The climate costs of hydrogen generation are coming into focus, and the picture is not pretty.Read More
Join southwest Colorado’s La Plata Electric Association on Tuesday, July 27th at 6 p.m. for the second webinar in LPEA’s Beneficial Electrification series focused on electric vehicles (EVs).
- EV models
- Financial incentives for EVs
- EVs vs. standard vehicles
- Batteries, batteries, batteries
- Charging options
- Local EV infrastructure
- A “day in the life” of an EV driver
- EV road-tripping
- Q & A
Advanced registration is required: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_YAx0dfXfTj2JXR4Rr_4ZmA
No joke. The 1971 VW Fastback pictured above is powered by a 2015 Nissan Leaf powertrain.
The powertrain of any vehicle includes the mechanisms which transmit engine power to a vehicle’s axles, and the axles spin the wheels. In petroleum-powered car, it includes the engine, transmission and axles. In an EV, power flows from the battery directly to an electric motor on the axle which spins the wheels.Definition of powertrain
Many of us have loved and lusted after certain classic vehicles from years gone by. For Mick Longley of Durango’s Busaru, those vehicles have been Volkswagens.
Recognizing the huge impact burning fossil fuels has on our planet’s climate, some of us regret we can no longer drive those cars or trucks. Or we’ve driven an electric vehicle and experienced how vastly superior they are and don’t want to go back to the cost and inconvenience of petrol power. For Mick Longley, this was a problem he could solve.
Mick’s love for classic VW’s started in the mid 2000’s when he picked up a VW Westfalia camper to travel around in. He moved out to Durango, Colorado in that van and started BUSARU, the VW to Subaru engine swap business. He had been holding onto the 1971 VW Fastback for a few years – awaiting a project.
I was initially going to put a Subaru engine into it but got re-inspired by the EV conversion scene. I had converted a 70’s Kawasaki motorcycle and a slough of classic bicycles back in the day, even had a small business doing that in CA called zombiEVintage.Mick Longley
- The most difficult part was mounting the battery and motor in the old VW, but he was able to find a solution which allowed keeping the LEAF battery completely intact, including all its safety mechanisms.
- Removing the internal combustion engine (ICE) equipment is actually a ton of fun!
- LOTS of experience with electronics packages for the do-it-yourself (DIY) Subaru-VW community helped with navigating the electronics and wiring diagrams for the LEAF-based conversion.
- Will he convert your classic car into an EV?
- He’s definitely interested in taking on projects once he gets more experience converting his own vehicles.
- He’d love to hear about other people’s EV projects. Let him know what dreams you’re cooking up.
- He plans for Regen EV’s to offer kits for DIY tinkerers to more easily retrofit their VW Bus and Vanagons (and possibly other vehicles) to electric power.
For a deeper dive into Mick’s work on the Fastback, check out his YouTube channel video below and continue reading below the video!
As Mick expected, the mounting of the battery and motor were the most challenging parts. Most VW conversions rely on using the VW transaxle and adapter plate to mount an aftermarket motor, and batteries mounted in the cargo areas.
Since I wanted to use a mass-produced donor vehicle to keep costs low and reliability high, it brought up some unforeseen challenges. In a way, the VW chassis made the battery location decision for me. The floor pan was rotten with rust, which needed to be replaced anyway, so I just cut all of it out and built a frame out of rectangular tubing. This allowed me to keep the LEAF battery completely intact, including all of its safety mechanisms, as well as providing a structural component for the car – the many benefits of keeping the center of gravity low in the chassis! Once the battery was mounted it took a few days of playing with different drive unit mounting schemes. In short, once the battery was figured out, everything else came together pretty easily.Mick Longley
What was the biggest challenge in starting this project? It was believing it could be done!
Parsing the overall project into smaller projects really helps. Removing the internal combustion engine (ICE) equipment is actually a ton of fun. You get to see how cars are put together without the pressure or fear of breaking something you’ll need. In the case of the Fastback project, I knew I wasn’t going to be using any of the VW ICE equipment, including the transmission, so it was pure fun removing the old rusty grease-caked parts to make way for a clean EV drive unit.Mick Longley
In a Subaru engine conversion, the most intimidating part of the project for do-it-yourself DIY folks is the electronics. I have completed nearly 1000 electronics packages for the DIY Subaru-VW community and that experience really helped me navigate the electronics and wiring diagrams for the LEAF-based conversion. With the electronics mystery figured out, the conversion became more and more fun to work on, and a great learning experience. The next conversion will benefit greatly from what I learned on this one.”MIck
Does Mick plan to do more EV retrofits?
I want to get a couple more personal EV conversions finished before taking on customer work. These include a 1973 VW Bus (LEAF conversion) a 1965 GMC pickup (Tesla conversion), and a 70’s vintage Ford Bronco project that I’m converting for a friend.Mick
I am definitely interested in taking on projects once I get a little more experience converting my own vehicles. I like to experiment on my own vehicles first! I love to hear about other people’s EV projects though, so let me know what dreams you’re cooking up.Mick
Does he have plans to make EV retrofits of classic cars part of his regular business?
Yes, like with BUSARU, I plan for Regen EV’s to offer kits for DIY tinkerers to more easily retrofit their VW Bus and Vanagons (and possibly other vehicles) to electric power. I’ll keep supporting the VW community (especially the camper van VW’s) because they really represent the spirit of adventure and travel, and there’s nothing like cruising to an adventure destination on battery power!Mick
We bought our 2018 Chevy Bolt in 2018, feeling assured the 238-mile range advertised for the vehicle would meet our daily needs and make our most common weekend trips. Knowing Electrify America was making steady progress on installing DC fast chargers on interstates from coast-to-coast, we figured the Bolt would also allow cross-country trips on the rarer occasions we needed to make them.
Battery and Range – What You Expect
Therefore, our decision to buy the car was based on two things: the size of the battery and how the battery management system (BMS) functioned.
- The size of the battery determines the maximum distance you can travel between charging stops.
- For the Bolt, that distance is about 238 miles in mild weather, with no extremes of cold or hot temperatures.
- The BMS determines (among other things) how often you can use a DC fast charger each day and during periods of high or low temperatures.
- The Bolt’s BMS includes a liquid cooling system. When you use a DC fast charger to add electricity to your car’s battery, the battery’s temperature increases. The liquid cooling cools the battery quickly enough it can accept another full charge by the time you need one. You can DC fast charge multiple times a day, regardless of the outdoor temperature.
- In contrast, the 2018 Nissan Leaf used only air cooling. It could not cool the battery fast enough to allow more than one fast charge a day on a hot summer day. So range is significantly limited on hot summer days.
What Chevy Bolt, Kona Electric and Ioniq Electric Owners Got
Our Chevy Bolt Story
On November 13, 2020, six weeks after we returned from our 3,200 mile round-trip road trip from Durango, CO to the top of Michigan’s mitten, Chevy recalled our Bolt due to concerns about the battery catching fire.
Chevy recalled a “select number” of 2017-2019 Chevy Bolts built with:
“high voltage batteries produced at LG Chem’s Ochang, Korea facility that may pose a risk of fire when charged to full or very close to full, capacity. As an interim remedy, dealers will reprogram the hybrid propulsion control module 2 (HPCM2) to limit full charge to 90%.”https://my.chevrolet.com/how-to-support/safety/boltevrecall
We had DC fast charged four or five times a day for each of the 3 days of the trip both coming and going. At several of those charging stops, we’d had to charge to greater than 90% so we could get to the next DC fast charger with some cushion.
No one wants to consider being trapped in their car, trying to slow down from highway speeds so you can bail out because your car is on fire. (Know that fires are far more likely in petrol-powered cars than EVs.) If we’d had to stop more frequently, what was already a really long trip due to charging stops would’ve been even longer.
Chevy’s interim fix is a BMS modification. We got the car reprogrammed right away, and as of 3/2/21, we’re still waiting to hear what the final fix will be.
Two things every EV owner should be aware of when it comes to battery-related recalls:
The federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiates recalls for SAFETY reasons.
A recall is issued when a manufacturer or NHTSA determines that a vehicle, equipment, car seat, or tire creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards.https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls
- In other words, under federal law, there is no protection for EV owners if a safety fix causes a reduction in vehicle range.
- If Chevy proves limiting the charge capacity to 90% fixes the safety issue, the NHTSA recall can be closed if that limit is made permanent by the BMS software. Owners would have to band together and sue based on the loss in value of the car due its reduced range. It seems unlikely that after the lawyers were paid there would be much left for those of us still owning these vehicles.
Finding Fault: Battery Manufacturer or Car (BMS) Maker?
Chevy Bolt Not Alone with Battery Fires
The cause for the fire hazard in the Chevy Bolt is not yet settled. The Hyundai Kona Electric and Ioniq Electric are also on recall for battery fires right now, with batteries also manufactured by LG Energy Solutions, though at a Chinese facility.
- Hyundai has claimed the fires were caused by defective manufacturing (a misalignment of an anode tab) of some battery cells on LG’s part.
- GM (Chevrolet) has stressed the Bolts’ batteries use a different cell separator than Hyundai and so the two recalls are unrelated.
On 2/24/21, LG stepped into the fray. In a statement on the Kona EV recall, LG states the Korean agency responsible for confirming the cause of the fires has not been able to confirm the problem is misalignment of the anode tab. They claim Hyundai misapplied the BMS fast charging logic proposed by LG. They are cooperating with the “relevant authorities” to discover if that had any connection to the fires. LG also says damage to the batteries’ cell separators has been confirmed as unrelated to the fires by a joint investigation team.
So, for Chevy and Hyundai, and Bolt, Kona and Ioniq owners, the question is: Do the batteries need to be replaced or is it a BMS software fix?
Hyundai has had more fires in their affected vehicles and their recall covers a larger number of vehicles. Rumors are circulating that for Hyundai, all battery packs may need to be replaced. Kona Electric owners are suing for depreciation the issue has caused. Chevy owners haven’t organized on that front yet, but I would not try to sell or trade in our Bolt until this issue is resolved. I think most buyers would hesitate to buy a Bolt affected by this recall.
How do you Fix it? What Chevy Says
I called the Chevy EV concierge on 2/27/21 after reading the following on Chevy’s Bolt Recall webpage:
A team of GM engineers has made substantial progress in identifying the root cause and potential remedies for this issue. They are in the process of validating state-of-the-art software that can diagnose potential issues early and restore 100% charge capability. A final remedy for this recall is anticipated for April 2021. Until that time, if you have not already done so, we recommend scheduling a service appointment with your dealership to update the vehicle’s battery software to automatically limit the maximum state of charge to 90 percent.https://my.chevrolet.com/how-to-support/safety/boltevrecall
I asked the concierge how a software fix (a BMS fix) would solve the problem. Would it detect changes within the battery and provide a warning to the owner if changes occurred which might lead to a fire? Then the battery could be repaired or replaced before a fire could happen?
The concierge said it has not yet been determined the final fix will be software. He said it hadn’t gotten to the point of even discussing if a warning system would used or required. They don’t yet know if it will be a software fix or a battery replacement. We might find out earlier what the fix will be, but the fix won’t actually be available until April 2021.
It seems GM appreciates the importance of maintaining the range promised to buyers at the time the vehicle was purchased. A ten percent range reduction may not sound like much to a judge behind a bench, but when you’re sitting in the dark, gravel parking lot in front of the I-70 diner in Flager, CO at 11 PM, hanging in there for yet another 20 minutes to be sure you make it to your motel in Colorado Springs two hours away, it seems like an awful lot indeed. GM would do well to keep their EV early adopters in mind as they plan for their all electric future. I hope they won’t leave us furious with the cure to this recall, whether it be for the battery or the BMS.
For good, in-depth reporting on this issue, check in at InsideEVs.com where reporter Gustavo Henrique Ruffo has been following the issue closely.
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The covid pandemic has battered companies worldwide, especially automobile producers. The glaring exception has been Tesla, whose global sales have soared even while the majors tanked (especially in the second quarter of 2020). For at least one month, sales of the Tesla’s Model 3 in California exceeded those of any other model – gas or electric – by any manufacturer. This may account in part for the aggressive behavior of Elon Musk in attempting to exempt his US manufacturing plant from covid workplace restrictions. Globally, Tesla is now the unchallenged leader in EV sales, with first half 2020 model 3 sales exceeding those of all other models by a factor of about ten (the second place model is one sold only in Europe). Sales of EVs of other manufacturers have held up better than those of internal combustion engine (ICE) models, but only marginally so. The Chevy Bolt is doing okay, but is not in the same league as sales of the comparable Tesla model 3.
To what can we attribute the phenomenal sales record of Tesla? It isn’t their network of local dealerships (the nearest are in Albuquerque and Denver). The chatter in the automotive and investment magazines has focused on the technological prowess of Tesla engineers. Many have mentioned the cult-like allegiance of Tesla owners, and the over-the-air software updates. Investors have shifted vast funds into the purchase of EV stocks, with the result that Tesla is now arguably overpriced (at one point the nominal value of Tesla exceeded that of the other major car manufacturers and traditionally mighty enterprises such as Exxon-Mobil and Microsoft). Today the price of Tesla’s stock has fallen back to a still extraordinary level, and it is paralleled by soaring evaluations of companies that have yet to produce an EV: Rivian and Lordstown for example.
I am awed by the success of Tesla, and wonder what is behind it. My hunch is that Tesla’s long-lasting batteries, cool features, and over-the-air software updates are only part of the story. Furthermore, post-purchase consumer feedback suggests that Tesla may have the highest rate of assembly flaws of any car manufacturer. The J.D. Power survey of 2020 model-year purchasers found an average of 166 problems per 100 vehicles over all manufacturers, but 250 problems per 100 Tesla vehicles (cnbc.com/2020/06/24/tesla-lags -auto-industry-in-qualiy-finds-new-jd-power-study.html). And Teslas can be pricey. Certainly, Tesla gains from its notoriety, but I think car buyers are holding back from buying the other brands of EVs because those do not come with a network of fast chargers for cross country travel. The other car manufacturers are waiting for the public (i.e. tax dollars) to build the needed charging infrastructure; Tesla invested. What do you think is responsible for Tesla’s success? If you have an idea, please add a comment to the box following this article; civil opinions will appear on the site after cursory screening for relevance (we get a torrent of spam).
Battery Breakthrough May Revolutionize Electric Transportation, 12/19/19
IBM announced recently it is joining forces with a major electrolyte manufacturer, Japan’s’ Central Glass Co., Mercedes-Benz, and a silicon valley firm (Sidus) to commercialize a new lithium battery formulation that eliminates cobalt and nickel, reduces battery fire risk and allows 80% charging in 5 minutes (www.eenews.net/climatewire/ 2019/12/19/stories/1061847515). The original work was directed at making batteries suitable for commercial aviation, and may yet do so. That IBM is convinced of the merit of its discovery is perhaps reflected in another recent story in which IBM lined up with other energy firms to promote a carbon tax among Republicans (www.eenews.net/energywire/ 2019/12/19/stories/1061847813) via Americans for Carbon Dividends. That this discovery may play a large role in solving the climate crisis is reflected in its appearance under the “climatewire” banner rather than automotive news, as a transportation electrification breakthrough combined with enhanced stationary storage for power grids could remove the two central technological holdups in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The technical details of IBM’s discovery are of course proprietary, but IBM noted that they are replacing the cobalt and nickel with iodine, an element inexpensively extracted from sea water, eliminating the questionable supply network for cobalt and nickel, especially in the war-torn areas of central Africa. IBM discovered the virtues of iodine while studying the formation of dendrites within conventional lithium ion batteries. Dendrites can grow on the battery anodes, and when sufficiently elongated are responsible for the fires that plagued early lithium batteries and still cause fires in large stationary power applications. Without giving specifics, IBM asserted that the new formulation resulted in “just extreme, out-of-the-chute power density.” Power density is critical for automotive and aviation applications.
The newly formed consortium is aiming to produced the upgraded batteries in 2-3 years.
Ten Minute Fast Charging Developed
A team of engineers at Pennsylvania State University just discovered a way to add 300 miles of range to an electric vehicle in 10 minutes, according to a pay-walled article in E&E news (www.eenews.net/energywire/2019/10/31/stories/1061420305). The key to avoiding battery degradation now associated with ultra-fast charging was raising the battery’s temperature to 140 °F for 10 minutes, then promptly returning the battery to air temperature. They engineers designed a self-heating battery for the heating component, and would rely on the battery’s cooling system—already present in most EVs—for the cooling component. The internal heating elements add about 1% to the battery’s weight and enables the battery to retain nearly 92% capacity after 2500 extreme, fast-charging cycles. As with any laboratory development, additional practical constraints are likely to emerge in translating this exciting development into commercial practice.
Although this discovery was announced as a “breakthrough” in the mainstream media, I also noticed that Tesla apparently already knows this (https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-model-s-model-x-on-route-battery-warmup-supercharger/). This spring (2019) they introduced a feature for larger-battery models S and X called “On-Route Battery Warmup.” This uses existing battery heaters to raise the temperature of the car’s batteries while driving the last 15 minutes toward a Supercharger, “reducing charge times for owners by 25%” and thereby achieving much of what the Penn State engineers designed an internal heating element for.
Compiled and summarized by Gordon Rodda
Why European luxury sedans are becoming a relic of the past and electric SUVs are on the rise
“The sheen has worn off luxury automakers’ small sedans, like the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series, as the popularity of SUVs and Tesla grows.”
In the U.S., we expect no fewer than 25 new EV models to debut in 2020, consisting of 16 battery-powered EVs (BEVs) and nine plug-in hybrids,” said a recent analysis from Garrett Nelson of CFRA Research. “Moreover, nearly two-thirds (16) of the 25 new models are expected to be SUVs or crossovers.Washington Post Article, 12/5/19
Compiled and summarized by Gordon Rodda
In a pay-walled article in Friday’s E&E news (eenews.net/energywire/stories/1061307785), a new charging network made up of existing or forthcoming chargers would be partially funded by Ford Motor Company for the benefit of Ford EV owners. The network would allow Ford customers to charge at over 12,000 locations, nearly three times the size of the Tesla network. The network will be free for the first two years to purchasers of Ford EVs. The network will include fast chargers that deliver about 47 miles of range in 10 minutes for the forthcoming Ford electric SUV.
In addition to incorporating the networks of Greenlots (Shell) and Electrify America (VW), the plan brings in Amazon.com to facilitate installation of residential chargers at the homes of Ford EV owners. The structure of the plan (handing out charger passes to Ford owners) may conflict with California’s recent rule to require charging networks to accept credit cards. Ford acknowledges that it may eventually need to open the network to drivers of other car manufacturers. This implies some level of proprietary use that does not presently exist for chargers provided by Electrify America, for example. Presumably this will be sorted out prior to the release of pure electric Fords in 2020. Environmental groups generally lauded Ford’s plan for easing the transition to electric fueling. Other manufacturers, such as GM, are also lining up or creating charging networks.
Compiled and summarized by Gordon Rodda