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Transportation Technology

Progress On Electric Cars 594

Posted by kdawson
from the plug-and-play dept.
Mike sends along a couple of items of interest to those anxiously awaiting the era of production electric vehicles. First, there's the upcoming Aero EV, which Shelby Supercars claims will charge in just 10 minutes and will be able to produce over 1,000 horsepower, powering the vehicle from 0-60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds. Then there's the announcement by Aptera of the first pre-production model of the Aptera 2e, which will have a top speed of 90 mph and go around 100 miles on a charge. This EV also features a strong and aerodynamic body, a lithium-based battery, front-wheel drive, and an improved door design. Release is planned by October of 2009.
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Progress On Electric Cars

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  • That's it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:05PM (#26629637) Homepage Journal

    What, no love for the Big 3? Lemme see here. We've got the range-extended Town & Country EV [chryslerllc.com] from Chrysler that will do 40 miles on a single charge, plus another 360 miles using a mixed gasoline-electric propulsion. They're also working on Dodge and Jeep [autoblog.com] vehicles with similar designs.

    Ford used to have the market in a bag with their Ford Ranger EV [wikipedia.org] pickup. Of course, they discontinued it in 2002. Now they're playing catch-up with the rest of the market. They are promising an electric vehicle by 2011 [wired.com], so there should be plenty of competition in late 2010/early 2011.

    Speaking of competition, what discussion is complete without mentioning the Chevy Volt [chevrolet.com]? Still the gold standard for the emerging industry, it will be anyone's guess if it lives up to the hype.

    Then there's the announcement by Aptera of the first pre-production model of the Aptera 2e

    I rather like the look of this car, but I am concerned by a couple of issues. First up is the single back wheel. Won't that make the vehicle a rollover hazard? I presume the front wheels are extended to help mitigate this issue, but one good blowout looks like it could send that sucker fishtailing right into roll. (And for that matter, how servicable is that tire?)

    My second issue is the power-train. Generally you want as much weight sprung as possible, and electric motors are heavy. Aptera seems to understand that as it appears there is an axel linkage on the front wheels. Presumably this is how power is transmitted. Is having that axel exposed going to cause any safety and reliability issues? I'm just imagining something flying off the road and getting wrapped around the the axel. Or in an accident, a pedestrian getting an appendage caught in there.

    Or is this a rear-wheel drive vehicle? In which case, is that axel really necessary? Could'nt the steering be accomplished by swiveling independent pods rather than linking them?

    Just my 0.005 cents worth after accounting for inflation. :-P

    P.S. The Shelby looks pretty darn sweet! I'd never spend money to purchase a vehicle like that*, but I wouldn't mind taking her for a spin.

    * Unless I had way too much!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Seakip18 (1106315)

      If you look right at the summary, you see that the vehicle's description includes front-wheel drive.

      Now, the info on safety is a little sparse from my quick look at Aptera's website, with the faq saying "It will match other commuter vehicles". Faq here. [aptera.com] Safety Here [aptera.com]

      They focus on force-redirection, composite body and airbags but nothing on traction or stability. It's not the speed of being thrown to the side of your car that hurts, it's the sudden stop. I mean, with that much acceleration, I'd worry at fish

      • If you look right at the summary, you see that the vehicle's description includes front-wheel drive.

        All vehicles these days have front wheel drive, it's cheaper to make than an FR layout. One back wheel on that thing also probably keeps them from transmitting back to an axle....

        The single rear tire is bad unless it's rear-wheel steer like Dyson's car. Even then, I'm much more comfortable with front-wheel steer, rear-wheel drive, especially in non-optimal road conditions. Front wheel drive is bad enough in the snow on four wheels, coupling it with just a single back wheel (and even worse, rear-wheel

        • I'm pretty sure the car is not designed for places with snow.

          Living in Arizona, and driving a vehicle with two wheels, three will be an upgrade from my current situation and far more stable/safe.
    • Re:That's it? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Thelasko (1196535) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:19PM (#26629869) Journal
      Let's not forget the Tesla. Top Gear had an interesting piece [jalopnik.com] on it, that ended in scandal. [jalopnik.com]
      • Big list (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rei (128717) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:39PM (#26630161) Homepage

        I've compiled a big list of upcoming EVs and their stats here [daughtersoftiresias.org].

      • by aztektum (170569) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:50PM (#26631221)

        According to the Top Gear spokeswoman, the tested Tesla was filmed being pushed into the shed in order to show what would happen if the Roadster had run out of charge.

        "Top Gear stands by the findings in this film and is content that it offers a fair representation of the Tesla's performance on the day it was tested," the BBC said in statement."

        Yeah, OK. So they're saying my gas powered car will miraculously make it home if I run out of fuel? I can't believe anyone would take that show seriously.

      • Re:That's it? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BarefootClown (267581) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @08:19PM (#26631633) Homepage

        There is one thing that doesn't seem to be discussed about the Top Gear bit. I agree that emphasizing what happens when you run out of charge--when they didn't kill the battery--isn't entirely fair, but there is a difference between running out of charge and running out of gas.

        I can easily walk to a gas station and carry a couple of gallons of gas back to the car, which is enough fuel to carry me at least a couple dozen miles in even a heavy SUV.

        How many miles worth of charge can you carry back?

    • Speaking of competition, what discussion is complete without mentioning the Chevy Volt [chevrolet.com]? Still the gold standard for the emerging industry, it will be anyone's guess if it lives up to the hype.

      I think the gold standard is by definition the best existing electric or hybrid vehicle. Right now that is probably the Toyota Prius.
      Once the Chevy Volt is available, it will be interesting to see if it can beat the Prius and in which scenarios.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by f0dder (570496)
        Very unlikely if they're sticking to the initial pricetag of $40,000.00 At that price point you can almost get 2 Prius.
    • by int2str (619733)

      The Aptera is rear wheel drive. The "Axle" in the front is actually only the push-rod for the steering. There are no rotating parts exposed in the front (other than the wheels of course).

      • by ninjagin (631183)
        They recently changed that. It's now going forward as a front-wheel drive. The pictures, as you note, have not caught up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GrahamCox (741991)
      My second issue is the power-train. Generally you want as much weight sprung as possible, and electric motors are heavy

      But not as heavy as you might think. 20kg/100kW for an in-wheel motor is about the state-of-the-art, and given that it replaces the brake assembly and (part of) the drive shaft it ends up only slightly more than a conventional hub. For example, see:

      http://www.pmlflightlink.com/motors/hipa_drive.html [pmlflightlink.com]

      Since last time I checked out that company, they have a) moved everything to do w
    • Re:That's it? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WCguru42 (1268530) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @08:26PM (#26631709)

      What, no love for the Big 3?

      Nope. Let's face it, the Big 3 have spent the past 40 years advertising that bigger is better and not to worry about fuel consumption or consumer safety. They abandoned most of their electric research in the 1990's and now they're playing a terrible game a catch-up. I'm not saying I want the American auto industry to go under but I'm not going to support them until they start making some reliable cars. Currently, if you're looking for a reliable car you look to Japan or Germany, and then Korea, then maybe you move onto the US. It's a shame but no, there is no love for Detroit because they royally screwed up and in a market economy you don't get any free love.

    • Re:That's it? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday January 28, 2009 @09:26AM (#26637587)

      I think the primary market will be plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) by 2015, NOT all electric vehicles.

      I cite the following reasons:

      1) Since the vast majority of commuting is relatively short range, the all-electric range of a PHEV of around 43 to 49 miles (70-80 km) is not such a big issue.

      2) With a PHEV, you don't need a big battery pack like you do with an all-electric vehicle.

      3) Since PHEVs are an extension of the now-mature hybrid vehicle technology developed by Toyota and Ford, it also means way lower development costs.

      Given that today's gasoline engines have very low emissions anyway, a PHEV backed up by a small gasoline engine is what will be common by 2015.

  • parking lots. If Shelby Supercars created their own charging technology in-house, I wouldn't be surprised if (assuming SS licenses their technology, or assuming the company which licensed the tech to SS pushes it to other car manufacturers as well) gas stations are flattened and converted into parking lots with high-wattage 220volt outlets per parking spot.

    Let's hope that SS's claims are true. This would eliminate the need for hydrogen cars as well (water vapor is another major greenhouse gas).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by erbbysam (964606)

      Let's hope that SS's claims are true. This would eliminate the need for hydrogen cars as well (water vapor is another major greenhouse gas).

      God forbid water vapor should be in the air!
       
      :)

      • by gcnaddict (841664) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:13PM (#26629793)
        Well duh, water vapor should always be in the air, but if suddenly a whole bunch of cars start creating immense amounts of water vapor from hydrogen gas + oxygen... well, that's much more water that's being converted from liquid to gas than by weather alone (or even by cars today).

        It's a fact overlooked by many.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sycodon (149926)

          Clearly, you have never lived in the southern states.

        • by vakuona (788200)

          Do you have an idea how much water vapour is released over the oceans.

        • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn AT wumpus-cave DOT net> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:29PM (#26630917)

          It's a fact overlooked by many.

          They should keep overlooking it. H20 is a greenhouse gas, but it's close to saturated nearly everywhere on the planet already. If you put a little more in, it'll just rain out. In the places where it's not saturated (which is pretty much only near the poles), it'll freeze out.

      • Don't you remember, that's how the Cetacean probe was destroying the Earth in Star Trek IV!

        But seriously, water vapor? Without water vapor in the atmosphere there would be drought.
        • It is a green house gas. Sure, a certain lvel of it is needed, but youdon't want more then what is occuring naturally.
          • by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:56PM (#26630439)

            Humans aren't natural?

            I presume a "yes." Things humans make aren't natural? What if a monkey learned to make something, would it be natural?

            Obviously I have a point to make here. From the evolutionary standpoint that most say they hold, human machinery is just as natural as a monkey using a bone as a club (sorry, I just watched 2001: A Space Odyssey). It's time to define "nature" and why I don't get to be considered "natural." Which seems like it will be hard to do form the scientific/atheistic viewpoint. Even more so when people want to tell me that genetically modified stuff is just as natural as non GMO stuff... "natural" stuff. So on one hand, we can modify nature and be natural, and on the other hand we can't.

            And yes, this is on topic, since "greenhouse gas emissions" implies that there are natural and unnatural things, and most of the time, "global warming" is linked to those horribly unnatural and wicked humans.

            As opposed to whatever caused the last ice age when humans weren't around, I guess.

            /me runs away from the flamebait mods, hehe

    • water vapor is another major greenhouse gas

      While I'm not so sure about a lot of climate science, water vapor is supposed to be a relatively invariant quantity. Excess vapor dumped into the air is not a concern as it will not remain long enough to be a greenhouse issue.

      The greater concern is supposedly the CO2 gases since that is one of the few things we can change about the climate. (Especially with the ocean's capacity to be a huge carbon sink/carbon emitter.)

      Personally, I want to know what happened to the

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Idiomatick (976696)

        CFCs were much worse and HORRIBLE for the environment, it really would have cooked us to death. Thats why they were phased out across the globe in 1994, we'd have been seriously screwed had we not. Same idea goes for CO2, it is just less obvious.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Personally, I want to know what happened to the CFC scare.

        We switched to hydrocarbons for things like aerosol cans, alternative gases for refrigeration, and places like McDonalds switched to cardboard from foam packaging. There aren't that many activities that require CFCs anymore.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Just asking, how is electricity generated in your area? We're lucky enough to have mostly hydro, but I remember reading in one of those science mags that over 60% of electricity in the country was generated by burning coal.

      • Good point. Most of the electricity around us near DC is from coal/oil, though some parts get nuclear energy as well.

        You know what would work best? This. [guardian.co.uk]
  • Toby Hunter, Minneapolis Star. No really, is this a joke?
  • And a range of 5 miles if you use it.
    Now that gas has come down in price, predict these things - as always - arriving too late/early for the market.

    Still want a Tesla, tho'.

    http://www.teslamotors.com/ [teslamotors.com]

    • Thats amazingly short sighted. Do you think the drop in gas prices will stay that way forever? I'm amazed on the stats for SUV sales in the US. They vary in lock step with that weeks gas prices as if it mattered.
       
      Oh and the shelby has 150mile range just so you know.

  • by HeyBob! (111243) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:13PM (#26629779)

    - 5 passenger
    - mid size and safe
    - 500km range
    - a/c and heat
    - charge up at home and work
    - under $20,000

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ccool (628215)
      Wait, what, no: "Choose two" ?!?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      A plug-in version of the new Honda Insight Hybrid comes close to those specs, but I suspect for a pure electric the 500km range is incompatible with the other requirements -- the batteries alone would cost over $20k for a 500km (300mi) range. I would settle for a hybrid with those specs.
    • by DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:36PM (#26630123)

      - 17" chrome rims
      - aggressive "face"
      - chrome grills
      - tall enough for your kids to easily flip it
      - 10 billion dollar advertising campaign
      - large enough to kill anyone I hit

      We want people to actually use these things, remember?

    • 500km? A honda civic gets about that i'm sure people will be willing to give up SOMETHING. You described exactly a honda civic with a bit more range, the ability to charge at home and much lower cost to drive around. I'm sure people will be willing to spend more or give up some range. Generally people don't need to go from Toronto to Philly in on go without a stop.

  • The big problem with electric cars is energy storage. Lithium batteries are too expensive, take too long to charge, don't have a high enough energy density, and don't last long enough. If the current work on ultracapacitors pans out (and that's a BIG if) electric cars will become a lot more practical for the mass market.

    • Cold climates (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:48PM (#26630297) Homepage Journal

      The big problem with electric cars is energy storage. Lithium batteries are too expensive, take too long to charge, don't have a high enough energy density, and don't last long enough. If the current work on ultracapacitors pans out (and that's a BIG if) electric cars will become a lot more practical for the mass market.

      There are certainly issues with current electric cars, but only by having them in the market place in some form will there be any incentive to improve them. Lithium is expensive, but it will come done like anything else.

      My concern will electric vehicles is how they will pan out in cold climates, like Scandinavia or Canada. From my experience batteries perform badly in the cold, with apparent charge dropping off until the battery is warmed up. For me this is where the real test of the technology will happen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BitterOak (537666)

        Lithium is expensive, but it will come done like anything else.

        Actually lithium is an element, like gold, so it can't be manufactured. There's only so much of it. Therefore, unlike manufactured goods, as demand goes up, price goes up, not down.

  • ...I just need something to get me the 6 miles to work and then back again. The four mile round trip to the grocery store would be a bonus. Ahh...But in TX, AC and heating are a must.

    • by Malc (1751)

      Bicycle? Oh you're in TX - I guess somebody will shoot you or run you off the road.

      Seriously though. I lived for three years in the suburbs of Denver, and didn't own a car. Not as humid I'm sure as TX. But then I did it for seven years in downtown Toronto (range from hot/humid to cold and danger of frost bite) too. Anything within 10-15km is easy easy easy.

  • by markdavis (642305) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:22PM (#26629917)

    The Tesla and Aero are interesting, but waaaaaaaaay out of normal price range. And most of the other electric cars don't cut it. This is what I want, and probably what most consumers want:

    1) A real sized car, not a tiny econobox with motorcycle-sized tires
    2) Range of at least 100+ miles per charge (I am guessing 80% of people are within a 20 mile round trip to work, 90% within 30 miles, and 95% within 40 miles; so other than occasional, long road trips, that is a lot of coverage).
    3) Ability to charge with regular home voltage/current (don't care if it takes several hours to charge overnight)
    4) Real performance- at least as fast (accel & top speed) as a gas car (like a 3 liter V6, not a 2 liter 4cyl)
    5) Features- full A/C, heat, heated seats, auto climate control, GPS, cruise, auto lights, auto windows, defroster, etc
    6) Safety- comparable to a quality conventional car- crumple zones, airbags, seatbelt tensioners
    7) Reasonable price- comparable to a quality conventional car, although many of us are willing to spend more for the advantage of electric... but not 50%+ more

    When that happens, I am betting people will flock to them. Hybrids (plugin or not) are just too complicated; they have all the complexity of a gas engine (cooling, emissions control, transmission, lube, injection, etc) with all the added cost of electric (motors, batteries, charging systems).

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      2) Range of at least 100+ miles per charge

      That's great --- as a second car, unless you want to rent a car every time you need to drive over 100 miles. You don't want this car to be your first car, because the last thing you want for long drives is your old and unreliable (and gas-powered) second car.

      I realy believe that plug-in hybrids are the solution. 40 mile battery-only range satisfies 95% of journeys and probably 90% of the miles and the gas/hydrogen/whatever energy source allows the car to be u

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      "they have all the complexity of a gas engine (cooling, emissions control, transmission, lube, injection, etc) with all the added cost of electric (motors, batteries, charging systems)."

      This just isn't true. Hybrids have one less part than a standard gas motor just the scales are re-arranged. Larger single starter/alternator tied into the power train permanently rather than a separate starter and alternator. They also have larger batteries, and a little more computer to control it all.

  • Earth calling Mars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashdotlurker (1113853) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:34PM (#26630095)
    I do not understand why these cutting edge car designers can't make a conventional looking car (something as boring looking like a Corolla). Your friendly neighborhood soccer mom or PTA dad is not going to want get caught driving this.

    I am not saying they should copy Corolla's body style but for heaven's sake, make something that looks like its meant for this planet. I am betting that these people probably spent a good deal of money on the shape designer. This car will appeal to teenage nerds, extreme yuppies and the Hollywood set. How many of them are there anyways ??

    If they are really serious about addressing the actual gas problem, they should make something that looks a little more common (oh horrors !). This car looks like a rich man's gimmick. Don't be surprised if the middle class gives it a miss.
    • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:51PM (#26630345)
      I beleive Aerodynamics is an important part of vehicles lie kthe Aptera

      /I could be wrong
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hAckz0r (989977)

      why these cutting edge car designers can't make a conventional looking car

      Because its hard to make a brick become aerodynamic. The majority of the energy of moving a car down the road goes into making the air that is in front of the car get back behind the car. Its not at all about being yuppie, its just if you want efficiency this is what you need to do. The more it looks like a space pod the more efficient it generally is. Perhaps a Porsche is more your style?

      I happen to work in a physics lab, and I

  • How much $ for the Aero EV? I'm thinking the batteries alone must be over $100K, so we're talking what, a quarter-million dollar car? Much as I'd love to own one, I'm just not THAT desperate for an elaborate electric penis-extension.
  • Lets say its a tesla-equivelent battery pack, a nice 50 kWH.

    To charge in 10 minutes, you'd need to shove in power at 300 kW!

    At 220V, that means you'd need 1300 A of current!?!

    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:52PM (#26630365) Journal

      To charge in 10 minutes, you'd need to shove in power at 300 kW! At 220V, that means you'd need 1300 A of current!?!

      Perhaps the trick is to run a thick steel cable up a bell tower and wait for a thunderstorm. A lightning strike delivers its 1.21GW for 1/6th of a second, you'll get 50kWH and your car is charged. Come on people, we've seen this work...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheSync (5291)

      At 220V, that means you'd need 1300 A of current!?!

      It's not just an electric car, it's also an arc welder!

  • Recharging a battery that could run a car that size, that long, in ten minutes would require far more current than an electric grid could reasonably deliver, at least to more than a token few cars.

    SirWired

  • Where is the electrical energy supposed to come from? Our power plants still aren't close to being non-polluting let alone carbon neutral. This will be an improvement over current gasoline engines, but it only solves part of the problem.

    In the mean time, it's good (though hardly believable) that the Shelby has such a quick charge time. In order to be viable for long-range trips (say a full day), you need to be able to get a quick charge while on the road. Hell, even if you can only get ~100 miles/charge,
  • I know a lot of people are all big on plug-in electric cars, but what do those of us not fortunate enough to have integral garages with outlets in them? I don't know what the percentages are, but I'm assuming there's a lot of average Joe's like me who, even if we own our own homes, have to park on the street wherever we can find parking. Are they going to put outlets in the sidewalks for me?
  • We're talking about energy storage here. First off, to accelerate a 2000 pound (907kg) car 0-60 in 5 seconds (Mustang GT take-off with stick) requires 4865kg*m/s^2 i.e. 4865 newtons of force. It's going to go about 5m/s^2 for 80 meters, expending 60 watts of power.

    My grasp of physics is pretty incorrect here. Somebody please help, because the numbers I got say a 12V car battery supplying 5A of current can pull this off (they can supply around 400A for 30 seconds at 0F, so ... yeah a car battery would

  • Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:56PM (#26630425)

    For you questioning the "charge in 10 minutes" claim : be aware that a lithium ion battery exists that DOES have this feature. Altair nanotechnologies is shipping a battery right now that supposedly has an improved anode that solves the problems that prevent rapid charging conventional lithium ion batteries. Actually, they claim 5 minute recharges in their marketing materials.

    They ALSO claim to have solved the other big problem with lithium ion batteries : finite lifespan. They claim their batteries do not 'wear' and can be put through at least 20 years worth of power cycling. Again, note that these special batteries can be purchased today, they are not vapor-ware. (I don't know if their claims are valid, but I do know the physical batteries exist)

    Yes, I am aware that a 10 minute recharge would strain the capacity of standard electrical service. You would need the electric gas stations to either have extremely high amperage connections to the grid, or to have some kind of energy storage technology at the station. Such as super-capacitors, a bank of precharged batteries, flywheels, ect.

    So could it be done? Mass produce these high end lithium ion batteries by the billions, putting banks of them in every new car and truck on the road and in electric gas stations? I think it could, but the huge upfront costs of such a conversion are going to put it off well into the future. The ultimate long run costs might be the same or cheaper than fossil fuels, but in the short term consumers won't pay for something that is significantly more expensive.

    For the conversion to occur, one of these has to happen

              1. "Moore's law" makes lithium ion batteries so cheap that electric cars are cheaper than gas
              2. Oil shortages make gas so expensive that even electric cars look cheap
              3. The government puts a huge tax on gasoline/diesel and artifically makes electric cars seem cheap

    A lot of people have pointed out that an electric car is actually simpler than gas. The motors are a lot smaller, and the battery banks consist of thousands of identical battery cells. The only other thing in the car is the power handling circuitry, which is solid state. If the batteries didn't wear out with age, then an electric car would probably be much cheaper to maintain.

  • by smallfeet (609452) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:22PM (#26630807) Journal
    If you live in an apartment or in the city and have to park on the street, you really don't have a good way to plug a car in over night. I think I will patent a 'Charger Post'; insert credit card, open door and plug in car, lock door, next day insert card again to open door.

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