On the first count, I LOVE the smooth, silent, seamless, torquey, petroleum-free performance of a good EV. Yet I'm not ready to own one because the vehicles available are still too expensive, too primitive and/or too range-limited to offer a practical, affordable ICE alternative. I devoted nine years of my working life to testing and developing what became GM's EV1 (and other advanced vehicles) in hopes of helping to move that technology to where it could for most people. Hasn't happened yet, but I know a host of folks are working hard on it today.
On the second charge...who makes up such BS? The battery technology that GM offered as an extra-cost option in '99-model EV1s was one of many significant breakthroughs of genius inventor Stan Ovshinsky, who pioneered Ovonic amorphous solar cells in the 1970s and founded Ovonic Battery Company in 1982 to pursue commercial uses for NiHM batteries, most notably to power longer-range (vs. lead-acid) electric vehicles. Ovonic was a supplier to GM. GM never owned patent rights to its batteries. No one ever sold them to an oil company. And no one sued Toyota. (Column continues after the jump).
What did happen, as I recall, was when Japanese battery maker Panasonic started manufacturing vehicle-size NiMH batteries for Toyota, Ovonics strongly believed that Panasonic had ripped off its proprietary technology and violated its patent rights. There was a patent infringement suit and, I believe, a cash settlement. But Panasonic continues to this day to supply significant quantities of NiMH batteries to Toyota, and others, for hybrid vehicles, and Ovonics – now a subsidiary of the larger company Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) – continues to supply NiMH batteries to GM for its growing range of HEVs. Oh, and in 2000, Texaco (aha!) bought a 20 percent interest in ECD Ovonics and set up joint ventures with it to develop regenerative fuel cells, hydrogen storage and NiMH batteries. Evil...or enlightened?
Now, to your (more intelligent) comments and questions, edited for space:
"For EV vehicles to really take off, individuals have to have confidence of access to charging," adds commenter Johnny. "It's a bit of a chicken and egg thing, but clearly it's going to come. This IS the solution to the range problem."
"I feel the exact same way about hydrogen," says SteveCT. "If I had a hydrogen car, I'd be terrified to run out of 'gas.' It's not like NASA is going to come and fuel my car, and I don't think AAA has hydrogen tankers yet. A 250 kW charger can top off a battery in under 15 minutes. If we had enough of them spread throughout the country, range anxiety for EVs would make about as much sense as range anxiety for gasoline-powered cars."
Perhaps. But any charging stations better than ultra-slow 110/120-volt public house-current plugs will require substantial investment by electric utilities, car companies, service station owners and/or local, state and federal governments. But nearly all of those today are broke and going broker. And who pays for the power? And will it be profitable for the investor?
I ran these comments past my very knowledgeable friend and EV advocate Garrett Beauregard, who is Vice President of Engineering for Electric Transportation Engineering Corp. "Charging isn't always scalable," he says. "Lithium batteries don't like heat, and that's what gets generated when they're charged. There is a limit on how fast you can charge, whether from the chemistry, physics, technology or cost."
Grid-knowledgeable Chaz offers additional concerns: "Even assuming we could create batteries that go from 0 to 100 Kwh in 15 minutes, we would have to overhaul 3 things:
- The charging stations. Most don't have the ability to output that much energy in that little time...nearly 6.7 kwh per minute! ['407kW!' says Beauregard. "Norvik Traction and ETEC built a 300kW charger for Chrysler in the '90's. Really big! A 407kW charger will need a 700A-rated circuit at 480VAC, 3phase...a very serious circuit!'] You could charge in 3 hours with a 240V/50A range outlet, but instead you'll need a 240V/300A outlet (or something higher).
- The whole electrical grid: unless those charging stations have micro-fusion reactors attached, that energy has to be ported from somewhere else. The losses we sustain in the grid alone are staggering.
- The lack of power: one station might be supported with current levels of power generation, but try 1500 in Manhattan ALONE! Then consider all the stations in Chicago, LA, Boston, in smaller cities and along the highway. We're not talking chump change."