General Motors apparently has a thing for testing small numbers of all-electric vehicles in countries that are not the U.S. Eleven days ago, we learned about the all-electric Chevrolet Cruzes that will be prowling through Seoul, South Korea. Today, Opel is spilling the beans about a new and very tiny electric vehicle (EV) test fleet that will kick off soon in Germany. The trial is made up of three EVs, all converted Opel Merivas. The real test, though, is of the bi-directional communications (i.e., vehicle-to-grid, V2G) charging and communication systems.
While connected to the network, the Merivas can charge at up to 400 volt three-phase AC (sometimes called Level 3 charging), which takes less than an hour. More interestingly, the system is being set up so that the car charges, "whenever electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar power, is available and economical." V2G is being put through its paces to, "test the practicality of distributed energy storage in car batteries for home usage." The project is called MeRegioMobil, and other partners include utility company EnBW, Daimler, Bosch, SAP, Stadtwerke Karlsruhe, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
The concept-only Mervias are notable in their own right. Using a 16 kWh battery pack, the cars have a range of 64 kilometers (40 miles) and can hit 130 kilometers an hour (81 miles per hour).
Technology pioneer Opel advances electric mobility
• „MeRegioMobil": Tangible view of the energy of the future
• Electric Meriva: Mobile storage for the smart power grid of tomorrow
• 2nd GM Battery Electric Vehicle Demo Project announced this month
Rüsselsheim. Opel has joined forces with MeRegioMobil to advance electrical mobility by developing three demonstration electric Merivas. Funded by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology, the research project has the goal of integrating electrical vehicles as mobile energy storage units in the intelligent electricity grid (smart grid) of tomorrow.
"These demonstration vehicles, along with others GM has announced in other markets, will be used to study the practicality, user friendliness, and acceptance of electric vehicles among consumers. With our demonstration, we are making an important contribution to the definition of European standards for energy infrastructure, electricity saving technology and data communications," said Opel's Vice President of Engineering, Rita Forst.
Testing of bi-directional charging technologies
Opel will use MeRegioMobil to study new intelligent charging technologies that could be applied to models in the future. The electric Meriva features electronic controls which permit high power electrical refueling using both a 230-volt household current as well as 400 volt three-phase AC. The system is designed so that it can fit into a smart grid and the battery can recharge whenever electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar power, is available and economical.
Conversely, the demonstration will explore the capability of the car to feed power back into the grid via the bi-directional charging system when it is not in use and the user permits it. This demonstration of two-way charging technology will test the practicality of distributed energy storage in car batteries for home usage.
The Electric Meriva has a 60kW / 82hp electric motor with torque output of 215 Nm. Thanks to the battery's total energy of 16 kilowatt hours, a range of 64 km and a top speed of 130 km/h are possible. Opel's engineers managed the integration of the electric drive without making concessions on luggage capacity or comfort. "The electric Meriva may look like the production car, but is a pure research-vehicle. We are testing charging at high currents in less than one hour, as well as the communication protocols between vehicle and charging station," Forst said.
Data exchange between power generators, vehicles, infrastructure and users
Under the leadership of the energy group EnBW, other members of the consortium include: Opel, Daimler, Bosch, SAP, Stadtwerke Karlsruhe, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
KIT will use the first electric Meriva. Two more will soon enter service at Stadtwerke Karlsruhe and EnBW. KIT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research have built a "smart home" on the south campus of Karlsruhe University. The home's 60-square meter building area is equipped with the usual appliances including refrigerator, oven, dishwasher and washing machine and gets its energy from a photovoltaic cell as well as a micro combined heat and power plant. A charging station connects the Meriva as a storage unit to this local energy grid.
Communications technology plays a key role in the MeRegioMobil project. Depending on how the residents want to use the Meriva, they can distribute the energy easily between home and vehicle by computer. This ensures that the electric Meriva always has enough energy to meet transportation needs and enables some buffering of green power from the photovoltaic equipment.
The participating energy providers are currently building hundreds of public charging stations in the project region of Baden-Württemberg. There, the demonstration vehicles can be re-charged at a variety of destinations using renewable energy. The goal of this infrastructure usage is also to test a new data communication and billing system; in future, users of electric vehicles should be able to recharge at any energy provider, similar to the mobile-phone roaming method. Users then receive the total bill from their energy provider, similar to the mobile-phone roaming method.
Opel and GM are committed to emissions-free mobility
"Our contribution to MeRegioMobil is embedded in GM's global corporate strategy of developing and demonstrating electric vehicles in daily use," Forst said.
General Motors is committed to delivering a range of electrified vehicle technologies, offering a portfolio of solutions that will allow customers to choose the vehicle that best meets their needs. Deep experience and expertise in batteries, electric motors and power controls will ensure GM provides the best possible choices when it comes to vehicle electrification technologies.
The Opel Ampera, with extended-range capability, is an industry-leading solution for customers who seek battery electric driving for most commutes and more than 500 km of total range. GM also is establishing battery electric vehicle demonstration fleets around the world to better understand urban driving patterns, battery charging, infrastructure and customer acceptance of electric vehicles in various global markets. At the same time, GM is investing in start-up companies with innovative ideas to accelerate next-generation electrification technologies.
"Electric Mobility opens for Opel and the entire automotive industry the door to greater independence from fossil fuels and can deliver transportation with zero vehicle emissions." Forst said.
MeRegioMobil-Meriva – Technical Data
Model: Four-seat front-wheel drive prototype based on the Opel Meriva.
Chassis: Independent suspension with McPherson struts in front and torsion beam rear axle Disc brakes front and rear Regenerative braking Electro-hydraulic Power Steering
Infotainment: CD-Navigation- Radio with 7-inch color display and integrated charge management information display
Wheels and tires 205/55R16 with low rolling-resistance
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s): 11
Top speed (km/h): 130 (electronically limited)
Range (km): 64 (NEDC-)
Size and weight
Length (mm): 4288
Width (mm): 1912
Height (mm): 1615
Weight when empty (kg): 1590
Type: Lithium-ion Energy capacity (kWh): 16 total
Charging time: Ca. 1 h from 400 V three phase electricity Ca. 3.5 h from 230 V single phase electricity
Electrical traction system: Three-phase asynchronous motor with integrated power electronics and planetary gear
Operating voltage (V): 250-380
Engine power (kW): Eco-Mode: 60 / Sport-Mode: 80
Torque (Nm): 215