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AFS Trinity Files Patent for Extreme Flex-Fuel 250 MPG Plug-in Hybrid with V2G Capability

10 May 2006

Afs_trinity
A sketch of the AFS Trinity XH powertrain indicating a series-hybrid approach with V2G capability. Click to enlarge.

AFS Trinity has filed a patent application describing the company’s new technology for an Extreme Hybrid (XH) flex-fuel plug-in car (earlier post) that would offer the average American driver an effective fuel economy of more than 250 miles per gallon.

The Extreme Hybrid will use a grid-charged battery combined with ultracapacitors to support an all-electric range of 40 miles per day—the daily range of the average US driver.

The US Department of Transportation estimates that the average American drives 300 miles per week. Most days Americans drive 40 miles [daily] or less. At $3 a gallon, this costs about $48 a week for a conventional 20 mpg car and $36 if the car can get 25 mpg. The most efficient conventional hybrids get about 50 mpg which means $19 a week. By comparison, the Extreme Hybrid will use less than $8 per week total for fuel and electricity.

—AFS Trinity CEO Edward Furia

AFS Trinity and Ricardo have signed a mutually exclusive Technology Partnership Agreement to work together to develop plug-in hybrid technology. (Earlier post.) With sufficient funding they expect that XH demonstration vehicles could be in the hands of fleet owners in two years and could be licensed for mass production by car makers in three years.

Specs of the prototype under development with Ricardo will remain proprietary for the time being, according to Trinity, to be shared only with entities with who the partners execute an Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

AFS Trinity does not intend to become an automaker, but rather a licenser of the drivetrain technology. As a result, the ultimate specs of the components for series-production XH hybrids will be vehicle-specific, and thus vary.

In the patent filing, which will not become public until 5 November 2006, the company depicts a variety of configurations for its system, including, “by way of example and not as a limitation,” a series-hybrid configuration (shown in the diagram above), a parallel configuration, a four-wheel drive configuration for SUVs, a mechanical instead of “fly-by-wire” configuration, and a vehicle-to-grid subsystem.

More of those details will emerge later in the year, according to the company.

May 10, 2006 in Hybrids, Plug-ins, V2X | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack (1)

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How do they propose to get 250mpg? What sort of amazing technolgy did they come up with? I did not even see a vehicle design here. It says they are not intending to become an automaker. So how can they patent this, touting 250 mpg, if they have to license it to an automaker? It seems like a "spin" to me. In fact it sounds like more of a detriment to hybrid development, requiring automakers to buy a license to develop what they are already doing. A detriment, just like Henry Fords battle with the Selden copyright patent at the dawn of the auto age was a detriment to auto development 100 years ago.

The mileage estimate seems in the ballpark to me. Note that this is a plug-in serial hybrid system. The "MPG" benchmark doesn't count electricity usage from the grid. From the web page, they're estimating that the gasoline engine is active only 20% of the time. That's reasonable depending on the driving pattern and battery size. The serial-hybrid system affords much greater efficiency in battery mode than parallel-hybrid systems like the Prius+. Also, they have other efficiency enhancing features such as the ultracapacitors. The biggest problem is that they've only got a patent. That's a far cry from having a product to sell.

My guess: The 250 mpg range is an equivalent of 250 miles on a gallon of GASOLINE. I'm assuming that this flex-fuel hybrid is operating on E85 (ethanol).

Regardless, this provides (IMHO) a much more feasible solution to this country's "oil addiction" than fuel cells...at least in the short to medium term. If I had the ability to drive for 40 miles on battery power, I'd fill up with gasoline/ethanol twice a year at most.

From AFS Trinity's prior work I expect that they will achieve the 250 + mpg by using standard "Prius+" style technology which might give 100 mpg with some improvements and then in addition add in a flywheel energy storage device that spins in a vaccuum. The flywheel storage device works like a mechanical battery and efficiently stores large energy surges (braking) into mechanical energy that can be extracted by inductive coupling. Overall this should get them into the 200 mpg range. Might get the extra 50 mpg thru other improvements like tires, gearing and improvements in ultra-capacitor capacity and by using a very small car chassis.

Safety has always been the problem with using flywheel energy storage. Perhaps they've worked out a good soln.

Scratch my previous comment. I just read the previous GCC posting on AFS Trinity that states that their technology is simply ultra caps/battery/EM and they've given up on the flywheel for now.

There is big problem in this diagram. The inefficiencies of ICE mechanical energy to electric generator to converter/controoller to motor/generator#2 is inefficient vs. a hybrid system w/ a mechanical CVT transmission and carbon fiber reinforced/stiffened drive shafts (GM, DiamlerCrysler and BMW's model). You can have part of the above to augment the gas milage further though (bigger battery, plug-in capability, and super/ultracapacitors).

I can't tell from the press release if they have any real technology, or whether it is useful, novel and non-obvious (which would make it patentable). Any one can file a patent, and almost any patent may be granted. Once granted it may become nothing more than a license to sue someone. I hope that is not the case here.

I believe that the fuel economy numbers quoted for plug-in hybrids account only for the gasoline used, not the electricity pulled from the grid.

Unless they've come up with something interesting for the details of the workings of the "power converter/controller," I don't see what there is to patent here.

Nick:
Can not agree more. 90% of patent granted by US PTO does not worth paper they are printed on. See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion#Inventions_and_patents

The problem is that patent law suets are decided by judges even more illiterate than US PTO patent attorneys….

There really should be a requirement for a working prototype before any patent is awarded.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7065/full/438139a.html

"The US patent office has granted a patent on a design for an antigravity device — breaking its own resolution to reject inventions that clearly defy the laws of physics."

So, it's an electric-electric-ethanol/gasoline hybrid? :)

the 250mpg estimate comes from being able to do most of a person's daily driving on pure EV.

It's a good concept, but it would be $ to impliment, and the above issues of the inefficient mechanical->electrica-> mechanical are bound to dramatically lower efficiency the further one goes on those >40mile trips.

Yes, the 250 MPG figure is a max that assumes mostly short distance city-type driving.

I think this is just a way to make money off of other peoples work. If you dont make the car, just patent the idea of using technologies in slightly different ways then they are now just to collect money from the ultimate manufacturer.

This actually slows down hybrid manufacturing because the person who wants to develop and use this drivetrain configuration now has another mouth to feed.

I have thought about using supercaps and batteries together to lessen the wear on the batteries and increase efficiency. Thats because to an engineer its quite obvious. The technology needs a little developing of course and thats expensive. I am sure AFS Trinity is not going to do that part. If they did, then hats off to them and I love em.

-------
With better electronics and supercaps you can eliminate a good amout of loss in the regenerative breaking systems because supercaps do not loose as much energy as a battery being charged and discharged. A set of supercaps can act like a computer 'cpu cache' for the batteries. In fact the efficiency of THAT PART of the system could get near 100%. The motor/generator efficiency problems would still exist of course.

NBK-Boston you're right. Judging from the sketch there really is nothing to patent in this design.

NBK-Boston you're right. Judging from the sketch there really is nothing to patent in this design.

250 mpg depends on using electricity from the grid, rather than gasoline or Diesel. A street-legal California Commuter, 1 person three-wheeler with a 50cc Diesel engine is in the Guiness Book of Records with 157 mpg between LA and Las Vegas. The car weighed only 230 lb. To get high mileage per gallon of hydrocarbon liquid fuel, there are only five things you can do. 1)reduce frontal area. 2)reduce shape-related drag, the drag coefficient. 3)reduce vehicle mass. 4)reduce mechanical losses in the driveline. 5)improve, greatly improve, thermal efficiency of the heat engine. If you try to design a car with these factors in mind, you can see getting to 175 mpg for a four-passenger car can be done, but it's real hard. To get to 250 mpg, even with an excellent design, the fuel efficiency of the heat engine is a real problem. Very efficient Diesels can get .25 lb. of fuel per hp-hour. There are Sterling engines that can do this. But to do 250 mpg. at 60 mph you need 4.17 hp-hours to go the distance, using 1.05 lb. of fuel, or about 1/6 gallon of Diesel for every hp used to push the car. At 60 mph the drag of a car 4 ft. wide, 4 ft. high with a good Cd (drag coefficient) of .1 is about 13 lbs. This is 2 hp at 60 mph. In addition to this, you need to add 1 hp for rolling resistance of the tires, and you need a surplus to accelerate and go over hills. If we use 6 hp., you can just make it. Realistically, you need a source of energy in addition to the heat engine fuel, that is grid electricity, to minimize your use of the heat engine. If you imagine an 1100 lb. car with at least one 150 lb passenger, with only 6 hp., you see it is hard. Google Accelerated Composites Aptera for a look at a 850 lb 2-passenger coupe with a drag coefficient of .06. This is proposed to get 330 mpg. It has a 12 hp Diesel and a 25 hp. electric motor. Using the electric power and regenerating makes it possible.

250 mpg depends on using electricity from the grid, rather than gasoline or Diesel. A street-legal California Commuter, 1 person three-wheeler with a 50cc Diesel engine is in the Guiness Book of Records with 157 mpg between LA and Las Vegas. The car weighed only 230 lb. To get high mileage per gallon of hydrocarbon liquid fuel, there are only five things you can do. 1)reduce frontal area. 2)reduce shape-related drag, the drag coefficient. 3)reduce vehicle mass. 4)reduce mechanical losses in the driveline. 5)improve, greatly improve, thermal efficiency of the heat engine. If you try to design a car with these factors in mind, you can see getting to 175 mpg for a four-passenger car can be done, but it's real hard. To get to 250 mpg, even with an excellent design, the fuel efficiency of the heat engine is a real problem. Very efficient Diesels can get .25 lb. of fuel per hp-hour. There are Sterling engines that can do this. But to do 250 mpg. at 60 mph you need 4.17 hp-hours to go the distance, using 1.05 lb. of fuel, or about 1/6 gallon of Diesel for every hp used to push the car. At 60 mph the drag of a car 4 ft. wide, 4 ft. high with a good Cd (drag coefficient) of .1 is about 13 lbs. This is 2 hp at 60 mph. In addition to this, you need to add 1 hp for rolling resistance of the tires, and you need a surplus to accelerate and go over hills. If we use 6 hp., you can just make it. Realistically, you need a source of energy in addition to the heat engine fuel, that is grid electricity, to minimize your use of the heat engine. If you imagine an 1100 lb. car with at least one 150 lb passenger, with only 6 hp., you see it is hard. Google Accelerated Composites Aptera for a look at a 850 lb 2-passenger coupe with a drag coefficient of .06. This is proposed to get 330 mpg. It has a 12 hp Diesel and a 25 hp. electric motor. Using the electric power and regenerating makes it possible.

I like the design of the Aptera - very alien-like. But I don't see anywhere to put a license plate... Sticking one on the back would effectively act as a parachute... :-( Seems like a solvable problem, though.

VW developed a prototype 1L/100 km vehicle a few years ago. It was a two-seat (motor cycle arrangement), 3-wheeled car with a one-cylinder 8.5 hp diesel engine. In real life test, the former CEO achieved 117 km/l (275 mpg).

It is my understanding that AFS Trinity and Ricardo intend to build the hardware and test it. My only reason for assuming this is that Ricardo is in the business of building and testing new automotive technology.

Making economical ultra-small two-person cars (Aptera and the VW I mentioned) is a great academic exercise, but what's really needed is a car that looks and feels like a normal 4-person car. Hopefully that will be the end result.

I wonder if this vehicle is attractive to anyone. (Use the link)

I'm sorry try this one... http://www.theoscarproject.org/index.php?option=com_joomlaboard&Itemid=21&func=view&id=971&catid=13&limit=6&limitstart=78

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I will be watching your progress!

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