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The future of combustion

September 24, 2007

Despite the optimism over the electrification of the automobile, I predict that we will be using the internal combustion engine (ICE) in some form or another for many more years. For one, not everyone will be able to afford a pure EV or even a PHEV, and others may find that their needs simply do not match what the EV/PHEV market has to offer. However, for those who equally accept the ICE and the PHEV, this is actually a rather exciting time because the unique environment of the PHEV gives the ICE a chance to shine like it has never before.

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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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Automotive X Prize entrants announced

August 2, 2007

After almost 2 years of speculation and deliberation, the Automotive X-Prize (AXP) announced its list of registered teams, which ranges from upstart unknowns based out of garages, all the way up to established companies.

I was a big fan of the original X-Prize, but this new incarnation has some conceptual flaws.

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Running the numbers on battery specs

July 18, 2007

I’ve been doing some research lately on the different battery technologies that are being formulated for EV use – all proven lithium ion chemistries and cell formulations. If you have a modicum of understanding about math, electricity and engineering, you might find what I found out rather interesting, because there’s stuff out there that isn’t well explained – or well publicized.

Enjoy.
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The Volt, batteries, and hype – an analysis

July 17, 2007

A couple months ago, GM announced its battery contracts for the Chevy Volt. Since then, there’s been a fair bit of buzz over exactly how -and when- those contracts are going to bear their electrified fruit. Some of that blog commentary has come from people within the EV industry itself – notably Martin Eberhard of Tesla Motors. In his rather scathing blog entry, Martin disparages the series hybrid concept as being flawed.

I have to disagree.

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