Carbon Reduction Goals Open Opportunities for Hybrid and Battery Electric Vehicles

By dancurranjr On December 2nd, 2010

The EU and G8 leaders agreed in 2009 to achieve an 80% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 if atmospheric CO2 is to stabilise at 450 parts per million, and if global warming stays under the safe level of 2°C. However, securing the overall 80% decarbonisation goal within the next 4 decades may need 95% decarbonisation of the road transport sector, and objective which will require new efficient and reliable propulsion systems.

A portfolio of advanced power-trains like fuel-cell-electric (FCEV), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and battery-electric (BEV) vehicles would help secure this goal, says a new study commissioned and prepared by a coalition of some 30 of the largest global car manufacturers, oil and gas companies, utilities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the European Commission and governmental and clean energy organisations.

The European Commission tables its strategy on clean and efficient vehicles to move on from short-term recovery measures to a medium-term orientation that strengthens the competitiveness of the European automotive industry by linking it to clean technologies. The strategy also contributes to the Europe 2020 objectives of smart and sustainable growth.

Entitled ‘A portfolio of power-trains for Europe: a fact-based analysis. The role of battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric vehicles’, the report is part of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (FCH JTI), which targets the accelerated development and commercialisation of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies in Europe. According to the experts, this portfolio draws attention to the complementary nature of these technologies. Each technology offers a solution for different environments and driving behaviours.

The study found that electric drive cars will play a critical role in helping us obtain a greener future; not only can they effectively shrink CO2 but they can help lower local emissions. A full portfolio of power-trains will ensure that consumers’ needs are met. In line with that, environment and refuelling infrastructures are required if Europeans are to achieve long-term sustainability of personal mobility.

Both the European and global markets can expect to sustain an increase in the number of passenger cars between now and 2050, with figures jumping to 273 million in Europe and to 2.5 billion worldwide. Improvements to the conventional internal combustion engine or alternative fuels are not enough. Also weighing on the minds of many is the fact that people are unsure of whether sustainably generated biofuels will be available for passenger cars. Other sectors, including aviation, marine and heavy industry, are eyeing such biofuels for their own use.

Europeans must develop a range of technologies if their long-term sustainability of mobility is to be secured, the experts said. Experts which also included representatives from multinational as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), represented by the European Industry Grouping for the FCH JTI, as well as universities and research institutes.

SOURCE: EuroAlert

Utilities Excited and Worried As More Electric Vehicles Come On-Line

By dancurranjr On December 1st, 2010

The first mass-market electric cars go on sale next month, and the nation’s electric utilities couldn’t be more thrilled — or worried.

Plugged into a socket, an electric car can draw as much power as a small house. The surge in demand could knock out power to a home, or even a neighborhood. That has utilities in parts of North Carolina, California and Texas scrambling to upgrade transformers and other equipment in neighborhoods where the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are expected to be in high demand.

Not since air conditioning spread across the country in the 1950s and 1960s has the power industry faced such a growth opportunity. Last year, Americans spent $325 billion on gasoline, and utilities would love even a small piece of that market.

The main obstacles to wide-scale use of electric cars are high cost and limited range, at least until a network of charging stations is built. But utility executives fret that difficulties keeping the lights on for the first crop of buyers — and their neighbors — could slow the growth of this new niche.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” says Mike Rowand, who is in charge of electric vehicle planning at Duke Energy, based in Charlotte.

Auto executives say it’s inevitable that utilities will experience some difficulties early on. “We are all going to be a lot smarter two years from now,” says Mark Perry, the director of product planning for Nissan North America.

Electric cars run on big batteries that are charged by plugging into a standard wall socket or a more powerful charging station. A combined 30,000 Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts are expected to be sold over the next year. Over the next two years, Ford, Toyota and every other major automaker also plan to offer electric cars.

Governments are promoting the expensive technology as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. Congress is offering electric car buyers a $7,500 tax credit and some states and cities provide additional subsidies that can total $8,000. The Leaf sells for $33,000 and the Volt sells for $41,000.

Driving 10,000 miles on electricity will use about 2,500 kilowatt-hours, a 20 percent increase over the average annual consumption of a U.S. home. At an average utility rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, that’s $275 for a year of fuel, equivalent to about 70 cents per gallon of gasoline.

Nationwide, utilities have enough power plants and equipment to power hundreds of thousands of electric cars. Problems could crop up long before that many are sold, though, because of a phenomenon carmakers and utilities call “clustering.”

Electric vehicle clusters are expected in neighborhoods where:

• Generous subsidies are offered by states and localities
• Weather is mild, because batteries tend to perform better in warmer climates
• High-income and environmentally conscious commuters live

Progress Energy is expecting electric car clusters to form in Raleigh, Cary and Asheville, and around Orlando and Tampa, Fla. Duke Energy is expecting the same in Charlotte and Indianapolis.

Adding an electric vehicle or two to a neighborhood can be like adding another house, and it can stress the equipment that services those houses. “We’re talking about doubling the load of a conventional home,” says Karl Rabago, who leads Austin Energy’s electric vehicle-readiness program. “It’s big.”

How big depends on the size of the battery in the car, and how fast the car is charged.

When plugged into a standard 120-volt socket, the electric car will draw 1,500 watts. By comparison, a medium-sized air conditioner or a countertop microwave oven will draw about 1,000 watts.

But the car can be charged faster, and therefore draw more power, when plugged into a home charging station. The first Leafs and Volts can draw 3,300 watts, and both carmakers may boost that to 6,600 watts soon. The Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car with a huge battery, can draw 16,800 watts. That’s the equivalent of 280 60-watt light bulbs.

A modest home in the San Francisco Bay area that doesn’t need air conditioning might draw 3,000 watts at most.

Extra stress on a transformer from one or two electric vehicles could cause it to overheat and fail, knocking out power to the block.

Ted Craver, the chief executive of the parent company of SoCal Edison and a chairman of an industry electric vehicle planning association, says early buyers will likely be tolerant of a few hiccups. At the same time, he says, those are the people utilities should try hard to please. “They turn into promoters,” he says.

Honda’s Next Generation Hybrid PHEV Concept Unveiled

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

Honda’s next-generation hybrid features a two-motor system that continuously moves through three different modes to maximize driving efficiency: all-electric, gasoline-electric and a unique, engine direct-drive mode.

The plug-in hybrid also uses regenerative braking to charge the battery.

It is compatible with daily driving habits, allowing for short, frequent trips in all-electric mode, while providing long-distance driving capability when needed.

In all-electric mode, the vehicle uses a 6kWh lithium-ion battery and a powerful 120 kW electric motor. The all-electric mode achieves a range of approximately 10-15 miles in city driving and a top speed of 62 mph.

Fully recharging the battery will take 2 to 2.5 hours using a 120-volt outlet and 1 to 1.5 hours using a 240-volt outlet.

The vehicle can also run in a gasoline-electric hybrid mode, the platform features a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter, i-VTEC® inline 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle engine, paired with an electric Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT). An onboard generator adds to the battery powering the electric motor.

For more efficient high-speed cruising, the vehicle can engage in a direct-drive mode, in which only the engine drives the front wheels.

BMW Ends Rumor, Confirms Production of Efficient Dynamics Plug-In Hybrid Concept

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

It’s been pretty clear that BMW’s EfficienctDynamics concept was going to eventually result in some sort of production vehicle, but today BMW confirmed at least one variant, a diesel plug-in hybrid that will hit 60 in just 4.8 seconds while achieving 63 mpg.

Sure, this hybrid will be a toy only for the rich kids, but there are some pretty interesting developments in this plug-in hybrid that could eventually reach beyond the caviar crowd. For instance, the 1.5-liter, turbo-diesel three-cylinder engine could help spark a trend in downsized engine production, as the engine is already slated for use in other upcoming BMW vehicles. Combined with two electric motors, the EfficientDynamics production vehicle will provide 328 horsepower and offer a top speed of 150 mph.

More interesting, however, is the carbon fiber body of this coupe. As with the upcoming Megacity plug-in vehicle, carbon fiber is becoming a critical complimentary technology for BMW’s plug-in vehicles. If carbon fiber costs could be reduced and mainstreamed, the impact upon the auto industry would be massive, even revolutionary if also harnessed into battery power.

Anyway, the production version of the EfficientDynamics plug-in hybrid is expected to undergo some cosmetic changes, and AutoWeek is reporting that even a gasoline-engined version is possible for the US market. For now, however, the diesel version offers 30 miles of EV range, with the diesel engine extending range up to another 370 miles.

Expect the EfficientDynamics production plug-in vehicle to hit dealerships in October of 2013, with a price in the $150,000 range.

Cost & CO2 Calculator Helps Choose Electric, Diesel or Hybrid Car

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

As the Environmental Protection Agency struggles with how to accurately label passenger vehicles for fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emissions, a new online cost and CO2 emissions calculator launched today to help fill the void.

“Electrics, hybrids, plug-ins, all these alternative powertrain cars are a hot topic these days, but there’s not a good way to look at the bottom line of what it costs to own one of these,” said Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com, a frugal-living website that offers tools to help consumers save money, including its new calculator.

The calculator allows consumers to first determine which type of alternative-drivetrain vehicle best suits their driving needs based on what state they live in, how many city and highway miles they drive, how many road trips they take each year (and at what distance) and fuel costs in their state, whether it be electricity, gas or diesel.

Using its database of 64 vehicles (four electric, eight diesel, 13 hybrid and 39 popular gas-powered cars) the calculator then allows users to make side-by-side comparisons using EPA miles-per-gallon data, manufacturers’ suggested retail prices and other factors.

Electric car operating costs are translated into an mpg equivalent, or MPGe, using individual states’ electricity costs as calculated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Electric cars’ upstream carbon dioxide emissions are also calculated using DOE data on the electricity source for each state.

According to BeFrugal.com, Washington, Idaho, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas are the states with the lowest electricity rates, making electric cars most economical on a cost-per-mile basis. Vermont, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and New Hampshire are the best states in terms of electric cars’ lowest upstream CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour.

The top two states for electric cars’ lowest operating costs and greenhouse-gas emissions: Idaho and Washington.

California ranks sixth in lowest CO2 emissions, at 0.3 tons per kilowatt-hour (versus 0.001 for Vermont). The state ranks 45th in terms of electricity cost at 15.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (versus 8.3 cents for Washington).

SOURCE: LA Times