The Tour de Sol Reports, 2003

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        Jack Groh
        Tour de Sol Communications Director
        P.O. Box 6044
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        401 732-1551    telephone
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The Tour de Sol Reports, 2003


See the main page of Tour de Sol 2003 Photos at

Table of Contents

Report #1: Here Comes the 2003 Tour de Sol
Report #2: 40 Entrants, So Far
Report #3: Program Notes: Category DEMONSTRATION VEHICLES
Report #4: Program Notes: Category PRODUCTION VEHICLES
Report #7: Program Notes: Category ONE-PERSON VEHICLES
Report #8: Program Notes: Category SOLAR-ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Report #9: EV World Interviews Mike Bianchi about the Tour de Sol
Report #10: Entrants Added ...
Report #11: Drive to Survive Joins Tour de Sol in Washington DC
Report #12: Tour de Sol in the News
Report #13: Photos - Photograph of GM's Hy-wire
Report #14: Interview with Tour de Sol Director Nancy Hazard
Report #15: Directions to the Tour de Sol
Report #16: Team Profile: "Allison parallel hybrid electric drive bus", #40
Report #17: Team Profile: "Kyoto Codex" #47
Report #18: Team Profile: "Viking 23", #23
Report #19: NESEA Volunteers: Spencer Quong
Report #20: On Display: Amherst Regional High School Alternative Energy Club
Report #21: John Linderman, Prius Owner, Trenton Ride-and-Drive Volunteer
Report #22: Team Profile: "Eskimobile", #52 / "Al C. O'holic", #35
Report #23: Team Profile: "Heibao EV", #36
Report #24: Team Profile: "The Lorax", #45
Report #25: Team Profile: "CC Probester", #33
Report #26: Team Profile: "Veggie Golf", #32
Report #27: Ideas for a Small Island
Report #28: Team Profile: "S&S AutoSport Toyota Prius", #70
Report #29: Team Profile: "Vegginator", #007
Report #30: Team Profile: "Kineticar III", #18
Report #31: Team Profile: "Solar Black Bear", #20
Report #32: Team Profile: "SunPacer", #92
Report #33: Winners and Awards
Report #34: Team Profile: "Electro", #38
Report #35: Team Profile: "The Olympian", #16
Report #36: Team Profile: "Fire Fly", #42
Report #37: Photos - Photos of the Allison Parallel Hybrid-Electric Bus
Report #38: Photos - Vegginator, #007
Report #39: Photos - Electric Blue, #10
Report #40: Photos - Kineticar III, #18
Report #40a: Photos - Solar Black Bear, #20
Report #41: Photos - The Olympian, #16
Report #42: Team Profile: "Hybrid Hippo", #22
Report #43: Team Profile: "Zodiac", #7
Report #44: Final Press Release
Report #45: Team Profile: "Buck Hybrid" #49
Report #46: Photos - Viking 23, #23
Report #47: Team Profile: "", #53
Report #48: Team Profile: "Proxima", #17
Report #49: The Lorax is down, but maybe not out.
Report #50: Interview with John Murphy
Report #51: John Dietter, 2003 Winner of the George Bradford EV Teacher Award
Report #52: Volunteer of the Year Award
Report #53: Tee Shirt
Report #54: Photos - Patriot, #27
Report #55: Photos - Veggie Golf, #32
Report #56: Photos - The Lorax, #45
Report #57: Photos - Fire Fly, #42
Report #58: Photos - Buck Hybrid, #49
Report #59: Photos - Eskimobile, #52
Report #60: Photos -, #53
Report #61: Photos - Woodstock, #56
Report #62: Photos - S&S Autosports Toyota Prius, #70
Report #63: Photos - SEVRX, #76
Report #64: Photos - Sunpacer, #92
Report #65: Photos - eGO Scooters
Report #66: Photos - DiamlerChrysler GEM
Report #67: Photos - Junior Solar Sprints
Report #68: Photos - Measuring the Fuel for the milage tests.
Report #69: Photos - People Pictures (mostly)
Report #70: Team Profile: "Electric Hog", #12
Report #71: Photos - The Electric Hog, #12
Report #72: Team Profile: "eGO XR", #8
Report #73: Demonstration Vehicle: "Hy-wire"
Report #74: Photos - General Motors Hy-wire
Report #75: Team Profile: "Woodstock", #56
Report #76: Drive To Survive: "Intergalactic Hydrogen"
Report #77: Team Profile: "SEVRX", #75
Report #78: Drive To Survive: Acetylene and Alcohol Engine
Report #79: Interview with Tour de Sol Technical Director Rob Wills
Report #80: A Reporter's Closing Thoughts

For Tour de Sol Reports from 1994 through 2002, see

Report #1: Here Comes the 2003 Tour de Sol

Every spring since 1989 there has been a gathering of alternative transportation enthusiasts, known as the Tour de Sol.  This year is the 15th and once again the clan will bring together many variations on the theme of energy efficient and Earth-friendly transportation.  The field will include "for sale" products as well as the one-of-a-kind vehicles that reflect the variety and originality of thinking that is the signature of the Tour de Sol. 

Central to the Festival will be the Road Rally for which the Tour de Sol is famous.  In the past, the Tour has featured solar-electric and battery-electric scooters, motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks and buses, research hybrid-electric vehicles of many stripes, using many different fuels and technologies, including the first fuel-cells every used in open-road competition.  Everything from personal designs, through vehicles built at schools and colleges, through current commercial offerings, and futuristic dreams still taking form will be on display and in competition.  This year attracts teams from as far away as Washington state, Canada, Oklahoma, Minnasota, Florida and Maine.  Some entries are old favorites with the habit of improving year-to-year.  Others are first- timers bringing new ideas and fresh interpretations on the idea of energy efficient vehicles.  The contestants will run between the festival sites and then be on public display.  The teams always have interesting stories to tell, and children particularly enjoy talking to the school entries.  Not a few kids got their first look at an electric car at the Tour de Sol and then went on to produce entrants while in high school or college. 

I first attended the Tour de Sol in 1993, and wrote the first of these Reports in 1994.  In 1995 I purchased my electric car, a Solectria "Force" (156 Volts, AC drive) which has been my primary transportation since then.  I will once again be there capturing the stories behind the teams and vehicles.  I'll also be serving as announcer during the Road Rallies. 

The entire set of Tour de Sol Reports will be available at:

So come along for the ride! The previous Tour de Sols tell me that there will be lots to see and do!

                                                        Mike Bianchi

Based on

2003 Tour de Sol: The Great American Green Transportation Festival

        May 10 - 14, 2003

The Tour De Sol: The Great American Green Transportation Festival is a unique, award-winning, year-round public education campaign that culminates in May in a series of festivals and a road-rally competition in the Northeast. 

Come visit one of the Festivals.  See state-of-the-art hybrid and fuel cell cars, buses, bikes, neighborhood vehicles, green electricity choices, renewable energy displays, and other displays of Earth-friendly products.  Test-drive new clean cars that are on the market today.  Learn first-hand about products and services that can save you money while improving our national security, the economy, public health, and the environment by reducing oil use, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

For those interested in learning more about entering the competition, exhibiting, sponsoring, volunteering, or bringing your students on a field trip go to "How to get Involved". 


Check out previous Tours de Sol for photos and much more. 


Started in 1989, the Tour de Sol has grown to be the largest sustainable transportation event in the world.  Mark your calendar today!

        May 10: Burlington County NJ.  Location to be announced
        May 11: no public events; vehicles in range competition
        May 12: Trenton, NJ
        May 13: Philadelphia, PA
        May 14: Washington, DC

                   Northeast Sustainable Energy Association
                                50 Miles Street
                             Greenfield, MA 01301
               Copyright (c) 2001 by NESEA. All rights reserved. 

Report #2: 40 Entrants, So Far

Who will be in the 2003 Tour de Sol? The March 21st edition of

tells us that there are forty vehicles signed up so far. 

Those who have followed the Tour in years past will notice some old friends in the field.  New Hampshire Technical Institute's "Sungo" returns for the umpteenth time.  As does Cato-Meridian High School's "SunPacer".  It will be interesting to see what has changed and what remains the same.  Some of the original ideas have stood the tests of time.  For instance "Sungo" has had a pair of separately controlled motors for the rear wheels since at least 1993, but the motor drivers and linkages from those motors to the wheels have changed several times. 

And there will be old friends with new wheels.  For one, the UEHS (Union- Endicott High School) Solar/Electric Car Team intends to bring two cars we have not seen before. 

 We'll see 1-person motor cycles and a hybrid-electric bus. 
 We'll see "traditional" home-built EVs and Detroit's vision of the future. 
 We'll see grid-charged-electrics, solar-electrics, and hybrid electrics. 
 We'll see bio-fueled vehicles. 

The message? That there are many ways to build vehicles that are more earth- friendly and sustainable. 

So make your plans to visit one of the Festival locations.  Ooogle the cars, trucks, bikes, and buses.  Chat up the teams.  Find out what they are doing and why. 

	-	-	-	-	-	-	-	-	-


                             2003 Tour de Sol
             The Great American Green Transportation Festival

VEHICLES PARTICIPATING in the 2003 Tour de Sol (as of March 21, 2003)


 CC Probester
 (2003 Civic Hybrid: Hybrid: Gas-electric)
 Concord Consortium
 Grafton, MA

 (2002 GEM: Electric neighborhood vehicle)
 Auburn Hills, MI

 DaimlerChrysler TBA
 Auburn Hills, MI

 Allison parallel hybrid electric drive bus
 (Orion VII: Hybrid: Diesel-electric)
 Allison Transmission
 Roxbury, CT

 General Motors
 Warren, MI

 GM Hy-Wire
 (Prototype fuel cell vehicle)
 General Motors
 Warren, MI
 (Washington, DC only)

 Honda Insight
 (2001 Honda Insight: Hybrid: Gas-electric)
 Will Nixon
 Accord, NY

 China, Amtech
 Whitby, ON

 Toyota Prius
 (2001 Toyota Prius: Hybrid: Gas-electric)
 S&S Auto Sport
 Tulsa, OK

 Toyota Prius
 (2002 Toyota Prius: Hybrid: Gas-electric)
 Toyota Motor Sales, USA
 Torrance, CA

 (1996 VW Passat: Biodiesel)
 Sterling, MA

 (1985 VW Golf: Biodiesel)
 Tornado Fuel Masters
 Hamilton, NJ


 Kineticar III
 (1989 Chevy S-10 pick-up: Hybrid: LPG + PbA)
 Thomaston, CT

 High Voltage
 (Purpose-built: Hybrid: E85 + PbA)
 Northern Lights Hybrid - Minnasota State
 Mankato, MN

 Veggie Golf
 (VW Golf: Veggie oil in diesel engine)
 NFA Technologies
 Randolph, VT

 (2002 Ford Explorer: Hybrid: Biodiesel + PbA)
 Ohio State University
 Future Truck
 Columbus, OH

 (2003 Purpose-built prototype: Hybrid: Gasoline + Hawker, PbA)
 University of Tulsa
 Tulsa, OK

 (1997 Chevy Malibu: E85)
 University of Waterloo
 Waterloo Ontario  Canada

 Al C. O'holic
 (1999 Chevy Silverado: E85 + LPG)
 University of Waterloo
 Waterloo, ON

 Hybrid Hippo
 (1995 Jeep Wrangler: Hybrid: Biodiesel + PbA)
 W.  Philadelphia High School
 Philadelphia, PA

 Viking 23
 (03'Purpose-built prototype: Hybrid: Biodiesel + Unique Mobility, NiCad)
 Western Washington University
 Bellingham, WA


 (1986 Honda CRX: Advanced batteries)
 Clarkson Solar Knights
 Potsdam, NY

 (VW van: PbA)
 Lake Region High School
 Glover, VT

 The Lomax
 (2000 Purpose-built: PbA)
 Methacton H.S. 
 Jeffersonville, PA

 (1993 Ford Probe GT: PbA)
 Miramar High School EV Team
 Pembroke Pines, FL

 (Purpose-built: Ovonic NiMH)
 Concord, NH
 (1986 VW Van: Trojan PbA)
 North Haven Community School
 North Haven, ME

 Electric Panther
 (1996 GMC Sierra: Trojan PbA)
 Panther Electric Vehicle Team
 Pittsburgh, PA

 (1983 Ford Ranger pick-up: PbA)
 Panther SPEED
 Jefferson, GA

 The Olympian 
 (1986 Ford Escort: GNB, PbA)
 Cinnaminson, NJ

 (1994 Ford Ranger: Trojan, PbA)
 St. Mark's School
 Southborough, MA

 (1984 Pontiac Fiero: Trojan PbA)
 UEHS Solar/Electric
 Car Team
 Endicott, NY

 (1994 Geo Metro: Exide & GNB, PbA)
 UEHS Solar/Electric Car Team
 Endicott, NY

SOLAR-ELECTRIC VEHICLES - One and Two Person: 3 entrants

 (Purpose-built, one-person commuter: Ovonic NMH)
 Cato-Meridian HS Tech Team
 Cato, NY

 (Purpose-built, one-person commuter: Trojan, PbA)
 IHS Tech Team
 Rochester, NY

 Solar Black Bear
 (Chevy S-10 pick-up: PbA)
 UMaine Solar Vehicle Team
 Orono, ME

ONE-PERSON VEHICLES (all technologies except solar): 3 entrants

 (Purpose-built: PbA)
 Millersville, PA
 (2002 eGo XR: Modular Energy Devices, Lithium Ion)
 ModEnergy/Ego Vehicles
 Charlestown, RI
 Electric Hog
 (2002 Pre-production motorcycle: Lithium Ion)
 Vogelbilt Corp. 
 Corlandt Manor, NY

Report #3: Program Notes: Category DEMONSTRATION VEHICLES

Here are is the text of the program notes for those providing demonstration vehicles at the Tour de Sol. 

	General Motors
	Warren, MI

At General Motors, we are committed to both the transportation that improves people's lives and the environment that sustains us. 

As an automaker, which builds roughly eight million vehicles a year worldwide, we see hydrogen as the obvious choice as the fuel of the future. 

Hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles will be more than twice as energy efficient as today's vehicles and will emit only water vapor.  A fuel cell energized by hydrogen can be derived from a mix of sources, including hydrocarbons and from any source of electricity.  Alternatives could differ from country to country - natural gas in China and Russia, wind power in Europe, biomass in the Americas.  Hydrogen thus creates the pathway to alternate, local and ultimately renewable energy sources. 

GM expects to be selling fuel cell vehicles by the end of this decade.  We are demonstrating concept fuel cell vehicles, like AUTOnomy, Hy-wire and the HydroGen3 to the public and governmental officials around the world that will verify our commitment to this technology and the speed at which we are moving. 

In the meantime, hybrids will increase the fuel efficiency and lessen the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine.  GM will offer the industry's most comprehensive hybrid technology program with three different hybrid propulsion systems, representing more than a dozen of its most popular models. 

GM reinvents the automobile: The GM Hy-wire, is the world's first drivable concept vehicle that combines a hydrogen fuel cell with by-wire technology.  All of the vehicle's propulsion and control systems are contained within a skateboard-like chassis, which opens up a new world of chassis architectures and customized bodies for customer's individualized expression. 

        Auburn Hills, MI

For DaimlerChrysler, a responsible approach to protecting the environment forms a key aspect of safeguarding the ongoing success of the Group.  Our measures for protecting the environment take into account the whole product life cycle - from the utilization of raw materials, product development, production, and product use all the way to disposal and recycling. 

With the GEM, DaimlerChrysler is the world's leading marketer of neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs).  The battery-powered vehicle comes in four models.  GEM, certified as a zero emission vehicle, replaces internal combustion vehicles for short trips, which are the most common, and most polluting.

        Toyota Motor Sales, USA
        Torrance, CA

At Toyota we operate under a global Earth Charter that makes caring for our earth a priority.  We have comprehensive goals for local plants and products.  We created the world's first mass-produced, clean-running gas/electric hybrid car.  And we are at the forefront of developing tomorrow's fuel cell vehicles. 

The Toyota Prius is a five-seat hybrid electric sedan.  Prius is the world's first and most popular gasoline/electric hybrid, with over 110,000 vehicles on the road.  Clean and efficient.  SULEV certified.  It is sold nationwide through Toyota dealers for $20,4800.

Report #4: Program Notes: Category PRODUCTION VEHICLES

These are the program notes for the vehicles competing in the Production Vehicles category. 

	CC Probester
	Concord Consortium
	Grafton, MA

Concord Consortium will show how simple measuring tools can be used to learn physics and understand the technical issues involved in making energy-efficient cars.  We will instrument the Honda Insight with probes (speed, acceleration, elevation, motor power, wind, energy consumption) that anyone can use to study the physics of cars. 

	Toyota Prius
	S&S Auto Sport
	Tulsa, OK

The S & S AutoSport Toyota Prius is entered by Dr. Strattan, Emeritus Professor of EE at the University of Tulsa and faculty co-advisor to the university's Hurricane Motor Works.  The vehicle is the daily driver of Dr.  Strattan, with over 30,000 trouble-free miles. 

	Kyoto Codex
	Sterling, MA and has entered a 1996 Volkswagen Passat.  They have set out to prove that biodiesel is a viable alternative to conventional fossil fuel. 

	Tornado Fuel Masters
	Hamilton, NJ

Trenton Central High School's "Trenton Fuel Masters" is modifying a 1985 Volkswagen Golf, the "Veginator," to burn processed used cooking oil salvaged from the high school cafeteria.  The team is developing a design for the car exterior that will reflect the environmental aspects of the project. 

	Honda Insight
	Will Nixon
	Accord, NY

In 1996, I accompanied the Tour for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which published my article, "Diary of an Electric Hitchhiker." This time, I'm the proud owner of a 2000 Honda Insight.  I represent the average American driver -- I have almost no idea of what goes on under the hood. 

	Allison parallel hybrid electric drive bus
	Allison Transmission
	Roxbury, CT

Compared to conventional combustion engines, the Allison Electric Drives EP System reduces emissions up to 90% during hybrid operation.  Performance characteristics are equally impressive.  The Allison EP System will out-accelerate a vehicle equipped with a conventional drivetrain while improving fuel economy up to 60%.

        Heibao EV
        Shandong Heibao Group Company and Enviromotive
        China and Whitby, Ontario Canada

The two great countries of China and Canada have teamed up to present the Heibao EV, an AC-powered battery-electric vehicle.  This highway-worthy car is in full production in China.  It is Team Sino-Canada's intent to bring the Heibao EV into the North American market. 


The entrants that use alternative fuels and hybrid technologies have these notes about their entries. 

        Viking 23
        Viking 23
        Bellingham, WA

Viking 23 is a prototype vehicle designed and built entirely by students at Western Washington University.  As a hybrid, it is unique in that it has a body and chassis both made completely of carbon fiber.  It demonstrates that hybrids can be both reliable and fun. 

        Kineticar III
        Waterbury, CT

The Kineticar III is a parallel hybrid vehicle that uses liquid propane (LPG) and an electric drive system.  The CSERT club at Naugatuck Valley Community College strives for efficiency but in the process we have a lot of fun and learn more than you ever could in a classroom. 

        Veggie Golf
        NFA Technologies/Greasecar
        Randolph, VT

The NFA Technologies "Veggie Golf" is a VW diesel with a Greasecar system, fueled by straight vegetable oil! NFA (New Found Alternatives) is a Vermont- based start-up company specializing in the field of environmentally-conscious engineering.  They have developed technology for battery-electric vehicles, biodiesel production and home heating. 

        Ohio State Univ.  Future Truck
        Columbus, OH

This year marks Ohio State University's first entry in the Tour de Sol, but the team has competed in FutureCar and FutureTruck since 1996.  OSU's entry is a hybrid biodiesel-electric conversion based on the 2002 Ford Explorer platform, which will also enter the FutureTruck 2003 competition. 

        University of Tulsa
        Tulsa, OK

The University of Tulsa unveils a new scratch-built hybrid-electric vehicle, the "TU Proxima." Featuring an all-composite structure, gull-wing doors, and a fully automated controls system, the Proxima is a parallel hybrid with a 1liter gasoline engine and a 30 hp electric motor. 

        Al C. O'holic
        University of Waterloo
        Waterloo, ON

This 1999 Chevrolet Pick-up was converted to a super-clean dedicated ethanol vehicle.  Since then a flex-fuel system and an LPG conversion have been added to make this truck tri-fueled.  Capable of running on ethanol, propane, or gasoline, fuel will be available whereever we go!

        University of Waterloo
        Waterloo, ON

This 1997 Chevrolet Malibu is powered by an ethanol breathing 1.9L Saturn engine.  While producing more horsepower than the original 3.1L engine, this lightweight aluminum power plant gets better fuel economy with lower emissions than the stock engine.  This car was built entirely by students. 

        Hybrid Hippo
        West Philadelphia H.S. E.V. Team
        Philadelphia, PA

The improved "hybrid hippo" is series hybrid using biodiesel and electric.  The students built a fiberglass body for a 1995 Jeep Wrangler chassis.  This vehicle has a top speed of 80mph, good acceleration, weighs about 3100lbs, has a range of about 250 miles and creates very little pollution. 


The "pure electric" contestants, those that run strictly on battery-stored energy, are the quietest, coolest (in many senses of the word), and, for your reporter at least, the most interesting in the field.  Here is what they have to say for themselves. 

	Clarkson Solar Knights
	Potsdam, NY

The Clarkson University Solar Knights is a group of students from a variety of majors constructing a state-of-the-art battery-powered vehicle.  Using Lithium-Ion battery technology, the team has converted a Honda CRX into SEVRX -- a sustainably fueled vehicle. 

	VW Van
	Lake Region High School
	Glover, VT


	The Lomax
	Methacton H.S. 
	Jeffersonville, PA

The Methacton team welcomes students of all abilities and high school grade levels.  The car is an important part of several classes.  Students experience first hand the potential for cars to utilize alternate fuel sources and open their minds to social, political, environmental, and technological possibilities. 

	Miramar High School EV Team
	Pembroke Pines, FL

1993 Ford Probe "EV" conversion.  Miramar High School teams have traveled to competitions from Agawam, Mass., to Phoenix, Ariz. since their inception in 1997.  Numerous awards for performance as well as endurance have been achieved.  First appearance in the Tour de Sol. 

	Concord, NH

The NHTI SEV Club has competed in the Tour de Sol since its conception.  This year they have revised their suspension and developed a completely new body, a lighter fiberglass Roadster body with a removable top.
	North Haven Community School
	North Haven, ME

The team comes from the smallest public school in ME. Our vehicle, a 4WD Volkswagen Syncro, is used daily, year-round.  Our unique science curriculum integrates physics, chemistry, and environmental science.  Our team is motivated, energetic, and diverse.  We are like a family. 

	Electric Panther
	Panther Electric Vehicle Team
	Pittsburgh, PA

The purpose of the Panther Electric Vehicle Club at the University of Pittsburgh is to produce a functioning electric vehicle for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and to enhance the technical education of project members.  Our first project was the restoration of an 1975 Elcar Zagata Milan. 

	Panther SPEED
	Jefferson, GA

The Jefferson County HS[KL1] EV Club, the first high school in Georgia to convert a pick-up truck to electric power, has won many awards at Georgia EV rallies with Panther SPEED (Students Promoting Electric Energy Development).  Students, teachers, parents, and volunteers helped prepare the E-truck for the Tour. 

	The Olympian 
	Cinnaminson, NJ

The Olympian has completed every leg of the Tour de Sol for the past five years without a breakdown.  We have placed 2nd, 4th, 4th, 3rd, and 3rd, and are excited about returning!

	St. Mark's School
	Southborough, MA

St.  Mark's School students built "Woodstock" as a BEV.  This year's team is composed of members from the St.  Mark's EV Club and the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  Woodstock's energy comes from its Evergreen Solar panels and from ReGen, renewable grid electricity produced by Sun Power Electric. 

	UEHS Solar/Electric Car Team
	Endicott, NY

Union-Endicott High School Technology Club converted a 1984 Pontiac Fiero to electric-drive.  Over thirty club members meet after school to problem-solve, develop CAD drawings, make vehicle modifications, fundraise, and test the car. 

	UEHS Solar/Electric Car Team
	Endicott, NY

Union-Endicott High School Technology Club converted a '94 Geo Metro to electric-drive.  Over thirty club members meet after school to problem-solve, develop CAD drawings, make vehicle modifications, fundraise, and test the car. 

	Electric Blue
	Woodbury H.S.-Eco Living Fellowship 
	Woodbury, NJ

WHS Advanced Technology class and Eco Living Fellowship teamed with sponsors, the Mayor and Woodbury, NJ, community, to update this battery-electric 1981 Ford Courier pickup truck.  The Team used problem-based learning, made CAD drawings, web pages, modified and tested the truck, did fundraising, video- conferencing, and public speaking. 

Report #7: Program Notes: Category ONE-PERSON VEHICLES

Here are some variations on the theme of electric-vehicle-for-one. 

	Electric Motorcycle Research Team
	Millersville, PA

EMRT is an alternative propulsion systems research group.  The student research team members hold industry titles and operates like an R&D company.  The group seeks to advance the field of alternative energy propulsion systems and competes annually in a national alternative energy engineering competition. 

	ModEnergy/Ego Vehicles
	Charlestown, RI

We are a new company with a mission to dramatically reduce the cost of large Lithium-ion batteries.  Our electric scooter will have a 75-amp-hour Lithium- ion battery pack.  We recently received funds from the state of Rhode Island's Slater Center. 

	Electric Hog
	Corlandt Manor, NY

The Electric Hog, a full-size motorcycle was completely redesigned for this year.  Using Lithium-ion batteries and AC power, range and performance were greatly improved.  In addition the Hog has received a lightweight sidecar, which houses a small biodiesel generator to extend range for long trips. 

Report #8: Program Notes: Category SOLAR-ELECTRIC VEHICLES

A major component of scores for these contestents' is how much energy they can extract from sunlight. 

	Cato-Meridian HS Tech Team
	Cato, NY

This is Sunpacer's 11th straight year in the Tour de Sol.  Sunpacer has won its class and efficiency awards many times.  This year's team consists of Crew Chief Arron Kolb, Driver Ashley Davenport, Chief Navigator Tim Sorne, Back-up Navigator Amber Ross, and Technology Teacher Earl Billings. 

	IHS Tech Team
	Rochester, NY

The team was started in 1999 as an after-school activity to get students involved in real-world engineering problem-solving.  The team consists of students, teachers, and local engineers from W. Irondaquoit.  The team is currently designing and building an all electric mini-Cooper. 

	Solar Black Bear
	UMaine Solar Vehicle Team
	Orono, ME

UMaine Solar Vehicle Team is returning withtheir converted battery electric 1986 Chevy S-10. The team has overhauled their battery boxes and array as well as put their 12-panel solar array on top of the vehicle on a carpenter's rack. 

Report #9: EV World Interviews Mike Bianchi about the Tour de Sol

Bill Moore, editor of the EV World web magazine, , spoke with me for an audio-interview currently featured there.  He called it "Mike Bianchi's Rite of Spring".  Click on the handsome face. 

The direct link is:

Report #10: Entrants Added ...

The April 1st edition of the entrants list shows the following changes. 

The BATTERY-ELECTRIC category gets a new entrant. 

	(2002 Tracker: Lithium Ion)
	Mississauga, ON

The To Be Announced (TBA) BATTERY-ELECTRIC entrant from Glover Vermont moves. 


	(1972 VW Van: PbA + Veggie Oil)
	Glover, VT

Could this be the return of the much-beloved "Helios The Heron" of years past? Topher Waring spoke last year of doing such a thing. 

   "For next next year I've located a VW chassis and fiberglass kit-car
   shell that looks like a 3/4 scale Corvette.  Hopefully that will
   attract some attention.  I'm going to take the components of Helios
   the Heron and stick those in as a high school project."  Maybe Helios
   needs to be renamed Phoenix.  "Helios' body got so rusted that it
   won't past inspection."

I hope it's so, Topher!

(This reporter acknowledges a strong affection for the "Helios the Heron" team over the years, as the past Reports attest.)

Continuing with changes to the list:

The VEHICLES BUILT BY MANUFACTURERS entrant from now has a name. 

	Kyoto Codex
	(1996 VW Passat: Biodiesel)
	Sterling, MA


"eGo XR" has been moved into a ONE-PERSON DEMONSTRATION VEHICLES category. 

Report #11: Drive to Survive Joins Tour de Sol in Washington DC

When the Tour de Sol road rally arrives on the Capital Mall in Washington DC on May 14th, another group of ecologically motivated drivers will also arrive, having driven across the country in their hybrid-electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.  The Institute of Ecolonomics' "Drive To Survive 2003" will leave Los Angeles California on May 1st and wend its way to Washington over the following two weeks. 

The Institute of Ecolonomics was founded in 1993 by actor and community leader Dennis Weaver based on his conviction that a truly sustainable future requires a healthy environment and a prosperous economy.  I spoke with him by phone. 

"The Drive to Survive is a convoy of alternative-fueled automobiles in a media educational tour.  The drive is to promote better use of our petroleum resources and to excite and energize people about the potential benefits of hydrogen.  Greg Kelly, who is testing the Toyota hydrogen fuel cell automobile will drive it from Los Angeles to Sacramento.  We would love to drive it on to Washington, but we have no way to get the hydrogen as we go.  It's the old chicken-and-egg problem." Kelly, president of a California robotics company, happens to drive a Toyota prototype of a hydrogen-fueled car, one of a handful in the United States today. 

Dennis owns two of the Toyota "Prius", which will be in the convoy, and there will also be bio-diesel and compressed natural gas participants that make the cross-country run. 

The "Drive to Survive" is part of the Department of Energy's "Clean Cities" program and will make a number of stops for major and minor events along the way.  "They will be primarily educational events to excite the general public and forward-thinking business people and politicians to the incredible potential we have to lessen our dependency on imported oil." Those stops will also include battery-electric vehicles, to explain to people that they also have a place in the mix. 

Dennis Weaver's acting recently reflected his passion for economically sound ecology (or is it the other way around?) which he sees as the only formula for a sustainable future.  He was the guest star on a "Touched by an Angel" episode.  The character he played was also passionate about the potential of hydrogen as an energy source in our future. 

Among the "Drive to Survive" participants are:

   Gerry and Dennis Weaver - hybrid
   Jo Shernoff, Institute of Ecolonomics President - hybrid
   Sarah Owens, Drive to Survive Executive Producer - hybrid
   Russel Gehrke - bio-diesel truck
   Michael Capozzola, Web Photo-journalist, Navigator - hybrid

According to the Drive To Survive web site (12 April 2002):


 "Drive Hydrogen Home" media and educational events
        Los Angeles
        San Francisco
        Salt Lake City
        Kansas City
        St. Louis
        Ann Arbor
        Washington DC

 "Pit Stops"
        Bakersfield, Fresno and Sacramento, California
        Reno, Nevada
        Grand Junction, Colorado
        Russell, Kansas
        Columbia, Missouri

Dennis said, "I'm very excited about driving into Washington with the Tour de Sol." He will deliver a petition with thousands of signatures to Congress demanding that lawmakers make a declaration of energy independence by increasing fuel efficiency, promoting alternative fuels and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.  "We have the technology.  We just are not using it."

Report #12: Tour de Sol in the News

The buzz about the Tour de Sol is building in the news. 

The Herald of Randolph Vermont has an article about the 'Veggie Car' entering the Tour ... 

	Just how far will a bottle of vegetable oil get you?

	"About 55 miles", says Scott McGrath, of Randolph--based NFA

The Bellingham Herald in Whatcom County Washington has a piece about the entry from Western Washington University ... 

	The bumble bee-yellow sports car in the garage is outfitted with sleek
	yellow and black tilted seats and a racing steering wheel. But it's no
	high-performance fuel in the tank. 

	It's processed canola oil and battery power that makes this car go more
	than 100 mph. The engine is a biodiesel and electric hybrid.

And Toyota's official PRIUS View newsletter has an article about owner Robert Stratton, (a bit beyond the half-way mark on the web page) ... 

	... he was not new to hybrid vehicles, and had been designing and
	building them for several years as a professor of electrical
	engineering at the University of Tulsa. 

	Professor Strattan taught at the University for 30 years and for 12
	years has served as a faculty advisor to the University's hybrid
	electric vehicle (HEV) project, called Hurricane Motor Works.

Also, it is official: The GM Hy-Wire will be on display at all the Festivals in Trenton, Philadelphia and Washington DC, and a photo-session on the morning of May 10th at the Riverfront Promenade in downtown Burlington NJ. 

Speaking of Burlington NJ, May 10th is the day that the teams go through their technical testing before they hit the road.  If you are interested in the technical aspects of the competing teams, this is the day to visit.  As the web page says ... 

* Talk with some of the 200 students, dozens of visionaries, and two battery manufacturers about their experience of building a one-of-a-kind vehicle to compete in the Tour de Sol championship.  These vehicles include hybrid and alternative fueled cars using biodiesel, ethanol, natural gas, or propane; electric cars; solar assisted electric vehicles; and one-person motorcycles and personal commuter vehicles. 

* Fun stuff for kids - sun toys for play, and a scavenger hunt. 

* Try out an electric bicycle - the Giant LaFree.  Or take a spin on the Spin Cycle pedal-electric recumbent bicycle. 

* Watch hydrogen being made from the sun. 

* If you arrive early, you can see GM's Hy-wire, the world's first drivable concept vehicle that combines a hydrogen fuel cell with by-wire technology, line up with some Tour de Sol vehicles for a photo shoot!

* Explore new transportation options such as DaimlerChrylser's GEM, an electric neighborhood vehicle and other vehicles such as the highway worthy Heibao and an electric scooter by eGo Vehicles and Modular Energy Devices. 

* Learn about the benefits of using a solar system to generate your electricity for your house or business from Ecological Systems. 

* Enjoy a homemade BBQ with all the fixings from Rocky's and solar powered music!

Full details at

The main Tour de Sol website is ...

Report #13: Photos - Photograph of GM's Hy-wire

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Photograph of GM's Hy-wire

Here is a publicity photo of GM's Hy-wire concept car.  The body and passenger compartment is a separate unit which is attached to the Autonomy "skateboard" that contains all the hydrogen storage, fuel-cells, motors, and control systems. 

Note that the handles to the front and back doors are next to each other, which means the rear door is hinged towards the rear.  Also note that the thing above the bumper is actually a window.  The drivers position is layed out so they can see the road immediately in front of the car. 

This vehicle will be on dispay at the Tour de Sol Festivals in Trenton, Philadelphia and Washington DC. 

A nice page explaining the Hy-wire is at

Report #14: Interview with Tour de Sol Director Nancy Hazard

So here it is a couple of weeks before the Tour de Sol begins in the City of Burlington NJ.  It's time to check in with Nancy Hazard of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.  Nancy is the Director of the Tour de Sol, lo these many years, and I asked her for a preview of what is coming.  Nancy focuses on the big picture, so I asked her what she sees as the message of the Tour. 

"I'm hoping that the events of the last couple of years, such as terrorism and war, has opened people's hearts and minds to a deeper understanding of the implications of our dependence on petroleum.  So our catch phrase for this year is, `If it reduces gasoline or oil you will see it at the Tour de Sol.' I think that sums what we are trying to do.  The message of the event is that there are numerous ways of getting around without using as much oil as we do today, and it is important that we move in that direction." A detailed discussion of the reasons is on NESEA's Green Car Club website. 

Among the key points:

        The United States still gets 42% of its oil from domestic sources. 
        but only 2-3% of the world's oil reserves lie in US territory. 

        Even though our country has less than 5% of the world's population, we
        consume about 26% of the world's oil. 

        We can't expect to drill our way out of our dilemma. 

The entire article is available at:

This year's Tour de Sol makes the point that petroleum need not be the only way to power transportation.  Towards that end there will be transportation solutions of many different types on display and in competition. 

Of course there will be "pure" electric vehicles (EVs), running just on batteries charged by plugging in.  And there will be solar electric entrants which will be scored on their "solar-fraction", the contribution of sun- generated electricity to their range.  A number of advanced battery chemistries will be in evidence. 

The hybrid-electric powerplants (HEVs) will be represented in force.  Each of the commercially available hybrids, Toyota's "Prius" and Honda's "Insight" and "Civic Hybrid", are entered in the competition by private individuals.  Several more HEV entries will be from high schools and universities.  "Of particular interest to me is the fact that there are about the same number of EVs and HEVs, and also about the same number of high school and college teams", said Nancy. 

In addition there will be a number of alternative-fuel vehicles running on vegetable oil, bio-diesel, ethanol-petroleum and bio-petroleum blends and propane.  Each will be demonstrating another way to cut down on the need for oil today. 

"The Great American Green Transportation Festival" also encourages the use of mass transit, bicycles and walking as alternatives that also help use our energy resources in a sustainable manner.  For example, a hybrid-electric bus, entered by Allison Transmission, claims a 90% reduction in particulate and hydrocarbon emissions, a 50% reduction in NOx (oxides of nitrogen), up to a 60% improvement in fuel economy, and a 50% improvement in acceleration.  And yes, this vehicle is entered in the competition.  (I wonder.  Do you think it will enter the Autocross? We had an electric school bus run the Autocross several years ago, so entry isn't without precedence.)

At the other end of the size scale will be the eGo XR electric scooter from Modular Energy Devices and eGo Vehicles.  "They hope to demonstrate the range capability of their Lithium Ion batteries", according to Nancy. 

"Two motorcycles are entered: Millerville's `TROUTev' and Vogelbilt's `Electric Hog' with a bio-diesel generator in the sidecar.  The hybrid motorcycle will be a first for the Tour de Sol."

Speaking of hybrids, "the Alternative Fuel and Hybrid Vehicles category is pretty much split 50/50 between alt-fuel vehicles (which burn alternative fuels in standard internal combustion engines, without any electric drive train) and hybrid-electrics." This sometimes upsets the EV and HEV purists who don't see the alt-fuel vehicles as much of a solution.  But a few years ago Phil Paterson of the US Department of Energy pointed out that when an internal combustion engine is burning bio-diesel or vegetable oil the carbon released into the atmosphere is "recent carbon" taken from the atmosphere as the plants grew and that is much closer to sustainability.  "You are actually burning sunlight", was how Phil put it.  Nancy added, "from a consumer's perspective you can purchase any diesel vehicle and run bio-diesel in it without making any changes.  B20 bio-diesel is 20 percent vegetable oil and 80 percent petroleum diesel." B100 is 100 percent vegetable oil that is processed to remove the free glycerin and other components that would gum up the works.  To use pure veggie oil requires modifications to the vehicle to make the tank, filters and engine happy. 

"I think it is very interesting that we have a lot of vehicles using these different configurations.  We have veggie oil in a HEV configuration, two non- hybrid Volkswagen diesels (one using veggie oil, the other using bio-diesel), and a trio of HEV bio-diesels.  And then there is ethanol, an alcohol also made from plants, usually mixed with gasoline.  The Tour will have two vehicles using E85 which is a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.  The one from University of Waterloo can run on any of three(!) fuels: propane, E85 or gasoline.  And we have a hybrid-electric using propane, and of course the hybrids using gasoline."

And there will be representations of future possibilities.  The GM Hy-wire hydrogen-fuel cell concept car will be on display at each of the Festival stops (Trenton, Philadelphia, and Washington DC) as well as a brief photo-opportunity in Burlington NJ on May 10th in the morning.  Also GM's HydroGen3 will be on display in Washington.  A nice page explaining the Hy-wire is at

DaimlerChrysler will be showing their GEM neighborhood EVs and Toyota will be showing their Prius HEV. 

While the Tour de Sol only runs in the Northeast, it attracts teams from all over.  "We have a team from Georgia this year, which is a first, one from Washington state, and a lot of Canadians."

Nancy hopes that several electric neighborhood vehicles will come with the Canadian teams because they are real, if small, cars aimed at cooler and cold climates.  (She lives in northern Massachusetts where it is known to get significantly below chilly.) Unlike the open-air neighborhood EVs that are aimed at the sun-belt states, these all have solid doors with glass windows, and heaters. 

The Production EV entry from Canada is the Heibao-EV.  It is an interesting highway worthy two-seater made in China that is being imported to Canada and the US. 

It is possible we may see a display of the ZENN (which stands for Zero Emission / No Noise) from Feel Good Cars Inc. in Toronto Canada is also a two-place car with an optional rear bench seat. 

Another possible demonstrator is Dynasty MotorCar Corporation in Delta, British Columbia, Canada is presenting the "IT" which stands for Innovative Transportation.  It will come in two and four passenger configurations. 

The Tour de Sol Road Rally will be considerably shorter than in past years, but the result may create more accurate scoring and better data for the competition.  In past years, the Tour went from city-to-city and town-to-town which meant a lot of time spent in getting established in each place.  Just the act of checking into and out of motels during the rally is much reduced this year.  Burlington New Jersey will serve as home-base for all but the Washington DC Festival.  Registration, Technical Testing, and the Range and Acceleration tests will all occur in Burlington on May 9th, 10th and 11th.  Thus the teams will have time to settle in and get to know each other better. 

For the May 12th Festival in Trenton, the Tour will travel to the New Jersey State Museum on West State Street.  Scheduled to speak shortly after noon is NJ Board of Public Utilities President Jeanne Fox and NJ Senator Peter Inverso. 

After the Festival closes at 2 pm, the entrants will go to Parking Lot Number 1 at the Arena on Hamilton Street, where the Autocross will be held, probably around 3 pm.  "While the Autocross is not open to the general public, we should be able to accommodate a small group of green-car enthusiasts." Afterwards, the teams will all return to Burlington for the night. 

On May 13th the Tour will finally leave Burlington for the Festival in Philadelphia.  Speaking at around 10:30 am will be Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty and Philadelphia Mayor John Street. 

On the 14th of May in Washington, the Tour will parade into the Festival near the Capital.  Scheduled to speak at about 10 am are:

        actor Dennis Weaver of the Drive to Survive (see Report #11)

        Department of Energy Assistant Secretary David Garman
                Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

        Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Transportation
                Policy Emmil Franel

        Colorado Congressman Mark Udall

Then the top winners will be announced. 

In DC the Festival will also display a number of environmentally-friendly buses beyond the one competing from Allison Transmissions. 

        CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) school bus
        CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) city bus from the DC Metro

How does Nancy feel about the Tour being shorter this year? "We haven't experienced it yet.  It will be interesting to see how the people in the Tour like it.  The eight-day long Tours were always a bit of a stretch for everybody.  The kids were out of school for more than a week and it's expensive to be on the road. 

"We are seeing that a number of teams are staying in Washington DC for several days after the Tour, which is new.  In the past, at the end, people couldn't wait to get into their cars and start driving home." Maybe they won't feel so tired and can enjoy the capital. 

Has the Tour de Sol accomplished some of its original goals from way back in 1989 and the early 1990s? At my first Tour de Sol in 1993 I remember seeing Viking 21 from Western Washington University, a hybrid, and barely understanding just what it was about.  "And now you have three different hybrid-electrics to select from!", said Nancy.  "I think we would never have seen the vehicles that are for sale today if it hadn't been for relentlessly demonstrating that they work! That is what the students have done for the last fifteen years at the Tour de Sol.  They have created battery-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles and consistently shown their value.  I am really thrilled about that.  We have partly reached our goal but the huge piece that still needs doing is educating the public.  There needs to be a deeper understanding of how important it is to always think about energy when it comes to making decisions about how to get around, and consider the alternatives.  For years and years energy has been cheap, convenient and always there.  But it remains a limited resource, extracted from all over the world, that pollutes in so many ways, and which is changing the climate.  And using it also causes many economic problems in the US.  We cannot afford to ignore the problems.  They won't go away and they are getting worse as we are watching. 

"If the mind set is to make conscious decisions about how you get around, where you live, and which vehicles you drive and ride in, and to consider the effects those decisions have on the environment and limited resources, like oil, you will make different kinds of choices than you would if you don't think about those things.  Unfortunately I don't think we are there yet, at all." So the mission of the Tour and NESEA continues. 

What about the government's announced hydrogen initiatives? "While the technology is promising, these are not vehicles you can purchase today, or in the next couple of years, or even this decade.  So if you are a person who has the mind set to care about the environment, don't wait! Don't wait for that fuel-cell car.  There are practical, affordable things you can do today which will help, today. 

"It is also important to remember that hydrogen is not a fuel that you just pump out of the ground, even though it is the most common chemical element.  It is always combined with something else.  How you extract that hydrogen, and how you store it are questions that must be answered.  Do you extract the hydrogen from water using electricity? Where does the electricity come from? How was it made, and what was the environmental impact of making it? Oil or natural gas is different from hydroelectric, which is different from nuclear, which is different from sun, wind or geothermal.  So the environmental benefits of the hydrogen fuel cell are inextricably entwined with where the energy to produce the hydrogen comes from.  It is a knotty question.  We all need to keep our eyes on the goal of getting around while releasing the least amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that are causing health problems, and reducing oil use."

So that is Nancy Hazard's take on the big picture of the Tour de Sol.  There will be a lot to see and do, so be sure to come to the Tour, do and see!

Report #15: Directions to the Tour de Sol

Planning to visit the Tour de Sol?

Here are the directions lifted from the NESEA web site:

(And, yes, that web address implies that these are 2002 directions, but trust me, they ARE for 2003!)

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

CITY OF BURLINGTON, NJ - Riverfront Promenade. 

Saturday, May 10: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

TRENTON, NJ - New Jersey State Library & Museum on State Street

Monday, May 12: 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

We encourage all to take public transportation where and whenever possible.  The Festival site at the State Museum and Library is easily accessible via bus and light rail.  Please visit the NJ Transit website for complete information. 

PUBLIC PARKING is available behind the museum accessible off West State Street. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

PHILADELPHIA, PA - 1600 Ben Franklin Parkway near City Hall

Tuesday, May 13: 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

We encourage all to take public transportation where and whenever possible.  The Ben Franklin Parkway near City Hall is easily accessible via the subway, bus or trolley systems in Philadelphia.  Please visit the SEPTA website for complete information. 

PUBLIC PARKING available in a nearby underground parking lot, entrance on Arch St. between 15th and 16th. 

        -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -       -

WASHINGTON D.C. - 3rd Street NW between Constitution and Independence Avenues on the National Mall. 

Wednesday, May 14: 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

We encourage all to take public transportation where and whenever possible.  The National Mall and our Festival on 3rd Street is easily accessible via the Red, Green, Yellow, Blue or Orange lines.  Please visit the WMATA website for complete public transit information. 

Washington is circled by the Capital Beltway, formed by Interstates I-495 and I-95. 

Interstate 66 leads from Virgina east into Washington.  Take Constitution Ave.  East to 3rd St. 

Route 50 heads west in Washington from Annapolis, MD, the Chesapeake Bay and the beaches.  Take 50 west to 7th St. heading South.  Turn left on Pennsylvania Ave. and go to 3rd Street. 

Interstate 95 heads south to Washington from Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.  Access the Beltway and take Route 50 into the city. 

Interstate 270 heads south to Washington from Frederick, MD, and beyond.  Access the Beltway and take Route 66 into the city. 

PUBLIC PARKING is available in metered lot at Pennsylvania and 3rd Street. 

Report #16: Team Profile: "Allison parallel hybrid electric drive bus", #40

Jim Owens of Allison Electric Drives is the driver of this 40-foot transit bus which is an hybrid-electric Orion bus.  "This is our sales bus," used for demonstrations to potential customers around the United States and Canada.  Frank LaSala, who is the Eastern Regional Manager for Allison Transmission, is also here. 

Configured as a low-floor, wheel-chair friendly city bus, it is driven by Allison's "Ep" hybrid propulsion system.  Designed to significantly lower vehicle emissions and improve fuel economy, it also increases acceleration with electric motor assistance.  It also increases brake life through regenerative braking. 

The heart of the system is an Allison "Ev" Drive which appears similar to an Allison B Series Transmission, but has planetary gears and clutches, electronic solenoids and valves, and two electric motors which act as clutches to accelerate, slow or hold the planetary components.  The result is an infinitely variable transmission with respect to both torque and speed.  The transmission also serves as very large and quiet starter motor for the diesel engine. 

Because of this transmission, a diesel engine suitable for a three-ton pickup truck can power this 20-ton bus and still have better acceleration and better fuel economy and emissions.  Allison's literature claims emissions "reduced up to 90% as compared to conventional diesel-fueled buses, and it's practically silent when operating on pure electrical power." The literature also shows diesel fuel milage improving from 3.5 miles per gallon for a diesel bus to about 5.25 mgp for the hybrid.  The passenger's ride is also improved, since there are no "steps" when the transmission shifts gear ratios and the engine noise is considerably less.  The power blend starts as purely electric during starting acceleration, adding the mechanical drive contribution as speed increases.  One effect of the "electric launch" of the bus is lack of a puff of diesel smoke when the bus starts moving.  At about 14 miles an hour the engine's contribution is blended back in.  By the time the bus is at highway speed, the engine is carrying 100% of the load, with the transmission locked up into 1-to-1 ratio, where the engine-transmission combination is most efficient.  The side of the bus is labeled "Equipped with a Detroit Diesel MBE 900 Series Engine" which is actually built by Mercedes. 

"This is a picnic to drive, compared to a normal bus," said Jim.  "It is smoother riding and has smoother and faster acceleration.  The regenerative braking means you hardly ever have to touch the brakes.  I can bring the bus to a creep and just lightly touch the brake at a stop light to hold it in position."

The Panasonic nickel metal hydride battery pack is on the roof, under a cover.  Frank said that they are looking for light, energy dense batteries that will give them ten year life. 

Inside, the bus is very tall.  I am six feet tall and my hand above my head was six inches below the ceiling.  As a result, the windows are tall and the interior feels bright. 

Frank makes the point that this bus, and others using the same system, are being delivered to city transit systems today.  While the purchase price of the bus is 30 to 40 percent above a conventional diesel bus, "we picked this particular industry because it was the one that most needed this technology.  The government has some subsidies for the research and development of these units for transit service.  It is more expensive right now, but as the production picks up the economies of scale will bring the price down." Their goal is to sell this technology at the same price as compressed natural gas (CNG) units.  They believe that the preventive maintenance will offer a tremendous economy to the operators.  The engine wear and tear should be much lower. 

Paul Findeisen, from Johnson and Towers in Baltimore Maryland, is from the shop that maintains and supports the engine and hybrid control systems on these buses.  He made the point that the introduction of this new technology into the maintenance shops is not really a problem because new technologies have been a constant experience over the past decade or so.  "We have in our company two full-time trainers.  So part of our business is training the folks that work on the equipment we service." They expect hybrid-electric bus systems to be a growing business for them. 

During the Tour de Sol, this bus will be running shuttle service between the parking sites and the Festivals, both for the teams and the public. 

 Vehicle Name           Allison parallel hybrid electric drive bus
 Vehicle Number         40
 Category               HEAVY DUTY VEHICLES
 Vehicle type category  Hybrid electric
 Team Name              Allison Transmission
 Vehicle Type Class     Heavy Duty
 Vehicle Type Division  Production
 Fuel Type              Diesel
 Program blurb          Compared to a conventional diesel vehicle, a
                        bus or truck equipped with an Allison hybrid
                        electric drive system offers a 90% reduction in
                        particulate and hydrocarbon emissions, a 50%
                        reduction in NOx, up to a 60% improvement in fuel
                        economy, and a 50% improvement in acceleration. 

Report #17: Team Profile: "Kyoto Codex" #47

This year, for the first time, the Tour de Sol is including alternative fuel vehicles as contestents.  "If it reduces Americans' use of gasoline or oil and improves national security, the economy, and the environment, you will see it at the 2003 Tour de Sol: The Great American Green Transportation Festival." This now allows vehicles that use biodiesel and vegetable oil fuels to compete with the hybrid-electrics on the basis of efficiency and emissions.  This team is one of those competitors. 

Jonathan Bartlett and Mark Meachen were among the first to show up for team registration on Friday.  They had driven their entry, the "Kyoto Codex" from the Boston area.  The name derives from the city of Kyoto Japan, where the environmental Kyoto Protocol was signed.  "Codex is a somewhat obscure word.  It as a religious-based manual of behavior.  Our team name is made of two web sites: and ."

The vehicle is Mark's 1996 VW Passat that he has been running on biodiesel fuel for about two years.  "This is the first year that the Tour de Sol has allowed biodiesel as the sole means of propulsion, as opposed to biodiesel and battery hybrids.  Mark and some of his cohort convinced NESEA at last year's Tour to allow straight biodiesel competitors to get a direct comparison," said Jonathan. 

"Last year we started a group called the Boston Area Biodiesel Initiative," added Mark, "in an effort to get a consumer biodiesel pump opened in metropolitan Boston.  The Chelsea pump was opened a year ago April.  While trying to get that together, I and Phil Lafont (spelling?) brought our cars to the final day of the 2002 Tour in New York City." (I did not meet them last year.) "This year we managed to get into the competition." They hope to demonstrate the lower pollution that biodiesel offers.  "Lower carbon monoxide, and, because there is no sulphur in biodiesel, zero contribution towards acid rain." Also the carbon monoxide and dioxide that is emitted contains "recent carbon" taken out of the atmosphere as the plant grew, it is now returned to the atmosphere as the fuel is burnt.  The result is no net increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  This is different from carbon from petroleum fuels which is increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Jonathan wanted to be clear on the difference between biodiesel and other vegetable oil based fuels.  "Biodiesel is a vegetable oil that has been converted into a diesel fuel.  Straight vegetable oil is a simpler, more basic fuel, but it requires modifications to the car, such as heaters in the fuel tank and lines to keep the oil at a temperature where it will flow easily. 

"When vegetable oil is converted to biodiesel, the chains of carbon are broken down from 20 to 23 in length to 18 or so, which is a lot closer to the 16 or 17 found in petroleum-based diesel fuel.  When converted, biodiesel is perfectly compatible and can be mixed with regular diesel fuel in any proportion, from zero to one hundred percent.  Once mixed together, they stay mixed together.  We are running 100 percent biodiesel."

Biodiesel can usually be used without modification to the vehicle.  The only concern is if there are natural rubber lines and hoses.  Over time, biodiesel will soften natural rubber.  Using synthetic rubber instead overcomes that problem. 

Cold weather can also be an issue, as with petro-diesel.  In regular diesel fuel, if it gets cold paraffin will come out of suspension (at a temperature called the "cloud point") and clog the fuel lines.  "The cloud point of biodiesel is a bit higher.  I did run my car down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit lower than most people say is prudent, but I was trying to see how low I could go.  I did run a mixture, with 33% biodiesel, that still worked at 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit below zero." Mark remarked that he drove his 1998 VW New Beetle 5-speed on B20, 20% biodiesel / 80% petro- diesel, all winter long without any problem. 

Mark has been using B20 all along because that is what the Chelsea pump has.  Burke Oil opened the Chelsea pump, for public use, in April 2002.  They plan to have a B100 pump when the temperature is above 50 degrees.  "Then my strategy will be to use B100 for three seasons and B20 in the winter."

Financially, how does it all work out? Jonathan said, "I buy B100 from Solar Market in Arundell (spelling?) Maine, 100 gallons at a time, bringing it back in 2 drums on a trailer.  That costs me about $2.40 per gallon.  That purchase price is not necessarily the cost.  The cost is offset by the fact that the car runs smoother, quieter and cleaner.  It has requires fewer periodic cleaning the intake system.  The exhaust is cleaner which means the atmosphere is cleaner.  There is reduced friction in the fuel pumps, which means they last longer.  I have 250,000 miles on the car, which I figure is half-way there, on the original fuel pump and injectors." (My experience was that injectors were good for about 60,000 miles.) "The mileage of B100 biodiesel is about 10 percent less than regular diesel.  B20 drops your mileage about 2 percent."

But Mark has been comparing his diesel New Beetle with his brother's gasoline New Beetle.  "In a 1000 mile comparison, my $2.40 per gallon biodiesel costs the same as his gasoline cost.  The fuel cost comes out the same.  The difference is that my car runs 1000 RPM lower than his at highway speeds and is significantly quieter than his."

What got them into this? Mark said, "We are both members of Fred's TDI club on line." TDI stands for Turbo Direct Injection - the type of engines in their cars.  They were interested in the technology and the advantages it gives to modern cars, like quieter operation, more power, and cleaner operation.  "We started hearing from the German members that these cars could be run on vegetable oil.  Well the culture of the club is rumor-shy and verification- strong so there was a lot of `what are you talking about?' push back.  We then started hearing from members in Hawaii and California saying they were getting access to biodiesel," and telling their experiences.  Michigan then got a biodiesel pump.  Nathan Burns of asked if there was anyone in the TDI club interested in getting a biodiesel pump in the Boston market.  "When 5 or 6 of us got together to say `we are', the pump opened up very shortly afterward," said Jonathan. 

Mark added, "That was the initial start.  Now it is such a positive story, and so doable.  It is a solution that is available now and we have a ready market with our trucking industry to seed and grow production." In 2006, sulphur emission levels will be tighter and biodiesel could be in place to help meet those levels. 

Biodiesel can be made from many different crops: soybeans, cannola, peanut, sunflower, safflower, cotton seed.  The transesterfication process breaks the oil down into shorter chain molecules.  Jonathan said, "Some people claim they can tell from the exhaust smell what the primary ingredient for the fuel was, but to me all biodiesel smells the same; like bad, burnt French fries."

"Buttery something," added Mark.  "We aren't sure what."

Now the biodiesels Mark and Jonathan are using are not used cooking oils.  "The waste vegetable oil angle has a lot going for it.  First, it is a waste product that is going to cost money, about a dollar a gallon, to dispose of.  By turning it into something that has value it can now be sold for money.  With the cost of the alcohol and lye used in the conversion, waste oil biodiesel comes to about 60 cents a gallon."

Mark commented that if the used cooking oil wasn't used for transportation, it could be used for heating, "at the very least.  The energy cost of filtering used fryerlator oil is so much lower generating the crop, refining it and transporting it.  You could do this in small batches, locally, and establish a very neat system."

Biodiesel use is growing.  According to Mark, "in 1999 500 thousand gallons was sold.  It went up to something like 15 million in 2000.  And I think I read 32 million in 2002.  That is pretty steep! North Carolina is moving away from tobacco towards soybeans and have committed to a 15 million gallon per year facility.  California just committed to a 35 million gallon per year facility." And more production should lower the price. 

And it is less of a problem if there is a spill.  "It is biodegradable.  It is less toxic than table salt.  10% concentration in the water does not affect marine life.  Imagine how much less of an impact there would have been if that tanker that sank off the coast of Spain had been biodiesel."

The Boston Area Biodiesel Initiative is now renamed the New England Biodiesel Initiative. 

 Vehicle Name           Kyoto Codex
 Vehicle Number         47
 Vehicle type category  ICE
 Team Name    
 Who Built              club
 Vehicle Manufacturer   Volkswagen
 Vehicle Model Year     1996
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Production
 Vehicle Type Model     Passat
 Fuel Type              Biodiesel
 Range miles            1,400
 Program blurb and has entered a
                        1996 Volkswagen Passat.  They have set out to
                        prove that biodiesel is a viable alternative to
                        conventional fossil fuel. 

Report #18: Team Profile: "Viking 23", #23

This car has a long history at the Tour de Sol, starting in 1996, and returning in 1998, 1999 and 2002.  Last year they broke an axle and had to drop out.  I asked Eric Nordlund, David Neal, Bryan Harris, Ryan Brown, Jeremiah Jewell, and Paul Wyndham of Western Washington University to bring me up to date. 

"We didn't test enough before we came to the Tour.  We had just put in a new electric motor system (which drives the front wheels) and we didn't have all the issues worked out as far as dimension geometry.  We also broke our brakes last year.  We spent a lot of this year designing new axle shafts and a new suspension and new brakes.  Wider tires for better handling.  New seat covers.  We did a lot of testing this year.  And we are working on the radio."

"It runs the same biodiesel engine in the back and electric motor in the front.  We have a new fuel tank and new batteries.  New hinging and latching mechanisms for the body means the doors all hinge correctly now.  We repainted the car.  We redid the electrical system, getting rid of a lot of the glitches.  And we redesigned the interior."

"We have been driving the car all around the Peuget Sound area, testing, doing interviews and photo stuff.  We get a lot of stares, a lot of girls waving at us.  It's hot, man.  The chicks love it!"

This car is built at WWU Industrial Technology Department's Vehicle Research Institute.  "The program offers vehicle design courses, but if you do a project like this you learn ten times as much as just taking classes."

"You also spend 10 times as much time at school!"

"And I'm not even in that program.  I'm an English major.  And it's just fun! There is a lot of stuff to learn; countless stuff I would not have know if I had not been involved these past two years.  I learned how stressful it is to take something from partially done to the point where it IS done!"

This car has a new upper body, but the original carbon-fiber pan that holds all the drive components, batteries, dash board and seats is still the original.  I asked how it was holding up.  "It was built really stout.  We have examined it and there are very few stress fractures in it.  We have cut into the original chassis for some of our modifications, but we see little decay.  It is doing pretty well.  But the car will have be retired sometime."

This car, in the past, sometimes made it quite clear that it was experimental.  Running through a puddle would splash water onto the passengers.  When there was serious rain, well ...  "It is all sealed now! We made a firewall around the front.  There is also a better seal around the engine compartment to keep the exhaust out. 

"The biodiesel side of the car, which drives the rear wheels, is a 1-liter, 3-cylinder turbo diesel Diahatsu engine.  The 7.5 gallon tank is removable so we can weigh it when we figure fuel consumption.  The fuel is 100% biodiesel (B100) made from virgin stock from World Energy."

"The electric side is a Unique Mobility motor driving the front wheels.  We improved the electronics a lot this year.  We added regenerative braking and charging-while-driving this year," which should improve their range.  The 144 SAFT NiCd batteries are 1.55 Volts each (240 Volts total). 

The driver controls the two drive systems.  The electric is used for acceleration and the fuel for high speeds.  "We just drive it up to a certain speed, say 35 mph, and then turn the electric off since it isn't that efficient at high speeds."

An article in the Bellingham Herald newspaper quoted someone saying that they were going to drive the car back to Washington state if they won.  Is that serious? "We brought 110 gallons of fuel.  We might.  Until we hit snow.  It would be interesting to try." The car does not have a lot of clearance between the body and the ground. 

Originally, the "rear view mirror" was actually a TV camera in the tail and a monitor on the dashboard.  That is gone.  "If you get glare you cannot see anything." Mirrors work better.  But the experiment was successful.  They learned something. 

 Vehicle Name           Viking 23
 Vehicle Number         23
 Vehicle type category  Advanced battery
 Team Name              Viking 23
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Prototype
 Energy Storage System  NiCad
 Battery                /NiCad
 Conversion             Purpose-Built
 Fuel Type              Biodiesel
 Program blurb          Viking 23 is a prototype vehicle designed and
                        built entirely by students at Western Washington
                        University.  As a hybrid, it is unique in that it
                        has a body and chassis both made completely of
                        carbon fiber.  It demonstrates that hybrids can be
                        both reliable and fun. 

A story: "We were unloading the car from the truck in a bank parking lot which was busy, and people were staring at us, getting mad.  We were trying to get out of there before the bank told us to leave.  This guy came wandering over.  His name is Don.  He and his wife Jenny offered us a garage right next to the parking area.  We give them a lot of thanks!" And a couple of tee shirts and a letter when the team returns to Seattle. 

The shirts say on the back,

	biodiesel/electric hybrid
	saving the world ... 

Report #19: NESEA Volunteers: Spencer Quong

I'm not sure when I met Spencer Quong.  It might have been at my first Tour de Sol in 1993 when I helped with some of the technical testing.  But he was an old hand at it even then.  "My first tour must have been in 1990 as part of the Berkeley Solar Car Team." The first Tour de Sol Report about him was in 1995 (when I misspelled his name Quang; sorry Spencer) when he was doing electrical testing.  This year he is involved with the hybrid testing and also has his own business providing alternative fuels.  We met this time during technical testing in Burlington NJ. 

"I've been providing alternative fuels to various groups, the automotive companies, to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the Michelin Challenge." How did he get into that? "Through the Tour de Sol.  The Michelin people were visiting the Tour, found out I was in charge of fuels, and through them I have met quite a few of the automotive companies and became the hydrogen and alternative fuel supplier for a lot of them.  I bring the fuel in, get the safety permits, set up temporary fueling areas, deal with fire departments.  I'm extremely busy.  There are a lot of different public relations events.  General Motors is setting up a fleet of fuel cell vehicles in Washington DC, so I've been helping them."

Spencer is managing the testing of the Tour's alternative fueled and hybrid electric vehicles.  With all the different fuels here, propane, biodiesel, diesel, gasoline and vegetable oil, he has to be up on the rules and regulations for all of them. 

When he finishes here on Monday, it's back to California to work on the California Fuel Cell Partnership rally that runs from Sacramento to Los Angeles next week. 

Spencer can be reached at:

	Quong & ASsociates, Inc.
	213 947-1287

Report #20: On Display: Amherst Regional High School Alternative Energy Club

This is my 11th Tour de Sol, and I am certain that every year I have seen the hand of Bob Batson and his company, Electric Vehicles of America, on the field.  Bob's insistence of simple, obvious design and wiring is instantly recognizable.  So I really didn't have to read the label on the plywood that held the controller, contactors, fuses, shunt, and other components to know that his work was near at hand. 

Erik Tobiason, Tom Black and Ben Ewing from the Alternative Energy Club of Amherst Massachusetts Regional High School displayed they EVA converted Chevy S-10 pickup truck in Burlington on Saturday.  "We received a grant to buy this truck.  We got it from Concord Electric in eastern Massachusetts last summer.  We've been driving it around, thinking about what to do with it in the future." They don't have any sponsors, except Snapdragon who made a tow hitch for them, so they have been fund raising.  "We've done bake sales and such.  We drive it around town, from the school to the store and other places to see if it is still working." It has also been in a parade.  They are thinking of decorating it with flames, which I thought was not a good idea.  Lightning bolts is what it needs.  "Erik had the idea of putting metal posts out the front with an electric arc across them.  We are not so sure about that one."

It has 20 6-Volt batteries, 4 under the hood and 16 below the bed.  A 12 Volt battery, charged by the solar panel mounted on the front dashboard, activates the contactor relays when the key is turned. 

Stuart Olson, the advisor to the club, is teacher at ARHS.  "We want to get it into the Tour next year.  We need to find the students with the time to devote to this." And they need to raise money. 

There is a second electric truck, also bought for very little money from the same place, which was rusted out.  They have been taking it apart with plans to use the parts to convert another.  They also have a 1979 Renault LeCar that needs work. 


        To discover and learn about alternatives to fossil and toxic-waste
        producing fuels as sources of energy, to educate ourselves and our
        peers regarding what we find, and to promote awareness and usage of
        alternative energy sources. 


        Convert our electric vehicle as completely as possible. 

        Refurbish old electric car with regenerative braking system and parts
        from scrapped second electric truck. 

        Build a fuel cell, make bio-diesel and build/sell solar battery

Want to help them out? 413 362-1757, 413 256-8261,

Report #21: John Linderman, Prius Owner, Trenton Ride-and-Drive Volunteer

According to the Truth in Reporting Act I am honor bound to tell you that John Linderman and I have been friends much longer than we want to admit.  He purchased a Toyota "Prius" in January of 2001, after a 6 month wait, and now uses it as his everyday commuting car around Morristown New Jersey.  He also has a 1995 Suburu 4-wheel drive car that he uses when driving to the ski slopes.  "I have to take the Suburu out once a week" (to keep the starter battery charged), "but every time I do I feel like I'm being cheated.  It's a nice car and I love it, but if I'm not driving the Prius I wish I was."

John volunteered to bring his Prius to the Trenton Tour de Sol Festival and offer Ride-and-Drives to the public.  I spoke with him a week before the event.a

"I will love to take people on tours in the hybrid," he said.  Has he rehearsed his speech? "Here's my Prius.  Do you want a ride?"

What makes him so enamored of the Prius? "It's a little bit like a video game, where you try to get the best gasoline mileage." There is a display that shows your current and recent fuel mileage, and you get one gold circle for each 50 Watt-hours of regenerative braking energy recovery.  "It's quiet.  And I feel virtuous when I'm driving it, given that I have to drive anyhow.  It's wonderful to get 50 miles to the gallon instead of 22, in the summer.  In the winter it's in the low 40s." Does he drive differently in the Prius? "I try to keep the mileage good.  So if I see a light turn red ahead of me, I take my foot off the gas and start coasting.  And I've always been a little tentative going away from stop lights.  No need to hurry up to get to the next one.  And coasting down hills is wonderful - you get right up to the 100 miles per gallon reading on the display (which is as high as is displayed).  And going over the top of a hill I'll coast over the top and pick up speed on the way down.  I try not to annoy others in rush hour traffic, but when there is no one else on the road ..." Has that changed the way he drives the Suburu.  "No, not really."

Where John works (AT&T Research in Florham Park NJ), there were at least two Priuses on the parking lot before he got his.  "I recognize the Priuses, but there might be Honda `Insites' and `Civic Hybrids' there and I wouldn't know.  I'm not a car guy." But he gives rides and talks to anyone who asks about the hybrid and couple more have appeared since his appeared.  All the Priuses that are delivered by Toyota of Morristown have "Eat My Voltage" decals just below the 3rd brake light in the rear window. 

Why did he bother to wait so long to get a car that is so different? What is his personal story? "It goes long with the `feeling virtuous' thing.  I am not terribly proud of how this country uses its petroleum supply.  I can think of dozens of reasons why it is a good idea to use it more gently.  I was particularly upset when Vice President Cheney said that conversation was not the way to go.  That we should instead just develop more resources.  That irritated me to the point where I thought `I just need to go and just demonstrate he is wrong!'"

Is it just about the oil? "No.  Emissions and global warming and protecting the wild life preserves are some of the good reasons.  Reducing dependence on foreign oil; that's a good reason.  Any one of them is a good-enough reason.  And as a set they make compelling reasons."

Does he ever wish he could plug the car in? "No.  I sort of understand what that means.  They have done a nice job balancing the amount of battery that is there with the amount of battery that is practical.  To make plugging it in practical you need more battery which must be hauled around all the time." He thinks the engine/electric system is well designed as it is. 

Report #22: Team Profile: "Eskimobile", #52 / "Al C. O'holic", #35

David Shilling, John Hymmen, and Eric Duiker from the University of Waterloo told me about their entry. 

"It's Chevy Malibu with a 1.9 liter Saturn engine.  It is the first half of our hybrid project.  We got rid of the 3.1 liter stock Chevy V-6 to make room for the electric motor which will be put in next year.  The benefit of using ethanol is that you can get more horsepower with a smaller engine.  Although we dropped displacement from 3.1 liters to 1.9 we still have the same horsepower and drivability as the stock Malibu using E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline).  It also burns cleaner and is a renewable fuel. 

"The car really came together in the past month.  We have been doing all the painting and stickering over the past 4 or 5 months.  We went after appearance first.  When it came down to nitty gritty we rebuilt the engine, put it in, converted it from an automatic transmission to a 5-speed manual.  We're controlling it with our own engine control system which gives us full control over fuel and spark.  It's a controller that we bought but we are doing our own calibration.  We can adjust all the parameters in the engine using a laptop. 

 Vehicle Name               Eskimobile
 Vehicle Number             52
 Vehicle type category      ICE
 Team Name                  University of Waterloo
 Organization               University of Waterloo
 No People in Project       30
 Time to Build              8 months
 Who Built                  club
 part of school curriculum?  Yes
 Vehicle Manufacturer       Chevrolet
 Vehicle Model Year         1997
 Vehicle Type Class         Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division      Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model         Malibu
 Conversion                 Conversion
 Fuel Type                  E85
 Range miles                400
 Program blurb              This 1997 Chevrolet Malibu is powered by ethanol
                            breathing 1.9L Saturn engine.  While producing more
                            horsepower than the original 3.1L engine, this
                            lightweight aluminum power plant gets better fuel
                            economy with lower emissions that the stock
                            engine.  As with Al C. O' Holic, this car was built
                            entirely by students. 

The other car in Waterloo's stable is "Al C. O'holic", often referred to as "Al C.", is ethanol and propane powered.  "It is a bi-fuel vehicle vehicle which is still capable of running on gasoline." (Wouldn't that make it a tri-fuel vehicle?) "There are two separate computers; one to control propane, one to control ethanol fueling.  A switch on the dash allows you to choose which you want.  We added an additional tank, we added the propane fuel system and pretty much doubled our range." The propane tank I could see was sitting in the pickup truck's bed.  But ... "That one is temporary, just for Tour de Sol use.  We have to be able to take it out and weigh it to measure our fuel consumption.  The real tank is under there.  That way we don't loose any bed space and the vehicle looks like it's completely stock."

"The engine is still the original 5.3 liter V-8 has been worked to raise the compression ratio.  It is now 11:1, which makes it somewhat of a performance motor.  It's about 300 horsepower, yet it meets ultra-low emissions on E85 fuel.  We don't know what the propane numbers are yet."

"We added the propane system in the last month.  We came across a really neat system that was mostly bolt on.  We had to some wiring and stuff to trick the stock computer into controlling the things on the truck.  It is a real showpiece vehicle for us.  It's also extremely handy to have as a team vehicle.  We can use it as a pick up truck or for pulling a car.  On the other hand it draws a lot of attention and gets us good sponsorship."

"The truck is far faster than the car is.  So we were hoping to win the eighth- mile event with the truck.  We won the acceleration event last time we were here, in 2001.  We'll see how well we do."

The front hood is labeled "Sloshed Silverado". 

 Vehicle Name           Al C. O'Holic
 Vehicle Number         35
 Vehicle type category  ICE
 Team Name              University of Waterloo
 Organization           University of Waterloo
 Vehicle Manufacturer   Chevrolet
 Vehicle Model Year     1999
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model     Silverado k1500
 Conversion             Conversion
 Fuel Type              LPG
 Range miles            600
 Program blurb          This 1999 Chevrolet Pick-up was converted to be a
                        super clean dedicated Ethanol vehicle.  Since then
                        a flex fuel system and an LPG conversion have been
                        added to make this truck tri-fueled.  Capable of
                        running on Ethanol, Propane, or Gasoline, fuel
                        will always be available no matter where we go!

What sort of activity is this at Waterloo University? "This is a team.  We do it in our spare time.  No one is really getting credit for it.  Some students can use it as a 4th year credit course, but we are all 3rd year students and under.  We are just doing it for fun and to learn a little about the alternative fuel portion of the automotive industry.  Right now there are 6 or 7 people who are really heavily involved.  And then there about a dozen, maybe even two dozen who show up occasionally. 

"We applied for funding through our World of Engineering endowment fund and that contributes quite a bit toward the program.  We also have various other sponsors who are quite loyal to us.  We rely heavily on our sponsors, both at the University and outside."

Does this have any practical benefit? "I have about 11 months before I graduate.  My co-op job is for a company that does natural gas, propane and hydrogen work for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM).  I like it there and hope to get in there after I graduate."

Report #23: Team Profile: "Heibao EV", #36

Canadian Monte Gisborne first came to the Tour de Sol in 1997, entering his personal electric car, "The Electrifly".  He also entered in 1998 and 1999.  He is back again, but this time as the representative of a partnership with the Chinese company Heibao Group Co., Ltd.  He is presenting their "Heibao EV" here at the Tour de Sol. 

If you are uncertain how to say that name, don't worry.  "We are about to rename it anyway," says Monte.  "It is manufactured in China and sold over there.  They started production in the fall of 2002 and there are 300 units on the road today.  We are the exclusive distributor for Canada and probably North America, soon.  We have an EnviroMotive dealership in downtown Toronto, showroom and everything, where we sell the Chinese vehicle and the Dynasty Motors "IT", produced in British Columbia. 

"We have sold 10 vehicles, all Dynasty IT's.  Being a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) it works very well for fleet customers.  I've sold 1 to a Canadian Federal Park and 2 to a Provincial Park.  Transport Canada bought 2, and the City of Toronto has bought 2 for use in the Toronto Zoo.  Most of the applications are off the highway, in closed areas, and that's were these cars shine. 

"The Dynasty sells for about $13,000 US ($19,000 Canadian).  It is a spacious vehicle with a lot of payload capacity" and can be configured with 2, 3 or 4 seats.  The seats are from the ultralight airplane industry, with a mesh back that looks like they would be much cooler in hot weather.  "On that note," said Monte, "this also comes in a convertible configuration, called the Tropic, with a canvas top." The chassis is made of welded aluminum box tubing and beams and provides independent rear suspension.  Driving the IT was simple.  A vertical control panel in the middle of the dash holds a speedometer and 3-position switch drive switch; Reverse, Drive and Low.  Low, sometimes referred to as "turf speed" is for use on golf courses and resorts which have strict speed limits.  The charge indicator is on the steering wheel; a 10 position LED horizontal bar. 

Monte comes from north of the border, where the temperature has been known to get to well below chilly.  How does he deal with issues of heat? "Both vehicles have low wattage heaters for demisting, fall and spring.  We also have a cold climate option.  We have found a European diesel fuel heater that consumes 0.1 liters of diesel fuel per hour of use.  It gives instance heat, faster than a regular car where you have to wait for the engine to warm up.  The Canadian military are testing the Dynasty car with that heater and people are lining up to use it because it is the car with the best heater."

But it is the Heibao that is officially entered in the Tour. 

"The price of the Heibao is $11,700.  That's for a car with 4 speakers, AM/FM/Cassette stereo system, power windows, power door locks, 14 zero maintenance gelled electrolyte batteries, AC motor and controller and the fit and finish of a regular car." The rear deck can fold up to become a rear sear for small people.  Below that is a lockable pull-out drawer which I estimate to be about 3.5 x 2 x 1 feet.  "The works in a drawer," said Monte.  They do plan to make some changes.  For instance, the glass on the rear hatch back is a bit low for many North Americans.  I'm 6' 1'' tall and the edge of the hatchback glass was just above eye height on me.  "We are reengineering that to go much higher.  We are adding an external charging port and several other things we want to do to improve it."

The doors and body are steel, with plastic internal trim.  The dashboard is plastic, but looks like wood.  The battery pack is under the seats, which puts the battery weight low and keeps the center of gravity low.  It uses front- wheel drive, from an AC inverter which looks like a metal sculpture of The Parthenon.  The controller is water-cooled with a system that uses a set of vertical tubes (which look like the columns) going to a tank on top (the roof).  The cooling system is convective.  The controller provides regenerative braking and also 12 Volts for lights, horn, radio and such. 

There is a choice of charging systems, 120 or 220 Volts AC. 

While the car looks like it might be road-worthy, it is not being sold that way.  "It wouldn't pass crash testing.  We have the Chinese reengineering the controller and the gear box to make it into a legal Low Speed Vehicle."

When asked how the Heibao was doing in the Tour de Sol testing Monte's partner, Steve Dallas, said, "We have passed everything with flying colors."

EnviroMotive also sells the 12 kiloWatt Heibao motor and controller system. 

 Vehicle Name           Heibao EV
 Vehicle Number         36
 Category               DEMONSTRATION VEHICLES (non-competitive)
 Team Name              Shandong Heibao Group Company and EnviroMotive
                        China and Whitby, Ontario Canada
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Production
 Program Blurb          The two great countries of China and Canada
                        have teamed up to present the Heibao EV, an
                        AC-powered battery-electric vehicle.  This
                        highway-worthy car is in full production in
                        China.  It is Team Sino-Canada's intent to
                        bring the Heibao EV into the North American

 Heibao EV 2003

 Maximum speed                      74.5 mph
 Range                              50 miles
 Gradability                        20%
 Batteries                          14 x 12V lead-acid, zero maintenance
 Dimensions                         Length / width / height (9'8" / 6' / 6'4" )
 Number of seats                    4-5
 Propulsion                         12kW AC asynchronous motor
 Body type                          2-door, steel reinforced and ABS structure
 Total weight                       2649 lbs
 Brakes                             hydraulic system
 Suspension                         independent suspension
 Steering                           rack and pinion

 Heibao Inverter

 Inverter Type                      AC
 Maximum DC in Power                35KW
 Overvoltage protection             250V
 Input voltage range,nom            110-200VDC
 Input (Battery) current,max        120A
 Output current,max. peak           120A per phase
 Size                               430x270x300mm
 Weight                             15kgs
 Cooling type                       water cooling

 Heibao AC Motor

 Motor type                         3 phase AC asynchronous
 Rated voltage                      100v
 Rated power at rated voltage       12kw (continuous)
 Rated speed                        5920 rmp
 Rated torque@1420 rmp              22.1 lb ft
 Max power                          20kw
 Max torque@1420 rmp                56 lb ft
 Max current (limited by inverter)  120A per phase
 Max operating speed                12,000 rmp
 Shaft option                       Splined outside
 Time sustaining max ratings        1.5min
 Dimension                          Dia.200x320mm(height of junction, box 83mm)
 Weight                             40kgs

Dynasty Motors' "IT"


        Length:                  140 in (3566 mm)
        Width:                   60 in (1524 mm)
        Height:                  63 in (1600 mm)
        Wheelbase:               90 in (2286 mm)
        Curb Weight:             1450 lbs (653 kg) (Sedan w/doors & glass)

        Construction Materials
        Frame Material:          Aluminum
        Body Material:           Infusion Molded Fiberglass
        Bumper Material:         Rotationally Molded Plastic
        Windshield:              Laminated Safety Glass

        Wheels & Ride
        Wheel Size:              13 Inch (330 mm)
        Brake Type:              Front Disc / Rear Drum
        Park Brake:              Mechanical / Rear Drum
        Suspension:              4 Wheel / Independent
                                 McPherson Struts (front)
                                 Coil/Over Shock (rear)
        Road Speed:              Up to 25 mph (40 kph)
        Turf Speed:              Up to 12 mph (20 kph)
        Range:                   Up to 30 Miles (50 km)

        Power System
        Traction Batteries:      6 x 12V Trojan 30 XHS
        Accessory Battery:       1 x 12v Trojan 24 XHS
        DC - DC Converter:       SPS Electronics
        Motor Controller:        Curtis
        Electric Motor:          72V Advanced DC (Re-Generative)
        Charger:                 Zivan High Frequency 110 VAC

        Safety Features

        * 3 Point Anchored Seat Belts
        * High Visibility Brake and Tail Lights
        * Side Indicators and Reflectors
        * Back Up Light & Alarm
        * Halogen Headlights with Hi/Lo
        * Beam
        * Self Canceling Turn
        * Signals w/4-ways
        * Rearview and Side
        * Mirror
        * Windshield Demist

Report #24: Team Profile: "The Lorax", #45

The Lorax is best known to people as a Dr. Seuss character who is concerned about what is happening to the world.  It's name sake is a 3-wheel battery electric car, originally built in 2001 by John Murray and brought back to the Tour de Sol by a club at Methacton High School from Jeffersonville Pennsylvania.  Methacton is pronounced me-THACT-on. 

I asked Steven Savitz for the story.  "The car is a great story.  I went to a couple of NESEA conferences that my principle allowed me to attend.  There I met John, who then came to the Advanced Placement Environmental science classes that I teach.  John wanted to build a fuel cell car, and concerned that this would just sit in the garage, he put it up for donation.  In came down to us and Temple University School of Engineering, and because John was convinced that more kids would have their hands on the car here, about 3 weeks ago we became the owners.  We have had the car on the road up to 62 miles per hour, and between 60 and 75 miles per charge.  That's the equivalent of about 110 miles per gallon of gas. 

"At the moment we are trying to get a part replaced.  It caught on fire on the trailer coming over here.  We are guessing it could be moisture.  We called the president of Solectria and he is trying to find us one." It is a $40 part so they are hoping they can get one. 

This year they will incorporate the car into Steven's AP Environmental class, the AP Physics and Technology Education classes.  "I do alternative energy in my curriculum." In physics they will cover the fundamentals, and in technology they will use CAD (computer aided design) to plan future renovations.  The voc- tech school will make the parts designed.  "We hope to offer an elective with a focus on alternative energy and rebuilding the car."

Will they be a regular at the Tour de Sol? "Absolutely.  We are very excited.  We had 11 kids, recruited over the past 4 weeks to take an active part in this.  We have been driving it around school, raising eyebrows."

Wade Million is a senior and one of the team members.  "I am in Mr. Savitz Environmental class.  I really like learning about it.  I don't know why the government doesn't delve further into this and try to develop the technologies.  Most people would be thrilled to get the equivalent to 110 miles per gallon."

He told me the car has 16 12-Volt batteries, Solectria AC drive and that it was based on the Lomax kit, which was it original name.  "We were trying to come up with a new name at a club meeting, throwing out names.  We had seen the Lorax movie in environmental class, someone shouted out the name and it took."

Wade thinks his next stop will be Texas A&M as an English or journalism major. 

 Vehicle Name                The Lorax
 Vehicle Number              45
 Category                    BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEV)
 Vehicle type category       PbA
 Team Name                   Methacton H.S. 
 No People in Project        13
 Time to Build               300hrs
 Who Built                   private group
 part of school curriculum?  Yes
 Vehicle Model Year          2000
 Vehicle Type Class          Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division       Prototype
 Energy Storage System       PbA
 Battery                     /PbA
 Plug Type                   6-30P
 Conversion                  Purpose-Built
 Range miles                 70
 Program blurb               The Methacton Tour de Sol team welcomes students
                             from all ability and high school grade levels. 
                             The car is an important component in a wide range
                             of high school curriculum.  Students experience
                             first hand the potential for cars to utilize
                             alternate fuel sources and opens their minds to
                             social, political, environmental, and
                             technological possibilities. 

Report #25: Team Profile: "CC Probester", #33

Ed Hazzard is the owner of this 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid, with manual transmission, which has been decorated with images of many forms of wildlife.  Scott Cuigacki is his side kick.  "It's called the CC Probester," said Ed, "and I'll explain why.  We both work for the Concord Consortium, which is an organization in Concord Massachusetts, developing technology to teach science and math more effectively, especially in middle school and high school. 

"One of the things we do is creating probes that have real-time output and can be read on a hand-held or a computer.  That way you can measure lots of things and explore science in a more lively and inquiry-based way. 

"I bought this Honda Hybrid a year ago and Nancy Hazard (no relation, one 'z') talked me into bringing it on this Tour.  Then I realized we could see it as a place where you might use probes to explore the physics of cars.  So it is the CC, for Concord Consortium, Probester."

So it is bristling with probes? "I wish it were bristling.  There is an accelerometer there on the dash board.  And we have temperature probes.  We have been exploring ways to get at the motor ..."

Scott added, "... using the built-in sensors of the car, but so far we have had trouble getting the proprietary codes from Honda."

Ed continued, "Even with an accelerometer it is very interesting what that means in terms of physics.  When the car is speeding up, or slowing down, how does that relate to the gas mileage.  We would also like to know how it relates to power coming out of the batteries and engine.  We haven't got all the connections we would like.  We are hoping that by asking all the other people here how they could use probes in their cars that we'll learn of some interesting ways to apply them." Ed is particularly interested in what happens when the data collected by the probe is readily and quickly available.  "You can then try something, see what happened, think about what you saw, and then try something else right away.  You get into a lively relationship with the theory, experience and the natural world."

"Even the miles per gallon readout in this car when thought of as a probe changes one's experience of driving completely.  If every car had a miles per gallon meter on it, things would be quite different.  That's a good example of where a probe, just by giving you data, makes you think about the world in a completely different way." Speaking of mileage, Ed gets between 46 and 50 mpg.  "And the mileage goes down to 42 or 40 in the winter, and I would like to figure out why."

Scott is a programmer at the Concord Consortium.  "I design the probe systems that we use.  I wrote the code that runs on the iPac system, and other people designed the hardware.  Ed writes the curriculum for those probes."

The Concord Consortium is funded by the National Science Foundation, so everything they do is free to the public. 


The art work on the car was a collective effort.  "I got a whole bunch of friends together and we all started looking at nature books and drawing animals using sign vinyl." The images are laid out as mosaics, representing ducks, turtles, squirrels, geckos, ants, fish and so on.  "I've always wanted a decorated car and I finally had an excuse to really do it well."

 Vehicle Name                 CC Probester
 Vehicle Number               33
 vehicle type category        Hybrid electric
 Team Name                    Concord Consortium
 Who Built                    private group
 Vehicle Manufacturer         Honda
 Vehicle Model Year           2003
 Vehicle Type Class           Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division        Production
 Vehicle Type Model           Civic Hybrid
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Honda
 Energy Storage System        NiMH
 Battery                      Honda/NiMH
 Program blurb                The Concord Consortium has entered a Honda Civic
                              hybrid to use as a teaching tool in physics. 
                              They are excited to be able to offer real world
                              teaching tools. 

Report #26: Team Profile: "Veggie Golf", #32

Scott McGrath's 2002 Volkswagen TDI (Turbo Direct Injection engine) Golf is called the "Veggie Golf".  It runs on straight vegetable oil, be it soy bean, cannola, peanut oil, or even animal fat.  "We added a secondary fuel system that has a heater to keep the oil at a controlled temperature to lower the viscosity of the fuel.  We have a second fuel tank in the back, with a heat exchanger that preheats the fuel to melt a potentially solid block, especially in the winter.  From there the fuel flow to the front of the car where it is brought up to the final temperature of 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  At that temperature it is at the same viscosity as regular diesel.  Then it goes right into the engine. 

What percentage of the fuel used is vegetable oil? "After a brief warm up period, typically 1 or 2 minutes, you can switch over and run 100% vegetable oil for as long as you want.  The diesel fuel is just for starting."

"We have a couple of restaurants in town that normally pay, about 75 cents per gallon, to have their waste oil taken away.  They supply us.  The more Mom-and- Pop style restaurants are more understanding than the chain style restaurants.  But those who give us their oil are happy to see it is doing to the environment. 

"All we have to do is filter it to get out the salt and food particles.  We find that home water filter elements work well.  We have a 55 gallon drum with a heating element.  In a couple of hours it is hot enough to pump through a regular filter with an electric pump.  A hose with a nozzle attached makes it much like filling up at a regular diesel pump. 

"We haven't had to buy more than about 10 gallons of diesel in the last couple of months."

This is just a private enterprise at this point "although it could certainly be ramped up to a larger scale pretty quickly, like through a co-op.  That is something we have thought about in the past, to help get recycled oil into people's cars."

"There is no difference in power and pick-up at all.  There is also no noticeable difference in mileage.  I get 50 to 55 miles per gallon on either fuel."

During the tour he will be using virgin oil. 

NFA Technologies and Greasecar are working on a in-car computer to manage the switchover from starting diesel to vegetable and back automatically. 

More information is at:

 Vehicle Name           Veggie Golf
 Vehicle Number         32
 Vehicle type category  ICE
 Team Name              NFA Technologies/Greasecar
 No People in Project   6
 Who Built              private group
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Prototype
 Fuel Type              Straight Vegetable Oil
 Program blurb          The NFA Technologies "Veggie" Golf" is a tricked-
                        out turbo-direct injection engine, fueled by
                        straight vegetable oil!  It incorporates a
                        Greasecar vegetable fuel system.  NFA (New Found
                        Alternatives) is a Vermont-based start-up company
                        specializing in the field of environmentally-
                        conscious engineering.  They have developed
                        technology for battery-electric vehicles,
                        biodiesel production, and home heating. 

Report #27: Ideas for a Small Island

The REVolutionride team was busy getting their van ready for technical testing so they didn't have time to talk with me, yet (that Report is coming), but there are 2 other projects being planned for the island of North Haven that I heard about. 

Ben Lovell from North Haven Community School showed me the first one.  "The Green Energy Project" combines a biodiesel generator and a solar array.  "Our ninth and tenth grade classes wanted to complete the second phase of our program.  The first phase was building an electric vehicle.  The second is to make it a zero emissions vehicle, so that it didn't use electricity from a power plant that is polluting the environment.  We also have problems with our power going out because there are cables that come over from the mainland. 

"We did a lot of research for different ways to do this.  We thought about doing a wind tower and tidal power, but we figured out that it wasn't the right thing for our location.  We wouldn't get enough wind and it would be taller than our town's tower ordinance permits. 

"We then did some research on solar panels and a solar engineer, Chris Warfel, come out and help us.  We thought we could put up a solar panel array that can run the electric vehicle and also a vocational building, out in back of our school, and a few of the emergency systems in our school.  We plan to have the solar panels on the roof of the school, with the power stored in batteries.  We will also have a biodiesel generator connected."

The diagram showed a 5400 Watt array, circuit breakers, inverters, etc.  Jamie Lane added that they are going to connect the system so, when the batteries are fully charged, the excess electric energy will be fed back into the electric grid.  "We will have net-metering agreement with the local electric company, which will reduce our electric cost."

"We have to be careful when the power goes off our system will separate from the main grid."

Jamie added, "It's called islanding.  We don't want to hurt anyone," who is working to repair the power. 

"We hope to be building and close to completion by fall 2003."

Seven students are involved in this project. 

Madisen Grumbach told me about the biodiesel project.  "The biodiesel running in the generator for REVolutionride right now isn't biodiesel that we made.  We didn't want to run something that wasn't certified during the Tour de Sol.  Also we have only been able to make small batches of biodiesel, using fryerlator fat from a restaurant on the island.  The process involves adding sodium hydroxide and ethanol or methanol to the fat.  Doing that will separate the triglycerides in the vegetable oil." She had molecular models of the hydrocarbons both before and after the reaction.  "Our problem is that we can only make 150 milliliters at a time.  We think our problem may be that we are using ethanol.  Most people use methanol.  That project is on hold while we are working on the Tour de Sol."

The B100 they make will be primarily for the generator, but they also have an old diesel pickup truck which they hope to get running on biodiesel. 

Madisen told me that the REVolutionride van is used almost every day, summer and winter.  "We had a set of snow tires on it.  The school secretary uses it to go down to the ferry and pick up people."

Report #28: Team Profile: "S&S AutoSport Toyota Prius", #70

This is the third time Robert Strattan has brought his personal Prius to the Tour de Sol as an entrant.  "It is the sixth time I've been to the Tour.  The other times it was with the University of Tulsa's hybrid-electric vehicle team as faculty advisor.  I'm back to defend my championship in the Production HEV category last year." The other car, Team Driven to Work, got lost on one of the rally legs which gave Bob a couple of points lead.  "It was a very closely fought battle.  We had a lot of fun."

Bob turned on the car to see what his mileage was.  For the past 305 miles is 52.2 miles per gallon.  "That was mostly driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike."

"This is my daily driver and in 32,000 miles I have never had a bit of trouble.  I just go in for the routine oil change and service at Toyota.  It was part of the deal.  For the first 36,000 miles all the service is free."

"The price of gasoline is way too cheap in this country.  I think we sell it at too low a price compared to the rest of the world.  I really complement Toyota and Honda for stepping up and putting something on the market that demonstrates that you can have a very efficient, low pollution, practical automobile that uses the hybrid technology."

Bob, although retired from the faculty, still is an advisor to the Tulsa team.  "I still work with them on an almost daily basis.  That program is first of all an educational program and not a research program.  It is run by the students.  They call the shots on the way they want to design and build the car and organize the team.  The faculty is there to guide and keep them from falling off high cliffs.  I am very proud of them.  It is a tremendous task to design and build one of these cars.  A lot of them come into the program not knowing very much about about automotive design or technology so they have to learn that while creating the car.  They work very hard at it.  The result is kind of rough sometimes but eventually they get it polished up. 

"The Tour de Sol gives us focus and specific goals.  We know how it is scored in terms of fuel efficiency, greenhouse gases, reliability and all that.  It is something to reach for each year.  One of our main goals is to go to the Tour de Sol, compete and hopefully win.  And it provides a metric to see how well we're doing compared to other universities, high schools, and the private sector."

It turns out Tulsa is competing against a former team member.  "Mary Gilstrap who leads the Ohio State team that's here was, as an undergraduate student, on our team, and came to a Tour de Sol.  When she went to Ohio State to do her graduate work, she immediately went into their Future Truck program.  Another former team member has moved up the ranks in Saturn, several work for Ford, several more for General Motors."

 Vehicle Name           Toyota Prius
 Vehicle Number         70
 Vehicle type category  Hybrid electric
 Team Name              S&S Auto Sport
 Vehicle Manufacturer   Toyota
 Vehicle Model Year     2001
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Production
 Vehicle Type Model     Prius
 Range miles            500
 Program blurb          The S & S AutoSport Toyota Prius is entered by Dr. 
                        Strattan, Emeritus Professor of EE at the
                        University of Tulsa and faculty co-advisor the
                        university's Hurricane Motor Works.  S & S
                        AutoSport is a car hobby enterprise operated by he
                        and his son.  Dr. Strattan started coming to the
                        Tour de Sol in 1998 with the University of Tulsa's
                        ParaDyne second generation prototype HEV, and has
                        brought his personal Prius since taking delivery
                        in October of 2000.  The university's new Proxima
                        third generation HEV prototype is entered in the
                        2003 Tour de Sol.  The S & S AutoSport Prius is
                        defending the 2002 Production HEV and Greenest
                        Production Hybrid titles.  The vehicle is the
                        daily driver of Dr. Strattan, with over 30,000
                        trouble-free miles. 

Report #29: Team Profile: "Vegginator", #007

Alex Vazquez, Justio Cortez, Jaime Rodas and Pablo Rivera are from Trenton Central High School and part of the club known as the Tornado Fuel Masters.  They told me about their car, "The Vegginator". 

Their 1985 Volkswagen Golf with a diesel engine has been converted to run on biodiesel that they make, themselves, from used cooking oil from the cafeteria.  "We filter the oil, then add methanol and lye to it, mix it for 8 hours, filter it again and then remove the portion of it which is fat and glycerin.  The cafeteria would have to pay to have the oil removed, so we are saving them money."

They have been running the car on their home-brew B100 fuel for just a few weeks.  Converting the car was primarily a matter of changing the fuel lines and the filters in the car.  The biodiesel will eat away at natural rubber parts so they must be replaced. 

"This is our first year.  We are just building experience and learning more about the car so we can do new stuff in the future." The team has one senior with the rest being underclassmen.  "You'll see us at next year's Tour de Sol.  We might bring a second vehicle, possibly a motorcycle converted to biodiesel.  But don't tell anyone." My lips are sealed. 

Gregory Taylor, David Cipolloni and John Skitsko are teachers who advise the team.  "Four years ago the school was restructured into smaller learning communities or academies.  This one is the Applied Engineering and Science Academy.  So we are looking for new opportunities to expose kids to things in engineering and science.  When I heard about the Tour de Sol and saw the classification for biodiesel and learned what biodiesel was, I said this has all kinds of opportunities for our kids to study not only science and chemistry but also the engineering involved with the vehicle, and the economics involved in using alternative sources of energy, and the environmental issues.  From an educational standpoint it is a very diverse learning experience for kids."

Trenton Central has been in the First Robotics program for four years.  "That is a pure engineering exercise.  Design an build a robot.  This offers so much more, I think."

John made the point that the conversion of used oil into biodiesel is very simple.  "You do a simple titration test to find the amount of lye you will need.  The first two times I did it I used a blender at home.  It took about 10 minutes."

Trenton Central is the main high school in Trenton, with 2700 students.  "A Tour de Sol project like is a good learning environment plus they get to network and talk with kids from other schools and other places."

Gregory made the point that "any time the kids hands are on something other than books or paper or, now, computers, where it is something that is physical, that they are working on, that they can see the results, they light up.  Just walking around the Tour they are seeing things they never thought of.  It's a cool thing to see."

And doing this sort of thing does not have to be expensive.  Gregory told me that the project cost $1900, including the car.  "Someone was selling it for 400 bucks.  The person thought they had an engine problem.  It was very hard to start.  One of our students did the repair.  One of the first things we bought was the official VW shop manual.  One of the tests was for the glow plugs.  She followed the directions point-by-point and lo and behold, there was a screw loose.  Tighten it six turns and it is running like a champ!"

 Vehicle Name           Vegginator
 Vehicle Number         007
 vehicle type category  ICE
 Team Name              Tornado Fuel Masters
 Vehicle Manufacturer   Volkswagen
 Vehicle Model Year     1985
 Vehicle Reg            LSV
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Production
 Vehicle Type Model     Golf
 body material          Steel body
 frame material         Steel frame
 # seats                2
 Weight pounds          2200
 lbs of persons         200
 lbs of cargo           200
 Fuel Type              Biodiesel
 Range miles            350
 Program blurb          This year is the first time The Trenton Central
                        High School has participated in the Tour de Sol. 
                        As a part of the Trenton team's development, the
                        students have selected the team name, "Trenton
                        Fuel Masters" and the car name "Vegginator" The
                        team is continuing modifications to a 1985
                        Volkswagen Golf in order to burn processed used
                        cooking oil (biodiesel).  The oil has been salvaged
                        from the high school cafeteria.  The team is
                        gearing up to produce the fuel needed for the
                        competition.  The team is also currently developing
                        a design for the exterior of the car, which will
                        be printed as a decal and applied, to car by the
                        students.  The goal is to produce a design that
                        reflects the environmental aspects of the entire

Report #30: Team Profile: "Kineticar III", #18

I've been doing these Reports for 10 years now, and there has been a Kineticar in every one of them until last year.  "Yes, it has gone through many stages over the years," said Kristen Stewart.  "Last year we were not able to make it.  We had engine problems.  Our injection blew; the cylinders went out of round.  We fixed all that. 

"We now have three smaller propane tanks in the back so we can just use the number we need, to reduce weight.  If we are going short distances we only need one.  We designed a clear back for aerodynamics." A plastic sheet faring runs from the roof line of the cab down to the mid-point of the truck bed to avoid turbulent air flow off the cab. 

The setup of the engine and motor is still the same as in years past.  "We are hoping to do something new.  This car has seen a lot of Tour de Sols. 

"The club is about 15 people total."

Kristen has been with the team 2 years, but has plans to transfer to the University of New Haven.  "I hear they entered a vehicle 2 years ago." She hopes to work on that vehicle next.  "I guess they are not doing anything with it now.  That's the next project." She may not be back with Kineticar next year, but she hopes to come back to the Tour de Sol. 

 Vehicle Name                Kineticar III
 Vehicle Number              18
 Vehicle type category       Hybrid electric
 Team Name                   Kineticar
 No People in Project        14
 Time to Build               3 months
 Who Built                   club
 part of school curriculum?  No
 Vehicle Manufacturer        Chevy
 Vehicle Model Year          1989
 Vehicle Type Class          Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division       Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model          S-10
 Plug Type                   6-30P
 Conversion                  Conversion
 Fuel Type                   LPG
 Range miles                 400
 Program blurb               The Kineticar III is a parallel hybrid vehicle
                             that uses liquid propane (LPG) and an electric
                             drive system.  The Kineticar team consists of
                             about 14 students, is made up of the CSERT club at
                             Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury,
                             CT.  The main goal of the team is to strive for
                             efficiency but in the process we have a lot of fun
                             and learn more than you ever could in a classroom. 
                             After not participating in the Tour in 2001, the
                             team has gained more experience and has improved
                             the vehicle's efficiency. 

Report #31: Team Profile: "Solar Black Bear", #20

"The University of Maine Solar Vehicle Team is just a group guys and girls that get together and work on this way too much; toward the end of the semester anyway.  We've put some serious time into this during the last month or so."

Originally the Solar Black Bear's solar panel was on a large, tall rack above the cab and bed.  Last year it was made so it could be hinged and extended, but meant that it took considerable time and effort to open panel for charging or closing it for driving.  For this year, they are back to one big flat 1100 Watt solar panel on the overhead rack, but now it does not fold up.  Instead it can tilt from side-to-side.  They added a ball screw actuator to raise and lower the solar panel electrically.  The result is the solar panel tilts to either the left or right side of the truck, depending on whether the left or right retaining pins are left in place.  "That way we can aim it toward the sun when we are fortunate enough to have sun."

The batteries used to be kept in a wooden battery box in the truck bed.  "We made new battery boxes down, under the bed, inside the frame.  That lowered the center of gravity, so it rides really nice now." The truck bed is now done in shiny diamond plate, with two removable covers that let you see some of the batteries below the bed.  A second, clear cover protects wandering hands from actually touching the batteries when they are displayed.  The battery pack is 162 Volts, 32,400 Watt-hours.  The panel puts out about 230 Volts. 

How are jobs divided among the 10 team members? "We brain storm up a huge list of what needs to be done and people just do what they think they can."

Between Tour de Sols the Solar Black Bear is an around-campus utility vehicle.  "For the past three years, from May to November we never plug it in.  We drive it about 15 miles a day just on the solar energy it collects."

Paul Van Steenperghe has the advisor for the Solar Black Bear and its stable mate, The Phantom Sol, for 5 years.  "The students who come through the team learn a lot while they are here but, because of our program, they cannot stay very long.  Around town we educate all kinds of people.  We visit 2nd grade classes on up.  Sometimes we wish we could visit more. 

"We approach the solar vehicle very differently from most people.  The common approach is ultra-light, small, and so forth.  We don't care what the weight is as long as we have lots of battery and lots of solar and the truck can still be used as a truck."

 Vehicle Name           Solar Black Bear
 Vehicle Number         20
 Category               SOLAR ELECTRIC VEHICLES
 Vehicle type category  solar electric
 Team Name              UMaine Solar Vehicle Team
 Vehicle Manufacturer   Chevy
 Vehicle Model Year     1986
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model     S-10
 Energy Storage System  PbA
 Battery                /PbA
 Plug Type              6-30P
 Conversion             Conversion
 Program blurb          They have re-entered their converted battery
                        electric 1986 Chevy S-10.  They have over hauled
                        their battery boxes and array as well as put their
                        12 panel solar array on top of the vehicle on a
                        carpenters rack. 

Report #32: Team Profile: "SunPacer", #92

This is SunPacer's 11th year at the Tour de Sol.  (See the earlier Reports for descriptions of the vehicle).  I asked driver Amber Ross what is new and different this year. 

"We have a new emergency braking system.  We took out the old parking brake and the lever we had.  Now it looks more like a conventional parking brake, and works a lot better than the other one did.  We also put little mud flaps on there to keep the mud from flapping." Small pieces of aluminum stick out from the front wheel wells.  "The NESEA people decided that we needed those.  And that's all the changes this year.  Last year was our year of big change."

Between Tour de Sols the car "camps out in the bus garage.  We pull it out a couple of months before hand, clean it up and work on it.  This is its big event."

"The team is 4 kids, plus our advisors." Three graduate this year, "so Kirk will be the leader next year."

 Vehicle Name                 SunPacer
 Vehicle Number               92
 Category                     SOLAR ELECTRIC VEHICLES
 Vehicle type category        solar electric
 Team Name                    Cato-Meridian HS Tech Team
 No People in Project         6
 Time to Build                1.5 yrs
 Who Built                    class
 part of school curriculum?   Yes
 Vehicle Type Class           One Person
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Ovonic
 Energy Storage System        NiMH
 Battery                      Ovonic/NiMH
 Plug Type                    5-30P
 Conversion                   Purpose-Built
 Range miles                  80
 Program blurb                This is SunPacer's (#92) 11th straight year in
                              Tour de Sol race.  During this time Sunpacer has
                              won its class several times and has been honored
                              with many efficiency awards.  This year's team
                              consists of crew chief Arron Kolb, Driver Ashley
                              Davenport, Cheif Navigator Tim Sorne, Back-up
                              Navigator Amber Ross, and Technology Teacher Earl

I have the felling that those people listed are last year's team. 

Report #33: Winners and Awards

Here are the awards handed out on Wednesday in Washington DC. 

                          2003 TOUR DE SOL AWARDS

 DIVISION                  AWARD                  TEAM   NAME






             2nd Place                             32    Veggie Golf
             3rd Place                             23    Viking 23




             2nd Place                             27    Patriot
             3rd Place                             42    Fire Fly


             BATTERY EV


             Ground Up, ALTERNATIVE FUEL &





             2nd Place                             53    REVolutionRide



             2nd Place                             16    Olympian



             2nd Place                             56    Woodstock
             3rd Place                             75    SEVRX



                                                   52    Eskimobile (TIE)
             2nd Place                             70    Toyota Prius


             2nd Place                             47    Kyoto Codex
             3rd Place                             32    Veggie Golf


             2nd Place                             27    Patriot
             3rd Place                             23    Viking 23

This is NOT the end of the Reports.  I have over 5 hours of interview tape to process, so these missives shall continue.  Stay tuned ... 

Report #34: Team Profile: "Electro", #38

Matt Beattie told me the history of Electro. 

The Union-Endicott High School Solar/Electric Car Team has got their hands on a 1994 Solectria "Force GT" from NYSEG (New York State Electric & Gas).  "NYSEG put all sorts of technology and different things into the car, switched batteries a couple of times, and at one point Lockheed Martin built a special charger for the car." They had some difficulty with the car and it then just sat for three years or so, which killed the batteries.  "So they called us up one day and asked if we wanted another car.  And we said, sure!"

"Nothing was working in it.  The batteries would not take a charge, and we had no idea what any of the components in the car were." The Force GT had two AC induction motors in tandem, driving the front wheels through a pair of belts to the differential.  "We left the motor configuration the same, and controllers, but everything else we redid.  It had a BADICHEQ system which we believe was not functioning so we took that out.  The Lockheed Martin charger worked with the BADICHEQ so we took that out and replaced it with a small charger.  I got a group of guys together to make it our car to take to the Tour.  We redid the wiring, got new batteries, and continue to upgrade the car.  It looks a lot different than it used to look." It sports a very clean new paint job; black with colored sparkles.  There are solar panels on the hood of the car, but they are not connected to anything, yet.  Eventually they will power the on-board computer system they intend to add.  It will include battery monitoring and a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. 

The UEHS Solar/Electric Car Team is about 25 members from all four grades who meet twice a week, three when it gets close to the Tour.  They had hoped to also have their electric Fiero here, but it wasn't ready.  Working on the Fiero is where Matt learned a ton of stuff which he applied to Electro. 

 Vehicle Name                 Electro
 Vehicle Number               38
 Category                     BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEV)
 Vehicle type category        PbA
 Team Name                    UEHS Solar/Electric Car Team
 Vehicle Manufacturer         Geo
 Vehicle Model Year           1994
 Vehicle Type Class           Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model           Metro
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Exide/GNB
 Energy Storage System        PbA
 Battery                      Exide/GNB/PbA
 Plug Type                    6-30P
 Conversion                   Conversion
 Program blurb                Union-Endicott High School Technology Club
                              converted a 1994 Geo Metro to electric-drive. 
                              Over thirty club members meet after school to
                              problem-solve, develop CAD drawings, make vehicle
                              modifications, fundraise, and test the car. 

Report #35: Team Profile: "The Olympian", #16

For five years running the Pirates team from New Jersey's Cinnaminson High School has brought The Olympian to the Tour.  I asked April Diamond, Steve Seemuller, Greg Merrill, Steve Safirstein, and Kevin Sconaker what was new and different this year. 

"We put a partition in, to separate the batteries in the back from the front.  The batteries give off gases when they are charging.  We also replaced 10 batteries, and got a new Zivan charger." And the bumper was fixed and the rear brakes drum shoes were replaced. 

They had not passed technical testing when I was talking with them.  "We were a little over weight.  We were at 3,587 and we can only be 3,149 pounds." They were hoping the extra-strength springs in the rear would give them some added capacity to carry the weight. 

The team is an extra credit club for the honors physics class.  I asked if the team members had specific roles.  "We all pretty much just help each other out where ever we can." They kept pointing at Steve Safirstein, saying he pretty much leads the group. 

 Vehicle Name                 The Olympian
 Vehicle Number               16
 Category                     BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEV)
 Vehicle type category        PbA
 Team Name                    Pirates
 No People in Project         12
 Time to Build                2 yrs
 Who Built                    club
 part of school curriculum?   No
 Vehicle Manufacturer         Ford
 Vehicle Model Year           1986
 Vehicle Type Class           Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model           Escort
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  GNB Division of Exide
 Energy Storage System        PbA
 Battery                      GNB Division of Exide/PbA
 Conversion                   Conversion
 Program blurb                The Olympian has completed every leg of the Tour
                              for the past five years without a breakdown.  We
                              have placed 2nd, 4th, 4th, 3rd, and 3rd. 

Report #36: Team Profile: "Fire Fly", #42

Kevin Becker, Nichelle Appleby, Marcus Hayes, Tyner Robertson and Rob Butler are the members of the Jefferson County High School EV Club in Jackson Georgia.  The group that brought the Fire Fly to the tour is called Panther SPEED, and SPEED stands for Student Promoting Electric Energy Development.  (Got all that? It will be on the quiz!) Thirteen are here for the tour; the team totals about 20. 

"This is a 1983 Ford Ranger we found in a junk yard.  We bought it for $300 dollars.  We have converted it to electric drive.  It has 26 6-Volt batteries which means it runs at 156 Volts.  Up front there are 5 batteries (under the hood) and back here there are 21."

The project began in 1997.  "It hasn't always looked like this.  I used to have a bed and fewer batteries." The rear is now covered with a canvas and plastic "bubble" (for lack of a better description) which covers the rear from the cab to the bumper.  A large clear plastic window lets you see the batteries mounted on the truck frame.  The layout and cabling visible was very nice and neat.  Under the front hood there was a plastic cover to keep fingers away from things that need not to be touched. 

The truck is driven by a 9 inch Advanced DC motor, fed by a Raptor 1200 controller.  The truck is usually driven in 2nd and 4th gears. 

The group is club, "but sometimes the manufacturing class works on it."

Between events the car gets worked on a lot.  "Mostly we work on improving the efficiency and making it better."

The vehicle has competed over the years, including in the North Carolina EV Challenge, where they won once, and in the Georgia EV Master Rallies.  "At the state level, we are the pretty much the state champions."

Only the seniors can drive the car.  "It's fun to drive.  We get a lot of looks.  I'm hoping to build these for a living after I finish college."

The community stands behind the team.  "We got sponsors all over the place.  Especially when we win, they come around." They are also in the home town parades. 

 Vehicle Name                Fire Fly
 Vehicle Number              42
 Category                    BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEV)
 Vehicle type category       PbA
 Team Name                   Panther SPEED
 No People in Project        20
 Time to Build               1 yr of weekends, and 80 hrs
 Who Built                   club
 part of school curriculum?  No
 Vehicle Manufacturer        Ford
 Vehicle Model Year          1983
 Vehicle Type Class          Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division       Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model          Ranger
 Program blurb               Panther SPEED (Student Promoting Electric Energy
                             Development) has a proud history.  JCHS EV Club
                             members, the first in Georgia to convert a pick-up
                             truck to electric power, have won many trophies
                             and awards at Georgia EV rallies.  Students,
                             teachers, parents, and volunteers all helped
                             prepare the E-truck for the Tour. 

Report #37: Photos - Photos of the Allison Parallel Hybrid-Electric Bus

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Photos of the Allison Parallel Hybrid-Electric Bus

The Allison bus, quite frankly, surprised me.  The encapsulation of the two electric motors in the transmission, and using them to start the diesel engine, drive the bus at slow speed, and control the speed and torgue transfer of the vehicle is quite sophisticated. 

The Allision bus on display in Washington DC. 

The sign on the side reads, "Up to 90% reduction in emissions."

The view from the rear. 

Report #38: Photos - Vegginator, #007

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Vegginator, #007

If I remember correctly, the artwork on this car was donated by a local sign company. 

The hood art implies the recipe for biodiesel: Take left over cooking oil from fried foods, add lye and alcohol, mix thoroughly, allow to separate, skim biodiesel off top. 

Moving smartly along during the acceleration tests in Burlington New Jersey. 

Vegginator was given a place of honor in its town team of Trenton New Jersey. 

Report #39: Photos - Electric Blue, #10

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Electric Blue, #10

Last year this truck had a hydrogen fuel cell recharging the batteries for extra range.  Now it belongs to the Woodbury High School Advanced Technology class, who, with the Eco Living Fellowship, the mayor and community of Woodbury New Jersey, entered it in the Tour de Sol. 

Electric Blue is a conversion of a 1981 Ford Courier pickup truck. 

Some of the batteries are under the hood, and the rest below the truck bed. 

Report #40: Photos - Kineticar III, #18

, etc. 

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Kineticar III, #18

Passed testing and ready to rally. 

Here you can see the three propane canesters in the back of the truck.  Having them removable meant they could be weighed, which made determining fuel consumption much more reliable than in previous Tour de Sols. 

By adding the plastic faring, the team hoped to cut down on aerodynamic drag.

Report #40a: Photos - Solar Black Bear, #20

The Solar Black Bear is a working vehicle that is truly solar powered.  The 1100 Watt solar panel can be tilted to either side and by varying amounts to maximize to sun energy collected. 

The hatches in the truck bed have plastic covers to show off the batteries without having the terminals exposed.  Remove those covers, and the batteries are then accessible. 

Powered by American Photons!

Report #41: Photos - The Olympian, #16

, etc., etc. 

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

The Olympian, #16

Being scrutinized by the scrutineers during technical testing. 

Ready to roll for the range test. 

On display in Trenton.  The plastic cover keeps curious hands at a safe distance.

Proxima, #17

Not quite ready for prime time, the Universty of Tulsa decided to bring their new hybrid to the Tour de Sol anyhow. 

Let's see ...  there's the engine, and the motor, and ... 

With the lamp cover off, you can see the double row of LEDs in the tail lights. 

Leaving Trenton for the Autocross.

Hybrid Hippo, #22

Just remember, as you look at these pictures, that this vehicle started life as a Jeep Wrangler. 

Checking the total weight and weight distribution during technical testing. 

Left to right, the fuel tank, the controller and the engine. 

"What did we forget? Oh, right! A door!" Notice the single windshield wiper above the windshield. 

The West Philly team. 

Report #42: Team Profile: "Hybrid Hippo", #22

The West Philadelphia High School Electric Vehicle Team has been bringing electric and hybrid-electric cars to the Tour since 1999.  Their advisor, math and physics teacher Simon Hauger, was the 2002 winner of the George Bradford EV Teacher Award.  Devereaux Knight, Calvin Adams, and David Pope are part of this year's group and gave me the tour.  You wouldn't know it used to be a Jeep Wrangler to look at it.  The body is gone!

"The body is gone because the car needs to be a lot lighter, so we can save more energy.  It is made of fiber glass and honeycomb.  Putting it together is a yearly process.  Every year we make it even better than what it was." It was orange colored last year.  Now it has a silver coat. 

What is new? "We added a sound system! We cleaned up the front because it used to be a little bit messy." They made the underside of the car flat, to reduce the aerodynamic drag underneath.  "There's a better roof with a windshield wiper now, in case it rains." The roof is removable and the windshield wiper is part of the roof.  "Instead of having the lights on the body, they are on the bumper."

This team is somewhat like a sport team.  "We all work together, sort of like training.  Get everything ready.  The Tour is like the championship."

They also built and brought along a hybrid go-cart, to help explain the concepts during the Festivals. 

They have another vehicle, to be called "The Attack, the Hybrid SuperCar", on the drawing boards.  They are starting to consider what will happen to the Soljourner, the EV they entered in the Tour in previous years.  "We might donate it to the Franklin Institute."

 Vehicle Name                Hybrid Hippo
 Vehicle Number              22
 Vehicle type category       Hybrid electric
 Team Name                   W.P.H.S. E.V. Team
 No People in Project        15
 Time to Build               10 months
 Who Built                   class
 part of school curriculum?  Yes
 Vehicle Manufacturer        Jeep
 Vehicle Model Year          1995
 Vehicle Type Class          Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division       Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model          Wrangler
 Energy Storage System       PbA
 Battery                     /PbA
 Plug Type                   10-50P
 Conversion                  Conversion
 Fuel Type                   Biodiesel
 Range miles                 250
 Program blurb               West Philly is returning to the Tour for the
                             fourth year in a row.  This year the students have
                             made improvements to their "hybrid hippo" which is
                             series hybrid using biodiesel and electric.  The
                             students  built a fiberglass body for a 1995 Jeep
                             Wrangler chassis.  This vehicle has a top speed of
                             80mph, good acceleration, weighs about 3100 lbs,
                             has a range of about 250 miles and creates very
                             little  pollution. 

Report #43: Team Profile: "Zodiac", #7

Yes, yes.  I know.  There are two number 7s in this year's Tour de Sol.  But the leading zeros are significant.  So the Vegginator is #007, and the Zodiac is #7. 

And it comes to the Tour from the West Irondequoit High School Solar Car Team in Rochester New York.  I spoke with Jonathan Lipary, Meral Kanik and Steve Dwyer. 

What's new and exciting? "We have a torque converter.  It keeps the gear ratio optimized so we can run at the same efficiency all the time.  We get better pick-up off the line and better top speed and it saves the batteries." The converter is the double-cone continuously variable type, such as you might find in snowmobiles, and there is no driver control of the ratio chosen.  "The driver just uses the accelerator." The connection to the rear drive wheel is through a belt, which makes it the only belt-driven car on the Tour. 

"There is also a new body." It used to be fiberglass, as I recall.  "It's mostly sheet metal now.  We tried to seam it pretty good so we have good air flow.  The only thing that is not sheet metal is the top here, which is plastic.  We didn't want to have to add supports to keep the sheet metal from flexing in, so we used plastic."

"We added a panel to the solar wing.  It brings in more Volts to charge the batteries.  We added to the batteries and are now running at 60 Volts this year. 

Dave Marshall is the advisor.  Are there teachable moments? "Sometimes.  And I'm learning too.  That's why we are all doing it.  We try new things, come up with good ideas, and we are all learning from it."

"It's a club, and when we get in a panic it becomes a class.  It could be a sport.  We meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 o'clock.  As the Tour gets closer we meet more days. 

"Every year the seniors travel with the team, and we want people to be on the team for more than year, or really show dedication, before they can go on the trip.  It works pretty good.  It attracts kids that sports and music don't attract.  It's a different kind of club where you can do hands-on stuff." The core group is 7 or 8, maybe 9 individuals, with another 20 moving in and out during the year. 

Jonathan added, "I'm not motivated by the trip.  I like working on it.  That's my sport."

I've not seen a lot of women on the teams this year.  I asked Meral what she thought about that.  "I've always hung out with all the guys.  On the car I've done some welding, made some of the small parts in the lathe." She also spent a lot of time on the sheet metal brake in the shop, and sanding the fiberglass. 

"We take pride in just how the car works.  We don't want to come unless its a hundred percent.  We have not had a problem, knock on wood."

 Vehicle Name                 Zodiac
 Vehicle Number               7
 Category                     SOLAR ELECTRIC VEHICLES
 Vehicle type category        solar electric
 Team Name                    IHS Tech Team
 No People in Project         24
 Time to Build                2
 Who Built                    club
 part of school curriculum?   Yes
 Vehicle Manufacturer         Custom
 Vehicle Model Year           2001
 Vehicle Type Class           Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model           Custom
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Trojan
 Energy Storage System        PbA
 Battery                      Trojan/PbA
 Plug Type                    6-30P
 Conversion                   Purpose-Built
 Range miles                  70
 Program blurb                2002 Tour de Sol Champs.  The team was started in
                              1999 as an after school activity to get students
                              involved in real world engineering problem
                              solving.  The team consists of students,
                              teachers, and local engineers from West
                              Irondequoit.  The team is currently designing and
                              building an all electric mini Cooper. 

Report #44: Final Press Release

Below is the Tour de Sol: The Great American Green Transportation Festival press release, issued from the finish line:

                   Northeast Sustainable Energy Association

May 14, 2003 CONTACTS: Jack Groh (401)732-1551 Nancy Hazard (413)774-6051 ext 18

                       TOUR DE SOL WINNERS PROVE ABILITY

WASHINGTON, D.C. - America's vehicle fleet is in trouble.  According to the EPA, we have the worst overall fuel economy in more than two decades.  The nation's growing appetite for oil makes us vulnerable to disruptions of foreign oil supplies and creates a negative balance of trade.  During the recent Tour de Sol: The Great American Green Transportation Festival, the top finishing vehicles showed how we can cut fuel consumption while improving the economy and the environment. 

In the Production Division (for vehicles already being sold on the market) the prize for the most fuel-efficient sedan went to a Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid.  The Prius achieved a fuel efficiency of 52.5 miles per gallon - more than two and a half times better than the current fleet average in the United States.  The award for best battery electric vehicle in the Production Division went to a vehicle called the Heibao that is currently being manufactured in China. 

"We could save billions of dollars, cut dangerous emissions significantly, and reduce dependence on foreign oil producers if we only took advantage of the green transportation options sitting on our doorsteps right now," said Nancy Hazard, director of the Tour de Sol. "The U.S. owns only 2% of the known oil reserves, so we might as well start using other fuels now."

In the Prototype Division, many one-of-a-kind vehicles built by high school and college students, individuals, and battery companies demonstrated vehicles powered by domestically produced fuels such as biodiesel, ethanol, and electricity, or vehicles that use hybrid or solar technologies.  The top placing alternative fueled vehicle was built by a group from Sterling, Massachusetts.  The top award for a battery-electric vehicle went to a student team from Union-Endicott High School in New York.  In the solar-assisted electric vehicle category prizes went to the University of Maine and a team from Cato-Meridian High School in New York. 

The private team from Sterling, Massachusetts, called, won the coveted prize for the most climate-friendly vehicle.  This prize is given to the vehicle that emits the smallest amount of carbon dioxide per mile of operation.  The winning vehicle ran on Biodiesel, a fuel made from plant material.  Even though Biodiesel-powered vehicles emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, the plants used to make Biodiesel absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide as they are grown.  Biodiesel vehicles use up to 97 percent less oil than a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle. 

The Tour de Sol, now in its fifteenth year, showcases dozens of gas-sipping and domestically-fueled vehicles, as well as electric bikes, neighborhood vehicles, and programs that promote walking, biking, and mass transit.  During the competition component of the Tour de Sol, teams earn points for good fuel economy, low greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide), reliability, driving range, acceleration, and handling.  A list of all this year's award winners is available on the web at

The Tour de Sol always brings out lots of spectators and this year was no exception as festivals took place in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Along with the spectators, there was a significant increase in the number of people shopping for more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly cars.  "We saw a noticeable increase in the number of folks interested in vehicle cost, performance, and availability," said Warren Leon, executive director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, organizer of the Tour. "Even hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, that are many years away from production, prompted questions about when they would be available and how much they would cost."

Major sponsors of the 2003 Tour de Sol included General Motors and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.  Additional top sponsors included DaimlerChrysler, the New Jersey Climate Change Program, PECO Energy Company, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Sustainable Development Fund, Toyota, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. 

The annual Tour de Sol: The Great American Green Transportation Festival is organized by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), the nation's leading regional association involved in promoting awareness, understanding, and development of non-polluting, renewable energy technologies.  Headquartered in Greenfield, Massachusetts, NESEA has worked successfully in the fields of transportation, building construction and renewable energy for over 28 years.  For more information on greener vehicles, free educational resources, and NESEA's Green Car Club, go to or call 413-774-6051. 

Report #45: Team Profile: "Buck Hybrid" #49

The Tour de Sol is not the only place where advanced vehicle technologies are demonstrated.  The FutureCar and now FutureTruck competitions also challenge teams to come up with innovative ideas and then implement them.  This team from Ohio State has a long history with those competitions, but this is their first time at the Tour.  I spoke with members Mary Gilstrap, Emamuela, Kevin Do and Troy Baltic. 

Their 2002 Ford Explorer is being converted to be a biodiesel-electric hybrid, but the electric drive portion is not yet connected.  So instead they will run in the Alternative Fuel category on B35; 35% biodiesel, 85% petro-diesel.  "Our vehicle was created to be in the FutureTruck competition.  We decided we wanted some more test miles on it and the experience of coming here, so we pushed things a little bit to get done early.  It hasn't all worked out like we had planned.  We wanted to be running hybrid, but we are happy to be here. 

"It will be neat to see the things that other people do.  The FutureTruck competition is more structured, so we enjoy seeing the variety here. 

Kevin is in the electric motor coupling group, "doing research on the induction motor and the inverter.  We're trying to tune the controller to handle the Siemens induction motor which was originally built for the Ford Ecostar electric van."

There seems to be quite a number of sub-teams.  "A team of students built this (motor) mounting bracket, another designed the battery box, and there's an electric-motor coupling team, a mechanical group, electrical group, and another 5 people who do cleanup jobs." About 20 people make up the formal team, plus some of the design work is done as class projects. 

So they are quite a large team.  "Compared to some of the others here, yeah," said Mary.  "We are actually one of the smaller FutureTruck teams."

When the electric side of the hybrid is fully integrated, the induction motor will act as, and replace, the engine starter motor and the alternator, plus the traction motor to assist or substitute for the biodiesel engine. 

Mary is not actually a new-comer to to the Tour.  Two years ago she was here with the University of Tulsa's Paradyne team.  Now, as a graduate student at Ohio State, she heads the Buck Hybrid effort. 

 Vehicle Name                Buck Hybrid
 Vehicle Number              49
 Vehicle type category       Hybrid electric
 Team Name                   Ohio State University Future Truck
 No People in Project        25
 Time to Build               1 yr
 Who Built                   student/faculty/volunteers
 part of school curriculum?  Yes
 Vehicle Manufacturer        Ford
 Vehicle Model Year          2002
 Vehicle Type Class          Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division       Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model          Explorer
 Energy Storage System       PbA
 Battery                     /PbA
 Plug Type                   120/208 single phase 10amp
 Conversion                  Conversion
 Fuel Type                   Biodiesel B35
 Range miles                 250
 Program blurb               This year marks Ohio State University's first
                             entry in the Tour de Sol, but the team has
                             competed in FutureCar and FutureTruck since 1996. 
                             OSU's current FutureTruck, based on the 2002 Ford
                             Explorer platform, is a hybrid biodiesel-electric
                             conversion, which will also enter the FutureTruck
                             2003 competition. 

Report #46: Photos - Viking 23, #23

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Viking 23, #23

Viking 23 on display at The Great American Green Transportation Festival in Philadelphia. 

The passenger compartment.  The wide area between the seats and the body contains the batteries for the motor that drives the front wheels. 

I recognize those feet! That's, that's, ... 

Report #47: Team Profile: "", #53

In an earlier Report I spoke with people from island of North Haven Maine who were working on the second and third phase of this ambitious project, but now is my chance to talk about the history of van with Mina Bartovis, Ryan Lantagne and Laura Barrett. 

The van was here last year, so I wanted to know what happened when they went home past year, what happened during the year, and what happened coming back? "Since the fall, the school secretary uses it a lot.  She goes to the ferry, the post office, that sort of thing."

What sort of response does the town give to this? "They know of it.  I don't know if they understand what is going on inside. 

"Last year, before that Tour de Sol, we did a whole presentation to the whole community, when we first got it done.  Most of the people who live on the island showed up for that.  They got to take rides in it and we showed them the motor and battery boxes and all."

"Before this Tour de Sol we did a lot of work.  The motor was out of the vehicle to work on a bearing.  Some screws that were holding a piece of the motor on were going too far into the shaft hole." They needed to be changed for more appropriately sized bolts. 

I was a bit surprised to find that this team has their own generator that runs on biodiesel, and they are using it to recharge REVolutionride.  "It is part of our alternative fuels class.  We're making biodiesel in our lab.  We are using ethanol instead of methanol, so we are having a little trouble getting it to react.  Small batches work but larger batches are a little more difficult.  Union Farm gave us the generator at cost." For the tour they are running commercial B100 (100% biodiesel) fuel. 

"We went on a field trip to the Chewonki Foundation (which has a renewable energy program) and they had some suggestions for us on the biodiesel."

Why? "We are working towards the renewability prize, by being totally off the electric power grid, making all our electricity with biodiesel.  We are also planning to use the van for field trips, towing the generator.  The generator will also be used for backup-power.  We often loose power in the winter."

Where they will the get the vegetable oil to make biodiesel on the island? "We have a restaurant that said we could have all their used fryerlator oil.  Before they had to take the oil to a dump off-island.  All our garbage has to be taken off island."

Nine students and two adults make up the Tour de Sol team this year.  Is the project from a club? A class? "We combined the junior science class and the alternative fuels class." Two seniors are the drivers.  "The seniors haven't been involved in the EV this year because they have been doing an advanced biology course."

Tee shirt back: "Thought + Action, The Revolutionary Kind."

 Vehicle Name       
 Vehicle Number               53
 Category                     BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEV)
 Vehicle type category        PbA
 Team Name                    North Haven Community School
 No People in Project         18
 Time to Build                2
 Who Built                    class
 part of school curriculum?   Yes
 Vehicle Manufacturer         Volkswagen
 Vehicle Model Year           1986
 Vehicle Type Class           Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model           Syncro
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Trojan
 Energy Storage System        PbA
 Battery                      Trojan/PbA
 Plug Type                    10-30P
 Conversion                   Conversion
 Fuel Type                    electric
 Range miles                  60
 Program blurb                The team comes from the
                              smallest public school in the state of ME.  Our
                              vehicle, a 4WD Volkswagen Syncro, is used daily,
                              year-round.  This project is part of our unique
                              science curriculum which integrates physics,
                              chemistry, and environmental science.  Our team
                              is motivated, energetic, and diverse.  We are
                              like a family. 

Report #48: Team Profile: "Proxima", #17

When the University of Tulsa HEV team came to the Tour in 2000, 2001 and 2002, they spoke about working on the Proxima.  "Next Year" has finally arrived and the car is here.  Alex Johnson, Luke Florer and Kenley McQueen brought me up to date. 

"The project began about 4 years ago.  It's a school classwork project, worked on each semester and a little during the summers.  This is our 3rd hybrid car.  Our first was also a fiberglass vehicle, built from scratch.  It was kind of a rotten vehicle, but it ran.  The next one was the Paradyne, a Geo Metro conversion.  We wanted to do something a little sportier, increase the efficiency and have less weight by using a carbon fiber frame." There is no metal in the chassis.  "It is made of a PVC (poly vinyl chloride) skeleton." The skeleton looks for all the world like a wire-frame model of the car, such as you would get from a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program.  "We heated up the PVC and bent it to the shape we wanted.  Then we wrapped aircraft-grade carbon fiber sheets around it with an epoxy underneath.  We then put shrink-wrap over top and heated it to bring the epoxy resin through and bond all the carbon fiber.  After that we took an aircraft-grade PVC foam and filled in all the openings in each of the little boxes in the skeleton frame.  Then we cover the surface with fiberglass.  We cover that with a lightweight resin body filler called `microballons'.  When it sets up it is very, very light but strong.  Then we sand it down for a smooth finish, cover it again with more fiberglass and a primer.  When we get to work on the body again, we'll sand down the primer, run a couple more coats and get a final finish." As it stands now it definitely looks incomplete. 

What about the power plant? The fuel is gasoline right now.  "As in the Paradyne, we are using a 3-cylinder, 1-liter Geo Metro engine.  We are planning on making it E85 compliant eventually.  The hybrid computer isn't done yet.  A couple of us will be working on that during the summer.  In the first two gears it will be electric only.  Third gear will start the hybrid mode.  Fifth gear will be gas-only driving and recharging the batteries.  The engine is coupled to the gearbox with a centrifugal clutch that engages at 1800 RPM." The electric side of the drive is made from Solectria's components. 

 Vehicle Name                 Proxima
 Vehicle Number               17
 Vehicle type category        Hybrid electric
 Team Name                    University of Tulsa
 Who Built                    student/faculty/volunteers
 Vehicle Manufacturer         University of Tulsa
 Vehicle Model Year           2003
 Vehicle Reg                  Car/Truck
 Vehicle Type Class           Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model           Proxima
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Hawker
 Energy Storage System        PbA
 Battery                      Hawker/PbA
 Conversion                   Purpose-Built
 body material                Composite body
 frame material               Carbon Fiber
 Fuel Type                    Gasoline
 No of Passengers             2
 Program blurb                The University of Tulsa unveils a new scratch-
                              built hybrid-electric vehicle, the "TU Proxima". 
                              Featuring an all-composite structure, gull-wing
                              doors, and a fully automated controls system, the
                              Proxima is a parallel hybrid with a 1 liter
                              gasoline engine and a 30 hp electric motor. 
                              Proxima will help the U. of Tulsa defend its
                              title in the Tour de Sol hybrid category. 

Report #49: The Lorax is down, but maybe not out.

What do you do when something goes wrong? Some teams pack up and go home.  Others try to work their way through it.  On Saturday, it was clear that the Lorax was having some sort of problem, but I stayed away until they had figured out just what was up.  Sunday morning I got the story. 

The Lorax suffered an electrical failure of some sort on the way down to Burlington on Saturday.  The ignition box (not what it should be called in an electric vehicle, but these ideas die hard) got fried.  Apparently a stray connection sent current up the ground wire to the circuit card, and that caused a capacitor to burn.  "We are going to replace the ignition box.  We tested the controller.  It is fine.  And we are going to add a fuse to the ground wire to protect it in the future." The plan is to drive from Burlington to Boston, starting at 2 am, be at Solectria's door at 8:30 am on Monday to pick up the replacement, then turn around and be back by 2:30 pm Monday.  "Hopefully the trip will be worth it."

So Lorax won't be in Trenton.  With luck they will be in Philadelphia. 

Report #50: Interview with John Murphy

John Murphy brought a very interesting EV to the Tour de Sol in 2001.  It was based on a 3-wheel British kit-car called the Lomax.  This year it became the entry known as the Lorax, and is entered by the Methacton High School from Jeffersonville Pennsylvania.  See Report #24. 

So I asked John how that happened.  "I offered the Lomax up for donation to an educational institution, for a couple of years now.  Finally a school not far from where I live took me up on the offer.  After making presentations to the school boards, and so on, we came to an agreement.  They put together `The Tour de Sol Club' and one of the first things the club did was adopt a new name for it." The Lorax is an environmental character in a Dr. Seuss book who `speaks for the trees.' "The club has 13 members and 3 faculty advisors.  Their long term intent is to delve into the car, take it somewhat apart, make recommendations for improvements, and make it part of their environmental studies curriculum."

John has been visiting Steve Savitz environmental studies class about once a week for the past 3 or 4 months.  "I've been speaking to the Tour de Sol Club, orienting them to the car, preparing them for its arrival, and helping them determine what they need to maintain it.  The school has been great.  The car has its own locked garage, with electricity for the chargers.  The kids are excited.  With only a couple of months to think about it, they are not as knowledgeable as they will be, but they are eager to learn.  It has been a great experience talking to them.  I hear them talking to people asking questions about the car and they know, right off the top of their heads, the answers."

I had heard that the reason for all of this is that John wants to make room in his garage and his life so he can work on a fuel cell car.  True?

"That's what my brain is telling me.  I'm in the pre-beginning part of the project.  It hasn't started yet and I'm not even sure how to go about it.  But the dream is to build my own hydrogen-fueled fuel cell electric car.  I want to do this because I think it will be the ultimate answer for automobiles, and I also want to work on the bigger issue.  Where are we going to get the hydrogen without creating pollution when creating the hydrogen? It's really bigger than just building a car.  The car would be a showcase for determining how to get hydrogen effectively, efficiently, and without pollution.  It is a big dream and I don't know how far we will get.  But every journey starts with a first step."

And in the mean time he will continue to be involved with the Methacton High School team and the Lorax. 

Report #51: John Dietter, 2003 Winner of the George Bradford EV Teacher Award

George Bradford was one of the key organizers of the Tour de Sol for many years and NESEA created the EV Teacher Award as a memorial to his participation and guidance. 

John Dietter is the advisor the the REVolutionride EV team from the island of North Haven Maine.  We spoke just after he received the award. 

"I teach science at the smallest public high school in the state of Maine.  We have 25 students in our island school.  Right now the state is pressuring these small schools to consolidate with one another or with larger schools.  Part of the vision of doing this work isn't necessarily about electricity or electric vehicles, although those things are becoming passions of mine.  It's about doing real-world projects that solve real problems.  This vehicle came out of a need in our community to transport students around the island in a more earth- friendly way.  When we started this, the only student transportation we had was a 66-passenger school bus.  It seemed absurd to pick up or drop off 3 students in such a thing.  The EV was a real way of solving that problem and empowering students to solve the problem themselves.  Gasoline currently costs $2.20 per gallon on the island, and is always very expensive, as is electricity. 

"The coast of Maine has horrible air quality all summer long.  People think of it as an amazing, beautiful place, and it is.  But we are down wind of coal- burning power plants and create a bunch of smog ourselves, so we often have really bad air quality.  So part of this project is making that problem, which people often cannot see, something that is more real to them."

John is one of the farmers on the island, raising sheep and chickens, and some vegetables.  "There is a larger project going on in Maine right now, by a group called Unity Barn Raisers, that are planning on planting 2500 acres of soy and 1800 acres of canola, pressing those crops into oil, feeding the fiber to dairy cattle, and then returning the oil to the farmers who grew the crops, thus closing the loop.  These folks are often hurting because the economies of scale and the costs of transporting crops."

These projects and others are designed to provide some local knowledge and awareness of the ability to solve problems in non-traditional ways.  "You don't have to install a traditional furnace and pump fossil fuel to it all year long.  We are looking to provide good, workable examples of how alternative and renewable systems can work.  There are not a lot of examples right now."

"I started this project know absolutely nothing about electric vehicles, how they work or how to do the project.  And like a lot of things that I do I feel completely qualified now to start a project.  Being here at the Tour de Sol last year was an amazing, amazing experience for me.  I had heard about it over the years and maybe seen a picture in the newspaper.  But this project would not have happened without the boat electrician on North Haven, Phil des Lauriers.  From the time I met him 10 years ago he said, `North Haven would be the perfect place for an electric vehicle.  You don't have to go fast.  You don't have to go far.  And the way the EV looks is all due to Phil's meticulous nature.  The students did all the work, but he provided the guidance in the electrical department.  And Guy Hurd, the island welder, taught a semester long class in welding to the students who welded the battery boxes. 

"My role is more as a facilitator and the manager of the project instead of the expert.  I think that's a pretty healthy prospective to take. 

"We have a pretty amazing team of students.  It is something we work on."

John wrote an article about his experiences titled, "On an Island, You Never Have to Go Far or Fast", which is at

Report #52: Volunteer of the Year Award

The Tour de Sol named me the Volunteer of the Year.  The plaque reads:

	To: Mike Bianchi for your awesome promotion of the Tour de Sol through
	your website and your enthusiastic announcing, which furthers our
	common cause of a sustainable future. 

It was through the Tour de Sol that I learned much of what I know about electric vehicles.  It is also through my association with the people who have run and participated in it that I decided that I wanted to "drive electric" and have done just that these past 7 1/2 years.  It is a wonderful community to be part of and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. 

Report #53: Tee Shirt

It is said that what you wear sends a message.  Jonathan Bartlett, of the "Kyoto Codex", has a tee shirt that on the back reads

TDI Fährfrumpumpen

Report #54: Photos - Patriot, #27

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Patriot, #27

The Patriot is a 1993 Ford Probe "EV" conversion.  Miramar High School teams have traveled to competitions from Agawam Mass to Phoenix AZ since their inception in 1997.  Numerous awards for performance as well as endurance have been achieved.  This is their first appearance in the Tour de Sol. 

Arriving in Trenton. 

Under the hood. 

A picture perfect finish. 

Report #55: Photos - Veggie Golf, #32

, etc., etc., etc., etc. 

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Veggie Golf, #32

Lining up for the range test. 

Answering the public's questions. 

Show your attitude!

CC Probester, #33

This one you have to see from all sides ... 

... the front ... 

... the rear ... 

... and the inside.

Al C. O'holic, #35

Ready for inspection in Burlington. 

Arriving in Philadelphia. 

And if this is Wednesday, that must be the Capital building.

Heibao EV, #36

The Heibao EV and the IT are examples of LSVs, Low Speed Vehicles. 

Is this what they mean by a micro-van?

What do you do with that space under the rear seat? A storage drawer, of course. 

That thing with the Greek temple on top is the controller and its cooling tower. 

Also being shown, but not competing, was the IT from Dynasty Motors in British Columbia.

Electro, #38

We are next in line, right?

Count them.  Two motors, two controllers. 

Really Mom, it isn't a painted backdrop.  That's the Capital.  It was a perfect day!

Report #56: Photos - The Lorax, #45

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

The Lorax, #45

Ever just feel like crying?

Someone let the smoke out! (But they got back on the road again!)

Now this is top-down weather!

Say Ahhhhhh!

Report #57: Photos - Fire Fly, #42

, etc., etc. 

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Fire Fly, #42

The white faring on the back both covers the batteries and lowers aerodynamic drag. 

A peek under the hood. 

At the Autocross.

Kyoto Codex, #47

On display in Burlington. 

Someone told me that the license plate holder read (something like) "What's a gas station?"

Mark, Jon and the trophy.

Report #58: Photos - Buck Hybrid, #49

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Buck Hybrid, #49

This vehicle will also be entered in the FutureTruck competition. 

Report #59: Photos - Eskimobile, #52

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Eskimobile, #52

A patriotic paint job, showing the flag. 

The wooden rack contain holds jars of various seeds that produce vegetable oils.  The oils can then be turned into biodiesel. 

On display in Washington. 

Report #60: Photos -, #53

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:, #53

Parking for at the Trenton Festival. 

The control electronics for driving the electric motor is under a clear cover.  The wiring is super-neat, color-coded, and easy to understand.  The green box on the left is the battery charger.  The batteries are in welded metal boxes under the bench seats. 

The DC motor drives the rear-wheel transaxle on this vehicle.  The electric wiring and mechanics are neat and easy to get at.  The work was supervised by an electrician, but executed by the high school students.  An excellent example of how these things should be done, to my mind. 

Display boards explain the Green Energy Project and the chemistry of making biodiesel. 

Report #61: Photos - Woodstock, #56

, etc. 

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Woodstock, #56

The name Woodstock comes from the bright yellow paint job.  Or is that the other way around?

Team advisor Ken Wells tells the truck's story to a visitor of the Washington Festival. 

Every vehicle needs its mascot, but what is with those ears?

Zodiac, #7

A solar-powered vehicle of the type that competed in the first American Tour de Sol in 1989. 

The white faring on the right covers the continuously variable transmission.  The electric motor drives the forward cone, the rear cone driver the chain drive, on the left, that connects to the wheel. 

The support trailer hauls the car, tools, parts and displays and acknowledges sponsors,

Report #62: Photos - S&S Autosports Toyota Prius, #70

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

S&S Autosports Toyota Prius, #70

Leaving the Trenton Festival, on the way to the Autocross ... 

 ... where the car gets put through its paces. 

Bob Strattan explains the hybrid technology to visitors at the Washington Festival. 

Report #63: Photos - SEVRX, #76

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

SEVRX, #76

Ready for inspection in Burlington. 

A sophisticated, student-built charger manages the pack of 1600 Lithium-Ion cells. 

A view from the rear. 

Report #64: Photos - Sunpacer, #92

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Sunpacer, #92

This is Sunpacer's 11th appearance at the Tour de Sol. 

Ready to rally!

The large flat panel is the solar panel that charges the batteries. 

This shot a glimps under the solar panel that slopes down the back of the car. 

Report #65: Photos - eGO Scooters

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

eGO Scooters

These scooters where shown with two types of batteries: lead acid and lithium-ion. 

The batteries are kept under the foot support. 

The visitors in Trenton showed a lot of interest. 

Report #66: Photos - DiamlerChrysler GEM

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

DiamlerChrysler GEM

"Can I keep it, Mom? Someday my feet will reach the pedals!"

Report #67: Photos - Junior Solar Sprints

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Junior Solar Sprints

The Junior Solar Sprints were held at the Washington Festival.  Kids are given kits that include a solar panel and an electric motor.  They then build cars powered by sunlight and race them. 

Ready ... Set ... 


The solar panels are usually tiltable, so they can be points directly at the sun for maximum power. 

Report #68: Photos - Measuring the Fuel for the milage tests.

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

Measuring the Fuel for the milage tests. 

Many of the Tour de Sol competitions depend on getting accurate data so as to measure the vehicles' performance.  These pictures show the measuring of fuel to get accurate hybrid and alternative-fuel categories. 

Report #69: Photos - People Pictures (mostly)

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

People Pictures (mostly)

The Tour de Sol runs on the dedication and energy of many, many people.  Here are a few ... 

Teams checking and getting their paper work. 

Barbara Gillett

Drew Gillett

For as long as anyone can remember, Drew has marked the rally route with colored arrows.  Here he is helped by a volunteer from one of the competing teams. 

Drew and his team of path markers. 

Mike Skelly, Jr. and Rob Wills at the acceleration testing area. 

Anissa Sanborn

Nancy Hazard, Director of the Tour de Sol

Gail Burrington

Solar living model home. 

Bob Strattan and Kate Skelly

Spencer Quong

Janice Dauphinais -- getting the job done. 

Janice giving out the good news.  "You've passed tech testing!"

Priscilla Helwig

Giving a school tour. 

Warren Leon, Executive Director of NESEA

The Great New England Energy Show truck provides electricity for the sound system and other purposes.  Solar panels on the roof charge batteries in the truck and inverters produce 120 Volt AC current for various loads. 

Mark Skinder, cleaning the solar cells on the Energy Show truck. 

Steve Kurkoski, keeper of the charging trailer. 

Ambrose Spencer and Nancy Hazard

Ambrose Spencer set up his "solar toys".  The plastic pool had a water fountain, and the round silver thing is a fan.  He also set up a tug-of-war between students and a solar-powered electric winch.  That was very popular. 

Eugene Beer, the PianoPeddler. 

Rob Wills, Technical Director of the Tour de Sol

Mike Bianchi interviewing the Sunpacer team. 

Report #70: Team Profile: "Electric Hog", #12

Carl Vogel brought his custom built Electric Hog to the Tour de Sol in 2001 and 2002.  Last year he had controller problems that kept him from completing the technical testing required to compete in the rally, but, once the controller started to work again, he showed his vehicle off at the festivals. 

I caught up with him and his team in Burlington.  He was not happy.  "The motor controller went again.  This year it has a new controller, but it is not working." He didn't know why.  "I'll have to bring it back to the company and see what happened to it.  Get another one." It had been running through the winter.  "I have been using it.  It was giving about 40 miles at 55 miles per hour.  The batteries froze so I put new batteries in, fixed the wiring and put in the good controller, well that I thought was good.  It was kind of last-minute.  Now it is not working."

When it is working, does the fact that it is so quiet cause people to stare? "Yes, it attracts a lot of attention.  The Harley guys love it.  They appreciate that it's American made." Carl designed the bike from scratch.  "The only noise you can hear is the drive chain."

New this year is a side-car.  "It's to extend the range.  Behind the seat is a bio-diesel generator, made by Yanmar.  That is to extend the range, using B100.  It was the simplest thing to do.  I bought the side-car and modified it to hold the generator." There is still room for a person.  There is a plug on the back of the side-car so the generator can be used for other purposes, such as when he goes camping. 

"Before he wasn't married.  Now he is," commented team mate Brian Lima.  "He has it balanced nicely," so it handles well.  "It's like riding a big Fat Boy or something like that."

Carl planned to get the bike going and bring it back for the Washington DC Festival, which he did. 

Another bike is in the works, based on a Harley frame from the 1960s or 70s.

 Vehicle Name           Electric Hog
 Vehicle Number         12
 Vehicle type category  Advanced battery
 Team Name              Vogelbilt
 Who Built              private group
 Vehicle Manufacturer   Vogelbilt
 Vehicle Model Year     2003
 Vehicle Type Class     One Person
 Vehicle Type Division  Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model     Motorcycle
 Energy Storage System  Lithium Ion
 Battery                Lithium Ion
 Plug Type              6-30P
 Conversion             Pre-Prod Prototype
 Range miles            80
 Program blurb          The Electric Hog, a full size motorcycle was
                        completely redesigned for this year.  Using
                        Lithium ion batteries and AC power, range and
                        performance were greatly improved.  In addition
                        the Hog has received a lightweight sidecar which
                        houses a small bio diesel generator to extend
                        range for long trips. 

Although the listing above says the batteries were to have been Lithium Ion, I don't believe they were.  Maybe next year. 

Report #71: Photos - The Electric Hog, #12

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

The Electric Hog, #12

Carl Vogel with his Electric Hog. 

Students attending the Tour de Sol think the Electric Hog is cool. 

Report #72: Team Profile: "eGO XR", #8

Electric scooters are often shown at the Tour de Sol, and a fair number of them compete or register as Demonstration Vehicles.  The eGO XR is here as a demonstrator, but it went through the technical testing and participated in the range event.  There are two models being shown: the current production model that uses lead acid batteries and the prototype with Lithium Ion batteries. 

Farshid Bakhtiari is with Modular Energy Devices in Rhode Island.  ModEnergy is a start-up company that manufactures Lithium Ion batteries.  "Sunday, in the Tour de Sol range test, we drove 55 miles on a single charge.  The battery pack is 30 Volts holding 64 Amp-hours.  The pack is made up of small cell batteries.  They claim to have overcome the safety issues and the cost issues that large lithium ion batteries have presented in the past.  Their's are about 1/10th the usual cost for this chemistry.  "Ours cost a little bit more than twice the cost of lead acid batteries, but our life cycle is also twice as much." They have a sophisticated charger that monitors the cells for charge and discharge.  "The intelligence is built into the battery." A full charge can take less than 1 hour.  The eGO will be out with Lithium Ion batteries later in 2003, in a limited edition. 

Jim Hamann is with Ego Vehicles, also out of Rhode Island.  "We teamed together with ModEnergy to put their batteries in our cycles.  Typically, with lead acid batteries, the eGO travels about 20-to-25 miles per charge.  Yesterday we did 55 on Lithium Ion.  There are two different driving modes on the scooter.  The Go Far mode will drive at 17 miles-per-hour.  The Go Far mode has a little bit smoother acceleration and doesn't allow you to be so peppy, which is why you go farther.  The Go Fast mode will top out at 23 miles-per-hour.  It charges in 4-to-5 hours and costs about 10 cents for a kiloWatt-hour of electricity. 

"Ego Vehicles has been around for about 4 years.  This is our second generation product that has been available for about a year.  We see this as an international market." They have a product that complies with European Union requirements.  "The Canadians love it.  In the states we are doing well too.  The basic model is $1400, and the there are accessories."

 Vehicle Name                 eGO XR
 Vehicle Number               8
 Category                     ONE-PERSON VEHICLES
 Vehicle type category        Advanced battery
 Team Name                    ModEnergy/Ego Vehicles
 Vehicle Manufacturer         Ego Vehicles
 Vehicle Model Year           2002
 Vehicle Type Class           One Person
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model           eGo XR
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Modular Energy Devices, Inc. 
 Energy Storage System        Lithium-Ion
 Battery                      Modular Energy Devices, Inc./Lithium-Ion
 Plug Type                    5-20P
 Conversion                   Purpose-Built
 Range miles                  70-90
 Program blurb                We are a new company with a mission to
                              dramatically reduce the cost of large Lithium-ion
                              batteries.  Our electric scooter will have a 75
                              Amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack.  We recently
                              received funds from the state of Rhode Island,
                              Slater Center. 

Report #73: Demonstration Vehicle: "Hy-wire"

Over the years, the Tour de Sol has enjoyed presenting some of the futuristic vehicles that the major auto companies have presented to the public.  This year the General Motors Hy-wire was on display at the Festivals in Trenton, Philadelphia and Washington DC.  I spoke with Susan Garavaglia, Manager of Communications for Advanced Technology at GM, who is part of the group displaying the Hy-wire. 

"The Hy-wire is the first by-wire and fuel cell technology concept vehicle, first introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 2002.  We have been taking it around the world to educate consumers and legislators about the importance of hydrogen as an alternative fuel and our commitment to bring one to consumers by the end of the decade."

The Hy-wire, and its concept predecessor the AUTOnomy, have all the drive, fuel and control systems in a relatively thin platform, referred to as the skateboard.  The passenger compartment is attached on top of the skateboard.  Where did that come from? "The idea evolved from a research group, called the Design and Technology Group, that looks for ways to marry design and technology in new and innovative ways.  Chris Borroni-Bird, the director of the Hy-wire program, and his team came up with the idea of building the chassis and car around the fuel cell, versus packaging into a conventional vehicle.  What could we do if we reinvented the automobile, from the ground up, around the fuel cell? That's what Hy-wire shows you."

Part of the concept is that multiple passenger compartments could be designed to attach to a single skateboard.  "It would be possible to have a sports-car type body, as we showed in the AUTOnomy.  This is more of a luxury version, and it could also be an SUV or a pickup truck; what ever the customer wanted."

In the Hy-wire, all the driving functions are in the steering wheel, including acceleration and braking, and they are all communicated electrically to the systems in the skateboard.  I wondered how responsive it would be.  "It is very responsive.  It takes some getting used to if you haven't driven a motor cycle.  I found that at first I wanted to hit the brakes with my feet, but there aren't any foot pedals.  But once I got used to the idea of braking with my hands, by squeezing the hand grips, it was really quite fun to drive."

If you look at the car for a few minutes, it is clear that it couldn't be licensed for road use.  For example, there is no place on the front for a license plate, and there is a window immediately above the bumper which one imagines would shatter in the smallest of accidents.  Has the car been put into any sort of stress conditions, say on a track? "No.  This is a concept vehicle.  The designers put that glass in front to show what can be done with the interior if there isn't an engine or transmission, and you don't have the constraints of the internal combustion engine.  When it comes to market it will be built with the crash protection to make it safe for consumers."

What is next? "From GM, there will be a fuel cell vehicle on the road by the end of the decade.  Will it look like Hy-wire? Probably not.  But we are looking at incorporating the by-wire technology into the vehicle we will bring to market in 2010.  In fact, some aspects of by-wire already available in some of our cars.  One of the Cadillac products has an aspect of by-wire, but I am not sure which."

I also got to talk with Jeff Wolak, who is a development electrical engineer on the Hy-wire project.  "I got to work with putting the vehicle together and also getting all the systems to work together.  Getting all the systems, the drive- by-wire, the fuel cell and all the body electronics, to work together as one package took a bit of effort." It wouldn't be possible to have one wire for every function.  "We have many communication networks talking amongst each other." The networks are not the Ethernet or TCP/IP networks of computers, but rather industrial control networks such as CAN (Controller Area Network).  "Each device has its own address." CAN is Ethernet-like in that messages are sent at whatever time and if two are sent and collide the protocol fixes the problem with retransmissions.  TTP (Time Triggered Protocol) is time-sliced, so each message is guaranteed to get through.  TTP is the protocol used for operator controls like steering and brakes.  "We actually run two different communication buses so if there is a problem, no single failure will take down the whole car.  For example, each brake has its own controller.  A problem with a brake is limited to just that one brake.  Steering has two motors and two controllers, so if either part should have a problem we could safely steer the vehicle."

Did Jeff do anything when he was younger that forshadowed his work on the Hy- wire? "When I was going in school at Kettering University, I worked on the Formula Lightning electric race cars.  I was very involved with that for about 5 years.  It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.  It was basicly that program that then got me interested in electric cars or alternatively fueled cars.  Through my co-op employment, when they asked me what I wanted to do when I graduated, I said, `I really liked working on that stuff at school.  Can I get into that part of GM?' They were able to make some calls and get me into that area."

Did anything surprise Jeff about the Hy-wire project? "This is car was built by a lot of different groups in a lot of different countries.  We did the in Detroit, but we built the body in Italy, a lot of drive-by-wire work in Holland, and a lot of fuel cell work in Germany.  Working with all these different cultures and countries and languages and people gave me different perspectives.  For example, I always supported better fuel economy, but when you see the price of fuel over there ..."

We looked over the Hy-wire together, to see some of the things done differently.  "We've got little cameras and LCD screens instead of rear-view mirrors in the car.  Doing that means that when different people drive the car you don't have to adjust mirrors.  The cameras and screens are always in the right position. 

The handle grips turn clockwise and counter-clockwise for steering, but the center of the "wheel" does not turn.  That means that the display in the center is always oriented for easy viewing.  And, since there are no control pedals, the whole control "wheel" can be slide from the left side to the right, allowing the front "passenger" to become the driver. 

The chassis of the car is made of aluminum and the body is fiberglass. 

The air vents are WAY forward of the passengers, under the leading edge of the windshield.  I imagine it makes for a gentler flow of air through the body of the car. 

What looked like a very large Game Boy on a cable was sitting in the right seat.  "We use it to keep track of the systems, monitoring temperatures and pressures.  It also has an emergency brake in case someone driving for the first time gets out of control.  And I can play Tetris on it, too."

Report #74: Photos - General Motors Hy-wire

Photographs from the Tour de Sol:

General Motors Hy-wire

Front passenger side.  Actually, that all depends.  The driver controls can be moved from the left side to the right. 

Front wheel and bumper. 

Arriving at the Philadelphia Festival. 

"Will I get to drive something like this?" Notice the little rear-view camera housing on the front corner of the side window.  It's image is presented on an LCD screen inside the car, at just about that position, although a little lower and further forward, mounted on the inside surface of the front wheel well.  There is another camera-monitor pair on the other side. 

Now that's a BIG game console.  Actually it is used for data analysis and emergency braking.  It also plays Tetris. 

The rear seats.  The center panels of the seat backs are a mesh material that "breaths" easily.  Notice the size of the single door hinge. 

Here you can see one LCD display on the steering wheel and another on the center console.  Notice how the steering wheel is on the left side of an arm supported by the center console.  The arm can be slide so it would now be in front of the right seat, and the steering wheel slides on the arm so it is in the correct position for the person in that seat. 

Report #75: Team Profile: "Woodstock", #56

Most of the vehicles and teams that come to the Tour de Sol have a "message", are reason for being.  Sometimes it's as simple as, "We want to win!" Other times it is something quite different.  I asked senior Emily Lewis and advisor Ken Wells about their bright yellow battery-electric pickup truck, their roles in the project and its mission. 

Ken told me that the vehicle had changed a little bit.  "And also our approach is a little different.  We've added 310 Watts of solar panels, from Evergreen Solar, and we plan to expand that.  Plus our approach this year, in terms of renewabiltiy is that we are charging on `green' electricity.  We want to tell the public how they too can purchase green electricity." The question people always ask, after "how fast does it go?" and "how far can you drive?", is "how much does it cost to drive electric?" It used to cost $9 to drive 100 miles on gasoline.  "Using `brown' electricity it's exactly half that.  We pay three and a half cents per kiloWatt-hour more than that for green electricity, but we cut our pollution by a significant amount.  Most people don't know that driving a mile on gasoline produces more than one and a half pounds of greenhouse gas.  Because electric drive is so much more efficient, driving with electricity uses less energy and produces less pollution, but if you are burning coal you produce about 0.6 pounds of pollution per mile.  Our green electricity is produced using landfill gas burned in a jet-turbine generator.  Because it is a biomass fuel we are producing the equivalent of 19 grams of pollution per 100 miles.  That's less than the mass of a dime.  I think that makes it one of the cleanest vehicles here at the Tour."

So how do they arrange for only the electrons from that jet-turbine generator to wind up in Woodstock? "That's a beautiful question.  And I've figured out an analogy," said Ken.  "It's just like when I put my pay check into a Boston bank; I can still use my ATM card in Philadelphia.  Now, I know it is not the same bills, but I know it is my money and it is still green.  And that's exactly the same way that the green electricity gets distributed.  It is put on the power grid in some location, I get a tradable, renewable certificate for that and no matter where I am I can make a withdrawal from that deposit." (And I always thought they somehow painted the electrons green and sorted them with a laser.)

"This truck has been the first move in expanding the environmental education at our school," added Ken.  "We just started an environmental chemistry coarse for next year, which I am psyched to be teaching.  And we are partnering with Evergreen Solar and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to build an experimental 50 kiloWatt solar array on our school to back-feed the grid.  We are getting our school and entire community involved in both the educational and the actual production of green electricity."

"I was dragged into this project," said Emily, "because I love public relations and stuff like that.  They needed someone who wanted to do PR and not figure out how to install 24 batteries in a fairly small pickup truck.  There are 20 people in the team picture, but we have some people who just come in and out.  The core of the team is maybe 6 or 7, mainly seniors.  We are trying to get the younger people to take over for us when we leave.  It's a great team.  A lot of people who know a whole bunch of stuff and willing to do just about anything.  We learned to weld, wiring, crunching numbers." The club is extracurricular that mostly meets in Sunday. 

Woodstock gets used around the campus.  "We drive it for everyday commuting purposes.  Last summer we took it to a transportation festival at Pine Manor College.  We were parked right next to the Blackhawk helicopter." Ken uses it as his daily driver, to demonstrate its practicality.  He makes hardware runs for the theater department, takes his daughter to school, and the usual stuff. 

 Vehicle Name                 Woodstock
 Vehicle Number               56
 Category                     BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEV)
 vehicle type category        PbA
 Team Name                    St.  Mark's School
 No People in Project         20
 Time to Build                2.5 yrs
 Who Built                    club
 part of school curriculum?   No
 Vehicle Manufacturer         Ford
 Vehicle Model Year           1994
 Vehicle Type Class           Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division        Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model           Ranger XL
 Energy Storage Manufacturer  Trojan
 Energy Storage System        PbA
 Battery                      Trojan/PbA
 Plug Type                    5-30P
 Conversion                   Conversion
 Range miles                  90
 Program blurb                St.  Mark's School students built "Woodstock" as
                              BEV and participated in the Tour de Sol for the
                              first time last year.  This year's team is
                              composed of members from the St.  Mark's EV Club
                              and the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. 
                              Woodstock's energy comes from its Evergreen Solar
                              panels and from ReGen, renewable grid electricity
                              produced by Sun Power Electric. 

Report #76: Drive To Survive: "Intergalactic Hydrogen"

Some people just get up and do what needs to be done.  Tai Robinson is such a person. 

"I have a window washing business, which is how I make my money.  Playing with hydrogen is how I spend it all.  This is all done out of my own pocket book."

"This is a stock, 1999 Toyota Tacoma, V-6, 4-by-4 with extended cab which I have converted to multi-fuel capability.  It will run on straight hydrogen, compressed natural gas, E-85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline), or gasoline, or any combination of those." There is one tank that can hold E85 or gasoline.  There is also one high-pressure cylinder, 3600 pounds per square inch, that can hold compressed natural gas or compressed hydrogen gas. 

Tai's creation, called the "Intergalactic Hydrogen", was part of the Drive To Survive cross country excursion organized by Dennis Weaver's Institute of Ecolonomics.  The Drive To Survive and the Tour de Sol both met on the Capitol Mall on the 14th of May. 

Was it difficult to get hydrogen crossing the country? "We were only able to fill the high-pressure cylinder with hydrogen in California.  The rest of the way we had to use welding supply bottles at 2000 PSI.  When they were empty we exchanged them for full ones.  There were 17 towns that we drove through that could sell us hydrogen.  I think we only stopped at 6 of them."

Why? Why go to all this trouble to burn hydrogen? "It's the right thing to do.  By burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine we clean the air." Really? "The air coming out the tail pipe is cleaner than the city air going in.  I actually burn the particulate pollution right out of the dirty city air.  We were able to prove that with emission testing equipment sensitive enough to monitor the ambient air.  Some of the carbon monoxide gets an oxygen atom added to it and turns into carbon dioxide."

"We also increase expectancy of the engine and reduce the operating cost." Reduce operating cost? "When I make my own hydrogen, which is basicly free because the equipment is already paid for, the fuel that comes out is free.  It's a small electrolysis setup that only makes about half a cubic foot an hour.  I use it a lot faster than that, so I buy a lot of hydrogen, which is not renewable.  It costs over $100 per kilogram, but the good news is the renewable hydrogen is cheaper.  In Palm Desert they sell it for $6.35 per kilo, making it with electrolysis from photo voltaic panels.  Stewart Energy in Richmond California is advertising $4 per kilo. 

"I'm basicly trying to secure my place in the hydrogen economy.  I want to get us there quicker because I believe this is the one chance the people have to regain some power from these multinational corporations that don't have our best interests in mind.  I want to let people know that the internal combustion engine that they are already driving can also run on natural gas, hydrogen, or propane.  We cannot call them `alternative fuels' any more.  To make them main stream we have to call them `American fuels'.  Ethanol and biodiesel you can grow, produce and use it right here in the country.  The same with natural gas and hydrogen.  We can mine it right here and use it." Mining hydrogen? "Everything around us has hydrogen in it, so we have to figure out the ways to mine it out of there."

"I put about $5000 into this vehicle.  If I spent about $50,000 I could introduce the hydrogen through injectors after the valves are closed and increase the performance." Could you use diesel engines? "Yes.  Caterpillar has a conversion kit for natural gas in their diesel engines.  It will then run on hydrogen."

Tai's next stop was the Clean Cities conference in Palm Springs.  "I will be getting more renewable hydrogen and driving people all around."

Report #77: Team Profile: "SEVRX", #75

I could never figure out how to pronounce that name.  Maybe I'm not supposed to.  It originally stood for Solar Electric Vehicle Experiment.  (Where did the R come from?)

David Klapp and Mark Whipple weren't much help with the pronunciation, but they did tell me about the lithium ion battery they designed for the car. 

"We have a Solectria UMOC (Universal Motor Controller) and 13 kiloWatt motor.  It runs on a 144 Volts nominal bus, with a 12 Volt DC-to-DC converter for the low voltage system." It is made from a similar parts kit as a Solectria Force. 

"We have model 1850 LG Chem lithium cells purchased 3 years ago.  At the time they were one of the largest cells commercially available.  It cost $33,000 for 11.2 kiloWatt-hours of energy.  We combined them into 42 strings, 40 cells tall, with the strings wired in parallel.  The nominal voltage is 144.  They charge to 168 volts, and discharge to about 100."

Isn't that battery pack geometry unusual? "It is extremely unusual.  There are a ton of issues when doing things like this.  Paralleling issues; charge control; it's a nightmare.  The hindsight is `don't do it this way'."

"The cells came with their own protection circuitry, so originally we just built it up into a pack.  Every cell has a small computer chip with temperature protection, over-current, over-voltage, under-voltage sensing to shut itself off if any of those conditions occurred.  About a week before the 2001 Tour de Sol we began testing.  We quickly started blowing these chips, completely frying them off the batteries.  That was a pretty tough year for us.  We came and displayed anyhow.  It was a lot of fun coming the the race and being able show off what we were attempting. 

"We went home, pulled the pack apart and figured out what was wrong with it.  The breakdown voltages for the FETs (Field Effect Transistors) was not rated for the pack voltage, so when they cut off they would cascade and burn out. 

"We then began redesigning a new Battery Management System (BMS).  We studied the nature of thermal runaway, how to detect it, and how to stop it.  We then redesigned for a larger voltage and greater current draw.  With 1680 separate cells in the pack, there was no way to measure the individual cell voltages.  So we run the strings at slightly lower voltages than the maximum, which gives up some capacity as a tradeoff for safety.  There are 84 temperature sensors (2 per string) and 42 Hall effect current sensors (1 per string)."

They weren't ready for the 2002 Tour de Sol, so they skipped that one. 

This year they had the car running well before the Tour, but during a particularly hard drive through the Adirondack Mountains they installed the electrical cover for the first time, but failed to vent it.  "We were planning on doing that when we got here.  Because it was closed, without ventilation, we burned out about half the FETs in the system." They replaced the FETs, but not with exact matches.  The car got through technical testing and the range test, but then crapped out on the next day. 

The team decided to drop out and just display for the rest of the Tour. 

They expect to return next year.  I hope they can. 

 Vehicle Name           SEVRX
 Vehicle Number         75
 Category               BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEV)
 vehicle type category  Advanced battery
 Team Name              Clarkson Solar Knights
 Vehicle Manufacturer   Honda
 Vehicle Model Year     1986
 Vehicle Type Class     Light Duty (car, truck, van)
 Vehicle Type Division  Prototype
 Vehicle Type Model     CRX
 Energy Storage System  Li Ion
 Battery                /Li Ion
 Plug Type              6-30P
 Conversion             Conversion
 Program blurb          The Clarkson University Solar Knights are a group
                        of students from a variety of majors constructing
                        a state-of-the-art battery-powered vehicle.  Using
                        Lithium-Ion battery technology, the team has
                        converted a Honda CRX into SEVRX--a sustainable
                        fueled vehicle. 

Report #78: Drive To Survive: Acetylene and Alcohol Engine

OK.  All you people out there who know ALL about cars and fuels; raise your hands if you have ever heard of using acetylene and alcohol in an internal combustion engine ... 1 ....... 2 .......  Just as I thought, not many.  I certainly had not. 

I had to talk to Harry J. Wulff, who was part of the Drive to Survive, to learn about it.  "We tried this about 3 1/2 years ago in a Briggs and Stratton engine and found out it worked very well.  We filed and received a patent on the delivery system.  You can look it up on the Internet.  We found we get an increase in horsepower, from 7 to 12 percent, in this Saturn with an engine that has not been `mapped'." Mapping sets the controller to the specifics of an individual engine.  "It's a very expensive process.  In our case we have to map the acetylene, and then the alcohol, and then the acetylene and alcohol together.  There are something like 18,000 entry points; for every RPM, for every load," for every combination of operating conditions to optimize the fuel injection. 

Acetylene is a gas.  Alcohol is a liquid.  How do they get into the engine? "The alcohol is in the liquid tank.  It is compatible because the fuel system is set up for E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline)." So the alcohol is introduced into the engine through the original injectors.  The acetylene is kept in gas cylinders in the trunk, with regular welding torch gauges.  The gas is brought forward and plumbed to four more injectors in the intake manifold.  "A programmable ACU has control over all of this.  These two fuels have to be delivered separately.  We inject first the alcohol, and get it coming downstream with the air.  Then we inject the acetylene, because it has too low a flash point.  By doing it this way, we prevent preignition which would occur if the acetylene was injected by itself.  They key is to have the proper opening time and pulsewidth on each injector. 

"We are getting 340 to 366 miles from two tanks of acetylene and that is the equivalent of just over 6 gallons of gasoline.  At the same time we use 7 to 9 quarts of alcohol.  Alcohol has about half the BTU of gasoline."

Where does acetylene come from? "They claim you could make acetylene out of 87% of the earth's crust.  In carbide form, most of it comes from the leftover slag off steel manufacturing, or when the oil industry makes polymers or plastic pipe.  It is a waste material, from I think 14 industries.  In Brazil they make it from eucalyptus trees.  We are working with the charcoal mills in southern Missouri, because when you are making the charcoal, you can make both the alcohol and the acetylene at the same time."

Acetylene is C2H2.  "It is the hottest hydrocarbon known to mankind, and they say it cannot produce any carbon in the engine, so it burns perfectly clean with no residue build up.  At the same time we can control the heat of the burn in the cylinder.  We can get complete combustion at 644 degrees C.  We prefer to run around 1140 or 1150, where we don't make any of the NOx gases."

"Our theory is if you want clean emissions, burn clean fuel.  There is no sense in burning fossil fuels that are dirty and then trying to clean them up.  I think the ammonia baths on the big trucks are going to turn into a horrible nightmare."

What was the spark (pardon the pun) that got this all started? "My nephew is the inventor.  He came to me with this and I said, `I don't think it will work.' I blew a neighbors jeep up about 30 years ago doing this, because we always start our farm vehicles on acetylene in the winter.  It has a low flash point just like ether."

"We are really not ready for exposure yet.  We are building our infrastructure and setting up our business plans.  We are going try to license this technology to retrofitters." Harry thinks they could sell kits for between $500 and $700. 

Report #79: Interview with Tour de Sol Technical Director Rob Wills

Truth to tell, the reason I come to the Tour de Sol, and the primary reason I write these Reports, is I want to see what the electric vehicle technology is doing.  Here I can see the ideas becoming reality and the rubber meeting the road.  And doing these Reports affords me the opportunity to sit with Rob Wills for half an hour and review what we've seen.  As a founder of the American Tour de Sol (after the Swiss model), he has seen them all and has the best sense of the path they, and we, have taken during the past 15 years. 

So what distinguishes the 2003 edition of the Tour from the recent and distant past? "In the first Tour we had very simple, prototype solar electric vehicles and a vision of autonomous travel.  We were also trying to give great projects to school teams.  Then slowly we started thinking about making this more practical.  Now we see the technology becoming more and more real.  We take the Toyota Prius totally for granted now, at least within our community." When a team brought a hybrid to the 1993 Tour de Sol, most people did not understand what they were looking at. 

"The diversity of the alternative fuels in the competition strongly impressed me this year.  In 2001 we had them at the request of the Department of Energy.  This time we choose to open up, mainly to recognize the whole controversy: that alternative transportation is a multi-horse race.  The first horse out of the gate was the electric and it has faltered a few times.  It is in search of a better battery.  The second horse is the hybrid and it is starting to get a pretty strong lead.  But in the long term I don't think it can win because it is too complicated and too expensive.  If you can do something with one power stage, why put two in a vehicle?

"And the third horse being shown here, in the GM demonstration vehicles, is the hydrogen fuel cell. 

"The technical, and practical, question is, `which one is going to win?'

"I think the right answer is, `It depends on the application.' If we had a better battery that gave us an easy 200-to-250 mile range and a reasonably fast recharge I think battery electrics would win on two fronts.  One is on efficiency: you cannot beat charge-discharge on a battery and an electric drive.  Mike, what is your running cost is on your EV?" I pay just over 10 cents a kiloWatt-hour and get 5 miles per; that's about 2 cents a mile.  "Most people spend $1 or more for 20 miles.  The same distance costs you just 40 cents. 

"The hydrogen vehicles are interesting.  But the place the hydrogens have a problem at the moment is the same place that the EVs had a problem.  The storage is pretty limited.  It can be cost effective if you use a very high pressure tank.  If you work out how much hydrogen you can put in a 5,000 PSI tank such as we saw here, it is about 20 kiloWatt hours, through the fuel cell, delivered to the wheels.  That's about the same as 20 lead-acid batteries in an older battery-electric vehicle which goes about 100 miles.  I haven't seen anything that says it will get significantly better.  The only solution at the moment is a higher pressure tank; 10,000 PSI." Their safety could be an issue.  What about metal hydride storage tanks? "I don't know why they haven't come in as a practical alternative.  I think it's either the storage density, or the cost of the hydride, or the mechanical breakdown of the hydride over time, called decrepitation."

Rob still believes that purely battery-electric vehicles still can have a future if the higher charge-density cell technologies scale up.  "The lithium ion batteries are pretty much mainstream for portable computers and such.  There it has a lot of advantages.  The Electrovaya battery has 220 Watt-hours per pound, achieving an energy density way above what we have seen before.  If a better battery large enough for vehicles comes along, the bulk of commuter needs could easily be met with a battery electric car."

Anything else interesting in battery technology out there? "I think there is the possibility of an energy storage device that is like a battery crossed with an ultracapicitor.  They have pretty interesting characteristics, and they are commercial in Russia for starting vehicle engines in the cold." They work a lot better than lead-acid in that application. 

But near term, Rob sees lithium ion as the product to watch.  "It is clear it takes a lot of management, which adds cost.  But information technology and monitoring and control is becoming very cheap.  The raw cost of the battery will ultimately come down to the raw material cost.  That is where lithium shines.  It is a very light metal and quite abundant.  At current world metal prices, it is about the same as lot of heavy metals, but you get so much more energy storage per unit volume.  It also has a higher electric potential." Cells are typically 4 Volts each, which helps the energy density. 

Which brings us to the long term future that Rob sees.  While hybrids are clearly the near term future of most vehicles, "I'll bet you that, although it might take 10 or 15 years, the hybrids will be passed by either straight fuel cells or storage electric.  And the long term reason why storage electrics will win, I believe, is when the storage capacity is there, the simplicity and efficiency will drive the running costs" so they will be the cheapest overall.  "Especially in commercial applications, efficiency is everything."

Another story at the Tour this year, that surprised me and got my attention, was the vegetable oil and biodiesel fueled cars, especially when they used waste oils as the fuel stock.  "Biofuels have a really clear place in picking up that waste stream," Rob commented.  "This country uses a lot of vegetable oil in its `cuisine'.  It would be interesting to know the statistics on that.  You can probably run a lot of miles.  The real question is what will happen when you run 10 times, 100 times those miles.  It is clear to most analysts that the biofuels won't fundamentally change how we move people and things.  But in developing countries particularly, they can be locally developed, with low local labor costs, abundant sun light and wonderful growing conditions.  I don't know why prime power for villages in the Amazon rainforest isn't done with biofuels as opposed to diesel.  Even steam engines could generate a fair amount of electricity and be relatively carbon dioxide neutral.  Add the fact that for the remote villages, some two or three weeks up the river from significant commercial points, it takes three or four gallons of fuel to deliver one." Think of what biofuels would mean in those places.  "Robert Williams of Princeton did an analysis a while ago that combined a micro turbine and a fuel cell and some sort of reforming (to produce hydrogen).  The efficiencies look like they are high enough to make biomass grown as a crop economic for electric generation." The result could move electric generation from centralized plants in cities to distributed generation in agricultural areas, where you could grow enough fuel.  That would also move some of the population back out into those areas again. 

Any thoughts about this being the 15th Tour de Sol? "I never thought I would do 15.  My beard is now white.  There was no white in 1989.  My life has changed.  I'm really glad to see it still going.  Nancy Hazard and NESEA are responsible for the largest part of that.  She puts her heart and soul into it, and I thank her for that.  May it continue.  We are looking for sponsorship for next year; that is very important.  It's a fun event, and it really helps change the world.  At the Philadelphia Festival, I saw 20 first graders being told what electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles are all about.  I remember the look on their faces.  It is good to know that when they go to buy their cars they will be looking for something different."

Report #80: A Reporter's Closing Thoughts

Each Tour de Sol allows me to look at the world a little bit differently than I did before.  In the past, my strongest personal interest has been in the battery electric vehicles, since they were what got me started in writing these Reports and that is what I now drive every day: my 1995 Solectria "Force".  Since I cannot bring the Force to the Tour, I've rented a Toyota Prius for the actual event these past three years, which also does my heart good. 

The first thing that got my eye was the electric vehicles that EnviroMotive of Canada brought to the event.  Both the Dynasty IT and the Heibao EV are off- street vehicles, at least as they are currently configured, that are looking for an off-street niche market.  We have seen such things in the past that didn't recognize so clearly that by staying away from the highly regulated world of on-street transportation they might avoid the pitfalls of being small, slow, and a bit distinctive.  In parks, resorts and other such places the fact that they are small, slow, quiet and distinctive may lead to the success they deserve. 

I have surprised myself a little bit by finding the Allison hybrid bus so intriguing.  Upon reflection, it is the fact that the entire hybrid mechanism is built into what would otherwise be called the transmission that makes me smile.  The units it replaces are found in several different types of vehicles that could benefit from being hybrids.  Large short range delivery trucks, dump trucks, and such all spend a lot of their time in the portion of the diesel torque curve that spews smoke and wastes fuel, namely acceleration from stops or slow speeds.  The facts that this hybrid transmission, in pure-electric mode, accelerates better from a standing stop, plus it reduces emissions significantly, plus it increases mileage significantly all strike me as a win- win-win situation.  And this is not an experiment.  These buses are in service now. 

Another story that has knocked me back on my heels is the several variations on the theme of biofuels we saw, especially when the "bio" comes from waste vegetable oils.  The story of the school on North Haven island in Maine using the fryerlator oil from a local restaurant as the stock for their biodiesel fueled generator is cool enough.  Add the facts that the used oil does not have to be shipped back to the mainland for disposal and equivalent amounts of fuel oil do not have to be brought to the island to power the generator and the story becomes even more compelling.  The variety of the biofuel entrants, high schools through companies, is also worth noting. 

It was good to once again see fuel cells demonstrated at the Tour de Sol.  (The first fuel cell vehicle in the Tour de Sol was brought by a high school team in 1998.  The first car was in 1999.) While the GM Hy-wire was mostly a static display, the GM HydroGen3 fuel cell van taking people around the Capital Mall in DC was quietly (very quietly) showing a promise of the future in motion. 

And finally, I surprise myself when I realize that I almost take the battery electric vehicles entered in the Tour for granted.  The level of refinement is often so very high that it is easy to forget how much work goes into making them look so effortless.  I also find myself not paying as much attention as I should to the fact that the entrants from schools are much more about education than transportation.  Gregory Taylor, advisor to the Vegginator team said it well; "Any time the kids' hands are with something other than books or paper or, now, computers, where it is something physical that they are working on and they can see the results, they light up.  It's a cool thing to see."

The fact that the Tour de Sol is still here 15 years later speaks to the fact that the event has not only helped promote and invent the future, but also recognized that the very act of thinking ahead changes what is possible in the future.  This year's hub-and-spoke rally helped all the people involved spend more time together, even though the event itself was shorter, because less time was spent in managing the logistics of moving down the road.  The teams once again have demonstrated their inventiveness and hard work with entries that both continue the idea of environmentally sound transportation and move it along.  Sponsors find it a good place to show their goods and services, and also their commitment to public health and environmental sanity. 

I hope those of you reading these Reports will look into becoming involved at the next one.  Whether you come as entrants, sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, or attendees I think you will find being a part of the Tour de Sol, the Great American Green Transportation Festival, is something you will not forget.  I'll see you there!