Solving The Battery Problem For The Electric Car


QUEST on KQED Public Media.

Quest takes us behind the scene of the Electric Car makers.

If you’re looking to buy an all-electric car you can drive on the freeway, your options are limited. $100,000 will buy you an electric sports car from Tesla. But an affordable all-electric vehicle remains elusive, due to the difficulty in making a battery that is powerful, long-lasting, and cheap. QUEST visits a local battery laboratory and investigates the odds of a breakthrough.

Plug-in hybrids run for a certain distance on batteries. So far, hackers have been able to create plug-in hybrids that run for about 10 miles on batteries. After that, they revert to standard hybrid operation, which uses gas and electricity. Continue Reading / See Additional Photos

Squared Off Nissan Goes Electric

vehicles nissan denki electric 01 Squared Off Nissan Goes Electric

The Nissan Cube has gone “denki”. Which doesn’t mean it’s gotten dinkier, as I initially thought. It turns out that “denki” is Japanese for “electric”.

While virtually indistinguishable from the automaker’s current Cube design – at least on the outside, what makes the Denki concept car different from its brother, the production model Cube, is, you guessed it – it’s electric. According to The NewsMarket, “the Denki features an electric motor with laminated lithium-ion batteries located under the floor and seats while the current model includes a 1.3-liter inline 40 cylinder gasoline engine.”

The other primary difference between the Cube and the Denki is the missing row of seats in the latter car – which, combined with a stretched wheelbase, was necessary to accommodate the lithium-ion battery cells.

vehicles nissan denki electric 02 Squared Off Nissan Goes Electric

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What Happened To The Electric Future At Volvo

volvo recharge 03 What Happened To The Electric Future At Volvo

Updated on Volvos push to become an electric car company. The company says they have a 5 year $1.2 Billion investment and plan to bring the Recharge concept to market. The project started back in 2006 and they showed off the Prototype C30 in 2007. Since then the company seems be in hiding and may even be on the chopping block and sold off by the parent company Ford. They are looking for buyers, but no takers as of yet.

Ford vice president of sales and marketing Ken Czubay said in a statement.: “We continue to operate in a very challenging economic and competitive environment,”

What does that mean, for all the very promising technology designed into the C30? Will we ever see it in a Volvo or any of the other Ford brands? Isn’t this exactly the thing Ford needs to save their company? The prototype test vehicle uses the same type of technology GM says they are rolling out in the Volt. An electric motor system assisted by a small gas engine generator, which would only produce electricity for the electric motors to us. The Volvo concept takes that a step further by placing the motors in the wheels.

The Prototype C30 Technology test and concept vehicle that works: an electric car with a combustion engine as backup. It’s called the Volvo ReCharge, and it reminds us a lot of the Chevy Volt. Except that it looks likes a Volvo C30 hatchback and has funky green wheels.

volvo recharge 01 What Happened To The Electric Future At Volvo

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Is The Electric Line Of Chrylsers As Dead As The Company?

chrysler electric car line 03 Is The Electric Line Of Chrylsers As Dead As The Company?

Back in September of 2008 Chrysler seemed to have the muscle to take over the electric car market. They called in all the press and television networks to show off not one but a whole line of electric cars. They rolled out an electric car for every possible customer, By converting their existing line of cars to electric motors and battery systems. They even tried to one up the only existing electric car company with a highway capable car, Tesla Motors, by rolling out a Lotus electric car as well.

Here is what the line up of electric vehicles was suppose to be, plug-in hybrid Jeeps and Town & Country van and Dodge Circuit EV. Now that the company is in bankruptcy, we will have to wait and see which of these electric cars pop out on the other end, if any.

chrysler electric car line 05 Is The Electric Line Of Chrylsers As Dead As The Company?

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Electric G-Wiz Vs Table

g wiz Electric G Wiz Vs Table

Here’s a car that I’m thankful has not been released in the U.S. It’s so small it’s not even a “car”; it’s “quadracycle.” Interesting that it was designed in California.

The G Wiz AEV (Automatic Electric Vehicle) is Britain’s most popular electric, but to me it represents everything we Americans fear in these small packages, namely safety. Although the 2008 G Wiz reports to have improved safety over previous versions, the only proof I’ve seen is this horrifying YouTube video in which the car is outrun by a table.

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Fisker Is Becoming A Real Tesla Challenger

fisker karma 02 Fisker Is Becoming A Real Tesla Challenger

For the past few years, Tesla Motor has been the only high performance, high design, electric car company in the headlines. Taking all the glory and all the bashing that comes with creating a forward thinking company like Tesla. But that time seems to be coming to an end. A one time Tesla partner and now competitor, Fisker has developed their own line of cars, called Karma. Their very first extended range all electric luxury sedan is about to hit the roads, the company says in late 2009.

But Fisker is done, they have already developed a second generation car called the Karma S- for Sunset — concept that debuted at the Detroit auto show shares its gas-electric drivetrain with the Karma sedan but wraps it in an even sleeker two-door body that could see production within two years. The California startup’s range-extended electric vehicles — like the Tesla Roadster, Cadillac Converj concept and high-dollar hybrids from Mercedes and BMW — point to an emerging market of premium green cars that place as much importance on performance as they do efficiency.

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AFS Trinity | Ultracapacitor Plug-In

afs trinity 01 AFS Trinity | Ultracapacitor Plug In

Looking for something interesting at the Detroit Auto Show? Don’t spend too much time, because there isn’t really anything new. Sure, there are hybrids, flex-fuels, and testosterone machines, but there’s nothing that people who care haven’t seen already.

There is however, a new-ish hybrid that changes the dynamic of hybrids, if only a tiny bit. The AFS Trinity is boasting 150 mpg from its XH 150. The difference between the Trinity and other hybrids: battery technology. Instead of charging batteries that discharge to the engine, the Trinity charges ultracapacitors that discharge to the engine quicker than traditional Lithium-ion batteries – so fast, in fact, that it will get you up to 90 mph on battery power alone. The Trinity can also go about 40 miles before the gas engine kicks in, making it a zero-emission vehicle for most commuters.

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Fisker Plug-In Hybrid | Spendy But Stylish

fisker 01 Fisker Plug In Hybrid | Spendy But Stylish

Green gets stylized with an air of sophistication as Quantum Technologies and Fisker Coachbuild LLC team up to bring us Fisker Automotive, Inc. Calling themselves the green American premium car company, their first roll-out will be four-door plug-in hybrid premium sports sedan, which is slated to debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

The price tag for this eagerly anticipated vehicle starts at $80,000. Sound a bit steep for a sedan, I know — but just wait until you see what your money gets you. The performance details include being able to achieve an impressive 50 miles on a pure electric charge. (Utilizing an optional gasoline or diesel fuel engine can extend that to 620 miles.) And those of you wanting to do your part to squash the foreign oil biz will be glad to know the Fisker also provides a whopping 100 miles per gallon of performance.

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Zap Crap | Mismanagement Plagues Electric Car Company

zap car 01 Zap Crap | Mismanagement Plagues Electric Car Company

Despite what Kermit the Frog says, it’s pretty easy to be green these days. America is loving green so much that it has almost become unpatriotic to question the credentials of anyone who claims to be promoting light-impact products. Wired.com recently took that step, uncovering unethical and probably illegal business tactics at ZAP! Corporation, one of America’s largest all-electric vehicle companies, based in Santa Rosa, CA.

ZAP! has been in business since 1991 when garage-tinkerer Jim McGreen invented electric conversion kits for bicycles. He dubbed his new company ZAP (zero air pollution) Power Systems and started looking for investors. Gary Starr was the first to write a check, and the company incorporated in 1994. Starr was a solar car pioneer who was asked to leave the company he helped to create, U.S. Elecricar — marking an ominous beginning to the company.

ZAP! grew quickly after McGreen invented the Zappy, a standup scooter that Kevin Spacey rode on the David Letterman show. Revenues were over $1.4 million by 1998. Revenues did not bring profits, however, and Starr and McGreen had a major falling out over whether to move production overseas. Starr maneuvered to increase the company’s board to seven members, giving Starr enough votes to get rid of McGreen. Starr succeeded, and by the end of 1999, McGreen, who had founded the company in his garage, was gone – no HP story to tell here.

zap car 03 Zap Crap | Mismanagement Plagues Electric Car Company

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Fisker Karma | Electric Hybrid That Sounds Like a Jet Plane

fisker karma electric hybrid 01 Fisker Karma | Electric Hybrid That Sounds Like a Jet Plane

Remember when instant mashed potatoes arrived on the food scene? While not as delicious as fresh and homemade, they boasted a precious saving of prep time in the kitchen. The problem was lumps, which are inherent in the natural variety but were noticeably absent from the fake ones. So, in an effort to produce more a more realistic-seeming fake product, the manufacturers of instant mashed potatoes began adding lumps.

But they didn’t fool me. They were still instant mashed potatoes.

Henrik Fisker is now attempting a similar endeavor with his new plug-in/solar electric hybrid Karma sports car. The fast but environmentally responsible vehicle can travel 80 kilometers (50 miles) without relying on gas, which cuts down tremendously on emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. When battery power runs out, the engine utilizes a one-gallon fuel reserve to recharge the car. Nice.

fisker karma electric hybrid 03 Fisker Karma | Electric Hybrid That Sounds Like a Jet Plane

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Hacked: Mini Cooper’s All-Electric Car

mincooper convertible Hacked:  Mini Coopers All Electric Car

Let’s get something straight. I love the look of BMW’s Mini Cooper and would buy it in a second — if only it were a hybrid diesel or an all-electric car with interface fabric seats. Sadly BMW doesn’t make the Mini with any of these options, so I have held off and continue riding my bike.

Maybe that is all about to change. Companies like Hybrid Technologies have begun hacking small cars like the Mini and replacing their gas engines with zero-emission, all-electric motors and lithium batteries. A great idea — if you can afford to pay almost twice the price for a “converted” Mini. Parts are expensive to do this one at a time. The only way the price will come down is if, BMW and other companies decide there is a real demand and they start producing them. After the jump, watch a short clip by Popular Mechanics featuring a test drive of the hacked, all-electric Mini Cooper. Continue Reading / See Additional Photos

New Solar Powered Car From Taiwan

solar car 002 New Solar Powered Car From Taiwan

If I lived in Taiwan, this would be my next car. Sure, it looks funny. Kind of like a golf cart with solar panels on top. But what it doesn’t look like is a carbon spewing, gas guzzling SUV. Which is precisely why I want it.

This baby emits nothing but good, clean solar powered fun. Designed by researchers and engineering students at Taiwan’s National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences, it comes equipped with lithium-polymer batteries that run for about three hours after being charged by the sun’s rays. Its body is comprised of Nomex honeycomb, a fiber created for aviation by Dupont. It’s light weight, fire resistant and good on impact.

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