Friday, July 13, 2007

Public Display for Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge

Dr. Lehman Marks, the main program coordinator for this event at the Winston School in Dallas, has sent out the details on a kind of Media Day in Austin. With the race commencing in 3 days (Monday, July 16), this Sunday has been set aside for the public to get a better look at the vehicles. Here are the specifics:

Sunday, July 15 1:30-3:30
One Texas Center
505 Barton Spring Rd (Barton Springs & 1st St)
Austin, TX

Friday, July 6, 2007

How To Build An Electric Vehicle From Scratch

This is the 1st of an ongoing series that covers considerations in building your own vehicle (be it land or water-based; sorry, I'm leaving aircraft out of this!). Power requirements, vehicle design, propulsion methods, battery technology options, suppliers for all of the above, you name it. Check back and search for the label "EV Project" to see entries in the series. Some days will have a flurry of progress and multiple posts, while others will have nothing. Looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Multi-Billion Dollar Energy Co.'s CEO Goes All Electric To Work

My wife works for a large New Mexico-based corporation, PNM Resources, and Tuesday's Albuquerque Tribune newspaper had an article about the CEO making the daily 2-mile commute on his lithium ion-powered Segway rather than his 8 month old BMW 7 Series. Here's an excerpt:

"'I like that car, and it's one of the things I enjoy," Sterba said. "But it doesn't make any sense to commute with.'

Commuting via BMW gets him about eight miles per gallon, he guessed. The Segway, which is powered by a lithium-ion battery he can charge via a normal wall outlet, costs about 3 cents a mile, he said."

PNM Resources is involved in oil and gas as well as electricity distribution, and they have a very large wind farm that helps them in their environmental cause by generating a very large amount of electricity for their "green" customers who are willing to pay a slight premium over regular $ per kwh prices.

Looks Like Someone's Been Reading!

Here's an online Wired article about new battery technology that's dated today, July 5, and mentions several of the companies from my posts here over the past week or so (A123 Systems, Altairnano, Phoenix Motorcars, Tesla). Being Wired, of course, means companies are eager to talk to them, and although it's not very long, there's plenty of "straight from the horse's mouth" material included from these companies. Read it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Propulsion Via Series of Controlled Explosions

Electricity seems scary or dangerous to many people - but how about the alternative, the internal combustion engine, which is the subject of this hysterical piece from The Onion? Here's an excerpt:

"A sofa-on-wheels with an eight-cylinder engine containing a functioning camshaft that activates its valves in perfect synchronicity with its pistons sounds exactly like something an underachieving third-grader would slap together the night before the school science fair. So you figured out a way to convert a relatively small amount of an easily accessible combustible via the four-stroke cycle into an enormous amount of energy capable of propelling a two-ton chassis from zero to 60 in under a minute? Yeah? And?"

Do yourself a favor and check it out in its entirety - it'll put you in a great mood to start this last day before America's birthday tomorrow!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Phoenix Sport Utility Truck

The big deal about this all-electric vehicle is the charging technology of its battery pack, which comes from Altairnano in Reno, NV. 10 minutes or less, without catching fire or exploding! Phoenix Motorcars is actually scheduled to produce 500 of these this year for fleet purchases, and then begin production for California consumers next year.

Electric Sport Bike Details

Found a post over at Engadget (here it is) about a "Triumph evDaytona". After digging a little deeper than the post went, it doesn't actually appear to be associated with the Triumph motorcycle company, but rather is the result of an effort of an EV enthusiast. Why am I pointing this out (other than its intrinsic coolness)? Ryan, the person who built this, lists the specs of his project at, and the batteries he's using are from A123, a company that was the source of one of last week's posts here at Electric Motive. If you've got the money and if you need the performance, it seems that A123 is a go-to company for lithium ion battery technology for electric vehicles.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A123 Systems - Enabling the EV Revolution

A123 Systems is a privately-held company that was founded with $100 million worth of funding and is based on MIT's efforts to develop better battery technology. Limitations of current battery technology are really the limits to electric vehicle development, period, as well as a good portion of the cost (Tesla's battery system cost for their own packs is rumored to be around $25,000 per vehicle for the upcoming $98,000 roadster). What A123 has done is taken a nano-scale material developed at MIT and given it the trademarked name "Nanophosphate" technology. They were named one of the two battery system development partners for GM's future plug in dubbed the Volt, and they are a more advanced competitor of Tesla's in-house lithium ion technology that has been recently licensed by Tesla to Think, a Norwegian manufacturer of small electric vehicles.

Toro Electric Mower, Back From the Dead

I purchased a $375 Toro Recycler cordless lawn mover when I bought my first home in 1998. The yard was small, about .17 acres (less the footprint of the house and the pool), and the mower had no troubles cutting the front and back yards on one charge. If I let it go too long in between, or if the grass was wet from rain or sprinklers, that was a different story, but even then, I could just wait for the grass to dry or give up and mow the front yard in the morning and the back in the afternoon. Life was good: zero maintenance, zero gas can, zero emissions, and almost zero noise, so I didn't have to wait for it to not be "too early" to mow on my weekends!

The next house 2 years later was slightly more to mow, and it was rare to mow it all on one charge. However, this was largely attributed to the original 24 volt battery pack (4 6V cells strapped together and connected with wired terminals) needing replacement, as it didn't hold as much of a charge as it used to. I had a hard time finding Toro's exact part at various lawn equipment dealers, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc., but I eventually ordered over the phone from one and had it shipped. Spent around $70, including shipping. That battery lasted a few years too, but my yard was just big enough to require staying on top of it and not letting it get too long in order to finish the job on one overnight charge.

When that battery pack started to die after a few more years, I broke down and bought a $225 non-self-propelled 5.5 hp mower from Sam's with a Honda gas motor. That thing rocked - SO much power, SO many emissions, SO much noise - and I could let the yard go for a full 2 weeks, mow it as soon as the sprinklers cut off, whatever - NOTHING could stop it! But when this spring rolled around, and my 3-year old beast was starting to have occasional starting-pull hesitation at the end of last year's mowing season, and I needed to fill up my 3 gallon gas can with $3/gallon gas and have it slosh around in my trunk and then prepare to change the oil on the mower, I decided to dig the ol' Toro (never could bring myself to part with it!) out of the shed. I checked the battery specs, went to a Batteries Plus location with one of the cells in hand to check for size, and bought a replacement set of 4 6-v cells - this time, however, I upped the amp hour rating. Same size cells, same connectors, same current, but more amp hours (battery capacity). It costs me almost 100 bucks for the set, but now that thing is almost as invincible as the gas beast. And after 9 years of ownership, still zero maintenance (I REALLY need a new blade, but that's for another day), and a more powerful set of batteries, it runs more effectively than the day I bought it in 1998!

Nissan To Go Beyond Hybrids, To Pure Electric Cars

An article in yesterday's Wall St. Journal had some words from Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn at a media roundtable in Bangkok. In his discussion of Nissan taking the lead in lithium ion battery technology for autos, which is critical for efficiency gains in range, charge time and performance, he questions why the development would only focus on hybrids rather than going all the way to full electrics with "zero emissions of anything." Couldn't have said it better myself!