Sunday, February 24, 2008

All About Electric & Hybrid Cars Nugget

This post is one in a series where I capture
"nuggets" of information from books
that we can also use for our references
or to back up our arguments.

In All About Electric & Hybrid Cars by Robert J. Traister
Copyright 1982 by TAB BOOKS, INC, Blue Ridge Summit, PA

on pages 82-88 discusses controlling the speed of electric motors.

This is a very expensive and important topic
and was actually the bottleneck for Toyota
in developing the 80 G21 designs into the
Hybrid Synergy Drive that came may failures
and years later. The most expensive was the
decision to start a factory to manufacturer
power controllers because they could not source them.

Traister writes from an engineering perspective
and explains how the "gas pedal" works in electrics and hybrids:

Rather than controlling the amount of air that enters a gasoline engine,
turning off and on the electricity to the motor depending on where the
gas pedal is describes pulsing or controlling the motor so you can drive.

Traister cites silicon-controlled rectifiers (SCRs) as the best devices
because they are highly efficient (95%). Compare that with burning
gasoline one of every four strokes (25%). Remember that electric
motors and batteries have been described as 90% efficient in my
interview with a Tesla Motors VP.

PROS = Secret Black Box
Although the SCR has no moving parts, it can clearly be wired
or programmed to perform differently. I believe that nearby is
where you will find billions of dollars of R&D monies invested
over the next 100 years of digital car development.

Probably in the system controllers that tell the SCR
WHEN, which way and what to do,
both in terms of hardware and software.

CONS = Cost
In 1982 dollars, Traister quoted SCR choppers for 400 amps
for the do-it-yourself electric or hybrid vehicle builder at
$750 to $3000 each.

Even back in the day, Traister agreeed with my silver bullet R&D hypothesis
of controllers over batteries by closing the chapter with,
"Much research and development is presently underway by various companies in the motor controller field. A listing of some of these manufacturers can be found in the appendices of this book."

The list was long 25 years ago and I've taken the time to list the names of organizations from Traister's 1983 Appendix E here ON CONTROLLERS: Brewer Associates, Cableform, Inc., Curtis Instruments, Dart Controls, Inc., EHB Systems, Inc., Electric Motion Control Corp., Electric Regulator, EVC Inc., Fengler Controls, FMC Corporation, General Electric Company, General Power Corporation, H.B. Electrical Mfg. Co., Inc., Propel Inc., RH Electronics, Robert Borsche Corporation, Ross Engineering Corporation, Sevcon, Siskiyou Energy Systems, Soleq Corporation, Uniparts Inc. and Unitron Corp.

Now that's a much lower profile yet arguably more important
list than what you see today, and Secret Black Boxes are
just as hidden even though the end product has blossomed.

The list has grown much larger into many different lists today
and one of my favorite is the Automotive X Prize Teams.

It's amazing to see so many digital auto entrepreneurs
with so few patents and hard core controller understanding.
If I was getting into the digital auto game, I would make sure
my team knew about every controller patent out there as
well as every competitor using a controller to drive a car,
then only then, could I successfully plot the tactics to win.

Because if Toyota has a $1,000,000,000.00+ head start on SCR and controller R&D,
what company in their right mind could ever catch up. It doesn't matter if we're
talking about the next great battery, electric cars, hybrids or digital cars,
if you don't have hundreds of patents in your Secret Black Box,
you had better get a license or buy a company fast!!!

THANK YOU Traister for
spending several pages laying out a basic explanation for
tomorrow's "gas pedal" in a world accelerating the use of electrons.

So the next time you pick a stock or judge an electric car company,
criticize a hybrid or start up your own digital automaker,
take a good hard look under the hood of the Secret Black Box.

It's the big black or silver looking thing under every hood
in plain sight with special words like Hybrid Synergy Drive
hiding billions of dollars, thousands of paychecks, hundred of patents
and the basics of what will drive the digital automotive revolution for years to come!

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