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Transportation Earth Power

MIT Electric Car May Outperform Rival Gas Models 457

Posted by timothy
from the begin-the-test-of-batteries-or-vice-versa dept.
alphadogg writes "Inside a plain-looking garage on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's campus, undergraduate Radu Gogoana and his team of fellow students are working on a project that could rival what major automobile manufacturers are doing. The team's goal is to build an all-electric car with similar performance capabilities of gasoline-only counterparts, which includes a top speed of about 161 kph, a family sedan capacity, a range of about 320 kilometers and the ability to recharge in about 10 minutes. They hope to complete the project, which they chronicle on their blog, by the third quarter of 2010. Each member of MIT's Electric Vehicle Team works almost 100 hours a week on the project they call elEVen. 'Right now the thing that differentiates us is that we're exploring rapid recharge,' Gogoana said during an interview. He said that many of today's electric vehicles take between two to 12 hours to recharge and he doesn't know of any commercially available, rapidly recharging vehicles."
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MIT Electric Car May Outperform Rival Gas Models

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  • Outperform? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djrogers (153854) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:10PM (#28786749)
    I don't see a single stat there that 'outperforms' a 1994 Honda Civic - in fact it falls short on every aspect. Don't get me wrong, those specs would make the car great on paper, and I am totally behind electric powered cars, I just hate it when headlines lie.
    • by murphyd311 (1364187) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:11PM (#28786775)
      MPG.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        No not really. A 5-seat Lupo 3L gets 88mpg on the highway. The new VW 2-seater arriving after Christmas gets 250mpg on the highway.

        Show me an electric car that can exceed that? It doesn't exist. In fact the best EV ever made (GM EV1) is no better than a Prius (~50mpg) according to greenercars.org and falls short of an Insight (66mpg).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by frosty_tsm (933163)

          No not really. A 5-seat Lupo 3L gets 88mpg on the highway. The new VW 2-seater arriving after Christmas gets 250mpg on the highway.

          Show me an electric car that can exceed that? It doesn't exist. In fact the best EV ever made (GM EV1) is no better than a Prius (~50mpg) according to greenercars.org and falls short of an Insight (66mpg).

          You must be from Europe. Here across the pond, we get excited about 32 mpg. Silly, isn't it.

        • New technology (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DJRumpy (1345787)
          Considering the combustion engine is over 100 years old and highly refined by market demand over that time, it's not surprising. What is surprising is that they are making leaps like this with an electric car in what is arguably a technology that is still in it's infancy (not the electric motor itself, but rather the underlying technology for charging, and efficiency in a compact size).

          The summary indicated it could rival what other manufacturers are doing in the field, not rival a combustion vehicle. P
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rei (128717)

          No not really. A 5-seat Lupo 3L gets 88mpg on the highway. The new VW 2-seater arriving after Christmas gets 250mpg on the highway.

          Ugh. Time for another round of, "Lies, Damned Lies, and Miles-Per-Gallon". First, the Lupo 3L

          1) "Comparing different drivecycles": The Lupo 3L is measured on the NEDC, not the US06 and FTP drivecycles we're used to. European mileages for the same vehicle are generally about 15% higher than US combined mileages.

          2) "Comparing non-equivalent vehicles": The Lupo 3L is a four seat

    • So true.

      And there's so much shit that will be added that will cut the car's performance and efficiency between when they "finish" it and when it's something you can drive off the lot.

      The ONLY thing different about this car is the rapid charging battery. Nothing special, really.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by greatica (1586137)

        Indeed. I'm getting really tired of reading about prototypes with amazing mileage that:

        1. Will never pass a crash test.
        2. Don't have seat belts / airbags
        3. Have no radio, AC, or other features.
        4. Can't hold more than one or two people.

        I've owned these amazing machines for years. They're called motorcycles.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      Yep, my RX8 could hit 150mph (240 kph) easily. 161 kph (100mph) is hardly outperforming. I realize that most people don't generally drive that fast, but if we are going to compare specs, we should be able to hit the same speeds even if they are dangerous.

      Oh, and it should cost roughly the same (~$30k) for that performance. ;)

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      I don't see anything in the summary that says it will outperform gasoline cars. It does say that it will recharge in ten minutes, which is certainly outperforming other electric vehicles.

    • by RingDev (879105) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:59PM (#28787623) Homepage Journal

      Primarily on the fact that while a 1994 Honda Civic exists, the MIT Electric car that the page describes doesn't even exist yet. Not even in the "We're heading to the track to start testing" phase. Hell, not even to the "Lets turn the key and make sure the lights work" phase.

      They just finished tearing apart the donor car a week ago. So far all they have is an over weight drive train, a single power cell package prototype, and a whole lot of pipe dreams.

      This story is something that belongs in The Onion...

      "Local Farm Boy Dreams Up Revolutionary New Automobile"
      While no details on how he is going to overcome any of the significant obstacles in his way, we are excited that he has in fact been dreaming and has some ideas. Local organizations have donated some amount of parts for him to start working with, and his father has loaned him a welder.

      That's about what we have here.

      -Rick

  • Battery Issues (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jameskojiro (705701) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:10PM (#28786755) Journal

    Will they have the same problems as the Ipods? Exploding?

  • but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jDeepbeep (913892) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:11PM (#28786759)

    The team's goal is to build an all-electric car with similar performance capabilities of gasoline-only counterparts, which includes a top speed of about 161 kph, a family sedan capacity, a range of about 320 kilometers and the ability to recharge in about 10 minutes. They hope to complete the project, which they chronicle on their blog, by the third quarter of 2010

    How much will it cost?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jeffstar (134407)

      from TFA the batteries alone are 80k and require 1000A at 356 volts for the 'rapid charge'. That is 356 kW.

      • Re:but... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:29PM (#28787107) Homepage Journal

        Add in the "10 minute recharge" and you get 356/6 KWh = 59.3KWh

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by RoverDaddy (869116)
          For more perspective lets turn that into dollars. Where I live 1 KWh costs about $0.20 for residential service. That makes 59.3 KWh cost about $11.86. Pretending it takes exactly this much electricity to drive their claimed range of 320km (198.8 miles), gives a fuel cost of 6 cents per mile. Comparing to gasoline at about $2.45 a gallon, the cost is like driving at 41 MPG. Nice, but not revolutionary. If gas goes all the way back to $4.00/gallon, the cost is like driving at 66 mpg.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by SBrach (1073190)
            But, I pay $.035 per KWh and around $2.50 per gallon, so I would get around 240mpg. Those poor bastards in Venezuela with their $.12 gas and $.95 KWh electricity would only get .42mpg. Shit, I've got a lawn mower that gets better mpg than that.

            Obviously, it is hard to compare electric cars "mpg" because the cost of electricity and gasoline are different everywhere.
  • Physics? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GigsVT (208848) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:11PM (#28786773) Journal

    This doesn't sound feasible. Back of the envelope:

    Lets say 20hp average power required.
    That's 15kilowatts.

    At 100kph (62mph), 3.2 hours for 320kilometers.

    48 kilowatt hours.

    Lets say it's a 96 volts dc system. That's 500 amp/hours.

    500 amp/hours charged in 10 minutes is 3000 amps, assuming 100% efficiency.

    And these are the conservative numbers!

    Even if all the other tech were there, how are they going to move 3000 amps into a car?

    • by GigsVT (208848)

      Note that amp/hours should read amp-hours. Might as well nitpick myself before someone else does. :P

    • Re:Physics? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jeffstar (134407) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:15PM (#28786847) Journal

      TFA says it is a 356 volt system that charges at 1000 amps.

      a 500mcm aluminum conductor should move 1000A just fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dan667 (564390)
      Holy cow, that is dangerous. The recharge time and the pollution of the batteries really kill the electric car. Most people will not be able to afford two cars. Anyone have any info on progress for a hydrogen powered car?
    • Re:Physics? (Score:4, Funny)

      by bertoelcon (1557907) <berto.el.con@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:24PM (#28787019)
      They forgot to mention the recharge mechanism involves lightning, that should charge it quickly if harnessed.
    • Re:Physics? (Score:5, Informative)

      by b0bby (201198) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:48PM (#28787447) Homepage

      Watch the video. He explains that they are hooked up straight to the MIT power plant, and are thus able to dump huge amounts of power ("20 homes" worth) into the thing. They're pushing the envelope on the rapid recharge stuff.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cassini2 (956052)

      The batteries can take that kind of current, it is just that it wrecks there long-term life span. Simply put, you can charge a battery almost as fast as you can discharge it. 3000 Amps at 96 V may sound like a lot to your average residential home owner, but in the scheme of things, it isn't that much power. It is only 300 kW of power. Most factories have multi-megawatt substations. With 200 A, 240 V residential services (heating usage), it is only about 6 residential homes. The total transformer capaci

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      Even if all the other tech were there, how are they going to move 3000 amps into a car?

      With a forklift?

  • I'm sure the smart folks have already considered this option for "fast charging", but why not have a big capacitor that stays plugged into your wall at home and builds charge slowly, but when you connect it to your car, it can very rapidly transfer the charge to your own capacitor. You'd basically be off-loading the slow-charge step to a place that doesn't move around anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cmowire (254489)

      On one hand, I'm rooting them to fail because I think that no electric car can both save us from running out of gas *AND* solve all of the other problems inherent to the automobile that are also near the bursting point (like wasting tons of money to make four-lane highways filled with cars carrying only one person).

      But, on the other hand, I'm looking forward to disassembling the "fast charging" system you propose to build railguns with the big capacitors.

    • by sunking2 (521698)
      That sounds really safe! I can just see the firemen playing rock/paper/scissors to determine who goes into the garage with the fire hose first.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WeirdJohn (1170585)
      A capacitor that big is not very different from a bomb. Every home should have one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GameMaster (148118)

      A capacitor that large would have a number of problems:

      * It would be, monumentally, more expensive than the, already expensive, battery pack in the car.

      * Since capacitors don't have, even close, to the same power density as a battery, it would take up a massive amount of space.e

      * It would discharge way too fast for even the most advanced battery to handle (giving you the exact opposite problem as what you started with).

      * The ultra-fast discharge would vaporize even the largest normal connector you could

  • Good bridge solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:12PM (#28786795) Homepage

    In order to rapidly recharge those batteries, they'll need 350 kilowatts. "That's enough power to blow the fuses on 20 residential homes at once ... so we'll be hooking up directly to MIT's power plant to get that kind of power," Gogoana said.

    Their idea is to give you two options: (1) rapid recharge in 10 minutes at a suitable power plant, or (2) overnight recharge at home.

    This is a great idea because consumers can buy it and use option #2 while more and more electric-vehicle charging stations are built as the tech becomes more mainstream. A good bridge solution.

    Good luck team.

    • And 'gas' stations will remain practical.
  • It's impossible. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    all-electric car with similar performance capabilities of gasoline-only counterparts

    Look, it's just not possible. The energy density for batteries is simply so far away from what you get with an internal combustion engine, that it's not funny.

    Look, I'm not saying that electric cars aren't useful, more efficient, more enviro-friendly, whatever.

    But you aren't going to get performance similar to a gas vehicle until there are revolutionary breakthroughs in battery technology.

  • Outperform? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cmowire (254489) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:15PM (#28786839) Homepage

    To me, outperform means that it will need to:
    1) Hit fewer pedestrians and cyclists
    2) Be drivable while drunk
    3) Not result in massive traffic jams
    4) Not require huge ugly parking lots and parking garages.
    5) Be cheap enough so that normal people, instead of rich douchebags, can afford it
    6) Require fewer tax subsidies.
    7) Allow the user to get some exercise instead of getting progressively fatter.

    • by mrvan (973822) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:21PM (#28786941)

      Aha! A bicycle!

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      8) Cook, clean, and work for me while I relax at the beach.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nerdposeur (910128)

      A nice wish list, but most of it has nothing to do with the problem they're trying to solve: making electric vehicles as practical as gas-burning ones are today.

      #1-3 could be solved by cars that drive themselves. #4 would involve a shift toward car-sharing or public transportation.

      #5 and #6 are valid requirements that amount to the same thing: it should be cheap enough to win in the market. But I think it's reasonable to make it work, first, then worry about making it cheaper.

      #7 is really not their problem.

      • by Chabo (880571)

        #7 is really not their problem. If you want to bike to work, that's great, but otherwise the only way your vehicle is going to help you stay in shape is to be large enough to contain a mobile gym. Which seems pretty silly.

        That gives me an idea: make an electric car that contains bicycle pedals inside. You don't have to pedal hard enough to keep the car running, but any energy you put into the pedals recharges the battery. It would keep you in shape, and would extend the range of the car, even if not by that much.

  • 320 *km*?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:16PM (#28786851) Journal

    To be superior to a gasoline car, it should have more than half the range of a gasoline powered car, I should think. Most gasoline cars are sized to have about 400 miles range, which works out nicely given our average highway speed of 60--70 mph and our typical need to eat interval of five or six hours, with a 12% reserve for miscalculations.

    • I would think the average time between bathroom breaks is shorter than the average time between food breaks. That should be the goal.

  • Interesting stuff. I wasn't aware Nanophosphate batteries were already in production. I wonder what the capacities are though. Zinc foil and carbon doesn't seem like it'd hold that much charge.

  • Competitive, huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dan_sdot (721837) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:17PM (#28786877)
    From TFA:

    Gogoana placed the cost of the project, excluding labor, at around $200,000, but much of the materials were donated and the Electric Vehicle Team isn't paid. The batteries alone hold a price tag of about $80,000, but Gogoana said that as more batteries and cars are produced, cost should be driven down.

    Don't get me wrong, this is all cool stuff. One day relatively soon, I bet these things will be the norm.

    But we need to stop with the hyperbolic comparisons to current cars. Apples and oranges. Any comparisons should be made to other types of experimental work along these lines.

  • Meh... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thenewguy001 (1290738)
    It's not affordable. You can't compare performance statistics with production cars from traditional manufacturers with intended retail prices of around $50,000 when your car costs $200,000, excluding labor.
    • Gogoana placed the cost of the project, excluding labor, at around $200,000, but much of the materials were donated and the Electric Vehicle Team isn't paid. The batteries alone hold a price tag of about $80,000, but Gogoana said that as more batteries and cars are produced, cost should be driven down
  • What I want to know is...how can they create a battery strong enough to power a car for that distance/speed that be charged in 10 minutes but the battery in my cell phone and Blackberry still take no less than 45m.
    • I know squat about this subject, but it does seem that they have some luxuries that the BlackBerry battery doesn't have. For example, it's no problem if the car battery becomes hot to the touch while charging.

      Still, good point.

    • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:36PM (#28787235) Journal

      What I want to know is...how can they create a battery strong enough to power a car for that distance/speed that be charged in 10 minutes but the battery in my cell phone and Blackberry still take no less than 45m.

      The batteries in your cell phone and Blackberry are lithium polymer, based on lithium cobalt chemistry. These have the highest energy density of common commercially available batteries, but their safe charging rate is limited to somewhere around 1C -- that is, 1 amp per amp-hour of capacity.

      The MIT batteries are lithium iron phosphate. These unfortunately have much lower energy density than lithium cobalt polymer cells (not in the least because there's no polymer version available; the cell are in a metal casing). But they have a high power density and they can take charge rates around 4-5C (for the regular cells; they don't have the specs on the automotive cells on their website). That translates to much shorter charge times.

    • The size of the battery doesn't matter much, except for wire diameter issues and I guess heat. It's chemistry that really matters. The chemistry will be superior to that in your phone by say, a factor of 5 in charge speed. Then it's just a matter of charging a bunch of cells in parallel.

  • make an electric car that performs like a gas powered car. It only costs 20 times what gas powered car would've cost by parts alone. According TFA, the battery array alone cost 80k, but those are commercial battery packs, not research battery packs. The difference being, it'd be very very difficult to drive the price point down to under 100k. And make such cars marketable.

  • Electricity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by The Shootist (324679)

    A lot of articles recently about electric autos. Not a lot of (no) discussion about the electrical generation and delivery infrastructure.

    (paragraph)I do not know about Europe, Asia, Africa or South America; but North America doesn't have the electrical generating capacity, nor the 440V lines into the home, necessary to support lighting your room and running your PC, much less any to spare for transportation. Don't believe me? In 1969 the standard delivery into a home was 250V/125V. Today it is 215V/108V.

  • by Nyall (646782)

    100 hours a week? That is a great way to do faulty engineering.

    If I knew my car was designed by engineers who worked that much I'd get rid of it.

  • I mean if I can get more torque... this could be fun!
  • Dedication (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JW CS (1593833) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:34PM (#28787193)
    Each team member works almost 100 hours per week without pay? Suddenly my work schedule doesn't seem so bad. I'm guessing that most of them are taking a full load of classes as well. This sort of dedication must be the reason MIT has such a good reputation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Remus Shepherd (32833)

      That's more or less typical for a research assistant in some PhD programs. Grad students are worked to the bone. The upshot for these students, at least, is they'll be able to write their own ticket once they get out of school.

  • by AncientPC (951874) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:46PM (#28787403)

    In order to rapidly recharge those batteries, they'll need 350 kilowatts. "That's enough power to blow the fuses on 20 residential homes at once ... so we'll be hooking up directly to MIT's power plant to get that kind of power," Gogoana said.

    The primary reasons they can get it recharged quickly is using a new battery material (lithium iron-phosphate) and access to MIT's power plant. I know nothing about current grid limits, but I'd imagine we would need infrastructure changes just for a recharging station that supports 10+ vehicles every few miles. Otherwise this is your typical charge overnight on a 220V outlet electric car.

  • Why not capacitors? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by assertation (1255714) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @05:18PM (#28787973)

    'Right now the thing that differentiates us is that we're exploring rapid recharge,'

    Are they inventing new technology GM & Tesla don't have or are they using a capacitor instead of a battery? If the latter, why aren't GM & Tesla doing that?

  • by GoChickenFat (743372) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @07:41PM (#28789671)
    Ok, one thing that always bothers me about these electric cars is the seeming ignorance surrounding the simple notion of how to provide climate comfort within the cabin. How far will the electric car go in the winter time in Minnesota with the now electric heater running...or the air conditioner during the hot summer? Are these calculations taken into account when providing "MPG" ratings? Heat is somewhat trivial for internal combustion engines but obviously not for electric...

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