Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Dec 20

Norway’s 100,000th EV Constitutes 10-Percent Of The World’s Total

 

Norway100k

Last week Norway celebrated its 100,000th battery electric car registered, and with that, the tiny nation now has about one-in-10 of all EVs sold worldwide.

The global total of plug-in hybrids and battery electrics is around 1.9 million, and a solid one-million of the latter type was reported having been sold through September.

Norway, population 5.27 million, may therefore deserve an entry in an encyclopedia filed under “where there is a will, there is a way.”

Did Edvard Munch, born Dec. 12, 1863, foresee the existential angst over environmental concerns? No telling, but Norway did celebrate 100,000 EVs on his birthday last week.

Did Edvard Munch, born Dec. 12, 1863, foresee the existential angst over environmental concerns? No telling, but Norway did celebrate 100,000 EVs on his birthday last week.

While in other places, such as the U.S., automakers are not even sufficiently advertising their electric cars, Norway has the political will to subsidize plug-ins to the point that they now comprise more than 25 percent of new car sales.

The 100,000 milestone came just one year and eight months after the 50,000 milestone in April 2015, and was commemorated coincidentally on the birthday of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch at the Munch Museum.

SEE ALSO: Norway Celebrates 50,000th Plug-in Sold

“Today we are celebrating 100,000 emission free battery electric cars on Norwegian roads,” said Secretary General Christina Bu of the Norwegian EV Association. “The present fleet cuts approximately 200,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Even though BEVs only account for 3 percent of the total passenger car fleet, we have achieved a substantial reduction. But there is more to come.”

Bu said the 100,000 came “way earlier than most people expected,” and the goal for Norway is 400,000 by 2020. Anyone want to bet they won’t make it?

Helping things along is the Norwegian Parliament has set a goal that after 2025 100-percent of vehicle sales will be zero-emission.

Changing The Fleet

As of November there were 2,747,483 passenger vehicles registered in Norway, and the 129,675 light-duty plug-in electrified cars are 4.7 percent of this.

Charts: Mario R. Duran.

Charts: Mario R. Duran.

By the first quarter of 2017, plug-ins should comprise 5 percent of the cars on Norway’s roads.

The top-five best sellers have been the Nissan Leaf (27,115), Volkswagen e-Gold (15,991), Tesla Model S (11,615), BMW i3 (8,011), and Kia Soul EV (6,632 – tied with VW e-Up!)

Registrations EVs Norway 2004 2015

Rounding out the top 10 are the Renault ZOE (3,431), Mitsubishi i-MiEV (3,309), Peugeot iOn (2,340), and Citroën C-Zero (2,248).

Global Influence

For anyone who says electric cars are not ready to supplant internal combustion cars in a meaningful way, Norway stands as a counter example, although Bu said incentives are still very much needed.

Communications Director at Nissan Nordic Europe, Marina Maneas Bakkum, shows that the Leaf accounts for more than 1 out 4 electric cars in Norway. (Photos: Ståle Frydenlund/elbil.no).

Communications Director at Nissan Nordic Europe, Marina Maneas Bakkum, shows that the Leaf accounts for more than 1 out 4 electric cars in Norway. (Photos: Ståle Frydenlund/elbil.no).

Pure EVs are on the verge of becoming competitive, said Bu, and ought by next decade to achieve parity but the pressure needs to stay on.

“Norwegian politicians need to sit tight and continue the proven recipe for success,” she said. “This means offering substantial benefits to zero emissions car buyers.”
MX

And, according to a Norwegian report, a survey of buyer attitudes also indicates more is needed. In it, 15 percent of Norwegians over 18 said they needed to buy an electric car within two years. Of these, 4 percent answered “strongly agree” and 11 percent “fairly agree.”

However, 56 percent of the total survey respondents said they fairly or strongly disagree that they are considering buying an electric car the next two years. And, 68 percent said that the range is too short, and 46 percent believe charging is problematic.

What do you think? Will GM have a market for the Opel Ampera-e in Norway?

What do you think? Will GM have a market for the Opel Ampera-e in Norway?

But this is due to change, as automakers announce longer range EVs, and quicker charging facilities, as other synergies also come into play giving hope to Norway’s advocates

As the head of a 40,000 EV owners’ association – the world’s largest – Bu sees Norway’s case example of going for broke toward EVs as a positive influence on the world.

“Norway inspires other countries to implement similar measures, and we show the international automotive industry how to create consumer demand for electric cars,” she said. “We get ever more proof supporting this notion.”

One proof cited was when Volkswagen’s board visited to ask questions and learn from how Norway was adapting to EVs.

interview

A handful of other manufacturers have also learned from Norway this year, as they seek to push for technological development as well.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 19

GM Plans to Mass-Produce Autonomous Chevy Bolt, Testing Begins in January

 

By Jon LeSage

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General Motors will tap into Michigan’s new self-driving car law and Chevy Bolt production to become the first automaker to mass-produce autonomous vehicles.

GM CEO Mary Barra yesterday said the automaker will “immediately” begin testing self-driving Bolts on public roads near the GM Technical Center in the Detroit area. The company expects the first self-driving Bolts to begin rolling off its assembly line in January.

While the automaker already began testing about 40 self-driving Bolts in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz., the Michigan test runs will be much larger, according to Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of autonomous technology and vehicle execution.

GM will be utilizing Michigan’s broad and liberal autonomous vehicle policy – and its severe weather conditions.

“We’re ensuring that our AVs can operate safely across a full range of road, weather and climate conditions,” Barra said at a news conference.

A week ago, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that allows automakers and technology partners to develop, test, and sell autonomous vehicles in the state. That policy goes farther than what other states have enacted – allowing for steering wheels and brake pedals to be removed, permission for companies to offer ride-hailing services with autonomous vehicles, and sales to consumers of self-driving cars that have passed testing and certification.

Autonomous Bolts will be assembled at GM’s plant in Orion Township, Mich. That’s where non-autonomous all-electric Bolts are already being built, along with the Chevy Sonic subcompact car. GM workers will be adding to some of the Bolts cameras, sensors, Lidar, and other autonomous technology that will be tested out.

SEE ALSO:  Autonomous Chevy Bolts Seen Testing in San Francisco

Road testing has been limited to private roads within a mile of GM’s Technical Center. Barra said that will be opening up later to roads nearby, and after that, expanded throughout the Detroit area.

The GM CEO declined to state when autonomous Bolts will be available for sale to the public. The company did say earlier this year that self-driving Bolts will be used for ride-hailing services through its partnership with Lyft within a few years.

As for non-autonomous Bolts, Chevy dealers began selling them in California and Oregon this week. GM said it will be expanding the market to New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia in early 2017. The Bolt will be sold nationwide around the middle of the year.

GM has been testing out autonomous vehicles for several years, and is now part of a much larger push by automakers, auto suppliers, and technology companies to make autonomous vehicles common on U.S. roads.

Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with hardware for full autonomy are already in production, and the upcoming Model 3 will have it as well, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Tesla’s autonomous system still needs to clear through government approval.

Automotive News, HybridCars.com

 

Dec 16

Could JCESR’s Li-Sulfur Battery Revolutionize EVs?

 

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Just when automakers are hunkering down to mass produce electric cars with good-enough lithium-ion batteries, a federally funded “dream team” of researchers says in one year its lithium-sulfur prototype may have triple the energy density of the best available today.

Their U.S. Department of Energy sponsored hope is that what they are onto may usher in an era in the next decade of long-range $20,000 electric cars with no real downside compared to petroleum powered ones they will rapidly displace.

That’s the goal, anyway, with an eye toward projecting U.S. industry ahead in global leadership, alleviating energy insecurity, and environmental concerns. And unlike pipe dreams you may have heard from cash-strapped startups, this proposed battery is the brainchild of several years of intense research by a “Manhattan Project” for energy storage.

JCESR Director George Crabtree is an Argonne National Laboratory Distinguished Fellow. He directs JCESR's strategy, goals, and acts as liaison to executives of JCESR partner organizations.

JCESR Director George Crabtree is an Argonne National Laboratory Distinguished Fellow. He directs JCESR’s strategy, goals, and acts as liaison to executives of JCESR partner organizations.

Followers of electrified cars may recall when the U.S. Department of Energy in Nov. 2012 announced the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), overseen by Argonne National Laboratory. This collaboration of 10 universities, five national laboratories, and five industrial firms was mandated to accelerate “beyond lithium ion” batteries toward commercialization. With $120 million in funding, their goal was to cut by one fifth costs for a 2011 Nissan Leaf-spec battery, provide five-times the energy density, do it in five years, and JCESR’s Director George Crabtree says it will make good on the promise.

“What we will produce in December of 2017, what we’ve promised to produce and we expect to produce, is a proof of principle battery that I can hold in my hand – so it’s small,” said Crabtree of a prototype verified with JCESR’s techno-economic modeling, “but that performs in a way that validates everything you need to make a $100 kWh/kg lithium-sulfur battery at the pack level.”

In contrast to making do with laptop batteries that have both enabled and limited electric cars, JCESR was commissioned to purpose-make batteries with the urgency of "national security" behind its mission. Pictured: JCESR’s transportation-focused prototype will contain a lithium metal anode and a sulfur cathode, taking advantage of the system’s high theoretical capacity for energy storage and the low cost of sulfur. Work at Argonne National Lab which oversees JCESR has already developed technology making possible the Chevy Volt.

In contrast to making do with laptop batteries that have both enabled and limited electric cars, JCESR was commissioned to purpose-make batteries with the urgency of “national security” behind its mission. Pictured: JCESR’s transportation-focused prototype will contain a lithium metal anode and a sulfur cathode, taking advantage of the system’s high theoretical capacity for energy storage and the low cost of sulfur. Work at Argonne National Lab which oversees JCESR has already developed technology making possible the Chevy Volt.

Does that mean it’s guaranteed? Of course not. Nothing is but death and taxes, and Crabtree said trying to predict the future can be tricky. A commercially viable battery may take five years, 10 years, or may never happen, but ruling things out at this stage is not on the agenda for JCESR which has achieved goals to date with more successes in sight.

Speaking of which, JCESR’s goal of $100 kWh/kg for a completed battery pack is one Tesla hopes to achieve a few years from now for its li-ion packs. JCESR’s prototype thus stands to be cheaper than today’s best li-ion batteries which may be a bit under $200 kWh/kg if not well over that.

Sulfur is among the cheapest and most abundant active battery materials. It’s much cheaper than cobalt, the most expensive part of a li-ion battery. A byproduct of oil refining, its availability is dramatized by piles of sulfur produced in treating heavy oil sands in Fort McMurray, Canada. Photo: GlobalForestWatch.ca.

Sulfur is among the cheapest and most abundant active battery materials. It’s much cheaper than cobalt, the most expensive part of a li-ion battery. A byproduct of oil refining, its availability is dramatized by piles of sulfur produced in treating heavy oil sands in Fort McMurray, Canada. Photo: GlobalForestWatch.ca.

That’s impressive in itself, as it took 25 years for li-ion to whittle costs by a factor of 10 and this is where Li-S may start with room to improve from there, but that’s just one benefit. JCESR’s work-in-progress lithium-sulfur prototype is also to be far more energy dense – thus lighter and more compact – and with much more upside development potential than lithium-ion.

In other words, the federal brain trust may deliver a prototype battery whose proverbial floor is above the ceiling of the best li-ion batteries in cars like the Tesla Model S, Chevy Bolt, and, well, anyone.

What this could mean is lighter electric cars with greater range, lower costs, fewer packaging challenges in manufacturing, and more.

As for that “energy density,” Crabtree said an initial prototype pack will have at least 400 Wh/kg which is five times more than a 2011 Leaf’s 80 Wh/kg. This was the minimum goal set for JCESR’s five-year charter which could be renewed or expire at the end of next year, but he and researchers are hopeful for more.

What can we expect from Li-S? USABC's 2020 goals are an authoritative reference for pack versus cell gravimetric energy density. Cell-level goals are 50-percent larger than the pack level (“system”). This reflects expectations based on Li-ion. Using this criteria, JCESR’s pack level goal of 400 Wh/kg translates to 600 Wh/kg at the cell level. Theoretical gravimetric energy density of Li-ion is 625 Wh/kg, and commercial availability is 250 Wh/kg. The theoretical gravimetric energy density of Li-S is 2,567 Wh/kg. Assuming Li-S scales from theoretical to cell as Li-ion does, Crabtree said one might expect Li-S cells to be 1,026 Wh/kg. Using USABC goals, this might translate to 684 Wh/kg at the pack level. "This suggests that our commitment of 400 Wh/kg at the pack level might be significantly exceeded by Li-S, an outcome we would welcome," he said.

What can we expect from Li-S? USABC’s 2020 goals are an authoritative reference for pack versus cell gravimetric energy density. Cell-level goals are 50-percent larger than the pack level (“system”). This reflects expectations based on Li-ion. Using this criteria, JCESR’s pack level goal of 400 Wh/kg translates to 600 Wh/kg at the cell level. Theoretical gravimetric energy density of Li-ion is 625 Wh/kg, and commercial availability is 250 Wh/kg. The theoretical gravimetric energy density of Li-S is 2,567 Wh/kg. Assuming Li-S scales from theoretical to cell as Li-ion does, Crabtree said one might expect Li-S cells to be 1,026 Wh/kg. Using USABC goals, this might translate to 684 Wh/kg at the pack level. “This suggests that our commitment of 400 Wh/kg at the pack level might be significantly exceeded by Li-S, an outcome we would welcome,” he said.

“We haven’t done it yet, but in December 2017, our goal is to demonstrate – again with a little battery I can hold in my hand – a proof of principle prototype that gets 400 Wh/kg at the pack level,” said Crabtree. “If Li-S scales from theoretical energy densities like Li-ion did, even more should be possible – up to 680 Wh/kg at the pack level or 1,000 Wh/kg at the cell level, that could be within range. But we want to learn to walk before we try to fly”

In fact, Crabtree is being conservative. Researchers have postulated 1,200 Wh/kg at the cell level is possible for a chemistry with more than double the theoretical peak Wh/kg potential, and Li-S has huge implications – if it comes to pass.

Tech Challenges

JCESR is actually at work on a slew of energy storage projects, including for grid storage and it’s left a trail of 52 invention disclosures, 27 patent applications, and written a small library’s worth of research documents.

For transportation purposes, it has narrowed down contenders to speed forward a “transformative” change in the kinds of cars and trucks people will eventually buy.

So, the Lithium-Sulfur transportation battery prototype project being headed up by Sandia National Lab with other JCESR researchers is what the team has decided has the best potential among more than three chemistries in consideration.

Energy density in a 2011 Leaf battery pack was ~ 80 kWh/kg, and in a Model S it is ~ 130 kWh/kg. Projected Li-S energy density ranges from ~ 200 Wh/kg to ~ 450 Wh/kg at the pack level. Thus, one might expect a factor of 2-3 more gravimetric energy density for Li-S at pack level than for Model S. The cost of Li-S at the target of $100/kWh is likely to be lower than Tesla’s cost for Li-ion batteries in the Model S, though their cost now and in the future is not definitively known.

Energy density in a 2011 Leaf battery pack was ~ 80 kWh/kg, and in a Model S it is ~ 130 kWh/kg. Projected Li-S energy density ranges from ~ 200 Wh/kg to ~ 450 Wh/kg at the pack level. Thus, one might expect a factor of 2-3 more gravimetric energy density for Li-S at pack level than for Model S. The cost of Li-S at the target of $100/kWh is likely to be lower than Tesla’s cost for Li-ion batteries in the Model S, though their cost now and in the future is not definitively known.

“On launching in December 2012, we were considering several technologies, including Li-S,” said Crabtree. “In January 2016, we selected our prototype targets for transportation, Li-S as our top priority and Mg intercalation as our second priority.”

Lithium-air is a third possibility, but of the Li-S battery, Crabtree says the researchers see light at the end of the tunnel, but must overcome hurdles yet barring the way. Though they have not gotten there yet, they have four potential pathways toward development, as Crabtree explained.

If Li-S does not pan out: JCESR’s plan B for $100/KWh is a multivalent battery. In this, JCESR’s scientists replace singly charged lithium ions, which are used in the lithium-ion battery, with doubly or triple charged working ions. This could increase the battery energy storage capacity by a factor of two or three and is attractive for transportation applications.

If Li-S does not pan out: JCESR’s plan B for $100/KWh is a multivalent battery. In this, JCESR’s scientists replace singly charged lithium ions, which are used in the lithium-ion battery, with doubly or triple charged working ions. This could increase the battery energy storage capacity by a factor of two or three and is attractive for transportation applications.

“The four pathways are (a) binding the intermediate states of the Li-S reaction, the polysulfides of chemical formula Li2Sx where x can be, for example 2, 4 or 6 (among other values) at the cathode, (b) choosing an electrolyte that does not dissolve the polysulfides, so that they never migrate through the electrolyte to the Li metal anode, (c) protecting the Li metal anode with a blocking layer that does not conduct polysulfides, so that any polysulfides that may have dissolved in the electrolyte do not penetrate to the Li metal anode and react with it. The last pathway (c) has several options to block polysulfides from penetrating to the cathode: (1) a membrane of graphene oxide or Al2O3, or (2) a naturally formed layer from the reaction of Li metal with LiNO3 as an additive to the electrolyte. So far all of these are promising, and we hope and expect that more than one will prove successful (and we do not want to predict the future at this stage).”

In Simple Terms

If the above explanation went over your head, here’s the skinny: Crabtree says JCESR has strong reason to be sure one or more of its tech “pathways” to overcoming present shortcomings will pan out.

By Dec. 2017, JCESR wants its prototype to be capable of 100 charge cycles with “minimum fade,” and potentially much more room to grow.

Of course only 100 charge cycles is not enough for an electric car, and Crabtree knows this, but it is a five-times leap above present commercially available Li-S batteries which may die after 20 charge cycles or up to 50 at the high end.

JCESR’s benchmark: 2011 Leaf. Of course costs have plummeted, and superior li-ion batteries have come along, but Li-S has many times the energy density potential and the initial prototype should have triple that of a Model S. Environmental concerns from sulfur are negligible. Thermal management would be engineered as needed for a finished end product. Volume and weight – an Achilles’ heel for EVs – could be slashed.

JCESR’s benchmark: 2011 Leaf. Of course costs have plummeted, and superior li-ion batteries have come along, but Li-S has many times the energy density potential and the initial prototype should have triple that of a Model S. Environmental concerns from sulfur are negligible. Thermal management would be engineered as needed for a finished end product. Volume and weight – an Achilles’ heel for EVs – could be slashed.

“You need hundreds of cycles, not one hundred,” he said of a viable electric car battery. “You would like to have hundreds, ideally a thousand. And I wouldn’t want to predict when one would achieve that, but if you can make progress from 20 to 100 – a factor of five – it seems reasonable that by further pursuing those pathway you’ll get it well beyond 100.”

The key, he said, is getting over an initial hump of limiting “polysulfide migration” that is the death knell of present-tech Li-S batteries.

“Once you have a technique that limits the polysulfide migration from the cathode to the anode, you can always make it better,” he said.

Assuming this is done, further refinement and an eye toward commercialization would follow a sequence of steps JCESR can foresee.

“We would then seek a manufacturing partner to make a prototype 10 times larger, to explore the challenges of scaling up,” said Crabtree assuming the prototype with 100 cycles next year is successful. “The next step would be a product prototype again larger by a factor of 10, to demonstrate a manufacturing process. This would be followed by actual commercial products, perhaps in several different formats and for several different uses (around town and long distance driving, for example). This process could reasonably take 5-10 years.”

About Lithium-Ion

Crabtree likens development of lithium-sulfur to the “circuitous” path lithium-ion took.

Lithium-ion batteries have their roots back to theories postulated before the 1960s. Believe it or not, it was Exxon corporation that commercialized its Li–TiS 2 battery in 1977 less than a decade after lab breakthroughs were made by others. Those Exxon batteries were fatally flawed however due to “dendrite formation” which killed them prematurely.

Collaboration is key. Li-ion technology has taken decades to mature in part because multiple competitors were independently following their own paths, and communications was slower or non-existent. By pooling the best and brightest, the Energy Department hoped to make for close communications and cooperation enabling research on steroids. Apparently the formula is working.

Collaboration is key. Li-ion technology has taken decades to mature in part because multiple competitors were independently following their own paths, and communications was slower or non-existent. By pooling the best and brightest, the Energy Department hoped to make for close communications and cooperation enabling research on steroids. Apparently the formula is working.

The first successful Li-ion batteries – and precursors to what we have today – were commercialized by Sony in 1991. These got around the problem of premature dendritic death using a carbon host structure. This contained lithium embedded in graphite at the anode instead of metallic lithium and Sony happily sold its first li-ion camcorder that was lightweight enough to walk around with, and do the job.

Sony’s li-ion battery was twice as energy dense as the best nickel-metal hydride and nickel cadmium batteries, and had less of a “memory” issue from partial charging and discharging.

From this minimum level, researchers have been tinkering with li-ion chemistries as costs have come down, and previously unforeseen uses for the better batteries came as opportunities were presented.

Jump a decade-and-a-half ahead to around 2005, and the first smartphones began appearing which soon led to ubiquitous “personal devices” we’re all so familiar with today.

Along the way, in 2008, Tesla strung together more than 7,000 li-ion laptop batteries to prove a desirable car could be so powered; in 2011 Nisan and Chevrolet introduced the Leaf and Volt, and you know the rest of the story.

Present Realities

This week the first sub-$40,000 EV with over 200-miles range – the Chevy Bolt – was delivered to customers, and next year Tesla’s Model 3 and Nissan’s generation-two Leaf are expected to follow.

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Automakers including Daimler, BMW, and VW Group are announcing their own competitive plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, with projections that 15-25 percent of their global sales will be plug-in cars. On top of that, China is saber rattling for its now-number-one plug-in industry, Japan, Inc., may be coming to terms with plug-ins, but all are bound at this point to lithium-ion.

SEE ALSO: What’s Really Motivating Automakers To Build Electric Cars?

As things stand, despite periodic excitement for news of hopeful next-generation batteries, the reality is costs have come down faster for lithium-ion than anyone projected they would five years ago, and energy density has inched upwards.

And, with govenment regulations putting a proverbial gun to the head of carmakers now suddenly far more on board with the EV agenda, they are going with what they have, and for all anyone knows, li-ion may be good enough for government work.

But not necessarily, says the government – or rather, the government-sponsored JCESR, and there are those who say it may be right.

The Model 3 shows demand for a high-value car, but folks wanting cars priced from the teens to low 20s have nothing so engaging.

The Model 3 shows demand for a high-value car, but folks wanting cars priced from the teens to low 20s have nothing so engaging.

Despite hoopla for Chevrolet’s “under $30,000” (after federal credit) Bolt, green car analyst Alan Baum does not project more than 23,000 first year sales, and comparable numbers in following years.

Tesla has over 400,000 reservations for the Model 3 which is unprecedented, shows outstanding potential, but even Tesla has said it wants a lower priced car for mass appeal.

SEE ALSO: Musk Looks Beyond Model 3 To More-Affordable Fourth Generation Car

While EV fans see these new price-for-performance benchmarks as major leaps forward, automakers have made it plain they are concerned about mandated cars that do not fully convince their buyers to forgo petroleum technology, and sales are the bottom line.

Today’s U.S. plug-in market share hovers near 1 percent of 17.4 million passenger vehicles annually sold. To move the dial beyond 5 percent to as much as 50 percent and more – as the federal government wants – cheaper electric cars in greater varieties and styles are required.

What about charge times? Li-S batteries are typically charged at rates from C/5 to C (C/5 corresponds to five hours and C to one hour for a full charge), or approximately in the same range as Li-ion batteries – “One might expect similar performance in a future high energy density, long lifetime Li-S battery,” said Crabtree.

What about charge times? Li-S batteries are typically charged at rates from C/5 to C (C/5 corresponds to five hours and C to one hour for a full charge), or approximately in the same range as Li-ion batteries – “One might expect similar performance in a future high energy density, long lifetime Li-S battery,” said Crabtree.

“You can achieve a lot with a price reduction, but I think to be transformational you need a $20,000 car that goes 200 miles,” said Crabtree observing at this stage a bit over 200 miles costs $40,000-plus out the door while cognizant of the history and ultimate potential of present technology. “And that’s probably out of reach with li-ion batteries.”

For now a federal $7,500 federal tax credit helps, but whether this is extended a couple years from now for Tesla, General Motors and Nissan which will be first to reach a 200,000 unit ceiling, it always has been a temporary prop.

Meanwhile automakers are now making major commitments – but really because they have to and they also know advanced research, some of it being done by themselves – is underway.

While there is a back-and-forth debate on this, most have said if better batteries were available, it would be a good thing.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 15

Should Bolt Buyers Fear Losing ‘As Much as 40 Percent’ Battery Capacity?

 

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A story making the rounds has it that the Chevy Bolt EV’s owner’s manual cautions 10-40-percent battery capacity loss is possible, but should this warn away prospective buyers?

In response to our query, Chevrolet has suggested not necessarily, and such warnings are not beyond the pale of other EVs’ disclaimers, but the prospect of 143 miles remaining from a “238” mile EV could sound alarming.

That is a worst-case scenario Chevrolet on page 322 of the owner’s manual says could happen within the 8 year/100,000 mile warranty. In other words, 40-percent loss could mean 143 miles left for the $37,495-before-incentives car. Note also the warranty covers just 12,500 miles per year, so drivers who do over that stand to be out of warranty before the 8 year period is over.

And, the worried might note, to be left with as little as 143 miles range does not sound good at all, but as the owner’s manual states, it is a possibility:

Like all batteries, the amount of energy that the high voltage “propulsion” battery can store will decrease with time and miles driven. Depending on use, the battery may degrade as little as 10% to as much as 40% of capacity over the warranty period. If there are questions pertaining to battery capacity, a dealer service technician could determine if the vehicle is within parameters.”

 

But while this may make for a good stir-the-pot story, and could incite knee-jerk responses, it is far from likely Bolt EV owners will see such degradation, and warnings of serious capacity loss are a normal industry practice.

As a ChevyBolt.org forum poster observed, several other EVs have had warnings of up to 70 percent capacity retained and the Nissan Leaf allows for 9 out of 12 bars.

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So, the Bolt’s as little as 60-percent capacity retained is a greater theoretical loss, but does that mean Chevrolet has less confidence in it?

According to Chevrolet Communications Representative Fred Ligouri, it would seem this is not the case.

“In an effort to provide complete transparency to our customers, it is true that under extreme circumstances it’s possible that someone could experience between a 10 percent to 40 percent reduction in range over the course of the 8-year/100,000 mile warranty period,” said Ligouri. “As we have seen with the more than 100,000 Volts on the road, our battery packs maintain their range and capacity very well over the life of the vehicle with minimal and varying levels of degradation. Like Volt, the 2017 model year Bolt EV offers one of the most competitive battery warranty coverages in the industry.”

The LG Chem battery cells in the Volt are thus being held up as an indicator of what to expect in the Bolt.

To date the Volt – whose warranty allows as much as 30-percent capacity loss – has not seen any batteries replaced under this provision.

Further, General Motors has noted its LG cells are “pharmaceutical grade,” with a mere two problems per million cells produced.

On the extreme end of things, one Chevy Volt has been reported with north of 100,000 EV miles, and 300,000 road miles with undetectable degradation – though certainly others have not been as fortunate.

SEE ALSO: Erick Belmer’s Chevy Volt Traveled Its 100,000th All-Electric Mile Today

Further in the Bolt’s favor is the battery – as true of the Volt – is actively thermally managed, which includes liquid cooling to help protect against heat damage.

The Nissan Leaf’s battery by contrast, has no such hot-weather protection, and has seen more issues with capacity loss.

In any event, Ligouri’s statement fits also with those who’ve said the up-to-40-percent capacity warning is just covering liabilities.

Some capacity loss is however likely over the warranty period, and owners will have to determine whether they are OK with that.

Green Car Reports

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 14

First Chevy Bolt EVs Delivered Yesterday

 

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Making good on a hint made a year ago, yesterday Chevrolet delivered its first three Bolt EVs to retail customers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The deliveries of the company’s first EV for national distribution come within days of the sixth-year anniversary of the Chevy Volt and the 20th anniversary of the GM EV1.

Last year EVangelist and former EV1 sales person Chelsea Sexton noted on Facebook it would be great if the Bolt launch could be timed with the EV1’s anniversary, and in response GM North American President Mark Reuss coyly suggested the Bolt could arrive at this time.

GM President Hints Chevy Bolt EV Deliveries Could Be By Early December 2016

But today’s announcement is about looking ahead, and Chevrolet noted the $37,495 EV is eligible for a $7,500 federal credit, state credits, and is “the brand’s promise to offer a long-range electric vehicle at an affordable price.”

“All of the hard work that the Chevrolet team have put into designing, engineering and building the Bolt EV brings us to this truly satisfying moment of making the first deliveries to customers on-time, as planned,” said Alan Batey, president of GM North America and Global Chevrolet brand chief. “Chevrolet is proud to offer a vehicle like the Bolt EV, with ground-breaking technology wrapped in a modern design that is also fun-to-drive at an affordable price.”

So, not looking back at the EV1 that inspired the “Who Killed the Electric Car” documentary, Chevrolet delivered the 238-mile-range Bolt to one loyal Chevy electric car owner, and two conquest-sale customers for stories that could speak well of its newest electric car.

Customers Bobby Edmonds (l to r) of Castro Valley, CA, William “Bill” Mattos of Fremont, CA, and Steve Henry of Portola Valley, CA take delivery of the first three 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVs Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at Fremont Chevrolet in Fremont, CA. The all-electric Bolt EV offers an EPA-estimated 238 miles of range on a full charge. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)

Customers Bobby Edmonds (l to r) of Castro Valley, CA, William “Bill” Mattos of Fremont, CA, and Steve Henry of Portola Valley, CA take delivery of the first three 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVs Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at Fremont Chevrolet in Fremont, CA. The all-electric Bolt EV offers an EPA-estimated 238 miles of range on a full charge. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)

One, retired law enforcement officer William “Bill” Mattos, also owns a generation-two Volt and a Spark EV. Another, software developer Bobby Edmonds is getting out of a BMW i3 and choosing the Bowtie brand instead. A third, commercial real estate broker Steve Henry is ditching a Toyota Prius to go EV with the Bolt.

“The range and technology attracted me to the Bolt EV,” said Edmonds. “It’s also a great-looking, roomy vehicle and I love the fact it’s from an American brand. I look forward to the longer drives I can make compared to the i3 that I owned.”

When are the rest of the Bolt customers getting theirs?

“Bolt EVs are currently in transit to California and Oregon markets and are arriving this month,” said Chevrolet. “A national rollout begins in 2017, and a number of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia will see first deliveries this winter.”

More will arrive in dealerships in other major metro markets throughout the first half of 2017 and by “mid-2017,” said the company, “the Bolt EV will be available at Bolt EV-certified dealerships across the United States.”

HybridCars.com

 

Dec 13

Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf Celebrate Their Sixth-Year Anniversary

 

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Six years ago this week, a new era in transportation began with the launch of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf.

The East-versus-West cars represented two different approaches to offset petroleum consumption along with attendant tailpipe emissions by substituting lithium-ion batteries and electric motors to propel them.

The extended-range electric Volt with gasoline backup and all-electric Leaf were not the first plug-in electrified cars ever, but were the first by major global manufacturers in a new market with today over 60 models from numerous nameplates.

A couple years prior in 2008, Tesla had launched its proof-of-concept Roadster which eventually sold around 2,400 units into over 30 countries.

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Other minor plug-ins had also been introduced including the Japanese Mitsubishi i-MiEV in 2009, but the Volt and Leaf are recognized as the progenitors in the then-leading U.S. market which drove the first wedge in the global move away from petroleum.

Slow Start

Of course if this was a “revolution” as the most optimistic advocates have been known to say, it began in slow motion as the two cars traipsed out of the starting gate in a staged U.S. rollout.

Our January 2011 Dashboard records 321 units sold for the Volt and 87 for the Leaf with a market share of 0.05 percent.

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Initial deliveries of pre-ordered Leafs were to Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Pre-ordered Volts were first sold in Washington D.C., the New York City region, California, and Austin, Texas.

Various markets followed and nationwide distribution was in place by November 2011 for Chevrolet and by March 2012 for Nissan.

Because of the novelty of the two cars, and who they were backed by, they garnered an outsized proportion of press coverage.

There also arose a bit of an undeclared race between the Japanese EV and American plug-in gas-electric car. Both launched the same month, and a tradition started of reporting their respective sales to see who was the ”winner” each month.

Leaf vs. Volt

The Volt and Leaf are each eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, state incentives on a case by case basis, and other global markets also incentivize them.

Out of the gate, the Leaf took an early sales lead, finishing 2011 with 9,674 sales to the Volt’s 7,671.

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By 2012, Leaf sales had flattened with 9,819 sales next to the Volt’s 23,461 – the Volt’s best U.S. sales year on record so far.

In 2013, only 400 units separated the two, with the Leaf finishing with 22,610 units, versus 23,094 Volts sold.

By then, HybridCars.com was tracking 14 plug-in electrified cars in the U.S. – today there are 28 – and the global markets were also expanding with eyes on many more vehicles than the two original cars in question.

That said, the Volt and Leaf have continued to do relatively well, with the Leaf ultimately outpacing the Volt so that today it has almost double the cumulative global sales.

Below are video reviews from 2013.


In fact, the Leaf is today the world’s leading plug-in car with more than 240,000 cumulative global sales out of about 1.9 million total.

The Volt, including 10,000 Opel/Vauxhall Amperas exported from the U.S. to Europe, is at about 130,500 cumulative units.

Basically, the Volt has sold best in the U.S., despite politics in 2011-2012 linking President Obama, the GM bailout, and other issues which pulled down its momentum.

In all, the U.S. has purchased 109,798 Volts through November 2016. Other top markets include Canada, which absorbed 8,612 through the same period, and through December 2015, the Netherlands took 6,000 Volts and Opel Amperas. Europe overall purchased 10,000 Amperas through June 2016.

As for the Leaf’s top markets: the U.S. has purchased 101,698 through November 2016, Japan through October 2016 took 70,346, Norway bought 19,150 through November – and more than 25,000 if counting used imports, and UK purchased 15,000 through September 2016.

Still Standouts

Despite a slew of plug-in cars that have come along, the Volt and Leaf have been unique in a number of ways.

All plug-in vehicles are built at least in part with regulatory compliance in mind, but several PEVs by other makers have been distributed more tepidly in just California and some or all markets that follow its zero emission rules.

 The Leaf sold its first 100,000 units in January 2014, and the Volt did so in October 2015. The Leaf went on to sell 150,000 by November 2014 and 200,000 in December 2015.

The Leaf sold its first 100,000 units in January 2014, and the Volt did so in October 2015. The Leaf went on to sell 150,000 by November 2014 and 200,000 in December 2015.

The 50-state Volt and Leaf have thus remained competitive, a statement especially true of the Volt which saw a complete redesign in 2016, but even the 2011-2015 first generation Volt is a relative standout.

That original car provided an EPA-rated 35-38 miles all-electric range and remains the EV-distance champ among “blended” plug-in hybrids that have come along in the U.S. and other markets.

Blended plug-in hybrids “blend” the gas and electric motor power for full acceleration, but the Volt is unique in that it can stay in EV mode without the gas engine turning on. Only the BMW i3 REx is similar in function, but that vehicle has limited gas range and power in extended-range mode, whereas the Volt has full power in hybrid or EV mode.

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Out of 14 current full-range plug-in gas-electric cars, the 2011-2015 Volt’s range exceeds them all, and the 53-mile-range 2016/17 model is just that much further ahead. This is a huge advantage allowing the most drivers wanting to avoid petroleum usage day to day to do so.

Meanwhile the Leaf, which began with 73 miles range in 2011-2012, jumped to an effective 84 miles in 2013 and in 2016 came with 107 miles, and it’s has proven the right combo for more mainstream buyers than any other electric car.

With the 238-mile Chevy Bolt being launched this month nearly to coincide with the Volt’s anniversary, the Leaf will however be sent back to the drawing board, and its sales have tapered off markedly for over a year now.

The Volt has an EV sibling named the Bolt which aims to give the Leaf a jolt – until the Leaf is redesigned, anyway.

The Volt has an EV sibling named the Bolt which aims to give the Leaf a jolt – until the Leaf is redesigned, anyway.

Incidentally, another phenomenon in the plug-in world, Tesla’s Model S, is actually up there too, with 151,000 (7.9 percent of global total). It is doing quite well considering it launched later in June 2012, and costs 2-4 times as much as the Leaf or Volt.

Other cars in the global top five include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – about 116,500 units – and the Toyota Prius PHV – about 76,200.

But the Volt and Bolt have made their mark. Combined, the two represent nearly 20 percent of all plug-in car sales to date.

Where Things Stand

The Volt was designed as a bridge toward all-electric tech, but the case for it remains even with new sub-$40,000 EVs with over 200 miles range in the wings. Because it can run as a pure EV for up to 53 rated miles, it effectively does what people buy EVs for, but with convenience of a hybrid powertrain that still nets 42 mpg for longer trips and greater fueling convenience.

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Notable however is GM has resisted ever making mainstream-priced spinoffs despite showing a crossover concept in 2010, and hearing requests from Volt fans ever since. All it ever did was launch a Volt-based Cadillac ELR in 2014 and by 2016 that vehicle was canceled.

That said, the 2016 Volt was designed with a new drive unit that is more compatible with hybrid and plug-in hybrid spinoffs, so that prospect is still an open question with the secretive Detroit carmaker.

Nissan’s Leaf on the other hand has been a successful EV, but needed now is more range for the twice-refreshed first-generation car. It’s expected the Renault-Nissan Alliance will roll out generation two next year for model year 2018, and CEO Carlos Ghosn has said it will compete with the Bolt – if not also the Tesla Model 3, and at least three other 200-plus-mile EVs pending.

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The plug-in market is otherwise in flux, and major automakers in Europe are now saying they will be selling 15-25 percent plug-ins by 2025. The Japanese also appear to be making moves toward plug-ins, and the U.S. and China also are still coming along.

Even just in recent months, automakers have indicated they more-clearly see the handwriting on the wall from tightening regulations – driven in no small part from concerns about climate change, and the 2015 Paris Accord’s urgent appeal.

And meanwhile the Volt and Leaf plug away. Given various uncertainties, cheap U.S. gas, and new models believed pending, the Volt this year has however only a chance to beat its 2012 sales record and the Leaf, as noted has seen sales decline.

That is just the short-term view however. The big picture is these vehicles plowed the way for others to follow while remaining relevant, and they stand to continue to be highly competitive for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.
HybridCars.com