Automobile history can sometimes repeat itself

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I’ve often heard it said that “what goes around comes around” and “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Here’s an example of that, and, while probably not proving those rules, it certainly illustrates that such things do occur.
About two months ago, I wrote about the Reeves Octoauto, a strange-looking eight-wheeled car that existed briefly in 1910 and 1911. You may be interested to learn that there’s a modern counterpart.

Electrical vehicles

Keio University was founded in 1858 as a school for Dutch studies in Edo, now known as Tokyo. The University has a strong commitment to environmental issues and is a leader in developing electric vehicles driven by both solar cell and lithium ion battery technology.

In 2003, Keio environmental engineer, Hiroshi Shimizu, developed a car called the “Eliica,” which is short for “electric lithium ion battery car,” The Eliica is a large passenger vehicle about the size of an S-class Mercedes-Benz.
800 horses. The Eliica has eight wheels, each powered by a 100 bhp electric motor giving it a total head-snapping power of 800 horses. In tests, the Eliica has reached a top speed of 230 mph, although Mr. Shimizu claims it could do 250 mph in the right conditions.

The Eliica’ frame is made of extruded aluminum box sections welded together with the suspension arms attached. Inside each of the four box sections is a string of 20 lithium ion batteries, which make up one third of the vehicle’s cost and much of its more than 5,000 pound weight.

The batteries require about 10 hours of recharging at 100 volts from empty to full charge, and can be recharged from a regular house outlet. Range is said to be about 200 miles before a recharge is required.
The heavy batteries mounted low in the chassis give the car an exceptionally low center of gravity that makes for superb handling.

Body

Each wheel has a disc brake and a regenerative system that helps to charge the batteries while braking.
The aerodynamic body is made of fiberglass and has four doors; the rear two open upwards in gull wing fashion, while the front doors are pretty much standard.

Even though the Eliica is a big car, it seats just three besides the driver.
The prototype vehicles are right hand drive and the driver’s seat is quite simple with a more or less conventional steering wheel, brake pedal, and accelerator pedal.

Directly in front of the steering wheel is a square screen with a digital speedometer and other readouts to monitor car functions. On the dash to the right of the wheel are buttons lettered “N,” “D,” and “R.” Press on the brake pedal and touch the “D” button and then the accelerator to go forward, or touch “R” to go in reverse.

Road test

The Auto Express, a car magazine published in London, England, had an opportunity to road test the Eliica and Peter Lyon wrote the following in the Nov. 9, 2004 issue:
“So what is it like on the road? In this world exclusive, we took the controls to find out. As soon as you climb into the snug cockpit, you realise this car is built for speed. It’s more than five metres long, shaped like a bullet and carries its batteries, software and motors in a narrow chassis bed, giving it the lowest centre of gravity of any prototype we’ve come across.

d“At our drive at Keio University near Tokyo, we punched the ‘D’ button on the dash, pointed the car down the road and flattened the gas pedal. With a faintly audible whirr of eight 100bhp in-wheel motors, the 0-60 mph sprint was smooth, effortless, quiet — and surreal.”
Racing car. “The mind-boggling acceleration was on a par with that of a 500 bhp GT racing car. Yet the lack of a transmission meant there were no jerky cog swaps as we were thrust back in our seat by an incredible 0.8Gs.

“With that ultra-low centre of gravity, the car handles surprisingly well, and has virtually no body roll or nose-dive. It turns in sharply with well weighted steering through the front four wheels, and gives adequate feedback. And it does not feel as big or as heavy as its length and 2,400kg kerbweight suggest.”

Seven seconds

Apparently Keio University built two prototypes, one a speed model intended to challenge previous internal combustion engine powered speed records.
This is the version that is capable of reaching 230 plus miles per hour. It will also go from 0 to 100 MPH in about seven seconds!
However, all that speed requires a lot of juice and cuts the range to about 120 miles. The street or road version of the car is limited to 120 MPH, but the range is extended to 200 miles.

Environmental damage

Hiroshi Shimizu and his team at Keio believe that the increasing awareness of the damage to the environment caused by fuel emissions from internal combustion engines will make the Eliica a popular choice in the future.

He may be right, but it’s estimated that each of the prototypes cost more than $320,000 to build and the projected cost if the car ever goes into production is around $255,000.
It will take a pretty dedicated environmentalist to shell out that kind of money for a four-passenger sedan that needs 10 hours of recharging every 200 miles.

Signal Post Office

Last time I wrote about the Signal post office and quoted Aunt Erma Wonstetler as saying: “we had to count the postage on all the mail that went out, postage was two cents (for a) number of years before (it) was raised to four cents.”
The other day I got a call from Wayne Cooper who asked, “What about the 3-cent stamp?” He’s correct, of course; a 3-cent stamp was standard for first class mail from 1932 until 1958. Either Aunt Erma wrote it down wrong or I miscopied her memoirs when I transcribed them.

About the Author

Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules. More Stories by Sam Moore

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