February 1, 2008 11:02 AM PST

Zenn swaps motors in latest electric cars

Zenn Motor plans to release a new line of cars in a few weeks that will run on more powerful AC motors--but consumers will have to wait for vehicles that feature new energy technology.

To date, Toronto-based Zenn has inserted DC motors into its cars. A DC motor can provide a lot of torque at low speeds, but it begins to decline fairly rapidly as the engine runs at higher rpms (revolutions per minute), said Zenn CEO Ian Clifford. The amount of torque an engine can produce directly relates to its performance, so the more torque, the more performance.

In an AC motor, torque doesn't decline in the same manner. "In a city like San Francisco, you can accelerate into a hill and keep your speed," Clifford said.

Photo: Zenn's new low-speed electric car

The new cars also go farther. The older DC motor-powered cars can go about 30 to 35 miles on a charge, he said, while the news ones with AC motors will go 40 to 50 miles. Zenn also made the roof black on the new cars for a touch of style. The cars now look more like Mini Coopers.

Rival Miles Automotive already sells low-speed, limited-range electric car with AC motors.

While a 50-mile range is probably too low for a regular consumer car, it works in the niche market that Zenn mines. Zenn's cars are low-speed electric vehicles. That is, they contain governors that limit the speed to 25 miles per hour, tops. Universities and military bases buy them to replace the diesel-burning maintenance and grounds-keeping trucks. (The Department of Defense, in fact, has a mandate to increase its purchases of low-speed vehicles.)

Although you can't take them on freeways, low-speed vehicles are legal on city streets, so you can use them for beer runs to the convenience stores; retirement communities are a target market.

Washington state and Montana, ever the rebels, have passed laws allowing these cars to crank it up to 35 miles per hour, but Zenn for the moment is sticking to the federal standard.

Approximately 20,000 to 40,000 low-speed vehicles are shipped a year, Clifford estimated. Competitors in the market include Miles (check out a test drive of a Miles car here) and Zap. A few dealerships in California (Davis, Berkeley) have Zenns on the lot.

Zenn's new cars run on an EV31A-A Discover lead acid battery pack, which was an upgrade from earlier models.

The company hasn't released pricing on the new cars, but the current vehicles sell for between $12,700 and $17,000.

Zenn plans to produce freeway-legal cars, but is waiting to get energy storage units from EEStor. The somewhat secretive EEStor says it has an ultracapacitor that can power an electric car better (and farther) than a lithium-ion battery pack. EEStor has several partisans and detractors, but few have seen the company's technology up close.

Although EEStor has had to delay its energy storage units, Zenn expects to start receiving some this year. An investor in the company, Zenn has the right to obtain the first units from EEStor. Lockheed Martin has signed a development deal with EEStor as well and is expected to receive prototypes late in 2008.

"They are pretty bullish about delivering product to us in 2008," Clifford said.

See more CNET content tagged:
car, vehicle, mile, battery

14 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Great stuff
Thanks to CNET for reporting on electric cars.
Posted by Tui Pohutukawa (366 comments )
Reply Link Flag
15 Companies to Sell New EVs
The market for highway-capable battery electric vehicles (EVs) was documented in 2000, using data from Dohring, a respected auto-industry research firm. The Green Car study projected annual EV sales passing 200,000 five years after market introduction of a practical all-round EV.

The apparent perpetual-motion engine is perplexing, especially after all the impossible-to-market 'miracle cars' I've read about over the last twelve years. I'll follow up on it, since scientific endorsement is implied in the story in Comment #3.

I am ecstatic that, eight years after renting a GM EV1 (and instantly becoming a public EVangel,) Fortune-CNN reported a few months ago that at least fourteen new companies plan to sell EVs within a few years. Over half of them will be truly highway-capable; that's what I've been hollering for!
Posted by EV Lover (16 comments )
Link Flag
Big Surprise via EEStor
No way, EEStor products were delayed, again? Generally it's hard to deliver something on time when it doesn't exist or make sense.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TROY REED'S PERMANENT MAGNETS SURGED TECHNOLOGIES TO ACCELERATE THEM NOW
MOST PROMISING IS THAT THEY COULD SEEK THE ASSISTANCES OF MR. TROY REED'S PERMANENT MAGNETS SURGED TECHNOLOGIES TO SPEED THEM UP SIGNIFICANTLY

THE PERMANENT MAGNETS MIRACLE

Inventor's design consumes no fuel, emits no fumes :- <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEfpGoYMdvQ&#38;feature=related" target="_newWindow">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEfpGoYMdvQ&#38;feature=related</a>

By Bud Kenny

Free Press, Little Rock, AR

Devices that have truly improved the human condition - such as electricity, the telephone and the airplane - were created by people who passionately believe their inventions would make the world a better place to live. Troy Reed of Tulsa, Oklahoma is such a person.

Reed has invented and patented a motor that consumes no fuel and emits no fumes. It is powerful enough to turn a 7,000-watt generator, which is enough electricity to run an average home. Production of the Reed Magnetic Motor for use by the general public may begin by year's end.

Reed, 57, has also invented an automobile called "Surge" that employs his new technology. Unlike a battery-powered car, Reed's Surge does not have to be plugged in to be recharged. The car recharges itself as it rolls down the highway at speeds of up to 85 miles an hour. Reed and actor Dennis Weaver, a cousin and inventor in the project, plan to make the first highway test-run of the car this summer.

Reed said he has been contacted about coverage of the test run by, among others, 20/20, 60 Minutes, Larry King Live, Primetime Live and CNN. A representative of CNN, Reed said, has already seen the car and might broadcast daily updates during the journey.

The idea for this technology came to Reed in a number of dreams and visions over the past 35 years. He said he got the first in 1959 while employed as a machinist making 70 cents an hour. Thirty years later, in 1989, he put those dreams to the test, turning a hand crank that put the first Reed Magnetic Motor in motion. That prototype was seven feet tall, weighed more than 500 pounds, had four moving parts and powered a 500-watt generator. His latest motor takes two car batteries to start (they are re-charged by the generator), is 20 inches high, weighs less than 200 pounds, has one moving part and runs a 7000-watt generator.

If Reed's motor works as well as he says it does, it would be a rather amazing technological breakthrough. After all, it would mean a person could live anywhere one wanted with all the comforts and never have to pay an electric bill. One would also be able to drive to work, or anywhere else, without consuming fuel. And best of all, one could do these things without polluting the environment.

Although most people have never heard of the Reed Magnetic Motor, it is well known in the science world. Since 1989 Reed and his motor have been featured at numerous international scientific conferences - the most recent on in Denver in March. Reed also has been written up in scientific journals and is included in the latest edition of Monuments of Mars, a book of inventors written by former NASA science writer Richard Hoagland.

If Reed has his way, his motor soon will no longer be a scientific curiosity. Currently he is in the final stages of granting a license to produce the motor to an American company and a company in India. Reed would not give the names of the companies because he said he is still "negotiating."

"I've been approached by lots of companies from all over the world," Reed said. "I wanted the company that builds this motor to be doing it for the same reason I developed it - to help mother earth."

Reed did say that the companies granted licenses would start producing the motors for the consumer almost immediately. "The technology is already there, it is just a matter of putting all together the right way to make it work," Reed said.

The 1989 prototype uses a horizontal shaft with several magnets on it. Above the shaft are four vertical spring-loaded pistons with a magnet on the end closest to the shaft. Turning the hand crank spins the horizontal shaft and the magnetic spring-loaded pistons move up and down to trigger the motion of the shaft and the magnetic force field. Once the shaft is put into motion, it continues to spin until a brake is applied.

Instead of moveable pistons, the latest model of the motor uses and electronic system and stationary magnets to start and control the motion of the shaft. Consequently, the only moving part in the motor is the horizontal shaft. In the current model, the shaft turns in bearings, but Reed said the mass-produced model will not have the bearings. Instead, the shaft will be magnetically suspended inside the motor casing. Suspending the shaft means there will be nothing to wear out, or make noise, Reed said.

Reed is aware inventions such as his often end up being shelved away from the consumer by a large oil company. So Reed said he has proceeded with caution. "Just like the companies that are going to produce these motors, I made sure that my investors were motivated for the right reasons," Reed said. "If they are only in it for the money, then I turned them away. On the other hand, if they share my desire to see this technology in the marketplace to help save the environment, then we made a deal."

Reed said he also has been careful in how he financed the development of his motor. He said he talked with other would-be world-saving inventors who were put out of business by the government for violating interstate security exchange laws. "They needed capital to develop their ideas, so they sold their investors stock," Reed said. "It always takes longer to develop something like this than you think it will. So when it came time to make good on that stock, they couldn't do it."

When Reed needed capital, instead of issuing stock he gave his investors promissory notes that were contingent on his invention eventually making it to market. Once the motors are available to the public, Reed said he will offer his investors the option of "holding the promissory notes or exchanging them for stock."

However, the federal government is aware of what is going on at Reed Technologies. In fact, Reed said NASA has volunteered to test the motor.

Reed estimated it will cost about $3,500 per motor to mass produce his invention
Posted by K A Cheah (241 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How do you believe this stuff?
Your post describes, as far as I can tell, a perpetual motion machine. Sorry to break it to you, but this violates well established laws of physics.
Posted by skrubol (181 comments )
Link Flag
Gentleman,
My husband and I have been fighting the good fight to bring about an electric car. Some of the problems with a small business like ours is money, to develope the the product in a visual appealing way. The buying piblic needs to view transportation in a different manner, after saying this I add so do our elected- officials.I would tresure your thought for us to continue on.
We have a world number and curently bring cars in from China and then we rework the car to a better finished product. Let me say again this work is done by my husband and myself. Any ideals?
Posted by bodyshopterry (1 comment )
Link Flag
Dumb laws stifle this tech
Here in Missouri, the law is that if the posted speed limit is 35MPH or less it is OK. The problem is that most major roadways are 40 MPH, leaving owners landlocked or potential owners deciding against this green alternative. This makes the technology that could have an impact left sucking wind. You aren't supposed to have to register these vehicles either as they are to be treated like bicycles, why they limit the speed to 25MPH. Don't tell that to the Ellisville police department though, they made my brother in law register his GEM vehicle costing him $800.

Then he was recently ticketed turning onto a 40 mile an hour road to get to a no outlet street on the other side.

If you can't use these vehicles to get where you want to go it just doesn't make any sense.

They should make the vehicles go 40 and just restrict them from 55MPH roadway's. 25 might be OK for a retirement community in Florida, that's about it.
Posted by stlwest (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree with stlwest. I think Kelly is pretty realistic about the car:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.kbb.com/kbb/NewsAndReviews/VideoLibrary.aspx?WebAssetId=366774&#38;Path=Videos&#38;SortExpression=0&#38;PageIndex=19&#38;SelectedTabIndex=1&#38;PlaySlideShow=true&#38;Filter=HasVideoReview&#38;SelectionHistory=0%7c27106%7c92606%7c100%7c10%7c" target="_newWindow">http://www.kbb.com/kbb/NewsAndReviews/VideoLibrary.aspx?WebAssetId=366774&#38;Path=Videos&#38;SortExpression=0&#38;PageIndex=19&#38;SelectedTabIndex=1&#38;PlaySlideShow=true&#38;Filter=HasVideoReview&#38;SelectionHistory=0%7c27106%7c92606%7c100%7c10%7c</a>
Posted by karmannghia67 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
nice small electric car. but yet is not set with its price i am sure it will be between $13 to 14K

http://www.globalpremiumcars.com/
Posted by robcook999 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.