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The Car of His Dreams

Amory Lovins says gas prices won't stick, but even if they do, he's still stuck on his Hypercar.
Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 2001

mid-sized SUVs.

[This concept car] is simulated to have an undamaged passenger compartment in a head-on, fixed-barrier crash at 35 mph; you simply replace the front end, but the people would be fine and their safety compartment undamaged. ... It would have a 330-mile driving range on 7.5 pounds of hydrogen. That's equivalent in gasoline terms to 99 mpg. ... These are remarkable materials. Such a car would weigh less than half as much as the most popular mid-sized SUV, but it could haul 1/8 more weight. It could also go 0 to 60 in about 8.2 seconds.

Then what's keeping these things off the road today?

The technology exists, but integrating it optimally takes another two years of detailed engineering design and manufacturing process development and validation. However, the information published by Hypercar Inc. indicates this can happen sooner and at lower cost with their design than industry norms ... for a conventional car.

Is Hypercar Inc. partnering with major automakers?

Hypercar Inc. aims to support the industry's transition. ... The only two of our many industrial partners that we're currently authorized to disclose are BP Amoco and Sun Microsystems. ... I can say that ... one of the European firms that we've been working most closely with in developing the concept vehicle is not just an automotive engineering house and Formula One race shop, but also an automaker in its own right.

Fuel Cell Century?
A Look at Last Year's Technology

  • January 2000. Ballard's Mark 900 75-kW fuel cell cuts mass 30 percent and bulk 50 percent. GM shows the five-seat, 108-mpg Precept fuel-cell concept car.
  • February. DaimlerChrysler shows the five-seat, ~70-mpg, thermoplastic/aluminum ESX-3 with 1.5-liter diesel hybrid, lithium-ion buffer battery, at estimated price of $28,500.
  • March. Ballard announces an automotive PEM fuel cell goal of $20 per kilowatt stacks and $80 per kilowatt systems.
  • April/May. Three German firms offer hydrogen-powered fuel-cell buses for sale.
  • May. GM says its "long-term vision is of a hydrogen economy." Texaco enters the fuel-cell/H2 business with ECD/Ovonics. The TES consortium (DaimlerChrysler, BMW, VW, MAN, Shell, ARAL, RWE, and the German government) switches its default fuel choice from methanol to direct hydrogen.
  • June. Ford confirms its chairman's view that 20 percent of cars on the road by 2010 will be hybrid-electric. GM aims to make "hundreds of thousands of fuel-cell vehicles annually before the end of the decade."
  • August. GM says it will always stay ahead of Ford, confirms that within a few years it will be selling full-sized, hybrid-electric pickup trucks. Environmentalists cheer the combatants on. Several California cities confirm commercial orders for fuel cell buses.
  • September. Volkswagen's chairman targets 2003 production of the 1 liter/100 km (236 mpg) city car, mainly carbon fiber and apparently an engine hybrid.
  • October. GM sells its first hybrid buses. Daimler-Chrysler slates a 20 percent-more-efficient Dodge Durango hybrid for 2003, and shows a doubled-efficiency luxury fuel cell SUV. Ballard's chairman confirms several automakers will start 2003 low-volume production of fuel cell cars.
  • November. BMW reports a carbon fiber concept car, saying that it is "absolutely feasible" that production