As America’s 5th Annual National Drive Electric Week shifts into high gear, a grassroots initiative known as The M-BEAM Challenge is announcing the world’s first coast-to-coast electric vehicle trek to demonstrate the versatile, range-extending capabilities of its Modular Battery Exchange and Active Management (M-BEAM) swappable battery system, designed to address the industry’s largest hurdles to widespread EV adoption: cost and range anxiety.
Inventor Lou Shrinkle, UCSD engineering students and university advisors behind the endeavor – aka Team M-BEAM — have launched a fundraising effort challenging the world to help take their concept mainstream while supporting their milestone journey, currently slated for November 2015.
M-BEAM offers EV owners an entirely new means of charging electric vehicles while on the road. Rather than wait in line at an official EV charging stations and enduring 45-minute to 4-hour waits as batteries are recharged, M-BEAM’s swappable battery solution allows EV drivers to pull into M-BEAM “exchange stations” – theoretically convenience or auto parts stores – and simply swap any number of portable battery modules for fully-charged ones, eliminating the range anxiety many EV drivers experience when traveling too far from home or running low on charge. The modules are anticipated to shrink from briefcase to a lighter, more portable shoebox-size in very short order.
“We’ve taken this gigantic battery pack and diced it up into smaller, more manageable modules that the driver can extract and replace as needed,” said M-BEAM inventor and project founder Lou Shrinkle. “Small, replaceable batteries allow drivers to refuel quickly. When ready for a charge, the consumer simply extracts depleted battery modules, pays for one or more freshly-charged battery systems at the counter, slides them into the battery housing and the journey continues — without frustrating wait times,” Shrinkle said.
Team M-BEAM contends today’s infrastructure and America’s evolving charging station model simply can’t support mass adoption of electric vehicles. Today, 50% of the country has no access to a garage, let alone 240-volt outlets, rendering electric cars impractical. And they say the amount of time it takes to administer a cost-effective, safe charge at today’s commercial EV stations is too slow for most people. They suggest pursuing alternatives like M-BEAM and standardizing its energy modules provides consumers a distinct choice that can easily co-exist with the country’s evolving public charging stations.
To prove the viability of the M-BEAM alternative, Team M-BEAM has retrofitted a 2002 Volkswagen Golf for their November proof-of-concept journey. The coast-to-coast trip will exceed 2,400 miles, with M-BEAM’s sixteen 30-pound briefcase-sized modular battery systems delivering about 100-120 miles (around 26 kilowatt hours, or kWh) per charge. This translates into around twenty-two 3-to-5-minute stops to change out the batteries across the United States – a vast time savings over the typical 45-minute to 4-hour charge.
With a goal of $15,000, the Indiegogo fundraiser is designed to defray the costs for operating M-BEAM’s flagship vehicle (the VW retrofitted with M-BEAM’s swappable battery system), a sleeper vehicle, and a chase vehicle assigned to charge the replacement batteries and simulate the exchange station concept along the way. Money is also being raised to fund the team’s return trip to San Diego.