Saturday, December 11, 2010

First LEAF Delivered Today.

Just marking this day in history.  The first delivery of the first high production volume EV in the 21'st century happened today.  Hopefully tens of thousands more to come.

First LEAF

Friday, December 10, 2010

Well Said

Carlos Ghosn sums up the LEAF and the future of transportation.  I thought it was worth quoting and linking.
Ghosn Speaks
"Recently, a reporter asked me how the Environmental Protection Agency should indicate miles per gallon on the fuel economy sticker that goes in the window of each new Nissan LEAF. My response: Miles per gallon?  Infinite.  There is no gallon.   Though the EPA rates Nissan LEAF at 99 miles per gallon, it is a measurement as outdated in the new mobility age as the idea of tailpipe emissions.  An electric car has neither a tailpipe nor emissions.
Little by little, the skeptics are becoming believers.  Governments, industries and a growing number of consumers are overwhelmingly embracing a car that many have not yet driven.  Soon, more and more people will have an opportunity to see, drive or own their own electric car.   In Nissan LEAF, they will fully understand all the benefits we have been talking about: the quiet ride, quick acceleration, smooth handling and – best of all – zero emissions.

This is the future of mobility, and the future is starting now."

Preach on brother.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Bang For The Buck.

Range.  It's often the big complaint against EV's, along with cost, and they are both directly related.  More range equals more battery which equals more money.  Or does it?  Is there some secret way to get more range without more battery?  Why yes there is.  Better aerodynamics and lighter weight, in that order.  For better efficiency at steady state long distance driving aero is more important than weight, though both play a part.  So does that mean an aerodynamic vehicle has to look like some futuristic bug similar to the Aptera?

Please, no.  Good aero can look like this, the EV1:

But I prefer this, the Solectria Sunrise:

Similar to the EV1 but cleaner in my opinion and with room for 4.  Also lightweight composite construction that helped it set a record of 375 miles on a single charge, in 1996, with NiMH batteries.  The pack was around 26kwh, about the same size as the Nissan LEAF pack, which gets about 100 miles.  So what's going on here?  Certainly some hypermiling techniques while driving for the record, but a low drag coefficient of .17 and low vehicle weight allowed for 200+ miles of range in regular driving. 
So why are automakers not doing something similar today and getting much more range out of their expensive battery packs?  I can think of only one reason, money.  A car such as the Sunrise would require a large investment and a lot of retooling.  It's a huge risk to take for a brand new vehicle with unknown sales potential.  It would make sense to try something similar in conventional sheet metal construction, or composite on frame similar to the Corvette and Fiero.  Aluminum framing and composite body panels could make for a fairly lightweight vehicle, and coupled with good aero would get amazing range from today's lithium batteries, which are lighter than the old NiMH cells. 
Another styling candidate, and I think one of the best looking cars ever, is the Dodge Intrepid ESX3 concept car:

This was a hybrid that got close to 70 mpg I believe, using that same secret formula of slippery aerodynamics and reduced vehicle weight.  This would make a beautiful and very capable EV.
Hopefully some auto executive will figure this out soon and give us a vehicle that can take full advantage of the energy stored in lithium batteries instead of needlessly wasting it in the wind.

Project Better Place, Exposed.

A comment on another blog inspired me to rant about PBP again so I'm expanding on that here.  I'm so tired of Shai Agassi and his Project Better Place and have been working on debunking the myth ever since I became aware of it.  Much like the hydrogen boondoggle he just won't go away.  His concept is twofold, first he want's to treat charging your car similar to cell phone minutes, and secondly he want's to create a network of swap stations to quickly change out batteries.  Here's why he's wrong, and why his plan will only make owning an EV more expensive.
A swappable battery pack that aligns perfectly every time and makes tight high power connections every time means added engineering and expense in an EV and limits design flexibility.  Getting automakers to agree on a standard pack size, shape, voltage, and management is frankly impossible.  Different battery chemistries have different characteristics, different vehicles will have different sizes and shapes, power demands, it's impossible.  Just try using a different brand battery in your cordless drill.  Swap stations are complex and costly.  Every EV will need spare batteries stashed at various places in case they might need them, how do you predict how many and where to put them?  With the most expensive EV component being the battery, how does building a stockpile of extra packs lower the costs?  BP is not going to absorb those costs, they will be pushed onto the EV owner.  Since most charging will be done at night, at home, at reduced rates, why go through all this for the 1% of the time you might need it?  Especially when fast charge stations can do the same thing more easily.
Charging minutes.
PBP is not an electricity provider, not an EV builder, and not a battery maker.  So why do I want to pay them extra for services that others already provide?  One benefit of an EV is charging at home cheaply, especially at night rates, why create a system that makes that more expensive?
PBP is pushing their business model in small countries such as Israel and small islands such as Hawaii.  This is amazing as batteries already allow you to travel their entire length on a single charge!  Why do I need to swap my battery, or pay extra for the privilege of using PBP chargers, when my pack isn't empty?  As I posted this morning on Jack Rickard's blog, EVTV, PBP is nothing more than an overpriced shell game.  Don't buy into the hype.
Others have concerns with the idea as well:  BP Critique