Tag Archives: plug-in

14 US Companies Form Alliance to Create Super Battery

This post appeared in AutoBlogGreen on December 20, 2008:

A Voltron for lithium batteries? 14 companies, Argonne National Lab join forces

Posted Dec 20th 2008 at 3:03PM by Sebastian Blanco
Perhaps a flock-like approach to building lithium batteries for vehicles is what it’ll take. A new alliance has been formed between the Argonne National Laboratory and 14 US companies to try and “perfect” li-ion batteries for cars, the lab announced this week. The alliance, called The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture, will ask for between $1 and $2 billion from the US government over five years to help with the task. Much has been made of the way that America is losing the advanced battery race to Asian countries, and an Argonne spokesman said that, “A small, fragmented (U.S.) battery industry will not long survive in the face of determined Asian competition.”

The companies involved in the alliance include:

  • Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions
  • 3M Co
  • ActaCell
  • All Cell Technologies
  • Altair Nanotechnologies Inc
  • Eagle Picher Industries Inc
  • EnerSys
  • Envia Systems
  • FMC Corp
  • MicroSun Technologies
  • Mobius Power
  • SiLyte
  • Superior Graphite
  • Townsend Advanced Energy

Interesting Idea…

I was browsing the internet today when I happened upon an interesting user comment at hybridcars.com. It didn’t really have much to do with the article, which was about the accusation of Nicolas Sarcozy being too electric car friendly (Nothing wrong with that!). But it was a fascinatingly simple idea:

“they should develope (sic) an all electric car for in town use. then a small trailer with a gas electric generator for the few times long distance is needed. this generic trailer could power different brands of cars. could be shared between a number of people. could be rented.”


What he is describing is a genset trailer and it isn’t a completely new idea. Here is a full description:

A genset trailer is a range extending device for use with battery electric vehicles consisting of an internal combustion engine and an electrical generator (collectively called a genset). They run on traditional fuels such as gasoline or diesel and are sized to provide the continuous power requirements for the vehicle they are used with. Most small to midsized passenger vehicles would require 15 to 20 kW for unlimited freeway travel as long as fuel were available. Larger vehicles could require 30 kW or more of power depending on how heavy and/or un-aerodynamic they happen to be.

One such trailer is the AC Propulsion backtracking Long Ranger range extending gas fueled trailer, making it a gas-electric series plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. This trailer used a 500 cc Kawasaki engine with a 9.5 gallons (40 liter) fuel tank and achieved 30 to 35 mpg (6.72 to 7.84 litres/100 km). It’s rated at 20 kW DC output and can maintain 60 to 80 mph (95 to 128 km/h). -Wikipedia, Genset trailer

I feel this concept is not tossed around enough. A gas powered electric generator on a trailer would not be expensive. We have a surplus of old, small combustion engines in our salvage yards. And one could be shared within an entire neighborhood for family trips. It could easily be provided by a rental service too.  The only downside would be the added weight creating additional draw on the battery.

Inside the Lightning GT and NanoSafe

Even though this British electric supercar will be well out of the price ranges of most of us ($300,000); the Lightning GT utilizes such a unique drivetrain and battery that I think it will be an important project for the future of the electric car industry.

Lightning GT


The Lightning GT has four electric motors at each wheel, but don’t confuse that with the Venturi Volage’s Michelin “Active-Wheel” technology. However, the concept is similar. With this format, there are no gearboxes, differential, axle, drive shafts or propshafts. All of the power is generated at the wheel, the point at which it’s required, which eliminates mechanical complexity and power losses experienced in standard sports cars.


The Lightning GT uses a unique battery called NanoSafe. These batteries use nano titanate materials instead of graphite which makes them far more thermally stable. There are no toxic substances or heavy metals used in NanoSafe batteries. Unlike standard Lithium-Ion batteries in electric vehicles these don’t need to be kept cool when charged/used or heated to get them to perform in sub zero temperatures. Therefore, the batteries can operate in hostile environments and will work in temperatures between 75°C and minus 30°C.

The Lightning GT’s Nanosafe batteries are not of the “laptop variety”. They are each about the size of a regular car battery. 30 of these units are dispersed around the Lighting GT to provide optimum balance and performance. This ‘designed-in’ weight distribution, low roll centres, and wheel mounted motors will allow the GT to achieve excellent road holding performance dynamics. The Nanosafe batteries should allow the car to have a max range of about 200 miles and be fully recharged in 10 minutes using a 3 phase power supply.

Source: Lightning Car Company

Here is some spy footage of a Lightning GT test drive for your viewing pleasure:

Below is a transcript of Peter Ward’s speech he gave at the launch of the Lightning GT. His speech has all the trappings you would expect from somebody that ran Rolls Royce and Bentley for 10 year.

Transcript of presentation by Peter Ward – Launch of the Lightning Car at the British International Motor Show at 13:00 on Monday Tuesday 22 July 2008.

Good afternoon ladies & gentlemen and a very warm welcome to you all on behalf of the Lightning Car Company. We’re absolutely delighted you could join us. For those of you who have been doing the press tour this morning and have got tired legs by now, we believe we’ve got the perfect antidote for you with an absolutely remarkable car to show you. This car is full of inspiration and has the latest you could hope to see in design and in terms of technical inspiration with both the batteries that drive the electric motors and the fact that it has four electric motors, one in each wheel. My name is Peter Ward and, for those of you who may have very long memories, in the 80’s and the 90’s I ran Rolls Royce and Bentley motor cars, so I was responsible for those 10 years for some of the largest and the most expensive
gas guzzlers on the planet. Having been at that end of the market I am delighted to be associated with the Lightning Car and to be able to present to you a very, very different motor car, a car that is purely electric – not hydro- and a car that is driven in a totally different way. Now you could perhaps say that I’m converted and I’ve got the commitment to the converted but nonetheless this car is a car that really and very truly can make a difference to motoring and I’ll talk about that in a little moment. The Lightning Car Company was started in 2006, so if you just think back, in under two short years, lead by the inspiration of Iain Sanderson and the sheer hard work of Chris Dell and Arthur and the team, then they have moved mountains and probably got very little sleep over that time to get this car to you today to present to you a true and working car, it really does work. They have moved a long way to get to this point but it is a car that is genuine and a true performance car, it’s a true GT as you will see and it has all the characteristics that you’d expect of a GT. When you actually see the car, then remember one thing, it is the actual car that you’ll also see on the plasma screens, so it’s a driving car and it’s capable of doing what it’s claimed to. The claims are quite marvellous, it only takes 30 batteries, it’s not one of these that has thousands and thousands of laptop batteries – it takes 30 batteries. Those batteries can be charged in 10 minutes, so by the time you’ve had a cup of coffee on the motorway you can charge this car. That’s just a 10 minute charge time on the right connection.
It has a motor in each wheel, so for those of you that are technically minded, the chassis dynamics and the opportunity for chassis dynamics on this vehicle are phenomenal because it means the turning angle into a bend and the speed at which you approach it you can get the wheels turning at different speeds. The expression of ‘on rails’ is almost true of this car, it is quite amazing. You can also put the sounds in it which means you can have it purring away like a beautiful smooth straight six or as raucous as a V12. You can choose whichever you want, so have some fun with that. I know that Chris and the guys are desperate for me to get these covers off and get me out of the way. This really is the moment that they’ve all worked very, very hard for, as I said earlier, when you look at the plasma screens; this car is a running car. This is the car that was at Alconbury airfield doing the road testing. It is going to be quite a life changing car. It’s going to meet a lot of things that come forward. You can talk to any CEO of any vehicle manufacturer here today and they’re talking electric cars and, in fact. even Gordon Brown two weeks ago was saying that his vision for 2020 was that electric cars and hybrid cars would be at the forefront of all our motoring needs. But that doesn’t have to be an odd looking or an unusual looking style it can be a performance car, as this will prove to be. So we’re very excited that this is a dynamic car, a car that does have all the performance characteristics. It will do 0-60 in less than 4 seconds when it’s fully developed – that’s because the wheel motors have such fantastic torque. It really can do an awful lot and the guys have worked extremely hard to get it to this point. It is an amazing car, the dynamism, the style and the technology that’s in it really will amaze you. So I’m going to ask the guys if they’ll come forward to take the covers off it, but as they do that I’d like all of you if you would to take absolute pride in what I know is the very finest in British engineering and British design. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lightning Electric Car.

BYD Sells First F3DM

China is working fast. BYD began sales of the BYD F3DM plug-in hybrid on December 15, 2008. This occurred days after Washington and Beijing announced plans to work together on green car technology: China’s Science & Technology Ministry signed an agreement with the U.S. Energy Dept. to collaborate on battery technology to power cars on Dec. 11.

The BYD F3DM is a Camry clone on the exterior, but inside the car utilizes BYD’s advanced ferrous battery technology. The F3DM can drive 100 kilometers (62 miles) on a charge, shifting to gasoline when the battery runs low. The car will be able to reach a top speded of 100 mph with a 0-60 mph time of 10.5 seconds.

BYD claims their Dual Mode is different from a range extended electric vehicle because it actually has three modes of operation: 1) Full battery-powered electric mode 2) Series-hybrid mode, in which an engine drives a generator to recharge the batteries, acting as a range-extender like in the Chevy Volt. 3) Parallel hybrid mode, in which the engine and motor both provide propulsive power, like in the Toyota Prius.

Full recharging takes about seven hours in a traditional outlet or one hour at the company’s charging stations. Ten minutes in a traditional outlet gives the battery a 50 percent charge, according to BYD.  That is pretty unbelievable though. Everyone makes the claim of a ten minute recharge; most likely this will need a high output charging station.

The BYD F3DM is priced at $22,000 and will hopefully be available in the US by 2011.  BYD’s first F3DM sale was an order of 50 cars for the Shenzhen municipal government and China Construction Bank as part of the company’s strategy of selling to corporate buyers first, then mass market the vehicles in China the second half of 2009.

Sources: Cleantech, Treehugger, BYD Auto

OnCars.com Incredibly In-Depth Tesla Roadster Video Review

After the unfortunate Top Gear review of the Tesla Roadster, I thought I would provide a more in-depth and encouraging review hosted by Emile Bouret of OnCars.com.  This three part review is very informative and really covers all the bases, as Emile describes the Tesla Roadster’s design, experience, and performance. You can watch the videos in high quality at OnCars.com, but it was a bit hard to navigate, some of the links sent me to a Maxima review instead of the next part. So I embedded them below.

2009 Tesla Roadster Part 1: Design

This goes over the exterior of the Tesla Roadster. While the car is based on a lengthened Lotus chassis, the two cars only share the same windshield.  The car’s large front intake provides an aggressive look, and more than enough air for the cooling system.

2009 Tesla Roadster Part 2: Interior & User Experience

Don’t let the title fool you, this is actually really interesting. Emile sits inside the Tesla Roadster and starts the car, which is a very unique, Playstation like experience. He also notes that if a law is passed to make electric cars louder, it should amplify the jet turbine sound of the regenerative braking. I don’t really understand how a car can be too quiet and thus a safety concern, especially when most modern family sedans are nearly silent from over 10 feet away.

2009 Tesla Roadster Part 3: Performance

What can be said that hasn’t been said already. 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, instant full torque, and zero emissions.

Source: OnCars.com

Top Gear Reviews Tesla Roadster and Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen

I was browsing AutoBlogGreen today and I found out that Top Gear had done a piece on the Tesla Roadster. This was something I had been waiting for for a very long time, because I love the British show and couldn’t wait for their take on the famous electric supercar. Performance wise, the car, fitted with Tesla’s Powertrain 1.5, definitely impressed Jeremy Clarkson, likening the car to broadband motoring in a world of dial-up. However, that was before the car’s battery died after 50 miles of driving. Then they were not impressed by the 16 odd hours it would take them to charge it back up. So they got another Tesla Roadster, which Jeremy managed to overheat (overheated motor, he said, which is odd because the electric motor is just air-cooled for its nominal cooling requirement). To add insult to injury, somehow, the brakes broke on the first one while it was sitting in the garage. So this led the show’s hosts to deem the car impractical for today’s world of driving. Here is the Top Gear: Tesla Roadster Youtube video, which will probably go down soon:

[EDIT: If you want to see Tesla’s side of the story, scroll down to the first comment of this article, by Rachel Konrad, Senior Communications Manager of Tesla Motors. Top Gear’s piece ended up being somewhat of a PR disaster regarding Tesla’s reliability, and hearing another side to the story is helpful.  I won’t make a judgment on what happened because I wasn’t there and I can only write about what was in the video.]

The other host on the show, James May, sparked my curiosity at the end, talking about finding an alternative to the battery electric car and future of motoring. So I found the James’ segment on the Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen electric car. I have never been a fan of hydrogen cars, because they are about as technologically advanced as spaceships and don’t seem like they will be practical economically. Some say the car, right now, would be priced at $10,000,000. Plus, hydrogen is something Shell can sell you, so of course they will push this on us. But I was impressed by the FCX Clarity Hydrogen, which is really basically just an electric car with a hydrogen powered generator that will extend the range to around 300 miles. So it utilizes the superior efficiency of an electric motor while eliminating the bulk and range limits of batteries.  Also according to the video, hydrogen is about at cheap as gas and the car’s only byproduct is water. Don’t be fooled though, the hydrogen car is very far down the road. Here is the Top Gear: Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen segment:

Sources: YouTube, Autobloggreen