Friday, July 21, 2017

Eskom establishes large-scale battery test and demonstration facility

Eskom establishes large-scale battery test and demonstration facility
Not actual electric vehicle news but EV related news. Creamer Media's Engineering News reports that South African power utility Eskom has unveiled a battery testing and demonstration facility at Eskom’s Research and Innovation Centre in Rosherville, Johannesburg. The purpose of this facility is to compare different types of battery storage to help support the grid and also store renewable energy sources such as solar.

This will be especially relevant for the inevitable imminent increase in the number of electric vehicles on the roads. One of the common criticisms of electric vehicles by South Africans is that our power grid has been notoriously unreliable over the past decade. Obviously for electric cars to be viable a reliable source of electricity is vital. With Eskom now looking at power storage systems it looks like we are on the way to having a more stable grid.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On-The-Air (14/07/2017)

On-The-Air (14/07/2017)
A very pro-mining interview with Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly clean energy vehicles. In particular he is championing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles because they, like catalytic converters for internal combustion engines, require platinum which South Africa is by far the biggest producer of.

As I've said many times before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles make very little sense. Unlike battery electric vehicles that can be charged anywhere there is a electric plug socket, fuel cell vehicles need to be filled at a pump, at the moment there are very few of these, and most of them are concentrated in either California or Japan. Creamer claims in the interview that fuel cell cars can get a range of 500km, the latest fully electric Tesla Model S already has a 500km+ range so why is there the need for the added complexity of a fuel cell when a simple battery electric powertrain is capable of the same range.

Battery technology is also improving at an exponential rate and at the same time prices of battery cells are dropping. Where around $35,000 would only get you an electric car with roughly 100 mile range a year ago, it will now get you one with over 200 mile range in the case of the Chevy Bolt and the new Tesla Model 3. Before the end of the year the new Nissan Leaf should also be offering a similar range at a similar price to these two. At this rate it won't be too long before the average affordable electric car has a plus 300 mile (500km) range.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will also require regular servicing due to the added complexity whereas battery electric vehicles require virtually no major maintenance checks.

In the end the consumer will decide and no doubt they will decide they would rather have the simplicity and low running costs of an electric vehicle.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Plans in California and China will change SA’s car choices

Plans in California and China will change SA’s car choices
Insightful article from News24. South Africa makes up only 0.68% of the global car market and because of this, whatever direction the global car market goes, we will have to follow.

China accounts for about 40% of the world's new car market and California sells roughly half the total number of light vehicle sold in the entire US. Representatives from California recently met with their Chinese counterparts to discuss how they can cooperate in accelerating the deployment of zero-emission cars, trucks and buses.

The Chinese Youxia X is one of the more
elegant electric cars being built in China.
With these two markets being so large and important to the world's car manufacturers it goes without saying that manufacturers will build suitable vehicles that comply with the regulatory demands of these regions. In other words California and China are going to force the auto industry to go electric and the rest of the world will be obliged to follow suit.

The South African car manufacturing industry and government should be paying close attention to this and take it upon themselves to roll-out adequate charging infrastructure before the inevitable mass arrival on our roads of electric vehicles. Obviously it's not going to happen overnight but at least they can start putting charging points along major routes and incentivising places such as shopping mall's restaurants and hotels to put in destination chargers so electric vehicle owners can charge up their cars while visiting such establishments.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mpumalanga holds Electric Car Race Competition

Mpumalanga holds Electric Car Race Competition
Science learners from schools in and around Mpumalanga have constructed battery and solar operated vehicles to encourage them to venture into car manufacturing in the future. 27 teams took part in a race where the fastest car runs at 30 kilometers per hour to test the endurance of their vehicles. Organisers of the Electric Car Race Competition aim to inspire learners to study Maths and Science.

Here is what’s holding electric cars back in South Africa

Here is what’s holding electric cars back in South Africa
A rather poorly researched negatively biased article full of electric vehicle misconceptions from Business Tech. It seems they're more concerned with the potential drop in the demand for platinum as less ICE vehicles get produced and there is less need for platinum for catalytic converters for them. Below I try and counter their arguments.

  • Time to fill up/charge: It takes say 10 minutes to fill up with petrol and 5 hours for a EV. This means that petrol is 30 times more time efficient.This is simply not true. A Tesla Supercharger station will charge a Tesla Model S battery up to 50% in 20 minutes or 40 minutes to 80%. 50% charge in a Tesla should give you a 200km range. Tesla isn't yet available in South Africa but should be here within a year or two with the Model 3 and at the same time they will no doubt start to roll-out charging infrastructure as they have in the other markets they are active in. What the author means about petrol being 30 times more efficient, I don't know?
  • Range on full tank/charge: Petrol is ~1.5 times more efficient.Hmmmm... once again difficult to fully understand what point the writer is trying to put across. Electric vehicle ranges vary from 135km per charge for a Nissan Leaf to over 500km for the top of the Range Tesla Model S. Obviously someone who busy a Nissan Leaf is someone who doesn't plan doing many journeys over 135km and who's daily motoring will generally be under that mark. If you are never going to do more mileage in a day than the maximum range of your electric vehicle then you have nothing to worry about. Do whatever driving you need to do for the day, come home at night, plug your EV into the mains electricity and then in the morning it's ready to go again.
  • Price: A more affordable electric car has a range of 100 km and takes around 8 hours to fully charge at home, and even these cars are still expensive when compared to similar petrol engines. Tesla’s are 50% more expensive than similar petrol cars.Most people sleep for about 8 hours a night so of course it makes the most sense to charge your electric vehicle at the same time. Admittedly some current electric vehicles such as the two available in South Africa, the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 do have ranges on 135km and 160km respectively on a single charge. This is probably more than enough range for 95% of the populations motoring needs. However more and more electric vehicles are coming out with ranges of 300km plus. These include the already released Chevy Bolt & Tesla Model S/X, the upcoming Tesla Model 3 and the second generation Nissan Leaf. Prices of electric vehicles are more than a comparative fossil fuel powered one but the initial extra expense will be more than made up for by saving in fuel costs after a few years. Prices of electric cars are coming down all the time and at the same time their ranges are increasing. The Tesla Model 3 should be around the same price as a BMW 3 series of Mercedes C class, so not 50% more expensive.
  • Green: In countries like South Africa (and India, Australia, China etc), where coal is the main source of fuel for power generation, the carbon footprint is roughly equal. The carbon footprint of an electric car In South Africa is five times that of an electric car in Sweden.
    Even if the carbon footprint is roughly equal, it's still better to have electric vehicles than fossil fuel powered vehicles. Besides everything else, power stations don't blow their exhaust gases straight into the faces of pedestrians and other road users, the don't create air and noise pollution in the middle of cities where most people are. At least you'd be able to walk down the side of a busy road without having to shout to make yourself heard over the noise of petrol and diesel engines and without having to breath in exhaust fumes. As electricity gets greener as solar and wind get cheaper then the carbon footprint from all EV's will also drop.
  • Heading off the beaten track (driving in the bush) is out of the question.Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana and Londolozi Game Reserve are already using electric vehicles for game drives.
  • Towing a trailer or a caravan severely restricts range.
    Just like it does with a petrol or diesel vehicle.
  • Back-yard DIY maintenance and servicing is off the table.This has to be the most nonsensical and ignorant argument of them all. An electric vehicle literally needs little or no regular maintenance, apart from topping up the window washer fluid and rotating/replacing the tyres. Compare this to modern ICE vehicles which are so complex nowadays, you have  to get them serviced by the official agents.
  • The anticipated advancements in technology is perversely a negative against buying an electric car today. There are clearly going to be great advances in EV technology in the years and decades to come. However, this will make the (expensive) car that you buy today quickly obsolete. The likelihood is that as with any technological advance, EV’s may become a more affordable alternative much later in its evolution.Quite the opposite is true. If you buy a Tesla for instance, it gets upgrades downloaded via the internet. A good example of this is the Tesla Autopilot self driving system. Most Teslas have the hardware already installed and as the Autopilot software improves, Tesla will automatically update your vehicle. If you were to buy a Tesla today, in a couple of years you'd probably have the option of the same vehicle being able to drive fully autonomously.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New car battery promises instant recharging

New car battery promises instant recharging
Exciting news in an article from Mail & Guardian. The Ifbattery has been developed by a group of researchers at Purdue University in the United States.

Unlike conventional batteries which need to be recharged, and even the quickest car chargers take at least 20 minutes to get a meaningful charge, recharging of the Ifbattery is done by first emptying the batteries used fluid contents and then refilling via a pump with freshly charged fluid.

The Ifbattery uses a mixture of water, ethanol, aluminium and zinc to cause a chemical reaction. The article says that existing petrol pumps could be retrofitted to refill batteries instead of petrol and diesel tanks. The emptied contents of the flat battery could also be recharged to be used again.

If this technology comes to fruition it would mean that recharging an electric car would take no longer than filling up with petrol. Unlike fossil fuels though, the chemical mixture being used will be fully recyclable and will be recharged and used to fill another battery. It appears to have all the benefits of an electric vehicle with all the benefits of an ICE vehicle. It's also something that gives the oil companies an incentive to get behind electric vehicles. They will still be able to keep their chains of filling stations and instead of pumping gas they'll be pumping battery fluid. Everyone appears to be a winner.

This technology would really be a benefit to countries like South Africa where major cities are far apart and at the moment there are very few charging points and as far as I know there are no charging stations on the major intercity routes.

The group of researchers working on this revolutionary battery at the moment only amounts to three people. They are looking for funding to further their research. Hopefully this won't be the last we hear of the Ifbattery.