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SHARP students on road to success with hybrid electric car

STANFORD -- Using their street smarts like true road scholars, a Stanford University student group is working to create a hybrid electric vehicle that is environmentally safe, as well as technologically and financially viable.

"We aim to prove that there is nothing preventing the immediate full-scale development and production of these vehicles," said Adam Nash, spokesman for the Stanford Hybrid Automobile Research Project (SHARP).

"Though the task is prodigious, the goal is simple: Build a car that is both a thrill to own and a blessing to the environment."

SHARP comprises more than 70 Stanford students - mostly undergraduates - led by Joel Miller, a junior in mechanical engineering.

SHARP members are designing a car for the Ford Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Challenge, a contest jointly sponsored by Ford Motor Co., the U.S. Department of Energy and the Society of Automotive Engineers. Students from 30 universities nationwide will build alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles, and in June 1993, race them on a 200-mile course to determine the best performances.

Twelve schools will build their vehicles from scratch, while 18 will convert a 1992 Ford Escort station wagon. SHARP will compete in the conversion category, transforming the gasoline- dependent car into one using electric battery power as a primary energy source, with a backup power unit fueled by ethanol, a methanol blend or gasoline.

The SHARP vehicle features both an emission-free electric motor for around-town driving - the average auto trip is only 11 miles, Nash said - and a small internal combustion engine to extend driving range and provide additional power when needed.

How do hybrids compare to conventional autos on the open road?

On a 15-mile shopping excursion, Nash said, the HEV would emit no pollutants and cost only 2.1 cents per mile, compared with 40.2 grams of pollutants and 6.3 cents per mile for a conventional automobile. On a 40-mile commute, the HEV still emits no pollutants and costs 2.1<cent> per mile versus 22.3 grams of pollutants and 4.2 cents per mile for a gas-powered car. For a 200- mile trip, the HEV emits only 9 grams of pollutants at 2.3 cents per mile while the standard vehicle emits 21.7 grams and costs 4.2 cents per mile. (Short trips are the most costly for conventional engines because stopping and starting is less fuel efficient.)

Stanford's vehicle will incorporate cutting-edge automotive technology in "all facets of the car, from the internal combustion engine to the braking system," Nash said. For example, to enhance energy-storage capability, SHARP will use light, spinning flywheels to store energy as physical momentum rather than as battery chemicals. These special flywheels have never before been used in automobiles, but now are feasible thanks to new electromagnetic materials and advances.

Stanford's conversion of an existing automotive design in less than 18 months will demonstrate the viability of the technology, Nash said. The HEV can be produced with little retooling in existing manufacturing facilities and designed in a period of time comparable to developing a new model, he said.

Though committed to producing an efficient, economical vehicle, Nash said SHARP refuses to compromise the enjoyment of driving.

"The SHARP team believes that the hybrid car is an economically feasible and technologically viable transportation alternative, minimizing environmental effects while providing owners with performance equaling or exceeding that of current vehicles," he said.


For more information on Ford's Hybrid Electric Vehicle program, contact Doug Stukenbork at Ford (313) 248-2297.


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