To boost the range of pure electric vehicles (EVs), automakers need more onboard energy. To get more energy, they need bigger battery packs.
That's why manufacturers such as Tesla Motors and BYD Automobile are rolling out vehicles with massive EV battery packs. Tesla's Model S offers a choice of three packs -- 40kWh, 60kWh, and 85kWh. The smaller packs have approximately 5,000 cells in them, while the bigger packs incorporate 8,000 cells, and weigh up to 1,200 pounds. Similarly, BYD's highly anticipated e6 will use a 1,400lb, 71kWh battery.
Not all automakers are building such massive packs. Nissan's Leaf uses a 24kWh model, while the Chevy Volt employs a 16kWh battery, and the Toyota Prius PHV (a plug-in hybrid) incorporates a 5.2-kWh unit. We've collected photos of a wide range of EV battery packs, ranging from production to research devices.
Click on the photo below to scroll through our EV battery slideshow:
The electric DeLorean's battery bay houses the vehicle's electric motor and half of its battery pack. (Source: DeLorean Motor Co.)
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For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. In the trip sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
Very interesting slide show, Chuck. I loved seeing the different range of designs and options each of these EV players is bringing to the table. What strikes me, though, is that instead of making the battery packs larger to accomodate more on-board energy, shouldn't the innovation muscle be directed towards figuring out how to pack more power in a smaller space? There needs to be a page taken from the semiconductor space.
Well said and put in engineer terms. That was what I was alluding to. These giant batteries (ones weighing upwards of 1,500 lb--that's almost a ton) have to degrade range performance in the end. For more on-board energy, they need denser, more powerful battery packs--not physically bigger ones.
I was talking to a vendor involved in circuit protection the other day, and I didn't realize what a global safety issue there is involving LiIon battery technology. From the spate of Chevy Volt fire stories a few months back, one could have been led to believe that GM was at fault. In reality, Lithium Ion is an inherently risky technology, insofar as fire hazard when cells rupture, overheat or overcharge.
Generally speaking, the big problem with large batteries is that they horribly inefficient on short trips or when they are depleted. If you are driving an 800-lb depleted battery around, you're carrying dead weight. Same with a short trip to the store: Even if the battery is fully charged, why would you need an 800-lb battery to get a cup of coffee from your local Starbuck's?
I think the Mitsubishi MiEV comes closest on that score (weight-wise), among the current crop of EVs. However, it's not cheap. The Mitsubishi cars web site lists it as "starting" at $21.6K and that's AFTER tax rebates/incentives. So on the cost curve versus gas cars, I don't see how it's cost effective. Electric cars won't take off until the same thing happens for driver as it did for factory, residential, and business owners. Namely, when energy becomes too expense, and you can reap real savings by going green, then people do it in droves. It's "follow the money," as opposed to the tree-hugger effect, which is really just early adopters. Now that gas is hitting $4/gal again, we'll see interest, but mainly in hybrids, which are now essentially mainstream. Plug ins still have a long way to go (economically speaking and I guess range-wise too :)
The current EV's being built are not economy cars but advanced tech, statment cars so should be judged by comparing them to BMW's, Lotus, etc, not with a Honda Fit. In that class they are rather inexpensive.
Big auto doesn't want to build cheap ones because they make less and EV's last so long, cutting both replacement and ICE repair parts profits, a major money maker for them.
I agree with Charles a too big battery which I define as over 100 mile range as wasteful. But so is any 1 person in any 3k-4klb cars, EV or ICE.
90% of US trips can be done with an 80 mile range 2 seat EV! And safe, cost effective ones can be done in under 1,000 lbs if they can break from steel bodies/chassis and finally go composite.
I agree with the 'smaller, not bigger' approach but 90% of trip needs is a non-starter for most buyers.
A second more efficient car is practical to buy for a lot of consumers but the overhead of owning is not. If the Fed. government wanted to help (without these stupid subsidies) it would mandate that insurance companies and states not insure and license cars but drivers. I can't drive two (or more) cars any further than I can one.
Volkswagen AG is developing a lithium-air battery that could triple the range of its electric cars, but industry experts believe it could be a long time before that chemistry is ready for production vehicles.
Californiaís plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isnít the first such undertaking and certainly wonít be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.
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