Electric Car Use Tips in Winter

BATTERYpack
BATTERYpack

Many would-be purchasers concern with electric cars would be their functionality during winter time. This has readily been addressed by many electric car owners and physics doesn’t help, as it shows that EVs in Southern California perform better than in the frigid Northeast and Canada.

While a greater part of the United States experiences snow weather during winter, the following are some tips that can help extend the range of your electric vehicle in your neck of the woods.

  1. Keep the electric car plugged in. One of the features of electric car would be providing heating or cooling of the battery pack to maintain their ideal temperature. With the battery pack being warmer during winter, this would provide more range available.
  2. Pre-conditioning the cabin before leaving. One of the newer features of electric vehicles is the use of grid power instead of batteries. This can be done through a smartphone app before even leaving the comfort oh home. This is also one reason to keep your EV plugged in.
  3. Choose Seat Heaters Instead of Cabin Heater. Cabin heaters utilize a lot of electrical power, so the next viable option is to have seat heater since the cabin would have been preheated before entering the vehicle. With the back warmed up and the cabin preheated when plugged in, driving the vehicle in cold temperatures would be a cool experience altogether.
  4. Have the EV in a Garage Indoors. If you have a garage attached to your house, it is best to store the EV indoors. Having them indoors would allow for a few degrees lower in ambient temperature compared to the chill when out in the open. Aside from the temperature, it would keep your EV safe from the biting cold.
  5. Tires Properly Inflated. Tire pressure is lower in colder climes and this results in greater friction for the tires designed for low roll resistance. It is best to check on tire pressure before leaving the house.
  6. Allow Leeway for Charging. Because some the car’s charge is used to keep the battery warm and crisp, it would be best to add on a few more minutes to recoup that lost charge before heading up the cold roads of winter. Adding an hour at best would do the trick.

Clearly, there is a bit of more chores to do when using an electric vehicle during wintertime. This would prove to be all worth the while with the mileage achieved with a bit more enthusiasm in using your electric vehicle.

2013 The Year of Wireless Charging

electricCARBATT
electricCARBATT

Wireless charging has long been a buzzword in the world of technology, especially electric cars. In recent projections based on the studies conducted by Pike Research, the sales of wireless charging technology would jump to more than 280,000 starting 2013, peaking at 2020.

The think tank identified several points of growth, such as the increasing partnerships between several electric vehicle companies and manufacturers that fuels both the demand and innovations in the technology.

The technology is quite simple and operates when an electric car parks over a ground pad. This in turn creates an electromagnetic field that is convertedinto electric current in the car in order to charge the battery. There are no wires involved in this process and ground pads can even be embedded in structures and roadways to make the process much more accessible to all.

This is one of the areas that can tremendously influence future car purchases, as this would create a “park and forget” mentality, allowing for continuous charging without the active knowledge of the car owner. The potential for frequent stops where wireless charging is available could help in alleviating many consumers ‘range anxiety’ with electric cars.

There is also great importance in the market itself for this kind of technology as several large technology and car manufacturers have started to form partnerships specifically to undertake research and create wireless charging systems. One such example is BMW, which has forged agreements with Siemens on wireless charging. Audi, Mitsubishi and Toyota have a consortium with WiTriCity and Delphi, while Qualcomm has partnered with Renault and Delta Motorsports. Evatran has also entered into research agreements with Google and Hertz.

Nissan has taken great measure in integrating the wireless technology with its new models, such as allowing the vehicle to park itself to be able to fully utilize and be efficient with regards to wireless technology.  This is showcased in the newest Infiniti electric sub compact and would become available by 2015. The Japanese automaker has stated that its system is between eighty to ninety percent efficient, which is not far from standard wired charging.

There have been pockets of usage for wireless recharging technology. Italian bus companies have been using it for over ten years now, with each stop able to recharge up to fifteen percent of battery capacity. This is predicted to have the best utilization in other public transportation platforms, such as electric taxis.

Despite its great promise there are still some limitations, such as changing infrastructure to allow the integration of wireless pads in roads and motorways, as well as the retrofitting of current electric vehicles to become compatible with the newer charging technology.  This is in reality the ‘next big thing’ that is already here, providing great solutions for many issues in choosing electric car technology. As more and more companies and consortiums become focused on the technology, the next generation of electric carts would certainly provide better options for the electric car connoisseur.

Electric Car Support Developments

electrictransport
electrictransport

The electric car revolution is not just about the car itself, but all the other major changes that need to be modified to adjust to the new demand. One of the key areas being looked at is the effect of the electric car demand on the power grid in the United States.

A current study at University of Notre Dame is doing just that, exploring how the expanding electric car market would affect the U.S. power grid. The research is funded in part by the National Science Foundation’s Physical Systems Program. The process involves the development of mathematical algorithms that would help in guiding the integration of plug-in electric vehicles to the national grid.

Initial findings from the research team lauded the benefits that electric cars can provide their owners as well as the transportation industry and the electric companies. Their low impact would also help the environment. While there are win-win solutions, there are also drawbacks that need to be addressed. These include: balancing electricity demand and supply as well as the existing infrastructure in the transportation and delivery of electrical power to the end user.

According to the study lead, Vijay Gupta, “Electrification of the transportation market offers revenue growth for utility companies and automobile manufacturers, lower operational costs for consumers and benefits to the environment.” He adds, “By addressing problems that will arise as PEV impose extra load on the grid and by solving the challenges that currently impede the use of PEVs as distributed storage resources, this research will directly impact society.”

Another industry that needs development and support would be the battery market. Researchers at the Ohio State University have discovered a means that can provide a better battery to be used for both electric and hybrid cars.

The study used lithium ion batteries and researchers found that as the batteries age, the lithium accumulates what is termed as a ‘current collector’. This substance is a sheet of copper that helps in facilitating better electron transfer between the electrodes in the car’s electrical system. This discovery can help in improving battery design for cars, as well as provide enhanced performance and battery life for the user.

According to study lead, Bharat Bhushan, “Our study shows that the copper current collector plays a role in the performance of the battery. We didn’t set out to find lithium in the current collector, so you could say we accidentally discovered it and how it got there is a bit of a mystery. As far as we know, nobody has ever expected active lithium to migrant inside the current collector.”

Many hybrid electric and all electric car platforms utilize lithium ion batteries in their systems as rechargeable power packs. The lithium ions travel between the anode and cathode end of the battery. When charging, the electrons are on the anode end while they are all at the cathode end when discharging. The current discovery debunks the long held belief that when a battery ages, the lithium builds up on the anode’s surface resulting in loss of charge capacity.

One step at a time for the Electric Car Support Developments.

Finding Multiple Uses for Electric Car Batteries

Electric car made from batteries
Electric car made from batteries

Many of the advocates of the electric car revolution have discussed about repackaging the battery packs for cars to become energy storage devices once their useful run as car batteries run out. This idea was best shown when ABB and General Motors have been undertaking a project of a similar nature with five (5) Chevy Volts.

The Volt battery back is able to hold sixteen kilowatt hours when brand new and the prototypes from the partnership would be able to carry ten kilowatt hours per pack. The program would have five battery packs placed together in an array that would be able to provide two hours of electricity for three to five houses of average size. The demonstration showcased a lighting and audiovisual equipment in a structure in San Francisco.

The batteries were not even challenged as each pack was able to provide up to 111 kilowatts of power but the five batteries were only able to provide 2.5 kilowatts. This is significant as low power demand for these kinds of batteries would extend their service life.

The concept behind the prototype is to provide for a market for used batteries as well as allowing for resale value that would lower cost of ownership. It would also provide for a distributed storage system that would provide backups for areas with low energy supply or have a storage system for intermittent energy sources such as solar panels and wind machines until its delivery for use in the power grid.

The concept can also be quite useful in an area with a high population of electric cars as the electricity required to charge vehicles arrives at a steady stream and be stored in the battery array available to be tapped when needed. In this set up, the battery pack would work like a tank on a toilet, readily available for a quick supply.

The package set up also provides an inverter that would convert direct current from a battery to an alternating current, usable as electricity from an electric socket.  The requirement to be allowed into the program, according to Pablo Valencia, Senior Manager for Battery Life Cycle Management at GM would be the battery pack is no longer suitable for a car, where only thirty percent or less of its life has been used.

He added, “This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications.”

The Trail of the Battery Maker

BATTERYpack
BATTERYpack

A123 Systems was one of the cornerstones of the Obama administration’s push for energy self reliance. The company was rewarded with a US$241.1 million grant three years ago alongside a US$125 million Michigan state tax credit exemption. It was envisioned that the company would create jobs as well as wean the United States from foreign oil dependency and clean self sufficient energy.

Unfortunately, these lofty ideals were not achieved and now the company has been taken over by the Chinese company Wanxiang Group. The deal set included a US$450 million cash infusion in exchange for nearly eighty percent of the company. Now the controlling shares are seeking to obtain the technology and move the operations overseas, leaving the money and the grant lost and unrecoverable.

According to Jarett Skorup of the Makinac Center for Public Policy, “They were wrong. The problem is that policymakers decided to be in the business of picking economic winners and losers and unfortunately they’ve picked the losers far too often.” As for the money, he added, “It’s money that we’ll never get back. It was grant money so that there were not a lot of strings attached to it.”

In estimates conducted, the Waltham, Mass. Based battery maker had already lost a reported US$857 million in capital, laid off many of its workers and has recalled many of its products. Its stock price dropped like a stone, from a high of US$4.44 last year to its current level of US$0.26 per share this week. The decline of the company has been attributed to a number of factors and foremost amongst them is the lack of demand for their batteries as a result of the slow growth of the electric car market.

Skorup further adds, “It failed because there’s not enough demand and also because there are companies outside of the U.S. – some in China – where they’re able to produce the equipment for cheaper. Representatives should not be in the business of trying to determine what the next new thing is in terms of technology. The free market does it better.”

Amongst the clients of A123 Systems is Fisker Automotive and other companies. The company had grand plans, building a factory in Michigan soon to be followed by thirty others that would become fully operational in the next six years. The plants would manufacture electric vehicle batteries and other components for use in the burgeoning electric car market.

Nowadays though, employees at the Compact Power manufacturing plant in Holland, Michigan has been placed on rotating shifts, with many working just three weeks per month because of the lack of demand for the lithium ion battery cells. This plant was built at a cost of US$150 million in taxpayer money. The factory still has not produced a single battery pack for the Chevy Volt and for the Ford Focus Electric. Thus is the trail of the money for the battery maker lost along the way.