Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Jun 12

VIA launches eREV shuttle van at Edison Electric Institute Annual Conference

 

This Monday I talked with VIA’s David West who sent info over for the following story.

Essentially, the eREV maker is up and running. They’d not launch this or another vehicle without having their order pipeline sufficiently full of reservations.

Won’t share off the record info, but imagine other possibilities VIA could maybe also come up with …

Also, note they are using “opportunity charging.” Here the driver hops out and plugs in a J1772 to let a 24-kwh battery do 100-plus daily miles. I asked if they’d thought of wireless charging as they “right size” the battery and use the eREV as a BEV, keeping the extender off. Wound up introducing VIA and Momentum Dynamics. Generally West agreed this is the direction VIA is going, so we shall see whether the two companies do business.

668xNxVIA_shuttle_van.jpg.pagespeed.ic.o4YegaetAL
 

Perhaps you’ve seen VIA Motors’ extended-range electric pickups and vans that are pending launch, and Monday the company announced it’s debuting a shuttle version of its van.

In an interview Monday, VIA’s Chief Marketing Officer David West said the Utah-based startup will announce the production van specially configured for airport/hotel duty at the ongoing Edison Electric Institute Annual Conference in Las Vegas Monday.

Featured speakers at the event include Warren Buffett and former U.S. Secretary of Defense, William Gates.

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Standard GM bench seats are removed by VIA Motors, and replaced with these.

 

West said VIA is already providing free to-and-from trips for industry executives in its vans between the McCarran Airport and the convention, and these are much like shuttle vans used in January at the Sundance Film Festival.

Inside the vehicle are upgraded seats more suitable for the duty, and the vans can be equipped with other amenities as needed.

All-Electric, 100 Miles/Day

These vans, by the way, are demonstrating the ideal usage scenario VIA envisions which is all-electric. How does a 24-kwh VIA van drive over 100 miles a day, round the clock on pure electricity?

The buzzword is “opportunity charging.”

VIA has contracted with Clipper Creek which provides a strategically located 240-volt, 14.4-kilowatt, 60-amp level 2 charger that replenishes the shuttle buses in between trips.

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This would normally be down time, waiting for the next load of passengers, with AC running in the 110-degree heat, and a big fuel waster for a conventional V8 vehicle.

In VIA’s case, the van stays in the e-zone, running AC and accessories from the battery while it’s recharging between runs.

While not naming specific customers, West said VIA has orders booked for its hotel/airport shuttle. The configuration is in line with the standard entry price of $79,000.

West noted California and five other states have incentives starting at $10,500 on the state level plus $7,500 on the federal level. Certain areas of California can go to as high as $18,000 in state incentives.

 

Jun 11

Ready for prime time, Momentum Dynamics foresees a day when plugs could be irrelevant

 

The readers here are early adopters, and plugging in is no problem, if not outright desirable. However other “mainstream” consumers don’t feel the same, but regardless, that’s not what’s driving the wireless market’s development.

Needs from the commercial and industrial sector are actually the real motivator for now, even if plugging in at night is a joy and privilege in your eyes.

Either way, Gen 2 Volt won’t be getting wireless plugs even if the Gen 2 Prius PHEV with extra range does in 2015.

This is a story of an American effort near my neck of the woods. Tony Posawatz personally recommended it.

Volt_momentum
 

Of the perhaps 10 companies working on wireless magnetic inductive electric vehicle charging, Momentum Dynamics says its technology has a few advantages and chief among these is simply that “it works.”

The implication that it’s heads above all others is a bold one, but its CEO Andy Daga said it wasn’t the first to suggest the Malvern, Pa. based start-up is onto something special in delivering up-to 50-kilowatts or more reliably and efficiently.

Rather, back-handed compliments came from multi-billion dollar companies who – when informed several years ago Momentum Dynamics was transmitting 10 kilowatts – retorted that there’s no way it could be delivering so much power without defying laws of physics.

Patent by Nikola Tesla.

Patent by Nikola Tesla.

But indeed, Daga – and engineering VP Bruce Long who improved on concepts first patented by Nikola Tesla – have since heard apologetic concessions when they demonstrated 15 kilowatts and a large air gap for a system that’s now more potent and commercially viable.

“Clearly, we are well within the bounds of the physical laws,” said Daga, “but it has been the case that some generalists have approached this with overly conservative preconceptions of where the bounds exist.”

And really, Momentum Dynamics has only tweaked what others already are working with. Like most others, Momentum Dynamics’ system employs a pair of round coils – one on the ground attached to the grid, and another attached to the vehicle to charge the battery.

These create “donut” shaped waves of invisible magnetic fields. The difference is that Long found a way to “squash the donut” and make the system far more effective.

MDC20charger206_10_14
Rotating magnetic waves form a virtual donut shape. In the near term, Momentum Dynamics is more focused on commercial and fleet markets, though its tech works just as well for passenger vehicles.
 

“More precisely,” said Daga, “we have learned how to ‘contain’ the field so that it does not interact with objects that are nearby, such as the metallic components and structures of a vehicle. This leads to higher efficiency at high power levels.”

Momentum Dynamics is also a bit unique in that it’s an eclectic team of outside-the-box thinkers. This now includes former Chevy Volt Line Director and Fisker CEO Tony Posawatz, who last December was named as chair of Momentum’s Technology Advisory Board.

Defining What ‘Works’

 
While today we hear of competing plug standards like SAE and CHAdeMO, and of plug-free charging on the horizon, no mainstream automaker has yet implemented wireless charging from the factory and there are reasons for this.

Actually the GM EV1, Chevy S-10 EV and the first RAV4 EV used a low-energy induction system, but the industry has gone to plugs, which so far have been able to deliver much more current, thus faster charging, with less energy loss.

Other wireless projects have been demonstrated, but they’ve had issues like heating the underside of vehicles when the juice is turned up, or they’ve been unable to reliably deliver much more than 3.3 kilowatts, though some have come up to about 10 kilowatts.

vehicle integration
Momentum Dynamics’ approximately 90-percent efficiency is on par with 90-percent-efficient plugged level 2, and 86-87-percent plugged level 3. Losses for all charging types are at the power electronics. Despite reports saying wireless wastes energy, essentially, this wireless efficiency is within range of wired.
 

That’s OK to recharge a Chevrolet Volt, but may fall short for the 6.6 kilowatts needed at the plug port by a Nissan Leaf, 10-20 kilowatts for a Tesla Model S, and these and other cars with DC quick-charge capability can accept far more power.

Thus most other wireless systems are not known to be ready to compete against high-power 240-volt, and 400-plus-volt plug-type chargers now and into the future.

“By the time inductive power charging becomes mainstream in the auto industry, the expectations for charging rate will be above 25 kilowatts,” said Daga. “As an example of this, J-1772 Combo, the newest iteration of the plug-in charging standard, will allow off-board DC charging to occur at up to 90 kilowatts. Momentum is charging at these levels (up to 50 kilowatts) today.”

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After more than four years development, patents, and pilot projects along the way, Momentum Dynamics has proven its technology doesn’t heat surrounding metal, and does the job as fast or faster than plug-in charging systems and for comparable cost.

Its power up to 50 kilowatts is delivered with 90-percent efficiency – on par with plug-type systems. And 50 kilowatts, said Long, is “not a ceiling,” but rather increases can be delivered if desired.

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What’s more, it works in snow, ice, underwater, and can be embedded under pavement to foil would-be copper thieves and vandals.

Momentum Dynamics’ wireless technology conforms to international magnetic emission standards, poses no known risk to human or animal health, and actually, the human body is 40-times less visible to it than the best optical glass is to sunlight.

And then there’s the convenience factor of seamless, hands-free charging, though really that may not be what’s primarily driving things at this point.

Commercial Viability

 

While automakers like Toyota have said wireless charging is coming, and others like BMW may not be far behind, Daga said he expects consumer vehicles will be the last to fully adapt it as he focuses on commercial and industrial markets for now.

Since last year Momentum Dynamics has had a system working in the nearby town of Reading for Pennsylvania’s first major transportation authority to deploy all-electric vehicles, the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority (BARTA).

BARTA20Buses
 

BARTA’s two all-electric Ford E-450 paratransit buses converted by Ohio’s Amp Electric Vehicles with 100-kilowatt-hour batteries have “been working without fault or incident since Aug. 7, 2013,” said Daga.

They are expected to travel up to 100 miles daily, and are one among other projects not being published due to non-disclosure agreements.

In a couple of months we may also hear of a major parcel delivery company using Momentum Dynamic’s system in New York City, and soon enough news may issue from makers of forklifts, utility carts, buses, and other commercial and industrial vehicles.

Aside from its ease-of-use, the compelling reasons commercial operators are likely to go for wireless charging include that their employees will have no plug-in procedure to remember, or trip hazard and legal liability to worry about.

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“Our system is designed to fit easily into roadways and parking lots and be driven over by the heaviest vehicles,” said Daga of above-ground pads.
 

There’s also that marvelous concept known as “opportunity charging.” This is where a waiting bus or taxi can passively recharge when it would otherwise just be killing time and burning fuel. Sitting atop an induction charger lets it instead add intraday range, and its battery can thus be engineered smaller to save weight, space, and most important of all, money.

Wireless charging therefore is being seen as making sense on a number of levels, aside from the needs of some consumers who find it less than convenient to have to plug in at night, and unplug in the morning – or repeat this during the day.

Demonstrations

 

Last week at Momentum’s offices, we were shown three systems – one for a Chevy Volt, another for a forklift, and another for an all-electric delivery truck with an 80-kilowatt-hour battery. This truck had a logo immediately recognizable to anyone on the planet, but we were asked not to publish photos due to a secrecy agreement yet in place.

First up was the Chevy Volt (lead photo up top), which is limited to 3.3 kilowatts not because Momentum can’t deliver more, but because GM won’t divulge data needed to up-rate the system.

forklift
An electric forklift with light panel that illuminates to show charging current.

 

The Volt can actually handle far more, but GM is “conservative” and so the bottleneck is in the car, not the wireless charging system.

Watching the demo was pretty uneventful – which is what you’d want in real life. The car drove over the pad, and an electronic ”handshake” was made. The charge light on the dash then came on and the car for all its system knew was plugged into the wall, except it wasn’t.

cell_under_forklift
The metal in the phone stayed cool. It also worked fine in a field where 11 kilowatts was being generated under the forklift.

 

Next up came a forklift – an example of an industrial application – and here a bit of drama came not because of any problems, but to drive home the point, Daga and company have created a board of incandescent light bulbs. Here they turned the current to 11-kilowatts and the light intensity and heat made us start searching for sunscreen.

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An electric parcel truck backs to a mockup loading dock/conveyor belt platform.
 

Lastly we walked over to another garage area to a parcel delivery truck – an example of a fleet application – which was parked proximal to a mocked up loading dock.

Just as simply, the truck backed over the pad – formed into a low-cut U-shape to minimize a trip hazard – and the software handshake took place, and the current was applied.

under_parcel_truck
 

This vehicle was fused to prevent more than 15-kilowatts, but the system could deliver 30 kilowatts, and as mentioned, Momentum Dynamics has at other times demonstrated 50 kilowatts.

With all these systems, the upper inductive coil attached to the vehicle must be at least within half the diameter of the lower coil.

So far basic systems to guide drivers to the bull’s eye have meant positioning is an easy operation. Technology also exists for parking and charging to be automated if desired.

What’s Next

 

To date Momentum Dynamics has not put out any fancy graphic-animated videos, and its Web site is deliberately nebulous with just enough info to hint of potential, but not share all details.

Speaking of “positioning,” the company is working with corporate clients and investors to sell its technology and unique team toward profitability.

Vice President of Engineering, Bruce Long (left), and Andy Daga, CEO, (kneeling).

Vice President of Engineering, Bruce Long (left), and Andy Daga, CEO, (kneeling).


 

It’s unique also in that it’s catering to several markets, not just buses or cars, but everything that can use wireless charging.

We don’t know when the first automaker will sign on with Momentum Dynamics but large clients in other industries have or are in process.

Meanwhile, Daga said the technology is ready, and foresees a future where except for a few Chevy Volts still running maybe 10 years or more from now, plugs could by then be largely a thing of the past.

 

Jun 10

Chevy dealer: Spark EV due in Ohio later this year; GM: No such plans have been announced

 

Quote: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”The Wizard of Oz, 1939.

Paraphrase: “Pay No attention to the Spark EV being advertised online by four Ohio dealers and the salesperson who said it’s due later this year!” – General Motors, June 9, 2014.

Our Take: Who knows what to think, but if anyone knows of other states (besides Oregon and California) where the Spark EV is being advertised and said to be coming, can you please e-mail me with the details?

Spark_EVs
 

At least four Ohio Chevrolet dealers have the Spark EV listed as for sale, and an online sales representative at one in Stow, Ohio said GM will be shipping it possibly by the summer’s end.

Presently, the Spark EV is available only in California and Oregon, no Ohio dealers actually have the car, and no announcement from General Motors has been made of it due to be available in any other markets.

But unknown is whether this is due to change.

“Is there an ETA?” asked a GM-Volt reader, Jay Buchholz, who drives a 2012 Chevy Volt in the Cleveland area, and gave us the tip while linking to the ad on Ron Marhofer Chevrolet’s Web site.

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Click image to expand.
 

“Not that they have given us – we are hearing towards the end of the summer currently,” said the sales person whose job it is to field Web inquiries to the brick and mortar dealership. “Give us a call then and keep checking the site.”

Or, you can check back to one of several sites – assuming they keep the info up. Buchholz said his friend Tim McAleese got busy surfing around and found more Ohio dealers with Spark EVs for sale here, here and here.

Actual ETA?

 
In a follow-up call to Ron Marhofer Chevrolet, another sales person said the Spark EV is available only on the West Coast, and no further ETA was volunteered.

Thus the conservative stance is to call this news only a rumor, but it’s a rumor verified in writing, and with a West Coast car pictured for sale at dealerships in the middle of the U.S.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 2.20.36 PM
 

We have no indication of other potential states the Spark EV could be coming to, and it would appear possible that these independent franchises took it upon themselves to advertise the car prior to GM’s release or announcement.

The Spark EV is a neat little city/suburb car and fans in this space have said for some time GM needs to bring it to other markets. Previous responses by GM have been that it is abundantly aware of consumer sentiment, and is in the process of evaluating markets.

Assuming plans are in the mix for Ohio which is not the hottest non-west-coast potential EV market on the map, perhaps GM is already well ahead, and we’ll be hearing more in the not too distant future?

Randy Fox, manager, Electric Vehicle Technology Communications, said yesterday he was unaware of any plans to begin Spark EV sales in markets outside California and Oregon.

When shown the rather unequivocal statements by one of Chevrolet’s independent dealerships, he could not account for these, and said he’d pass along the info to the marketing department.

He reconfirmed GM continues to review new markets, but has no announcements at this time.

 

Jun 09

Volt is very aerodynamic, but not the most-slippery

 

GM’s claim of a 0.28 coefficient of drag for the Volt was proved correct recently in multi-vehicle comparo, but contrary to previous reports it does not top the Toyota Prius.

Volt_wind_tunnel

Who, you ask, was the outright winner in a Car & Driver match up between the Volt, Nissan Leaf, Prius, Tesla Model S and Mercedes-Benz CLA?

While that would be the Model S, but it costs the most, if that’s any consolation – and the difference between Volt, Prius and Model S was not a lot.

And, of course, cd is only one criterion between the Volt and the Prius, and the Volt has a number of attributes that make it the more effective, sporty, and dare we say, good looking?

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we thought we’d throw that in.

The video pretty well tells the rest of the story.

gmauthority

 

Jun 06

Phinergy’s range-extended battery committed to by Renault-Nissan

 

After midnight this morning my super expensive computer with SSD crashed, so it’s been a busy time this a.m. and I’m working on my backup after getting all the passwords, etc.

For those of you who say you are “from Missouri,” that is understandable, and more needs to be shown, but things look good at this point.

RE: the headline, I’ve received no confirmation from Renault-Nissan, but am going on what the head of the company said on video to the President of the United States, and Prime Minister of Israel – and what he confirmed in a phone interview late last night!

Alcoa_Phinergy_02_large

While details are yet scarce, yesterday Phinergy CEO and Founder, Aviv Tzidon confirmed talks with Renault-Nissan are tentatively set for a proposed series production electric car due in 2017 using its range-extending aluminum-air battery.

This was first revealed in a video-recorded semi-private talk with President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Nethanyaho (see video @4:29).

After we questioned further, Tzidon said this would be under ideal circumstances, and unforeseen delays on the the French automaker’s side could conceivably push it back to maybe 2018 or 2019, he conjectured, although 2017 was by all appearances the date that is “on the table.”

In in any case, Phinergy is ready for this customer and all others, and initially, Tzidon divulged, he did not even expect an automaker would be first to adopt aluminum-air. Phinergy is “patient” and in it for the long term, he said.

Thus, if things go according to plan, Phinergy hopes its aluminum-air battery may prove to be the greatest thing for transportation – and other industries – since sliced bread.

But unlike bread slices you would eat, the company has developed a carbon-neutral electric car battery which slowly consumes slices of aluminum and yields several-times more energy density than the best lithium-ion batteries.


Every start-up CEO’s dream come true – President Obama and Prime Minister Nethanyaho visit with Phinergy’s CEO Aviv Tzidon.

Based on work begun in Israel in 2008, the company is collaborating with Alcoa on this cost-effective and safe energy source. It’s being proposed as a range extender – not a primary propulsion battery – to automakers, including Renault-Nissan.

As for the “slice” of aluminum analogy, that’s an oversimplification, but it is more accurate than other reports that have said Phinergy’s 1,100-plus-mile range range-extended electric car runs merely on “air” or water.

Almost that amazing, Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery combines de-ionized (drinkable) water into an alkaline electrolyte solution and breathes in air to create a chemical reaction that dissolves aluminum plates to produce electricity.

Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust and Phinergy’s durable technology reliably extracts 8.1 kilowatt-hours of energy – half of which is electricity, and half byproduct heat – per kilogram.

The notion of aluminum-air and other metal-air batteries is not new, but Phinergy has worked out the bugs and is ready to put it into production – not just for cars, but consumer electronics, stationary energy storage, defense, industrial – all sorts of applications.

While aluminum is normally thought of as a structural material, it contains much electrical potential. A lot of electricity goes into its smelting process and is effectively stored. Phinergy’s controlled reaction releases the electricity in a process with the reverse effect of smelting. Plans in Montreal are to use sustainable hydroelectric power in the aluminum’s smelting.

Additional markets that can use Phinergy's aluminum-air and zinc-air tech.

Additional markets that can use Phinergy’s aluminum-air and zinc-air tech.

What’s more, after the aluminum-air battery chemically extracts stored electrical energy from the ever-diminishing aluminum plates, it leaves a recyclable byproduct in liquid that can be easily processed back into fresh aluminum.

Technically, consumers would only be buying the energy stored in aluminum, not so much the aluminum itself which merely dissolves to a different form and is taken away as a valuable byproduct.

A Little Bit Different

If any of this sounds unclear, we’ll explain how it works further below, but the takeaway is the company is past the “proof of concept” stage.

This was shown this week by the Phinergy/Alcoa EV converted from a formerly gas-burning Citreon C1. In Montreal this week it covered a several-hour-long demonstration drive without recharging – and actually the car can go 1,850-2,500 miles on 100 kg of aluminum.

We were told very little about the 2017 European Renault-Nissan mentioned in a video not widely disseminated, but will explain the concept behind Phinergy's vision.

We were told very little about the 2017 European Renault-Nissan mentioned in a video not widely disseminated, but will explain the concept behind Phinergy’s vision for its technology.

Compare that to the 750 kg battery in a Tesla Model S. While this is a radical improvement over a 265-mile Tesla, as mentioned, Phinergy envisions the best use for its tech as a range extender – or actually an on-board recharging system.

In other words, its C1-based test mule operates a lot like an extended-range electric Chevy Volt, albeit without gas engine.

In a Volt, the engine maintains the battery charge and provides propulsion energy. In Phinergy’s case, the aluminum-air battery charges the lithium-ion battery and gives off heat that can be shed, or captured by a heat exchanger to warm the cabin as needed.

Thus, Phinergy’s prototype car is primarily powered by a rather ordinary lithium-ion battery and motor and its aluminum-air pack can recharge it on the go.

As its aluminum “cartridges” or plates slowly whittle away over months to eventually nothing, the plan is they’ll be replaced by service personnel.

The exact composition of the aluminum is proprietary, and Alcoa’s alliance with Phinergy puts it in line to profit from the exclusive arrangement.

Aviv Tzidon.

Aviv Tzidon.

According to Alcoa Project Manager Hasso Wieland, the well-to-wheel analysis is actually better than carbon neutral because of valuable byproducts of the battery’s process of oxidizing aluminum.

As great as it sounds, this means Phinergy is not proposing its new technology replace lithium-ion, but rather, says Aviv Tzidon, it’s a complement.

Why? Tzidon, said Phinergy’s approach is “humble” enough to see the strengths and weaknesses of the aluminum-air battery. Its strength is vastly improved energy storage to make range limitations no longer a concern.
However, lithium-ion battery packs are useful to create powerful, quick cars that recharge from plugging into the grid or by regenerative braking.

“Our aluminum system cannot do that,” he conceded, but this is not a problem given how most people use their cars.
Citing statistics once used to make a case for the Chevy Volt, Tzidon said that a driver who travels 12,000 miles per year on average only drives 33 miles per day.

A 30-50 mile-range EV – more or less – would meet the daily need, but what about when the driver wants to go farther on the odd occasion? Here is where the driver could tap into the on-board aluminum in the supplemental aluminum-air battery system.

Unlike other batteries, aluminum can be stored for decades without degradation or needing maintenance charging.

Phinergy’s ideal scenario is the driver use the regular lithium-ion batteries day to day, and when needed expend some aluminum and water.

A typical usage scenario would see the cartridges expended maybe once a year, more or less. Costs – while still fuzzy at this stage – are projected to be cheaper than present solutions.

“Energy from aluminum is cheaper than gasoline and close to grid electricity price,” says the company in an executive summary. “Battery systems, pre industrial scale-up, are already cheaper than forecasted li-on in 2020.”

How It Works

In simplified terms, the cross-section of the battery shows where a chemical reaction takes place to release electrons and thus generate electricity.

The air cathode uses Teflon (like Gore Tex) to keep water in, and let air pass through as well. It also has a nanoporous silver inner layer, and current collector.

The air cathode uses Teflon (like Gore Tex) to keep water in, and let air pass through as well. It also has a nanoporous silver inner layer, and current collector.

The 10mm-thick aluminum plate is the battery’s anode, and the cathode is a semi-permeable membrane using the same technology as Gore Tex.

These plates can be added as needed, and each plate provides about enough energy for 20 miles. So, 50 plates – or aluminum-air battery cells – would offer 1,000 miles of extended-range driving.

In general terms, one kilogram of aluminum requires one kilogram of oxygen and one liter of water for the reaction to take place.

Sandwiched between the aluminum and air cathode is the water-based alkaline electrolyte containing potassium hydroxide.

Several technologies make this long-known lab concept commercially viable, and Phinergy and its PhD-laden staff has applied for or received over 22 patents.

The aluminum, as mentioned, is an alloy that oxidizes at a controlled rate. The fluid electrolyte in contact with it serves as a conductive layer, a solvent, and temperature evacuator as it extracts oxygen from the air cathode.

The air cathode uses a Teflon-based material that lets ambient air (thus oxygen) through from the environment, but it prevents the water-based electrode from seeping out.

On the cathode side, three elements laminated into a thin layer are used to make the cathode effective.

Immediately in contact with the electrolyte is a nanoporous silver structure patented by Phinergy, and based on work done at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

Laminated to the nanoporous layer is a current collector to gather electrons – electrical energy – liberated in the chemical reaction between the alkaline electrolyte and bare aluminum.

Laminated beyond that is the gore-tex like material sourced from a major manufacturer.

Cross-section aluminum-air battery. Air freely flows in, while aqueous alkaline electrolyte is retained despite pressure and heat.

Cross-section aluminum-air battery. Air freely flows in, while aqueous alkaline electrolyte is retained despite pressure and heat.

The chemical reaction involves oxidizing the bare aluminum which forms a layer of aluminum hydroxide – kind of like an aluminum rust.

The novelty of the system is it is all microprocessor controlled. The electrolyte bath can be flushed as needed by a pump, and in doing so, it wipes clean the oxidation exposing again a fresh surface of aluminum. Phinergy’s microcontroller and battery management system monitor temperature, chemical composition, and oxidation rate.

Here we see aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3 – oxidation – building on the aluminum's surface. OH- is also suspended in the electrolyte. Electricity is being produced as the aluminum undergoes this catalyzed reaction. Ambient air flows in freely, it is not pumped. It is like breathing.

Here we see aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3 – oxidation – building on the aluminum’s surface. OH- is also suspended in the electrolyte. Electricity is being produced as the aluminum undergoes this catalyzed reaction. Ambient air flows in freely, it is not pumped. It is like breathing.

The trick is to oxidize the aluminum enough that electricity is given off but no so badly that the entire reaction stops. So, the system can flush through the electrolyte solution as required at a rate that exposes aluminum just enough to repeat the oxidation, and not so aggressively as to prematurely erode the aluminum.

This incredible difficulty of this process – and contamination of the air cathode in previous experimental attempts by carbon dioxide – has been what relegated aluminum-air batteries to a lab experiment until now.

Here we see a fresh surface of aluminum exposed. The system's electrolyte bath flushes upwards taking away the oxidized surface and exposing new to repeat the process. This continues until the aluminum is gone, and the system is ready for a new cartridge.

Here we see a fresh surface of aluminum exposed. The system’s electrolyte bath flushes upwards taking away the oxidized surface and exposing new to repeat the process. This continues until the aluminum is gone, and the system is ready for a new cartridge.

The controlled whittling away of the aluminum is what makes the system viable, not to mention the recyclability of the electrolyte.

Maintenance would involve car owners needing to periodically refill the battery with tap water that’s been run through a simple de-ionizing process. This would be as required – perhaps every month or two depending on usage – and the electrolyte would enable the chemical reaction.

The aluminum plates that erode away would be swapped with new ones during a “quick operation” at a local service station.

Since releasing formerly confidential info last month, the company is gaining the attention of the public, as it has behind-the-scenes talks underway with European automakers.

alcoa-phinergy-car
The aluminum-air’s liquid has been tested for extreme temperatures. It freezes at -30 degrees C and boils at 130 degrees C.

President Obama asked Tzidon whether Phinergy was talking with American companies and Tzidon asked in turn with a smile whether the president had any connection with GM or Ford?

At this, Obama laughed, saying he thought he did, as Phinergy continues to work toward further proving its tech, and bringing it toward production.

 

Jun 05

Will Mark Reuss push through a hybrid or ‘electric’ Corvette?

 

As you may have seen, Chevrolet is already at work on the C8 Corvette, and talk of some form of hybridization or even an “electric” ‘Vette is still on the table.

Z06
 

When last we heard of it in August 2013, then-GM President Mark Reuss dropped a few quotes with the LA Times that the company’s iconic sports car could be made in a hybrid version.

“Actually, don’t laugh,” Reuss said smiling in response to the LA Times last year. “I think it’s a very attractive idea, actually. I think it would be really fun to do, I think it would build capability inside our company and I think people would love it.”

IMG_9346
 

Now skip ahead to May this year, where none other than present-GM global product chief Mark Reuss told the Detroit Free Press GM is indeed developing the next ‘Vette, and a hybrid or “electric” Vette was not being ruled out.

If anyone thinks this sounds far fetched, perhaps this is not so radical as some think.

vette-cutaway
 

Already Porsche and McLaren have said they will have hybrid versions of all their cars, and McLaren is thinking about all electric in 10 years or so too.

Porsche said it first, then McLaren did recently too after frst telling us in New York at the 650S launch that no other cars than its P1 would be made a hybrid for now.

vette_cutaway1
 

(Incidentally, McLaren is providing some of the hardware for the Formula e series racers that it developed for its sold-out $1 million supercar that Jay Leno so loves.)

So, GM could very well do the same. It actually could today if it wanted.

But will it?

vette-cutaway01
 

What would be the ideal architecture, if it were to so choose?

Would it bring prestige to GM’s other electrified cars in a different way than the Cadillac ELR?

Would it be the most potent version, or would those honors go to a forced induction V8?

June 6, 2014 — Please note my main computer crashed and I could not post. Will have a story ASAP. (I have a really good one so check back).