Archive for the ‘Research’ Category


Feb 03

Study Doubts One Million Plugins by 2015 will be Achieved


President Obama has stated and restated that it is the goal of his administration to put one million plugin cars on US roads by 2015.

It is both ambitious and hopeful, and according to a new academic report, unlikely.

The 80 page blue-ribbon study was published by the school of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and released on Wednesday.

The report was generated by a 13 member expert panel including a former Ford executive and leading academics and relied on input from the major automakers including GM, BMW, and Nissan.

It was concluded that the country would fall short of the 1 million car goal unless bold moves were made. Mainly the production plans for electric vehicles are insufficient to meet that target and consumer demand remains uncertain and likely too low.

“President Obama’s dream is appealing and it may be achievable, but there are big barriers to overcome before the mass commercialization of electric vehicles will occur,” said John D. Graham, dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU.

Among the reports specific conclusions are:

  • Obama’s goal, while achievable before the end of the decade, is unlikely to be met by 2015, both because automakers and suppliers do not have sufficient production targets, and the demand from consumers is not yet robust enough to hit the one-million target.
  • Uncertainty about reliability and resale value, coupled with a general lack of consumer understanding of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs), contributes to a lack of demand for these new products.
  • More importantly, the high cost of PEVs and challenges related to recharging the vehicles pose significant obstacles to broader adoption and acceptance of this new technology.

The panel’s recommendations are:

  • The federal government should create a national PEV demonstration program in up to 20 communities around the country to help motorists and consumers become more familiar with plug-in hybrid electric and pure electric vehicles, and create an instructive “pilot program” for consumers, utilities, municipal officials, dealers and manufacturers.
  • Additional cost-effective incentives to encourage more consumers to invest in these new vehicles should be enacted.
  • Broader investment in PEV infrastructure technology, particularly in recharging capability at the homes of potential PEV buyers, should also be a priority.
  • Long-term research and development investment by both government and the auto industry to help bring down the cost of batteries and related PEV technology must be enlarged.

You can read the entire study here (PDF)



Jan 27

GM Invests in Advanced Lithium Battery Startup Company


Recently GM announced it had obtained a licensing agreement with Argonne National Labs to use its new advanced technology cathode material for lithium ion batteries.  That compound would allow for up to double the energy density of the current Chevy Volt battery pack.  Supplier LG Chem was also given access to the technology.

Earlier this week, GM’s investment arm called GM Ventures announced it would invest 7 million dollars in a small California company that  also develops and does research on advanced lithium ion cathodes.

The company called Envia Systems in Newark, California is focused on researching new cathode material that would reduce cost and increase energy density of future lithium cells.  In addition to this investment, in a separate agreement GM secured the right to use Envia cathode technology in future electrically-driven vehicles.

“Skeptics have suggested it would probably be many years before lithium-ion batteries with significantly lower cost and higher capability are available, potentially limiting sales of electric vehicles for the
foreseeable future,” said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. “In fact, our announcement today demonstrates that major improvements are already on the horizon.

The new cathode material is composed of low cost material and has the potential to improve the energy density of future electric cars by at least one third allowing greater range, reduced cost, or both compared to present models.

“Our test results on small-format cells show that Envia’s high-capacity composite cathode material can increase the energy density of lithium-ion cells by up to one-third, at an equivalent level of reliability,
safety and durability,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director for Electrical and Battery Systems. “We estimate this improvement in cell energy density and less expensive material will drive a substantial
reduction in cell cost, leading to lower cost battery packs like the one in the Chevy Volt.” Envia’s cathode technology also will offer benefits for other devices and applications where low-cost, high-energy density storage solutions are needed.”

Asked whether these technological advances would be use to either increase range or reduce cost in future generations of the Chevy Volt Bly told GM-Volt “too early to announce how and when we will use this.”  He ensures us however there will be “more to come.”

Source (GM)



Jan 21

Study Measures Benefit on Range of Preconditioning Electric Cars


The Chevrolet Volt has at its disposal the ability to thermally pre-condition the cabin using grid-supplied electricity while it is plugged in.
This feature is useful both in hot and cold days to turn on the AC or heat respectively.

In the Volt the owner can turn on the cabin HVAC either by using the remote smartphone app or via the website.

The idea is to use grid electricity to heat or cool the cabin to avoid battery-stored power to do so once the trip commences. It uses more energy to get the cabin to the desired temperature than it does to maintain it there.

Pre-conditioning does require a bit of forethought to turn on the cabin HVAC in preparation for driving, something in paractice I often don’t remember to do. Programming it to happen automatically or being able to choose the temperature remotely would be useful features that do not exist.

A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) may provide more motivation to remember.

NREL engineer Robb Barnitt led a study in which researchers simulated the effect of cabin preconditioning on PHEVs and HEVs in various different drive cycles and ambient temperature scenarios.

“We knew that climate control loads would have an impact on CD range, but were surprised by the magnitude” Barnitt said. “We found that climate control loads can reduce CD range by 35%, but that thermal preconditioning can partially restore CD range.”

The study examined the effect of temperature and preconductioning on electric range for a 100 mile BEV (i.e. LEAF), a 15 mile PHEV (i.e. plugin Prius) and a 40 mile sreies PHEV (i.e. Volt)

In the case of the PHEV-40, using heat reduced range by 35.1% and using AC reduced range by 34%. Preconditioning with heat increased range by 5.7% and preconditioning with cooling increased range 4.3%.

In a pure EV range reduction from heating and cooling were similar, though the magnitude of increase through preconditioning was less. Range increase through preconditioning was highest in the PHEV15 where 19% was predicted.

You can read the entire study in detail here (PDF).

Moral of the story. Pre-condition your Volt.

Source (NREL) via (GreenCarCongress)



Nov 08

GM Applies for Patent for Lithium-ion Battery Cell Refurbishing System


[ad#post_ad]One of the problems inherent in electric cars is the fact that their batteries degrade. Lithium-ion cells work best when they are new, but over time their ability to hold a charge continually lessens. GM estimates the Volt battery will degrade by 10 to 30% after 8 years/100,000 miles. The company has worked hard to develop methods keep the cells as healthy as possible, and minimize degradation. These methods include keeping the temperature of cells in the ideal (roughly room temperature) range, and not permitting full charges and depletion.

Nonetheless, loss of function is inevitable, and batteries will eventually need to be replaced.

To maximize the potentiating for used cells, GM apparently has significant internal plans to refurbish used cells, as evidenced by a patent application submitted last year.

In the patent application called METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR REJUVENATION OF DEGRADED POUCH-TYPE LITHIUM ION BATTERY CELLS, the automaker spells out a system that would take used lithium-ion pouch cells and restore their function.

It is explained that at cells age, the electrolyte material in them breaks down and leads to the deposit of lithium salts and other polymeric materials on the surfaces of both the positive and negative electrodes. As well, magnesium may be deposited on the negative electrodes. It is believed that both these deposits as well as breakdown of the electrolyte solution itself causes the cells to lose power over time.

In the invention, old cells would be hooked up to a manifold and a specialized solvent would be pumped in under pressure and then heated for up to one hour. A series of potential solvents or mixtures thereof is given.

This treatment is expected to remove the contaminants from the surface of the electrodes, and allow infusion of fresh electrolyte. It is suggested that such treatment may restore the cells to their original level of function.

Much of the patent describes the various ways the tubing and pumping could be designed to fit variety of cells and work under variety of conditions.

The patent concludes that rejuvenation of cells would be much less expensive than manufacturing new ones. One vision describes vehicle owners waiting at a facility while their car battery is rejuvenated on-site. Another vision describes replacing an owner’s battery with a new one, and then rejuvenating the old one for secondary use.

You can read the whole patent here.



Nov 07

Seven Percent of US Carbuyers Could Afford a Chevy Volt


[ad#post_ad]Over the years, and increasing at an ever-quickening pace, various research firms and other pundits publish prognostications of how many electric cars people will buy in the future.

Of course no one can predict the future, but electrifying the automotive fleet has tremendous cost associated with it, and automakers need some type of roadmap for planning. Those of us who want to get the country off of oil also look to these reports for guidance as well.

Recently the research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance issued a report, which come on the heels of the recent JD Power study that only concluded 100,000 EVs would be sold in the US in 2020 . The Bloomberg study was a bit more optimistic.

The authors also conclude as did JD Powers that high rates of adoption of EVs will depend critically on two factors: the rise of gas prices and the reduction of battery prices, however did more to find the ceiling for the market based on today’s costs.

To do so, the study used an interesting  two step model: first identifying the addressable market, or hose who could actually afford the cars, and second determining what percentage of that market actually would buy such a car.

Specifically Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt sales were analyzed. The addressable market was determined solely as a function of price and the percentage of the car buying market which could pay it. It was determined that in 2011, 11% of US auto buyers could afford the $32,780 LEAF, and only 7% of buyers could afford the $41,000 Volt.  The $7500 tax credit was taken into account.

Seven percent of ten million in total sales would be 700,000 Volts.  The report does go on to say, however, “actual sales will be much lower and limited by vehicle availability.”

By 2030, plugin cars is predicted to account for 22% of auto sales.

“2011 will see the launch of a large number of new plug‐in hybrid and electric vehicle models around the world,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It’s not just car companies who have a lot riding on their success ‐ utilities; oil companies; whole countries will feel the impact if there is rapid uptake.”

“Once we’ve seen the launch of mainstream plug‐in electric vehicles, we’ll have much more empirical data on consumer reactions, which will be vital in future forecasts,” said Glen Walker, lead transportation analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Source (Bloomberg NEF) bia (Edmunds)


Oct 29

JD Power: Electric Car Demand Over-hyped, Only 100,000 EVs Will be Sold in US in 2020


[ad#post_ad]As someone who wants to help this country, and indeed the world off of oil, the question of electric car demand remains a big question mark. We can follow electric car developments, and dissect every element of engineering, design, and marketing, but no matter how hard we try we cannot simply will people to buy them. They have to want them, and critically they have to make financial sense.

Sure us early adopters will buy up all the paltry volumes of Volts and LEAFs that will be made in the first years, but what will happen down the road? Will the mass population adopt them?

The venerated market forecasting firm JD Power and Associates apparently doesn’t quite think so.

The company has issued a new report entitled “Drive Green 2020: More Hope than Reality” which has determined that global EV and hybrid car demand is over-hyped by a zealous media.

They say it will be difficult to convince a significant portion of the population to buy electric and hybrid cars unless one or more of the following three scenarios occur:

1.   There is a significant increase in petroleum prices by 2020
2.   There are dramatic improvement in battery technology leading to lower prices and increased consumer confidence
3.   There is a sustained coordinated and concerted effort of government policy.

The study concludes none of these three things are likely to occur within the next ten years.

“While considerable interest exists among governments, media and environmentalists in promoting HEVs and BEVs, consumers will ultimately decide whether these vehicles are commercially successful or not,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. “Based on our research of consumer attitudes toward these technologies—and barring significant changes to public policy, including tax incentives and higher fuel economy standards—we don’t anticipate a mass migration to green vehicles in the coming decade.”

The report finds consumers have particular concerns about electric car design, performance, reliability, charging, and range anxiety. Also it is concluded that although many people want to do their part to displace petroleum, very few are willing to pay the price premium required to buy an electric car.

“Many consumers say they are concerned about the environment, but when they find out how much a green vehicle is going to cost, their altruistic inclination declines considerably,” said Humphrey. “For example, among consumers in the U.S. who initially say they are interested in buying a hybrid vehicle, the number declines by some 50 percent when they learn of the extra $5,000, on average, it would cost to acquire the vehicle.”

Furthermore consumers are also worried about how well electric cars will hold residual value over time, and the fact that they may never recoup cost savings over time when compared to conventional ICE cars.

In the end the study predicts that by 2020 only 1.3 million EVs will likely be sold globally. Of those 1.3 million, only 100,000 will be sold in the US, representing less than 1% of all sales.

Source (JD Power)


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