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How has covid affected EVs so far?

How has covid affected EVs so far?

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).

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EV and Charging Tech – December 2019

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

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OK Beemer…

by Sarah Kelly 0 Comments

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

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Ford announces network of chargers for owners of forthcoming Ford EVs

From: https://www.engadget.com/2019/11/27/ford-mustang-mach-e-first-edition-sold-out-in-us/

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

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