May 25

Do We Believe the Volt’s Batteries Can’t Deliver on its Promise?

 

An article was recently published in the Sacramento Bee discussing plug-in hybrids. The story emphasized the development of the AFS Trinity which is a plug-in Saturn VUE conversion using lithium-ion batteries and ultracaps which has a 40 mile EV range and range extender.

In a provocative assertion, the author references a UC Davis study noting:
“The 300-pound battery pack General Motors is building into its Chevrolet Volt plug-in, for instance, can’t yet deliver its promised 40-mile range and the long-term durability needed for a mass-market car, according to a report by a hybrid technology research team at the University of California, Davis.”

The article’s author, Jim Downing, was kind enough to give me the reference to which he refers. You can read its 29 pages of technical detail here.

The thrust of the report is to explain the current state of hybrid car batteries, looking at li-ion and NiMh and comparing each, including the various cathode subtypes. They are measured against the required standards set for by among other authorities, the USABC, a government group including representatives from the major US auto makers.

The USABC battery requirements are set forth for a mass-produced PHEV-40 or Volt:

1. Power density of 380 W/kg
2. Energy density 140 Wh/kg (EPRI gives 60 Wh/kg, MIT 100)
3. Energy capacity 17 kwh
4. OEM cost $200/kwh
5. Deep Discharge Cycle 5000

Let’s look at some speculative values our friend Alex S. (AES) has determined for the Volt’s competitive battery-makers.

A123:
Energy density = 108 Wh/kg
Power density = >3000 W/kg

LG Chem:
energy density = 95 Wh/kg
power density = 2000 W/kg

Of course these values for LG and A123 cells are speculative and we do know that new formulations from each supplier have been developed for the Volt project. Furthermore, the cost these companies plan to charge GM for the batteries remains unknown. Most experts quote this presently at $800 – $1000 per kwh. So the price of the Volt then seems to depend in great part on how much GM will have to pay for its battery.

Should GM subsidize the battery-makers or should the battery-makers subsidize GM?

In the end it is fair to say that based on what we know publicly GMs suppliers lithium batteries do nearly meet or exceed meet the USABCs performance criteria, and exceed EPRIs requirements.

Of course all that really matters is that the batteries meet GMs own internal criteria, and the fact is, we already know the first running Volt prototype has met its 40 mile mark.

Source (Sacremento Bee)

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 25th, 2008 at 7:58 am and is filed under General, PHEV. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 74


  1. 1
    LazP

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (8:12 am)

    Let’s hope GM knows something these researchers don’t and
    GM is ahead of the curve. Even if GM falls short initially this is a great start. Remember the future is electrification of transportation in whatever form the winner arrives. We have on other choice.
     


  2. 2
    MarkinWI

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (8:18 am)

    In a word, “no.” I doubt that UC Davis has full access to informaiton about the Volt’s batteries at this stage. GM has been too publically pleased about the 40-mile mark having been met. They have too much at stake to be bluffing at this point.


  3. 3
    NorthernPiker

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (8:56 am)

    The USABC battery requirements are quite stringent (overly cautious) in that ”all of the USABC goals are set for the battery’s end of life. In other words, the power and energy goals described in the sections above must apply after 15 years of life regardless of use. If these attributes are expected to degrade over time and/or use, initial values will have to be even higher than the stated goals.”
    (Reference: p.11 of UC Davis report, in Section 3.3 “Life”.)

    Based on the USABC approach to setting requirements, after 15 years, these batteries should have lots of utility left in them prior to their ultimate recycling. For example, they would be quite useful for storing energy from intermittent energy sources such as solar and wind energy, for UPS applications or for gaming your favorite power utility’s time -of-use metering schemes.


  4. 4
    frankyB

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (9:00 am)

    For me it’s a case of someone that is trying to get attention to his work more then anything else. Those guessing game are getting stupid.

    How can you come up with such paper and not have access to the most important details?

    GM said they made it with a mule that is not even the perfect setup… I’ll trust the guys that actually have the batteries in hand and doing real ground testing then a lab rat who is just guessing left and right.


  5. 5
    charley497@aol.com

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (9:32 am)

    I agree with #4 frankyb.  GM has been very open with the Volt project so far.  If they say they can do it I believe them. 


  6. 6
    J in MN

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (10:02 am)

    I must say that I am shocked at the large number of mistakes and inconsistencies in the use of units of measurement in that report.  If they cannot even get basic high school level units of measurement correct, can you really believe anything else they have to say?


  7. 7
    BigB

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (10:03 am)

    I suspect the author is claiming that the Volt battery pack would be inadequate for some currently produced vehicle with an ICE (Saturn Vue?).  Of course the Volt will be designed to optimize electric-only performance.  For this reason, I would ignore the report.


  8. 8
    Nick

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (10:04 am)

    $4.39 gas from my local gas station.  $67 to fill my wife’s vehicle, $69 to fill mine.

    GM: I need a Volt ASAP.  We are not listening to lame lab rats.
    I’m converting my bike to electric for Friday rides to work to save a few bucks.  36mph with the Phoenix 4840!

    What I have learned in this process is that there are an unlimited amount of setups that achieve different goals.  Different amps, volts, watts, controllers, weight, all effect the distance and speed of your setup.

    I have no doubt the Volt will be able to get a minimum of 40 miles.  But who cares if you only get a couple miles less?  That’s still a huge improvement over gas prices of now, much less gas prices of 2010.


  9. 9
    Van

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (10:24 am)

    So the battery being loaded into the Volt cannot meet its promised 40 mile range or long term durability needed for a mass market car?
    Well lets see, that battery has 16 KWH of capacity, and using the US06 driving cycle can go 32 miles in all electric mode according to computer simulations using only 8 KWH.  So if the software was changed to utilize 10 KWH, then even using the US06 cycle, the range would be 40 miles.
    As far as durability, I believe we do not know whether or not it will last long enough, testing is underway as we speak.  So to say the batteries will not last seems premature to say the least.
    I think buyers will accept an all electric range greater than their average daily commute, so they do not need to buy gas except for occasional trips, and 32 miles exceeds the average drivers daily commute.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     


  10. 10
    jbfalaska

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (10:58 am)

    Since GM announced both LG Chem and A123 won battery awards, I hope to buy the battery pack made in the US.  Lacking that, anywhere but China. 


  11. 11
    Jason M. Hendler

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (11:00 am)

    I read that article when it first came out, and had to laugh, because it was published AFTER GM had already announced that they had run the Volt mule over 40 miles.

    This is why you can’t count on acedemians for real progress.  You must force them to give it their best shot to create a baseline, then keep improving based on real solutions and real tests.


  12. 12
    Koz

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (11:02 am)

    Since part of battery design is a trade-off between power and energy density, I am not too concerned that the Volts battery will meet these specs. The only spec that looks like a stretch is 15 years life and 5000 deep cycles, but realistically, who cares. It matters that the battery meets GM’s specs for the Volt not the USABC’s. 5000 deep cycles translates to more miles than I’ll probably drive in the next 20 years. Nobody wants to be replacing the main battery every year but as long as it lasts 3 years it doesn’t make a difference to me how much longer it lasts. What I care about (and I think is more relevent) is what the ultimate cost/mile will be for the battery(s). If given a choice between a 10 year waranteed battery and a 5 year waranteed battery for $3,000 less, I’ll take the 5 year. I’m confident enough that 5 years later I’ll be able to buy twice the battery at less cost.


  13. 13
    CDAVIS

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (11:05 am)

    Welcome Critics and Doubters.

    Critics and doubters have historically abounded all great and bold projects. Critics and doubters declared that John F. Kennedy was a fool for telling the American people that we were going to send a man to the Moon. On the other side of the equation are the cheerleaders and enablers that get behind important projects and find ways to transcend the obstacles that stop most men. My personal thanks to Lyle for providing this GM-VOLT.COM venue to cheerlead and help enable the historical important GM-VOLT project.


  14. 14
    Tom

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (12:44 pm)

    Variables, variables, and more variables

    The single charge battery range varies greatly with headwind and cruise speed.  Simlulations for the Volt (See Forum, Engineering, “Simulation” for model and assumptions) show that the range for cruise speeds of 30, 40, 50 , 60 and 70 mph are 56, 48.7, 40, 33.5, and 28.8, respectively. You can meet the 40 mile range spec at a constant 50 mph.  If you plan to travel down a highway at 70 mph you will only get 72% of that range.  The 40 mile range is not a minimum spec, it appears to be a blend of city and 55 mph highway spec.


  15. 15
    Jean-Charles Jacquemin

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (1:14 pm)

    Jason #11

    This is why you can’t count on acedemians for real progress. 

    Well Jason, this a little too hard on academians, look at what for instance Dr Cui is investigating.

    But you are right by saying that some authors try more to have their name cited than make progress happen.

    JC


  16. 16
    kent beuchert

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (1:52 pm)

    What is UC Davis? Is that some junior college?  The issue, as Lyle correctly pointed out, is whether the batteries meet GM’s current requirements, not some requirements drawn up years ago by a committee, when EVs needed to match gas powered cars to be viable commercially.   Those days are gone, along with $2 gasoline. And those dollar amounts have not been adjusted for inflation, I don’t believe, even though they are obviously pretty meaningless by now. Using those “hopes and prayers” as a criteria is so stupid it’s difficult to believe that whoever did the study has ever seen a university, much less is involved with one.  Talk about a black mark against the US educational system !  (And not the first one, either).


  17. 17
    omegaman66

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (1:57 pm)

    OK lets look at the worst case senario.  The promised batteries at the current size only deliver a range of 15 miles instead of 40+.  After the 15 miles you still get 40 to 50 miles per gallon.

    Would this be considered a crappy car.  This would easily surpass the current prius in miles per gallon.

    How many miles per gallon you get from this car will vary greatly.  I would probably get 75 mpg of gasoline.   Longer commutes would get less.  Everyone would get better than what the ice can get by itself which has been reported to be 50mpg.  Lets assume 40.  Very few people would get less than 60mpg.

    This is about as worse case as you can realistically get.  Why is the worst case senerio not so horrible and actually kicks the behind of 99% or more of the cars on the road today???  Because as I have said all along.  This car does not depend on having cutting edge batteries to make it the best out there.  A123 batteries meeting GM’s goals just moves it way AHEAD of its closest competitor.

    Using GM’s goals I get infinity miles to the gallon.  The only time I would even use any gas is if I take the car on vacation.  Time will tell but either way the e-flex is the future.


  18. 18
    drivin98

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (2:40 pm)

    This study was featured on the Green Car Congress website. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/05/uc-davis-report.html Commenters there also pointed out many flaws with the data as presented. Some studies hold more weight than others and this one appears feather-light.
     


  19. 19
    ThombDbhomb

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (2:47 pm)

     

     
     

     

     

     

    The Sac Bee’s assertion, that the Volt battery can’t yet deliver, seems to be based on the the UC Davis report’s section 6.0, first paragraph, last sentence, which says,

    “such advances will be required for…GM’s Volt concept”

    By “such advances,” I think the report means meeting the USABC, MIT, or EPRI goals. But, the report also says those goals are contingent on many assumptions and differ greatly. The report says “true” requirements of PHEV technology will depend on government and consumers’ wants and needs.

    So, as long as the Volt meets my needs, I don’t care how it stacks up against USABC, MIT, or EPRI goals. GM’s concept Volt is an affordable, 40-mile AER, sedan. GM seems confident that they can deliver. I’m waiting to see what shakes out. I keep getting encouraged by news (Thanks Lyle and Vot Nation).

    Has anyone contacted the UC Davis people about how their conclusion seems to differ from what GM is telling us? It would be informative to hear thier response.

     

     


  20. 20
    Joe

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (3:00 pm)

    Why is it ,in general, Californians think they are smarter than the rest of the country or even the world? Two weeks ago, John McElroy interviewed three journalists from LA and I’ve never seen anyone so arrogant and egotistical. They say the rest of the world is behind 10 years in their way thinking and we are trying to play catchup. This is the link to that show.
    http://www.autolinedetroit.tv/autoline/   The name of the show is: “Westward Ho”
    You’ll see what I’m saying and maybe have a few laughs.
     
    hhhj


  21. 21
    ThombDbhomb

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (3:33 pm)

    #20 Joe

    We try to play dumb when we are around other states; we don’t want them to feel too bad about their inferiority.  If it will make you feel better, let’s talk about your state’s automotive innovations.


  22. 22
    GXT

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (4:25 pm)

    #17 omegaman66,

    Yes, that would be considered a crappy car.

    The Prius gets about 45MPG which is about equivalent to what the Volt will supposedly get.  Therefore in your worst case scenario you are paying an ~$15,000 premium to get 15 Miles of electric travel per charge/drive.  That is a horrible payoff.


  23. 23
    NorthernPiker

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (4:30 pm)

    #16 Kent
    Andy Frank, the “Father of the PHEV” is from UC Davis, where he is still active in the PHEV program as Professor Emeritus.


  24. 24
    GXT

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (4:35 pm)

    I haven’t read the report so I can’t comment on it, but anyone who thinks GM is accurate needs to look at history.

    GM has been incredibly inaccurate about things like their initial stand on hybrids (pointless for cars), their current (non-2-mode) hybrids such as the Vue (playing up the “inexpensive” while ignoring the fact that they get worse fuel economy and performance than competitor’s non-hybrids), and especially their hybrid bus fiasco (they showed such promise during trials but it turned out GM used a non-legal diesel engine… once the production engine was in place they were very disappointing). 

    I don’t know if the volt will go 40 miles on the battery, but I do know that whatever GM has said about the Volt prototype, even if “accurate”, is completely inconclusive about whether or not an actual volt would reasonably get 40 miles for the typical driver.
    And as I have said in the past, even if they hit that 40 mile target, unless they get the cost down to a competitive level the Volt will remain a niche product… perhaps as desirable as a hybrid Vue or a hybrid GM bus. 


  25. 25
    Statik

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (5:09 pm)

    This has absolutely nothing to do with this article, but I have to share.

    Today, and for the first time, by lawn mowing has escaped the tyrannical middle eastern oil cartels.  No longer will I be held hostage to $4 gas, gone are the days I spend $1.50 to fill my gas mower!!! 

    Huzzah! Now I can cut my lawn ‘off the grid!’

    Can’t wait to add my driving to the list, then I shall be free at last!  (Although I’m going to have to add about 2KW to my array for that).

    http://www.blackanddecker.com/ProductGuide/Product-Details.aspx?ProductID=16345


  26. 26
    Statik

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (5:10 pm)

    Frig!  I’m not spelling wrong now, I’m just a idiot.

    “Today, and for the first time, MY lawn mowing has escaped the tyrannical middle eastern oil cartels”


  27. 27
    ThombDbhomb

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (5:24 pm)

    #26 Statik

    Welcome to the club! Check out my ‘off the grid’ lawn mower:

    http://www.friendlyrobotics.com/

    I haven’t mowed a lawn in three years. So far, so good. It will probably wear out by the time the Volt becomes available. I hope the Volt has a mower option.


  28. 28
    DaveP

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (5:47 pm)

    #21 ThombDbhomb
    You weren’t supposed to tell the secret.  Now we have no choice but to sue you!  ;)
     


  29. 29
    RB

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (5:55 pm)

    I don’t see any conflict between the UC Davis study and what GM is doing.  As the UC Davis study points out, Li-ion batteries come in several different kinds, and all are being pushed foward at this time.  Several show good or excellent prospects of meeting USABC goals.  The study does not say that the Volt will not work. The Sacramento newspaper is trying to gin up a conflict to make their story more interesting.


  30. 30
    DaveP

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:01 pm)

    Somehow I can’t get very excited about this article.  I think it’s because there’s SO many companies working on electrified cars and there’s so many companies working on and research going into the batteries that it would seem the general consensus of people actually doing something to make “it” happen seems to be that everything is “good enough”.  It will only get better, too.
    As long as we’re talking lawn mowers, I use one of these babies:
     
    http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_07137610000P?vName=Lawn+%26+Garden&cName=Lawn+Mowers&sName=Reel+Mowers
    Now that’s the cutting edge of low tech!


  31. 31
    Grizzly

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:25 pm)

    GXT #24
    Pointless comment and factually incorrect.  Thanks for revealing that California mentality.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     


  32. 32
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:31 pm)

    I agree with CDAVIS #13.  History is filled with people saying something can’t be done.  Flying, breaking the sound barrier, landing on the moon, etc, etc.   Let’s assume the UC Davis study is correct so-to-speak.  Wouldn’t be much sweeter for GM to prove them wrong.  I think we have to take all things with a grain of salt. (Except for EESTOR which may required a pound of salt :)    )


  33. 33
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:36 pm)

    Statik, #25.  Congrats with the new mower.  I hope it works out for you.  My yard is an acre, and is too much to mow by hand or I would give yours a try.

    The spell checkers are designed to correct spelling, not correct idiots.  I use Firefox and I am still waiting for a developer to include “idiot checker”.  I would have to download that add-on immediately. :)
     
     
     
     


  34. 34
    Grizzly

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:40 pm)

    Rashid #31
    The academic world has always been about theory as opposed to practical application.   Understanding this, an errant article like this comes as absolutely no surprise.
    Eestor is indeed another matter.  Consult Linus in the pumpkin patch about that one! ;)
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     
     
     
     
     


  35. 35
    ksuhwail

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:44 pm)

    No matter what Californians think, the VOLT is not their doing. While pushing for environmental responsibility is admirable I find it hard to believe it is the main driving factor for the VOLT. The price of gas is back breaking and people from all 50 states are feeling the crunch. If California fell into the ocean today, the VOLT development would not hick-up one bit. California is not above Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, Colorado etc. so why does this silly bickering always find its way onto this site.
    Remember the VOLT is because of Michigan, not California. So as much as people on the west or east coasts think they are above the other 75% of country it is the Midwest that is the heartland and is keeping the country pumping.
    The way the media portrays California is a bunch of Toyota loving environmental extremists. While I understand that is a stereotype, if it wasn’t for the other 49 states GM would be out of business and there would be no VOLT.
     
    Okay….sorry…end of rant.
     
     


  36. 36
    omegaman66

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:46 pm)

    GTX #22
    “The Prius gets about 45MPG which is about equivalent to what the Volt will supposedly get.  Therefore in your worst case scenario you are paying an ~$15,000 premium to get 15 Miles of electric travel per charge/drive.  That is a horrible payoff.”

    15 mile all electric range would be a horrible payoff for some.  But for others with short commutes that could still push the mpg used to 75mpg and over.  And keep in mind this is the freaking worst case senerio.

    GTX #24
    “And as I have said in the past, even if they hit that 40 mile target, unless they get the cost down to a competitive level the Volt will remain a niche product…”

    I agree cost is going to be key.  I am banking on the e-flex tech being a success and on hopefully other manufacturers jumping on board and producing their own.  The sooner the better. 

    A whole lot of people here are pulling for  GM to really put it on the other car makers.  I hope they do well but I want all the car manufactures to realize the e-flex or range extender on an electric car is the way of the future.


  37. 37
    Joe

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (6:54 pm)

    Now, I know who’s from California and who is not. Yea, the mentality, from some of the Californians, is everything invented in this country came from California because they are so far ahead of the rest of the country.


  38. 38
    Grizzly

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (7:06 pm)

    ksuhwail #34
    California, and specifically LA is the most polluted area of the country.  I understand the concern of the citizenry.   What strikes me is just how corrupt and ineffective CARB is and how clueless the activists are.
    CARB is the problem of CA, but the activists always pursue confrontation and proliferate blame rather than actively working at arm’s length with companies while fully understanding their nature.  This is not difficult to do, but so much is wasted in their entire confrontational effort.  It’s as though they’re in a fish bowl and don’t understand the basic concept/properties of H2O.
    California is indeed a great/powerful country, but as a nation we need to thank God for the other 49!


  39. 39
    ThombDbhomb

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (7:39 pm)

    What has #20 Joe wrought? Is it really important to discuss the relative “betterness” of California? That skunk can piss!


  40. 40
    RB

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (7:47 pm)

    #34 grizzly argues “The academic world has always been about theory as opposed to practical application. ”

    Theory distills experience to find its most repeatable and enduring traits.  Theory states these underlying traits concisely, sometimes with mathematics. So theoretically in electricity V=I R, and that is a good point to begin most practical applications.  With greatest respect, theory is not opposed to practical application, it is aligned with it.  Good practice begins with good theory, which often is stated as “knowing what you are doing”, and it provides a way to avoid having to start all over in every new situation. 


  41. 41
    ThombDbhomb

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (7:54 pm)

    …honestly! Lyle gives us an erudite topic for discussion. Then, some of us lower the discussion to broad slanders about Californians and academicians.


  42. 42
    kent beuchert

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (7:59 pm)

    Obviously, these folks aren’t up to speed on the Volt’s development. I can’t imagine why they believe the Volt can’t meet its 40 mile range when it is transparently obviously to all that it has. This report thus  has no credibility and its strange adherence to a set of hoped for specs drawn up years ago as if they were Gospel, is strange indeed. Sounds like Voodoo.  Is this where our taxpayer dollars are ending up?


  43. 43
    Jason C

     

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    May 25th, 2008 (8:10 pm)

    pm
    #34 ksuhwail

    The Volt actually is here because of California. Bob Lutz himself said so and I will explain below.
    GM created the EV1 because of Californian mandates. GM killed the EV1 when those mandates were watered down by various interest groups, including GM. Do not credit GM with being leaders in the environmental or EV movement, they have fought electric vehicles every step of the way.
    Your assertion that the Heartland leads the way technologically is not based on any factual information that I am aware of. California would be the 9th largest economy in the world if it were it’s own country. It is one of the largest markets for automobiles in the world. The Heartland is where people buy trucks for work and Mustangs and Camero’s for fun. 
    Bob Lutz is on the record stating that the California startup Tesla with its Roadster was his reasoning for pushing the GM board to try another electric vehicle. The other members of the board shot him down the first time he mentioned it (in 2005) with one board member saying “we lost a billion dollars on the last one, and you want to build another?”
    I am ecstatic that GM is going forward with the Volt project and that they are behind it 100% but don’t for a second try to rewrite history…GM is in dire financial position because of a lack of vision and a belief that they are smarter than we are. They KNOW what we want and up until two years ago it was the Hummer. I don’t know about you but I don’t think they can read minds very well.
    I look forward to driving my 2010 Chevy Volt in NOV 2010. 


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    May 25th, 2008 (8:25 pm)

    RB #39

    We could both be ecstatic about mathematical modeling and extrapolation etc. but there comes a time when you must put the mule to the road. GM’s own modeling and theory suggests that the Volt will succeed in spades, but do you really think that’s good enough to roll the sucker down the assembly line?? I hope you see my point.

    The fact is that Lyle is pretty good at keeping the pot boiling. After all that’s the point of this blog. I just get a kick out of university research and articles based upon it. I’ll never forget my second year of college when I took a night accounting class. The instructor was not staff at the university, but a local CPA who decided to teach a night class. He had the entire class TEAR an entire page out of the accounting book and throw it in the trash. His justification was that he would never support that information in his class and that it was written by academics who had never left the classroom!

    Please keep in mind that anyone who writes for any journal needs to have something to publish, and controversy always sells!


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    May 25th, 2008 (8:43 pm)

    Geez. Tesla, Nissan, Toyota, GM, Ford etc etc are all only in it to make a buck.  All big businesses are in it to make a buck.  People need to stop blaming businesses that only supply the public with what they want.  There would be no hybrids on the market unless the public wants them.  GM isn’t an enviromental leader and to think that it is post worthy to say that they aren’t simply means you probably think another country is while failing to understand that they only reason they are is to make a buck.


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    May 25th, 2008 (9:17 pm)

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…
     
     
    The UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies will soon receive a second fuel-cell-powered Toyota SUV for its research and teaching programs. (http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=6672)
     
     
    UC Davis got $3 M from the California Energy Commission to open a new plug-in, hybrid research center. Pat’s Garage will convert 10 Priuses for the center, adding a $12,000 battery that extends the electric-only range up to 40 miles, and the total range of the car to 100 miles per gallon. (http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/10/31/uc-davis-to-test-plug-in-hybrids-in-100-households/)
     
     
    Toyota ships a UC Davis Coulomb PHEV to Toyota City to demonstrate it to about 250 engineers and executives at two of Toyota’s primary Tier 1 suppliers, Koyo Seiko, and Aisin AW. (http://www.calcars.org/history.html)


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    May 25th, 2008 (9:33 pm)

    Joe #20
     
    I saw that show too. I’m a big fan of Autoline. I’m born, raised and live in California. Those guys made me sick. They were journalists not engineers or designers, so they don’t actually do anything but criticize. How much can you believe about cars coming from a guy with a big flamboyant blond stripe in his hair? We’re not all that lame in California.


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    May 25th, 2008 (9:33 pm)

    Well, thank you California for the electric car, and thank you Midwest for keeping us all pumping along. I’m in Colorado. Make sure you thank me for buying a Volt in 24 months.

    Take care.


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    May 25th, 2008 (10:57 pm)

    I really don’t care what Californians think. If you believe that you’re better than the rest of the country, then that’s your perrogative. I live in the southeast. I have visited California before, but have never lived there. But everything there is so darn expensive (comparitively). I pay $300,000 for a brand new 2600 sq. ft. house, you pay $800k +. I pay 3.68 per gallon of unleaded, you pay, what, $5+? I’m not jealous of you really. Infact, I pity you, with your earthquakes, high cost of living, CARB restrictions, less-horsepower cars, media crap, wildfires and bad air, I think you need all the positive stuff you can think of…and as far as the guy who said “look at the automotive contributions of your state? Well, honestly, between Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky (for both import and domestic) most of your cars are built here ANYWAY.


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    May 25th, 2008 (11:02 pm)

    I sometimes wonder who funds these studies?  Could it have been AFS Trinity to promote the idea of the supercapacitor?  Just makes me wonder, because studies can be so misleading, depending on what data you accept as real and which data you omit (sort of like the global warming, there are published studies supporting both sides of the issue).

    Ultimately, does A123 make all of their performance data public?   I wouldn’t think so.  Therefore, I don’t know how a study like this can be accurate, as the authors don’t have access to proprietary data from all the various manufacturers.
    Regarding California, I believe the Volt had its origin as a result of CA mandates for electric vehicles (yes, I mean the EV-1).  Although the EV-1 was not perfect, with new battery technology, and exponetial increases in the cost of petroluem products, the electric car’s time has arrived.   I see the Volt as an updated EV-1 with a range extending ICE.  It’s market is no longer driven by CA,however, but actually by the global need for alternate fueled vehicles.
    CA is an awesome state.  Lots of agriculture, beaches and mountains.  High technology companies like Lockheed (SR-71 and Space Shuttle), Northrup, Rocketdyne, and others.  I’m sure in the ’60s it was the place to be.  Good jobs, great weather, beaches, etc.  (Just to fuel the flame war, Kelly Johnson of SR-71 fame was from Michigan).
    Now, however, the dream seems to be dying.  Smog, traffic, high crime rates, high taxes, 99 year mortgages for houses that would cost 1/10th as much in the midwest.
    Sorry you guys from CA, but you have developed a bad reputation.  Even when I visit CA the theme seems to be good looks and money.  Down-to-earth friendliness and family values aren’t as commonplace as in many other parts of the country.
    A friend of mine from Maine lived in Long Beach for about 10 years (electrical engineer).  One night while on a business trip in Texas, he took a walk from his motel into the local neighborhood.  He was surprised when people he didn’t know said “good evening”.  He then realized something was missing in CA, and within 2 years had moved to New Mexico, where he and his family have lived ever since.  They are very happy to have moved.
    Again, CA is an awesome state, and I think it’s a great place to visit.  But for many of us, it doesn’t seem to be the paradise it once was.
     
     


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    May 25th, 2008 (11:45 pm)

    Not sure why there is so much animosity toward other states, we all pretty much live in the state we have chosen to live in, probably because we can find work.  The reason California is listed among the first states to roll out the Volt is because California buys more hybrids than in any other state, and more than nearly all other states combined.  We are the 800 lb gorilla in the market.  And while part of that is because our gas costs more than most states, part of it is because Prius’s were allowed to drive in the HOV lanes, and our traffic is pretty bad.  I have lived where it snows, and did not like it, I have lived in the south where it is so muggy my glasses fog when I get out of my car, and I like living next to the Pacific ocean.  To each his own I suppose.


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    May 25th, 2008 (11:57 pm)

    The Sac Bee is typical of liberal papers - if they agree with it, they print it. No investigation or independent verification of the facts.
    GTX seems to me to be one of their readership type. Why would enviromentalists be against the Volt? It depends how liberal the liberal is.
    Some greens (easier than typing enviromentalists) dislike the Volt because of its ICE. They would prefer an all-electric car because they are against ANY gas or diesel engine, just like Al Gore in his book “Earth in the Balance”.
    Other greens are more extreme – no electric production by nuclear, or burning anything due to C02 released (oil, coal, gas, hydrogen, anything), and wind power kills birds, hydro power makes spawning difficult, solar power for cities would be huge, use a lot of land, and would be undependable in bad weather. Even tidal power may be objectionable, due to possible damage to costal fish populations. They want you to live off the land, live in animal skin lean-to’s, and ride a horse. They will keep the car, boat, jet, AC and heat, and electric. After all, they’re smarter, wiser, and just plain better-looking than you.

    California is a big state – really big. The majority of the people there are not raving enrivo-wackos, they are just normal people, trapped in a politically-correct state. Gas is hurting them, too. The Sac Bee is just preaching to their own little green congregation. If this site had not posted it, probably few people outside of CA would have heard about it.

    Lyle, the best advise in this situation is, simply don’t post the story. Consider the source – If is the Sac Bee, or my own liberal rag, the Baltimore Sun, just ignore it. Greens are impossible to please. Years ago, before Al Gore, they would have hailed the Volt as the wonder car. Now, any ICE is enemy #1.

    #25 Statik- check out this lithium-ion powered mower on UK’s amazon site http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bosch-Rotak-Lithium-Ion-Lawnmower/dp/B000Q79QM0. It’s not is the US yet, but I can wait.


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    May 26th, 2008 (12:48 am)

    MarkinWI:

    I agree with your statement about GM not bluffing and I notice GM ads promoting the Chevy Volt are starting to show up on TV. Because battery development was suppressed for a very long time the Chevy Volt sounds too good to be true.  But A123 has broken the monoply.


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    May 26th, 2008 (12:05 pm)

    #49 BillR:

    For what it’s worth, Lockheed Martin is headquartered in Bethesda, MD, my home state. So take that CA. :)


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    May 26th, 2008 (12:57 pm)

    I’m guessing #50 Van is from CA. His comment is probably the most mature. Thank you.


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    May 26th, 2008 (6:34 pm)

    I think we know that GM can definitely build this car… the batteries will be expensive.. but they are only a stepping stone to the Hydrogen fuel cell… which this car is also designed to accommodate … the best design to date.  The Volt will show the world the advantages of the electric car.  The Hydrogen fuel cell will show the world the best fuel for the future… and the manufacture of Hydrogen will not be limited and will not be left to a few greedy people… there will be many sites all over the world to make hydrogen.
    Don’t forget…. GM has 100 fuel cell SUVs in our major cities driving everyday …. these are the cars of the future.


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    May 27th, 2008 (11:04 am)

    There are a couple really bad technologies being pushed as ‘green’ competing with electric.
    The first is E85: E85 in most flex fuel vechicles are worse performing than just running regular gasoline.
    A quick search on E85 shows the most fuel efficiant flex-fuel vechicle of 2008 as 3.5L Impala http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/2008car1tablef.jsp?id=24696 with 18/29 Gasoline, and 14/21 E85. That means the car is running at 78%/72% efficiency when running E85. That 15% Ethnol is actually causing more gas to be burned!
    Loss: Pollution, Fuel Economy, and Food Prices around the world!
    Yes it makes sense in brazil … but a large percentage of there exports are sugar. Also the US is a large exporter of food to the world and the E85 from corn drive has shifted alot of farmers from wheat to corn and caused food prices to skyrocket.
    The second is Hydrogen Fuel Cell: It’s a well known fact it takes more energy to separate molecules than you gain from combining them. One spends an incredible amount of energy, most of which comes from electricity, splitting them only to put them back together in a horribly inefficient ICE. Hydrogen fuel cells are NOT the way of the future when an entire electric drive train is probably at about 90% efficiency.
    Win: Direct Pollution (byproduct is H20)
    Loss: Much more indirect pollution than straight electric, and Fuel Efficiency.
    The arguments for hydrogen that might, from a pollution standpoint, validate as slightly better than gasoline powered ice is: battery/supercapacitor technology not being where it needs to be yet, and the percentage of power coming from coal doesn’t outweigh the pollution from a small gas/diesel ICE running in it’s optimal power range.
    Uses: If the prior stated conditions are met it may have a place as the ICE fuel in a Plugin Hybrid.
    Heck … in the very long term gas Prices at $10 could be a good thing.

    –Jem
     


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    May 27th, 2008 (11:34 am)

    Okay, this is like the article on how the Prius would be better than the Volt that was circulating a while back.
    The author took the worst case scenarios for the Volt, and worsened them. Then took the best case scenarios for the Prius and heightened them on the basis the new model would be exceptionally better.
    It was a total BS article and completely worthless. Just as this one.  To predict failure when you don’t have the facts is to merely be a rumorweed.
     
     
     


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    May 27th, 2008 (1:47 pm)

    #25 Statik:

    We just bought a battery powered weed whacker.  Any points for that?

    #30 Dave:

    Yeah, we have a push mower too, for our about 400sf of grass.  My long term plan is to get rid of the grass, but it’s tough sell.

    #31 Grizzly:

    Hey, don’t blame GXT on us.  “Statements made on this program do not necessarily reflect the views of management.” 

    #33 Rashiid Amul:

    Yeah, bring on the idiot checker.  I need it worse than you do!

    #51 Van:
    Thank you from California!

    As to UC Davis, it is actually a highly respected and credible university  As to the efficacy or motivation of this particular bit of research, who knows?  Some studies make history, and some are overtaken by events and forgotten.

    I place my faith on the seeming success of the “mules”, and hope for the best.  As omegaman66 is so fond of saying, “Time will tell”.


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    May 27th, 2008 (2:15 pm)

    No matter how the circle is squared, I believe that a vehicle driven by purely electric motors will always be superior to ones driven by ICE or any combination of electric and ICE. A great amount of energy produced by the ICE is lost in useless heat but electric motors are very efficient. The argument is centered around the portability of energy. The Chevy is a very good start in the right direction. Now it just has to prove itself to the public at large that its an effective competitor to the ICE. It was only a hundred years ago that folks were having the same argument about horses versus the automobile. Back then there were no roads and no gas stations.
     


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    May 27th, 2008 (4:31 pm)

    My biggest problem with the report and the underlying targets is that they do not get it that there is a serious tradeoff between energy density and peak power handling capability. Considering two parameters is sufficient to illustrate the issue.
    1) Depth of Discharge (DOD). The report does discuss this parameter citing “Available Power” that can be delivered from the practical range of charge states. The problem is that both the authors and their underlying sources assume all batteries have this issue and make no provision to revise total energy targets to account for high DOD chemistries and electrode topologies that yield sufficiently low internal resistance to be able to tolerate deep discharge and full recharge cycles without causing excess heat buildup.
    2) The Peak Power specification, again, makes no provision for adjusting the total energy target capacity to account for additional energy that can be recovered from “aggressive” braking that is prominent in the most likely driving profiles. Stopping a USABC target 1600 kg car from 25mph in 5 seconds hits the USABC Peak Power rating.
    The proof is in the pudding. The Phoenix SUT (that weighs 36% more than the USABC 1600 kg target vehicle) actually goes 40 miles using 12.3 kWh from an Altairnano battery compared to the 16 kWh required for the Volt. The weight of a 12.3 kWh Altair pack would be 188 kg. Though still more than the USABC 120 kg target weight, it is only little more that an LG (.9 kWh/kg) 16 kWh pack and still very close to the A123 (1 kWh/kg).
    Altair batteries would deliver equal range for typical American “aggressive” driving profiles with superior longevity and safety while needing none of the battery pack heating and cooling required by the incumbents. The reason is the vanishingly low internal resistance (equivalent to a gold to gold switch contact) – the battery is able to dump or load its full charge in 10 minutes with only a 9 degF temperature rise. And it can do it 10,000 times with only minimal degradation. The reason that it’s a nonstarter for non-fleet PHEV applications like the Volt is price. Because the maintenance footprint for a BEV is less than 1/4 of ICE, fleets need many fewer total vehicles to keep the required number on the road so combined with the “fuel cost” savings, a $46,000 BEV vehicle price is very competitive. But that’s the tip of the iceberg for Nanosafe battery packs.
    They delivered an unprecedented 2MW battery pack to AES Corp. last December for connection to the power grid. It provides a much faster response to load variations than is available from generator adjustments. Utility power plants are otherwise obliged to cope with large load increases by generating about 3% more power than is being used called an “active reserve” that is normally wasted as heat dissipated in transmission equipment.
    The Altair battery pack has been capable of repeatedly dumping and loading 2MW over 15 minute periods that means it can eliminate the need for active reserve generation and excess heating. Obviously, the fuel savings provide so much value that Altair is able charge many times more than auto applications can justify and keep manufacturing in the US. Even so, utility power plants pay back the cost in months from fuel savings for a piece of equipment expected to last for 20 years. It’s not surprising that AES has invested megabucks in Altair and gotten a seat on the board.
    My problem is the “It’s hard to keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen the lights in gay Paree” thing. But money doesn’t talk, it swears so I’ll hold my nose and drive the A123 battery pack I can afford every 5 years or so maybe:-)


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    May 27th, 2008 (5:03 pm)

    Well, I decided I can’t wait. I’m breaking down & buying a
    Honda Reflex scooter (250cc, 60mpg, Autotrans, 80mph)
    for my commuter vehicle. Gas prices are getting outrageous
    and I won’t take it anymore. I’m not financing governments
    who hate us, get rich off our money, then buy our country and infiltrate our kids’ universities. Right now, it’s the bike. I’ll
    have to wait to look/see when 2010 comes, see if any of this
    stuff actually materializes. I’m betting Mitsubishi and Nissan
    make the first waves. They seem more focused. I’m a Republican.
    I will write my representatives and let them know I am not
    happy about their votes on this bill. It’s anti-American not
    to support alternate transportation when our nation is in peril.


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    May 28th, 2008 (3:08 pm)

    #62 Larzen:

    Well just be super careful.  We can’t afford to have any of our valued bloggers getting hurt

    As the desert racers used to say “Shiny side up!’


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    May 29th, 2008 (4:03 pm)

    I have made a spread sheet that calculates power used by volt based on various parameters.  This will give an indication of what the volt will be capable of under various conditions and maybe answer some questions.
    I have made some assumptions about values due to lack of information. These assumptions are base on original Volt specifications.
    Here are some my default values used:

    Frontal Area 2 m^2 (based on picture maybe 1.9 to 2 m^2). The picture seems to be about distorted
    Cd used .26 (The original Volt spec. said .3 for coefficient)
    1.2  kg/m^3  for  air density (for 3000 feet I used 0.9)

    0.8 for Tire drag coefficient ( This will have biggest impact when adding mass to vehicle)
    Mass of 1361 kg (3000 pounds)
    85% from battery to output of motor. (Original spec claims 85% to 92%; with max continuous power 89%)
    For gas mileage calculation I used 27.32% for generator efficiency (This match’s the 50 mpg they claim the volt can get. I assume this takes into account the losses incurred during the charging of battery)
    0 degrees slope
    wind speed 0
    wind direction 0 degrees
    50% DOD on battery = 8kwh

    Using default values I get 41 miles on battery, 195wh per mile and 51 mpg.
    For air density of 0.9 I get, 50 miles on battery, 160wh per mile and 62 mpg.
    For Aerodynamic drag of .3 instead of .26. (37 miles, 216wh, 46mpg)
    Since this forum is talking about what effect adding battery mass would have I will add a 100kg (1461kg) to vehicle mass (40 miles, 199wh, 50mpg). So by adding 100kg of battery we lost one mile on battery and 4wh per mile.  Since you probably added at least 9kwh this would seem to be acceptable.
    With 8 mph head wind (32 miles, 252wh, 40 mpg)
    90% DOD on battery (74 miles, 195wh, 51mpg). They probably do not need to do 50% DOD on the batteries, although I do not know what the best value would be.
    On mars with paved road 0 air density (373 miles, 21wh, 466 mpg)
    As can be seen small changes in various variable can have dramatic effect in mileage.
    I anybody wants the spread sheet, I will send it in if I can figure out how. This way the the spread sheet can be expanded and have math fixed or improved.
    While writing this I have had an idea for this wed site.
    Project could be simulation for Volt or any other car actually.
    Another project would be software for laptop that would show the various information on the Volt (If software works well maybe GM could distribute it with Volt or maybe even install it on Volt). We need something else to do besides talking of volt.
    Sensor information that may be need:

    GPS
    Air density
    Tire pressure
    Power at battery
    Rotation of motor
    Temperature

    etc.

     
     
     
     


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    May 30th, 2008 (9:49 am)

    Don, nice post.  I like the content to chew on.  If you have a web/blog site that provides a means of peer to peer file sharing, that’s probably the best way to distribute the spreadsheet.

    How do you model the relationship between vehicle mass and electric only-range?  My understanding is that air resistance is negligible going less than 35mph and rises to require 70% of the energy needed to maintain velocity at highway speeds.  If that’s right, it’s a wonder that Volt designers haven’t made limiting that cost a higher priority than spending big bucks on composites and carbon fiber to reduce mass – even wheel covers and mirror-replacement side and rear video situation-awareness displays will make a difference (Google “Aptera”).  But maybe they expect electric usage to be primarily non-highway commuting, kid taxi trips, and running errands.  If you have a battery with decent power handling, for suburban/city driving profiles you get most of the power used to accelerate back when you brake.  Still, since the highway mileage counts, maybe it’s time to summon the courage to risk finding a way to make the limits that designers face to achieve streamlining goals a competitive advantage.

    And there’s rolling resistance – EV1′s ran on hard tires to limit it.  GM’s got serious suspension chops – it seems there could be some suspension and chassis tuning that would provide acceptable handling and comfort with harder sidewall tires (having a soft footprint and advanced tread design to preserve traction) – like air drag, tire drag is a energy consumer with dubious value.


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    May 31st, 2008 (1:50 am)

    Jeff, I will see what I can do for setting up website for distribution of spread sheet. I have already sent it to the gm-volt website.

    Vehicle mass only affects acceleration and components that  would have more load base on mass, for example the tires or drive shaft. I am discounting every thing but tires in my spread sheet. A increase of mass increases drag on tires. I used the equation of (Road Surface Drag Coefficient + Tire Drag Coefficient) times mass gravity to get force (.001+.007) * 1361kg * 9.81.
    The example I gave in previous post was for 64 mph. Energy used was 60% for Aerodynamic drag, 25% for tire drag and 15% from battery to wheel. Using 35 mpg I get 35% for Aerodynamic drag, 50% for tire drag and 15% from battery to wheel. The aerodynamics will effect these ratios, but the force from the air increases by velocity squared. If you did a continuous 35 under ideal conditions you would get 83 miles on battery charge, but if you are performing about 4 stops and starts every mile you would lose a mile (this is including regenerative braking). So you would still wind up with a distance of about 40 miles.
    My example was using low resistance tires and  hard paved  road (softer tires will also increase drag).
    Well air drag may have dubious value but I do like to breath.


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    May 31st, 2008 (5:04 am)

    #66 Don
      I’d be very intested in the spreadsheet.  Perhaps there’s a mechanism allowing it to be distributed through the forum.


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    May 31st, 2008 (5:45 am)

    #34 Grizzly said “We could both be ecstatic about mathematical modeling and extrapolation etc. but there comes a time when you must put the mule to the road. GM’s own modeling and theory suggests that the Volt will succeed in spades, but do you really think that’s good enough to roll the sucker down the assembly line??”

    Grizzly, we are not that far apart.  It takes a good mathematical model and some extrapolation (and inspiration) to make a good starting point.  Otherwise there’s nothing there worth the time and expense of testing.  But mules are, of course, essential. 
      As related to the article, I thought it was excellent in explaining the trade-offs inherent in critical battery parameters — energy, power, lifetime, safety, cost — and optimistic in  outlook about Li-ion batteries.  A main point was that there are several kinds of Li-ion batteries, and what’s bad about one may be ok in another.  The article said the Volt was at the edge or beyond the edge in the combination of parameters specified, which is what we’ve been hearing from GM.  The article did not say that newer and better batteries would not be developed and used in the Volt or other cars.  Maybe most importaant, it said that costs could reasonably be expected to fall to a fraction of what they are now.


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    May 31st, 2008 (8:13 am)

    RB & Don,

    You can attach files with your comments on the forum. You should check out the engineering section there. Tom has done some in depth analysis there including range analysis. He goes a bit deeper in his ananlysis, and aside from the uncommon scenario of 0-70mph starts/stops every 15 minutes, it is pretty telling.


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    May 31st, 2008 (8:19 am)

    #69 Koz
      Thanks.  I hope Don will post his work there. 


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    May 31st, 2008 (2:46 pm)

    I would still like to see thin solor panels on the roof.  Charge as you go – this should certainly extend the 40 miles.  Charge for free while at work.  This would be the ultimate. 


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    Jun 3rd, 2008 (4:56 am)

    For the couple of people who ask me to down load my spread sheet to the Forum, it is a no go. The forum file attachment utility, filters out the spread sheet files.


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    Jun 3rd, 2008 (6:10 am)

    Don,

    Don’t know if this will work but you can try changing the extension before attaching and indicate this in your text so users know to change it back.


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    Jun 3rd, 2008 (12:21 pm)

    OK, I have loaded spread sheet in the forum as zip file for anybody who wants to try it out.

    Thread title “Spread Sheet for people to play with” under Engineering.