- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009

BALTIMORE | The nation’s first all-electric car-sharing program debuted last week at the city’s Inner Harbor, with manufacturer Electrovaya Inc. hoping urban residents seeking to go green and curious tourists would take the concept for a spin.

Electrovaya is offering its Maya 300 for rent at the Maryland Science Center. The car can go up to 120 miles on one charge of its lithium-ion battery system, and it gets its juice from a regular 110-volt outlet.

“This is an example of what science centers do best,” said Van Reiner, president and CEO of the science center. “We are showcasing new technology, and that’s what makes us so excited.”

Ten cars will be available through the new car-sharing Web site Altcar.org. A two-hour trip costs $29, with discounts for science center members.

The manufacturer calls the fleet of emission-free cars a “game changer” in urban transportation alternatives. Electrovaya CEO Sankar Das Gupta said that’s because the vehicle has the look and feel of a four-door, gas-powered sedan and should appeal to consumers who want to reduce oil dependence.

“Creative ventures like this are essential in finding new energy solutions,” Mr. Das Gupta said.

The car makes little noise, provides dashboard gauges for battery life and temperature, and offers other conveniences of gas-powered cars.

Maryland Energy Administration research found that Baltimoreans typically drive about 30 miles to work, well within the Maya’s range, and Mr. Das Gupta noted the car could be plugged in at the driver’s destination for a charge.

Driving 50 miles would cost about $1 in energy, according to Electrovaya’s estimates, and the cost could be lower should some utilities give discounts for charging during off-peak hours.

The car-sharing service ZipCar Inc. also operates in the Baltimore market, but Mr. Das Gupta said Mississauga, Ontario-based Electrovaya is looking to feature its technology, not challenge ZipCar for market share.

Electrovaya’s battery technology is made possible by ExxonMobil Corp.’s battery separator film. The film, with lithium-ion batteries, allows for the units to operate at higher temperatures with a reduced risk of meltdown.

The battery system is designed to shut down the flow of electricity if the engine is overheating.

The company will make the cars available to the public in 2011, starting at $25,000 for a 60-mile-range vehicle and $35,000 for the 120-mile range vehicle.

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