In the future we will drive to the store to buy electricity
by NICK ROSEN on NOVEMBER 18, 2012 - 2 Comments in ENERGY

“A hundred miles in one charge” – further than today’s Volt

The Chevy Volt is showing the way forward for some off-grid families. Where one of the household commutes to work, they might charge their hybrid/electric car during the day, and then drive home with a full battery ready to power the home.

But as this ad from the early 1900s reminds us, it s actually a case of Back to the future — the earliest electric cars were pioneered a century ago and battery technology has scarcely advanced since then. GM say a Chevy battery can power a households for just TWO hours (see below). In fact it could power a household for up to a day with intelligent use of energy and a small solar panel to top it up.

The battery is the most expensive part of an electric vehicle, and once an “EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used,” said Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management.

“This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled” Valencia said.

General Motors and ABB showed the next stage in battery reuse, the repackaging of five used Chevrolet Volt batteries into a modular unit capable of providing two hours of electricity needed by three to five average American homes.

The uninterruptable power supply and grid power balancing system was demonstrated during GM’s Electrification Experience. The prototype unit provided 25 kW of power and 50 kWh of energy to power all the support lighting and audiovisual equipment in an “off-grid” structure.

GM and ABB last year demonstrated how a Chevrolet Volt battery pack could be used to collect energy and feed it back to the grid and deliver supplemental power to homes or businesses.

During a recent demonstration, the energy storage system was run in a “remote power back-up” mode where 100 percent of the power for the facility came from Volt batteries through ABB’s Energy Storage Inverter system.

A similar application could one day be used to power a group of homes or small commercial buildings during a power outage, allow for storage of power during inexpensive periods for use during expensive peak demand, or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation, ABB said.

These functions, along with frequency regulation on electric distribution systems, could someday be used by utilities to reduce cost to customers and improve the quality of power delivery, the company said.

- “We showed today how fast this research concept is turning into reality,” said Allen Burchett, ABB’s senior vice president for Business Development in North America.

He claims falsely: “The ABB-GM Volt battery system is the world’s first use of car batteries as possible back-up power for homes and other commercial uses.” In fact car batteries have been used for this purposes since, well, the invention of car batteries.
” We will be installing it on the grid soon to complete the technical evaluation, and this will tell us all what smart grid applications are possible, like back-up power, reducing energy cost, strengthening utilities’ distribution systems and storing surplus renewable energy.”

But under the bold talk the real truth is that we are still waiting for the great leap forward in battery technology. Battery life is longer but the amount of energy that can be stored per dollar spent, or per pound of weight has advanced hardly at all in a hundred years.

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2 comments

1 Bob Wallace { 11.18.12 at 1:27 pm }

“the earliest electric cars were pioneered a century ago and battery technology has scarcely advanced since then”

That’s incorrect. Lithium-ion and NiMH batteries are large steps past the lead acid batteries of a century back.

If batteries progressed no further (quite unlikely) we could do at least 80% of our driving with electricity. One hundred mile range EVs with <20 minute rapid recharging should be fine for about half of all drivers. The other half could use PHEVs and do 75%+ of their driving on electricity.

(Drive an EV 98% of the time. Rent a PHEV for the other 2%.)

We don't need to wait. We need to purchase EVs and PHEVs in larger numbers so that economy of scale brings down battery price.

New battery technology is progressing. Batteries will almost certainly get better. But we have perfectly usable electric vehicles right now. We can change our buying practices and eliminate the gasmobile.

Would it be great had we made more progress? Sure.

Have we made progress? Sure.

2 John { 11.19.12 at 9:12 am }

First of all as incorrectly stated at the bottom of the picture. The Chevy Volt does not do anywhere near 100 miles per charge but only a paltry 40 miles. Secondly:
How about an EV that rarely requires outlet charging? The market is huge. People Talk About the Electric Car Future; Did you know:
In 1996 in the NESEA American Tour de Sol, the Solectria Sunrise got 375 miles per charge, Ford’s Ecostar got 227 miles per charge, GM’s EV-1 got 125 miles per charge. Nearly 20 years later they’ve actually regressed!?! ! Why? What industry has an interest adverse to the electric car industry and try to stop it? It would be easy to make an EV (electric vehicle) that is: Coated with Thin-Film PV so it is always trickle charging the batteries and ultracapacitors, anytime any light, direct or indirect, is present, (Aleo Solar thinfilm PV, developed by Dr. Vivian Alberts of Univ. of Johannisberg S.A., works equally well off of indirect light because it operates off of infrared, it pays back for itself in 2-3 years and lasts 17 years (for 15 years of free power) and the active elements are fully recoverable recyclable for re-use.) This EV would also have Generators placed in certain wheels so that according to the generators configuration either or both, the batteries or the ultracapacitors are charged anytime the wheels move, (the free moving wheels containing generators (high efficiency DC permanent magnet dynamo generator) are rolling along with the large already moving mass of the vehicle propelled as a means of transport); (UQM is a leader in high efficient motors and generators); Regenerative Braking (AC magnetic field induced braking low efficiency generator) would also recapture energy and also feed electricity back into the onboard recharging system; The Solectria Sunrise’s power saving system and light weight ideas could be approximated or 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 in Phoenix Motorcars and Lightening vehicles, charge in 10 minutes, operate in extreme temperatures, do not overheat and last over 15,000 recharges. This EV would rarely need recharging by an outlet because it is almost always trickle recharging through these other means, especially the PV. Economically: Think of the world-wide market for such a vehicle replacing most existing vehicles 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. Think of all the jobs it would create in making all these vehicles. Even conversion companies would start up more jobs.
I wish the President, on our behalf, as we are the shareholders due to the bailout and he is our elected Representative order GM to make a prototype immediately, say within the next 60 days. They could. Or perhaps he could put out a request to several companies or open it up to come up with such a model ASAP.

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