Electric Station Cars

Pedal Power?

For Finances, a Paper System

Corrections or additions?

These stories by Barbara Fox were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

May 6, 1998. All rights reserved


Parade of Electric Cars

A circus-like parade of alternative energy cars is

coming to town. The intriguing and splashy array of vehicles in the

Tour de Sol, the United States Electric Vehicle Championship


will be on display at Princeton High School on Monday, May 11, from

7:45 to 10 a.m. Then it will wind its way down Washington Road and

Princeton Hightstown Road through West Windsor, pass Mercer County

Community College, and go through Hamilton Square and Yardville on

its way to Burlington.

Adding to the festive character of the parade is that the four dozen

competing vehicles carry orange pennants and logos of the sponsors

and are accompanied by about 100 support vehicles. One of the teams

is comprised of 40 elementary school children from a Vermont school,

and sometimes — screaming and yelling — they help push their

entry "Helios the Heron," a converted Volkswagen microbus,

down the road.

"It is absolutely like a circus, a traveling road show," says

Nancy Hazard,

who administers the event for the


Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. "We travel from site

to site and set up a display so you can see the vehicles and talk

to the people who produced them. We are about 300 people strong, and

you will find no difficulty finding someone to talk to, everyone from

representatives of major car companies to high school students."

"We have come a tremendous way," says Hazard. "Ten years

ago we started the Tour de Sol with six solar racing cars built by

students. Now everything is really market ready. People will see the

vehicles they will be buying and using in the next decade. People

will be very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the vehicles."

Though the Tour de Sol is not really a race, it is a contest. The

cars will be graded on braking and handling. The amount of electricity

or other fuel that each car uses is measured each day, as is the


and range. Toyota is not competing but, as a sponsor, will provide

the lead car, a Prius five passenger four-door sedan that sells in

Japan for about $17,000. Ford is providing a display model and


is bringing a preproduction prototype. The New York Power Authority

is entering a Honda EV Plus, and Solectria has several entries,


a motor scooter. (http://www.solectria.com

). Also entered

are an electric "Charger Bicycle"

from California, an ’86 Ford Escort from Cinnaminson High School,

and a ’96 Chevy Beretta from Swarthmore College.

Plug-ins, for an electric vehicle, are obviously


At the end of the day the four dozen vehicles in the Tour de Sol


their wagons" to plug into the trailer with the electric power,

which in turn is plugged into another power source.

In years to come, will gasoline powered cars ever be as unpopular

as smokers in restaurants? "Yes, we will get to the point where

people will prefer to drive the electric vehicle," says Hazard.

"Some think the gas station will be called the `energy provider’

and it may have a number of fuels. Others think the electrical


will happen in people’s homes."

Northeast Sustainable Energy Association

, Princeton High

School, 609-452-1491. Display of vehicles powered by alternative forms

of energy, part of the annual Tour de Sol. The race starts in


on Friday, May 8, and ends in Washington D.C., on Thursday, May 14.

Call the NESEA at 413-774-6051 (http://www.nesea.org


to volunteer.

After 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 10, the race cars leave Morristown and

will enter Princeton via Liberty Corner, Martinsville, and Chimney

Rock, to 533 South through Manville, Millstone Borough, Griggstown,

and Rocky Hill Borough, to Route 206 and into Princeton. The entourage

parks overnight at Princeton High School and is on display from 7:45

to 10 a.m. Parking is available on Walnut, Franklin, and Guyot


On Monday at 10 a.m. the cars exit Princeton, heading east on Route

571 through West Windsor to Route 526 through Dutch Neck and


south through Hamilton Square and Yardville enroute to Mount Holly,

where they will be on display at Burlington College from 11:30 a.m.

to 4 p.m.

Top Of Page
Electric Station Cars

In stop and go traffic, electric cars shine, because

when you take your foot off the accelerator, the batteries recharge.

That’s what Sandra Brillhart

and Nassef Soliman

say. And

they should know.

Soliman drives an electric car between the Junction train station

and Parsons-Brinckerhoff at the Carnegie Center. As executive director

of Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association,


), Brillhart

keeps a Solectria electric car (a rebuilt Geo) at 15 Roszel Road and

uses it for demonstrations and for attending meetings.

GMTMA is working with the state transportation department to encourage

the use of electric cars.

Brillhart’s and Soliman’s cars are part of a three-year $1.5 million

DOT demonstration project that is supposed to test the effectiveness

of nonpolluting electric cars to determine their effectiveness as

short-range commuting vehicles, as well as to attract reverse


Solectria Corporation provided up to 21 electric sedans for


Power Commute". Though the cars cost $35,000 to $38,000 they are

virtually maintenance-free and of course require no gas, only an



Solectria Corporation has produced more than 300 electric vehicles

that have driven more than 2 million miles in six years Based in


Massachusetts, it is competing with Ford, Toyota, General Motors,

and other international car makers in the EV field. At last year’s

American Tour de Sol, a 1997 Solectria Force NiMH electric sedan broke

a range record for production electric vehicles by finishing 249 miles

on one day and went on to win the race.

Among Solectria’s technological innovations have been all-electric

air conditioning and heating, cabin pre-heat, automatic battery


management systems, and drive systems. Its nickel metal-hydride (NiMH)

battery, now used for laptop computers and cellular phones, is


to be used in a General Motors Ev-1 electric car this fall. These

NiMH batteries are expected to replace the old-style lead-acid


The state project’s cars are "garaged" at New Jersey Transit

stations in Morristown and Cherry Hill as well as in Princeton. New

Jersey has one of the largest, if not the largest, station car


project in the Northeast. Don Borowski

(Rider, Class of ’80)

is the project manager for the electric car project for New Jersey’s

Department of Transportation. He has two of the electric cars at DOT

headquarters E-mail: ondb@aol.com


Station car programs similar to New Jersey’s have begun in California,

Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.

"At this point the limitations are the batteries, which add a

lot of weight to the vehicle and reduce the range," says Borowski.

"That’s why we have gone with the station car project. We are

taking them seven to ten miles away to a place where they can be


If you are going to use electrics, let’s make sure we do it the right


Borowski admits to some disappointments. Acceptance of the electric

cars "has gone faster in Morristown, perhaps because there is

a concentration of reverse commuters. Princeton has been a little

bit slower." It didn’t help that it the "plug-ins" at

the Vaughn Drive parking lot of the Junction train station were


only last month — eight months late.

The electric cars’ drivers attended some training sessions, and the

employers are paying $100 monthly. Soliman, manager of the Parsons

Brinckerhoff geotechnical department, commutes with another engineer

from Metuchen and uses the project car to get from the train station

to the Carnegie Center. He also uses the electric car for 30-mile

trips to the DOT, but never to job sites (he is working on designs

for bridges in Ocean City and Newark). "It won’t make it,"

says Soliman.

"We estimate the safe range of the car would be 35 to 40 miles.

We drive it while it has up to 55 amps, but after 50 amps it starts

to slow down," says Soliman. The car has three acceleration


(economy, normal, and power) and uses 1.3 amps for one mile, he has

estimated. But if you floor the accelerator it will consume 1.7 amps

per mile. "If you get used to the car you can get more mileage

out of it," says Soliman.

Though Soliman echoes the standard idea that the electric car is good

mainly for station commuting or as a second car for short trips,


nevertheless points to the Solectria model, the Sunrise, with the

nickel metal hydride battery that in last year’s race did more than

240 miles on a single charge: "I don’t think people realize there

is a vehicle that would get that kind of range. Once you hit the 200

mile threshold you are meeting the needs of most people."

Says Borowski: "It’s important to let people know about what the

future holds." And Borowski says his electric car doesn’t attract

stares, "but people behind me may notice I don’t have a


The National Station Car Association (E-mail:


. The Electric Auto Association, 800-537-2882.

Electrifying Times (http://www.teleport.com~etimes.

Top Of Page
Pedal Power?

Bicycles help solve energy problems, and they also deal

quite neatly with parking problems. To encourage biking short


in Princeton, the Greater Mercer TMA hopes to launch a


program, which makes refurbished donated bicycles available to the

public for crosstown travel. People pick up a bike from any of


station stops and leave it at another stop when they are done. No

charge, no paperwork, and presumably fewer cars.

But the program, which has been successfully launched in such cities

as Portland, Oregon, Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wisconsin, has run

into another form of congestion — municipal red tape. Princeton

Borough Mayor Marvin Reed has asked the TMA to delay implementation

to research liability and insurance issues.

"Naturally we’re disappointed," the TMA’s Sandra Brillhart

said in a statement. "We have spent a great deal of time and money

having the bikes refurbished and developing marketing materials. I

can’t really say how long the delay will be. I don’t believe there

is any reason why the program wouldn’t work in Princeton."

— Barbara Fox

Would your business or organization like to be a "station

stop" on this new transportation network? You would provide a spot

for the

bicycles to be temporarily parked. Call 609-452-1491.

Top Of Page
For Finances, a Paper System

Managing paper and information doesn’t seem that


until you can’t find the document you need. Until a crisis develops

— when someone is in the hospital and needs a previous X-ray,

or when someone is dying and needs the key to the safe deposit box

— most of us ignore the nitty gritty organizational chores.

Paul Brobson and James Cundari have developed LifeFile to rescue the

disorganized and encourage the organized to achieve even greater


At first look, their product appears to be nothing more than a stack

of labeled folders, but it is actually the well-thought out first

step to a document system that can eventually be transferred to a

computer or even to a CD.

The paper version of LifeFile sells for from $39 to $65, depending

on whether you get the basic personal version or the small business

version, and it is being manufactured through a joint venture


with one of the three top office supply manufacturers in North


Atapco. It is being marketed as a promotional gift, a way for


accountants, financial planners, or realtors to cultivate long term


"In essence, Life File is a vertical pile with priorities


says Brobson.

With an initial investment of $100,000 (half their own funds, the

rest from an SBA loan) Cundari and Brobson set up shop last year at

the Jersey Avenue incubator in New Brunswick to do life management

services and document management systems.

Cundari, senior vice president of operations, majored in English at

St. Peter’s College and went to law school at Seton Hall. After a

law career he went into the insurance business and was chief of staff

to the chairman of the state assembly insurance committee.

Brobson, the president, is also an insurance agent and financial


A native of Ocean City, he majored in economics at Catholic


Class of 1984. He worked for a major insurance company for 13 years.

He named the firm after his first two sons, Tyler and Randy, and now

has a third. Tyrand originally planned to sign on large companies,

such as insurance firms and stock brokers, to underwrite the recording

of a client’s precious documents on a CD. The client would return

to the agent or broker every year to have the CD updated, which would

considerably enhance the client/agent relationship. But most clients

did not have the documents sufficiently organized to be ready for

a recording session, and contracts with the big companies were scarce.

"But we quickly discovered that consumers really loved the hard

copy system," says Brobson, "so we built an entire product

line around this market demand."

"Although there are several filing supplies that contain some

of the features of the LifeFile File Management System, there are

no other turn-key personal document management and storage systems

available to consumers on the market, currently," says Brobson.

One starts by funneling all incoming paper into one

of five orange folders: Bills to Pay, To Do Immediately, To Do Later,

to Forward to Someone, To File in LifeFile. "The manual makes

it simple to do the work," says Brobson. "We advise people,

don’t try to take 30 years at once. Start using it from today forward

with the papers you are accumulating," says Brobson. "As time

goes by you will determine whether you want to attempt the transfer

of 30 years of documents into the system." When you get around

to actually doing the filing, the system has four colorcoded


Legal, Tax, Financial, and Personal, 10 category dividers, and from

52 to 200 preprinted file dividers, depending on which edition you

have, plus plenty of blank files. The file categories range from


estate," "credit cards," and "what you owe" to

"medical information" "memorabilia" and "what’s

owed to you."

LifeFile will be sold through a Queens-based firm, Diamond Direct

Marketing, using infomercials and some television shopping networks,

before being distributed through traditional retail channels. "If

I put it on the shelves right now the consumer would not buy it, but

if I put it on an infomercial, it can be demonstrated, and get some

brand recognition," says Brobson.

Tyrand is also partnering with Documagix to integrate LifeFile with

PaperMaster "personal file cabinet" software, which is bundled

onto leading sheet-fed scanners. It is also pursuing relationships

with makers of file cabinets, storage crates, and fire proof safes.

Deloitte and Touche is the firm’s systems integrator and strategic

marketing partner.

When attorneys or accountants use LifeFile as a promotion, they are

giving something valuable that will keep their names in front of their

clients daily. The next step is to get the clients to divulge or share

their filed information. That’s a scary thought if you are the client,

a tantalizing thought if you are the attorney or financial planner.

"The financial service company is dying to get the client’s


says Brobson. That’s where LifeFile’s probate management and wealth

management services come in.

Brobson quotes surveys sponsored by Deloitte & Touche and Cigna,


last December, indicating that more than 80 percent of consumers feel

that maintaining a relationship with a personal financial advisor

is either important, very important or critical. He pooh poohs the

idea that most people will soon do their financial business on the

Internet and emphasizes that a wealth management or probate management

product will enhance client relationships. "Yet insurance


are dumping millions into an alternate distribution channel, the


when in reality people don’t want to do business there," says


Does a small business or home office really need this system? Brobson

cites these figures: 90 percent of all documents handled daily are

merely shuffled. Workgroups lose 15 percent of all documents that

they handle. Workgroups spend 30 percent of their time trying to find

lost documents. Companies spend $20 on labor to file one document,

$120 on labor to search for a lost document, and $250 on labor to

recreate a lost document.

A good system for integrating paper copies with digital copies might

be a bargain after all.

— Barbara Fox

Tyrand Consultants

, 100 Jersey Avenue, New

Brunswick 08901. Paul Brobson, president. 732-249-2310; fax,

732-545-0120. E-mail: tyrand@planet.net. Home page:


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