Daily Update 5/26/1999

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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 New Lebanon, NY- Lebanon Valley Dragway, Empire State Plaza- Albany, NY Display, and Shaker Junior High School- Latham, NY

Everyone will be happy to know that the NJ Venturer has been ranked first overall in the hybrid category!

With cloudy skies ahead of us and after a very busy night, Team NJ arrived and competed successfully in the drag race at the Lebanon Valley Dragway. John Stradford (NJBPU) drove the NJ Venturer. He said, "the vehicle drove well, it stayed steady and there were no problems with it." As Team NJ was preparing to leave the dragway, NESEA asked if anyone would like to ride in the Pace car for the day, the EPIC minivan (production category). Richard Pascual (Rutgers-CAIT) and John Musto (Rutgers-CAIT) got the chance to drive in the vehicle. They were extremely excited about this interesting opportunity. Richard said, "it was great being the first car in this part of the race and leading a group of vehicles representing such dynamic technology." Team NJ then began the first half of the fourth leg of the tour, heading to the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY.

The sun did not make an appearance this afternoon, however Team NJ was ready to face the rest of the day in the capital of New York - Albany. The team and the NJ Venturer were in a courtyard in the middle of the Empire State Plaza facing the Capitol building. Even though the weather was unpredictable (and even a few drops of rain threatened storms), the NJ Venturer display booth received many visitors; Team NJ was fortunate enough to be in the heart of downtown with many businesses and major companies surrounding us. Children from various schools were bused in for the day’s event. Team NJ estimates that over two thousand (2,000+) people visited our display booth in the afternoon. Our ongoing display booth consists of: three poster boards made by our students that are truly professional looking, two IBM laptops with PowerPoint slide show presentations running automatically on them, a hydrogen powered electric remote control car, a full-bridge series-resonant converter, brochures, pamphlets, flyers, and a photo album of the NJ Venturer’s life from start to finish.

Michael Strizki (NJDOT), Team NJ’s Captain, was on hand to greet Dan Levy, an ABC (Channel 10-NY) anchor/reporter.  Mike presented the NJ Venturer vehicle to Mr. Levy and explained in detail the various components of the vehicle.

There was a large welcome ceremony in front of the exquisite fountains that were in the courtyard. New York Governor George E. Pataki was there to receive a painting on behalf of NESEA to commemorate the vision of a sustainable future and the coming of the NESEA Tour to Albany. Governor Pataki made note that there is, "a new era of energy dawning." Some of the other speakers at the ceremony were: Gerald D. Jennings, Mayor of Albany, John Cahill, Commissioner, NYSDEC, and Nancy Hazard, Director, NESEA Tour.

Michael Strizki (NJDOT), Team NJ’s Captain, was on hand to also greet Matthew L. Wald, a Transportation Editor for The New York Times newspaper.   Mike, Ken Kleinfelter (MG Industries), and Joe Ambrosio (Neocon Technologies, Inc.) presented the NJ Venturer vehicle to Mr. Wald and explained how our vehicle is the first of its kind ever on the highways and byways of this country.

The NJ Venturer provided an opportunity for students to learn about fuel cells and electric vehicles and how the integration of new technologies can help solve our future transportation and environmental challenges. Cassandra Kling (NJ Commerce and Economic Development Dept.) commented overall on the NJ Venturer project. "This project represents a new future for the New Jersey economy and environment. The NJ Venturer has proven that the technologies to develop extremely clean vehicles are on the horizon, and represent a huge opportunity for job creation and economic development as they commercialize."

The vehicles then began the second half of the fourth leg of the tour as everyone made their way to Shaker Junior High School in Latham, NY. Similar to last night, this leg of the tour was not timed. During a team technical meeting it was discussed whether the vehicle should be driven or simply towed for this leg. In general, this leg would not benefit our overall score. Technically it could slightly increase our efficiency, however any problems would surely lead to deductions or penalty points. Team NJ decided to "play it safe" and tow the vehicle from Empire State Plaza to the high school.

During our team dinner the students secretly decided to surprise our Team Leader Mike Strizki (NJDOT) with a birthday cake. Of course it wasn’t Mike’s birthday, but they wanted to praise the efforts of Mike who one year ago conceived the idea for a hydrogen and battery powered hybrid vehicle. Mike was completely surprised and a little shocked as the servers came from the back of the restaurant singing a rendition of Happy Birthday. As the singing and clapping came to a close, Team NJ expressed our team’s gratitude towards Mike, by announcing it over our two way radios. As Mike blew out the candles, one really doesn’t have to wonder what he wished for with the Range Day event tomorrow. Range Day consists of driving in a 37.5 mile lap as many times as possible until our hydrogen/battery supply has been depleted.

After dinner Mike held a short meeting to stress the magnitude of Range Day tomorrow. He told us, "that tomorrow is a very important day and it is imperative that team members work independently and be free thinkers." From the very start of the NJ Venturer design there were many different features that could be optimized. However, it was unanimously decided that the NJ Venturer was to attempt to break the distance record. Hence the current design was specifically optimized for Range Day.

During the technical meeting in the late evening, our proposed strategies for tomorrow were discussed. Some last minute modifications on the vehicle were required in order to maximize our efficiency. The Solectria motor controller in the NJ Venturer was modified to allow us to get more use out of our batteries, before this was done the batteries were only able to drain down to about thirty percent. This was due to the fact that the controller was designed for lead acid batteries. However, our retrofitted vehicle which uses nickel metal hydride batteries would require the motor controller to be modified. The Solectria motor controller in the NJ Venturer was modified to allow us to utilize all of the energy available in our batteries.

Please check back tomorrow and keep following along with us on the 1999 NESEA Tour de Sol.

Please send comments and suggestions to szary@civeng.rutgers.edu.