Elixir for Greater Battery Efficiency from the Earth


The San Andreas Fault is said to be one of the most active fault lines in the world and much of the Western United States is awaiting its next big movement. Despite the doomsayers, there is gold in there hills, but this time it’s for battery technology.

The fault line is an area that is a great source of geothermal energy and one of its byproducts is hot brine, now used to drive turbines to generate electricity. This brine also has the ability to collect minerals, one of which is lithium. Lithium is one of the key components in the creation of modern electric car batteries and other electrical devices.

One company, Simbol Materials, extracts lithium from the brine and has access to large reserves to this very important metal. This avoids the need to dig large mines to extract the ore for material use. The extracted lithium is used by start up company Envia Systems and is now being used to create a battery of higher density and at lower cost than what had been done before. When this occurs, the cost of batteries would be reduced affecting the cost of electric cars.

While many areas of the San Andreas fault may seem to be uninviting areas to propagate a revolution, its ability to provide sources of energy and minerals may prove to be the true value of this area to the world.

Another avenue how minerals that can help improve the technology of battery devices would be the use of sulfur enriched nanoparticles in new battery arrays. As the demand for batteries continues to increase exponentially, the need for more efficient in terms of energy delivery as well as size and weight becomes more pronounced. This is where lithium sulfur batteries leave lithium ion batteries in their wake.

In this new battery design, lithium, ions are exchanged between lithium and sulfur carbon electrodes, where the sulfur is able to absorb two lithium ions per sulfur atom. This makes the system a more efficient energy storage system with its power to weight ratio. At the same time, sulfur is a poor conductor of electricity and thus electrons can only be transported with great difficulty during charging and discharging. This is augmented with a larger interface area for electron transfer through coupling of the system with nanostructured conductive material.

According to Thomas Bein of the Nanosystems Initiative Munich, “The sulfur is very accessible electrically in these novel and highly porous carbon nanoparticles and is stabilized so that we can achieve a high initial capacity of 1200 mAh/g and good cycle stability. Our results underscore the significance of nano-morphology for the performance of new energy storage concepts.”

Soon enough, this system would become standard issue when it comes to the future of batteries for electric cars.

Alternative Electric Modes of Transportation


The electric revolution is not just about four wheeled vehicles. A major portion of the world’s electric vehicles is also the two or three wheeled vehicles. The following are some of the newest ones available in the market today.

The EW-54 Electric Cargo Tricycle is one of the multifunctional electric vehicles in the market today. This three-wheeled electric vehicle can run up to speeds of seventeen mph and is able to carry 350 lbs. There is no balancing required as there is an extra large metal cargo basket on two wheels. This makes this vehicle ideal for grocery shopping, carrying pets and other equipment. This is also great way to run errands without needing a car or just within the neighborhood.

There is a pedal assist system that kicks in automatically as a bicycle or you can just use the twist throttle to go into electric mode. This three-wheeler also has a reverse system to allow you to park or work around obstacles. This vehicle is faster than walking and provides the individual fun rides while in the sun. It is also cost efficient, as it costs about a nickel per mile in electricity.

This electric vehicle utilizes four heavy-duty twelve-volt batteries to be able to travel twenty-five miles on a single full charge with light pedaling. The battery can be recharged about 500 times before efficiency is affected, which is about three years. Another plus factor for this vehicle is that is considered as a bicycle in most states, thus there is no need to have a license to operate.

Another electric vehicle that is ideal for neighborhood use is the XB-610 Electric Moped. This moped is an upgrade from the very popular XB-600 moped. The new version has an upgraded motor controller and an improved smart battery charger. The battery array was also improved in this new version.

The XB-610 is able to travel up to thirty-five miles on a single full charge, though this depends on terrain, average speed and rider weight. The new battery pack allows for easy replacement, making one able to further extend range with an extra set carried along. It has a top speed of twenty miles per hour with the electric motor located near the hub of the rear wheel. There is no chain to drive the wheel, making for a virtually noiseless operation over great distances. The motor is also brushless, lessening the need for maintenance.

The battery array consists of four large batteries producing 20 amperes per hour of charge. These have a life of nearly three years before charging issues hamper performance. The moped has heavy-duty front and rear shock and the only parts needing care and checking would be battery charge and tire pressure. Like an electric bicycle, this electric moped does not require a license to operate at a fraction of the minute fraction of the cost of operating a car, even an electric one.

Battery Technology Not Only For Vehicles


Coda Automotive, a division of Coda Holdings, had previously planned to make its electric sedan available to the general public in the next month. This may take a backseat as its parent company, Coda Holdings, has announced it would be focusing its efforts on another related technology, stationary batteries for electricity storage.

The battery technology for the company would start by making minor modification for battery packs to its cars. The batteries are lithium iron phosphate cells made in China. The company then either sells them individually or in a bundled package that can be used to store solar power for excess power from the individual’s solar array. With the extra power, companies are able to reduce their peak load leading to lower overhead costs for electricity for the consumer.

Since the company has designed the electric packs for cars, these arrays are easily transportable and can be modified either up or down. The giant’s car division has designed its sedan around a battery pack that is able to store 31 to 36 kilowatt hours. With the expansion into the stationary module product line, the battery is able to store at least forty-kilowatt hours.

The company seeking expansion into stationary battery packs is entering a lucrative sector of the market. These battery arrays can be used as back up electricity sources because the demand far outstrips the supply. The idea of this lateral expansion is to support the electric car market as battery sources for electrical power would be available and thus lower demand for the new electrical power increases as more electric vehicles go online.

According to Edward A. Solar, Senior Vice President of Coda Energy, “We are leveraging this technology across business units as it is synergistic for us.” Coda Energy would be the division that focuses on stationary batteries of the future.

The company further adds the use of batteries in stationary service would help in the reduction of global warming emissions. In the stationary market, the electricity produced from large-scale solar farms would be stored and eventually bought and sold freely in the market. These batteries are designed to provide high levels of electricity, as the current design is able to handle 100 kilowatts or 134 horsepower.

The larger battery array for cars has also become attractive for grid use. One other firm has entered the market for large storage batteries and this is A123 Systems. Their largest array is located in Elkins, West Virginia and has cells smaller than a D cell flashlight battery pack.

The Honda Hybrid


The Honda Insight is the Japanese automaker’s contribution to the green car revolution. It is also the first vehicle in its line to include its Integrated Motor Assist system. The first version of the Insight was produced from 1999 to 2006 and garnered the recognition as the most efficient car in the United States from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000.

The second generation Insight was introduced in Japan in February 2009 and in the United States in March 2009. This latest version is a five-door hatchback vehicle and was considered as the least expensive hybrid vehicle in 2011 with its base price of just US$18,200. The Insight was introduced to the UK market in 2009 and became the most affordable green vehicle with a base price of GBP 15,940. These prices made the Honda Insight the best selling hybrid not only in the UK but in other markets as well.

The Insight is able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds and a braking distance from 70 to 0 mph of 181 feet. The mileage of the Insight was at 38 mpg and has been lauded by Car and Driver magazine as “fun to drive” because of its superior handling, steering power, braking ability and the paddle-shifted transmission.

The second generation Insight is a five-passenger vehicle with the patented Integrated Motor Assist system power train. This system connects an internal combustion engine with an electric motor mounted into the engine’s crankshaft between the engine and its transmission. This design allows for lesser complexity, lower cost and space saving to allow the vehicle to accommodate more capacity.

The gasoline engine is a 1.3 SOHC I-Vtec four-cylinder engine that is highly efficient, lightweight and produces less friction. The engine is rated for 98 hp at 5800 rpm producing 123 pounds per foot of torque from even at 1000 to 1700 rpm. When the engine is at high torque but low rpm, the electric motor also contributes to power the vehicle with 13 hp at 1500 rpm through 58 lbs per foot of torque to the power train. These two power sources would assist the acceleration of the vehicle.

Another aspect of the hybrid engine is that the motor would become a generator during braking, cruising, deceleration and coasting to be able to recharge the car’s battery. When the engine starts, the motor would rev up to idle speed which would then switch to back up, a conventional 12 volt starter to start the engine on its way.

The IMA battery of the Insight is a flat, nickel metal hydride battery pack located under the cargo floor and the rear wheels. The battery provides 100.8 volts and is recharged automatically through the regenerative braking system.

Another plus for the Insight is it s ECO Assist system which is designed to provide guidance to the driver to maintain a fuel-efficient driving style. This system monitors and displays the effects of driving style to the vehicle’s overall fuel economy.

China and General Motors Enter into EV Partnership


Last Tuesday, General Motors announced that it has entered into a joint venture partnership with a Chinese automaker. Included in the agreement are transfers of technology, such as battery design and other core electric vehicle technologies.

GM is the leading conventional carmaker in China and has expanded such reach in spearheading the next generation of electric cars to be offered to the Chinese market. This comes after the Chinese government is exerting pressure on foreign carmakers to share their technologies with Chinese counterparts. For its part, GM steered clear of the issue by stating that the agreement did not include the importation of the Chevrolet Volt, its flagship electric hybrid.

According to Stephen J. Girsky, Vice Chairman of General Motors, indicated that the Chinese government did not request that Volt technologies be included in the joint venture partnership. With this, GM understands that the Volt would not be eligible to be covered by the government subsidies provided for purchasers of clean energy vehicles. Instead, the joint venture is part of GM’s effort to improve the technical capabilities of the Chinese partner automaker. This is key as GM is able to sell more cars in China through this partnership than what it sells in the United States.

“This is not a political decision today. It’s a business decision,” according to Mr. Girsky.

The new electric car development partnership is a fifty-fifty partnership between GM and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, China’s largest automaker. The partnership is called the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center based out of Shanghai. The previous project of the partnership is the LaCrosse eAssist currently on sale in both the U.S. and China. This vehicle is termed a mild hybrid because the electric motors help increase the fuel economy of the main powerhouse of the car, a gasoline engine.

Included in the agreement is expanding the current partnership into an electric car development center. This would be achieved would include transfer of battery technology as well as inverter technology. Inverters assist in controlling the transfer of electricity between the batteries and the electric motor.