Ariel Schwartz

ChargeCar Aims to Create Crowdsourced Electric Vehicles

by , 11/17/09

chargecar, ev, electric car, carnegie mellon, sustainable design, green design, sustainable transportation

A person who drives 60 miles to work every day has different needs than someone who drives across town. So instead of designing electric cars to match the performance of petroleum-powered vehicles, researchers at Carnegie Mellon‘s ChargeCar initiative think that EVs should be designed for individual commuting needs. To that end, ChargeCar hopes to create a so-called “commute ecology” based on crowdsourced data to develop EVs for different types of commutes.

The ChargeCar team converted a gas-powered vehicle to an EV that contains a supercapacitor storage device and uses artificial intelligence to manage electricity flow between the engine, battery, and supercapacitor. But the team doesn’t want to bring their car to market. They’re hoping to use crowdsourced GPS data uploaded to the ChargeCar website to develop a massive database of commuting information that provides info on the energy costs of using gasoline versus electricity for different routes.

So far, the ChargeCar initiative has 3,821 miles of commuting data collected. Eventually, the data could be used to create custom gas-to-electric conversion kits for different types of vehicles and routes. And instead of costing upwards of $50,000, these conversions could cost as little as $8,000 — a price that’s hard to argue with if the fuel savings add up.

Want to help out with the ChargeCar project? You can upload your own GPS commuting data here.

+ ChargeCar

Via BusinessWeek

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1 Comment

  1. Solinx November 19, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    The timing of this project is horrible. It would have been brillant a few years ago and it will again be a brilliant idea in a few years, but now it is just plain stupid (considering the bigger picture).

    My point of concern is about the image of the technology. Brands like Renault are starting real production lines for EVs. People need to see these EV’s, which are actually going to be capable of competing with gasoline cars to some extent on a technological level.

    The focus of this project is on economic viability of driving an ‘EV’. That is nice, but it means the solution will be low tech. What is wrong with that, you might wonder, if it gets them from their home to their work and back? Well, nothing on first sight. Or actually, the problem _is_ the first sight, the first impression. This project will confirm the general image of EVs being crappy at long distances and sub-par in performance.

    These vehicles will no doubt be presented as EV’s, which they are absolutely not. They are converted gasoline cars. An EV is _not_ simply a car with an electric engine and a battery. In strictly technical terms, yes, it is, but in reality, no. For example, actual EVs are designed with lighter materials, to maximize energy efficiency. Another point is the interior accessoires, like airco. The energy efficiency of these things requires more thought and attention in EVs than in gasoline cars. Aside from all that, new EVs will be designed based on the highest standards of today. The convertables are build with old methods and technologies, both regarding process and product.

    Simply put, these convertables will perform horribly compared to what a real present day EV is capable of. Yet by requiring a lower investment, the convertables have a lower barrier to adopt. This means such converted gasoline cars, if they really are an improvement over the stock gasoline cars, could be seen more frequent than real EVs.

    Of course, as EVs remain expensive for some time to come, a project like this would be nice. After the image of EVs has changed enough, to the point that EVs are recognised as actual viable technological competitors to gasoline cars. At that point those who cannot afford to buy a new EV could convert their gasoline car with such an upgrade. Their first first-hand experience would probably be a bit of a disapointment, but at the same time they would also be much more aware they are not driving a car designed to be an EV, and that this matters quite a lot.

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