Electric Vehicle Range – The Role and Care of Your Batteries

With the right motor and batteries you will be surprised at the acceleration ability of your new electric vehicle. You will even out accelerate many gas vehicles if put to the test. We are not just building an oversized underpowered golf cart here. These vehicles are capable of doing 50 mph and have a range of up to 200 miles before they need to be charged up.

Depending on whether you have bought new batteries or found some second-hand industrial batteries you will have to decide how you are going to maximize their lifespan and the range you are going to get out of each charge. With second-hand batteries you may need to be more conservative with your speed and range. Most second-hand batteries can be restored to almost new condition with some care, with flooded batteries this would involve emptying the batteries of electrolyte and filling them up again with ionized water and then charging them for approximately 24 hours. When they have been charged like this they are emptied once more and the process is repeated, they should then be refilled with the correct electrolyte and charged once more.

This process should give them a totally new lease on life. With new batteries, they take time to reach full capacity, usually after a number of charges, and most batteries should not be run to fully discharged early on as this will reduce their lifespan. Because the batteries are the heart of your electric vehicle and determine how far you will be able to travel on a single charge, it is essential to take good care of them, whether they are second-hand batteries which you picked up cheaply or a new set of batteries which you paid good money for. If you have been able to buy a new set of batteries it is highly advisable to carefully read the instructions which would come with the set as these instructions will give you the best advice on how to best care for your new batteries, thereby ensuring you get the maximum usage out of the batteries.

As you get used to driving your electric vehicle, you will find ways of running without using the motor, such as when there are steep hills, you can often coast down the hills to save the batteries. This will significantly increase your range and remember that when you are doing this you are saving money and doing your bit to help the planet.

Vehicle to Grid – How Electric Vehicles Interact With a Smart Power Electricity Network

What is Vehicle to Grid
Also called Vehicle 2 Grid or V2G, Vehicle to Grid is the process of connecting your electric car into the transmission electricity network. If you have an electric vehicle then you will definitely want to consider setting up V2G through a simple metering system and contract with your local electricity supplier.

What do I need to consider before deciding to connect my vehicle to the grid?

  • Firstly you have to have an electric car which can be charged by a standard electricity outlet.
  • The second thing you will want to do is determine some basic driving habits – i.e. if you drive almost your entire vehicle range to work and back every day, then there is unlikely to be much energy left over to swap between your battery and the grid, which makes setting up V2G a little redundant
  • Having decided that V2G connectivity is possible and feasible, you will need to look at the right products on the market to help you achieve this. I.e. which inverter should be used and which electricity trading contract will suit your needs the best?
  • If you decide suddenly that V2G is not good for you, how can you get out of an otherwise more expensive contract?

Once these basic items have been checked off the list, it is time to call up your utility and start the process of applying for V2G. You can then purchase a suitable inverter which allows you to feed back into the grid (this will be similar if not identical to the type of inverters used on solar PV grid connected power supplies). Of course you will have to decide what sized inverter to go for.

For example, a 5kW inverter may cost $1000 and a 2kW inverter may cost $600. Therefore you have to be sure that you can recover the $400 over being able to sell a higher rate of electricity in peak times. Some simple maths will help you work out the optimal solution, but just be aware of the various pay offs for each option.

Why is Vehicle to Grid (V2G) Good?
Vehicle to Grid applications have a number of benefits for all sorts of businesses and stakeholders. Vehicle to Grid (V2G):

  • Empowers the home consumer to make sensible choices about when they use their electricity through smart metering
  • saves the consumer money in the long run through effective electricity management
  • is green! Every time you supply the grid with electricity during the yearly peak energy demand, you are reducing the need to upgrade the electricity network with more transmission lines and generators
  • You are helping to bring electric vehicles (EV’s) onto the market
  • You are reducing your carbon footprint! This is a big ones these days
  • The electricity company can save money and reduce their unit electricity prices, or reduce the need to increase them
  • reduce the amount of electricity transmission line needed. I.e. the car transports the electricity to where it is needed.
  • Cuts down on the amount of fuel stations required
  • Reduces our addiction to foreign oil through the accelerated introduction of electric vehicles and ability to replace fossil fuel generation with renewable energy generation.
  • Allows more sustainable energy and renewable energy to be introduced onto the electricity grid, as electric vehicle batteries can now act as a buffer to intermittent generation.

The last point is an important one. Traditional transmission networks are struggling to cope with large percentages of intermittent renewable and sustainable energy generation, as electricity generation from these sources is largely dependent on the elements. Therefore to have the ability to store electricity somewhere is important. In many countries power utilities are approaching this by pumping water up a hill and regenerating during peak times (~60% efficiency) or storing hydrogen formed by electrolysis underground ready for re generation (~40% efficiency). Storing electricity in batteries is a much higher efficiency (60% – 90%) however is a little costly.

Japan uses large battery sheds to store small amounts of energy, however vehicle to grid systems also work very well as storage mechanisms and are likely to play this role in the future as more electric vehicles hit the market. How soon we will see such networks will largely rely on the countries commitment to renewable and sustainable energy sources, as well as the abundance of wind, sun and wave energy. Although many companies claim to have a green lining, short term economics of such projects still remains the number one driver for the introduction of such technology.

The advantage to the end consumer who is running a vehicle to grid system is the savings in electricity for essentially hiring out the storage space in their electric car battery. So as we can see, it is a win win for many as it not only reduces the stress on our electricity transmission and generation networks, allows more sustainable energy to be placed on the system with lower carbon emissions, but also saves the end user money whilst making electric vehicles more affordable. It also weans us off our foreign oil addiction through the cost effective introduction of electric vehicles, a topical issue as we approach peak oil status around the world.

For more information you may want to consult your electricity network to find out about their smart metering tariffs. You will also want to look into the purchase of an electric vehicle, or an electric vehicle conversion in able to make use of the vehicle-2-grid (V2G) technology. I guess we can all look forward to a cleaner, greener, cheaper carbon restrained future, and V2G is going to help us get there in a big way!

Are Electric Vehicles Ready for Prime Time?

Okay, so you are ready to do your part to reduce fossil fuel usage and you are considering an EV (Electric Vehicle). Several manufactures are marketing EV’s, but which one is right for you? Everyone has different driving styles and needs. How far can you go on a 100% EV? How reliable are they? Are there any savings? Some of these questions will be answered below to help you determine if this technology is ready for you.

There are three types of EV’s available. But, are they ready for prime time? You decide.

  1. Dedicated EV- Electric only
  2. Extended EV Electric with gasoline engine
  3. Plug-in hybrids

Dedicated EV is an electric only vehicle. There are four models available or expected out by 2012.

  1. Nissan Leaf is a four-door five-passenger hatch back pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 100 miles between charges, which Nissan says is sufficient for 90% of Americans. It takes eight hours or more to fully charge with a 220-volt outlet and longer with a 110-volt outlet. The starting price is estimated at $33,600. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The estimated cost to replace the battery is $18,000. Expected availability is December 2010.
  2. Mini E Cooper is a two-door two-passenger pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 156 miles under ideal conditions. Most drivers get about 100 miles between charges. It takes approximately 3 hours to charge with a 240 volt 48 Amp outlet or 4.5 hours with a 32-amp outlet. If using a 110 volt 12 amp outlet it takes approximately 26.5 hours to charge. This is a two-passenger vehicle because the battery takes up the entire back seat. The regenerative braking takes a little getting used to, the system kicks in as soon as the driver lifts his foot off the accelerator pedal. This causes the vehicle to begin slowing before the brake pedal is applied. BMW is leasing these vehicles as part of a special program. They are developing a replacement based on the BMW 1 Series, which is due out in 2011.
  3. Ford Focus EV is a four-door sedan based on the redesigned 2012 Focus. The prototypes have a 23-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack with an estimated range of 100 miles. Charge time is approximately 6 hours on a 220-volt charger.
  4. Tesla Roadster first started selling in 2008. It has a price tag of $111,000, it is a two-seater sports car. It is based on the Lotus Elise with a fiberglass body. This car is a rocket, it can accelerate from zero to 60 in under four seconds. It has a range of 245 miles with a massive 53-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Full charge takes 3.5 hours on a proprietary 240-Volt 70 amp charger. It has a very stiff and jarring ride with a very basic interior. It is awkward climbing into the cockpit because of the tall wide sill. The loud battery-cooling fans emit a constant roar behind you. Tesla is developing a lower cost $50,000+ model S sedan expected to be released in 2012.

Extended EV electric with gasoline engine

The Chevrolet Volt is the only model that falls within this category. It is a four-door four-passenger sedan. The Volt does not have a rear bench seat like most vehicles because of the T shaped battery pack. It has a range of 40 miles on electric power. GM states this is sufficient for 75% of commuters. Once the battery level drops below a certain level, a small gas engine kicks in to provide enough electric power to run the electric motor. The overall range is 300 miles before filling the gas tank or charging the batteries. GM says the Volt can run with never being plugged in. However, it will impact the fuel economy. Charge time for the Volt is four hours on 220 volt or eight to 10 hours on 110-volt outlets. The Volt charges faster than the dedicated electric vehicles because it has a smaller battery. The battery warranty for the Volt is the same as the Nissan leaf. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The starting price for the Volt is $41,000. The replacement cost of the Lithium-ion battery is approximately $8000, which is $10,000 less than the Leaf. The electric motor produces 149 horse power and 273 pound-feet of torque. Those torque numbers are about the same as a V-6 engine.

Plug-in Hybrids

There are no manufactures producing plug-in Hybrids as of this writing. However, there are some aftermarket companies producing aftermarket add on batteries for the Toyota Prius. The extra cost of these add on batteries is approximately $11,000. This added battery boosts the gas mileage by approximately 50% for the first 35 miles. Once the battery is depleted, the Prius reverts back to its regular hybrid operation at which time the fuel economy drops slightly below that of a standard Prius because of the added battery weight. Toyota is field-testing the plug-in Prius for commercial use. There are no expected models for retail customers until 2012.

Some things to consider before purchasing an EV

What are your driving habits? What are the longest distances you will be traveling? When driving a pure electric vehicle; if the battery runs out completely with no charging stations available you will be stranded. With the long charge times, it will take some time to make the vehicle usable again. This is where the extended range Volt becomes more practical. Filling up the gas tank is faster than waiting for the battery to charge.

Using other electrical features like the Air Conditioning, Heating, Lights, Wind Shield Wipers and playing Music; engineers say this can consume approximately 50% of the battery power which will reduce the vehicles range.

Lithium-ion technology battery life is undetermined, however, the eight year 100,000 mile warranty on the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf do give some piece of mind.

Cost savings

An EV costs about.04 cents per-mile (depending on the electric rates in your area). You can compare that to a Toyota Corolla at 30 mpg paying $2.80 per gallon, the per-mile cost is.09 cents.

Government incentives

The first 200,000 EV buyers from each automaker are eligible for $7,500 federal tax credit. There are also some regional incentives; for instance, California will offer an additional $5000 tax credit for “zero emission” vehicles. Check your area for local incentives.

To conclude, there are four 100% electric vehicles available by 2012. One extended range vehicle, which could be zero emission if your driving range is within the available battery level. And there are the more common Hybrids, like the Prius which runs mostly on regular gas but with great mileage and with the future pilot of the Prius as a plug in, this vehicle will eventually fall within the extended range category.

Is the EV ready for prime time? Your driving habits and needs will tell. How far do you drive daily, can you plugin at work? Are most of your driving needs around town? This is where the greatest benefits will be realized. What part of the country do you live in? Will an EV work in your environment? Parts of the country with extreme heat or cold will require more battery usage to heat or cool the vehicle, which will reduce the range. Will this reduce your cost savings?

With government incentives, the cost of one of these EV’s can be reduced to a more acceptable range, keeping the cost closer to a conventional gas vehicle. There are also reduce maintenance costs with an EV, no oil changes and the electric motors are mostly maintenance free.

Hybrid Vehicle Top Safety Pick

An auto insurance trade group, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, has named a hybrid vehicle as a top safety pick. The Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a small gasoline engine, achieved the honor along with the all-electric Nissan Leaf. The Insurance Institute offered the judgment after the group’s first US crash tests of plug-in and pure electric cars. Anyone wondering if hybrid vehicles are going to be safe can rest easy.

The Volt earned its top rating of “good” for front, side, rear and rollover crash protection. The Institute also noted that both the Volt and the Leaf have standard electric stability control which the group considers a crucial safety feature. Makers of hybrid vehicles are clearly using the same standards of safety in the production of these new types of cars as in the more common internal combustion engine vehicles.

Critics have long argued that hybrid vehicles could not be made economically and that safety would be compromised in the rush to “go green,” but the recent crash tests show that this is not the case. These hybrid vehicles are as safe or safer than any car produced today.

Both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are small cars which initially would seem to indicate a lack of safety. Both, though, have battery packs adding significant weight to the vehicles making them safer than other cars in their class. This, too, was demonstrated by the Institute’s crash tests.

Additionally, the tests proved that using technology to boost fuel economy, such as the electric batteries in both these vehicles, is preferable to simply downsizing and lightening the weight of cars to save fuel. Hybrid vehicles are actually safer than standard cars of the same size while remarkably fuel-efficient at the same time.

These hybrid vehicles are perfect for highway driving. Should a crash occur, these cars will protect the drivers better than the vast majority of standard cars.

In fact, these electric cars are far safer than the low-speed vehicles, such as the GEM e2 or the Wheego Whip, which were judged dangerous after crash tests last year. These are golf-cart-like vehicles which are becoming increasingly popular, but are not required to meet the national safety standards of passenger vehicles.

The image of the electric and hybrid car was damaged in the mind of the consumer by these small carts which were never meant for highway driving. Nevertheless, industry observers think that the new tests will propel the Leaf and the Volt forward in the minds of eco-minded consumers who have been waiting for a chance to purchase a reasonably green, fuel-efficient and safe car for at least five years. The time has finally arrived. Both the Leaf and the Volt are extremely safe, fuel-efficient and will not harm the environment. Auto makers have finally turned the corner on producing desirable hybrid vehicles.