63 mph
 Capacity               580 pounds
 Weight                 3160 pounds
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   3140 pounds
 Brakes                 Vacuum Asst & Front Disk; Rear Drum; No Regen. 
 Wheels Tires           Goodyear; Eagle Gt-2

Report #25: Team Profile - CitiVan

In the first American Tour de Sol, there was a team from MIT.  In that team was a young man named James Worden, who had built his first electric car in high school, and who went on to found the Solectria Corporation, which still builds electric cars. 

Along the way, Solectria has been the first to champion controversial causes.  They were early believers in AC induction motors and regenerative braking.  Now all the electric vehicles from the major auto manufacturers use AC induction motors (or their first cousin, the permanent magnet brushless DC motor) and regen braking.  Solectria built an EV pickup truck based on the Chevy S-10.  Now Chevy makes an Electric S-10.  Solectria put Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries in their Force car.  Now Honda and Toyota use NiMH and most of the rest are saying they will. 

So what's a little company to do? How about a big electric delivery van.  I spoke with Beth Silverman, Marketing Manager at Solectria. 

"We started the CitiVan project almost exactly a year ago.  So far we have delivered three vans and we've got purchase orders for about half-a-dozen.  And there are more customers that are `hot'. 

"The vehicles are being built in Wilmington MA, right now, but we're hoping that they'll be big enough that we'll have to move (production) to another location in Massachusetts." (I have heard a periodic rumor that Solectria would put a shop in South Boston.  Beth neither confirmed nor denied that one.)

The base price is $49,950, with lead acid batteries.  It will do 40 to 45 miles per charge.  Cabin heat is provided by a gasoline or diesel heater where 5 gallons will last about a week and, of course, heat from fuel doesn't reduce the vehicle range.  Our customers are power companies, inner-city delivery companies.  There is a big interest for recycling routes.  The types of applications we think would be very good are military bases, college campuses, and small, campus-type contained routes.  Federal Express and UPS talk about `vertical delivery routes' where a truck goes from the depot to a skyscraper and the guys go up and down all day.  They may only drive 10 or 20 miles. 

Delivery vehicles may go through 100 starts a day and replacing starter motors is a big maintenance item for those fleets.  These don't have starter motors. 

General Motors supplies the glider chassis, which includes things like the steering wheel, axles, and brakes, but no engine.  Union City Body Company, in Indiana, puts the bodies on.  The completed, unpowered van is then shipped to Massachusetts where Solectria does the electrification. 

 Vehicle Number         77
 Vehicle Name           Solectria CitiVan
 Category               PRODUCTION CATEGORY
 Team Name              NAVC/BECO/UCBC/Solectria
 No People in Project   2
 Organization           Solectria Corp. 
 Town                   Wilmington MA
 Description            Union City Body Co.  Van (Sonnenschein, PbA)
 New this year?         new car - updated team
 Motor                  Solectria AC; Induction Drive; 41 kW cont, 70 kW peak
 Controller             Solectria; UMOC 440
 Batteries              Sonnenschein; Sealed PbA; 2800 lbs; 28 kWh, 312 V
 Charger Onboard        Solectria BC3300; 3.3 kW conductive
 Construction           Union City Body; Steel Frame; Aluminum Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          45 mph
 Range                  40 miles
 Capacity               3500 pounds
 Weight                 11,000 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           6 Goodyear Wrangler

Report #26: Day 2 Race Summary

Here are the numbers from Tuesday morning.  Day 1 was Sunday and was the trip from Manhattan to Princeton, New Jersey.  Day 2 was Monday and was the trip from Princeton to New Castle, Deleware. 

A few words about American Tour de Sol scoring are in order.  First, all points are awarded in units of Miles, even for things that have nothing to do with distance.  So, before the rally even started, most teams had Miles awarded during the technical inspections.  They are not shown here. 

Then there are Miles awarded for traveling from point-to-point during the rally. 

And finally, demerits for various infractions are subtracted as Miles.  Most of the penalties this year are Unfinished Leg or Late Finish.  Others include Late for Display or Start and Late Registration. 

Below, "Total Miles" represent the distance traveled, and "Tour Miles" refer to awarded Miles after adjustments (usually subtracted penalty Miles). 

                                                 Day 2 Total   Day 1 Total

    Car#      Car                  Tour   Total  Tour   Total  Tour   Total
    Production Category            Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles
  1  76  Ovonic-Solectria Force    171.8  171.8  100.6  100.6   71.3   71.3
  2  50  95 Solectria/Horizon      171.8  171.8  100.6  100.6   71.3   71.3
  3  77  Solectria CitiVan         167.1  171.8   99.2  100.6   68.0   71.3
  4  10  Honda EV Plus             157.4  171.8   98.6  100.6   58.9   71.3

    Commuter Category
  1  16  The Olympian              169.0  171.8   99.7  100.6   69.4   71.3
  2  32  Porche 914 Electric Bull  163.4  171.8   97.1  100.6   66.4   71.3
  3  59  59 Berkeley               121.6  169.2   65.2   97.9   56.4   71.3
  4  31  Spyder Juice              104.8  157.5   92.3  100.6   12.5   56.9
  5  66  Re-Chargers                96.7  143.2   60.2   71.9   36.5   71.3
  6  72  Sungo                      -9.1  108.2  -56.8   36.9   47.7   71.3
  7  13  The Electrifly           -112.0   59.9 -110.8    9.9   -1.3   50.0
  8  10b Shocker III              -147.9   97.5 -217.3   26.2   69.4   71.3
  9  37  Solar Tiger II           -177.8   28.0 -132.6         -45.3   28.0
 10  55  Onipa'a (Not Here)       -231.8        -130.6        -101.3
 11  24  Comuta-Car(Dropped Out?) -233.8        -132.6        -101.3

    DOE Hybrid Category
  1   8  Electric Lion             189.7  189.7  100.6  100.6   89.2   89.2
  2   7  TU ParaDyne               189.7  189.7  100.6  100.6   89.2   89.2
  3  23  Viking 23                 187.0  189.7   99.8  100.6   87.3   89.2
  4  62  Garnet One                182.4  189.7   98.3  100.6   84.2   89.2
  5  94  Hopper EV                 167.8  189.7   89.1  100.6   78.8   89.2
  6  14  Slipstream                 26.7  126.1  -56.8   36.9   83.5   89.2
  7  22  Maryland's Saturn HEV    -148.8   48.5 -132.6         -16.3   48.5
  8  18  Kineticar III            -155.8   39.0 -132.6         -23.3   39.0
  9   4  Hyades                   -221.8    6.0 -132.6         -89.3    6.0

    DOE Solar Commuter Category
  1 69   Solar Commuter Car         12.9  122.8  -27.6   51.5   40.5   71.3
  2 83   Sol Survivor IV           -40.6   73.9   60.7   73.9 -101.3
  3 93   Helios the Heron V       -132.0   49.9 -127.0    1.8   -5.1   48.1
  4 58   NFA Sol Machine          -144.6   53.6  -63.4   33.6  -81.3   20.0

    One Person Category
  1 3    Ovonic Electric Scooter   122.0  169.2   63.2   97.9   58.8   71.3
  2 12   Charger Bicycle            72.6   77.6   36.9   36.9   35.7   40.7
  3 97   Project e-2                71.7   77.6   31.0   36.9   40.7   40.7
  4 21   Mach.1                     69.3   77.6   34.9   36.9   34.4   40.7
  5 92   Sunpacer                   -0.8  121.5   51.2   90.9  -52.1   30.6
  6 9    ZEV Mobile (Not Here)    -253.8        -130.6        -123.3

Report #27: Team Profile - `The Electrifly'

Monte Gisborne, of Peterborough, Ontario Canada, returns with his red 2 seat convertible known as `The Electrifly', and his family support team.  Monte's mother and father serve either as navigator or driver of the motor home they are using as their support vehicle during the Tour.  The base vehicle is a Pontiac Firefly, first cousin of a Geo Metro convertible.  When not at the race, the car is used by Monte's wife "for what it's really designed for, a commuter vehicle in an urban setting.  She does about 30 to 40 kilometers (20 to 30 miles) per day.  She prefers the electric, so we are robbing it from her for the Tour de Sol."

The goal this year was to "improve the performance in terms of range and speed.  The vehicle has been upgraded to 120 Volts.  To save weight I got rid of the battery used to power the E-Meter and use a chip instead that allows me to use the auxiliary battery.  I removed things that were not necessary, a piece of sheet metal here and there.  I also now use an offboard charging system; a much more powerful 208 Volt, 3-phase, 30 Amp system.  We refer to it as `the refrigerator'.  I should be able to get a complete charge in 3 to 4 hours. 

The team name is "Enviromotive", so I asked Monte if he is getting into the business of EVs.  "Yes, though I'm not quitting my day job.  We had a baby in August, so there is another mouth to feed.  I approached the Canadian federal government and they are offering me a grant to do a pre-production prototype electric vehicle of my own design.  The National Research Council had heard about this car, wanted to see it, and I took them for a test drive.  I think what sold them was when I took them to the bottom of a relatively steep hill in Peterborough.  I put it into 2nd gear, just matted it, and we went like a rocket up that hill.  The guy was impressed by the torque electric motors can put out.  The route I want to take is to build a purpose-built EV, as opposed to a conversion."

"This vehicle is sold and will be going to its new owner after the Tour de Sol.  That will generate some funds to help my next venture."

 Vehicle Number         13
 Vehicle Name           The Electrifly
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              Enviromotive
 Organization           Enviromotive
 Town                   Peterborough Ontario
 Description            Pontiac Firefly (Voltmaster, PbA)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  General Electric; Series Wound; 16 kW cont, 50 kW peak
 Controller             General Electric; Model 1221
 Batteries              Voltmaster; PbA; 1340 lbs; 22.5 kWh, 120 V Series
 Charger Offboard       Safe Nife
 PV Array               15 W; Inn.  Cons.  Prod.; Monocrystalline
 Construction           1991 Pontiac Firefly; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          70 mph
 Range                  80 miles
 Capacity               500 pounds
 Weight                 2000 pounds
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   2290 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Drum; Non-regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; Invicta GL-R

Report #28: Janet's Fund

Paul O'Brien, advisor to the Project E- team, told me a story about one of his former students, Janet Thieriot.  About 10 years ago, while she was a student at Mt Everett Regional, Janet died of cancer.  Her parents sued the health maintenance organization involved for misdiagnosis and recently won a large settlement.  They said, "this is not our money.  It belongs to Janet." So they decided to do something they thought their daughter would approve.  Thus the "Janet's Fund" endowment was born. 

Once a year a board of governors reviews fund requests from Mt Everett students for projects.  They then award Janet's Fund grants to the ones they consider best.  `Project e- 2' was one of two proposals awarded in this, the first year.  So on the side of the vehicle you will see a logo for "Janet's Fund". 

Report #29: Demonstration Vehicle - `Toyota Prius'

The `Toyota Prius' is the pace car for the Tour de Sol this year.  Although it is not competing, it travels on all the same legs as the entrants. 

The drive system in this car is unusual in that it can fairly be called both series and parallel at the same time.  The 4 cylinder engine is coupled through a clever planetary gear system to both a generator and the front wheels.  And a separate electric motor also connects to the front wheels.  The result is that the gasoline engine can drive the wheels and/or the generator at the same time that the electric motor is driving the wheels.  A computer controls all of it.  The result is that the engine is in one of two modes: running at near-peak torque or off.  Toyota claims it gets 66 miles per gallon. 

The Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack is much smaller than in a pure electric.  It has 40 blocks, each made of stacks of six D-cells, placed behind the back seat. 

The `Prius' threw down the gauntlet to all of those who said hybrid electric vehicles would not work.  It is on sale to the general public in Japan, for an admittedly money-loosing price of under $18,000.  I was able to drive one in December and I can tell you it operates very much the way I think an electric car should; quiet and smooth, without "shift points" in the driving. 

So, as I walked past the `Prius' on display in Manhattan I wondered, out loud, when I could get one? Jeremy Barnes of Toyota Motor Sales had an answer. 

"We will have a hybrid powered vehicle on sale in United States prior to the turn of the century.  Whether it will be the `Prius' or some other body style is yet to be decided, but it will be a hybrid powered vehicle. 

"The `Prius' you see here is a purpose-built vehicle for the Toyota Hybrid System.  The way everything is packaged under the hood is specifically for the Japan market, and that's one of the reasons there will be a delay."

At the beginning of May the production rate was raised from 1000 to 2000 units per month.  That still puts them about three months behind on delivery.  "When the vehicle went on sale in December, we were hoping to sell 1000 per month.  We had 3500 orders the first day and we have been behind ever since.  The big three have purchased a number of them.  They are interested and/or concerned, your choice."

I pointed out that Toyota was taking a bath selling the `Prius'.  Each one costs about twice what they are selling it for.  How long can they bleed like that?

"Your term is bleeding.  Our term is seeding the market.  It's an investment in the technology and an investment in the future." Since Toyota is the 3rd largest car manufacturer in the world, it was able to afford the in-house development program and then to sell the result at a price consumers can afford. 

 Vehicle Name           Toyota Prius
 Category               DEMONSTRATION CATEGORY
 Team Name              Toyota Motor Sales USA
 No People in Project   100
 Organization           Toyota Motor Sales USA
 Program Name           Toyota Motor Company
 Town                   Torrance CA
 Description            HEV (Panasonic NiMH + gasoline)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Toyota; Permanent Magnet
 Controller             Toyota
 Batteries              Panasonic; NiMH
 Charger Onboard        Toyota
 Hybrid                 Toyota Hybrid System
 Construction           Prius; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       5
 Maximum Speed          79 mph
 Range                  118 miles
 Capacity               827 pounds
 Weight                 3373 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disc; Rear Drum; Regen

As we have been traveling along the route, the `Prius' is attracting a lot of attention.  After it finishes each leg, it often goes out giving demonstration rides. 

Report #30: Demonstration Vehicle - `Toyota RAV4-EV'

The last time we started the NESEA Tour in New York City, 1996, there was a RAV4-EV on display here.  Then, in the 1997 American Tour de Sol, Toyota entered a one in the Production Category.  This year they have two serving as demonstration vehicles, and a gasoline RAV-4 running as a comparison vehicle.  Since both the electric and gasoline versions both are traveling the same routes, in the same (lousy) weather, NESEA will be able to do apple-to-apple comparisons of engine vs. electric energy efficiency. 

(NESEA is also comparing a Geo Metro to a Solectria Force, and a Penski panel van to a Solectria CitiVan.)

Is the vehicle being shipped today markedly different from what we saw in 1996? According to Jeremy Barnes of Toyota Motor Sales, "It has two more (passenger) doors.  The development has been more in ease-of-operation."

They have delivered about 165 vehicles in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New York, with lease commitments for about that many more.  They are being built at the rate of 1.5 vehicles per day in Japan and then shipped to the US. 

When will the RAV4-EV be sold outside the fleet market? "About a year or so from now is realistic.  But don't hold your breath.  A lot will depend on the outcome of the mandates in New York and California.  We will put it on sale when we think the product is ready and when we think the consumer is ready for the product.  We don't think either of those are right now. 

"There are a lot of drawbacks to battery power.  The cost, and the battery life which we still don't know.  We expect ours to last about 5 years, maybe less, maybe more."

And of course pure EVs have advantages in terms of cleanliness, quiet, and high torque at start.  So they are perfect for some uses, but not perfect for lots of uses.  Jeremy believes there is going to be a mix of EVs, hybrids like the `Prius' and traditional vehicles for some time to come. 

 Vehicle Name           Toyota RAV4-EV
 Category               DEMONSTRATION CATEGORY
 Team Name              Toyota Motor Sales USA
 No People in Project   100
 Organization           Toyota Motor Sales USA
 Program Name           Toyota Motor Company
 Town                   Torrance CA
 Description            1998 RAV4-EV (Panasonic, NiMH)
 Motor                  Toyota; Permanent Magnet
 Controller             Toyota
 Batteries              Panasonic; NiMH; 984 lbs; 28,224 Wh, 288 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        Toyota; 220 Vac
 Construction           Toyota RAV4; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       5
 Maximum Speed          79 mph
 Range                  118 miles
 Capacity               827 pounds
 Weight                 3373 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disc; Rear Drum; Regen

Report #31: Autocross Results

On Wednesday afternoon, the Autocross event was run by the Metopolitan Area Sports Car Club of America at Sandy Point State Park near Anapolis Maryland.  The event is a timed run around a parking lot set up with traffic cones.  This year's course included a tight 540 degree left-hand circle that got some tires squealing pretty loudly.  The scoring is the number of seconds from start to finish, minus 2 seconds for each knocked over or displaced cone. 

Times marked with one of the following do not count. 

 OC   Off Course
 DNF  Did Not Finish

Car # Car Run #1 Run #2 Run #3 Fastest

Production Category

  10  Honda EV Plus             29.310      29.059      28.610      28.610
  50  95 Solectria/Horizon      45.058 OC   30.581      30.315      30.315
  76  Ovonic-Solectria Force    27.601 OC   30.893 OC   30.622      30.622
  77  Solectria CitiVan         43.902      37.327      37.719      37.327

Communter Category

  31  Spyder Juice              28.025      27.647      29.151      27.647
  59  59 Berkeley               29.627      29.733      29.097      29.097
  66  Re-Chargers               31.462      30.702      30.573      30.573
  32  Porsche 914 Electric Bul  52.521 OC   30.646      29.749 OC   30.646
  10b Shocker III               34.474      31.590      31.237 OC   31.590
  13  The Electrifly            34.252      32.472      31.685      31.685
  16  The Olympian              32.327      31.775      33.222 DNF  31.775
  72  Sungo                     32.468 OC   32.007 OC   33.203      33.203

DOE Hybrid Category

  23  Viking 23                 30.682      29.679                  29.679
   8  Electric Lion             33.533      29.698      30.333      29.698
  94  Hopper EV                 31.093      31.031      30.440      30.440
   7  TU ParaDyne               33.099      30.686      31.001      30.686

DOE Solar Commuter Category

  58  NFA Sol Machine           37.879 OC   36.890      44.630      36.890
  69  Solar Commuter Car        38.724      38.065      37.892      37.892
  93  Helios the Heron V        44.933      41.955      40.507      40.507

Other Vehicles

  X   Gasoline Geo Metro        29.184      33.810 OC   28.645      28.645
  Y   Toyota RAV4 EV            29.049      29.197      28.997      28.997

Report #32: Day 3 Race Summary

Here are the numbers from Wednesday morning.  Day 2 was Monday and was the trip from Princeton to Burlington County Institute of Technology to New Castle, Deleware.  Day 3 was Tuesday and was the trip from New Castle to Dover Deleware, which was 55 miles.  In Dover, the cars were able to work on their range records by driving laps. 

A change posted here for the first time is that car #4, which up to now has been listed as `Hyades', from Lawrence Tech. in Michigan, is actually know as `Ed', for `Electric Diesel'. 

                                                   Day 3 Total   Day 2 Total
    Car#      Car                   Tour   Total  Tour   Total  Tour   Total
    Production Category             Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles
  1  76  Ovonic-Solectria Force     352.1  356.1  182.2  184.2   98.6  100.6
  2  10  Honda EV Plus              266.9  281.3  107.4  109.4   98.6  100.6
  3  50  95 Solectria/Horizon       263.1  267.1   93.2   95.2   98.6  100.6
  4  77  Solectria CitiVan          218.1  226.8   53.0   55.0   97.2  100.6

    Commuter Category
  1  32  Porche 914 Electric Bull   292.1  302.5  130.6  130.6   95.1  100.6
  2  16  The Olympian               263.6  270.4   96.5   98.5   97.7  100.6
  3  59  59 Berkeley                184.0  238.3   64.4   69.1   63.2   97.9
  4  31  Spyder Juice               183.3  238.0   80.5   80.5   90.3  100.6
  5  10b Shocker III                136.9  213.3   73.9   78.9   -6.4   63.1
  6  66  Re-Chargers                117.0  214.5   71.3   71.3    9.2   71.9
  7  72  Sungo                        7.3  160.8   18.4   52.7  -58.8   36.9
  8  13  The Electrifly            -184.0   68.4  -70.0    8.5 -112.8    9.9
  9  37  Solar Tiger II            -219.8   51.5  -40.0   23.5 -134.6
 10  24  Comuta-Car                -322.8         -87.0        -134.6

    DOE Hybrid Category
  1  23  Viking 23                  497.5  457.1  292.1  267.3  107.8  100.6
  2   7  TU ParaDyne                414.8  416.8  227.0  227.0   98.6  100.6
  3  62  Garnet One                 321.4  302.5  141.7  130.6  106.3  100.6
  4   8  Electric Lion              248.4  295.9   41.8  106.1  108.6  100.6
  5  14  Slipstream                 237.9  284.3   60.4   94.5   79.7  100.6
  6  94  Hopper EV                  236.9  226.8   63.3   55.0  102.1  100.6
  7  22  Maryland's Saturn HEV     -233.0   48.5  -87.0        -134.6
  8  18  Kineticar III             -250.9   39.0  -97.0        -134.6
  9   4  Ed                        -286.8   18.0  -87.0        -110.6   12.0

    DOE Solar Commuter Category
  1 69   Solar Commuter Car          61.3  177.8   50.4   55.0  -29.6   51.5
  2 83   Sol Survivor IV            -36.4  128.9   49.6   55.0   15.2   73.9
  3 93   Helios the Heron V         -86.3  104.9   47.7   55.0 -129.0    1.8
  4 58   NFA Sol Machine           -171.6   84.6  -25.0   31.0  -65.4   33.6

    One Person Category
  1 3    Ovonic Electric Scooter    185.2  233.4   61.2   64.2   63.2   97.9
  2 12   Charger Bicycle            137.7  146.7   67.1   69.1   34.9   36.9
  3 97   Project e- 2               122.7  132.6   53.0   55.0   29.0   36.9
  4 92   Sunpacer                    45.3  176.5   48.1   55.0   49.2   90.9
  5 21   Mach.1                      19.1  116.2  -48.4   38.6   31.1   36.9

Report #33: Day 4 Race Summary

Here are the numbers from Thursday morning.  Day 3 was Tuesday and was the trip from New Castle to Dover Deleware, plus laps.  Day 4 was Wednesday, and was the trip from Dover to Sandy Point State Park, near Anapolis Maryland. 

This listing includes the Miles awarded during technical testing.  The Production category cars do not go through scored technical testing since they all have to pass federal highway safety tests to be in the Production category. 

                                                Day 4 Total   Day 3 Total
    Car#     Car                 Tour   Total  Tour   Total  Tour   Total Test
    Production Category          Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles  Miles Miles
  1 76  Ovonic-Solectria Force   416.8  424.8   64.7   68.7  182.2  184.2
  2 10  Honda EV Plus            335.6  350.0   68.7   68.7  107.4  109.4
  3 50  95 Solectria/Horizon     330.3  335.8   67.2   68.7   93.2   95.2
  4 77  Solectria CitiVan        275.9  295.5   57.8   68.7   53.0   55.0

    Commuter Category
  1 32  Porche 914 Electric Bull 433.4  371.2   67.7   68.7  130.6  130.6  73.7
  2 16  The Olympian             397.3  339.1   57.8   68.7   96.5   98.5  75.9
  3 31  Spyder Juice             323.9  306.7   59.7   68.7   80.5   80.5  80.9
  4 59  59 Berkeley              280.3  307.0   59.0   68.7   66.4   69.1  35.3
  5 10b Shocker III              266.9  282.0   57.8   68.7   73.9   78.9  72.1
  6 66  Re-Chargers              247.2  283.2   62.8   68.7   71.3   71.3  67.4
  7 72  Sungo                    -23.8  160.8 -100.7          18.4   52.7  69.6
  8 13  The Electrifly           -96.7  125.4   11.3   57.0  -70.0    8.5  76.0
  9 37  Solar Tiger II          -180.9   87.5  -26.7   36.0  -40.0   23.5  65.6
 10 24  Comuta-Car              -360.2        -103.7         -89.0         68.3

    DOE Hybrid Category
  1 23  Viking 23                626.2  525.8   63.0   68.7  292.1  267.3  65.8
  2  7  TU ParaDyne              557.2  485.5   66.7   68.7  227.0  227.0  75.7
  3 62  Garnet One               463.9  371.2   75.6   68.7  141.7  130.6  66.9
  4  8  Electric Lion            394.7  364.6   73.6   68.7   41.8  106.1  72.7
  5 94  Hopper EV                383.6  295.5   72.9   68.7   63.3   55.0  73.8
  6 14  Slipstream               181.9  284.3 -100.7          60.4   94.5  44.7
  7  4  Ed                      -253.3   54.0 -102.7         -15.0   36.0  64.2
  8 22  Maryland's Saturn HEV   -269.0   48.5 -100.7         -87.0         64.7
  9 18  Kineticar III           -289.3   39.0  -98.7         -97.0         60.3

    DOE Solar Commuter Category
  1 69  Solar Commuter Car       108.8  236.5   46.6   68.7    1.0   45.0  50.3
  2 83  Sol Survivor IV           89.6  197.6   53.1   68.7   49.6   55.0  73.0
  3 93  Helios the Heron V        31.7  173.6   47.2   68.7   49.7   55.0  68.9
  4 58  NFA Sol Machine         -215.8   84.6 -102.7         -25.0   31.0  58.5

    One Person Category
  1  3  Ovonic Electric Scooter  307.4  302.1   57.5   68.7   61.2   64.2  64.6
  2 21  Mach.1                   252.1  222.2   49.0   51.0   91.6   93.6  44.0
  3 12  Charger Bicycle          249.0  192.8   51.0   51.0   62.2   64.2  65.2
  4 97  Project e-2              221.3  168.6   49.0   51.0   38.0   40.0  64.6
  5 92  Sunpacer                 154.0  245.2   55.2   68.7   46.1   55.0  55.6

Report #34: Purring into Washington DC

With the sun bright over head, the 10th NESEA American Tour de Sol arrived a bit before noon today, Thursday May 14, 1998, into downtown Washington DC.  About 40 electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EVs) were displayed on Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets, NW.  The bicycles, tricycles, cars, trucks and vans represented everything from corporate demonstration vehicles, through current commercial offerings, to school and private projects. 

Energy Secretary Federico Pen~a addressed the crowd, and especially "the young people who ... are going to be the designers, builders and drivers of these vehicles.  You are the ones who will be putting America firmly on the road to a cleaner environment, a stronger economy and a new edge in the global marketplace."

Next Georgia Congressman Micheal "Mac" Collins announced the introduction of the Electric Vehicle Consumer Incentive Tax Act of 1998.  The bill, introduced today in Congress, removes restrictions that formerly made it impossible for state and local governments to use tax credits to expand their electric transit and fleet vehicles.  The bill amends the nation's tax laws to make a $4000 tax credit available for the purchase of EVs.  It also makes large electric trucks, vans and buses eligible for $50,000 clean fuel vehicle tax deductions. 

After these announcements, Dr.  Rob Wills, Technical Director and co-founder of the American Tour de Sol, announced prizes in each of the rally's categories.  Before he did so, he pointed out that even on this sunny day, the sky around the capital dome behind him was not blue, it was gray.  The reason it was gray, he said, was the photoactive chemicals that come from car exhaust.  He predicted that over the next ten years, as we drive more and more electric cars, the sky will get more and more blue. 

Then he and Secretary Pen~a distributed the silver trophies to:

 Category            Car                           Team

 Production          #50 95 Solectria/Horizon      Connecticut Rideshare EV
 Commuter            #32 Porche 914 Electric Bull  Shadow Mtn HS Phoenix AZ
 DOE Hybrid          #23 Viking 23                 Western Washington Univ. 
 DOE Solar Commuter  #69 Solar Commuter Car        Villanova University PA
 One Person          # 3 Ovonic Electric Scooter   Ovonic Battery Co. 

The final prize presentations will be made at a brunch on Friday, May 15th. 

(Materials for this Report were drawn from press releases from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Edison Electric Institute.)

Report #35: The Rally is Over - The Reports Continue

The 1998 NESEA American Tour de Sol United States Electric Vehicle Championship concludes this afternoon, Friday May 15th, with an awards ceremony at the Crystal City Marriott, near Washington DC.  Your Humble Reporter (YHR) will be the Master of Ceremonies (MC) and will have a Report listing the awards as soon as I can after I return home, probably sometime on Saturday (RltaasaIcaIrh,psoS). 

But the Reports will continue for the next couple of weeks.  I have at least 3 more hours of taped interviews, and it takes 2 hours to reduce each hour to these Reports.  So stay tuned as the adventure continues. 

Report #36: Final Results Are Delayed

There was some confusion about the final scoring in the Production Category in the American Tour de Sol, and I missed some of the details.  To ensure that I have it right, I am delaying my posting the results until NESEA has had a chance to review them.  As things stand now, that will probably happen Monday or Tuesday. 

Report #37: Team Profile - `Comuta-Car'

We have two classic electric cars from more than 20 years ago here.  The Zzipper (correct spelling) which is the basis of the `Solar Tiger II' and a `Comuta-Car', here from the Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy NY. 

The Comuta-Car was originally produced in the late 1970s and early '80s, as a response to the oil crisis.  The first version was the CitiCar, and a later, more refined version was known as the Comuta-Car.  Both could be described as 2 passenger, golf-cart like vehicles, but fully enclosed and with bumpers. 

The HVCC `Comuta-Car' entry was built in 1981 and was still owned by Ken Goewey, Sr, advisor to the team, who had been a dealer.  Because it was garaged, the frame and body was actually in pretty good shape when they got it about 2 months ago.  It still had the 3 sets of contacts that put the batteries in parallel or series, changing the voltage and thus the speed.  They removed that, and installed a Curtis controller, an Advanced DC motor, and 72 Volts worth of batteries. 

The team is all seniors at the school, in the Automotives program, and this vehicle is a senior project. 

After the NESEA Tour, it will be used in the Alternative Fuels course at HVCC.  As Mr.  Goewey said, "It's all right to mandate 2 percent of sales, but someone has to service these vehicles.  They have to know what their doing.  The average trainee is very proficient with gasoline powered vehicles, but don't have any knowledge of electrical power.  The purpose is to get them interested in electrically powered vehicles."

 Vehicle Number         24
 Vehicle Name           Comuta-Car
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              HVCC
 Organization           Hudson Valley Community College
 Town                   Troy NY
 Description            CitiCar (PbA)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Advanced DC; brushed DC; 9 kW Cont, 4.476 kW Peak
 Controller             Curtis; 1209B-6402
 Batteries              12 Trojan T-105; PbA; 500-600 lbs; 1800 Wh, 72 V
 Charger Onboard        None
 Charger Offboard       Snapon; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               10 W; Siemens; 14x13 panel; charges accessory battery
 Construction           1981 Comuta-Car; Aluminum Box Frame; Fiberglas Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          52 mph
 Range                  55 miles
 Capacity               320 pounds
 Weight                 1475 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Drum; Rear Drum; Non-Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Michelin; P136R13 radial

After Saturday, at South Street Sea Port, I did not see #24 again.  I do not know what happened to them.  If I had to guess, they suffered from extremely low range and decided to go home, especially in the face of the prediction of rain for the next 3 days. 

Report #38: Team Profile - `Porche 914 Electric Bull'

Another car we saw two years ago is the Porche 914, converted by a high school team, known as the `Electric Bull'.  Last time it was a deep blue color.  This year it's yellow and purple.  Under the hood and in the trunk, everything is inclosed in boxes painted black-with-white-speckles.  It looks like someone threw a cherry bomb in a can of white paint.  I asked Tony Esposito to describe the car and what else is new and different. 

The brushed DC motor is bolted to the original 5-speed transmission in the rear.  20 6-Volt batteries power a Curtis controller.  "We redid the interior, put this jazzy paint job on it and drive it around every day.  The mission of the car is to see how far we can go and show the American man that we can use electric vehicles in every-day driving.  You get an electric vehicle that can go 90 miles, and the average person does 30-40 miles per day.  Why can't we show people and open their eyes and help the world.  We only have this world once. 

"This is our rally car.  We do 5 or 6 electric races a year, a couple of races in California, and then the Tour de Sol every-other-year.  Mainly it is driven by our leader, Michael Golden.  He drives it to work and school and shopping."

 Vehicle Number         32
 Vehicle Name           Porche 914 Electric Bull
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              Shadow Mountain Electric Matadors
 Months to Build        1
 Organization           Shadow Mountain H. S. Electric Car Club
 Town                   Phoenix AZ
 Description            914 Porche (Trojan, PbA)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Advanced DC; 9.1 inch; 21 kW cont, 63 kW peak
 Controller             Curtis; 550 amp
 Batteries              20 Trojan; PbA; 21 kWh, 120 V Series
 Charger Offboard       Lester; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               5.1 W; Siemens; PV
 Construction           1973 Porche; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          85 mph
 Range                  90 miles
 Capacity               400 pounds
 Weight                 3050 pounds
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   2800 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disc; Rear Disc; No Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Michelin; MX4 V

Report #39: Team Profile - `Hopper EV'

Each of the 6 years that I have been to the American Tour de Sol, there has been a `Hopper EV' and it has never been the same twice.  In 1996 and '97 it was a hybrid, with a trailer carrying a diesel generator.  In 1996 it was burning soybean oil, aka "biodiesel" and the exhaust smelled like French fries.  In 1997 it was burning straight petroleum diesel. 

This year #94 it returns, but the generator set is burning so-called M85, 85 percent methanol and 15 percent gasoline (to ease starting), and the new, much, much lighter (about 100 pound) generator set is mounted on what I will describe as a "bumper mount" on the rear.  It is still removable with 4 bolts, so the car can run pure-electric, but when configured as a hybrid, there is no trailer to manage. 

But Tom Hopper was unable to continue his record as the only NESEA Tour vehicle to from home, to the start, through the race, and back home again.  He tried, but "the engine is underpowered.  We did a load test and got it up to 8 horsepower (hp) at 8000 rpm, but I interprolated and thought that at 5000 rpm I would have about 5 hp.  Well, I got 3, so I go into deficit very quickly, pushing out 15 Amps, tops and that's not enough to keep going." Does he expect to have trouble? "I'm going to be limping in each day.  I'll driving very conservatively and see if I can be efficient." This is quite a change from two years ago when the race rules penalized those that drove faster than the speed limit.  Tom "protested" by just driving with traffic and coming in well ahead of the others. 

Last year, Tom widened `Hopper EV', changing it from one passenger to two, but he was not happy with the appearance, nor the size of the rear window.  "I wanted to get back to the tear-drop look I had originally." So he cut up the body, again, and reworked it closer to his satisfaction.  "I've now got more headroom, a shape I like, and a rear window I can see out of." The tail lights are also new, taken off a Saturn. 

He has also replaced the toothed-belt drive and put in a direct-drive gearbox, which he expects will be much more rugged.  He also replaced the Optima Yellow Top batteries last year, which did not do at all well, with Deka Dominators, but only 3 kiloWatt-hours worth.  That's enough for his pure electric commuting at home, but not nearly enough to make the long runs needed in the rally without enough generator capacity. 

 Vehicle Number         94
 Vehicle Name           Hopper EV
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              New Hampshire Tech Institute
 Organization           Hopper EV
 Town                   Concord NH
 Description            Purpose-built
 New this year?         new car - returning team
 Motor                  Solectria; AC Induction; 21 kW cont, 28 kW peak
 Controller             Solectria; UMOC
 Batteries              Deka Dominator; AG-22 NF; 460 lbs; 3 kWh, 144 V Series
 Charger Onboard        Solectria; Permanent Magnet AC Rectifier
 PV Array               100 W; AstroPower; Monocrystalline
 Construction           Purpose-built; Aluminum Frame; FRP Body
 Hybrid                 Honda; Internal Combustion; Methanol M85
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          75 mph
 Range                  (uncertain)
 Capacity               475 pounds
 Weight                 1350 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Disk; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Michelin; Yokohama; 145/75R13

Report #40: Demonstration Vehicle - `Lectra'

Larry Dussault of the GLobal Elecric Auto Association (GLEAA) is coming on the entire tour demonstrating the `Lectra' VR24 motor bike, manufactured by Electric Motor Bike (EMB) of Sebastopol CA.  At first glance, it looks like a motor cycle, until you realize that it does not have a kick start, nor a shift lever near your toe.  But it does have a twist throttle on the right handle, so, "give it a twist and before you know it your doing 40 miles per hour." It is sized between a scooter and a motorcycle with a 52 inch wheel base, weighs 340 pounds, and has a range of about 30 miles.  Performance is quoted as 0-30 in 5 seconds, and a top speed of 45 mph. 

The motor is a 2-phase, air cooled, variable reluctance type, described as compact, highly efficient and brushless.  A 5-to-1 helical gear set reduces the motor speed to the chain drive.  The controller for the motor is EMB's own design with a variety of safety interlock controls.  It also incorporates regenerative braking with anti-lock features. 

The battery is wired in two 24 Volt, parallel strings of sealed valve regulated lead-acid blocks designed for more than 9000 miles with proper care.  The charger is able to plug into almost any outlet; 90-264 Volts AC, 47-63 Hertz.  Recharge time is 4.25 hours, or 1.5 hours with a Super Fast Charger.  A 5-light display shows the state of charge.  If it gets very low on energy, a "reserve fuel mode" can be used to get to the next outlet. 

The drive and battery systems are sealed against the weather and dirt, and maintenance is described as "ultra low". 

Information at:

        707 823-2453
        707 823-2972 fax

 Vehicle Name           Letra Motor Cycle
 Category               DEMONSTRATION CATEGORY
 Team Name              Electric Motor Bike Inc. 
 Organization           EMB Inc. 
 Town                   Sebastopol CA
 Description            motor cycle (PbA)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour

Report #41: Team Profile - `Maryland's Saturn HEV'

Sporting a colorful red-and-yellow paint job is #22, which according to the registration papers has a pretty mundane name.  But Greg Magno confirmed that it's called "The Maryland Saturn HEV". 

The 4-door sedan is now a parallel drive hybrid, with Nickel Cadmium batteries in the trunk, and a 1 liter, 3 cylinder, fuel injected engine and 20 horsepower electric motor in the front.  "The electric motor assists the engine.  When the engine is not working as hard as it could, we use the motor (as a generator) to feed energy back into the batteries.  We get EPA fuel efficiency ratings of approximately 70 miles per gallon on the highway, 43 in the city; substantial improvements over the original car. 

"The engine feeds into a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) from Suburu.  The motor connects with a belt to an overrunning clutch so we can cut the engine off and just run on pure electric." If the engine is running faster, then it feeds torque into the transmission.  Otherwise, with engine idling or off, the electric motor take over.  "Because the transmission has no discrete gears, it is more efficient.  The whole car is drive-by-wire.  The computer controls the engine and motor automatically.  It looks at look-up tables about 10 times a second, decides if the engine is loafing or needs help.  We then use the motor to either regen or assist.  The engine thus runs at a constant power level where it runs most efficiently." The driver sees the car as an automatic, without obvious shift points, which is the beauty of CVTs. 

The car has been rebuilt a number of times.  In 1993 they gutted and rebuilt it for the Department of Energy's 1994 HEV Challenge.  It was then torn apart and rebuilt again for the summer of 1995.  And since then it has been a research vehicle, seeing a substantial amount of modification.  It has seen about 3000 miles as a hybrid. 

"The top speed is 105 miles per hour.  No, I was not in the car when that was performed."

 Vehicle Number         22
 Vehicle Name           Maryland's Saturn HEV
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              Maryland SAE, Saturn HEV
 No People in Project   60
 Months to Build        36
 Organization           University of Maryland
 Town                   Laurel MD
 Description            1991 Saturn Sl2
 Motor                  Unique Mobility; DC Brushless Permanent Magnet;
                        13 kW cont, 18.7 kW peak
 Controller             Unique Mobility; CR20-150
 Batteries              Saft/NIFE; NiCad; 350 lbs; 3251 Wh, 155 V; Series
 Charger                None
 Construction           Saturn; Steel Frame; steel hood, roof, & trunk;
                        Thermoplastic doors, fenders, quarter panels
 Hybrid                 Suzuki; 1.0 liter; Ethanol/55 mpg; Parallel
 No of Passengers       4
 Maximum Speed          80 mph
 Range                  435 miles highway, 330+ city
 Capacity               800 pounds
 Weight                 3100 pounds
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   3373 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disc; Rear Drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Kelly Springfield; P185/75R14

Report #42: Team Profile - `TU ParaDyne'

The `Tu ParaDyne' is a parallel hybrid built into a Geo Metro Hatchback, where they have managed to keep the rear seat.  Matt Norris described the car they brought from Oklahoma. 

"It can operate with just the internal combustion engine, or just the electric motor, or we can combine them.  They are coupled with a belt housing and an overrunning clutch." The engine and transmission are the originals for the Geo Metro.  "We kept them because they get 57 miles per gallon, which is the most fuel efficient production engine that we've been able to find.  By coupling it with some EV technology, we can produce a very efficient car.  We've had to take the whole power train out of the car 5 times during the past semester, but we think we finally have the overrunning clutch working and working efficiently." The engine and motor and a few batteries pretty much fill up under the hood, so the motor controller is in the back, along with the rest of the batteries. 

"Right now, all the systems are under driver control." The driver accelerates electrically from zero to 30, and then use the internal combustion engine at the higher speeds.  "The electric motor is very good at low speeds, and the engine gets more efficient at the higher speeds."

The vehicle has been together about a year and a half, and has about 300 miles of road testing on it.  Its been to several shows and Society of Automotive Engineers conferences.  "But this is the vehicle's first major competition."

 Vehicle Number         7
 Vehicle Name           TU ParaDyne
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              Hurricane Motor Works
 Months to Build        36
 Organization           University of Tulsa
 Town                   Tulsa OK
 Description            Geo Metro Hatchback (Exide, PbA + RFG)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Solectria; AC Induction; 12 kW cont, 30 kW peak
 Controller             Solectria; AC320; Field Oriented
 Batteries              12 Exide; Deepcycle PbA; 600 lbs; 8600 Wh, 144 V
 Charger Onboard        Zivan K2; High Frequency solid state
 PV Array               10.5 W; Unisolar; Silicon cells
 Construction           1992 Geo Metro; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 Hybrid                 Geo Metro; 1 liter; Parallel; RFG
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          80 mph
 Range                  500 miles
 Capacity               688 pounds
 Weight                 2600 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Power disc; Rear Power drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear Eagle GA; P185 65 R14

Report #43: Team Profile - `Sol Survivor IV'

`Sol Survivor IV' returns for its third appearance in the NESEA Tour, and what an appearance.  Bright, bright yellow, this car has no angles; just sweeping curves.  The solar panel wing integrates neatly on the back of the car, as do the rear wheel farings.  The passenger sits directly behind the driver, and both enter the vehicle on the right through a gull-wing door.  This is a very refined ground-up vehicle, built by a high school team with a history of building refined vehicles.  Brian Perry and Corey Bangs spoke with me. 

The club that built the previous Sol Survivors used to be associated with the Conval High School, but now it's a private club of high schoolers and adults, organized by Paul Waterman. 

Since last year, the car has acquired new batteries.  "They are liquid acid this year.  Last year we used gelled packs, but they didn't really hold up,"

They have replaced the terminal strips in the passenger compartment, that let them measure battery voltage with a hand-held meter, with a fully installed meter and arrangement system that lets them see the individual battery block voltages quickly and easily, just by twisting a knob. 

The motor has a switch mounted on it that can select between the wye and delta windings.  One gives better power, the other better speed.  It is not accessible when the car is underway, but the switch can be changed to adjust between hilly and flat terrain.  They tend to run the car in the speed setting. 

Last June, this car climbed Mount Washington, in a little over 20 minutes.  The fact that it has regenerative braking, makes the trip down the mountain much less of an adventure than it is for ordinary cars, whose brakes get quite hot.  "Coming down, I didn't use the foot brake at all, just regen."

In addition to visiting schools, the car goes to many events raising funds to support their racing activities.  It also visits the sponsors often.  "We try to give back to them."

 Vehicle Number         83
 Vehicle Name           Sol Survivor IV
 Team Name              Sol Survivor
 Organization           Sol Survivor Club
 Town                   Peterborough NH
 Description            Purpose-built (TBA, PbA)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Solectria; ACGTX20; 7 kW cont, 14 kW peak
 Controller             Solectria; AC pulse
 Batteries              Powersonic; PbA; 450 lbs; 9,600 Wh, 120 V Series
 Charger Onboard        Solectria; BC 1000; High Frequency
 Charger Offboard       Purpose-built SERCT; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               375 W; Solarex; Monocrystaline
 Construction           Purpose-built; Steel Frame; Fiberglass Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          70 mph
 Range                  75 miles
 Capacity               312 pounds
 Weight                 1470 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Disk; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Cheng Shin; 2.5-18/3.0-18

Report #44: Team Profile - `Spyder Juice'

We last saw `Spyder Juice', the bright yellow, low sports car racer at the NESEA Tour in 1996.  I asked Al Simpler, the driver, what is different since then. 

"We changed the battery pack from the GNB G1 to the G2.  The suspension has been beefed up since we have been autocrossing it.  Different wheels, different tires, different gauges, just lots of little things."

They like to race this street-legal car whenever they can.  "It's last race was the 6th annual SunDay Challenge (in Florida) where it won the Commuter category for the 3rd year in a row." The SunDay Challenge uses the same rules and regulations as the Tour de Sol, and this time went from Cocoa Beach to Disney World, where they displayed at the EPCOT Center for three days.  The entrants included a fuel-cell powered John Deere Tractor, and a vehicle burning hydrogen. 

"We are going to try to break that 1995 distance record, which is 143 miles for lead-acid, held by Bolton High School." They are also looking to do well in the autocross and the acceleration tests. 

The team shirts have "You _know_ you want some Juice!" on the back. 

 Vehicle Number         31
 Vehicle Name           Spyder Juice
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              Triple Crowne Motorworks
 No People in Project   25
 Months to Build        8
 Organization           Triple Crowne Motorworks
 Program Name           Solar Electric Spyder Juice
 Town                   Tallahassee FL
 Description            Pre-Production Prototype (GNB, PbA)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Advanced DC; Extended; 37 kW cont, 185 kW peak
 Controller             Energy Unlimited; Pulse Width 5KH2
 Batteries              GNB G2; PbA; 1620 lbs; 22 kWh, 216 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        Z-Van K-2; Transformerless
 PV Array               17 W; Siemens; Monocrystalline
 Construction           Triple Crowne; Steel Tubular Frame; Fiberglas Body
 Conversion             Pre-Production Prototype
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          130 mph
 Range                  145 miles
 Capacity               440 pounds
 Weight                 2750 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Drum; Non-Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; GatorBack 205160 15

Report #45: Interview - Rob Wills, Technical Director

Dr.  Rob Wills founded the American Tour de Sol in 1989, and has served as its Technical Director ever since.  In real life he designs solar electric systems.  He became interested in the original Swiss Tours de Sol in the late 1980s. 

The American Tour "started with four solar cars, and when I reflect back on the differences, they are astounding.  I think the level of technical excitement is the same or a little more now."

So what does Rob see when he looks back 10 years?

"When I think about the vehicles in that first race, the winner and clearly most technically elegant was `Solectria 5' which was an open-wheel solar racing car.  There was also Dartmouth's `Sunvox' and New Hampshire Tech's vehicle. 

"The fourth one (whose team I don't remember) was constructed from a plastic paddle boat as its core frame, and the rest was made out of plastic plumbing pipe.  It was a little rough on the control side, with maybe two speed steps.  It had a habit, when going over the start line, of doing a little wheel stand, which pleased the crowd. 

"It also didn't have enough power, and had difficulty making the 30 mile legs that we had in those days.  It kept coming in about 5 hours late.  We got so tired of waiting around for them that on the last day we let them start early.  So, would you believe it, they actually made it without breaking down or stopping.  Because we let start an hour early they came over the line at MIT first.  Standing there was a New York Times reporter, who interviewed them and then left.  So as far as the Times was concerned, the first American Tour de Sol was won by a plastic paddle boat!"

Another story from that time involves New Hampshire Tech.  "The ran their first car for quite a while before they got their solar array.  They had taken a run from Concord NH, up the side of the Merrimack Valley, to Canterbury and back, and done quite well.  When they put their solar array on they tried it again and found that their range was less with the array than without.  You might think it was because of the (added aerodynamic) drag (of the array panel).  But it was because they had wired the array in backwards and it was discharging the batteries."

The whole point of the race back then was to do it all on solar power.  You were heavily penalized for having to charge.  That wasn't as severe as the original Swiss rules.  "If you didn't make it on solar power alone you got what was known as the Black Spot, and you were out of the race."

Things certainly have changed from then to now. 

"This year there are a few vehicles that jump out and I find extremely exciting. 

"The top of the list has to be the tricycle with the fuel cell (`Project e- 2').  I've been wanting the fuel cell for the last seven years and we have to thank Mt Everett, a high school team, for coming through with that.  Not only is it a fuel cell, but it is also hydride storage, neatly packaged, and inherently safe.  It points to an interesting future for personal transportation. 

"I really support things like bicycles and one-seat vehicles, am curious if we can solve the dilemma of the big, heavy American car sharing the road with what makes sense for personal transportation, which is something small, light, possibly strong, and very efficient.  Maybe in time we will end up with light and heavy vehicle lanes.  We might tax the heck out of heavy vehicles and people might migrate to one-seaters. 

"Another exciting vehicle is the Toyota Prius on display.  It is just a marvel of engineering, beautifully integrated, and shows that you can achieve the sorts of things (the American Tour de Sol) is talking about with current engineering inside a reasonable cost budget.  Toyota says that if they get to about 200,000 production they will start to break even on it.  That's not too hard to do!

"And the third one ...  Well, I used to say that the (E-type?) Jaguar was my favorite body design, but I think I have just fallen totally for Mike Seal's `Viking 29', strictly on body lines, and then you have to add the technology.  Thermophotovoltaics are very, very interesting.  That's a practical hybrid vehicle running on (natural) gas, with very low emissions. 

"It's always worth following all of the technologies in parallel, and we hope that the fuel cell can make it, but ultimately this could be a simpler alternative since you don't have to reform a liquid (to extract the hydrogen)."

After our interview on Saturday afternoon, Rob went back to managing the technical testing. 

Report #46: Team Profile - `Sunpacer'

The basic structure of `Sunpacer' has not changed in the five years I've been reporting the ATdS.  Over the years it has gotten more refined, but the changes have been mostly below the surface.  The exterior remains very familiar. 

#92's body is an aluminum wedge, with the thin edge at the rear.  The front is rounded with a large plastic windshield that gives the driver a pretty commanding view of what is ahead.  The front opens up on a hinge to let the driver enter.  A large, rectangular solar panel is on top of the flat rear slope of the wedge.  It has 3 wheels; the rear is the driven one. 

Travis Smith described the few differences from last year.  The rear tire is new, as is the hydraulic rear braking system replacing the mechanical one that had been there.  The front wheels brake reservoir is now larger, so they don't have to double-pump the front brakes in severe braking. 

 Vehicle Number         92
 Vehicle Name           SUNPACER
 Category               ONE PERSON CATEGORY
 Team Name              Cato-Meridian HS Tech Team
 Organization           Cato-Meridian H. S. Tech Team
 Town                   Cato NY
 Description            Purpose-built (TBA, PbA)
 New this year?         updated car-returning team
 Motor                  Advanced DC; Series wound brush; 6 kW cont, 8 kW peak
 Controller             Sevcon; Solid State
 Batteries              Deka; PbA; 80 lbs; 6 kWh, 36 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        None
 Charger Offboard       Marquette; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               300 W; Hoxam; Single Crystal
 Construction           Purpose-built; Steel Frame; Aluminum Body
 No of Passengers       1
 Maximum Speed          50 mph
 Range                  75 miles
 Capacity               275 pounds
 Weight                 1050 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Disk; Non-regen
 Wheels Tires           Crager; Motorcycle

Report #47: Team Profile - `Honda EV Plus'

The `Honda EV Plus' entered in the NESEA Tour is in the New York Power Authority's New York City office fleet.  Kerry-Jane King, who works in the Electric Transportation department, drives it regularly within the city and out to the surrounding counties, such as West Chester.  The Power Authority has 2 Hondas and 12 `Toyota RAV4-EVs' in the state.  NYPA is also co-funding the lease of 35 RAV4-EVs for the city's fleet. 

The `EV Plus' is a two door, four seat car that sits very high, because the batteries are under the seats.  It is front wheel drive, with the motor and liquid-cooled Electronic Power Control System also up front.  I drove the `EV Plus' last December, and the designers have gone a long way to make the experience very much like an automatic transmission car.  There is a Start position on the key, and the car creeps forward when you take your foot off the brake.  These are both attributes of gasoline vehicles that are preserved so people don't feel the difference. 

So what is it like living with one day-in and day-out? "I would get one for myself if it wasn't so expensive.  It's like a dream car.  It's very comfortable, very responsive, it accelerates beautifully and has very good braking.  It is very stable.  I love it.  I love the way it drives, the quietness, and its cleanness."

Ms.  King made the point that she hoped that pure-electrics would always have a place in the future.  There are some that believe that, to get the long range, engine-dominated electric drive trains will displace the vehicles that plug in.  She hoped that would not be the case because the much lower pollution and the much quieter operation were very important to her. 

 Vehicle Number         10
 Vehicle Name           Honda EV Plus
 Category               PRODUCTION CATEGORY
 Team Name              New York Power Authority
 Organization           New York Power Authority
 Town                   New York NY
 Description            Honda EV Plus (Panasonic, NiMH)
 New this year?         new car
 Motor                  Honda; Permanent Magnet; 49 kW @ 1700-8700 rpm
 Controller             N/A
 Batteries              Panasonic; NiMH; 24 batteries @ 12 V
 Charger Onboard        Honda
 Construction           Honda; Straight frame rails; unit-body;
                        Steel/plastic body
 No of Passengers       4
 Maximum Speed          60+ mph
 Range                  60-80 miles
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   3,590 pounds
 Brakes                 4-wheel disc; anti-lock; regen
 Wheels Tires           199/66A14; low roll resist

Report #48: Interview - Nancy Hazard, ATdS Director

Nancy told me that the Swiss and American Tours de Sol were both started by people interested in promoting the idea of solar energy, not for cars, but for buildings.  But buildings don't generate any excitement, and they don't move.  So the idea of having racing cars run on sunlight was not to suggest that it would ever really work for transportation, but to promote solar as a sustainable, and potentially commercial, energy source. 

"When, in 1990, the Clean Air Act was passed the Californians decided that the only way they could meet those requirements was to have zero emission vehicles.  When they said that out loud, and we at NESEA heard that, our brains started churning.  The Tour de Sol demonstrates the idea of using solar energy, but unless hundreds of thousands of people use these things, there will be no impact and they will remain just toys.  To make a difference you have to have electric vehicles that are practical for everyday use.  That changed the mission of the NESEA Tour completely after that first year. 

"Some of our NESEA members were really angry at that switch in philosophy, thinking that NESEA had sold out." The perception was that promoting electric vehicles was playing into the hands of the nuclear power industry and big industry, and giving up on the purity of the sustainable energy message.  "For a number of years, it was very difficult for us to make the point that there was a connection between electric vehicles and renewable energy.  We do a much better job of that now, but in fact I still think there is a long way to go."

"We struggle a lot at the NESEA Tour to do real-world data collection.  Our message to the public today is that electric vehicles are much more efficient, especially in the urban environment.  This year we have four gasoline-to- electric comparisons.  We have the `Honda EV Plus' and a Honda, and the Geo Metro and two `Solectria Forces', one lead-acid, one nickel metal hydride.  We also have a gasoline Toyota RAV-4 and a `RAV4-EV'.  And we have the `Solectria CitiVan' which we'll be comparing to a Penski truck.  These numbers will be added to the spreadsheet that Argonne National Labs is developing, and from that we will be able to see the amount of greenhouse gas production avoided by using EVs, plus the amount of fossil fuel consumption avoided, and the amount of petroleum consumption avoided by using electrics."

And the presence of the very refined vehicles made by Solectria, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, and Ford here at the rally shows that electrics can be satisfying to own and drive. 

The NESEA Tour is indeed "Celebrating 10 Years of Progress."

Report #49: Final Awards

These were the awards (and prizes) handed out at the Ceremony on Friday:

Autocross (A kiss from Sheilah Pierce, highly prized judging by the reactions

 of the recipients)

 Prize Category         Entrant                         Time (seconds)

 DOE Solar Commuter     #58  NFA Sol Machine            36.890
 DOE Hybrid             #23  Viking 23                  29.679
 Production             #10  Honda EV Plus              28.610
 Commuter               #31  Spyder Juice               27.647

   #31 beat the Datsun Z80 that base-lined the course after it was set up. 
   (Sorry, I do not have the exact time.)

   Some non-entrants also did well:

                        Toyota RAV4 EV                  28.997
                        Geo Metro comparison car        28.645

NESEA Range Awards (Trophy), presented by Tom Thompson, Executive Director of NESEA. 

 Prize Category                 Entrant                         Range (miles)

 One Person Commuter            #92  Sunpacer                    68.7
 Motorcycle                     # 3  Ovonic Electric Scooter     68.7
 Commuter, Advanced Batteries   #59  59 Berkeley (NiCd)          71.3
 Commuter, Lead-Acid Batteries  #32  Porche 914 Electric Bull   130.6
 Production, Truck              #77  Solectria CitiVan           68.7
 Production, Sedan, Lead-Acid   #50  95 Solectria/Horizon        95.2
 Production, Sedan, Advanced    #76  Ovonic-Solectria           224.5

NESEA Energy Challenge (Trophy), presented by Rob Wills, Technical Director of the American Tour de Sol.  The award is based on Miles-Per-Gallon-Equivalent of gasoline. 

 Prize Category         Entrant                         Efficiency (MPGE)

 One Person Vehicle     # 3  Ovonic Electric Scooter    Not Available
 Utility Vehicle        #66  Re-Chargers                32.0
 Hybrid                 #23  Viking 23                  46.2
 Solar Commuter         #92  Sunpacer                   71.8
 4 Seat Sedan           #76  Ovonic-Solectria Force     82.8
 2 Seat Sedan           #59  59 Berkeley                84.0

NESEA American Tour de Sol Best Vehicle Awards, presented by Tom Thompson, Shelly Launey of the United States Department of Energy, Howard G. Wilson retired from Hughes Electronics and ATdS Jury member, and Nancy Hazard, Director of the American Tour de Sol.  The "Per. Trophy" is the Perpetual Trophy, which lists all prior winners.  The "Reg." prize is a registration to the 1999 American tour de Sol, worth $500.  "PbA" stands for Lead-Acid Batteries. 

 One Person Category     Entrant                        Prize

 Best Commuter           #92  Sunpacer                  Trophy, $250
 Best Motorcycle         #3   Ovonic Electric Scooter   Trophy, $250
 Best Production Bicycle #12  Charger Bicycle           Trophy, $250
 Best Human Assisted EV  #21  Mach .1                   Trophy, $250
 Best Overall            #3   Ovonic Electric Scooter   Per. Trophy, Reg. 

 USDOE Solar Commuter    Entrant                        Prize

 2nd Place               #83  Sol Survivor IV           Trophy, $250
 Best Solar Commuter     #69  Solar Commuter Car        Per. Trophy, $500,

 USDOE Hybrid Category   Entrant                        Prize

 3rd Place               #62  Garnet One                Trophy
 2nd Place               #7   TU ParaDyne               Trophy, $250
 Best Overall            #23  Viking 23                 Per. Trophy, $500, Reg. 

 Commuter Category       Entrant                        Prize

 2nd Place, Sedan, PbA   #16  The Olympian              Trophy, $250
 Best Sedan, PbA         #32  Porche 914 Electric Bull  Trophy, $500
 Best Utility, PbA       #66  Re-Chargers               Trophy, $500
 Best, Sedan, Adv.  Batt. #59  59 Berkeley (NiCd)       Trophy, $500
 Best Overall            #32  Porche 914 Electric Bull  Per. Trophy, Reg. 

 Production Category            Entrant                       Prize

 Best Utility                   #77  Solectria CitiVan        Trophy, Reg. 
 Best Sedan, PbA                #50  95 Solectria/Horizon     Trophy
 Best Consumer Acceptability    #10  Honda EV Plus            Trophy
 Best Overall                   #76  Ovonic Solectria Force   Per. Trophy, Reg. 

Blue Sky Sportsmanship Awards, presented by George Bradford, Co-Technical Director of the ATdS and Jury member, sponsored by Fred Whitridge. 

 Tenacity Award, for repairing serious problems and getting back in the race:
        #14  Slipstream

 Exceptional Educational Outreach Award, for spreading the word effectively:
        #31  Spyder Juice

 Keeping the Spirit Up Award, for staying "sunny" even in the rain:  tied:
        #58  NFA Sol Machine
        #93  Helios the Heron V

 Could Not Do It Without You Award, for helping out other teams with advice
 and equipment:
        #32  Porche 914 Electric Bull

 Fun With Technology Award, for inovative technical solutions:  tied:
        #21  Solar Commuter Car
        #31  Spyder Juice

 Teach Your Children Well Awared, for creating extraordinary school teams:
        All the School Advisors

Honarble Mentions, presented by George Bradford. 

 To Toyota:  for bringing the Prius and two RAV4-EVs and offering many
 demonstration rides-and-drives. 

 To #97 `Project E- 2':  for bringing the first fuel-cell system to the ATdS. 

 To #4 `Ed':  for repeated attempts to get their vehicle running. 

 Teams with the best race assistants:
        #12  Charger Bicycle
        #23  Viking 23
        #58  NFA Sol Machine
        #93  Helios the Heron V
        #97  Project e- 2

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers, North East Region.  Clive Smith and Kevin Miller presented an award to James Worden of Solectria, and also awards to teams within their region:

        #50  95 Solectria/Horizon
        #83  Sol Survivor IV
        #97  Project e- 2

Finally, Nancy Hazard presented 10th Annual American Tour de Sol awards to:

 Drew Gillette, for being a volunteer all 10 years. 

 New Hampshire Technical Institute, for entering at least one vehicle all 10

 James Worden, for being an entrant all 10 years. 

 Dr. Rob Wills, for founding and being the Technical Director of the American
 Tour de Sol all 10 years. 

Report #50: Another look at the Results

This is not a fair comparison of the team standings, since it mixes apples and cantaloupes, but this is the final Tour Miles ranking of all the entrants. 

      Car  Tour                          Category
 Rank   # Miles  Vehicle Name                    Team

   1   23   688  Viking 23                   H   Western Washington University
   2    7   604  TU ParaDyne                 H   Hurricane Motor Works
   3   62   513  Garnet One                  H   Swarthmore HEV Team
   4   32   478  Porche 914 Electric Bull    C   Shadow Mtn. Electric Matadors
   5   76   463  Ovonic-Solectria Force      P   Ovonic Battery Co
   6    8   448  Electric Lion               H   Team Electric Lion
   7   16   446  The Olympian                C   Pirates
   8   94   400  Hopper EV                   H   New Hampshire Tech Institute
   9   10   380  Honda EV Plus               P   New York Power Authority
  10   50   375  95 Solectria/Horizon        P   Connecticut EV/NAVC
  11   31   359  Spyder Juice                C   Triple Crowne Motorworks
  12    3   352  Ovonic Electric Scooter     O   Ovonic Battery Co
  13   59   325  59 Berkeley                 C   Team New England
  14   77   322  Solectria CitiVan           P   NAVC/BECO/UCBC/Solectria
  15   10b  313  Shocker III                 C   NEAT
  16   21   299  Mach .1                     O   Mhyee/CTC
  17   12   294  Charger Bicycle             O   Charger Bicycle
  18   66   292  Re-Chargers                 C   University of New Haven
  19   97   268  Project e- 2                O   Project e- 2
  20   92   199  Sunpacer                    O   Cato-Meridian HS Tech Team
  21   69   154  Solar Commuter Car          S   Team Solarcat
  22   83   135  Sol Survivor IV             S   Sol Survivor
  23   14   109  Slipstream                  H   Cornell HEV
  24   93    77  Helios the Heron V          C   Riverside School
  25   72    19  Sungo                       C   NHTI Solar - Solar Car Team
  26   13   -60  The Electrifly              C   Enviromotive
  27   58  -169  NFA Sol Machine             S   Team NFA Newburgh NY
  28   37  -256  Solar Tiger II              C   UEHS Solar Tiger Team
  29    4  -326  Ed                          H   Current Advantage
  30   22  -342  Maryland's Saturn HEV       H   Maryland SAE, Saturn HEV
  31   18  -369  Kineticar III               H   CSERT-NVCTC
  32   24  -440  Comuta-Car                  C   HVCC

                                   P - Production
			    	   C - Commuter
                                   H - DOE Hybrid
                                   S - Solar Commuter
                                   O - One Person

Report #51: Technical Testing Scores

Here are the results of the technical testing, mostly performed on Saturday, May 9th.  The scores are in Tour Miles (TM), with maximum listed at the top of most columns.  Unlike in past years, these evaluation scores were added into the team scores. 

The Production Category vehicles are not included here.  They had their own scoring, which will be in the next Report. 

The Cone Test is a classic maneuverability test around traffic cones. 

The Standing Start 50 feet test is an acceleration test, aimed at ensuring safety in traffic. 

The Standing Start Quarter Mile is more like a drag race against the clock. 

The Hill Start test is another safety check to ensure the cars can start up hill. 

The Practicality score is an evaluation of the vehicle's usability. 

The Brake Deceleration test is a safety check. 

The Engineering Elegance score is a subjective award. 

The Passing Technical Testing on the 1st Try acknowledges those teams that come to the event with everything in good working order. 

The Passing Ground Fault on the 1st Try acknowledges those that pass this critical safety test immediately. 

The Technical Specification Form Completed On Time similarly acknowledges early completion of documentation. 

A subjective Educational Display Board and Team Appearance award (5 Tour Miles) was not listed.  I suspect the difficulties of dealing with the rain simply dropped this from consideration. 

              ATdS 98           ------------- Test Scores --------------
             TECH TEST           Cone  Stndg  Stndg  Hill  Practi  Brake
              RESULTS            Test  50 ft  Qtr M  Start cality  Decel
  #             Name            10 TM  10 TM  10 TM  5 TM   20 TM  10 TM
   3  Ovonic Electric Scooter    5.00   6.67   6.33   5      10.0   7.15
   4  Ed                         8.22   7.50          5      19.0   7.46
   7  TU ParaDyne                9.28   5.42   8.96   5      17.5   8.09
   8  Electric Lion              9.38   9.58   8.90   5      15.5   7.81
  10b Shocker III                8.60   7.50   8.78   5      13.0   7.75
  12  Charger Bicycle            5.00   7.92   5.70   5      10.0   8.56
  13  The Electrifly             9.52   9.17   7.91   5      19.0   8.91
  14  Slipstream                 8.66   5.00          5       0.0   8.05
  16  The Olympian               8.82   8.75   9.11   5      15.5   7.22
  18  Kineticar III              8.33   9.17          5      18.0   7.80
  21  Mach .1                    5.00   5.00          5      10.0   5.00
  22  Maryland's Saturn HEV      8.74   7.92          5      18.0   8.02
  23  Viking 23                 10.00   5.42   8.17   5      13.0   8.22
  24  Comuta-Car                 9.13   7.92          5      15.5   9.28
  31  Spyder Juice               9.88  10.00  10.00   5      14.5   8.01
  32  Porche 914 Electric Bull   9.42   7.50   8.73   5      15.5   5.00
  37  Solar Tiger II             8.62   7.92   6.98   5      13.0   7.07
  58  NFA Sol Machine            7.50   5.42   7.78   5       8.5   7.81
  59  59 Berkeley                5.00   5.00   7.79   5       0.0   0.00
  62  Garnet One                 8.47   7.50   6.85   5      15.0   7.12
  66  Re-Chargers                9.24   6.67   8.45   5      18.0   8.06
  69  Solar Commuter Car         7.62   5.42   6.16   5      11.5   7.61
  72  Sungo                      9.05  10.00   5.00   5       9.5   7.58
  83  Sol Survivor IV            9.01   7.92   7.63   5      11.5   7.91
  92  Sunpacer                   5.83   5.42          5       9.0   8.84
  93  Helios the Heron V         7.75   6.25   5.61   5      14.0   8.75
  94  Hopper EV                  8.16   8.75   8.64   5      11.5   7.70
  97  Project e- 2               5.00   5.00   5.62   5      10.0  10.00

 Range for test                 10.00  10.00  10.00   5      20.0  10.00

 Score Statistics
 Avg. of above score             8.01   7.20   7.58   5     13.06   7.53
 Min. of above score             5.00   5.00   5.00   5      0.00   0.00
 Max. of above score            10.00  10.00  10.00   5     19.00  10.00

              ATdS 98           ------ Test Scores -------
             TECH TEST            Eng   Tech Ground  Spec    Tech
              RESULTS           Elegnce Test Fault   Form    Test
  #             Name            10 TM   Try1 Try1   OnTime  Total
   3  Ovonic Electric Scooter     9.5     10   5      0      64.6
   4  Ed                          7.0      5   5      0      64.2
   7  TU ParaDyne                 6.5     10   5      0      75.7
   8  Electric Lion               6.5      5   5      0      72.7
  10b Shocker III                 6.5     10   5      0      72.1
  12  Charger Bicycle             8.0     10   5      0      65.2
  13  The Electrifly              6.5     10   0      0      76.0
  14  Slipstream                  8.0      5   5      0      44.7
  16  The Olympian                6.5     10   5      0      75.9
  18  Kineticar III               7.0      0   5      0      60.3
  21  Mach .1                     9.0      0   5      0      44.0
  22  Maryland's Saturn HEV       7.0     10   0      0      64.7
  23  Viking 23                   9.0      7   0      0      65.8
  24  Comuta-Car                  6.5     10   5      0      68.3
  31  Spyder Juice                8.5     10   5      0      80.9
  32  Porche 914 Electric Bull    7.5     10   5      0      73.7
  37  Solar Tiger II              7.0     10   0      0      65.6
  58  NFA Sol Machine             6.5     10   0      0      58.5
  59  59 Berkeley                 7.5      0   5      0      35.3
  62  Garnet One                  7.0     10   0      0      66.9
  66  Re-Chargers                 7.0      5   0      0      67.4
  69  Solar Commuter Car          7.0      0   0      0      50.3
  72  Sungo                       8.5     10   5      0      69.6
  83  Sol Survivor IV             9.0     10   5      0      73.0
  92  Sunpacer                    6.5     10   5      0      55.6
  93  Helios the Heron V          6.5     10   5      0      68.9
  94  Hopper EV                   9.0     10   5      0      73.8
  97  Project e- 2                9.0     10   5      0      64.6

 Range for test                  10.0     10   5      5      95.0

 Score Statistics
 Avg. of above score             7.50   7.75   3.57   0.00  64.94
 Min. of above score             6.50   0.00   0.00   0.00  35.29
 Max. of above score             9.50  10.00   5.00   0.00  80.89

Report #52: Technical Testing - Production Category

For the first time this year, the Production Category Vehicles have a totally different scoring system from the other four Categories.  First of all, the system is based on points instead of Tour Miles.  The goal was to measure the Production vehicles against the standards of other production cars and trucks in the automotive world, rather than against each other.  So, while the test data is collected in technical terms, the Final Test Score points are awarded according to how the technical measures compare with comparable internal combustion engine vehicles. 

First, here are the raw data ... 

The Slalom Test is the same as the Cone Test in the other Categories. 

The Standing Start 50 feet acceleration test is measured as Miles Per Hour at the end of the run.  It is used to calculate the Acceleration in the following column in feet per second-squared. 

Next is the Standing Quarter Mile acceleration test. 

The Practicality is a subjective measure. 

The Braking data is Velocity, Distance, and calculated Deceleration. 

The Autocross is the time through the course, in seconds, plus two points for each knocked over cone.  (None of these runs had touched any cones.)

The Fuel Economy is calculated in Miles Per Gallon Equivalent of gasoline. 

The Range on Day 3 is the total miles driven on Tuesday, New Castle Delaware to Dover Delaware, plus laps. 

The Refueling OnBoard Charger Power is measured in kiloWatts. 

Vehicle Efficiency is in kiloWatt-hours per mile. 

The Miles per Hour-of-Charge score is the Onboard Charger Power divided by the Vehicle Efficiency. 

Quick Charge ability and Regenerative Braking each are awarded points, as is the ability to Charge in less than 8 hours. 

Production Category Raw Test Data

                               Slalom     Stndg     Accel     Stndg    Pract-
                                 Test     50 ft               Qtr M   icality
 #            Name               Secs       MPH     ft/s2       MPH     Total
 10  Honda EV Plus               3.33        23     11.38     64.92      20.0
 50  95 Solectria Horizon        3.34        26     14.54     54.71      20.0
 76  Ovonic Solectria Force      2.63        17      6.22     57.69      17.5
 77  Solectria CitiVan           3.48        22     10.41     45.95      19.0

                              -------Braking-------    Auto    Fuel   Range
                              Veloc    Dist   Decel   cross    Econ   Day 3
 #          Name                MPH    FEET   ft/s2    Secs    MPGE   Miles
 10  Honda EV Plus               21      19   24.96   28.61   30.43  109.40
 50  95 Solectria Horizon        26      40   18.18   30.32   59.72   95.20
 76  Ovonic Solectria Force      25      41   16.40   30.62   66.00  184.20
 77  Solectria CitiVan           22      27   19.28   37.33   29.63   55.00

                            Refueling   Vehicle  Miles/hr     Quick     Regen
                              OnBoard     Effic of Charge    Charge     Brake
 #            Name          Chrgr Pwr    kWh/mi  On-Board     4 pts     4 pts
 10  Honda EV Plus                2.0    0.4994      4.00         4         4
 50  95 Solectria Horizon         2.0    0.2545      7.86         4         4
 76  Ovonic Solectria Force       3.3    0.2303     14.33         4         4
 77  Solectria CitiVan            3.3    0.5129      6.43         4         4

                                8 hr
 #            Name             6 pts
 10  Honda EV Plus                 6
 50  95 Solectria Horizon          6
 76  Ovonic Solectria Force        6
 77  Solectria CitiVan             6

Here are the criteria used to award points. 

Acceleration points are normalized against comparable ICE vehicles:

 50 foot acceleration test (0-10 points)
 1/4 mile acceleration test (0-10 points)

Braking points are normalized against comparable ICE vehicles:

 Brake Pedal (0-10 points)
 Emergency Brake (0-10 points)

Handling points points are normalized against comparable ICE vehicles:

 Slalom (aka Cone) Test (0-10 points)
 Autocross Standing (0-10 points)

The Reliability score awarded 5 points per leg completed on time and without breakdown; 7 legs. 

Fuel economy points points are normalized against comparable ICE vehicles:

 10 points were awarded during the city drive in NYC,
 10 during highway driving,
 10 during secondary road driving. 

Range is normalized against a benchmark of 225 miles per charge over a combination of highway and secondary roads. 

Consumer Acceptability (25 points) is a combination of measured and subjective scores covering:

 Road Noise (meter used)
 Ease of Access (getting in and out)
 Driving Position (head/leg room, road visibility)
 Front/Rear Seat Comfort
 Cargo Area (size, utility)
 Climate Control System (heat, air conditioning)
 Safety Features: ABS brakes, air bags, battery acid, etc. 
 Costs and checkups: running and maintenance
 Ease of charging and/or refueling
 Meets the mission the vehicle is designed for
 Fun to Drive?
 Overall feeling of consumer acceptability

Refueling is based on:

 Onboard charging ability (0-6 points)
 Ability to quick charge (0-4 points)
 Regenerative Braking (0-4 points)
 Full Charge in 8 hours (0-6 points)

Finally, the grand Total is the sum of all those scores.  The Production Category Prizes were based on the Total.  (The Total was called the "Consumer Acceptability Prize for Production Vehicles" in the NESEA literature.  I find that confusing since there is a "Consumer Acceptability" score that makes up a fraction of the Total.)

(The maximum Total should be 200 according to the information above, but the table below has a maximum of 190.  That is because the Fuel Economy is listed as being a maximum of 20 points below.  I assume that is because they were unable to develop one of the three Fuel sub-scores.)

Production Category Final Test Scores

                               - Acceleration -              --- Handling ---
                                Stndg     Stndg     Brake    Slalom      Auto
                                50 ft     Qtr M     Decel      Test     cross
 #            Name             10 pts    10 pts    20 pts    10 pts    10 pts
 10  Honda EV Plus               5.77      1.83      9.18      4.63      5.85
 50  95 Solectria Horizon        7.95      1.08      5.02      4.60      5.38
 76  Ovonic Solectria Force      2.22      1.30      3.92      6.57      5.30
 77  Solectria CitiVan           5.10      0.44      5.69      4.21      3.47

 Score Statistics
 Avg of above                    5.26      1.16      5.95      5.00      5.00
 Min                             2.22      0.44      3.92      4.21      3.47
 Max                             7.95      1.83      9.18      6.57      5.85

                               Reliab       Fuel  Range Consum Refueling
                               bility    Economy        Accept
 #         Name                35 pts     20 pts 30 pts 25 pts 20 pts     Total
 10  Honda EV Plus              35.00      10.31   9.04  11.00  15.47    108.08
 50  95 Solectria Horizon       35.00      17.79   8.72   8.25  16.89    110.67
 76  Ovonic Solectria Force     35.00      19.39  10.69   9.25  19.27    112.90
 77  Solectria CitiVan          35.00      10.11   7.84   8.50  16.37     96.72

 Score Statistics
 Avg of above                   35.00      14.40   9.07   9.25  17.00    107.09
 Min                            35.00      10.11   7.84   8.25  15.47     96.72
 Max                            35.00      19.39  10.69  11.00  19.27    112.90

Report #53: Demonstration Vehicle - `Chrysler Epic'

Chrysler is displaying a number of vehicles with the NESEA Tour, including the electric `Epic' 4-door minivan, the Dodge `Intrepid ES X2' diesel-electric hybrid concept car, The `Plymouth Prowler' aluminum body roadster, the `Pronto Spyder' 2-door roadster concept car, and a `Composite Concept Vehicle' made mostly of PETE plastic (the same as used in soda bottles, Recycle Code 1), which makes it both affordable and ultimately recyclable. 

Anne Smith told me that the 1999 Nickel Metal Hydride `Epic' electric minivan will be built on the regular Windsor Ontario assembly line.  As the van goes down the line, when it comes time to put in the drive train, those that will be getting electric simply turn off the normal line and go down a special electric drive assembly line.  There the electric drive train gets bolted into the same mount points and uses much of the same wiring harnesses used by the engine powered vans.  When finished, the van rejoins the regular line for finishing, and drives off.  "It takes a bit longer, but being at a major assembly plant you get all your gear quality benefits, volume production and costs benefits. 

The `Intrepid ES X2' is primarily a fuel-engined vehicle with an electric boost for acceleration.  The literature claims 70 miles per gallon from a 3-cylinder direct-injected diesel engine on a 5-speed electronically shifted transmission combined with a 133 pound lead-acid battery and motor (not described). 

 Vehicle Name           Epic, Pronto Spyder
 Category               DEMONSTRATION CATEGORY
 Team Name              Chrysler Corporation
 Organization           Chrysler Corporation
 Town                   Southfield MI
 Description            Epic minivan (Saft, NiMH)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour

When the sun finally came out on Thursday, the `Pronto Spyder', `Intrepid ES X2' and `Composite Concept Vehicle' made appearances in Washington DC. 

Report #54: Team Profile - `Shocker III'

The high school students from North Carolina with #10B (yes, that `B' belongs there, and is on the car) are rightfully proud of their electric racing car.  Brooks Williams told me that, "the car is called `Shocker III' and the Team is NEAT, Northampton Electric Auto Team.  Shocker I is a Ford Escort and Shocker II is a Geo Metro.  Shocker III is also an Escort and has been running for two years." The car is configured for serious track racing, with full roll bars, deep bucket racing seat with 5 point harness, and clip pins on the hood and doors.  "It has been to the EV Grand Prix in Richmond VA, the APS Electrics in Phoenix AZ, and also the EVIC in Florida where we won first place.  When we are not racing we go to the elementary schools in our county and tell them about it.  We also go to the middle schools and try to recruit the upcoming freshmen for our programs.  We are in a class that we take every day for an hour and a half." The class covers automotive engineering, electric wiring, and a little bit of everything. 

 Vehicle Number         10B
 Vehicle Name           Shocker III
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              NEAT
 People on the team     21
 Organization           Northampton County Education Foundation
 Town                   Conway NC
 Description            Conversion (PbA)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Advanced DC; Series wound
 Controller             Curtis; PMC-1231C
 Batteries              20 Trojan; 1420 lbs; 1000 Wh, 120 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        K&W; Transformerless
 Construction           1985 Ford Escort; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          35 mph
 Range                  75 miles
 Capacity               400 pounds
 Weight                 3527 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disc; Ream Drum; Non-regen
 Wheels Tires           Goodyear; P195-60315

Not only does the NEAT team race their cars, they host an annual meet. 

The Third Annual Northampton Electric Vehicle Rally through Northampton County NC will be held October 2nd, followed by an Autocross in Jackson NC on the 3rd.  Entrants may be from high schools, colleges, or individuals.  I'm told that there will be generous arrangements made to room and board competing teams. 

A picture in this month's `Future Drive' newsletter from the DOE Dept of Transportation shows 15 cars in front of the courthouse during last year's Rally. 


        252 585-0627
        252 585-9020
        252 585-9019 FAX

Report #55: Getting the Details Right, Saturday Testing

(These notes taken under the FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan at the South Street Sea Port.  The overhead roadway provided protection from the nearly constant rain.  Most of the testing was accomplished under this shelter.  The exceptions, as you would expect, were the acceleration and braking tests performed on a stretch of blocked-off road nearby.)

In theory, and in demonstrated fact, an electric car can be much simpler than a one with an internal combustion engine (ICE), if only because the number of moving parts are much, much fewer.  But for an ICE Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), the numbers tend to work against you.  You have all the complexity of an engine, plus the lesser complexity of the electric drive, plus the complexity of controlling both.  The result is there is much more to worry about.  And as the NESEA Tour has matured, the safety requirements have gotten more stringent, also, requiring closer attention to the details. 

On Saturday, the Cornell team found that out going through their technical inspection.  #14 `Slipstream' had essentially the same fuel system as last year's entry.  But this year it was bounced.  I spoke with Jeremy Kowalczyk on Saturday morning.  "A lot of our fuel system seems to be out of spec, so the Tour de Sol not really happy about it.  We have to change a lot of fittings and tubes before they'll let us compete as an HEV.  We have rubber tubes for our CNG (Compressed Natural Gas fuel) and they want steel-rated tubes.  As a compromise they will let us use double camps and different fittings.  Our CNG is stored at 3000 pounds per square inch in the tank.  We have a bunch of regulators to bring the pressure down for the engine.  These are a lot of the same fittings as we used last year and they didn't complain then, but they are this year."

Later, Peter Kung said they had the fuel system worked out to everyone's satisfaction.  Now they were working on getting their E-Meter, which measures energy usage from the battery to the controller and motor, to stop resetting every time they went into regenerative braking.  They had the dashboard off, so I could see what is normally hidden.  There were lots of electrical wires, but most went to terminal strips or to plugs.  I was told that pulling or replacing the dashboard was relatively easy, because all the connections to instruments were on plugs and jacks. 

- - - - - - - - - -

#37 `Solar Tiger 2', the high school team from Endicott NY, was also learning about getting the details right.  On Friday, in Flushing, the folks from Western Washington University were helping helping them out by welding the top of one of their aluminum shock towers back on using a TIG welder.  No sooner was that done than, while taking the car off the trailer, the tie rod to the steering broke.  "We were able to scrounge up some flat metal and get it welded on, and it seems to be running OK," said Scott Brazinski. 

- - - - - - - - - -

Western Washington U's `Viking 23' was not without its difficulties.  "We've had a ground fault," said Roseanne Gile, "and we're going through and trying to find it.  We had some (dried) electrolyte on the carbon (fiber) chassis." They were cleaning and drying everything in sight. 

Report #56: Team Profile - `Solar Commuter Car'

Villanova has been listed in the programs for the last few Tour de Sols, but never showed up.  In Morristown NJ, at the end of the first leg of the first day, Bill Lambing told me that, "over the past couple of years we've had problems with final exams or getting the car ready.  It was always one little thing.  We would have the car 90 percent done, but that last 10 percent would keep us from passing inspections."

But finals ended last Friday and they are here, inspected and driving down the road.  "The first leg felt very good.  We didn't have too much of a chance to charge on Saturday because we took the car home to my house (in Wayne NJ) and worked on it all night.  I didn't like the $16 in tolls to cross the George Washington bridge, but ...  She ran strong, considering they were the first real miles we put on her."

#69 has a Sebring Fiberglas body, made in the early 1980s, on a VW Beetle chassis, painted white.  The top over the driver and passenger are on a hinge mechanism that lifts up and forward for getting in and out.  Solar cells totaling 500 Watts cover most of the horizontal surfaces, on the hood, roof, trunk, down the roof pillars either side of the windshield, and even on top of the rally light bar above the windshield.  The 96 Volts of battery drive a brushless DC motor.  "We went through 5 inches of water today and didn't have a problem." The big Lester charger is offboard, "and just because it has handles does not mean it is portable."

"Villanova has had the car for about seven years now.  The car belongs to a club of mechanical and electrical engineers who have free time on their hands once in a while.  We get some funding from the College of Engineering, plus we beg and borrow from local companies for funding and parts.  It is used in local parades and publicity events around campus."

 Vehicle Number         69
 Vehicle Name           Solar Commuter Car
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              Team Solarcat
 No People in Project   12
 Organization           Villanova University
 Town                   Villanova PA
 Description            Purpose-built (Trojan PbA)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Unique Mobility; DC brushless; 18.65 kW cont, 20 kW pk
 Controller             Unique Mobility; CR10-200
 Batteries              16 Trojan T-145; PbA; 1120 lbs; 19 kWh, 96 V; Series
 Charger Offboard       Lester; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               500 W; Solarex; Polycrystalline silicon
 Construction           Purpose Built;  1969 VW Beetle chassis;
                        Fiberglas unibody w/steel members; Fiberglas Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          55 mph
 Range                  75 miles
 Capacity               420 pounds
 Weight                 2500 pounds
 Brakes                 Fr Hyd Drum; Rr Hyd Drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Continental; 175-60R14 Radial

Report #57: Team Profile - `Mach .1'

Three years ago, a cyclist named Mhyee (pronounced "Me") was at the NESEA Tour on an electrically-assisted bike.  Is he a professional cyclist? "If you have to get paid to do this, then no.  But if it is all you do, then yes." His mission is to promote sustainable transportation with a human-power component. 

He is back again, this time on a pair of vehicles.  The Judges have allowed him to switch off between them during the rally.  One is a two-wheeled bike with a thin faring that makes it look like a vertical wing.  The rear of the faring has flexible solar panels on either side, which certainly have not generated much energy in all this rain.  This is Mhyee's own bike, and he'll get to keep it after the event.  "Other teams have vehicles that demonstrate getting their controller, motor, or battery across the finish line.  To me the whole idea is to get the human body across the finish line.  And if it is sitting the chair, it might as well be pedaling." The chair is made of a webbed material, mounted low between the wheels, supported with shock cords and with a lumbar curve in the back.  "Very comfortable."

The bike has two derailers and a hub transmission between the pedal crank up front and the rear wheel.  "It has 105 speeds.  In front is a triple crank, just like a mountain bike.  In the middle is a 5-speed cassette.  And the rear is a 7-speed internal hub." The electric system adds about 50 pounds, so it better do something to make it worth all that weight.  It has 14 pounds of nickel metal hydride batteries.  The motor is below the seat.  It is tied into the last drive train and thus adds to the human power driving the rear wheel.  "It adds about another human's effort while your pedaling along for a couple of hours."

The motor, which is another point of entering the vehicle in the NESEA Tour, is a "Smart Wheels" brushless DC, pancake motor, weighing about 8 pounds.  The design uses 8 pole, 3 phase windings, ceramic permanent magnets, and ball bearings on all shafts.  Jim Dunn, with the Center for Technology Commercialization that cosponsored the `Mach .1' entry, later showed me how the controller was built into the motor.  In its bicycle form, the motor replaces the hub, taking the wheel spokes.  Two pairs of wires come from the center of the axle shaft.  One pair goes to the batteries and the other goes to the throttle, thus the wiring is about as simple as you can get. 

The other vehicle Mhyee is riding is a two-in-front/one-in-the-rear tricycle.  This one also uses the Smart Wheels motor, on the rear wheel, but is without farings or aerodynamic enhancement.  Mhyee rode the trike over several legs of the race, but I never got around to getting the details.  (I suspect the bicycle with faring was very difficult to handle during the rain storms, especially given some of the winds we have seen.  The trike is much more stable, although it offers no protection from the elements.)

 Vehicle Number         21
 Vehicle Name           Mach .1
 Category               ONE PERSON CATEGORY
 Team Name              Mhyee/CTC
 Organization           Center for Technology Commercialization
 Town                   Westboro MA
 Description            3 wheel recumbent
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Wellington Electric; Brushless DC;
                        0.500 kWh cont, 1 kWh peak
 Controller             Wellington Electric; 3 phase
 Batteries              Duracell; NiMH; 14 lbs; 600 Wh, 24 V Comb
 Charger Offboard       Smart Wheels; 24 V, 4A
 PV Array               100 W; ASE Americas; New Flex Panels
 Construction           Cromolly Frame; Fiberglas/Carbon Fiber Body
 No of Passengers       1
 Maximum Speed          72 mph
 Range                  999 miles
 Capacity               280 pounds
 Weight                 99 pounds
 Brakes                 Front disc hydraulic; Rear Caliper hydraulic; Non-regen
 Wheels Tires           2 ACS; 20"x1.5"


        Smart Wheels(TM)
        PO Box 2883
        Worcester MA  01613

        508 799-6663

Report #58: Team Profile - `Ovonic Electric Scooter'

On Monday morning Ben Ovshinsky was standing by #3, a very small motor scooter, reminiscent of a baby Vespa.  "It has less than 3 kiloWatt-hours of energy on board, which will carry it about 100 miles on one charge.  It actually has better top speed, acceleration and power than the conventional internal combustion engine it replaced. 

"The scooter itself is from Taiwan, where this is a very popular mode of transport.  We have seen a family of seven on a somewhat larger scooter.  There is a tremendous pollution and noise problem with two-stroke engines in the East.  This is really the solution.  Just a nominal amount of electricity and you can go a hundred miles."

There is a Continuously Variable Transmission between the motor and the toothed rubber belt that drives the rear wheel.  With the tremendous torque of the electric motor it easily out performs the conventional scooter it replaces. 

"Ovonic has partnerships with Formosa Plastic and Walson in Taiwan, focused on two- and three-wheeled vehicles.  We also have a partnership in Italy with Piaggio (sp?) who make the Vespa.  In the USA the two-wheeled vehicle is a recreational and novelty item, but in the rest of the world it's essential transportation."

 Vehicle Number         3
 Vehicle Name           Ovonic Electric Scooter
 Category               ONE PERSON CATEGORY
 Team Name              Ovonic Battery Co
 Organization           Ovonic Battery
 Town                   Troy MI
 Description            Motor Scooter (Ovonic, NiMH)
 New this year?         new to NESEA Tour
 Motor                  Permanent Magnet Motor; DC brushed;
                        2 kW cont, 5 kW peak
 Controller             Curtis; PMC
 Batteries              Ovonic; NiMH; 75 lbs; 2700 Wh, 24 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        OBC/VICOR; Transformer/Rectifier
 Construction           Ovonic; Steel Frame; Plastic Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          40 mph
 Range                  50 miles
 Capacity               250 pounds
 Weight                 240 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Drum; Rear Drum; Non-Regen
 Wheels Tires           2 Goodyear; 3.00-10

Whenever I catch someone from an advanced battery company, I try to get their sense of when the production levels will get high enough so the production costs can get low enough to make the batteries affordable to the general public. 

Ben said, "that volume is pretty nominal.  It's about 20,000 to 30,000 units per year.  Obviously, there is not that kind of demand this year.  We have increased production an order of magnitude over this past year.  GM-Ovonic is now capable of making 300 or 400 packs (suitable for an EV1 electric car, about 30 kiloWatt-hours) per year.  And soon, within months, we'll open the doors on another order-of-magnitude increase.  In a year or so, the price will come down even further."

Report #59: Team Profile - `NFA Sol Machine'

Last year, #58 rallied in the One Person Category, but this year they have switched to the Solar Commuter Category.  To do this, they had to add a second seat.  After all, a commuter car, even a solar commuter car, must be able to car pool, according to the NESEA rules.  The second person sits behind and considerably higher than the driver.  They had to remove two sections of solar panel so the passenger can get out of the car within the 15-second rule. 

In addition to the extra seat, the welding class built an extension frame that moved the rear wheel swing arm further to the rear.  "We changed from a chain driver to a belt drive and put disk brakes on.  It was supposed to really help us but the new rear wheel is hurting our efficiency a little bit because it's more efficient at high speeds than we normally run the car."

They have 3 interchangeable strings of batteries, that can be switched by changing which Anderson connector is plugged into the controller.  One is a string of Interstate car batteries, and the other two strings are Hawker motorcycle batteries.  Since the connectors are only accessible from the outside of the car they have to stop to change between strings. 

The vehicle is mostly covered in transparent plastic, so the team and the public can see the structure, components, and wiring.  It makes it a particularly good vehicle to show to the school kids that visit the Tour displays.  They can relate more readily to just what the car is and the fact that it was built by high school students. 

Between Tour de Sols, the car "parks in front of Wal-Mart and we ask people for money." They also do parades and competed in the last SunDay Challenge in Florida where they beat everyone in their category.  They also are continually trying to make the car lighter and better. 

 Vehicle Number         58
 Vehicle Name           NFA Sol Machine
 Team Name              Team NFA Newburgh NY
 No People in Project   86
 Months to Build        24
 Organization           Newburgh Free Academy
 Town                   Newburgh NY
 Description            Purpose built (Interstate, PbA)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Advanced DC; Series wound; 10 kW cont
 Controller             Curtis; 72-120 V
 Batteries              1 string: 6 Interstate car batteries
                        2 strings: 6 Hawker motorcycle batteries. 
 Charger Offboard       6xWest Marine; High Frequency Solid State
 PV Array               480 W; Siemans; Single Crystal Silicon
 Construction           Purpose built; Aluminum Frame; Lexan Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          54 mph
 Range                  80 miles
 Capacity               250 pounds
 Weight                 1000 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Disk; Non-regen
 Wheels Tires           3 Goodyear; 17" Frontrunner

The team would like to go to Australia for the World Solar Challenge in October 1999, but they they have to get funding help.  "Maybe a major airline could donate some tickets, and in Newburgh we have all those big C-5A cargo planes.  They could help us out by flying the car down there for us."

Anyone wishing to donate towards sending the `NFA Sol Machine' to the World Solar Challenge in 1999 can call Lee Cabe at ... 

        914 563-7500 x330

Report #60: Team Profile - `Sungo'

I first fell in love with the `Sungo' at my first or second Tour de Sol.  It is a low, two person commuter vehicle that just looks like an small electric commuter car should, in my opinion.  It has always been a favorite with the public.  The composite body hinges at the front, lifting up to let the driver and passenger get in.  It is very short, so that two could fit in a single parking space, sideways. 

It has always had a separate motor for each of the rear wheels, but this year it turned in its toothed belts and brushless DC motors for a fixed-ratio gear box and an AC induction motor on each.  A special circuit balances the drive signals to the motors, serving the function of a differential when the car turns.  The car is also built very low to the ground, which has helped it do well in the Autocross events in past years. 

 Vehicle Number         72
 Vehicle Name           Sungo
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              NHTI Solar - Solar Car Team
 No People in Project   15
 Organization           New Hampshire Tech Institute
 Town                   Concord NH
 Description            Purpose-built (Ovonic, NiMH)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  2 Solectria; AC induction; 42 kW cont, 107 kW peak
 Controller             2 Solectria; MOSFET
 Batteries              Ovonic; NiMH; 460 lbs; 15600 Wh, 144 V Ser. 
 Charger Onboard        None
 Charger Offboard       Solectria; High Frequency Solid State
 PV Array               96 W; Astropower; Monocrystalline
 Construction           Purpose-built; Aluminum Frame; Fiberglass Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          75 mph
 Range                  150 miles
 Capacity               360 pounds
 Weight                 1300 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disc; Rear Disc; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Continental; 135 70R-13

Report #61: City Driving, Country Driving, Overnight Charging

Day 2 of the Tour de Sol started in Princeton New Jersey in a drizzle.  School groups visited the display of cars outside Princeton High School.  Meanwhile, I spoke with a few teams before they lined up for the start. 

- - - - - - - - - -

The nature of the American Tour de Sol is to drive in the real world, as we find it.  But the real world means different things to different people, as Jonita Dunn of #10b `Shocker III' found out.  "Sunday we got off to a slow start coming from New York City to New Jersey.  There was a lot of traffic and traffic lights, which slowed us down a lot.  It was terrible with people in the street, people pulling out in front of you.  Yesterday afternoon going from Morristown to Princeton was real wet.  I drove (that leg) and we averaged between 25 and 35 miles per hour through beautiful countryside, like I'm used to at home." Home is Northampton County North Carolina, right where Interstate 95 crosses into Virginia. 

Bob Clark, physics teacher and co-instructor for the Northampton Electric Auto Team (NEAT), said, "I drove in New York because we were in the city.  When I drove, I got 3.3 miles per kiloWatt hour.  When Jonita, a student, drove she got 4.4 miles per kiloWatt hour.  Driving skill has a lot to do with how the car performs."

The `Shocker III' team were real happy when they got the datasheets showing their performance on Sunday.  They tied for first place in the Commuter Category, at 69.4 Tour Miles, with #16 `The Olympian'.  They were enthusiasticly vocal, to say the least. 

- - - - - - - - - -

Monte Gisborne of #13 `The Electrifly' ran into a few problems that resulted in having to tow into Princeton.  "My car is the only one that needs three-phase electricity to charge.  We were guaranteed three-phase in Morristown, but it wasn't there.  So I McGivered a single phase charger, but only got about 5 Amps.  Then we got lost by taking a wrong turn.  Our chase vehicle passed us and went on to Princeton." By the time they found each other and got to the charging trailer, it was 11 pm. 

- - - - - - - - - -

Nina Berryman of #93 `Helios the Heron V' said they did not get a good charge Sunday night.  "In my opinion, it's something wrong with one of the connections and not the chargers, because we have really good Solectria chargers.  We know we didn't get enough because we drove in with about 120 on our E-Meter and this morning we had 126.  A full charge would be about 140."

- - - - - - - - - -

Even the people setting up the charging trailer had some difficulties.  On Sunday, when the power company threw the last switch to activate the trailer, two of the electric phases were crossed.  "I was about 5 feet from the pipe where it comes down to the trailer," said Steve Kurkoski.  "The electrician making the connection was straddling the pipe.  From 5 feet away I could feel the ground vibrate and hear the wires rattling in the pipe.  That was kind of exciting." They had two leads for each leg of a Wye-service, and because one of the leads was mislabeled, they had a phase-to-phase dead-short.  The power company figured out the problem, and that they had made the mistake, fixed it, and got the charging trailer on line.  "It didn't delay the start of charging, but did give us an extra hour of work to do, so we didn't get our usual nap between setup and start-of-charging."

- - - - - - - - - -

Cornell's #14 `Slipstream' came through the first day just fine, although they didn't get their E-meter to work. 

- - - - - - - - - -

Tom Hopper was very concerned that he would not be able to coach #94 `Hopper EV' all the way through these long legs because his methanol burning generator set was just not putting out enough Watts.  But he managed to get all the way to Morristown, plugged in, and then got all the way to Princeton.  He credited conservative driving with helping him go the distance. 

- - - - - - - - - -

#83 `Sol Survivor IV' was not able to go under the Start banner in New York City on Sunday.  "We had difficulty with the rain.  It was shorting out the accelerator pedal to the controller and we had no control over the motor.  We dried it out last night with a hair drier and covered the controller and sealed it all up," said Corey Bangs. 

- - - - - - - - - -

#7 `TU ParaDyne' made a wrong turn on Sunday, and wound up on the highway, but managed to get back onto the route.  "The drive was real pretty," according to Matt Norris. 

- - - - - - - - - -

According to Jillian Golden, #32 `Porche 914 Electric Bull' also went a little astray on Sunday.  "We fixed all our little kinks, like our driver and navigator are going to communicate more and be sure that they know the route, so they don't miss the turns.  The car is doing exactly what we want it to do."

- - - - - - - - - -

Nicole Smith told me that on Sunday #72 `Sungo' "encountered a huge puddle, got water in the battery box and ended up with a ground fault." The driver got a little tingle, but was not injured.  Sunday night they opened up the car, dried out the battery box and put it back together.  Other than that, "it's doing well when we don't take it swimming."

- - - - - - - - - -

#76 `Ovonic Solectria Force' was parked on the grass overnight, and, in the rain, sank down into the mud and got stuck.  They were able to get it out on Monday morning before the start. 

- - - - - - - - - -

James Worden of Solectria told me that because several customers have upgraded their older `Force' cars to more modern, more powerful drive systems, the used motors and controllers being removed are going to good homes.  For example, the motors and controllers in #72 `Sungo' were used, and the ones taken from #50 `95 Solectria/Horizon' is going to a girl's high school in Connecticut for their Tour de Sol entry next year. 

He also said that Solectria is now making a Watt-hour meter that can be plugged into their vehicles.  There are a couple here; one is on #3 and the other on #50.  "You can just plug it right into the harness so you don't have to put another current shunt in."

I asked James why the `Sunrise', Solectria's all composite car that holds a Tour de Sol range record, was entered this year.  "We are not racing it here because it is not a product yet.  We still need a partner." There is some interest in New Jersey to build the Sunrise in that state, so they will soon have a Sunrise to promote that idea.  "(The Sunrise) is quite refined now, and all the tooling is ready.  If we can sell 5,000 a year, then we can make money.  20,000 a year is what we really want to sell, so investors can make money."

Report #62: Team Profile - `Charger Bike'

#12, the `Charger Bike' returns again this year with its own unique take on the theme of human-electric hybrid vehicle.  Unlike most electric bikes, this one _will not_ put any electric power to the wheel _unless_ the rider is also pedaling.  It only increases the value of the human effort; it never substitutes electric power for muscle power. 

This year Team Charger is six guys from Branford High School, near New Haven Connecticut, taking turns riding the NESEA Tour.  The Branford students have also built and raced an electric tricycle that was all about speed, rather than range, but it isn't here. 

Mike Anzel said that this Charger Bike has been modified from a stock version.  It has a faring over the spokes of the rear wheel, and a motor geared up for higher speeds than on a standard Charger.  "The modification makes it so, instead of going up to 25 miles per hour, you can go up to 35 miles per hour." They say in dry weather the gear ratio should support 45 miles per hour. 

A sensor detects the human-power torque and then adds a percentage more.  That percentage is selected with four buttons on the power pack mounted below the step-over bar between the seat and handle bars.  A 7-gear rear hub is controlled by the rider, and the gearing is such that the motor is always operating in the same gear as the rider, providing hill-climbing assistance in low gears and speed assistance in high gears.  The single module that contains the controller, charger and battery pack is removable so the batteries can easily be recharged without having to bring the whole bicycle to the plug. 

 Vehicle Number         12
 Vehicle Name           Charger Bicycle
 Category               ONE PERSON CATEGORY
 Team Name              Team Charger
 No People in Project   3
 Organization           Charger Bicycles
 Town                   Monrovia CA
 Description            Bicycle (Panasonic, PbA)
 New this year?         same bike - new team
 Motor                  Charger; 14/1 gear ratio; .5 kW cont,  .8 kW peak
 Controller             Charger; 24V DC
 Batteries              Panasonic/16 lbs; PbA; 240 Wh, 24 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        Charger; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               150 W; Siemens
 Construction           GT Bicycles; Cromlly Frame; Body-none
 No of Passengers       1
 Maximum Speed          35 mph
 Range                  40 miles
 Capacity               267 pounds
 Weight                 67 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Cant.; Rear Clutch; Non-regen
 Wheels Tires           2 Mitsubishi; Bicycle

The Charger Bike is available commercially.  For more information:

        888 710-4321
        626 357-9983
        626 359-9628 FAX

Report #63: Stopping Midway From Princeton to New Castle

Did I mention that it was wet for much of the Tour de Sol?

Monday's started with a 37 mile trip from Princeton NJ to the Burlington County Institute of Technology (BCIT), a long display with an opportunity to charge, and then a 64 mile run to New Castle Delaware. 

The folks at BCIT had big plans for what they called the Eco Living Festival.  There was music, provided by the Springfield Elementary School Band and then a disc jockey, and lunches served by the students in the Food Services program, and many school buses bringing students for tours of the electric vehicles. 

But it also rained much of the time we were there, sometimes very hard. 

- - - - - - - - -

Kathryn (Kate) Skelly is the daughter of Michael Skelly who is a member of the NESEA Board of Directors.  She has been to many Tour de Sols, often helping out.  This year, at the Burlington County (NJ) Institute of Technology she helped run the Eco Living Festival's "Junior Solar Sprint" races.  For this event school kids are given a solar panel and a motor.  And from these and whatever materials they can come up with, they are to devise a vehicle that will carry an empty soda can from the start line to the finish line following a guide wire.  Normally this is done outside, in the sunlight.  However, since it was pouring rain much of the day, they had a backup plan.  "We covered the solar panel with a piece of foam core board rubber banded over it.  Then we used two AA batteries to drive each of the cars." About 20 to 25 teams competed. 

"A lot of cars did very well, but a few did not even move."

Which was the coolest car? "One, called the `The Blue Lightning Bolt', had a blue cover which was completely removable.  About 30 small pieces of wood were glued together to make the chassis.  The soda can sat inside, the cover went over that, and the solar panel, foam core, and battery pack went on top of that.  It was cool because it didn't wobble, and it was like complicated, but like really simple." Sophisticated? "Sophisticated! I knew it was one of those words.  I think it won for design. 

"There was another one that was just the solar panel, a piece of wood, a few wheels, and it went like _really_ fast and always got to the finish line like zooooom!"

Kate didn't have a car of her own, because she was helping run the event. 

- - - - - - - - -

#97 `Project e- 2' suffered a blowout on the right (rear) tire when they ran over some "rail-road sized rocks".  Replacing the tube and tire took about half an hour.  "After that, it was pretty clear sailing," said Robert Martin. 

It struck me that handling a Human-Electric Hybrid such as the `Project e- 2' tricycle takes a bit of practice.  On top of pedaling and steering, and two hand brakes, there is a button for a brake light, and a throttle control.  So do you just pedal and add power, or just use power and pedal once in a while, or what? "You pedal and add power by turning on the throttle.  It gives you an extra boost of energy and pushes you along a little faster.  I got up to 28 or 30 miles per hour.  I didn't really want to go too much faster than that (in this weather) for safety reasons."

The trike rides very low, maybe 2 1/2 feet off the ground at the highest point. 

- - - - - - - - -

Monte Gisborne said that #13 `The Electrifly' is operating on Plan B, using a 7 1/2 Amp charger instead of the refrigerator-sized 3-phase charger he had hoped to use.  7 1/2 amps is just not enough to get a full charge in the 12 hours normally allotted, but Monte may ask the NESEA Tour Jury if he can take a penalty and start charging early and get off the plug late so he can at least drive the legs.  The Jury is much more interested in vehicles moving under their own power, which is why the Solar Commuter vehicles can plug in.  What's the point of towing a car from display to display because there is no sun, and what's the point of towing a car because the backup charger isn't strong enough?

- - - - - - - - -

The charging trailer has seen been seeing a lot of ground faults in all the rain.  Sometimes its for something as simple as a plug sitting on the ground and slowly getting wet.  #94 `Hopper EV' had that problem. 

Other times it was more subtle.  #10b, `Shocker III' rediscovered that having two Ground Fault Interrupters (GFIs) in the same circuit can cause one to keep tripping.  The charging trailer has a GFI on each plug, and then some chargers have a GFI built in.  The result is the one in the charging trailer will have a tendency to trip.  Because it took them too long to figure this all out, they did not get a good recharge at BCIT, and thus lost their tie-for-first in the Commuter Category with #16 `The Olympian'. 

Report #64: Stories From New Castle and Dover Deleware

New Castle Deleware, Monday night:

The driver of #23 `Viking 23' wound up plowing through the mud Monday evening in New Castle, Roseanne Gile told me.  "Coming on to the Air Force base, our driver overshot the turn but tried to make it anyway.  He full-locked the wheels, but it didn't help.  He slid right into the median and off into this ditch full of standing water.  But before we could get to him to try and push him out, he just drove out using the rear (engine driven) wheels.  We have 4- wheel drive capability, but we didn't need to use it.  I was amazed.  I didn't think we could do it. 

"The car weighs 2009 pounds without the driver and passenger.  The carbon fiber chassis without any of the suspension or any components attached to it is 80 pounds.  The chassis was built in 1993 and 1994." And it is not showing any signs of cracking or delamination. 

- - - - - - - - -

It seems the Lawrence Tech folk pulled an all-nighter.  On Tuesday afternoon in Dover Nick Brancik said, "We were working on the car until 4 o'clock this morning in the trailer." #4 had a problem with the belt that goes from the electric motor into the transmission housing on the back of the diesel engine.  They got that resolved, but were only able to drive 12 miles on Monday and 36 miles on Tuesday.  ((The challenge of a hybrid is that you have the complexity of each of two very different drive systems, plus the complexity of making them work together.  A weakness anywhere can bite in ways that are hard to find and, because the complexity also eats up all available room under the hood and elsewhere, hard to get to.))

- - - - - - - - -

Dover Deleware, Tuesday afternoon and evening:

Scott Isgar raced in the 1994 Tour de Sol with his VW Vanagan EV known as `Solar Delivery'.  This year he is with us driving a 37 foot long, 10 person Recreational Vehicle which NESEA is using as a moving office.  It has 16 Siemens 53 Watt solar panels on the roof with a Trace 5548 inverter and a Pulse control panel.  The battery pack is made up of 16 Trojan T-145 blocks, which may be increased to 24 blocks. 

The vehicle will be rented to the Manhattan movie, advertising, and commercial industries as an on-site shooting makeup and dressing rooms.  When finished it will have two air conditioners, plus many, many mirrors and makeup and dressing lights.  "Hopefully, in the middle of the summer, it should be able to run for 10 or 12 hours.  That remains to be seen, but that is our goal.  It will be rented daily to production companies, commercial companies, advertising agencies, and anyone who wants to go on site, out of the elements." It can be configured for office, wardrobe/makeup, or semi-sleeping. 

The company is `Solar Delivery' at 718 816-1126. 

- - - - - - - - -

Ben Hall of #62 `Garnet One' said their one problem so far was being low on transmission fluid, which was easily fixed. 

- - - - - - - - -

On Monday #93 `Helios the Heron V' was having trouble getting a good charge.  But on Tuesday they made it to Dover with no difficulty.  What made the difference? Teacher and technical advisor Topher Waring told me that they had found, "a bad connection that we fixed.  We have about 114 Volts left, which is pretty good.  Dead is just about 100 Volts.  We are not going to push our batteries, because we need to use them all winter."

While I was talking with the Helios group, Ashley Roslund showed me their Battery Monitoring Panel.  Inside a shallow wooden box are ten RJ-11 telephone jacks.  Each jack is like the one on the wall at home that you plug your phone into.  An RJ-11 plug, like the one on the end of your phone cord, is connected to a set of color coded screws: red, green, black, and yellow.  "Each phone jack is hooked up to two batteries.  When we plug into, say, number 10 like it is right now, we can take a small battery tester and hook it up to colored screws, and that lets us read the batteries.  Yellow and green go to negative and black and red go to positive."

I also wanted to see the "computer thingy with the light bulbs".  "When we are charging, these make sure that we don't over charge the batteries, because if we do that we can kill a battery.  Each computer chip has its own battery.  We hook the positive and negative terminals on the computer chip to the positive and negative terminals on the battery.  When the battery is fully charged, the light bulb will flash to use up the (excess) energy." I happen to know that the "computer chips" are sold under the name Rudman Regulators. 

- - - - - - - - -

#37 `Solar Tiger II' has been having some difficulties.  "Our Z2 charger went.  It worked once and never worked again.  So the `Sungo' team let us borrow a Solectria charger, and the Solectria folks set it up on the computer to charge us.  But they didn't set it up for enough because they were not sure how much we could handle.  So tonight they are going to charge at an even higher rate. 

"Otherwise the car has been doing fine.  The steering hasn't done anything bad and the brakes work."

Teams helping out other teams is a sign of the friendships that develop during the week.  Helping out a team, even one racing in the same category as you are, goes on all the time. 

- - - - - - - - -

Tony Krabowski told me that the string of bad luck that has hit #4 `Ed' continues.  The original problem was that the hardened metal spline on the electric motor wore away the aluminum insert on the pulley that took the belt into the transmission housing.  "We were using an aluminum pulley on the motor to try and save some weight and inertia.  For the last three years, everything has been just fine, but this one crept up on us.  We were up to one in the morning fixing that one."

Then today (Tuesday), after making good time for about 36 miles, they believe they shorted out their motor controller.  Unique Mobility is going to FedEx a replacement.  "Hopefully that will get us back into the race."

"One of the things we are trying to do on the Tour de Sol is to get some running time on the car, so when we go to the FutureCar competition in early June we will have a car that is pretty much bullet-proof."

- - - - - - - - -

`Viking 23', while doing laps to build up their range record, broke the clutch cable to the rear engine.  Because the rear engine has an over-running clutch that free-wheels to reduce the drag, the driver has been shifting without the clutch for some time.  It was starting from full stop that proved to be the real pain of not having a clutch.  They found that they could just stop the engine, glide to a stop, put it into first gear, and then just hit the starter when it was time to go.  "It doesn't really like it but it works." Why not start in electric mode? "Our electric controller has been swamped a couple of times.  We are hoping to dry it out tonight and get running on electric again.  The rear-view camera is working again, after getting flooded a couple of times."

`Viking 23' is very low to the ground, with the people reclining pretty steeply.  Some of the deeper puddles have come up pretty high on the car.  Since it isn't designed to be water proof, the water gets into the passenger compartment pretty easily. 

Report #65: Team Profile - `Re-Chargers'

The University of New Haven returns with their #66 `Re-Chargers' pickup truck.  On the outside, it looked much like last year's entry.  But under the truck bed it is quite different. 

Where you would expect to see a differential between the rear wheels you instead see a transmission, with half-axles going to the wheels.  Mounted on the bell housing, which is facing toward the rear, is an Advanced DC 9-inch motor.  Off the "front" of the transmission is a metal rod that goes to the gear-shift lever in the cab.  "This is off an old Volkswagen "bug" we found in the woods.  We chopped the back of it off, so that is the transaxle and transmission.  We custom built the mounting plates and suspension.  It has 4- wheel independent suspension.  It handles beautifully.  We put a lot of work into it."

Normally they would be running 160 Volts worth of batteries, but they had a problem with one of their batteries, which they took out, and on Tuesday they did much, much better.  They are now running 154 Volts. 

A V-belt off the tail-shaft of the drive motor goes to an alternator to provide regenerative braking.  The recovered energy recharges two of the traction batteries. 

There are two E-Meters on the dash board.  "The second one is for our 24 Volt booster pack.  We use it to help us climb hills, accelerate a little better, and to get a little extra speed on the autocross." Wouldn't that require some heavy duty contactors to add 24 Volts to the string? "Yeah, you flip a switch and, blam!, you're up 24 Volts!" And the controller and motor are able to keep up with that. 

And they have electric heat (which many of the built-for-racing vehicles do not), but they have not been using it during the Tour, although I dare say they have been tempted. 

 Vehicle Number         66
 Vehicle Name           Re-Chargers
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              University of New Haven
 Organization           University of New Haven
 Program Name           UNH Chargers
 Town                   West Haven CT
 Description            1984 Ford Ranger (Trojan, PbA)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Advanced; DC Series wound; 21 kW cont, 64 kW peak
 Controller             Auburn; MOS-FET solid state
 Batteries              Trojan; PbA; 1600 lbs; 4,176(?) Wh, 160 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        None
 Charger Offboard       Byean; Ferro-Resonant
 PV Array               9.3 W; Mobil Solar Energy; Silicon; Powers radio
 Construction           1984 Ford Ranger; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          50 mph
 Range                  80 miles
 Capacity               350 pounds
 Weight                 3850 pounds
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   4220 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; racing

Report #66: Team Profile - `59 Berkeley'

Olaf Bleck has returned with the `59 Berkeley' with a new paint job and "some structural improvements.  Convertibles are notoriously weak between the front half and the back half of the car because there is no roof frame.  We added a bunch of carbon fiber components, two beams next to the seats, all bonded in.  The car is solid now.  We are not afraid of the front and back separating if we hit a big bump.  We also tuned the suspension up a bit more."

The car is bright red, small, and cute and gets lots of crowd attention.  It looks like a sports car, and moves like a sports car, but doesn't sound anything like a sports car. 

The drive system and gear box is the same as last year, and is holding up well.  They did suffer a battery module failure, which they wired around.  "We are now running on five-sixths of our original capacity.  But it is still doing alright.  In our rush to get down here we forgot to bring the spare modules."

 Vehicle Number         59
 Vehicle Name           59 Berkeley
 Category               COMMUTER CATEGORY
 Team Name              Team New England
 No People in Project   10
 Organization           Team New England
 Town                   Nahant MA
 Description            1959 Berkeley (Lockheed, NiCd)
 New this year?         returning
 Motor                  Solectria; AC induction; 10 kW cont, 20 kW peak
 Controller             Solectria; AC300
 Batteries              Lockheed; NiCAD; 528 lbs; 8200 Wh, 158 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        Solectria; Model BC1000
 PV Array               6 W; Unknown manufac.; Monocrystaline
 Construction           1959 Berkeley; Steel Frame; Fiberglas Body
 No of Passengers       2
 Maximum Speed          65 mph
 Range                  100 miles
 Capacity               370 pounds
 Weight                 1000 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Drum; Rear Drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; R12

Report #67: Team Profile - `Electric Lion'

This is Bart Bartholomew's first year with Penn State's hybrid #8 `Electric Lion', although I know it was at the NESEA Tour in 1996 and 1997. 

The car has two AC induction motors and controllers, each driving one of the front wheels independently.  This has the potential to completely control each of those wheels to the point that one could be braked while the other is powered.  Two years ago, at the Tour de Sol Autocross, this independent control strategy was very apparent.  In very hard turns, the inside front wheel on most front-wheel drive cars would lift off the ground and that wheel would spin up as the differential transferred power from the motor to the unloaded wheel.  When the wheel touched the ground again, the driver had a hard time keeping the car on track as the car suddenly leaped ahead on that side.  But on the `Electric Lion', the inside wheel always turned at the appropriate rate.  When the unloaded wheel once again touched the ground, the car was kept on track with ease. 

This year the anti-lock brakes and traction control are operational, but the planned yaw control (described in last year's Tour de Sol Reports) is still not fully functional.  The yaw control is supposed to provide the last word in handling performance in demanding conditions. 

"We've got greater control over the fuel carburization on our two-cylinder LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas, aka propane) engine.  We had some difficulty matching a proper carburetor to it, and we still intend to go to injection."

Over the summer and fall they intend to work on the car and also take it to the local drag strip, about a half-hour away, racing against whoever shows up.  "We line up and get some weird looks." Still, they do very well. 

 Vehicle Number         8
 Vehicle Name           Electric Lion
 Category               USDOE HYBRID CATEGORY
 Team Name              Team Electric Lion
 No People in Project   23
 Organization           Penn State University
 Town                   University Park PA
 Description            1992 Ford Escort (Exide, PbA + LPG)
 New this year?         returning
 Motors                 2 Solectria; TWM; 52 kW cont, 84 kW peak
 Controllers            2 Solectria; TWM
 Batteries              Exide; PbA; 600 lbs; 14 kWh, 144 V; Series
 Charger Offboard       Goodall Elec; Transformer/Rectifier
 PV Array               34 W; ASE Americas ; Monocrystalline on substrate
 Construction           1992 Ford  Escort; Steel Frame; Stl/ABS Plstc Body
 Hybrid                 Kawasaki; 620 cc; Series; LPG; 37 mpg
 No of Passengers       5
 Maximum Speed          80 mph
 Range                  410 miles
 Capacity               880 pounds
 Weight                 3766 pounds
 Mfg Gross Veh Weight   3400 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disc; Rear Disc; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; Invicta P185/60R14

Report #68: Notes from Wednesday

These are a few more quick interviews from Wednesday morning, in Dover Deleware, and early afternoon in Sandy Point State Park, near Anapolis Maryland. 

The `CitiVan' has been turning in 60-to-70 mile ranges, considerably more than its 40-to-45 mile advertised range.  I asked Andrew Heafitz of Solectria, a principle designer of the electric delivery truck, why that might be true. 

"The Tour de Sol is fairly rural, steady speed driving and the `CitiVan' is designed for city driving: heavy stop-and-go, lead-footed driving.  For example, in New York City we compared the `CitiVan' to another truck of similar size and found it did about ten times better as far as fuel costs.  We used 35 cents, they used 4 gallons.  We never got above 15 miles an hour on that run.  It took about two hours driving about 12 miles, and I'm told that is fast because it was a Saturday.  I've heard the average for a United Parcel Service driver in New York is 12 miles because they get to a building and spend the time going up and down."

I asked what sort of interesting problems did Andrew find in designing the `CitiVan'?

"One interesting thing is the weight doesn't really matter.  When we were designing solar cars, we were always very conscious of weight.  But a hundred pounds here, a hundred pounds there out of an eleven thousand pound vehicle doesn't make a whole lot of difference.  And then there's about thirtyfive hundred pounds of payload."

- - - - - - - - -

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has been both a sponsor and a presence at the Tour de Sol for a number of years now.  They have brought along a shop-trailer equipped to help the teams with any wheel and tire concerns they might have.  I spoke with Mike Sellers about that. 

"We have dismounted, mounted and them set up for them.  We've fixed a few flats, including one with a big, long nail in it.  We've even given out Band Aides and loaned our squeegee to a few people."

The trailer is also often used for formal and informal meetings, or just shelter from the storm. 

But main purpose of the trailer is tires, and it is prepared to a complete mount and balance the latest wheels.  "These are all the latest rim-clamp machines, designed for the aluminum machines, and a high-speed balancer.  And there's a compressor for filling up air bottles."

Goodyear has been generous supplying several of the teams with their tires, including two sets delivered since they got to the rally. 

- - - - - - - - -

Lynn Darnel of #72 `Sungo' told me why they didn't make the Dover to Sandy Point State Park run.  "Murphy got a hold of us again.  We were very careful to plug in at 7 o'clock.  We checked and double checked that the charger had ramped up to the right charging speed.  Then, as the individual who had hooked it up stepped out of the car he evidently stepped on the connector and disconnected the charger.  At 5 o'clock am we checked to make sure it wasn't over charged.  It wasn't over charged.  So we only got about an hour and a half of charging."

Lynn also told me another story from technical testing on Saturday.  They broke their parking brake cable early in testing.  They were calling all over New York City looking for someone who would make a custom cable or braise the fitting on the end again.  No luck.  So they rode up into the jeweler's district looking for someone who could silver-soldier a repair.  No one in the area would even talk to them.  Finally, they found someone willing to do the work, and who used the last of his oxygen finishing the job.  `Sungo' was able to pass tech testing and get into the rally. 

- - - - - - - - -

Count on the kids from `Helios the Heron' teams to come up with interesting ideas.  Karen Budde, Helios' driver told me, "In the Holland Tunnel, my navigator says, `If we all drove electric vehicles, the Holland Tunnel would smell sweet.' Later, another pipes up, `If we all drove electric vehicles, we could get some sleep in New York City instead of listening to traffic noise all night.'

"Last night we calculated that `Helios' was getting 120 miles per gallon equivalence.  And yesterday we were more efficient than Villanova."

- - - - - - - - -

The team shirts for `Spyder Juice' (black with yellow trim and lettering) read, "Spyder Juice - You _Know_ You Want Some". 

Report #69: An Advisor to a Winning Team

Norman Joyner, Jr. is a teacher at Northampton High West in Northampton County, North Carolina, and an advisor to #10b `Shocker III'.  He spoke with me on Thursday morning before we left Sandy Point State Park to drive to Washington DC. 

The NEAT (Northampton Electric Auto Team) drivers had to practice driving their car on roads.  All the other events they've entered have been held on closed race tracks.  They also had to modify the car to meet the requirements of road racing, which meant undoing things designed for track racing.  For instance, the pins on the outsides of the doors, required for the track, had to be replaced with latches that would allow the driver and passenger to be able to get out in 10 seconds. 

Putting the money together to finance their competing is a year long event.  "We have Pig Pickings (where they barbecue hogs), sell doughnuts, car washes, what ever, because the school system at West doesn't support this.  We have to come up with all our own funds and sponsorships." A local machine shop has been a tremendous help, donating the construction of the three adaptor plates that mounts the motors on the transmissions. 

They started in 1993, when the local power company, Virginia Power, sponsored them for one year.  After that NEAT had to be self-sufficient and the company went on to sponsor other schools for a year to get them started.  (Virginia Power has since split, and the local company is now North Carolina Power.) The second year, NEAT assisted a sponsored school in the next county in building a truck, and they have been competing ever since in the electric race in Richmond VA. 

But the program is not really about racing.  It is about getting students interested in learning and working.  "They run the entire operation and it's like a job.  They get credit, we call it pay, according to the way they work.  If a day goes by and a kid has a headache or something, they don't get as many points.  On this trip we have had no problems. 

In fact, Norman thinks the bad weather has helped them focus on the job of getting through the day and down the road.  "When it's fair, they want to play a lot.  But when it was raining, they were focused on the car operating well in the water."

Norman retired from the military 22 years ago, and has been teaching in the federal and public schools most of the time since.  He currently teaches electrical trades, electronics, and carpentry.  He expects to retire in about one year. 

Report #70: Team Profile - `Ovonic-Solectria Force'

James Worden tells me that the white 1997 Solectria Force running as #76 this year is identical to last year, with the same Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack that is now a year and a half old.  This is the standard Force, based on a Geo Metro Sedan, that Solectria has been selling for a number of years now.  (My 1995 Solectria Force is practically identical, except that mine runs on the sealed lead-acid batteries that are still much, much less expensive than Nickel Metal Hydride.)

"We did add an easier-to-read energy gauge, which we thought would be good for consumer acceptability (a new scoring parameter in the Production Category this year), and a radio." Where there used to be a dual-needle battery Amps and Volts meter there is now a single-needle gauge, labeled "Fuel" with a battery icon on it, that reads from "F" to "E".  "It is connected to the Amp-Hour meter and a low-cost data acquisition thing that's part of the Ovonic pack." It counts down the number of Amp-Hours the battery pack is rated for, "with corrections for how fast you do it and stuff."

On Tuesday, when the teams went for their range records, #76 drove 224.5 miles on a single charge. 

 Vehicle Number         76
 Vehicle Name           Ovonic-Solectria Force
 Category               PRODUCTION CATEGORY
 Team Name              Ovonic Battery Co
 No People in Project   6
 Organization           Ovonic Battery Company
 Town                   Troy MI
 Description            '97 Solectria Force  (Ovonic, NMH)
 New this year?         new car - updated team
 Motor                  Solectria; AC Induction; 15 kW cont, 42 kW peak
 Controller             Solectria; Model AC 325
 Batteries              Ovonic; NiMH; 800 lbs; 27 kWh, 180 V; Series
 Charger Onboard        Solectria; Transformer/Rectifier
 Construction           Solectria; Steel Frame; Steel Body
 No of Passengers       4
 Maximum Speed          75 mph
 Range                  150 miles
 Capacity               450 pounds
 Weight                 2400 pounds
 Brakes                 Front Disk; Rear Drum; Regen
 Wheels Tires           4 Goodyear; P155180R13; Invicta

Report #71: Onward to the Capital

Thursday is the fifth day of the American Tour de Sol on the road, and it is this day that we leave Sandy Point State Park, outside Annapolis Maryland, and drive to Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between 3rd and 4th, in Washington DC.  The trip is actually more complicated than that.  Everyone travels at their own pace to Arlington Virginia, just across the Potomac River from DC, regroup, and then form a police-escorted parade back to the display site. 

Wednesday afternoon had been fairly sunny, and Thursday dawned sunny and warm.  It finally felt like the Tour de Sol. 

These are notes and comments from Thursday morning. 

- - - - - - - - - -

I noticed that #10b `Shocker III' has a double row of red and black banana plug jacks on the dash board, each pair wired to a battery block.  This allows the passenger to take individual block readings as they are going down the road. 

- - - - - - - - - -

The team with #58 `NFA Sol Machine' felt like they were ready.  They had been gathering photons Wednesday afternoon, and were doing it again this morning.  "We're getting a good charge; one of the best we have gotten so far." Their solar array tilts on a hinge down the side of the car so they can position it perpendicular to the sun's rays. 

#83 `Sol Survivor IV' also thinks they got "good sun" yesterday afternoon and this morning. 

The Solar Commuter cars get extra credit for the portion of energy they derive from sunlight and that often makes the difference when the prizes in this category are handed out.  The teams in this category really are the sun worshipers during the Tour. 

- - - - - - - - - -

#37 `Solar Tiger II' got their best charge of the week last night.  "We started time and didn't trip out overnight.  We also weren't as far down last night when we plugged in.  The sun yesterday helped a lot." They went 36 miles yesterday before they had to give up; a personal best.  Today's run is about 45 miles, so they are going to try and take it nice and easy.  With luck they'll make it all the way through. 

- - - - - - - - - -

Jim Dunn told me a bit more about the Smart Wheels motors featured on the two bikes entered as #21 `Mach .1', riden by Myhee.  It is a 400 Watt brushless DC 3-phase motor, that peaks at 750 Watts, transmission, and a controller all in a 6-inch diameter hub that is 3.3 inches thick that weighs 6 pounds.  "We make it up into a wheel that can be put on any bike, making it an electric bike.  It will be a product that will sell for $399 dollars for a complete Smart Wheel, ready to go.  With a throttle, 24 Volt battery pack, and charger it will be $549." The wiring could not be much simpler.  Out of the axle comes two pairs of wires.  One pair goes to the battery pack, the other to the throttle. 

Does it really make sense to have all that spinning weight? "It really isn't that much extra weight.  The wheel ends up being 4 pounds heavier than most regular wheels.  Last year we ran in the Tour de Sol with same technology weighing sixteen and a half pounds and had no problems.  This year we've reduced down to under six.  The difference is that is smaller, simpler, and much more compact.  It can be used on the front or rear wheel, and its a pretty awesome product and you should get one for yourself."

More info can be had at 508 791-8335,,, or

        Smart Wheels
        PO Box 2883
        Worcester MA  01613

- - - - - - - - - -

Monte Gisborne's #13 `The Electrifly' is now getting a full charge.  They finally figured out that his refrigerator-sized charger was not getting 3- phase AC before.  When it got hooked up correctly, it worked just fine. 

- - - - - - - - - -

Tony Osgood gets sent everywhere to ride the #3 `Ovonic Scooter'.  "I get send to India, Taiwan, Japan, and get to play with all these fun things.  I've had a ball driving this down from New York.  The rain has made it a little tough, but riding across (the Bay Bridge into Sandy Point State Park) made up for it.  I wouldn't want anyone else me to do it.  It handles very well It doesn't feel heavy.  The center of gravity is very low.  It's very responsive.  We have almost 5 kiloWatts of peak power in this thing with 100 Newton-meters of torque at the rear wheel."

- - - - - - - - - -

Bob Thomas with the #14 `Slipstream' team, told me that they were trying to weld on the half-shafts onto the new differential they bought yesterday.  "The splines were not right.  They were ground off and now we're trying to weld them on."

- - - - - - - - - -

I've learned, from years gone past, that it is not at all unusual to see a member from one team riding as navigator in another team's car during the rally.  This morning I observed one of the `Helios the Heron V' kids riding shotgun for the Toyota `Prius', the pace car of the NESEA Tour and someone from #72 `Sungo' was navigating in #94 `Hopper EV'.  Also young volunteer Mike Skelly was riding in #59 `59 Berkeley', and his younger sister Kate Skelly was in #10 `Honda EV Plus'. 

- - - - - - - - - -

Speaking of Helios, I have a question for Karen Budde (Helios' driver and Latin teacher at Riverside School): would a single team member be referred to as a Helium?

- - - - - - - - - -

And, finally, some notes from the awards presentations and display on Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The podium was set up with the Capital Dome in the background.  Surrounding the dome was the gray haze we have come to expect as part of an urban skyline.  Given that it had just been raining for eleven days, almost non-stop until the day before, it took no time at all for the Washington DC air to revert to its normal state.  Could there be a more pointed reminder of the underlying purpose of the Tour de Sol?

- - - - - - - - - -

Before the Tour de Sol cars arrived at the display, a Junior Solar Sprints event was being held.  Morgan Turner of Holy Cross Elementary in Deerpark Maryland, had a car that was tearing up the asphalt.  "It's a really simple design.  We put a gear on the motor and a gear on the axle and connected it.  There are three wheels, one on the axle on the front and two on the axle on the back.  To keep the solar panel up we formed a triangle shape with pieces of cardboard and held it together with masking tape." A couple of clip leads connected the motor to the panel.  There was also a battery holder, in case there wasn't enough sunlight.  But there was plenty of sunlight, and some of the cars, such as Morgan's, were really hauling. 

Holy Cross had 13 cars in the Solar Sprint race, and there a bunch of schools. 

- - - - - - - - - -

A pick-up group of Washington staffers from Congress, the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy formed a Dixieland and Swing Band playing at the display area.  The NESEA solar panel was there providing power for the public address amplification and their electric piano. 

They didn't have a name, so the members and I came up with "The Solar Swing Band". 

- - - - - - - - - -

The luck with the #4 `Ed' just has not been good.  The parade coming over from the staging area moved so slowly that they boiled their clutch fluid and the car just did not quite make it. 

- - - - - - - - - -

I heard, by the grapevine, that #94 `Hopper EV' somehow damaged it's gear box and thus was unable to get to the display.  And Tom was so certain that the gear box was going to be much more reliable than the toothed belts he had been using. 

In the past two years, including the last time the Tour finished in DC, Tom was able to drive from his home in Concord NH to the rally start, through the event, and then home again. 

Report #72: A Reporter's Final Thoughts

Through most of these Reports, I attempt to keep an objective mind.  I'm sure it becomes obvious to some readers that I develop favorite teams as I go, but I try not to let that influence the reporting.  However in this piece I'll take off the Reporter's Hat and allow myself to be more opinionated. 

I come to the NESEA American Tour de Sol to see some of what is happening with EVs in the real world, and over the past six years I have not been disappointed. 

This has been the wettest Tour de Sol I've attended, but it was not the first one where the teams had to deal with bad-to-miserable weather.  But hey, that _is_ the real world, and the Tour de Sol mission is to show that EVs have a place in the real world. 

The cars and truck in the Production category showed that they can operate in a world of traffic and weather and accomplish their goals.  They completed each day's run effortlessly and with style. 

The `Honda EV Plus' (#10) especially presents an image of a comfortable and capable vehicle.  The `Solectria CitiVan' (#77), as a work-horse, sits at the other end of the aesthetics scale, with what I am sure had to be the worse aerodynamics of all the Tour vehicles.  Still it ran the entire course and met or beat it's advertised range every day.  The market niche it is trying to enter may well be ready for an electric delivery van, especially if it can fulfill the promise of much lower maintenance and operation costs. 

The Commuter Category was led by a pair of high school teams.  #32 `Porche 914 Electric Bull' from Shadow Mountain High in Phoenix AZ drove more miles than all but one of the Production vehicles! Close behind was `The Olympian' from the team in Cinnaminson NJ.  Here the educational purposes of the Tour de Sol shine through as the `kids' show that they are ready to take their places as adults in the EV world. 

In the DOE Hybrid Category, four college teams carried the flag for the idea that hybrid electric vehicles belong in the equation for reducing emissions.  And even as these four teams tended to be among the first under the FINISH banner, they were accompanied by the `Toyota Prius' hybrid acting as the Tour's pace car.  We need to remember some of the technical ideas explored and risks taken by the these and previous hybrids foreshadowed the corporate announcements of the past year.  The hybrid idea was explored at the NESEA Tour half-a-decade before we started to hear about the concept vehicles and commercial offerings of the auto manufacturers. 

For those in the DOE Solar Commuter Category, it felt more like the Tour de Sog.  With very little sunlight until the fourth day, it was easy to imagine these teams would fell nothing but discouragement.  Still, they pushed on, using plug-in juice, managing to generate public interest with their imaginative designs (#69 `Solar Commuter Car', # 63 `Sol Survivor IV' and #58 `NFA Sol Machine') and pure enthusiasm (#93 `Helios the Heron V'). 

The One Person Category sported another example of a vehicle that can make a difference soon.  Even though it delivered 60-to-70 mile-per-charge runs, the `Ovonic Electric Scooter' (#3) may be just a novelty in the wide open United States.  But in those smoggy and noisy cities around the world, choking on the exhaust of two-stroke engines, it could be an important part of making them more hospitable for their inhabitants. 

And the theme of the human-electric hybrid (HEH) was explored by three entrants in the One Person Category.  Is there any concept more bizarre than driving a car and taking an elevator to go to a gym to ride a stationary bicycle and use a stair machine? It seems to me that using the HEH to amplify muscle effort thus making personal transportation practical in more environments is an idea with legs. 

I also think it is important to remember those who suffered repeated technical disappointments and were exasperated by the weather, but stuck with it and kept pushing to get back in the rally.  They deserve our thanks and wishes for a better tomorrow.  In a culture obsessed on `who is best' it is important to remember those who fill the frame behind the winner's circle.  They provide the field from which the best rise and to which they return when others take their place.  The non-best are to be congratulated also for having accomplished much, especially in an area where many simply choose not to compete.  How much better for us, and them, that they tried and failed.  Let us not follow the all-too- human habit of saying that they didn't accomplish anything.  Instead, let us say that they showed us that they had the courage it takes to improve the world.  Their colleagues may have been luckier, better prepared, or even smarter, but they were no more brave.  And when today's disappointment plants the seed of tomorrow's insight, then they will try again and the rest of us will all be the better for it. 

- - - - - - - - - -

So, that's it folks; The 1998 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's American Tour de Sol United States Electric Vehicle Championship, as seen through the eyes of yours truly.  Dozen's of people volunteer their time and talents all through the year to make this happen, and I thank them for letting me be part of their event. 

I hope I've given you the opportunity to understand a little better what it is like to push the edge in electric vehicle technology and that these Reports will encourage you to seek out more information on how the ideas of electric- powered transportation and sustainable energy usage can move from novelty to reality. 

Maybe we'll meet in person at the next Tour de Sol, in 1999.  If not, I hope you and I will return here next May. 

It's been fun.