Imagine a car traveling at 55 mph that runs into a slow-moving truck. Instead of shattered glass and twisted metal, imagine a car that simply bounces off.
Imagine a car that, like the De Lorean in the movie "Back to the Future," runs on water.Imagine a car that can travel 1,000 miles without a recharge or refill.
That's the dream of a Utah Valley Community College instructor, who is developing an electric vehicle.
Rux Plott, a drafting design instructor, already has some of the technologies for the project. He awaits others to bring the full dream to fruition.
For example, Plott hopes for generators from the Cold Fusion Institute's research in Salt Lake City. He hopes for lithium air batteries being developed this year in Southern California, which may allow electric vehicles a range of 1,000 miles.
But even without those developments, the solar-powered car remains an exciting prospect to Plott and his colleagues.
As it is conceived now, the car will be able to carry two people and travel at 55 mph for 100 miles without recharging. Speeds and other graphic displays will be projected onto the windshield while not interfering with the driver's vision.
The vehicle will be covered with Gallium Arsenide Concentrator photo-voltaic cells for solar energy. The cells, recently developed by Boeing, transform 37 percent of sunlight's power directly into electrical energy. While the driver is at his office, the car will recharge itself.
When the sun does not shine, a gas-powered generator inside the car can recharge the car's batteries. Then, during the evening, the car will be plugged in to get it charged for the next day.
The car's frame and shell will be made of lightweight, composite plastics donated by Winding Technology. Most solar vehicles weigh between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds; the UVCC project is designed to weigh a maximum of 550 pounds. The high-tech frame will essentially allow the car to bounce off whatever it hits without collapsing.
Faculty from diverse fields in the trades department of the college are volunteering their time for the project, which could be completed in about 18 months, Plott said. He has spent 500 hours on it already.
The idea started when Plott was working on what amounted to a wheeled shell for a motorcycle. When word came about a Florida-to-Michigan solar-powered car race, UVCC colleagues approached Plott about designing a solar car and entering it in the race.
Race officials declined UVCC's proposal because UVCC is not a four-year college. Despite that, college President Kerry Romesburg continued to encourage the idea. The car could be used for recruiting and as a showcase of the college's skills.
Plott will send his computer-designed instructions by modem to other areas of the school and computers will produce the exact shapes for the low-profile car. Other faculty will oversee the eventual assembly.
The car will have no transmission. Batteries designed by Brigham Young University professor Douglas Bennion will also be used.
"What we need is funding," Plott said. The college has provided occasional donations to the project, but it will probably require a $50,000 grant from the Department of Energy, which UVCC is seeking.