Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside...For Toyota

by Nancy DeWitt and Willy Vinton

Interior Alaska is a land of extremes, especially when it comes to temperatures. Ranging from bone-chilling lows of -50º F (-45º C) or colder in winter to surprising highs over 90º F (32º C) in the summer, Fairbanks has one the largest seasonal temperature differentials of any city in the world.

Surprisingly, many people visit Fairbanks in the winter despite-or even because--of our cold temperatures. These include tourists who come to see the northern lights, spectacular ice carvings, sled dog races and a whole host of other winter events. We have also become a hub for cold-weather testing for clothing, snowmobiles, automobiles, and airplanes ranging from the Concord to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. So it was no surprise this week when a crew from Toyota showed up at the museum recently and told us they were in town to cold-weather test the company's latest electric cars.

This group of Japanese engineers came to visit the museum on Sunday, and Willy was fortunate to be able to spend some time with them. He writes: I think they left having learned a lot about the history of the American automobile, and the engineering genious of some of the pioneers of the time.

The Toyota crew enjoyed seeing unusual cars like the Compound, Hertel and Hay, before checking out our electric cars. Pictured is our 1903 Columbia Mark XIX Surrey that they spent some time studying. 

After spending additional time examining the 1913 Argo electric limousine in the shop, I had to ask the question,"Your new electric car, under summer conditions, will travel how far"? After some discussion among themselves, the reply was "about 120 kilometers."  So, if they keep up the good work they should soon be able to match our1912 Rauch-Lang, which could run 70 miles on a charge! However, their car will have a little more creature comforts as well as travel a lot faster. Time will tell.

The 1903 Columbia is now on display, so come in and see it.

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