Friday, September 30, 2016

40 kWh Battery Gives Renault Zoe 400 Kilometer Range

The Renault Zoe was the best selling electric car in Europe in 2015, even though its range with a 22 kWh battery is only about 85 miles. At the Paris auto show, Renault quietly announced it has increased the size of the Zoe’s battery to 40 kWh, giving the small sedan 400 kilometer of range in the European driving cycle. Renault estimates its real world range at 186 miles in urban and suburban driving at 186 miles. Since the Zoe and Nissan LEAF are corporate cousins, improvements to one may offer hints about improvements to the other.
Renault Zoe
“This month Renault surpassed 100,000 electric vehicles sold and now ZOE will travel up to 250 miles (400km) without recharging. We are continuing to push in areas where innovation matters most for Renault customers. Making it easy for them to choose electric, with new connected services to enhance their driving experience, is a top priority for us and for ZOE customers,” said Renault CEO, Carlos Ghosn.
The new Z.E. battery has almost twice the capacity of the standard 22 kWh battery. It was developed in partnership with LG Chem and uses high density lithium ion technology. LG Chem and Renault were able to increase the energy density of the battery without adding more battery cells. That means it will fit in the same space as the older battery. The engineers also kept it from being significantly heavier.
Renault is pioneering battery leasing programs. The Zoe itself retails for a feather light 23,600 euros. After that, buyers can chose battery leasing plans as low as 69 euros a month up to 119 euros a month, depending on how miles will be driven. Battery leasing eliminates two worries many EV owners have — premature battery failure and technological obsolescence.  It’s a wonder other companies haven’t thought of leasing the batteries in their cars.
For the moment, the Renault Zoe is the lowest prices long range electric car in the world. Everyone invested in the coming green car revolution is anxious to see that record broken many times over in coming years.

How many Chevy Bolt EVs will be sold in the U.S. in its first 12 months? Poll results

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

The largest number of one single battery-electric car sold in the U.S. in a single year is 30,000, the total logged in 2014 by the Nissan Leaf. (Of course, we don't know Tesla's sales because the company doesn't break out its quarterly global delivery totals by country.)

But those were back in the day when affordable electric cars (with prices under, say, $40,000) had ranges of 60 to 85 miles.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is to go on sale in initial markets before the end of this year, is priced at $37,495 before incentives and rated at 238 miles of range by the EPA.
So you might expect it to change the equation. We asked our Twitter followers how many Bolt EVs they thought would be sold in the U.S. during its first 12 months on sale.

How many Chevy Bolt EVs will be sold in the U.S. in its first 12 months?
The options ranged from a low of 15,000 (fewer than the Volt plug-in hybrid is likely to sell this year) to a high of 75,000.
And the selections indicate a certain optimism about the Bolt EV as a game changer.

The most common answer, chosen by about one-third of respondents (32 percent) was 40,000 units.
But both 15,000 and 25,000 were right behind it, with 29 percent and 28 percent of votes respectively.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

Only 11 percent of those who participated in the poll chose the highest option, 75,000 units.
The question of Bolt EV volume has been a contentious one recently, with one supplier quoted last year as saying GM's initial orders indicated a volume of about 30,000 cars.

One analyst, however, suggested that the market for the Bolt EV could be as large as 75,000 cars.

GM has never officially commented on volume, with Kevin Kelly from its advanced-technology communications group saying only that the company was not production-constrained, and could produce as many Bolt EVs as the market demanded.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Toyota Prius May Switch To Plug-In Hybrid Technology Shortly

The Toyota Prius is the gold standard when it comes to fuel economy. The new Prius in Eco trim is capable of going up to 58 miles on a gallon of gas. That would have been unthinkable before Toyota married its hybrid technology to the internal combustion engine. The problem for Toyota is that it has painted itself into a corner. Improving on the Prius with its iconic Synergy Drive will be a tall order. It’s easy to make a Belchfire 5000 with a V-8 engine get 10% better gas mileage, but it’s a whole lot tougher to make a current generation Prius 10% more efficient. Nevertheless, people expect continuous improvements. What’s a poor car company to do?
2017 Prius Prime
According to Shoichi Kaneko, assistant chief engineer for the Prius Prime, creating the next generation Prius will be a difficult challenge. Because Toyota wants to lead the way in transitioning to a fossil fuel free transportation model, just making a better standard hybrid powertrain might not be enough. “Ultimately, PHEV may be the way to go,” Kaneko says.
Back in 2013, Toyota’s managing officer, Satoshi Ogiso, told the press, “To beat your own record becomes very difficult.” To get the current car to where it is today took a lot of small improvements. The engine is the most efficient production internal combustion engine ever built. Engineers took a little weight out here and massaged the sheet metal to get a tiny aerodynamic gain there. Now to get the next generation car up to 60 mpg or more will be incredibly difficult.
That’s why the company is thinking it may need to make plug-in hybrid technology the foundation of the 5th generation Prius when the time comes for it to debut. Making a plug-in hybrid powertrain standard equipment would allow Toyota to get to that next level.  It would move the brand forward while keeping the Prius relevant.
The new Prius Prime plug-in hybrid is the proof of concept car for Toyota’s future plans. Kaneko says Toyota poured a lot of resources into making the Prime the best Prius possible. Part of that is the addition of a new double wishbone rear suspension to improve ride and handling over the old beam axle. If the Prius Prime struggles in the marketplace, that could force Toyota to reconsider its plug-in hybrid strategy.
That would be unfortunate. Purist bemoan plug-ins as a stop gap measure, but it seems clear they will be an important part of the electric car revolution, at least for the next decade or so. If the Prius Prime has a lackluster sales performance, it will probably have more to do with its polarizing styling than its plug-in hybrid powertrain. The new car, with its multitude of slashes and creases, and its ungainly front and rear treatments, is unlikely to make anyone’s Top 10 Car Designs list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Axial Stack Battery May Make The Electric Airplane Possible

People roll their eyes when they hear talk about an electric airplane, especially if that talk is about large passenger planes, the ones that move millions of people around the world every day. The sad truth is that commercial aircraft are some of the worst polluters in the transportation sector, even though improvements have been made in recent year and more are coming.

Axial stack battery for electric airplane
We can envision a small electric airplane flying on going a short distance — a few miles, perhaps — but a 747 loaded with 300+ passengers and all their luggage flying from Boston to Barcelona on battery power? That’s the stuff of fantasy, isn’t it? Not if your name is Luke Workman, a mad scientist type of inventor/experimenter/innovator. Workman is the father of such things as the Death Bike, a high powered bicycle with an electric motor designed for drag racing. He has also designed some of the most rugged, high density lithium battery packs available. He is regarded as one of the world’s best lithium battery designers.
The issue is not power units. Electric motors are more efficient that fossil fueled engines. They also are unaffected by altitude. They make as much power at 40,000 feet as they do sitting on the runway. The issue that is vital to an electric airplane is energy density. The most efficient batteries available today have 161 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density. Workman says the batteries needed to make electric airplanes possible will need an energy density of 400 to 500 watt-hours per kilogram.
Workman says he has knows how to make that happen and it won’t require a breakthrough in battery chemistry. Instead, it means making batteries that weigh far less than today’s products. “About 35 percent of the weight in the cell is current collection — sheets of aluminum and copper foil that are just there to get the energy in and out of the cell,” says Workman. “That’s a lot of weight that’s not active material. It’s a lot of weight a plane has to carry that’s not storing energy.”
“But here’s the trick,” says Workman, “I’ve come up with a battery design that weighs far less and handles heat insanely well — it just requires a gigantic, flat surface area. Like, say, the oversized wings of a supersonic plane.”This isn’t about using the area inside the wing or fuselage to store battery cells. His idea is to use the whole wing surface as part of a giant battery. “I wanna use the full available wing area for electrode plate surface, and conduct through the axis with the cross section of the full wing area.”
“Composite structures, to be strong, need a middle portion there to support the skin on the outside,” says Workman, “We can use the battery as the middle layer of the wing, and we can use the aluminum skin of the wing as a current collector to get power from the ends of that battery sandwich out to the motors. There’s a way to conduct that’s the hard way, and a way that’s incredibly easy, with abundant conductivity. In today’s small batteries, we conduct the hard way, because it’s the only way we can make high capacity, high power cells at that scale. This sandwich idea couldn’t work at the small scale, because you couldn’t get it up to a decent capacity.
“But give me an entire supersonic aircraft wing, and that problem just goes away. That huge surface area of conductive material would conduct extremely efficiently while generating almost no heat. And because there’s almost no heat to deal with, we could use higher density active materials that we can’t use in the automotive world. From quick estimations based off existing cell materials that are safe and have high cycle life, you can get around 13,300 amp hours per 0.2 mm of thickness for each foil layer. Nine-hundred layers would give us 3.3 kV nominal and around 44 megawatt hours of battery storage.
“Total weight would be roughly 104,000 kg, with an extraordinarily high percentage of that mass being active material and lower conduction losses than any currently existing topology despite its high charge/discharge rate capabilities. That gives us 423 watt-hours per kilo, well and truly in the ballpark, using proven materials we can get off the shelf today. And that’s if we’ve got 300 square meters of wing area, with a foil core about 20 centimeter thick and 1 centimeter current conductor plates on the top and bottom. The bigger this battery gets, the more efficient it becomes.”
That means the bigger the electric airplane gets, the further it will be able to fly and the more efficient it wlll get at carrying cargo or passengers. If there’s enough surface area, it could also be useful on large scale electric boats or for grid level power storage. Getting rid of packaging and the thick tabs that interconnect the cells in a regular battery can save a meaningful amount of weight on a large scale battery. But it’s the low impedance, low resistance conductivity path and reduction in voltage sag and heat production that lets you really ramp up the capacity of the thing and increase charge rates.
“I’m not going to build this personally,” Workman says, “not unless it was the only project I was working on. If any company wants to use it, they’re very welcome to and I’m happy to help.” Workman  is not in it for the money. He is far more interested in making decisions that benefit the planet. “The reason I’d never restrict anyone from using this is that we’re all sharing the same spaceship here. We either do the things we need to do to keep an atmosphere on this planet, or we fail the Darwin test as a species.”
The prospect of a zero emissions supersonic transport is certainly appealing. Replacing all those jet airliners that make hundreds of thousands of flights a day worldwide with a zero emissions electric airplane would be a giant step forward in the quest to reduce the amount of carbon emissions the atmosphere is required to absorb. That will benefit every person on the planet, whether or not they ever travel by air.
Source: New Atlas  Image credit: Luke Workman

VW shows renderings of ID electric-car concept for Paris Motor Show

Volkswagen presently sells just one all-electric car under its own brand in multiple markets, the e-Golf electric variant of its well-known five-door compact hatchback.
But in the wake of continuing fallout from the Volkswagen diesel scandal, the company is wrenching itself toward a more electric future.
It has just released the first renderings of the electric-car concept it will unveil tomorrow at the Paris Motor Show, to be called "I.D."

To underscore just how much of a change VW expects the car to represent, it's comparing the car to the original Beetle—with the theme, "Think New," echoing that car's famous "Think Small" ads half a century ago.
This "iconic design study" is intended to signal "the brand's entry into a new era," Volkswagen says, and the concept is "as revolutionary as the Beetle was seven decades ago before it evolved into the world's best-selling car of the century."
The concept "has the potential to make history" as the first high-volume electric vehicle from the German brand. And this time around, the car isn't retro-cute but a smoothly shaped five-door hatchback with the well-known round VW symbol on the nose
Teaser for Volkswagen electric car concept debuting at 2016 Paris auto show
Teaser for Volkswagen electric car concept debuting at 2016 Paris auto show

The concept vehicle will be the first vehicle produced on the MEB architecure for compact-sized electric cars that the company discussed last year.
VW says the production version will arrive in 2020, to be sold alongside the Golf, with a range of 400 to 600 kilometers (250 to 375 miles) on a single battery charge.
Because the European test cycle is notoriously gentle, that might translate to ranges of perhaps 200 to 300 miles under the U.S. EPA test cycles and adjustment factors.
The VW ID will have a motor output of 125 kilowatts (168 horsepower),the company says, and from 2025, will offer fully autonomous driving.
Volkswagen has said it plans to launch 30 new electric models across multiple brands between now and 2025.
Teaser for Volkswagen electric car concept debuting at 2016 Paris auto show
Teaser for Volkswagen electric car concept debuting at 2016 Paris auto show

Two weeks ago, it released three teaser photos of the concept, showing portions of sketches that it says were made for the project.
Unsurprisingly, those carried numerous design elements that are instantly identifiable as Volkswagen hallmarks.

Those include large circular "VW" badges, headlights with pointed inside edges, and taillights that wrap around the corners of the rear.
It appears to have slightly more rounded corners and edges on the classic square-cut Volkswagen shape, but the full form of the vehicle remains unknown.
Teaser for Volkswagen electric car concept debuting at 2016 Paris auto show
Teaser for Volkswagen electric car concept debuting at 2016 Paris auto show

Another technical advance promised by VW Group CEO Matthias Mueller is DC fast-charging to recharge the battery pack to 80 percent capacity in just 15 minutes.
That would require considerably higher-rate current delivery under the Combined Charging System (CCS) protocol than has yet been adopted by that standard's working group.
While the car is expected to fall squarely in what Europeans call the C-segment, or compact size, it will likely have the interior volume of a much larger vehicle—VW calls it an "entirely new spatial experience"—than its footprint would indicate.
That underscores the packaging advantages of a tall and upright hatchback sitting on a dedicated electric-vehicle architecture, as the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV demonstrates.
GM's upcoming electric hatchback contains 94.4 cubic feet of interior volume, more than the Nissan Leaf and roughly equal to that of the far larger Tesla Model S.
Volkswagen Budd-e Concept
Volkswagen Budd-e Concept

While VW calls the ID production car "the first Volkswagen in a completely new fleet of highly innovative electric vehicles," some reports indicate that it may not be the very first dedicated electric vehicle from the brand.

According to the British publication Autocar and other sources, the first of five dedicated electric Volkswagens to go on sale will be a production version of the well-received Budd-e "electric Microbus" shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Utah Seeking To Add Charging Stations To Its Highways

Salt Lake City has a problem — smog. Much like Los Angeles, it is situated in an area surrounded by hills and mountains that limit air circulation. As a result, photo-reactive pollutants build up over the city. Add sunshine and you get smog. The local utility company, Rocky Mountain Power, has applied for a $4 million federal grant to expand the use of electric vehicles in the area. The money would be used to provide more fast charging stations for electric vehicles along 1500 miles of highways in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. It would also provide incentives to convert business cars to electric vehicles.
charger stations
“We do a lot of driving. So, we feel it’s important to drive electric vehicles so we don’t contribute to the inversion,” said Bryan Anderson, regional business manager with RMP. The utility has teamed up with government and community partners to research and develop the plan to expand EV charging stations and improve air quality.
“Having those fast charging stations which can charge a car in 10-20 minutes is going to be really important when it comes to eliminating that range anxiety,” said Dr. Laura Nelson, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development. “Electric vehicle infrastructure is the next rational step, I think, in the evolution of our transportation corridor. We have 5 wonderful national parks and we would hope to be able to reach all of our 5 national parks,” said Nelson. “People fly into Salt Lake City to drive to those parks and, currently, today, they’re going to pick up a gasoline vehicle.”
“By having more electric charging stations on freeways and at homes and businesses, people will know that they will be able to charge their car and go as far as they need to go,” said Paul Murphy, with Rocky Mountain Power. “Our goal is, within 10 years, we’ll have 50,000 electric vehicles cruising down our highways.”
Murphy said about half of Utah’s air pollution is caused by motor vehicles. “Especially here in Utah where pollution gets trapped in the valley, electric vehicles are going to make a huge difference. I think it’s going to be a lot more affordable and a lot easier to use electric vehicles here in Utah.” The level 2 and level 3 charging stations would cost anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars for a charge.
The additional stations will allow drivers of electric vehicles to travel on interstates throughout Utah without fear of running out of electricity. A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation says that more charging stations encourages more people to choose an electric car.
Isn’t it interesting that a state that says it wants to promote the use of electric cars is playing hardball with Tesla Motors and opposing its request to sell its cars direct to consumers in Utah? Politicians. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t live without them.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Chevy Adds Turbo-Diesel To Equinox In Quest For Broader Market

The Chevrolet Equinox is a hugely important product for the bow tie brand. It outsells every other offering in the lineup except the Sierra 1500 pickup truck. Chevy sells more Equinox vehicles than Buick sells vehicles, so changing things up for the popular SUV is fraught with danger. No company likes to mess with success, but sales of the current generation Equinox — first introduced in 2010 — are down almost 15% this year.
2018 Chevrolet Equinox
Last week, Chevrolet took the wraps off the new 2018 Equinox to reveal a much revised vehicle that leverages the power of 4. It is 4 inches shorter, 400 pounds lighter, and comes only with turbocharged 4 cylinder engines — 1.5 liter and 2.0 liter gas engine and a 1.6 liter diesel. This will make the 4th vehicle GM offers with a turbo-diesel engine in the US market. It already makes a diesel available to buyers of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-sized pickup trucks and will bring a diesel powered Chevy Cruze to market shortly.
EPA ratings for the three engine choices are not yet available, but Chevrolet estimates highway nunbers for the 1.5 liter gas engine at 31 mpg, the 2.0 liter gas engine at 28 mpg, and the 1.6 liter diesel at 40 mpg. A 6 speed automatic transmission is standard except for the 2.0 liter engine. It will be mated to a 9 speed automatic. Front wheel drive is standard. All wheel drive is an option. The system will disconnect the drive to the rear wheels under certain circumstances to boost fuel economy.
In addition to the expected array of sound systems and touch screens — Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available — the new Equinox features fold flat rear seats, giving owners the ability to slide large objects into the rear cargo space without having to lift them up and over obstructions. A flat cargo floor is deemed essential by today’s SUV buyers.
The all new Equinox will be available with safety features such as low speed automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and rear cross-traffic alert. It should be noted that Toyota has made all those features standard across its entire lineup starting with its 2017 models. GM would do well to follow suit.
The General has its eye on markets other than North America for is lighter, trimmer, more agile Equinox. It sells vehicles in 115 markets around the world and crossover/SUV type vehicles are in great demand in all of them. While the diesel engine may not be a strong seller in America, it could expand the appeal of the Equinox for foreign buyers.
Final pricing and specifications for the new Equinox will be revealed closer to its on-sale date in February.
Chevy Equinox