Silicone Valley Engineers Are Thinking Green
By James Donahue
The great minds that have made California's Silicone
Valley the heart of the computer and electronic revolution are not resting on past achievements. Two new “green”
industries, a new all-electric car and a home “e-fuel” production system for ethanol burners are going on the
market there this year.
Green Vehicles, a company in San Jose, is marketing two different lithium ion-powered electric vehicles. One is a three-wheeled TRIAC, a
cross between an electric car or an over sized cab-covered trike that they say can cruise the highway at speeds up to 80 miles
per hour. The second vehicle is the BUCKSHOT, an electric all-purpose work truck designed for heavy-duty use.
Both vehicles run on a 20 kW AC motor and have
on board chargers that can be plugged into either 120 volt or 240 volt outlets. The TRIAC operates on a five-speed transmission
and its makers claim it can run about 100 miles on a full charge when driven at an average speed of 45 miles an hour. It will
sell for an estimated $20,000.
The BUCKSHOT is described as a true work truck.
It is offered with a lockable cargo shell, a steel lumber rack, or a steel body with an extra-long bed for all-purpose use.
It features an “ample passenger cabin.” The truck is designed to be attractive to local businesses, municipalities
and university campuses. More details, including the price tag, are not yet available.
While the TRIAC is designed to run with freeway
traffic, Green Vehicles is also working on two “neighborhood” electric vehicles that will be called the Microwatt
and Moose. They will be low-speed, short-distance electric vehicles going on the market in the fall.
For those sticking with fuel-burning cars, another
new firm called E-Fuel is marketing a 100 MicoFueler, a home ethanol manufacturing system that will allow anyone to make ethanol from sugar,
water, yeast and electricity in their own backhard.
This device, about the size of a gasoline station
pump, will sell for about $10,000 when it goes on the market later this year. Manufacturers Floyd Butterfield and Thomas Quinn
say they believe government incentives for alternative fuels may help cut the cost of the MicoFueler by as much as $5,000.
The MicroFueler uses about 10 to 14 pounds of
sugar to make one gallon of ethanol, which might not be cost effective if store-bought sugar is used. Inedible sugar can be
purchased from Mexico for about 2.5 cents per pound under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which makes the device
worth considering. Then your major cost is the electricity used in the manufacturing process.
These may appear to be radical solutions to high
fuel prices and a struggling economy. As rough as the market seems to be turning this spring, radical ideas may be just what
the country needs. The good news is that people are out there working on solving this problem.