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AFS Trinity: PHEV with battery + ultracapacitor

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  • Felix Kramer
    http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2006/04/24/focus3.html Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - April 21, 2006 by Deirdre Gregg Staff Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2006
      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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