8/25/2005

Daily Kos: Damn Cool Car News

Four Wheels, Four Motors

If a hybrid is just not rad enough to suit your needs, how about going all the way to electric? True, the electric cars currently on the US market are pretty sad little things, suitable for not much more than ferrying retirees along streets where there are more golf carts than Golfs.

But that might not be true for long. There are new companies in China and India developing cars that run on electric alone at highway speeds and more than reasonable commuting distances. True, these are in the "mini-car" category which (according to Detroit) doesn't interest American consumers. And if Detroit says we don't want something (like hybrids, Mini Cooper, or just plain good quality small cars), then they must be right.

Even if the newcomers avoid our shores, one of the Japanese companies is now moving forward with their electric plans in a very exciting way. Not have they dropped the traditional gas-powered engine, they've also dropped the transmission, and just about every other component of current powertrains. According to the folks at Autoblog, this car might look normal, but under the hood... hey, just what is under the hood, anyway?
It's called the Lanver Evolution MIEV, which stands for Mitsubishi In-wheel Electric Vehicle. Like its name indicates, the EVO MIEV has four electric motors located in the wheels packaged neatly with the brake assemblies and steering hardware.
Packed into each of the four wheels of this auto are a set of unique electric motors. For those used to the usual manner of building such motors, these guys actually seem to be constructed backwards.

The idea of putting motors in the wheels is a science fiction staple that goes back at least as far as Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye (1974). What could be better than completely dumping all the gunk that currently translates the motion of the engine into turning the wheels, while at the same time gaining the poise and control given by four independently-powered wheels?



Of course, there is a slight problem. When you add weight to the wheels, that weight is considered "un-sprung weight," in that it's not supported by the suspension (shocks, struts, etc.). Stick a lot of unsprung weight out there, and you can get a crappy ride, poor handling, and some weird effects of physics (ever tried to control a spinning gyroscope?). Still, Mitsubishi is a big name in rally racing, their engines look nice and small, and it may be that they've cracked this nut.

Mitsu also hasn't said anything yet about the range or performance of this vehicle. Hopefully, we'll get a better idea of both after the MIEV competes in a rally next week.

Daily Kos: Damn Cool Car News

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