Archive for the ‘Batteries’ Category

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Challenge X Equinox goes 40 miles per charge

December 9, 2007

Despite general, widespread enthusiasm, several sources in the automotive industry have thrown a lot of cold water on the Volt and non-HSD hybrids and EVs in general. Most prominently, Irv Miller of Toyota went on record describing the kind of batteries that could 1) Fit within a hybrid vehicle architecture and 2) capable of propelling the vehicle for 40+ miles as being “theoretical”.

I already took Irv to task in a prior post. However, here’s some additional evidence for why we can comfortably discount Irv as an authority on anything engineering-related. The Dept. of Energy and GM run an event called Challenge X, where university students are given a Chevy Equinox, some money, and told to go wild on improving the “green-ness” of the vehicle. One of those teams, UC Davis, has taken their Equinox, added a 1.5L Atkinson-cycle engine (pulled from a Prius, admittedly), beefed it up with bigger electric motors at each axle, and fitted some lithium ion batteries.

The result? Well, it’s a plug-in hybrid SUV that’s capable of going 40 miles on a charge!

Sorry, Irv.

Source: LA times.

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Images of Volt Prototype Pack from CPI

December 7, 2007

These are images of the Volt prototype pack from Compact Power, Inc. They are courtesy of Podtech, who filmed a presentation at EVS23.

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Additionally, sharp eyes will notice one frame from the video where engineers appear to be fitting electric drive components under the hood of a Chevrolet Cobalt:

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On the Scene: KillaCycle breaks its own world record

November 12, 2007

I was fortunate to see the KillaCycle at the Pomona AHDRA races this weekend. The bike set two times under 8 seconds for the quarter mile (7.82 and 7.99), to set a new world record. Pictures and a video:

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Safety of A123 battery cell

November 11, 2007

With all the conversation about lithium ion battery safety, I decided to do a little 5-minute, hands-on experiment of my own to see what’s what.

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Survey of USABC Contractor Lithium-ion Technology

October 20, 2007

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium is essentially a communal technology incubator for the domestic automakers, providing development funding for new technologies. At the moment, advanced lithium ion is in vogue, with several large and several small companies being contractors. However, when you take a look at the list, one rather striking feature is that the USABC chose a wide range of lithium ion approaches to fund. For example, each contractor has a very different chemistry and/or cell format. It stands to reason that the USABC isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket, and it chose to fund the most promising examples of each.

But how do the contractors stack up against one another, and what are the inherent compromises of each approach? Each company is understandably reticent to reveal their exact specifications, as it is competitive information. However, with a little clever research into published white papers and presentations, you can uncover their approximate progress relative to one another.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a work in progress that only uses publicly available information. Please submit rebuttals, corrections, etc, to ensure that this comparison is accurate and up to date. I have no commercial interest or financial connection to any of these companies, other than as an American consumer.

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Taking the Toys to Task

September 13, 2007

Toyota has been on a bit of a PR binge lately, in which they have been taking some shots at GM and the hype surrounding the E-Flex/Volt development. Specifically, one of their hacks in Japan put together an internal presentation where it was claimed that the parallel plug-in hybrid approach was inherently superior to the series configuration. After that presentation was leaked, it caused a bit of a stir in the blogosphere, causing one of Toy’s North American execs the pen the following article as a clarification.

Irv reiterates the Toyota standpoint with the following assertions:

-Lithium ion technology is nowhere near ready for automotive use yet
-GM’s claims of 40 miles on one charge are totally unrealistic
-The series hybrid wastes energy by hauling around a heavy engine that doesn’t directly power the car.
-The parallel plug-in Prius is a super design because it uses a much lighter battery pack and can use the ICE for propulsion, not just electricity.

Now, I work in the sciences, so I always appreciate intelligent skepticism. But Mr.Miller made some sweeping and rather uneducated comments.
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UPDATE: Martin Eberhard full of halibut, part 2

September 2, 2007

I wrote an earlier post concerning Martin Eberhard’s critique of series hybrids, in particular the lifespan of the Chevy Volt’s battery pack. In that post, I noted that Martin incorrectly assumes that all lithium ion cells are made equal, and also incorrectly assumes that a 40 mile range correlates to 100% depth of discharge of the pack, and thus a full (and brutal) charge/recharge cycle.

GM-Volt.com confirmed recently that the 40 mile range can be achieved with only 8 kWh of the pack’s available 16kWh, and that to maximize lifespan, the generator will kick at this point of 50% charge, and stop at 80% charge. This optimized charging cycle, combined with the innate durability of lithium-iron-phosphate chemistry, will help the battery pack last for years.

Some caveats though:

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