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Friday 30 September 2011

SAE task force sets out to standardize wireless charging systems

Back in October, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) assigned a task force to standardize the wireless charging of plug-in vehicles. In November, the task force announced its goal of finalizing the SAE J2954 wireless charging guidelines by end of 2011 and enforcing this standard by 2013. The SAE standard will establish performance and safety limits for wireless power transfer in automotive applications. The task force is currently reviewing several wireless charging methods, including inductive and magnetic resonance.

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The SAE will conduct tests of wireless charging systems on light-duty passenger vehicles and commercial buses. The J2954 team will evaluate wireless Level 1, 2, and 3 chargers. The SAE's task force consists of automakers, commercial bus producers, wireless charger manufacturers, government agencies, suppliers and universities. In addition, the SAE has established a working relationship with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and VDE (Germany's standardization organization) to ensure that wireless charging systems have at least a fair degree of global compatibility.

Source: AutoBlogGreen, by Eric Loveday, January 11th, 2011

Wireless charging of plug-in vehicles to become standard

Wireless-induction charging of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids is certain to become standard, one of America’s top researchers in power electronics says.

We believe it’s not a matter of if but when wireless charging will be in all (electric) vehicles,” Laura Marino of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory tells several hundred engineers attending the recent Automotive Power Electronics conference here sponsored by the French automotive engineering society SIA.

Marino, deputy director for the Power Electronics and Electrical Power Systems Research Center, says Oak Ridge, working with auto makers and suppliers, has developed and tested technology that will pass 5kW of recharge across 10 ins. (25.4 cm) of air with more than 90% efficiency.

Inductive charging will win out because of convenience, says Marino. “Think of a mother of three children coming back from shopping with her arms full. It would not be surprising if she forgets to plug in her car.”

Inductive charging sends electricity wirelessly between two coils. One coil is in the car, the other in the infrastructure. It could be hidden in the floor of a garage or part of a mat rolled out on top of the concrete.

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Ford and Chrysler both are working on inductive charging, she says, and researchers at Oak Ridge will retrofit some Nissan Leaf EVs to work with inductive charging to learn more.

Supplier Delphi has been showcasing its wireless-charging system that it hopes to make available with the next wave of EVs expected around 2015.

Meanwhile, Oak Ridge is working on ideas to reduce costs. “Two years ago, a project was presented using the internal windings of the motor as well as the switches in the inverter to accomplish the charging function,” Marino says.

We were asked by OEMs if we could do this with a power-split architecture like Toyota uses. We built it up where we now have two motors and two inverters, so we can charge the battery through them. This year, we are elaborating on this project.”

In the future, charging points could be built into roads at stop signs, she says. Shorter term, a company that runs shuttle busses from Logan Airport in Boston to car-rental agencies will put the idea into action by embedding inductive chargers at the spaces where a bus waits for passengers, so it can recharge while it waits.

In Europe, where the industry has not yet agreed on a standard for plugs, Renault is investigating inductive charging for its next-generation electric vehicles.

Development of the EV industry “also relies on the cost of infrastructure,” says Patrick Bastard, director-advanced electronics and technologies at Renault. “We are working on new concepts.”

For Europe’s fast-charge standard, Renault is arguing for a system based on alternating current, which could lower the cost of building charging points. Some estimates find a direct-current fast-charge point would cost €50,000 ($70,000).

By having the electronics that convert alternating current into direct current for the battery located in the car, instead of the infrastructure, the infrastructure would be less-expensive.

The next-generation Renault EVs, already being planned for 2015-2020, could include inductive-charging capability, as well as whatever standard plug-and-socket Europe decides to adopt.

We have been working on this topic for years now,” says Bastard. “For the third generation, we will introduce breakthroughs to get big cost reductions and offer the customer a big increase in efficiency. Induction would be a performance increase that we could offer. It could be a good, easy way of charging your car.”

The AC/DC battle over charging standards in Europe is a bit ironic, because alliance partners Renault and Nissan are on different sides of the debate. Nissan already has chosen the direct- current, fast-charge standard agreed upon by the Japanese electric and auto industries.

But AC/DC is not the only problem for a European standard. For conductive charging, there continues to be a debate over the shape of the socket.

That’s because some country building codes require shutters on the holes in the socket to prevent children from sticking things inside, while other countries don’t.

In addition, national electric grids follow several different standards for the nature of their electricity, although 240V is the standard across the continent.

Source: WardsAuto, by William Diem, April 29th, 2011

Utah State University experimenting with in-road electric vehicle charging system

Laura Marlino, deputy director at the power electronics and electrical power systems research center at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, says that, “We believe it’s not a matter of if, but when wireless charging will be in all plug-in vehicles.” Well, if that’s to be the case, then it’s time to get cracking.

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A technical breakthrough at Utah State University (USU) could make in-road wireless charging a reality. Researchers at USU have managed to get five kilowatts of electricity to jump an air gap of up to ten inches (25 cm) at 90 percent efficiency. To demonstrate the concept, USU researchers set up an electrical coil on the floor, used plastic cylinders as spacers to create the ten-inch gap and shot electricity across the gap to a receiver pad.

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The principle has been in use for decades, but USU researchers say that 90 percent efficiency is the highest ever measured. Paul Israelsen, deputy director at USU’s Energy Dynamics Laboratory, claims “We’re getting efficiencies that are comparable to the same efficiency you would get with a plug-in electric charger.” This summer, USU will mount a receiver pad to the undercarriage of an electric vehicle and test the system by driving over a stationery charging pad.

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The next step - and the really exciting one - is to test the technology while a vehicle is in motion. HaloIPT is already doing this kind of work, and we can’t wait to see where it takes us.

Source: AutoGreenMagazine, July 30th, 2011

New collaboration pushes EV wireless charging

WiTricity, IHI Corporation and Mitsubishi have teamed up for a research and develop programme designed to help make wireless charging a reality for electric car users.

It is hoped that the collaboration will advance the development of a real-world ‘out of the box’ solution for businesses and individuals which will make recharging electric cars a simpler and more convenient experience.

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A suitable system would also be able to be installed in shopping centre parking lots and other public places as well as private homes.

A wireless recharging system for electric cars uses inductive charging, where the electric current is passed without physical contact between a transmitter pad fitted in the ground to a receiver pad fitted to the car. Charging can occur automatically when the car is parked over the transmitter and does not even require perfect alignment between the two pads, making it super-easy to use.

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WiTricity has already developed and brought to market its patented magnetic resonance wireless charging system. The system that WiTricity has developed, more advanced than some early prototypes, can deliver up to 3.3 kW of charging power over distance of 20cm (almost 8 inches) at an efficiency rate of more than 90 per cent.

The new project will seek to clarify legal issues with the new technology and create proposals for rules governing such systems. It will also seek to find the the most appropriate and easiest ways of incorporating wireless charging systems into EV charging infrastructure and test the systems using Mitsubishi EVs fitted with power charging receptors internally.

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Mitsubishi already has an electric car for sale in markets around the world, including the UK. The i-MiEV is priced from £23,990 including a £5,000 plug-in car grant and has a range of around 90 miles to a charge and a top speed of 80mph.

Mr. Osamu Masuko, President of Mitsubishi added: "Like we have done with promotion and education of electric vehicle infrastructure such as quick-chargers and being involved with "smart grid" technology, we are happy to enter into a new phase of electric vehicle infrastructure development. I am confident we can be a major contributor along with WiTricity and IHI to quickly make widespread wireless charging for electric vehicles a reality."

Source: International Business Times, by Faye Sunderland, September 27th, 2011

Boston Transit Agency Receives 10 Ram 1500 Plug-in Hybrids

Long ago, Dodge had grand plans for a dual-mode Ram 1500 hybrid. Following Chrysler’s bankruptcy, that program was scrapped for consumer use, but continued as part of a program with the Department of Energy. As a result, several fleets around the country are now testing Ram 1500 PHEVs — the latest being Boston, Massachusetts.

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10 of the 140 Ram 1500 PHEVs in service around the country have been allocated to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Ram chose Boston to test the trucks for the next three years so that it could collect data on its plug-in hybrid systems under city driving conditions. “Boston offers heavy traffic and urban driving that are ideal city test cycles,” said Abdullah Bazzi, Chrysler Senior Manager for advanced hybrid vehicle project, “The constant charging will allow us to measure the impact on battery life and charging efficiency.”

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Chrysler is currently using the Ram 1500 PHEVs to evaluate how its customers use, drive, and charge the vehicles, as well as to collect data on thermal management, fuel economy, emissions, and impact on the regional power grid. Other cities that have received Ram 1500 PHEVs include Yuma, Ariz., Albany, N.Y., Charlotte, N.C., and San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.

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As a refresher, the Ram 1500 PHEV is based on Chrysler’s short-lived dual-mode hybrid system (shared with General Motors) that made its way into to handful of Dodge Durangos and Chrysler Aspens. The Ram 1500 PHEV is powered by a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, an electric motor, and a 12.9 kWhr lithium ion battery pack, which is installed underneath the rear seats.

Despite the sizable test program, Chrysler maintains it currently has no plans for a production version of the 1500 PHEV.

Source: Dodge, September 29th, 2011

Sunday 7 August 2011

MIT researchers boost energy density of lithium-air batteries

Last year MIT researchers reported improving the efficiency of lithium-air batteries through the use of electrodes with gold or platinum catalysts. MIT News is now reporting that in a continuation of that work, researchers have been able to further increase the energy storage capacity of lithium-air batteries for a given weight by creating carbon-fiber-based electrodes.

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The superior energy density offered by lithium-air batteries is due to the coupling of a lithium anode to atmospheric oxygen through a porous carbon-based air cathode, instead of the heavy conventional compounds found in lithium-ion batteries. During battery discharge, lithium ions flow from the anode through an electrolyte and combine with oxygen at the cathode to form lithium oxides, which are inserted into the cathode. During recharging, the lithium oxides separate again into lithium and oxygen and the process can begin again.

The carbon-based electrodes used in last year's research had only about 70 percent void space, but the new carbon-fiber-based electrodes are significantly more porous and boast more than 90 percent void space. This means the carbon-fiber-based electrodes can more efficiently store the lithium oxide that fills the pores as the battery discharges.

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"We grow vertically aligned arrays of carbon nanofibers using a chemical vapor deposition process. These carpet-like arrays provide a highly conductive, low-density scaffold for energy storage," Robert Mitchell, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), told MIT News.

The researchers claim the carbon-fiber-based electrode can store four times as much energy for its weight compared to current lithium-ion battery electrodes. However, Yang Shao-Horn, the Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering and senior author of the paper says further work still needs to be done before the advances make it from the lab and into a practical commercial product.

Source: MIT News, by Darren Quick, July the 28th, 2011

Heavy-duty plug-in Ford trucks are coming

Ford and Azure Dynamics are collaborating on a program that will allow consumers to purchase plug-in hybrid versions of Ford’s F-Series Super Duty trucks.

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Azure’s plug-in hybrid technology will initially be integrated on the F-550 Super Duty cab and chassis, which is expected to be available in early 2013. The agreement also allows Azure to perform hybrid powertrain conversions on other Super Duty platforms, including F-350 and F-450 models, and spans all engine, frame length and regular production options and configurations.

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The agreement includes a “ship-thru” provision that permits Azure to place vehicles in Ford’s transportation system, and allows qualified Ford Commercial Truck dealerships to sell and service the trucks in key North American markets.

Currently, the collaboration between Ford and Azure also includes the Transit Connect Electric and E-450 Balance Hybrid electric step van and shuttle bus.

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“As interest in alternative energy products continues to grow, consumers are looking for more powertrain options that are both environmentally friendly and fit their driving needs,” said Rob Stevens, Ford’s commercial vehicle chief engineer. “The flexibility of our vehicle platforms and chassis allows Ford to develop our own alternative fuel products or work with partners, like Azure Dynamics, to deliver consumers with the power of choice when purchasing a ‘greener,’ more fuel-efficient vehicle.”

Source: Autos.ca, August 4th, 2011

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Quantum Displays PHEV Ford F-150

From June 19-22 Quantum Technologies is showcasing an extended-range electric vehicle conversion of the Ford F-150 pickup at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg, Va.

With similar range performance to a Chevy Volt, the PHEV version of one of America’s best-selling light-duty trucks is said to go 35 miles in all-electric mode (55 km), then shift to hybrid-electric mode for a total range of over 400 miles (640 km).

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Obviously the internal combustion range is dependent on fuel tank size. Requests for fuel economy info and more information were not returned by deadline, but we are surmising internal combustion engine performance is similar to a stock F-150.

As it is, Quantum reports the truck already has $14 million in pre-orders from “two major fleet customers with strong interest being generated from large corporations, utilities and fleet customers.”

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The hybrid F-150 incorporates the company’s “F-Drive” system merging an electric powertrain with a petrol powertrain to eliminate range anxiety – a requirement for many fleets. Quantum says it will meet Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standards, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board emission requirements.

Quantum is known for having worked also with Fisker developing its similar “Q-Drive,” and we recently reported its powertrain is being developed for military fleet applications as well.

The company was previously known as an innovator in fuel cell technology, but more recently has switched its attention to battery electric and petrol-based internal combustion innovation as the market has shifted in favor of PHEV technology.

The F-150 will incorporate Dow Kokam Lithium-ion batteries, but few technical specs were released.

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What is known is the F-drive was developed not for individual consumers at this time, and the system is similar to the Q-drive in the Fisker.

The positive news for consumers is corporate fleet needs for efficient cost-effective vehicles and resultant large contracts are another market stimulus to continue developing hybrid and electric vehicle technology.

"We are pleased to showcase the F-150 PHEV at EUFMC, which is one of America's largest showcases for utility vehicles and work trucks," said Alan Niedzwiecki, the president and CEO of Quantum. "All fleets are faced with the challenge of reducing operating costs and lowering carbon footprint and emission profile. The F-150 PHEV provides a solution to that challenge."

Source: HybridCars, by Jeff Cobbs, June 21st, 2011

Germany: VW provides update on PHEV trials

Volkswagen – in cooperation with six project partners and the German Ministry of the Environment – presented the current status of the 'Fleet study in electric mobility' initiated in July 2008. The primary goal of the project, which runs until June 2012, is to consistently use renewable energy sources for PHEVs – 20 Golf Variant twïnDRIVE cars.

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The Golf Variant twïnDRIVE enables distances of up to 57km (35 miles) on pure electric power; a small range extending engine provides for a total range of about 900km (560 miles).

VW chairman Martin Winterkorn says the 'Fleet study in electric mobility' has become more important with the German federal government’s mandatory exit from nuclear energy.

According to plans by the federal government, the number of pure EVs will reach one million units in Germany alone by 2020, which must be operated from renewable energy sources to attain significant progress in environmental protection. Over 16% of Germany’s current power demand is already covered by renewable energy sources, and plans are afoot to extend this share to 30% by 2020. The PHEV fleet study is analysing the usage behaviour of drivers of cars with electrical charging, electric load control and intelligent strategies in the charging process. In addition, a scenario is being tested in which some daily peak electrical demand might be buffered by the cars’ lithium-ion batteries.

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Volkswagen AG aims to launch several PHEVs in 2013/2014, to supplement the group’s hybrid models from Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen, as well as the pure electric vehicles that will also be launched from 2013. Winterkorn comments: “Over the mid-term, the plug-in hybrid offers great potential here, because it unites the best of two worlds in one vehicle.”

The 'Fleet study in electric mobility' is being conducted by six project partners under Volkswagen AG’s leadership: the utility E.ON, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft ISIT (involved with battery systems and new battery chemistry development), Heidelberger Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, the German Aerospace Centre DLR (undertaking analysis and forecasting traffic scenarios) and the Westphalian Wilhelm University in Münster (developing methodologies and laboratory testing of battery cells).

Source: AutomotiveWorld.com, June the 30th, 2011

Toyota to Launch Three 2012 Plug-in Cars

Not a company to rest on its battery powered laurels, Toyota is readying a comparative plethora of plug-in vehicles for 2012 in the form of the Prius PHEV, RAV4 EV and Scion iQ EV.

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As many who follow advanced-tech automotive development are aware, Toyota will soon launch the plug-in version of its best-selling Prius, which is already making the rounds in the show circuit.

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The Prius PHEV will offer only 12 miles all-electric range (20 km), so it won’t usurp the Chevy Volt in that category. However, the plug-in Prius’ price will be only a little more than a conventional Prius making it more of a mainstream offering.

Once the battery power runs out, the car reverts back to operating as a conventional hybrid, so like the Volt, there will be no fears of “range anxiety.”

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Speaking of which, unless it is used correctly, Toyota’s full-electric Scion iQ could cause range anxiety as it will offer an estimated 50-65 miles (80 to 100 km) travel before its lithium ion battery is discharged. By comparison, the Nissan LEAF gets somewhere between 80 to over 100 miles (130 to 160 km) per charge. The Scion’s gasoline powered counterpart is also due later this year.

On the plus side, center of gravity for the Scion EV is said to be actually improved due to the under-floor battery pack. Another bonus is its batteries will not interfere with the Scion iQ’s 3+1 passenger layout.

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A third Toyota utilizing battery power will be the RAV4 EV. This vehicle was co-developed with Tesla and was first shown at last year’s LA Auto Show.

Performance is reportedly decent, consisting of 100-mile range (160 km) and acceleration equal to the gasoline-powered RAV4, despite a weight penalty of 220 pounds. Like the Scion iQ, the RAV4 EV does not let its batteries impede interior space and will retain its full 74 cubic feet of cargo room.

We do not have exact launch dates or pricing information on these vehicles as of yet.

Source: Hybridcars, by Jeff Cobbs, July the 1st, 2011

Sunday 8 May 2011

Electric Cars To Get Billions In House Bill

A newly introduced bipartisan bill in Congress called the Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act is looking to authorize roughly $3 billion for electric vehicle roll out in specific regions around the United States.

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The bill is sponsored by a Democrat from Massachusetts, two from California, and an Illinois Republican. Under the legislation the U.S. Secretary of Energy would competitively offer $300 million to ten different communities where electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid deployment would be supported through grants and tax incentives.

Critical infrastructure, like public charging stations and domestic manufacturing, would be funded to test best practices in yet-t0-be-determined cities. As well, the bill would offer an additional $2,000 incentive to the first 50,000 green car buyers within each selected district beyond already established federal and local incentives.

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The bill would also extend the $2,000 individual and $50,000 business tax credits for charging station installation. Smaller communities outside the ten determined regions will have the ability to apply for some grants, and manufacturers will also have the chance to take advantage of new incentives.

Source: Green Economy, by Aaron Colter, May the 6th, 2011

Ford F-150 Plug-In Hybrid

Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies has launched a new line of hybrid vehicles, with the flagship being a plug-in hybrid version of the Ford F-150 pickup truck, the top selling vehicle in North America . Although it’s only available to fleets, the hybrid pickup will maintain the capabilities of the conventional F-150, while achieving substantially higher fuel economy and producing dramatically reduced emissions.

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The PHEV F-150 uses Quantum’s new “F-Drive” hybrid system, which can be applied to either the rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive pickup and delivers a range of about 56 km (35 miles) on electricity alone before shifting to a hybrid mode. The total range before refuelling is estimated at about 644 km (400 miles).

The F-Drive has been integrated in the F-150 vehicle in such a way that there is no impingement into the cab or bed and it maintains full ground clearance. The 20 kW hour battery pack and assorted hybrid components are placed on the driver’s side of the truck between the driveshaft and outboard frame member, with the factory fuel tank and 150 kW generator located opposite it on the passenger side.

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We believe this vehicle fills an important niche for fleet customers desiring a largely electric pick-up truck with extended range capability,” said Alan Niedzwiecki, CEO Quantum Technologies. Quantum is perhaps best known for its work with Fisker on the Fisker Karma high-performance electric sports coupe.

Source: AutoNet.ca, by Joe Duarte, May the 7th, 2011

Winterkorn Promises Plug-in Hybrids. Real Soon Now

In a cautious climbdown from Volkswagen’s previous anti-electric stance, Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winternkorn said electric cars might not be the work of the antichrist after all. The statements were made at the 32nd Vienna Motor Symposium. After announcing that the Volkswagen Group will be producing plug-in hybrid in 2013/14 (didn’t they previously say it was 2012?), Winterkorn said:

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“The electric car will impact the future of individual mobility in crucial ways – and Volkswagen is spearheading this technology. Over the mid-term, the plug-in hybrid offers great potential, because it combines the best of two worlds in one vehicle.”

Great that someone finally had the guts to say that.

Then, Volkswagen showcased two new engines at the symposium. One runs on E 85 and will be sold in Sweden and Finland. The other is a diesel that will go into the Chattanooga Passat.

Source: The Truth About Cars, by Bertel Schmitt, May the 7th, 2011

Plug It In

Some cars just need a place to recharge after a day of zipping around here and there.

That’s the thrust of Connecticut Light & Power and its parent company Northeast Utilities' “Plug My Ride” grass-roots initiative. The two companies recently announced a research project that involves about 30 stations to support new plug-in electric vehicles, or "EVs." The initiative is the largest of its kind in New England, according to CL&P.

"We've worked hard to make Connecticut an early market for electric vehicles, so we're excited to launch New England's first comprehensive, hands-on EV study," Jeff Butler, CL&P's president and chief operating officer, said in a press release. "By gathering information from municipal and business customers, we can gain tangible experience to help guide future decisions about our infrastructure, our policies and how we will ultimately serve all of our customers as EVs become more common."

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NU will provide the charging equipment. CL&P will work with designated municipal and business customers to complete installations by year-end. So far, UBS in Stamford and the town of Westport are among the 20 municipalities and businesses that will participate in the research project.

The Westport train station plans on installing 10 charging stations that could charge 20 cars simultaneously. However, the town hasn't decided exactly where to put the chargers.

"We don't have them installed yet, but we're committed to doing it," Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said.

So after much ado about the end of the electric car, it appears reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. Still, it’s in a developmental stage, said Ridgefield resident John Papa.

Right now there is still a general lack of understanding about it,” Papa said. “It sort of, 'Hey that sounds like a science experiment.’ ”

Because of that, Papa said the fuss about installing charging stations is somewhat overblown. He said educating and acclimating people about EVs would better serve the state. Papa would like more chargers in homes and workplaces than public places.

There are millions and millions of electric outlets out there already,” Papa said.

The cars can plug into any 120-volt electric outlet. EV owners buy electric vehicle service equipment EVSE charging stations to plug into a 240-volt outlet.

The Chevrolet Buick of Wilton has delivered between seven and eight Chevy Volts and would sell more if it could get them, according to the sales staff.

There’s a lot of interest in the car, the problem is we can’t get enough of them,” said Scott Nickle, a salesman at the dealership. “We’ve got wicked high demand and will have more when gas reaches $6 a gallon this summer.

The cars aren’t inexpensive. A 2011 Volt, a plug-in hybrid has a $41,000 starting price. However, a $7,500 federal tax credit brings it down to $33,500. The all-electric Nissan Leaf comes in at $26,130 after a $7,500 federal tax credit.

That price causes people to shy away from buying the cars, Papa said.

However, the number of electric cars on the road isn’t a sign of success or failure. If there are only 20 electric cars out there, that’s 20 electric cars that weren’t there before, Papa said.

Electric cars produce less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than drive on gasoline. Lastly, electricity is made in the United States by driving EVs can reduce fossil fuel consumption and help the nation divorce itself from foreign energy sources.

Moving away from Mid-East dependence on oil would be a good thing, said state Attorney General George Jepsen. He recently told Patch that he wants to see a more concerted effort regarding an energy policy.

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"The real tragedy is we've known since 1973 that we need to do this," Jepsen said. "Despite the existence of technologies there has been an abject failure from Congress to put policies into place."

But it will likely be the rising cost of gas that pushes people to electric vehicles rather than legislation, Nickle said.

According to fueleconomy.gov, a 2011 smart car coupe averages about 37 miles per kilowatt hour of highway driving. It costs about $1 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $2 to $4 for all-electric.

But in the end don’t expect to zoom around like The Jetsons.

After the initial excitement wears off it’s still a car. It’s getting you from Point A to Point B,” Papa said. “People make it out that you’re getting into a rocket ship.”

Source: StamfordPatch, by Cathryn J. Prince, May the 8th, 2011

Sunday 13 March 2011

Chevy Volt drives a greener future.

General Motors' 2011 Chevrolet Volt arrives just as oil prices reach post-recession highs. The all-new Volt is a plug-in electric vehicle with extended range capable of traveling 25 to 50 miles on electric-only power before a gasoline-powered electric generator propels the car an additional 344 miles.

"An electric-only vehicle has range limitations," said Jeff Batliner, sales representative for Christenson Chevrolet in Highland. "Volt's technology appeals to buyers because they don't need a different vehicle to fulfill all of their transportation requirements. Volt eliminates the need to own two separate cars."

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Recently, I had the opportunity to test the Volt over a week-long period, running it though the paces of my daily commute with jaunts across the highway. Using a common 110 household electric current tops Volt off with a full charge in eight hours. With 240-volt service, a complete charge can be accomplished in four hours.

Last week's cool temperatures gave me a 28-mile range on electric power only before the 1.4-liter range extender (gas engine) stepped up to fuel an onboard electric generator to operate the car. Volt's actual mileage range varies with outside temperature, terrain and driving technique. I drove all week under normal traffic conditions using less than a quarter tank of gasoline across my 240-miles of travel. Under electric power only, the equivalent of 93 miles per gallon (2.5l / 100km) is attained. While under gasoline use, my combined mileage reached 44.3 mpg (5.3l / 100 km).

Only a slight whine is heard while operating under electric power. Engine noise is noticeable once the range extender activates, though not intrusive to conversation levels in the cabin. Inside, the driver and three passengers enjoy a two-tone interior with a quad-seat configuration created by the placement of Volt's T-shaped battery pack harbored in the floor pan. Volt comes standard with full power accessories, navigation system and Bose audio system. A dedicated smart phone app allows the owner to initiate vehicle functions remotely. Activating the electric charge and charging time from an off-sight location is among the useful benefits.

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The 2011 Chevrolet Volt four-door sedan drives and rides as comfortably as any other compact vehicle, though designated exclusively as a "four-seat, five-door vehicle" by GM. A rear hatch opens to convenient cargo space with back seats that fold down for greater carrying capacity. Additional utility is created by the area over the full-length center console that separates the seats for carrying longer gear. Base price for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is $41,000 including destination charge. An applied $7,500 federal tax credit reduces the price further. Volt options include a Premium Trim Package ($1,395) with leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seating, premium door trim and heated front seats. Premium exterior paint for $995 and 17-inch forged polished alloy wheels that cost $595 are other buyer extras. A rear-vision camera and ultrasonic park assist runs an additional $695. The 2011 Chevrolet Volt debuts in select markets across the country and will be available in our region the fourth quarter of this year.

Source: NorthWestIndiana.com, by Jim Jackson, March 13th, 2011

Chevrolet Volt delivers a good ride.

There are two things you notice immediately upon driving the Chevrolet Volt. Well, one you notice and one you don't. What you first notice is that the Volt, the first mass-market electric vehicle to enter the U.S. market, drives pretty much like a normal car. Ignore the fancy LCD displays, put the transmission in drive and put your foot on the "gas" pedal. It goes. It is, as the Chevy commercials say, more car than electric.

The second thing you'll notice is the silence. Push the starter button, put it in gear and go. __No starter noise. No engine noise. No exhaust noise. It's so quiet that when you go back to driving even a relatively new, modern and quiet vehicle, all the normal sounds are a bit jarring.__

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__Chevy loaned me a Volt for several days recently to try out. For five-plus days I drove as I normally would to see how it fit with my daily life. At the end, I really did not want to give it back.__ Chevy advertises the Volt as an "extended-range electric vehicle." Some automotive experts call it a plug-in hybrid.

__The Volt will run for a period of time solely on power stored in its lithium-ion battery. When the battery is depleted, a four-cylinder gasoline engine automatically and imperceptibly kicks in and powers a generator that provides the juice to operate the Volt's electric-drive system and accessories. End of technical stuff. It works as advertised.__

With its $40,280 base price (minus a $7,500 federal tax credit), the Volt isn't a bargain. From a total cost standpoint, there are cheaper ways to drive and save on gas. TrueCar.com lists it as the sixth most fuel-efficient vehicle on the market, behind the Toyota Prius and four other hybrids. But if you have a relatively modest daily commute, say 25 to 35 miles round trip, you won't be visiting a gas station very often. The Volt lived up to GM's promise of a 40-mile range on battery power only, and perhaps a bit more on most days. Plug it in at home (any standard 110/120-volt outlet will do) for about 10 hours at night, and you're good to go again the next day.

GM says it takes about 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity to recharge the Volt. At 10 cents per kwh, that's $1 a day for electricity. Compare that to a vehicle getting a respectable 25 miles per gallon and with gasoline costing $3.50 or $4 a gallon, and the Volt starts to look really good.

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When the battery runs out, the gas engine's EPA combined city/highway rating is 37 mpg. In my five-plus days of driving, I used about 1.7 gallons of gas in about 60 miles, according to the onboard data system. That backup gasoline engine and the cost to integrate it seamlessly into the electric-drive system are why the Volt costs more upfront than, say, the $32,780 Nissan Leaf, which is all-electric. "There's a lot more stuff going on in the Volt," said John O'Dell, analyst for Edmunds.com. Besides the Leaf, several other carmakers are coming out in the next year or so with all-electric vehicles with longer-range batteries. And any Dallas-Fort Worth driver knows how easy it is to put 100 miles or more on a car in a day. The one time the Volt's battery didn't live up to claims was a cold morning when I ran the heater. It heats with electricity, whereas gas-powered cars draw heat from the engine. There are numerous reports of drivers in cold northern and eastern climes who have seen the range of their Volt and Leaf cut dramatically by using the heaters and the fact that low temperatures reduce battery capacity.

The one time I ran the air conditioning (the bigger climate-control issue in Texas, after all) it worked fine. I drove 40 miles that day and got home with two miles of battery power left.

In the final analysis, I found the Volt to be a nice compact car. It handles well, drives nice and accelerates quickly enough that you can get onto Interstate 20 and not get run over by an 18-wheeler. It's roomy for the driver and front-seat passenger, but the back seats are for short legs. And the best part is that satisfying feeling of passing gas stations and their $3.50-a-gallon prices.

Source: Star Telegram, by Bob Cox, March 11th, 2011

GM is getting a charge out of Volt.

Nissan's much publicized launch of the all-electric Leaf compact hatchback has been upstaged by the Chevrolet Volt, a vehicle that shares many of the Leaf's attributes, but beats the Nissan car on one important aspect: It won't stop going when the battery runs down. Both vehicles went on sale in December in a limited number of markets, including Texas, but sales of the Volt have outnumbered those of the Leaf by more than five to one, with nearly 1,000 of the Volt delivered already, compared to fewer than 200 of the Leaf.

Limited supplies, not a lack of demand, are responsible for the low sales numbers for both vehicles, although it is a bit surprising that General Motors has been able to deliver as many of the Volt as it has while Nissan still is struggling to fill about 7,000 sold orders it has on hand. My prediction is that the Volt will outsell the Leaf by a substantial margin, regardless of whether there are production limitations, even though the Volt's base price of $41,000 is about $10,000 higher than that of the Leaf. (Although it's clear that many Chevy dealers are charging more than GM's list price for the Volt; even Consumer Reports paid $5,000 over sticker for the test unit it bought recently, and there have been reports of markups of $10,000 or more in some areas.)

The main reason the Volt's sales will beat those of the Leaf: practicality. After back-to-back, weeklong test drives of both vehicles, I can say for sure that I felt a whole lot more comfortable driving the Volt than I did the Leaf. But that comfy feeling had nothing to do with the heated leather seats that were part of a $1,395 Premium Trim Package on my test vehicle. Instead, the comfort came from knowing that when the digital miles-to-empty readout for the Volt's battery dropped to zero and there was no power left, I wouldn't have to pull over to the side of the road and call a tow truck, which I almost had to do with the Leaf. That's because when the Volt's battery runs down, the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine fires up automatically, powering a generator that keeps the car's electric motor going. In the Leaf, you have to find an external power source to plug into when the battery is out of juice. I realize that there are people who are avid fans of pure electric vehicles, and who turn up their noses at the idea of a backup gasoline engine to provide power in the Volt. But for many of us, the Leaf just won't fit our daily driving routines.

My commute to work is nearly 30 miles, which takes almost all of the Volt's battery capacity and about half of the Leaf's. Chevy says the Volt's range is 40 miles and Nissan says the Leaf can go up to 100 miles, but I averaged about 34 miles per charge with the Volt, and 65 miles with the Leaf. Even when indicating a full charge, my tester Volt's miles-to-empty reading for the battery never showed more than 35 miles. Therefore, without hooking up to a power source at work to recharge the Volt, I still could get home on gasoline power, and that's what I did. Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not writing off the Leaf just because it gave me some anxious moments trying to drive home from work in cold, icy weather and bumper-to-bumper traffic with the battery almost depleted; I'm just saying it's not the car for me. A lot of people will be able to live with the Leaf's limitations; I'm not one of them. I'm a spontaneous-trip kind of person who needs a vehicle to be ready to go anywhere at any time; and with the Volt, I could do that whether the battery was at full charge or not.

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The truth is, if I could afford both the Volt and the Leaf, I'd probably have one of each. I am a fan of alternative-fuel vehicles, and I hate buying gasoline, especially now that prices have spiked up again. I could see having the Volt as my trip vehicle and the Leaf as an in-town car, using it for short trips the way senior citizens do with the golf carts they drive on the street in Sun City, Ariz. For someone who wants a mostly electric vehicle but can't justify owning two cars, the Volt might be the answer. If that's you, though, you might want to want until the prices come down a bit. Not many of us can afford the Volt, even with tax breaks that could lower the price by $7,500 or more.

I was able to recharge the battery on my Volt tester completely in about eight to 10 hours using only standard 110-volt household power. The optional 220-volt charger, which costs about $800 plus installation, can accomplish that in about four hours. Driving to work and around town a bit during the lunch hour on battery power, and not connecting the charger at the office, I was having to use gasoline for my trips home each evening. Even so, my Volt used only about 5 gallons of gas the entire week. Each nightly recharge of the battery, I figured, added about 70 cents to my electric bill, which was much less than I would have had to pay for the gasoline to make the drive to work.

The dash readouts on my Volt showed that I was averaging about 75 mpg using the combination of battery and gasoline power. But a separate readout showed that the car's fuel economy over its brief lifetime (around 4,000 miles so far) was about 44 mpg. That's probably because GM shuttles its press-fleet vehicles from city to city, and the Volt would be using gasoline power most of the time on those long highway jaunts. For sure, the Volt is a real car, with nice styling (it got lots of complements even from people who had no idea that it was an electric car), plenty of standard amenities, decent acceleration, great road handling and a smooth ride.

The Volt is about the size of the new Chevy Cruze, on which it is based, and its controls are the same — an automatic transmission shifter in the center console, an accelerator pedal and a brake pedal. It's a four-door hatchback with room for four passengers; everyone sits in a captain's chair — there are no bench seats. Like a golf cart, the Volt is completely quiet when running with the gasoline engine off, except for the noise of the air conditioner. But even the gasoline engine is quieter than one would expect — I could hardly hear it inside the car. The power cord hooks up to a port under a gasoline-filler-type flap on the left front fender just in front of the driver's door, while the real gasoline filler tube is under a similar little flap on the right rear fender. Both are unlocked and opened automatically by pushing buttons on the inside of the driver's door. Among standard features are an in-dash navigation system with built-in audio, which includes a CD player and XM satellite radio. My tester had a rearview camera and ultrasonic parking-assist system as an option ($695); the camera's view is shown on the dash screen of the nav system. Power windows/mirrors/door locks were standard, along with a remote and push-button start. The remote had to be used to lock and unlock the doors, but could remain in a pocket or purse while driving the car. GM provided an Android smart phone during the test drive that had an application that connected to OnStar, allowing for remote monitoring and start of the Volt. Using the phone app from inside my house or at my desk at work, I was able to see the current state of the Volt's battery charge, how much gas was in the tank and whether the car currently was being charged. The Volt's pickup wasn't as quick as that of the Leaf, mostly because the Volt is a slightly larger and heavier — 3,800 versus 3,300 pounds for the Leaf. But it was no slouch, either, and top speed is 100 mph, while the Leaf's is about 90. Base price of my Volt was $40,280 (plus $720 freight). Other options included 17-inch alloy wheels ($595) and Crystal Red Metallic Tintcoat paint ($495). Total sticker, with freight and extras, was $44,180. A three-year Volt lease is available for $350 a month, GM says, which is the least expensive way to get into one of the vehicles. It requires only a $2,500 down payment. GM's previous electric car — the EV1 — was available only by lease, and all of those vehicles eventually were reclaimed by the automaker and destroyed. About 600 Chevrolet dealers have signed up so far to sell the Volt, the automaker said. Production volumes will be limited in the first couple of years so actually buying a Volt will be difficult for a while — there are a lot of people already in line. __The expensive lithium-ion battery is covered by a warranty for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. GM assembles the Volt at its Hamtramck plant in Detroit.__

Source: mysanantonio.com, by Chamber Williams, March 11th, 2011

Wednesday 22 December 2010

San Diego Is ‘Roll-Out’ City For Electric Cars.

__San Diego is one of the first cities where Nissan has launched its first mass-produced, plug-in electric car, the Leaf, a five-seat compact. __ Thomas Franklin of San Diego was the first to take delivery of the car in Southern California when he quietly drove off in his new Leaf earlier this month. Franklin is a patent attorney who works with clean-technology companies. Becoming the first owner of an electric vehicle (EV) in San Diego placed Frankling in the media spotlight. He also became an immediate hit with colleagues, clients and friends.

I keep handing over the keys to someone else," Franklin said. "I’ve driven around about half the people in the office; I’ve taken out my clients. Everybody is just tickled to be a part of history."

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Franklin, who was chosen from a list of buyers, expected to get his car sometime in 2011. The real surprise was that he's be the first in town to get one. He said the car is quick to respond, unlike a gasoline-powered vehicle which lags between when you step on the gas pedal and when it actually moves forward. "There is no transmission, it’s direct drive," Franklin said. "And the reaction is instantaneous."

He can walk to shopping and dining from his La Jolla home, Franklin said. He only drives to work and to ferry his children to their activities. “My commute is about 20 miles, so I haven’t had to worry about it.”

The Leaf has a range of 70 to 100 miles (110 to 160 km) and needs about seven hours for a full charge with a 240-volt charger.

The base model retails for around $32,000, compared with more than $40,000 for the Chevy Volt. But qualifying buyers get a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 and a California state rebate of up to $5,000 on the new electric cars.

The Volt is a plug-in hybrid. It will hit the local streets in February.

The Volt is primarily an EV that can get up to 40 miles (60 km) on an electric charge. After the battery runs out, a gas-powered motor kicks in and continues to propel the car.

The Volt sells for about $41,000 and is eligible for the federal tax credit, but not the state rebate because it does not qualify as a zero-emission vehicle.

A good portion of those switching to EVs happen to be people who currently drive the Toyota Prius.

Mike Ferry is the transportation programs manager at the California Center for Sustainable Energy, which administers the rebate. (Its web site has guidelines on how to apply.) He said it’s exciting to be a part of this new era. “We are at the forefront of this revolution in automotive transportation.

San Diego was picked to be a launch market for a couple of reasons: The state policy which promotes zero-emission vehicles; and the cooperation of San Diego Gas & Electric. “San Diego was able to partner early on in the process and bring these companies into the area,” Ferry said.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and SDG&E were instrumental in setting the city up, both as a key launch market and to participate in the EV Project, funded by the Department of Energy.

The $115 million EV Project enables several states, including California, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee and the District of Columbia, to receive free charging stations for public areas, such as malls, residential charging units for the first 1,000 buyers of EVs, and fast-charge stations near freeways.

So early Leaf owners such as Franklin receive a free charging unit that is installed in their home; they only have to pay for the electricity.San Diego is the cornerstone of the EV Project in California. There is none in the Bay Area and L.A was added only recently,” Ferry said.

The EV Project will collect and analyze data on vehicle use in diverse terrain and climate conditions, evaluate the effectiveness of the charging infrastructure, and conduct trials on various revenue systems for commercial and public revenue.

Ecotality is an EV service provider that is working with the DOE to supply the free charging stations. __Andy Hoskinson, area manager for Ecotality, said charging costs will be minimal in public places. __ Nissan_Leaf_Back__250_x_180_.jpg

You may see some locations where the cost to refill the vehicle is free, because the host has elected to pay the cost. And you might see that range up to a $1.50 or so for every hour that the vehicle is connected and charging,” Hoskinson said. Ecotality’s charger, called the Blink, costs $1,200 for residential units, $2,500 for the ones installed in public places and $20,000 for the fast-charge units that will be located near freeways.

If you were to plug your car into a 480-volt quick charge station, it would take about 30 minutes to get to an 80% charge.

For depleted batteries, it will take about seven hours when plugged into a 240 volt residential or public station.

An EV plugged into a regular 110-volt socket will take about 20 hours for the battery to go from empty to full.

Aside from the Blink, there are other brands sold by different EV service providers such as Coulomb Technologies, Better Place and AeroVironment.

Charging an electric car at home increases the load, which could lead to power outages without proper planning. Coping with the increased load is something SDG&E has anticipated for several years. The utility has worked with Ecotality and Nissan dealerships to pinpoint residential areas where there will be a concentration of these cars.

Hoskinson said the area around state route 56, which starts at the end of Ted Williams Parkway in Carmel Mountain and goes through Rancho Penasquitos and Carmel Valley, is one such cluster.

We anticipate electric vehicles will be popular where today's hybrids are located,” said April Bolduc, communications manager with SDG&E. However, she said the utility is still working on identifying these areas.

Charging an EV is equivalent to running an electric dryer. It draws about 3.3 kilowatts per hour from the grid.

Car owners are encouraged to charge at home between midnight and 6 a.m., off-peak hours. Leaf owner Franklin said he plugs his car in when he comes home and the built-in timer begins charging at midnight.

Bolduc said SDG&E is working with the California Public Utilities Commission to develop rates that will give EV customers an incentive to charge during off-peak hours, at night and early mornings when costs are low. That can save as much as 75 percent compared with using gasoline. “Drivers get a low rate, there is a reduction in harmful air emissions, and we reduce the need for building and operating new power plants. It's a cleaner win-win for everyone,” Bolduc said. When it comes to dealing with the increased demand for power from EVs, Bolduc said a smart grid is the answer. “The great thing about smart meters is that they are going be able to help us predict what the condition is of the transformers that are in a particular neighborhood. So over time we’ll be able to make those transformers smarter,” Bolduc said.

Source: KPBS, by Padma Nagappan, December 21, 2010

Hydro-Québec and Mitsubishi launch the largest electric vehicle trial in Canada.

Hydro-Québec and Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada Inc. are pleased to announce that the first five all-electric i-MiEVs have arrived in Boucherville and are currently being prepared for their new drivers. Once installation of the data logging equipment that will be used during the trials is complete, Boucherville Mayor, Jean Martel, and employees from the City of Boucherville, the Centre de santé et de services sociaux Pierre-Boucher and Hydro-Québec will be able to pick up the test vehicles, just in time for the holidays.

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Boucherville Mayor, Jean Martel, was delighted to announce his personal participation in the project. "I am pleased to be one of the first users of the i-MIEV car in Quebec. By participating in this project, I feel I'm contributing to technological progress that will enable all of us to live in a cleaner world and breathe healthier air. My daughters are really happy that we're doing something for our future. I wish the project great success and would like to thank everyone who is actively involved."

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Hydro-Québec will be leading the road tests that aim to evaluate the performance of up to 50 all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEVs under a variety of circumstances, notably winter conditions. The project, that was announced at the Montreal International Auto Show in 2010, is designed to study the users' charging habits, driving experience and overall satisfaction as well as vehicle behaviour when interfaced with the electric grid.

"We are delighted to be at the heart of the largest electric vehicle trial in Canada," stated Pierre-Luc Desgagné, Senior Director, Strategic Planning and Government Affairs with Hydro-Québec. "Data collected during the tests will help Hydro-Québec plan the future electric vehicle public charging infrastructure which is one of our priorities."

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Mr. Koji Soga, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Canada, had this to say: "This is truly an exciting project for Mitsubishi Motors of Canada, we are looking forward to the partnership. The data that we will collect over the following months will allow us to ensure our state of the art electric technology is ready for the Canadian market."

Indeed, the first five drivers will be able to get acquainted with their new i-MiEVs over the holidays. Media are invited to stay tuned as the details surrounding the application process for the second phase of the trial project will be announced in January, 2011.

i-MiEV fast facts i-MiEV, which stands for Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle, is an all-electric, highway-capable, charge-at-home commuter car with zero tailpipe emissions.

Four major innovations improve the i-MiEV. This vehicle effectively protects its occupants as well as its electrical systems. It also features high-capacity lithium-ion batteries and a small eco-energetic electric motor as well as a three-way charging system. With its long wheelbase and wheels positioned as far to the front and back as possible, the i-MiEV can comfortably accommodate four adults as well as luggage behind the back seat.

The 16 kWh high energy density lithium-ion battery pack is located beneath the vehicle's floor, improving handling as well as maximizing space in the passenger compartment.

Capable of travelling 120 km (74 miles) on a single charge, Mitsubishi's i-MiEV can be recharged in 6 hours using 240 volt outlets, 13 hours using 120 volt outlets or a quick charge station to provide an 80% charge within approximately 30 minutes.

Already sold in Japan, the i-MiEV will be introduced on the Canadian market at the end of 2011.

Source: Newswire.ca, December 20th, 2010

Tuesday 21 December 2010

China - Recharging for electric vehicles.

The Beijing municipal government plans to set up 100 rapid and 36,000 low-speed charging stations in the city in the next three years to encourage use of electric vehicles with lithium ion batteries.

The government expects that private owners will buy 30,000 electric vehicles by the end of 2012 - 23,000 of them pure electric cars and 7,000 plug-in hybrids.

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The plan suggests that buyers in Beijing could get subsidies of up to 50,000 yuan (U$7,500) for a plug-in hybrid car and 60,000 yuan (U$9,000) for a pure-electric car.

Media reports last summer from China said the government plans to invest 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) to support the development of electric vehicles and advanced lithium ion batteries technology in the country.

The reports said the government's goal is to have 5 million electric vehicles (EVs) as well as another 15 million hybrid-electric vehicles on the roads by 2020. The rationale behind this initiative is clear.

Today, China consumes about 8 million barrels of oil a day - or nearly 10% of the 88 million barrels consumed globally on a daily basis - the majority of it imported. During the coming decade, China is expected to add nearly 200 million passenger vehicles to its fleet, pushing the number in operation to more than 250 million. Already the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the additional pressure from those vehicles on China's environment, public health and oil supplies is forcing leaders to look for alternative energy solutions.

A seemingly obvious solution is a migration to hybrid and electric vehicles, which require little or no oil and produce little to no tailpipe emissions.

But can China successfully transition to a hybrid and electric vehicle industry? Based on JD Power's experience working in markets around the world, success is not guaranteed. There are a myriad of challenges that need to be overcome for electric vehicles to become commonplace in China. The most important are technical obstacles to making electric vehicles cost competitive and overcoming consumer skepticism. Electric car technology has been around for more than a century and at one point was more common than petroleum power.

It wasn't until some simple innovations empowered the internal combustion engine - among them the electric starter and widespread availability of gasoline - that it overtook the battery as the preferred power source for the world's vehicles.

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Yet many of the challenges faced by modern EV technology are the same as they were more than a century ago:

Limited driving range: Electric battery packs do not now hold the desired volumes of energy, which limits driving range.

As a result, many consumers have "range anxiety", a concern that their vehicle will not get them to their destination or they cannot drive their vehicle over long distances.

Limited support infrastructure: Currently, there is inadequate infrastructure available to support electric vehicles, which means the owner of an EV cannot confidently drive long distances and be assured of a recharge far from home.

An adequate national infrastructure might help alleviate range anxiety, but it would also cost billions of yuan to build and would need to provide a way for overnight charging by residents of apartments.

Charging times: Completely recharging batteries in an EV can be inconveniently long - ranging from 3 to 12 hours depending on the system used.

By comparison, filling up the tank of a gasoline-powered auto takes just a few minutes and that is good enough for several days or hundreds of kilometers.

Despite the challenges, JD Power's global research finds that many consumers are interested in hybrid and electric vehicles because of their ability to reduce dependence on oil and lower exhaust emissions - yet interest dissipates substantially when they learn the price premium such vehicles carry.

Today, most hybrid and electric vehicles cost 25 to 100 percent more than a comparably sized conventional vehicle.

Given the skepticism about EV technology, few consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product that potentially offers more inconvenience and potential problems.

All things considered, China is doing the right thing in exploring alternative energy solutions to support its national automotive industry. Due to the size of the vehicle population and the rate at which it is increasing - as well as general concern for the environment - it is the right move.

But much work needs to be done on technological advances, infrastructure development and education to gain consumer acceptance in China, and elsewhere, in the near future.

While the going will not be easy, China has a unique opportunity to take the global lead in the greening of the auto industry. The nation's ability to quickly coordinate and implement automotive policy may be just what's needed to jumpstart the electric-vehicle future.

Source: EVWinds, December 14th, 2010

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