In his 2008 bestselling book Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman wrote about the need for an economic and policy environment that will stimulate exponential innovation. We need to “trigger the market to launch those 10,000 innovations in clean energy garages and 10,000 laboratories.” He argues that the best ideas in clean energy are yet to come, and we must find ways to seed and support “10,000 innovators” who will one day come up with clean, inexpensive alternatives to dirty fossil fuels.
The homebuilt electric vehicle is an area which has been growing steadily. The parts to convert a vehicle to electric are now readily available, and the process of licensing an EV conversion is relatively well-defined. Factory-built EVs have been priced at the premium end of the market for many years, putting them beyond the reach of most motorists and certainly beyond the reach of those which are most vulnerable to rising oil prices. The new EVs which are now being brought to market, such as the Mitsubishi iMiev, follow this trend. Breakthroughs in automotive design will be required to reduce EV costs before a significant penetration of EVs into the vehicle fleet can occur.
One local innovator is Chris Sparsi, and his son Chris Sparsi Jr, who together built the ‘Cameleon’. Chris was kind enough to bring the Cameleon by our office in West Perth so our team could have a look.
The Cameleon has been fitted with an electric drivetrain running a DC motor and Lithium Phosphorous batteries. What makes this EV unique is that solar panels have been installed over the tray and a system of contactors has been installed to enable switching of the wiring configuration of the batteries.
Based on calculations and on-road testing, Chris estimates the range of the vehicle to be an impressive 115 km on a single charge. This estimate accounts for the 80% maximum depth of discharge to avoid permanent damage to the batteries. Based on the current cycle life, Chris estimates that the battery pack will have a useful life of 230,000 km.
Charging the batteries from the solar panels requires about 6 to 8 days from empty. If plugged into a powerpoint the car can reach full charge from empty within about 14 hours. While solar panels on a car may not be a practical solution for most vehicle owners, the point of the vehicle is really about demonstrating new ways of diversifying our sources of transport energy.
“The car is called the Cameleon after the Lizard. The car can’t change color but it can adapt to the environment around it enabling it to be charged using solar, hydro and wind power.”, says Chris. ”Exposure about this car is everything, especially when it reaches the well informed people who know a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources must happen very soon. This is not a game for millionaires, millionaires would lose too much sleep waiting for the factory to be built. Billionaires with vision can make this happen without losing any sleep.”
Our regular readers will be familiar with our work in the clean transport space, including Wayne Bowers’ conversion of the eVolvo, our work on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Stay tuned for upcoming information on HAC’s work with hybrid buses and innovative energy chains.