Charge Car Project Converts Used Cars to Basic Electric Commuter Vehicles

The underlying goal of the ChargeCar project is to examine the common urban commute and to determine if cars powered by managed supercapacitor-battery systems are a solution that can reduce cost of ownership for a commuter car. This is not through the development of new component technologies but by better understanding of real urban commutes and by using existing, affordable technology more intelligently.

The researchers are finding that regenerative breaking helps return up 40% of the energy that a car uses and not just 6-8% as some driving models predict. There is great improvement to be had by even simply employing a supercapacitor-battery system. The battery duty is reduced by 35%, and the wasted energy due to battery heating is reduced by nearly a third. A 50 Watt-hour supercapacitor is a commercially available medium size which reaps most of the benefit without an unwieldy cost.

New Scientist reports the charge car team has designed a novel electric-car architecture that he says can be used to cheaply convert used cars into electric ones. They took a Toyota Scion to a local “chop shop” to prove that the conversion works. The Scion’s petrol engine, fuel tank and exhaust were swapped for a set of lead-acid batteries, four motors and a supercapacitor, which is able to soak up or discharge power much faster than a battery. The load on the battery is minimised by relying heavily on the supercapacitor, which is charged by recouping braking energy.

A car that can travel only 32 kilometres per charge would allow 53 per cent of Americans to cover both legs of their daily commute, while 48 kilometres would suit 71 per cent.