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Archive for the ‘Electric Cars’ Category

TAYLOR JOHNSON, SmallWindTips, December 16, 2009

I have been somewhat intrigued by the topic of wind power charging the electric cars of the future as of late. After reading through a number of blogs and different Q&A areas on the internet, I decided to take the question of feasibility into my own hands, so that I can calculate the outcome and offer you the facts.

The first production scale electric vehicle will be the Nissan Leaf, which will hold a charge of up to 24 kilowatt hours. According to Nissan, this 24 kilowatt hour battery can be changed fully in approximately 4-8 hours, and during a quick charge can be 80% charged in only 26 minutes. Wouldn’t that be great, or I guess I should say “won’t that be great” because it is already set for production. It seems that if I were to install a 1.5 kilowatt turbine on my house it should theoretically charge my car over night so it will be ready for me when I head off to work the next day. That’s what I thought too, but the calculations just don’t support it.

Let me first start out by explaining a kilowatt hour and how it differs from the 1.5 kilowatt output of our turbine. So, we have this 1.5 kilowatt turbine on our house, how much power is that really producing? Well, when wind speeds are ideal (usually around 12 mph) your wind turbine will be producing 1.5 kilowatt hours each and every hour, or at least until the wind dies down. As the wind dies down, the power output exponentially decreases until the wind reaches a low speed (generally around 4-6 mph). At this low wind speed no power production will occur, the wind just does not have enough energy to spin the blades on the home wind turbine. Since, the wind doesn’t always blow at 12 mph or higher, scientists have calculated averages for actual wind power production from a turbine. Now I won’t get into all the details, but 40% peak production is very good and we will use that for the calculations to follow.

So now that we know that we have a 1.5 kilowatt small wind turbine and we know that 40% annual power production is near the best we could ever hope for, we can calculate a best case scenario for power output. Simply multiply your turbine’s rated output by the number of hours in a year as well as the 40% annual production statistic.

1.5 x 8,760 x 0.40 = 5,256 kWh’s

This gives us a theoretical annual output of 5,256 kilowatt hours. Now from here, we go back to the car. The Nissan Leaf can store up to 24 kilowatt hours of energy and can travel approximately 100 miles per charge. Since we know that the average American travels 12,000 miles per year, we can accurately deduce that in order to drive the Nissan Leaf as we would like to, we will need to charge it a minimum of 120 times. So, since we are considering best case scenarios, let assume that every time your car is plugged in you will be producing energy at the constant 40%. If that were the case, the Nissan leaf would require 2,880 kilowatt hours (or 120 x 24 kilowatt hours) of energy per year, and that is very do-able.

Now this is where I see a lot of analysis stop. People simply assume that that should work and life should be peachy, however that isn’t the case. As mentioned above and further explained in Understanding the Basics of Windpower, a wind turbine can only produce it’s capacity (in this case 1.5 kilowatts) once each hour. So in the 4-8 hours of charging time for your Nissan Leaf, your 1.5 kilowatt turbine will only produce a maximum of 6-12 kilowatt hours, while the car requires 24 kilowatt hours. And just to emphasize the 6-12 kilowatt hours is a maximum, when output is full and the winds are howling.

I just want to close by saying that in no way am I saying small wind and residential wind systems are not the future of America’s energy policy, nor am I saying that they will not have a large part in powering the cars of tomorrow. I simply wanted to dispell any misconceptions concerning the feasibility of residential wind equipment charging the electric cars of tomorrow.

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DAN NEIL, The Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2009

6a00d8341c630a53ef011572539daa970b-320wiIn person, Carlos Ghosn, CEO and all-around-savior of Renault-Nissan, does not strike anyone as an Earth-hugging counterculture type – the man’s shoe collection is probably worth more than a Brentwood mansion.  You cannot find a bigger arch-capitalist anywhere. So it must be said, Ghosn’s embrace of electric-vehicle technology means something: If EV’s weren’t on the threshold of being practical and profitable, if there weren’t a powerful business case, you have to assume Ghosn wouldn’t go near them.

Instead, Ghosn has thrown his company into a full-on EV mobilization. This first results of that effort debuted August 2, 2009, when Nissan unveiled the LEAF, a five-seat compact, all-electric hatchback with lithium-ion batteries (24 kWh energy storage and max output of 90kW), giving the car a top speed of 90 mph and nominal range of 100 miles – a magic number, Nissan figures, in Americans’ driving psychology. The car’s electric motor generates 80 kW (107 horsepower). Depending on how you define your terms, the LEAF will be the first mass-market EV sold in the U.S. since the 1920s.

The car will be produced in Japan and at Nissan’s facility in Smyrna, Tennessee.

The LEAF will also feature IT connectivity, so that, for instance, drivers can use mobile phones to reset charging or even turn on the air-conditioning. The IT function will also help Nissan monitor the health and wellbeing of it its early fleet of EV’s. Recharging will take less than a half-hour (to 80% charge) using a high-capacity charger, Nissan says, and about eight hours using a home charger running at 200 Volts. Nissan is working with a half-dozen municipalities and other agencies around the country to develop the quick-charge infrastructure.

With the Volt, Mitsubishi’s IMiev and Nissan’s LEAF coming onto the U.S. market in the next 18 months, the infrastructure issue will begin to dominate the EV debate. Simply put, the cars will become less of a technical hurdle than places to plug them in.

As for the LEAF, the biggest unknown yet is cost. Nissan officials have quietly hinted at a price less than $30,000 retail (that’s before any tax credits), the goal being to make the EV a no-cost option. That would be the LEAF’s greatest trick.

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ALAN OHNSMAN and MAKIKO KITAMURA, Bloomberg, August 12, 2009

honda-clarityHonda Motor Co. is backing hydrogen power for the cars of the future, a stance at odds with the Obama administration’s decision to drop automotive fuel-cell technology in favor of battery-run vehicles.

“Fuel-cell cars will become necessary,” said Takashi Moriya, head of Tokyo-based Honda’s group developing the technology. “We’re positioning it as the ultimate zero-emission car.”

Honda, the only carmaker leasing fuel-cell autos to individuals, opened a production line last year in Tochigi prefecture to make 200 FCX Clarity sedans. The Energy Department sought to eliminate hydrogen-station funding and instead lend $1.6 billion to Nissan Motor Co. and $465 million to Tesla Motors Inc. to build electric cars, and give $2.4 billion in grants to lithium-ion battery makers.

“Honda has a propensity to think very long term,” said Ed Kim, an analyst at AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California. “It’s also part of the company culture that if they’ve made a decision they think is correct, they’ll really stick with it.”

Honda isn’t alone. Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG, General Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. say hydrogen, the universe’s most abundant element, is among the few options to replace oil as a low-carbon transportation fuel.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in May his department would “be moving away” from hydrogen as it’s unlikely the U.S. can convert to the fuel even after 20 years. Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn predicts battery cars may grab 10% of global auto sales by 2020. Honda hasn’t announced plans for a battery-electric car.

Fuel Costs

Hydrogen, made mainly for industrial use from natural gas, costs about $5 to $10 per kilogram for vehicles in California, more than double an equivalent amount of gasoline. Fuel-cell cars also have at least double the efficiency of gasoline models, with Clarity averaging 60 miles per kilogram.

The Energy Department estimates future prices for hydrogen will fall to $2 to $3 a kilogram, Toyota said on Aug. 6.

The fuel can also be made from solar and wind power and even human waste.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Aug. 5 his company plans consumer sales of fuel-cell cars within six years. Toyota, like Honda, is making “exponential progress” with the technology, Justin Ward, manager of Toyota’s U.S. advanced powertrain program, said in an interview.

Battery cars are further along in the market. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. started selling the i-MiEV last month. Tesla sells the $109,000 Roadster and Nissan unveiled its electric Leaf this month, with sales to start in Japan and the U.S. next year.

Fueling Time

Honda says hydrogen vehicles match the refueling style drivers are used to: filling up in minutes at a service station. Nissan’s Leaf recharges fully in 30 minutes with a fast-charger, or up to 16 hours on a household outlet, said Tetsuro Sasaki, senior manager of Nissan’s battery test group.

A budget crisis slowed plans for more hydrogen stations in California, home to the biggest fleet of cars using the fuel. At the federal level, Chu sought $333.3 million in May for battery and advanced gasoline autos in the 2010 budget, up 22%. Hydrogen funds were cut 60% to $68 million, slashing money that would have gone to transportation projects.

The Clarity is available in the U.S. only in Los Angeles, where drivers can use as many as 16 hydrogen stations. The 5-passenger car has a top speed of 100 miles an hour and goes 240 miles (386 kilometers), more than double the 100-mile range of Nissan’s compact electric car. Through July, Honda leased cars to 10 drivers for $600 a month.

Filling Stations

The need for a network of hydrogen filling stations is a problem.

“We cannot do infrastructure alone,” said Moriya. “We’ve been developing the cars on our own without government support.”

The Senate and House voted in July to restore the funds. President Barack Obama must approve the final budget.

Honda and Toyota will have to reduce production costs to win over consumers. Fuel cells need platinum — a precious metal that costs more than $1,200 an ounce — and current durability is half that of gasoline engines, according to Moriya.

Honda plans to offer hydrogen-fueled cars at prices comparable to midsize gasoline autos by 2020, down from a company estimate that Clarity’s 2005 hand-built predecessor cost about $1 million. Moriya wouldn’t discuss the Clarity’s price.

Expensive Platinum

Honda engineers in Tochigi are trying to trim costs. For 13 months, technicians have worked in a semiconductor-style clean- room, coating rolls of plastic film for fuel-cell membranes. Nearby, a press stamps stainless-steel plates that will grip the material. Hundreds of the cells are then sealed in a metal case, forming the fuel-cell stack.

Honda’s hydrogen push has been undermined by plunging sales in the U.S., its main market. Last quarter, profit at Japan’s second-largest carmaker fell 96% to 7.5 billion yen ($79 million). Its research budget is 515 billion yen this fiscal year, down 8.5%. Funds for fuel cells were cut and some spending shifted to other “priorities,” Moriya said, without elaborating.

Honda probably spends “a few tens of billions of yen” a year on fuel cells, said analyst Mamoru Kato at Tokai Tokyo Research Center in Nagoya.

“Maybe, just maybe, fuel cells will be the future,” said Edwin Merner, who helps manage about $3 billion at Atlantis Investment Research in Tokyo. “And if you’re not in there, then you have a big disadvantage.”

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KIMBERLY S. JOHNSON, Huffington Post, August 11, 2009

GM Chevy Volt MileageGeneral Motors said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt electric car could get 230 mpg in city driving, making it the first American vehicle to achieve triple-digit fuel economy if that figure is confirmed by federal regulators.

But when the four-door family sedan hits showrooms late next year, its efficiency will come with a steep sticker price: $40,000.

Still, the Volt’s fuel efficiency in the city would be four times more than the popular Toyota Prius hybrid, the most efficient car now sold in the U.S.

Most automakers are working on similar designs, but GM would offer the first mainstream plug-in with the Volt, which seats four and was introduced at the 2007 Detroit auto show.

The Volt will join a growing fleet of cars and trucks powered by systems other than internal combustion engines.

Unlike the Prius and other traditional hybrids, the Volt is powered by an electric motor and a battery pack with a 40-mile range. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity for a total range of 300 miles. The battery pack can be recharged from a standard home outlet.

Hybrids use a small internal combustion engine combined with a high-powered battery to boost fuel efficiency. Toyota’s Prius – which starts at about $22,000 – gets 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. The number of all-electric vehicles available to U.S. consumers remains limited. The Tesla Roadster, a high-end sports car with a range of 224 miles, is perhaps the best known. But its $100,000-plus price tag keeps it out of reach of all but the wealthiest drivers.

The company is working on an electric family sedan that will be priced considerably less.

Nissan Motor Co. unveiled its first electric car, the Leaf, earlier this month. Nissan said the vehicle will go on sale in Japan, the U.S. and Europe next year.

Edmunds.com, an auto Web site, cast doubt on whether drivers can expect 230 mpg from the Volt since fuel efficiency also depends on driving style.

Volt drivers who cruise sensibly on smooth roads without much cargo – and who avoid exceeding 20 or 30 miles between charges – might fill up only rarely. But “for most people, it is not realistic to expect that kind of mileage in real-world driving,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with the Web site.

General Motors Co. is touting the 230 mpg figure following early tests that used draft guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency for calculating the mileage of extended-range electric vehicles.

The EPA guidelines, developed with help from automakers, figure that cars such as the Volt will travel more on straight electricity in the city than on the highway. If drivers operate the Volt for less than 40 miles, in theory they could do so without using a drop of gasoline.

Highway mileage estimates for the Volt based on the EPA’s methodology have yet to be released.

“We are confident the highway (mileage) will be a triple-digit,” GM CEO Fritz Henderson said.

The EPA conducts testing to determine the mileage posted on new car stickers. The agency said in a statement Tuesday that it has not tested a Volt “and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM.”

The EPA is working with the Society of Automotive Engineers and state and federal officials to develop testing procedures to measure the fuel efficiency of advanced vehicles, according to a draft outline of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

The plan could be released later this year.

It was not immediately clear how GM reached the 230 mpg in city driving, but industry officials estimated the automaker’s calculation took into consideration the Volt traveling 40 miles on the electric battery and then achieving about 50 mpg when the engine kicked in.

Although Henderson would not give details on pricing, the first-generation Volt is expected to cost nearly $40,000, making it cost-prohibitive to many people even if gasoline returns to $4 per gallon.

The price of the sporty-looking sedan is expected to drop with future generations of the Volt, but GM has said government tax credits of up to $7,500 and the savings on fuel could make it more affordable, especially at 230 mpg.

“We get a little cautious about trying to forecast what fuel prices will do,” said Tony Posawatz, GM’s vehicle line director for the Volt. “We achieved this number, and if fuel prices go up, it certainly does get more attractive even in the near-term generation.”

The mileage figure could vary as the guidelines are refined and the Volt gets further along in the manufacturing process, Posawatz said.

Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG are all developing plug-ins and electric cars, and Toyota Motor Corp. is working on a plug-in version of its gas-electric hybrid system.

GM has produced about 30 test Volts so far and is making 10 a week, Henderson said during a presentation at the company’s technical center in the Detroit suburb of Warren.

Henderson said charging the Volt will cost about 40 cents a day, at about 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

GM is nearly halfway through building about 80 test Volts that will look and behave like the production model, and testing is running on schedule, Posawatz said.

Two critical areas – battery life and the electronic switching between battery and engine power – are still being refined, but the car is on schedule to reach showrooms late in 2010, he said.

GM is simulating tests to make sure the new lithium-ion batteries last 10 years, Posawatz said, as well as testing battery performance in extremely hot and cold climates.

“We’re further along, but we’re still quite a ways from home,” he said. “We’re developing quite a knowledge base on all this stuff. Our confidence is growing.”

The other area of new technology, switching between battery and engine power, is proceeding well, he said, with engineers just fine-tuning the operations.

“We’re very pleased with the transition from when it’s driving EV (electric vehicle) to when the engine and generator kick in,” he said.

GM also is finishing work on the power cord, which will be durable enough that it can survive being run over by the car. The Volt, he said, will have software on board so it can be programmed to begin and end charging during off-peak electrical use hours.

It will be easy for future Volt owners living in rural and suburban areas to plug in their cars at night, but even Henderson recognized the challenge urban, apartment dwellers, or those who park their cars on the street might have recharging the Volt. There could eventually be charging stations set up by a third-party to meet such a demand, Henderson said.

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Grist via Agence France-Presse, August 6, 2009

ObamaPresident Barack Obama Wednesday unveiled a $2.4 billion funding boost for the development of new generation electric vehicles and slammed critics of his economic rescue plans.

The president traveled to a jobs crisis blackspot in the economically struggling midwestern state of Indiana to announce a plan he said would create tens of thousands of new jobs.

“For far too long we’ve failed to invest in this kind of innovative work, even as countries like China and Japan were racing ahead,” Obama said. “That’s why this announcement’s so important. This represents the largest investment in this kind of technology in American history.”

“This is an investment in our capacity to develop new technologies tomorrow. This is about creating the infrastructure of innovation.”

Obama spoke in a plant that formerly made recreational vehicles (RVs) but that closed down as the recession hit. The factory has since been reopened and is now making RVs and electric hybrid vehicles.

The initiative, funded from the administration’s $787 billion economic crisis bailout, came against a backdrop of shifting political fortunes with Obama’s high opinion ratings eroding and Republican opposition resurgent.

It also came ahead of government jobs data due out on Friday that some analysts believe could see the unemployment rate growing to 9.6%, just short of the politically perilous 10% mark.

Obama’s tactic of appearing outside Washington is designed to place him metaphorically on the side of the people who sent him to power last November, rather than squabbling politicians in the U.S. capital.

“You know, too often there are those in Washington who focus on the ups and downs of politics. But my concern is the ups and downs in the lives of the American people,” Obama said.

He also hit out at critics peddling “misinformation” on his economic recovery plans, which he said were starting to work and transition the U.S. economy out of freefall into a new, more sustainable era.

“There are a lot of people out there who are looking to defend the status quo,” Obama said, touting political reforms to on energy, health care, and economic policy.

“There are those who want to seek political advantage. They want to oppose these efforts—some of them caused the problems that we’ve got now in the first place, and then suddenly they’re blaming other folks for it.”

The $2.4 billion in grants for electric vehicles includes $1.5 billion to U.S. manufacturers to make batteries and components and to expand recycling, officials said.

A further $500 million will go to U.S. firms that produce components for vehicles including electric motors, electronics, and other drive-train items.

The grants gel with a wider Obama administration effort to wean the United States off foreign oil from volatile regions of the world and slice into U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming.

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MIKE CHINO, Inhabitat, July 27, 2009

48_group-2-1Although electric vehicle use is on the rise, we’re certainly not out of the woods yet in terms of providing them with a steady supply of clean energy – that’s why designer Neville Mars has conceived of an incredible EV charging station that takes the form of an evergreen glade of solar trees. His photovoltaic grove serves a dual function, acting as a go-to source for clean renewable energy while providing a shady spot for cars to park as they charge.

Each of the trees in Neville Mars’s solar forest is composed of a set of photovoltaic leaves mounted on an elegantly branching poll. The base of each trunk features an power outlet that can be used to juice up your eco ride as you run errands.

Neville told Inhabitat that the tree and leaf design wasn’t a goal but came naturally as they tried to maximize the shaded surface that the structures provide. Although the efficiency of overlapping photovoltaic panels initially raised some concerns, Neville went on to explain that the leaves rotate with the sun to ensure maximum efficiency. The solar forest is certainly an aesthetic step up from your standard sun-baked concrete parking lot, and serves as great inspiration for integrating solar technology with natural forms.

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KARA GILMOUR, NewsOXY.com, July 26, 2009

honda-hybrid-carsHonda electric vehicles will expand further on the hybrid idea offering consumers more of a variety from popular post-conventional concept vehicles.

The new 2010 Honda Hybrid Cars will provide consumers with better options for electric and fuel cell technologies. What is more important is that these new automobiles will deliver better mileage than we see today. Some of the vehicles will be slated as 2011 models but will release in early and late 2010.

2010 Hybrid Cars

New fuel-efficient vehicles are continuing to grow in popular demand. Recent gas prices are steering more consumers towards automobiles that achieve a minimum of 35 miles per gallon. However, automakers are in a race to deliver 50+ miles per gallon vehicles for next year.

Honda has major plans to compete in the growing fuel-efficient market by taking some of its popular conventional vehicles and converting them into new fuel efficient alternatives. While the Honda Civic has already been on the market as an alternative fuel automobile, the automaker wants to use its current engineering built in the 2010 Insight. Some of the features include longer battery life and a leaner, but more powerful, gasoline engine.

Insight Interactive Dashboard Components

The dashboard in the Honda Insight has also been popular. Honda wants to migrate some of the dashboard components into the Honda Fit and the upcoming Civic. The interactive dashboard assists the driver to achieve better mileage by scoring driving habits that increase fuel economy. It is not known if the dash will be in the new FCX Clarity.

Honda FCX Clarity

Honda also wants to offer consumers a 75 mpg rating with its FCX Clarity. This is a car that runs on electric and hydrogen fuel. The automobile is 20% more fuel efficient and has a powertrain that is 45% more compact.

In addition, the car is about 10% energy efficiency. Skeptics believe the vehicle might be ahead of its time due to questions on how to refuel the vehicle. There are also safety concerns but Honda has already developed measures to deactivate the hydrogen tanks in the event of a collision.

Electric Alternative Vehicles

Even so, there are more consumers hoping for electric alternative transportation. Full hybrids already use a combination of gasoline and battery to power the electric motor. Consumers are hoping for a complete electric option that will allow drivers to recharge the battery using a standard home outlet.

These vehicles are built for short range driving because of the electric battery. The automobiles can be powered by a battery at slower speeds. These speeds are usually between 35 to 47 mph.

Unfortunately, the battery is limited on the amount of energy it can store, which is why most of these vehicles use a gas engine to help with the recharge. The auto industry right now isn’t quite ready for a total electric solution, but it is getting close. There are several advancements with batteries that could change the way we refuel our automobiles by 2012.

Auto Industry

You have to admit that while the auto industry has been kicked to the curb by the recession, they sure are coming out with new ideas. Perhaps it was the recession and the 2008 gas prices that got things moving again. There is a lot that will happen soon and those 2010 Honda hybrid cars are only the beginning.

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