11/06/10 The last time the dp1/e was out it didn't get its own update, just a mention on the dp4 page. I did get some pictures from that outing so here they are:
Today the car is out at Dallesport at a FSAE test gathering, without us. Kyle from RMS is working with the OSU team and wanted to take the car out there to show and to run. The FSAE guys are renting a portion of a runway at the airport to test their cars and it's a good venue to run some tests that we normally don't get to do - acceleration namely. A few minutes ago Kyle texted that the 0-60 is 4.2 sec. Not too bad and what's kind of funny is that to me the car doesn't feel particularly fast. I remember that not so long ago this was a crazy number reserved for the unobtainable supercars. Now, to me at least, it's just 'ok'.
Anyway, another reason for this post is that yesterday M and I went to test-drive the Nissan LEAF EV. Nissan is doing a demo tour and we figured we'd check it out. Even before the event, I was pretty sure that this car is for real. Why? Because Nissan to this day hasn't released full official specs. To me that says they know the challenges and want to see what they can actually do before making extravagant claims. This is a rare thing in the EV industry even among the majors.
They had the battery pack on display separately and looking at the lid it's obvious it was hacked up to make it taller in the area where all the cells are on their edge. Apparently at some point they realized they needed more capacity than what they started with :)
It's a pretty neat package. Although it could be made better by the BMS/charger we're working on... Eventually I hope to license that technology out. We'll see.
Anyway having seen a lot of EVs what strikes me about this one is how much of a real car it is. As you'd expect, it's fully tooled up and built to modern Japanese car standards. Quiet, comfortable, quality materials, everything fits and works. Too bad it's ugly as sin externally. I guess Nissan had to leave some way for others to compete with it... :)
Driving the LEAF is nice enough. It's smooth, handling is responsive, steering is light without being dull or sloppy. User interface is well thought out. It pulls ok-ish off the line but quickly runs out of steam and over 50 mph acceleration is rather leisurely. Nissan apparently went with a single-speed transmission for the car (cost reasons?) and performance suffers. But this is primarily a commuter and for that purpose it will be just fine. I'm sure it will gain acceptance in major metropolitan areas and would be a good solution for many people. Would I buy one? Nah. Can't get past the looks, it's too big/heavy for my tastes and not fun enough. But it is impressive nevertheless and like it or not, the future of mainstream personal transportation is going to be something like this. Not because it's miraculous or will save the world but because electricity is the most practical way to distribute energy from a wide variety of sources and because characteristics of pure EVs are very well matched to the urban/commute environment. All that's been needed is making it practical and usable for a normal non-geek consumer. LEAF does that.
The dp1/e is of course all about developing EVs for the few out there who value fun over comfort and appreciate efficiency and light weight over mainstream production car features and gadgets (yes I did say few ;). We will never compete with the likes of LEAF (nor could we begin to even if we tried) but for some people, we can definitely do a 'better' EV. Give us another year or so.
01/20/11 A while back the tooling for the original dp1 proto (now dp1/e) bodywork was transferred to Preble High School for educational purposes, along with a full license to make parts and cars. I'm happy to report that the students have now made the first part in the molds and are ready to start fitting it to a chassis.
Jeremie Meyer, the Preble motorsports porgram coordinator, says that the students learned a lot in the process. I wish a program like this were available back when I was a school kid (a sentiment apparently shared by many of the parents).
There is no substitute for hands-on experience and actually seeing what it takes to get things done. Building a working real-world car requires countless things that you won't learn by just reading a book and the skills/experience gained are applicable to pretty much any project - not just motorsports. In this age of budget cuts and bailing out the moneychangers while shipping jobs and education overseas, it is good to see that some programs are still out there giving kids a chance to apply themselves and learn how things are actually made.
Someone recently told me that he wanted a fiberglass version of the body for a project of his own. Well, there's a way - simply contact Jeremie and have the students make one. It will be a whole lot more cost effective than doing it from scratch and any proceeds will benefit a very worthy program.
04/23/11 The dp1/e is now a TV star. About a month ago we did an interview with a TV show called The Green Economy. The segment aired recently and is now available on the web. Click on the picture below to view in on youtube.
There is a next-generation design in the works but we need to find sponsors to help cover the considerable costs before the project can move forward full speed.
11/11/11 There are several potential electric developments in the works. With that in mind, the dp1/e is finally back at our shop, after 3 busy years in RMS custody (time does fly!).
The new projects will most likely use the current D1 or D4 chassis and bodywork. It then leaves the question of this car's fate. On the one hand I want to keep it - certainly a lot of personal history (and commitment in countless ways) is tied up in the car. Looking at it as objectively as I can, as far as first-ever-car-design efforts go this one ain't too bad. On the other hand, pragmatically it is taking up space and potential resources that could be more effectively applied elsewhere. So.... I'm open to offers. Do keep in mind that it's a prototype through and through and no it is NOT street legal (although I've learned that determined individuals can change things like that I officially wash my hands of any such endeavors).