If you’ve ever spent much time in the beautiful city of San Francisco, you’ll know that the city is full of hills. Lots of hills.
San Francisco also has a large number of electric car drivers, thanks to generous purchase incentives and pro electric car legislation from the California state government. But sadly, climbing San Francisco’s biggest hills can have a massive affect on electric car range.
Enter the San Francisco Municipal Railway and a Silicon Valley Startup with an ingenious solution that promises to not only to help electric car owners up hills but also provide instant refuelling capabilities on the go.
Operator of The City’s prestigious electric bus system since 1941, the SFMR has announced a partnership with Up’n’Go, a Silicon Valley startup company offering aftermarket retractable cantilever systems for electric cars. Starting April 1 2015, SFMR will make San Francisco’s network of overhead power lines freely accessible to Up’n’Go-fitted cars.
Ebron Tang, Up’n’Go’s vivacious CEO, says the system will revolutionise the way people drive electric cars in busy city centres and revolutionise the way San Franciscans live their daily lives.
“I was so excited when I got behind the wheel of my first electric car three years ago” Tang said. “But I was finding myself going well out of my way to avoid driving my EV up some of San Francisco’s most iconic hills. It just took too much power out of the battery pack.”
Tang, a Stanford dropout who entered the business world at the tender age of nineteen with squareconut, a way to grow coconuts into a perfect square, reducing packaging volume and thus saving the coconut industry billions of dollars a year in shipping costs, says the system came to him late one night after walking home from a night at The Phoenix Irish bar on Valencia street.
“I was walking across Mission Street, and I looked up,” He said. “And there above me were these massive power cables. I knew this was the way to solve my hill-climbing fears.”
After scouring the world for the best cantilever engineers and spending most of his $5 billion squarconut fortune, Tang says Up’n’Go has the best, lightest, and most user-friendly system in the world.
Up’n’Go’s system comes in two different parts: a car-based receiver plate complete with on-board electronics wiring, and the cantilever itself. Once fitted, the Up’n’Go receiver plate — which adds just 50 pounds additional weight to the car — stays permanently affixed to the car and is ready whenever the electric car owner wants to make a trip through San Francisco.
The detachable cantilever — which is about as easy to fit as your average roof bars — slots into the receiver plate on top of the car, and includes a motorised retractable arm which can raise above the car as required, drawing power from the overhead streetcar lines.
“Because of the additional drag on the freeway caused by the cantilever, we decided to make it easily detachable,” said Tang. “Since most people who will commute to and from the bay area will be stuck at surface street speeds on the busy 101 in rush hour though, we don’t anticipate it being a problem.”
The Up’N’Go system automatically pulls down the required power to move any connected car forward up to a maximum of 150 kilowatts using a special on-board interface between the car’s quick charger control circuitry and the motor control circuit.
At the same time, it can dump up to 30 kilowatts of electricity directly into the battery pack, making it ideal for anyone in need of a quick boost-charge while passing through the famous seven-hilled city.
After Up’N’Go passed its initial testing phase at its Palo Alto workshop, the company moved towards a testing prototype involving all-electric Nissan LEAFs fitted out with the system. To avoid disruption to the existing electric bus system, the firm has had to test the Up’N’Go cantilever early in the morning, just before the rest of the city wakes.
Helping Up’N’Go test the system was artisan food specialists The Golden Hue, a door-to-door toast firm based off Marina Boulevard.
“With toast now the hottest breakfast consumable among our hip San Franciscan brothers and sisters, we’re working harder than ever before to get hot, fresh toast to our customers’ homes just as they wake up,” said The Golden Hue’s founder Sally Beurre. “We’ve been driving Nissan LEAFs now for the past two years, but we found ourselves pulling all kinds of crazy tricks to get across town without hitting big hills. Now the Up’n’Go system means we never need to worry about recharging our car — and we can take all those direct routes. I’m no longer scared of our city’s fine streets!”
Pricing has yet to be announced, but Tang says it will likely be in the $10,000 mark.
“It might seem like a lot, but you’ll be getting free fuel for life from now on,” he said. “That price includes the electricity you use, and Up’n’Go has committed to help the SFMR expand and improve its network over the coming years, so that everyone with an electric car can drive and charge, wherever they are.”
If successful, the Up’n’Go system will move to other U.S. cities with electric bus systems, and Tang says he’s already in discussion with the city of Bratislava, which wants to use the city’s extensive electric bus system to power the city’s emergency vehicle fleet on clean, green electricity.
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