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AltCar 2007-Santa Monica, CA

October 21, 2007

I got the opportunity to visit the 2007 AltCar expo in Santa Monica, where they had displays for all sorts of novel solutions -EV, fuel cell, biodiesel, etc. They also had lots of test drive opportunities. Full story and photos after the jump.

ACProp eBox DashboardVectrix PropagandaGreen Cars…yeahp1010031thumb.jpgEV1 - Mint ConditionRouch NEV truckAC Propulsion Induction Motorp1010020thumb.jpgp1010002thumb.jpg

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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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Electric Motor Comparison

October 3, 2007

I want to take what I did with battery specs, and do a quick review of the various electric motors being planned for HEV/PHEV/EV use. I’ve sampled the top spec motors from five manufacturers: UQM, AC Propulsion, Raser Technologies, PMLFlightlink, and Tesla Motors. The two really defining criteria are power density and efficiency. Increased power density reduces the weight and form factor of the motor needed for the application, and high efficiency helps reduce overall energy losses.

(click to enlarge image)

Electric Motor Power Density

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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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