The green machine:
StreetScooter is first of its kind low cost, light weight and environment friendly electric car being developed by a group of 80 auto parts suppliers, engineering firms, and electronics companies. Coordinated by the RWTH Aachen University, this project showcases a unique example of low cost automobile production. Each partner has collaborated to provide with best of their technology to maintain the low cost and the green credentials proposed initially. Showcased recently at the Frankfurt motor show, the StreetScooter boasts of many innovations to establish it as a green vehicle for the masses in coming years.
StreetScooter is a completely electric vehicle. It will run on rechargeable batteries and help save the scarce conventional fuels. This will provide the governments and research agencies with an opportunity to explore renewable sources for producing electricity to recharge the batteries. The vehicle uses latest communication technology such as smart phone-based plug-in solution.
Also, the developers have designed a new solution for heating and air conditioning. While the heating and air conditioning systems of conventional vehicles are known to have negative effect on the fuel economy, the StreetScooter provides a new solution for this. According to Professor Achim Kampker, CEO of StreetScooter GmbH, the new heat pump used in the vehicle consumes only about 20 per cent of energy as compared to conventional systems.
The electric vehicle has been designed to achieve a top speed of about 74 miles per hour. It can run for about 50 miles on a single recharge. In comparison to other electric cars that are converted combustion engine vehicles, the engine of StreetScooter has been developed from scratch to provide a ‘safe and reliable car for use in an urban environment.’
The prototype of the vehicle consists of several adjustable steel sections which can be adjusted to produce derivatives such as a two-seater, a convertible or a compact utility vehicle by the producers. A modular lithium-ion battery system is placed in the underbody of the car. Customers will have the freedom to opt for one, two or three batteries according to their needs. Each battery can last for about 28 miles on a single recharge.
For ensuring the safety of users, the car has been equipped with two front air bags, anti-lock braking systems and an electronic stability program. In most of the electric cars, the high voltage batteries put the users at risk during accidents and even the garage workers need to be specially trained to handle them. However, according to Professor Kampker, the 60V battery would pose no danger to users in case of an accident.
The StreetScooter has been designed for urban consumers who travel everyday for about 10-25 kilometer. This will provide them an opportunity to have the benefit of traveling in a personal vehicle and without contributing to global green house gas emissions. The low price will induce many two-wheeler owners to opt for a car-like experience while commuting for job, business or colleges. The system is also equipped with modern infotainment gadgets and will provide the users an opportunity for recreation. They can play popular smart phone games like Angry Birds.
Also, there is an integrated touch pad for displaying the battery status instead of the conventional battery guage. The developers have devised an innovative plan for keeping the cost of the vehicle low. As such, the buyers will have the freedom to get a battery on lease and pay the cost in monthly installments. The battery will be replaced for free if it turns out defective.
The present model of this lightweight electric vehicle is a two-seater and offers little space for luggage. It will face stiff competition from other popular models which provides more comfort, though they are costly and not affordable by all. Also, one of the major problem that has hampered the popularity of electric vehicles is the availability of recharge stations. The mass acceptance of StreetScooter will be possible only if proper recharging solutions are also developed alongside the vehicle itself.
Also, since most of electricity is produced from non-renewable sources, it is difficult to assess the overall green credentials of the new vehicle. The popularity of electric cars may increase the burden on conventional sources of power and this would remain unless renewable and environment friendly energy sources are also explored.
Cost and availability:
The StreetScooter will be available for $7,000. The commercial production of the vehicle will start for European markets in 2013.