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Old 03-12-2009, 04:18 PM   #1
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Electric tow vehicle....

Well, maybe not today, and clearly not next week, but a significant discovery in Lithium Ion could pave the way toward future towing applications in some capacity:

The authors note that if electric grid power was available, an electric car with a 15kWh battery could be charged in 5 minutes. This would require the delivery of 180 kw of energy in that time frame. Further those cars could have extremely powerful acceleration and be useful in other power applications such as towing.

Here is where the full article can be read:

100-Fold Lithium-ion Battery Breakthrough | GM-VOLT : Chevy Volt Electric Car Site
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Old 03-12-2009, 04:34 PM   #2
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I read the article, and found it quite interesting, Thanx.

Since an electric motor operates at full rated torque at any rpm, it would make a great tow vehicle.

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Old 03-12-2009, 05:04 PM   #3
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I think many of us have been waiting to read of something like this and I hope it pans out. I'm sure a few things have to worked out, like weight, manufacturing facilities, power lines, retrofitting a fleet, price, financing. All minor items I'm sure. There are concerns whether enough lithium and phosphates can be obtained for these purposes. There's a lot on the internet about this.

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I've copied an article by Chris Rhodes:

SATURDAY, MAY 24, 2008
World Lithium Supplies.
If electric vehicles or their analogous plug-in-electric hybrid vehicles (PHEV) are to become widespread in the face of a lack of cheap oil, some source of battery technology will be necessary to carry the charge to run them. I wrote an article a couple of years ago "Electric Vehicles and World Lithium Supply", October 13, 2006) in which I concluded there was insufficient lithium to fabricate an equivalent of 500 million cars, as was then estimated to be on the roads worldwide, by PHEV's. This was based on the assumption that the world stock of lithium was around 5 million tonnes and that it would take 9 million tonnes to make 500 million PHEV's. For all-electric cars, the situation is worse since they each take four times the amount of lithium that a PHEV would. I did also refer to other kinds of battery technology which use materials that are known to be more abundant.

However, the amount of lithium in the world has now been called into question, and one analyst thinks there is much more of it available [1], mostly based in Chile's Atacama desert, amounting to an economically recoverable total of 28.4 million tonnes. Clearly that would be plenty: enough for 1.58 billion PHEV cars or almost 400 million fully electric vehicles, so the physical amount of lithium is not a problem. There are also sources of lithium in the Andes and in Tibet, along with hectorite (a lithium containing clay) and oil-field brines that contain lithium, albeit more expensive to extract than the mountain-sources, and the material should be recycleable, so for example a direct comparison with the oil the technology is intended to replace is not strictly justified.

The issue is not without contention, however, since another author [2] concludes there are 6.2 million tonnes in reserves of lithium and its reserve base is 13.4 million tonnes.

In my opinion, if all sources of lithium are worked-out there is probably enough of it to go round to make 600 million cars, as there are now. It should be noted that there is an increasing demand for the metal to go into laptop computers and mobile phones, and it is anyone's guess what that total demand might amount to.

However, the latter devices are made out of oil too, and with current roaring prices which I do not expect to fall, along with a near and eventual shortage of oil, I see another limiting factor - raw materials to make plastics from and the lack of money in people's pockets rather than of lithium.

60 million new cars are put on the roads each year and if they were made as PHEV's which might take 18 kg of lithium each, we would need an annual production of 1.08 million tonnes of it. This is around 54 times the present output of lithium (20,000 tonnes), and so that production capacity (mining and processing) would need to be installed (a considerable task). If it could be done, we would be "there" within 10 years. However, will there be enough energy to do the job, and what will these cars actually cost.

Given that I see financial distress for many in the West the car may well be seen as a luxury and by default, we will set-aside our travelling lifestyles in the difficult oil dearth years ahead of us. We don't have 10 years in which to begin reducing oil consumption: we need to do that now. If only we had begun 10 years ago we would have saved massive amounts of oil, and be facing-off a future gap in the supply/demand conundrum, with time in hand. We didn't though, but permitted the market-forces to prevail. The present number of cars replaced by fully-electric vehicles will take 40 years to produce, and again against the backdrop of an energy crunch.

Another potential strife is that some kinds of lithium battery contain a phosphate component and I have discussed recently that there are likely to be problems with mining a finite source of rock phosphate which is mainly used for agriculture. As a rough estimate, assuming one phosphate anion per lithium cation in a lithium-iron-phosphate battery (the strongest contender for EV's) 600 million cars would need around 148 million tonnes of phosphate or about 15 million tonnes a year assuming we could equal the world annual total of 60 million new cars annually. That is to be compared with the total phosphate mined for food production of about 140 million tonnes, and so we would need to sacrifice a good 10% of that, while a hungry population rises.

It isn't going to happen, and to conclude once more, car use will be curbed by a combination of factors, with all that implies for civilization.
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Old 03-12-2009, 06:55 PM   #4
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Heavy duty lithium battery-powered vehicles have moved into the pilot stage: Fleet of electric trucks is bound for Port of Los Angeles - Los Angeles Times but a 40 to 60 mile range won't do for us. I'm sure improvements will be on the way.
The entire electric powered vehicle business is still in pilot stage: the first to market, Honda Insight, didn't sell enough to make Honda go broke. (They lost thousands on each sale.) There are a lot of cheeze wedge Priuses here in California but it is still a niche market.

We are also seeing some pilot hybrid buses, like these at my neighborhood factory: Gillig Corporation so the small steps are in place and continuous improvement seems to be happening now.
The Chris Rhodes article above takes the broader view, looking at the life cycle of the fuel source and the vehicles. One can "hope" that the next great energy storage or source will be something more plentiful, which is why fuel cells attract interest and tinkering.
I still see my neighbor driving less than 2 blocks to her church, even with good weather--those habits need to change. It is not too late to conserve and, actually, we do a good job of that with most of our rigs. The mpg numbers may surprise some folks but our destination did not consume a bunch of energy building a hotel, motel, etc--a carbon offset of sorts.
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Old 03-12-2009, 09:36 PM   #5
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A 15kwh battery pack is not going to give you much range at all. The Tesla Roadster stores 53 kwh of energy in its battery, which on an EPA test cycle can propel the car for 240 (or so) miles. Bear in mind that this is an aerodynamically efficient 2700lb sports car. Using these numbers, 15kwh of energy would equate to about 67 miles of range. Add another passenger, a heavier and less aerodynamic vehicle and this number dwindles.

Don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE advocate of electric vehicles, but I just don't want to see people get their hopes up about a small 15kwh battery pack powering their tow vehicle any time soon.
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Old 03-12-2009, 10:36 PM   #6
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A 15kwh battery pack is not going to give you much range at all. The Tesla Roadster stores 53 kwh of energy in its battery, which on an EPA test cycle can propel the car for 240 (or so) miles. Bear in mind that this is an aerodynamically efficient 2700lb sports car. Using these numbers, 15kwh of energy would equate to about 67 miles of range. Add another passenger, a heavier and less aerodynamic vehicle and this number dwindles.

Don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE advocate of electric vehicles, but I just don't want to see people get their hopes up about a small 15kwh battery pack powering their tow vehicle any time soon.
So a 15 kwh battery would be good for up to 67 miles or so, enough for most daily commutes, at a cost of $1.50 to $3 or so, depending on the local cost of electricity. Sounds very efficient.

I think the bigger story is the 5 minute recharge. It's kind of like stopping to fill a gas tank. Raises the possibility that people could actually travel using an electric car, buying recharges at "gas" stations. This kind of advance could dramatically increase the interest in electric-only cars, which up to this point have been little more than a novelty. A ten minute recharge every 200 miles or so, while you use the restroom and get a cup of coffee, might actually be feasible.
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Old 03-12-2009, 11:20 PM   #7
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Smaller, shorter-range electric cars could offer a few benefits for those who tow.

In the long run, the more that are sold, the more automakers will spend on R&D for bigger / longer-lasting versions. Not just for the RV market, but for fleets of 18-wheelers.

In the short run, little cars make great daily drivers for most of us. Imagine how much that would mitigate the fuel and carbon emissions if we only roll out the ole' V8 when towing. That'd take your gas consumption down around 120 gallons annually vs. 1200.
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Old 03-13-2009, 06:19 AM   #8
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During the winter months, my wife and I spend time in Pacific Beach. Several years ago, I looked at buying a GEM electric commuter car to run around the Mission Beach, PB and Ocean Beach area. First off, these are not a cheap date. Even if you get past the price, the dealer requires that you sign a piece of paper stating that you'll never take the GEM on roads with a speed limit in excess of 30MPH. That killed the deal right there. I talked to several GEM owners and they said that you're taking your life in your hands mixing it up on city streets with aggressive SoCal drivers.

We parked our fossil fuel powered ATV that is used on the grounds and bought two electric golf carts to scoot around on the property. So in the guise of protecting the environment, we use more electricity produced by a coal fired generator in New Mexico that is on the EPA's list of top 10 polluters!

I've thought about putting a water powered generator to produce electricity on the property, but then I have to deal with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Colorado Water Resources Board.

Inquiring minds need to know what is going to happen to all of those Prious' batteries as they are replaced at three to five thousand bucks a pop.
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Old 03-13-2009, 07:40 AM   #9
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Electric cars all sound great, but I think a lot of people aren't considering the negative side of them. First and foremost, the cost of electricity is going to skyrocket. No way around it. Someone has to pay for the upgrades to the power infrastructure in order to support millions of vehicles "plugging in" with high amperage charging systems. As it stands, there's no way the current system will support a mass switch to electric vehicles.
To compund the problem, the government is only going to let you drive tax free for so long. Road taxes normally associated with gasoline/diesel fuel will have to be replaced somehow. I have a feeling that we are going to see a huge increase in toll roads or new electronic based system that will likely transmit miles driven along with all sorts of data to the government that you would rather them not know.
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Old 03-13-2009, 10:22 AM   #10
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Let's be honest here, the power grid has needed to be upgraded for decades, so a power grid upgrade is not going to directly be tied to electric vehicles. Anyone in California can attest to this with all the roaming blackouts they have nearly every summer.

Second, I don't automatically subscribe to the thought that plugging in is going to have the dramatic effect of canceling out any good done by taking a fossil fueled car off the road and replacing them with plug in cars. Let me explain....

First and foremost, you have a car that has zero emissions.

Second, there are significant electrical and carbon footprint costs in the drilling, transportation from the drill site to the refinery, the refining process itself and of course the delivery of fuel to all the local stations.

The second part alone could offset any of the additional sins done by generating more power from existing facilities. Think about it for a second, less consumption equals less resources used and less carbon footprints.

Let's not also forget about solar and wind opportunities. Though these may be small now, they are growing and with government funding, these technologies may finally start to trickle down to the consumer.

Just two years ago, at the Midwest Rally in LeRoy, IL, a small farm town near Bloomington/Normal, IL, these huge wind turbines started to show up. One year they was just farmland as far as the eye could see, next rally, BOOM, here they all were and more being added. They have what I think is nearly or maybe more than 100 of these megawatt generating units. Each unit has the ability to produce between 1 and 3 megawatts. That is not small power generation.

So I firmly believe that for now, in the short term smaller cars that are pure electric will be a real shot in the arm for kicking or reducing significantly our dependence on oil to transport us (and the nasty bi-products associated with it). By no means do I think short term that we will stop cold turkey, but with these technologies as described in this thread, I see them as positive steps making things possible that 5 years ago, we would not have even considered.

Do I think we're gonna be able to tow hundreds of miles with electric only? Not today, but the technology is starting to form and short term solutions like the Opel Ampera, Chevy Volt and others like it are a far better step than simply trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip (more MPG out of smaller engines).

I firmly believe that if we stop listening to the oil lobbyists and start to use simple common sense in Washington, we really could do this, create jobs at the same time and do some good toward the environment (and no this is not an endorsement or a put down of the present or past administrations). I am not foolish to believe that this is the only thing that we can do, but the old saying "think globally, act locally" makes sense. The thousand mile journey starts with one step.

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Old 03-13-2009, 10:29 AM   #11
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We can't have these new fangled gasoline powered vehicles! We will have to spend all this money to build places to store all that explosive gasoline and who's going to make them tires out of that rubber we have to bring in from Asia or Brazil or somewhere? Horses are good enough and we have plenty of oats and hay. The infrastructure is in place and is very economical. You can ride a horse all day, but those horseless carriages only go so far and break down, they go too fast, the tires go flat and there may be no place to get gasoline which will probably catch on fire.

Well, electric cars have a lot of problems too. Franklin made some good ones and went broke in the 1920's. If GM sells a lot of Volts, they will lose so much money they will go broke (again). GM is either visionary or idiots (lots of proof they are idiots, but the Volt may prove them visionaries). Developing a better way to have individual transportation is expensive, has many failures, creates new problems, and is very necessary. So let's amp up, reduce resistance, chant "ohm", live up to our potential, spark change and plug into it.

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Old 03-13-2009, 10:33 AM   #12
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Here is the link to the wind farm in Bloomington, IL area.

It has as of 2008 a 400 megawatt output, and those who went to the Midwest Rally can attest that last year it was REALLY windy down there and most, if not all of them were hummin' along at full capacity.

YouTube - One of World's Largest Wind Farms, Bloomington, Il.
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Old 03-13-2009, 10:39 AM   #13
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Developing a better way to have individual transportation is expensive, has many failures, creates new problems, and is very necessary. So let's amp up, reduce resistance, chant "ohm", live up to our potential, spark change and plug into it.

Gene
Ever hear of the Thomas Edison quotes he made about various things he tried to invent?

"I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work"

"We now have a thousand ways not to build a light bulb"

More true words were never spoken. It's the self defeatism and the years of addiction to petroleum (and lobbyists) that we have to overcome.

So we make mistakes along the way until we find the right balance. What did Caesar say to his people about building out Rome? Brick by brick my citizens, brick by brick.
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Old 03-13-2009, 10:49 AM   #14
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Electric cars all sound great, but I think a lot of people aren't considering the negative side of them. First and foremost, the cost of electricity is going to skyrocket. No way around it. Someone has to pay for the upgrades to the power infrastructure in order to support millions of vehicles "plugging in" with high amperage charging systems. As it stands, there's no way the current system will support a mass switch to electric vehicles.
To compound the problem, the government is only going to let you drive tax free for so long. Road taxes normally associated with gasoline/diesel fuel will have to be replaced somehow. I have a feeling that we are going to see a huge increase in toll roads or new electronic based system that will likely transmit miles driven along with all sorts of data to the government that you would rather them not know.
Some more or less related points:

Daily electrical use is a sine wave, going way up during the daylight hours and dropping way down during the overnight hours. If EV's were recharged at night, the overall electrical use would stabilize somewhat which would actually help solve some grid loading problems.

Not every vehicle would require a full charge every night.

I don't think anyone's pretending that everything will be electric, or grid-based electric, but surely even with that, the ability to recharge batteries faster is good news, yes? Even if applied to a Volt type hybrid, the ability to recharge faster has implications for how you tune the internal combustion engine, which engine you use, and the efficiency you can hope to achieve from it. These are all very positive things.

Daimler, last year, announced its intention of moving away from internal combustion engines entirely by 2020 or thereabouts (I can't place my hands on the article just now).

It wasn't that long ago that most families had one car - now two or more is the norm. Not all cars need to complete the identical missions. An electric with a 100 mile range would handle something like 70-90% of the commuting or daily shuttle needs, with a second car having some "legs," as it were. Yes, I know, there are people who drive more than 100 miles per day, but there are also a lot of people who could walk to work but drive 2-5 miles per day too.

The use of fuel taxes for only roads has always been a little goofy. If we can save two lanes of interstate by putting passenger rail in between Seattle and Portland (as was done), is this good or bad? If we can save paving over a couple hundred acres of farmland by providing sidewalks and pathways that actually go somewhere, does this help or hurt transportation as a whole?
And that's our hint. If we can view our transportation needs/desires as a whole, we can start figuring out how to link things together. South Bend's regional airport, for example, also serves as a terminal for the South Shore Rail line, which in turn can take you to Chicago (if you camped at Potato Creek SP, for example). But that's an exception.

We've really messed up, I think, by allowing ourselves the luxury of considering all transportation modes as independent of each other, guaranteeing them to be inefficient. The future, I think, should look more like Portland than Los Angeles, and a breakthrough in battery technology is one step in that direction. Not the only step. One step. A good one.
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