Power Up On The Go

A major concern for people thinking about buying their first electric vehicle is something that has come to be known as range anxiety, the fear that the car will run out of juice before they get to their destination or a recharging point. The perception is so widely felt that it’s considered an obstacle to large numbers of consumers adopting the technology. Yet experts say electric vehicles powered by renewable sources like the sun and wind are necessary to achieve energy independence and to slow human contributions to climate change.

One way of extending electric vehicle range besides the difficult road of improving battery technology is to build recharging infrastructure like that which has been developed for gasoline distribution and sales. But the act of recharging itself also throws up obstacles for widespread adoption–getting a quick boost to extend range by 50 miles can take 20 minutes using DC fast charging, and connecting to a regular AC household plug can take 20 hours to refill a depleted battery. 

A few groups of researchers around the world are looking beyond these early issues in the developing electric vehicle industry. Instead of building refuel points like those used in the gas station model, they are working on delivering electricity to vehicles while they’re on the go, no stopping needed. It’s called wireless power transfer, and it is starting to show promise. Learn more and see the video below.

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About those 'environmentally friendly' electric cars...

We’ve said it before on this blog. Those electric cars that are supposedly helping save the environment pollute more than gasoline powered vehicles.

The study, by the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at five major pollutants: carbon (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM 2.5), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
They took into account 11 different 2014 models of EVs, as well as the ‘closest substitute’ gas car.

For gas cars, the researchers studying the car’s fuel-efficiency rating, the average wind patterns in an area and other environmental factors, such as farmland.

This provided researchers with the total emissions of driving a certain gas car one mile in a given U.S. county.

For EVs, researchers analysed at how much electricity each car drew from a regional grid and the hourly emissions profiles for the five pollutants at 1,486 power plants across the U.S.

This gave them a figure for the amount of environmental damage that car produced at the power plant, according to a report in CityLab.

Overall the results showed that the west of the US is a lot cleaner than the east when it comes to driving EVs.

In monetary terms, electric cars are about half-a-cent worse per mile for the environment than gas-powered cars.

With gas cars, the worst damage, which is shown on the map in red, took place in highly-populated urban areas such as New York.

Environmental damage for EVs appears to be worse in the Midwest and Northeast, where the electricity grid tends to rely on coal power plants.
In places like LA, EVs produce less environmental damage because the city’s air shed traps pollutants from gas cars.

Here, electric cars are 3.3 cents per mile better for the environment than gas-powered vehicles. Outside of populated areas, electric cars are generally 1.5 cents per mile worse than gas-powered.

The federal government currently pays $7,500 for every electric car purchased — a subsidy that the study authors say the US should scrap.

As JWF notes, the science on this is settled. So stop denying science, you crazy science denier.

Tesla Is The New Apple

Steven Johnson on the impending electric car revolution being led by Tesla:

And if that’s the case, then the automobile industry will go through exactly what the computer and software world went through with the rise of the PC, the Web, and the mobile revolutions. Smaller companies that bet heavily on the new paradigm will become dominant in an amazingly short amount of time; behemoths who cling to the old models will swiftly become afterthoughts. The EV revolution will be like Hemingway’s classic line about going broke: it will happen gradually, then all of a sudden.

Agreed. This is going to happen sooner than most people think.

[via Daring Fireball]

The electric bus that charges when driven | SmartPlanet

The fledgling electric vehicle industry is fraught with problems including so-called ‘range anxiety’ and the long wait for charging at stations, but an EV developed in South Korea could show us a glimpse of future public transport.

The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV), developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), is an electric vehicle that can be charged while stationary or driving — removing the lengthy wait at a charging station between trips.

Volvo and Siemens in electric car tie-up - FT.com

Volvo, the Swedish carmaker owned by China’s Geely, has formed a partnership with Siemens, the German engineering group, to develop electric cars and the equipment needed to run them. Siemens’ industrial head told the Financial Times that the group was in talks with several other carmakers to provide them with hardware for electric cars, and that it saw this as a “significant” future business.

Siemens and Volvo said on Wednesday they would work together on joint development of electric motors, inverters, and charging elements for electric cars, as well as charging infrastructure and software to manage the cars’ motors.

The two companies plan to integrate the technology initially into an electric version of Volvo’s small C30 hatchback, which the Swedish carmaker will begin producing in small volumes this year. Volvo will deliver up to 200 vehicles to Siemens for internal testing by the end of 2012.

High Temperature Capacitor Could Boost Electric Vehicle Reliability

A new capacitor design which can better handle the temperatures in electric vehicles has been developed as part of the Advanced Capacitors for Energy Storage (ACES) project, a technology strategy board project.

According to National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the goal to get electric vehicles an automobile market share of more than 50% by 2050 is impeded by the ability of capacitors to handle high temperatures generated by electric vehicle components, making them less reliable than desired.

Read more.


These are the two small wind turbines that have been operating on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower since February. They are said to be generating 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is enough to power the tower’s commercial operations on the floor below.

The sustainability initiative is a partnership between the City of Paris and a company called Urban Green Energy. GE teamed up with UGE starting in 2012 to connect one of their small wind turbines like the ones at the Eiffel Tower to the GE WattStation, an electric vehicle recharger. The integrated system is called the Sanya Skypump, and electric vehicles that use it to top off their batteries are essentially powered by the wind. That’s pretty cool.

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Volvo Tests A Road That Can Charge Cars And Trucks | FastCompany

Charging electric vehicles while they are on the move may seem a bit out-there. But, in fact, we already do it for major groups of vehicles–trams and trains, for instance. French cities have completely wireless trams, and their record is good. After 10 years and about 7.5 million miles, they haven’t reported serious problems.

In Sweden, Volvo is applying the same technology to roads, opening up the possibility that people would no longer have to fear getting stranded by a dead battery–a major hurdle to people’s willingness to buy an electric car. 

The landscape of electric charging stations

The car had a profound impact on the landscape of our cities (and that’s probably the understatement of the year). Not only did it force the decentralization of our cities (i.e. sprawl), but it dotted the landscape with gas stations and other things that cars required.

According to the Verge, the first gas station was built in 1905 in Missouri. And it was really thought of as a side business for pharmacies and other business owners. But as of 2012, there were 121,466 gas stations throughout the United States. It obviously became a big business.

But as we make the transition from gasoline cars to electric ones, we’re going to need a new network of “refill” stations. In fact, this network is probably more important than the cars themselves if the goal is widespread adoption.

Below is an animated GIF depicting Tesla’s plans to blanket North America with its Supercharger stations by the end of 2015. By then they will have covered off 98% of the US population and many of the most densely populated parts of Canada.

But there are two important differences when it comes to comparing Supercharger stations vs. traditional gas stations.

First of all, these won’t be the only places where drivers will be able to recharge. People will also charge their Tesla at home. In fact, I would assume that for regular city driving, most people would do just that. It’s far more convenient to just drive home, plug in your car, and have it recharge while you’re sleeping (just like we already do with our smartphones). And if this is the case, then these Supercharger stations will be primarily used for long drives, which means we probably won’t need as many within our cities.

Secondly, these Supercharger stations are free to Tesla drivers (provided you purchase that option with your car). This is really interesting, because it changes the economics of the industry. Selling gas is no longer a profit center. 

But what I wonder – especially now that Tesla has open-sourced its technologies – is how these free Supercharger stations will ultimately fit into the broader electric vehicle market. Will other manufacturers create Tesla Supercharger compatible cars? Or will we see a rival set of charging stations emerge?

My sense is that Tesla is doing what it can to ensure it becomes the standard.