Published on July 31st, 2012 | by Nicholas Brown84
Can Electric Vehicles Drive Further with Fewer Batteries?
Most people feel as if the solution to the electric vehicle problem is to improve their range and decrease the cost per kWh of their batteries. Both have been happening, and gradually.
But I think it’s time to think out of the box. I cannot conclude that continuing to push for typical electric vehicle designs is a good idea.
Thinking out of the box showed me that there are alternatives to electric vehicles utilizing enormous and expensive battery banks to achieve long range. The primary alternative I have been thinking about is the use of lower-capacity battery packs, because they cost less. And not only that, but fast-charging ones.
A large contributor to the range anxiety problem, and the range problem of electric cars overall, is that charge time for typical batteries is 30 minutes to 8 hours.
Most people either don’t want to or cannot wait up to 8 hours to charge their vehicle in public if they need to get somewhere promptly. Charging it for 8 hours overnight at home is perfectly fine, but, in public, it’s a different story.
Vehicles can be partially charged in a relatively short period, though, if you just need to get a little further to reach your destination.
Apart from that, when electric vehicles can charge in 15 minutes, this means that there is now a demand for charging stations, because people would actually be willing to wait and charge in public places. Electric vehicle charging stations can be as ubiquitous as gas stations, and they are feasible.
Depending on the type of “charging station” that is to be set up, which could simply be a 240-volt power outlet, it could cost less than $10 (excluding electrician fees), or it could cost $3,000. I should also add that charging stations would not need to provide as much power to vehicles with small battery packs, so they could be smaller and cheaper.
Electric vehicles with smaller battery packs are more efficient, because they are lighter. And, of course, they cost less.
This matters, because battery banks tend to account for a significant fraction of a vehicle’s weight (up to 1,000 pounds for a car, such as the Tesla Roadster, for example, which has a 990-pound pack).
The cost of an electric vehicle battery pack is what makes it more expensive than a similar gasoline-powered car. An electric vehicle with a small enough battery pack costs no more than a gasoline-powered car, even in today’s small production volume. It is a possibility that even better prices could be achieved via economies of scale.
An EV with a small battery pack, such as a 3-kWh one that provides it with 10 miles of range, is far cheaper and smaller than a 24-kWh one, like the one used in the Nissan Leaf, and if it is of the fast-charging type that can charge in 15 minutes, then the issue of range anxiety can be reduced significantly, because the vehicle could easily be recharged in a timely manner.
An ordinary 3-kWh battery bank would cost $1,500, but fast-charging batteries would likely cost more.
This would translate into the setup of a lot more charging stations. If every gas station had a few of these, then people could drive hundreds of miles in their electric vehicles without a problem! So, to answer the question in the title: “Yes.” This is because they could keep recharging.
The cost of these trips would also be lower, because the vehicles would be very efficient.
Feel free to discuss this in the comments section below. I try to ignite the thought process and innovation whenever I can.
Photo Credit: Nissan Leaf via cliff1066 on Flickr