Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

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Saturday, 19 November 2005

FCV+

Although EStarFuture‘s projected EStarCar is primarily a fuel-cell vehicle (FCV), the company has dubbed it an FCV+ because it is to have no less than nine sources of power. It is not unusual to have more than one source in an FCV, but nine has so far been unheard of (and a tenth is being considered). For example, it was not long before the same idea occurred to other FCV designers as it had a number of years ago independently occurred to Nobilangelo Ceramalus (pronounced kerra-mar-liss), the principal designer of the EStarCar, that putting an ultracapacitor buffer between the fuel-cell would enable the motor or motors to draw power far faster than a fuel-cell (or any battery) could deliver it, thus removing the limit on acceleration pickup.

An FCV plus an ultracapacitor array makes two main sources of power, but the EStarCar goes much further. It has three main sources and six secondary ones. By that means it gets as much power as it can from as many sources as possible, thus minimising the demand on the fuel-cell and extending the range of the vehicle.

No, the seven unnamed sources are not all going to be named here (there have to be some commercial secrets), and two are pretty obvious (conceptually at least--such as regenerative braking, albeit in a unique form), because they are used in FCV systems elsewhere. But the rest are not from Alpha Centauri, there is no weird stuff oozing green slime, they are all perfectly ordinary, off-the-shelf sorts of things that have been round for yonks. What makes the EStarCar unique is that it has interpreted them uniquely and put them all together into one transportation system. Here, the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts.

The EStarCar has been rethought from the ground up. Take a bare patch of road and build a vehicle on it, one that will not harm the planet or its occupants (unless they drive into something solid, like a power pole or a mountain). Follow Descartes' dictum: 'Question everything.' So don't do something just because that is the way it has always been done. Don't copy the carmakers (unless they are doing something sensible).

What is astonishing is how simple an FCV+ is, compared with an ICV (internal-combustion vehicle). No one in his right mind would attempt to build one of those from the ground up. But although it is not exactly a walk in the park, an FCV+ is comparatively straightforward. No complicated metallurgical variations across a zillion bits and pieces. No grill, no radiator, no cooling fan, no fanbelt, no engine, pistons, valves, conrods, crankshafts, etc., no gearbox, no driveshaft, no differential, no axles (each wheel has a stubby strut, but there is nothing stretching right across the car), no steel to go rusty (all-alloy construction), no mechanical linkages to speak of--and motors with just one moving part delivering pure rotary motion and lots of torque, right from zero revs. The wonderful list goes on and on; the horrible list is empty.

Click to see the EStarCar page. Two mockups are shown, a four-wheeler and a six-wheeler (four- and six-wheel steering). But the EStarCar's bolt-on body can be customised to any shape that fits its chassis, so those are only two of an infinite number of possible four-metre shapes. The chassis is also extendible, so longer vehicles can be configured, with more wheels if necessary for more traction and/or more power (all-wheel steering no matter how many wheels).