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Future Car Project Creating standards for the next generation of electric vehicles
Future Car Project > Future Car Project > Introduction and Purpose of this Project View modes: 
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Admin - 18/07/2011 1:05:28 PM
   
Introduction and Purpose of this Project

The Future Car Project


An idea who’s time has come (well and truly)

We live in an age where we now all have an opportunity to effect real change – lowering polution, reducing waste, and creating safer, cheaper and more exciting vehicles than ever before - all we need to do is get on with it – intelligently, compassionately (& passionately) and most importantly.. immediately!

Here are my initial thoughts on a project that could change the way we deal with transport devices (eg cars) fundamentally. I whole heartedly believe there are better ways to handle the current design and construction of vehicles across the board and if we put our minds and resources together we can most certainly achieve significant and important changes.

Cars are:
  • Wasteful
  • Polluting
  • Expensive
  • Resource hungry
  • Not really upgradable
  • Proprietary
  • Etc

We all know this, yet they are an important part of day to day life in every country and they are not going away. So we are left with a situation that is difficult and dangerous:

  • Ever increasing demand(due to growing populations, third world economic advancement (eg Chinas rise to wealth and power) etc)
  • Ever decreasing resources
  • Global warming
  • Etc

So how do we tackle this enormous challenge?

I think the key lies in efficiency, recyclability and embracing good technology. Many car manufacturers are making excellent attempts to do this already but there is a fundamental issue caused by the very nature of the car maker business model – primarily – they don’t really share information. Getting the competitive edge is such a key element to success that cars are the subject of great secrecy, patents and other protections.

We need to turn this model on its head.

If we open up the development process to the public and get the input of great thinkers and artisans; together we can create a real set of standards and concepts to shape all future development of transport vehicles

The Future Car

Electric cars are the future, there are few doubters left and all the major manufacturers have already seen the light on this – but there are technological challenges that need to be met.

Now is the perfect time to put real standards in place - before we get stuck in yet another situation of proprietry components for every car make and model.

The electric car can radically change the way to build cars – there is now the opportunity to remove an enormous amount of the mechanical components of traditional cars. For example:

  • No need for mechanical steering linkages – we can now steer ‘by wire’
  • No need for a drive train – as electric motors are practical to put in or very close to each wheel there is no need for mechanical linkages between wheels, which also removes the need to gearboxes, differentials etc.
  • No need for petrol tanks or fuel lines

So what does all this mean for car design?


To my mind this is the dawn of the 'plug 'n play' car model. If we can establish the right sorts of standard interfaces between components then we can look forward to a future that sees us re configuring or repairing our cars to suit our need easily, cheaply and quickly.

Imagine

Scenario 1
You have a new baby. All of a sudden your 2 seater sports car is no longer practical. But rather than sell your car, lose all the money on depreciation etc, you just change the chassis, or add more seats. The battery pack is still good, the motors are fine, you have your control interface setup just the way you like it – there is no need to throw all that away any more. You can even keep the other chassis for a quick changeover when you want to drive your sports car again on the weekend.

Scenario 2
You car breaks down on the freeway, you call the RACV. You don’t know what happened it just went dead.
RACV arrives, accesses your cars internal log files and can easily see that the problem is with the battery pack. There is no need to tow you to a repairer however – yours is a standard Type III battery pack and of course the RACV have a replacement on board. They change you battery pack in 5 minutes, and take your old one back to be recycled. You are on your way again.

Scenario 3
Apple have just released the latest ‘iDashboard’. It is a fancy new hybrid touch console with a neural interface to allow quicker response times and friendlier features. You can answer the phone with a thought, launch a heads up GPS map display by concentrating on the destination etc.
You absolutely have to have one – well in the old days you would have to sell you car to buy a new one with this fancy interface – not anymore, simply go down to the store, buy one, unplug your old dashboard/control interface and plug in the new one..done!

This is not science fiction (well maybe the neural interface is a little way off), this is real, practical stuff that we can do now!


Standards

The real purpose of this project is to create standards that will lead this revolution in technology. I would to invite anyone with knowledge and interest to submit their thoughts on this subject.

We are looking for the best ideas, discussions of what the main chalenges are, real world solutions and the input of serious engineers, programmers, manufacturers, organisations and other relevant parties ... there may even be space for the thoughts of some of the dreamers amongst us


My initial thoughts on where standards should be considered are as follows:
Please Note: I am not an engineer (I am a programmer), the very purpose of this is to spark discussion and healthy debate, there are bound to be thousands of considerations – identifying them is a good starting point I believe. Here are some of the areas I think are probably crucial to explore - please feel free to add your own

Chassis design – there are many considerations such as resonant frequency, safety, weight etc that we must address, a series of stable, flexible platforms needs to be invented that can handle this modular car approach - some Chassis considerations:

  • Common mounting points – eg motors, battery packs, seats, doors etc.
  • Crumple zones
  • If possible make the chassis modifiable – ie extendable or upgradeable

Control Bus

A serial control buss perhaps – something that can form a common interface between all cars systems – akin to SCSI, USB, Thunderbolt and the like. This is the heart of the control systems so it would need to be:
  • Foolproof (or as near as possible)
  • Fast
  • Flexible
  • Relatively future proof
This would connect all systems in the car – like:
  • Control interface/dashboard
  • Music system
  • GPS
  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Lights
  • Warning systems
  • Safety systems
  • Etc

Power transmission interfaces

Obviously the power required to run a car is significant, and there are competing consideration of current vs voltage & safety to consider
  • High Voltage – more efficient transfer, less metal needed in wiring (so less resources consumed), but more dangerous
  • Low voltage – large cross section cables needed to handle high current requirements – ie more metal needed, safer in some ways
  • It may be that some transmissions are handled at high voltage and stepped down at various points throughout the car. The probability is that a compromise voltage be used (something like 110 volts perhaps)
Connectors/Chassis consideration
  • Connectors should be universal and standardised wherever possible
  • Chassis may have certain conductive elements built into it if this is efficient and practical – eg if we are already going to use a series of metal beams in the chassis, then perhaps they can be made conductive and used as primary supply lines for power also.
  • Reliability, future proofing etc

Battery systems

  • Obviously a constantly evolving area and a source of significant environmental impact
  • As these are sure to change radically over time we need to allow for related issues as this technology moves eg: Changing weight – as battery packs become more compact and lighter their weight distribution of the car will change – sensible planning for such conditions needs to be done.
  • Charging control systems – different batteries may require different regulation of charge current, differing charge times etc – certain elements may need to be included in the battery units themselves to allow easy interchange and/or there needs to be software/firmware checks and adjustments based on battery requirements

Charging stations & Infrastructure
  • Obvious consideration, needs proper attention, some countries are already moving forward with prototypes of charging stations, let’s look at what is being done and see if we can come up with better solution
  • Solar
  • Regenerative
  • Inductive (eg at traffic lights perhaps? In the garage, office car parks etc)

Control Systems
  • Combination of software and hardware to tie the whole lot together
  • Intelligent API for 3rd party software development
  • Drive by wire, safety systems and other key functionality needs to be completely robust and fail safe - we need to investigate how best to write a solid operating system that can secure these core functional aspects while remaining extensible, updateable and universally available

What are the benefits of all this?
  • greater competition
  • technological advances
  • cost savings
  • waste savings
  • massive environmental benefits
  • greater recycling opportunities
  • improved safety
  • improved reliability
  • personalisation/customisation
  • greater access to transport in the third world
  • job/industry creation
  • .... and so on....


It is a very exciting time in which we live! - I look forward to your thoughts



The first and the simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is Curiosity.
Gunter Blum

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Trevor - 18/07/2011 5:06:53 PM
   
RE:Introduction and Purpose of this Project
This has good forebears as a project. The idea of Open-Source software has done good things for computing, so why not open-source Carware.

I would also note that engineering groups like E4C, an IEEE group, are always looking for projects and people that have an engineering base. Add to this the considerable efforts generated in the fields of robotics by widely diverse people and it may well be that this is a time to get some of these resources together and create open-source Carware.



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Admin - 18/07/2011 5:42:56 PM
   
RE:Introduction and Purpose of this Project
Hi Gunter
 
Your idea is already happening with a chap called Shai Agassi – ex exec of SAP and had a company called TopTier which was sold for $400m a few years ago.
His idea is electric cars managed the same way as you buy a mobile phone – rent the car. Also, hundreds if not thousands of battery exchange locations where you drive into a garage and exchange the battery.  Renault / Nissan have signed up to his plans.
 
Do a google search and you'll see what he is up to – its amazing
 
Sean

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Admin - 18/07/2011 6:49:37 PM
   
RE:Introduction and Purpose of this Project
For those interested the Shai Agassi project is called Better Place http://www.betterplace.com
They are clearly doing some fantastic stuff and are working on some standards with the ISO and others, but as yet I dont know where they are at with that part of the project - I have contacted them and we will see what they come back with.

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