Never Fear Amplitudophobia Again!
Kierkegaard said “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” People sure do have a variety of anxieties, but do they all go hand in hand with liberty? Phobias like Bogyphobia (fear of bogeymen), Geniophobia (fear of chins, Conan O’Brian take note), or Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth) sound long on the dizzy side, but somewhat short on freedom. (On the other hand, arguably, Chrematophobia -- fear of money -- might indeed have the potential to set you free).
The anxiety commonly associated with electric cars has a connection to freedom too. If you suffer from what you might call Amplitudophobia, or range anxiety, then you’ll feel less free to use an electric car. If yours is a nation of range-worriers, then you live in a country that will find it hard to rid itself of the shackles of oil consumption.
Plenty experts say Amplitudophobia is an over-estimated emotion, because most folks quickly discover they only drive an average of less than 50 miles a day, and almost never run out of juice. Nevertheless, some cures to range anxiety are being developed. There is, for one, range-extender technology: putting a small gasoline engine in an EV for additional miles when the occasion calls for it. Or take Better Place, which is setting up a system of service stations where you can just drive in and get a loaded battery pack, for whenever you run low.
Here’s another, quite unique approach. Nation-E, a Swiss company, envisions a network of emergency support vans which will come to the rescue, in case your EV ever runs out of electric power.
How is it intended to work? Well, imagine you forgot to re-charge your car overnight after getting home from work tired and late last night. You’re heading to your destination when you notice warning lights flashing on your car’s dashboard: uh-oh, low battery! Since yours is a modern EV, you press a button on your dash which checks for the nearest loading station, but tough luck: as chance would have it, you’re in a rural area, and the next station is 10 miles away. So you press on the “Angel” icon. Your navigation system directs you to a safe place to stop your car and wait; it also tells you how long your wait will be. After a while, a green van arrives. A technician arrives who already knows what kind of car you have, and quickly attaches a charging cord to your car. After around five minutes, your car has been charged with around 3 KW/h of electricity, enough to let you drive on for around 15 miles. And that’s it!
I first talked with representatives of Nation-E at the eCarTec industry show in Munich, and recently followed up with an interview with Andreas Stamatiou at Nation-E’s new R&D Center in Frankfurt, Germany.
Q: What’s your company’s background?
Stamatiou: Nation-E was founded by Daniel Jammer, an industrialist who also used to be the world’s largest trader of Titanium. A few years ago, Daniel noticed that the market for Lithium was getting hot, and after doing some research, arrived at the conclusion that batteries are the place to be. Nation-E is now a leading company for energy storage, smart metering and load levelling solutions; the Angel Car will be but one of our services.
Q: So, you’ll have a van loaded up to the brink, with 20 KW/h of electricity stored. That’ll be easy to do and easy to copy, right?
Stamatiou: Wrong! Our knowledge is our competitive advantage. We know which adapter each car needs, and more importantly, we know how to charge every kind of EV in a quick and safe manner. We have access to the charging protocols which enable our Angel Car to charge a Tesla the way a Tesla needs to be charged, and a Nissan Leaf to be charged the way a Leaf needs to be charged. That’s what our super intelligent system is for.
Q: So, you need to have a good relationship to car makers?
Stamatiou: That’s what we do, being as we are operators of repute. Actually, car makers are rather helpful and enthusiastic -- they understand our service will be crucial in undermining range anxiety.
Q: Will people really ever need an Angel? I mean, who runs out of juice?
Stamatiou: It’s human nature. People drive, have other things on their mind, and run out of fuel. It’ll happen, and we’ll help minimize the effects.
Q: Aren’t you going to be run out of the market by monopolistic auto clubs (such as ADAC in Germany)?
Stamatiou: We are talking to everybody, and will deliver our system to anybody who can use it appropriately -- it’s an open system. Right now, we are negotiating with insurance companies in France and the Benelux countries: it seems likely EV drivers will be glad to buy insurance against being stranded, and the insurers will be glad to use our system. If they want to use their own roadside assistance fleet and just install our system in their vehicles, then why not? As a matter of fact, a service we already offer consists of an emergency electric supply to the construction industry. Sometimes building sites suffer from blackouts which can have extremely expensive consequences. You might find it funny that in that case, our “Angel” is a Hummer H1.
Q: Things arent’s always like they seem... but your Angel Cars will run on electricity, won’t they?
Stamatiou: They will, but it’s a secondary priority. We believe in an electric future, but it’s more important to serve EV users effectively than to be “perfectly” green. But we do figure that with an average of ten service cases per 8-hour shift, electric propulsion is fine for our Angel Cars.
Q: What are your plans for roll-out?
Stamatiou: The first Angel Cars will be delivered in the second quarter of 2011. Our production plans call for 25,000 units per year. The first countries which to enjoy Angel Cars will be France, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands.
Q: What about North America?
Stamatiou: We’ll keep you posted.
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