Who killed the Electric Car?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by moementum7, Aug 10, 2006.

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  1. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member


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  3. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    It was actually somewhere in the middle. The $80k number came from dividing the total cost of the EV-1 program, including research and development, by the number of EV-1s that they produced. I believe the actual cost of building one additional EV-1 was only something like $50k. $38k was sort of an estimate about how much it might cost if they mass-produced them and were selling thousands. But like I said, it's very unlikely that enough people would be interested in buying one to make real mass-production (and the associated per-unit price drop) feasible.

    The problem for electric cars is that even though people complain all the time about the price of gasoline, it really isn't that expensive. Most people in the U.S. only drive about 10k miles/year, which in a fuel-efficient car will only burn through about $1000 in gasoline. How long do you plan to own the car? 10 years? Okay, you will need about $10k in gasoline over the life of your car. Since you can get a small four-door sedan for about $10-12k, the price of an electric car will need to be below $20k before it even begins to be compeditive with a gasolne-powered car.

    Yeah, there are some people who drive a lot more than 10k miles/year; but for them the limited range and loooooong recharge times are likely to be a problem.

    A small, fuel-efficient, four-door sedan
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2008
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Good clear thinking.
    Same thoughts another way:

    Buy the 20K cheap car (or even EIGHT of the new Nanos for $2500 each!) and invest the saving. Then your gasoline is "free forever," while the electric car owner is paying for the electricity, the recharge system, and new batteries.

    I.e. $38,000 - 20,000 = $18,000 which at approximalte 5% investment return will provide gas for life (at current prices).

    SUMMARY: Any reasonable life cycle cost analysis will show the cheap car is more economical.
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  7. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    Not only that, a person could probably build a good equivalent at home for under $4,000 and maybe even get better range.
  8. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    More news on the EEStor battery tech in the last few days:


    "We have previously discussed a secretive Texas company called EEStor, who are reported to be working on a new type of ultracapacitor that can hold 10x the energy in 1/10th the weight of typical batteries, at a fraction of the cost.

    They have an agreement to produce caps for Zenn electric cars but to date have not shown any prototypes. This has led some to suspect EEStor as not having the technology they report.

    Today, however, Lockheed Martin, the major U.S. military equipment manufacturer has announced a partnership agreement with EEStor to develop energy applications.

    If these ultracaps can really deliver what they are projected to, they could offer a dramatic advantage for electric vehicles.

    To that end, I interviewed Lionel Liebman, manager of Program Development – Applied Research at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

    The entire interview can be seen by clicking below.

    Can you tell me what your announcement was today?

    Lockheed Martin and EEStor are working together to find areas for integrating their technology to a variety of power management platforms we’re working on.

    Is it a financial contract?

    We’re not taking any sort of ownership of EEStor. It is an exclusive rights agreement to allow us to market these technologies to a very limited number of potential customers including homeland security and the defense markets.

    Lockheed Martin builds fighter jets and military equipment?

    And missiles, rockets, ground equipment, vehicles, and systems sensors. Obviously everything that requires power to operate. Power is becoming a sticking point or burden to the warfighter and that’s one of the things were focused on is coming up with solutions that make the warfighter’s job easier and more efficient.

    Are you looking to develop portable energy storage for the battlefield?

    Yes there are opportunities not only to help in the area of relieving some of the dependence on fuel as energy. Also to increase the value of some of the renewable energy initiatives that are going on right now. Energy storage increase the value of these types of power generation technologies. EEStor’s technology can help in that area.

    What have you seen from EEStor in terms of their technology?

    We’ve visited their facility. We were very impressed. They are taking an approach that lends itself to a very quick ramp-up in production. We’ve seen a lot of their testing and efforts to measure the purity of the powders that they use, and the chemistry. Well be working with them very closely this year to develop prototypes in certain pursuits.

    Have you been able to evaluate any of their current prototypes?

    That’s an effort that’s ongoing. We’re really just getting started to integrate their technology into some of the efforts that we have going on here. That’s going to be something that we’re doing this year.

    So its a collaborative effort to build the prototypes then?

    That’s right.

    Do they have something that they’ve tested that you’ve seen which makes you want to work with them?

    We haven’t personally tested their prototypes yet. Its something that we’ll work on together this year.

    How does Lockheed Martin feel about ultracaps and storage versus li-ion or NiMh batteries?

    Lockheed Martin doesn’t have a bias. One way or another its really just a function of what does the customer want. For certain applications being able to provide pulse power is really really important, in another its not so much really pulse power but continuous power. If you talk to the Army they are really interested in hybridized solutions. Suffice it to say that EEStor’s technology is a piece of some of these systems solutions that we come up with. We are a system integrator so we look at the EEStor technology as a building block or a tool in a toolbox to provide the best solutions for the soldier.

    Do you see the ultracap as a power solution or an energy solution?

    The EEStor chemistry and architecture lends itself to both types of applications. Its a scalable technology. In the situation where you are trying to store energy, transport it without discharge obviously thats very attractive in the utility grid load leveling (situation). If your talking about powering for example a high energy weapon that requires a short burst of energy a capacitor is a great approach to do that. Capacitors are in hybridized systems today for that reason. The chemistry is great purely form the view of battery technology but its also very attractive for some of these extremely high pulse power applications.

    Are you looking to use this technology in any vehicular type of application?

    We have a number of platforms that were working on. Our applied research group is primarily focused on land forces power management which involves several area including vehicular power.
    The needs of a consumer for a hybrid fuel-efficient car versus the need for a soldier in the battlefield are a bit different. The common theme there is ‘what can we do to make them more efficient’, and battery technology is important for that.

    Are you confident that their technology will offer a greater amount of energy and power density than batteries?

    Yes, and at a fraction of the cost.

    Do their caps hold 10x the energy at 1/10th the weight of a lead acid battery?


    How does the the price of EEStor’s capacitors compare with Li-ion or NiMh batteries?

    It really depends on the chemistry, the volume, the packaging, the application. It is really application-specific. It’s going to be lower price. Were not just concerned about hardware cost. Really what were focused on is logistics. Especially the logistics footprint in theater. That’s probably more important than material cost. And that one of the things that we think this technology can bring. Because it can be used for a variety of applications with a common architecture and chemistry. Its compact, its scalable and can be applied to a variety of applications. That obviously very attractive to a logistics community, to have more common components and that type of thing.

    Is there a production plan for 2008?

    Yes for EEStor. Their approach is when they start manufacturing these batteries, not just the cells, but also the package assembly, they will be in production. If you can get a visit to EEStor they’ll show you their process and everything they’ve got in place to support that. Assuming that everything comes together in terms of tests and qualifications and that sort of thing, they will be ready to ramp up very quickly, because of the nature if the architecture and scalability of what they are doing.

    Can you say anything about the use of EEStor’s technology in commercial vehicles?

    We are basically working with them exclusively and in the homeland security and defense department’s markets. The commercial vehicle market, that’s what EEStor will pursue. If their is a military application then we’re going to help them integrate their technology into those applications, but when it comes to commercial vehicles that’s EEStor’s responsibility."
  9. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    Put a million dollars into a soldier's armor and you have just created a way for an enemy to take out a million dollars worth of hardware with a few cents worth of bullets.
  10. draqon Banned Banned

    did the thing actually exist?
  11. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Probably. It looks like a golf cart.
  12. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Stop insulting golf cart makers or I will report you.

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  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I hope I am completely wrong, but go on record to say the EEStor claims will not be realized economically.

    Capactiors can store and very quickly deliver their energy (but this speed is of essentailly zero interest in an electric car). The energy stored is 0.5CV^2 where C is the capactance and V is the voltage. This fundamental physic exposes one serious problem: The terminal voltage is only half when 3/4 of the stored energy has been drained. I think no electric motor will tolerate dropping to 80% of its design voltage. (Why your refrigerator has cut out circuits to stop destruction if the power line voltage fall about 5%.) Without some extra circuits to keep out put voltage up, probably can use only 10% of the stored energy. This takes away one of their main claims. (Ten times more energy stored.)

    Now lets speak of how capacitors store energy. If "filled with vaccuum", it is the fact that the charge on the positive plate would pull it to the negative plate (doing work) if it could move. When some material is between the plates, much greater energy can be stored as the molecules of this material are stressed by the electric field (sort of like you can store energy in a rubber band). I.e. the negative charge is displaced towards the positve plate and conversely, but still attached to the molecule. If the stress becomes too large, then some electrons will be separated for their molecule, rapidly gain energy accelerating in the field, quickly free other and you have dielectric breakdown and usually a permanently destroyed capacitor. Water or oil filled capacitor are perhaps self healing, but not solid dielectric capacitors.

    Reason I discuss from this POV is to note that chemical batteries do remove an electron for some molecule (or atom) and this means ON A PER ATOM/ MOLECULE basis they store MORE energy, but it is very hard, if not impossble, to get this electronic transfer to occure on all (or even 5%) of the atoms. This in contrast to the capacitor where almost all of the molecules of the dielectric have the same stress. So this is where their claim of higher energy stored per unit weight comes from and may / probably? / be valid.

    Now if there is even only a few "free electrons" due to some inpurities in the dielectric then the dielectric break down will occur at much lower voltages. This is a big economic problem for single capacitor storing significant energy (enought to move a car 100 feet at 50mph for example). Thus, they will use many capacitors and some circuits to take the ones that break down out ot the net. More circuit costs, more "packaging cost" and more weight."

    In Summary:
    I wish EEStor luck, but will not invest in them. (I'll believe it, perhaps, when I see them demonstrate their claims.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2008
  14. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    The part about the voltage dropping is the easiest. There are already chips out that are dedicated to tasks like keeping a constant current flowing through an item like an LED. Those chips can be adapted to a variety of different loads using transistors. There are all kinds of switching power supply chips that are already made to do this job.
  15. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    yes, and I said "more circuits" AND MORE COST. My concern is not that it is impossible (although that may be the case in practice) but with the economics, as I clearly stated. Note also that these extra circuits must be able to handel the peak power demanded by the car pulling away from an accident etc. even if there is little energy left in the capacitor just as the last cup of gasoline in the fuel tank can. - I.e they will not be cheap.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2008
  16. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    It probably had a range of 5 miles and sold worse than the Edsel.
  17. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    I'll keep this thread posted on any developments. They are not taking investment from the public at this time, and they dont even have a website.

    They received some heavy investment early on from Kleiner Perkins, ZennCars of Canada and now Lockheed Martin...so I doubt theyre just blowing smoke.
  18. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    That really makes little if any difference. Any modern electric car uses some kind of switching controller that continually optimizes power use.
  19. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    That is true, but in the capacitor storage case, they are much more complex and expensive* to cope with the varying voltage of the energy supply.

    Batteries are approximately constant voltage sources independent of the energy stored, until near total discharge. For reasons I discussed in earlier post EEStor will have many separate capacitors. Thus they can emulate a battery by connecting progressively more in series as the stored energy drops. This "emulation circuit" is complex and totally inadditon to the regular circuits you refer to.

    I am not stating that they must "emulate a battery" SEPARATELY, but some how they need to provide the essentially constant output voltage a battery naturally has. It may be that instead of addressing the extreme variation of voltage with stored energy remaining separately, some much more complex but integrated solution is desirable. I am not qualified to design various needed extra circuits and then evaluate which is most economical. All I am sure of is that the variable votage energy source is a very significant EXTRA complexity and cost.

    It is true that "switching circuits" (of "on" or "off" nature) can be relatively cheap with little internal loss (because when "off" there is no current flowing thru them and when "on" the internal resistance in the switch is very low). The switch that can have other than zero or full power, i.e.continusly variable power thru-put is very inefficient, say at half power. This is why the dimmer light switches you may have in your house work by varying the duty cycle. I.e. they are either on or off. The "on time" is reduced to lower the average power.

    Note however, that if the motor is "wanting" 144 V (like 12 car batteries in series to take a realistic example) and there is only 115 V in the capacitor, you need some ADDITIONAL voltage step up circuit.

    For an example of one, convert the stored DC to AC (could used simple switching circuits that "flip exchange" the two wires from the capacitor to make "square wave" AC) This AC could then be stepped up to approximately the needed 144V with a few more switching circuits to connect to a particular tap of a many tap transformer ("Many" as the step up ratio required is not constant, but must be selected.) One could then use AC motors, if willing to lose the high torque at low RPM a DC motor can provide but probably rectifiers would be used to get DC back again.

    I am not recomending the above "transformer step up approach" (I think changing the number of capacitors in series connection with perhaps a few thousand** high current rated on/off switches will be much lighter and have about the same cost.) but only trying to make you understand the this variable voltage energy source is quite a difficult problem when it must sill be able to deliver peak power to the wheels even if only 10% of the energy remains in the capacitor storage system.
    *With battery energy storage the power level adjustment switching can be a single cheap, high current, electronic "on" or "off" switch. I.e. to reduce the power supplied to the motor you simply reduce the duty cycle. - E.g. the fraction of the time the switch is "on" is reduced. This WILL NOT WORK WITH CAPACITOR STORAGE. For example, if the motor needs 144V and there is only 115V available.

    ** The number of capacitors in the series string will vary greatly. For example if the storage system is 100,000 capacitors (Some of which have failed and are no longer used as the switch across their terminal is now permanetly in the "hard on" mode to let the current pass with little disipation) then at full charge, you might have 1000 parallel string of only 100 in each string. Later when there is less stored energy available you might need 1000 in each string to get the same output voltage and thus have only 100 strings in parallel. - That is why there will be "thousands" of high current "on"/"off" switches required if this is the approach to making the variable voltage source capable of supplying the nearly constant output voltage the motor requires.

    Please feel free to offer what you think is the best way to solve the conflict between the motor's requirement for nearly constant voltage and the highly variable voltage available with capacitor energy storgae as the state of charge varies. All systems I can think of are at least complex and expensive and those that use iron transformers are heavy also as the transformer must be able to handle full power requirements.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2008
  20. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    Billy, the thing is that a typical "buck-boost" circuit can work both ways. It can supply higher voltages at lower currents or lower voltages at higher currents than the input. As long as there is enough voltage to the control circuitry to allow it to properly control the power transistors, it should (subject to testing to be sure) be able to convert a power source that is nearly at zero volts to 6 or 12 volts, or 24 volts to 6 or 12 volts, without modification. You also need similar capabilities to control the power factor of the motor.
  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I was not familiar with the "buck-boost" circuit by that name, but learned what it is from:

    Thus I had already described it, even explaining how to economically get "square wave AC" for the transformer from EEStor's capacitors in post 276. However, I also noted that transformers which can handel the full power requirements of the car are both expensive* and heavy. That is why I explained the light weight efficient capacitor switching system, which is especially attractive for EEStor as they already have the energy in many small capacitors. (Zero "charging losses" in the car but not at the house of course. All current electric hybrids lose some energy when motor is charging the storage system.)

    For an implanted automatic heart defibulator our experts in DC voltage transforming used the "switch capacitors" circuit approach I described. I.e. many small capacitors were charged in parallel then switched into a series conection. IR LED / photo diodes (tiny integrated units) controlled the switches so the high voltage was well isolated from the switches and the battery. I am not an expert in this area, but the APL/JHU space department power group sure was. In this application (as in space power supplies they normally designed) both light weight and high efficiency are critical. - The same factors that will be important in an electric car.

    In any case you are ignoring the fact that capacitor storage with a buck-boost transformer will be expensive and heavy. Especially in cars, when many choices are available, economics is critical.
    *If I recall correctly 746W = one hp, so even only a 50 HP motor will need 37,300 Watt "buck-boost" unit. Please estimate the cost of that. I bet it adds at least 20% to the car's price.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2008
  22. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    No. You will want a DC motor for the high torque at low RPM it can provide and there is no "power factor problem" with a DC motor. Especially true if one is using "in wheel" motors as then there is no space for a complex gear set that can let an AC motor develope adequate torque for a standing start.* (In wheel motors have many attractions, not the least of which is to deliver different power to each wheel by computer control for "no-slip" operation. Another is that the "rotator" can be an integral part of the wheel. They also facilitate regenerative breaking.)
    *Trying to start moving, going up a hill with an AC motor, can stall it. Then with no back EMF it will burn up. Why ALL street cars used DC, even though the DC made much greater losses in the over head wire than an AC system with step down transformer in the street car would have had.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2008
  23. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Makes sense that an electric car infrastructure would be installed first in small countries with short distances, high gas prices, and loads of pollution.

    England responded first with a plan and now Israel:


    "Renault-Nissan and Project Better Place to Supply Israel with Recharging Grid and Electric Vehicles

    Renault-Nissan Alliance and Project Better Place aim to create a breakthrough with electric vehicles in Israel. This comes in response to the Israeli State's challenge to migrate the country's transportation infrastructure to renewable sources of energy. The Israeli government would provide tax incentives to customers, Renault would supply the electric vehicles, and Project Better Place would construct and operate an Electric Recharge Grid across the entire country. Electric vehicles will be available for customers in 2011.

    RenaultmeganeAccording to the New York Times, Renault (EPA: RNO) will offer a small number of electric models of existing vehicles, like the Megane sedan, at prices roughly comparable to gasoline models. The vehicles will run on pure electricity for all functions. The objective of zero emissions will be achieved, while at the same time offering driving performances similar to a 1.6 liter gasoline engine. Renault's electric vehicles will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries, ensuring greater driving range and longevity.

    "Dozens of electric cars will go on the roads for thorough testing this year. There's already an operational prototype. I've driven it, and it goes from 0 to 100 kmh in 7.5 seconds. In other words, there's a product and it's one of the fastest cars on the road."

    Shai Agassi, CEO A Better Place, Globes Online Feb. 22, 2008

    Ownership of the car will not include the battery. Consumers will buy and own their car and subscribe to energy, including the use of the battery, on a basis of kilometers driven.

    California-based Project Better Place (PBP) plans to deploy a massive network of battery charging spots. Customers will be able to plug their cars into charging units in any of the 500,000 charging spots in Israel. An on-board computer system will indicate to the driver the remaining power supply and the nearest charging spot.

    Nissan (NASDAQ: NSANY), through its joint venture with NEC, has created a battery pack that meets the requirements of the electric vehicle and will produce it in mass volume. Renault is working on development of exchangeable batteries for continuous mobility. Also according to the NYT, PBP and the consumers who use it, will normally recharge their batteries, which will provide 124 miles per charge, at night, when the electricity is cheapest, and they expect the batteries to have a life of 7,000 charges. The entire framework will go through a series of tests starting this year.

    In Israel, which does not produce any oil, where gasoline is selling for over $6.00 a gallon, where 90% of car owners drive less than 70 kilometers per day, and all major urban centers are less than 150 kilometers apart, electric vehicles may be the ideal means of transportation."
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