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the vehicles

54 Fisker’s future


Tony Posawatz on recalls, the Atlantic, and the future

64 eFleets

FedEx, PG&E, and Dow Kokam offer electric fleet insights

82 Phoenix LEAFs

Battery degradation, data-hungry customers, and an EV advisory committee


current events


Cadillac to begin production of plug-in ELR C-MAX Energi earns triple-digit MPGe rating

82 15

Pricing announced for 2013 smart fortwo electric Zero Motorcycles’ 2013 lineup unveiled



BYD to supply 50 EVs for London taxi trial Volvo sells out first batch of V60 diesel PHEV

the tech


26 Switched reluctance motors

A closer look at the simple and robust traction motor technology


30 Accelerating battery technology

How ANSYS and Wildcat Discovery Technologies can help you build better batteries faster

48 Driving drivetrain development

Schaeffler North America’s Jeff Hemphill on the future of electric drive


90 Modeling the immeasurable

Bosch Research and Technology Center, Cobasys, and UC San Diego are developing advanced battery algorithms

current events



NEC develops prototype 4.5V Li-ion cells AllCell patents phase-change heat management


CalBattery touts new anode material test results A123 to sell automotive assets to Johnson Controls


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the infrastructure

38 Multi-unit



MUDs present major obstacles to urban EV ownership



Test, then retest


Region by region

Gridtest CEO Neal Roche on critical EVSE safety and interoperability issues discovered in the field

Electric utilities face different challenges in different parts of the country

current events



AeroVironment offers “portable� L2 EVSE SAE publishes new combo charger standard



Better Place founder Shai Agassi yields CEO role


Judge dismisses ECOtality v. CPUC petition Tesla offers Model S drivers free supercharging


Publisher’s Note Can’t we all just get along?

To me, electric vehicles are about the numbers. They offer an opportunity to beat ICEs by big margins in economic terms. On the micro level, EVs will always be cheaper to operate than conventional vehicles. Fuel costs for a plug-in are the equivalent of paying as little as $1/gallon for gasoline. And the potential for maintenance cost savings is equally appealing. On the macro level, switching from petroleum to electricity means using domestically produced fuel. Buy a vehicle made locally, and your transportation needs are entirely fulfilled domestically. That’s a powerful proposition. Who could argue with that potential? Well, politicians and pundits of course, for whom demonizing the positions of opponents is the name of the game. In the few years since the latest insurgence of the EV industry, we’ve heard a multitude of politically motivated attacks against the companies, the technology, and the government’s involvement in both. How best to spend our tax dollars is a real concern that deserves a real debate, particularly in this economic climate. I contend that encouraging growth in the EV industry is one of the best investments we can make in our economic stability and national security. Unfortunately, not many seem particularly interested in a real debate, and the loudest electric-naysayers focus on scandalous nonsense and highly publicized nonevents. Every single president since Richard Nixon has publicly trumpeted the importance of an energy-independent future, with “big plans” to reduce our use of foreign oil. That includes Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. It is a universally accepted good idea. That is, until political hay can be made attacking one another’s energy or economic policies. There is little doubt that in the near future EVs will rise in popularity, the price premium will drop, and the economic and national security benefits will become clearer and clearer. At that time, like the sun rising tomorrow, you can expect every politician to take credit as “long-time” champions of energy independence. EVs are here. Try to keep up. Christian Ruoff Publisher


Christian Ruoff Publisher Laurel Zimmer Associate Publisher Charlie Morris Senior Editor Markkus Rovito Associate Editor Jeffrey Jenkins Technology Editor Joey Stetter Copy Editor Nick Sirotich Illustrator & Designer Nate Greco Contributing Artist Lisa Naugle Senior Account Executive Electronics & Components Contributing Writers Bob Bruninga David Herron Jeffrey Jenkins Michael Kent Charlie Morris Markkus Rovito Contributing Photographers Rick Hall Brian Hicks Erik Jepsen Kevin Krejci Alex Proimos Kevin Stanchfield Cover Image Courtesy of Fisker Automotive Special Thanks to Kelly Ruoff Sebestien Bourgeois For Letters to the Editor, Article Submissions, & Advertising Inquiries Contact









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November 13-15, 2012

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Lithium Battery Power & Battery Safety December 4-7, 2012

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Advanced Automotive Battery Conference February 4–8, 2013

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SAE Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium February 19-21, 2013 For more information on industry events visit

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to the

Letter Editor

Donald Bowen's article "Improving Charging Station Deployment" was right on the money with respect to the Best Practices for deployment of charging stations. But he did miss the opportunity to mention the #1 request of all EV owners: that EV charging spaces not be in prime locations, but actually the opposite. It is counter-intuitive, but 100 percent of the membership in our EV club (EVADC) would far prefer to park 100 feet further away if it improved the odds that the space would not be blocked by an inconsiderate gas car driver. Mr. Bowen did mention this common problem of being ICE'd out, but he missed the opportunity to mention the simple solution. Always place EV charging stations far from the prime parking spots where possible. Well meaning Greenies (who don't own EVs) tend to place EV charging stations in the best locations thinking it will incentivize EV purchasing. In fact, it does the opposite. It builds up EV animosity by gas car drivers and significantly increases the odds that the space will be ICE'd out. The gas car driver does not yet understand the dependence that EV drivers have on being able to charge. We must remove the temptation of other drivers by placing all EV charging stations far from the front door for now. Though, still they should be in an EYE-CATCHING and highly visible location where possible. Another thing we have found for public garages with 120 V outlets, the signage should read "EV CHARGING - Open Parking after 9 AM." This allows the EV drivers first crack at the space, but as the garage fills to capacity and the space is not filled with an EV, then someone else can park there. Again, this is equitable sharing and avoiding the buildup of EV animosity. Bob Bruninga, PE EV Association of DC/Maryland IEEE National Committee on Transportation and Aerospace Maryland EV Infrastructure Council (public member)

Send your letters to the editor to


It is counterintuitive, but 100 percent of the membership in our EV club (EVADC) would far prefer to park 100 feet further away if it improved the odds that the space would not be blocked by an inconsiderate gas car driver.


OCT/NOV 2012 13

CURRENT events C-MAX Energi earns triple-digit MPGe rating The EPA has awarded Ford’s new C-MAX Energi a best-in-class combined rating of 100 MPGe (108 MPGe city), which the EPA says will help customers save nearly $7,000 in fuel costs in five years.

Cadillac to begin production of plug-in ELR

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Photo courtesy of Ford

GM announced that the Cadillac ELR, a luxury plug-in electric hybrid, will go into production in late 2013. The ELR, which is based on the Cadillac Converj concept introduced at the Detroit auto show in 2009, will go on sale in the US soon after production begins.

[The Cadillac ELR] will be in a class by itself, further proof of our commitment to electric vehicles and advanced technology. People will instantly recognize it as a Cadillac by its distinctive, signature look and true-to-concept exterior design. Mark Reuss, GM North American President

GM offered no technical details for the ELR, but has said that it will operate much like the Volt, and will also be built at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant. Adding ELR production at “D-Ham” represents a $35 million investment, and brings the company’s total investment in the plant to $561 million since 2009. GM has said that its major investment in developing the Volt will begin to pay off as it introduces more PHEVs such as the ELR.


The EPA also rated the new plug-in hybrid with a 620-mile range on a single tank and a single charge. Ford is quick to point out that this takes customers 80 miles further than the Toyota Prius Plug-in, and that the C-MAX Energi’s 21-mile all-electric range is more than triple that of the Prius Plug-in. At $29,995 (after a $3,750 federal tax credit), Ford touts its C-MAX Energi as America’s most affordable plug-in hybrid. When it goes on sale in early 2013, the new PHEV will join the C-MAX Hybrid as part of Ford’s first hybrid-only line of cars.

C-MAX Energi is America’s most efficient utility vehicle, a great symbol of how Ford gives customers the power to choose leading fuel-efficiency across our lineup with gas prices spiraling upwards of $5 a gallon in some parts of the country. The C-MAX Energi’s leading range also means customers can spend more time on the road and more money on their priorities instead of at the gas pump. John Davis, C-MAX Chief Engineer

vehicles the vehicles

Zero Motorcycles’ 2013 lineup unveiled

Pricing announced for 2013 smart fortwo electric

Zero Motorcycles has announced its 2013 model line, which features an average power increase of 99 percent, thanks to the new Z-Force air-cooled motor and a new higher-voltage Z-Force power pack. An optional accessory allows each Zero to be charged to 95 percent in an hour or less using CHAdeMO charge stations. North American deliveries will begin in January.

According to the company, the possibility of an electric drivetrain was part of the smart concept from the beginning, so the electric version has the same outside footprint (the smallest of any car on US roads) interior room and cargo space as the gas model. In smart’s first electric drive pilot project in 2007, fleet operators tested 100 cars in downtown London. The test cars used high-temperature sodium-nickelchloride batteries, and had a range of about 60 miles. The next generation, launched in 2009, used lithium-ion batteries and was tested with 2,000 cars in 18 markets around the world. Now smart says the EV is ready for the general consumer market. Production began in June at the company’s factory in Hambach, France, and deliveries in Europe are scheduled to begin soon. The tiny two-seater sports a 55 kW motor and a 17.6 kWh battery. Maximum speed is 78 mph, and range is approximately 90 miles in city traffic.

Photo courtesy of Zero Motorcycles

Photo courtesy of Daimler

Calling it “a natural next step,” smart (owned by Daimler) has announced more details about the new smart fortwo electric drive, which will go on sale in the US in spring 2013. The US retail price is $25,000 for the Coupé and $28,000 for the Cabrio (convertible), making it the lowest-priced production EV available.

Stars of the stable include the Zero S, which the company claims has the longest range of any production electric motorcycle: 137 miles in the city; and the Zero FX, a “ride-anywhere urban rebel motorcycle” that offers the fastest acceleration in the lineup, with 70 ft-lbs of torque, 44 hp and a weight of 275 lbs.

With up to 137 miles range in the city, a top speed of 95 mph and a CHAdeMO accessory that allows recharging in around an hour, the 2013 model line is truly exceptional. This year’s lineup offers breathtaking acceleration, new eye-catching designs, and the innovative ability to customize the riding experience to each individual’s preferences via a mobile application. We invite consumers to discover the experience of riding a 2013 model by contacting an authorized dealer to sign up for a test ride or to place an order. Richard Walker, Zero Motorcycles CEO

Street-legal models come with a two-year limited warranty. Prices range from $7,995 to $15,995.

OCT/NOV 2012 15


the vehicles

Volvo sells out first batch of V60 diesel PHEV

Volvo announced that the first 1,000 units of its V60 Plug-in Hybrid have sold out in Europe (no plans to sell in the US), before the car even reached the showrooms. The world’s first diesel PHEV features a unique design: a 2.4 liter, five-cylinder turbodiesel powers the front wheels, while a 70 hp electric motor drives the rear wheels.

BYD to supply 50 e6 models for London taxi trial

Photo courtesy of BYD

Photo courtesy of Volvo

Chinese automaker BYD and London minicab operator greentomatocars have signed a memorandum of understanding calling for BYD to supply 50 e6 electric vehicles to greentomatocars, which operates about 300 minicabs in Cool Britannia’s capital (“minicabs” are ordinary cars used as cabs, as opposed to the city’s famous diesel-powered black taxicabs). The new zero-emission taxis are expected to be in use from the second quarter of 2013.

BYD is one of the world’s largest rechargeable battery manufacturers and branched out into the auto business in 2003. It builds electric passenger cars, buses, and trucks. Its five-seat e6 crossover features a 75 kW motor, a range of up to 186 miles in urban conditions, and a top speed of 87 mph. It uses BYD’s own lithium iron phosphate battery, which the company claims is good for more than 4,000 charge/ discharge cycles.

It is my aim that London’s minicabs and taxis will be zero-emission by 2020, which will have a major impact on air quality. Every year the fleet is getting cleaner, making our city an even more attractive place to live, work and visit. Boris Johnson, London Mayor


The driver can choose from three modes: electriconly Pure Mode, which gives the V60 a range of about 30 miles; Hybrid Mode; and 4-wheel-drive Power Mode, in which it boasts 285 hp and 640 Nm of torque and can do 0-100 kph in 6.1 seconds.

None of our competitors can offer customers an equally ingenious car. It elevates hybrid technology to an entirely new level. The on-demand possibility to choose between the car’s three different temperaments makes the V60 Plug-in Hybrid superior to all other hybrids on the market. The V60 Plug-in Hybrid is the perfect choice for the uncompromising customer who wants minimum carbon dioxide emissions combined with maximum driving pleasure. Stefan Jacoby, Volvo CEO

The V60 PHEV was jointly developed by Volvo and Swedish electricity supplier Vattenfall. After the initial batch of 1,000 cars for model year 2013, Volvo will increase production to 5,000 units for model year 2014.

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the tech

the tech

NEC Corporation has developed a next-generation manganese lithium-ion battery prototype featuring cathodes that support high-voltage operations and an electrolyte solution that improves stability. A team from NEC’s Smart Energy Research Laboratories described the work at the Pacific Rim Meeting on Electrochemical and Solid-State Science (PRiME) 2012, in Honolulu. The company says the new batteries are able to perform high-voltage operations as a result of using nickel in replacement of a material in existing spinel structured manganese-based cathodes, which have a high level of safety while recharging. The use of these cathodes and graphite anodes enables the average operating voltage to increase to a high voltage of 4.5 V from the 3.8 V of existing technologies. As a result, energy density increased by approximately 30 percent, to 200 Wh/kg from 150 Wh/kg. This increases stored energy by approximately 30 percent when compared to existing batteries of the same weight. The solvent of the electrolyte solution was changed from a conventional carbonate-based solvent to a fluorinated solvent that is highly resistant to oxidation. This enables the suppression of oxidative decomposition where the electrolyte solution and the cathodes interface, which has posed a challenge for existing techniques.

These developments can contribute to increasing the driving range of electric vehicles, enabling the production of lightweight storage systems and simplifying the management of battery systems by decreasing the number of cells. Hidenori Shimawaki, NEC’s Smart Energy Research Laboratories General Manager


AllCell Technologies received a new US patent covering the use of phase-change materials (PCMs) to prevent thermal runaway propagation in electrochemical devices such as lithium-ion batteries. AllCell has developed a proprietary composite material composed of a conductive matrix impregnated with various PCMs that extends the cycle life of lithium-ion cells and can prevent the propagation of thermal runaway. AllCell’s thermal management technology uses phasechange materials to surround each lithium-ion cell, absorbing and conducting heat away to extend the life of the cells and prevent fire or battery damage. The company points out that complex liquid cooling systems add expense, reduce vehicle range, and are prone to leaks. AllCell’s technology requires no power to operate, has no moving parts, and can operate even when the vehicle is turned off.

We are very pleased to announce this enhancement of our IP position during a period of rapid growth for our company. AllCell is excited to contribute to the critical improvements in electric vehicle batteries required to transition from today’s limited market of early adopters to products with true massmarket appeal. Said Al-Hallaj, AllCell CEO

Earlier this year, AllCell announced the formation of AllCell Automotive, a joint venture with Townsend Ventures, LLC, to commercialize PCM technology in automotive applications. The joint venture is working with automotive OEMs to develop a new generation of lithium-ion batteries with PCM thermal management technology.

Photo courtesy of AllCell Technologies

NEC develops prototype 4.5V Li-ion cells

AllCell patents phasechange heat management

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the tech

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A123 to sell automotive assets to Johnson Controls

CalBattery touts new anode material test results

California Lithium Battery, a finalist in DOE’s 2012 Start Up America’s Next Top Energy Innovator challenge, has announced record-setting performance of its new “GEN3” silicon graphene composite anode material for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). The company claims that independent test results in full cell LIBs indicate the new GEN3 anode material increases energy density by three times and specific anode capacity by four times over existing LIBs. The independent full cell tests revealed performance characteristics with an energy density of 525 Wh/kg and specific anode capacity of 1,250 mAh/g. In contrast, most commercial LIBs have an energy density of between 100 and180 Wh/kg and a specific anode capacity of 325 mAh/g. For eight months CalBattery has been working with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) to commercialize the novel anode. The key to this new GEN3 battery material is the use of a breakthrough Argonne silicon graphene process that stabilizes the use of silicon in a lithium battery anode. Although Silicon absorbs lithium ten times better than any other anode material, it rapidly deteriorates during charge/discharge cycles. CalBattery is now in the process of fast-tracking the commercialization of its GEN3 anode material, and plans to set up silicon graphene anode material and LIB manufacturing operations in the Los Angeles area, based on interest in its products from US and international customers.

We believe that our new advanced silicon graphene anode composite material is so good in terms of specific capacity and extended cycle life that it will become a graphite anode ‘drop-in’ replacement material for anodes in most lithium-ion batteries over the next 2-3 years. Phil Roberts, CalBattery CEO


Battery maker A123 Systems announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and agreed to sell its automotive business assets to Johnson Controls for $125 million, as well as the stalking horse position in the bankruptcy process subject to Bankruptcy Court approval. Johnson Controls has chosen not to be the debtorin-possession (DIP) lender during A123’s bankruptcy process to avoid potential delays posed by threatened legal actions from The Wanxiang Group, a Chinese auto parts giant that planned to invest in the struggling A123.

We determined not to move forward with the previously announced Wanxiang agreement as a result of unanticipated and significant challenges to its completion. Since disclosing the Wanxiang agreement, we have simultaneously been evaluating contingencies, and we are pleased that Johnson Controls recognizes the inherent value of our automotive technology and automotive business assets. David Vieau, A123 Systems CEO

Johnson Controls also plans to expand its offer to include A123’s government business, including military contracts, during the bankruptcy process.

We have agreed to step aside as the DIP funder in order to keep the process moving and allow it to conclude in the most efficient manner possible. We want to reassure employees, customers, and other stakeholders that Johnson Controls remains committed to our acquisition of A123, which will keep a source of critical jobs, intellectual property, and advanced battery technology in the United States. Alex Molinaroli, president, Johnson Controls Power Solutions

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the infras AeroVironment announced the expansion of its EVSE-RS home charging product line with the introduction of the new EVSE-RS PlugIn, which plugs into a dedicated 240 V outlet, eliminating the need to hardwire the charging station into a home. The SAE-J1772compliant charger slides in and out of a wall-mounted bracket, allowing EV drivers to take their charging station with them to relatives’ homes, vacation homes, or any place equipped with a dedicated 240 V outlet.

All EV owners need is a dedicated 240 V outlet, and they can easily install the wall mount and plug-in charger at their home. If they want to remove it, they simply unplug, slide it out of the bracket, and take it with them to another location. Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment Senior VP

The EVSE-RS Plug-In displays a green light when the station is ready to charge, and stops automatically when charging is complete. Safety features include safeguards against live power, a breakaway safety cable, and automatic ground fault monitoring. The station comes with an installation kit and mounting template and retails for $1,099.


Photo courtesy of AeroVironment

AeroVironment offers “portable” L2 EVSE

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)’s longawaited standard for plug-in vehicle charging has been approved and published. The new revision to the J1772 standard incorporates AC Levels 1 and 2 (up to 80 amps), and DC Levels 1 and 2 (up to 200 amps), and allows all to be combined on a single connector. Eight US and European automakers have signed on to the new system, which was developed by some 190 global experts representing automakers, charging equipment makers, utilities and national labs. It includes standards for electrical systems, charge controllers, package dimensions and safety mechanisms, as well as a common broadband communication method.

This new standard reflects the many hours that top industry experts from around the world worked to achieve the best charging solution - a solution that helps vehicle electrification technology move forward. We now can offer users of this technology various charging options in one combined design. Gery Kissel, Chairman of the SAE J1772 Task Force

The new standard offers a number of improvements over the competing CHAdeMO standard, but the latter is already well established in Japan, and is also used by most existing vehicles and chargers in the US market. (Tesla proudly uses its own standard.) GM announced a few months ago that its Chevrolet Spark EV, which will go on sale in 2014, will be the first vehicle to implement the new SAE standard. It remains to be seen how much of a challenge the new multi-standard world will present to makers of EVs and charging equipment.

Photo courtesy of SAE

SAE publishes new combo charger standard

structure the infrastructure

Better Place founder Shai Agassi yields CEO role

Under Shai’s leadership, we’ve successfully achieved our goals in the first chapter of Better Place, and we owe Shai our gratitude for turning his powerful vision into a reality. It is almost five years to the day since Shai launched Better Place and a natural point in the company’s evolution to realign for its second chapter and for the challenges and opportunities ahead. Evan brings the right combination of entrepreneurship and coalition and team building to take Better Place to the next level. Idan Ofer, Better Place Chairman of the Board

Photo courtesy of Better Place

Better Place announced that Evan Thornley, the CEO of the company’s Australian unit, has been promoted to CEO of the global company. Founder and EV pioneer Shai Agassi will continue as a board member and shareholder. Better Place has a unique solution to EV range limitations: automated battery-switching stations. The company already has pilot programs going in China, Japan, Amsterdam, Israel, and Denmark.

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infrastruc the infrastructure

Tesla offers Model S drivers free supercharging

A California appeals judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by EV charging station provider ECOtality against the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). Back in March, NRG Energy made a deal with the CPUC to invest $100 million over the next four years to build an EV charging network. The agreement resolved a decade-old dispute between the state and a company acquired by NRG that was involved in the famous Enron debacle. The deal calls for NRG’s subsidy eVgo to install 200 DC fast-charging stations, as well as the electrical infrastructure to support 10,000 future Level 2 charging stations. eVgo will install the wiring for these “make ready” sites, and will have the exclusive right to install charging stations for 18 months. A pretty good deal for California’s EV industry, and a fantastic deal for eVgo, which is guaranteed a chunk of the charging business in the world’s largest EV market. To competitor ECOtality it smelled like a sweetheart deal, and the company filed a lawsuit in May seeking to kill the agreement. ECOtality alleged that the pact would give the out-of-state company a monopoly, and was negotiated with no public input. “This so-called ‘punishment’ is like a restaurant failing a health inspection then being given an exclusive franchise to open and operate every restaurant in the city, subsidized by public funds,” said ECOtality CEO Jonathan Read. After the judge’s ruling, ECOtality said in a statement, “While we are disappointed and disagree with the outcome of this case, we continue to see great opportunity for ECOtality and the whole of the electric vehicle industry in California. We look forward to working with our competitors and regulatory bodies to make sure California, our home, remains at the forefront of clean energy.”

Photo courtesy of Brian Hicks (flickr)

Judge dismisses ECOtality v. CPUC petition

Tesla has taken the wraps off its much-hyped Supercharger network, and revealed the locations of the first six secretly-constructed Supercharger stations in California. The sleek stations use Tesla’s proprietary technology to charge the EV at 90 kW, allowing Model S drivers to replenish three hours of driving at 60 mph in about half an hour, which Tesla figures is just the right timing to stop and have a coffee or a soda. Some of the stations generate energy from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity (another of Elon Musk’s companies), and, for now at least, charging is free to Model S owners. Each solar system is designed to generate more energy than is consumed by vehicles, resulting in a slight net positive transfer of power back to the electrical grid. Not only does this save energy (and money), but it’s good marketing for EVs in general, as it addresses the common misunderstanding that charging EVs simply pushes carbon emissions to the power plant, and gets people thinking about installing their own home solar systems.

Tesla’s Supercharger network is a gamechanger for electric vehicles, providing longdistance travel that has a level of convenience equivalent to gasoline cars for all practical purposes. However, by making electric longdistance travel at no cost, an impossibility for gasoline cars, Tesla is demonstrating just how fundamentally better electric transport can be. We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO

OCT/NOV 2012 25

the tech


Switched Reluctance Motors By Jeffrey Jenkins - Charged Technical Editor, power electronics guru, and Chief Electron Herder for Evnetics

he electronically-switched reluctance motor - often shortened to the switched reluctance motor, or SRM - has been gaining in popularity over the last decade because it is simple, robust, and arguably the least expensive of all motor types to manufacture. The reasons for the relatively late blooming of the SRM - the first reluctance motor was built in the 1800s by W.H. Taylor, after all - are that they are notoriously difficult to control and are often prone to emitting significant amounts of acoustical noise while in operation. Much research is underway to tackle these problems, though, and with a bit more refinement the SRM just might become the prime choice for the traction motor in electric


vehicles. The renowned Sir James Dyson, of Dyson Vacuum fame, developed and commercialized an SRM for a handheld vacuum that spun at a blistering 104,000 rpm, but it is somewhat telling - and, perhaps, cautionary - that Dyson appears to have gone back to a more traditional “brushless” motor design in subsequent models. The physical principles behind the reluctance motor are fairly simple. The first is that the magnetic analog of current, called flux, wants to travel the path of least magnetic resistance, called reluctance. The second is that low reluctance materials like iron and its alloys, nickel, cobalt, etc., tend to strongly align to an incident magnetic field.

Thus a reluctance motor merely has a rotor with alternating regions of high and low reluctance on it, and a stator with several electromagnets that when energized in sequence (and regardless of polarity!) will pull the low reluctance regions, or poles, along. This is quite a bit different from the way more familiar motors like series DC or AC induction work; in both of those motors torque is produced from the interaction of two separate magnetic fields (with both an attraction and repulsion component), while in the reluctance motor torque is strictly from magnetic attraction. Figure 1 shows a typical SRM design (called “6/4,” for the number of stator and rotor poles, respectively)


Phase Windings

4 Pole Rotor

Figure 1 - a typical SRM “6/4” design

with a bit more refinement the SRM just might become the prime choice for the traction motor in electric vehicles

that would be appropriate for traction applications. You can see that the stator has six windings spaced equidistantly while the rotor has four “salient poles,” which is an engineering term for areas of higher magnetic flux concentration. In this case, the salient poles are those parts of the rotor that are closest to the stator and are formed by simply cutting away parts of the rotor. As mentioned before, the SRM should be very inexpensive to manufacture for two main reasons. The first is that the SRM rotor is very simple and can be made out of a solid block of steel with notches for the salient poles, or even built up from a stack of thin steel stampings. The SRM rotor does not carry any

current, nor is an alternating field induced in it, so there is no need for a commutator and armature coils as in a DC motor, nor is there need of a cast metal “squirrel cage” as in an induction motor. The second reason it’s cheaper to make is that the stator is comprised of simple solenoid-wound electromagnets spaced evenly around it, much like the field coils in a DC motor. This is in stark contrast to the stator windings in an AC induction motor which must be wound in a complex distributed pattern into slots in the stator housing. One of the application advantages of the SRM is that the rotor does not experience flux reversals, so there are no “iron losses” to deal with inside it; all of the losses occur in the stator,

OCT/NOV 2012 27

the tech which is much easier to cool. This unipolar fluxing of the rotor also means it is perfectly acceptable to stall the SRM without damaging it, useful for holding a vehicle still on an incline or “proving” a load on a crane. Things are not so clear-cut from the perspective of the controller for the SRM, however. The first big difference is that the SRM requires unipolar excitation, not the bipolar (AC) excitation required by induction motors (and which the commutator in a DC motor synthesizes, by the way). This means a different power stage design is required for the SRM controller. One typical configuration is to wire each phase between the output terminals of two complementary switch/diode chopper modules (i.e., one module with the switch on top and the other with the switch on the bottom). The upshot of this is that you end up using twice as many modules as compared to the single half-bridge needed for each phase in an AC inverter, but you can drive each phase of the SRM with the full DC supply voltage. A worse problem for the SRM controller is that the inductance of each phase is proportional to the degree of alignment with the salient

the rotor position must be known (or predicted) with a high degree of accuracy and the current control loop for each winding must be very fast


All in all, the pluses of the SRM design are pretty compelling – cheap to manufacture, low to non-existent rotor losses, robust power stage topology poles of the rotor. As one or more rotor poles line up with a given stator winding, the inductance of that winding shoots up, making it harder to push the correct amount of current through it at the correct time. Conversely, as the rotor pole moves away from the winding, its inductance once again drops. The worst thing about this is that rotor torque will only be positive as current is supplied to the winding when inductance is increasing; the torque turns negative - i.e., regeneration occurs when the inductance is falling. Thus, small timing errors in the delivery of current to each winding can result in less torque than expected, vibrations from the torque being inconsistent from phase winding to phase winding, or even from it going negative every so often. The rotor position must be known (or predicted) with a high degree of accuracy, and the current control loop for each winding must be very fast - much faster than in an AC induction motor inverter - to get the best performance from the SRM. Also, the effects of the change in the resistance of the windings with temperature, as well as the nonlinear relationship of phase angle and winding current must be accommodated. All of these demands add up to a very computationally-intensive control strategy for the SRM, which more or less explains why they have been sitting on the dusty shelves since the 1840s - there simply wasn’t enough computing power in pro-

grammable logic or microcontroller ICs to operate them until very recently. The final disadvantage to the SRM, and perhaps the most difficult to address without also increasing the manufacturing cost and/or the controller complexity, is its tendency to emit a lot of noise in operation. One of the main sources of noise is the stator being squeezed towards the rotor by the attractive force exerted by each phase pole pair as it is energized. An obvious solution to this is to make the stator stronger - i.e., use more material, which, of course, costs more. A less-obvious approach is to inject current into “inactive” windings at precise points in time to partially cancel the force vector from the active windings. Some of the acoustic noise and vibration from the SRM is the result of the torque output having a lot of “ripple.” Especially unfortunate is the fact that the more one optimizes the SRM for high average torque output (by using a lower number of stator and rotor poles, which is unintuitive for those familiar with AC induction motors), the more torque ripple results. All in all, the pluses of the SRM design are pretty compelling - cheap to manufacture, low to non-existent rotor losses, robust power stage topology - while the disadvantages, such as control algorithm complexity and high vibration and noise, do not seem insurmountable, especially when used as traction motors for electric vehicles.

the tech




For all the unanswered questions surrounding EV acceptance, it is pretty clear that full-scale mainstream adoption won’t happen without denser and less-expensive batteries. These two very different companies are working to ratchet up the snail’s pace of typical battery development to ICE-busting speeds. By Markkus Rovito


garages. Also starring in the EV no-show: cost. Simple economics drives prospective EV owners back home toward ICE-running vehicles with predictable regularity. At least we know that in both cases of EV cost and EV range, the most direct route to salvation goes through the battery pack. A less expensive, more energy-dense battery represents the Holy Grail of a thousand technological

Photo courtesy of General Motors, © GM Corp.

e’re not suggesting that EVs should don a pair of bunny ears and a bass drum, but for electric cars to truly break through as the prevailing mode of transportation, they need to keep going, and going, and going. Whether or not typical driving habits justify it, fear of fizzling out, aka range anxiety, plays a major role in the public’s hesitance to accept pure EVs into their hearts and


pilgrimages. Yet the “game-changers” promised in press releases and industry events always seem to be years away from commercialization, a common theme related to the notoriously laborious battery-making process. The headaches caused by range anxiety cry out for more immediate relief. Well, take these two battery innovators and call us in the morning. Both ANSYS, Inc. and Wildcat Discovery Technologies use very different techniques to build better batteries faster. The former company deals in computer simulations, while the latter claims its proprietary systems can synthesize new energystorage materials up to 100 times faster than standard labs.

Image courtesy of ANSYS

The soft cell

In 2010, the US Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Computer Aided Engineering for Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries (CAEBAT) program to promote design and simulation tools for battery development, because such tools were not as advanced and accepted as they were for conventional vehicle parts. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) took charge of the program seeking simulation technology for maximizing electric vehicle battery output. ANSYS teamed with General Motors and ESim to win a key award from NREL under the program. The 2,000-strong CAE simulation software company - out of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania - would contribute existing and newly developed battery modules to the CAEBAT project that can simulate battery performance both at the individual cell level and for an entire battery pack. ANSYS’s modules aim to shorten design cycles while addressing not only battery cost and energy density, but also life cycle, operating temperature, and safety. ANSYS is an engineering simulation software provider and developer in the area of CAE, bringing together mechanical, electrical, chemical, and aerospace engineering into the common theme of virtual assessment of product performance. It also provides services for supporting the software, consulting with the software, and training people on the software. Its targeted program of collaborative R&D has ANSYS working with other companies, government labs, and academics to attack technical problems in many areas, batteries being one of them. The ANSYS mission is simulation-driven product develop-

ment and design, focused on systems-level engineering in multiphysics. “You need to keep the big picture in view when you’re designing complex systems,” says Lewis Collins, Development Director at ANSYS. “If you’re just developing things on the component level, and you put all those components together - like in electronics - , you can have a lot of problems.” That was one reason for the DOE’s CAEBAT program in the first place: to reduce the problems of componentlevel battery development. “What [the DOE] found is that there’s a lot of trial and error in battery design,” Collins says. “We use simulation as a really intelligent way to cut down on that sort of blind, trial-and-error development. The DOE could see that existing tools out there didn’t have the capabilities needed to scale up and optimize batteries for electric vehicles. So they incentivized the software providers to fill in those gaps, as well as to make the tools easier to use and more effective for battery design studies.”

What [the DOE] found is that there’s a lot of trial and error in battery design... We use simulation as a really intelligent way to cut down on that sort of blind, trialand-error development. The DOE could see that existing tools out there didn’t have the capabilities needed to scale up and optimize batteries for electric vehicles.

OCT/NOV 2012 31

Photo courtesy of General Motors, © GM Corp.

CHEVROLET VOLT BATTERY PACK CUTAWAY RENDERING Different scales must be considered when simulating battery systems including the electrode layers, cell level, module level, and pack level.

A tale of two sims

After a little more than a year into a three-plus-year project, the CAEBAT team has developed and validated three electrochemistry modeling methods and a simulation prototype that blends two ANSYS specialties - systemslevel simulation and multiphysics - for batteries. ANSYS will gradually release new CAEBAT-related tools to the project partners and that will eventually result in a commercial version. While still in the first round of developing, validating, and enhancing these tools, according to Collins, there are already some features in beta that should be commercially available by the end of 2012. That release enables engineers to blend system simulation with a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) approach. Collins says, “in the traditional lumped-

GENERAL 20 CELL BATTERY MODULE, LIQUID-COOLED Geometry model (left), simulation boundary zones (middle), and simulated contours of velocity on mid-plane (right). Images courtesy of ANSYS


parameter system approach, one battery cell might be a node in an electrical circuit diagram. The problem was, CFD was very rigorous and gave you great detail of the temperature patterns, and system simulation was not so rigorous, but was much faster. What we’ve done is blend the two together and create what we call a co-simulation link. You can actually run them both at the same time, and you can selectively use the high-fidelity method and then embed that into the system model to have the best of both worlds.” According to Collins, battery researchers are an ideal target for this new approach, because there may be hundreds or even thousands of cells in a battery pack. “They would like to look at maybe one cell or a ‘worst-case’ cell

The problem was, CFD was very rigorous and gave you great detail of the temperature patterns, and system simulation was not so rigorous, but was much faster. What we’ve done is blend the two together...

the tech

Images courtesy of ANSYS

with CFD,” he says, “but they can’t afford to do that. They really need the system-level modeling for the pack.” ANSYS joined CAEBAT despite having no software products that specifically target batteries, nor does it plan to make such a product. “That may be surprising to some people,” Collins says, “but really the secret of ANSYS’s success has been figuring out what’s the root engineering and simulation that needs to be done, and what’s the commonality between batteries, electronic circuits, internal combustion engines, and all the different applications that can be provided in a way that’s useful to a lot of people. Having said that, we also have ways to tailor or verticalize some of our general tools to make them easier and more automated for batteries. There’s this balance between the generic and highly verticalized software that we’re pursuing. One of the ways we do that is to utilize the scripting and user-programming capabilities of our products, to quickly create a ‘killer app’ for predicting battery performance.” The core of ANSYS’s product suites is called ANSYS Workbench™, and the company’s other products are based on it and connected to it. For example, there’s ANSYS Mechanical™ for structural analysis, ANSYS Fluent® for fluid flow and thermal analysis, ANSYS Simplorer® for systems-level simulations, and many others. ANSYS was attractive to the DOE as a player in CAEBAT because these general-purpose software tools are already in widespread use, backed by ANSYS expert support, at most of the world’s major automotive, battery, and electronics companies. Collins explains, “battery breakthroughs are going to require research and development involving several disciplines and scales. For example, if you’re interested in thermal, you might have thermal stress concerns, or on the other hand, you might be interested to drill into the electrochemistry inside the battery. If you’re interested in the very coarse-grained, pack-level results as opposed to a very fine-grained result inside an individual battery electrode, we have tools to do really the whole spectrum.”

...the secret of ANSYS’s success has been figuring out what’s the root engineering and simulation that needs to be done, and what’s the commonality between batteries, electronic circuits, internal combustion engines...

Within the CAEBAT project, Collins says, “we’re driving the core products forward in ways that are necessary to handle the right physics for the batteries, and also trying to customize them in a very targeted way for batteries, with scripting and programmability.” For CAEBAT, the DOE is not focusing on molecularlevel simulations that materials scientists looking for different electrode compounds may be interested in. And that is not what ANSYS does, either. “We are focused on macroscopic design,” Collins says. “How you would lay out the individual stack of electrodes and how you would package it in its cell. Further, how you would cool those cells and package those in a module or a pack for an electric vehicle.” With its current suite of tools and those that it is developing through CAEBAT, ANSYS expects to predict most of the important factors for automotive batteries, including volume, weight, energy density, optimal operating temperature, lifetime, and safety concerns, such as reaction to crash events and electrical abuse. They can also simulate a drive cycle and a pulse charge or discharge. The one thing ANSYS software does not directly predict is cost, but that factor will come as part of the larger collaborative project. Collins explains that overall, CAEBAT is asking “how can we make better performance batteries and at the same time bring the cost down to where it’s really competitive in the marketplace when they put them in electric vehicles?” As ANSYS incrementally releases its simulation software resulting from the CAEBAT project over the next couple of years, we’ll begin to see just how useful and cost-effective it can be to model high-tech products like batteries in order to speed up development. Meanwhile, software simulation will be racing against real-world rapid materials synthesis to see which method reaps the largest gains in battery development.

OCT/NOV 2012 33

Photos courtesy of Argonne Nation al Laboratory

In conventional research, a scientist may take a couple weeks or longer to go through that process and get a battery built.

Feral Chemistry

Contrasting the well-established, Pittsburgh-area ANSYS, Wildcat Discovery Technologies is a venture-backed start-up residing in sunny San Diego. Launched in late 2006, it makes efficient use of just 32 employees. While both companies work on a variety of internal and collaborative projects, rather than software simulation, Wildcat has developed proprietary methods for rapidly synthesizing energy-storage materials. Serial entrepreneurs Prof. Peter Schultz and Robert Downs have worked together for a number of years at the Genomics Novartis Foundation, and Schultz, as a well-reputed biochemist, has a long history in high-throughput combinatorial chemistry. The two men founded Wildcat to use combinatorial chemistry to tackle energy-storage materials discovery. In the beginning, Wildcat was focused on hydrogen research for fuel cells, and developed its first discovery system around complex metal hydrides for hydrogen storage. “Luckily, we felt that this platform for discovery could


be applied to some other areas that had similar needs,” says Mark Gresser, Wildcat President, CEO, and board member. “One of those areas was batteries.” Gresser has more than 20 years of engineering, sales, and marketing experience, including leadership positions at Material Sciences Corporation, Honeywell, and Allied Signal. He joined Wildcat in 2008, right around the time that the company shifted focus to batteries exclusively. “We think that was a great move,” he says. “Battery research really took off with [the Obama] administration primarily. And hydrogen research really trailed off at that same time. We’ve seen a lot of activity in batteries steadily since 2009, and it hasn’t let up. There’s significant interest around the globe right now.”

The incredible bulk

Wildcat’s founders, Schultz and Downs, along with their engineering team, developed capabilities for synthesizing useful storage materials in bulk form, and then screening those materials in a massively parallel way to find out

the tech

Photo courtesy of Wildcat Discovery Technologies

At Wildcat, one scientist is capable of synthesizing 400 to 500 materials all at the same time. All different materials.

how useful they are. The concept is similar to the way discoveries are made in life sciences, such as pharmaceuticals. In the area of battery materials, however, Wildcat is one of only a few organizations that can do it, and it has its own completely proprietary equipment and methods. “There’s a whole heck of a lot of money invested in unique-in-the-world equipment that we designed and built here at Wildcat,” Gresser says. “We have a process for this type of discovery that is unique. Secondly, we obviously think our scientists are great. But also they’ve been trained now over years in executing discovery protocol based on this unique equipment and really know how best to use this process.” As a result, Wildcat can synthesize energy storage materials up to 100 times faster than standard labs. “In conventional research, a scientist conceives of an idea for an experiment - say a cathode chemistry,” Gresser says. “The first step is to figure out how to make a small quantity of that cathode chemistry. Once successfully made, there may be other analytics performed on the material. Eventually, if the material looks promising it will be converted into an electrode slurry, then an electrode film, then that film will be put into a battery construction, and then the battery will be tested. We’ve figured out how to do all of those steps in a highly automated fashion, and not just one at a time. In conventional research, a scientist may take a couple weeks or longer to go through that process and get a battery built. At Wildcat, one scientist is capable of synthesizing 400 to 500 materials all at the same time. All different materials. And you end up with a full-cell battery to test, except now you’re testing 500 batteries instead of one, and each of the batteries is different. Our 10 scientists or so can together do about 5,000 in parallel. It has a real accelerating effect. We’re able to do research very rapidly and

compress the timeline for discovery. Whatever a scientist in a conventional lab would like to do in the next few years, we can do that in the next few weeks.” Wildcat’s synthesis method produces small samples of materials effectively in a similar manner to large-scale production. As a side benefit, the company also finds out how easy materials are to make, as well as how well they may perform. Because battery testing is highly dependent on charge and discharge rates, Wildcat’s process doesn’t shorten the testing process much. According to Gresser, it still takes them four or five days to find out if a material is interesting enough to take it off line and test it further under various different conditions. But it’s the ability to synthesize hundreds of materials of interest - whether electrolyte, cathode, or andode - in parallel and then test that same number of different materials in full-cell batteries that has made Wildcat so attractive to its clients.

Battery mitosis for hire

So far, Wildcat has worked with about 40 different customers on 64 collaborative projects, in addition to its internally-funded programs. “We’ve got a lot of repeat customers now that are starting to come back,” Gresser says, “and we continue to increase the size of the collaborative projects that we work on.” Although Wildcat’s customers typically want to keep

OCT/NOV 2012 35

the tech Formulation




Wildcat’s high throughput workflow

Analysis Voltage

Internal combustion

Apart from heating up its collaborative business, Wildcat has also begun to harvest some of the fruits of its internal labors. It recently announced its new high-voltage electrolyte additive, called the EM-1, which can be put into conventional electrolyte formulations to give high-voltage performance to the overall battery cell. Gresser says the


Fuel Cell

Electrochemical Testing


silent about their working relationship, they’ve included automakers, consumer electronics manufacturers, major integrated cell makers, and large materials and chemical companies. Wildcat also recently announced its first multi-year agreement that it reached with the Ashai Kasei Corp. of Japan, one of the world’s largest producers of advanced battery separators. Gresser explained that Wildcat usually comes onboard with clients to accelerate their research process. They’ll have a product that they plan to market in a couple of years and will look to Wildcat to improve its cycle life, energy density, cost effectiveness, the solvent or additive in the electrolyte, or whatever the case may be. “We can team up with their scientific group and really compress that time to market,” he says. “We’ve done lots of cathode projects, lots of electrolyte projects, projects around anodes, separators, and binders in the cathode.”




Thousands of new materials in cells every week

Cathode Separator/ e-lyte


EM-1 is under tests now with some of the world’s largest cell makers and chemical companies, who are testing it with their proprietary systems. “The results coming back look very, very good,” he says. Besides the EM-1, there’s a high-voltage lithium-cobalt phosphate cathode, which operates at about 4.95 volts, that is also undergoing testing with some major cell-makers right now. It has the potential to boost energy density by nearly a third over current cathodes in lithium-ion phosphate batteries. Those are the first two internal Wildcat discoveries that the company has publicized, but Gresser assures us that there are many more to come. “We’re in a position to own a lot of intellectual property that comes from discoveries or royalties or the possibility of licensing,” he says. “A lot of these collaborative projects tend to be near-term technology. Customers want help with something that’s going to hit the market in the next couple of years. Our hope is that we can make some sort of technological leap here in the next couple years.” So while Wildcat is not a manufacturer, the batteries that it makes for research purposes only are another big factor in how it differentiates its services. “Let’s say we synthesize a pile of cathode powder,” Gresser says. “To understand how it’s going to work in a battery, we feel the

Images courtesy of Wildcat Discovery Technologies


That’s unique in that we’re using actual full-cell batteries to screen these new material candidates, and we can do that really quickly and inexpensively.

best way to do that is to actually build a battery. That’s take, Wildcat’s proprietary systems should remain that unique in that we’re using actual full-cell batteries to way for the duration. The company’s leaders decided early screen these new material candidates, and we can do that on not to patent most of its unique technology, because really quickly and inexpensively.” patented inventions make it out to the public domain. Other testing methods may involve creating a fewAlthough Wildcat does have 37 patents pending, those molecule-thick version of a material and vapor depositare all for new material compositions. The company’s ing, and looking for indicators of whether the material is production systems, however, remain under wraps, both useful. “We compress a lot of the normal research steps to the public and even for the most part to its customers. that go into discovering new materials, or eliminate them “We really can’t show customers much,” Gresser says. altogether,” Gresser says. “We can give tours and whatnot, but there’s a few parts Well before Wildcat’s 10-year anniversary, MIT’s Techof the discovery process that are very unique that we nology Review named it as one of the top 50 most innova- never show anybody.” And regarding the obscene levels tive companies in 2012, and the young company seems of security such a strategy might require, Gresser jokingly poised to ride an explosive growth curve in the battery says, “we just located ourselves a long way from everyfield. It has the advantage of being able to work on just body else!” about any battery type, and as Gresser told Technology Review, “we’ve got materials in the pipeline that could triple energy density.” Such an advance could be revolutionary, but Gresser avoids making too many sweeping, grandiose statements about EV battery advancements for now. Still, he seems quite bullish on the overall battery industry and Fast charge that is gentle to its progress, sticking with the popular the Grid estimates of annual improvements Our systems provide battery storage to energy density and cost effectivecharging in less than 30 minutes while ness of about six percent, barring any minimizing electricity from the grid. major breakthroughs. We provide turnkey EV solutions. “The thing that’s really going to enable widespread adoption of electric vehicles is simply more energy, and Redefining DC Connectors for less cost in a battery,” Gresser says. an ergonomic experience “Materials I think are the right place to be focused to get that additional enThe most intuitive design in the industry. UL approved. ergy at reduced cost. I don’t think it’ll be too long before you have a situation EV Collective where the cost looks very attractive, A Division of Kanematsu USA, Inc. and you’re starting to approach gas 1615 Wyatt Drive tank equivalency. I think it’s several Santa Clara, CA 95054 years out.” However long that milestone may

Buffer Battery DC Fast Chargers

OCT/NOV 2012 37

Photo courtesy of torbakhopper (flickr)


in the

MUD Multi-Unit Dwellings present major obstacles to urban EV ownership


the infrastructure

he San Francisco Bay Area is widely considered ripe with potential for early and widespread adoption of EVs. Area residents are generally progressive, environmentally concerned, and technologically literate. The area was an epicenter of electric vehicle deployment during California’s earlier EV Mandate era, and nearly 50 years ago the Electric Auto Association was founded by Bay Area residents. Recently the charging point locator company PlugShare listed the Bay Area at #4 in its list of top 10 electric-car-ready cities. The area is also home to several companies in the electric vehicle space, not only vehicle makers like Tesla Motors and Zero Motorcycles, but component and charging companies like Mission Motors, PolyPlus, Envia Systems, ChargePoint, ECOtality, Clipper Creek, and more. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Bay Area has seen a large influx of electric cars over the last two years. But what may be surprising is a hurdle many San Francisco residents face in successful electric car ownership. Like most urban centers, San Francisco has a relatively high 67 percent of residents living in “multi-unit dwellings” (MUDs) - apartments, condominiums, etc. A much higher portion than the surrounding counties. Those who live in MUDs face great difficulties getting at-home access to charging stations, aka electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). The phrase “garage orphan” describes a similar situation, in which a resident has no off-street parking at his or her residence, or has off-street parking, but no access to electricity. A key factor in electric vehicle success is the ability to charge at home, which is far more convenient than public charging. Anything which prevents the convenience of having an EVSE at home could impede EV adoption. The real challenge: HOAs and other covenants An electric vehicle owner living in a single family residence has a relatively easy time installing an EVSE. It can be as simple as hiring an electrical contractor to install it. In some cases it might require permits, inspections, or an

Photo courtesy of Gavin Newsom (flickr)


In 2010, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom launched installation of citywide charging infrastructure.

upgrade to the utility line or service panel. This is a walk in the park compared to the task of installing EVSEs in a MUD. A MUD resident faces a maze of property managers, homeowner associations, rules over use of common space, questions surrounding payment for electricity use, charger allocation among residents, and more. These factors can be absolute roadblocks, or can cost thousands of dollars to rectify. A report by the UCLA Luskin Center for Information offers a list of major challenges (we found similar issues in reports written in Maryland and Seattle, and by staffers with the San Francisco Department of the Environment): • Approval for installation by building management, landlord, or home owners association. The specific situation is different for each building, but clearly the owner has a strong vote in what happens to their building. Residents may fear repercussions if they press too hard. Building management may be put off by the complexity of installing an EVSE. At the same time, an electric car-owning MUD resident has a pressing need to recharge their car while it is parked at their home.

OCT/NOV 2012 39

the infrastructure • Determining who is responsible for EVSE installation costs. The installation can be expensive. Each building is governed in its own way, with a variety of legal arrangements around the allocation of parking spaces and allocation of costs for common areas. Will the EVSE be seen as an extra benefit for one person? Will the landlord be reluctant to take ownership of the EVSE? If the resident pays for the EVSE, will they forfeit their investment when they move? If the EVSE is installed for common use, who will enforce a sharing protocol? • Determining payment system for electricity usage. If the station uses common “house power,” how can payment for that electricity be allocated to the electric car owner? The EVSE could be attached to a resident's individual meter, but that could raise too much installation complexity. • Insurance coverage for the EVSE. California laws S.B.209 and S.B.880 prevents home owners’ associations from dismissing EVSE installation, as long as the residents meet a list of requirements, one of which is $1 million of umbrella liability insurance. • Distance from assigned parking to electrical service panel. In some cases residents have assigned parking spaces, and some of those cases will require an expensively long conduit run. • Electrical capacity. Adding one or more EVSEs could push electrical demand to the point of requiring an upgrade to a building’s electrical service. It might not be the first EVSE, but the 4th or the 10th EVSE. Who will be responsible for paying for that upgrade? The unlucky EV owner whose EVSE triggers the need for the upgrade? Or should the cost of the upgrade be carried by the building owner? Or should it be shared by the other EV owners? • WiFi may not be available in underground parking. Some EVSEs use WiFi or cellular system data communications to send data to central computers, and the required signals may not make it to the EVSEs. • EVSE subsidies available only to the EV driver. The government subsidies available to defray EVSE costs are only given to drivers, not building owners.


We’re the government, we’re here to help Residents of MUDs are faced with contracts governing their residence. In the eyes of the law, this is primarily a matter of contracts between an individual and a property manager. What, then, is the role of government in this issue? Many have made a case that widespread EV adoption serves the common good, and that government’s primary role in society is to enact policies that support that common good. In this situation, some local, state, and federal policy-makers are taking action to rewrite the laws as necessary. The California legislature passed two laws, S.B.209 and S.B.880, that together seek to address whether a property

Photo courtesy of Alex Proimos (flickr)

The California legislature passed two laws... that together seek to address whether a property owner can take a hard-line position of preventing EVSEs.

owner can take a hard-line position of preventing EVSEs. Essentially these laws restrict a property owner from outright dismissal of a resident’s request to install a charger, if a list of requirements have been met. Some of the terms include: • That $1 million liability insurance policy we mentioned, to be carried by the EVSE owner, with the HOA listed as the beneficiary. • The owner of the EVSE, and subsequent owners, are required to pay for maintenance or replacement, as well as electricity consumption.

• The installation must be done by a certified electrician using certified EVSE. • An HOA is free to install common-use EVSEs in common areas, and develop rules over their use. • In some cases, an EVSE that’s designated for the use of one resident can be installed in a common area. Another EVSE-related policy change is seen in the Los Angeles Green Building Code, which went into effect on January 1, 2011. One of the requirements is that new MUD construction building must make 240 volt, 40 amp

OCT/NOV 2012 41

the infrastructure

circuits available in 5 percent of parking spaces. Compliance with this requirement is not a panacea, but offers only a partial solution. Technology fixes There is a risk that adding an EVSE will outstrip the electrical capacity of a parking area. It might not be the first EVSE that triggers this condition, but eventually it will be triggered as more electric car owners request EVSEs. The question is: who pays for the upgrade in the service capacity for the parking area? One company, EverCharge, has developed a solution that avoids the need for expensive electricity service upgrades. It works by sequencing the charging of EVs, controlling all the EVSEs in a parking area, turning them on and off cooperatively to manage total electricity consumption. According to Mario Holdsworth of EverCharge, the company “bills the EV owners for our service and provides a zero-cost solution for HOAs.� That service includes a complete package of insurance, membership structure, reimbursements, and more. An EverCharge Power Manager is installed between each EVSE and its circuit breaker. The power manag-


ers communicate with each other wirelessly, in order to sequence the charging of each car and not exceed the electrical capacity. The company says that two large condominium buildings have chosen EverCharge to manage EVSEs. One system in Irvine, California will be installed this month. The other condominium is in San Francisco. The system provides an automated version of a solution often discussed: shared access to EVSEs. It is conceivable that residents of a given MUD could cooperate with each other to share one or more EVSEs. But what if one car finishes charging at 3 am? Who will be up to shuffle cars around so the next in the charging rotation is plugged in? The computerized control system embedded in EverCharge can do this automatically, without having to physically move cars around. The Multicharge SF Project With these challenges in mind, ChargePoint (previously known as Coulomb Technologies) received a grant from the California Energy Commission to fund EVSE deployment in MUDs in San Francisco. The goal was to develop best practices and a knowledge base that will assist future

Photo courtesy of ChargePoint

Each building is governed in its own way, with a variety of legal arrangements around the allocation of parking spaces and allocation of costs for common areas.


Propulsion Evolution Helping make electromobility a global reality.

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the infrastructure

Photo courtesy of Kevin Stanchfield

For the most part, EVSE installation is not different from that of any other electrical equipment, making the installation itself trivial compared to other issues around EV charging in MUDs. EVSE deployments in MUDs. The SF Department of the Environment is focused on administration, outreach, education, coordination, and collecting survey data. SF Environment staffers sent out a solicitation for owners and property managers of MUDs to participate, and representatives of approximately 400 buildings were contacted. Of the 400, 68 applications to participate in the program were submitted with ChargePoint-approved contractor bids. The 68 applicants included 35 apartment buildings, 27 condominium complexes, 1 co-op, and 5 tenant-in-common buildings. They comprised 159 EVSEs, with a cost estimate per EVSE ranging from $1,800 to $16,800 - the majority falling between $3,000-5,000 per EVSE. The program ultimately selected 37 MUDs, and 92 EVSEs were installed. The buildings chosen ranged from small, with as few as three units, to large, with 22 of the buildings containing over 100 units. The largest project was at Park Merced, a massive complex covering 152 acres and over 3,000 units. This project became a small part of Park Merced’s long-term plan to transition into a proper sustainable housing community with integrated transit connections. Interestingly, older housing stock did not correspond to higher EVSE installation costs. The eight buildings built before 1925 had a cost per EVSE of $3,209. The three buildings built between 1926 and 1960 were the most expensive, with a cost per EVSE of $5,349. Four buildings built between 1961 and 1980 had a cost per EVSE of $4,960, and the remaining 22 buildings, built after 1981, had a cost per EVSE of $4,327. Why would we expect an EVSE installation in older housing to be more expensive? Because the stereotypical older housing has sketchy wiring that would require upgrades to handle the power requirements of an EVSE. While some of the buildings were described as “museums of electricity” (old wiring), others had been upgraded.

OCT/NOV 2012 45

The Electric Vehicle Charging Show


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the infrastructure

Photo courtesy of DrivingtheNortheast (flickr)

The power outlet is right there, but the landlord says “no.”

What makes the EVSE installation expensive is the actual work involved. Will the EVSE be a long distance from the power distribution cabinet, and thus require a long run of conduit? Will there be any trenches dug or other construction work? Will the power panel have to be upgraded to support more power? For the most part, EVSE installation is no different from that of any other electrical equipment, making the installation itself trivial compared to other issues around EV charging in MUDs. Some automakers are known to be explicitly targeting customers who live in single family homes, while not targeting MUD residents. The automakers recognize that a sale to a single family home resident is more likely to result in a happy customer. With current circumstances, they believe their marketing efforts are better spent on targeting these customers. A case in point: Richard Wiesner versus Trinity Management A case arose in May 2012 involving Richard Wiesner, a San Francisco resident of an apartment building owned by Trinity Management. Wiesner had a brief moment of media attention when he was denied a request to plug his Chevy Volt into the power outlet next to his assigned parking space. He told the local ABC TV station, “living

in the Bay Area, you just feel like you have some obligation to be as green as you possibly can,” and went on to explain the ideal convenience of having a power outlet next to his car and recharging it at home. The same news report quoted David Garcia, a former Superior Court Judge who is now a civil case mediator, as saying “I don’t see any reason in the law why the landlord would be obliged to make that socket available. It’s not a part of his unit; that socket is part of a common area.” In other words, the lease agreement does not allow use of electricity from the common house power, and the electricity consumption would be paid for by the building owner rather than by Wiesner. The report did say that Wiesner offered to pay for the electricity, but that request was denied. This represents in a nutshell some of the challenges an electric car owner faces in this situation. The power outlet is right there, but the landlord says “no.” MUDs come in many forms, from apartment high rises to condominiums. The wide range of covenants governing parking spaces makes it difficult to develop a onesize-fits-all system to enable EVSE installations. San Francisco’s MultiCharge SF project is focusing on collecting information about the real issues and eventually publishing a report. We eagerly await the findings.

OCT/NOV 2012 47

Driving Drivetrain Development


or multinational companies with thousands of employees, collaborating can be a challenge. In 2011, the Schaeffler Group found that divisions from their three product brands - INA, LuK and FAG - were working on different electrification and renewable topics without really talking to each other. “It was clear that electrification was


By Michael Kent

Jeff Hemphill, Schaeffler North America’s VP and CTO, on the future of electric drive

becoming a bigger and bigger part of our business,” said Jeff Hemphill, Schaeffler North America’s VP and CTO. So, they bundled their efforts together and formed the eMobility Systems Division. With its three brands, Schaeffler has its hands in many different industries, producing bearings, linear and direct drive technology, and

high-precision products and systems for engines, transmissions, and chassis applications. “We wanted to capitalize on the market growth and bring together expertise that we are developing in these individual business areas,” said Hemphill, “so we put everything under one roof.” The company’s eMobility Systems Division uses what it

© Porsche Cars North America, Inc.

Cayenne S Hybrid Electric Motor Assembly

“ Images courtesy of Schaeffler Group USA Inc.

It was clear that electrification was becoming a bigger and bigger part of our business.

calls “a holistic approach,” integrating the expertise of both the company’s automotive and industrial divisions. The goal is to develop and put into production complex mechatronic systems that meet the current and future needs of the automotive industry. The division is slated to consist of approximately 300 employees by the end of 2012. Not new to electrification Schaeffler’s current product line includes a variety of different hybridized offerings. It supplies more than half of the hybrid modules for the Porsche Cayenne platform. The module is what some refer to as a sandwich hybrid - an electric motor with a damper disconnect clutch between the engine and transmission. “It’s one complete module, and we make everything but the electric motor for it. In the coming generation we will be making electric motors as well,”

Hemphill told us. “We also make the damper for the Chevy Volt that goes between the engine and transmission. We have a whole line of hybrid dampers that began with the Allison

hybrid buses.” In 2001, Allison Transmission - the world’s largest manufacturer of fully automatic transmissions for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles - began evaluation of hybrid systems for buses and coaches. Since then, the company has produced over 5,000 of the heavyduty hybrid systems. “They’ve been producing for quite some time, and we made their very first dampers.”

Engineering Notes Hybrid dampers Every combustion engine produces vibration, due to the individual firing of the cylinders, that must be isolated from the drivetrain to avoid noise and durability problems. This isolation is accomplished with a damper that includes springs, normally in a manual clutch, or a torque converter, depending on the transmission type. When the engine fires, the coil springs are compressed, storing energy. When the engine is on the compression stroke, torque drops and the springs uncoil, releasing their energy into the transmission, essentially smoothing out the torque going into the transmission. A hybrid vehicle often has no clutch or torque converter, so Schaeffler has engineered a damper to go between an engine and hybrid transmission using torque converter production technology but including only the damper element.

OCT/NOV 2012 49

This year at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Schaeffler showcased the eDifferential. The system is an active electric differential that combines an electric drive with the option of controlling the power in each wheel individually. This facilitates torque vectoring (distribution of torque between the right and left wheels), which is beneficial for driving dynamics, safety, and comfort. “With a small additional motor we can actually split the work completely to one wheel or the other, or even reverse the torque on one wheel compared to the other. So if you’re doing handling maneuvers, cornering, or in a safety situation, we can help to drive the car around the corner rather than just having the front wheels steer it around the corner,” says Hemphill. eAxle The company also has its eye on the fully electric future. Like many others in the game, Schaeffler’s eMobility Systems Division is looking to drive down costs and increase range. One of the group’s projects is the eAxle, a modular solution for electric transaxles. To electrify drivetrains, it’s important to find the right balance between effort and benefit. Criteria such as vehicle class and powertrain size (in terms of power and torque) are key elements in achieving appropriate electrification. So Schaeffler is developing several versions of its eAxle, including single- and two-speed options, with or without torque vectoring. With the addition of a two-speed transmission, an EV can get a much higher startup torque by having a lower gear ratio, and at the same time a higher top speed for the vehicle because of the other gear


Image courtesy of Schaeffler Group USA Inc.

the tech

Schaeffler‘s eDifferential An active electric differential

available. “What you can really do is downsize the electric motor and power electronics, and get the same vehicle performance so everything gets cheaper.” A good example of the savings is seen between Schaeffler’s firstgeneration single-speed transmission and its second-generation two-speed transmission. Hemphill boasts that “we made a substantial reduction in motor size and got even better start-up torque and top speed out of it. We went from 105 kW down to 60 kW on the motor size. At the same time we raised the axle torque from

1,200 to 2,000 Newton-meters, and raised the top speed capability from under 150 to 250 km/h.” Theoretically the power electronics should shrink linearly in terms of the cost with the motor’s power rating, a 40 to 45 percent savings. The sweet spots An electric motor has “islands of efficiency” with regard to torque generation and the speed of the rotor. When the rpm of the motor is fixed to the vehicle’s speed, the case with a single-speed transmission, you slip in and out of the most efficient zone (90

Engineering Notes Torque vectoring A normal vehicle has a differential that allows the outside wheel to turn faster than the inside, but torque cannot be guided. Some vehicles use traction control, which applies one brake to steer more torque to one wheel. In true torque vectoring, torque can be actively guided to one wheel or the other, and the wheel speed can be changed. This means the outside wheel can be driven faster than the inside wheel and push the car around the corner.

to 95 percent) pretty quickly. A two-speed transmission helps the efficiency of the system, both in the delivery of energy to the road and regeneration of energy. “We have predicted by simulation, and hopefully will be measuring pretty soon, that having a two-speed transmission can add about 6 percent more range, because you can keep the electric motor closer to its peak efficiency while driving and during regenerative braking.” Shifting focus A big question in designing a twospeed EV is whether to do the gear change with or without a torque interruption. “We actually offer both, so it really depends on what the OEM wants to do with the vehicle.” For lower-speed “urban” vehicles, Hemphill thinks that torque-interrupted shifting will be more appropriate. “On the one side this type of shift will be very noticeable to the

having a two-speed transmission can add about 6 percent more range, because you can keep the electric motor closer to its peak efficiency while driving and during regenerative braking

What you can really do is downsize the electric motor and power electronics, and get the same vehicle performance so everything gets cheaper.

driver, but on the other side he would and then turn the torque back on. So hardly ever do it in an urban vedrivers can feel that like it feels when hicle.” This type of shift would occur you shift a manual transmission around 30 mph, and feel something vehicle. OEMs will have to decide if like shifting a manual transmission that’s acceptable or not, and for many from first to second gear. applications it probably is.” “We have a little electric actuator If you really want to have a vehicle that would do that shift for you. It’s that feels just like an ICE-powered a dog clutch shift. You have to turn automatic transmission vehicle, then the torque off in the electric motor you have to be able to do a power-on completely, pull the dog clutch out shift. For this Schaeffler designed a of one gear,189-000031_ChargedEVs_ThirdPg_Ad.pdf put into the other gear system that uses3:20 twoPMwet clutches, 1 6/15/12

Advanced Solutions For Hybrid and EV Battery Management Pack De-powering Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Service C


Battery Pack / Module Diagnostics System Troubleshooting







OCT/NOV 2012 51

the tech

as in a planetary automatic. “We have invented a very small electric actuator for the clutches. Now we can avoid the need to have hydraulic pressure to operate them, because then we would need a pump that’s running all the time and that would take a lot energy out of the battery.” This two-speed shift could be considered extreme, because the change in gear ratio is relatively large when compared to a standard automatic transmission. It’s equivalent to changing from first to fourth gear in a combustion-engine-powered car. The problem is that the engine speed, or in this case the electric motor speed, has to change dramatically to end up in the right gear. So synchronization could be a problem, resulting in a jerky shift. However, with precise control of the electric motor and control over the clutches with the new actuator, Hemphill thinks it’s very manageable. “The advantage that we have is that almost a perfect control over the electric motor is possible. You can


command any torque or speed, and you’ll get that within 50 milliseconds on average. So it’s much easier to control than the combustion engine. We think it will be a very seamless shift even though it’s an extreme ratio change. We’re actually assembling a vehicle right now to prove out the whole control methodology.” Schaeffler has a letter of intent to have the new two-speed tranny in production in 2014. The company is working with a number of OEMs in Europe, North America, and Asia, but says it’s too early to divulge the partnership. Wheel motors Also on the development docket is an in-wheel motor, another solution that Hemphill thinks is ideal for small urban vehicles where real estate for passengers and storage is at a premium. In-wheel motor technology provides an opportunity to move the entire powertrain from the body of the car to out in the wheels - freeing up a large portion of the space in

In-wheel motor technology provides an opportunity to move the entire powertrain from the body of the car to out in the wheels - freeing up a large portion of the space in compact cars. compact cars. Schaeffler believes its long history in bearing technology gives it a leg up with in-wheel motor design, because a robust, reliable bearing is critical to function. The smaller the air gap between the coils and the

Images courtesy of Schaeffler Group USA Inc.

Schaeffler believes its long history in bearing technology gives it a leg up with in-wheel motor design, because a robust, reliable bearing is critical to function. permanent magnets of the electric motor, the higher torque density and the more efficient the motor becomes. So a bearing is needed that not only carries loads from the road but can also keep the rotor centered with the stator. “Our expertise in bearing stiffness and centering allows us to control our air gap better than someone who has to source a bearing from the outside.” Among the biggest considerations for the design of any wheel are weight and the concept of unsprung mass. In automotive engineering it is widely assumed that the lighter the wheel, the more vibration it will absorb, and the smoother the ride will be. Adding a motor and power

electronics to the wheel assembly substantially increases the mass. Schaeffler engineers haven’t taken this concept lightly. “We did a big investigation of unsprung mass, both by simulation and with real world trials in Germany. We actually took a fleet of drivers, put them in the same exact car. Some of them had the equivalent mass of our wheel motor connected to the wheels, and some didn’t. What we found in that exercise is that you can really only feel a difference in extreme handling maneuvers at high speed or on rough roads. And even there, the difference is only one rating point between with and without the unsprung mass.” Couple that with the fact that the

Engineering Notes Unsprung Mass

Unsprung mass refers to the mass below the suspension springs, typically the wheel, brake rotor, and some of the suspension arm mass. When the wheel is bouncing over a rough road these parts all gain kinetic energy due to their motion. This energy must be overcome by the damping of the shock absorber and the force of the suspension spring in order to keep the wheel pushed down against the road for responsive handling. When the mass is raised, with the addition of an in-wheel motor for example, the kinetic energy when bouncing is raised, and the shocks and springs have to work harder to overcome the additional energy.

main target for the product is urban mobility - vehicles that have a lower top speed, and are much less likely to be involved in extreme handling maneuvers - and Schaeffler doesn’t see the extra mass as an insurmountable obstacle for going to market with inwheel motors. However, identifying the right platform for the technology could be a hurdle in the short term. “From the technology side we can probably be in production in the next three to four years,” says Hemphill, “but I’m not sure that there will be a vehicle that would demand that solution in that timeframe.” For larger vehicles, the space-saving characteristics of in-wheel motors are not as beneficial. In a Ford Explorer, for example, the percentage of area affected by the powertrain is not large enough to go through the trouble of having multiple motors and power electronics modules, whereas in a city car, in-wheel technology could really transform the vehicle. “It’s been about three years now that more than half the world’s population lives in cities, and that number is growing every day. You can start to imagine that small city cars are going to become more and more important.”

OCT/NOV 2012 53


Future The feisty California start-up looks to break free of its growing pains and hit cruise control on the Atlantic By Markkus Rovito


the vehicles


hen the Fisker Karma celebrated its first anniversary of deliveries to the US, we hope the revelers had the stomach to keep the cake down. After all, the 20.1 kWh 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and by extension Fisker Automotive itself, has been on one heck of a yearlong roller coaster ride. Right off the bat, the pop culture elite embraced the ultra-hip Karma. Leonardo DiCaprio jumped the line to claim the very first Karma last August, and Justin Bieber’s custom chrome-finish Karma elicited as many jeers as cheers. Of course, the ultra-straight-laced conservative media predictably pounced on every Karma mishap as a politically motivated opportunity to bash the DOE’s emerging-energy loans as a failure. But now, with the Karma’s second winter closing in, Fisker feels pretty confident that the real stars will align to light the company’s way to success with its Gen 2 vehicle, the Atlantic.

A year in the life

It all started out so smoothly in October 2011, as the Karma received Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification of 52 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) fuel economy and an all-electric range of 32 miles. By the start of December 2011, the Karma - universally revered for its chic styling - received the Luxury Car of the Year award from Britain’s BBC Top Gear magazine, in addition to a Car of the Year nod from Top Gear’s TV co-host James May. That unprecedented recognition marked the first time an American car scored the coveted Luxury Car

distinction from Top Gear. If karma is some kind of cosmic force of cause and effect based on deeds, then the Karma may have begun the payback for its delay to market of more than a year when problems with the A123-made battery packs surfaced on December 16, 2011. In early November, 2011, A123 had to lower its revenue estimates by $45 million due to a steep drop in expected battery orders from Fisker. However, any sympathy for the American battery start-up evaporated when a coolant leak problem in the A123 battery packs inside the Karma was found to pose a risk of fire. That initiated the first of several recalls that have plagued the Karma. Fisker did the right thing in recalling all 239 Karmas (of which only about 50 were in customers’ possession) and replacing the battery pack in only two weeks, fortunately before any fires broke out. For A123, however, it was the first of a series of financial hits from which it may ultimately not recover. And in midJanuary, just a couple of weeks after fixing the recalled batteries, Fisker again recalled all of the sold Karmas to fix a few minor software glitches, from random check-engine lights to faulty infotainment systems. After the chipper announcement of the Karma’s expansion into Canada at the start of February 2012, the warm fuzzies didn’t last for too long. On February 6, word came down that although most of the design and engineering work for Fisker’s second production vehicle, the four-door PHEV sedan then called Project Nina, had been finished, the company was temporarily suspending

the project and laying off 66 workers “until financing, either from the DOE or elsewhere, can be secured,” according to a company statement. It was a head-scratching move, since the DOE had already pledged $529 million to Fisker, but the carmaker had only drawn $193 million of it to that point. The rest of the money was to be for bringing Project Nina to completion, but the suspension of the project effectively froze the DOE loan. Then at the end of February, Fisker replaced co-founder Henrik Fisker with industry veteran Tom LaSorda as CEO. LaSorda came from 30 years of service, including stints at GM and as CEO of Chrysler. Pundits speculated that the move may have been made to strengthen the chances for a merger, and LaSorda did state that “we will be seeking strong partnerships and alliances as Fisker continues to grow.” Meanwhile, in battery land, A123 again had to recall battery packs in late March because they may have contained defective prismatic cells. Fisker was the largest customer of A123’s prismatic cell batteries, but the recall probably dealt a much heavier blow to A123, which stood to lose as much as $55 million in the process. Its stock (NASDAQ: AONE) fell by about 13 percent that day, and that proved to be only the beginning of the end for A123. However, it proved to be full speed ahead for Fisker. Less than two months after the suspension of Project Nina, Fisker unveiled a prototype of the project’s end result, dubbed the Atlantic. The gorgeous “luxury fourdoor sporting sedan” cops a similar

OCT/NOV 2012 55

the vehicles look and feel to the Karma, although it is smaller and has a target price of $55,000, compared to the $102,000 base price of the Karma. Besides wowing the New York Auto Show attendees with the stunning looks of the Atlantic, including the “grinning shark” front grille, Fisker also announced a private round of $392 million in financing, which would assure the completion of the Atlantic at a former GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware. Also in April, Fisker announced a deal with Middle Eastern automotive distributor the Al-Futtaim Group, which will bring Fisker vehicles to key markets in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and others. One of the strangest loops thrown into the Karma’s roller coaster year occurred in Sugarland, Texas on May 3. What’s known for sure is that a fire broke out in a man’s garage


that destroyed several luxury vehicles, including a Fisker Karma. Local authorities initially blamed the Karma for the fire, but Fisker fired back, noting that the Karma’s Li-ion battery pack remained intact despite the inferno. Fisker went so far as to suggest that chicanery was afoot and that the fire may have been set deliberately. Later in the month, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) stepped in to investigate, but has yet to release any conclusive ruling on the fire. In working with the NHTSA, Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher confirmed to several media outlets in late May that the Karma involved in the incident had a fully intact and working Li-ion battery even after the blaze. To close out the odd month of May, Fisker released a “Business Update,” a digest of positive indicators for the company, including the reporting of more than $100 million

in revenue through April 30, 2012. That income came from the delivery of 1,000 vehicles to US and European customers. What strikes us as peculiar, though, is that that same quote of “more than $100 million in revenue from Karma sales” was also issued many weeks earlier in a February 16 press release. In mid-August, the fire gods once again rained down punishment onto Fisker, when a Karma parked on the street in Woodside, California, ignited. Engineers traced the blaze to a cooling fan that had an internal fault, and that led to a 2,400-car recall to replace the fan and install an additional fuse for added protection. However, in keeping with Fisker’s back-and-forth year, the silver lining appeared when Rudy Burger, the owner of the burned Karma and an investment banker, praised the car and said he planned to invest in the company. His wife Wendy Burger

Photo courtesy of Fisker Automotive

So far, Posawatz seems to be handling it with aplomb and with an eye toward a bright future.

Tony Posawatz Fisker Automotive CEO

mentioned that they noticed the Karma’s fan running for long periods after plugging it in, but never thought to call the company about it. Just days after the Woodside fire, Fisker pulled another CEO switcheroo, this time handing the reins over to Tony Posawatz, who had recently

retired from GM after 32 years, including four years in executive positions on the Chevy Volt development team. That change occurred less than six months after LaSorda took the CEO job. Posawatz bravely stepped into a firestorm of negative publicity following the Woodside Karma fire and resulting recall. Speaking to Charged in October, Posawatz talked about handling the recall in relatively short order. He also downplayed the recall as “small compared to other recalls that involve thermal events.” Perhaps it was small numerically, but the 2,400 Karmas recalled represent close to or fully 100 percent of the Karmas available. “We have

all the parts we need to replace the vehicles,” Posawatz says. “We completed that in a very quick manner, and it really doesn’t have - I don’t think - any impact on the mission of the product. It probably was publicized a bit more than it should be, if you look at the headlines on a daily basis.”


It would be naive to think that the CEO position of a start-up automotive company would be anything but challenging. Still, it would seem that Posawatz took over at a particularly inopportune moment, when an unfortunate recall piled onto the heap of concerns over producing the Atlantic, securing more funding, expanding into new markets and forging new strategic partnerships. So far, Posawatz seems to be handling it with aplomb and with an eye toward a bright future. “Our new tag line is ‘onward,’” he says.

OCT/NOV 2012 57

the vehicles

Fisker Atlantic Design Prototype


Henrik Fisker Fisker Automotive Executive Chairman

Photos courtesy of Fisker Automotive

Once you establish a new platform like Atlantic, there’s tremendous opportunities for derivative products as well.

And move on Fisker has. A month after Posawatz joined up, Fisker announced plans to launch the Karma in China by November, with new hire Joe Chao as Executive VP and CEO of China and Asia operations. Henrik Fisker called the Karma “the first super car, if you want, that’s going to enter China with this type of drivetrain.” By the end of September, Fisker had also completed another round of equity financing. “That’s now over $110 million that we can report on,” Posawatz says, “with another closing to be taken care of in the future with some new investors. We were very encouraged about this last round, which was a very quick round to help provide some reinforcements and some stability.” Raising cash wasn’t exactly part of Posawatz’s agenda at GM. “I have found out, having come from a very big company, that funding for earlystage companies is always on the to-do list for the CEO,” he says. “It’s

going to be an ongoing process. Everyone knows that the world of automotive is very, very, capital-intensive, but it really has taken us out of the realm of being a start-up. We’re selling cars. We’ve got an award-winning car that customers like, and now we’re trying to work towards a bridge to our next car or cars. Once you establish a new platform like Atlantic, there’s tremendous opportunities for derivative products as well.” Some such derivative products may even come bearing a different brand name, as Fisker has thrown its arms wide open toward strategic partnerships with other car companies to share parts and technology. One such partnership exists with BMW, which will supply a 3 Series 4-cylinder turbo engine for the Atlantic. In time for the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Fisker also announced aftermarket partnerships with 3M to develop and supply Fisker Diamond Protection Film, a durable paintprotection film that helps prevent

damage from road debris, and Goodrich Technology will provide its environmentally-conscious PermaStar chroming process to give Fisker customers different wheel-finish options. Posawatz was keeping quiet for now, however, about any other partnerships in the works, saying “that’s something I’d be happy to comment on at a future date.” That date may arrive in December, when Fisker has promised to reveal a significant timetable for the production of the Atlantic at its former GM factory in Wilmington. When we tried to get Tony to spill the beans on the number of jobs that factory might provide, he stayed steadfast. “It’s a little premature to give you numbers and configurations and things like that,” he says, “but we’re just punctuating that it’s an important part of our strategy to utilize the Delaware facility as we make the next moves on Atlantic. Atlantic is a very important product for us.”

OCT/NOV 2012 59

the vehicles

I actually don’t view them as a competitor in a product sense...I root for them

Parallels and perpendiculars

Naturally, Fisker’s second-gen product, the one that is supposed to establish the company in the mid-luxury market, ramp up their production runs by several-fold, and in the best case take the company into profitability, would be extremely important. To do it, Fisker will be reviving a major manufacturer’s former auto plant and attempting to take production from a couple thousand luxury sports cars to about 15,000 annual units of a $55,000 luxury sedan. Gee, that sounds familiar. Comparisons with Tesla Motors are unavoidable for the similarities: two American start-up companies entering the plug-in market, first with a luxury sports car and then with a lower priced but still highend sedan. (Henrik Fisker worked for Tesla briefly on designing an EV sedan before Elon Musk summarily dismissed him, and Tesla later sued


Fisker for stealing trade secrets. A California court, however, called the charge “baseless” and awarded Fisker $1 million in remuneration.) Of course, the glaring difference between the two start-ups is the technology they’ve chosen to embrace: pure EVs in the case of Tesla and PHEVs for Fisker. This difference is a big deal to Posawatz, who has nothing bad to say about Tesla. “I actually don’t view them as a competitor in a product sense,” Posawatz says. “Basically, I root for them, because as many people know in this business, I root for plug-in cars. I think offering the customer lots of choices is a good thing. Now, that being said, I like the choice that Fisker has.” Posawatz thinks that PHEVs are what more drivers want right now, because they take care of range anxiety. “Many people debate whether that’s a true malady or not,” he says. “I submit to folks that it’s real. Just

Tesla Model S

take a look at sales of these alleged 100-mile battery electric vehicles. The Fisker Karma also avoids charging anxiety. Let’s say you have a vehicle with a little bit more range. Well, the further you go from home, the longer it will take you to charge. These are things that we have studied deeply. This is why we like our solution for extended range onboard the car using the 150,000 gas stations in the United States, not having to wait for some newer exotic infrastructure to pop up. People are very comfortable with an extended-range electric vehicle, because it does not compromise their lifestyle.” Whether it happens sooner or later, it certainly appears that at some point an EV will be able to drive all day without stopping and charge completely overnight, effectively eliminating the concerns of range and charging anxiety for all but the tiniest minority of hard-driving and probably dangerously sleep-deprived

We have nice upgrade plans to keep it special.

Instead of predicting the future, I just try to create it.

individuals. We asked Posawatz when he thinks that day might come. “I don’t do forecasting,” Posawatz says. “Instead of predicting the future, I just try to create it. From an infrastructure perspective, there’s been attempts made in the late 90s when EVs were around to do infrastructure. I’m not sure much of that infrastructure is even left. There’s been discussions in California about the Hydrogen Superhighway. I’m still waiting for that. The natural gas proponents will tell you that that’s a wonderful thing, too; I’m still waiting for those gas stations. Anytime someone gives me ‘the infrastructure will solve the problem,’ I look at some

history. Did you know that it took 50 years for just half of the US households to get electricity? I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue that electricity in the home is a good idea. So given those facts, we know this takes time. Our proposition to customers is powerful: The car of tomorrow, you can drive today.” Tony’s last word on Tesla simply has to do with product strategy. “The Roadster doesn’t even exist anymore,” he says. “We intend to carry forward with the Karma. We have nice upgrade plans to keep it special. The Karma will always remain an iconic car for us.”

Don’t you forget about me

Despite the intermittent problems the Karma has had with its battery, software, and fan, and some of its struggles in the press, such as the failing grade it received from Consumer Reports, Posawatz points

to what he believes matters more: customer satisfaction, sales numbers, and the Karma’s many awards. On top of the aforementioned Top Gear distinctions, in October the Karma garnered four more titles for its résumé. It beat out the Boeing 787, Faraday Bike and Ford Fusion to win Fast Company’s Innovation by Design award in the Transportation Category. Two similar distinctions came to the Karma in the form of the German magazine Auto Bild’s Golden Steering Wheel Award for Classic Car of the Future (limousine category) and Motor Trend’s Top 10 Future Classics of 2012. Finally, the Swedish magazine Audio Motor Und Sport named the Karma Environmental Car of the Year for 2012. All those awards complement the Karma’s status as one of Time’s Top 50 Inventions of the Year and Automobile’s Design of the Year award. Posawatz recognizes that with a six-figure price tag, the Karma

OCT/NOV 2012 61

the vehicles

doesn’t attract anything close to the average car buyer, but he’s still extremely proud of the car’s overall customer satisfaction. According to him, “our clientele, many of them have four-plus cars in their fleet, but close to two thirds of these owners of Fisker Karmas drive the car as their primary car. Boy, that to me is a telling point. I’ve got friends who have Ferraris that drive them once a month on a weekend. And here you have a car that’s a little bit more of an exotic, super-car type... and two thirds of the owners are driving them as their regular car. It gives them what we call at Fisker ‘the Power of And.’ It gives them the luxury, and the performance, and the styling, and the fuel economy. And having two power sources is really a liberating technology for folks. They’re driving it all the time because they love the driving experience.” Analyzing the Karma’s sales figures

can be tricky, since the company doesn’t release monthly sales stats. Still, Posawatz very proudly claims

in backing PHEV technology, as the LEAF is the only pure EV of the four top sellers. He takes pride in the Volt’s success as well. “If you look at Volt sales over the last year compared to Prius,” he says, “it’s much faster than Prius was in its first four or five years, and then look at Prius today.” He also feels a similar experience happening at Fisker as when he was working on the Volt. “Working in an environment that is a start-up and maturing into a real car company is really the same experience I had with Volt, so I do believe that there are lessons learned that I can apply to Fisker. And Fisker just has so much goodness embedded in it. A company that has great styling, product focus, and technology sounds like a formula that companies employ in other industries to win.” Posawatz believes the experience that both Fisker and the Volt team are gaining with PHEV technology will place them ahead of the curve

here you have a car that’s a little bit more of an exotic, super-car type...and two thirds of the owners are driving them as their regular car.


the Karma as the fourth-best-selling plug-in vehicle out of the dozen models available in the US. In September, Fisker reported delivering 1,500 Karmas since December 2011 to the US and Europe. If you look at the total units sold in 2012 through September for the Volt (16,348), Prius Plug-in (7,734), and LEAF (5,212), the Karma’s fourth-place status looks plausible. Posawatz takes those cumulative sales numbers as further proof that Fisker has made the right decision

...Fisker, that small company in California, is only one of two companies that has a Gen 1 [extended range EV] on the road today and is working already on their Gen 2 technology? That sounds pretty interesting to me.

Image courtesy of Fisker Automotive

and make them extremely attractive to potential strategic partners. “If all the OEMs have to meet fuel economy requirements in the future,” Posawatz says, “and Fisker, that small company in California, is only one of two companies that has a Gen 1 [extended range EV] on the road today and is working already on their Gen 2 technology? That sounds pretty interesting to me.” He plans to use that reasoning along with hard data to make Fisker’s case to partners. For example, he points out that the Karma already meets the CAFE standards for 2025 today. For a vehicle of Karma’s size, the 2025 standard calls for 45.6 MPG, and according to current NHTSA testing (which is different from the EPA’s methods), the Karma gets 47.3 MPGe. “This allows us the opportunity to have discussions with many different stakeholders or potential partners,” Posawatz says. If you know that by

Gen 2 it’ll be a true enabler for fuel economy improvements and uses the best of both worlds - electric when you want it and gas when you need it - I think it’s exciting and bodes well.”

What goes around

Fisker’s 2012 began with damage control stemming from a Karma recall due to A123’s battery packs. By mid-October, A123’s various setbacks and a failed bid for the Chinese auto parts giant The Wanxiang Group to save the company culminated in A123’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and an agreement to sell off its automotive assets to Johnson Controls. Karmic retribution? Maybe. Or maybe it’s a symbolic closing of the book on all of the Karma’s struggles. With December closing in, Posawatz reaffirms that Fisker is on track to deliver its timetable for Atlantic production out of Delaware and to reveal other news as well in what sounds like a possibly monumental announcement from a

company looking to take itself to the next level. “We will be reinforcing the ranks here,” Posawatz says. “We have some key decisions we’re going to make internally with our board of directors. We have new management - a bunch of new senior leaders with a lot of great auto experience. You’ll see the Fisker team coming out, telling its story with a lot of credibility and a lot of passion, but telling it when we can absolutely demonstrate it and back it up.” While Posawatz admits that Fisker has taken some “missteps” like any start-up, he’s ready to move on to what he sees as a very positive upside to a company with 98 percent of its employees located in the United States, and what he claims is a very high close rate at dealerships for the Karma. “Once we get them in, and they see the car and test drive the car, it speaks for itself. I personally just love driving the car, and I’m kind of a car nut - a ‘car guy’ as Bob Lutz would say.”

Yes, it’s been a whirlwind 10-week tenure for the new CEO. Much has been demanded of him. He’s already faced PR nightmares, companysaving fundraising, international expansion, team building, and the need to plan out the company’s entire future and path toward profitability. Is there anything he wants in return? “As long as the car is on the cover [of Charged],” he says, “I’ll be happy!”

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the vehicles


Electric Opportunities Plug-in fleet leaders FedEx and PG&E, and battery manufacturer Dow Kokam, talk financial payback, lessons learned, and the practical next steps for electrified work vehicles By David Herron


or most, it seems electric vehicles are an altruistic purchase. However, commercial truck fleet managers don’t typically make decisions for altruistic reasons. Hugging a polar bear may work in sales imagery for retail EV buyers, but don’t expect that to work for the guy whose primary responsibility is to decrease operations overhead and improve the corporate bottom line. The very existence of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric commercial fleet vehicles, in many commercial fleets, is proof that fleet managers are beginning to enjoy the measurable financial gains of lower operational costs. In September, the Electrification Coalition sponsored a webinar on, in which representatives of FedEx, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Dow Kokam shared operational experience with alternatively fueled vehicles, focusing on all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric trucks. The panel included Keshav Sondhi, Manager of the Asset Management Group at FedEx Express, Dave Meisel, Director of Transportation Services for PG&E, and Mira Inbar, Global Strategic Marketing Manager


for Dow Kokam, and was moderated by Sam Ori, Director of Policy for the Electrification Coalition.


What makes a commercial fleet owner choose an alternative to tried and true diesel trucks? The potential for cost reductions is usually the main reason, but environmental and energy security concerns may also be factors. Because we can A company’s corporate sustainability mission may provide justification for “greening” the corporate fleet. For example, FedEx’s mission statement speaks of “connecting the world responsibly and resourcefully,” which reflects the core service the business offers - moving packages rapidly around the world efficiently, at the lowest possible cost, and with the smallest possible environmental footprint. Emissions Another factor is the body of government regulations - not only in the US, but around the world - that require emissions decreases. PG&E cites compliance requirements from

both the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the EPA, and notes that replacing gasoline with electricity can reduce greenhouse gasses by up to 77%, depending on the application. CARB has sponsored extensive research into diesel fuel, and in 1998 it identified diesel exhaust particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant, based on its potential to cause cancer, premature death, and other health problems. CARB has organized a regulatory structure to cover onroad diesel vehicles, off-road diesel

Photo courtesy of FedEx, Š FedEx

vehicles, marine vessels, and various sorts of stationary and mobile dieselpowered equipment. The bottom line In a society that is driven by economics, the primary motivating factor for any investment must be based on costs and financial gain. According to some estimates, the US spends over $800 billion on oil - some 6% of GDP. Not only does this have a destabilizing effect on US financial health, but it is also bad at the individual business level, as high

fuel prices represent an increase in business overhead. In recent years the price for petroleum fuels has not only skyrocketed, but has swung wildly based on the health of the economy as well as bad supply-chain news. Contrarily, electricity prices remain extremely stable because they are set by public utility commissions, rather than by the free market. By PG&E’s measurements, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of fuel prices over the last 15 years has been 7.5%, while CAGR

...the primary motivating factor...must be based on costs and financial gain. over the last four years has been 12%. This is more than four times the overall inflation rate. In the summer of 2008, fuel prices

OCT/NOV 2012 65

the vehicles were just as high as they are today, then fell sharply in September and October when the economic crisis hit. The increase in fuel prices since 2008 reflects the economic recovery and the resurgence of activity. That cycle of fuel price swings simply demonstrates the volatility in petroleum fuel prices. Over the same period, electricity prices grew at a modest pace, without wild price swings.

Setting an example

Both PG&E and FedEx have extensive fleets and advanced alternatively fueled truck programs. PG&E is an electric and gas utility covering most of Northern California, with 21,000 employees, and a service area of over 70,000 square miles, including a sizable chunk of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The corporate fleet includes over 13,000 vehicles, and the company operates one of the largest alternatively fueled fleets in the world, comprised of over 3,300 vehicles with drivetrain technologies that include natural gas, biodiesel, electric, and plug-in hybrid. FedEx’s global operation services over 220 countries and territories, and has more than 290,000 employees. Its fleet includes 688 aircraft and over 90,000 ground vehicles. The company has been experimenting with a variety of alternate fuels since 1992, when it tested compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid propane gas (LPG) and electric vans in Los Angeles. FedEx was the first company to deploy hybrid trucks in package delivery operations in 2000. Its early electric vehicles had a short driving range and diminished cargo capacity because of the low energy density of


With diesel at $3.75 per gallon, the company reckons it can pay an 18.5% price premium for a hybrid, a 51.8% premium for an electric truck...or a 66.7% premium for an electric truck if there is no battery replacement. their lead-acid battery packs. With the advent of lithium-ion battery packs, fully electric delivery trucks are beginning to be feasible. Both FedEx and PG&E are actively involved with vehicle manufacturers, developing and testing vehicle designs for a variety of roles. Their goals are to gain operational and organizational experience and to develop financial models.


Dow Kokam sees tremendous growth in the battery market between 2012 and 2020. Currently, its biggest market is packs for hybrid electric transit buses. By 2020, the company projects a tenfold growth in battery sales in several vehicle categories. The majority of projected growth is seen in medium-duty trucks and transit buses. Based on a survey of fleet managers, Dow Kokam predicts that in 2013, 5,800 alternatively fueled vehicles will be purchased for commercial fleets. While CNG and biodiesel vehicles rank high in planned purchases, battery electric light-duty trucks and cars are expected to outsell light-duty hybrids. Fleet managers indicate that they are choosing electric trucks because of lower operating costs.

What’s the cost?

At this stage, alternatively fueled trucks all carry a price premium over

incumbent diesel trucks. That price premium, which can be as much as 2-3 times the cost of an equivalent diesel truck, must be offset by operational savings in order for the alternatively fueled vehicles to be a financially sustainable part of a commercial fleet. While in many cases part of the price premium is covered by government subsidies, over time that will end. The alternatively fueled trucks do provide operational savings, but the big question is whether those savings will pay for the price premium. These savings are realized over the total life of a vehicle, making purchase decisions more difficult. Dow Kokam has developed a total cost of ownership model designed to address fleet managers’ concerns. The model shows that electrification offers better payback for fleets that keep their vehicles longer than 7 years, drive them more than 50 miles a day, and have high maintenance costs or low fuel efficiency for existing vehicles. FedEx has developed a set of guidelines that correlates the price of diesel fuel with the maximum price premium it can afford to pay for altfuel options. The higher the cost of diesel fuel, the easier it is to recover the price premium due to cost savings. With diesel at $3.75 per gallon, the company reckons it can pay an 18.5% price premium for a hybrid,

a 51.8% premium for an electric truck if there is a battery replacement within 7 years (150,000 miles), or a 66.7% premium for an electric truck if there is no battery replacement. If diesel prices rise to $5.75 per gallon, the affordable hybrid price premium rises to 29.4%, while the electric price premium rises to 93.9% if there is a battery replacement, or 108.8% with no battery replacement.

in 2012 will cost $10,000 in 2015, $5,000 in 2021, and $3,333 in 2030. These cost reductions are a matter of scaling up production to get economies of scale, as well as technology

improvements that deliver higher energy density.


While a fleet manager’s main job is

We’ve done the thinking…

Where do the operational cost savings come from?

Maintenance requirements for electric vehicles are smaller. There are fewer moving parts, no oil changes and less wear on the brake systems because of regenerative braking. The Dow Kokam survey of fleet managers showed major maintenance cost reductions. For example, plug-in hybrid medium-duty trucks save 84% on maintenance, while light-duty electric trucks save 42%. Electricity is a substantially more efficient fuel than diesel, which makes electricity far less expensive per mile driven. Further cost optimizations can come from choosing ideally-sized battery packs to give the precise driving range needed, based on a vehicle’s route. Typically, electric vehicles are sold with battery packs supplying a range of around 100 miles. If a given truck is to be purchased for a 50-mile delivery route, why not buy a smaller battery that provides only 50 miles of range? Some of the battery manufacturers, such as Dow Kokam, have designed battery pack modules that allow for easily scalable battery pack options. In the near future, the premium for plug-ins should drop significantly as battery costs decline. FedEx projects that a battery pack that costs $25,000

smaller battery

less weight

battery’s available energy

less cost

driving = x charging instances range Vehicle’s energy consumption more driving range

effortless wireless charging

more charging instances do the math.

Qualcomm Halo Wireless EV Charging changes the equation of owning an EV. Charging little and often with Qualcomm HaloTM technology is simple and effortless. No plugs, no cables. Easier charging, more often has the potential to reduce the need for large expensive EV batteries so could lead to lower priced vehicles. Bringing a new technology like wireless EV charging to market requires experience, vision, engineering and

financial resources and a long-term commitment. At Qualcomm we invest in future technologies and appreciate the sustained effort that will be needed to make wireless EV charging a reality for all drivers. More and more we are moving to a wireless world – Qualcomm is helping to drive the transition.

OCT/NOV 2012 67



the vehicles

Photo courtesy of VIA Motors


to reduce the cost of operating the fleet, non-monetary benefits can also influence the choice to use electrified vehicles. One factor is operator acceptance, and while drivers are comfortable with gasoline or diesel, they often prefer to drive alternatively fueled trucks, which are usually quieter, and do not have the same smell or emissions footprint. While many drivers will accept the alternatively fueled trucks, not all do so readily. PG&E has found that spending training time with operators tends to improve acceptance. One of the earliest uses of electric delivery trucks was the venerable English milk float. Because milk is best delivered in the early morning hours, a quiet electric truck is preferable over a noisy diesel one, to avoid waking people up while delivering milk. Utility companies like PG&E face a similar problem sending crews out in the middle of the night to repair line outages. Noisy diesel trucks with standard power take-off (PTO) hydraulic buckets can wake the neighbors.

Some metropolitan areas have noise restrictions - for example, PG&E can only operate trucks with standard PTO hydraulic buckets between 7 am and 7pm. The company is now using an electrically-driven hydraulic system. During bucket operations the diesel engine can be turned off, and the hydraulic bucket system is powered from a battery pack instead. Without the diesel engine idling to power the hydraulic bucket, the trucks are quieter, so the work day can be extended.


While there are several companies selling newly manufactured electric trucks, commercial fleet operators routinely refurbish old trucks with new drivetrains. A truck body might have four or five engines over its life, due to routine engine replacements. This presents an opportunity to introduce an electric or plug-in hybrid drivetrain as a retrofit. This form of recycling not only preserves the investment in the truck body, but converts a dirty diesel truck into a clean electrified one.

Greening a commercial fleet isn’t just about deploying electric trucks - it must be accompanied by the proper ecosystem to support the plug-ins. This means the necessary charging infrastructure at the service depot, and assurance that electricity supply is sufficient to charge the fleet. It is generally thought that the electrical grid can support millions of electric vehicles before it would be stressed by the added demand. However, utility companies do have worries about extra demand at neighborhood or circuit levels. In the case of a commercial fleet, the electrical service for a depot could be overwhelmed. For example, the drivers could all arrive for their shift at 7 am, with all of the trucks plugged in to recharge at the same time, swamping the electrical supply for the depot. FedEx found a demand spike from 6:30 am to 9:00 am for just this reason. The spikes were high enough to incur extra demand charges from the utility company. To mitigate this, FedEx assembled an “EV Smart Grid Project” in New York, in collaboration with Consolidated Edison. The project seeks to intelligently charge the individual trucks to spread out the load required and avoid demand charges. Each truck draws 6-10 kW while charging. A depot with 120 trucks could draw as much as a megawatt if all trucks were to charge simultaneously. Automatically spreading out the load allows it to be better managed, avoiding demand charges.


PG&E is working on two projects that it calls “job site power supply” and “exportable power.” In these

OCT/NOV 2012 69


power. elegance.

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

the vehicles The idea is to connect the truck to a circuit if a transformer is out, bringing it back on-line while at the same time workers replace the transformer. cases, the battery pack on a plug-in hybrid truck is used not just to power the truck while driving, but also to provide power for tools, or to power a circuit on the electrical grid. PG&E is working with VIA Motors, whose series hybrid trucks currently include inverters and power outlets for 120 V and 240 V. Currently they can deliver 25-30 kW of output, good enough to drive an arc welder for a full day at the job site. With additional cooling, VIA believes they will reach the 120-125 kW output level.

The typical transformer is 120 kW, and VIA’s goal is for the on-board generator to provide more than 120 kW of peak power, enough to directly power a circuit on the electrical grid. The idea is to connect the truck to a circuit if a transformer is out, bringing it back on line while workers replace the transformer. This can be seen as an emergency response tool that fulfills a utility company’s core mission: to reliably provide power to customers. If weather knocks down a power line,

fill up at the plug Fueling your car at the plug instead of the gas pump saves money and helps the environment. Visit to learn more about the benefits of driving a plug-in electric vehicle.

cutting off power to a neighborhood, a crew can turn the electricity back on immediately by connecting the truck to the local circuit, slashing the number of outage minutes. PG&E generally purchases a separate generator unit to go along with each truck. With this model, it foresees reducing purchases of generators, and instead relying on the generators built into the plug-in hybrid drivetrains. Commercial fleet owners have a strong incentive to understand the total cost of ownership of their vehicles, and to choose fleet vehicles that give their businesses better cost structures. The next few years should see cost reductions that will make electric light- and medium- duty trucks more cost-effective than ever.

the infrastructure

When it comes to



Neal Roche Gridtest CEO

a widespread safety scare has the potential to dramatically slow down the adoption of EVs, which is bad for everyone in the industry


Gridtest CEO Neal Roche on critical EVSE safety and interoperability issues discovered in the field In a recent newsletter, Los Angeles-based Gridtest Systems raised eyebrows across the EV industry by summarizing some critical safety issues the company uncovered in the field using its EVE-100 test units. Charged caught up with Gridtest’s CEO, Neal Roche, and asked him to explain in more detail what his company found. We wanted to know if Gridtest was airing the industry’s dirty laundry in public. “Yes, we raised some eyebrows,” Roche said from his headquarters in Westlake Village, just outside Los Angeles, “but in any new market, safety must be paramount; it needs to be checked off a list as complete so there is no room or need for public disquiet.” Roche cited the example of Irish airline Ryanair, which started its stellar growth curve in the early 1990s and grew to become Europe’s largest, and most profitable low-cost airline. In its early days, as it expanded from Roche’s native Ireland, Ryanair’s astute CEO, Michael O’Leary, was widely quoted as saying one accident could close the airline. “He knew their Achilles heel was public concern over safety, and made sure that no matter what costs were cut, safety remained a priority.”

Mr. Roche suggests that these issues highlight the need for widespread adoption of regular safety testing, such as the six-monthly mandatory tests required under German law. Roche feels the same about the EV industry - that safety is paramount to its success - and he wants to raise awareness within the industry about safety issues in the existing, deployed EV infrastructure. He believes that there is already too much scaremongering among the media. “The mainstream press is quick to jump on any supposed EV safety story, for example the Chevy Volt battery fire last year, which turned out to be a non-story, but which today is still featured in any mainstream summary of the ‘issues.’ Another example is the story of a fire following a high-speed EV crash in China; this fire was nothing compared to the fire that probably would have ensued had the vehicle had a full tank of gasoline on board, but the public takeaway was doubt about the safety of EVs.” Like many others, he believes the industry is still relatively nascent and susceptible to attack by vested interests or by careless journalists. Roche’s message is that we need to be on our toes. We asked Roche if this wasn’t the type of discussion one would expect a company selling safety test gear to put forward. He replied, “We do hear that, and unfortunately, it often leads them to disregard this important issue. Let’s be clear: a widespread safety scare has the potential to dramatically slow down the adoption of EVs, which is bad for everyone in the industry, Gridtest included. While we want infrastructure installers and owners to take safety seriously, the last thing we want is for our industry to suffer any bad publicity. EV adoption is already progressing more slowly than it could and should be, as an industry, we don’t need to make it worse.” Roche added, “We’ve been living with electricity for more than a century now, and we’ve made it pretty safe with modern mechanisms such as trip switches and leak-

age detectors. With EVs, owners connect mains voltage to a metal object (the car), which sits on four rubber insulators (the wheels), in an outdoor environment, and often in the rain. This drives the need for installers and owners to check and recheck safety mechanisms. Gridtest has seen safety failures due to moisture sticking the contacts inside charging posts; contacts failing to open in the required 100 ms; and voltage spikes during state changes when the lines should be dead - all in deployed charging posts.” Roche suggests that these issues highlight the need for widespread adoption of regular safety testing, such as the six-monthly mandatory tests required under German law. It’s not only safety concerns that risk hampering adoption, Roche told Charged. EV drivers need to know that every time they park at a charging post they can plug in and top up. But interoperability issues risk making this straightforward task ineffective. Roche and his team have probably tested more EVSEs globally than any other company, and the results are sobering. “We test as many EVSEs as we can get our hands on, either directly at trade shows, on scheduled research work, during business development, or indirectly through our established customer base,” Roche explained. “Our products test against the standards, J1772 in the United States and IEC61851 in Europe; we are constantly surprised at the degree of non-standard behavior that exists within the infrastructure.” Roche explained that there are two primary causes of interoperability issues: (1) intentional non-standard behavior on the part of EV charger developers; and (2) interpretations of the standards where there are vague areas. “Intentional non-standard behavior typically involves timeouts and unexpected state changes,” Roche ex-

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400 Wh/kg

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It’s FREE for industry insiders

the infrastructure

Photo courtesy of Gridtest Systems

It’s time to get our house in order

plained. “For instance, we see some EVSEs that won’t allow a car to wait around in charge State B for long, which can cause problems for owners of EVs that want to defer charging. We also see different behaviors following error conditions.” But non-standard behavior during normal charging, which typically happens because some sections of charging standards are still open to interpretation, is more challenging. “One global vehicle manufacturer told Gridtest that it instructed the drivers of one of its EVs not to charge at a popular brand of charging post, as they simply won’t charge. Imagine if Toyota told its drivers not to fill up at Exxon gas stations. Thankfully, our products can measure and record these areas of the standards that are open to interpretation, such as PWM timing and pilot frequency spikes on state changes, and help our customers nail these interoperability issues.”

Roche suggests that these safety and interoperability issues aren’t receiving widespread attention because EV adoption is still low, and most EV charging is taking place in homes. But as plug-in hybrid sales mount and as drivers want to top up more often, these issues will become more public. “It’s time to get our house in order,” he advises, “which is why Gridtest is active in the standards body driving interoperability, SAE J2953, and is getting involved in its European equivalent, IEC15118.” Roche makes a fair point. After all, simple charging is only phase one of the widespread adoption of E-Mobility, as the Europeans call it. The next waves involve integration into smart grids, controlled charging, and reverse current flow and communication between the grid and the vehicle. There’s a lot more complexity coming down the pipe, and with it a lot more reasons to ensure everything works as it should: safely and smoothly.

OCT/NOV 2012 75

the infrastructure



Electric utilities face different challenges in different parts of the country By Charlie Morris

air conditioners half a century ago. Computers and flatscreen TVs are electrical lightweights by comparison. Energy providers all over the world are performing studies and gathering data, trying to figure out if changes to their distribution and/or generating capacities will be needed. However, utilities in different parts of the world face very different situations for a number of reasons, including local weather conditions, different consumer

Photo courtesy of TECO

hile much of the public may be only dimly aware of the existence of plug-in vehicles, electric utilities have been following developments in the EV world closely for years. From their perspective, the electric vehicle is a major new appliance that more and more people will be plugging in to the grid. As Brewster McCracken of the Pecan Street Project notes, EVs represent the largest new electrical load since US households started adding


Photo courtesy of Rick Hall (flickr)

behavior patterns, and different mixes of energy sources. With this in mind, we spoke to folks from two of Florida’s largest electric power providers, and asked them how they are preparing for the coming world of electric mobility, and what kind of challenges and problems they foresee. We were pleasantly surprised at their answers; both believe that their existing grids could easily handle even a fairly large influx of plug-in vehicles. Brian Hanrahan is the director of EV programs for Florida Power & Light (FPL), which serves about half the Sunshine State’s population. He told us that, as of July, there were around 1,800 plug-in vehicles on Florida roads, roughly half of them in his company’s service territory. At the moment he sees no generation, transmission, or distribution concerns. FPL currently has a study going on, in which it will be monitoring the electrical usage patterns of a few early EV buyers for a year. The company’s main concern is reliability. According to Hanrahan, FPL has one of the highest reliability levels of any utility in the country, and it’s important to maintain that. Another concern is power

quality. FPL wants to make sure that EV chargers aren’t introducing any kind of “noise” into the grid, but it hasn’t seen any problems so far. FPL would like to learn more about charging levels and how they impact the system. It’s still uncertain what rate of charge most EV owners will choose to use. Most current EVs charge at 3.3 kW, but the new Ford Focus Electric allows charging at 6.6 kW. If anything over 10 kW becomes the norm (although only Tesla has that option at the moment) that would be cause for concern. Kenneth Hernandez, Program Manager of Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Tampa Electric (TECO), which serves some 630,000 customers in the Tampa Bay region, told a similar tale. The company did a readiness study, using Coulomb chargers at a 7.2 kW charging rate. Each of TECO’s transformers serves an average of seven homes, and the study found that it could “easily” handle three out of those seven simultaneously charging an EV at peak times. “There might be some sporadic issues… but no different than a couple of people that add on to their house and add a couple of air conditioners, or a few pools…nothing

We have such a high AC load in this part of the US that we’re immune to some of the issues that they’ve been seeing out west.

OCT/NOV 2012 77

the infrastructure

out of the normal operation.” If four out of seven homes added an EV to the grid, that might cause trouble, but needless to say, the day when four out of seven homes has a plug-in vehicle is pretty far in the future. The main reason Florida utilities have such a robust network is the state’s voracious appetite for air conditioning. TECO’s Hernandez said, “We have such a high AC load in this part of the US that we’re immune to some of the issues that they’ve been seeing out west. Our system is pretty much designed for higher loads anyway. From a generation standpoint, we’ve got good capacity now, and from a planning standpoint, when [EV load] gets to the point that it could [have] an impact, we’ll be able to forecast for that.” TECO analyzes its load situation every year, and makes a 10-year load forecast, so when charging demand starts to ramp up, the company expects to see it coming in plenty of time to plan for it. The day when the company


needs to add generation capacity is probably many years away. FPL’s Hanrahan echoes that sentiment, saying that Florida is “resilient to an influx of Level 2 chargers.” Electrical distribution systems are not the same in every state, because different regions have different load profiles. In Florida (and other Sunbelt states, such as Texas), utilities are used to a heavy AC load. In northern California (to give one example), “they are not used to the type of household load that we are. We build our infrastructure differently, our load profiles are very different, so for us, adding an EV is not the big deal it would be elsewhere.” Off-peak pricing Some utilities have instituted Time of Use pricing plans (also known as Time of Day metering), to give customers incentives to charge their EVs at off-peak times. FPL is considering such a program, although early data

Photo courtesy of TECO would be better to simply get EV drivers used to charging off-peak.

Properly located, public chargers make great advertisements for EVs, and help drivers overcome the dreaded range anxiety.

Photo courtesy of Oregan DOT

from its reliability pilot seems to indicate that many consumers are already charging off-peak naturally. FPL’s peak time is 4-5 pm, and most EV drivers seem to be plugging in later. To implement an EV rate, a utility would need to require customers to invest in a smart meter, a cost that might be hard to recover. Unlike California, Florida already has a pretty low everyday rate, and FPL’s is the lowest in the state (9.5-10.5 cents per kWh, 25 percent below the national average). TECO already offers a whole-house off-peak rate, which provides a small savings. Hernandez says that it would be better to simply get EV drivers used to charging off-peak. The charging apps that are available for most EVs make it easy to schedule charging for late in the evening, leaving plenty of time to have the battery topped up by morning. “We are looking at a small pilot that could monitor a couple dozen homes that currently have EVs…so that we can gauge what the customers’ patterns are. Maybe all of our customers are already charging off-peak; we don’t know. We need to understand what their charging habits are like. Is the program that we have now enough to [incentivize] the customer to make that switch? Maybe offering a super off-peak rate just for EVs…would keep us from increasing generation 10 years from now,” Hernandez told us. Public charging Many commentators and public officials seem to believe that a comprehensive network of public chargers needs to be available before EVs will really become popular - the phrase “chicken and egg” gets tossed around a lot. Our utility spokesmen seem to be in the camp of those who believe such concerns to be overstated. FPL doesn’t install or maintain public chargers, but it does work with cities and other installers as a sort of expert consultant, helping them with technology, permits

OCT/NOV 2012 79

and so forth. Mr. Hanrahan points out that although Florida has far less public charging infrastructure than some states, it already has the third-largest number of EVs in the country. “So you could argue that you don’t need much public infrastructure. Home is most convenient. Home charging is going to be the cheapest and most convenient, and as consumers become more used to EVs, they will become less dependent on public charging.” While he sees over-saturation on the public charging scene, he acknowledges that there is some need for it, and that it’s mostly appropriate in “destination locations,” which meet these three criteria: 1. You go there for a reason other than to charge the car. 2. You stay for more than 45 minutes or so. 3. You need to charge to comfortably get home. Likely locations are sports arenas and downtown shopping areas that draw people from afar. One example is Sawgrass Mills Mall, located in the sprawl north of Miami, an emporium so enormous that many visitors come from as far as 80 miles away. Other smaller malls that draw only local traffic would not be good locations for public chargers. Properly located, public chargers make great advertisements for EVs, and help drivers overcome the dreaded range anxiety. Improperly-located ones can create resentment if people never see them being used, so it’s important to choose strategic locations. When it comes to both home and public charging


Photos courtesy of FP&L

the infrastructure

An F-150 PHEV Pickup Truck Built by Quantum Technologies

patterns, both FPL and TECO crave more and better data. TECO receives info about public charging from ChargePoint and The EV Project, but they want their own unique data. “Commuting in Florida is different than it is out west or in the Northeast, so it would be helpful to have data specific to our service territory,” said Hernandez. The final question we asked Messrs. Hanrahan and Hernandez was about their companies’ own plug-in fleets. FPL was an early adopter of EV technology, and today operates the largest “green” fleet of any investorowned utility in the country, with 1,700 biodieselpowered vehicles and 471 plug-ins and hybrids. During the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative, FPL committed to converting the entire fleet of more than 2,400 company cars and trucks to PHEVs by 2020. The company boasts that operation of a greener fleet is one way that FPL lowers operating costs to keep customers’ bills among the lowest in Florida. TECO has 16 Volts, three LEAFs, two converted Prius Plug-ins, and 20 bucket trucks with battery-powered electric booms, which have turned out to be quite popular. Old-fashioned bucket trucks tend to run the diesel engine continuously while the boom is in use, even though power is only needed when the bucket is being raised and lowered. An electric-powered boom not only saves a lot of energy, but is more pleasant for workers, and for customers who don’t need to have a noisy engine running outside their homes in the wee hours when a crew is doing storm repairs.

Charge your EV on the go. Blink Pedestal Charger »

OCT/NOV 2012 81

the vehicles

who you

calling a lemon?

battery degradation, data-hungry customers, and an EV advisory committee By Charlie Morris

Cars have problems. From GM’s Corvair controversy in the 1960s to Toyota’s embarrassingly sticky gas pedals, defects, recalls, and scandals have been part of the industry since the early days. It stands to reason that a new model, and especially one with an entirely new type of powertrain, is more likely to have defects than a tried and true road warrior, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if some of the plug-in vehicles that have recently come on the market have a few glitches. However, while a defect in any kind of vehicle can have dire consequences (lost money for manufacturers, injuries or death for drivers), when it comes to EVs, negative stories tend to get magnified in the media, and can even spread to the political sphere. So, when a controversy like the recent one about the Nissan LEAF’s batteries comes up, even if (as the company is at pains to point out) it affects only a tiny percentage of owners, we in the EV press need to examine it thoroughly. Briefly stated, the issue is this: a number of LEAF owners, mostly in hot climates, have found that their batteries are losing capacity much faster than they were expecting. Before going through the chain of events in more detail, let’s explain why a problem with the LEAF’s battery would be such a big deal, whereas (for example), a problem with the Altima’s fuel pump wouldn’t be. The battery is the key piece of technology in an EV. It was only the development of the lithium-ion battery that made modern EVs practical at all, and they aren’t likely to be economically competitive with ICE vehicles until the batteries get better and cheaper. EV boosters predict, citing examples such as computers and flat-screen TVs, that batteries will improve to the point of commercial viability sooner rather than later. EV opponents seem to


believe that they never will, and gleefully trumpet every instance (real or imagined) of a battery catching fire, blowing up, advancing a world Communist revolution, or simply failing to perform perfectly. One example of this is the urban legend that the batteries used in hybrid cars will wear out after eight years, rendering the vehicles worthless. Most Charged readers already know that Consumer’s Union and others have thoroughly debunked this scare story, but much of the general public is only too ready to believe this sort of thing. That’s why Nissan (and other automakers) have a


Nissan (and other automakers) have a duty to the entire EV community to get to the bottom of any hint of battery bother, and to make sure that the facts are made known.

duty to the entire EV community to get to the bottom of any hint of battery bother, and to make sure that the facts are made known. Has it done so? You’ll have to decide for yourself, after reading the whole story. It began in May, when a few LEAF owners in Arizona and other Sunbelt states started posting on forums that, according to their cars’ instruments, their batteries had lost substantial amounts of capacity, even though they were still fairly new. The LEAF has a dashboard display that shows not only the battery’s current state of charge, but its overall capac-

OCT/NOV 2012 83

the vehicles

Engineering Notes LEAF Battery Specs cell

Cell type: Cathode material: Anode material: Rated capacity (0.3C): Average voltage:

Laminate LiMn2O4 with LiNiO2 Graphite 33.1 Ah 3.8 V


Photo courtesy of Kevin Krejci (flickr)

Number of cells: 4 Construction: 2 in-series pairs in parallel


Nominal voltage Total capacity Power output Energy density Power density Weight Number of modules

360V 24 kWh Over 90 kW 140 Wh/kg 2.5 kW/kg 648 lbs 48 (192 cells total)


ity, by means of a set of 12 bars. Some hapless Arizonans found that one of their capacity bars had disappeared before their cars were even a year old, and some reported losing two, three, or even four bars. According to Nissan, LEAF batteries should generally retain 80 percent of capacity after 5 years, and 70 percent after 10 years, so to lose 15 percent or more of the battery capacity before the new-car smell was gone didn’t seem right. At first, speculation about the cause of the phenomenon had free rein. Defective batteries? Poor design? Inaccurate level displays? Or perhaps extreme operating conditions? Engineers have long known that extreme hot (or cold) temperatures can hurt battery performance. Unlike some other EV models, the LEAF does not liquid-cool the battery pack. Did Nissan’s engineers fail to adequately account for the dry desert heat? In July, Nissan took seven Phoenix-area LEAFs to a corporate testing facility and checked them out, but made no substantive public comments about the results of that test until September. Senior VP Carla Bailo said in an


Nissan LEAF Battery Pack

open letter to LEAF owners that Nissan was “taking the issue very seriously,” and little else. During the intervening months, some owners grew impatient, and exaggeration and rumors filled the vacuum on the message boards. In September, a group of LEAFers, led by Tony Williams, took matters into their own hands, and conducted a test to measure the real-world range of their cars. Williams meticulously documented the conditions, and reported the results in great detail on the web site The 12 LEAFs that were tested reported ranges between about 59 and 80 miles. The LEAF’s EPA-certified range is 73 miles. Williams concluded that LEAFs with lost capacity bars had indeed lost range since they were new, and that some of the cars tested also had “huge differences between the instruments and the actual range performance.” Soon after Williams and company published their results, Nissan finally released some findings from its internal investigation. According to Carla Bailo’s state-

...the mean line says that after five years of normal usage, you’d be at 80 percent state of health… and at 10 years you’d be at 70. That’s the norm, so that’s Mr. Average somewhere in the world. There are going to be people doing better than that, and people doing worse than that.

Photo courtesy of Nissan, © Nissan

Andy Palmer Nissan Executive Vice President

ment, which was posted to the MyNissanLeaf forum, the company’s tests found that: • The Nissan LEAFs inspected in Arizona are operating to specification and their battery capacity loss over time is consistent with their usage and operating environment. No battery defects were found. • A small number of Nissan LEAF owners in Arizona are experiencing a greater than average battery capacity loss due to their unique usage cycle, which includes operating mileages that are higher than average in a high-temperature environment over a short period of time. Nissan also asked EV advocate Chelsea Sexton to convene an independent advisory board to “help us to be more open and approachable in our communication and to advise us on our strategy.” In October, Ms. Sexton, one of the producers of the film Revenge of the Electric Car, and a co-founder of Plug In America, sat down with Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer to hash

things out. Palmer succinctly laid out Nissan’s case. “There is a degradation of a battery over life. It’s straightforward physics and chemistry. It’s non-linear. We did the original mean - the norm - based on…an assumption of 12,500 miles per year, and…the mean line says that after five years of normal usage, you’d be at 80 percent state of health…and at 10 years you’d be at 70. That’s the norm, so that’s Mr. Average somewhere in the world. There are going to be people doing better than that, and people doing worse than that.” Palmer then listed four major variables that can affect how quickly the battery degrades: 1. The speed and gradient on which you drive - a lot of high-speed highway driving means greater degradation. 2. Frequent fast charging - “We recommend one fast charge a day. The battery will take more, but if you do so, then you’ll have an effect on its state of health.” 3. Mileage of the vehicle - how many miles it’s done and how many it does per year 4. Temperature - cold and hot The LEAF is capable of continuously sending diagnostic information to Nissan through its telematics system, so the company’s geeks can monitor the state of health at the level of the cell or of the whole battery pack. According to Palmer, the data that Nissan has doesn’t show any evidence that the batteries are actually malfunctioning. “We’ve sold 450 LEAFs in Arizona, and we’ve got data for

OCT/NOV 2012 85

the vehicles 400 of them. On average, [the Arizona driver] is doing about 7,500 miles per year… If we project that to five years, compared to the norm (80 percent state of health), Mr. or Ms. Arizona would be at 76 percent...we don’t see any batteries falling outside those norms.” While he sees no technical problem, he acknowledges that there may be a PR problem. “You can argue whether the norm is meeting customer expectations or not; that’s a different discussion.” As for transparency, Mr. P points out that the LEAF’s battery capacity meter is a feature that most EVs don’t have, and he laughingly wonders if including it was such a good idea. “But we did it, because we wanted the customer to know the state of health of their battery, and we did it…for the customer’s security. The reality is that the meter reads pessimistically.” One question on a lot of people’s minds is how much it would cost to replace a battery pack. Noting that the company’s preferred form of purchase is to lease the car and the battery, Palmer said that Nissan never really foresaw replacing a battery unless one were defective or damaged, in which case it would be replaced under the eight-year warranty. Therefore, the company hasn’t set a price on a whole battery pack. The battery was designed so that individual modules can be tested, and faulty ones replaced, which is a much more efficient and cheaper way to deal with a buggy battery. The company will address the issue in the future, however, perhaps with some input from Sexton’s advisory board on the best way to handle it. It’s important to note that this entire discussion applies only to the battery packs currently used in the LEAF. To generalize and say that the same expectations of battery performance apply to other EV models, much less to hybrid vehicles, would be like comparing apples to oranges (or perhaps cherries and lemons would be a more apt metaphor). There are many different types of battery in use, and even within the lithium-ion category, different chemistries can offer vastly different performance characteristics. In designing a battery, there are trade-offs to be made among thermal performance, longevity, and of course price and weight. In September, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn raised hopes of an improved battery when he told the Wall Street Journal, “There is a second generation of battery coming [online] now…which is less costly than the previous one. We are in a race in which you reduce the costs and adapt the price.” EV pundits got excited, speculating that a new and improved battery would offer more range and a lower price, and perhaps even eliminate the capacity-loss issue.


...we wanted the customer to know the state of health of their battery, and we did it…for the customer’s security. The reality is that the meter reads pessimistically.

Alas, Palmer dashed those hopes in his talk with Sexton, saying that the company’s primary goal for the 2013 model year is localization. LEAFs will now be manufactured in the US and the UK, which is good news for several reasons, not least of which seems to be reducing the company’s foreign-exchange risks. When it comes to the batteries, “you’ll see small improvements…but it’s not a revolution. For example, the gauge accuracy is addressed.” The new battery pack is indeed cheaper, so does that mean the LEAF will get cheaper? Again, no. Rather than pass the lower cost on to customers, Nissan plans to put it in the bank against the day when government subsidies for EV purchases disappear. When and if that happens, the company will need to drop the MSRP just to keep the end price to the customer the same. Palmer wrapped up (as these guys always do) by reaffirming the company’s commitment to customer service. Of all 64 cars in the Nissan’s lineup, the LEAF has the most satisfied customers, with approval ratings at or above 95 percent. So the dissatisfied are “a small number, but an important one.” He admitted that the company has “been a little behind in terms of engaging with early adopters and giving credibility to their questions.” Nissan has addressed customer complaints on a case-by-case basis, but has no plans for any large-scale “goodwill gestures.” So, is there really anything wrong with the LEAF that Nissan didn’t expect? It doesn’t sound like it. Are you happy now, Phoenix LEAF owners? Well, not quite. Tony Williams tells us that “consumers were never told that their life expectancy for a battery in Phoenix was based on 7,500 miles per year, to reach a “glideslope” (Nissan’s term) of 76 percent capacity in 5 years.” He goes on to point out that Nissan leased the cars with 12,000 and 15,000-mile-per-year contracts, with no mention in any publicly available documents that 7,500 miles per

Photo courtesy of Nissan, © Nissan

LEAF customers Shannon and Christin Monroe The Florida family have logged nearly 24,000 miles in 18 months.

Of all 64 cars in the Nissan’s lineup, the LEAF has the most satisfied customers, with approval ratings at or above 95 percent. So the dissatisfied are “a small number, but an important one.” year was how the battery data was developed for degradation in Phoenix. “A typical purchaser had no idea that at 15,000 miles per year they were generating the degradation of two ‘Nissan-LEAF-Years’ per one normal Earth year. In addition, [Nissan] failed to mention that the batteries would degrade 10 percent in the first year, as is normal for this lithium manganese chemistry,” Williams

explains. “So, consumers expecting a linear 4 percent slope per year to 80 percent capacity in 5 years were not so pleasantly surprised.” As for the PR aspects of the matter, Nissan has taken some good steps; establishing Sexton’s advisory board was an excellent move. Four of the 12 LEAFs tested in Phoenix were bought back by Nissan, and they reimbursed the independent testers for their efforts (about $2,600). By and large, most of the LEAF’s buyers are happy with their cars, and early EV adopters have welcomed the chance to be the guinea pigs of the electric revolution - provided that they’re treated as cohorts and not pesky consumers. GM set a good example when it bent over backwards after the infamous Volt “battery fires.” Ironically, that issue caused a much bigger firestorm in the press, although in the end it turned out to be completely irrelevant to drivers.

OCT/NOV 2012 87

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Modeling the

immeasurable By Michael Kent


utomotive-grade battery pack design involves a healthy dose of conservatism. As it is a young industry, less than a decade-old in the case of lithium-ion packs, there are still a fair number of unknowns. For example, the battery-powered vehicles on the road today, like the Volt and LEAF, have built-in “cushions” in the battery capacity - somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 percent. The battery management system will inhibit discharge below 25 percent, or charging past 90 percent. Engineers employ these cushions because it is widely assumed that charging or discharging a battery pack past these limits accelerates battery degradation. With hopes of approaching the full 0 to 100 percent limits of a pack, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has funded research led by Palo Alto’s Bosch Research and Technology Center, in cooperation with battery manufacturer Cobasys and the University of California, San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering. Today’s method for managing batteries involves keeping their current and voltage within certain limits. The problem is that it’s a very simplistic view of what’s actually happening within the battery. That’s where this research hopes to improve the process. “The key is understanding what is happening inside the battery. It’s basically impossible to measure distribution of lithium,” UC San Diego’s Professor Miroslav Krstic told Charged. “We have to estimate it.” Professor Krstic is a control systems expert. He develops algorithms using high-dimensional math to control operations that are very complex in space and

Professor Miroslav Krstic (left) and UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow Scott Moura (right)

time, like airplane wings and lasers. The idea is to apply these advanced techniques to battery management. “Basically we’re taking the next step to incorporate more precise mathematical modeling and estimation... based on the actual physics of the process,” says Krstic. “It is so hard to measure the distribution of lithium even in a laboratory setting with multimillion-dollar equipment.” The funding is for three years, with an ambitious schedule to perform three major tasks. The first component is an estimation of the distribution of charge within the battery, or state of charge. The second step is simultaneous estimation of both the inaccessible distribution of lithium-ion charge and the estimation of the parameters of the mathematical model. In lay terms, that would be referred to as the state of health of the battery. “Estimating the state of health is a harder problem, because you don’t have the ability to measure distribution of charge,” Krstic tells us. “That is why it’s the second one in our schedule.” The third task is taking these estimates and designing optimal charging and discharging strategies. “If you have a good ability to estimate what’s inside, then you can both go for high-performance and for safety charging and discharging as fast as you can.” The project is applying known techniques to new tech in an attempt to fully utilize the potential capacity of available Li-ion chemistries. “These mathematical models have existed since the 1970s, but they are very, very complex,” says Krstic. “Soon we won’t have to make some great simplifying assumptions of the physical processes taking place inside the battery.”

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CHARGED Electric Vehicles Magazine OCT/NOV 2012  
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CHARGED Electric Vehicles Magazine OCT/NOV 2012