Supplying Needed Power
We can put big batteries into electric cars. We might someday come up with batteries that can hold lots of energy, last a long time, and accept a very fast charge. But this is not the entire solution to the electric vehicle range issue. A clear advantage of shifting to electric vehicles instead of other alternatives is that we already have infrastructure in place. However, power requirements for quick-charging high-capacity batteries is not what we have in place now. A long line of cars trying to quick-charge at a commercial site (at peak rates) does not take advantage of time -shifting power usage and would need a substantial power supply.
Three solutions to this issue have been suggested. The first is offered by the company Better Place. It has started to construct locations for swapping the depleted car battery for one that is charged. This allows off-peak charging of depleted batteries using modest power supplies and can shorten the time required to recharge the vehicle to about 10 minutes. The drawbacks are the that batteries must be standardized and the batteries leased, not owned. This will tend to increase per charge costs to the consumer.
Another solution is to slowly charge stationary energy storage at night, which is then used to quickly charge vehicles day or night. Eventually, EV batteries that have lost some of their energy density may be good for this, but a solution with some potential would be to use high-energy ultra capacitors in the vehicle and to charge the vehicle. These can accept a static charge in 1 to 3 minutes and last many times the life of a chemical battery. We want the EV to be charged at night because the existing presumption is that off-peak, base load power (coal, nuclear, hydroelectric) is the cheapest way to provide electricity. EV storage of that power for later use (time shifting) improves the efficiency of the entire system. But when we consider the presently unaccounted-for cost of pollution and waste, solar power that is cheapest when used during the daylight hours is likely to be cheaper.
An important question then becomes what is the cheapest method to augment infrastructure to support electric vehicles. At least one study has suggested the answer is to mostly dispense with the batteries and electrify the roadways. With the battery presently costing about 1/2 to 1/3 the vehicle price, reducing or eliminating the battery could be a real savings. The E6 is expected to be priced at $40,000.
This technology has been around for some time, but is increasingly making the news. There are several methods of wireless energy transfer, but what has been proposed here is tuned magnetic induction. With such a system, there could be no waiting for the electric vehicle to charge. The vehicle would have essentially unlimited range. With even a modest energy storage capacity, only major roadways would have to be electrified in this way. But, to take this road, not only would we have to climb over the entrenched petrochemical lobby but the growing battery industry as well. It would be a solution that would be least expensive in high-density urban areas, and would need the kind of political cooperation that has been AWOL.
Sadly there is no “free lunch.” Understanding costs can be at least as useful as appreciating advantages.
The cheapest solution is to assess your needs distinctly from what you might want and buy only what you need, but uncertainty, doubt, and fear will increase costs. We can continue with polluting, inefficient petrol engines, but there’s a clear cost to that.
The Volt tries to resolve range issues with a complex engine. The BYD E6 gives us more range in a big car with a big battery. We can add infrastructure appropriate to electric cars, but that’s not cheap. There is a cost for every option.
Primary E6 source: PluginCars
Main photo credit Noit.net
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