WBEZ | electric cars http://www.wbez.org/tags/electric-cars Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Hydrogen-Powered Cars Cant Make it Without These '4 Miracles' http://www.wbez.org/news/hydrogen-powered-cars-cant-make-it-without-these-4-miracles-114511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/IMG_5586.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Battery-powered cars and trucks seem to be winning the day as the way forward to increase fuel efficiency and to cut carbon pollution.</p><p>But there was a time when we heard a lot about fuel cells. The cells convert hydrogen into electricity that can then power a car or truck.</p><p>That hype died down as people realized there are significant barriers to powering our vehicles with hydrogen.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><u><strong><a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/hydrogen-powered-cars-cant-make-it-without-these-4-miracles#stream/0">Listen to the Story</a></strong></u></em></p><p>One year ago, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk&nbsp;spoke at a news conference on the subject.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to turn this into a debate on hydrogen fuel cells because I just think that they&rsquo;re extremely silly,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just very difficult to make hydrogen and store it and use it in a car.&rdquo;</p><p>(Scroll to 10:20 in this&nbsp;<a href="https://youtu.be/Y_e7rA4fBAo">video&nbsp;</a>to hear his statement.)</p><p>And he hasn&#39;t been the only one to say using fuel cells to power vehicles isn&#39;t the best idea. In 2009, then U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said it would take &quot;four miracles&quot; to make fuel cells in cars work.</p><p>His statement was captured by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.plugincars.com/energy-secretary-chu-opening-his-mind-hydrogen-121603.html">MIT Technology Review</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Right now, the way we get hydrogen primarily is from reforming gas. That&#39;s not an ideal source of hydrogen...The other problem is, if it&#39;s for transportation, we don&#39;t have a good storage mechanism yet. What else? The fuel cells aren&#39;t there yet, and the distribution infrastructure isn&#39;t there yet. In order to get significant deployment, you need four significant technological breakthroughs. If you need&nbsp;four miracles, that&#39;s unlikely. Saints only need three miracles.&quot;</p></blockquote><p><strong>But hydrogen is not dead.</strong></p><p>I decided to check in with a few automakers at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I asked several of them where their fuel cell programs are today.</p><p>It seems like a lot of car companies still have their toes in the fuel cell game, but some are pushing ahead faster than others &mdash; especially the Japanese automakers like Honda and Toyota, and Korean automaker Hyundai.</p><div><a href="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/x_large/public/201501/fcv_honda_hydrogen_pfleger.jpg?_ga=1.207434771.1416796484.1452271812"><img data-interchange-default="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/default/public/201501/fcv_honda_hydrogen_pfleger.jpg" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/large/public/201501/fcv_honda_hydrogen_pfleger.jpg" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/medium/public/201501/fcv_honda_hydrogen_pfleger.jpg" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/small/public/201501/fcv_honda_hydrogen_pfleger.jpg" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/large/public/201501/fcv_honda_hydrogen_pfleger.jpg" style="height: 206px; width: 310px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="Honda's FCV Clarity concept at last years Detroit auto show in 2014. (PAIGE PFLEGER / MICHIGAN RADIO)" /></a><div><div>One of the concepts I&#39;ve seen displayed at past auto shows is the Honda FCV Clarity. &nbsp;</div></div></div><p>Honda executives say they&#39;re planning a limited release of&nbsp;the&nbsp;<a href="http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/">Clarity</a>&nbsp;in California later this year. They say the car will roll out in Japan sooner.</p><p>I asked John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, why the company is investing in fuel cell technology when people like Elon Musk are calling it silly to do so.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, for the same reason that Elon talks about fuel cells being silly &mdash; we don&rsquo;t think they&rsquo;re silly,&quot; he says. &quot;We think, you know, hydrogen is still the most abundant element in the universe. And that technology is rapidly changing.&rdquo;</p><p>Mendel says his company, Honda, and Musk&rsquo;s company, Tesla Motors, are on the same page in that they both believe in &ldquo;electrification.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just, where do you get your electricity?&rdquo; he says.</p><p>He&rsquo;s saying there&rsquo;s a shared belief between the companies: that electric motors are the future of the industry. The difference between the companies is that Honda believes fuel cells can be a technology used to power those electric motors. Musk is all-in on batteries, so that&#39;s where&nbsp;<a href="https://www.teslamotors.com/gigafactory">his investments are</a>.</p><p>Mendel says Honda is working on all these technologies simultaneously: Batteries in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and, yes, fuel cells.</p><p><strong>What about American car companies?</strong></p><p>Of the big three, GM has been the biggest player in the hydrogen fuel cell field.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><div><a href="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/x_large/public/201601/GM_FC_Equinox.jpeg?_ga=1.207434771.1416796484.1452271812"><img data-interchange-default="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/default/public/201601/GM_FC_Equinox.jpeg" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/large/public/201601/GM_FC_Equinox.jpeg" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/medium/public/201601/GM_FC_Equinox.jpeg" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/small/public/201601/GM_FC_Equinox.jpeg" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/michigan/files/styles/large/public/201601/GM_FC_Equinox.jpeg" style="height: 242px; width: 310px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="A GM hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Equinox. A fleet of these test vehicles launched in 2007. (STEVE FECHT / GENERAL MOTORS)" /></a><div>Several years ago, it seemed like the company was betting fuel cells would be the future of electric cars, but now they&rsquo;re really pushing their battery-powered cars and they&rsquo;re not saying much about their fuel cell program.</div></div><p>I caught up with Mark Reuss at the Detroit auto show. He&#39;s the head of Global Product Development for GM.</p><p>He says the company still has a hydrogen program; it just doesn&#39;t know where exactly it&#39;s going with it.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve worked very hard over the years to have leadership technically in the fuel stacks and the fuel cell program, and we believe we have that,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So we&rsquo;ve got an open book on what we do with our fuel cell, but we&rsquo;ve got a great technology here, so we&rsquo;re very excited.&rdquo;</p><p>Reuss said their program is moving forward. He says the&nbsp;<a href="http://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/home.detail.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2015/nov/1119-tardec.html">U.S. Department of Defense plans to test</a>&nbsp;some of their fuel cell technology in the field.</p><p><strong>So where are we with the &quot;four miracles&quot; Secretary Chu talked about?</strong></p><p><strong>&quot;Miracle&quot; no. 1: Infrastructure for hydrogen</strong></p><p>Of the companies I spoke with, this seems to be the biggest hurdle. If you have a hydrogen fuel cell car, where do you get your hydrogen gas?</p><p>GM&#39;s Reuss&nbsp;told me infrastructure is a big reason for why GM is holding back on a commercial release of fuel cell vehicles. That&#39;s why the more aggressive fuel cell&nbsp;carmakers, like Honda, are planning limited commercial releases in California - that&#39;s where most of the hydrogen fueling stations are in the U.S.</p><p>You can see a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/hydrogen_locations.html">map of hydrogen</a>&nbsp;stations here.&nbsp;Los Angeles has the most. And the U.S. Department of Energy says California has a plan to build 100 more hydrogen stations in the next seven years.</p><p>More from a statement from the Department of Energy:</p><blockquote><p>In addition, the governors of eight states&mdash;California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont&mdash;signed a memorandum of understanding committing to having 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on the roads in their states by 2025.&nbsp; FCEVs are an important part of this portfolio.</p></blockquote><p>But as of now, fueling stations are definitely not widespread, so automakers are not likely to pursue hydrogen unless they see more investments in infrastructure.</p><p><strong>&quot;Miracle&quot; no. 2: Fuel cells are expensive to build</strong></p><p>Here&#39;s a basic explanation of how they work:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="448" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yowRvfFtMgQ" width="663"></iframe></p><p>Platinum is the dominant material used in the catalyst of these fuel cells (the cathode and anode portion of the fuel stack).</p><p>Platinum: as expensive, if not more expensive, than gold.</p><p>The DOE tells me that over time, they&#39;ve been able to reduce the amount of platinum required in fuel cells:</p><blockquote><p>DOE-funded research has reduced automotive fuel cell cost to $53/kW projected at 500,000 units/year and $60/kW at 100,000 units/year. This is more than a 50% cost reduction since 2006. Cost reductions reflect numerous individual advances in key areas, including a five-fold reduction in the platinum content of fuel cell catalysts and the development of durable membrane electrode assemblies with low platinum group metal content.</p></blockquote><p>The DOE says the durability of fuel cells has also been improving.</p><p><strong>&quot;Miracle&quot; no. 3: How do you make the hydrogen?</strong></p><p>To get hydrogen gas, you have to make it. Right now, the cheapest way to get the gas is by reformulating natural gas. So right away, you&#39;re using a carbon-based fuel to get the stuff - not ideal.</p><p>Another way to get the gas is from water. Using electrolysis you can capture the gas from water. The question becomes: where do you get your electricity to do this? There&#39;s more research being done on how to do this with solar energy. And just like the fuel cells themselves, the DOE says the cost of doing so is coming down:</p><blockquote><p>If produced at high-volume, the cost of hydrogen from renewables/ electrolyzers could be around $5/gge even using today&rsquo;s electrolyzer technology. The cost of hydrogen from renewables will decrease even further using longer term approaches (e.g., direct solar photo-electro chemical conversion). We&rsquo;ve also reduced the cost of producing hydrogen from renewables by decreasing the cost of electrolyzers by 80% since 2002.</p></blockquote><p>And even if natural gas remains as the cheapest way to get the gas, the DOE contends that &quot;because a fuel cell is more than twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine, an FCEV travels farther on that tank of hydrogen than a traditional car would on a tank of gasoline.&quot;</p><p>Honda says it&#39;s also looking at purchasing the hydrogen by-product from refineries around the U.S. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>&quot;Miracle&quot; no. 4: The hydrogen gas tank challenge</strong></p><p>To store enough hydrogen on a vehicle to get the 200 to 300 mile ranges we are accustomed to, the gas has to be pressurized.</p><p>High-pressure tanks that can do the job often end up being quite heavy, which starts to affect the car&#39;s fuel economy (the heavier the car, the less efficient it often is).</p><p>To make a tank that can do the job, carbon fiber is often used, and, once again, we&#39;re using an expensive material. The DOE responds that progress is being made here too:</p><blockquote><p>Based on the latest assessment, the cost of high-pressure hydrogen storage systems are projected to be less than $15/kWh (equivalent to $2,800 for the system) compared to the 2020 target of $10/kWh (equivalent to $1,860).&nbsp; Long term materials based approaches for low pressure hydrogen storage are still being pursued.</p></blockquote><p>So, the long and short of it is that progress is being made, but there&#39;s still a lot of work to be done for us to get to full commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.</p><p>Carl Brauer, an auto analyst with car valuing and research company&nbsp;<a href="http://www.kbb.com/">Kelley Blue Book</a>, says when it comes to batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, it&rsquo;s not an either-or.</p><p>&ldquo;I always try to tell people that there isn&rsquo;t a silver bullet when it comes to personal transportation,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Instead, there&rsquo;s seven or eight bronze bullets. We&rsquo;re going to have different technologies that work under different circumstances. And I definitely think there will be a place for hydrogen fuel.&rdquo;</p><p>Brauer says where that place is, and how mainstream it becomes, is still in question. As of now,&nbsp;Hyundai has started leasing its Tucson FCEV, Toyota announced it will sell its Mirai FCEV, and Honda plans to roll out the FCV Clarity later this year. These will all be limited releases, but it&#39;s a start toward a test of the hydrogen-based economy.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/hydrogen-powered-cars-cant-make-it-without-these-4-miracles#stream/0" target="_blank"><em>via Michigan Radio</em></a></p></p> Tue, 12 Jan 2016 11:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hydrogen-powered-cars-cant-make-it-without-these-4-miracles-114511 How a folding electric vehicle went from car of the future to 'obsolete' http://www.wbez.org/news/how-folding-electric-vehicle-went-car-future-obsolete-113679 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/63861601_h16654603_wide-ce3e65aa2b314b688b16253cc291b8ecf6ee1b59-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res454709501" previewtitle="There was a lot of excitement in 2012, when the Hiriko car was unveiled at this event at European Union headquarters in Brussels. At the time, the then-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, hailed the car as a trans-Atlantic &quot;exchange between the world of science and the world of business.&quot;"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="There was a lot of excitement in 2012, when the Hiriko car was unveiled at this event at European Union headquarters in Brussels. At the time, the then-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, hailed the car as a trans-Atlantic &quot;exchange between the world of science and the world of business.&quot;" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/04/63861601_h16654603_wide-ce3e65aa2b314b688b16253cc291b8ecf6ee1b59-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="There was a lot of excitement in 2012, when the Hiriko car was unveiled at this event at European Union headquarters in Brussels. At the time, the then-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, hailed the car as a trans-Atlantic &quot;exchange between the world of science and the world of business.&quot; (Zhou Lei/Xinhua/Landov)" /></div><div><p>This story is the latest in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/series/155914958/npr-cities">NPR&#39;s Cities Project</a>.</p></div></div><p>A few years ago, engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology debuted a design, a decade in the making, for a car that would transform urban transportation.</p><p><a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/news/408982/a-carbon-free-stackable-rental-car/">They called it the CityCar</a>. It&#39;s a small, electric two-seat pod, with &quot;robot wheels.&quot; It looks like a futuristic Volkswagen Beetle.</p><p>With zero tailpipe emissions, the idea was that it would not pollute. With four wheels that maneuver 120 degrees individually, it could turn on a dime. The door is on the front. So, when parked front-end-in, drivers and passengers could avoid stepping into traffic. And the whole car would fold up &mdash; such that seven vehicles could fit into two normal-sized parking spaces.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ojqAI33YBN4?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></p><p>The cars would be shared, not owned &mdash; parked at train stations where people could pick them up, as people do with a bike share. The goal was to give people more options to avoid owning a car.</p><p>Kent Larson, director of&nbsp;<a href="http://cities.media.mit.edu/about/initiative">MIT&#39;s City Science Initiative</a>, told NPR the CityCar was a complete rethink of the automobile, aimed at making cities more livable.</p><p>&quot;I have seen estimates that in New York City up to 40 percent of the energy consumed by automobiles is by people circling the block looking for a parking space, so you eliminate all of that wasted energy, all of that wasted time and you remove vehicles off of the street,&quot; Larson said.</p><p>There was a tremendous amount of excitement about the design, and in Europe some leaders saw the CityCar as the solution to many urban ills.</p><p>The rise and fall of the CityCar illustrates the challenges of inventing the transportation of the future.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MONIa4zdLdY?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>The Production Phase And Public Money</strong></p><p>In 2008, a consortium of small companies in Spain got together to transform the CityCar into a commercial reality.</p><p><a href="http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/susdevtopics/sdt_pdfs/meetings2012/statements/espiau.pdf">The Hiriko project</a>&nbsp;promised to create green jobs at a time when Spain&#39;s manufacturing sector was hemorrhaging. It had the power to transform economically depressed fishing villages in the Basque Country into hubs of high-tech creativity, its backers said.</p><p>They renamed the car &quot;Hiriko,&quot; which means &quot;urban&quot; in the Basque language, Euskera. Entrepreneurs created a nonprofit parent company, Afypaida, to manage public money pouring into the project.</p><p>At the height of Spain&#39;s economic crisis, the Spanish government pledged some $16 million, and the Basque local authorities gave about $2.2 million. The European Union also devoted millions from a European social fund, for a total Hiriko budget exceeding $80 million.</p><div id="res454710174" previewtitle="The then-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso (left), and Jesus Echave, the Spanish chairman of a consortium of seven small Basque companies, sit together in a prototype of the Hiriko car, during a 2012 event in Brussels."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The then-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso (left), and Jesus Echave, the Spanish chairman of a consortium of seven small Basque companies, sit together in a prototype of the Hiriko car, during a 2012 event in Brussels." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/04/gettyimages-137639876-ca9196f0c0b7bc38f27b077587a53bb864d36710-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The then-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso (left), and Jesus Echave, the Spanish chairman of a consortium of seven small Basque companies, sit together in a prototype of the Hiriko car, during a 2012 event in Brussels." /></div><div><div><p>&quot;This is a small, folding and smart electric car, but it is also much more than that. It is European social innovation at its best,&quot; said the then-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso,&nbsp;<a href="http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/m-i-t-citycar-renamed-hiriko-is-headed-to-production/?_r=0">at a 2012 event debuting the car</a>&nbsp;in Brussels. He heralded it as a trans-Atlantic &quot;exchange between the world of science and the world of business.&quot;</p></div></div></div><p>Barroso climbed into the car and got a demonstration from Jesus Echave, the Spanish chairman of the Hiriko consortium. Cameras clicked and both men beamed.</p><p>That was 2012.</p><p><strong>How The Project Fell Apart</strong></p><p>Now three years later, Echave and six associates have been placed under formal investigation for alleged misuse of public funds and falsifying documents. Afypaida ceased operations in April 2013, and laid off all of its employees, some of whom are now suing for severance pay. The company is currently in receivership, with its assets frozen.</p><p>Ex-employees of Hiriko have since come forward to say that pieces of the prototype debuted in Brussels were held together with Velcro and superglue.</p><p>NPR reached out to all seven officials under indictment, either directly or through their companies or lawyers. All either refused to comment, or did not respond to multiple requests.</p><div id="res454704584">&quot;They&#39;re politically well-connected businessmen with no prior experience building electric cars. They used this public money to line their own pockets,&quot; says Igor Lopez de Munain, a member of the Basque parliament who has been investigating the Hiriko case. &quot;I believe they never had plans to bring these cars to market. It was all theater!&quot;</div><p>But one of the project&#39;s chief engineers, Carlos Fernandez Isoird, told NPR that all of the money did indeed go to the project, and was not embezzled for personal use.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s expensive to bring a car from design to commercial viability. Ask GM or any of the big companies, and they&#39;ll tell you it takes more than 10 times the budget we had!&quot; he says.</p><p>Fernandez Isoird described a web of seven small engineering firms, including his firm, Denokinn, each tasked with producing a different aspect of the Hiriko car &mdash; the exterior body, the robot wheels, etc.</p><p>&quot;There were problems with a lack of unity in vision, and communication, among all those companies &mdash; too many moving parts,&quot; he says. &quot;This wasn&#39;t a normal car. It was a mobility project. But a lot of the conventional engineers didn&#39;t understand that.&quot;</p><p><strong>What Happened To The Hiriko</strong></p><p>People involved with the project tell NPR that several prototypes were built in Spain. We tried to track down the original, which was based on the MIT design.</p><p>Several sources said they had last seen it at a warehouse in an industrial park on the outskirts of the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz.</p><p>Today, the building seems abandoned, a flock of geese nesting at its entrance. Knocks at the door turned up no answer. The whereabouts of the Hiriko car remain a mystery.</p><div id="res454719842" previewtitle="Outside of the abandoned headquarters of Epsilon Euskadi, one of the companies tasked with building the Hiriko car in Spain. The consortium's parent company, Afypaida, went out of business in 2013. Several sources told NPR that the Hiriko prototype was kept here, in an industrial park outside the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. But the building is empty now."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Outside of the abandoned headquarters of Epsilon Euskadi, one of the companies tasked with building the Hiriko car in Spain. The consortium's parent company, Afypaida, went out of business in 2013. Several sources told NPR that the Hiriko prototype was kept here, in an industrial park outside the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. But the building is empty now." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/04/hiriko1-2e9ba2bfb11268d05a8a499757f511fd4a562ee2-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 224px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Outside of the abandoned headquarters of Epsilon Euskadi, one of the companies tasked with building the Hiriko car in Spain. The consortium's parent company, Afypaida, went out of business in 2013. Several sources told NPR that the Hiriko prototype was kept here, in an industrial park outside the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. But the building is empty now." /></div><div><div><p><strong>MIT Moves On</strong></p></div></div></div><p>Creators of the original CityCar didn&#39;t know where to find the Hiriko either and they emphasize that a firewall limits their involvement with the commercial production of their inventions. MIT is a nonprofit institution.</p><p>But the inventors are not in mourning. In fact, it&#39;s probably for the best, says team leader Kent Larson, because in the time it took to try to manufacture Hiriko, its technology has already become &quot;obsolete.&quot;</p><p>He says autonomous vehicles will make the folding feature of the CityCar unnecessary.</p><p>&quot;It was actually a great thing, because at that point we had all kinds of new ideas we wanted to explore,&quot; he says. &quot;[We&#39;ve] moved on from a vehicle that folds to save space, to one that doesn&#39;t ever need to be parked.&quot;</p><p>Larson is currently developing a new self-driving electric vehicle that would be almost constantly in motion, for people who don&#39;t own a car. It would drive itself &mdash; or you &mdash; around the city.</p><p>&quot;We realized that perhaps the ideal urban vehicle is an ultralightweight one-person, three-wheel vehicle that&#39;s bikelike, not carlike. It operates on bike lanes, not roads ... and uses very inexpensive sensing and processing, rather than very expensive systems on highway-speed autonomous vehicles,&quot; he explained. &quot;If you have a shared fleet of vehicles ... that serves a population appropriately at rush hour, then you have excess vehicles off-peak. So we transform the vehicle to move goods autonomously &mdash; packages.&quot;</p><div id="res454704617">So it could, say, pick you up from work &mdash; or pick up your groceries, without you.</div><p>They call it the PEV &mdash; the&nbsp;<a href="https://slice.mit.edu/2015/10/26/a-vehicle-for-the-future/">Persuasive Electric Vehicle</a>. It would be low cost and lightweight, with three bicyclelike wheels. It looks a bit like a 21st-century rickshaw.</p><p>Larson says this idea &mdash; like the CityCar &mdash; meets three key criteria for a Media Lab project.</p><p>&quot;They need to have the potential of having impact. They need to be unique &mdash; can&#39;t duplicate what others have done or what you&#39;ve done in the past. And they need to have some qualities of magic. They need to excite people and capture the imagination.&quot;</p><p>Larson says MIT will probably test a prototype of the PEV &mdash; a potentially city-changing new vehicle &mdash; in Europe.</p><p>&quot;Our goal right now is to do a test next year ... and if it proves to be as successful as we think it will be, we&#39;ll work with a company to commercialize it or we&#39;ll spin off a startup to commercialize it,&quot; he says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FQhkj7ctEzw?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em>NPR&#39;s Elise Hu contributed to this story.</em></p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/11/05/454693583/how-a-folding-electric-vehicle-went-from-car-of-the-future-to-obsolete?ft=nprml&amp;f=454693583" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 12:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-folding-electric-vehicle-went-car-future-obsolete-113679 Electric vehicle company to open local plant http://www.wbez.org/news/electric-vehicle-company-open-local-plant-104076 <p><p>An electric vehicle manufacturer says it will open its third American factory in Chicago.</p><p><a href="http://www.smithelectric.com/about-smith/overview/">Smith Electric Vehicles</a> makes and sells zero-emission commercial electric vehicles for industries like retail, grocery and delivery. The company already has two plants in the US: the company&#39;s headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., and a manufacturing facility in New York City.<br />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he expects the company will bring at least 100 jobs to the city.</p><p>&quot;It does go to prove, for all those who have been skeptics that being pro-environmental is being pro-jobs and the two are not in conflict, they&rsquo;re complimentary,&quot; Emanuel said.<br /><br />The announcement comes on the heels of the city&rsquo;s new<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-hall-wants-diesel-drivers-swap-electric-vehicles-104047"> $15 million dollar incentive program</a> that the mayor hopes will encourage companies to convert from diesel fleets to electric ones.<br /><br />Some Chicago companies, such as <a href="http://www.testaproduce.com/">Testa Produce</a> on the city&rsquo;s South Side, already use Smith vehicles.<br /><br />The location of the new plant hasn&rsquo;t been decided yet.</p></p> Wed, 28 Nov 2012 13:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/electric-vehicle-company-open-local-plant-104076 Chicago to get more electric car charging stations http://www.wbez.org/science/chicago-get-more-electric-car-charging-stations-98417 <p><p>Electric car drivers will soon have more stations at Chicago's airports where they can charge the vehicles.</p><p>The Chicago City Council approved the proposal to expand the number of electric charging stations Thursday.</p><p>O'Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport each will have six stations that can charge a vehicle in four to six hours and one station that can charge a vehicle in less than an hour.</p><p>A concession agreement lets the Chicago Department of Aviation collect a portion of revenue from the charging stations. CDA will be reimbursed for the cost of electricity as part of the revenue sharing agreement.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the charging stations are an example of his administration's commitment to make Chicago a green city.</p></p> Fri, 20 Apr 2012 09:44:33 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/science/chicago-get-more-electric-car-charging-stations-98417 Quinn vetoes power grid bill, praises electric cars http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-vetoes-power-grid-bill-praises-electric-cars-91089 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-26/Nissan leaf electric car_Flickr_Mariordo59.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn praised Nissan for beginning to sell its all-electric car in Illinois and at the same time again vowed to veto a power grid bill.</p><p>The bill would let electric companies raise their rates to help pay for modernizing the state's power grid.</p><p>Quinn said Thursday that vetoing the bill won't impact the rollout of more electric cars. He has criticized it for raising rates. He says the measure needs improvement, something that can be worked out after he vetoes what lawmakers passed.</p><p>Quinn made his comments at a news conference to announce Nissan would begin delivering its new car, called the Leaf, to people from Illinois who ordered them by the fall. The car already has been released in some American and global markets.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 26 Aug 2011 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-vetoes-power-grid-bill-praises-electric-cars-91089 Should city stickers be free for electric cars? http://www.wbez.org/story/city-stickers/should-city-stickers-be-free-electric-cars-85157 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-13/P1000555.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A Chicago alderman wants to give owners of electric and hybrid cars a break on the cost of their city sticker. But under the plan, owners of most other vehicles would pay more than they do now.<br> <br> Ald. Joe Moreno of the First Ward said the move could bring the city an extra $21 million a year.<br> <br> "Right now, we don't really have enough of a deliniation between a motorcycle and a Hummer," said Moreno, who introduced the proposed ordinance at Wednesday's City Council meeting. "And I just think it's fair that the hybrid vehicle, the smaller vehicle, pays less than they do today. And the Hummer, the larger vehicles, the gas-guzzling ones that are harder on our streets, make the potholes, take up more room, pay more."<br> <br> Owners of regular passenger cars would pay $20 more for their sticker than they do now. Moreno said he is open to amending the plan to temporarily protect owners of old clunkers from the price hike.<br> <br> Meantime, city stickers would be free for electric cars, while those for small hybrids would cost only $25.<br> <br> The proposal now goes to a city council committee.</p></p> Wed, 13 Apr 2011 22:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/city-stickers/should-city-stickers-be-free-electric-cars-85157