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January 19, 2004

Engine-In-A-Wheel

Dutch Electric-Vehicle Invention That Makes Sense

Electric motors have the appeal of producing high torque at low rpm and operating efficiently over a wide speed range without the complications of gearing; however, the problem for vehicles has been how to store the energy. Gasoline packs more miles into a tank than any other source but is dirty and less efficient. A Dutch invention dubbed the "Whisperer" combines the advantages of both in a way that I think could, after all the talk and hare-brained schemes we've had over recent years, represent a real breakthrough. It works through a neat trick that nobody seems to have thought of before, of turning the standard electric motor inside out.

A regular motor consists of a magnetic "rotor" that turns inside a system of field-generating windings built into the surrounding, nonmoving housing, or "stator." With the Whisperer, things are the other way around. The stator sits on the inside, and the rotor revolves around it. Put a tire on it, and voilà , you have a wheel -- independently driven, without need for mechanical transmission, and affording all the benefits of electrical control. But does that mean it has a fifty mile range and then has to sit in the garage all night while it recharges? No. An on-board diesel-electric generator running at constant, optimum-efficiency speed continually tops up the batteries.

The city of Apeldoorn has a full-size bus fitted as a proving demonstration. This year a decision is expected on adopting the system for regular public transportation.

 
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