AFS Trinity: PHEV with battery + ultracapacitor
Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - April 21, 2006
by Deirdre Gregg Staff Writer
Bellevue firm developing hybrid car that plugs in
A small Bellevue company says it's got the
technology to build plug-in hybrid cars that can
drive 250 miles on a single gallon of gas.
AFS Trinity Power Corp., working with United
Kingdom-based automotive engineering company
Ricardo PLC, expects to see about 150
demonstration vehicles on the road in two years
and commercially available cars in three years.
A plug-in hybrid is essentially a combination
between an electric car and a conventional
hybrid. If a commuter plugged in a car with AFS
Trinity's technology at night, the batteries
could be charged enough to drive 40 miles per day
without burning any gas at all. After the
battery's charge is used up, the car works like a conventional hybrid engine.
That kind of mileage has obvious benefits for the
environment and air quality, particularly if the
electricity is generated by something other than coal.
For Ed Furia, chairman of AFS Trinity, a primary
issue is energy security and national security.
Because oil is a limited resource and demand for
it is growing, particularly in markets like
China, he thinks finding a substitute is
essential to avoiding future conflicts over resources.
"Imagine that we, the human race, are all in a
boat and rowing to shore," he said. "It will take
10 days, and we've got enough water on the boat
to supply everybody for five. Do you want to be
on that boat? The point is, you are on that boat."
Plug-in hybrids are popping up in many places,
including President Bush's last State of the
Union address. In February, Bush visited the
Milwaukee factory of Johnson Controls Inc., a
company that's developing batteries for such
vehicles. DaimlerChrysler is building a small
number of plug-in hybrid vans, and they'll be
tested by members of Plug-In Partners, a national
campaign launched in January that supports the
technology. That group includes 100 utilities, 25
cities including Seattle, and environmental and national security groups.
In addition to environmental and national
security issues, Plug-In Partners thinks the cost
of fuel could be a compelling argument in favor
of plug-in hybrid technology. According to
Plug-In Partners, the electrical equivalent of
one gallon of gas costs less than $1.
Furia said AFS Trinity's technology is the
solution to a technical problem in the industry.
A battery provides plenty of power if a car is
driving at a constant speed, but struggles when
extra power is needed for accelerating or climbing a hill.
"Think of the battery as a skinny long-distance
runner with a good cardio system who can run 26
miles, a marathon, if they do it gradually and
steadily," he said. "In a car, you don't just run
at a steady pace -- sometimes you have to
accelerate. The analogy is if while running a
marathon, every quarter of a mile you had to lift 200 pounds over your head."
Companies try to solve that problem different
ways. At DaimlerChrysler, for instance, the
Sprinter vans will use the gasoline engine to
provide an extra burst of power. Other companies
are trying to create better-performing batteries.
What AFS Trinity does is combine a lithium ion
battery, made of the same materials as the
batteries in a cell phone, with an
ultracapacitor, which stores energy for short
periods of time and can release it in quick
bursts to give the engine extra power. An
ultracapacitor is essentially a superpowerful
version of the same technology that's used to
make a camera flash go off: A camera's capacitor
collects energy from the camera's battery slowly
and then releases it into the flash quickly. But
unlike a camera's capacitor, an ultracapacitor
recharges very quickly and delivers tremendous power.
"We don't run this race alone -- we have two
runners, a long-distance runner, and a
muscle-bound one like Arnold Schwarzenegger to lift the weight," he said.
Furia also said that plug-in hybrid technology
would complement, rather than compete with,
biofuels such as ethanol. That's because there's
not enough room to grow enough ethanol source
crops to replace gasoline. If cars don't get more
efficient, you'd need about 1,750 million acres
to grow enough of one type of ethanol source
crop, switch grass, to meet demand in 2050 --
about 2.5 times the amount of cropland in the
United States, according to a Natural Resources
Defense Council paper released in December 2004.
AFS Trinity was formed by the merger of two
energy technology companies in 2000. The
20-person company has made annual revenue of $3
million to $4 million selling energy storage
devices for government clients, and the firm and
its predecessors raised a combined total of about
$50 million in financing. Late last year, the
company switched its focus entirely to plug-in
hybrids, and signed a mutually exclusive
agreement with Ricardo Group PLC, a West Sussex,
United Kingdom-based auto engineering company
with more than $288 million in annual revenue in 2005.
AFS Trinity and Ricardo are working together to
raise the $150 million they estimate they'll need
to fully commercialize the technology. Furia said
the company has met with two California venture
capital firms and started talks with a Washington state firm.
"Together we hope to complete this system and
then license it to the world's automakers," Furia said.
Contact: dgregg@... 206-447-8505x114
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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