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Carnegie Mellon customizing electric cars for cost-effective urban commuting
Date:11/16/2009

PITTSBURGHResearchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute have converted a 2001 Scion xB into an electric commuter vehicle that will serve as a test bed for a new community-based approach to electric vehicle design, conversion and operations.

The vehicle is part of a new research project, ChargeCar, headed by Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor of robotics. The project is exploring how electric vehicles can be customized to cost-effectively meet an individual's specific commuting needs and how an electric vehicle's efficiency can be boosted and its battery life extended by using artificial intelligence to manage power.

"Most electric cars today are being designed with top-down engineering to match the performance of gas-powered cars," Nourbakhsh said. "Our goal is to revolutionize urban commuting by taking a different approach by first analyzing the needs, conditions and habits of the daily commutes of actual people and then using this 'commute ecology' to develop electric vehicles suited to each unique commute." The researchers calculate that a typical Pittsburgh commuter might save 80 percent of energy costs by switching from a gas car to an electric car.

ChargeCar isn't developing new vehicles, but rather a knowledge base that can be used to convert gas-powered vehicles using existing technology. The researchers are working with Pittsburgh mechanics to develop community-level expertise in vehicle conversion, as well as a set of conversion "recipes."

Key to the project is a vehicle architecture called smart power management, which uses artificial intelligence to manage the flow of power between conventional electric car batteries and a device called a supercapacitor. Supercapacitors are electrochemical capacitors with unusually high energy density and have typically been used to start locomotives, tanks and diesel trucks. Because it can store and rapidly release large amounts of electrical power, a superc
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Contact: Byron Spice
bspice@cs.cmu.edu
412-268-9068
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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