The Enigma Project–Government plan succeeds

The Enigma Project–Government plan succeeds

By M. L. Simon

By M. L. Simon

The government Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle has succeeded despite the naysayers. They have actually produced an 80-mile-per gallon car that can travel 25 miles on battery alone, can be recharged by plugging it into the wall socket, or has a much larger range using biodiesel fuel for a diesel electric power system. Hemp oil is a good candidate for this and has been used in a diesel car that crossed the country. Of course, vegetable oil is also a candidate. This car also has all the performance of a sports car because it is a sports car—a center-engined sports car that is supposedly fun to drive.

Unfortunately, even though the government program succeeded, none of the participants in the government program actually produced such a vehicle—a government program that didn’t meet its goals. What a surprise. For what the government shelled out, they could have gotten 10,000 experimental vehicles even at $100,000 each.

The team that did succeed was the San Diego State University Enigma Project. And unlike the government funded guys, they did it on a shoestring budget with mostly volunteer help: students. The other thing they did was to either buy off-the-shelf components or specify the design of a component and have an outside vendor produce the item. This was especially true for the tandem (diesel-electric motor) transmission. With the peak torque capabilities of the two motors, it was state of the art when it was built.

The electric system uses an off-the-shelf controller that is multi purpose. The controller controls whether the motor acts as a motor or generator. In addition, by clever circuit design, they use many of the motor control circuits for line powered battery charging. You can find out more about this vehicle project at:

So it can be done, in a way that is fun and supports the high end of the vehicle market (where innovations always start). Right now, these vehicles are only for early adopters. For the person who wants to say: “I was the first on my block.”

Why are these cars only for early adopters? Batteries. The batteries lack three things—low-temperature capacity, high-temperature charging, and endurance. With a replacement charge of $3,000 for a battery pack, lifetime is no small matter. Not to mention the yearly or every other year shop time for replacement. What the auto makers would like to see is a 10-year battery. There is a technology on the horizon that could solve the battery problems. Ultra capacitors. The problem with them right now is cost. All this technology is in the preproduction or limited production stage. Right now, these are vehicles for the car nuts or the very committed, not quite ready for prime time. If the government started putting out mandates about this technology now, we would probably wind up with less than the best technology and find it costing way more than necessary. California tried this with their ZEV program—basically a battery-powered car program. It cost car companies hundreds of millions and put a minuscule number of vehicles on the road, because government demanded a total solution RIGHT NOW. Politicians are not engineers and shouldn’t be allowed to play them on TV or in Congress. Let us let this emerging market evolve without government mandates. We need to learn a few things before we can do much more than is now being done.

Technologists are coming to the conclusion that even a fuel cell-powered vehicle will require a battery for power surges. So this hybrid stage of technology which is expected to last about 15 or 20 years will help us develop the maintenance infrastructure and the battery for hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles. To learn more about the battery problem, see:

So how do we get more people involved in this? Races. People got early familiarity with automobiles through races. Races also helped to rapidly improve the technology of early autos. Early vehicles were changed by competition. We need this for hybrids.

As far as I know, there are no hybrid vehicle race classes (stock, unlimited, endurance etc.) or races in America or the world. Rockford could be the first. Rockford could be the leader. Add in a local college, and we could have a winner.

M. L. Simon is an industrial controls designer and independent political activist. (c) M. Simon – All rights reserved. Permission granted for one-time use in a single periodical publication. Permission also granted for concurrent publication on the periodical’s www site.

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