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Columbia Par Car executives -- makers of the Scout pictured right -- discuss the golf car and emerging NEV industry.

A Chat with Columbia Par Car - Part 1

Interview with Columbia Par Car senior executives.

By Norm Smith

Editor's Note: GolfCarCatalog.Com has graciously permitted EV World to reprint its interview with Todd Sauey, President and CEO and Scott Breckley, VP Sales & Marketing.

Q: Hi Todd! What's new and how is the Permanent Magnet Motor is working out?

A: Well, it's 3 years old now and not exactly new. But new things are happening. We are very pleased that the Society of Automotive Engineers acknowledged our Permanent Magnet Motor as one of the10 top technologies of the year in 2001. This is the first time ever that anyone in our industry has ever been recognized by the SAE. This was just announced in December.

Also we are just issuing a press release about receiving Zero Emission vehicle certification from the State of California. This means that for each vehicle we sell in California we will get 4 ZEV credits.

Q: Does the manufacturer get those credits?

A: Yes, the credits go to the manufacturer.

Q: If you were to put a dollar amount on ZEV credits, what would that be worth? And can you then sell those credits to say, Ford or GM?

     
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A: No, not really because there is no established market for that right now. These ZEV credits do not kick in until the year 2003. At that time if the automotive industry sells "X" amount of gas emission vehicles, then they must also sell "Y" number of zero emission vehicles. If they fail to meet this ratio then there is a $5000 fine for each ZEV credit they are short.

The formula is very complicated but theoretically you could say that 1 ZEV credit should be worth $4,999 or $1 less than the find of $5000, but that is a negotiable thing. They may be worth nothing because they could solve their own problems by producing and selling enough zero emission vehicles to meet their requirements.

Q: In the NEV arena Chrysler has GEM, Ford has the Th!nk, have you heard of anything that GM is promoting?

A: I couldn't say. There are 6 manufacturers who have the problem in California. Anybody who sells 65,000 or more gas-powered automobiles has to meet this mandate. If you sell less than 65,000, you don't have to meet the zero emission vehicle sales requirements. There are only 6 companies and they are GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Honda. Nobody else sells enough vehicles in California to come under this mandate.

This requirement has been challenged but the ruling is you must comply or pay the fine.

Q: How many vehicles are we talking about?

A: It's my understanding that they sell about 1.4 million automobiles in California per year.

Q: Let's talk about your Permanent Magnet Motor.

A: It's been out there 3 years and it's been doing very well. We have a pretty challenging environment out there. (Walks over to the booth PM display)

Here is the controller (the motor was running) and we have it immersed in water. We are not recommending that you do this, but it shows how reliable the system is overall. With the controller underwater it doesn't have any impact on the system. You see it running here. I guarantee our competitors wouldn't do anything like this. This has been running now for the 3rd day.

Q: Who manufactures this controller?

A; It's made just for us.

Q: Would you care to say who that is?

A: (Big Smile) No, I wouldn't care to say.

Q: How many amps capacity is the controller?

A: Well the way the motor works, I think the controller is 330 amps. We are just going into production on this controller. In fact the vehicles we are showing here don't even have this controller in them.

Q: So the controller is still in the test phase?

A: No! It's ready to go and it will be in the production line starting in March. We're very pleased with the controller and the response we've been getting. It's very positive in the market. It does everything with the car that we said it would do, such as hill climbing, control and energy efficiency with little to no problem. The biggest problem we had with the motor is a rather funny story. They put a little black cap down in the motor just for shipping purposes ­ to keep things from jostling around.

And we assembled some of these motors without taking the black plastic cap out. The cap would eventually absorb enough energy to melt inside the motor ­ bad news. We had to change about a dozen motors because of this.

Q: Pilot error, Huh?

A: That's right, pilot error.

Q: The Golf cars market is just a small part of your electric vehicle manufacturing, I think. Are you going to incorporate this PM motor in other product lines?

A: Yes. We have it on a couple models but they're not in production yet. The NEV is one of them, you know, the one that doesn't want to go fast. But we're working on some solutions for that now. We think it will probably be ready in a month or so. It will then meet all the NEV requirements.

Q: How many fast golf cars do you expect to market in a year?

A: We're targeting 4,000. We're not going to go out there and give our product away. If you can't make money on it, why do it? When you look at this industry and what some manufacturers are doing it is absolutely crazy. If you can't get the value from your product, why are you in the business?

Q: The number of new courses being built is declining. A couple years ago there were some 500 built. Last year only about 350. Where do you see the industry developing?

A: The only place I see it developing is building golf courses with a community around it. I think that will continue to grow as our population ages.

Q: Then you think this is where the NEV market will grow?

A: Yes, we think the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle is a growth opportunity.

Q: We have heard that the State of Georgia won't presently tag the NEVs in that state. They claim that to tag a vehicle it must be able to go on their highways. But to go on their highways it must go a minimum of 35 mph and then it isn't a NEV any more.

A: Well Georgia is badly mistaken because they've passed the Georgia tax law allowing a $5000 tax credit if you buy a qualified electric vehicle.

Q: But to use that vehicle on public streets it has to be registered and licensed and the DMV won't issue a tag.

A: They don't have a choice. A manufacturer needs to prove that you comply with the (NEV) requirements and we do! Besides their law doesn't say that the vehicle has to go on highways over 35 mph. Maybe they wished it did.

I have the three-page opinion from the Department of Transportation of Motor Vehicles. The Opinion was that if the vehicles comply with Federal Requirements for a Low Speed Vehicle, they don't have any choice but to license the vehicle.

We (Columbia Par Car) now have certification from the State of California as a vehicle that can be registered. That's just one more thing we can put in our arsenal. Original thinking was that the tax credit would help people in the inner city to buy electric vehicles. And now the DMV is saying that they'll only license a high speed electric vehicles? Do you know what a high speed electric would cost? It would cost about $120,000. Now who is going to buy those?

Georgia has people in the Department of Motor Vehicles who say they don't like this tax credit, but the Georgia Legislature doesn't seem to be backing off. The DMV is trying to figure a way out of the tax credit, but I think they are going to lose.

We had a customer (who is he to have this info?) call us earlier this week. We've been holding all our orders for NEVs in Georgia. He said to release the vehicles.

Q: Where is he from?

A: Peachtree City, Georgia.

Q: Well that's where we hear of the great controversy between the DMV, Police Chief and others!

A: There are going to be more issues as this develops and also more opportunities, like in California. Our focus in the NEV market is that we want to make practical and affordable technology. The automobile industry many years ago didn't start with vehicles going 120 mph down the highway with air conditioning and all the wonderful systems they now have. You have to start somewhere and you have to generate both income and interest to make it develop. As the NEVs are produced and purchased, people get accustom to them and you can keep making them.

Soon you'll have electric vehicles all across the US but this will bring other issues. Where are you going to put the nuclear power plants to create the power needed to keep these electric vehicles going? Will it be in my backyard, or your backyard?

Q: The power will have to come from somewhere!

A: Exactly. It won't somehow magically happen. These vehicles will need a place to Œplug in' like an electrical Œgas station'. What about periods of peak electrical demand? Do we have any idea how much energy it will take at 240 volts to recharge these vehicles? I say it will be a huge demand.

People don't understand these things. So let's start with a practical and affordable vehicle. Now where do most of the polluting emissions come from? Emissions mostly come from gas-powered vehicles operating at low speeds in city environments. They operate in stop and go traffic and the vast majority are going 35 mph or less. If you take these same vehicles on the highways and operate them at 80 mph, the emissions are practically non-existent.

So it comes back to the fact that what you need to do with the NEV is make it ŒPractical and Affordable' to the masses.

Q: Of the vehicles that you manufacture across the board, not just golf cars, what proportion are electric?

A: Oh, about 70% are electric.

Q: Are you moving more in that direction? Is the EPA increasing emission restriction each year and driving gas powered engine vehicle production down?

A: It's not the EPA as much as it is the individual states. California is starting to focus on off road vehicles, outboard engines, forklifts, trucks, and so on. They are getting tougher and tougher and that is going to force the electric vehicle industry to make a more practical and affordable product. It is really challenging to industry to come up with the right product. Eventually it will perhaps be the development of the fuel cell technology that will enable the industry to really be effective in producing a road trip vehicle.

Part Two Continued Next Week...

Times Article Viewed: 7034
Published: 24-Mar-2002

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