In the past three years, the thought of companies like Chevrolet and Nissan selling lithium-ion-powered cars has gone from laughable to old news. Late this year, the plug-in Chevy Volt and pure-electric Nissan Leaf arrive. Carmakers from Ford to Toyota will follow in 2011 and 2012 with new electrified models of their own. In the beginning, the electric-car revolution probably won't seem so revolutionary: a few thousand cars here and there. As long as automakers and battery companies keep pushing technology forward, however—by scaling up production and developing more-powerful ways to store electricity and power a car with it—the future for cars that plug into the wall will continue to brighten. Here's where this emerging industry stands today.
How Electric-Car Batteries Are Built
Lithium-ion batteries—the dominant technology in forthcoming electric cars—begin when active battery ingredients are combined to form an electrode slurry. A liquid solvent, electrode powder (for the negative electrode, a form of carbon; for the positive, a form of lithium-containing metal oxide or phosphate) and a chemical binder are blended into a paste in what look like industrial pizza-dough mixers.
The coater, a machine reminiscent of a printing press, paints the electrode slurry onto long sheets of metal foil (copper for the negative, aluminum for the positive).
The freshly coated sheets pass through an oven for curing at 200ºF. The oven can be a bottleneck; its size and speed determine the rate of production.
4. Shaping and Cleaning
To make rectangular, "prismatic" batteries, machines chop the long reels of electrode material into paperback-size pieces, which are then compressed, brushed, and vacuumed.
With a piece of porous separator material (it looks like white trash-bag plastic) between them, the positive and negative electrodes are sandwiched together into stacks. The separator prevents short-circuiting while still allowing the electrodes to exchange ions. The stacks go into plastic pouches that are then filled with liquid electrolyte and vacuum-sealed shut. The result is a cell, the building block of a battery.
After pre-charging (just enough juice to start the chemical reaction), the cell is opened, vented, and resealed. Next the cells are charged to 60 percent, then aged for 14 days.
7. Module and Pack Assembly
Cells are bundled together (along with cooling and heating mechanisms, the voltage-monitoring circuitry, and other control systems) to form modules. Modules are then bundled together in a case and wired with additional monitoring circuitry to form the final battery pack, the box that powers a car.
The Rust-Belt Battery Boom
The Department of Energy spent $2.4 billion last year to launch an American EV-battery industry. These are the biggest winners
1. Johnson Controls
Through its partnership with the French battery company Saft, Johnson Controls builds lithium-ion batteries for Mercedes, BMW, Ford and others. A $299.2-million DOE grant goes toward a new factory in Holland, Michigan.
2. A123 Systems
A $249.1-million grant will help the Boston-area company build a cell factory near Detroit, from which it hopes to supply GM, Chrysler and others.
3. Dow Kokam
The Dow Chemical joint venture banked $161 million for a new Michigan lithium-ion factory.
4. Compact Power
A $151.4-million grant will help build a Michigan factory to supply batteries for the Chevy Volt.
EnerDel, a supplier for Volvo and Think, is using its $118.5-million share to build a third EV-battery factory in Indianapolis.
Emerging Electric-Car Hotspots: The East
The Chinese government has a goal: rule the global electric-car market by mid-decade. Of China's 47 car companies, the Shenzhen-based BYD, which says it will begin selling its e6 EV in the U.S. this year, gets the most buzz. Fresh off a $230-million investment by Warren Buffett, BYD wants to surpass Toyota as the world's largest car company by 2025, and it has an army of 30,000 workers living in high-rise dorms on its four-square-mile campus to make it happen.
Japanese companies have dominated lithium-ion manufacturing since Sony first commercialized the technology in 1991. Those companies have joined Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota in the scramble for a place in the new electric-car industry.
An American arm of the Korean company LG Chem will build batteries for the Chevy Volt.
Emerging Electric-Car Hotspots: The U.S.
An intellectual hub for the American electric-car movement, the Bay Area is home to Tesla Motors and various electric-car infrastructure companies. San Francisco is already installing charging stations for the early-adopter market. Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory help supply the EV scene with brainiacs, while the Bay Area's venture capitalists keep the funding flowing.
Luxury plug-in-hybrid start-up Fisker Automotive is here, along with Coda, an American company scheduled to bring Chinese-built electric cars to the States later this year.
The Big Three automakers are still standing, and at least the two biggest among them, GM and Ford, are betting on electrification. In addition to the Chevy Volt, GM's Cadillac has designed a plug-in concept that may become reality. Ford's all-electric Focus and upcoming plug-in hybrid are due out in the next two years. At least four battery companies are building automotive-grade lithium-ion cell factories in Michigan, and GM's new battery-pack assembly plant began producing Volt batteries in January.
The CEO of the Indianapolis-based lithium-ion company EnerDel calls greater Indy the "Silicon Valley of the auto industry." EnerDel, which makes EV batteries for Volvo, Think and others, is building a third factory here, and electric-drive-component suppliers such as Delphi, Allison Transmission and Remy are also in the area.
Nissan will build up to 150,000 Leaf electric cars per year at its plant in Smyrna by 2012. It will make the batteries for those cars in a Tennessee factory it's building with a $1.4-billion loan from the DOE.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a hotbed of advanced energy-storage research, and its professors have a knack for turning lab work into companies. The best known is the lithium-ion start-up A123 Systems. A123 lost its bid to build batteries for the Chevy Volt, but it's still involved in development projects with GM, and it's selling batteries to Cessna (for starting jet engines), BAE Systems (for hybrid city buses in New York, Toronto and San Francisco), Fisker and electric utilities, which it supplies with shipping-container-size "grid batteries." Boston Power, another battery start-up here, is developing EVs with Saab and the Swedish government.
Amusing we use wind power for our power grid but not for an automobile? Cars make their own wind! A simple tubular redesign of the automobile. C'mon people small turbine designs in that tube could revolutionize the auto industry the battery gets the car going....the wind turbine keeps the battery charged. I'm just an average joe if I can think of that whats wrong with the rest of you?
What you're proposing is in essence a perpetual motion machine which do not exist. Right now there is no way a wind turbine on a car could generate more power than the car is using to move it. A solar powered car would be something a bit closer to what you want. At least with solar power there is no drag from a turbine on top of your car.
Seriously dude, I hope you're joking about the wind turbine on a car... it's kind of like paddling a canoe, and then putting a paddle-wheel on the back to turn a motor to create electricity to turn a propeller. Each transfer of energy is less efficient than the last, so you get less energy out than you're putting in... And it's always disheartening to see how many "average joes" don't understand high school physics...
Apparently I must not be an average Joe because I at least know how to read. A tubular redesign means... the redesign an automobile with a 12 inch in diameter tube running the length of the car with several small turbine/fans inside. Those turbine fans would have magnets on the outside edge and copper coils beyond that to generate a charge of electricity whic would inturn recharge the battery system. The tube which will provide no more wind resistance to your auto than an open window. NEW perpetual motion is not what I am advocating, that would be getting something for nothing..What I purpose merely extends your travel time from 60 mile avg to 300 or more. It does amaze me how close minded Americans have become no wonder we place so low in the science areas of study.
"The tube which will provide no more wind resistance to your auto than an open window."
Where did you get THAT concept? Please consider that the current induced in the coils causes a counter-magnetic field that drags on the magnets - it's the same concept that keeps permanent-magnet motors from over-revving and self-destructing. Read a physics textbook. That drag slows the turbine, which in turn slows the air with respect to the vehicle, or speeds it up with respect to the ground. Speeding up all that air takes a lot more energy than you apparently think, which is why my 300cc motorcycle gets less double the fuel mileage of my small pickup truck - accelerating that air to the side burns up most of the output from the engine.
Have you ever turned a hand electric generator? it doesn't take much effort until you actually put an electric load into the circuit. Ever run a gasoline-powered generator? At no load the carburetor throttle is barely open, Watch it open AND STAY OPEN when you put a good load on it (like the air conditioner unit on an RV). It take POWER to drive that generator. The amount of power you'll get with the wind turbine, after subtracting air friction loses, turbulence loses, bearing loses, and electrical loses both in the generator and the motor, will slow your brainless carriage to a stop from 60MPH inside of 300 feet.
I am probably wrong, but I would imagine that the coils in electric motors give off large amounts of EMF in close proximity to people. Much more than we are normally exposed to. We may find many years in the future that electric vehicles EMF are dangerous to one's health. There are people that do work around large electric motors already and they should give a clue.
What is "wrong with the rest of us" is that the rest of us apparently have at least a basic grasp of energy transfer, power transmission, drag, friction, etc. It appears that you do not. Your suggestion of using a wind turbine to charge the batteries is just as ridiculous as the idea of attaching a generator to one of the cars wheels to "recharge" the batteries as the car drives down the road. Even if this generator operated at 100% efficiency, it would put no more energy back into the battery than the electrical power used by the cars motors to overcome the drag of the generator. In other words, no net gain, and since no generator is 100% efficient you would actually be losing energy from the drag of the generator. It is ironic that someone with your condescending tone and air of superiority has so little grasp on basic science.
I like the concept of an electric car, but battery operated cars concerns me. Batteries have a limited life, if I remember correct approx. 5 years. After the battery dies then what, replace the battery at 1/4 to half the cost of the vehicle. Battery tech just doesn't support long distance or longevity needed in transportation. It's my opinion that reserch into light wieght, multi fueled generators would be more suited for an electric vehicle.
Ok So the wind turbine idea wouldn’t work because in order for it to be efficient, it would have to crank enough power to actually charge the battery, that would cause more wind resistance, costing more electricity, costing more , get the idea? You’re trying to create a perpetual motion machine. Sorry no go. The best way right now is making the breaking system which also connects to resistance generators that help return some of the lost power, by using the breaking system.
This helps and the more efficient those get, the better the batteries reclaim lost power, but eventually you would have to re-charge eventually. Lets not forget that people who live in apartments may find it hard to plug in their car over night, so that cuts back on that portion of the public.
The current problem is making longer lasting batteries that also charge in a reasonable time.
Full electric cars are not a good idea for dependency. It’s good if you drive less than 20 miles a day for work or city traffic.
Cross country or long commutes of 30 miles one way or more and your gunnah get stuck. The long intervals on the highway actually reduce the return from breaking, so highway miles are usually less and city are more as opposed to gas cars where it’s the reverse.
My idea? Make a aero dynamic hybrid car that only uses the motor when it needs to, has a top of the line solar panel for a roof so the car can charge while parked in the sun all day.
This will of course require first off, money well spent on batteries research.
Electric Generator research for the breaking system.
Solar panel research for the roof or possibly the entire body of the car.
Then, the government should pay or give some kind of incentive to the companies or private creator that makes it worth it for them to do the research.
Once completed, the price of the hybrid electric would then be able to become affordable due to the research being backed by the government. People like me could afford one.
Then they would give incentives to those who live in dense cities to buy them so it’s actually practical, then maybe a large number of the population would then use them and this would cut back dramatically on oil dependency.
The solar panel research in turn could then be used to put panels on roofs of homes all over the southern region of the country and connect them directly into the power grid, thus reducing the cost of electricity.
Building could be designed to include the panels in their style as well.
Think about it, a neighborhood in San Antonio Texas, in summer, 100 degrees all day. Over a thousand homes with solar panels on the roofs, including apartment complexes and schools. And they place them about 3 inches above the actual roof so that the energy lost through heat, won’t get dumped on the house. They would in a sense provide shade.
Now that’s energy efficiency.
I should run for something. lol :D
I have been pondering the same idea for the last 3 years about having a wind turbine redesign to become part of the car. I am well aware it easier said than done, but if we can get a man on the moon why can't we have a self propel car? The closest thing I saw to this idea was an air car that's propelled by compressed air.
These guys are pulling your chain with these perpetual motion ideas. Ignore them. You'll never convince them that they're all wet. They're sitting around in their jammies blogging, and not brining their education up to snuff.
As for pulling the power off the grid, that's not a bad thing. The grid is designed with excess potential to accomodate 2-3% of the highest peak daytime hours.
That means that at night, even with a certain number of units offline for maintenance, we still have substantial excess that is wasted.
If you have a PV or wind turbine for example, you'd be smart to sell your daytime power to the grid at say 25 cents per KWH (peak). And buy it back at night at 17 cents per KWH (low) to charge your car/batteries.
I agree that battery technology has a long way to go, although they do have one you can piss in to re-charge it (that sounds promising!) All kidding aside, for local commuting we need to get back to the basics. I am talking about HPV (human powered vehicle, not human papilloma virus)and solar and battery powered hybrid vehicle for starters, maybe supplemented with a fuel source. Real simple. And then we can begin to stop being obese, gas guzzling americans.
First, Solar Panels on the roof would NOT increase range. Do you people know how much power is really required to produce 100HP? A solar panel the size of your house may produce enough power to go to the grocery store if placed on a car.
Second, I love the idea of an electric car / gas generator idea, however, people need to realize that the rare earth materials in batteries and very rare and we do not have enough globally to even MAKE a set of batteries for each car in the US!! Let alone make BIGGER batteries to increase range. So there needs to be some other idea (capacitance gel?? :P ) but I agree the something/electric hybrid is the only way. That way we can get the power ANY way we want, not OIL only!
Another point is that if you add up the toxic chemicals and mfg byproducts of electric cars / hybrid cars, you will see the overall impact on the earth is way WORSE for "green" cars!
Come on people, I'm waiting for my Mr.Fusion!!!
Hey here's an idea, put an electric fan behind a sailboat runing off a battery. Put a wind genrator in the front of the boat and there you have.............. an idea that won't work. Sort of like the perpetual motion electric car.
Heh,heh. Snicker, snicker. Duhhhh
Battery tech has finally gotten off the dime, and within a few years will have up to 10X the capacity of current LiIon designs. That will permit ranges of up to 2-3,000 miles per charge. But the charge will have to be "loaded in" first. Right now, the Tesla Roadster takes 3.5 hours to charge (about 60kwh) on a 240V 35A circuit from zero, and gets about 240 miles for that. To charge more and faster, special connectors and hookups would be necessary.
If you want to know where the electricity will come from, within about 5 years it will be beginning to be available generally (globally) at under ½¢/kwh from FocusFusion generators if the developments at LPP continue successfully (check out focusfusion.org ).
there appears to be only one woman working in that battery factory. what's she doing? vacuuming. come on popsci, you can do better than that.
I'm hoping an electric car will be made soon that will not only run well, but also attractive. All the ones I've seen so far have been ugly.
First Class Auto Glass
I have an idea. I understand its pretty far out (on par with science fiction) and the tech doesn't exist, but I just thought of it and want to put down in writing. So, I suggest we develop two new fuel sytems. They will be symbiotic. Each system will collect the other's waste as fuel.
Or fairy dust. Has anyone considered fairy dust as a legitimate source of fuel? If we're going to get out of this energy crisis and really thrive we ought to put more consideration toward magical creatures and spirits.
A car that runs on broken dreams could run forever in Hollywood
Hi guys n gals, How about a sail, joking. A Japanese EV club this last month broke their own record of 356 miles between charges to 632 miles, in a little 4 seater sedan, China has a battery co. that in less than 2 years has a nice, camry style sedan that goes 85 miles between charges running comp.speeds of anything in its class in gas. it's due in the states next year, can you say ching, chang chong.it will be more like Ka-ching as in $$$$ as thats what they'll be getting. no American car can match'em. Oh the tunnel idea ? turning corners, stop an go, not a workable. I have a Prius, roll down the window on the freeway lose 10 mpg. and Im only getting 40-50 max anyway.
electric car - battery works just fine, and the technology will only get better.
but what we really need is Transnet. the whole Highway system is past it's day. they only have a 20 year life cycle. our cars have like a 8-10 year life cycle. .. having cutting edge info structure is one of the reasons we have been such economic leaders. but Highways are no longer cutting edge infostructure. it's the infostructure of yesterday.
Pods on T-rail would consume a fraction of the energy, End transportation deaths, have at least a 50 year life cycle, cut the cost of transportation of goods to fractions of what it is now, increase the range individuals could commute, free up land for other uses, end the exporting of 700 billion a year for oil, etc. etc.
This is the time we should be building a Transnet. it's crazy that we are not. but you only have to look as far as the Arab sympathiser Sarah Palin (Drill Baby Drill!) to understand why we are not doing it.
At 2009 production levels in the US, we will be out of oil in 8 years!!!! including all park reserves.
as a side note, you really can not beat a battery/electric car in energy efficiency. so really all the crazy idea's (air, water, hydrogen, alternative fuels, etc.) while interesting, are less efficient and not needed.
trucks should be diesel/electric. while were building our real solution, the Transnet; the Internet for Transportation!
I just wish they would use NiMH batteries instead of Lithium Ion in vehicles.
efficiency is one thing, energy density is another. current battery systems can't provide the range american consumers want. most don't want to buy one car for commuting and another for travel. they're trying to put more energy in storage in the vehicle for that use. 80-100 mile range in a second car is ok for most 2+ person family's. two cars for a single person, not so much.
How much lithium exists on planet earth? When did we develop the technology for off world mining? We should spend a trillion dollars on space technology instead of bailing out rich bankers. A "smart" President would have figured that out (If he really wanted to help his country). Wanda Sykes has the excuse of being mentally challenged in her anti-space exploration ranting.
While I like the idea of a completely electric car, I don't like the idea of having to wait hours to completely charge my car, thus, I prefer a hybrid.
It looks like Tesla Motors have announced they are going public on June 29th. The filing documents should give a wealth of information into the technology that supports the public issue. Worth watching, in my opinion.
I think, this electric cars would be beneficial for our environment too. Whether it is pollution free or not?
You know what electric cars may do little to clear the country’s smog-darkened sky or curb its rapidly rising emissions of global warming gases.