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Transportation Power Technology

The Quest For an EV Fast-Charge Standard 248

Posted by Soulskill
from the everyone's-plugging-their-own-plug dept.
An anonymous reader writes "This article explores one of the stumbling blocks currently facing EV adoption: 'Sure, there are already public charging stations in service, and new ones are coming online daily. But those typically take several hours to fully replenish a battery. As a result, the ability for quick battery boosts — using a compatible direct current fast charger, the Leaf can refill to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes — could potentially become an important point of differentiation among electric models. But the availability of fast charging points has in part been held up by the lack of an agreement among automakers on a universal method for fast charging — or even on a single electrical connector.'"
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The Quest For an EV Fast-Charge Standard

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  • My solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:39AM (#37240810)
    I think some of the battery arrays should be able to pulled out of the car and swapped in with a charged battery array. This process could happen in under a minute.
    • Re:My solution (Score:5, Informative)

      by hipp5 (1635263) on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:45AM (#37240862)

      I think some of the battery arrays should be able to pulled out of the car and swapped in with a charged battery array. This process could happen in under a minute.

      Someone [betterplace.com] is working on that.

      • It's too early (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:45AM (#37241506) Homepage Journal

        Odds are decent that batteries are on the way out -- ultracapacitors are the candidate for replacing them. Currently (pun intended) UC's don't have sufficient capacity, but the capacity curve has been steadily rising over time, and as the stored power required for a vehicle to go a certain distance is slowly dropping, they're likely to meet sooner or later. At that time, batteries become buggy whips in search of (missing) horses.

        Aside from the present position on the total energy curve, UC's offer wider temperature ranges, less toxicity, much faster charging, essentially unlimited charge/discharge cycles, have such a long lifetime compared to a battery that they reduce the disposal/recycle problem to basically irrelevant (you could probably will your UC's a few generations down the road), and present less of a fire/explosive hazard and are easily fused in array form in safe fashion. Constant voltage output is easily obtained with off the shelf electronics, and as UCs don't age the way batteries do, determining the actual charge, as opposed to an estimate, for UCs is far more easily accomplished. Current in, self-discharge rate out, current out.

        This applies from small loads to large ones; In fact, as small devices become more and more efficient, as has been the trend for some time, they are walking down the curve towards practical use of UCs even faster than vehicles are.

        Speaking for myself, I wouldn't invest in a Lithium Ion startup today; it looks to me like the world's worst bet. And as for connectors and standards... it's just too early. A connector designed for the relatively anemic charge rates of a Li battery would probably go up in a flash if subjected to the current inrush that an equivalent capacity array of Uc's could demand -- and limiting the charge rate to Li rates is silly. It'll take quite a connector to provide a fast, efficient charge to an UC array, but it'll *so* be worth it. Electronics that monitor the voltage drop across the connector while aware of the available contact area could maintain a safe charge rate, pushing current at prodigious rates, potentially (hah) charging the vehicle in seconds -- far faster than either fueling up with gasoline *or* charging a battery. And contrariwise, a (relative) trickle from a could also charge the UCs overnight, leading to relatively simple and inexpensive home charging stations. Bucket-brigade techniques, where the home charger trickles itself while you're off elsewhere, then is able to quickly charge the vehicle require equivalent storage in the charger itself and so are more expensive, but again, would be so worth it.

        The thing is, until all this settles out -- and it is very much in flux (hah) right now -- it doesn't make much sense to standardize on anything, unless it's a trivially replaceable connector system at the charging station.

        • Re:It's too early (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Joce640k (829181) on Monday August 29, 2011 @11:14AM (#37241878) Homepage

          Ultracapacitors currently only have about a tenth of the energy density of a battery and whether they can be improved more than two or three times while maintaining reasonable costs is far from certain.

          Other than that, they're all good. Their efficiency is impressive (about 95% of electricity will end up in the motor, unlike batteries which can convert as much as 50% of it to heat during charging/discharging) and their working life makes them very attractive - current batteries aren't going to last more than a few years (much less if you're continually quick-charging them) and the e-waste millions of car batteries could produce down the line is huge.

          Maybe we'll just have to get used to the idea of having a big chunk of the car space dedicated to the capacitor.

        • Wow, that sounds awesome! I guess the only drawback would be the whole non-existence thing.

        • In his River World novels, Farmer envisioned a Battery-Capacitor hybrid (he called it a bacapacitor) that combined the advantages of both. Samuel Clemen's riverboat was powered by the electric discharge from the grailstones and stored in the bacapicitor. It would seem that he was on the right track.

          From the article "To match the convenience of a conventional car on the highway will require a combination of much greater electrical range with an even faster charging time, neither of which is around the corn

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Ultracapacitors aren't the solution in the way that you're suggesting. My guess is that we'll be switching them in and out the way that we do batteries. Probably using a couple sets for most cars.

          The reason being that the amount of amperage and voltage necessary to charge a car in a reasonable amount of time is a lot more than what you want in a house. Granted, you'd probably give it its own circuit which carries more juice, but you really don't want to provide the possibility of somebody trying to fix thei

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            The reason being that the amount of amperage and voltage necessary to charge a car in a reasonable amount of time is a lot more than what you want in a house

            If you've got a few hours to charge them then you don't need special amperages/voltages. Standard houshold power is plenty.

      • by Gription (1006467)
        That is so obvious that I would suspect that a large company or a government could never get the idea out of a committee. Everyone who has had a R/C car is familiar with the idea because you want to use the thing instead of watch it sit there plugged in...

        Two things would be required to make this work out:
        - The cells would need to be packaged in one or two standard formats.
        - They would also have make it so the condition/replacement of the batteries are a group thing. The charging stations swap out any d
      • It's fun to see a bunch of armchair engineers designing battery swap while seemingly ignorant of the real world.

        Better Place sells you electric miles. They own the battery packs, so there's no issue with getting a tired one. You charge at home, you charge at one of their public chargers, and the sexy part is the robotic battery swap station. They are rolling it out in Denmark and Israel, so we can see the problems with their model: swap stations and spare batteries cost a fortune so blanket coverage is only

    • I think some of the battery arrays should be able to pulled out of the car and swapped in with a charged battery array. This process could happen in under a minute.

      While it's a compelling solution, there are few obstacles to it becoming commonplace, for example:

      As with plugs, you'd need a standard battery. Given manufacturers want to compete on things such as range, a standard battery would remove one area where they could differentiate their product; making it unlikely.

      You'd need an accurate way to assess battery quality - or else you'll wind up trading good batteries for problematic ones.

      I don't doubt that may become solution someday, but think fast charging with a

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        While it's a compelling solution, there are few obstacles to it becoming commonplace, for example:

        As with plugs, you'd need a standard battery.

        This is exactly the sort of thing that could be mandated by law.

        (And given that cars are different shapes and sizes I think the only practical way is to have multiple smaller batteries per car instead of some monolithic "battery").

        Given manufacturers want to compete on things such as range, a standard battery would remove one area where they could differentiate their product; making it unlikely.

        You won't pay a fixed amount per charge, you'll pay by the Watt.

        This lets them compete: "You want long life or regular?"

        You'd need an accurate way to assess battery quality - or else you'll wind up trading good batteries for problematic ones.

        Management of bad batteries will be built into the system (it has to be!) and you only have to keep them as long as it takes to get to the next charging station

      • by jimicus (737525) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:38AM (#37241408)

        Easy solution to that - instead of storing the fuel source in the form of a solid lump, make it some sort of energy-dense liquid. That way the manufacturer differentiates themselves on the basis of how much liquid the vehicle requires to travel a given distance and how much liquid their vehicle can store, and the charging station simply pours liquid into some sort of tank until the tank is full.

        • That's an amazing concept. If only we had such an energy dense liquid readily available to consume...

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            ...for how much longer?

            PS: There's this crazy idea called "sustainability" I heard about...

    • I agree with this. Part of the reason ICVs were adopted is that re-energizing the vehicle was simply a matter of pumping gasoline into the tank. A five minute process and you're back on the road. Unless EVs can match the convenience of Internal Combustion Vehicles, they won't be much more than a fad. However, if the automakers can't even agree on an electrical connector, there's no way they'll agree to a swappable battery rack.
      • by iamhassi (659463)

        I agree with this. Part of the reason ICVs were adopted is that re-energizing the vehicle was simply a matter of pumping gasoline into the tank. A five minute process and you're back on the road. Unless EVs can match the convenience of Internal Combustion Vehicles, they won't be much more than a fad. However, if the automakers can't even agree on an electrical connector, there's no way they'll agree to a swappable battery rack.

        100% agree. EVs with gas-electric generators are the future, and like you said they can't even agree on an electrical connector but people think they're going to agree on one standard battery for ALL electric vehicles? Never going to happen. It's also impractical, tiny 2-seater EVs are not going to need the same battery a EV 1-ton truck would need.

        Anyone working on a universal swappable battery for electric vehicles is wasting their time. Your best bet is just to put a small gasoline or diesel powered

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Except that if you're carrying a generator around with you take a significant hit to your gas mileage. Besides that we've already got those, they're called hybrids and in the long term they carry the same deficits and deficiencies that other gas powered vehicles do. Albeit at a lesser rate. But you're still going to have to keep the things fueled and for folks that are just driving around town there's no advantage at all.

          We can be pretty confident that it's the case because the only reason that anybody's in

      • by hedwards (940851)

        They're taking their time as well they should. ICVs are on their way out, doesn't matter whether the alternatives are less convenient, we only have so much oil available in places that we can get it and we've only got so much pollution that we can dump into the atmosphere, both of which are becoming harder to justify.

        The technology for electric cars is likely to be in place for a really, really long time, probably longer than we've been driving ICVs.

      • Unless EVs can match the convenience of Internal Combustion Vehicles, they won't be much more than a fad.

        I don't think I would say 'fad' so much as 'niche'.

        For someone who lives in a city and rarely if ever drives outside of that city (and that describes a lot of people I know, even if that's still definitely a minority of drivers) even the current setup of EVs is pretty solid.

        But then there's a lot of people for whom it's totally impractical, too.

    • by bazorg (911295)

      I believe that you'll struggle to defend ownership of that idea. Reasonable as it sounds, I think it brings the disadvantages of rental to an industry with millions of consumers used to owning their stuff. Do we need more financial services getting in the way of good technical solutions?

      I would prefer to have always the same battery pack installed, having an internal combustion engine feeding the battery when needed and then having buried power rails installed in locations in the city where many minutes and

      • by jonwil (467024)

        Some cellphones and portable devices now have special charging setups where you just put the device on a charging mat and it charges.

        Scale that up in size and voltage and embed it in the road and let EV drivers charge up whilst sitting at the lights or driving down the interstate.

        • Expensive. Inefficient. And useful to all the people who realise they can load their back seats and trunks up with all the batteries that will fit and collect enough energy to run their house for a week.
        • by hedwards (940851)

          Not going to happen. The amount of energy that's wasted charging a cell phone is pretty minimal probably only about as much as from a traditional charger. However trying to charge a car like that would come with all sorts of issues like cancer risks and wasted energy. At the end of the day you'd be better off just having charging stations providing free juice as it would be a lot less expensive and a lot less risky.

    • So, the manufacturers can not agree on a plug and voltage, and now, your great idea is to be able to swap batteries?
      Are you daft or something?
  • Great (Score:3, Funny)

    by hipp5 (1635263) on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:47AM (#37240880)
    It's cell phones all over again. Except 100 times the cost. Also, obligatory xkcd reference [xkcd.com].
    • It's cell phones all over again. Except 100 times the cost.

      And none of the additional utility that a cell phone provides over a landline.
      Electric cars are a bandaid to the problem of automobiles. Give us cities where people can walk, bike, and use an effective bus system and people will actually be willing to give them a shot. New York and San Francisco are expensive to live in for a reason...

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Possibly, although you have to realize that people really like their cars. I don't own a car, and let me tell you, people think I'm crazy. I do just fine with bikes and the bus system, and I have a wife and 3 kids. It's not because of lack of money either, but not owning a car sure does free up a lot of money. But most people can't imagine not owning a car, and driving it daily. Most people I know drive their car everywhere, even if it's just something that would be a short walk, simply because they ha
      • That's all well and good but what about the people who need to live and work out in sparsely populated areas? After all, someone has to grow the food that is eaten by people in cities.

  • Battery technology changes virtually daily, we're not nearly far enough to standardize a rather significant part of the process.
  • by kurt555gs (309278) <{kurt555gs} {at} {ovi.com}> on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:10AM (#37241076) Homepage

    If these cars used Toshiba's SCIB batteries -> http://www.toshiba.com/ind/product_display.jsp?id1=821 [toshiba.com] - then they could go from dead to full charge in 10 minutes.

    That would make electric charging stations at gas stations feasible.

    It takes 10 minutes to fill an SUV with gas.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      And where do you get the electricity? You can charge things really fast, but having batteries that are powerful enough to move a car for an appreciable distance that charge in 10 minutes are going to require a huge amount of juice to power them. Not to mention the risk of explosion if the battery is damaged or fire if any of the equipment is malfunctioning.

      • by kurt555gs (309278)

        That is why I suggested gas stations. They have access to large capacity 3 phase juice. As far as safety, not an issue. Read the Toshiba info in the parent link.

  • Heat is bad for batteries, and fast charging makes batteries hot.

    I understand that sometimes charging quickly is better than waiting 6 hours to drive somewhere, but if you want those batteries to last then ideally drivers would plan for and prefer the slower charging solution whenever possible.
    • by kurt555gs (309278)

      Not the case with the Toshiba SCIB batteries. I have seen it.

    • Actaully, all of the good cars, like tesla, have that covered. It is cars like Nissan Leaf that has no means of cooling that will destroy their batteries.
  • Great Misconception (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 7-Vodka (195504) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:16AM (#37241150) Journal

    Why does EVERYONE have this great misconception that EVs and charging stations are like chicken and egg?

    Every time research is done into EV owner driving and charging patterns they show that people really don't drive that far on a daily basis and always prefer to charge AT HOME overnight rather than at some charging station.

    Why would anyone want to drive to a charging station and wait an hour when they can just plug in when they get home? That's like having a gas pump at your house, but instead wanting to drive 30 minutes to a "gas station" to fill up.

    For EV owners who have longer trips, they can take their second car, rent a car or fly.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      People that are already driving EV cars are not the typical consumer. But I agree for the most part. People will want to charge at home so they don't partial charge the batteries thus reducing their life span. As far as the "rent a car on the fly" thought, that is insightful assuming they can keep the costs below taking a train or bus.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Maybe the charging stations could get a better price on power for the end user since they would be a bigger consumer than a single person, and therefore be able to work out better deals with the power company. Maybe they could have onsite solar and wind operations allowing them to generate some of their own power, further reducing the costs to the end users.
    • by vlm (69642)

      rent a car

      I only drive small cars, I like them small and fast. Other people with obese vehicles like trucks and SUVs take great joy in asking how I move stuff without having a F-350 dualie like they pay for.

      Home depot rents a nice truck for $20/hr right off the street, bigger and badder than their pickup truck. For even bigger jobs, I have rented uhaul trucks for not too much more, per day.

      I did rent a giant land barge once, for a special occasion road trip, and it was so uncomfortable to drive, and so slow, with s

    • by Solandri (704621)

      For EV owners who have longer trips, they can take their second car, rent a car or fly.

      I agree with this sentiment. Rather than buying a single car which has to serve two purposes (short daily commutes, occasional long trips), buy a single car highly optimized for one purpose (short daily commutes), and use a different means to fill the other need (second car, rental, flying for long trips).

      However, this runs counter to the way most people think. The car's operating expenses are neglected as noise, wh

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:39AM (#37241418) Homepage

    I still don't see why the big desire for batteries. They're heavy, a pain in the ass to change even if you have a standard. You're looking at someone to do it for you, or knowing how to do it yourself using machinery in both cases. In the end, fuel cells will be the way to go, unless there's some amazing earth shattering breakthrough in battery technology.

    • Because fuel cells:
      1. Cost a fortune.
      2. Run off fuels so explosive they make gasoline look like water.

      The technology just isn't there yet.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Yes, and fuel cell cars are probably still 30 years away from being affordable.Whereas right now there are electric cars which are affordable, granted not to me, but it's getting to the point where normal people can afford to buy them.

      Plus, what precisely happens if some unforeseen limitation prevents fuel cells from working substantially or delays their mass market release? You'd be stuck where we are presently and at some point we're going to hit some sort of hard limit on what we can emit without seeing

    • by Twinbee (767046)

      Battery tech advances all the time, and so should get smaller and lighter over time. We can also apparently cut out the changing gear / clutch crap, and turn on the instant heating say, without having to worry about also having the noisy engine on if the car is stationary. Yeah noise will be a thing of the past too.

      Additionally, the cost of electricity should also plummet over time as we build better nuclear power stations or even fusion in the future, and at that point, electric cars will be ready to immed

  • by hat_eater (1376623) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:40AM (#37241446)
    Anyone remembers the Cambridge Crude? [gizmag.com] I wonder if they'll have a working solution (heh) in 2013.
  • by sunking2 (521698) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:42AM (#37241470)
    For the Leaf they give 30 minutes for 30 miles using a faster charger. For simplicity, assume driving 60mph, so your 30 minute commute now takes an hour. And this was for the fastest charge that they talk about replacing a gas station, at $40k installation it certainly isn't for the home. Not impressed.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It only adds 30 minutes onto your commute if you wait until you're ready to leave, and then plug it in. I don't know about you, but I typically wake up more than an hour before I leave for work, and I'm sure I can find the five minutes to plug in the car somewhere near the start of the window.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      You're assumptions are botched there. People with any sense at all don't do that. If you've got the car, then chances are you're going to be parking in a parking lot with a charging station. You're complaint here is tantamount to seeing a model T and being unimpressed because it's not useful outside the city limits because they haven't yet created suitable roads.

      For most people though, that's more than adequate. I could just about drive all the way across town and back on a charge. Something I wouldn't do b

    • "For the Leaf they give 30 minutes for 30 miles using a faster charger."

      No, that is not correct. The DC Quck Charger (The one that costs upwards of $40k but can be had for $16K) will charge the LEAF from flat to 80% in 25 minutes. You can go way farther than 30 miles with an 80% charge.

      The Level 2 chargers will charge the current LEAF from flat to 100% in 7 to 8 hours. That will normally be done over night and you would not need to plug in at all to make a 60 mile round trip.

      "Not impressed."

      I think you m

  • by scottbomb (1290580) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:48AM (#37241556) Journal

    The same people wanting us driving electric cars also don't want us building new power plants that would be required to support the additional load. The power grids can barely handle the loads they're under now.

  • The solution to vehicle-specific chargers is to integrate them with the vehicle then plug 'em in to standard 220 single-phase outlets fed from appropriate breakers.

  • the lack of an agreement among automakers on a universal method for fast charging — or even on a single electrical connector

    If they can't agree on the method for fast charging, it's good that they don't agree on the connector either.

  • The battery charging issue is the wrong problem, you want power rails in/overhead the roadway so you draw from the grid while driving. Once you have that you only need a small battery to drive into/out of your driveway or parking lot, and it recharges while you drive.
  • It's called the shore power adapter. These go up to 430V at 400A which should be enough for anyone...

    If you're looking for something home-friendly, there are 230V shore power plug types as well..

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