Faculty Publications and Other Works -- Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2011


The goal of this P3 project was to test three hypotheses: 1) there exists a vehicle or class of vehicles that can be effectively used to replace a car for near-urban commuting and short range transportation in cities of similar population, topology and traffic volume as Knoxville, TN with significantly less environmental impact than a typical automobile, 2) this vehicle has the appropriate capacity, convenience, and comfort such that people who are not likely to use other forms of alternate transportation will adopt it, and 3) between a fuel cell hybrid and fully battery electric, one of the two designs will prove to be more effective at satisfying our criteria for low environmental impact with appropriate capacity, convenience, and comfort. A three-wheeled plug-in battery electric vehicle (BEV) was constructed and comprehensively road tested. The fuel cell hybrid equivalent was designed and is currently awaiting installation of an appropriate fuel cell. The overall sustainability of these two vehicles (BugE® BEV and BugE® H2) is compared to that of the best selling passenger car, the Toyota Camry, and a smart fortwo® (intentional non-capitalization). This study analyzes the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the four vehicles, and was conducted to examine the sustainability of the typical commuting options used for individuals currently commuting in near-urban environments as single passengers in an average passenger car. A public survey of consumer vehicle preferences was created and distributed. We defined “near- urban” as a driving distance of less than 15 miles, one way. Also, these near-urban commuters must have available to them an appropriate route that does not require interstate travel (meaning: a route exists with posted speeds 45 mph or less) although the commuter may currently use the interstate to commute.

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