#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.


Published on July 31st, 2012 | by Nicholas Brown


Can Electric Vehicles Drive Further with Fewer Batteries?

July 31st, 2012 by  

There are many different lithium-ion battery technologies on the market, and some can charge in 15 minutes.

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.

Nissan Leaf

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. ūüėÄ

More: The Brainstorm Project on Kompulsa

Photo Credit: Nissan Leaf via cliff1066 on Flickr

Tags: , , , ,

About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography.

His website is: Kompulsa.com.

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    You can lead a horse to water…etc.etc.

  • RealityBitesU

    To Bob Johnson and Sirsparks:
    ¬†You keep talking about perpetual motion, while that is not even in the discussion.¬† You obviously did not read my proposal thoroughly even despite my subsequent explanation or you don’t want to see it discussed. Either way you are wasting my time and filling what could be a meaningful productive conversation with fake diversions.

    • Ross

      Next time just talk about covering the car in PVs. Don’t mention the bit about helping to recharge the battery from the wheels/momentum of the vehicle. That only makes sense in the case of regenerative breaking where you want to¬†decelerate¬†the vehicle.¬†

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    I can do it with a 500 ft cord. at 20,000 ft I suggest  you  forget it. LOL.

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    I’m at latitude 28N and I cheat (rarely) by running an extension cord to a neighbour for a little extra charging when weather is extended cloud.. It’s cheaper than running my generator as I only pay him (I meter it) 15 cents per Kwh. I probably have 20% losses in the long cord but it still easily beats the 4Kwh per gallon from my generator.

    My West facing panels equalize output ¬†( installed watt for watt) to my south facing panels at 2.30pm, from then on it’s an increasing gain situation untill by about 6pm (summer) they are producing 2 for 1.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Let’s see – I’d need a 3.5 mile long extension cord of adequate¬†gauge to keep me down to a 20% loss….

      Oh, yeah. ¬†The utility company wanted $300k to string one for me…. ¬† ;o)

      You make a good point.  Grid backup is a heck of a lot cheaper than running a generator.   

  • Sirsparks Electrical


    Subject change so I will reply; ¬†I am off grid too and found another solution for cloudy days. Although it sounds counter productive I deduced that ¬†additional PV’s facing WEST at ¬†Azimuth 45 degrees would help and it really works for me catching much more ¬†late (ish) afternoon light.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Makes sense to me, if you’re commonly experiencing cloudy mornings and sunnier afternoons.

      I’ve seen claims that east and west facing panels produce about 80% as much power as panels facing south. ¬†Haven’t seen the data.

      I’ll try to watch the pattern this coming winter. ¬†My impression is that my problem is extended days of ‘heavy overcast’. ¬†If I can get an hour or two of sun late in the afternoon that’s enough for my winter needs. ¬†It’s the times when a system settles in and the Sun doesn’t show for a couple of days.

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    “”Feed the produced power back to the generator.””
    I think you mean; “Back to the battery” Bob.

    I any case I suspect our co-correspondent is just kidding us, no one can be that dumb and yet still vociferous, so I opt out.  Good luck.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Thanks, fixed.

      I’ve seen people get an idea in their heads and think so highly of it that they can’t be objective about a possible problem with it. ¬†

      Some time back This American Life did a program on a guy who thought he’d found (I think it was) with¬†e=mc¬≤. ¬†They followed him around as he presented his thinking to various experts and watched him dismiss each’s input because it did not support his idea. ¬†He couldn’t see the flaw ¬†they were pointing out.

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    ”¬†The drag they cause by friction and of their own weight and the weight of the generators is minimal compared to the amount of energy created by the generators placed within”
    Unfortunately the above statement of yours is where you are dead wrong. The amount of drag is directly proportional to the energy created. Think of it this way; If it were not so but in fact as you claim then how would regenerative braking stop a vehicle?  For a practical example first look at a fan when switched from on to off, next look at a battery powered electric drill.

    The first slows down over 10 or 20 seconds, the latter (with regenerative braking) stops almost immediately. This latter example is what you would be doing (to a greater or lesser degree) when you connect the output of your generator to the battery bank.

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    Because when you add a wheel or add a generator to an existing wheel as you suggest, you increase friction. As NO generator is 100% efficient it will cost more in energy produced minus energy consumed. ie. It will be a NEGATIVE number and it is simply best not to add the wheel or generator in the first place UNLESS it is for regenerative braking.

  • RealityBitesU

    Please , let me know what you think of this. Here is a better formatted version of my proposal.¬† In 1996 the Solectria Sunrise got 375 miles per charge, Ford‚Äôs Echostar got 225 miles per charge, GM’s EV-1 got 125 miles per charge. Nearly 20 years later they’ve actually regressed!?! !¬† Many industries will fight the following
    proposal. However, it would be easy to make an EV that is coated with thin-film PV so it is always charging the batteries and ultracapacitors anytime any light is present, (Aleo Solar thinfilm PV works equally well on indirect light because it operates off of infrared, it pays back for itself in 2-3 years and lasts 17 years and the active elements are fully recoverable/recyclable.) This EV would also have generators placed in certain wheels (even extra wheels) so electricity is also produced and fed back into the power source anytime the wheels move, regenerative braking would also recapture energy and also feed electricity back into the onboard recharging system, the power saving system used in the Solectria Sunrise and light weight could be used and power saving ultracapacitors i.e., Maxwell Technologies’, would also be employed during acceleration greatly extending¬† the battery charge up to 15 times and of course further extending the range. You could also use the Altairnano Nanosafe batteries which already provide 240 miles per charge. So simple. This EV would rarely need recharging by an outlet because it is almost always trickle recharging through other means. Think of the world-wide market for such a vehicle and the money and wealth it would put into the hands of consumers and the worldwide economy because they are not paying for gas or much electricity. And, of course, the effect it would have on reducing climate change and air pollution.Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1jtIv)

    • Bob_Wallace

      This EV would also have generators placed in certain wheels (even extra wheels) so electricity is also produced and fed back into the power source anytime the wheels move”

      That part is a perpetual motion machine.

      “Data gathered by Ford as part of its 105 vehicle demonstration showed its test Ecostars averaging a 94 mile driving range with a maximum recorded range of 155 miles.¬†” ¬†Not 225 miles.

      The EV1 was very aerodynamic two-seater. ¬†Perhaps marketing told Nissan and other EV makers that people would be more willing to buy a “more normal” car.

      Don’t know why the¬†Solectria traveled so far per charge aside from aerodynamics. ¬†Do you?¬†

      “Solar thinfilm PV works equally well on indirect light because it operates off of infrared”

      Do you have a link for that?

      • RealityBitesU

        Re: Your dismissive comment about a perpetual motion machine. Why do you ‘assume’ the generators would have to feed back as much energy as the motors use? Why couldn’t it be something that would help in the recharging? Remember what Benny Hill cautioned about when you ‘assume’.¬† Re: Your comment about the driving ranges of the vehicles. There was a competition held in 1996 where each of these vehicles’ companies entered their vehicles. Solectria Sunrise still has a webpage up talking about it. The ranges I quote are what each vehicle achieved within that competition. By the way your comments re: GM’s¬† EV-1 seem odd, I remember it was a 4 door regular sized car (see “Who Killed the Electric Car”).¬† Re: The solar thin film and your request for a link, I gave you the name of the company. You should be able to type it into your computer and hit search. Are you a paid operative for the gas auto companies spreading plaque within the public conversations, (they do exist) or do you just have an attitude that makes you ‘assume’?

        • Bob_Wallace

          You’re proposing to use power from the battery to spin the wheels. ¬†(Energy is used.)

          Then you’re going to harvest energy from those spinning wheels to generate electricity. ¬†That requires further energy input from the batteries to spin that added generator. ¬†Energy is lost in the effort it takes to operate the generator.¬†

          Sketch it out on paper. ¬†You can’t use the power of water flowing downhill to pump that same water uphill without adding additional power to the loop.

          What you are suggesting is keeping the regenerative braking system on all the time.

          A search using “Aleo Solar thin film indirect light” yields nothing buy your claim. ¬†Do you have any actual backing for your claim?

          From the Wiki page on the EV1 –
          ClassElectric subcompact carBody style2-seat, 2-door coupéLayoutFF

          Am I “a¬†paid operative for the gas auto companies spreading plaque within the public conversations”.

          No. Anyone who had spent any time on this site would realize that is just a silly suspicion on your part.  In fact, if you had even read the comments on this single page you would would have found that question silly.

          “or do you just have an attitude that makes you ‘assume’?”

          No, again. ¬†What I am is someone who likes facts and dislikes bullshit. ¬†Clean up your ‘stuff’ and we can get on with the discussion.

          • Sirsparks Electrical

            I got passed the stage of “Perpetual Motion” including “partial perpetual motion as suggested elsewhere here! in my first few Physics lessons at age 12.

            I think your might be flogging a dead horse here Bob, some people just can’t get it. (including the “energy from the ether” nuts)

          • RealityBitesU

            ¬†¬† I did not propose to do what you misclaim I propose. You misstate my proposal and then airily dismiss your mischaracterization. You and Sirsparks talk as if you did not read the proposal because you are not addressing any of it. In spite of this, it again. I will try to put it into more expanded format so you may understand. The battery has to move the propelling wheels that move the car. Otherwise the car does not move. The car is now moving with the aim of transport and will move regardless of anything. Put the generators in additional wheels (a six or eight wheeled car) or alongside the motors in the existing four wheels. Since¬† the car is moving, anyway, the free standing wheels with generators in them will move as they are connected to the mass of the body of the car and are touching the road. The drag they cause by friction and of their own weight and the weight of the generators is minimal compared to the amount of energy created by the generators placed within. The mass of the car once moving, as a means of transport, pulls the added weight with minimal effect. Again, “The mass of the car once moving, as a means of transport, pulls the added weight with minimal effect.” This is all because the car has to be moving anyway.¬† The generators therein being turned by being pulled along by a large mass which is moving anyway as a means of transport, will provide an output of some sort to be fed into the battery. I never claimed a “perpetual motion machine”. That is a totally false and misleading mischaracterization of what I initially wrote.¬† As far as the searches you are doing you are not doing a very good job and you just keep repeating your same sources, i.e., Wikipedia. Expand to other sources. i.e., go to the company’s website, (look up Aleo Solar and you will be able to track down the history of the thin film product which was invented by Dr. Vivian Alberts of Johannisberg, S.A.) use different search terms or parameters, etc. One company already has done a prototype thin-film coated car, ultra-capacitors are being used in much heavy equipment as power saving mechanisms, expand your search parameters.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s simply your system.

            1. Energy stored in batteries drive wheels.

            2. You add additional equipment to the system in order to produce electricity.

            3.  Something has to provide power to that additional generation system.  The only place where there is an energy input if from the batteries.

            4.  Because of system/friction losses less energy will be returned from the added generation system than was taken from the batteries.

            What you are thinking is that somewhere in this system there is extra energy being produced.

            It is not.  All you have done is add a second regenerative braking system and turned it on whenever the car is moving.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I went to the Aleo Solar web site.

            I typed “indirect light” into their search box.

            Their reply was “NO results found”.

            If you’ve got a link then post it. ¬†

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let me simplify a bit more….

            Clear everything off the table.  

            Now put on top a battery and a motor.

            Hook the motor to the battery and measure how long it takes to deplete the energy in the battery.

            OK, now recharge the battery.  And hook up a generator as well as the original motor.

            Feed the produced power back to the battery.

            Measure how long it takes to deplete the energy in the battery this time.

            I can save you the bother.  Energy is used to spin the generator which will make the battery discharge faster in the second condition.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I really would like a link to thin film producing better than silicon if you’ve got one. ¬†I’ve heard this statement made before and I’ve never found any data.

            I’m off the grid and due to the large decrease in panel price I’m thinking of adding more panels to my system in order to cut down on generator use during cloudy days.

            If I could find proof that thin film panels produce more with indirect light then I would consider thin film for the addition.

  • Sirsparks Electrical

    The official consumption of the Leaf is 97 Kwh per 100 miles so a  3Kwh battery would take it just 3 miles. Who in their right mind would accept stopping to recharge every 4  minutes (at 45  mph) ?

    • Wikipedia has the leaf at around a third that at about 33 Kwh per 100 miles.¬† Or in more sensible units, about 5 kilometers per kilowatt-hour.¬† So that would give about 20 minutes of driving in town, but that would still be a deal breaker for almost everyone.¬†

      • Bob_Wallace

        0.34kWh per mile is what most people use for the Leaf. I’ve seen multiple owners post long term mileage at 0.28kWh/mile. Depends on where/how one drives.

  • RealityBitesU

    Please , let me know what you think of this.  In 1996 the Solectria Sunrise got 375
    miles per charge, Ford‚Äôs Echostar got 225 miles per charge, GM’s EV-1 got 125
    miles per charge. Nearly 20 years later they’ve actually regressed! (Remember, video
    technology was secreted away for 10 years from 1970 to 1980 due to the lobbying
    and money of the movie industry.) Many industries will fight the following proposal. However, it would be easy to make an EV that is
    coated with thin-film PV so it is always charging the batteries and
    ultracapacitors anytime, anywhere light is present, (Aleo Solar thinfilm PV
    works equally well on indirect light because it operates off of infrared.) This EV would also have
    generators placed in certain wheels (even extra wheels) so electricity is also
    produced and fed back into the power source anytime the wheels move, regenerative
    braking would also recapture energy and also feed electricity back into the onboard
    recharging system, the power saving system used in the Solectria Sunrise would
    also be employed and power saving ultracapacitors i.e., Maxwell Technologies’,¬†
    would also be employed during acceleration greatly extending  the battery charge up to 15 times and of
    course further extending the range. You could also use the Altairnano Nanosafe batteries
    which already provide 240 miles per charge.  So simple. 
    This EV would rarely need recharging by an outlet because it is almost
    always recharging through other means.
    Think of the world-wide market for such a vehicle and the money and wealth it would put
    into the hands of consumers and the worldwide economy because they are not
    paying for gas or much electricity. Plus it will help in reducing the causes of
    climate change. Only a crook would be against it.

  • Another path to longer range is more efficient cars — the aerodynamic drag in particular, but also the weight can be greatly improved.¬† The Leaf has a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.29 (I think) while the EV1 was 0.20.¬† If the EV1 had the Leaf battery pack, it could go 200+ miles pretty easily.¬† The Model S has a Cd of 0.24, but if it could be improved to <0.16 then the range would easily nearly double to about 600 miles.

    The Leaf consumes ~340Wh/mile (according to the EPA), and the Fit EV is about 290Wh/mile.  But there are several examples of EV's that can go 100-160Wh/mile, and that is where we need to aim!  The EV1, SIM-LEI / SIM-WIL, the Illuminati 'Seven', Dave Cloud's Dolphin, and the Edison2 VLCe are all capable of this sort of performance.


    • RealityBitesU

      Very good observations. Please let me know what you think 0f my proposal for an EV.

  • guest1

    Here is the problem.  Larger battery packs can accept more power in a shorter period of time than a smaller battery pack.  And larger battery packs can go many more miles in total over the lifetime of the pack than a smaller battery.

    Let me explain.¬† Let’s say there is a small battery pack with 50 battery cells inside it.¬† And there is a larger battery pack with 500 battery cells in it.¬† You charge both batteries enough to add 20 miles of range.¬† Each individual cell in the small battery has to accept 10 times the amount of juice as each individual cell in the large battery pack.¬† This will either take longer, or be more damaging to the small battery (or both) to get the same 20 miles of range.

    Now that charging is done, you step on the “gas” pedal.¬† Now each cell in the small battery pack has to discharge 10 times as much energy, 10 times as fast as the big battery.¬† This means you will either accelerate much slower, have much less torque, less payload capacity, or wear the batteries faster (or all of the above) compared to the larger battery.¬† Not so cool.

    You might think that the advantage in stopping might go to the smaller battery pack.¬† But there is a problem there too.¬† Now the regenerative braking is charging the battery, and you run into the same problems as when you were charging from a charger.¬† The results are that either you won’t get as much regenerative braking power, or each of the individual cells will have to work much harder than with a larger battery (or both).

    Let’s say you put up with the worse charging, the worse acceleration, and the worse regenerative braking.¬† None of these are game enders, they are just inconveniences.¬† Then it comes to end-of-life for the battery pack.¬† No matter how many cells there are in total in a battery pack, each cell can only survive a fixed number of full discharge/charge cycles.¬† Since each individual cell in the small battery pack has had to be charged and discharged 10 times as many times as the large battery pack, the small battery pack reaches end of life 10 times sooner.¬† If the large battery pack was good for 250,000 miles, the small battery pack would only be good for 25,000 miles at best, assuming each individual battery cell wasn’t pushed past its ratings and damaged before 25,000 miles.¬† (Don’t get too stuck on these example numbers, they aren’t meant to be actual.¬† They could be 500K miles and 50K miles, or whatever as long as the ratio is the same ratio as the ratio between the number of individual battery cells).¬† That is more than an inconvenience.¬† Now everything isn’t adding up very well anymore.¬†

    Even worse, since the small battery now only has 80% of its initial range (and dropping) it’s short range is going to fall below a usable range much sooner than with a large battery pack.¬† With a large battery pack with longer range, you might not even notice that the range has been shortened by 80%.¬† You still wake up with enough charge to last your day, and you don’t care.¬† You might be able to have enough charge to do everything you need to do in a day with even just 50% of the original capacity, greatly extending the useful life of the battery and never having to change your lifestyle.¬† With the smaller battery that is dependent upon multiple recharges in a day, your life gets harder and harder because you have to charge more and more times in a day.

    Big battery packs are very good for full highway-rated EV’s in the long run for these technical reasons.¬† Small batteries are great for an NEV that is just driven for a low number of miles every year slowly on small neighborhood streets.¬† But for a full highway EV that is doing 10-15K miles a year the bigger battery is the winner.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Yes, but…

      Let’s say you are someone who would be fine with a 20 mile range EV as long as it could go highway speed. ¬†Your household has one car that just gets used for the daily “6 mile one way” commute that includes some >35mph distance.

      Wouldn’t it make some sense to purchase an EV with a 20 mile pack and spend less money up front? ¬†Later on, when you’ve worn out that battery pack prices are likely to be a lot less.

      If you never change jobs, change your commute distance that 20 mile pack could last as long as the car and you’d save money.

    • RealityBitesU

       The Altairnano Nanosafe battery charges in 10 minutes and has a 240 mile range,been tested for 15,000 recharges, operates in extreme temperatures, etc. Please check out my post/proposal for a Forever car EV.

  • Hmbscott

    I drive a Leaf and am extremely happy with it. My commute is 25 miles one way and takes about 45 minutes. If my car had a 10 mile range and took 15 min to recharge, then I’d have to stop twice on the way to work taking an extra 30 min. That’s I think impractical.

    The right way to think about charging is: “How much range can I add in how much time during a charge session?”. That has nothing to do with the battery size and everything to do with how much power the charger is delivering. Whether a battery is 4kWh or 24kWr, using a 240V charger, the range you can add with 15m of charging is only about 4-5 miles. The reason why is that 240V charging is limited to about 7kW, which in 15 min will only deliver enough energy to drive 4-5 miles regardless of battery size. The real answer is fast charging, which is very high power 30-50kW.I can offer some fast-charging experience with my Leaf. I’ve fast charged my car from 30% (2 bars) to 80% (9 bars). The charge took only 18 minutes. That is enough capacity to travel about 40-50 miles in just 18 minutes. That’s pretty darn good. I’m looking forward to the 25 planed for installation in the SF Bay Area by the end of 2012.¬†

  • Anne

    The magic number is 250.

    I agree with the general spirit of the article, that too much emphasis is on batteries, and too little on charging infrastructure. Fast chargers eliminate range anxiety, better and cheaper than large batteries do.

    The 20 miles that the author mentions in the comments means people would have to interrupt their trips every 30 minutes or so for a 15 minute fast charge. I can not possibly see any scenario where people are willing to put up with that, even if it is induction charging and you don’t have to get out of your car. Even stopping for a 1 min battery swap is too much.

    The range of an electric car should be at least 250 real km, so overnight charging is enough to use your car year round, except when you go on holiday and drive 1000 km or more on a single day. These longer trips usually contain stops every 2 hrs to stretch the legs, eat some, etc. I can see the general public accepting that limitation, because it is only for a few days per year and compensated with the convenience of never having to visit a gas station on the other 360 days.

    • Bob_Wallace

      250km or just a bit higher. Somewhere in the 250km to 300km, 150 to 175 mile range. A 400 or 500 mile driving day with only two recharge stops is going to sound “right” to most US drivers, I think.

      Convenience of not having to visit gas stations plus driving for about 1/4th the cost per mile. (Equivalent to $1/gallon gas. Much less than one quarter in Europe and other high fuel cost areas.)

      • Bob_Wallace

        150km/90 miles with room to drop in a rented second battery for long trips.  That would cut vehicle cost and weight while still giving long enough range options.

        Give each battery its own charging port for fast recharge.Various ways to skin this cat….

    • Ross

      Agree with the idea that there’s a magic number that needs to be hit. It will vary up and down a bit depending on the consumer. I suspect the market will determine what it is or whether there’ll be segmentation to two or three magic numbers.

    • RealityBitesU

      ¬†In 1996 the Solectria Sunrise got a whopping 375 miles per charge, the Ford Echostar¬† got 225 miles per charge and GM’s EV-1 got 125 miles per charge. Please check out my posting for a proposed EV.

  • DB

    My LEAF is already perfect for my 40mi commute. (except it has a nav system that i dont need)

    • Ross

      Is that 40 miles round trip or one way?

    • ūüėÄ

  • Rerac

    I like the idea and it makes upgrading to better batteries with longer range as they become available more financially feasible since you haven’t sunk all your cash into a huge battery pack.¬†

  • Bob_Wallace

    A way to approach this would be to offer EVs with multiple swapable batteries, let’s say 20 mile range battery packs. ¬†Let people purchase an EV with the amount of range they normally need but make it possible to rent or purchase more batteries if they want to extend their range either temporarily or permanently.

    Many households might do well with a 20 mile range “second car” EV that could be quickly recharged to get an extra 18 miles from time to time. ¬†

    Some people could do quite well with a normal 20 to 40 mile range as long as they could fast charge/swap their way to longer trips.

    People wouldn’t feel stuck buying a 20 mile range capability if they knew they could upgrade to 40 – 100 miles later if their needs changed.

    I’m still guessing that we’re on our way to >150 mile range EVs for the price of gasmobiles in the near future….

    • definitely. totally agree.

      • RealityBitesU

         Please look at my proposal for an EV Forever Car and let me know what you think.

  • eco guy

    the faster ou charge the batteries, the shorter the life expectancy. Just a thought, consider super capacitors. I know the technology is not quite there yet but some investment into this technology combined with bateriys could prove to be a solution to range.

    • RealityBitesU

      Ultracapacitors are here so is a battery that can take 15,000 recharges. Please check out my proposal for the “Forever” car.

  • The 10 mile range I mentioned was just an example. It should really be 20 miles. (which would require a 6 kWh battery pack).

    • Ross

      My commute is 22 miles miles, one-way, along motorways for almost all of it. So no opportunity to stop to recharge. I think the minimum battery needs to hold the round trip + some extra.

      • RealityBitesU

         I think the magic number is a minimum around what you can expect today with gas
        engines. say 240 miles upwards. The Phoenix Motorcar with the Altairnano
        battery was achieving this and is still available (the Chinese just bought control of the company). Back in 1996 the Solectria Sunrse got 375
        miles per charge using 1996 technology. The Altairnano battery can recharge in 10 minutes
        with zero degradation. Check out my post and proposal for an EV

  • I should also clarify that charging stations would not be more than a few miles apart. This could also be an alternative for longer range vehicles such as the 35 mile Chevy Volt. I would omit the heavy multi-hundred pound, efficiency reducing generator and it would do very well with fast charging batteries and charging stations which are as ubiquitous as gas stations.

  • To everyone: I try to emphasize the importance of charge time to range anxiety. It is of paramount importance to it. It is the reason why people can’t charge in public anyway. There is an important link there.

  • Dcard88

    Even an elec scooter would need 3kW pack

    We need a 24 kW prius size vehicle that weighs less than 2500 pounds and seats 4 adults with 100 miles range that we can do 50% charge in 30 minutes and put the charging at coffee shops/restaurants.  The latest tech will do that with 500# pack.  (new GE motors no cooling needed)

    • Bob_Wallace

      The Leaf interior is pretty close to that of the Prius.  

      The Leaf has more headroom (41.2 front/37.3 rear in inches) than the Prius 38.6/37.6).

      The Leaf has about the same shoulder room (54.4/52.5 vs. 54.9/53.1).

      The Leaf has almost as much hip room (51.5/50.0 vs. 52.7/51.2).

      Front leg room is almost as good as the Prius (42.1 vs. 42.5) but has less rear leg room (31.1 vs. 36.0).

      Your weight target would be hard to hit.  The Leaf weighs 3,385 pounds.
      Getting 50 miles of range into any batteries in 30 minutes with a 240vac feed would be difficult.  About 150 kWh or a rate of 300 kW per hour.  That would take a lot of amperage.

      A better solution, I think, is to shoot for Level 2 chargers (240vac) spread around densely enough that someone could pick up a few miles while shopping and enough in ~20 minutes to get them to a Level 3 charge station.  Do the majority of charging while parked at home/work/school.  Provide some public L2 for times when one needs just a bit more.  L3 for long trips.

    • Ross

      Charging at any place that is convenient do you mean? Coffee shops and restaurants is a bit too linked to a particular lifestyle.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Coffee shops and restaurants are businesses that are likely to welcome, even sponsor, charge stations. ¬†They can increase their business. ¬†We’re seeing installations at shopping malls and big box retailers as well.

        I would expect that it will cost more to charge at a place where there is no additional economic gain for the real estate supplier, such as  a non-mini mart gas station.

        What we are going to need are some card-swipe charge stations in work/school parking lots for those who can’t plug in at home.¬†

      • Bob_Wallace

        Coffee shops and restaurants are likely places for public chargers because they will bring in business. We’re seeing some installations at shopping center/big box stores.

        I’d expect charging to be more expensive at a gas station. Other than mini-mart business the gas station doesn’t stand to make additional money from someone hanging around while charging.

        What we need to start seeing, IMO, is card swipe stations at work and school parking lots. That would open things up for people who have no place to plug in at home.

    • Conrad Clement

      ¬†“We need a 24 kW prius size vehicle that weighs less than 2500 pounds and seats 4 adults…”

      I don’t know the exact percentage of car trips with the driver only on board, but it is notoriously a very high one (80 to 90%?) — hence there’s a mainstream market for vehicles seating just 1 adult! Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1jtIv)

  • Diana Obrecht

    Induction charging. Start with areas where people have to stop. Stop signs, stop lights, you get the picture. Oh, and main highways

  • Hope

    Induction charging. If not 100 mile minimum, AND 15 min charging.

    I favour induction charging on main roads and small packs to maintain charge when off main roads.

    • Ross

      Do you mean induction charging at charging stations or trickle charging along the roads? I can’t see the latter happening because of the cost of deployment and risk of¬†obsolescence with improving battery technology. Their are losses from induction too although much less than the¬†inefficiencies¬†of¬†internal combustion engines.

  • Forget about private ownership, instead mass produce electric cars and save on their cost by giving them a moderate to low range and just have plenty of them.¬† When the car you are in runs low on charge it will guide you to another car with a full charge and you plug in the one you were in and take the fully charged one.¬† However, this idea is very unlikely to catch on due to the deep seated human fear of cooties.¬†

    • Actually, since most cars sit idle for over 95% of the time, we’d only need enough to deal with peak use periods.¬† But stil, cooties.

  • Aa

    Or combine it with cheap integrated solar cells / ink.
    You just have to remember to park the car outside. It extends range while driving and while parking, so ideal for a working day.

  • _sd_

    I think that the armies of engineers who work for the top car manufacturers have put more time and effort into their analysis and decisions, and I would buy their car without hesitation over a car with a 10-mile range which charges in 15 mins. Speaking of outside the box, I do like the idea of embedded wireless chargers in the roads which charge cars as they drive.

  • Aa

    Would be nicer to have replaceable batteries I think…

    • mfd78

      Sadly, the batteries in the Nissan Leaf weigh 650 pounds. I wouldn’t want to move that every 75 miles or so.

      • Aa

        They can do that at the “charging station”…
        Just a few standard battery packs and there you’ll go…

      • Bob_Wallace

        Better Place already has automated battery swap stations. ¬†Here’s a video…


        You drive in and in a couple of minutes drive out with a charged battery.

        These stations are being installed in Israel and Denmark.  Renault is building  the EVs.  (Renault and Nissan have the same CEO.)

        Will this be the way we go?  I doubt it.  Other than Renault no EV manufacturers are designing for battery swapping.  (Tesla has some sort of swapping feature in its S, but not Better Place compatible, AFAIK.)

        The lack of interest in battery swapping makes me think that car manufactures are expecting better range batteries in the near future.

        175 mile range and no more than 20 minute 90% fast charging is all we need to make EVs fully functional for long distance driving.  

        Toshiba SCiB lithium-ion batteries will take a 90% charge in under 20 minutes. ¬†A123 has doubled the cycle life of their lithium-ion batteries to 2,000 100% depth of discharge cycles which means that the batteries can be cycled deeper, extending range while maintaining “body life” battery life.

        • Ross

          I agree. Battery swapping is very risky as it requires a huge infrastructural investment that would be only a likely innovation or two away from obsolescence. 

          It follows the old model of physical distribution with all the disadvantages that entails. 

          • Bob_Wallace

            Infrastructure and an inventory of spare batteries.

            I can see swapping making sense in Israel which needs to get off oil ASAP. There’s a security issue there even if the stations are used for only a few years.

          • There isn’t a security risk in the US?

            Israel is simply closer to the likely source of angst.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Most of the oil refined at¬†Oil Refineries Ltd.¬†(TASE:ORL) in Haifa and the¬†Paz Oil Company Ltd.¬†(TASE:PZOL) Ashdod Refinery comes from former Soviet countries, principally Azerbaijan. The oil is transported via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC), which runs from the Azeri capital of Baku, through the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
            Other oil enters Israel from tankers from the Black Sea through the Turkish-controlled Bosporus to the Mediterranean.”
            I think you can see that Israel has a bit more of a potential problem than we do.

          • Ross

            Selecting an appropriate battery size when the car is ordered from the factory is a restricted form of swapping that already exists (e.g. Tesla). Perhaps it might happen during car servicing for older EVs.

            Swapping for a long trip seems unlikely as it implies swapping back again. 

            I’d like a decent range and fast charging on major routes for the rare cases where home/work/car park charging isn’t enough.¬†

            For that rare case it would be like the extra trip to the petrol/gas station when going on a long journey in an ICE.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, we’re talking about solutions “in the event batteries don’t double in capacity and become affordable”.

            If you owned an EV with a “20 mile range, but a 100 mile battery space” then you could rent batteries at one end of your long trip, swap them out along the way, and return them at the other end. Or you could rent and fast charge your way.

            All just possible ways to deal with the possibility of not getting good range and price. Which is what I’m betting on. We’re seeing incremental improvements in batteries and cars that increase range. A123 has announced doubling the number of cycles their batteries will tolerate which means that they can be discharged deeper and we get more range out of the same kWs. The A123 battery is also more heat/cold tolerant which means the battery cooling system can be eliminated cutting vehicle weight (and cost). Volt is apparently increasing their electric range 10% with the 2013 model, same size battery pack. New electric motors have been developed that should increase range 5%.

            About 10% of energy is used up by transmission/drive train friction. In hub wheels could get rid of that loss.

            I think we’ll see car and battery manufacturers chipping away at the range problem until it is no longer a problem.

            Price seems to be a function of manufacturing volume.

          • Ross

            Swapping may also need the costs of the battery to be separated from the vehicle costs. 

            Consider a hypothetical market where batteries are available in many capacities instead of one or two magic numbers. If I change my job and need to commute twice as far then I might have to swap the battery but I will not want to take the hit on trading in the old battery and buying a new battery.

            The magic number range needs to accommodate likely life changes.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure, just build some flash memory into each battery pack (probably already there) and sell on a prorated basis.

            I like the idea of being able to have two to four battery packs per vehicle.  Own one or as many as you normally would need and rent the rest as needed.

            Less investment and less weight to haul around during normal driving.

            OTOH, air-zinc batteries pan out and all this is moot….

        • Until recently I would have agreed with you. With recent reports of failing batteries in LEAFS in AZ not owning the battery has suddenly become more appealing.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’re in the early days. ¬†A bunch of rockets are likely to crash before we get to the point where it’s safe to put people on top.

            A123 just released this info:

            “Nanophosphate¬ģ lithium iron phosphate batteries and systems, today introduced¬†Nanophosphate EXT‚ĄĘ, a new lithium ion battery technology capable of operating at extreme temperatures without requiring thermal management. Nanophosphate EXT is designed to significantly reduce or eliminate the need for heating or cooling systems, which is expected to create sizeable new opportunities within the transportation and telecommunications markets, among others”


            It’s really hard, if not impossible, to decide the ‘best way’ this early in the game.

            I’m going to guess that Nissan will ‘make things right’ for the AZ Leaf owners. ¬†Buying back a few units from disgruntled owners is a small price. ¬†Remember how GM offered to do that when the battery fire issue got blown out of proportion?

          • Folks are already on top of the rocket. Nissan released the car and we signed up for the ride ūüôā

            I have heard of the A123 chemistry improvements, I have also heard of the financial frailty of A123 after the Fiskar recall. Maybe Nissan should buy A123 and get their patents for the battery technology.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A123 just announced a 2 MW utility storage contract with China. ¬†I suspect that’s a few more batteries than what Fiskar would have used.

            Early days.  Companies will look promising and then fail.  Eventually winners will be established.  Over 150 established computer companies failed on our way to where we are now.  Some were market/tech leaders and major names.

  • Anonymous

    So are you suggesting that a 3kWh battery with a 10-mile range, albeit one that can recharge in 15 minutes, would actually REDUCE range anxiety?!

    • Range anxiety is caused by the inability to recharge. What people with range anxiety think: “If I run out of power, i’ll be stranded, and ¬†won’t be able to recharge because there are no charging stations, or it will take 8 hours if I plug into someone else’s outlet. If people can recharge easily and quickly it is not an issue for most people.¬†

      • Ross

        The example chosen is probably too extreme as it distracts from the point. A 10 mile range would be shorter than a lot of peoples’ commutes.¬†

      • yeah, but the thing i’d wonder is: who wants to pull over to charge every 10 miles?

        might be good for a city-only car, once you can charge everywhere you park. but that’s quite a long way off.

Back to Top ↑