Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CODA Automotive Battery Secures $394M of Committed Capital for Joint Venture Expansion

CODA's EV Sedan

CODA Automotive is a company preparing to bring an all-electric vehicle to market during the same timeframe as the Nissan Leaf. Unfortunately, CODA doesn't get near the publicity as Nissan and yet theirs may be a superior product. The CODA sedan will have a larger battery pack and subsequent longer range but what is missing now is the MSRP. We just found out the Leaf MSRP yesterday and they have made the price very appealing in light of the Federal tax rebate ($25K after rebate). Also, the Nissan Leaf will be released initially only in certain markets which will hamper the plans of us early adopters.

Another unknown is the durability and life expectancy of these early Lithium ion battery packs. GM has put their packs through rigorous testing and climates without adverse affects to date. It is unclear whether or not Nissan and CODA have done likewise.

From Green Car Congress:

California-based electric car and battery company CODA Automotive, together with its China-based joint venture partner, Lishen Power Battery, has secured $394 million of committed capital. The capital will enable the company to rapidly industrialize the all-electric CODA car’s power system for commercial volume production and support its ability to mass manufacture transportation and utility power storage battery systems.

In 2009, CODA, which had an existing long-term sourcing contract with Lishen (Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Co., Ltd.) for lithium-ion batteries used in the CODA EV, established a global joint venture with Lishen to design, manufacture and sell transportation and utility power storage battery systems. Lishen is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lithium-ion cells and a key battery supplier to industry leading companies such as Apple, Motorola, Samsung and Vodafone.

(In 2009 CODA also entered into a joint venture with Connecticut-based Yardney Technical Products, Inc.—CODA Battery Systems LLC—to design, manufacture and sell automotive-grade, lithium-ion battery systems in the United States. There is no direct connection between YTP and Lishen, according to CODA; the new funding will be applied only to the CODA-Lishen partnership.)

The CODA-Lishen joint venture—which will be branded soon—has secured $100 million in committed equity capital and has received a commitment for a $294 million line of credit from the Bank of Tianjin Joint-Stock Co., Ltd.

This capital strengthens the strategic position of our joint venture and allows us to meet the rising global demand for automotive-grade lithium-ion battery and utility power storage systems. The US and China face tremendous security and environmental challenges that we intend to address by combining our complementary capabilities and skills. This joint venture will accelerate the adoption of new energy technology while creating jobs in the US and abroad.

—Kevin Czinger, President and CEO, CODA Automotive

CODA Automotive is slated to begin deliveries of its all-electric car in the fourth quarter of this year. The CODA EV features a 33.8 kWh, 333V lithium iron phosphate pack with an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty. Comprising 728 prismatic 14.5Ah Li-ion cells (104 in series by 7 in parallel), the pack powers a 100 kW (134 hp) UQM traction motor that develops up to 300 N·m (221 lb-ft) of torque.

The company is headquartered in Santa Monica, California and anticipates that it can deliver more than 14,000 vehicles to customers in California by the end of 2011. To date, CODA has raised in excess of $100 million in capital. Through its joint venture, CODA Automotive plans to establish battery manufacturing capacity in the US.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Advanced Mechanical Products, Inc. (AMP) To Display Electric Chevy Equinox At NY Auto Show

Chevy Equinox

These are the companies we root for and hope are successful. AMP has the wherewithal to convert existing production vehicles into battery electric vehicles, thus bypassing the manufacturers who are dragging their feet. This particular Equinox is a little pricey but still represents a bargain compared to the Tesla.

Advanced Mechanical Products, Inc. (AMP), a company engaged in the conversion of new vehicles to all-electric powertrains, will debut the upfitted battery electric AMP 2010 GM Chevrolet Equinox at the New York Auto Show, which begins on 2 April. (Earlier post.)

Powered by Remy International motors, the AMP electric powertrain has a range of up to 150 miles (241 km) per charge, will reach a top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h), and will go from zero to 60 miles per hour in approximately eight seconds, with a charge voltage of either 110V or 220V. The 5-seater electric Equinox is priced below $50,000 (after government tax credits).

AMP unveiled the electric 2010 GM Chevrolet Equinox at the grand opening of its first showroom and US production headquarters in Cincinnati, OH on 24 February. Since the event, the Company has moved into production of the AMP’d Equinox, and has begun taking orders for summer 2010 delivery. AMP is the first company to bring a full-size, high-performance American-made crossover electric vehicle to market.

As demand for electric vehicles continues to grow, our strategy has been clear—to evoke change in as a familiar fashion as possible. By choosing the Chevy Equinox, we were able to leverage over 100 years of engineering experience and focus on the seamless integration of our state-of-the-art, all-electric high performance Remy-based drivetrain.

—Steve Burns, CEO of Advanced Mechanical Products

Visitors to the show can test drive the electric 2010 GM Chevrolet Equinox.

Source: Green Car Congress

Nissan Website Announces MSRP of Highly Anticipated Leaf

Available in December, Nissan's Leaf

Well, it is official. Nissan has posted the MSRP for their groundbreaking all-electric Leaf and it is exactly where we hoped it would be. After the Federal tax break of $7,500, the Leaf will cost $25,280, which makes the car very affordable to the masses. Indeed, we cannot wait to get our hands on one!

From the Nissan web site:

The Nissan LEAF will be available for purchase or lease in select markets this December. Later this spring, Nissan will begin accepting reservations at For complete details, read the recent pricing announcement.

Read the complete announcement

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

After tax savings, net as low as $25,2801
MSRP $32,7802 with Federal tax savings from $0 to $7,5003
MSRP includes three years of complimentary roadside assistance.

State and local incentives may further decrease the cost4:

  • $5,000 statewide rebate in California
  • $5,000 tax credit in Georgia
  • $1,500 tax credit in Oregon
  • Carpool-lane access in some states, including California

Lease Offer

$349 per month1 for 36 months after $1,999 initial payment

Trim Levels

The Nissan LEAF™ will have two trim levels available: the SV and the SL.

The SV trim level includes an advanced navigation system and Internet/smart phone connectivity to the vehicle.

The SL trim level adds several convenience features, including rearview monitor, solar panel spoiler, fog lights, and automatic headlights for an additional $940 (MSRP).

Monday, March 29, 2010

FedEx Ready To Display All-Electric Trucks for U.S. Parcel Delivery

An All-Electric FedEx Delivery Truck

John Formisano, Vice President, Global Vehicles of FedEx Express discusses their upcoming electric trucks:

This all-electric vehicle project has been a bit more challenging than the implementation of the Hybrid-Electric delivery vehicles we have deployed. (We started with four of them in 2004, and are operating more than 300 now.)

This all-electric vehicle, though, was purpose-built, meaning every system in the vehicle must be designed, tested and built from scratch. To build an entire vehicle from scratch tests the mettle of automotive engineers and customers alike.

As we think through the likelihood of this new technology becoming dominant in service to our customers in urban areas, I can foresee a few challenges. These challenges are significant, but need to be conquered to secure the energy future of the United States or any country that wants to end dependence on foreign energy sources. Our Chairman, Fred Smith, has been vocal in calling for the need to secure our country’s energy independence and, in working with SAFE (Securing America’s Future Energy), he has outlined a path toward energy security via the electrification of short-haul transport. Our new ZEV is a real first step in this process.

The bridge from electric vehicle technology today to a world where it is mainstream involves:

* Improving and then stabilizing the technology of electric vehicles: Today batteries are large and creature comforts in the vehicles are small. The cost of the 80 kilowatt-hour battery needed to propel this truck and its cargo 100 miles is well above the cost of a large luxury sedan. We’ll need to see the technology evolve to ensure that these vehicles can use smaller, more energy-dense batteries to achieve what we expect in our vehicles. In today’s conventional trucks, comforts we take for granted, like air-conditioning, and safety features like power steering and power brakes, are “hung” from the truck engine and powered via a drive belt. In an electric vehicle everything is powered by the batteries, meaning that adding air conditioning or power steering shortens the range of the truck before it needs recharging.
* Stimulating demand: The recent economic stimulus package provided funding for the production of batteries and electric vehicles. Demand will need stimulation as well. While the initial costs to the manufacturers have been subsidized, these all-electric trucks are still a lot more expensive to buy than conventional trucks. So, it will take some stimulus on the customer side as well to get sales moving and encourage the kind of initial production levels that can help bring down the cost of the batteries from the price of a large luxury sedan to something in the range of a motorcycle. I’ll leave it to the policy experts to determine what might work best, but certainly things like tax credits, accelerated depreciation and incentive funding that companies can plan on would go a long way.
* Establishing regulations that understand today’s and tomorrow’s technology: Much like Hybrid vehicles, plug in vehicles need to have regulations which understand what today’s EV’s and Plug-in EVs are capable of doing. Trucks are regulated differently than cars and a small range extending engine, which could serve to charge only the batteries, will go a long way in putting “Plug-in” EVs on the street.
* Preparing the grid: The Economist magazine recently pointed out that when the first electric cars are purchased they will tend to go the same neighborhoods where the environmentally conscious consumers with means will purchase them, keeping electric vehicles unevenly distributed. We’ll have the same issue with electric trucks. I’m told that each ZEV truck will be the equivalent of adding one new house to the grid for peak demand. Imagine when we are able to put the first 100 electric vehicles into one FedEx Express station, making it a completely electric vehicle station, as we did with our 100% hybrid vehicle station in the Bronx in New York City. This would be the equivalent of putting 100 houses peak electric needs into 50,000 square feet of space. The grid will need to be ready to bear this load. The fact that companies like FedEx operate their delivery trucks almost exclusively during the day helps, because they’ll be recharged at night, “off-peak” in utility terms, when there is usually surplus power available on the existing grid.
* Preparing city governments: As huge amounts of power are brought to buildings and EVs are put on the street we transition from Federal Motor Vehicle standard control to local control for building code and regulatory compliance. Cities that want these new, clean electric trucks will work collaboratively with fleet operators to get them the facilities they need without endless bureaucratic hassles. Put another way, fleet operators will choose the cities that really want these vehicles as “early adopters.”

Like hybrids, electric vehicles will have a role in helping us achieve our goal to improve the fuel efficiency of the fleet 20% by 2020. The challenges are real, but very solvable.

Source: FedEx

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Introducing EV Power Systems

EV Power Systems Schematic

Here is yet another company willing to convert existing vehicles to dramatically improve fuel economy. Of all the free money issued by the US Government these days, wouldn't a subsidy for this type of conversion be appropriate? If we could convert even one third of our existing light duty truck fleet then there would be a savings of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily. Indeed, VW has estimated that if one third of the US fleet was converted to diesel engines, the savings would be 1.4 million barrels per day. There are so many ways we can reduce our consumption of imported oil yet none of the solutions seems to be taking hold. The technology is here, now but the willingness and support is absent.


EVPS has developed, tested and is taking orders for our commercial retrofit PHEV designed for pick-up trucks and cargo vans. Unlike other companies, EVPS retrofits/converts existing trucks with an affordable, effective, technology neutral plug-in hybrid-electric drive system that does not require changes to the internal-combustion engine, transmission, vehicle support systems or emissions equipment. See more photos of the light-duty hybrid system. Check out the brochure for more information.

  • Retains engine, transmission, emissions equipment
  • Retains factory systems -- HVAC, power equipment, etc.
  • 25-40% improved mpg (est.) in start/stop driving
  • 25+% reduced tailpipe emissions
  • On-board charger -- 120V/240V outlets
  • Vehicle continues to operate if hybrid system inoperable for some reason
  • Hybrid systems transferable to another vehicle
  • One-day installation

Chevrolet Colorado Chevrolet Silverado

Chevrolet Will Debut 2011 Cruze Eco at NY Show

Auto shows are seemingly endless with events in the US and around the world scheduled every month. The next edition will be the New York Auto Show where Chevrolet will proudly display the 2011 Cruze Eco. Certainly this car will be a success and maybe even the flagship of Chevy sedans. Our beef is the 40 mpg highway rating. Why can't we achieve greater mileages in a compact car on the highway? All we hear is how technology is improving and internal combustion engines are uber-efficient, lean and mean machines. Really? Can 50 mpg on the highway be that difficult of a target in a compact car? We think not and believe the major auto manufacturers are purposefully dragging their feet. Consider the VW Jetta Sportswagen diesel attains 41 mpg on the highway with a larger frame and better performance.

C'mon GM, you can do better.

From Green Car Congress:

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Click to enlarge.

At the upcoming New York International Auto Show, Chevrolet will reveal the compact 2011 Cruze Eco—the high-efficiency model referenced last year that will deliver an estimated 40 mpg on the highway using a 1.4L Ecotec turbo with variable valve timing mated to a six-speed manual transmission. (Earlier post.) Along with the Eco, the 2011 Cruze will be offered in LS, LT and LTZ trims.

City fuel economy, as well as estimates for the Cruze Eco equipped with an available six-speed automatic transmission, will be finalized closer to launch. The Cruze Eco will be available in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The Eco achieves greater fuel economy using a number of features that enhance its aerodynamics, minimize weight and reduce rolling resistance. Details include:

  • A lower front grille air shutter that closes at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics and opens at lower speeds to optimize engine-cooling airflow.
  • The upper grille has more “closeouts” to improve aerodynamics.
  • A lower front air dam extension, extensive use of underbody panels and a rear spoiler enhance aerodynamics.
  • A lowered ride height improves aerodynamics.
  • Unique 17-inch lightweight aluminum wheels.
  • Ultra-low rolling resistance 17-inch Goodyear tires.

The axle ratio on the manual-transmission model is also optimized for fuel economy, while helping the car deliver confident performance. Chevrolet estimates the Cruze Eco will deliver 0-60 mph performance of about 10 seconds with the manual transmission and 9 seconds with the six-speed automatic.

Cruze’s 1.4L Ecotec turbo is standard on Eco, LT and LTZ models. Rated at an estimated at 138 hp (103 kW) and 148 lb-ft of torque (200 N·m), it enables a cruising range of more than 500 miles (800 km). At approximately 100 horsepower per liter, the new turbocharged 1.4L has the power of a larger engine but retains the efficiency of a small-displacement four-cylinder in most driving conditions.

The 1.4L’s turbocharger is integrated within the exhaust manifold, for reduced weight and greater packaging flexibility in smaller vehicles. A reinforced crankshaft and stronger connecting rods are unique, delivering additional strength to support the engine’s pressurized, high-rpm performance.

Standard on LS models is a 1.8L Ecotec four-cylinder rated at an estimated 136 hp (184 kW) and 123 lb-f. of torque (166 N·m). Backing the Cruze’s engines are six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

Cruze models for the United States and Canada will be produced at the Lordstown, Ohio assembly complex. In February, Chevrolet announced the addition of a third shift at Lordstown that will add 1,200 workers to support a ramp-up of Cruze production. More than $350 million has been invested to re-tool the plant and add new manufacturing equipment.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Infiniti To Introduce EV in 2014, Based on Nissan LEAF

The Infinity Essence, Precursor To EV?

Now we see that the Infinity brand wants to hop on the electrification bandwagon and is announcing a model slated for 2014. 2014? Huh? That is four years from now and represents an Infinity in terms of technological advances (pun intended, sorry). Who knows, in four years automobiles could be propelled by nuclear reactors or even flux capacitors (Back to the Future model). Nevertheless, we are thrilled to see yet another player in the EV marketplace. Electric cars should represent the future as the infrastructure is already in place with 110 volt outlets being ubiquitous.

What is puzzling about this announcement is the timeline. If they are basing the new EV upon the Nissan Leaf, which will be released this year, then why would it take four years to bring the more upscale Infinity model to market? All the hard work is already finished.

From Gas2.0:

According to a report on the Top Gear website, the much-anticipated Infiniti performance electric car won’t arrive until 2014. This comes even after previous suggestions from Nissan that we might see it as early as 2012. Top Gear is also reporting that the Infiniti EV will be based on the Nissan LEAF platform but have completely different styling and upgraded performance.

Although the above pic is of the Infiniti Essence concept unveiled in Geneva, the styling is indicative of where Infiniti has been headed as of late. Because the Infiniti EV will be based on the LEAF platform, you can expect it to be Infiniti’s smallest car. Although there is no official comment from Nissan on this revelation, Nissan has always stated that their Infiniti EV would be based on LEAF technology.

Back in October, Nissan’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, said that a concept Infiniti EV is being developed for a “stylish, compact, high performance four-seat luxury Infiniti with zero emissions” that matches up to Infiniti’s hallmark of “inspired performance.”

According to Top Gear, when they asked “the boss of Infiniti” why Infiniti is choosing to take the path of smaller, more affordable EVs rather than the ultra-expensive supercar EVs like Audi with its e-tron, this unnamed individual responded “We’re not doing EVs for a limited number of people. We want lots of buyers quickly, so we are making a family car. We have no intention to make a niche EV. Besides, big vehicles are too heavy for today’s batteries, which is why our car will be compact.”

Take this report for what it’s worth, considering there are no named sources. 2014 seems like a long way away for a company that wants to dominate the EV market from upscale to everyman. Perhaps they meant the Infiniti EV would be released in Britain in 2014? I’ll bet we see a release in the US as soon as 2012 for an Infiniti-branded EV. We might even see the concept at next week’s New York Auto Show.

Friday, March 26, 2010

More EV's On The Way From Opel

Sleek and Sassy Opel Ampera

General Motors is planning more extended-range electric vehicles for Europe, including models positioned both above and below the Ampera, according to newly installed Opel/Vauxhall boss Nick Reilly. Each car will have its own distinctive styling, as hinted at by the Flextreme GTE concept unveiled at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show.

Although respectively based on the next-generation Corsa platform and the Insignia's Epsilon platform, the modifications required to accommodate the E-REV drivetrain more than justify unique styling for each car, says Reilly.

He adds that the third-generation Volt/Ampera will have a battery pack designed to last significantly less than the 10 years of the current car, and that it will be configured for easy removal and replacement. The aim is to reduce the price of E-REV models. The Ampera's price is pushed higher by the cost of its large battery pack as well as the sophistication of its drivetrain.

Concern over crash protection led to the Ampera's hard-to-remove battery pack design, but new construction methods and the desire to offer a more flexible battery choice has prompted a change of strategy, as has the realization that the cost of a battery change at 10 years may not be economically viable given the value of the car itself at that point. GM plans to offer buyers several battery choices. A lower range will allow for smaller battery packs and lower prices.

As for the prospects of the existing Ampera, scheduled to go on sale in Europe during the summer of 2011, Reilly says Opel has several sizable orders from European governments and fleets — enough to sell the 2011 allocation, which will come from the U.S. And London's Metropolitan Police may use Vauxhall Amperas for Olympic Games duties in 2012. Reilly says that the decision on which European plant will make the Ampera will be made in about a year.

Meanwhile, Opel's new city car, development of which has been restarted for a 2012 launch, will also be offered in battery-electric form in 2013, says Reilly. It will provide the brand with its first pure-electric model. It's believed that GM may be evaluating this version for sale in the U.S., giving it a competitor to the electric Fiat 500 under development with Chrysler.

Partly inspired by the ingeniously packaged 2004 Opel Trixx concept car, development of this sub-Corsa offering was abandoned until Reilly revived the project. He believes that buyers are now willing to pay more for a higher-priced compact city car if it's well finished, sophisticated and offers a wide choice of options, as demonstrated by the Mini, the Fiat 500 and the Toyota iQ.

"We've learned how to make money on small cars in Asia," he notes. The company appears confident that it can turn a profit from higher list prices, more option sales and by using the GM-DAT, Korea-sourced next-generation Corsa platform.

Reilly is keen to get a pure electric car to market as soon as possible, because he reckons that the market and the evolution of battery-electric-vehicles will happen much faster than analysts and some rival car companies believe. BEVs and hybrids could take as much as 15-20 percent of the market by 2015, he thinks.

A key driver is China, which is investing massively in battery technology, and Reilly believes the country leads the industry in electric vehicle R&D, closely followed by South Korea. Reilly predicts that the Chinese government will restrict car use in both Shanghai and Beijing for emissions reasons, among others, creating a market for BEVs.

Once this has developed, it will provide China with a strong commercial base from which to drive exports. Limiting the country's oil dependence is another reason for the push to electrification. The increasing willingness of local and national governments to incentivize electric cars will also speed up their acceptance.

The extension of Opel's eco-model range will provide a counter to the current range, which despite being relatively fresh falls behind in some areas in terms of diesel and CO2 emissions competitiveness, says Reilly.

That's partly because the current range of Opels is too heavy, he admits. "I would say we didn't recognize the need for weight reduction as quickly as we could have done. Weight was not a top priority when we were developing the Astra and Insignia [a.k.a. the Buick Regal], but it is now." Reilly says that GM is currently evaluating the benefits of slimming down the Delta and Epsilon platforms that they are based on versus starting afresh with new platforms.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Daimler and BYD Team Up to Develop an Electric Vehicle in China

The BYD e6 Electric Vehicle

Germany's Daimler AG will work with BYD Co. of China to develop an electric vehicle to be sold on the Chinese market.

Under the agreement, Daimler and BYD will develop a new electric vehicle specific to the requirements of the Chinese market. The vehicle will be marketed under a new brand jointly created and owned by Daimler and BYD. In addition, a common technology center will be established in China to develop, design and test this electric vehicle.

The agreement follows Daimler's deal with Tesla Motors, the California EV-maker, to partner to manufacture electric vehicles. China last year became the world's largest market for cars, and its many densely populated cities make it a desirable location for electric cars.

Wang Chuanfu, BYD's chairman and president, said in a statement issued today that "with this technology partnership, we have created a win-win business model with complimentary competences. We are very excited about this opportunity to work together with Daimler, the inventor of the automobile."

Dieter Zetsche, Daimler chairman and the head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said BYD's experience in battery technology will help the team produce a competitive car.

"Daimler's know-how in electric vehicle architecture and BYD's excellence in battery technology and e-drive systems are a perfect match. Thus, we will be able to participate in the potential growth of electric mobility in China, currently the largest auto market of the world," Zetsche said.

Outlook and Implications

BYD already has an alliance with Volkswagen to develop vehicles with alternative powertrains and it is perhaps strange that VW did not look to pursue this opportunity itself.

Despite its relatively young age, BYD has made significant progress so far in both battery manufacturing - where it is now one of the top manufacturers of nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride, and lithium-ion rechargeable cells - and the manufacture of passenger cars.

The automaker received approval for mass production and sales of its F3DM plug-in hybrid vehicle in the Chinese market at the end of 2008 and is now following this up with the e6 pure-EV. BYD aims to launch its e6 model in the U.S. and Europe during the second half of this year. The company is also exploring the possibility of tapping into solar energy to power its future range of EVs.

Meanwhile, Daimler has already revealed that globally it will focus on using alternative powertrains and other fuel-efficient technologies to combat the intensifying competition from local rivals such as BMW and VW's Audi brand.

Daimler recently introduced the electric version of its Smart compact car and is due to launch a pure-electric version of its Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and it has been looking at the potential for launching these vehicles in the Chinese market over the past few months.

With its many metropolitan areas, China has the potential to be among the world's largest markets for zero-emission vehicles. Moreover, Daimler already has an alliance with Tesla Motors to develop alternative-fuel vehicles, and this agreement with BYD will help its pursuits in the sector further.

However, the key challenge for the new Daimler-BYD alliance will be the intense competition from Japanese majors such as Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi, as well as the fast-growing own-brand portfolios of smaller Chinese automakers such as Chery Auto, Geely Group, and the like.

The Japanese automakers already have their battery-supply alliances for alternative-fuel vehicles in place with Panasonic, NEC, and GS Yuasa, respectively, while the Chinese peers are eyeing sourcing from Taiwan under the impending cross-strait import treaty.

Chinese automakers Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and Geely Group have also formed alliances with U.S.-based suppliers to increase the development of EVs.

The support infrastructure is being put in place across China to make EVs commercially viable in the months and years ahead, with a growing network of charging stations being rolled out across the country. In addition, the government has already announced a $1.5-billion package to promote the usage of alternative-fuel vehicles in public transport, taxi services, and other sectors across 13 local cities including Beijing and Shanghai. There is no doubt that this JV is an exciting development for both companies, with Daimler particularly proactive in investing in its alternative-powertrain and electric-car strategy. This new alliance is a huge opportunity for both companies to exploit the massive growth potential for EVs in the world's biggest automotive market.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Freightliner To Make Electric Vans Utilizing Tesla Battery Packs

An All-Electric Freightliner Van

It seems there are headlines similar to this one every day lately. Delivery vans that drive the same routes are ideal candidates for electrification. Think of the savings in gasoline, maintenance and pollution if fleet operators such as the USPS, FedEx and UPS all converted to electric vans. Certainly, the initial cost is high but the dividend is great when factored over the lifetime of the vehicle. The uncertainty of the Tesla battery pack's longevity would be the main "X" factor for Freightliner.

From Gas2.0:

Electric might not seem very practical for most of the population right now, but for many companies that employ fleets of vehicles, they make all the sense on the world. Many fleet vehicles don’t wander too far from home base, and often run the same route every day. Without the cost of gas or maintaince, companies would have much more money to use to improve their business and could also lower costs.

Freightliner, a big trucking company who already has natural gas and hybrid vehicles on the road, has turned to Tesla to provide battery packs for their upcoming line of electric vans.

Tesla’s Roadster uses a battery pack that contains more than 2,000 lithium cells much like you find in laptops. It is part of the reason why the Roadster costs north of $100,000. The truck uses three individual 18.5 kWh packs, which provides 55.5 kilowatt hours of total power, good for about 150 miles or so depending on how you drive. The Freightliner vans will have a range “north” of 100 miles, depending on payload and how many battery packs they add on.

The vans are actually lighter with the electric drivetrain, despite the 900 pounds of batteries. The Enova motor provides peak power of 160 horsepower, so don’t expect these vans to be lightning fast. But everything fits in the frame, and it can support up to five individual packs for 92.5 kilowatts of power and even more range. Sounds like Tesla is branching out beyond passenger cars, and good thing too. The electrification of the fleet market would go a long way towards reducing emissions and gaining widespread acceptance for electric cars.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chrysler Group LLC to Develop New Fiat 500 Electric Vehicle for the United States

The Sporty Fiat 500 EV

Chrysler Group LLC to Develop New Fiat 500 Electric Vehicle for the United States
  • New Fiat 500EV demonstrates benefits of Chrysler Group and Fiat Group alliance
  • Zero-emission Fiat 500EV provides an environmentally friendly, clean, quiet driving experience freeing customers from escalating fuel costs and costly oil changes
  • Department of Energy provides up to $48 million grant toward test fleet of 140 Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
  • PHEV technology to improve fuel economy up to 65 percent with up to 20 mile electric-only driving range
Auburn Hills, Mich., Mar 22, 2010 -

Chrysler Group LLC today announced its plans to engineer and produce a pure electric vehicle using the Fiat 500 platform. Shown earlier this year at the 2010 North American International Auto Show, the Fiat 500EV demonstrates the immediate benefits of the alliance between Chrysler Group and the Fiat Group as well as the speed at which the two companies can work together on advanced vehicle programs.

“The alliance with Fiat presented new opportunities to merge Chrysler Group engineering knowledge with new platforms and the Fiat 500EV is an outstanding example of our efforts,” said Scott Kunselman, Senior Vice President Engineering—Chrysler Group LLC. “The Fiat 500 is a small, lightweight platform perfect for integrating electric-vehicle technology.”

The Fiat 500EV powertrain is comprised of three main systems; high power electric powertrain module, advance lithium ion battery, and an EV control unit to manage power flows. Beginning in 2012, Chrysler Group will manufacture the Fiat 500EV for the United States market. All powertrain engineering and vehicle development will take place at Chrysler Group headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. Pricing will be announced closer to launch, but will be competitive with similar electric vehicles in the market.

Chrysler Group is the vehicle electrification center of competence for both Chrysler Group and Fiat Group. The company is exploring ways to promote zero-emission transportation and the development of an electric-vehicle charging infrastructure through partnerships to be announced in the future.

Last year Chrysler Group announced the company’s intention to build the Fiat 500 with a combustion engine for North America. The vehicle will debut in late 2010.

Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)
Chrysler Group has been selected for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $48 million as part of a $2.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act DOE Vehicle Electrification program. Chrysler Group is planning to build a total of 140 Ram PHEVs for a three-year demonstration project that includes various geographic and climatic locations across the United States.

“This initiative represents how government, automotive industry, suppliers and key partners are reaching common goals and demonstrates how rapidly this type of advanced technology can be brought to market,” said Paolo Ferrero, Senior Vice President—Powertrain, Chrysler Group LLC. “DOE-support for domestic advanced technology is an important enabler for Chrysler Group and its key suppliers in order to understand and test customer acceptance and the capability of PHEV systems in a variety of real-world conditions.”

The Ram PHEV features Chrysler Group’s 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a two mode hybrid transmission and a 12KwHr lithium ion battery. The vehicle is capable of up to 20 miles of zero-emission, pure-electric range without the need for gasoline. An overall fuel economy improvement more than 65 percent is expected for average drive cycles. Chrysler Group has partnered with Electrovaya Inc. to supply the advanced lithium Ion batteries for the Ram PHEV test fleet.

The DOE grant will expedite the development of vehicle-electrification technology. More than 21 Chrysler Group partners across the U.S., including utility companies, government agencies and Universities will independently test the Ram PHEV and provide valuable data for the advancement of the technology.

In 2008, Chrysler Group announced the company’s intention to bring a Ram Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) to market. After closely evaluating the response to hybrid pickups in the marketplace, the company could not formulate an appropriate business case and has decided to cancel development work on the 2011 Ram HEV.

Chrysler Group’s alliance with Fiat Group brings new platforms and technologies that allow the company to create an improved long-term product strategy with greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Chrysler Group’s five-year plan has an uncompromising product schedule, including a progressive vehicle electrification strategy.

About Chrysler Group LLC
Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., Chrysler Group LLC’s product lineup features some of the world's most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Jeep Wrangler and Ram Truck. Fiat will contribute world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-sized cars, allowing Chrysler Group to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles.

Source: Chrysler Media

BYD (Build Your Dreams) To Open Sales of F3DM PHEV to Public

The BYD F3DM Plug-In Hybrid

BYD Auto says it will place its F3DM dual-mode plug-in electric vehicle on sale to individual buyers on 29 March, with the first sales location to be Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. BYD has sold more than 100 units to governments, banks and other institutions since it entered the market at the end of 2008.

We eagerly await the BYD lineup to go on sale here in the States.

However, the price at 149,800 per car nearly doubled the price of cars that run on conventional fuel. BYD dare not to open sales to the personal buyers without the subsidies from government.

...As one of the first 13 cities to implement energy-saving and new energy vehicles, Shenzhen plans to have 24,000 such cars on the road in 2012 and 100,000 cars in 2015. Some insiders expect that the local government in Shenzhen will not rule out offering subsidies for residents buying BYD’s F3DM, so as to improve the development of electric cars. During the Two Sessions in 2010, Li Yizhong, minister of Information and Industrial Technology, said that the ministry was discussing subsidies for new energy vehicles amounting to tens of thousand yuan with the Ministry of Finance. That gives more confidence for Shenzhen government and BYD to grab the opportunity of electric vehicles.

Source: Peoples Daily

Monday, March 22, 2010

Zenn Motor Company Organizational Update


Zenn and EESU are supposed to do great things and change the world with their ultra capacitors. So far, it is all smoke and mirrors but everyone is really pulling for this technology to materialize and be successful. This is basically a press release that announces a future press release!

ZENN Motor Company Inc., ("ZMC" or the "Company") /quotes/comstock/11v!znn (CA:ZNN 2.54, -0.04, -1.55%) a leading enabler of zero emission transportation solutions, today announced comprehensive organizational changes in support of its go-forward strategy.

The Company has ceased production of the ZENN LSV and the successful sell-down of remaining inventory and ground stock is largely complete. As such, the Company has been able to complete planned organizational changes that reflect its transition from manufacturer to solutions developer. This has resulted in an overall reduction of 15 permanent employees that supported the sales, marketing and production of the ZENN LSV. These changes, along with other initiatives and the previously announced closure of the Company's Saint Jerome production facility, will significantly reduce the Company's on-going rate of spend.

"The entire staff is to be commended for their continued professionalism during this period of transition," stated Ian Clifford, Chief Executive Officer of ZENN Motor Company. "With these changes, we are able to ensure maximum focus of our human and financial resources towards executing on our ZENNergy strategy."

The Company will elaborate upon its status and plans at its upcoming Annual and Special Meeting of Shareholders being held on March 24, 2010 at the TMX Broadcast Centre which will also be webcast. Details can be found at

About ZENN Motor Company Inc.

ZENN Motor Company, Toronto, Canada, is dedicated to being a global leader in enabling zero emission transportation solutions for markets around the world. Driven by quality, ingenuity and a philosophy of social responsibility, the ZMC team is redefining what is possible in the electrification of transportation.

ZENNergy technologies and solutions, to be powered by EEStor's electrical energy storage units (EESU) are expected to enable OEM and Tier 1 partners to deliver advanced electric transportation solutions to their customers. The Company has a Technology Agreement with EEStor that provides certain exclusive and non- exclusive rights to purchase and deploy EEStor's EESU technology, which rights are detailed in the Company's AIF.

Forward-looking Statements

Certain statements in this release, other than statements of historical fact, may include forward-looking information that involves various risks and uncertainties that face the Company; such statements may contain such words as "may", "would", "could", "will", "intend", "plan", "anticipate", "believe", "estimate", "expect" and similar expressions, and may be based on management's current assumptions and expectations related to all aspects of the automotive industry, consumer demand for zero emission transportation solutions and the global economy. Risks and uncertainties that may face the Company include, but are not restricted to: the EEStor energy storage technology may not be successfully commercialized at all, in a manner providing the features and benefits expected while under development, or on a timely basis or the Company may not be able to successfully incorporate this technology into its current or proposed products; the Company could fail in its efforts to develop viable ZENNergy technologies and solutions or do so on a timely basis; steps taken by the Company to protect its proprietary rights may not be adequate or third parties may infringe or misappropriate the Company's proprietary rights; the Company has a history of losses from operations and may not be able to obtain financing, if and when required, to fund future expenditures for general administrative activities, including sales and marketing and research and development, expansion, strategic acquisitions or investment opportunities or to respond to competitive pressures; competitors may develop products which offer greater benefits to consumers, have greater market appeal or are more competitively priced than those offered by the Company; the Company may be exposed to product liability claims which exceed insurance policy limits; the Company is dependent on the ability and experience of a relatively small number of key personnel; new products introduced by the Company may not be accepted in the market or to the extent projected; new laws and regulations may be enacted or existing ones may be applied or governmental action may be taken in a manner which could limit or curtail the production or sale of the Company's products; and the Company may be negatively affected by reduced consumer spending due to the uncertainty of economic and geopolitical conditions.

These risks and uncertainties may cause actual results to differ from information contained in this release, when estimates and assumptions have been used to measure and report results. There can be no assurance that any statements of forward-looking information contained in this release will prove to be accurate. Actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. These and all subsequent written and oral statements containing forward-looking information are based on the estimates and opinions of management on the dates they are made and expressly qualified in their entirety by this notice. Except as required by applicable laws, the Company assumes no obligation to update forward-looking statements should circumstances or management's estimates or opinions change. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any statements of forward looking information that speak only as of the date of this release. Additional information identifying risks and uncertainties relating to the Company's business are contained under the heading "Risk Factors" in ZMC's current Annual Information Form and its other filings with the various Canadian securities regulators which are available online at

Information contained in this release relating to EEStor, Inc. or the energy storage technology being developed by EEStor has not been reviewed by EEStor and EEStor does not assume any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such information.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Chrysler To Receive $48M to Develop Ram Plug-In Hybrid Pickups; Conventional Ram Hybrid Dead


Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

- Department of Energy provides up to $48 million grant toward test fleet of 140 Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
- PHEV technology to improve fuel economy up to 65 percent with up to 20 mile electric-only driving range

Auburn Hills, Mich., Mar 22, 2010 -

Chrysler Group has been selected for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $48 million as part of a $2.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act DOE Vehicle Electrification program. Chrysler Group is planning to build a total of 140 Ram PHEVs for a three-year demonstration project that includes various geographic and climatic locations across the United States.

“This initiative represents how government, automotive industry, suppliers and key partners are reaching common goals and demonstrates how rapidly this type of advanced technology can be brought to market,” said Paolo Ferrero, Senior Vice President-Powertrain, Chrysler Group LLC. “DOE-support for domestic advanced technology is an important enabler for Chrysler Group and its key suppliers in order to understand and test customer acceptance and the capability of PHEV systems in a variety of real-world conditions.”

The Ram PHEV features Chrysler Group’s 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a two mode hybrid transmission and a 12KwHr lithium ion battery. The vehicle is capable of up to 20 miles of zero-emission, pure-electric range without the need for gasoline. An overall fuel economy improvement more than 65 percent is expected for average drive cycles. Chrysler Group has partnered with Electrovaya Inc. to supply the advanced lithium Ion batteries for the Ram PHEV test fleet.

The DOE grant will expedite the development of vehicle-electrification technology. More than 21 Chrysler Group partners across the U.S., including utility companies, government agencies and Universities will independently test the Ram PHEV and provide valuable data for the advancement of the technology.

In 2008, Chrysler Group announced the company’s intention to bring a Ram Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) to market. After closely evaluating the response to hybrid pickups in the marketplace, the company could not formulate an appropriate business case and has decided to cancel development work on the 2011 Ram HEV.

Chrysler Group’s alliance with Fiat Group brings new platforms and technologies that allow the company to create an improved long-term product strategy with greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Chrysler Group’s five-year plan has an uncompromising product schedule, including a progressive vehicle electrification strategy.

Electric Taxis Showing Up In Tokyo

Hinomaru Limousine Co. is introducing two Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric taxis into service around Tokyo Station—Tokyo’s first in-service electric taxis.
The ZeROTAXI. Click to enlarge.

The new cabs will be available in the Marunouchi, Otemachi and Yurakucho business districts during the daytime on weekdays. The EVs—dubbed ZeROTAXIs—will only take short-haul passengers.

Electrically powered cars are already used for taxi service in some regional cities, such as Okayama and Matsuyama, according to the Nikkei.

Source: Nikkei

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Europe’s Greenest Driver Contest Offers a Free Opel Ampera

The Exciting Opel Ampera

Here is a fun post. Opel is going to challenge drivers to prove their "green driving" aptitude with the reward being a plug-in hybrid Ampera. The Ampera is Chevy Volts European sister that offers 40 miles range in electric only mode and then another 260 miles or so running the combustion engine genset. Wonder why Chevy didn't do likewise here in the States? This kind of contest makes for great publicity and marketing, in our opinion.

Press Release:

Ampera seeks an owner: Starting signal for pan-European fuel-saving event

When the ecoFLEX Experience kicks off April 1, Opel will be looking throughout the continent for the driver who squeezes every last efficient drop out of the Opel models’ fuel-saving potential. Drivers must first show their fuel efficiency smarts in an online quiz before moving to an Internet simulator to prove their virtual driving and gas-saving abilities. The best – the most environmentally friendly driver from each of the 20 participating countries – will be invited to a multi-day event in Sweden this summer. Under the supervision of professionals, the finalists will square off in a pan-European competition at the Sturup Raceway in Malmö. The greenest driver will then be named the ecoFLEX Experience champion. The winner can look forward to a special prize: one of the very first Opel Ampera production cars, which guarantee the environmentally friendly mobility of tomorrow. Interested participants can register online now.

The pre-production model of the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) recently successfully completed its first long-distance drive on public roads with a trip from Rüsselsheim to Geneva. The Ampera’s 16 kWh lithium-ion battery allows it to travel 60 kilometers electrically – completely emission-free. After that, a gasoline-fueled engine starts to generate electricity to drive the wheels for the remainder of the journey. And there’s plenty of driving fun along the way: The exceptionally quiet 111 kW/150 hp electric motor delivers 370 Newton meters of torque from a standstill. It accelerates the Ampera from zero to 100 km/h in around nine seconds and can reach a maximum speed of 161 km/h.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Nissan LEAF $45K Pricing Rumor - A Closer Look

The Eagerly Anticipated Nissan Leaf

This week an article appeared on a Japanese website called Mainichi that proclaimed the Nissan Leaf's MSRP to be less than 4 million yen, or about $44,000 US. Of course, the rumor spread like wildfire and we were tempted to post the news here, but refrained upon further review. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, had maintained that the Leaf would be comparably priced to a similar sized, well equipped Nissan sedan. Obviously, that price point would be more like $25,000 to $30,000 US.

In another month, rumors and speculation will be moot as Nissan will officially announce the Leaf's price. We can't wait and if they can offer the Leaf for $33,000 or less, we will pull the trigger. Factoring in the $7,500 Federal Tax rebate brings us in around $25,000 which is a fantastic bargain for an all electric vehicle.

From Gas2.0:

The unbridled internet rumor mill is both a thing of beauty and an incredibly annoying echo chamber. The latest one to get lost in translation: Nissan has priced the LEAF electric car at $45,000.

Given that Nissan has consistently said for a year now that the LEAF will be comparably priced to a conventional sedan of the the same size and capabilities, this is one rumor that just doesn’t hold much water. Although many have seemed to take it at face value.

It all started with an article in the Japanese Mainichi Daily News that claimed Nissan had set a price for the upcoming LEAF EV in Japan at “less than 4 million yen” (about $44,000 at today’s exchange rates). That rather tentative statement got translated across the ether over the course of 24 hours as all of the following: “Nissan LEAF said to cost $40,000 in Japan,” “LEAF to sell for under $45K,” “LEAF price between $38,600 and $44,300,” and “LEAF priced at $38,500+ in Japan.”

Never mind that “less than 4 million yen” could mean anything between zero and 4 million. Take other indicators such as a complete lack of any corroborating evidence in the article: no source, no timeline for a conversation, no indication of where their information came from. I’m not even a real journalist and I can tell you that the article is complete bunk. In the world of blogging, when I see a post like that I ignore it.

Anyway, because it’s gotten such widespread attention as something to take seriously, I reached out to Nissan today to get their sense of this latest rumor, and, just as she’s said on multiple blogs in the last 24 hours, Nissan’s Katherine Zachary again said that the report in the Mainichi Daily is purely speculative and that all along Nissan has said the LEAF will be “affordable.” She also added that in the last year Nissan has never given any of their own speculative numbers even close to $40,000 for LEAF pricing.

Look, the reality of the situation is that Nissan will be revealing official pricing within the next month. If we want to get a realistic picture of the range of prices we could expect them to announce, it turns out to be pretty easy to calculate. A conventional sedan of comparable size loaded with the same gadgetry as the LEAF costs roughly 25K on today’s US market. It’s not clear if Nissan means the car will be that affordable price after the federal EV tax credit of $7,500 or not, so, accounting for that and adding a little slop in there, we can say at the low end, the LEAF will cost 25k and at the high end the leaf will cost 35K.

Seriously, that’s it. When Nissan announces LEAF pricing before tax credits, it will be between 25K and 35K dollars. I’ll stake my reputation on it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

GM Sets Sights For 2015 Commercialization Target Of Their Fuel Cell Products - VIDEO

Fuel cells never seem to die or go away. Why is that? Apparently, GM doesn't want to give up or throw in the towel, so they are pushing to bring this to market no matter what. These vehicles cost a cool million apiece. Can they really be sold in enough volumes to bring economies of scale savings to bear? We think it is a pipe dream, to be honest.

Here is a video that describes the fuel cell assembly.

Could GM See a Profit As Well As An IPO in 2010?

Seems unlikely, although the scenario in the title line could happen. How does a bankrupt company that was once publicly traded, then gets bailed out by the government, then emerges from bankruptcy now find itself poised for IPO? Only in America, it would seem.

From Automotive News:

General Motors, Co., has a "reasonable chance" to show a profit in 2010 after five years of losses and could sell shares by late this year though it has no timetable for an IPO that would reduce the U.S. government's majority stake, CFO Chris Liddell said.

Liddell, speaking to reporters for the first time in his new role after joining GM from Microsoft Corp., said the automaker would not rush into an initial public offering.

"Even in the few months I've been here, I've been encouraged by the progress we've made, but when it will all come together is impossible to say," Liddell said of the timing for GM to return as a listed company.

GM received $50 billion of government financing to restructure in a bankruptcy steered by the U.S. Treasury, which owns almost 61 percent of the automaker.

Liddell said GM's restructuring has given it a shot at success by cutting costs and debt as it emerged from bankruptcy in July.

"The preconditions for success are extremely good -- although maybe not so obvious to people when they look from the outside," Liddell said.

He added: "I think we have a reasonable chance of being profitable this year. Relative to where we were a few years ago, that's enormous progress."

Turnaround temptation

GM has lost a combined $88 billion since last posting an annual profit in 2004. Liddell said the opportunity to be part of a turnaround at the automaker was part of the attraction as he weighed three other offers to leave Microsoft late last year.

"People say, 'why would you leave this incredibly comfortable existence?'" he said.

"I had got to the stage at Microsoft where, after five years, I felt I had made all the difference I could and was reaching the point of diminishing returns."

Liddell, who took a month off after leaving Microsoft, said the three other offers were with technology companies. He turned them down to join GM.

"I like to joke that this was the hardest job, this was the least amount of pay, this was the toughest situation I was looking at," he said. "But other than that, it was an entirely rational decision."

"If I can be part of a team that helps the turnaround at GM, that's something I can be proud of in 10 or 20 years," he said

Liddell, 51, a New Zealand native, is being paid a salary of $750,000 with $5.45 million in restricted stock and salary stock grants at GM.

His salary exceeds the cap of $500,000 imposed on firms that have taken the U.S. government bailout but an exception was approved for his hiring by Kenneth Feinberg, the U.S. Treasury's special master on pay.

Higher heights?

Liddell is considered a leading candidate to replace GM CEO Ed Whitacre, 68. The CFO was first recruited by Whitacre's predecessor, Fritz Henderson, in September.

He declined to discuss GM's succession plans on Wednesday, saying that it was "way too early" to consider just seven weeks into his term at the automaker.

GM's financial operations were sharply criticized in its slide toward bankruptcy.

Steve Rattner, the former investment banker who headed the Obama administration's autos task force, said the automaker was saddled with "perhaps the weakest finance operation" U.S. officials had seen at a major company.

But Liddell said the GM financial management team was not "as bad as characterized."

"These situations are never as good or as bad as they look from the outside," he said, adding that he had replaced seven of the 11 managers who had reported to him at Microsoft over five years.

"No one really noticed there because the cash flow was coming in every day," he said.

Liddell, who used to drive a Ferrari to commute to Microsoft's campus near Seattle, said he was working his way through a rotation of GM vehicles, starting with the Cadillac Escalade.

"I want to drive everything. I don't want to drive just the top-of-the-line cars," he said. "They're slowly but surely moving me through the whole fleet."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Firefly Energy And Its Lead Acid Batteries Bite The Dust

Back to back battery technology posts. This one is truly depressing and makes you wonder if maybe there are grains of truth in conspiracy theories which espouse evil oil despots quashing electric vehicle technology and acceptance. Here was a company, Firefly who could make lead acid battery technology so much better for electric vehicles and now they are belly up. More's the pity.

From Gas2.0:

When we last brought you news about Firefly nearly two years ago, it was of a more hopeful nature: I had a chance to sit down with the company’s then-Senior Vice President, Mil Ovan, and discuss Firefly’s future.

At the time, Firefly seemed like it was set to take off. With lucrative military and private contracts to change out those institutions’ old hat lead-acid batteries with new ones that were supposed to provide much higher durability, longer charge capacity, and less sensitivity to temperature changes in a lighter and more compact package.

Well, that future is no more. Firefly has officially closed up shop and filed for bankruptcy. Chapter 7 to be exact. The one where all that’s left of the company is liquidated in a fire sale.

Firefly’s claim to fame came in the form of a lead-acid battery that, instead of having heavy, corrodable lead plates, had graphite foam impregnated with lead. That seemingly simple innovation accomplished many key things, including using up to 70% less lead, up to 50% reduction in weight and size, much faster recharge and discharge capabilities, much better cold weather performance, and greatly increased lifetime and durability.

Plus, because it was made with lead, the battery could be manufactured using domestic mineral supplies instead of relying on foreign countries for lithium. To top it off, lead already has a robust recycling program in the US where almost 98% of it gets recycled.

Firefly seemed to have everything going for it. So what happened? According to many reports, Firefly, founded by Mil Ovan and CEO Ed Williams 7 years ago after it was spun off from Caterpillar, couldn’t find the investors needed to get their product to market. You could blame all sorts of issues for this.

Perhaps, in the end, the product was really a non-starter and they couldn’t figure out a way to make it a reality at a price people would swallow? But based on large initial investments from private firms and backing from the US military, I don’t think the actual feasibility of their product was a problem. Lead is cheap, and scaling their already existing manufacturing techniques up to the commercial level likely wasn’t the culprit.

Certainly the financial meltdown and the drying up pool of investors had something to do with it. Let’s face it, lead really isn’t all that sexy. Even the phrase “lead-acid” doesn’t shine a candle to the sexiness of “lithium-ion.” But other next generation battery companies were able to make it through the financial meltdown, so why couldn’t Firefly?

The answer comes from Ovan himself. As quoted over at Green Car Congress, Ovan, who actually left the company last month, said that their military contracts worth more than $5 million weren’t enough to keep the company running. But he also added that the company was disappointed when Firefly failed to get a share of the $2 billion stimulus money distributed by the federal government for advanced battery research. Those funds were almost exclusively distributed to lithium-ion companies.

Truly, the feds seemed to have picked their own favorite sweetheart battery technology as the winner in the next generation battery race. Certainly lithium-ion is a great technology, and it seems that with research we might even be able to increase its capacity by 10 times within the next decade. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also be pursuing other types of advanced batteries too. For instance, Firefly’s lead-acid technology could have been exactly what the trucking industry needed to be able to stop idling all night.

If we want our various industries to continue to innovate in an environment that brings the greatest amount of solutions to our problems in the shortest period of time, the government can’t pick the winners and losers. Having a large variety of solutions available to consumers means that we can solve our problems quicker. Creating an environment that encourages innovation means supporting all promising companies equally. By killing off Firefly, we may have lost an important solution.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New Li-Ion Battery Chemistry Utilizes Silicon Anodes and Provides 5X Capacity

One day. The day will eventually come when there is an utter game changing battery chemistry that can provide a three to five hundred mile all electric range for our autos. The following details the improvement in anode material for a Li-ion battery. Increasing the capacity of these cells by five fold is a great start on our journey to EV nirvana.

From Green Car Congress:

This scanning electron micrograph shows carbon-coated silicon nanoparticles on the surface of the composite granules used to form the new anode. Source: Georgia Tech. Click to enlarge.

Researchers have developed a new high-performance anode structure for lithium-ion batteries based on silicon-carbon nanocomposite materials. Produced via large-scale hierarchical bottom-up assembly, the material contains rigid and robust silicon spheres with irregular channels for rapid access of Li ions into the particle bulk.

The large silicon volume changes on lithium ion insertion and extraction—which can cause structural problems leading to rapid capacity loss—are accommodated by the particle’s internal porosity. The researchers have shown reversible capacities more than five times higher than that of the state-of-the-art graphite anodes (1,950 mAh g-1) and stable performance. The synthesis process is simple, low-cost, safe and broadly applicable, they say, providing new avenues for the rational engineering of electrode materials with enhanced conductivity and power.

Details of the new self-assembly approach were published online in the journal Nature Materials on 14 March.

Development of a novel approach to producing hierarchical anode or cathode particles with controlled properties opens the door to many new directions for lithium-ion battery technology. This is a significant step toward commercial production of silicon-based anode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

—Gleb Yushin, an assistant professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology

Fabrication of the composite anode begins with formation of highly conductive branching structures made from carbon black nanoparticles annealed in a high-temperature tube furnace. Silicon nanospheres with diameters of less than 30 nanometers are then formed within the carbon structures using a chemical vapor deposition process. The silicon-carbon composite structures resemble “apples hanging on a tree.”

Using graphitic carbon as an electrically-conductive binder, the silicon-carbon composites are then self-assembled into rigid spheres that have open, interconnected internal pore channels. The spheres, formed in sizes ranging from 10 to 30 microns, are used to form battery anodes. The relatively large composite powder size—a thousand times larger than individual silicon nanoparticles—allows easy powder processing for anode fabrication.

Proposed schematic for the formation of bulk Si-C nanocomposite electrodes via hierarchical bottom-up assembly. (a) annealed carbon black dendritic particles are (b), coated by Si nanoparticles; (c) composite particles are mixed with a sacrificial binder and compacted into an electrode with open interconnected internal channels. The electrode is then transformed into a solid bulk electrode during annealing. Such electrodes will not require polymeric binders and may exhibit enhanced stability, higher electrical conductivity and larger volumetric capacity. Source: Magasinki et al., Supplementary materials. Click to enlarge.

The internal channels in the silicon-carbon spheres serve two purposes. They admit liquid electrolyte to allow rapid entry of lithium ions for quick battery charging, and they provide space to accommodate expansion and contraction of the silicon without cracking the anode. The internal channels and nanometer-scale particles also provide short lithium diffusion paths into the anode, boosting battery power characteristics.

The size of the silicon particles is controlled by the duration of the chemical vapor deposition process and the pressure applied to the deposition system. The size of the carbon nanostructure branches and the size of the silicon spheres determine the pore size in the composite.

Production of the silicon-carbon composites could be scaled up as a continuous process amenable to ultra high-volume powder manufacturing, Yushin said. Because the final composite spheres are relatively large when they are fabricated into anodes, the self-assembly technique avoids the potential health risks of handling nanoscale powders, he added.

So far, the researchers have tested the new anode through more than a hundred charge-discharge cycles. Yushin believes the material would remain stable for thousands of cycles because no degradation mechanisms have become apparent.

In addition to Yushin, the paper’s authors included Alexandre Magasinki, Patrick Dixon and Benjamin Hertzberg—all from Georgia Tech—and Alexander Kvit from the Materials Science Center and Materials Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Jorge Ayala from Superior Graphite. The paper also acknowledges the contributions of Alexander Alexeev at Georgia Tech and Igor Luzinov from Clemson University.

The research was partially supported by a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to Chicago-based Superior Graphite and Atlanta-based Streamline Nanotechnologies, Inc.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

ALTe Conversion For The F150 - A True Plug-In Hybrid Pickup

Schematic Of ALTe F-150 Drivetrain Conversion

ALTe has the solution. Question is, "Will anyone ever have the guts to use it?" We're talking about their drivetrain overhaul that can take a pickup which only gets 20-some mpg on the highway to a hybrid that can run for more than 50 miles in EV mode. The time for this automobile option has come and we would like to see the manufacturer's offer this as part of their line-up.

From Gas2.0:

I’ve had my fair share of trucks. I know they need to put up with a lot of abuse and neglect. These things are built to be used. Electric cars are coming, and soon, but it might take trucks a bit longer to catch on. Ford is taking a stab at it with its electric Transit Connect van, and Nissan is talking about an electric NV200. But neither is a pickup, and I haven’t seen too many electric trucks demonstrated. There aren’t even any truly viable hybrid pickups.

ALTe has a clever solution that sounds promising. At the World Truck Show, they unveiled an F-150 plug-in hybrid demonstration pickup with a 4-cylinder engine and a 25 kWh battery pack that they make some impressive claims about. For starters, a 52-mile all-electric range, and better gas mileage than most diesels.

I’m hopefully skeptical of this claim, as there are obvious complications when it comes to hybrid trucks. Pickups are tough, and heavy, and a hybrid system has to put up with a lot of abuse. I’m not saying it can’t, but nobody has really made one yet that justifies the extra cost. The Chevy Volt has the same basic setup as the ALTe pickup with a different name for the system (extended-range electric vehicle versus range-extended electric-powertrain).

The v8 engine is replaced by a 2.0 liter Ford four-cylinder engine that powers two electric Remy DC motors that crank out 295 ft-lbs of torque. They are hoping a 25 kWh battery pack will get the F-150 52 miles on an electric charge, at which point the 4-cylinder engine starts powering the motors. ALTe is aiming for 32 mpg with the four-cylinder engine running. The Tesla battery pack has 53 Kwh of power and can go 200 miles on a charge. But it is also a lot lighter and more aerodynamic than a truck as it is basically a Lotus Elise. It certainly sounds feasible, and the truck is supposed to be just 200 lbs heavier than stock. This would give the truck a range of 469 miles, better than the V8 trucks, while using less fuel. Sounds amazing… if they can do it.

According to Green Car Congress, ALTe says they are already in talks with several large car manufacturers. They do happen to have a former President and CEO of Chrysler (Tom LaSorda) and Executive Vice President of North American Sales and Marketing and Global Service and Parts. And Chrysler is, by outward claims, still looking to be a leader in electric cars at some point (although when/if is largely a mystery). This could be a real game changer, as most trucks with gas engines are stuck in the low-20’s still, even on the highway. With a better range and better gas mileage than the equivalent conventional petrol truck, Detroit better be paying attention.

Friday, March 12, 2010

LG Chem to Build $ 303M Li-ion Plant in Holland, MI With A Lot Of Financial Help

LG Chem Ltd. will build its new $303 million lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Holland, Michigan. Scheduled for groundbreaking this summer, the 650,000 square-foot facility will be financed in part from a $151.4 million grant the company received from the US Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the Recovery Act Award for Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative. LG Chem will also make a $151.5 million investment in the facility.

The plant will be operated by LG Chem's North American subsidiary, Compact Power, Inc. At its peak, the plant will produce enough cells for 50,000 to 200,000 vehicle battery packs. LG Chem said it expects the plant to be fully operational in 2012. Initially, the plant will make cells for the Chevrolet Volt.

Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm said an incentive package from the state—which included a $100 million advanced battery cell tax credit, a 15-year job-creation tax credit worth $25.2 million, a Renaissance Zone designation and job-training assistance—helped Michigan seal the deal and win the new battery cell facility over competing national and international sites.

Source: Green Car Congress

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Introducing The Honda 3R-C Concept - An All-Electric Trike

Honda3RCconceptSide.jpgEngineers and designers at Honda are no different than those at other auto companies - always thinking of what might be next.

One difference is that sometimes Honda let's em loose to actually build a concept even though it isn't likely to ever become a production model.

After all, it could trigger a groundswell of demand and really become the next big thing - or pieces of it could be used in a real production vehicle. Who knows?

That's the thinking behind the Honda 3R-C, a battery-electric three-wheeler that looks like a closed-cabin mini-car when parked but opens up into a full-faired trike when in motion.

The plastic canopy that covers the seat and controls to keep weather and other people out when the 3R-C is parked opens to become a windscreen when it is rolling.

There's a lockable storage area up front, and though hard to see in the photos Honda has provided, a set of doors and other body panels and a high-sided safety seat that all help protect the driver in a crash.

Honda3RCconceptRear.jpgThe electric motor and batteries are mounted low in the chassis for increased stability.

Honda plans to show the 3R-C at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show next week.

It was designed at Honda's R&D studio in Milan to explore the idea of single-occupant urban transport and comes just after Nissan showed a two-seat, four-wheeled, fully enclosed urban EV, the LandGlider concept, at the 2009 Tokyo Auto Show.

Both are potential answers to the question of how automakers can continuing to provide personal transport in increasingly crowded, pollution-threatened cities.