Tag Archives: Electric

The million-mile battery promised by Tesla is here

Elon Musk promised a battery that could take an e-vehicle a million miles and last for years at a time. Jeff Dahn, one of the pioneers of the modern lithium-ion batteries, has now delivered on that promise.

Image credits Paul Brennan.

In a new paper, Dahn announced that the company will soon be in possession of a battery that would make its robot taxis and long-haul electric trucks viable. Dahn is a Professor in the Department of Physics & Atmospheric Science and the Department of Chemistry at Dalhousie University, as well as a research partner of Tesla.

Charge for days

“Cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over one million miles and last at least two decades in grid energy storage” Dahn says.

Dahn’s research group is recognized as one of the most renowned and prestigious worldwide in the field of electrochemistry. Their new paper details the new power cell they created and a benchmark of its capabilities for further research.

The power cell is constructed using a nickel-rich NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) alloy for its cathode. The team explains that the alloy they used, known as NCM 523 (50% Nickel, 20% Cobalt, 30% Manganese), is stable and an excellent reference and starting point for further developments. Other elements that the team tested include graphite anodes, and different mixes of solvents, additives, and salt for the electrolyte solutions

All in all, the cells have a specific capacity (the ratio of energy storage ability to weight) 20% higher than that of the cathodes used in Li-ion batteries that power today’s mobile electronic devices. What’s more, the findings can be turned into useable batteries right away.

“However, since the goal of the study was to provide a reliable benchmark and reference for Li-ion battery technology, the specific energy density of the batteries described is not the highest compared to what can be really reached by advanced Li-ion batteries,” says Doron Aurbach the batteries and energy storage technical editor for the journal that published the study.

“Based on the study, Li-ion batteries will soon be developed that make driving over 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) from charge to charge possible.”

The paper “A Wide Range of Testing Results on an Excellent Lithium-Ion Cell Chemistry to be used as Benchmarks for New Battery Technologies” has been published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

Electric car.

Europe is now home to over one million electric vehicles

Europe can boast one million electric vehicles.

Electric car.

Image credits Mike / Pixabay.

A huge sales increase in the first half of the year propelled the European market over the one-million-electric-vehicles mark, reports industry analyst EV-Volumes. This is the second market to pass the benchmark after China (which did so in 2017), which is a much larger market (so EVs have a small market share). The US is still lagging behind, but estimated to pass the one-million-mark later this year.

Grid-fed vroom-vrooms

Roughly 195,000 new electric cars were sold in Europe during the first half of this year, EV-Volumes reports, representing a 42% increase from last year’s sales profile. The figure includes fully electric cars and vans, as well as plug-in hybrids, which can travel a short distance off a battery before switching to a conventional engine, sold in the European Union as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway.

Among all countries in Europe, Norway recorded the largest sales numbers of such vehicles with 36,500 sold EVs and 37% of new registrations. It’s also true that the country’s market does benefit from generous government incentives aimed at EVs. Germany, however, seems poised to overtake Norway by the end of the year for total sales.

The Netherlands and Denmark also saw good growth in sales of electric vehicles. The UK remained the runt of the litter, with 30,040 EV sales and seeing only “moderate” growth — sales of fully electric cars dipped by 6% but plug-in hybrids surged by 50%. EV-Volumes estimates this sluggishness was owed to a lack of compelling models from domestic manufacturers, Ford and Vauxhall.

The analyst further estimates that sales of EVs in Europe will reach 1.35 million by the end of the year.

“A stock of one million electric vehicles is an important milestone on the road to electrification and meeting emission targets but it is of course not enough,” said Viktor Irle, a market analyst at EV-Volumes.

Europe, however, seems determined to bet on EVs. Late last year, international energy company E.ON and Denmark-based e-mobility service provider CLEVER detailed plans to roll out 10,000 charging stations and an ‘electric highway’ across the continent. Sweden also unveiled the world’s first fully-electrified road, and several countries (including France, Norway, and Scotland) are poised to ban the sale of new fossil-fueled vehicles in the close to medium future.

Electric-road-rail.

Sweden opens world’s first electrified road, to charge e-vehicles on the run

One stretch of road outside Stockholm will recharge electric cars and trucks as they’re zipping along.

Electric-road-truck.

A former diesel-fueled truck owned by the logistics firm PostNord is the first to use the road.
Image credits Erik Mårtensson / eRoadArlanda

Stockholm can now boast having the world’s first operational electrified road. While it’s quite short, linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a nearby logistics site over a stretch of two kilometers, it is nevertheless an important step forward in Sweden‘s long-term energy strategy and its efforts to combat climate change.

The country has pledged to decouple completely from fossil fuels by 2030 — quite an impressive goal to set for ones’ self — the lion’s share of which are currently guzzled by the transport sector. This electrified road is Sweden’s proof-of-concept, aiming to show that e-vehicles can be used conveniently over long distances. Once expanded to other key infrastructure lines, such as highways and main roadways, the roads will ensure Swedes can charge their electric vehicles wherever they are — and ensure a smooth transition from combustion engines to electronic ones for residents and industry.

The road transfers electricity from an underground rail into the batteries of cars through a flexible arm attached to the charging vehicle. It might sound risky, but the team behind the project says it’s not any more dangerous than a bowl of meatballs with cranberry sauce.

“There is no electricity on the surface,” Hans Säll, chief executive of eRoadArlanda, the consortium behind the project, explained to the Guardian.

“There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is. But if you flood the road with salt water, then we have found that the electricity level at the surface is just one volt. You could walk on it barefoot.”

Each new kilometer of electrified road currently costs roughly 1 million euros ($1.23 million) to install. Not exactly cheap (the World Bank estimated back in 2000 that one kilometer of new road costs around US$866,000 to install, so about 1/3 less), but its still a whopping 50 times cheaper than installing an overhead tram line over the same distance.

Electric-road-rail.

Not so cool now, are ya, overhead electricity?
Image credits Erik Mårtensson / eRoadArlanda.

The e-roads are divided into 50 meter-long (164 feet) segments, which are individually powered — and only when a car is running on that segment. To keep extra safe, power will be cut when a vehicle stops.

With Sweeden currently maintaining about half a million kilometers of roadways (20,000 of which are highways), that would add up to a lot of euros. Luckily, as e-vehicle manufacturers have done such a wonderful job in battery technology one-upmanship lately, the Swedes don’t need to electrify everything — just the important bits.

“If we electrify 20,000 kilometers of highways that will definitely be enough,” Säll explained. “The distance between two highways is never more than 45 kilometers, and electric cars can already travel that distance without needing to be recharged.”

“Some believe it would be enough to electrify 5,000 kilometers.”

Another interesting feature of the e-road is its “dynamic charging” ability. In essence, the system can estimate how much energy each vehicle running on it consumes, meaning the costs can be debited per individual car or user. It also means that these cars can get away with smaller batteries (since there’s always a reliable supply of power close at hand) making them even more energy-efficient in the long run.

The government’s roads agency has already drafted a national map for future expansion, The Guardian adds.

The only question yet to be answered is whether Ikea will start shipping DYI stretches of electrified roads, with their customary excess of bolts in each package.

3D-printed car.

World’s first mass-produced, 3D-printed car is electric, looks cool and costs under $10K

Three-dimensional printed cars will soon find their way to driveways and cul-de-sacs all across the world as the first mass-produced vehicle of its kind aims to revolutionize the auto industry.

3D-printed car.

Image via Polymaker.

Cars are a pretty big investment. They are also quite necessary for some and quite desirable for others. So why not keep the second part but drop the price? That’s what Italian-based electric car company XEV and 3D-printing material company Polymaker want to achieve with a tiny but adorable car called the LSEV.

“XEV is the first real mass production project using 3D printing,” said  Dr. Luo Xiaofan, co-founder and CEO of Polymaker, during a recent press conference at the 3D-Printing Cultural Museum in Shanghai.

“By saying real, I mean there are also lots of other companies using 3D printing for production. But nothing can really compare with XEV in terms of the size, the scale, and the intensity.”

According to CNBC, the printed car will weigh just around 450 kgs (992 pounds), takes just three days to print, and will bring you back under $10K. The secret behind this price tag, Polymaker says, lies in the 3D printing process itself. The company managed to shrink the number of plastic components that go into the vehicle from 2,000 to just 57. This makes it much faster and cheaper to print, but also lighter than any comparable vehicle. Apart from the chassis, seats, and glass panes, every visible part of the car was 3D-printed.

It does come with limitations, however — this isn’t a sports car. It’ll do up to 43 mph (around 70km/h), and a single charge will cover about 93 miles (150km). Not good if you’re trying to cross the border to Mexico in a hurry — but really handy when you have to zip about through a crowded city. The vehicle’s relatively small dimensions also help in this regard.

People seem to agree with me: as XEV reports, they’ve already received 7,000 orders for their car, despite the fact that production should start sometime in the quarter of 2019.

“This strategic partnership between XEV and Polymaker leads to a revolutionary change in automotive manufacturing,” writes Polymaker. “It is possible that similar changes, related with 3D printing technology, will happen to every aspect of manufacturing very soon.”

Electric freight ship.

First all-electric cargo ship built in China will start its career drenched in irony

China can boast using the world’s first all-electric cargo ship — but its cargo leaves a sour taste: it’s coal.

Electric freight ship.

Two technicians pass by the world’s first 2,000-metric-ton, all-electric cargo ship during its debut in Guangzhou.
Image credits Xia Shiyan / China Daily.

State-owned news outlet China Daily reports that the 2,000 metric-ton ship was launched to water last month in the city of Guangzhou. It was built by the Guangzhou Shipyard International Company Ltd. to shuttle goods along the inland section of the Pearl River.

E-carrier

It’s not the fastest electric ship out there (that’s a yacht), neither is it the smartest (that would be a planned autonomous freighter), but it definitely has a lot of oomph. The ship measures 70.5 meters (230 feet) in length and is ‘armed’ with a 2,400 kWh battery pack, allowing it to carry 2200 tons of cargo over 80 kilometers (50 miles) at a max speed of 12.8 kilometers (8 miles) per hour. After every full trip, the ship has to be charged for two hours. Conveniently, however, two hours is about how much time it would take to unload the ship while docked.

Overall, a very solid example of electric vehicles hitting the water, and for heavy-duty work to boot.

“As the ship is fully electric powered, it poses no threats to the environment,” said Huang Jialin, general manager of Hangzhou Modern Ship Design & Research Co, the company that designed the ship.

As the ship’s engines and batteries stand testament to our shifting relationship with fossil fuels, however, its cargo shows how far we still are from a complete shift: this fully-electric cargo ship, the first in the world, is earmarked for coal transport. According to Chen Ji, general manager of Guangzhou Shipyard International, the cargo vessel would help greatly reduce shipping costs for electric power operators.

Uh-oh

“The cost of electric power is less than that (of) traditional fuel. The main cost of the new energy cargo ship depends on how much lithium battery it is equipped with,” Chen said for China Daily.

“Theoretically, the fully electric-powered ship could have more capacity in cargo loading. If it is equipped with larger energy batteries, it will carry goods of more than 2,000 tons,” Chen said.

The craft itself may be generating zero emissions on its own, granted, but when looking at the big picture it will be directly involved in amplifying climate change.

I suppose the only thing worse than an electric coal-ferry is a residual oil or coal-burning coal-ferry, however, so one could still call this a win. Cargo ships are some of the largest contributors to the transport sector’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, so swapping them for electric ones will be a net improvement. At the same time, since electricity is cheaper than other types of fuel, it would also help bring down the prices of every good that has to be shipped around. Furthermore, the same technology can also be used in other large craft such as ferries, container ships, or vessels used for short hauls.

I find the idea of using e-vehicles to make coal cheaper, however, to be hilariously ironic. Sure, it makes economic sense, but it misses the whole point of clean energy by a country mile. At the end of the day though, if you are carrying coal anyway, there’s no harm in chipping down some of the emissions.

But ships aren’t built in stone. A coal-hauler today could very well be a battery carrier tomorrow. Not an unlikely prospect, considering China’s monumental push towards solar energy in particular and renewables in general. In the end, no matter how sooty the present may be, we’re actively building the means to create a clean future.

Artist impression of Nikola One. Credit: Nikola Motor Company

Nikola, the ‘Tesla of Trucking’, just secured $2.3 billion in pre-orders

Artist impression of Nikola One. Credit: Nikola Motor Company

Artist impression of Nikola One. Credit: Nikola Motor Company

Tesla Motors is all the rage after it made 325,000 reservations for the upcoming Model 3 just one week after its release. Meanwhile, a company called the Nikola Motor Company — much less known among the general public, but already making a name for itself in the trucking industry — announced more than 7,000 truck reservations with deposits for an electric class 8 semi-truck, dubbed “Nikola One.” That’s $2.3 billion in orders!

Transportation is finally being disrupted

Nikola uses an annoying branding strategy that takes the first name of the man who went on to inspire the far more famous Tesla Motors. Effectively, the newly founded startup is looking to capitalize on Tesla Motors’ steam by imitating their strategy, mission, and even its name.

Well props to Tesla then, because I view it as a form of flattery. Elon Musk’s efforts to disrupt the transportation industry are paying off. His company is effectively changing the landscape with its all electric and far superior tech-wise products. So what if a startup wants in on the money? It just creates more disruption, which can only do good to an industry which is fundamentally the same as 50 years ago.

Nikola has two trucks currently available for pre-orders: the Nikola One and Nikola Zero. It’s the Nikola One that’s truly picked off.

“Our technology is 10-15 years ahead of any other OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in fuel efficiencies, MPG and emissions,” Nikola CEO Trevor Milton said in a press release. “We are the only OEM to have a near zero-emission truck and still outperform diesel trucks running at 80,000 pounds.”

“We believe we will pass the current market leaders like Daimler, PACCAR, Volvo and Navistar in sales orders within the next 12-24 months,”

The Nikola One, despite the hype, isn’t a fully electric truck — it’s a gas-electric hybrid. Its specs are super impressive, though. We’re looking at a 2,000 HP truck with a 1,200 miles range, a 6×6 power train, 320 KWH batteries (they use the same batteries like Tesla — no surprise), regenerative braking, 3,700 FT. LBS of torque and a clever turbine design that constantly charges the batteries as the truck drives. According to company officials, the Nikola One drives at half the cost of a diesel-powered counterpart.

The truck costs between $300,000 and $400,000 depending on the options, and leasing is available from $5,000. According to Nikola, the company has secured 7,000 orders which should make it a great profit — that’s if it ever fulfills them.

Reservations were made for only $1,500 so right now, the startup only made about $11 million. This means the company is in desperate need of capital, and they might just get the $300 million they’re looking for in an upcoming series A funding round.

For now, Nikola seems like an uneasy bet, but if their management is really serious about disrupting transportation, the industry only stands to win — and also the environment. Most goods, from food to electronics, are transported by freight trucks which account for 20 percent of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a company worth following, though don’t let the name fool you. They need to prove themselves before any fair comparison to Tesla Motors can be drawn, let alone the famous inventor who gave the world AC power.

Would you be willing to take an electric shock in the name of curiosity? Science says yes, several actually

Curiosity is probably the single most powerful force behind our species’ scientific discoveries. It can drive us to explore and discover even if the outcome might be painful or harmful. But this need to discover and learn can also become a curse; a new study found that people are willing to face unpleasant outcomes with no apparent benefits just to sate their curiosity.

Curiosity; killer of cats and purveyor of great shots since the dawn of time.
Image credits flickr user Esin Üstün.

Previous research into curiosity found that it can drive humans to seek out miserable or risky experiences, such as viewing gruesome scenes or exploring dangerous terrain, in their search for information. Bowen Ruan and co-author Christopher Hsee from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business believe that our primal need to resolve uncertainty, regardless of personal harm or injury we might endure in the process, is the cornerstone upon which our curiosity is based.

So they designed a series of experiments exposing participants to several unpleasant outcomes, to see how far they would go to obtain a sense of certainty about their environment. In one of the studies, 54 college students were taken to a lab with electric shock pens supposedly left over from a previous experiment. They were told that they were free to pass the time by testing the pens while the experiment they were about to take part in was set up.

*click*
Image credits smartphotostock

Some of the participants had color coded pens — red stickers for the five pens that would deliver a shock, and green stickers for the five that wouldn’t. Others however only had pens with yellow stickers, meaning they didn’t have any certainty what would happen if they clicked them. They were also told that only some of these pens still had working batteries, compounding their level of uncertainty. In the meantime, the team counted how many times each participant clicked each type of pen.

While they waited, students who knew the outcome clicked one green pen and two red ones on average. But those that had no clue what was going to happen clicked noticeably more, around five pens each.

For the second study, another group of students were shown 10 pens of each color. Here too students clicked the pens with uncertain outcomes more than those which were clearly identified as safe or shock-inducing.

“Just as curiosity drove Pandora to open the box despite being warned of its pernicious contents, curiosity can lure humans–like you and me–to seek information with predictably ominous consequences,” explains study author Bowen Ruan of the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For the third study, the researchers wanted to know how well their findings hold under different circumstances, and if satiating their curiosity would make participants feel worse. They designed a test involving exposure to both pleasant and unpleasant sound recordings. Participants had to choose between 48 buttons on a computer screen, each with a different sound recording attached to it. For example, the “nails” button would play a recording of nails on a chalkboard, buttons labeled “water” played a sound of running water, and buttons labeled “?” could play either sound.

On average, students who had to choose from mostly identified buttons clicked around 28 of them. In contrast, those who had mostly unidentified buttons clicked around 39 of them. Participants who clicked more also reported feeling worse at the end of the experiment. Those who had mostly uncertain buttons reported being less happy overall than those who faced mostly certain outcomes.

The team carried out a separate, online study in which participants were shown partially obscured pictures of unpleasant insects — centipedes, cockroaches, and silverfish for example — and were informed they could click the image to reveal the insect. As with the previous studies, participants clicked on more pictures, and felt worse overall, when faced with uncertain results.

But interestingly, when they were prompted to predict how they would feel about their choice first, their number of clicks went down (and they reported feeling happier overall). This suggests that predicting the consequences of your choice might dampen your curiosity.

So while curiosity is often seen as one of the more desirable human qualities, it can also be a curse. Many times our drive to seek information and satisfy our curiosity can become a huge risk.

“Curious people do not always perform consequentialist cost-benefit analyses and may be tempted to seek the missing information even when the outcome is expectedly harmful,” Ruan and Hsee write in their paper.

“We hope this research draws attention to the risk of information seeking in our epoch, the epoch of information,” Ruan concludes.

The full paper, titled “The Pandora Effect, The power and Peril of Curiosity” has been published online in the journal Psychological Science and can be read here.