I wanted to take some time and write about my visit to the AltWheels Festival this past weekend in Boston. It was a great opportunity to see all the latest advances in eco-friendly activities, some that were merely concepts to products that could be purchased on site. It was also nice to see such a diversity of vendors at the show – from small startups to large automotive companies. There were, of course, a number of electric-based vehicles at the show and the one area that immediately hit me was the appealing designs of many them. While an eco-friendly vehicle must be priced appropriately, it must also be appealing to the basic consumer. Such design limitations have certainly hampered many manufacturers in the past.
One vehicle I was impressed with was the Vectrix motorcycle (see below). I spent some time with them and found out the basics of their key vehicle. While a zero emission based vehicle, it can reach maximum speeds up to 62 mph and has a range of 40-60 miles on a single charge of the battery. It has a nickel Metal Hydride battery with an estimated life of 10 years or 50,000 miles. Its lightweight alumimum frame gives the vehicle a weight of 462 pounds. And the design was slick. And while the costs are still a little steep at $11,000, it is certainly within reach for those who want performance and design within an eco-friendly vehicle.
I also spent some time with the GM folks and must say it was nice to hear a large American car company dedicated and committed to alternative fuel vehicles. While the source of ethanol (e.g., corn, grain) is a much debated topic, it is a very good start on shifting our dependence away from non-renewable energy sources. I was encouraged to hear many of the company’s accomplishments and goals so far. GM reports that it has nearly 2 million Flexfuel vehicles on the road today that are capable of running on E85 ethanol. And it is a goal of GM to have 50% of its entire fleet of automobiles be ethanol-based by 2012, including its Chevy Tahoe to its Chevy Suburban. Most exciting to me was the information on its fuel-cell based Equinox and in particular, its Chevy Volt with its High Energy Battery that can be configured to run on gas, ethanol or bio-diesel to recharge the battery and is hydrogen capable. While still years away, it has been report that the plug-in hydrogn could have a 300-mile range with combined battery and hydrogen power, with no gas (emissions-free). Can’t wait to see this vehicle in the mainstream.