CHARGED Electric Vehicles Magazine APR/MAY 2012

Page 1


Bob Lutz


400 Wh/kg P. 70




APR/MAY 2012



Plugs in Anywhere

Unlimited Range

Power Export

olution Introducing the World’s First Extended Range Electric Work Trucks

up to


Miles Battery Range


Extended Range


MPG Average

Trucks will never be the same.

contents INDUSTRY


Will EVs ever be profitable?

64 News tools for new tech

EV servicing tools


24 The state of charging

A continuing series on the electric vehicle charging industry



70 We need more energy

Envia System’s record setting 400Wh/kg cells



20 It all adds up Extending EV range through efficiency increases


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• Very high pack SoC accuracy • High cell measurements accuracy • Cell estimation based on dynamic model using self-learning technology • Multiple cell chemistry support • Power limit prediction with multiple time horizons

• Dual CAN-bus support • Performance logging using on-board flash memory • PC-tools for in-system SW updates & HW in-the-loop simulations • Designed to meet GMW3172

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contents 56



50 The fleet footed survive VIA Motors bets on trucks



38 Slot cars on steroids

The birth of electric motorsport

45 A new disruptive formula

Electric motorsports, carbon offsets & next-gen sponsorships



32 Back up

Wouldn’t it be nice if your car could provide backup power to your home during a power outage?



The realities of charging Tom Saxton on charging habits

Global Leader Over 300 DC Quick Charging Stations Deployed Worldwide

Our 25kW DC Quick Charger offers drivers a fast and convenient charging experience...

...while minimizing utility costs for station owners

Visit our booth #823 at EVS26 and enter to win the New iPad (3rd Generation)* *No purchase necessary to enter, winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday, May 8 at 4pm PST at Fuji Electric Booth #823. Email us at for a complete list of rules and regulations.


Publisher’s Note Since our last issue, plug-in vehicles have not taken over the roadways. In fact, the daily EV headlines have been plagued with news of recalls, production stoppages, and bankruptcies. What is the problem? Are electric vehicles headed into another decade of hibernation? I have attended an ungodly number of industry tradeshows in the past few months, and I can report back to you that EVs are still coming. Slowly, but surely. Not a single major player in the automotive industry will deny it. In fact, they are all dumping truckloads of cash into R&D, jockeying to be the first to reap the rewards of the coming wave. Many compare the recent boom in EV activity to the rise of the Internet. While the similarities exist, there is one stark difference. This is vehicle manufacturing, where good ideas cannot be globally scaled with a few keystrokes. It takes years to develop new systems from prototypes to beta units to production. And then they have to survive the market. If no one buys your new design, it’s back to the drawing board. I recently attended the 2012 IEEE Electric Vehicle Conference, where a man posed a revealing question to the expert panel and 500-plus attendees. “How many of the people in this room own an electric car?” I watched as 99% of the audience slouch down in their chairs. His follow-up, “Well, who then do you except to buy them if not us?” I can’t help but think he was right. This movement needs more early adopters to lead the way. And there are many more EV wellwishers than actual owners. Nationwide availability has finally arrived, so what are you waiting for? I know, I know, the sticker price. It can be jarring to some, but the fuel savings over the vehicle’s life tallies up to some real money. I can introduce you to many real-world EV drivers who make a very compelling financial case. The cars are not that expensive. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but gas is trending up, way up. Do the gas-savingsmath at four and five bucks a gallon, and then go trade in whatever you are driving now. If you are reading this you have skin in the game. For one reason or another, you’re interested in changing the way the world gets around and uses energy. So if you’re not plugging in your car yet, it’s time. Christian Ruoff Publisher

Christian Ruoff Publisher Laurel Zimmer Associate Publisher Charlie Morris Senior Editor Markkus Rovito Associate Editor Jeffrey Jenkins Technology Editor Eric Fries Copy Editor Nick Sirotich Illustrator & Designer Nate Greco Contributing Artist Contributing Photographers Noah Berger Michael Kent Terrence Taylor Weston Hall Tom Saxton Cover Photo by Terrence Taylor Contributing Writers Dr. Samit Ghosh Charlie Morris Eric Cote Doug Peck William F. Vartorella Markkus Rovito Michael Kent Tom Saxton Jim Motavalli Special Thanks to Kelly Ruoff Sebestien Bourgeois


Sponsored Events April 18 - 19, 2012

San Diego, California

PEV Infrastructure USA 2012

June 12 - 14, 2012

Copenhagen, Denmark

World EV Summit 2012

July 23 - 26, 2012

San Antonio, Texas

Plug-In 2012

November 13 - 15, 2012

Detroit, Michigan

May 6 - 9, 2012

Los Angeles, California

Electric Vehicle Symposium 26

June 18 - 22, 2012

Mainz, Germany

AABC Europe 2012

October 23 -26, 2012 MontrĂŠal ,QC, Canada

EV 2012 VÉ

November 13 - 15, 2012

Detroit, Michigan

The Expo for Advanced Batteries

* Co-located with The Battery Show

* Co-located with Charging Infrastructure Expo

Charging Infrastructure Expo

The Battery Show

For more information on industry events visit

APR/MAY 2012 11

CURRENT events CODA begins consumer deliveries

Photo courtesy of CODA

A few early reservation holders in California were handed the keys to their new 2012 CODA - an all-electirc five-passenger, mid-sized sedan. The company says the new EV is expected to be available at 40 dealerships across North America by the end of 2012, starting at $37,250. In California, federal and individual state tax savings and credits bring the price down as low as $27,250, while available.

Watching our dealers deliver the first vehicles to customers is an incredibly fulfilling milestone. All three [of the first] customers share our conviction that advances in technology can help solve the energy challenges that have weighed down our economy and our environment for decades, and we’re thrilled to have them help bring us one step closer to fulfilling our founding vision. -Phil Murtaugh, CODA Holdings CEO

CODA boasts a best-in-class EPA range rating of 88 miles per charge - up to 125 miles depending on driving habits - and an industry leading 10-year, 100,000-mile limited battery warranty.


West Coast Electric Highway powers up

The first phase of the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of EV charging stations that will eventually stretch along Interstate 5 between the Canadian and Mexican borders, opened for business in southern Oregon. The project was overseen by the Oregon Departments of Transportation and Energy, using $915,000 in federal stimulus funding. Spaced at 25-mile intervals along I-5 in southern Oregon, each of the eight locations has two charging stations, including one DC fast charger, which can provide a full charge for an EV in less than 30 minutes. Plans call for 40 more stations to be operational in Oregon and Washington by the end of the year. AeroVironment, a California company that makes a variety of high-tech products, provided the chargers. Drivers can gain access by signing up for AeroVironment’s Charging Network online or by phone. The company will offer free charging for a limited time.

As the first state in the nation to establish an EV charging infrastructure along a major interstate, Oregon is leading the EV pathway and supporting adoption of the next phase in the evolution of transportation. Once Oregon’s segment of the West Coast Electric Highway is completed, EV drivers will be able to travel from Ashland to Portland at a fraction of the cost of filling a gas tank and with no direct emissions. Pat Egan, chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission

Tesla: It’s time to build your Model S

A123 recalls cells

One of four automated tab welding machines in the prismatic cell manufacturing process at our Livonia, Michigan facility was incorrectly calibrated, causing a misalignment of a certain component in some prismatic cells. This defect was undetected by our standard visual and electrical inspection. When the defective prismatic cells were subsequently compressed as part of the module assembly process, a mechanical interference was created between the misplaced component and the foil pouch which contains the cell. In certain cases, this interference breaches the foil pouch electrical insulation causing an electrical short which can cause premature failure of the battery module or pack, leading to decrease in performance and reduced battery life. We have isolated the root cause of the defective cells to this single automated welding machine, and have recalibrated it to conform with the other three automated welding machines at the Livonia facility. Cells made using these other three machines are not defective, giving us confidence that we have pinpointed the source of the defect and corrected it.

Wunderlich Securities analyst Theodore O’Neill took a tour of Tesla’s California headquarters factory and told the AP that production of the Model S is “at or ahead of schedule,” and that Tesla may be able to surpass its goal of making 5,000 vehicles in 2012. O’Neill raised his Tesla shares rating to “buy” from “hold,” and upped his price target to $49 from $30.

Photo courtesy of Tesla

Photo courtesy of A123 Systems

A123 Systems announced that it will replace battery modules built at the company’s Livonia, Michigan factory, because they may contain defective prismatic cells. The company has begun building and shipping replacements to customers, including Fisker Automotive. This recall may cost A123 as much as $55 million, which the company says it will fund over the next several quarters. What happened you ask? A123 released all the details via the Livonia Prismatic Cell Field Campaign Q&A they published.

There is no reason from a production standpoint why [Tesla] can’t immediately ramp to 5,000 cars per quarter. The electric car is significantly simpler to produce than a regular car. It will only be limited by components in the supply chain.

O’Neill also noted that he no longer thinks Tesla will need to raise money in 2013. Analysts expect the company to report $561 million in revenue for the year, according to FactSet - a financial research firm. George Blankenship, Tesla’s VP of Design and Store Development, urged Model S reservation holders to start picking their car’s options.

Over the next few months, Tesla Retail Stores and the Tesla website will be offering additional interactive tools enabling Model S reservation holders to choose colors, interiors and other options in the Design Studio. In Tesla Retail stores, we will also be completely updating the Design Studio and touch screens. These tools are well into the design and testing phase and I’m very happy with the direction they are taking. They are very visual, easy to navigate and fun to use.

APR/MAY 2012 13

CURRENT events

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV coming in 2013 At the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, Mitsubishi announced that it will produce a PHEV version of its popular Outlander, to be launched in 2013.

Azure Dynamics heads for bankruptcy court

Photo courtesy of Ford

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

Azure Dynamics, the maker of electric powertrains for Ford’s Transit Connect Electric delivery van, has filed for bankruptcy protection, shut down its headquarters and laid off most of its employees. Azure VP Mike Elwood told the Detroit Free Press that the company is restructuring after failing to win approval from the Ontario Securities Commission for its plan to sell more stock. The company is now operating with 35 to 40 workers, and intends to continue supporting vehicles that use its parts.

We fully intend to be back and moving forward, but we have to reorganize. We still believe that electric vehicles are a part of the solution going forward.

Canada-based Azure made powertrains for various commercial vehicles, but their flagship was the Ford Transit Connect Electric, which went into production in December 2010, and at first seemed to be selling well. Alas, the company lost $26 million in the first nine months of 2011.


During fiscal 2012, Mitsubishi Motors will be adding to its lineup an electric vehicle-based Outlander model, which will use a plug-in hybrid system derived from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation’s already existing EV technology.

The new hybrid will be an all-wheel-drive vehicle, with separate electric motors for the front and rear wheels. The twin motor system, which is based on technology developed for the Lancer Evolution, does away with the propeller shaft, hydraulic system and clutch plate used to connect the front and rear axles in conventional 4WD systems. The Outlander PHEV will offer drivers a choice of four power modes, and is expected to have an all-electric-range of 31 miles and a total range of around 500 miles.

NRG to build fast charging infrastructure in California

With this agreement, the people of California will gain a charging infrastructure ready to support their current and future fleet of electric vehicles. This network will be built with private funds on a sustainable business model that will allow NRG to maintain and grow the network as EV adoption grows. -David Crane, NRG’s Chief Executive Officer

Photo courtesy of NRG Energy

In 2006 NRG Energy acquired the California assests of Dynegy Energy, and with it came a lawsuit between Dynegy and the State of California that dated back to 2001. NRG settled the decade old claim, making a deal with the California Public Utilities Commission that calls for NRG to invest $100 million over the next four years to build a comprehensive EV charging network. The fee-based network will include at least 200 public fast charging stations – which can add 50 miles of range in 15 minutes – in the Golden State’s largest metro areas. NRG will also install the wiring for at least 10,000 individual charging stations located at homes, offices, schools and hospitals.

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What about


Sustainability? Will electric vehicles ever be profitable?


ecently I spoke at the Automotive World Automotive Megatrends conference in Dearborn, Michigan. There, I stood in front of some 200 people, most with their stakes dug deeply into the electric vehicle industry, many with questions and apprehensions about its long-term profitability. I was there to address those questions. The EV industry has seen tremendous attention over the last few years and the great expectations continue. In the next five years,

BY DR. SAMIT GHOSH - CEO of P3 North America - a management consulting and engineering solutions company. Prior to his North American appointment he served as an Automotive Senior Consultant and Principal at the Stuttgart, Germany based P3 Automotive GmbH subsidiary since 1999. approximately 29 different models of new EVs will be produced and released from various automakers. This could be as many as 1.6 million sent to car dealer’s lots. Looking at 2011 though, great expectations fell short compared to reality - when Volt and LEAF actual sales volumes versus planned sales volumes showed 15,000 units less than expected. The problem is that electric vehicle technology is fairly new; causing a great deal of engineering effort that comes at a high cost. That engineer-

The problem is that electric vehicle technology is fairly new; causing a great deal of engineering effort that comes at a high cost.

ing effort also requires different talent, and the industry being so new creates a lack thereof. Again, because it’s a young industry, there are unanswered usability and infrastructure questions from consumers, and the traditional working models for suppliers and carmakers are not sufficient anymore. Take all of this, and then add in the fact that the public wants these high-cost, hard-to-achieve vehicles at a low price. How do suppliers, consumers and others industry stakeholders deal with this unprofitable situation? Here are four core steps towards a solution: find the right product portfolio; create intelligent sourcing solutions that are developed around internal know-how versus external

APR/MAY 2012 17



development; create partnerships and consolidate to keep costs low; and secure the right talent pool to develop electrified products. The Right Portfolio Diversity in product portfolios is driven by the high variety of EV powertrain architectures. This raises costs. In the future, automakers and suppliers need to find platform and commonality approaches between architectures to drive down costs. Intelligent commonality solutions focus on a layered approach. Let’s take an electric motor for an example. The commonality would come from an identical core design resulting in a constant cross section for the rotor and stator and the power variations would come from varying the length of the motor. There also may be slight differences found in packaging and mounting, but overall, the core is always the same, driving down costs. Sourcing Strategic sourcing solutions need to be made by the current players in the EV industry in order to prepare for a


sustainable future. Over the mid to long-term horizon, several trends are important to understand. First of all, a fundamental principle in automotive development is that you can only outsource development successfully if you completely understand what you want. Equally important is the capability to validate that you received what you specified. Since the technology around electrification is so new many players on the OEM side are heavily relying on suppliers to help them understand their technology solutions. This trend will change soon, and more and more electric vehicle component development work and manufacturing work being pulled in house. This way, OEMs can come to understand the entire system. This is already happening with several components like E-motors. In the long term this trend will change again and OEMs will

turn to suppliers to take over electrified-vehicle component development, now with the existing knowledge of how to develop and integrate these components. Ideally, OEMs should keep technology differentiators, such as system integration, controls software and the operating strategy of their electrified propulsion offering in house. These are things that set them apart from other automakers. They can then outsource just commodities, things that are not perceived by the customer during the normal use of the vehicle.

Choosing a partner is similar to choosing a mate for marriage – it is best if you choose correctly the first time.

Partnerships Why partner? Partnerships optimize product portfolios, allow OEMs to build up knowledge and share resources and other efficiencies. Choosing a partner is similar to choosing a mate for marriage – it is best if you choose correctly the first time.

Many suppliers offer what OEMs need, but that doesn’t mean they are all a right fit for the job. The partnership structure is also imperative; will the partnership be long lasting, short-term, or a potential merge? Partnerships that are entered into with all of this in mind work well for everyone. Talent Pool Last but not least, the backbone of any company is talent. The talent pool for EVs is small, and more electrical engineers and software/control engineers

are needed. Initially partnerships are needed because this talent will be hard to come by. Over time, recruiting is needed to allow your workforce to grow organically.

The right portfolio, sourcing solutions, partnerships, and talent pool can be the answer to many of the challenges the EV industry is facing. These solutions were my answers to those 200 people’s questions. They do not provide every solution needed to be a profitable electric vehicle automaker, but I do believe that most automakers will want to have electrified vehicles in their portfolio to be profitable. Although this is a challenge, it is not an insurmountable one, and I am confident that together we can bring electric vehicles to a parking lot near you.

APR/MAY 2012 19


Extending EV range through efficiency increases Want to increase the range of your EV without adding capacity to the costly battery pack? Optimize. In parallel with global research efforts to improve the power density of batteries, many are looking for new ways to use less energy per mile.

Mitsubishi’s New Motor

Mitsubishi Electric is hard at work redefining what a motor and inverter look like. It has recently announced a prototype motor-inverter-in-one combo pack. The company says the new system is half the size and significantly lighter than their existing motor and external inverter combo of equal power. “Mitsubishi Electric’s existing system consists of separate motors and inverters driving the motors, which requires more space for these components and their wiring. The newly developed cylinder-shaped inverter matches the diameter of the motor,

enabling them to be connected coaxially within a chassis, resulting in a substantial downsizing of the motor system.” Furthermore the new inverter is silicon carbide (SiC) based, as opposed to the regular old silicon chips, which are widely used in power electronic switching applications. SiC is recognized as a more suitable material for chips due to its electrical characteristics. Mitsubishi says the loss reduction is as much as 50% compared to its silicon-based inverter system.

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric

Engineering Notes Silicon Carbide SiC advantages include a breakdown electric field that is 10 times greater compared to silicon chips. This greater breakdown electric field enables thinner chips, which reduces electrical resistance and lowers loss. So if SiC is so efficient, why isn’t it used everywhere? There’s the rub. SiC, along with GaN (gallium nitride), have been touted as the Next Big Thing in semiconductors for a few years. While they are better than standard silicon/silicon dioxide semiconductors, they’re still relatively expensive and of limited availability. SiC does look promising, but - like many technologically superior solutions - to date it has lost out to more easily produced (i.e. - cheaper) products. It’s likely SiC diodes will be embraced first, because they are the easiest semiconductor devices to manufacture, and SiC MOSFETs and IGBTs (used in inverters) will be a long time in coming to market.


Photos courtesy of DENSO

DENSO’s integrated compressor & inverter

DENSO’s new & improved inline design

Stay Cool

Heating and cooling a vehicle’s passenger compartment can be a real drag (on an EVs battery pack). DESNO, a global automotive systems supplier, recently launched a new and improved electric air conditioning compressor. The company has been working on optimizing their e-compressor design since 2003, when they first introduced it for use in hybrids. When moving from an internal combustion engine to an electric motor, not only is the powertrain electrified but the accessories are as well. Conventional compressors are powered by an engine’s belt drive, but EVs don’t have beltdriven engines that energize the

peripheral systems (hence, the move to an electrically-driven compressor). This electrified compressor is a little more sophisticated in that it has its own motor, inverter and circuit board. DENSO was the first to integrate the inverter with the compressor into one component in 2005, at the time reducing the compressor size by approximately 60% compared with a conventional electric compressor and inverter. They had to develop a new cooling method using air conditioning refrigerant in the com-

pressor, because the conventional inverter is cooled by the engine’s coolant system. To further reduce the weight and size, DENSO improved the packaging by repositioning the e-compressor’s inverter in-line with the motor as opposed to the current integrated inverter that is stacked above the motor. The new and improved design will make its global debut on Ford Motor Company’s Focus Electric, which began production this past December with retail production ramping up the first half of the year. It will also appear on the Fusion and C-MAX Hybrids and Energi Plug-in Hybrids, due to hit North American roads in 2012.

APR/MAY 2012 21


A Lot of Hot Air

Meanwhile, some researchers are looking past the standard kilowattsucking heating and cooling cycles. Internal combustion engines generate a lot of heat, which is great for heating the passenger cabin in winter. EVs, however, produce very little waste heat, so providing electricity for the same amount of heat can reduce their driving range by as much as 40%. Keeping a Nissan LEAF nice and toasty in the dead of winter comes with a drop in range of as much as 30 miles. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) scientists Pete McGrail and Praveen Thallapally, and University of South Florida chemists Mike Zaworotko and Ma Shengqian received $800,000 from an ARPA-E grant to develop a material called an electrical metal-organic framework, or EMOF for short, for vehicle heating and cooling systems. The EMOF would work as a molecular heat pump, which efficiently circulates heat or cold as needed. By directly controlling the EMOF’s properties with electricity, their design is expected to use much less energy than traditional heating and cooling systems. For example, a five-pound EMOFbased heat pump the size of a twoliter bottle could theoretically handle the heating and cooling needs of an EV with far less impact on driving distance.

Engineering Notes Absorption Heat Pump

Excerpt courtesy of Energy Efficiency & Technology

To understand PNNL’s work it helps to first review the principle of operation for a conventional adsorption heat pump. A standard adsorption chiller uses heat to a boil refrigerant, usually water. Commercial adsorption units might use propane for a heat source, but waste heat and even solar power can serves as sources as well. The adsorptive material is usually silica gel. When the silica gel is dry, it has a great affinity for water. When a source heats up the adsorber, the high temperature induces a rise in pressure, from the evaporation pressure up to the condensation pressure. The cycle starts with the opening of a valve between the adsorptive silica material and the condenser. The adsorbent temperature continues to rise, which induces desorption of water vapor. The condenser liquifies the desorbed vapor. Meanwhile, the condensation heat is released at an intermediate temperature. During cooling and depressurization, the adsorber releases heat while the valve is closed. The adsorbent temperature falls, which reduces the pressure from that of the condensation pressure down to the evaporation pressure. During a cooling, adsorption and evaporation period, the adsorber continues releasing heat while being connected to the evaporator. The adsorber continues to cool, which lets it suck up vapor. So, essentially the process is one of a cooling mode where silica is absorbing refrigerant off the evaporator, then once the silica is saturated, begin applying heat to drive off as much of the water as possible, condense it, reject the heat outside, and repeat. PNNL is trying to miniaturize the system by switching from silica gel adsorbant material to the new EMOF nanomaterial. EMOF material, says McGrail, can have triple and quadruple the mass uptake of refrigerant compared to silica gel. Its kinetics are also about a hundred times faster than that possible with silica gel, with about half of the adsorption penalty. Computer models show that the chiller can be about a factor of three smaller than when using a silica gel adsorbing material, with a coefficient of performance (COP) that’s better by a factor of two. And that is without optimizing the heat transfer aspects of the system, McGrail says.

AVL ELECTRIFICATION SOLUTIONS Switching Imagination to Reality AVL Electrification Solutions are the result of the combined experience in designing and developing all different kinds of powertrains, hybrid drives and pure electric drives. By knowing and understanding the five elements of a modern powertrain system, AVL is able

to guarantee that every single part reflects the quality of the entire system. And viceversa. This allows for the perfectly tailored solution for your individual electrification strategy and switches your imagination to reality.



The State of


Photo courtesy of Ecotality


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By Charlie Morris

CHARGING As you may have guessed, we at Charged believe that electricity is the best way to power our vehicles in the post-fossil fuel era. Compared to other contending technologies (biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen), electricity is the most efficient, and our best shot to be truly sustainable. However, there’s a much more immediate reason why automakers are placing the bulk of their bets on electricity: most of the required infrastructure is already in place. While building an affordable EV that can compete with today’s gas-powered vehicles is still a challenge, the energy to power it is as accessible as the nearest electrical outlet. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no infrastructure issues to be dealt with. There are standards to be agreed on, charging stations to be installed, and money to be made. For EV drivers charging is a straightforward affair, but anyone trying to navigate the technical and business issues of this brand-new industry will find that a lot of questions have yet to be answered. We chose some of the more interesting questions and put them to executives at several of the charging indus-

try’s prominent companies, including equipment manufacturers and software and service providers.

Are we in for a standards war?

Will EV drivers need to carry a trunkful of dongles to hook up to different kinds of charging stations? Is there going to be a standards war a la the Betamax vs VHS and Blu-Ray vs DVD matchups? Will consumers end up with an inferior standard that happens to conquer the market? For Level 1 and 2 charging, the answer is no. Back in the EV1 era, there was a jumble of charging protocols, but today’s EV and PHEV models come with a standard recharging connector, dubbed J1772 by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) (Tesla, which has to be different, has a proprietary connector, but an adaptor allows a J1772 plug to be used). In the world of DC Fast Charging, on the other hand, a battle has erupted. The most widely used DC standard at the moment is a Japanese one called CHAdeMO – the name is a pun on the Japanese phrase O cha demo ikaga desuka, which invokes a pleasant image of having a cup of tea while

Photo courtesy of Nissan

2012 Nissan LEAF Left: CHAdeMO DC Quick Charging Port Right: SAE J1772 Charging Port

charging. The Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi MiEV feature both J1772 and CHAdeMO ports. Meanwhile, SAE and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are working on a connector that incorporates AC (Levels 1 and 2) and DC connections on the same plug. It will also use Power Line Carrier technology to exchange data among the vehicle, charger, and smart grid. Several US and most European carmakers (Ford, GM, Chrysler, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and VW) have agreed to use this “Combined Charging System,” which should be released some time in 2012. Vehicles and charging stations are currently being manufactured with CHAdeMO, or with no DC connection, so if SAE/IEC publish a competing standard, could it cause a costly conflict? Two charger makers to whom we posed the question didn’t seem too concerned. Phil Charatz, CEO of Fuji Electric America, said, “Fuji has adopted the CHAdeMO standard. Vehicles with the SAE Quick Charge Interface are not likely to be on the road until 2014, so in the near term, both standards will need to be available. Equipment manufacturers and automotive companies must remain flexible and be able to adapt as the market determines the leading standard.” Jonathan Read, CEO of Ecotality, said, “we built our DC Fast Charge units with two ports, allowing for dual functionalities should standards change. It will be much less costly to change out one port of our hardware systems than to replace the unit entirely.” Whatever happens, even if different regions (North America, Europe, Japan) end up with different standards, while the result may be a headache for equipment makers, it probably won’t be much of an issue for EV drivers.

Do public charging stations make sense? Will anyone use them? As readers of the Charged blog know, every week brings news of a new batch of public charging stations opening up, from the Oases of the Illinois Toll-way to the Cracker Barrels of the Tennessee Triangle to the West Coast Electric Highway. Europe and China are getting wired up even faster than the US. Much of this activity is being driven by government support. The US government has financed two major charging networks, which have already installed thousands of chargers in several states: Ecotality’s EV Project and Coulomb’s ChargePoint America. Many state and local governments are also getting into the act.


Policy-makers obviously see Descriptions of charging levels vary slightly depending on the public chargers source. For the purposes of as an important this discussion, here is a basic part of the new overview of the terms: energy economy. Some in governLevel 1: ment and the 120VAC up to 16A supplied to industry speak of the vehicle. a chicken-and-egg scenario in which Level 2: people won’t buy 240VAC up to 80A supplied to EVs until there’s the vehicle. a comprehensive network of DC Fast Charging: public chargers A charging station supplied available. Others by up to 600VAC at 400A. The believe that most hardware converts to VDC and EV drivers will do supplies power at a current their charging at specified by the vehicle, based home or at work, on the State of Charge (SOC) of and are skeptical the battery pack. about the actual use of public charging stations. It’s much too early to know how much use public chargers will see, but there’s no doubt that their presence does a lot to raise public awareness of EVs. After all, how could we expect the general public to buy a plug-in car when they have never seen a car plugged in? They may also be an effective cure (or placebo) for the latest malady to plague the long-suffering consumer: the dreaded range anxiety. This is the fear of running out of juice that afflicts potential EV buyers (the condition is almost unknown among actual EV owners). Fuji’s Phil Charatz: “Of particular importance to achieving widespread adoption is helping drivers overcome range anxiety, and DC Quick Charging has proven to be a source of reassurance for consumers. As the development of charging infrastructure continues, Fuji views DC Quick Charging as a critical aspect of the industry’s long-term success.”

Where are the best places to put them?

Forest Williams, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Liberty PlugIns, believes that a lot of people will charge at work, and that many businesses will add chargers to

APR/MAY 2012 27

CHARGING very long, or that don’t offer something to keep people entertained while waiting to charge.

Could competing networks become a problem for consumers? Any business or organization that provides EV charging services needs a way to authenticate users, keep track of usage and handle billing. Even a company that plans to offer free charging will probably want a way to limit access to customers or employees. That’s why most charging stations are connected to a network, which offers charge station owners a convenient way to handle these tasks.

Photo courtesy of Ecotality

their parking lots as a benefit for their employees. He also points out that when people drive more than 30 miles in a single direction, they are usually going someplace where they’re going to be for a few hours, so Level 2 charging would be adequate in most cases. Williams sees parking lot operators as the most likely buyers of charging equipment. “Charging is parking” is his company’s motto. Most of the experts we surveyed agree that DC fast chargers make sense at places like restaurants along Interstate highways, as they enable longer trips that would otherwise be out of EV range. However, some are skeptical about chargers at places where people don’t stay


Currently, the biggest charging networks in North America are Coulomb’s Chargepoint and Ecotality’s Blink Network. Using either of these networks is as simple as using an ATM, a library card or a toll pass – when you join, you receive a card (RFID or swipe-able) that you use to get access to chargers, and the network bills your credit card. You can locate chargers online or on your smart phone. Coverage areas overlap in many places, so some drivers may want to be a member of more than one network. EV Connect CEO Jordan Ramer doesn’t see a problem with this. If necessary, drivers can join several networks, with only the minor inconvenience of a few

more plastic cards to carry around. Jonathan Read agrees. “I think a competitive marketplace is common and encouraged with any new and developing industry.”

Which payment structure will prevail?

Networked charging stations communicate with the host network via a cellular modem or Wi-Fi transmitter installed in the charger itself. This communications link is used not only for billing authorization but also to exchange data with the network, allowing text messages or email alerts to users, for example to let you know when your EV is finished charging, or that someone else

APR/MAY 2012 29



the equipment If you are in the market for a charging station one thing is clear: You have options.

Aerovironment General Electric SemaConnect


Aerovironment Better Place ClipperCreek Control Module Industries Coulomb Technologies DBT Eaton Ecotality EV-Charge America Evatran eVergo General Electric General Motors GoSmart Green Garage Associates GRIDbot Legrand Leviton Liberty Plugins Nissan NRG Energy OpConnect ParkPod Plug Smart Plug-In Electric Power Schneider Electric SemaConnect Shorepower Siemens SPX Toyota TucsonEV Volta Charging


Level 1 & 2

Schneider Electric

has come along and unplugged your cable. Some charging stations don’t have cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity, but instead use Synchronous Codes. Liberty Plugins has developed one such system which allows charging station owners to control access and generate revenue without being part of a network. To visualize how this works, imagine buying a car wash at a gas station. You pay for the car wash at the gas pump, which generates a numerical code that you punch in to start the soap and water flowing. Businesses like parking lot operators should find Synchronous Codes easy to incorporate with their existing payment systems, including central pay stations. Vendors can get by with cheaper charging hardware, and skip the modem or cellular charges. Rolling codes also make it simple for businesses to offer free charging to customers – you buy something, you get a code for the charger. Liberty’s Forest Williams also touts the privacy benefits, noting that a billing network that keeps track of usage data “comes with a price tag, and a willingness to give up your private information.” Ecotality CEO Jonathan Read counters that connected chargers offer additional capabilities. “Rolling codes are fine for access control, but they don’t help you to exchange information. By using cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, we can not only provide authorization by several mechanisms, but we can send data on power and energy usage to homeowners, utilities or local commercial hosts. We can send software updates to enable new features, and send commands to the unit to allow it to intelligently manage loads.”

manufacturers Everyone is making them, from multinational conglomerates to small start-ups and automakers.

Schneider Electric


Fuji Electric

DC Quick Chargers Abb Aerovironment Aker Wade Andromeda CirControl DBT Delta Electronics Eaton Ecotality EVTEC EVTRONIC Fuji Electric GH EverDrive GS Yuasa Hasetec Hitachi JFE Engineeriing Kikusui Kyuden Magnum Cap NEC Nichicon Nissan NRG Energy NS-ELEX NTT Facilities Schneider Electric SGTE Signet Systems Sinfonia Technology Sumitomo Takaoka Takasago ULVAC

Who’s going to get rich? If things go as they did in the days of the Internet revolution, the answer to this question will probably surprise everyone. However, the potential is undeniable. EV charging stations could be a $1.5 billion global industry by 2015, according to Pike Research. There seem to be ample business opportunities manufacturing and installing charging stations, and some of the companies offering networks and other software services may well build lucrative empires. Most of our experts agree that public charging stations may be valuable amenities for businesses, but reselling electricity, or charge-time, does not seem likely to become a significant profit center. To cite an obvious parallel, gas stations make small margins on selling gas, which is why they push an ever-expanding array of drinks and snacks. The value-added model may very well pave the way for free charging at the majority of retail stores, in the same way that free Wi-Fi is available at every bookstore and coffee shop. Liberty’s Forest Williams points out that 70% of today’s public charging stations are free to use. He sees little profit potential in selling charge time itself, except perhaps for parking lot operators or in other locations where choice is limited, for the same reason that airports can charge for Internet access. Where else are we going to go? Mahi Reddy, CEO of SemaConnect, notes that most businesses are currently making charging available for free to their retail customers, but the data is not mature enough to tell which model will reign.

APR/MAY 2012 31



Wouldn’t it be nice if your car could provide backup power to your home during a power outage? BY Eric Cote

Engineer, Writer & Volt Owner


his idea isn’t unimaginable. Electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt, Nissan LEAF, and Ford Focus EV all have battery packs measured in many kilowatt-hours (kWh). I’m most familiar with the Chevy Volt, which has the smallest battery pack out of these three vehicles, so let’s crunch some numbers using the Volt as a conservative platform to gauge the feasibility of an EV act-


ing as an emergency backup power source. The Volt has a 16kWh battery pack, which contains roughly 10.5kWh of usable energy. My refrigerator uses approximately 400kWh in a year. That means I could power my refrigerator for roughly 10 days using a fully charged Volt. Add in a couple lights and other appliances, and we’ll assume that I could power my essen-

tials for half that time, or five days. If I wanted back-up power for a longer duration, the Volt’s engine would turn on and generate the electricity needed. Unfortunately, today’s production EVs don’t come with this backup power capability, though they have a lot of the needed electronics already built in. The Volt converts direct current (DC) power to three-phase

I could power my refrigerator for roughly 10 days using a fully charged Volt.

alternating current (AC) power for the electric motors that propel the vehicle. Since the Volt’s motor controller is already capable of creating AC power, it’s not a stretch to believe that it could create AC power for your home in a back-up power scenario.

In fact, today’s manufacturers are already looking at doing this in nonbackup scenarios to stabilize the nation’s electric grid. This technology, called vehicle-to-grid (V2G), would require the vehicle to create AC power and provide it to the electrical grid through your home’s circuit breaker

panel. If V2G gets implemented, all the hardware would be present for a backup power solution. A backup power solution would simply be another extra vehicle feature without any cost increase. This makes EVs even more cost competitive, as a whole-house backup power system

APR/MAY 2012 33

EARLY ADOPTERS The Volt’s battery provides roughly 20kW of power when the car is traveling a constant 60 mph, and much more when accelerating. While clearly possible, a 20kW aftermarket solution would be costly and risky. It would require a 300 volt DC to 220 volt AC inverter, and necessitate tapping into the Volt’s high voltage system in just the right place. This would most certainly void your vehicle’s warranty, and if not done properly, could result in severe injury or death via electric shock. In an emergency backup power scenario, and to minimize the chances of injury and damage to your vehicle, a 110 volt AC inverter would suffice, powered from the Volt’s lowvoltage 12 volt accessory battery. The Volt doesn’t have a traditional alternator to charge the 12-volt battery. Instead, an Auxiliary Power Module (APM) converts the main battery’s high voltage DC into low


WARNING #1: A representative from Chevrolet has told Charged that using the Volt’s battery for anything other than what it was originally intended for will void the manufactures warranty. WARNING #2: Any electrical work should only be performed by a licensed electrician. voltage DC, for charging the 12-volt battery and powering the vehicle’s electronics. This APM is capable of providing around 175 amps of 12-volt DC current. Factoring in the

I decided to look into what it would take to provide a backup power solution using my Volt, in case of an emergency power outage. 34

Photo courtesy of GM

alone can run around $10,000, but would essentially be free with your EV purchase. The good news is, this V2G technology may not be so far away. Previous interviews have confirmed that Chevy plans to incorporate this functionality in the next generation of Volts, possibly starting in 2015. The bad news is, as I mentioned previously, today’s production electric vehicles don’t have that capability built-in. So, I decided to look into what it would take to provide a backup power solution using my Volt, in case of an emergency power outage. The most elegant do-it-yourself solution would be a setup that would essentially power your whole house. Since the Volt can be charged from a 3.6 kW Level 2 (220 volt) charger, it could easily provide 3.6kW of power from its battery. This is also extremely conservative.


power. elegance.

Advanced electric motor controllers up to 1600hp. | electric vehicle systems

EARLY ADOPTERS power draw of vehicle electronics, a 1kW pure sine wave inverter would be a nice choice, which would require up to 100 amps of DC current. This could be connected directly to the 12 volt battery terminals, through an in-line 120-amp fuse and using 4 gauge wire. For a more permanent setup, wiring could even be run under the hatch storage area to the fuse compartment on the rear left side of the vehicle, where the wires could remain with a connector to quickly connect the wires to an inverter. Then, assuming emergency backup power was needed, one could simply open the Volt’s rear fuse compartment, connect the wires to the inverter, turn the vehicle on (making sure to turn off accessories like climate control and the radio), turn on the inverter, and run an extension cord from the inverter to appliances requiring emergency power.

While not the most elegant solution, a Volt using this approach can keep a fridge and a couple of lights powered for a few days using the energy stored in the battery (and much longer using the Volt’s engine), should the need ever arise. There are also other EV that will soon offer an integrated backup power feature. VIA Motors, for example, advertises a “power export” option in their VTRUX line. This equates to a 15kW 220 volt AC power supply that can be used to power industrial machinery such as arc welders, or serve as a whole house backup power source. The VTRUX line of vehicles, including trucks, SUVs, and minivans, is currently available for purchase by commercial fleets, and is expected to be available for consumer purchases in 2013. It uses the same extendedrange concept as the Chevy Volt. Also, Mitsubishi recently an-

VIA Motors

Offers a “power export” option in their line of vehicles

nounced the Power BOX power feeder, soon to be available in Japan. This gadget plugs in to the DC quick charging port of their EV, the i-MiEV, and will provide up to 1500 watts of AC electricity. Will aftermarket options be available soon for vehicles such as the Volt to provide whole house backup power? Probably. After all, it didn’t take long for some small businesses to offer far more complex modifications that turn a normal Prius into a plug-in vehicle. In the meantime, a simplified solution implementing a 110 volt inverter for critical appliances isn’t a bad start. If you have questions about the Chevrolet Volt, or have a topic that you would like to have discussed in a future Volt article, Eric can be contacted by email at


Mitsubishi’s Power BOX is an external unit that provides AC power

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi

Photos courtesy of VIA Motors



July 23 – 26, 2012 San Antonio Convention Center San Antonio, Texas USA

…and plugging you into the information needed to accelerate transportation electrification. Nowhere else will you have a more complete, more open and more direct dialogue about plug-in hybrid and electric transportation than at the Plug-In 2012 Conference & Exposition — an international gathering of automakers, component suppliers, electric utilities, government agencies and other key industry stakeholders. Plug-In 2012 will feature: • A content-rich agenda offering access to real-world data on vehicle and infrastructure deployment, user experiences and cutting-edge research on advanced plug-in technologies. • A diverse exposition floor showcasing a range of vehicles, electricity infrastructure, batteries, components and other innovations associated with plug-in transportation. Make plans today for Plug-In 2012!

Bookmark for more details.



SLOT CARS The Birth of Electric Motorsport


he thrill of racing has been a part of human culture ever since the ancient Babylonians pitted steed and rider against each other in the first organized horse races. These days our anthropological need for speed has translated into events like Formula One, a lamentable circus characterized by cronyism and crippled by bureaucracy; it’s not hard to understand why a handful of EV evangelists are taking matters into their own hands to shake up the system and demonstrate why the internal combustion engine is as prehistoric as its fuel. The story of electric motorsport goes back to 1896, when an electric car built by the Riker Electric Motor Company soundly beat its petrolpowered rivals in the first ever automobile race in the US. Seven cars (five petrol, two electric) wheezed and chuntered their way around a dirt oval track at the mile-long Narragansett Trotting Park in Cranston,


The prospect of zero emission, near-silent race cars has set moustaches twitching throughout the motorsport fraternity. Many see it as heresy, while the enlightened few realize that we have a golden opportunity to inject some new life into a hundred-year-old sport. Doug Peck, editor at, explains why the future of racing runs on batteries.

Rhode Island. Incredibly, the electric competitors took first and second place - beating the best internal-combustion car by over three minutes. You’re probably wondering why this comprehensive victory for the volt didn’t spur on an electric revolution in transportation, but with oil prices crashing to just pennies a barrel, it was all over for the electric race car. That is until 1994 when John Wayland astonished the drag racing scene by competing in his electrically powered White Zombie, a 1972 Datsun 1200 converted to run on aircraft starter batteries and a nine-inch DC motor. The incredible levels of torque it produced soon alerted other drag racers to the potential offered by electric drive, and now the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA) boasts hundreds of members. In 2007, Pro EV’s Electric Imp was the first EV in over 100 years to

Riker’s winning electric racer c. 1896

win a sanctioned road race against petrol-powered cars, setting the stage for a renaissance of the electric motor in racing. But what is the point of motorsport anyway? Isn’t it a waste of resources and a huge carbon emitter? Not really, on both accounts. Motorsport has been a consistent contributor to advancing technologies, including material science, aerodynamics and safety.

ON Photos courtesy of Plasma Boy Racing

STEROIDS John Wayland’s record setting White Zombie, a converted 1972 Datsun 1200

The aerospace, defense and marine industries have all benefitted, and the modern car would be unrecognizable if it weren’t for innovations such as disc brakes, traction control, ABS, fuel injection, crumple zones, independent suspension, turbo chargers – all of which were tested and proven on the track. In terms of the race teams themselves, they are all very aware of their reputation as polluters and are actively seeking out carbon neutrality, but it is the fans themselves who travel in their thousands to the events that are the real problem. As you’ll read later, electric racing has an answer to this problem as well.

I’m sure you know that OEM car manufacturers are under severe legislative pressure to lower their impact of their products on the environment, and face multi-million dollar fines for non-compliance. Some, like Aston Martin and their Cygnet, are finding innovative ways around this,

but the majority are hastily investing in hybrid and electric drivetrains for mass market cars. They don’t really want to, because EVs have historically suffered from image problems as slow, boring and sanctimonious methods of transport. The Prius aside, EVs and hybrids of all persua-

Motorsport has been a consistent contributor to advancing technologies, including material science, aerodynamics and safety. APR/MAY 2012 39

Photos courtesy of Nissan


Photos courtesy of Nissan

Photos courtesy of Mitsubishi

Nissan’s NISMO LEAF, a carbon fiber racing version

Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV racing prototype for the 2012 Pikes Peak event

sions have had disappointing sales results across the board. Enter, stage right: Mr. Motorsport. It has always been the case for car manufacturers that you “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” so the OEMs are now looking to their old friend the racetrack to sex up those pesky green cars cluttering their forecourts.


UP THE HILL Of course it’s not only a marketing exercise - as with traditional racing, there is a great deal to be learned from testing out electric drivetrains and cell chemistries in the highly demanding motorsport environment, much of which can be applied to consumer vehicles.

For example, Mitsubishi is preparing a special version of the i-MiEV to tackle the treacherous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this year. This will not be a highly-tuned, high horsepower car, but one that shares the majority of its drive components with the road car, albeit cocooned in a much lighter, pared down skin.

In 2011, the Nissan LEAF made history as the first winner of the Electric Production Class at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

EV West’s converted BMW M3

This enables Mitsubishi not only to promote the i-MiEV in its own right, but also to push the critical components to the limit to find that extra mile per watt-hour, or minimize losses due to heat. The same goes for Nissan’s NISMO LEAF, which is essentially a carbon fiber version of the consumer car,

packing the same power output and cell pack. Both of these examples are a toe in the water for manufacturers, born ultimately out of government pressure, but it’s not just the OEMs who are feeling the sharp end of emissions legislation. Also headed up the hill in July

are a handful of custom EV builders, like Southern California’s EV West in their converted 1995 BMW M3. Since John Wayland awoke the tinkering world to the possibilities electric power, many independent racing fans have joined the e-party. EV West also has its eye on the new Ultra Green class of the Baja 1000.

APR/MAY 2012 41


FORMULA E The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) governs world motorsport, and was told in no uncertain terms by the European Commission that they had to create a new series based on alternative propulsion. You cannot imagine how much this must have riled the old guard, who would rather send a Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage to the crusher than


pander to the eco-warriors. After some protracted beard stroking they came up with Formula E, an electric race series modeled on the current Formula One format that will see a grid of up to 24 electric cars in a global competition. As an organization that has solely focused on the internal combustion engine for the last 108 years, they were blissfully unaware of the two

major limitations of electric racers. Even with the most energy-dense cells available, range is still limited to around 20 minutes of racing any more capacity and the size and weight of the cells interferes with the dynamics of the lightweight cars. Moreover, designing a gearbox that can handle the torque from race-spec electric motors is still challenging engineers, so most cars operate direct

Photo courtesy of Formulec

Formulec’s EF01 has demostrated a 0-60 run in under three seconds and a top speed of 210 mph.

Thankfully, Formula E is on track to launch demonstrations in 2013, with a full series planned for 2014. The rules are fairly straightforward in terms of technical specs: minimum weight of 780 kg, maximum battery pack of 300 kg, and the car must be able to run for at least 18 minutes at full tilt. Performance from the initial prototype test cars like the EF01 from Formulec is, if you’ll excuse the pun, electrifying. The 0-60 dash is achieved in under three seconds and they will go on to 210 mph (340km/h), with torque levels in the 1000s of N/m. Several consortia are currently pitching the FIA to build these cars, but there is one fly in the ointment – noise.

drive, which limits their top speed. Despite this, the FIA proclaimed Formula E as a “new kind of F1” that would be faster than the petrol variants, and it has taken a concerted effort from companies such as Kleenspeed, Formulec, Quimera and Drayson Racing Technologies to bring them back down to Earth. As they now realize, Formula E will never be an F1 replacement.

Details as to how race weekends will be structured are still being negotiated, but it is envisioned that like most other electric race series, short heats of around 15 laps each will be contested. There is no news either on whether longer races might be facilitated through hot swapping battery packs, or even if they are considering wireless inductive charging options. We wait with bated breath.

DID YOU HEAR SOMETHING? Ask most petrol heads what they love about motor racing and two aspects always come up – the sound of the engines and the smell of the fuel. The FIA are desperate not to alienate their fans, and although they can’t exactly pump gasoline vapor around the tracks they are putting a great deal of emphasis on making sure there is some kind of soundtrack to the races. Indeed, this March at a press conference before the Melbourne Grand Prix Gerry Connelly, VP of the FIA Institute, commented, “One of the challenges (with Formula E), of course, is how to get some noise, because the idea of putting in sound is a bit of a conflict of ideas. It’s not actually very safe to have silent cars, so they’re working out something where there will be noise generated, but it won’t be like the current Formula One.” Personally, I think this could be very damaging for the sport, as we don’t need to give any more ammuni-

APR/MAY 2012 43


tion to the racing fans already making jokes about slot cars when talking about electric racing. The lack of noise could actually turn out to be Formula E’s greatest strength. Unlike their raucous cousins, electric race cars can be run on street circuits in city centers other than the hallowed circuit at Monaco. This brings racing directly to the fans, cutting out the travel (hence carbon) and is more family friendly - allowing young children to attend without the ear defenders that are such a necessity at F1 events. Races will be largely free to attend, tempting in a new untapped audience curious to see high technology put through its paces on their doorstep This in turn attracts a whole new raft of potential advertisers and sponsors keen to position their products in front of this tech savvy, environmentally conscious, early adopting audience.


DRAFTING Formula E is not the only option if you fancy some high-speed EV thrills. The EVCUP was arguably the first on the scene, touting the futuristic-looking Westfield iRacer and offering a race event that would include green technology showcases, live music and celebrity endorsements (they have strong ties with talent agents CAA) as well as the actual races. Unfortunately, due to technical issues with the prototype iRacers - which reportedly weren’t fast enough and ran too hot - they have postponed the inaugural race until further notice. One of the most exciting prospects is the new electric-only series to be jointly run by the International Motorsport Association (IMSA), American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and clean tech pioneers Quimera Group.They will be running a

number of different classes of EVs including drift cars, touring cars, Le Mans prototypes (LMP) and even a Formula One style car that is set to be a direct rival for Formula E. All of these cars will run on the same day in short 20-minute heats, providing plenty of entertainment in bite-size, media-friendly chunks. Quimera’s All Electric GT car (AEGT) will be showcased at the ALMS events this year, and it should make a few jaws drop. With over 700 bhp, this engineering marvel has three UQM PowerPhase HD Select 200 motors linked up to a Hewland sequential gearbox - dealing with 1000+N/m of torque would make most transmissions run for their mummy. Power comes courtesy of LiPo packs supplied by EIG of South Korea. Although they are tightlipped on capacity, energy density is around the 170Wh/kg level, giving around 20 minutes of flat-out racing.

Photo courtesy of QUIMERA

Quimera’s AEGT (All Electric GT) sports three UQM motors delivering 700 bhp.

A New Disruptive Formula Electric Motorsport, Carbon Offsets and Next-Gen Sponsorships By William F. Vartorella, Ph.D., C.B.C.

It’s all about carbon. Carbon offsets, carbon fiber, and carbon copies of e-racers in automotive showrooms. Carmaking is moving at the speed of innovation, with electric drivetrains - the future. Racing series, which previously engaged consumers with a “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mantra, scramble for an identity to drive auto sales in a connected world. First, they must overcome their carbon footprints, on-track. NASCAR (four million pounds of CO2 annually) and Formula 1 (100-450 tons per team) actively strive - along with car manufacturers - to stem climate change. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has reportedly achieved “carbon neutrality” in F1, saving 1500 tons of CO2 emissions annually in R&D, testing, on-track and at the “shop.” As consumers move to EVs, whether via hybrids, refitting the family `wagon, or early-gen plugins, they will demand motorsports that drive technology, yet mirror their daily drivers. It’s not enough to lighten the load with carbon fiber or high-tech composites. It’s going to require smaller carbon footprints, carbon offsets, and carbon-neutral sponsors. In short, a dynamic, disruptive formula on all fronts. A thorny question is who pays for new e-series racing, with only 500 traditional motorsports sponsors worldwide often supporting 100 major “drives” in existing series. “Distance anxiety” is a very real issue, whether the distance an EV can

Bill Vartorella writes on the business of motorsports - particularly F1 - and automotive technology trends. He is the co-author of Funding Exploration, the standard text for non-governmental financial support for science and engineering projects, and a past presenter at the Grand Prix Business’s global sponsorship symposium.

travel with a consumer at the wheel, an e-racer on the razor’s edge of adhesion, or the economic distance a sponsor will travel metaphorically to find a budget for green technologies. Instead of the Old Economy model of automotive widgets, beer, and broadcasting, we propose one that returns the consumer to the sales equation that worked for decades, or at least until NASCAR’s emphasis on vanilla body styles left fans confused as to which was a Chevy, Ford, Dodge, or Toyota. CarbonMETRICS© (Carbon Offsets, Mobility, Entertainment, Technology, Recycling, Interactive, Charity, Social Media) represents a paradigm shift from the old catch-ascatch-can style of capturing sponsors, instead spinning new categories that emphasize youth, broadband, and emerging brands. Add e-racers that are only one step removed from cars in the showrooms. Simply put, the cost of sponsoring an e-racer would depend upon a value proposition that includes a measureable corporate commitment to reduction of CO2 (e.g., one carbon offset = reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide). With each reduction of a metric ton, a sponsor could buy a “share” in the

e-racer, within his exclusive category (Wireless Mobility, Technology, etc.). The race team would set the benchmark shares required to participate, basing sponsorship upon green credentials, rather than the team budget. Payment would be “green-in-kind” (say, “motor”) + cash + mentoring. The result, in addition to cuttingedge sponsorship and carbon-neutral racing, is excitement on-track with racing machines whose DNA arrives in automotive showrooms. It’s a victory for the environment, automotive industry/motorsport, and the consumer. The EPA maintains a “partners” list for “putting the environment in the driver’s seat.” Prospects include Behr, DuPont Fluoroproducts, Eaton, Four Seasons, Honeywell, Japan Fluorocarbon, Neutronics, Skye International Holdings, and Sun Test. Remember the principles of Coolfarming: seed the community with ideas, and recruit trendsetters. E-motorsport is a carbon-neutral catalyst for change, a breath of fresh air, particularly in emerging racing venues in developing nations, where green technology test beds are desperately needed, as the easy path to innovation is too often dependent on fossil fuels.

APR/MAY 2012 45

RACING PULLING AHEAD No article about electric racing would be complete without a mention of the incredible LMP car built by Drayson Racing Technology in the UK. The B12/69EV has been assembled with the support of racing veterans Lola and employs truly groundbreaking technology like structural batteries, on-the-fly inductive charging and recuperative dampers. It is claimed to run at over 200 mph, and judging from the stats it shouldn’t have any problem. Four YASA 750 motors deliver a hefty 640 kW (850 bhp), and it weighs in at 1085 kg including driver, allowing it to make 60 mph in 3 seconds and 100 mph in 5.1 secongs. The three cell packs have been supplied by Mavizen and are made up of A123 Systems cylindrical ANR26650MIB nano-phosphate cells, giving a total energy of around 60 kWh running at 700 V max. It has not turned a wheel in anger yet though, and as it uses the same motors as the beleaguered Westfield iRacer will it suffer from the same overheating issues? Only time will tell, but judging by the snakes’ wedding of cooling pipes under the cowling I think they should be okay. 2012 has constantly surprised the EV community with ever-advancing battery and motor technology, and this will only speed the adoption of electric propulsion in the racing community. The torque characteristics of electric motors lend themselves perfectly to pushing out of corners and rapid acceleration off the line, and the noise of an electric car at full chat is like a quiet jet turbine – reassuringly futuristic. I for one can’t wait for more people to get behind electric motorsport - it offers a bright future for fans, car companies and our fragile planet.


Photos courtesy of Drayson Racing Technologies

The Lola-Dryson B12/69EV boasts over 850 bhp from its four YASA 750 motors and 60kWh pack of A123 cells.

APR/MAY 2012 47



THE FLEET FOOTED SURVIVE On the strength of a shrewd business plan and ties to GM, VIA Motors plans to jump-start the electric transition through the back door of America’s service vehicles. Its E-REV pickup trucks and vans prove that you can have your fuel efficiency and costs savings, too.

ovito By Markkus R

Photos by Weston Hall, courtesy of VIA Motors



veryone should want an EV. They’re more efficient than combustion engine cars, potentially much better for the environment, and they can contribute to national energy independence. Right? Right - if only they actually cost less in the long run - even after fuel savings and tax credits - and if only there were fast charging stations wherever gas was sold, more people might actually be buying. However, charging stations won’t come without the cars on the street, and the cars won’t sell until they’re cheaper than the cost of conventional cars plus gas, which won’t happen until batteries cost less and are more efficient. And that will take years (see the

Envia Systems feature, page 70). The crafty industry veterans who work at VIA Motors know the stated EV quandary all too well, but have worked since the company’s inception in 2010 on a plan to bridge the current early adopter stage of the consumer EV transition with the era of charging stations - a sure sign of mainstream acceptance.

ELECTRIC CONVERSION Early this year at the Detroit Auto Show, VIA debuted its line of ex-

tended range electric vehicles, which it shortens to the name E-REVs. Available as pickup trucks, vans and SUVs, the E-REVs can electrify wellknown chassis such as the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-Series, or Dodge Ram series that are built with VIA’s E-REV Powertrain. Similar to the Chevrolet Volt, the E-REV Powertrain plugin hybrid system features batteries and an electric motor, with a gas engine that operates only to generate electricity. They’re also the first plug-in hybrid vehicles of their kind with the power and performance of a V8 engine. By focusing on light truck frames, VIA aims to make EVs much more cost effective. They are replacing the least

The fleet market runs the numbers - they don’t operate on emotion. When they run the numbers on this truck, it’s a compelling case. You don’t have to convince anybody.


Left to Right: Alan Perriton, Chief Operations Officer, VIA Motors David Meisel, Director of Transportation, PG&E Bob Lutz, Former Vice-Chairman, General Motors Greg Pruett, Sr. Vice President, PG& E Kraig Higginson, Chief Executive Officer, VIA Motors Photo by Noah Berger


By focusing on light truck frames, VIA aims to make EVs much more cost effective. They are replacing the least fuel-efficient gas vehicles, rather than sedans with decent fuel efficiency - which the Volt and LEAF compete with. fuel-efficient gas vehicles, rather than sedans with decent fuel efficiency which the Volt and LEAF compete with. And for at least the first two years, VIA will focus on selling to fleets, whose regular service calls will often fall within the E-REV’s up-to40-mile all-electric range. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration’s 2011 national average for miles driven per day was 36.9 (45.3 for males). If the gas power is needed, an E-REV’s combined range can stretch to as far as 400 miles. When driving 50 miles a day, an E-REV pickup truck’s fuel efficiency would average about 100 mpg. Even at 60 miles per day, the fuel economy measures 60 mpg, far more than the common 14 to 22 mpg of popular gasoline pickup trucks. The E-REV’s onboard generator for electrical power export places the cherry on top for fleet use. “The fleet market runs the numbers - they don’t operate on emotion,” said Bob Lutz, a member of VIA Motors’ board of directors. “When they run the numbers on this truck, it’s a compelling case. You don’t have to convince anybody. VIA is going to be able to sell every one of these that they make. The VIA solution makes so much sense, because you’re taking the fuel out of the equation in the vehicles that use a ton of it.”


The Specs

In VIA’s early days, Chief Operating Officer and long-time General Motors executive Alan Perriton enlisted former GM Vice Chairman Lutz as a kind of liaison between VIA and GM. Later, when CEO Kraig Higginson asked Lutz to become a VIA board All Electric Range 40 miles member, Lutz said, “I was Combined Range 300 miles very enthusiastic, because Drive 2WD or 4WD this is a serious program. Traction Motor Power 300kW (400hp) peak It’s not one of these mar175kW continuous ginal electric startups that get a lot of government Traction Motor Torque 400NM peak money, blow through it, 210NM continuous and then fold because they Generator Power 158kW peak don’t have a really good 112kW continuous proposition.” Power Export Inverter Up to 15 kW That proposition will Power Export Voltage 110 & 220 VAC 60 Hz have real-world data backLithium Ion Batteries 24 kWh ing it this year, in part Battery Voltage 640 Volt thanks to VIA’s beta-testing partnership with California Fuel Economy Targets energy utility Pacific Gas @ 40 miles Battery only & Electric (PG&E), which @ 50 miles 100 mpg was announced in March. @ 60 miles 60 mpg PG&E had been using E@ 100 miles 30 mpg REV alpha units for about @ 200 miles 20 mpg a year, and will use E-REV VTRUX pickup beta units throughout 2012, delivering feedexternal generator performance, etc. back to VIA on the trucks’ reliability, According to PG&E Senior Vice maintenance requirements, mileage, President Greg Pruett, the utility has

The E-REV Powertrain

APR/MAY 2012 53


The Numbers

Via’s Life Cycle Savings Calculator Via Motors is claiming significant saving for fleet operators over time. Their online calculator allows companies to estimate the possible benefits of switching to an electric VTRUX vehicle. Take, for example, the site’s default case. TOTAL 8-YEAR LIFE-CYCLE Lease + Energy + Maintenance

Conventional Truck VTRUX Truck Total 8-Year Savings

$106,656 $83,283 $23,373

The eye-catching savings estimate is based on the following assumptions: MILES DRIVEN PER YEAR: DRIVING DAYS A WEEK: COST OF ELECTRICTY: PRICE OF GAS:

15,000 miles 7 days Estimated average EV rate (night time) is $0.075/kWh Estimated average price is $5.34/Gal over next 8 years Based on a 7.5% compound annual growth rate. IDLE TIME: Estimated national average of 20% Due to heavy traffic, stop & go driving, and waiting with engine on, a lot of gas can be burned while not actually moving. This is called “Idle Time.” EPA sticker MPG estimates do not consider Idle Time from rush hour traffic or other situations common to many drivers. It can sometimes take twice as long to commute the same distance in rush hour traffic. Working vehicles sometimes park and idle for hours to stay comfortable in hot or cold weather. MAINTENANCE SAVINGS: $1,050/year Due to the infrequent use of the gas engine, engine wear, service and maintenance are expected to be significantly reduced resulting in 3 times less engine maintenance costs. Due to the use of regenerative braking, (slowing down the vehicle by generating electricity using the electric motor) brake service intervals should increase by 3 times resulting in lower brake maintenance costs. Transmission, alternator and other high-wear parts have been removed, resulting in fewer service and replacement costs. This reduced maintenance allows the VTRUX a lease life of 8 years. The formula above assumes a new lease of a new stock truck starting in year six for the conventional gas version.

about 3,500 vehicles of this type in its fleet, and could begin replacing them with 400 to 500 E-REVs a year when the full production units become available in Q4 2012 or Q1 2013. That’s a sizable investment with the initial pricing of an E-REV truck at $79,000. Perriton said that price


should drop to $69,000 in 12 months and $64,000 sometime after. Neither does that include government incentives, which can total $20,000 depending on the state. “Using those numbers, the total lifecycle cost of that vehicle comes out very nicely,” Perriton said. Also, fleet purchases of

50 units or more are eligible for an undisclosed discount. Individual customers may reserve an E-REV with a $1,000 deposit, but there won’t be individual deliveries until sometime next year. Whatever price PG&E paid for its E-REVs so far, Pruett pointed to a


VTRUX Power Export Up to 15 kW, 110 & 220 VAC 60 Hz

Electrifying one truck is like taking two small cars off the road.

$2,700 savings in fuel cost per truck, per year over conventional pickup trucks, as well as less required maintenance than gas pickups. Anyone can have a look at the figures on VIA’s Life Cycle Savings Calculator at It lets you adjust for cost of gas, drive miles per year, electricity costs and other factors for an eight-year life cycle of the truck. “The case is compelling, especially for the big utility companies,” Lutz said, “because they’ve got their own cost on electricity… that’s not retail.”


Pruett added that the E-REV’s exportable power was a big determining factor for PG&E. Their power modules have 120 and 240 V outlets, as well as other connections built-in, and can accommodate heavy power tools. Current E-REVs have a 15 kW generator at 30 amps, and a utility grade module is in development that will offer 50 kW of mobile power. “We’d like to see that number in the 100 kW range,” Pruett said. “If we

had 100 kW, that changes the way we would potentially respond to things at the utility. These trucks have the potential to make planned service interruptions about as common as a pay phone is today.” Such possibilities have also attracted Verizon to ink a deal with VIA to test and develop E-REV pickup trucks and vans for possible widescale adoption into Verizon’s work fleet. Coca-Cola has also expressed interest in the vans. Verizon, for one, plans to make liberal use of the EREV’s onboard generators. “Utilities going to a remote location to work no longer have to drag that generator trailer with them,” Lutz said. “And it’s extremely attractive for the utilities to have a truck that fulfills all the environmental requirements, which is obviously good PR for any company.” While the non-tree-hugging Lutz may see environmental friendliness as a PR ploy first, VIA at large is not shying away from the environmental message. “We’ve got 200 to 300 million vehicles running on the road in

America, and we’re generating another 14 or so million a year,” Perriton said. “We’re consuming an enormous amount of fossil fuels.” However, he called the E-REV a game-changer. “It will have a ripple effect through the industry, and start us on the road to energy independence,” Perriton said. “Electrifying one truck is like taking two small cars off the road.” At that rate, VIA is planning to displace the emissions of many thousands of small cars by 2013. While VIA is taking individual customer waiting list orders now, the bulk of its efforts will go towards courting fleets for at least the next two years. As it moves into manufacturing fullproduction units by late 2012 to early 2013, the small private company will ramp up production to 20,000 units a year over the next few years. Perriton said he expects VIA to be profitable within the first full quarter of production and sales. Early profitability and a product that’s almost all upside and in high demand? That sounds too good to be true. But perhaps the strategy of developing a light-duty electric powertrain to build into existing vehicles and sell to work fleets hungry for fuel savings really will be the secret sauce that cleans up America’s service vehicles and leads the way for EV support infrastructure. VIA will not stop there either. Details were sparse, but at VIA and PG&E’s joint announcement, plans were revealed to develop a Class 6 truck (on par with a Ford F-650) with the same E-REV propulsion system. Maybe Mel Gibson had it wrong. Tomorrow’s Road Warriors will be battling not over gasoline, but battery packs.

APR/MAY 2012 55

Bob Lutz wit



Photos by Terrence Taylor

Bob Lutz tends not to speak in abbreviations. More often

than not, it’s “gasoline,” not gas, “General Motors,” not GM. Perhaps it’s indicative of a man who came of age a couple of generations before cable TV, the Internet and Twitter frayed everyone’s attention spans into spiderweb strands. Perhaps it’s symbolic of his perpetual willingness to go the extra mile for his country and his businesses. Either way, the loquacious Lutz has earned the extra few syllables per sentence. The automotive legend turned 80 on February 12, but he still looks and sounds vital. Even better, and in contrast to the typical assumption about octogenarians (think Fidel Castro with Pope Benedict XVI) Lutz is still entirely relevant.


Let’s face it, the full-size sport utility is a favorite vehicle of Americans. The only downside is they use so much fuel.

After 47 years of executive leadership at companies such as General Motors, BMW, Ford, and Chrysler (on top of 11 years as a Marine attack aviator), Lutz resigned as Vice Chairman of GM and settled into semi-retirement as an industry Übermensch. His current docket suggests that he’s definitely not out to pasture just yet. Since “retiring,” Lutz has published the bestselling book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, joined Transonic Combustion’s board of directors, and begun contributing to CNBC and Forbes, as well as consulting for his old fellows at GM. Among other appointments, Lutz joined the board of directors of VIA Motors in September 2011. On the occasion of VIA’s March announcement of an E-REV electric truck beta test with California’s PG&E that Lutz joined Charged for a candid chat about the value proposition of electric pickup trucks for service fleets, the fate of the Chevy Volt, political misinformation, and of course, his featured turn in last year’s documentary, Revenge of the Electric Car. Lutz showed up looking iconic on a sunny


Bay Area day. Well-tanned, in a bomber jacket, sunglasses and his signature white head of hair, Lutz appeared poised to star in another American business success story. Is there already demand for the E-REVs or are you having to convince people of their value? Bob Lutz: There’s plenty of demand, but the productionizing of the vehicle is not finished. That’s going to take another six to eight months. What people don’t realize is that just because you produce one or two that you can demonstrate, does not mean that you’ve got the reliability under all weather conditions, all temperatures, all altitudes, all kinds of customer abuse. For instance, about a year ago, a British guy who was converting Escalades and Range Rovers to lithium-ion batteries said he’d pick me up at London airport and drive me to a conference. It was a 200-mile Range Rover loaded with Li-ion batteries. I said “Are you producing?” He says, “oh yes, we’re producing and selling. It’s totally reliable,

what is there that could possibly go wrong?” So on the way from Heathrow Airport to London we get into this torrential rain. We’re driving through puddles that are about four inches deep, and all of a sudden this electric Range Rover comes to a grinding halt right in the middle of the freeway. We needed other trucks to hump us over. It was really, really bad. We were supposed to go to this conference, and we were standing outside in soaking wet suits. And he says, “oh, we never tested it in deep water before.” So the beta test with PG&E is a part of the preparation? BL: That’s one of the things VIA is doing that is very good: putting a certain number of beta units into fleets to gather actual day-to-day operating experience. How much maintenance do they need? Are they doing their 40 miles electrically, and if not what are they getting? The experience gained on the beta units will help on the production units. And once the fleets are using them, I see a market for

private sport utilities, because with future fuel economy regulations, it’s going to be hard to produce and sell something like an Escalade anymore. With the mileage requirements mandated for 2020, they’re either going to have to be rationed or be made way smaller. If you imagine a 100mpg Escalade, the big sport utilities that are now decried as irresponsible squanderers of global resources and contributing to global warming suddenly become environmental statements - guilt-free enjoyment of fullsize sport utilities, which a lot of people will pay for. Let’s face it, the full-size sport utility is a favorite vehicle of Americans. The only downside is they use so much fuel. If you can make that go away, whether an Escalade costs $65,000 or $85,000, the guy who buys or leases those doesn’t care. How well adopted within the fleet market do you think the E-REVs will be by the aforementioned 2020 date? BL: Pretty darn well, assuming they perform well, and that gasoline doesn’t suddenly get cheap again, which

APR/MAY 2012 59


would be a long shot. The only way they could do that is with massive federal subsidies, and the country can’t afford that. The current fuel prices aren’t Obama’s fault any more than it was Bush’s fault when it shot up to $4.25 in ‘08. Presidents can’t influence fuel prices. What’s your take on the status of the Volt and its future prospects? BL: I can’t speak for General Motors, but it has been successful in its most important task, which is to change the technological image of General Motors, from a laggard in environmental technology to a world leader. I think the Volt has garnered more awards than any other vehicle in history. There was North American Car of the Year, Green Car of the Year, all the magazines gave it Car of the Year. The European Car of the Year jury, which is like 60


journalists, named it Car of the Year. And the awards are still pouring in. The level of owner satisfaction is extremely high. Quality and reliability is extremely high. But the downside is that the political extreme right has been distorting the facts of the Volt. The Volt passed the government crash tests with a five-star safety rating, and didn’t roll over. But the testing protocol requires that even if the vehicle doesn’t roll, it has to go through the rotisserie maneuver, which is five minutes on one side, five minutes on its back, five minutes on the other side, and then back on its wheels again. At some point during the rotisserie, some fluid leaked out, and three weeks later caused a short in the battery and the vehicle caught fire. I mean, how safe it that? Three weeks should give people adequate time to exit the vehicle. And what did all these right-wing commentators make

two more battery packs until they caught fire to try to find the root cause of the initial fire. That of course in the media was: “GM grapples with additional Volt fires.” And these people are supposed to be for American jobs? They did such reputational damage to the Volt that the demand dipped to a very low level. So GM did the right thing, which was to idle production for 5 weeks and lay off workers. So here are these right-wing pundits who are always talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. Actually through their irresponsible reporting on the Chevrolet Volt they managed to put American workers out of their jobs for five weeks! It annoys me to no end. With all that damage, what is the future of the Volt?

Three weeks should give people adequate time to exit the vehicle.

of that? “Chevy Volts catch fire.” All of them were talking about “yeah, they all catch fire. GM’s gonna recall ‘em. There’s just another Obama-inspired program - a misguided socialist automotive policy. And not only did they spend a lot of your hard-earned tax dollars creating this vehicle, but now they put a $7500 tax credit on it.” Well, there are a couple of things wrong with all those statements. First of all, the Volt was my idea in 2006. We showed the first prototype at the Detroit Auto Show in 2007. Obama wasn’t elected until late 2008, so Obama could not be the progenitor of the Chevy Volt. And what they also conveniently forget is that the $7500 tax credit for electric vehicles was enacted under the Bush administration. As for Volts catching fire, the crashed one caught fire after three weeks, and then the NHTSA, in order to determine the root cause of the fire, deliberately mistreated

BL: It’ll be fine. It’s recovering from that. First of all, the American public has a short memory. After all the Toyota problems people said “Toyota will never come back.” Well, Toyota’s back. If you ask the average American “Did Audi ever have unintended acceleration?” people say, “What’s that? Don’t remember it.” These things do fade away. By the way, no electric vehicle has ever caught fire in normal service, but 275,000 gasoline-powered vehicles burn to a crisp in the United States every year - one every 120 seconds. [Editor’s note: the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ figure is 250,000 gasoline vehicles per year.] Well, where’s the outrage when gasoline-powered vehicles catch fire? That’s considered normal. Every movie where there’s a crash sequence: bum-BOOM! As a conservative myself politically, it annoys me no end to see deliberate lying and misinformation coming out where they will trash an outstanding American product and do damage to American employment just to get at Obama. That’s just plain unethical. But the car will be all right. The reason we made it a Chevrolet instead of a Cadillac is because Chevrolet is GM’s go-to brand. And the Volt is going to be the first American car in a long time that was designed for global markets, meets safety standards the world over. We built all that in at the beginning. It meets European crash and lighting requirements, European bumper standards. It meets Chinese bumper standards. All of that was incorporated from the beginning to where the Volt is exportable without modification throughout the world. And that’s just beginning now. There’ll be good demand in Europe, and very good demand in China, because the Chinese have a lot of money and they love new technology. The Volt will be fine.

APR/MAY 2012 61

BOB LUTZ What’s the most compelling argument for EVs regardless of political viewpoints? BL: Energy conservation and - in the case of the VIA truck - cost reduction. Electric drive is just inherently more efficient than internal combustion. With the advances in batteries, I think it’s the wave of the future. We’re in a transition period that’s going to last 10 or 15 years. Ultimately, motor vehicle traffic is going to be all electric, maybe with inductive rails in the highways, where once you’re on the highway you’re no longer running on your battery, you’re running on an inductive charge that comes from embedded cables in the highway. Once the whole system transitions over, we can use petroleum for making plastic.

I’m still a global warming skeptic.

Early adopters are driving EV sales now, but are there enough of them to propel EVs into the mainstream? BL: Well, Moore’s Law doesn’t apply to automobiles. Moore’s Law applies to electronics because you can keep miniaturizing the components and take cost and mass out. All of the electronics guys who say that the automobile industry are idiots because they’ve never heard of Moore’s Law, I say, if the rule was that every computer is not allowed to get smaller - they have to be like the computers in the ‘60s where they take up whole rooms you guys wouldn’t have Moore’s Law either, because you’d have to have that much material! That’s one of the reasons that cost is going to come down gradually. The big breakthrough is going to come when lithium-ion batteries have about 10 times the energy density that they do today. That would permit a Volt-size battery pack to give you 400 miles. At that point you forget the gas engine and a lot of cost comes out. So ultimately, they’ll be no more expensive than conventional vehicles. How do you think the movie Revenge of the Electric Car came out? BL: Well, I think it came out well. As always, I’m ambivalent about the political message. His first movie [Chris Paine’s Who Killed the Electric Car?] implied that GM sold out to the oil companies. And I think - after we got to know each other - he felt bad enough about that movie that he said “I’m gonna do another one.” I wasn’t thrilled with Dan Neil saying that I was known as a global warming skeptic but that I had obviously had


an epiphany. Well, I haven’t had an epiphany. I’m still a global warming skeptic. It was sort of an attempt to say “he used to be a bad guy, but now he’s come over to the good side.” No. I wanted to do the Volt because my competitive instinct is such that if sports cars are in vogue, then we’ll lay down the specs and design one to kill all the competitors. But at this point what was in vogue in the nation’s media was, “hey, that horsepower stuff was yesterday. The really smart companies can figure out the vehicles of a less energy-consumptive future.” And Toyota was winning that race because of the Prius. The Prius rubbed off so much on other Toyotas that I’ve encountered people who drove a Toyota Sequoia, and they’d say, “It’s a Toyota, so it uses less fuel.” I’d say “Really? What’s your highway mileage?” “Oh, I get about 14.” Well a [Chevrolet] Tahoe gets 22. So that Prius green image just radiated out on the whole Toyota brand, and it was getting to be really damaging in sales. People would say, “the Japanese can figure this stuff out. Detroit is braindead.” Something had to be done. It really fired up the competitive juices, and I said “all right, if that’s where the contest is, we’ll win that one, too.” Catch more of Bob Lutz’s opinionated musings on the automotive industry, our energy future, and politics on his always entertaining Forbes blog.

Let’s go for a spin

Just as we've comfortably settled into a new E-REV alpha unit pick up truck, Mr. Lutz regales us with the story of the first time he ever drove. “It was a '39 Ford coupe, when I was eight years old,” Lutz said. “I asked my uncle what a clutch was, and he said, ‘Ah, you have to experience it.’ We were in our driveway and he said, ‘Put your foot on that thing over there, slowly lift off, and add throttle.’ Anyway, I popped the clutch then hit the throttle, we went peeling out of the driveway, did a 180, and came back and hit our own stone wall.” Luckily for us, the former GM Vice Chairman has gotten the hang of this driving thing in the 70+ years since his dubious debut. Even if he hadn’t, there’d be no such clutch problems in the plug-in electric hybrid E-REV truck. And the integrated dashboard iPad should be able to handle searching for directions or the nearest tow

service should something unexpected happen. David West, Chief Marketing Officer of VIA, has informed us that this alpha unit of the Extended-Range Electric VTRUX has a hand-built gear box, so "it's still a bit whiny" compared to the beta units that VIA will debut for PG&E tomorrow. Also, the one we’re riding in only packs about 250 hp, compared to the 402 hp of a production unit. Any inkling of doubt proves for naught, however, as Lutz powers up the E-REV to the total silence that he says reminds him of his baby, the Chevrolet Volt. “Everyone says its a luxury car,” Lutz said of the Volt, “because it rides easy, and it makes no noise.” After a smooth few miles up the bay-side coast of the San Francisco peninsula, we make it back to parking lot, roll to a stop to the sound of what EV supporters hope will be the new Heartbeat of America: no sound at all.

APR/MAY 2012 63




Servicing the rapidly growing fleet of advanced battery powered vehicles BY MICHAEL KENT



ews flash: EVs will suffer from manufacturing defects at approximately the same rate as their gasfueled cousins. You can Six Sigma processes until you’re blue in the face, but machines designed and built by us mere mortals will always find a new way to break unexpectedly. So what happens when they do? If the issue involves hybrid or EV battery packs, enter Midtronics, a producer of battery management technology since 1984. Midtronics works with nearly every vehicle original equipment manufacturer (OEM) worldwide to provide custom solutions for battery management, including battery and electrical diagnostics, charging, information systems, and integrated solutions. As the provider of required tools for vehicle OEMs, the introduction of advanced electrification in vehicles has given them the unique opportunity to provide multiple levels of dealer service solutions for this emerging market.

The Tools

Midtronics’ GRX-5000 EV Battery Module Diagnostic Station is a platform first created for Nissan in support of the LEAF program. As a diagnostic/service platform, it has the ability to perform both battery module balancing and diagnostics. This allows OEMs to implement a more cost-effective battery pack service strategy. If the battery pack in a vehicle is not designed for dealer service, like several of the existing hybrid vehicles, the only option for the dealer with a cell, module, or pack problem is to replace the entire pack.

APR/MAY 2012 65



This could become costly for dealers and/or OEMs, if expected life spans for given battery packs are not achieved. An alternative strategy, supported by the GRX-5000, is to design and build the battery pack with removable modules so that service can be performed below the pack level. In this scenario, a pack with an issue could be removed from the vehicle and disassembled to the required module level to solve the problem. A faulty battery module can then be replaced in the overall pack, and the pack re-installed in the vehicle. To confirm that the vehicle pack will function correctly with the replacement module, the GRX-5000 performs a balancing function to ensure it matches the correct State of Charge/State of Health for the given pack.

GRX-5000 EV Battery Module Diagnostic Station

The GRX-5100 Hybrid Battery Pack Diagnostic Station has been designed to perform full pack service, including balancing, full discharge and diagnostics, or as a jump-start unit for either NiMH or lithium-based hybrid vehicles. Midtronics is using this base platform to work with several OEMs to develop tools that can be used for full pack service and/or for individual modules when those modules are in higher-voltage configurations.

The HYB-1000 Hybrid Battery System Analyzer is a diagnostic tool for hybrid battery packs. It is an aftermarket tool that allows the user to perform driving tests while connected to the vehicle On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) system. Sensor measurements from the vehicle during acceleration and braking are used to analyze the battery pack under stress and report its State of Health. The HYB-1000 can also read and reset battery-related trouble codes. The most useful HYB-1000 application is for used vehicles. When a customer is considering purchase of a used hybrid vehicle, there will always be a confidence issue with a used battery pack. Using the HYB-1000, car dealers can show customers a printout of the pack health to help minimize the buyer’s potential anxiety. If dealers find weak or failing packs, they can ensure that they address and resolve the issue pre-sale to avoid selling a problem vehicle.


GRX-5100 Hybrid Battery Module Diagnostic Station

Photos courtesy of Midtronics

Safety First The GRX-5100 can also perform a full pack discharge, so that packs in vehicles damaged in accidents can be discharged to a safe level prior to vehicle storage. Additionally, this handy tool is targeted as a solution for reclamation yards, where it can be used to perform safety checks, diagnostics and discharge, whether a pack is in or out of the vehicle. In this application, the GRX-5100 is also an effective tool to ensure that good and/or defective packs are discharged to a safe level for shipment.

HYB-1000 Hybrid Battery System Analyzer




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Nissan LEAF Battery Pack

What does the future hold for battery pack service/maintenance? “When, as is currently the case, the number of EVs sold is relatively small, OEMs are more accepting of the high cost for each service, assuming the scope of service incidents remains small. However, as the number of EVs on the road grows, the potential for problems and OEM costs for warranty issues will increase accordingly. “Our focus is to work with our

LEAF Battery Pack Assembly

Photos courtesy of Nissan

“The biggest challenge is to make battery/battery pack serviceability a more important topic earlier in the vehicle design phase. As the number of electrified vehicles in the marketplace increases, so too will the need for more serviceable designs to help ensure that battery cost doesn’t become a liability,” said Will Sampson, Executive Director of Marketing at Midtronics.

customers to create effective strategies to help drive down the cost of vehicle electrification. If better battery pack service models are developed, the cost penalty for OEMs and consumers will begin to shrink. A battery pack will no longer need to be guaranteed for 10 years, because there will be more inexpensive and efficient service options than costly full pack replacement.”

LEAF Battery Pack Mounting

APR/MAY 2012 69


Envia Systems crushed the record for energy density of an automotive rechargeable Li-ion battery at

400Wh/kg. Now all the small startup has to do is partner with everybody, become the industry standard, and change the world.

Photos courtesy of Envia Systems


THE FRONT LINE The Envia Systems Team

Envia promises that when commercialized, its 400Wh/kg battery technology will cut the cost of a 300-mile range EV in half.




ost of us know the public library as a place to get some free Wi-Fi, meet up with people for Craigslist transactions, and oh yeah, maybe even borrow a book. Sadly, most do not use the publicly-funded institutions of knowledge to determine how we’re going to shape the future of personal transportation. Yet that’s just what happened in July of 2007 when Mike Sinkula and Dr. Sujeet Kumar devised a plan for Envia Systems in a public library. “We had the idea that electric vehicles need higher energy, because their main limitations were the range and the cost,” said Dr. Kumar, who is now President and Chief Technology Officer of the Newark, California-based private company. “We wanted to build high-energy batteries at low cost for electric vehicles,” he continued. “We saw an opportunity there.” Credit that foresight for Envia’s announcement in February that the company achieved the highest-ever recorded energy density for a rechargeable lithium-ion cell: 400 Watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). That’s more than double the energy density of the state-of-the-art EV batteries that we see on the road this year. What’s more significant is that Envia’s record-breaking test was not simply a proof-of-concept test, like when geeks armed with liquid nitrogen and protective gear overclock a PC processor to insane levels for a few seconds. The real-world EV battery test featured Envia’s automotive grade 45 Amp-hour (Ah) cell, under the supervision of ARPA-E (Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy), a US federal agency that searches for domestic energy R&D initiatives to promote and fund. Envia promises that when commercialized, its 400Wh/kg battery technology will cut the cost of a 300-mile-range EV in half. It sounds fantastic on paper, but when and how will Envia take these highly-charged power packs to market?

APR/MAY 2012 73



Kumar, who has a Ph.D. in Materials Science and a background in developing lithium batteries for Greatbatch, co-founded Envia with Sinkula, who is Envia’s Director of Business Development. Atul Kapadia came onboard as the founding investor, and is now Chairman and CEO of Envia. “I think our accomplishment is pretty formidable,” Kapadia said. “If you want to be in an automobile five years from today, you better be getting qualified today. If not, then there’s no chance that you’re going to be in the next generation of vehicles. And Envia is being qualified.” When the Electrochemical Power Systems Department at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana performed ARPA-E’s test of Envia’s batteries, the batteries cycled a total of 23 times. However, Kumar later claimed that in Envia’s California lab, the same batteries have cycled more than 500 times, about half of the 1000 cycles a battery needs to meet automotive production standards. “If you have a battery that cycles below 100 times, that means there’s a lot of science left,” Kumar explained. “If a battery has cycled 300, 400 times, then it’s mostly engineering that can take it all the way to 1000. So there is some engineering left in our 400 Wh/kg battery - it’s not all done.” Three core proprietary components set Envia’s 400Wh/kg Li-ion batteries apart: the HCMR (High Capacity Manganese Rich) cathode, the Si-C anode, and the EHV Electrolyte. The readiness of these components will determine how


Engineering Notes


The Naval Surface Warfare Center - Crane Division, under sponsorship of ARPA-E, performed tests on Envia’s batteries to verify their claims. Here are some excerpts from their test report.

Envia Systems Prototype Cell Test GDD GXS 12-005 1. Introduction

1.1 Naval Service Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) Test & Evaluation Branch was tasked by Advanced Research Products Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) to perform Verification & Validation testing on two high capacity lithium ion pouch type cells, manufactured by Envia Systems of Newark, California. The testing included verification of cell capacity and energy density at C/10 and C/3, 100% depth of discharge (DOD), as well as cell capacity and energy density at C/3, 80% DOD. One cycle at C/20 was performed at the manufacturer, therefore Crane's cycling started at cycle 2. Total testing cycles were 23, with 22 of those being performed at Crane (Cycles 2-23).

2. Test Samples

2.1 The Envia Systems cells are prototype lithium pouch rechargeable cells. The cells have a capacity of 46 Ah and an energy density of 400Wh/Kg. The cell's dimensions are approximately 97 mm wide, 190 mm long and 10 mm thick. The cell's approximate weight is 365 grams. Cell serial numbers are 400WhK-07-005-111205 (designated as 005) and 400WhK-07006-111205 (designated as 006).

5. Conclusions

5.1 One of the highest energy cells used in consumer applications is the NCR18650A manufactured by Panasonic, which can be used as a comparative asset to the Envia cells. The NCR18650A cell specification claims 3100 mAh capacity, 3.6 V average and weighs 45.5 grams. The calculated energy density of this comparative cell would be approximately 245 Wh/Kg. 5.2 The test results from the prototype cells tested at Crane were in line with the results obtained from the manufacturer. The claims of 400 Wh/Kg were substantiated through the cycling tests performed at Crane. This is a 160% energy density increase over the industry standard indicated in paragraph 5.1.


Photo courtesy of Envia Systems

400 Wh/kg

Tesla Model S

240 Wh/kg

Courtesy of Tesla Motors

Chevy Volt Courtesy of GM

100-150 Wh/kg Nissan LEAF Courtesy of Nissan

Envia System’s prototype lithium pouch cells

soon the batteries go to market. “Our cathode is very unique,” Kumar said. “It has two times more capacity than the highest-capacity cathode in the market today. Secondly, it is based on manganese, which is a low-cost metal. So in increasing the capacity, we have actually reduced the cost compared to the other highestcapacity cathode, which is very nickel-rich.” It’s the combination of increased energy density, which will requires less battery material per Watt-hour, with a change in cathode composition away from nickel to manganese, that results in the anticipated cost savings of 50 percent over today’s best known competition. That comes from Panasonic’s partnership with Tesla Motors to supply nickel-

type cathode Li-ion batteries for the Model S. Previous EVs were lucky to get 150 Wh/kg from their batteries, at an exorbitant cost of about $375 per kilowatt-hour in the case of the Nissan LEAF. The Model S may squeeze

which as Daily Tech reported, could help result in 300-mile range EVs for $20,000. “We don’t really care how many miles your car goes or what size the battery pack is,” Kapadia said. “If you use Envia’s technology, it will be cheaper per kilogram. By doubling the energy density, we halve the material. Secondly, by changing the composition, with high-grade manganese, we reduce the price further. We have a double punch on the pricing.” “Now thirdly,” Kumar continued, “because you have a high-energy battery, you also need less amount of anode, less amount of electrolyte, less amount of separator. It’s like a domino effect.”

Because you have a high-energy battery, you also need less amount of anode, less amount of electrolyte, less amount of separator. It’s like a domino effect. as much as 240Wh/kg from its Panasonic batteries, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is on record claiming that the battery cost, which now hovers above $200 per kilowatt-hour, should fall below $200 soon. The rough target price for Envia’s batteries is $125 per kilowatt-hour,

APR/MAY 2012 75

BATTERY TECH Envia’s cathode is the closest component to completion, one to two years away in the company’s estimation, and it has customers in the industry to whom it will begin delivering components as they are ready. But Kumar estimated that the full technology may be three to four years off. “The entire cell design falls right into the schedule that Envia has,” Kapadia said. “Envia’s goal is to have 8 to 10 percent of all vehicles on the road electric by 2018. If we can pro-

totype the entire package by 2015, we can see cars with this technology on the road by 2018.”


It may just be a matter of time before Envia wraps up the engineering of its batteries, but then there are further commercialization challenges: manufacturing, sales, financing. Envia has a materials pilot plant in Newark, California, and a cell

prototype plant in Jiaxing, China. But the company plans on its partners carrying the bulk of the manufacturing chores. Despite the proprietary components and manganese-rich cathode, Envia’s Li-ion technology can be produced using existing manufacturing techniques and tools. “The real intellectual property is in the materials - the cathode chemistry and the anode chemistry,” Kumar said. “We can take it to any other lithium-ion battery manufacturing

Engineering Notes An electrochemical storage cell - commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as a battery by most people - is comprised of two electrodes with different electronegativities (desire for electrons) suspended in an electrolyte (a polar solvent which can transport ions between the electrodes internally so that electrons can flow between the electrodes externally). The bigger the gap in electronegativity between the two electrodes, the higher the voltage the electrochemical cell will produce, but the electrolyte must not break down in the process (literally from electrolysis). Envia claims to have formulated improved electrode materials with much higher surface area and conductivity, as well as an electrolyte capable of withstanding a higher voltage. Together these improvements could allow a battery to store more electrical energy per unit volume and weight.

What makes Envia’s cells special? Cathode Envia has built on Argonne’s layered-layered chemistry to fine tune the composition of Ni, Co, Mn and Li2MnO3. They use a unique cathode chemistry based on a unique crystal structure. It is a High Capacity Manganese Rich (HCMR™) cathode coupled with proprietary nanocoating processes to further enhance cycle life. They claim innovations on particle morphology (particle size, shape, distribution, tap density & porosity), excellent stability at high voltages, and high capacities with long cycle life.


Envia uses silicon-carbon nanocomposite anodes. Through the research funded by an ARPA-E grant, they have been able to demonstrate very high capacities (1530 mAh/g) and promising cycle life performance.


Envia has developed a High Voltage Electrolyte. In cyclic voltammetry studies the electrolyte has shown stability up to 5.2V (vs Li/Li+) without any rapid increase in the oxidation currents. As opposed to standard electrolytes that have displayed almost complete oxidization above 4.5V.


Photo courtesy of Envia Systems


We can take it to any other lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. or Asia.

Despite the proprietary components and manganese-rich cathode, Envia’s Li-ion technology can be produced using existing manufacturing techniques and tools. plant in the US or Asia.” Kapadia further explained that Envia enjoys the flexibility of being a small private company, and will work with customers in a number of ways: a joint venture, a licenser of technology, or producing small runs

of its proprietary materials in its own plants. Envia is also well-funded, having raised $17 million in December 2010. “We have almost all the money in the bank right now,” Kapadia said. “Our burn is very low. We are very

capital-efficient. We have 35 people more than 80% of them are engineers and scientists. We have 16 Ph.D.s on our team. We will start partnering with our customers, the customers will introduce us to their supply chain, and we’ll start partnering with them.” While such easily-made plans can often go awry, Envia’s model seems to work well so far. Envia has pulled funding from a half dozen or so key investors, ranging from General Motors Ventures to Japanese chemical giant Asahi Kasei, and they look to build on that investment base when adding partners.

APR/MAY 2012 77

Using the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium’s test protocal, Envia conducted its own nail penetration testing using 20Ah and 40Ah cells.

A cell made with a non-Envia cathode

A cell made with an Envia HCMR cathode

Envia touts it’s cathode’s higher thermal stability as a deterrent to post-crash fires in EVs. “GM is one of the best investors for the advice they give us,” Kapadia said. “At the end of the day, they are the end customer, so we learn a lot from those guys. And there is nothing that binds us with GM that we cannot work with other automotive OEMs. GM has shown the highest level of ethics at our board meetings. They recuse themselves from meetings where we are discussing competitive programs or competitive specs.” Over the next year or two, Envia’s mission is to continue to engineer its technologies to meet the many specific specs required for its individual component customers it has in Europe, Japan, Korea, and the US. The company expects to announce some specific customers later this year, who will be among the first to utilize Envia’s proprietary materials. There should also be further announcements on the sustained cycling of Envia’s 400 Wh/kg tech-


nology and more about the safety components of the batteries. As of now, Envia touts its cathode’s higher thermal stability as a deterrent to post-crash fires in EVs. Another near-term goal for Envia is to seek out partnerships. “Our competition will probably end up becoming our partners,” Kapadia said. “Envia’s mission is to make the 300mile electric car real. The only way to make it real is to make it inexpensive, and to make it inexpensive you commoditize the market. We want to go out there and make everybody successful in bringing the prices of these batteries down.” As Envia plans to rely on partners for production, it’s going all-in on its intellectual property. Right now, the company has the best thing going, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be king of the energy density mountain forever, or that everyone will want to work with them before something else is developed.

“There is a massive macroeconomic capacity out there to make cells and batteries and materials,” Kumar said. “We worry less about production and manufacturing. When the customers come and start working with us, we can tap into their capacity to get these products to market. Our business model does not rely on economies of scale to bring cost down, like many of our competitors.” Supposing for a moment that Envia’s technology does take off with automotive partners, there is also an incalculable need for higherenergy-density rechargeables in the explosive fields of mobile computing, consumer electronics, and the like. Would Envia make a move into those fields? “All I can say is, stay tuned,” Kumar said. Stay tuned we will. More power for less money. It’s the future that everybody wants, and as soon as possible. We can’t wait to see if Envia is the one to take us there.

Photos courtesy of Envia Systems


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The Realities of

etting the most out of an electric vehicle requires an understanding of the charging basics. Two of the most common issues people ask me about are where to charge and how long charging takes. Often, people are concerned that charging stations aren’t on every corner the way gas stations are. On a recent trip, my wife and I drove past this gas station in Sooke, British Columbia:

Photo courtesy of Tom Saxton



Tom Saxton

EV-angelist, driver since 2008 & Vice President of Plug In America shares his thoughts on EV charging

We happily drove past it, knowing that unlike gas car owners, we would be able to refuel from any ordinary outlet. In this case the outlet was on the yurt we stayed at 45 miles from the nearest gas station. Charging from a simple 120V household outlet isn’t always an appropriate choice, but it is the most common and least expensive to set up. Knowing the types of charging available will help you choose the right electric vehicle for you, and plan for charging both at home and on the road.

APR/MAY 2012 81


Many people can get all the charging they need from the 120V outlet that’s already in their garage. This is called Level 1 Charging, or more disparagingly “trickle charging.” The Nissan LEAF will pick up about five miles of range per hour of charging from 120V. If your car is parked for at least 10 hours, that’s 40 miles or more of range, more than most Americans drive on a typical day. If you have access to an outlet where you park at night, you can just charge with the cable that comes with your car. If you have a typical daily commute, you don’t need to spend a dime on additional charging equipment. In the same way you charge overnight, if you can plug in to 120V outlet while your car sits for eight or more hours at work each day, most commuters with an EV-friendly employer could meet their normal charging needs at work. If you can charge at home and at work, an 80mile round-trip commute becomes very practical with just 120V charging. That’s all great for typical daily driving, but what happens when you have an exceptional day and drive the battery pack down to near empty? Even though a 10-hour overnight charge at 120V won’t get the car back up to full, it will give enough range for the next day’s normal drive. If you can get an extra couple of hours of charging each night, you’ll get back to a full charge after a few nights. Of course this doesn’t work if you frequently have back-to-back days of long drives unless you have access to faster charging either at home or elsewhere.


Level 2 Charging At Home and On The Road

Level 2 Charging is charging from a 240V source. This requires more than a simple outlet, but only a little more. Because of the higher voltage involved, a Level 2 charging station provides some extra safety by not sending power to the connector until it’s plugged into a car. Unlike a 120V outlet, a 240V connection can have any of a wide range of power capabilities, so a Level 2 charging station also tells the car how much power it

can draw, which may be anywhere from 12 amps to 80 amps. Because these charging stations are simple, they can supply power to a wide variety of current and future EVs, but it’s up to the vehicle to convert the power to what its battery needs and to manage the charging process. While you might hear someone refer to a charging station as a charger, the charger is really inside the car. The charger is the electronics and software needed to manage the car’s charging process.

Photo courtesy of Tom Saxton


The 2011 Nissan LEAF has a 3.3 kW charger that works with any charging station that supplies at least that much power, typically 240V on a 20-amp or higher breaker. This translates to about 12 miles of range per hour of charging, or about eight hours for a full charge from empty to full. If you’re planning to drive most of a LEAF’s range on a daily basis, the LEAF probably isn’t a good fit for you, which means for most LEAF drivers, a Level 2 charging station is overkill in the garage.

Level 2 gets much more interesting at higher power levels. A Tesla Roadster can use up to 240V/70A for a charge rate of about 60 miles of range per hour of charging. That’s pretty silly for an overnight charge if you only drive a typical 40 miles a day. Why would you pay $2,000 or more for a Level 2 charging station to get your overnight charge down to 40 minutes? On the road, 60 miles of range per hour makes a trip beyond an EV’s single charge range a lot more practi-

cal, especially if you have something interesting to do while charging. So here’s the funny thing: having a fast charging station at home may have very little value, but having a fast Level 2 charger in your car can be tremendously helpful for trips where you’re waiting for that charge instead of sleeping through it. By mid 2012 the Ford Focus is expected to be available with a 6.6 kW on-board charger, good for about 24 miles per hour of charging. Nissan will bump the LEAF to the same level

APR/MAY 2012 83

when they start production at their new Tennessee plant in 2012. The Tesla Roadster already supports 16.8 kW charging and the Tesla Model S will support up to 20 kW charging. For driving around town, and charging overnight, it’s not a big deal, but for trips beyond the single-charge range, high power Level 2 charging matters a lot.

DC Quick Charge

DC quick charge means charging at even higher levels from an external charging unit. By moving the electronics and smarts needed to manage charging outside the car, we can have faster charging without putting expensive high power management electronics into the car. This offers both opportunity and challenges. Because more of the charging electronics move outside the car, there are more issues in creating a standard every automaker can use. Higher power means more safety issues and the connector needs to


be larger to carry more power, again creating more complexity in creating a universal standard. There’s a standards war going on right now over DC Quick Charging. Nissan is using a standard widely deployed in Japan called CHAdeMO. The LEAF has an option for a CHAdeMO port to support DC quick charging that will charge an empty battery pack to 80% in under 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the American automakers are resisting CHAdeMO and working with SAE to create a different standard. At best, the SAE standard is a couple of years away from being adopted and deployed. Maybe CHAdeMO will win by being first. Maybe a new SAE standard will become the dominant standard in two to five years. Hopefully we won’t have some huge number of LEAFs and other EVs with CHAdeMO ports and nowhere to charge. Meanwhile, Tesla Motors isn’t satisfied with CHAdeMO, doesn’t want to wait for SAE, and wants a better

connector than either. They have told Model S reservation holders they plan to use a custom, compact connector that they claim will support 90 kW charging, nearly twice the rate of the current CHAdeMO stations. Will Tesla be successful in deploying their own proprietary charging network? Will their connector design shame SAE into picking a design that’s less unwieldy than the current prototype? We’ll see. DC quick charge stations require big power feeds and expensive electronics. I’ve heard a single station can cost between $25,000 and $100,000, although Nissan has recently announced a CHAdeMO station for just under $10,000. That’s a lot of capital investment to make back selling a cheap commodity. While EV drivers may be very happy to pay a large premium over the cost of electricity for the convenience of quick charging, most people will rarely need it. DC quick charge is also hard on

Photo courtesy of Tom Saxton


the battery pack. For today’s batteries, a charge rate that can fill the battery pack from empty to full in less than a couple of hours puts additional wear on the batteries and can shorten their useful lifetime. For this reason, the owner manual for the LEAF says, “Nissan recommends that quick charging not be performed more than once a day.” As an EV driver, I try to minimize doing the things that shorten battery life: high charge rates, charging to 100%, discharging below 10%, and straining the batteries when they are hot. So, a DC quick charge station is very expensive and is likely to have a low usage rate. Even if it’s priced competitively compared to home electricity rates, these stations may not get much use. If quick charging is priced higher, I expect it will get even less use. While I think DC quick charging could be incredibly helpful to EV drivers who want an occasional quick charge for a long drive, I personally don’t see a business model that makes it profitable. It will be nice if it happens, but I’m not counting on it.

Real World Charging

My wife and I have been driving electric since 2008 when we purchased one of the rare surviving 2002 Toyota RAV4-EVs. The RAV4-EV has a 100-mile range and a 6.6 kW charger. It’s been awesome for all our local driving. Most nights it only takes an hour or two to charge. For us, with no compatible public charging stations within hundreds of miles, it’s not practical for longer trips. In California where there are charging stations, owners can easily drive 150 miles in a day. Our Tesla Roadster has a 240-mile

range and a 16.8 kW charger. With the longer single-charge range and the faster on-board Level 2 charger, we can do more distant travel. There are a few 16.8 kW Tesla charging stations around that are a big help. In August we drove 300 miles from Seattle to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. To make the extra range, we just had to stop at a Tesla charging station in Ellensburg, Washington, while we ate a leisurely lunch. Spending a bit under two hours of charging to pick up an additional 100 miles of range is a welcome break in a sixhour drive, but if the Roadster only had a 3.3 kW charger, waiting eight hours for those miles would be an entirely different matter. On another trip the same month, we travelled to the San Juan Islands and then on to Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Over the course of a week, we drove 450 miles using only 120V charging. Our daily mileage was low enough that we were able to get all the charging we needed using ordinary outlets at hotels and B&Bs. With just a few adjustments to the schedule, a LEAF could make the same trip. Our 2011 Nissan LEAF has a 3.3 kW charger. Although that’s totally adequate for overnight charging, we’ve already bumped up against the charge rate limit. On a day when we needed to make a 50-mile trip to the airport just before lunch, a 20-mile trip into Bellevue and a 45-mile trip to Seattle in the evening, we couldn’t do all of that in the LEAF because it took too long to recharge after the airport trip, even using a different vehicle for the afternoon trip to leave the LEAF charging. That’s an unusual amount of driving for us, but it was frustrating to have our driving limited not by the battery, but by

the on-board charger. With a 6.6 kW or faster on-board charger we could have easily done it.

Advice to New EV Owners

For those considering purchasing their first EV, I’d recommend they be used primarily for local driving. We’re a few years away from having the cars and infrastructure needed for affordable EVs to make easy road trips. If you are eligible to receive a free Level 2 charging station through the EV Project, and don’t mind sharing information about your driving and charging, and your install costs don’t greatly exceed the $1,200 allowance, that’s a cheap way to get Level 2 charging in your garage. Go for it! If you can’t get a free charging station, and you typically drive under 40 miles per day, you will likely be well served using Level 1 charging with the supplied charging cord and an ordinary household outlet (preferably on a dedicated 20A outlet). I recommend you at least try it if the numbers work for you. Even if you eventually decide you need Level 2 charging, delaying purchasing may save you money as charging stations are a quickly evolving and competitive market. Be sure to check out the local EV community - there may be a chapter of the Electric Auto Association near you. At the national level, Plug In America helped with formulating the $7,500 EV tax credit (and made sure it was tied to battery size so we got usable EVs). Their work continues to make life better for EV owners through outreach, education, and legislative work. Both are excellent sources of current information for a new EV owner in this quickly changing environment.

APR/MAY 2012 85


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The Evolving EV Market NEW YORK CITY - This year’s New York International Auto Show was, as usual, a son et lumière, a festival of sight and sound. Speaking of the latter, my ears are still ringing from the introduction of the SRT Viper, a V-10-powered behemoth rollout with blaring rock and roll and smoking exhaust. But even the Viper showed green touches, as my friend Jim Kliesch of the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out - the hood and roof deck are mostly carbon fiber, the same stuff that reduces weight in the new BMW i3 “Megacity” car. Past New York shows have featured more electric and plug-in hybrid introductions. At this one, the central story was that even mainstream cars and SUVs are getting stellar fuel economy. The base version of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe will get 33 mpg on the highway, and the new Nissan Altima is targeted at 38. Despite 370 horsepower, the Acura RLX Concept promised 30 highway mpg from its “sport hybrid” configuration. The Chevy Impala with eAssist? 35 mpg. The lesson here is that the value proposition of electric cars won’t remain static, because the competition from fossil fuel will get more intense - especially as automakers cope with both $4 gas and the federal CAFE standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025. My car of the show was the Infiniti LE Concept, a really sharp evolution of the Nissan LEAF into an upscale four-door electric sedan. This is where battery cars have to go - not only stylish to the max but also family-friendly. The LE will lose some of its show vehicle glitz - the carved and illuminated plastic grille, the all-glass roof - but Chikuya Takada, a Nissan electric car product specialist, told me the wireless charging pad, or a version of it, will definitely make it into production. It’s essential to keep the Infiniti affordable, or it won’t make much of an impact on the market when it debuts in 2014. Electric cars are a work in progress, and that progress is likely to be rapid. But Obama haters have the long knives out, and a bad month for the Volt or

LEAF triggers an avalanche of bad press. But with the “they catch fire” controversy fading, the Volt doubled sales last March. It’s not realistic to Infiniti LE Concept expect newtech cars, carrying a price premium and a new way of “filling up,” to take off like bottle rockets. I’m with Carlos Ghosn of Nissan, who proclaimed at the show that the LEAF is the best-selling EV in history. Two months of LEAF sales equals the entire run of the GM EV-1, so that’s something to celebrate. David Walls of Navigant, a consulting firm that specializes in renewable energy, takes the long view. “The market for electric vehicles is going to take some time to develop,” he said. “The expectations were too high relative to what was achievable.” Consider the switch from the horse to the car, or the landline to the cellphone. Did either of those happen overnight? Ceres, the green investment champions, predict that electric and plug-in hybrid cars will have 2.6 percent of the market by 2015, which is cautious but maybe on target. Getting to President Obama’s goal of a million such cars on the road by then is a stretch goal, but I haven’t budged from my view that the future of the automobile is electric. It’s the timetable that stubbornly refuses to be pinned down. JIM MOTAVALLI is a contributor to the New York Times, Car Talk at NPR and Mother Nature Network. He is the author most recently of High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug in the Auto Industry (Rodale).

Photo courtesy of Infiniti USA

By Jim Motavalli

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Plug In. Charge On.