Electric Cars: Will the Cure Be Worse Than the Disease?

By | January 26, 2010

Imagine you built a car plant that could produce 100,000 vehicles annually. Despite a huge capital investment, you only really intend to build between 20,000 to 30,000 annually. You’re either expecting sudden, unanticipated demand at some unforeseeable moment in the future… or you’re an electric utility.

That’s the point Bill Shanner wanted to get across to me this week as we talked for nearly an hour about the realities of the electric power industry; why some types of utilities like the idea of electric cars and others very much don’t.

All of us in the developed world expect that each and every time, regardless of the time of day, we throw a power switch, the electricity will flow: lights will glow, microwaves will run, air conditioners will cool and computers will go ‘ping” as they boot up. Live in other parts of the world where the grid is wobbly at best or just doesn’t exist and it’s a different story.

The problem and the opportunity — depending on your perspective — with adding millions of grid-charged vehicles, be they plug-in hybrids, extended range EVs, or pure battery EVs, is that they do add load. Yes, there is currently sufficient overnight generation capacity, but from the utilities’ perspective, in order to keep a comfortable reserve they have one of two options: build more capacity — especially on the transmission and distribution side — or buy power from someone else, typically at rates, Shanner explained, 10 to 100 times what it costs the utility to generate its own, which is, on the global average, about 2¢ a kilowatt hour. But buying power from someone else doesn’t solve the problem of distribution.

There is, however, a third option emerging: the smart grid, but Shanner’s view is a bit different than what you’re used to hearing. The reason utilities are interested in the smart grid is so they can shift the risk of electric power availability to the consumer. There are very pragmatic reasons for this having to do with how the utility industry has evolved.

The industry is divided into essentially three types of power producers: investor owned utilities or IOUs, electric power cooperatives and municipal power companies; and depending on which you are colors your view of electric cars.

As Shanner explains it, grid-connected electric cars are a lot like air conditioners in that their load is fairly unpredictable, largely because despite incentives to shift charge times to off-peak hours, EV owners are going to charge when and where they feel they need to. I can appreciate that because even though most of the time I usually plug in our converted Prius after 10 pm in the evening and unplug it before 8 am in the morning, there have been several times when I’ve wanted to charge it during peak hours. Now, with one such car in the entire state, and region for that matter, this isn’t a problem. Even a few thousand grid-charged cars wouldn’t be that big an issue for the grid. Millions of such cars, however, will be.

It is the unpredictability of this load that is worrisome to electric power planners. Enter the ’smart grid,’ which from my confidant’s perspective is the electric power industry’s way to get the consumer to accept more of the capital investment risks that heretofore in a more monopolistic, vertically integrated power industry, the utility would have to bear.

Case in point: Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) electric vehicles. It isn’t the utility that is buying all that energy storage capacity, it’s the car owner who is assuming the capital costs. Solar PV on your house? Same story. You’re assuming the investment risk, though even here, you’re counting on the grid to swap power with you: expensive solar during the day for cheap coal, natural gas and nuclear generated power at night. You’re still bearing the lion’s share of the cost. In fact, renewables like wind and solar don’t reduce the need for grid capacity, they increase it because of their intermittency. A million solar roofs may work fine to help ameliorate some mid-afternoon air conditioning load, which is really what all the excess capacity was built for. It’s like that 100,000 car per year plant that most of the time only turns out a few tens of thousands of cars annually. And since most of those solar PV installations haven’t invested in banks for back-up batteries to handle night-time loads, the grid still has to provide all those homes with power after the sun goes down or when its not shining, like it’s been here in eastern Nebraska for what seems like weeks now.

According to Shanner, two-thirds of the capital costs of the grid are T&D, transmission and distribution. It’s all those wires, towers, poles and substations needed to get the ‘juice’ from the generator to our wall outlets. It’s all those millions of neighborhood transformers that once two or three Volts and Leafs start to appear in a neighborhood will need to be replaced every 12 years instead of every 17 on average according to Arizona State’s Power Systems Engineering Center.

Two nations, Korea and Denmark, have begun developing strategies to deal with the problem. They realize that the grid needs to be managed much closer to the load than it presently is. Under our current regime, utilities manage in 100MW blocks of energy, either in terms of production or buying and selling on the spot power market. In Denmark’s case, Dong’s wind power is sold to a central power pool and then resold to individual substations. What’s happening is that the power company is starting to practice the same production strategies car makers adopted decades ago: lean [power] production, just in time [power] delivery and activity based accounting.

In effect, what Korea and Denmark are doing is moving energy management down to the substation level, making each a separate profit and loss center in their business model. But ultimately, that means increased electric power costs, not less; costs being borne more and more by the power consumer.

In fact, for any of this to work, it is Shanner’s contention that there needs to be a complete transformation of the electric power industry business model; and the price tag to do it will run into the trillions of dollars; a lot of it being spent to buy up stranded utility assets, as well as expand and upgrade the T&D system. What’s needed is both improved macro and micro management, plus a far more heterogeneous power grid instead of the hodgepodge we now have to live with.

To illustrate his point, he said that Intel has three production facilities in Silicon Valley, one in San Jose (PG&E), one in Santa Clara (a well run muni) and one in Sunnyale (a cooperative). All three charge Intel different power rates. You can probably figure out which charges the highest rate. There are 2000 distinct electric power monopolies across America, and each has a different business model and consequently a different view of the coming of electric cars. The IOU’s (and their investors), as well as coops, generally speaking, see EVs as another profit stream because they make their money on the margins, around 12% Shanner estimates. If their net revenues go from $1.5 billion to $1.515, so much the better. The more power they sell, the more profit they can make. For the municipal-run utilities like Omaha Public Power District that produces the power to keep my lights on, iMac running, and Prius recharged, electric cars are a liability requiring more capacity that has to be built at the expense of the rate payers for whom they work.

I won’t pretend that I understand all the delicate nuances of a very complicated industry, but Bill Shanner certainly seems to have a good grasp of it and if he’s right and we don’t do this carefully, in his words, “the cure could be worse than the disease.”


Topics: electric based vehicles | 2 Comments »

The University of Dayton Research Institute’s technology could also have applications for troops on the battlefield.

By | November 24, 2009


By John Nolan, Staff Writer Updated 10:45 PM Friday, November 20, 2009

DAYTON – The University of Dayton Research Institute’s new solid-state technology for a rechargeable lithium battery, which would draw oxygen from the air around it, could offer the long service life that is needed for electric transport power in a car, according to the leader of UDRI’s battery technology team.

Manufacturers and owners of hybrid and all-electric cars would want power batteries that would last as long as the vehicle, perhaps a decade, said Binod Kumar, a research engineer and leader of UDRI’s electrochemical power group. The UDRI technology could meet that need, he said Thursday, Nov. 19.

Today’s hybrid cars have gasoline engines to supplement the electric motor. All-electric cars would require advanced batteries, with the capability to last longer between recharges.

Kumar and his team said they have developed and tested a completely solid-state, rechargeable lithium-air battery, which they said is much more stable than conventional lithium-ion batteries that contains liquid and can rupture, catch fire or explode if exposed to short-circuit or excessive heat. UDRI holds patents on parts of the technology and will apply for additional patents, Kumar said.

Dan Rastler, manager of the energy storage program for Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit independent research group funded by the electric utility industry, said his organization is interested in knowing more about UDRI’s work. Scientists at IBM Corp.’s Almaden Research Center in California, and researchers in Japan, also are trying to develop improved lithium rechargeable batteries because of the growing demand and potential markets as power sources in cars; laptop computers, electric utility grids and as backups to solar or wind power generating systems.

The Air Force Research Laboratory provided the bulk of the funding for the UDRI team’s work.

New type of battery ?has advantages

Long-lived lithium rechargeable batteries could be ideal power sources for battlefield troops or aboard unmanned aircraft flown by the military, Kumar said.

By not having any liquid electrolyte – an ion-containing substance that is electrically conductive – in UDRI’s battery, it avoids the volatility of today’s liquid-containing lithium-ion batteries, Kumar said. UDRI’s test batteries have performed during tests at temperatures of up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

Topics: green battery technology | No Comments »

Could Car Batteries Back up Our Electrical Grid?

By | November 11, 2009

Could Car Batteries Back up Our Electrical Grid?

By sending current back to the grid, electric cars could serve as a backup to wind and solar

Charles J. Murray, senior technical editor — Design News, November 9, 2009

In the quest to supply electricity for millions of future electric cars, engineers have stumbled upon the most unlikely of energy prospects – the car itself.

If that sounds like a bit of tangled logic to you, then you’re not alone. The very idea leaves most intelligent people scratching their heads.

Still, the concept is being examined by auto companies, utilities, universities and industry consultants. And many believe the electric car battery could turn out to be one of the most important sources of current for … well, the electric car battery.

“This is very doable,” says David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research and one of the industry’s most respected consultants. “We’re still in the early stages because we don’t have high-volume battery production yet. But when that occurs, everything will change.”

Indeed, if it happens, it could be a game-changer. Proponents of the idea foresee it happening a little bit at a time. In the beginning, they say, electric cars will “talk” to the grid and determine the best times for charging. That way, they’ll grab the energy when the utilities have surpluses. Later on, though, monumental changes will kick in. Car batteries will dump energy back onto the grid when utilities need help. People who need energy – possibly even for their electric cars – will draw it through the grid, from cars that don’t need it. Ultimately, experts even foresee a day when retired electric car batteries, connected in long strings inside giant warehouses, will supply energy back to the grid when renewable sources aren’t producing.

To be sure, not everyone believes in the vision. Some automakers and utility engineers describe the concept as “interesting,” but aren’t willing to pencil it into their plans. Those engineers want to know if the concept poses a risk to consumers, or to electrical linemen working nearby. They want to know if repeated, two-way cycling would damage the battery and, if it did, who would be responsible for the damage.

“The business case looks good,” says Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). “But it’s not clear whether we can provide that service from millions of vehicles intended for transportation. This is not a simple problem.”

Talking to the Grid

Simple or not, the idea has trickled into the technological mainstream, and it appears to be gaining momentum. Searching the term “vehicle-to-grid” on Google yields about 20 million hits, an extraordinary number by any measure. Moreover, automakers such as Ford Motor Co. are considering the lowest levels of the concept. And utilities have begun to take on vehicle-to-grid investigations, too.

The concept has built favor over the past few years as several market forces have coalesced. The stampede to electric vehicles and hybrids has highlighted the need for more electrical capacity, while a separate move toward renewable energy has left some utility engineers wondering where the power will come from.

The crux of the problem is simple but unappreciated:  Wind turbines make energy only when the wind blows; solar cells generate current only when the sun shines brightly. Moreover, the electrical current created by those sources must be used immediately. With only a few minor exceptions, utilities don’t have a way of storing that energy for later use.

“It’s a problem,” says Cole of CAR. “You have to figure out what you’re going to do if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun’s not shining.”

That’s where the electric car battery comes in. One simple solution involves charging electric cars and plug-in hybrids at a time of day when demand is low. Utilities want to “incentivize” such consumer behavior by dropping the price-per-kilowatt-hour at night, and then working with automakers to enable vehicles to make such decisions on their own. The vehicles would do that by incorporating an ability to “talk” to the electrical grid, via a wireless or wired connection. Doing so, a vehicle could decide to re-charge at 3 a.m., when rates are lower.

Ford has already demonstrated the concept on a 20-vehicle fleet, using the cars’ navigation screens as an interface to communicate with a smart electrical meter. The automaker accomplished that in wireless and wired fashions, using a ZigBee communications protocol for wireless and a SAE J1772 connector for the hard-wired version.

“The idea is to acquire information from the vehicle and transmit it outside,” says Greg Frenette, manager of Ford’s battery electric vehicle applications. “For example, if you want to communicate the battery’s state of charge, there are a number of ways to transmit that signal to the charging source. But to do that, we need an open-architecture solution that crosses all the industries involved. We have to develop common codes, standards and protocols that ensure the customer in Maine has the same seamless experience as the customer in California.”

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has already formed a committee to create such codes and standards. SAE J2293 is establishing requirements for transfer of electrical energy to EVs, Frenette says.

For automakers, the hardware for such transfers is likely to look like the HomePlug, a well-known product designed for standards-based home powerline networks. A digital signal will be piggybacked onto the powerline of a charging cable, enabling the exchange of information in a “smart energy profile.” That way, the car communicates its needs to the grid, and the grid understands them.

“The car will want answers to some basic questions,” says Duvall of EPRI. “For example, it might want to know, ‘What’s the price of electricity over the next 24 hours?’”

Technology companies are already springing up with new products to meet such needs. GridPoint Inc., for example, has rolled out smart charging software that manages the flow of electricity to plug-in vehicles and charging stations,

enabling the utilities to balance the grid conditions against the needs of drivers.

What’s more, automakers and utilities are envisioning other ways of empowering vehicles. Hybrids with electrical architectures supporting 300V, 400V, 500V and even 600V have sprung up, enabling cars to power a home during an outage or handle the electrical loads temporarily when electricity prices run high.

“Let’s say it’s really hot out and electrical prices are high,” Duvall explains. “You could use a vehicle-to-home arrangement. Instead of pulling power off the grid at 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, you pull it out of your vehicle. Then you recharge it at 3 a.m., when electricity prices drop to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.”

Two-Way Power Flow

Such concepts, however, pale by comparison to the true vehicle-to-grid vision. That vision, often credited to Willett Kempton, an associate professor and senior policy scientist at the University of Delaware, calls for vehicles to dump power back onto the grid at key times.

Kempton, who published peer-reviewed papers on the topic as far back as 1997, says he believes the two-way flow of electrical current offers far more potential than the one-way scenario. “What we are doing has 10 times more economic value,” he says.

Kempton’s vision involves a connection between the electrical grid and a centralized server, which would track all the cars under its jurisdiction.

“In a business, you would have cars that subscribe to the service,” he explains. “And when the cars are plugged in, the server would know where they are. It knows their state of charge and the size of their plug. And when the grid says, ‘I have too much electricity or not enough electricity,’ the server meets its needs.” In essence, Kempton says, the server would initiate flow of current from parked cars back to the grid, where the additional current would relieve the utility’s temporary load imbalance.

Kempton’s idea of vehicle-to-grid might use a wireless Internet connection or an SAE-approved hardware link, such as the J1772 plug. Either way, he says, the key would be the server’s ability to instantaneously allocate electrical current from thousands, or even millions, of vehicles back to the grid in a momentary time of need.

Although automakers and utilities won’t openly commit to the concept, they agree with Kempton on one critical point: The technology’s success depends largely on its ability to motivate automotive owners to unload their battery charge back onto the grid. Such motivation, they believe, would have to come in the form of cash.

“If you’re going to put equipment on a car that allows bi-directional power transfer, then you need to offer the consumer an almost-daily return,” Duvall says. “Vehicle owners will be interested in something that pays them a non-trivial amount of money. If we can convince the owners that they’d net $500 a year, then they’d be very interested.”

Designed correctly, Kempton says he believes the concept would have a “negative cost” – in other words, a gross monetary gain for the consumer of between $1,000 and $5,000 a year.

Automakers and utilities are still unsure whether the idea is workable, however. They point to a multitude of potential problems:  Can the vehicle transmit energy back onto the grid in a safe manner? Is there risk to the consumer? If a $20,000 lithium-ion battery is damaged, who’s responsible? The utility? The automaker? Most important: Will electric vehicle batteries stand up to the repeated cycling?

Kempton argues that new batteries, capable of multiple thousands of cycles, are already on the horizon. Altair Nanotechnologies Inc., for example, has produced a lithium-titanate battery that connects directly to the electrical grid and stands up to 5,000 cycles.

Still, the auto industry is withholding judgment for now. “There’s been an awful lot of hype around this topic for the past several years,” says Frenette of Ford. “But we really need detailed, data-driven information that government and industry can build a consensus around.”

Battery Backup

Even if vehicle-to-grid fails to capture industry support, many experts say they believe EV batteries will still provide storage for the electrical grid. In a separate scenario, engineers say utilities could link long strings of used lithium-ion batteries in vast battery farms that would provide balance for the grid at a moment’s notice.

“After the battery is done with its life in the car, it still has a lot of years remaining,” says Cole. “It may not have quite the capability you’d like in a car, but it can do fine in a battery farm.”

Utilities are already employing such battery farms. Golden Valley Electric Authority in Fairbanks, AK uses a nickel-cadmium Battery Energy Storage System capable of producing 27 MW of electricity for 15 minutes. Similarly, a lead-acid battery farm in Sabano Llana, Puerto Rico provides 20 MW for 15 minutes.

Ultimately, the use of such storage could depend on the spread of renewable energy. As wind and solar gain momentum, utilities are likely to reach for alternative means, and the most thoroughly understood solutions are likely to appear first. That’s why most industry engineers believe simple grid communication and one-way current flow are likely. In a few years, they say, vehicles with grid-ready interfaces could start to reach production.

Whether two-way, vehicle-to-grid energy transfer will be adopted in the next few years is another matter. “There are still a lot of open questions,” Frenette says. “People will consider it more seriously when we understand the implications from a vehicle standpoint and from a consumer standpoint.”

Still, automotive experts say they’re optimistic over the long term. “The technology is here; no invention is necessary,” Cole says. “Don’t bet against it.”

Topics: electric car battery | No Comments »

Investors Like New Battery Technology

By | September 30, 2009

A123 Systems (AONE) had an extremely successful IPO. The company uses proprietary nanoscale material technology developed at and licensed from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A123 Systems is also utilizing its 215 employees for R&D on new generations of this core nanophosphate technology. It recently developed an ultra high power battery for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team that provides more than ten times the W/kg as compared to a standard Prius battery.

How big the market for batteries for electric cars and the competition A123 Systems faces are key issues facing investors. On the end-user side, data show that the number of EV (electric vehicle), HEV (hybrid electric vehicle), PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) models with an annual production run of at least 20,000 vehicles will grow from 19 models in 2009 to over 150 models in 2014 and over 200 models in 2019. In addition, estimates for the global lithium-ion battery market for automotive application in EVs, PHEVs, and HEVs are $31.9 million in 2009 growing to $21.8 billion by 2015 and $74.1 billion by 2020.

According to Dr. Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network, “Light-weight, high-energy-density lithium ion batteries, which can enable a car to go up to 300 miles on a charge, can cost as much as $35,000, which coincidentally is the replacement cost for the new Tesla Motors Roadster.”

Clearly the market potential for lithium-ion batteries for automobiles is huge. But cost is a critical factor, and as they are new, so is durability. In a report released in January 2009, the DOE pointed out that the current cost of Li-based batteries is approximately a factor of three-five too high on a kWh basis for HEVs, and two times too high for HEVs.. Also, the ability to attain a 15-year life, or 300,000 HEV cycles, or 5,000 EV cycles are unproven and are anticipated to be difficult.

A123 Systems competes in the Li-ion battery space with companies including Advanced Battery Technologies(ABAT),Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTI), China Sun Group (CSGH), Ener1 (HEV), Hong Kong Highpower Technology (HPJ), and Valence Technologies (VLNC).

A123 Systems with its Lithium-ion technology also competes with advanced lead-acid battery (lead carbon) producers like Axion Power International (AXPW.OB), C&D Technologies (CHP), Enersys (ENS), and Exide Technologies (XIDE).

Let’s not forget the NiMH battery. ECD Ovonics (ENER) has licensed its battery technology to every major manufacturer of NiMH batteries, all 35 of them. It’s a market prohected to be $1,230 million market for HEVs in 2011 compared to a $320 million market for automotive Li-ion batteries.

Topics: green battery technology | 1 Comment »

Hope They Build This

By | September 29, 2009

te_option1_leftsideBy Bill Moore

That’s how Steve Dallas’ wife characterizes his latest passion, a stylish, two-seat electric car that I got my first look at this evening here in Montreal. Felix Kramer, the founder of CalCars, and I were strolling the indoor mall of the Hyatt Regency after the opening night reception and noticed the bright yellow car pictured above being positioned in what will be the exhibit area of the PHEV ‘09 conference.

The car is a from-the-ground-up design that Dallas, who owns Toronto Electric, has been working on for the last two years. His firm builds industrial cranes and electric motors, so building an electric car from scratch wasn’t totally outside of his skill set, but he was also smart enough to hire the best available talent in his community to style the car, engineer and assembly the chassis, and program the electronic controls and telematics, which includes its own onboard WiFi system.

For styling, he turned to noted race car designer Paul Deutschman, who has designed cars for LeMans. The chassis was engineered from tubular chrome moly steel by a firm that builds Nascar racers. The 49kW AC drive system comes from Azure Dynamics and the 29.2kWh, 307 volt lithium ion battery pack from Valence.

Fresh out of the shop, the car is getting its first public debut for the opening of PHEV’09. Steve tells me that he hasn’t even developed a web page for it yet, but this much we know right now, the car is a one-off design due to Transport Canada regulations. While it sounds like Dallas would like to offer the series production models for sale, he is still mulling over his options, so it may, or it may not proceed beyond the point at which it is this evening.

In terms of performance, everything for now is largely theoretical. Acceleration is expected to be 0-60 mph in 4 seconds, comparable to the Tesla. Efficiency is targeted at 128 Wh/km or 207 Wh/mi. At 80% depth of discharge, that would equal a driving range of 100 miles. Top speed is rated at 99km/h (61 mph), largely because Dallas intended the car to be used in urban settings; the next step above a ZENN or comparable neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV).

Empty, the car weighs 700 kg ( 1543 lbs.) and has a payload of 460 kg. The 321 kg battery pack sits under the passenger cockpit, so tipping this car over should be next to impossible; and even if you did, it has a Nascar-style roll cage that will prevent the roof from caving in on the occupants.

The car has two digital display screens; mechanical analog instruments are so last century. The driver’s screen displays the speedometer and other vehicle data, while the telematics screen includes GPS and Google maps.

I really think a lot of people could get pretty excited about this the car, which Steve refers to in his spec sheet handout as the TE Option 1, highlighting the fact that the car could accommodate a variety of drive system options from hub motors to range-extended hybrid drives.

For now, though, Mrs. Dallas and her enterprising husband own the most expensive car on their block… and one of the nicest little electric runabouts yet to hit the bricks on either side of the Canadian-U.S. border.

Topics: electric based vehicles | 1 Comment »

Introducing Next Alternative (TYN.F) Next Alternative Inc. at next-alternative.com

By | August 20, 2009

Next Alternative Inc. (TYN.F) is the next Generation of new green technology, specializing in alternative battery, fuel and electric motors. With offices in Phoenix USA and Ottawa Canada, we strive to bring to the world an alternative to fossil fuels and increased efficiencies in the world automotive arena.

Phoenix, AZ 17, August 2009 — Next Alternative Inc. is merging on the onset of a new economy driven by the need to reduce the demand for fossil fuels and find alternatives for energy. The management believes this new market will be the driver for future world transportation needs and intends to be an innovator bringing existing technologies together and melding them to meet future demand.

Next Alternative Inc’s Carbon Nano Tube technology modifies existing battery design types (most kinds of commercially available batteries) to produce a battery that at the very least will recharge in less than 10 minutes and have an increased Reserve Capacity of at least 8 times the same unmodified battery. This will allow providing the hybrid and electric car markets with a battery that far exceeds anything currently available to them at this time. The Carbon Nano Tube Battery (CNT Battery) will be the technology Next Alternative brings to market.
In the next 12 months sales are expected to be over 150 Million Euros and we have begun the process towards a dual listing on the CNSX. We are presently on the open market on the Frankfurt Exchange and we are making efforts to move to Entry Standard shortly.

Over the next 18 months, we will license additional technologies to complement our battery technology and supply the marketplace with integrated solutions to become a one stop supply house.

FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS: Actual future results may differ from the anticipated results expressed in the forward-looking statements contained in this press release and Next Alternative Inc. does not undertake to update this information. Investors are cautioned against placing undue importance on forward-looking information contained herein. and should consult Next Alternative’s disclosure documents filed from time to time as public filings which contain a more exhaustive analysis of risks and uncertainties connected to Next Alternative Inc.’s business.

For further information: Next Alternative Inc. Roger Gervais, COO, 613-755-4023, roger (at)next-alternative.com

Topics: carbon nano tube battery | No Comments »

Hyundai, Kia To Unveil A New Electric Car

By | August 17, 2009

Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. said yesterday that they plan to unveil an electric car at the world’s largest motor show to be held in Germany next month.

Hyundai and Kia, Korea’s top two car makers, will display the small electric car, the i10, at the Frankfurt Motor Show scheduled for Sept. 15 to 17, said the flagship companies of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group. The exhibition is in line with the group’s push to manufacture cars that don’t emit carbon dioxide, the prime culprit of global warming.

According to industry watchers, the group’s showcasing of an electric car at the global motor show indicates it has made considerable headway in its “green car project.”

On Friday, the group made public a master plan to develop environmentally friendly cars in an effort to become one of the world’s four largest green car makers. Under the plan, Hyundai and Kia will push to produce hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles within two to three years and start selling plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the United States in 2012. Yonhap

Topics: electric based vehicles | No Comments »

Arizona Firm Set To Help Usher in Electric-Car Era

By | August 6, 2009

Scottsdale company plans to build 12,800 charging stations in 5 states

By Ryan Randazzo – Aug. 6, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

A small Scottsdale company will play a major role in the biggest-ever U.S. launch of electric cars after being handed nearly $100 million in stimulus grants to build charging stations.

Scottsdale’s Ecotality Inc., which owns Electric Transportation and Engineering Corp. in downtown Phoenix, will roll out 12,800 charging stations in Arizona, Washington, Oregon, California and Tennessee with the $99.8 million grant announced Wednesday.

The chargers initially will support the Nissan Leaf electric car when it goes on sale late next year. The Leaf will be the first mass-marketed all-electric car available for consumers since the late 1990s.

The Ecotality/ETEC grant is just a fraction of $2.4 billion in stimulus money that President Barack Obama announced Wednesday to help promote electric cars and create jobs as part of the administration’s efforts to cut reliance on fossil fuels.

The funds will support U.S. battery and vehicle makers, infrastructure projects such as ETEC’s, and workforce training.

“If we want to reduce our dependence on oil, put Americans back to work and reassert our manufacturing sector as one of the greatest in the world, we must produce the advanced, efficient vehicles of the future,” Obama said in a statement announcing the awards.

The ETEC charging stations will make it easier for other automakers to sell electric cars, which most major companies are planning to do in the next three years.

“Electric vehicles are wonderful,” Ecotality President and CEO Jonathan Read said. “But, if you don’t have a place to charge them, they don’t work for people.”

Nissan’s plan to offer 5,000 five-seat Leafs would be the largest-ever commercial rollout of electric cars in the United States. By comparison, General Motors released about 1,100 of its first model of the landmark EV1 vehicles that launched in 1996.

Japan-based Nissan, which is retooling a Tennessee plant to build the electric vehicles by 2012, plans to sell 1,000 Leaf cars in each of the five states.

The cars will be able to travel 100 miles on a single charge. Buyers who are willing to share their data on vehicle, battery and charger performance will get a free charger for their garage.

Many of the vehicles also likely will be sold to business fleets.

The home chargers normally would cost about $500 and will be able to recharge a battery in four to eight hours for about 90 cents worth of electricity, much faster than a standard plug and far cheaper than a tank of gas.

Among the other grants were more than $400 million for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler for their electric-vehicle projects.

The automakers agreed to use a standard charger that will work with all car models.

All the companies receiving grants will match the amounts with their own funds, including ETEC, which has about 40 partners, including Nissan, working on the charging-station project.

“Nobody is making money on it,” ETEC President Don Karner said of the initial infrastructure.

One of the project partners is BP America Inc., which could see charging stations installed at some Arizona am/pm gas stations, Read said.

ETEC, which has about 20 Phoenix employees, will benefit from the project because it will be in a good position to sell stations once Nissan and other major automakers begin releasing electric vehicles in other markets.

The charging-station project should support new jobs, 750 nationwide by 2012 and more than 5,500 by 2017, ETEC officials estimate.

“We will be paying people to build the charging stations, we will be paying laborers to install the stations,” Karner said. “All that money will be spent in the local economies.”

Various city and county officials said in April that they planned to set up charging stations between Phoenix and Tucson so electric cars would be able to make the trip. The grant will accelerate that plan.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said he and City Council members pushed to get Phoenix into the Nissan launch.

“Let me summarize: jobs, saving the environment and saving us money. It’s a triple win,” Gordon said.

The plan for Arizona is to have 1,000 home charging stations; 1,000 public stations at stores, movie theaters, restaurants and parking garages; and 250 quick-charge public stations that can replenish 80 percent of a battery’s power in 15 minutes.

“That’s enough time to get a cup of coffee while you charge up,” Gordon said.

ETEC also will work with retailers such as Starbucks and Walmart to determine if they can make money off charging stations, either by charging money for parking or by driving traffic to the locations.

ETEC has been involved in every major electric-vehicle project, including the General Motors EV1 before automakers pulled the plug on that and other electric cars for consumers earlier this decade.

But ETEC continued to develop batteries and chargers for applications such as the support vehicles that Southwest Airlines uses at Sky Harbor International and other airports.

For people to get a free home charger with the Nissan Leaf, they will have to agree to answer surveys about their driving and vehicle performance as well as maintain an Internet connection that will allow the companies to track the vehicle, battery and charger performance.

Learning how people use the vehicles and recharge the batteries is important to estimate the electricity demand utilities must meet if many thousands more people ever drive electric cars, Karner said.

Topics: electric based vehicles | No Comments »

America’s Battery Future

By | August 5, 2009

By James J. Greenberger

Author urges U.S. Government not to bend to political expediency.


Open Access Article Originally Published: July 31, 2009

Any day now, the U.S. Department of Energy will announce how it will allocate $2 billion to promote the manufacturing of advanced batteries in this country. The decision will profoundly affect how well the U.S. battery industry competes in the world market for lithium-ion battery cells.

Because of lithium-ion’s superior power and energy density compared with earlier battery chemistries, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will soon begin to compete with and replace motor vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

Unfortunately, U.S. industry shows every sign of missing out on this paradigm-changing technology. While Detroit was building gas-guzzling SUVs and large pickup trucks, the Japanese, South Koreans and Chinese were perfecting the manufacturing of lithium-ion battery cells with heavy government support. Their governments understand that he who makes the batteries will one day make the cars. Today, U.S. companies produce less than 1 percent of all lithium-ion battery cells.

The $2 billion federal investment will give the U.S. battery industry a last chance. But with more than 160 applicants — each with its own political champions and technology advocates — there is a serious danger that this chance will fall victim to the political expedience of spreading the money around and trying to make everyone happy.

That must not happen. Getting it right will require an industrywide collaboration that ensures technological and industry flexibility, large-scale production and domestic ownership of cell technology.

Technological flexibility is critical because lithium-ion technology is changing rapidly. Betting on any company just because it claims current technology leadership could be a bad and stale bet. Likewise, betting on individual battery companies based on their relationships with existing automaker supply networks also might backfire as the use of electrified vehicles will significantly disrupt existing auto supply and distribution chains.

Another key is to ensure low costs by making lithium-ion battery cells in large quantities. Spreading the battery awards widely around the battery industry will doom the chances of any U.S. firm successfully competing in the world market. Success requires scale.

Finally, it is critical that U.S. companies maintain control of basic cell-manufacturing technology. Semiconductors are a parallel. In the late 1980s, the U.S. semiconductor industry organized SEMATECH, a public-private consortium of U.S. companies, which, with about $500 million in federal grants, reversed the loss of semiconductor manufacturing technology to Asia. SEMATECH is largely responsible for U.S. companies leading the world today in computer technology.

The most important lesson of SEMATECH is the need for U.S. companies to collaborate when struggling with heavily subsidized foreign rivals. It maximizes technological flexibility, permitting new batteries to get to market quickly. It permits the pooling of limited resources to produce low-cost lithium-ion cells. And it ensures domestic automakers will have priority access to a key component that may determine which companies make the cars of the future.

It is time for a new SEMATECH — this time for lithium-ion battery cells.

James J. Greenberger is the founder and secretary of the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries and a partner in the law firm of Reed Smith LLP in Chicago.

Topics: green battery technology | No Comments »

Companies Lining Up to Join Electric Car Battery Revolution

By | July 27, 2009

Source: News Tribune

SYNOPSIS: The companies range from small niche firms to giants such as Dow Chemical and Johnson Controls.

WASHINGTON – The Energy Department is getting ready to hand out about $2 billion in grants to create a domestic industry for electric-car batteries, and 122 companies are scrambling to get pieces.

The companies range from small niche firms to giants such as Dow Chemical and Johnson Controls. All are promising a combination of innovation and ability to deliver new products on a commercial scale to prevent the United States from trading dependence on foreign oil or reliance on foreign-made batteries.

“We’ve had 20 years of bad behavior in the United States in terms of developing ideas into products,” said Mary Ann Wright, chief executive of Johnson Controls’s joint venture developing hybrid battery systems.

Now policy-makers hope that helping domestic battery manufacturers will produce economic savings that often come with large-scale production and which are needed to make electric cars affordable. With funds provided by the stimulus bill in February, the Energy Department can cover up to half the cost of a battery-related project.

“This investment will not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it will put Americans back to work,” President Obama said in March. “It positions American manufacturers on the cutting edge of innovation and solving our energy challenges.”

The federally funded battery effort has its skeptics. Grants are expected to focus on lightweight lithium-ion batteries similar to those found in laptops. They are the newest thing in a business that had not changed much since lead-acid batteries were invented a century and a half ago.

But U.S. hopefuls face stiff competition from foreign firms such as Japan’s Panasonic and Sony, and South Korea’s LG Chem, which already dominate the lithium-ion battery market in power tools, laptops and cellphones. Some domestic firms have recruited foreign companies as partners in new U.S.-based manufacturing facilities.

Moreover, some economists warn of the perils of government subsidies. “To the extent that this is part of a broader industrial policy scheme, I’m against it for all the reasons I’ve always been against it,” said Charles Schultze, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. “If you’re not heavy-handed about screening (applications), you’re going to get a lot of the equivalent of political pork.”

Some industry experts also note that lithium-ion batteries may not be ready for tough road conditions, that they generate a lot of heat and that there is no infrastructure for recycling them. For the moment, it is easier to recycle lead-acid batteries, like those in regular cars, or nickel-metal hydride batteries, like those in hybrid vehicles.

Nonetheless, Obama has set a goal of having 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015 and the Energy Department is trying to make sure a large share of them are powered by U.S.-made batteries. In addition to the $2 billion in grants it is expected to announce soon, the Energy Department can also lend from a separate $25 billion program. It has already announced a $1.6 billion loan to help Nissan develop an electric car, including the construction of a new battery plant, and a $465 million loan for Tesla Motors.

Johnson Controls, the world’s largest maker of lead-acid batteries, is applying with Ford Motor to make lithium-ion batteries at a Michigan plant that once made automobile interiors. The Wisconsin-based company says the project would be up and running within 15 months, creating 4,700 jobs for Michigan.

“Some people won’t lose their jobs and some people who’ve lost theirs will get new ones,” said Alex Molinaroli, president of power solutions at Johnson Controls.

The company touts its experience. “It’s a natural extension of what we do,” Molinaroli said of the battery business. Last year, Johnson Controls made 112 million conventional car

Topics: electric car battery | 1 Comment »

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