Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

The Car, 2.0

By Sandy Skees on April 5, 2010

Is the world ready for a new generation of cars, particularly the electric kind? There are at least 41 teams hard at work, and competing, on the assumption that the world is not just ready, but that it’s in desperate need for Car 2.0.

Energy and transportation analysts as well as green media sites like Earth2Tech have begun using the Car 2.0 moniker and predicting a sizable market opportunity. The new electric car infrastructure has implications beyond reducing the highly toxic impact that current fossil fuel transportation has on the environment. Electric cars will link to the smart grid, making them efficient and connected communicating transportation.

According to Frank Cloutier, director at Future Vehicles Technologies (FVT), the car of the future will have a lot more in common with computers than its horse and buggy heritage. And Frank would know. He’s the former Vice President and CTO at HP’s imaging and printing group, and started a number of HP's businesses, including their industry leading inkjet and notebook computers. Frank is also a lifelong car enthusiast who’s managed to link those two passions into a single purpose at FVT. “After more than 30 years of bringing new technology to market, sometimes in cycles as fast as every six months, I took a long look at the flailing automobile industry and decided I could have a positive impact,” said Cloutier.

He envisions a Car 2.0 industry that brings innovation and improvements to market quickly, based on rapid technology cycles and a fabrication and assembly mentality that replaces Detroit’s more staid industrial and machining approach. “We think of our car, the eVaro, as essentially the world’s first personal driving computer. It’s fast, looks beautiful, can be programmed and controlled to minute personal specifications from the individual driver, and can be upgraded or reprogrammed to accommodate increasingly improving battery, generator, or computing technology.”

Cloutier and FVT are not alone in seeing significant market opportunity with the electric car of the future. Experts predict new markets for a smart charging infrastructure, energy storage technologies, telematics, and the wide open opportunity for onboard Smartphone applications and touch screen capabilities that are just now being created. That’s Car 2.0.

FVT is just one of the remaining 41 car teams (from a beginning field of 121) betting on the electric car of the future by participating in the Automotive X Prize. The goal of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE is to inspire a new generation of viable, safe and super fuel-efficient vehicles. $10 million in prizes will be awarded to the teams that win a rigorous stage competition for clean, production capable and super fuel efficient vehicles that exceed 100 MPG equivalent fuel economy. (MPGe)

The eVaro, FVT’s newest prototype and the next generation in hybrid development, is competing in the high performance class at the Automotive X Prize. This summer its proven specifications will be put to the test in a series of shakedowns and race at the Michigan International Speedway. Winners will be announced in Washington DC in September. Right now, the eVaro has succeeded in getting between 122 and 325 MPGe (and 100-125 mile range on electricity alone) with an onboard gas generator that promises unlimited extended range.

With a 3 hour re-charge time plug in at home, and 1 hour with on-board generator, the eVaro looks like a bright spot in the new Car 2.0 world.

Image credit: Photo courtesy FVT

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