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5 Ideas to Charge-up the Electric Car

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While the Tesla Roadster is still the sexiest car in the electric vehicle market, companies are piling on the industry this year. Ford released its first electric car, the Focus Electric, along with a partnership with Best Buy to sell home charging stations. Rolls Royce also unveiled its new electric car, the 102EX, for the "ultra-luxury segment," and China is eying the market and aiming for the top. According to one analyst, "Beijing sees electric cars as a field where it can take a global lead, helping to transform China into a creator of technology."

The market was the topic of a Hollywood movie and a federal investigation this year -- what says "made it" better than that?

Maybe we're still looking for the idea that will make EVs really take off. I've put together a few of the best ideas around electric cars that we've received on Planet Forward that could help transform EVs in 2012. Check out some of the ideas below and tell me your idea!

Dropping pounds: BMW Develops New Light-Weight, Carbon-Reinforced Fiber Material

One of the ways to increase vehicle efficiency is to reduce the car's weight. Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown that the average car is roughly 530 pounds -- that is 20 percent heavier -- than the average car on the road twenty years earlier. BMW's carbon-reinforced fiber that will help reduce the weight of the car, while still maintaining the safety and durability standards.

Make 'em Mini: MIT's CityCar

Anyone who drives in the city knows that there are a lot of cars on the road, especially when you're trying to find parking. MIT's electric CityCar puts all its engine parts in the wheels, making it extremely maneuverable and compact -- you can park 3-4 of these cars into one traditional parking spot.

Power on the Road: Highways that Power your EV

What if you could drive straight across the country without ever having to refuel? That's the dream behind this idea -- using magnetic bars in roadways and pick-up coils in bottoms of cars so that your EV charges while you drive. "No need to stop at recharging stations" says Ira Sorkin, the member who submitted the idea. Researchers in Utah are starting to look into the idea, but say it may not happen for 10 or 20 years.

Lego Cars: Interchangeable Autoparts

This is an idea that will work for electric cars, hybrids and gas-guzzlers: make parts interchangeable. Both Dale Bowen and Al Smithsubmitted this idea and they see a number of advantages:
  • Economies of scale -- An industry standard configuration concentrates available capital on solving problems with real economies of scale.
  • Saving Energy: A lot of energy is consumed in the process of redesign, new tooling and the manufacturing of steel and new castings.
  • Encourage Innovation: Automobile producers could become car assemblers, buying most of their components and assembling cars rather than redesigning parts.
This idea of upcycling was also submitted by students at Sewanee College. They took an Ford Explorer and increased the car's MPGs from 17 to 25, at a cost of only $1,500.

Charging stations: Project Get Ready

Featured in our April Special, Project Get Ready comes from Planet Forward member Al Dahlberg in Rhode Island. He's bringing together a determined coalition of interests to begin building an electronic vehicle infrastructure. Dahlberg's goal is to get 10,000 cars to be plug-ins in the next five years.

But will Americans buy electric cars? Rebecca Lindland of the research firm IHS joined our team of experts on Ask an Expert. See what she has to say:

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