New mo’better cars

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

‘They can go 40 miles for a dollar,’ if cars get made

New technology but no manufacturer

Last updated June 2, 2008 9:13 p.m. PT


Edward Furia says the electric car technology his Bellevue-based firm, AFS Trinity Power Corp., has developed could end the United States’ dependence on oil.

AFS Trinity’s prototype sport utility vehicles can go 40 miles on a single charge from a standard electric outlet, at which point a gas-powered engine takes over. The SUVs reach top speeds of 90 mph on the highway — and accelerate without a hitch, as Furia demonstrated while speeding Monday on Westlake Avenue North.

Gov. Chris Gregoire will take one of the firm’s two working prototypes on a test drive Tuesday.

“They can go 40 miles for a dollar, for a dollar,” Furia shouted, referring to the cost of power.

One problem, though: No automaker has agreed yet to license AFS Trinity’s technology, so it isn’t commercially available.

“I’ve gotten as far as I wanted to,” Furia said, adding that AFS Trinity has worked on the technology for the past four years. “Do I want to be a car company exec? No way.”

Furia, AFS Trinity’s chief executive officer, said he wants major car makers in the U.S., Asia, and Europe to license his company’s technology and build cars that use it.

So far, discussions with U.S. automakers are “preliminary”

“They have nibbled; they haven’t bitten,” he said. But he said foreign car makers have pursued the firm’s technology “aggressively.”

Still, he said, there is a “lot of institutional resistance” in the U.S.

After all, to choose just one example, he said, an electric car would need little maintenance — a big moneymaker for car manufacturers.

Never mind that utility firms would become the new oil companies.

Furia speculates that other electric car makers have been stymied because the lithium ion batteries that usually power those cars may wear out quickly.

AFS Trinity has worked around the problem by adding ultracapacitors to its batteries — devices that deliver little bursts of energy — powering the car when it accelerates and protecting the battery.

The prototype SUVs have two dials on their dashboards — one showing the charge of the ultracapacitor and another showing the charge on the battery.

An outlet is hidden under the cars’ rear license plates.

Otherwise, they look just like regular SUVs.

In fact, the two prototypes are actually Saturn Vue hybrids, overhauled by AFS Trinity at a cost of $3 million each.

Eventually, though, if 100,000 of the cars are made, they should cost only $8,600 more than a regular automobile, Furia said.

If AFS Trinity cannot sign a deal with a major manufacturer, Furia said, the company will find another partner to make the cars for the firm, based on the firm’s specifications.

“I want to see these cars on the road,” he said.

P-I reporter Joseph Tartakoff can be reached at 206-448-8293 or

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