April 26, 2013
Event Review by Justin Pen
INCUBATE Technology Reporter
A few days prior to the talk, a colleague explained to me her understanding of electric cars – gleamed from the bedrock of our popular lexicon, The Simpsons. She repeated to me, with the self-effacing despair of an automated Eeyore, “Hello, I am an electric car. I can’t go very fast, or very far.” The overlooked caveat to the quote is that the fictitious model car was sponsored by the gasoline producers of America.
The event, Founders Talk with Genovation: Green Transport in the 21st Century, was hosted by CEO and founder of Genovation Cars, Andrew Saul, and co-hosted by the US Consulate General and the University of Sydney Union’s’ Incubate program. Saul opened by addressing the current environmental and economic reality of driving – rising annual temperatures and soaring fuel costs – before brandishing the company’s own panacea, the G2.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, or PHEVs, have a lot going for them when compared to traditional fuel cars and electric vehicles. Striking a balance between fuel cars and all-electric cars, Saul explained that PHEVS primarily run on a lithium-battery but carry a backup tank of petrol. While it compromises the car’s eco-friendly credentials, the extra petrol capacity helps to alleviate ‘range anxiety’, a major prohibitive factor for consumers.
Saul described the G2 as the “all green car”, environmentally conscious all the way down the production line: from soy-based seats, natural-rubber to orange peel oil infused tyres, and carpets sourced from recycled plastic bottles.
Turning technical, saul stresses the advantage of electric cars – brandishing the disturbing fact that while combustion engines maintain an average efficiency rate of 30%, electric vehicles successfully convert 97% of their energy input into output. Saul further stressed that these benefits were most pronounced in congested, “high-traffic situations” – conditions too familiar to anyone who’s had the misfortune of driving in the CBD, as one audience member pointed out.
The last decade has not only delivered increased proficiencies in battery technology and aerodynamic design to improve electrical consumption efficiency, but also vast infrastructural developments on the supply side.
The ‘Smart Grid’ is a concept still in flux – but essentially it enables consumers to buy and sell power with one another. Its capacity, in tandem with renewable energy sources, is immense. Saul flagged that US government’s mass construction of “off-shore wind farms” would allow electric car-owners to operate self-sufficiently, while retaining the option to tap into a nationwide grid if local sources were temporarily exhausted.
When questioned about their corporate structure, Saul affably admitted that their sales team consisted of “three guys in a garage.” A small company, Genovation’s R&D is supported by students from the nearby University of Maryland. Consequently, Saul admits, the G2 is aimed at a niche market: consumers who can afford its premiums and want to contribute meaningfully to “cleaner energy”, their “local economies”, and “national security”.
G2 is aimed at a niche market and designed to be profitable in small production: consumers who can afford its premiums and want to contribute meaningfully to “cleaner energy”, their “local economies”, and “national security”.
As he opened the floor to Q&A, an early pundit, addressing the ecological cliff, asked Saul how he’d encourage the mass implementation of PHEVs. The crucial battleground, Saul argued, was the “severe disinformation about plug-in vehicles.” He remained hopeful, however, that cars like the G2 could “raise awareness” and encourage greener consumption patterns through “osmosis”.
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