Tag Archives: electric vehicles

Mar. 28, 2012 San Francisco Electric Vehicles

On March 28, 2012 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco there was a clean tech event. Green Lite Motors displayed a three-wheeled motorcycle surrounded by a canvas frame that gets one hundred miles to the gallon with a range of 250 miles. While they say you can drive it on freeway express lane, you might want more protection. For that, I checked out Ford’s electric Focus. It costs around forty thousand dollars and has range of eighty miles. You can charge it on ordinary house current in eight hours.

ElectronVault, SunPods and SunPower were also there displaying portable solar panels.

Copyright 2012 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 8, 2011 WCA Smart Grid Electric Cars

On Thursday September 8, 2011 at the Palo Alto Research Center the WCA Smart Grid SIG presented “Electric Vehicles in the Smart Grid.” Former US Secretary of State George Shultz addressed the national security implications of relying on foreign oil, and the need for technological innovation in electric vehicles. John Addison of Clean Fleet moderated panelists Rob Bearman of Better Place, Richard Lowenthal of Coulomb Technologies, Trae Vassallo of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Saul Zambrano of PG&E.

The growth will significantly impact existing infrastructure. Electric vehicles use twice as much energy as the average home per year. The smart grid’s data network makes managing the increasing power demand for electric vehicles possible. It is possible to use your smartphone to monitor, manage and pay for charging vehicles. Outside in the parking lot were two of the latest electric vehicles, a Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 22, 2011 SDF Electric Cars

On March 22, 2011 in San Francisco at Nixon Peabody, SDForum held a Clean Tech Breakfast on “Electric Vehicles – What’s Under the Hood?” Robert Ebe of Nixon Peabody moderated panelists Matt Boyle of Sevcon, Rob Ferber of ElectronVault, Gerd Goette of Siemens, Mark Platshon of VantagePoint and Ryan Popple of Kleiner Perkins (KPCB).

Under the hood, electric vehicles can be simpler than internal combustion engines. Their basic components are motors,  controllers (inverters), gauges, steering, DC converters, batteries, chargers, and accelerators.

The principles and design of the electric motor were worked out over a hundred and fifty years ago. They are ninety percent efficient and well understood. Batteries, on the other hand, tend to lose their energy density over time. Their efficiencies continue to improve with better materials and software but only with high oil prices are they competitive. Plan for evolution rather than revolution. If you can design your vehicle to be agnostic about what kind of battery it uses, it can extend its lifetime flexibility.

As fuel prices rise in America, electric cars like the Tesla, Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf are becoming available. But the most popular electric vehicle in China is not a car but a scooter. People in developing countries do not have to worry as much about older, existing, competing, subsidized legacy infrastructure. The new large cities cannot support the old ways. People just start buying small electric vehicles and are gradually creating a transportation infrastructure around it. Regardless of what other resources a country may have, any country that can generate electricity can build and drive a fleet of electric vehicles. Opportunities for investment and jobs are not only in the building of batteries but recycling them. Technology developed in the West will be scaled for manufacturing in the East and will create a global infrastructure of mass marketed vehicles.

In the West, the question is whether they will be adopted first by consumers or as fleet vehicles. Some believe that government incentives will drive purchasing decisions. Investors should not depend on constantly changing government policies. Your business model should be based on real market costs and demand.

New technology creates new headaches. One concern is about safety for first responders to an accident. How do you extract a person from a vehicle with a damaged and possibly ungrounded power supply? Another caveat is compressed natural gas (CNG). If it becomes cheaper than oil, it may be adapted for large trucks. The details will have to be worked out.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.