Electric cars are usually hamstrung by the limitations of range. However, a team of students from the universities of California and Carnegie are hoping to buck the trend by travelling nearly 2,500 miles in one go.
The univerities will be attempting to achieve this feat in a battery powered VW Golf in 2015 and aim to travel the entire width of the United States in less than 60 hours – 2,470 miles from San Diego to South Carolina.
The project’s main objective is to demonstrate the team’s recently developed Modular Battery Exchange and Active Management System aka M-BEAM.
Basically the modified 2002 Golf’s e-motor runs on 18 small batteries, which can be individually removed from the VW’s boot and then replaced with charged-up modules. Consequently, it doesn’t need to be plugged into a power source to refuel.
For the most part, cars that have more than a single battery slowly deplete them all at once and require a full recharge of all batteries once they’re out of juice. The M-BEAM system, however, depletes its batteries in sequence, permitting the driver to swap the ‘dead’ batteries.
Now for the downsides. Firstly, each of the 18 batteries weighs between nine and 14kg, which adds a couple of hundred kilos to the Golf’s kerb weight and eats up the entire boot. Secondly there’s the problem of requiring a support truck to follow you with a suite of recharged batteries.
Clearly, then, the problem of range anxiety goes unsolved. But the team believes the information gathered on its Trans-Am voyage should help in reducing the high price of batteries and charging technology, meaning cheaper electric cars that can travel further in one go.
The study predicts an average drop of $10,000 (around £6,000) in price for electric vehicles in the near future, as a result of decreased battery costs.