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Pinanfarina-designed B0 electric car
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The Electric Car Under My Christmas Tree

Once upon a time, I wanted a toy electric train...

By Bill Moore

I was maybe 10 when we lived at 4232 Curtis Avenue. It was the 1950s. Dwight Eisenhower was President. Elvis Presley and rock 'n roll were taking the nation by storm. Color television hadn't yet been introduced and Sputnik would soon be orbiting overhead.

One Christmas Eve, I don't recall the exact year, I discovered a real "smoke" belching, headlight-burning Lionel toy electric steam locomotive, tender and a handful of cars including a red caboose under the family Christmas tree. My Dad delivered milk and we didn't have a lot of money -- some years our presents came from the Goodwill. But this year, they splurged and bought me and my younger brother the train.

Today, knowing my father's love of trains, I suspect he'd bought it as much for himself as for us.

Oddly, that's the one present I remember the most from my childhood, that and the bicycle they bought me when I was twelve, the same bicycle I would ride through a stop sign the following summer only to collide with an on coming car. I spent three months in the hospital for that childish indiscretion. I was lucky. I could have been killed.

As I grew older, I became more enterprising in my Christmas and birthday gift requests. I would endlessly thumb through a Sears or J.C. Penny catalog, taking a fancy to this .22 rifle or that .410 shotgun. I wanted to go hunting as my Dad had done as a young man, but he didn't have the money to buy his own gun, much less one for me. I had to settle for a B-B gun, which I then used to shot my brother in butt.

All too soon it would be my turn as a parent to figure out what I could afford to buy my children. During their "I believe in Santa" adolescence, I wasn't in much better financial condition than had been my father, but still we managed to provide for them.

Now, with our daughter grown and living on the East Coast and with no prospects of grandchildren to spoil, I have the luxury to think about my "fantasy" gift and this year it's an electric car; and no, it's not a Tesla roadster, Fisker Karma or Chevy Volt.

Instead, here's what's on my personal fantasy Christmas wish list.

Start with a Pininfarina Bo. First unveiled at the 2008 Paris Auto Show, the Bo (zero) is a stylish, four passenger electric car from one of the best automotive design houses in Europe. I just love its curvaceous lines. Since I don't know what they have for a drive system, I'd want something as close to an AC Propulsion drive as possible, especially its delightful regenerative braking system. Drive an ACP-equipped EV like their eBox or the BMW Mini E and you'll wonder why it's taking us so long to incorporate this technology into our cars. Someday, all cars will have this system, just as all suitcases today have wheels. Why did it take so long for us to figure out that one too?

Finally, equip it with a 52 kilowatt hour EEStor energy storage module weighing less than 300 pounds. That should be enough to give me close to 200 miles driving range and the ability to recharge in just six minutes time. Remember, I am only fantasizing here and besides, if Santa can slide down chimneys and deliver millions of toys from a magical sleigh drawn by flying reindeer, such a wondrous battery would be no problem for him and his elves.

Now for the icing on the gingerbread cookie. Instead of putting the car under my tree, Santa would leave a smart ID card hanging from it. That card would entitle my wife and I to membership in a yet-to-be-formed carshare co-op for my neighborhood. I wouldn't actually have to own the car. Instead, I would have the right to use it when I needed it. When I was working hard at my computer on behalf of EV World readers, other members of the co-op could be using the car as well.

And since it and the other ACP-powered Bo electric cars in the fleet would have vehicle-to-grid capability, when they were sitting under their solar solar charging canopies, they'd be interacting with the grid and producing revenue for the co-op members, perhaps as much as $350 a month for each car.

Finally equipped with DARPA Urban Challenge self-guiding technology, I could reserve the car for a particular time -- say when my wife and would want to drive down to the Holland Center for an evening concert -- and the car would drive itself to us... on its own. We could then let it take us to the concert or I could opt to drive myself. And because it's a four passenger vehicle, we could pick up another couple and stop for dinner along the way.

That evening, after a few post-concert glasses of wine, we'd let the car drive us home. It would then find its way to its next appointment or back to its charging station to continue its grid regulation services, acting as an overnight buffer for wind generated electricity out on the vast plains to our west.

While some of the technology in my fantasy Christmas present doesn't yet exist, most of the key elements are already in place, or nearly so. Pininfarina and Bollore, its French partner, hope to have the Bo in production next year or shortly thereafter. ACP's drive is already powering BMW's Mini E. EEStor just received the patent on its potentially revolutionary energy storage system. DARPA has already initiated its Urban Challenge competition, fresh on the the heels of its Grand Challenge. Finally, carshare programs continue to grow in popularity and will someday find its way here to Omaha.

So, my fantasy electric car could be a reality within five years and that doesn't involve any wishful thinking on my part or thumbing through my Sears catalog.

Times Article Viewed: 9684
Published: 24-Dec-2008

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