Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My ideal hybrid diesel/electric all-purpose vehicle

What would my ideal vehicle be, for driving from America to Argentina nonstop (except perhaps for the ferry from Panama to Ecuador)?

It would be based on something that was a cross between a Jeep Commander, a Toyota Pathfinder, a Jeep Liberty, a Subaru Forester, a Saturn VUE, a Volvo Cross Country and a Unimog. Basically, it would:

* Seat 5 normally, with the option for a 3rd row of seating in a pinch to accommodate 7-8
* Be light-weight, with the polymer body panels that Saturn uses on all their vehicles
* Be tough, with skid plates underneath it to protect from rocks, etc.
* Be truly 4wd, with the ability to drive in loose sand, mud, potholes, dirt roads, as well as city streets and on the freeway
* Not necessarily be the fastest thing around, but be able to keep up with traffic and pass slower vehicles without needing an airplane runway to get the speed up to do so.
* Climb hills steadily carrying a heavy load
* Hold a winch on the front bumper to allow it to get out of a pinch, or pull another vehicle out, or do the other things that winches allow for
* Have a heavy-duty roof rack on top that could carry the cargo for 4-5 people on a 2-week (or 1-year) journey, in combination with the storage space below
* Have a rear-mounted spare tire that also had room for a spare gas (diesel) can
* Have fog lamps
* Have crush protection for all lights, so they wouldn't get smashed by debris
* Operate using a hybrid diesel-electric powertrain, possibly one with a separate electric motor for low and another for high speeds.
* Have the ability to run entirely off of battery-electric power until the batteries run nearly dry
* Have the ability to use biodiesel/SVO
* Get at least 45mpg on diesel fuel, averaged between highway and city (but not less than 42 in either situation).
* Have at least a 450-mi range on a single tank of gas (preferably 500mi)
* Have rollover protection -- it must not roll unless driven in the most extreme/insane situations, such as at 50mph on a 15% slope while turning the wrong direction (i.e. it shouldn't roll in any situation that a regular passenger car would not roll in). Volvo, I believe, can already make this claim with its SUVs.
* Potentially have solar panels to assist with charging the battery to provide additional motive power (hey, this might help increase fuel economy by another 5 mpg, right?)
* Be able to tow a trailer (though not necessarily quickly)
* Have durable leather seating (I haven't met any other type of seat that I like as much as leather in an automobile)
* Have the potential for a 50-year life span (or even 100 if well-maintained and lucky), assuming that some parts would need replacement or refurbishment at semi-regular intervals (batteries, tires, windshield wipers, etc.)
* Have at least a 10-year/250,000-mile warranty on the essential systems (drivetrains, computers, etc.) ...if you're going to build it, build it right!
* Have a good sound system with a subwoofer, at least 4 tops, and an RCA aux-in port
* Cost less than $50,000 (And I'd prefer $30-35,000!!!) with all of the above features.
* Have a good security system engineered into it from the beginning, so you could park it anywhere without fear of what might happen to it while you're away. Part of this would be not looking too flashy, fading into the background, having shatter-proof glass, good solid electronic locks, electronic ignition lockout, good
* Have oh-shit handles accessible to every passenger that will not break under any circumstances or loads
* Have cargo hooks in every conceivable useful location
* Have rubber/waterproof floors and durable interior materials throughout. Not necessarily be able to spray down the interior with a hose, but at least be able to wash it and maintain it for 50 years without it rotting/molding/mildewing if it gets wet repeatedly/prolongedly or if somebody spills their coffee/soda/etc on it.

Sure, I'd pay up to $50,000 for a vehicle that was engineered to last 50 years and guaranteed for the first 10 to have the manufacturer replace faulty parts for free! Especially if it could go anywhere and do anything, with finesse and style!

UC Davis, NUMMI, anybody else care to partner up and/or take these specs and run with them? I'd like to test-drive this sucker in 2007.



Garlynn Woodsong said...


This vehicle would also be improved by the addition of a turbosteamer, which takes the waste heat from the engine and uses it to pump power back into the drivetrain:


BMW is working on this concept now, and plans to install it in every model in its lineup within the next ten years.

If this was combined with diesel-electric plug-in technology, on a vehicle with solar panels on the roof and hood... well, that vehicle could have some pretty serious fuel efficiency! It could also run on biofuels.

How much would this vehicle cost? A lot.

But what if this vehicle came with an automatic ten-year warranty, and a lifetime guarantee of some variety... the idea being that it was designed to be the last vehicle of its type that you would need to buy?

Maybe then it could command a price approaching six figures, a price that would be justifiable to the average family by extending the payment plan over ten years so as to limit the monthly payments to a comfortable range ($3-400 or so a month). This higher price would allow for the additional costs of the features that I have mentioned here.

Anonymous said...

Nice but all I want is an all-electric plugin jeep with supercapacitors able to drive 80 miles with one charge and ... this may be new: a diesel / generator unit ON A TRAILER for longer trips (leave the noise outside!) Of course while home the trailer generator would be used as emergency power unit.

Garlynn Woodsong said...

I definitely agree that it should be a plug-in hybrid. Can't believe that specification didn't make it into the original post.

Anonymous said...

expect a little less of give more time.

Garlynn Woodsong said...

Now, with the development of a newer generation of lithion-ion battery, this vehicle seems like it may be more feasible than ever. When these new batteries begin production, their developers claim that they will be 80% lighter than the existing generation, while also "providing 10x longer life, 5x power gains and dramatically faster charge time (more than 90% capacity in five minutes) over conventional high-power battery technology."

I'm willing to wait for this next generation of batteries to come to fruition, as it seems like they will make my ideal vehicle much more feasible. But, how long must I wait? A smaller version of these new batteries is already for sale by Black & Decker for their new 35-v line of portable power tools.

Blogger said...

You might qualify for a new solar program.
Click here and find out if you qualify now!