Category Archives: EV

Tesla’s got some competition

Of course, the Tesla isn’t the only high-performance EV out there, nor was it the first (see Venturi Fetish, Wrightspeed X1), but it certainly was the first to capture the attention of the mainstream media.  Undoubtedly, it has changed many people’s perceptions of what an electric car can be.

Lucky for Tesla, the car pictured above, the Lightning GT, will be staying on the other side of the Atlantic.  Made by the Lightning Car Company, and using Altairnano NanoSafe batteries, the 700bhp coupe is now available for pre-order, with the first deliveries arriving in 2008. The coupe will also be available with a range extender (think the Chevy Volt).  The chassis is made of a carbon fiber/aluminum honeycomb composite monocoque, but its actual weight has not yet been disclosed.
The Lightning GT uses four 120kW wheel motors made by PML Flightlink.  These Hi-Pa Drive motors were also used in the 640hp EV Mini Cooper featured on green.mnp a few months back.  Lightning writes on its website that “all of the power is generated at the wheel, the point at which it is required, which eliminates mechanical complexity and power losses experienced in standard sports cars.  These lightweight and ultra powerful motors do not add significant extra unsprung weight and are therefore ideal in that position.”  A few days after the Lightning started making its rounds on the internet, the Director of Public Relations at Tesla addressed such hub-mounted motors on the company’s blog:

Without digressing too much, I’d like to tackle a reoccurring question because it dovetails perfectly with a discussion of driving dynamics. “Would four hub-mounted motors have made for a better Tesla Roadster?” In a word: no. Four hub-mounted motors would work great in an electric off road vehicle or rally car – power to each wheel could be controlled for mud, ice, and gravel along with the hill control feature used in off-roading. In a sports car, the added weight and complexity would have compromised the driving enjoyment that makes a sports car a driver’s delight.

The weight that engineers most worry about is rotating mass. In other words, anything that goes round and round as the car moves. This includes components like the wheels, tires, brake rotors, and even the lug nuts. Besides the gyroscopic forces that a spinning wheel assembly represents as a car turns, this is mass that needs to be spun up to speed for acceleration and slowed back down again for braking. More mass here means relatively slower acceleration and braking.

So who’s right?  We’ll have to wait for each car to reach production.  In all likelihood, each is probably right to some extent – almost every car company out there has a different philosophy in terms of engines (i.e. displacement vs. forced induction; inline 6′s vs V-6′s, and let’s not forget about horizontally-opposed boxer engines either), and engine placement and weight distribution (front-engine rear wheel drive vs. mid-engine rear wheel drive vs. rear-engine, rear wheel drive vs front-engine all-wheel drive…)  The real issue is how the individual manufacturer executes their philosophical belief in the specific model.

The other thing to consider; price.  The Tesla is going to retail for a little shy of $100,000, whereas the Lightning GT will cost almost three times that (£150,000).  We already know Tesla has big plans for EV’s, and is trying to bring them to mass-market, with plans for a dealer network and a sports-sedan.  Perhaps Lightning is set on becoming and remaining a boutique EV manufacturer…

More at the Lightning Car Company

Electric Utilities show interest in Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Technology

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, California’s biggest utility, showcased the first-ever utility demonstration of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology during an alternative energy solution summit in Silicon Valley.  Austin Energy, the public utility for Austin, TX is also exploring V2G technology and applications.

V2G technology allows for the bi-directional sharing of electricity between Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs), and the electric power grid. The technology turns each vehicle into a power storage system, increasing power reliability and the amount of renewable energy available to the grid during peak power usage.

PG&E envisions a future in which vehicle owners will be able to set a price threshold at which they are willing to sell energy, and when electricity reaches that point, the utility would then automatically draw energy out of the vehicle’s battery. The energy used by the utility would earn customers credit on their monthly utility bill.

“At night, electricity is very cheap, very plentiful. You can’t turn down your nuclear reactors at night. A lot of the wind energy comes in at night, and utilities don’t know what to do with it,” Sass Somekh, President Emeritus of Novellus, told a group assembled for the V2G press event. “The utilities would then be able to borrow back during the day the electricity two-to-three times what you would pay at night.”

Like demand response technologies, V2G has the potential to reduce peak demand on the electrical grid. This is important for a number of reasons. (1) During peak demand, utilities have to buy power at extremely high rates (which are passed onto the ratepayer in one manner of another), and this power often comes from dirty, fossil-fuel powered ‘Peaking Plants.’ (2) The electrical grid is built to handle these periods of peak demand (which are a small percentage of the day) plus some additional capacity as a contingency. If peak demand can be reduced, then infrastructure investments in the grid are likely to be less costly, and consequently, there would be less costs to pass on to ratepayers. (3) V2G scenarios are a great starting point on the path to real-time pricing. At the moment, except for some large commercial and industrial customers, electric rates for most customers are flat. Real-time pricing would encourage customers to use electricity in a more efficient manner (from the grid’s perspective), for example, to run their dishwasher or charge their ipods at night, rather than in the middle of the day when demand is at its highest. Customers who intelligently use electricity would likely see a substantial reduction in electricity costs.


[GreenCarCongress] and [The Herald Democrat] and [InsideGreentech]
Related studies:

ZAP Releases Drawings of ZAP-X EV Crossover

Design-Concept or Pre-Production Sneak Peek?

Well ZAP (Zero Air Pollution), known for it’s NEV’s, has released sketches of their “soon-to-be-released” ZAP-X EV sport utility vehicle, which was first introduced to us all as the Lotus APX Demonstrator at NADA 2007.

The companies claim this AWD ‘crossover’ vehicle will have some pretty impressive specifications, most notably four in-hub electric motors that deliver a total of 644hp, and a top speed of 155mph. By utilizing a “lightweight aluminum architecture” and an “advanced battery system,” ZAP claims the SUV will have a range of 350 miles, and, that its “rapid charge technology” means the batteries can be recharged in 10 minutes or less. Lithium-ion batteries are to be used in conjunction with ‘supercapacitors,’ which will help to provide quick bursts of acceleration. (The Toyota FT-HS concept also featured ultracapacitors) The ZAP-X should reach 60mph from a standstill in 4.8 seconds.

Lotus Engineering first showed itself as a player in the EV scene with the Tesla roadster, but the company has also collaborated with ZAP on the Obvio 012 EV sportscar.

As excited as I want to get for this vehicle, it just screams “vaporware.” With technical ‘specs’ that include photovoltaic glass made from “nano solar cells,” an on-board computer running Windows XP, let alone 644hp and a supposed 10 minute recharge (on certain voltages) time, I don’t see this appearing in showrooms anytime soon. Come on, nano-engineered solar cells aren’t even on the market yet!


Product Brochure (.pdf)

Tesla to open 5 dealerships across the USA

Although they still haven’t delivered a single car (over 350 orders for the roadster), Tesla seems to be moving ahead at full-speed, inking deals to build a manufacturing plant in New Mexico for its upcoming EV sedan, and now, starting to open dealerships across the US. It certainly looks as though Tesla is seriously trying to give the big guys a run for their money:

The service centers will be located in Chicago, Northern California, Southern California, New York and Florida, according to a Daryl Siry, vice president of marketing. Each of the centers will have a couple of the cars in different colors, displays on the technology used in the vehicles, technicians and, of course, cheery, helpful salespeople ready to take that cashier’s check.

More will follow, Siry added, largely because the company will start producing a line of sedans in 2009. “To do 10,000 units for Whitestar (the codename for the sedan) we need to be in a lot more places,” he said.

Unlike most other car manufacturers, Tesla will not sell its cars through independent dealers. Instead, it will sell them through its Web site and company-owned dealership/service centers. The thinking is that selling, understanding and servicing an electric car is a different skill and not one that most traditional dealerships possess.

Siry also added that the company wants to control the customer’s buying experience. Most of the time, buying a car is unpleasant: dealers are paid to move the cars they have on the lot. Changing that arrangement could help Tesla-owned dealerships gain an edge in sales, he said

The two-seater roadster sells for $92,000 and will likely mostly be sold to a small segment of the population. In 2009, however, the company plans to come out with two four-door sedans that will sell in the $50,000 range that it will build in a plant in New Mexico.


Related: Tesla EV spotted testing on the roads in England

GM’s Battery Program

General Motors currently has development contracts with Johnson Controls-Saft and A123-Cobasys to work on lithium ion battery packs, initially for the plug-in hybrid Vue program. The lessons learned from that will also be applied to the Volt program although the balance of the battery chemistry will be different for that program since it’s primarily battery driven and requires greater energy than the parallel hybrid Vue. Joe LoGrasso is the Engineering Manager for Hybrid Energy Storage Systems and he gave an overview of the differing battery requirements for the two-mode, plug-in and series hybrids, ranging from short-range low-speed electric to 40+ miles. The E-Flex needs substantially higher power output than the parallel hybrids and much more energy density. Since the series hybrid has to get all of it’s motive power from the battery, and can’t rely on an engine for power, the battery has to do much more. 

Lithium batteries have the energy density and power output, and tend hold the power when sitting better than other types. The biggest problems that need to be conquered are lifespan, cold temperature performance and most importantly, robustness and abuse tolerance. Since the battery pack is built up from hundreds or thousands of individual cells, the interconnects that tie all the individual cells together have to be very carefully constructed in order to ensure that the pack survives the life of the vehicle. The process goes from developing individual cells to meet the performance requirements, integrating those cells into a pack and then finally integrating that pack into the vehicle system. While lithium batteries have been used in consumer electronics devices for many years, combining them into large format packs for use in the automotive environment is relatively new. Another problem that has to be dealt with is scaling up the construction of potentially tens of millions of larger format cells, in a consistent manner to ensure that they perform consistently and reliably in automotive applications. After all, no car-maker wants to be facing a large-scale battery recall like laptop manufacturers did in early 2006.  


A New Battery Takes Off in a Race to Electric Cars

Rechargeable lithium batteries have been used in laptop computers and mobile phones since the early 1990s. (Their common name, “lithium ion batteries,” is a tautology, since all batteries conduct electric current by allowing the passage of ions between two electrodes.) But despite their lightness, rechargeable lithium batteries — which often use a compound of highly reactive cobalt oxide — have hitherto been thought impractical for transportation because they are insufficiently powerful and might, if pierced, jarred or overheated, explode or burst into flames.

A123Systems batteries are different. Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor of materials science and engineering at M.I.T. and a co-founder of A123Systems, described their advantages: “Used in a hybrid vehicle, our batteries deliver faster acceleration than any other batteries of the same size,” Professor Chiang said. “And the chemical stability of the cathode material greatly improves safety as well as extending battery life.”


“Greenery” from the Geneva Auto Show

Toyota Hybrid-X Concept

Toyota presents a world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show with the reveal of Hybrid X – a concept car that proposes a new design language for hybrid models, while also acting as an innovative technology showcase for future generation hybrid cars.

Click for more photos



Honda Small Hybrid Sports Concept

This is a European creation, designed by Honda R&D Europe in Germany. The powertrain is a Honda IMA 4-cylinder petrol/electric hybrid system driving through a CVT transmission. The Honda “H” sits in front of an aerodynamic grill and tightly crafted body (check how close the wheelarches are to the low rolling resistance 165/60 section tires on 20-inch rims). And notice the lack of rear view mirrors? Rear-facing digital cameras are there to cover your backing-up needs.

Click for more photos



Cadillac’s new powerful, and clean, V-6 (250hp, 406ft-lbs) 

The compact dual overhead cam, four-valve V-6 engine belongs to a new GM family of diesel engines, featuring an innovative closed-loop combustion control system designed to meet future emissions standards. The engine can be installed in a longitudinal or transverse layout and can be adapted to a wide range of two- or four-wheel-drive vehicles.



Lotus EVE Hybrid

EVE is based on a Proton Gen.2 with a 1.6L gasoline engine, with a start-stop system, full parallel hybrid drive and a continuously variable transmission. The CO2 emissions were cut from 172g/km to 134g/km compared to the baseline car and fuel economy went from 32.6 to 41.8 mpg.  The start-stop system shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarts it when the brake is released, to reduce emissions during idling. The hybrid system uses a 30kW, 144V motor between the engine and transmission. An extra clutch allows the regenerative braking or full electric drive, while a 144V Cobasys NiMH battery is mounted in the trunk.

Click for more photos


MIT researchers design stackable car of the future

Will the car of the future be foldable?

That’s the vision of a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. With backing from General Motors Corp., they are building a prototype of a lightweight electric vehicle that can be cheaply mass-produced, rented by commuters under a shared-use business model, and folded and stacked like grocery carts at subway stations or other central sites.

It’s called the City Car, and the key to the concept lies in the design of its wheels. Dreamers have been reinventing the wheel since the days of cave dwellers. But the work underway in “the Cube,” the Media Lab’s basement studio, may be the most ambitious remake yet.

The MIT team has transformed the lowly wheel into a sophisticated robotic drive system that will power the City Car. Embedded in each of its four wheels will be an electric motor, steering and braking mechanisms, suspension, and digital controls, all integrated into sealed units that can be snapped on and off.

[Boston Globe]

Another awesome EV

In February 2006, two Canadian companies, EBW and T-Rex , formed Silence Inc. to design and build high-performance electric vehicles. Silence Inc. has since ntegrated the EBW technology to a T-Rex chassis to build what we know today as the Silence, a 2-seat, high-performance, 100 % electric vehicle with a bold design adapted for the road.

The three-wheeled Silence PT2 weighs 900lbs and is only 13 feet long, six feet wide and four feet high. With a range of 125-250 miles and a top speed of over 125 mph, this thing should be a blast to drive.

The Silence PT2 will be available sometime later this spring. Price with the charger will be around $50,000 CDN (about $42,000 US)

(check out the high-res picture gallery!)

More info at Silence Inc.

Lotus collaborating with Zap! on crossover EV

The ZAP-X will use in-hub electric motors in place of the V-6 gas engine. According to the Zap! press release the combination of motors will provide 644hp in all wheel drive mode and potentially drive the aluminum-structured vehicle to 155 mph. The hub motors will also allow extra batteries and an auxiliary power unit to be mounted under hood. Zap! is estimating the range at 350 miles and a recharge time of 10 minutes, although that fast charge time would almost assuredly have to be via a 480V charging system.

It seems as though Lotus is becoming a big player in the EV market, working with Tesla on their roadster and upcoming sedan, and also the Obvio sports car with Zap! (and now the ZAP-X)