Electric Vehicles

I've been monitoring and writing about battery technology advancements for years, and was let down so many times. This time, a li-ion battery technology that can be recharged to 70% in 2 minutes has been developed, and it can theoretically last 20 years!

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang. Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang.
Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

This technology is facilitated by the use of a titanium dioxide-based gel in the anode, unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries which often contain graphite anodes. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap, and non-toxic material. That is a step in the right direction for battery manufacturing.

According to NTU,

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

The previous advancements usually had a significant flaw, or just didn't make it to the market, or at least not yet. For example: MIT's battery that charges in 20 seconds, and is cheaper than the others.

That was one of few technologies which didn't appear to have any serious flaws. It would be a game changer if it was commercialized.

It could have a great impact on the electric vehicle industry. A key issue affecting electric vehicle adoption is battery charge time. If electric vehicles could recharge quickly enough, they would not need much range. Range is currently an issue because people won't want to sit in a public place for hours waiting for their vehicles to charge.

People rarely drive more than 30 miles at a time, and even if they wanted to do a 400-mile trip in a car that has only 80 miles of range, they could recharge it for 2 minutes every 80 miles (or ever 30-60 minutes). While that isn't difficult, if you think it is, most people won't have to do it anyway.

Some think that electric vehicles must amount to the 300-500 mile range that gasoline-powered vehicles have, but this isn't necessary. Gas tanks are cheap enough to just make them bigger. Most people's gas tanks can last longer than a week, so they don't even bother to refill them daily.

Apart from that, electric vehicles have the other benefit of recharging at home overnight daily so the user won't have to go to a gas station, and they will have their full range every day, unlike gas-powered vehicle users which can't have that luxury.

This Battery Technology's Impact On Electric Planes

The electric plane industry hasn't taken off yet, and is struggling to do so. However, i'm sure that electric planes could benefit from a reduced recharge time. Planes will sometimes need to top up between flights, and time is of the essence in the airline industry.

The ability to recharge to 70% in two minutes might help the airline industry take another big step towards the electrification of planes.

This technology was developed by a team of researchers including Prof Chen Xiaodong, Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore.

Source: NTU.

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The Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered airplane that will make the first solar flight around the world. The flight will start and end in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Masdar.

H. E. Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar said: 'Abu Dhabi, Masdar and Solar Impulse have in common a pioneering spirit, a long-term vision and a desire to explore new horizons. We share a commitment to foster the development of technological advances in alternative energy sources in order to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future.', according to the Masdar press release.

I agree with that. Masdar's projects are long-term. They don't build temporary or transitional hybrid projects that still rely heavily on fossil fuels. They build self-sustaining solar and wind-powered projects. They are even working on a renewable energy-powered desalination project.

The Solar Impulse Project Paves The Way To A Future Of Clean Transportation

The Solar Impulse project facilitates transportation around the world without reliance on fossil fuels. These are all what I consider long-term projects, because they can be relied on for many years to come, regardless of fuel supply disruptions and scarcity.

These projects also provide proof-of-concept, and hence, motivation to prospective technology developers in the UAE to develop equally (or more) brilliant technology.

As Bertrand Piccard, the co-founder of Solar Impulse said:

'This well-matched partnership will showcase Abu Dhabi as a centre of expertise when it comes to renewable energy and at the same time Solar Impulse will demonstrate the far-reaching applications of clean energy during the first solar-powered flight around the world,”

André Borschberg, the other founder of Solar Impulse continued: 'We have chosen this location as being the best and most suitable departure and return point for the round-the-world tour, due to its climate, infrastructure and commitment to clean technologies.'

The new Solar Impulse 2 is built with a wider wingspan (72 meters, which is greater than that of a 747), it is made from lighter materials, it has more efficient motors, 17,000 solar cells and an improved cabin.

Who said that solar airplanes should be built like traditional ones? I think it was smart to take advantage of the wide wings that aircrafts have, make them even wider, and install solar cells on them. Solar power systems are easiest to integrate into flat surfaces. Curved surfaces require inefficient flexible solar panels.

Despite the wide wingspan, it weighs only 2,300 kg (5,070 pounds). The Solar Impulse 2 will be delivered from the Payerne aerodome in Switzerland near the end of this year. It will be displayed during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the World Future Energy Summit.

Main source: Masdar.

Electric vehicle battery technology is usually of the lithium-ion chemistry, and it costs $400 to $500 USD per kWh, down from $1,000 a few years ago. They have certainly made strides, and they are set to make even bigger strides in the near future, possibly to $100 per kWh of batteries.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain. Tesla's Gigafactory could make electric vehicle batteries cheap.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Tesla Motors has aimed to reduce the cost of lithium-ion battery technology by 30% via their Gigafactory. However, Elon Musk thinks that is conservative, and said that he would be disappointed if he didn't achieve a battery cost of $100/kWh within 10 years. The Tesla Gigafactory will also hire up to 6,500 people.

The Tesla Gigafactory Could Make Electric Vehicles Cheap

The Tesla Gigafactory should reach its full capacity of in 2020, which is 35 GWh of lithium-ion cells, and 50 GWh of battery packs per year, enough to produce 500,000 electric vehicles per year.

The Tesla Gigafactory's cost reductions could lead to a Nissan Leaf battery pack that costs only $2,400, as opposed to the $5,500 it costs now (after a $1,000 discount for turning in the old pack). Nissan Leaf vehicles could cost as little as $18,410 after federal tax rebates at that price!

Also imagine a Tesla Model S 85kWh (265 miles on average) battery pack that costs only $8,500. Compare that to the (estimated) $17,000 to $21,250 that it costs now. Please note that $21,250 translates to an unusually low cost of $250 per kWh.

That $12,750 cost reduction could reduce the cost of the 85 kWh model from $79,900 to $67,150, and that is an awfully nice car.

This cost reduction is likely to lead to the use of larger capacity batteries to extend electric car range to a few hundred miles.

That Much Additional EV Range Isn't Necessary - It's Time To Be More Fair To Electric Vehicles

Gasoline-powered vehicles can achieve over 300 miles per tank on average, but that doesn't mean that they must have that much range. Electric vehicles do not need that much range either.

Most people drive less than 30 miles per day, so most of the electric vehicles on the market can cover that range, including the (relatively) low-priced Fiat 500e and the Nissan Leaf vehicles.

Electric vehicle owners wake up to a full 'tank' every morning: Gasoline-powered vehicles cannot refill their tanks automatically every night like electric vehicles can. You have to drive to a gas station and sit their until it refills.

Electric vehicles can charge overnight while you're fast asleep.

Think about the average range a Tesla Model S could get per day, compared to that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. People don't want to visit odorific gas stations frequently, so they wait until they're running low on gas to stop by.

Most of the time, gasoline-powered vehicles have only a fraction of their 300-mile range, because their tanks aren't kept full.

Source: Green Car Reports.

Brainstorm Project

The operation and maintenance (O&M) cost of solar-power plants is very low compared to that of fossil-fuelled power plants in general, and this has had a significant impact on the energy market in some regions (such as Texas, United States). The article pertains to that effect and how it could apply to solar-powered planes (especially passenger jets).

Solar-powered planes (which are electric) don't require fuel (unless they're hybrids), therefore, the only other recurrent cost incurred by the planes is maintenance (apart from employee wages and salaries). Longer trips increase fuel consumption as well as wear-and-tear on traditional fossil-fuelled jets, so longer trips tend to attract a higher fee.

My Theory

The distance of a given flight in a solar-powered plane could affect the cost of travel far less than it would in a fossil-fuelled one due to the lack of a fuel cost. Only the maintenance cost, as well as the working hours of flight attendants and pilots would be increased.

I should note that airlines might still set airfare based on distance.

Potential Implications

The cost of fuel affects our decisions profoundly in multiple ways. We can't work too far away from home, or regularly shop at distant malls/plazas. We can't just casually fly to Australia or Europe for a meeting, as that wouldn't be feasible for most people.

This means that if the non-existent fuel cost of solar-powered planes influenced airfares as much as it could, the cost gap between long and short-distance trips would shrink substantially. If airfares aren't too high, people could end up making far more trips around the world to countries that they would otherwise have never seen in their lifetime (for example: More Americans may visit Australia, Korea, New Zealand, and other geographically distant countries), increasing the likelihood of international business ventures, tourism, greater family unit, and even the creation of new families internationally.

This is a purely theoretical article forecasting what the future of aviation may have in store for us. This article is apart of Kompulsa's Brainstorm Project, which aims to spark discussions on important issues we all face today. Feel free to leave a comment below.

By Nicholas Brown.

Matt Farah and Zack Klapman of The Smoking Tire went on an electric car test drive to compare the value of the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR. Zach Klapman drove the Cadillac ELR, and Matt Farah drove the Chevy Volt.

Video Credit: The Smoking Tire on Youtube.

Unsurprisingly, the ELR was found to be more pleasant overall, but the reviewers were disappointed in its value. They agreed that $50,000 would be a much better price for the Cadillac ELR (where value is concerned). There is an enormous price difference of $40,815 between these two electric vehicles. The Chevy Volt MSRP is $34,185, and the Cadillac ELR is $75,000 (as of April 2014 for the base models).

GM-Volt.com asked if this makes me happy I have a Volt, or if I wished for an ELR. If I had a Volt, my answer would be the former.

Source: GM-Volt.com.

By Nicholas Brown.

Panasonic, a major manufacturer of batteries, is hesitant to join Tesla Motors' 'Gigafactory' project, because it would raise investment risks, according to Panasonic's CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain. Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

“Our approach is to make investments step by step,” Tsuga said yesterday. “Elon plans to produce more affordable models besides Model S, and I understand his thinking and would like to cooperate as much as we can. But the investment risk is definitely larger.”

I don't blame them for being cautious, as this is a very large project. It costs $5 billion! (Tesla already raised $2 billion). On the other hand, sometimes big risks result in big rewards.

If this project succeeds as Elon Musk hopes it will, it could reduce lithium-ion battery manufacturing costs, making them more feasible for electric vehicles and home energy storage. It would also enable Tesla to manufacture hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles annually. To top it off, the success of this project could provide peace-of-mind to others who are interested in pursuing similar projects, leading to more large-scale factories that produce low-cost lithium-ion batteries.

Those are big rewards!

Source: Bloomberg.

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Brainstorm Project - Home

Autonomous cars open a window of opportunity for amputees, people who suffer from visual impairment, Parkinson's disease, and any other condition that could have an effect on their safety, such as severe cases of ADHD.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle. Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle at the NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show).
Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

It enables them to get around privately without soliciting lifts. That's a godsend, but how is this related to energy or science?

Autonomous vehicles offer the ability to avoid the consequences of typical driving habits, such as reduced fuel efficiency, which is caused by frequent, sudden acceleration, sudden braking, and speeding.

Implications Of Autonomous Vehicles For Electric Propulsion

The electrification of automobiles is impeded by the short range of electric vehicles. Therefore, the improved efficiency achieved by autonomous vehicles (especially due to the fact that they don't speed) can help to conserve range. As a matter of fact, it can substantially improve average range, making electric vehicles a far more viable and attractive option than they ever have been.

Autonomous vehicles can also be equipped with smaller battery banks and achieve the same range that today's electric cars do, reducing their cost.

Originally published on Cleantechnica by James Ayre.

The e-NV200 — essentially a compact commercial electric van inspired by the LEAF — was recently unveiled by Nissan. The electric van will be only the second battery-electric vehicle to feature into Nissan’s global line-up — the first being, of course, the highly successful LEAF.

The general idea behind the vehicle was to combine all the best qualities of the LEAF with the cargo capacity of the NV200, creating an effective electric transportation solution for delivery services/small businesses (or for people who have too many kids).

Image Credit: Nissan

If you’re already familiar with the gas-powered NV200, then you may have some idea in your mind already, but the e-NV200 is actually quite a different vehicle. It has been the subject of a full engineering development program, as if it were being designed from the ground up.

At the time of release in June, there will be two versions available — the Combi (a van), and the more luxurious Evalia, a five-seater. Nissan hasn’t revealed the pricing information for either versions yet.

Green Car Congress provides further information:

The battery can be recharged overnight using a domestic 16-amp single-phase 3.3 kW supply which reduces to four hours if a 6.6 kW/32-amp supply is used. A dedicated CHAdeMO DC 50 kW quick charger can recharge the battery from 0-80 percent in 30 minutes or less if the battery is already partially charged.

The instant torque delivery typical of an electric vehicle means the battery-powered version accelerates faster than its conventional cousin: its 0-100 km/h time is quicker than the 1.5 dCi-powered NV200, with final figures to be confirmed later this year.

Another drivetrain change over LEAF determined by e-NV200’s likely usage pattern is a new braking system with a higher regenerative capacity. This takes advantage of the vehicle’s typical stop/start city driving modes, while Hill Start Assist is fitted as standard, holding the vehicle for two seconds after the footbrake is released to allow smooth starting.

...continue reading

People have driven more than 1 billion miles in Tesla, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Volt electric vehicles. This signifies that the public, and the electric vehicle manufacturers now have over 1 billion miles of EV driving experience and test data.

Tesla Model S touch Screen Interface.

Tesla Model S touch Screen Interface. Image Credit: Kompulsa.

This is critical to the electrification of the automobile, as early adopters are putting EVs to the test. When they fail, manufacturers learn of the mistakes they made, and enhance their electric vehicle designs further.

This also entails that many more than the billion people have been exposed to electric vehicles (due to the fact that they give their friends lifts and test drives in their electric vehicles).

Early adopters got today's big industries where they are, and they are doing the same for the EV industry.

Source: Cleantechnica.