10K could get you an alternative vehicle

July 1, 2008 3:03:04 PM PDT
U.C. Davis engineering professor Andy Frank thinks he's invented the solution to America's gas and global warming woes.

"I think the country needs a conversion kit so they can take their standard pick-up trucks, that are out there that are sucking up all the gas that they can't afford, and convert it to using electricity directly from the wall," says Frank.

Frank is holding patents to a conversion kit that could be used to turn any standard vehicle into a plug-in hybrid.

"These cars are much more advanced than the cars that are beiong produced by General Motors, Ford and Toyota at the moment," says Frank.

Frank says technology for a range of affordable all-electric vehicles is still in the distant future.

It could take 50 years before hydrogen vehicles are a reality, but his conversion kit is available now.

"The cost of electricity is about one sixth the cost of gas. It's like, when you use electricity, it's like buying gasoline at about 70 cents a gallon," says Frank.

UC Berkeley transportation researcher Lee Schipper thinks there's something we should be investing in even before alternative vehicles.

"Making conventional cars a little smaller, a little lighter, a little more efficient is probably the next best nearest step, but we need something after that," says Schipper.

Schipper says that in the long-term, it's hard to say which new technology might prevail, but the competition can't hurt. He compares it to another kind of technology.

"I can't necessarily justify an iPhone, but thanks to iPhone, there's 10 or 20 different kinds of smart phones that are priced less."

He says the various types of different alternative vehicles will probably be whittled down.

"A hundred years ago, we had a mish-mash. We all kinds of external combustion, internal combustion , electric. Henry Ford drove electric. What won was the gasoline car. Mainly because gasoline carries so much energy and the engines can be mass produced," says Schipper.

Andy Frank is trying to take his conversion-kit commercial at a cost of about $10,000 each.


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