Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BAF Technologies To Convert 600 AT&T Vehicles to CNG in 2009

As we always say here at Alt Energy Autos, these are the stories that are most compelling. When businesses put their money where their mouth is and actually change the current paradigm, then we see positive results. AT&T has already begun converting their fleet to alternate energy vehicles and now they are partnering with BAF Technologies to convert 600 more. These will be pure Natural Gas driven automobiles and will subsequently displace a significant amount of petrol.

From Green Car Congress:

Dallas-based BAF Technologies has begun converting 600 AT&T Ford E-Series vans to dedicated CNG technology in 2009. This is part of AT&T’s plan to invest up to $565 million to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles over the next 10 years. AT&T expects to spend an estimated $350 million to purchase about 8,000 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles and approximately $215 million to begin replacing its passenger cars with alternative-fuel models, beginning with hybrids. (Earlier post.)

The converted vehicles will utilize the BAF CalComp System, a proprietary CNG fuel system certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (ARB). CNG vehicles are expected to emit approximately 25% less greenhouse gas emissions than those traditionally powered by gasoline.

BAF’s CalComp system is fully integrated into the OEM powertrain control system. No additional control module is required. The entire gasoline system is removed and replaced with CNG storage tank(s), HP plumbing, a CNG regulator, and new CNG injectors. Control of all CNG components, including the original dash-mounted fuel gauge, is done using the OEM vehicle computer which BAF reprograms to optimize CNG performance.

System features include:

  • Closed-loop fuel control
  • Sequential fuel injection (SFI)
  • Optimized ignition timing
  • Maintains original fault codes (DTCs)
  • Diagnostics accessed through DLC using original scan tool or any generic OBD-II scanner

In an E-350 van, the CalComp system is integrated with the 5.4L V8 Triton engine. The van, which is certified to the ARB SULEV standard, has a standard fuel capacity of 20.0 GGE and has a limited warranty of 3 years/50,000 miles.

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Mich. estimates that for the years AT&T’s fleet purchase program is operating, more than 1,000 jobs in the United States will be created or saved. In addition to the economic benefits, CAR estimates the new vehicles will save 49 million gallons of gasoline and reduce carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons over the 10-year deployment period.

The new CNG/passenger vehicle commitment follows AT&T’s deployment of 105 alternative-fuel vehicles in more than 30 US cities beginning in June 2008. In addition, AT&T piloted four Ford Escape hybrids, which were deployed in late 2007 in California. Through these pilot programs, AT&T determined that a mix of solutions is right for its fleet and that multiple technologies can help reduce its operating costs over time, while effectively reducing its fuel consumption and impact on the environment.

Tesla's Model S Sedan - A Sneak Peek Video

Here is a video of the upcoming Model S Sedan from Tesla. Currently, their only offering is the two seat roadster, so this car should appeal to a much wider market base.

GM Pulls Plug On NUMMI Joint Venture

It looks like it is NUMMI no more. In 1984, General Motors and Toyota set up a joint venture and created NUMMI, or New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated. The creation spawned the Pontiac Vibe.

However, since the announcement of Pontiac's demise, the big wigs at GM see no further need for keeping the plant open. There have been many rumors that Toyota would help GM produce a Prius-like vehicle, but no one can validate this. GM's official stance is that they are not working with Toyota and instead are working diligently on their hybrid offerings. None of GM's hybrids operate like a Prius, however.

As part of General Motor's bankruptcy reorginaztion they are designating assets as either "old or new" GM. NUMMI has fallen into the old GM category and thus will be left in the bankruptcy dust.

One has to wonder if this is yet one more bad decision by GM management. What do you think? Is this move good or bad for GM?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Renault To Offer Kangoo be bop Z.E. Prototype For Test Drives

As always, we love to pass along these types of reports, which outline auto manufacturer's plans for bringing alternate energy vehicles to market. Unfortunately, there is no mention of bringing these EV's to the US marketplace.

From Green Car Congress:

Electric motor and power electronics package for the be bop Z.E. Click to enlarge

Renault will make its Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E. prototype electric vehicle (earlier post) available for test drives. The technology seen on this car is very similar to that which will feature on the brand’s upcoming production vehicles currently under development, and due to go on sale in 2011.

The Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E. prototype is powered by a 44kW (60hp) electric motor and is equipped with a 15 kWh Li-ion battery pack. With 18 months remaining before the release of Renault’s forthcoming production electric vehicles, Kangoo be bop Z.E. provides a range of approximately 100 km (62 miles). By the time of their launch, Renault’s electric vehicles will have benefited from an evolution to their battery technology which will take their real-world range to 160 km (100 miles), according to the company.

Electric Powertrain. The car is powered by a 44kW (60hp) electric motor which boasts energy efficiency of 90%. This motor revs to 12,000 rpm and immediately delivers peak torque, which is a constant 190 N·m (140 lb-ft). Acceleration and pull-away from low speeds are particularly responsive.

Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E.’s electric motor is coupled to a reducer which replaces the gearbox traditionally mated to internal combustion engines. This reducer has a single output ratio and ensures linear, stepless acceleration.

Electrical energy is transmitted to the motor via a power electronics unit which incorporates a controller. This transforms the 400V direct current into three-phase alternating current to power the motor’s rotor and stator. It also regulates the power and torque of the electric motor.

Situated near the controller, the converter converts the 400V DC stored in the traction battery into 12V DC to feed Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E.’s conventional onboard electrics and auxiliary functions (interior and exterior lighting, audio system, electric windows, etc.).

The junction box distributes the power current to the motor functions (battery, climate control and heating systems). This junction box also includes the charger which converts the 220V AC into 400V DC for battery charging purposes.

The 15 kWh lithium-ion battery pack from AESC (Automotive Electric Supply Corporation, a Nissan-NEC joint venture founded in April 2007), comprises 48 power modules, each of which incorporates four elementary cells. The modules are positioned in two rows, side by side. The four cells of each module store 8.4V, making a combined total of 400V for the 48 modules which make up the battery.

The AESC battery is maintenance-free and is expected to deliver between 80 and 100% of its original capacity for an average duration of six years. It will also be possible to charge it for short cycles with no adverse effect on capacity.

The compact dimensions of lithium-ion batteries enable the vehicle’s architecture to be optimized. In the case of Kangoo be bop Z.E., the 250 kg (551 pounds) battery is housed underneath the floor, between the front and rear seats. Its fitment required several modifications to the structure compared with the standard Kangoo be bop:

  • The central section of Kangoo be bop’s floor was modified to house the battery without having to modify the wheelbase.
  • To accommodate the battery, the floor is 45mm higher. As a consequence, the front seat rails are located directly beneath the seats in order to maintain the same cushion height. In addition, the car’ s ride-height has been lowered by 20mm to ensure the same access for rear passengers.

The battery of the production electric Kangoo Express will be located underneath the trunk floor, without affecting cargo space. The battery is cooled by ambient air flow due to the heat dissipation properties of its aluminium casing.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is actively working on establishing recycling processes and infrastructures suited to automotive batteries. To put the demand for lithium supplies into perspective, the Alliance’s 250kg AESC batteries contain 3 kg of lithium. According to the mining companies Chemetall and SQM, lithium reserves are currently estimated to be between 14 and 17 million tonnes.

Charging methods. Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E. is charged via a socket located behind a flap at the front of the vehicle alongside the right-hand headlamp. Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E. permits two different battery-charging methods:

  • A conventional charge via a household mains supply (10A or 16A 220V) which can charge the vehicle in between six and eight hours. This method is suited to vehicles which are parked up overnight or during the day at the workplace.

  • A faster charge using a 32A 400V three-phase socket (infrastructure in the process of being developed) enables 80% of Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E.’s battery to be charged in approximately 30 minutes.

Kangoo be bop Z.E. is not equipped for rapid battery exchange, although this facility will be available on the other vehicles of the future range.

Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E. is equipped with a Marechal-type socket which will not feature on the production electric Kangoo Express. Twenty or so car manufacturers—including Renault&madsh;and energy groups are currently working with the German group RWE with a view to developing a standard plug.

This universal standard plug was shown in Hannover last April and will be employed to charge Renault’s forthcoming electric vehicles. This three-phase plug can be used with a 400V supply and, by the time these vehicles come to market, will enable a complete battery charge in approximately 20 minutes. This multi-partner agreement marks a significant step forward regarding the development of mass-market electric vehicles.

Range optimization. In addition to the information provided by the exterior gauges, Renault has developed a specific MMI (Man Machine Interface) to keep the driver informed about the vehicle’s current state of charge and remaining range:

  • A gauge alongside the speedometer displays the battery’s level of charge;

  • An “econo-meter” uses a new a new color-coded system to tell the driver how economical his or her driving is in terms of energy consumption (light blue for “normal” vehicle use, dark blue for “optimal” driving and red for excessive energy consumption likely to reduce the vehicle’s range).

  • The trip computer is adapted to the needs of electric vehicles and indicates the number of kWh remaining, average and instantaneous energy consumption and remaining range (in kilometers).

EDF and Renault recently signed an agreement concerning a battery charging system known as Power Line Communication (PLC) which permits communication between charge terminals and electric vehicles. This EDF-developed technique enables the safe exchange of data between the charge terminal and the vehicle with a view to transferring invoicing details and the location of the nearest station as a function of the vehicle’s remaining range. Renault will carry out integration tests with this system onboard in its upcoming vehicles.

Renault suggests that trying to accelerate as gently as possible with a view to minimizing energy consumption can be fun.

Well-to-wheel emissions, using a Mégane sedan as the baseline. Click to enlarge.

The Alliance’s EV Strategy. The Renault-Nissan Alliance intends to mass market zero-emission vehicles. This commitment is founded on the underlying principle that electric vehicles—unlike internal combustion engines and hybrids—are zero-emission vehicles during their use on the road. Depending on how the electricity they use is produced in the different countries where they are driven, their well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent carbon dioxide) can vary significantly. That said, electric vehicles generally tend to emit less greenhouse gases than equivalent internal combustion-engined vehicles.

The Alliance is actively forging associations with governments, city authorities and energy companies with a view to promoting the widespread use of electric vehicles across the world. The Alliance has already signed 26 such partnerships (up to the end of May 2009).

In May 2009, 10 years after the establishment of the Alliance, Renault and Nissan announced that their cooperation is to be stepped up. A small, bespoke team has been introduced with the mission to speed up and extend the synergies that are expected to enhance the performance of the two companies, and more particularly in the field of electric vehicles.

The electric vehicles produced by Renault and Nissan, for example, will be equipped with jointly-developed batteries. The Alliance is pooling its expertise with a view to achieving synergies at all levels and to enable key electric assemblies, such as the drive train, to be shared. Renault and Nissan are also merging their purchasing activities and pursuing the standardization of components in order to obtain the economies of scale required to permit the development of mass-market electric vehicles.

Although Renault and Nissan are seeking to share components, they are developing distinct line-ups of electric vehicles, with each line-up to be marketed and distributed separately.

Renault’s EV product plan. Click to enlarge.

Renault’s product plan. In 2011, Renault will begin by introducing two electric derivatives of vehicles which have until now been powered by an internal combustion engine. The first will be a family saloon and will go on sale in Israel and in Europe. The second, also scheduled for release in 2011, will be an electric version of Renault Kangoo Express which will above all target professionals and fleet operators.

The electric vehicle line-up will then expand into other segments, with two new cars featuring specific, particularly innovative styling and architecture engineered to house an electric motor. This vehicle, too, is planned to be introduced in 2011, while a fourth model is due to come to market at the beginning of 2012.

Renault’s first electric concept car was Z.E. Concept which was shown at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. The next step in the programme was the release of a demonstrator vehicle—Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E.—for test-drive purposes. With 18 months remaining before the launch of the first commercially available models, this demonstration car features technology currently under development. Kangoo be bop Z.E. does not preview the production electric Kangoo Express; its aim is to enable drivers to get a feel for the sensation of driving an electric vehicle and to familiarize themselves with the new technology.

In 2010, Renault will bring out prototypes of the forthcoming electric Renault Kangoo Express for road-test purposes and to show how the project has progressed, as well as continuing to introduce Renault customers to this new form of zero-emission mobility. The first production electric Renault Kangoo Express will be available in the Renault sales network by the middle of 2011.

Sanyo Will More Than Triple Its NiMH Battery Output To Meet Hybrid Vehicle Demand

In order to meet the ever growing demand for alternate energy, hybrid vehicles, Sanyo will increase NiMH battery production by 350%. Obviously, momentum has grown steadily and demand for the gas sipping vehicles is on the rise. This is a great sign that the people of the world are realizing the importance of reducing their reliance on oil.

In fiscal 2008, Sanyo made such batteries for hybrid cars at a rate of 1 million units a month. And when it announced its business results in mid-May, the company said it would boost production by 150% and make 2.5 million units a month in fiscal 2009. But now, Sanyo has decided to boost production by 250% to a monthly rate of 3.5 million batteries in fiscal 2009.

It said it will invest several billion yen to expand production lines at its Sumoto plant, in Hyogo Prefecture, which is the only plant where it makes NiMH batteries for hybrid cars.

Sanyo supplies NiMH batteries to Honda and Ford, and is looking for more customers and expanded business.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

XP Mini Utility Vehicle Inflatable Car

The XP Mini Utility Vehicle

Here is yet another company who wants to become an auto manufacturer. XP plans to market an "inflatable car" that runs solely on electricity and is designed to be lightweight. The following article boldly and erroneously claims that there has never been an electric car company who has developed a battery pack that works. Nothing could be further from the truth. The GM EV1 utilizing NiMH batteries could travel 140 to 180 miles on a single charge. The Toyota RAV4 EV, which is still on the road today, can consistently travel 120 miles per charge and the battery packs have lasted for years and for more than 100,000 miles. I would quantify that as a rousing success. Nevertheless, the more companies we have like XP, the better off we all will be.

From PDD Net:

San Francisco-based XP Vehicles Inc. (XP) has more than 12 years of development work invested into the Mini Utility Vehicle (MUV) electric car prototype.

Changes in technology, the current political environment, competitor blockades, regulations, oil prices and consumer demand have created a perfect storm that has poised XP’s inexpensive electric vehicle to not only become a specialty market solution, but also penetrate the market with an entirely new car company, something that has rarely happened in the past 50 years.


“These are circumstances that I don’t think anybody on earth saw coming,” says Scott Redmond, chairman of XP Vehicles. “Nobody in our lifetime thought we would see one Detroit car company go out of business, much less most or all of them.”

As a result of the Obama administration’s policies and programs, which dramatically support alternative energy vehicles, potential public and private funding made a great opportunity for XP to roll out a full domestic launch plan.

The Guts

Building a car takes many years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars traditionally. XP is able to cut a lot of the costs and timeframe because its car has 70 percent less parts than a regular car, and the company is using novel materials that require simpler factory devices, and production and manufacturing processes that lower the cost to deploy.

Vehicle Comparison Tesla XP Volt

XP’s MUV does not consist of a lot of internal componentry. In fact, most of it is air using XP’s XPanelB™ technology pressure membranes. The seat is inflatable, the dashboard is inflatable, and the internal structure and carrying racks are inflatable, or a mesh suspension. Instead of requiring six-axis robots, XP uses radio frequency welders that look like giant waffle irons. The factory equipment is much less expensive and the car simply has less parts that could fail.

The motors are built into the rear wheels in most XP prototypes. The first cars to reach the market will have two rear hub motors and a motor controller, that’s it.

In future military and industrial versions, the car will feature a heavier duty dual motor rear axle motor.

The battery pack is capable of delivering around 125 miles per charge with four passengers, but is capable of reaching 300 miles with the continuous charge of an optional Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). The battery drawer array features racks that can be easily removed from the car and consumer class batteries like those in an iPhone. XP will give consumers the option of taking the battery drawers out of the car and up to your house, apartment or hotel on something similar to little Razor scooters or over your shoulder.

“What we’ve discovered is that the insurance industry is not going to let electric cars run extension chords all over the place because you trip and fall,” says Redmond. “Also, the age bracket that we’re targeting appears to not be able to afford a house. The housing market financing is so bad that [our customers] are not going to have an easy manner to plug their cars in.”

XP is targeting younger first-buyer demographics in the 29- to 32-year-old bracket. Competing electric car companies are aiming for an older demographic with a higher sticker price, while XP is aiming for the broad mainstream which, according the census bureau, will be in that age range in two to three years as the cars ready to ship in volume.

To extend the car to unlimited range, customers will be able to add another pod in which is a small, cheap sub-1k fuel cell with solid state chemical energy drawers. According to Redmond, hydrogen and chemical energy weigh many times less than batteries and go multiples further in terms of distance.

“The problem with batteries and electric cars is that no electric car company has discovered a battery pack that works. Every battery pack has failed. They either blow up when they want to – which is a big problem, or you have to make them using Lithium components,” reports Redmond.

He adds that “all of the Lithium is located in countries that are hostel towards the U.S. – which is a bit of a problem … and there is not that much Lithium. If all of the electric car companies eventually get going, the Lithium is going to be gone pretty quick. But bigger than all of those considerations is the problem the Feds and industry spent billions trying to figure out and still hasn’t solved – the law of diminishing values. That is, the more batteries you add to get range, the heavier the car becomes and the range decreases. It’s a simple fact of physics that no one has been able to get around it.”

When it comes to power electronics, XP’s MUV doesn’t have a transmission — it doesn’t need one. The lean design only features energy storage motor controllers and hub motors.

Sizing Up Weight

XP wanted to make the best power-to-weight ratio car on earth. The company is succeeding by featuring weight reduction that is “off the charts, but super safe.” Think of the air bags that deploy out of your dashboard, now picture if that technology was designed into the entire car.

The dashboard is a preinflated airbag that has a rear projection screen. It’s like Panovision. (Think a Minority Report dashboard that is rear projected.)


“Normally, nobody could afford to do that, but all of a sudden the consumer electronics industry decided that laser micro-projectors were the thing everybody needed to have. At CES 2010, you’ll see so many little video projectors that will fit into your shirt pocket, you’re not going to believe it,” Redmond predicts.

All XP needs for its dashboard is a simple video graphics array (VGA) quality projector. Consumers could actually have the ability to re-skin their dashboards just by downloading new skins to the projector.

Additional electronics include a fixed OLED touch screen, with an option for a video display to look out the back of your car on the front dashboard, on the center console. XP is also using LED and OLED lighting.

XP has nearly secured all of the approvals required for polycarbonate on the rear and side windows, and they’re currently fighting for polycarbonate on the front window.

“Right now, every motorcycle has polycarbonate windows, and they crash more than cars do,” Redmond states. “Polycarbonate is incredibly tough, and its super lightweight.” Redmond also noted that he has one ultra-expensive version of the car which could have Mylar windows.

Partners In Electric Car Success

XP started out with an investment from Microsoft, which offered a majority of its software products and a very large number of its licenses to build some process management. XP is basing its collaborative space around the Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server and also partnering with Autodesk for building an end-to-end design collaborative application that incorporates Autodesk’s AliasStudio, all of Autodesk’s CAD packages, Autodesk Navisworks, and some end-to-end visualization, ideation and engineering tools, which can be used on the server side, on an international stage process basis, along with Autodesk’s Buzzsaw collaborative product.

XP also hired a lot of individual engineers and designers who are working out of their home offices to keep overhead low. “Now that Detroit has blown up, there are numerous articles that cite why it didn’t work and one reason was the crushing overhead. We’re looking to what other industries have already turned to – virtualization, flexible spaces and flextime.

Part of that involves having great designers who have reached the point in which they are great in their careers and don’t want to go into a 9-to-5 office. They’ve built great homes and do their best work in the space they enjoy.

XP also brought in some design studios and former designers who are working on core project efforts and design. The company also has a number of independents, in many cases one person, who are communicating through the flex online system that was put together with the Microsoft/Autodesk collaboration.

To reduce time to market, Redmond and Co. are doing the lengthy and extensive car design and development, which is a multi-year process, while preparing virtual testing systems.

“Testing can take two years for certification,” says Redmond. “We’re a self-certified nation. You don’t build a car, and send it to the feds and say, 'Here, test this.' You test it, certify it, and hire testing services, wind tunnels, etc. to get all of your testing documented, because if there is a lawsuit and you missed a test, you will lose your company overnight.”

In XP’s case, the car is inflatable. One of the company’s competitors who is building electric cars had to build and destroy a $150,000 car per destructive test. That’s expensive and can cause delays in between cars. According to XP’s current simulations, the first destructive test car will, most likely, survive all destructive tests.

The car has the ability to go from one test to the next and not get smashed up, cutting XP’s time and costs. Working concurrently with design, development and prepping virtual testing systems is the final design engineering and finite element analysis (FEA).

“FEA and some of the technical stuff are coming in through The Mathworks suite of products, which we think are superlative. We’ve got some big software packages with Mathworks, Autodesk and Microsoft suites, and some custom roll-your-own stuff, and we may sell this whole system to other industries, such as aviation or other industries with a big manufactured build.”

Falling Down

The biggest pitfall the company could suffer is funding. When competitors need at least $500 million to get to market and XP only needs $70 million, it’s possible to think XP would be more likely to be able to secure private funding.

“Where we get the money depends on the federal government, and there are all kinds of lobbying and jockeying happening,” adds Redmond.

Conceptually, XP’s electric car exceeds every certification requirement in the world, but it’s a very new concept so someone may hold up their hands and wish to look at something at greater length, slowing time to market.

“We built all the hard parts,” Redmond says. “What it is going to look like is the number one objection, because we’ve never shown one to anybody. The cool thing about industrial design with air membranes is that it consists of tape, scissors and material. It’s real-time right in front of you. We’re waiting to show the body until we have done a lot of testing, trials and consumer research so it gets as sexy as a membrane can possibly look without making it look ridiculous.

“Everyone’s eyes roll, because they can’t conceive of it. They’ve never seen a membrane structure as a car. There are tricks that we use to come up with sharp curves, recesses, scoops and curls.”

Right now, XP is building different pieces. The door XP is currently building is going to go out to the police range, and law enforcement officials are going to hit it with an AK-47 to get over the big conceptual question people ask, “Well, what if someone pokes it?” The nano-tech fabric is not only bullet proof, but it can also withstand crashes by a large SUV without harm.

“Everything we’re doing has been done before in other industries. NASA landed on Mars with inflatables. Navy SEALs land on foreign shores under gunfire with inflatables. Everyone goes down whitewater rapids, with life-threatening crashes every 600 feet, in inflatables. We’re just merging these other industries into automotive,” Redmond says.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Production Chevy Volt Hits The Road - With Video

Here is an exciting story from GM's Fastlane blog, where Andrew Farah gets to take production car number one out for a spin. What a lucky guy. I must say, the car looks very nice, although what we are all interested in is the quiet electric ride!

From GM's Fastlane Blog:

Nearly two years ago, we put plans in motion to begin building the first pre-production Chevrolet Volts in May 2009. Back in February of this year, I hung a countdown clock on my office wall. It read 99 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes. The countdown had begun to the start of the first Chevrolet Volt pre-production vehicle - May 27, 2009. At the same time, I set a personal goal to be driving in one of these vehicles by the Fourth of July.

Yesterday, I drove the first Volt pre-production vehicle - more than a week ahead of schedule, and due in no small part to the commitment and enthusiasm of a great design, engineering and manufacturing team.

To this point, I’ve only experienced the Volt through the virtual world of computer aided-design and concepts, as pieces and components scattered about on tables during meetings, and as engineering development “mule” vehicles during test drives.

But yesterday, I was able to sit in, touch and drive an early version of the real thing. The mules demonstrated the potential drive experience of the Volt’s chassis and powertrain, but the pre-production vehicles bring together the complete Volt experience into one dynamic vehicle.

I adjusted the seat and mirrors, pressed the POWER button, moved the shifter to D, and then took it on a few laps around our Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich. This was the moment I’d been looking forward to and it was exhilarating. And when I was done, I pulled it into the garage and charged it with the production intent equipment.

These vehicles are being built by our Pre-Production Operations (PPO) organization in Warren - the birthplace of all GM cars and trucks in North America. We’re producing a few Volts per week now, but we’ll quickly ramp up to 10 per week and will have approximately 80 pre-production vehicles built by October.

Most of these vehicles will be used for testing and validating the production intent design as well as developing the final vehicle software and controls - we’ll also use them to tune the vehicle’s overall driving experience. Some of these Volts will have very short lives as they’ll be used in safety and structural integrity testing.

By exceeding our own pre-production deadlines it allows us additional time to refine the vehicle. We’ve already discovered a few small tweaks we need to make, but nothing out of the ordinary for this stage of development.

The Volt team is getting accustomed to beating deadlines. Earlier this month, GM’s Global Battery Systems Lab came on-line almost six months ahead of schedule. It’s easy to explain why, there’s a solid commitment by our leadership to lead in the electrification of the automobile and a contagious enthusiasm within the team to bring this vehicle to market next year on time and beyond expectations.

While there’s a still a long way to go, after driving the Volt yesterday, I’m increasingly confident we’re on target to deliver. I’ll be back here on FastLane tomorrow at 4 p.m. EDT to chat live with you about my drive experience this week. I look forward to answering your questions since I’m sure many of you are very curious.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nissan Releases More Specifications Regarding Its Upcoming EV

The Nissan EV Prototype

Nissan is showing us a little more of what we can expect as they unveil their EV prototype when the company opens its new global headquarters in Yokohama on August 2.

Nissan's EV, billed as a medium five-door hatchback with dedicated body styling, will appear first as a prototype. The production car will make its debut at the Tokyo motor show in October.

Initially, production will commence at Nissan's Oppama plant in Japan in winter 2010, but Nissan says other production bases around the world could also get the new EV. This date means they will precede the Chevy Volt in production but it is unclear whether the car will be marketed in the US before the Volt arrives in November 2010.

Now, for more specifics; Nissan will start with a production rate of 50,000 units per year, ramping up the build rate as mass-marketing begins around 2012-13. The EV motor will be produced in Yokohama and the inverter will initially be made at Nissan's Zama plant.

The lithium-ion battery will be provided by Nissan's affiliate AESC in Zama. They claim that compared to a conventional li-lo battery, its unit has higher reliability and performance, with twice the power and energy. This is quite a claim which we hope proves to be true.

Possibly the best part of this all-electric vehicle will be its MSRP of around $27,000. Throw in the Federal US tax rebate of $7,500 and you have a gas free automobile for less than 20 grand.

Where do I sign up?

GM Claims it Can Do The "Heavy Lifting" Required For Obama's Plug-In Goal

The 2011 Chevy Volt

Barack Obama's goal is to have one million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015. Now General Motors is claiming they will hold up their end of the bargain by putting many of these vehicles in the hands of consumers. Their claims do not compute however, as the Volt is the only plug-in car they have prepared for production. The initial rollout of the Volt will be 10,000 cars and then may ramp up to 60,000 per annum. We seriously doubt GM will ever hit that projection number and so by the year 2015, there will be less than 100,000 Volts on the road.

From Automotive News:

General Motors Corp will do the "heavy lifting" to help meet the ambitious goal set by President Barack Obama of having one million plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015, a GM executive said on Tuesday.

Britta Gross is GM's director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization, a key element to the reshaping of the bankrupt automaker to be less dependent on gasoline-fueled vehicles.

"I can tell you we can definitely do the heavy lifting part of that," Gross said during a telephone interview with Reuters. "We definitely will lift up our end of that."

Major automakers, including GM, have been ramping up plans for a range of electric-drive vehicles intended to meet sharply higher U.S. fuel economy standards and an expected increase in demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

GM will launch the rechargeable Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid by the end of 2010 and plans to have a total of 14 hybrid models in production by 2012.

Gross said it would be a stretch for the industry to meet the White House's stated goal of having one million plug-in hybrid cars within six years, but added that GM was prepared to do its part if key hurdles can be overcome.

"The capacity of General Motors or any large automaker to deploy plug-in vehicles depends on the capacity of suppliers," Gross said. "Among them are battery suppliers. We need more capacity."

Gross said it would take five or more battery manufacturers to make enough batteries to power a million plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Lithium ion batteries have been widely used successfully in laptop computers and telephones, and automakers have been trying to scale down battery size in an effort to power cars without taking up too much space or making vehicles too heavy.

The No. 1. U.S. automaker by sales, GM has been operating in bankruptcy protection since the start of the month in a reorganization funded and steered by the Obama administration.

The showcase vehicle for GM's effort to reinvent itself has been the Volt, a rechargeable electric-drive vehicle.

GM has designed the Volt to carry a lithium-ion battery with an all-electric driving range of 40 miles (64 km). A small gasoline engine will power the battery for longer trips.

Gross would not say how many Volts GM hopes to sell in its first year but executives have cautioned that the car's price and availability will limit initial sales.

The Volt is expected to cost around $40,000. Federal tax incentives could bring the cost to consumers closer to $32,500.

The most expensive component in the Volt will be its 400-pound (181 kg) battery pack.

GM will import lithium-ion battery cells from Korea's LG Chem and assemble the finished battery packs for the Volt in Michigan, where the car will be produced.

While Ford Motor Co. received promise of $5.9 billion in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday to develop all-electric vehicles, GM will not be eligible for those subsidized loans until it emerges from bankruptcy.

GM's plan calls for a reorganized auto company majority owned by the U.S. Treasury to be sold out of bankruptcy by July or August.

Gross declined to say how much the automaker expected to be granted in Energy Department loans under a program intended to help the cash-strapped auto industry prepare for sharply higher U.S. fuel economy standards.

GM hopes for financial support from the federal government's economic stimulus package, Gross said.

"There are larger stimulus opportunities that look very promising. There is a lot of support politically for our advanced technology programs."

GM and other automakers will have to have the support of things largely out of their control if there are to be a million plug-in hybrids by 2015.

"The price of gasoline is one of the factors," she said, referring the fact that low gasoline prices may keep consumers from buying plug-ins. "The economy is one of the factors."

Two years ago, consumers were probably more likely to embrace electric cars that cost more than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, Gross said. But the economy has changed that.

"These are new times with new challenges," she said.

Monday, June 22, 2009

General Motors Advanced Battery Lab Video

General Motors gave a tour of their advanced battery lab to explain the genesis and ongoing development of the Chevy Volt battery pack. Most of the info is well known, but the video helps to pack it all in a short presentation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nissan Plans To Build EV's and Batteries in the US

The Nikkei is reporting plans by automaker, Nissan to produce electric vehicles and Lithium Ion batteries right here in the United States. The facilities will reside at the North American headquarters in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Plans call for new electric-car assembly lines to be built at a plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, the location of Nissan North America Inc.’s headquarters. This facility will be capable of churning out 50,000 to 100,000 of the eco-friendly vehicles a year by 2012. It is expected to first produce a small passenger car, with additional models to be added later.

Nissan intends to construct a production facility for high-capacity lithium ion batteries at the Smyrna site by joining hands with the NEC Corp. group. Although the batteries will initially be supplied only to Nissan, the plant may be expanded to accommodate orders from other firms. The facility may eventually produce enough batteries to equip 200,000 vehicles a year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Renault To Unveil Electric Vehicles At Frankfurt Auto Show

Renault EV Concept

It seems as if every day we read more news about upcoming alternate energy vehicles. Now Renault is giving us previews of their upcoming offerings to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

Renault will unveil a trio of electric cars at this year’s Frankfurt motor show, including a concept car showing an all-new model that will go on sale in 2012.

Renault is remaining coy about the details of its concept car, except to say that it will be a four-metre, five-door hatchback.

Reports suggest it will be based on Renault-Nissan’s Alliance B platform, which is currently used as the basis for cars including the Clio, Modus, Micra and Cube. Nissan is expected to build its own electric car on the same platform, and show it in concept car form at this year’s Tokyo motor show.

Christian Steyer, Renault’s development chief for C-segment vehicles, said that all Renault’s electric cars would feature noticeable styling, but said the company could not risk anything too radical.

“We want a real signature for our electric range, so when people see one in the street they will know it is a Renault electric car,” he said. “The key is to do this without frightening customers away. Customers must be tempted, and not rushed too fast.

“Maybe there is room for something very radical to rewrite the design rules that can be found from electric. So far we don’t find it, though. But it is certainly possible in the future thanks to the changes and possibilities of battery technology.”

In addition to the new concept car, production-ready electric versions of the Megane saloon and Kangoo will be unveiled at the Frankfurt show and go on sale in 2011.

Renault’s charging systems will also be on display. These are it’s high-powered, quick-charge plug-in system, an overnight, home-based plug-in system and its automated ‘Quick Drop’ system, which can remove and replace a battery in three minutes.

The 'Quick Drop' system will be set up in garage forecourts and at key locations, and is expected to work in a similar way to a system developed by the Project Better Place company, which is known to have worked with Renault-Nissan. It is about the same size as a car wash, and operates automatically once a driver has placed their vehicle in teh correct position. The system is pictured here, and in our image gallery.

Steyer says that small fleet customers and commuters will drive sales of electric vehicles, and accelerate the creation of an electric charging infrastructure.

“For some car users, the economic arguments of electric cars will be too good to resist,” he said. “With the Quick Drop system there is no excuse – you can get a new battery faster than you can fill up with fuel at a pump.”

The Frankfurt motor show takes place in September.

Source: Autocar

Thursday, June 18, 2009

East China Province Selects LNG As Transportation Fuel

We all wish more countries, provinces and states would adopt the position that the Fujian Province in East China has. They have determined to trade out their 2000 inter-city buses and 1000 waterway vessels for vehicles that run solely on LNG (liquified natural gasoline). What a statement. Part of the project includes building 30 natural gas stations/refill points.

According to a contract signed Thursday between Fujian Investment and Development Group Ltd. and Fujian Expressway LLC, the former will invest 320 million yuan (46.85 million U.S. dollars) in building 30 gas filling stations to supply 133,000 tonnes of LNG for the 2,000 inter-city buses. The move will replace 180,000 tonnes of gasoline and diesel a year, the investment and development company said.

Under a related accord, Fujian will buy 2.6 million tonnes of LNG from Indonesia annually in a 25-year period from 2009 to fuel the plan, the local government said.

Source: People's Daily

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A New US Auto Company Heading To Louisiana - Former GM Plant

These are the stories that I love to write about. T. Boone Pickens has thrown his considerable financial backing behind a new automotive manufacturer that will occupy an existing GM plant in Monroe, Louisiana. The start up company promises quality, environmentally friendly vehicles to fill a void in the current US marketplace.

What is unclear is whether the cars will be hybrids or electrics or the Pickens favorite, CNG. Look for production to begin in about 15 months. We can't wait.

From Automotive News:

A new auto company backed by Texas billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens and staffed by former Mazda design chief Tom Matano plans to build "environmentally friendly" vehicles in Louisiana.

V-Vehicle Co., of San Diego, will bring about 1,400 workers to a Monroe plant that once belonged to General Motors, according to a statement today from the Louisiana Economic Development Web site. The workers will be paid an annual salary of $40,000. Founder and CEO Frank Varasano said production could begin in 15 months.

"VVC will produce a high-quality, environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient car for the U.S. market," the statement said. "The goal of the company is to provide the American buyer greater product value and a superior automotive experience."

State and local officials assembled an incentive package worth about $67 million, which will expand and revamp the factory.

Private sector investors also include the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and James Davison, of Ruston, La. Davison is the owner of the plant, most recently operated by auto lighting supplier Guide Corp. before its demise.

Pickens has been actively promoting his own energy plan that would invest in wind power and natural gas. (See link to his plan at right.)

Other players

Ray Lane, a managing partner at Kleiner Perkins, will be the VVC's chairman. John Doerr, another Kleiner Perkins managing partner, will be a board member.

Varasano is a former executive vice president with Oracle Corp. who spent 26 years at the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm. Several Web profiles list his age as 63.

Horst Metz, who worked for 20 years at Booz Allen after a decade "in industry," will be vice president of assembly operations.Matano, 61, led the design of the legendary Miata roadster and influenced two generations of products in his 19-year career at Mazda Motor Corp.

He left the Japanese automaker in 2002 to become director of industrial design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Its Web site lists him as the executive director today.

A Twitter chronicle of today's announcement at the plant, posted by The News-Star of Monroe, quoted Matano saying "this car will be another icon of American industry.'' He said details about the vehicle would be released later.

Long roots

Guide Corp. had its roots in an automotive lamp-repair company formed in 1906. It later became GM's Delphi Lighting unit and was spun off in 1998, a year before GM and Delphi Corp. separated.

Production at the Monroe plant ceased in January 2007 as Guide's assets were put up for auction. The company succumbed to global competition, legacy costs and a lack of funding to develop capital-intensive modern lighting systems.

The 425,000-square-foot plant currently occupies 189 acres of land; the project will expand it to about 750,000 square feet.

Louisiana State University estimates that the 1,400 direct, new on-site jobs will create 1,800 indirect jobs for a total of 3,200 new jobs in the state.

The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration is expected to contribute as much as $5 million for rail and infrastructure improvements. VVC also has applied for engineering and manufacturing loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program.

GM-Volt.com Founder Takes Posession Of All-Electric Mini E

Lyle Dennis With His Newly Obtained Mini E

Lyle Dennis, the founder of GM-Volt.com, was chosen as one of the 100 folks in New York City to take posession of a Mini E. We are all jealous. Lyle now gets to drive without gasoline over the course of the next year. Unfortunately, all the Mini E's will be recalled when the lease is up and then torn down. Why they aren't sold at that point is a mystery to me.

From GM-Volt.com:

On Friday June 12th I took delivery of an electric MINI Cooper, car #412.

After registering on a waiting list, I was chosen as one of the 100 people in New York State who would get to participate in a one-year close-ended lease of the pure electric car. BMW, the parent of MINI, is calling this a field test. They plan to take back all 450 cars (100 in NY and NJ, 250 IN CA) at the end of the lease and dismantle them. The purpose in to learn about how electric cars will fare on public roads and in the public’s hands.

Truth be told, I’m not a MINI fan, its the powertrain Im after here.

In my opinion, the cars are best described as mules. They are converted standard MINIs and weigh in at 3656 pounds. They have not been built from the ground up as an electric car. The rear seat has been removed and replaced with a very large 573 pound 35 kwh lithium-ion battery (28 kwh usable) supplied by E-One Moli. The drivetrain was engineered and installed by A/C Propulsion.

The car is strikingly styled with silver and bright yellow accents including stylized plug decals on the sided and roof. It is a head-turner as I can attest.

Inside the cockpit is comfortable, eclectic, and interesting. The MINI controls are unusual and unique among cars, taking a little getting used to. There is a large dial ahead showing the battery state of charge (SOC) and in the center stack an even larger dial displaying velocity (mph). A small LED display can be toggled through screens that shows battery SOC, temperature, and miles remaining.

Placing in a keyfob primes the car, and then there is an engine on/off button. Like all electric cars you know its running when lights on the dash go on, there is no roar of an engine.

The car is very silent and stepping on the accelerator lightly allows you to creep off electrically.

The 150 kw motor develops a whopping 205 hp that is capable of pinning you into the seat. For some reason, there is a built-in minimal delay before take-off from stop which ever so slightly dampens the rush of instantaneous torque. 0 to 60 is 8.5 seconds but feels a lot faster. Nicely, once moving even when traveling at highway speed, a stomp on the accelerator instantly springs the car forward in a way most combustion cars cannot, like silently leaping through space. The car is front wheel drive.

The regenerative braking is very intense and the car rapidly grinds to a stop just by lifting one’s foot off the accelerator. Brakes are almost unnecessary. This takes a little getting used to but I actually came to enjoy it.

The car handled a bit skittishly. It was easy to chirp the tires especially if taking off on a slight turn. The car has a go-cart like road feel, low to the ground and very fun around turns if not a little disconcerting to some drivers.

There is a 94 mile (when fully charged) electric range. Charging is simple and can be done at 120 V though a specialized J1772 adapter. As part of the program MINI installed an EV charger wallbox in my garage that operates at 240V and 32 or 50 amps, which can fully recharge the car in 4 hours. At 120V it takes 24 hours.

I’ll have the car for one year. The lease fee was supposed to be $850/month but because the cord for the wallbox hasn’t gotten UL certification yet, MINI is giving one of the months for free, bringing the actual cost to $780/month. For me, driving about 1800 miles/month the vehicle will save about $250 in gas. Collision insurance is paid for by MIIN and the wallbox is installed for free, effectively putting the monthly cost in the $400-$500 range. Yes there is a significant premium but being able to drive all electric is worth that to me.

There are some slight imperfections being the car is a mule. The door locks are a little sticky, rarely the car won’t start and the key has to be removed and replaced. The big battery has a loud ventilation system and produces noticeable heat. There is also essentially no storage space, and as mentioned handling is a bit awkward.

The car hasn’t been engineered from scratch as an electric car as has the Volt, and range is limited, but the fact is I am driving electrically in 2009 and I’ve got nothing to complain about.

And by the way this is the 1000th post on GM-Volt.com, another milestone.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

GM Reaches Deal For Sale of SAAB to Koenigsegg

General Motors has finalized the deal that transfers ownership of the SAAB brand to supercar maker, Koenigsegg. Koenigsegg is a small Swedish company with about 45 employees who came out of nowhere to be the front runner in the bidding for SAAB. It is estimated that the transaction will close in the third quarter of this year.

This adds to GM's housecleaning list of brands that it wanted to sell. Hummer has been sold to an overseas company, Saturn has been sold to Penske and now Saab is a done deal. Pontiac will be phased out over time leaving Buick, GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac. These four brands will be the core of GM's new company emerging from bankruptcy. Whether or not GM can succeed remains to be seen.

What we would like to see is General Motors being committed to producing alternate energy vehicles and shedding the old paradigm of the internal combustion engine. They have a good start with the Chevy Volt, but they need many more models, including EV's, better hybrids, CNG and even biodiesel.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Buick to Get Two-Mode Plug-In Hybrid (Originally For Saturn Vue)

Clay Model of Buick Two-Mode Plug-In Hybrid

It appears that the plug-in Saturn Vue will be resurrected as a Buick CUV (crossover utility vehicle). We had waited patiently for years for the Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid, but were met with interminable delays and then the sale of the entire brand to Penske. The Saturn Vue plug-in was not going to be a huge deal as it only offered about 10 miles of EV driving but at least that was a step in the right direction. We now find out that Buick will take over and hopefully bring the two-mode hybrid vehicle to market in 2010.

A tip of the hat to GM-Volt.com for this story:

Since 2006, GM has been developing a front-wheel drive 2-mode plugin hybrid (PHEV) vehicle. The 2-mode plugin Saturn VUE was to be that car but bankruptcy and divestment of the Saturn brand has ended that plan.

GM’s contract negotiations with Penske could in theory enable that car to still be built and sourced, however that is highly unlikely.

Yet GM has said it still plans to put the plug-in 2-mode powertrain into a production vehicle but hasn’t said which one. Development work is ongoing.

Writers have speculated the new Chevrolet Equinox which gets 32 mpg highway using a direct injection 4 cylinder engine would be the likely host for the powertrain. Other speculation includes the new GMC Terrain or Cadillac SRX.

All wrong.

GM-Volt.com has learned the new vehicle will be a Buick.

GM has designed a new small crossover (CUV) Buick which has yet to be named or unveiled. Footage of a clay model of the vehicle was leaked when CBS news filmed an interview with GM VP of Design Ed Welburn, and is shown above.

This new car shares the same platform the Saturn VUE uses and therefore is properly configured for the 2-mode hybrid and plug-in 2 mode hybrid drivetrain. The body design will be unique.

It is expected the car will make its appearance in 2011.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More Video of the 70 MPH Prius PHEV Conversion

Here is another, better video of the Ewert Energy Toyota Prius conversion that allows the car to run in EV mode up to 70 mph. This is a great breakthrough for the home brew conversion community. Would love to have one of these Prius's and if I wait long enough, it should be obtainable.

Toyota To Ramp Up NiMH Battery Production

The Wildly Successful Toyota Prius

Here is some proof that Li ion battery technology is not quite ready for prime-time. This is also a bold statement by Toyota, who obviously expects their hybrid vehicle sales to increase.

Toyota Motor Corp. wants to expand the production capacity for the NiMH battery packs it uses in hybrids by 10%.

The automaker is now seeking access to enough NiMH batteries to equip 1.1 million hybrid cars in 2010, or 10% more than was initially called for in its existing expansion plans.

Panasonic EV Energy is capable of churning out roughly 700,000 NiMH battery packs a year. Its plans for 2010 include installing an additional line designed to produce 100,000 packs at its Omori Factory and building a plant in Miyagi Prefecture that can make 200,000 packs.

The joint venture will work to provide the added 100,000 pack capability without making further plant and equipment investments by boosting productivity and lowering the defect rate.

Source: Nikkei

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Volkswagen Golf LPG Bi Fuel Now available in Europe

Volkswagen’s LPG Golf Plus BiFuel (earlier post) is now available for order in Europe. factory-built for LPG use, the Golf BiFuel can deliver a reduction of more than 10% in CO2 emissions.

In LPG mode, the 1.6-liter 72 kW / 97 hp four-cylinder engine in the Golf BiFuel consumes 9.2 liters of LPG per 100 kilometers on average (149 g/km CO2). The autogas tank (4-liter effective volume at storage pressure of 8 to 10 bar)&madsh;with its space-saving installation in the spare wheel recess&mash;and the 55-liter gasoline tank support a theoretical range of more than 1,100 kilometers (684 miles). In pure LPG mode, the car’s range is about 420 kilometers (261 miles).

The factory-installed solution for the new Golf Plus BiFuel is more advantageous than an LPG conversion, VW says: the vehicle has been subjected to extensive endurance testing and undergone crash testing with the LPG tank. Customers receive a full warranty for the entire vehicle, LPG components included.

Source: Green Car Congress

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mitsubishi Motors Unveils Plans For Five More EV's

The Mitsubishi iMiEV All-Electric Sedan

Unlike General Motors, Mitsubishi Motors has a plan to bring many more EV's to market. In a recent interview with GM CEO Fritz Henderson, he stated that the "lion share" of vehicles produced by the bankrupt company in 10 years will be combustion engine variants. Contrast that with Mitsubishi who states that 20% of their line-up with be EV's by 2020.

In other words, this is the tale of two auto manufacturers heading in opposite directions. One is embracing the electrification of vehicles and the other is hanging on to the internal combustion paradigm. Mitsubishi is already producing its sporty iMiEV electric compact car while GM claims they need another year and a half to bring the Volt to market. Mitsubishi is going to offer a great variety of EV's in the coming years.

From Green Car Congress:

The Nikkei reports that Mitsubishi will soon introduce five other electric models, and that by fiscal 2013, it intends to sell upwards of 30,000 electric vehicles and be profitable. Concurrent with beginning production of the i MiEV (earlier post), Mitsubishi Motors had also outlined its “Mitsubishi Motors Group Environmental Vision 2020” roadmap for its near-future, including a production volume at least 20% of which is electric vehicles.

Planned vehicles reportedly include:

  • A left-side-steering version of the i-MiEV for the European market in the second half of fiscal 2010.
  • An electric commercial vehicle that can be used to transport goods in fiscal 2010.
  • During or after fiscal 2011, larger electric vehicle models based on full-sized cars, not minicars. The first, due out sometime in fiscal 2011, will be an electric version of a 1-liter small car.
  • By fiscal 2013, a plug-in hybrid sport utility vehicle.
  • A sport model of the i-MiEV, with better driving performance.
  • The company will also begin supply of an EV on an OEM basis to PSA Peugeot Citroën in fiscal 2010.

Dr. Menahem Anderman, President of Advanced Automotive Batteries, the organizer of the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference being held in Long Beach, California this week, said in one of his market overview presentations that “the most mature EV Li-ion battery on the market today is the GS Yuasa-Mitsubishi EV battery” used in the i-MiEV.

Anderman projected in a value proposition analysis for automotive Li-ion batteries that the small EV and extended range electric vehicle segment—i.e., vehicles with a battery pack of around 15-16 kWh—would lead the short-term lithium-ion market (in terms of dollars), with around 8,000 units being sold by 2011, with about half of those being i-MiEVs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Prius Conversion That Will Travel 70 MPH in EV Mode

I received the following e-mail from Chris Ewert, of Ewert Energy Systems. This particular conversion trumps them all as it allows the Prius to attain freeway speeds solely powered by electricity. Previously, conversions only propelled the car up to 34 mph and then later, a stealth mode feature was added that let the Prius travel up to 52 mph. Unfortunately, to exit stealth mode, one had to pull over to the side of the road and restart the vehicle. This conversion can be toggled with a button in and out of EV mode.

We will definitely keep our eyes open to watch the development of this great kit. With a nice battery pack, a conversion like this could save thousands over the cost of a Chevy Volt.

From Chris Ewert's e-mail:

Ewert Energy Systems is proud to unveil our breakthrough Enhanced Hybrid and Enhanced Electric technology (patent pending).

Traditional plug-in Prius conversions have typically suffered from several limitations:
1) A stock EV mode that is limited to 34 mph.
2) Regulated emissions spikes in stock EV mode can
result in emissions up to 12 times the maximum regulation allows .
3.) Mixed mode driving allows for maximum power and is certified for
regulated emissions, but delivers an average electric consumption only
up to about 7kW. While this can yield mileages of >100mpg at speeds
below 40mph, it usually yields mileages well below 100mpg for highway
4.) “Forced stealth” mode is limited to 52mph and
requires a vehicle restart in order to exit. To attain speeds of
greater than 42mph, it requires MG1 to spin at speeds faster than it
would spin under any normal operating condition, potentially leading
to long term damage or shortening of the lifespan of MG1. Forced
stealth also requires clearing mandated emissions recording data and
can run the battery down to damaging levels if not exited at the
correct time.

The new system removes practically all the aforementioned limitations.

Enhanced Electric mode allows the vehicle to operate at speeds of up
to 70mph in electric-only and allows for seamless transitions between
electric-only and electric-dominant modes at any speed. Additionally, it provides
a controlled warmup mode to prevent increased emissions.

Enhanced Hybrid mode allows the vehicle to operate in a mode which
heavily favors the electric system over the gasoline engine. While typical conversions
will only provide up to about 7kW of power, this new system can
provide full electric power (around 25kW) before using the gasoline
engine. This creates the ideal parallel plug-in hybrid, providing full
power for acceleration when needed, but optimizing for best fuel
economy when in charge deplete (PHEV) mode.

Where a converted Prius may have previously achieved only 60-80mpg at highway speeds, a
converted Prius with this latest technology may achieve in excess of
150 mpg. An early prototype of the system was tested at Argonne
National Labs earlier this year and achieved 170mpg on the realistic
standardized highway test (a combination of 55mph and 65mph highway
driving.) For many trips, 200mpg is now possible without the use of EV
mode.During Argonne tests, this system was found to comply
with SULEV/PZEV emissions ratings.

These systems will be available at the end of the month with the 25
mile range conversion from Plug-In Conversions, Corp.

For more information, please follow this link to a demonstration video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfkvygFJZDk

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@ewertenergy.com.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coda Automotive and Yardney Join Forces To Produce Li Ion Systems Here in the US

Previously, we looked at Coda Automotive and their plans to bring an electric car to the US market. Now, they have big plans to produce the Li ion battery pack right here in the US. They have chosen Yardney to assist them, whose specialty is developing advanced battery systems with US Military and Government clients.

It seems like we read stories like these every other day. Hopefully, one of these ventures will make a go of it.

From Green Car Congress:

34 kWh battery pack for Coda sedan. Click to enlarge

Connecticut-based Yardney Technical Products, Inc. and California-based Coda Automotive have entered into a joint venture (Coda Battery Systems LLC) to design, manufacture and sell automotive-grade, lithium-ion battery systems in the United States. Coda Battery Systems LLC submitted a proposal under the stimulus grant program to the Department of Energy on 19 May for funding to build manufacturing at a facility in Enfield, CT.

Yardney is a developer of advanced battery systems, targeting US military and other government agencies. Coda Automotive is currently safety and durability testing its Hafei-built all-electric highway sedan for the mass market.

14.5 Ah Li-ion iron phosphate cell for Coda sedan. Click to enlarge.

Scheduled for delivery to the California market in the fall of 2010, the four-door, five-passenger, mid-size electric Coda sedan will initially be sold with a 34 kWh Li-ion iron phosphate battery system from a joint venture between Coda Automotive and Chinese-based Tianjin Lishen Battery Co., one of largest suppliers of lithium-ion batteries in the world. (Earlier post.)

Coda Battery Systems LLC will begin supplying the power battery system for the Coda sedan as soon as the new US facility can be brought on-line. It is anticipated that Lishen, Coda’s battery partner in China, will participate in the US manufacturing joint venture.

This electric vehicle venture is a major strategic step for Yardney. We have been working on battery technology research specifically for hybrid and electric vehicle applications for years. This is the culmination of all that we have worked towards—building the technology, experience, and reputation to be able to produce automotive grade lithium-ion power battery systems.

—Vince Yevoli, President, Yardney

Yardney has been providing batteries for the US military since 1944. Development of Yardney’s first major lithium-ion battery began in 1998 when Yardney won a contract to develop a battery for a planned NASA Mars lander. Since then, Yardney has also developed such batteries for many other aerospace applications, including a variety of satellites, the US Air Force’s B-2 Bomber and Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and the Mars Exploration Rovers (an all-electric vehicle, operating under the most challenging conditions imaginable), among many others.

In 2007, Yardney received two federal awards totaling $200,000 for developing lithium-ion batteries for use in hybrid electric vehicles.

Monday, June 8, 2009

GM Press Release Announcing New State-of-the-Art Battery Laboratory

Press release from General Motors:

WARREN, Mich. - General Motors expanded its significant battery research and development capabilities today by opening the largest and most technologically advanced battery lab in the United States on its Technical Center campus here.

The new Global Battery Systems Lab will lead GM’s global advanced battery engineering resources and expedite the introduction of electrically driven vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt, as well as plug-in hybrid and hybrid-electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.

“The new global GM battery lab will benefit consumers across America by helping us advance the development of battery technology in the United States and put cleaner, more efficient vehicles on the road more quickly and affordably,” said Fritz Henderson, GM president and CEO. “Our new lab improves GM’s competitiveness by speeding the development of our hybrid, plug-in and extended-range electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt.”

The Global Battery Systems Lab spans 33,000 sq. ft. - four times larger than GM’s previous Tech Center battery lab - and will be used by GM’s growing team of more than 1,000 engineers working on advanced batteries and electrically driven vehicles.

Planning began in December 2007 and construction started in August 2008. Operations began in January - nine months ahead of schedule. The lab became fully functional in May, equipped with 160 test channels and 42 thermal chambers duplicating extreme real-world driving patterns, hot and cold temperatures and calendar life. The lab’s maximum power capacity is 6 megawatts, or enough electricity to provide power to approximately 1,400 homes.

“This facility is state-of-the-art and represents one of the largest and most capable battery test labs in the world,” said Jim Queen, GM group vice president, Global Engineering. “More than half of the lab is dedicated to testing the electrochemical battery cells and their enclosures, known as modules, a capability not available in GM’s previous battery lab. The lab’s remaining floor space is committed to evaluating completed battery packs.”

The Global Battery Systems Lab was built within GM’s Alternative Energy Center facility, and includes many environmentally friendly features such as a center hallway with high-efficiency LED lighting and a floor made from recycled tires. Approximately 90 percent of the electricity used for battery testing can be returned to the local energy grid for use by homeowners and businesses.

Additional new benefits offered by the Global Battery Systems Lab include a thermal shaker table for battery structural integrity testing, a battery teardown area for failure analysis and competitor benchmarking, an integrated test automation system and improved Design of Experiments methodology - an information-gathering exercise that allows GM to perform more thorough battery tests more quickly.

The Global Battery Systems Lab complements GM’s other battery labs in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, Honeoye Falls, N.Y., and the Warren Technical Center’s Research Chemical Engineering facility. The opening of the Global Battery Systems Lab is the latest move in GM’s comprehensive battery strategy, which includes ramping up “in-house” responsibility for advanced battery technology and a broad portfolio of supplier partners.

At the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM:

* Announced plans to establish the world’s first lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing plant operated by a major automaker in the U.S.
* Selected LG Chem to supply lithium-ion battery cells, electronic components and control hardware for the Chevrolet Volt
* Signed a joint engineering development contract with Compact Power and LG Chem to further expedite the development of the Volt’s lithium-ion battery technology
* Joined with the University of Michigan to create a new automotive advanced battery lab in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a specialized curriculum within U of M’s College of Engineering to develop automotive battery engineers.

Energy alternatives and advanced technologies that reduce dependence on petroleum, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions are keys to developing sustainable transportation. GM is pursuing several options to best meet the varied needs of customers around the world - from advanced gasoline, diesel and biofuel technology to electrically assisted vehicles such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids and - ultimately - electrically driven extended-range electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. GM believes that electrically driven vehicles, based on battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology, offer the best long-term solution for providing sustainable personal transportation.

Facts: Global Battery Systems Battery Lab


Alternative Energy Center, GM Technical Center, Warren, Mich.


* Battery system test area operational January, 2009
* Cell and module test area May, 2009


Total floor space: 33,000 sq. ft.

* 14,400 sq. ft. - pack testing and development
* 17,400 sq. ft. - cell and module development
* 2,000 sq. ft. - technical support


* Increased pack testing
o 32 cyclers (serve as treadmills for batteries)
o 64 test channels (available for individual battery tests)
o 25 thermal chambers (duplicates extreme temperature conditions)
* New cell and module testing
o 32 cyclers
o 96 test channels
o 16 small thermal chambers
* Environmental control capability - to allow for test correlation and repeatability
o New humidity-controlled walk-in chambers
o New air flow benches to provide specific temperatures and levels of humidity to test air-cooled battery packs
o New coolant chillers to cool or heat liquid-cooled battery packs

Enhanced capability

* Integrated test automation system enables around-the-clock standardized testing, customized test schedules and monitoring tests from desk or at home
* New thermal shaker table for structural integrity testing
* Improved Design of Experiments methodology - an information-gathering exercise that allows GM to perform more thorough battery tests in a shorter period of time
* Battery teardown area for failure analysis and competitor benchmarking

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chinese Automaker, New Power, Reveals a 250 Mile Electric SUV

New Power All-Electric SUV

It is quite exciting to see the news reports come in from around the globe that detail the electrification of the automobile. This report is from China that outlines a new SUV that is all-electric with a range of 250 miles. Quite impressive. Ten years ago, Toyota produced an electric RAV 4 that was capable of 120 miles range, so this vehicle provides double the fun!

This car, if it makes it market, will certainly be a game changer as the range issue is put to rest. Indeed, most commuters can drive all week long without a charge. Even on long trips, this kind of range makes it easy as long as you research areas to recharge. MSRP is reportedly between $27K and $33K and when coupled with the $7500 US Federal Tax Rebate makes the SUV affordable to the masses.

From Times Online:

In the week that General Motors filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, ending a century of global dominance, the centre of gravity of the world’s car industry shifted perceptibly towards China. Here, some of the biggest strides in motor engineering are being made, including one shown to The Sunday Times on an industrial estate in Hangzhou, 90 miles southwest of Shanghai. This is where engineers for New Power have beaten western rivals to achieve what they claim is the first production-ready, all-electric car to offer a range comparable to petrol-powered vehicles.

For years, engineers in Europe, America and Japan have struggled to achieve the perfect balance: a battery that is small and light enough to fit in a family car, yet capable of storing enough energy to keep it going for a practical range between top-ups. The Reva G-Wiz, Britain’s bestselling electric vehicle, has a range of no more than 48 miles between charges; the Smart ED, on trial in the UK, beats it by only 14 miles; and although the electric Mini claims a range of 150 miles, it is only a two-seater (the huge battery taking up the back seat), and BMW has no plans to put it into production.

New Power, by contrast, claims to have developed an electric four-seater with a range of 250 miles and plans to bring it to the UK “within the next couple of years”. Known as the Zhong Tai (the name translates roughly as “peace and safety for the people”), it has lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged in 6-8 hours from a conventional socket, or in two hours from a high-power recharging point. With a top speed of 75mph and an estimated price tag of between £16,300 and £20,500 in Britain, the Zhong Tai could be both practical and affordable enough to make drivers part with their internal combustion engines for good.

The Sunday Times was the first western publication to put New Power’s claims to the test. On first impressions the Zhong Tai looked anything but remarkable. The car’s basic bodywork and chassis are based on a 2006 Daihatsu Terios, a compact 4x4, the licence for which was bought and adapted for Chinese production, originally as a petrol car. The electric version looks identical to a conventional Terios from the outside, with the recharging point where the petrol cap should be and only the absence of an exhaust pipe giving the game away.

The interior feels a little dated but that reflects how much standards of comfort have advanced in the past three years. The dashboard display flashed up speed, distance travelled and the percentage charge left in the batteries — 75% when we first stepped into the car.

At New Power’s spartan headquarters, Mao Zhong, the company’s general manager, outlined how his car could “solve the emissions problems” plaguing both China — where the number of cars is predicted to hit 150m by 2020 — and the rest of the world. On paper, it seems astonishing that such a small operation, with a staff of just 30, should have produced China’s first production-ready all-electric car. But the Zhong Tai has been in development for six years, backed by Zotye, a mainstream car maker, of which New Power is a “green” subsidiary.

Chinese industry has put huge efforts into battery development, a fact that was reinforced last month when Volkswagen said it would be collaborating with BYD, a Chinese manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, to develop its first hybrid vehicles.

Still, New Power’s claims of a 250-mile range were remarkable so we were intrigued to find out how the vehicle would perform. Tipping the scales at 1.2 tons, the Zhong Tai sounds like a cumbersome beast. Its battery alone weighs about 660lb. It is housed under the car, although in the model I tried, a further auxiliary battery took up a good proportion of the boot space.

The claimed acceleration rate is 0-60mph in 12sec and the car is, indeed, quite spritely. When I pressed hard on the accelerator, the car leapt from 18mph-54mph in just 5sec, but then alarms started screeching and the engine had to be restarted. There was another worry. Accidentally touching the battery in the boot resulted in a mighty electric shock, although the company insisted this was a minor fault and rectified it within minutes.

And what of that all-important 250-mile range? Unfortunately, we couldn’t cover that distance in the time available for the test but by keeping an eye on the charge monitor it was possible to get an idea as to the veracity of New Power’s claims. At the start of the test the car had a three-quarters charge; 120 miles of reasonably hard driving later, it was showing a 42% charge. Assuming the power meter was accurate and proportional, the company’s claim is not unfeasible.

On an open road, at an average speed of 60mph, the car’s range drops to about 170 miles, according to New Power. Reduce average speed to 48mph and the company claims an average range of 218 miles. In “city driving with stops and starts”, the company reckons it can reach its maximum range of about 250 miles.

The Chinese government has announced plans to set up a 10 billion yuan (£890m) fund to promote alternative energy and is offering generous grants towards the production of electric vehicles, stating that all car companies should be producing one green vehicle by 2011.

The Zhong Tai is set to go into production next year, eventually building towards annual production of 20,000 vehicles. Wu Aibing, public relations director for New Power, claims the company is “in conversations about co-operation for overseas distribution” in the UK and US.

The company has been in touch with Electric Village, a London-based marketing company specialising in electric vehicles, about promoting the car in Britain. “The new vehicle is game-changing in the rapidly emerging electric car sector,” says Stewart McKee, the chief executive of Electric Village. “Hence we are looking at a distribution and sales strategy for the UK market.”

Even if New Power’s reliability and range claims hold up under further testing, there are still question marks about the car’s potential success, particularly in foreign markets.

Chinese exports, such as the Jiang-ling Landwind, a large petrol-powered SUV, have failed European safety tests. Aside from safety, the Zhong Tai’s retro looks may not appeal to image-conscious westerners.

However, with most mainstream European car manufacturers putting off electric car production until 2011 or later, and current options offering a range of no more than about 50 miles, this car could lead the way to a practical all-electric automotive future.