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Old 10-05-2008, 02:11 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Alt Car Expo Los Angeles 2008

Hello -

What once was ... What may well be again ...

Last weekend my wife and I visited the 3rd annual Alternive Energy and Transportation Expo. I have to admit I went with low expectations. Maybe I was jaded after attending the first two expos. That first year was great because there were no expectations. I was happy just to see a gathering of vehicles that I wish were part of the general automotive marketplace. Hybrids, biodeisel, and electrics were well represented, but I came to see the electrics as "the Big Kahunas". Even so, the selection was just not there. Either you had to spend exoticar prices to have a working electric, or you had to settle for an NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle). NEVs are important to prove electric automobile technology, but a 25 MPH speed limit is a non-starter for the majority of you and me. When I went the second year, I was disappointed because of that feeling of Déjà Vu. Nothing had changed.

This year was different for two reasons. First, the venue had changed from a veritable airplane hanger at Santa Monica Airport to the Santa Monica Auditorium (not the LA Convention Center, but a step-up none the less). Second, I saw an interesting new set of electrics.

The Triac was the first one I noticed, made by Green Vehicles of San Jose, California. From the front you assume you're looking at the Cousin Vinny of a Smart. However, as you walk around the car, you soon learn that there is only one wheel in the back, just like the Aptera (which wasn't at the show). It has a top speed of 80 MPH, so there is no limit to where it can go, excluding off-road. The big number I noticed was it's claim of a 100 mile range on just one charge. That puts it in the ballpark of long-distance commuters like me.

The second car I noticed was, well, just a car. It was the 4 door Chevrolet Aveo hatchback, at least on the outside :

Inside it was a full function electric. It had been converted by Arizona-based Electric Blue systems using 12 Deka EV31 12 volt batteries. From a safety and creature comfort standpoint, it is equal to any compact car. Also, it has a normal speed limit of 85 MPH (sorry, outrunning the cops isn't an option). They also offer a 4-door Yaris hatchback conversion. The only fly in the ointment is the range, which is 40 miles. From my POV, this is the reincarnation of the electric Toyota Rav-4 (still in faithful service to the city of Santa Monica as you can see).

But for me the most interesting car was not what it seemed. At first it appeared to be an exoticar electric conversion of a 1999 Porsche Boxster. As I approached I started to get confused. No batteries, but a lot of cylindrical tanks. Ok, it must be an NGV (natural gas vehicle) conversion. Wrong again. Some of the tanks were scuba tanks. That didn't make sense unless ... yup, a compressed air car! This was the debut of GIMM Inc's MINN-AER drivetrain. MIIN-AER stands for Minimally Intrusive (to the environment) Intensely pNeumatic-Air Energy Recovery. Until now my assumption was that the only working air-car was the French MDI compressed-air car, whose technology was recently licensed by Tata Motors of India. But now I know of a second living breathing (or just holding its breath?) compressed air car of a different flavor.

It's still just a prototype, but it can reach 65 MPH with a 50 mile range. The inventor is targeting 100 miles in future versions, and hopes to use the compressed air design as a way to store unused energy from renewable energy sources. So, the technology is not just for moving from A to B, it's for washing your dishes too.

So, maybe the 3rd annual Alt-Car Expo is the charm after all. Now I can't wait until next year!


Links :

Alt Car Expo - The Alternative Car and Transportation Expo (The expo)
Electric Blue Motors - Home (Electric Yaris - $22,995, Aveo - $19,995)
Green Vehicles (Triac - $22,995)
AirFuelAuto : Home (Porsche Boxster MINN-AER car)
Compressed-air car - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Compressed-air car)


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