The Truth About Cars » range anxiety The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:30:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » range anxiety Renault, LG Chem Sign MOU To Develop Long-Range Battery Technology Wed, 28 May 2014 11:00:52 +0000 Renault LG Signing Ceremony

With most EVs getting around 100 miles on a single charge from their battery packs, such vehicles are more suited for the downtown core than a trip to the mountains. However, Renault and LG Chem are looking toward boosting range toward Tesla-like levels, together.

Autoblog Green reports Renault’s CCO Thierry Bolloré and LG Chem’s battery chief Kwon Young-soo signed a memorandum of understanding to develop battery range technology through the use of the latter company’s high-energy-density batteries. LG makes the batteries for EVs and PHEVs, including the Chevrolet Volt, and will supply packs to 20 automakers in 2015, double the business it does currently.

Meanwhile, Renault may use the results of its joint-venture with LG Chem to improve the range — and therefore, potential sales — of its Twingo and other Z.E. EVs. The Twingo was recently shelved in part to less-than-expected demand for the city car, with no word on when the EV will go back on sale.

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AAA: Extreme Temps Hurt EV Range Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:06:03 +0000 550x366xIMG_6417-550x366.jpg.pagespeed.ic.H6TYJJxGdw

Yes, we know water is wet too, but this study from the AAA provides some interesting findings regarding how extreme temperatures affect the driving range of electric vehicles.

Apparently, the extreme temperature problem cuts both ways

Vehicles were tested for city driving to mimic stop-and-go traffic, and to better compare with EPA ratings listed on the window sticker. The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75°F, but dropped 57 percent to 43 miles when the temperature was held steady at 20°F. Warm temperatures were less stressful on battery range, but still delivered a lower average of 69 miles per full charge at 95°F. 

AAA performed testing between December 2013 and January 2014. Each vehicle completed a driving cycle for moderate, hot and cold climates following standard EPA-DOE test procedures. The vehicles were fully charged and then “driven” on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully exhausted.

Anyone who has spent time in Texas in the summer knows that high temperatures are sufficient to render your phone too hot to use, and the cold is notoriously harsh on battery life for any electronic device, let alone an electric car. But how about the use of wipers, HVAC systems and other essentials for winter (and well, summer) driving, all of which requires battery power when used in an EV.

In temperate climates like Southern California, EVs will always be a viable, 365-day proposition. In cold countries like Norway, where driving distances are short, fuel is astronomically expense and taxes are high for gasoline and diesel cars, EVs can make sense. But given the drops in range when the temperatures hit either end of the scale, it’s tough to see how they can become a viable, mass-market proposition in the near future for much of the United States and Canada.

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What if Electric Vehicles Had More! Range! Than! Gas! Powered! Ones! (?) Wed, 10 Apr 2013 22:12:40 +0000

So-called “range anxiety” is the biggest — perhaps the only — issue being discussed in the electric-vehicle debate nowadays. Whether it’s a Leaf crapping out at the sixty-mile mark or a Tesla Model S driving in circles around a parking lot to drain the battery for theatrical purposes, electric cars and range potential are linked in the minds of most potential buyers by a true Gordian knot.

If the people at Phinergy are correct, that knot can be sliced by a sword constructed from charged aluminum plates — and the resulting rewards would be spectacular, to say the least.

Gizmag reports on a new electric vehicle concept from Israel’s Phinergy:

“The company’s battery currently consists of 50 aluminum plates, each providing energy for around 20 miles (32 km) of driving. This adds up to a total potential range of 1,000 miles (1,609 km), with stops required only every couple of hundred miles to refill the system with water…

Phinergy claims to have solved the CO2-related premature failure problems seen in other metal-air battery technologies by developing an air electrode with a silver-based catalyst and structure that lets oxygen enter the cell, but blocks out CO2. The result is an air electrode that Phinergy says has an operational lifespan of thousands of hours.

The company says the aluminum plate anodes in its aluminum-air battery have an energy density of 8 kWh/kg, but the batteries are not rechargeable. Once the energy is expended, the plates, which add up to around 55 pounds (25 kg) per battery, need to be replaced. However, the company points out that aluminum is easily recyclable and that swapping the battery out for a fresh one is quicker than recharging.”

Now I’d like to talk about something my mother once said to me. I was sitting in front of our family’s console TV when an advertisement for the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon Miser came on. “50 MPG!” it said in big letters. I was perhaps ten years old at the time.

“If that’s true, it’s incredible,” I opined. My mother looked up from her copy of Songs Of Innocence And Experience or whatever the hell she was reading to bark at me.

“The proper use of the word ‘incredible’ is, literally, in-credible, which is to say, unbelievable, so when you say what you have just said you must mean if it is true, you are too much of a fool to believe the truth.” How I treasure the memory of all the little interactions like that we had every time I forget to visit her in the home*. If you’re reading this, Mom, allow me to say that

if the Phinergy claims are true, they are incredible!

It’s also fair to say that the plates would be incredibly expensive. This isn’t a Better-Place-style swap-out plan. Rather, the plates serve as a known opportunity cost for extended range.
They could be combined with a traditional electric battery arrangement to produce a car that got, say, 300 miles on a charge — but if you needed more, you could just use the plates. There would be a cost to doing so, but it would presumably be less than the cost you would incur by not using the plates.

The practical Israelis probably haven’t considered it, but there would be another aspect to the plate battery that would appeal to Americans — the sheer conspicuous consumption of using the plates whenever you felt like it. Imagine, if you will, the rap songs of the near future:

I’m on a 24 hour
Aluminum diet
Swappin’ plates cross-country
I encourage you to try it
Im probably just saying that cause I don’t have to buy it
Phinergy supply it, Boy I’m on that fly shit
Don’t try to charge me up, I like runnin’ on E
Swappin out these five-pound plates loike constantly


Hit the Phinergy store and later get served
Crank the A/C with no reservations
Them people passin’ so we smash on em’
Bindin out we keep the plates on deck
Teslas and Leafs with extra charge on deck
Chevy Volt is America’s conflict diamonds
Detroit Electric version of the Lotus Spyder

And so on. Kim Kardashian could be seen ostentatiously leaving the plug for her C-Max Energi or whatever dangling unconnected from her upstairs window before leaving for the morning with a fresh aluminum-plate battery. I’ve forgotten to include the Cadillac ELR in this fantasy, so here goes: Motor Trend will get a free one stacked to the ceiling with batteries to deplete.

Naturally, the most important modern question about batteries — what makes them explode? — has yet to be answered by the Phinergy folks. Still, it’s exciting to consider that the elimination of range anxiety could electrify nearly the entire American fleet, leaving plenty of fuel to run my Porsche 993 in perpetuity. Gets you all charged up, really.

* The phrase “the home” refers to her home. I haven’t found a facility that will take her, to be honest.

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The Truth About Battery Life Wed, 20 Feb 2013 21:07:32 +0000

The drama circling around the New York Times test of the Tesla Model S doesn’t surprise me one bit. Why? Because I understand, perhaps at a deeper level than most of the motoring press, how batteries work. Perhaps that has to do with growing up in a family of engineers and scientists, but battery technology has always interested me. So when people from Phoenix came to me crying in their soup about their LEAFs in the heat and friends started wagging fingers at Tesla and the New York Times, I figured it was time for a battery reality check.

What’s the problem (this time)?

Consumer Reports says their Tesla’s power gauge dropped to “zero” at the 173-mile mark on a 176-mile trip. At the beginning of the trip the range indicator said 240 miles while the “projected range” indicator which takes driving style into account said 188 miles. On first glance this sounds like some horrific range issue. “OMG, the Model S missed its 240 mile range by 64 miles.” But did it?


What was the problem last time?

If you didn’t know about the Tesla / New York Times punch up, then click here for the article that started it all. (And a picture of a Tesla on a flatbed.) Basically John Broder took a Tesla out on the road for a long road trip and ran out of juice. Of course he also didn’t charge the battery fully at every opportunity he had, but that’s beside the point for the moment.

About those journalists

Our readers are no doubt familiar with Jack Baruth’s assertion that the vast majority of auto journalists are less than professional drivers. The same applies in this case, the majority of journalists know rather little about EVs, how they work, what’s going on in the battery pack and why it matters. Much like a novice on the track, a novice in an EV can result in unpredictable results.

How batteries work

Batteries are a means of storing electricity chemically. The fact that we’re talking about a chemical reaction is absolutely vital to keep in mind when anyone starts talking about range, battery degradation, heat, cold, charging, etc.

All batteries have three basic components: a cathode, an anode and an electrolyte between the two. Depending on what materials are used for each of these three components battery life, cost and power density will vary. At the low-end of the scale we have the zinc-potato-copper battery from school and at the high-end of consumer electronics we have the lithium iron phosphate-dimethyl carbonate-graphite battery known as the Lithium-ion battery, or the battery that powers modern cell phones, laptops, electric cars and is even used in the new Boeing 787. (Yea, the one getting the bad press.)

Every battery chemistry has its advantages and disadvantages. Lead-acid batteries (the one that starts your car) are heavy, cheap and can handle the high current draw of starter motors. Ni-Cad batteries that were popular in my child hood were relatively easy to manufacture and lower cost than other alternatives. Nickel-metal hydride batteries have been around for some time and thanks to their stability and energy density have been used in hybrid vehicles since the Prius and Insight. Lithium based batteries are the current star in the consumer electronics world because their power density and ability to charge rapidly are excellent for smartphones, tablets and laptops. The problem is Lithium batteries can be more “temperamental” than some of the older chemistries. If you want to know all there is to know about Lithium-ion batteries, click on over to

What does this have to do with the cold?

Because batteries store energy chemically, a chemical reaction has to occur when charging and when discharging. When batteries get cold, the internal resistance of the battery increases which decreases the amount of energy that you can get out of the pack. You can test this at home yourself if you have a camera flash at home. Drop the batteries into the freezer, put them in the flash and see how long it takes to recharge the flash. What does this mean in a car? Well, you are charging outside and it’s near freezing, then (A) you won’t be able to completely charge a battery and (B) after charging if the battery cools off to ambient you won’t be able to use a portion of those electrons you just stuffed in the battery. Think about your 12V car battery, remember that cranking amps vs cold cranking amps rating? Same thing.

To fix these problems many EVs (like the Model S) heat the battery to try to keep it at an optimum temperature. Doing so ensures that you can use the entire capacity for charging and discharging, but it of course consumes power, and the colder it is, the more power it takes to heat the battery. In hot weather the system cools the battery to preserve the lifetime of the battery chemistry.

What are the factors that decrease battery life?

There are many factors involved, but put simply, having your battery at a very low state of charge or a very high state of charge has a negative impact on battery life. The rate at which you take the battery from charged to discharged or discharged to charged also has an impact. While cold temperatures may keep you from getting the most out of your battery, it usually doesn’t impact longevity. Heat on the other hand has a severe impact on battery life and it gets worse the higher the state of charge.

Back to Consumer Reports

Without access to Elon’s creepy data logs of the CR test vehicle, I have two suggestions to what was going on. First off, the car was fairly close to reality with the projected range of 188 miles, but this needs explanation and education. The car was saying that if you drive gently the maximum range is 240.  Drive it like you’ve been driving it,  expect 188. Now we insert the cold weather into the mix. I assume he was heating the cabin on a chilly day and driving like normal. What wasn’t obvious is that the Model S may very well have also had the battery heater turned on, if so, there’s your 12 miles. Even if that wasn’t the case, any gasoline car that gets the range estimate within 7% scores in my book.

What about those LEAFs in Phoenix?

A while back I got a frantic call from a friend in the Phoenix area. “My LEAF’s batteries are dead!” So for the next 15 minutes he poured his heart out about the problem. Towards the end the usual comments from a person dealing with “automotive loss” came out “Nissan needs to give me a new battery.” After all his woes had been aired he asked me what I thought. I paused for a moment and said (as nicely as possible) “I’m not sure what your problem is. What you are describing to me is normal battery wear and tear.”

You see, unlike the Model S, the LEAF does not have an active cooling system for the battery pack. (This was done to save money and with the LEAF now dropping to $28,800 (less than half the Model S), you get what you pay for.) The lack of active cooling means that in the hot Arizona desert, parked in the sun at work or at the mall your battery is slowly dying. Why? It’s all back to the chemistry again. The optimum service life of Lithium-ion batteries is achieved when the cell is a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking in the sun for 8 hours a day while you’re at the office the inside of the car can easily go over 170 degrees when it’s 115 outside. Since he had to charge his car at the office in order to get back home, he was compounding the problem since batteries get hot as they charge. As the battery aged because of the long commute he started to drop by the local DC quick charge station. This made the battery age even faster because now the battery is hot and you are rapidly going from one state of charge to the other. Net result: 20% loss in capacity over 2 years and 33,000 miles. Case closed.

What about my Prius? (or other hybrids)

Right now the Prius, and most older hybrids like the Escape Hybrid and the first generation Fusion Hybrid use Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. This chemistry is more stable but less power dense than lithium based batteries. In addition remember what I said about battery life? State of charge and charge/discharge rates are large factors. Hybrids extend their battery life deliberately by never fully charging nor fully discharging their batteries. In fact most non-plug-in hybrids use 60-70% of the rated capacity in the battery. Since they don’t depend on the battery for 100% of the propulsion like an EV does, charge and discharge rates are lower which also extends battery life. And lastly, it’s less obvious when your hybrid’s battery does age because it’s not your only source of propulsion. As hybrids move to lithium batteries they are retaining these life extending measures, but even still they may or may not have the same life span as the NiMH batteries, only time will tell. In the plug-in world, only GM seems to be operating in a cautious fashion by only using about 80% of the Volt and ELR’s battery pack vs nearly 95% of the capacity in Ford and Toyota models.

Who’s right and who’s wrong here? Who is to blame?

Everyone. The EV buyer who didn’t bother to do his homework, the dealer who didn’t help set expectations, and the manufacturer who promised all would be well. My inclination however is to place the burden on the EV buyer. If you’re going to buy a car of any description, you need to do your homework. You don’t buy a Mazda Miata and then get upset when you bend the frame trying to tow your 5th wheel. Likewise, don’t expect any EV to have some magical battery that runs on butterfly-farts and lasts 250,000 miles, it just won’t happen. Yet.


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The EV Expectation Gap Sun, 22 May 2011 16:16:04 +0000

Though an global Accenture study [via Green Car Congress] found that up to 68% of respondents would consider a plug-in electric vehicle for their next purchase, the issue of range continues to be the great unknown. And unfortunately for all the models and predictions of future EV sales, the issue of range points to some severely irrational consumer behavior. Namely, there’s a giant disconnect (nearly ten-fold in fact) between the actual number of kilometers driven each day and the range expectations for future EV purchases. Meanwhile, 62% of respondents rejected battery swapping, the most credible current solution for range anxiety, for reasons that are not immediately clear. In short, Energy Secretary Chu had beeter be right when he says EV range will triple and costs will be reduced over the next six years… otherwise, EVs will die a quick death at the hand of consumers’ outsized range expectations.

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Review: 2011 Nissan Leaf: Day One Tue, 17 May 2011 19:46:10 +0000

When I was a kid I was told that by the time I was 30 we would all be piloting nuclear powered flying cars. Reality, of course, has dictated that gasoline is still the most cost effective way of delivering what the average person considers a “normal driving experience.” In an attempt to change not just how we “fuel” a car, but the very way a car is integrated into our lives, Nissan has released the first volume produced electric car in North America. Yea, yea I know about the GM EV1, Toyota Rav4 EV and the Ford experiments, but let’s be real, Nissan has already sold more Leafs (Nissan tells me the plural is not Leaves) in the first few tsunami-effected months of this year than GM sold during the two years of EV1 production. How did they do it? We borrowed a white Leaf for just under three days to find out why 20,000 have already pre-ordered one of these pure-electric cars.

The first thing you need to learn about an electric car is the term “range anxiety.”  First used to describe the 60-mile optimistic range of the EV1, it is something of a real concern with any vehicle that takes several hours to “refuel.” Before badgering Nissan ad nauseam to test the Leaf, my own research indicated that the 90-120 mile range should be sufficient for my 53-mile one-way commute assuming I was able to charge the car at both ends.

When the Leaf was delivered to me bright and early Tuesday morning, I have to admit that range anxiety was already setting in. I had prepared that morning by bringing with me two 50-foot and one 100-foot extension cords just in case (never mind that the car was only about 40 feet from an electrical outlet.) I spent my evening the day before researching charging stations only to find very few on my long trek home. I had already been warned that since a “portable” 240-volt charging station is not officially available (although plenty of forum guys have hacked one together successfully, only the 120V “Emergency” trickle charging cord is provided to the press. Knowing that using this cable would result in long charge times, I plugged the car in the second it arrived.

Of course since I work in an industrial area built in the 1960s when the only electric cars were either in The Jetsons or on the golf course, street parking is the name of the game. This meant I had to resort to running the cord out my office window, across the lawn, over the sidewalk and into the street to charge my parallel-parked Leaf. The beep indicated something was underway and I waited for something magic to happen (I’m not really sure what I expected). It didn’t. It was just an ordinary car refilling very slowly with its fuel of choice: electrons. Once plugged in –and trying very hard not to think of how many laws I was breaking by having a tripwire across the sidewalk– I took out the iPhone 4 that Nissan loaned us to see how the CarWings app works in person. One quick check revealed a range of 108 miles and a charging time of 3 hours on 120V to full.

Normally I take a press car out for an immediate spin, at least around the block to pair my phone to the Bluetooth, see where the iPod goes, check out any whiz-bang features and generally acquaint myself with the car. The Leaf was different however. My irrational fears made me believe that even opening the door would leave me without enough power to make it home, so I decided to wait until lunchtime to go run an errand at Lowe’s. Running a lunch-time errand has never given me chills before, but my 12-mile round trip to Lowes filled me with “range anxiety” as I could only have imagined.

Trying to calm my racing heart as I accelerated to 65MPH in about four-minutes (saving juice) I decided to explore the interior. The Leaf doesn’t come across as being “built to a price” like some of the interior plastics and hard seats I found in the Chevy Volt during a quick spin in November. Instead, the Leaf can be best described as “built to a weight.” That weight savings explains certain features that you would normally expect in a $35,000 car that are missing in the Leaf such as leather seats, lumbar support, squishy dashboard bits, dual zone climate control, or an up-level bazillion-speaker sound system. Fortunately for my six-foot frame, the driver’s seat is surprisingly comfortable, even sans lumbar support, and my six-foot-five partner was as comfortable as he is in any mid-size sedan on the market.

Back to that short trip; I arrived at Lowe’s only to find the doo-dad I was looking for was no longer stocked. It was at that moment I realized driving an electric car may take some adjustment to my usual routine. In truth however this adjustment could be made in any car to save gas, but in an electric car the charging time makes “calling ahead” all the more important. On my way back I visited my favorite private road for a bit of 0-60 testing during which the Leaf ran to 60 in a recorded and reasonable 10.2 seconds. (So much for those 7-second tumors floating around the web last year.) My desire to run to 60 from a stand-still thrice consumed 10-miles of conservative driving battery. Discouraged,(but thankful I had remembered to bag my lunch) I bypassed the fast-food joint and cruised slowly back to the office to resume my illegal trans-sidewalk charging.


Trip distance: 11.8

Average speed: 32.2

Travel Time: 0:26

Average Miles/kWh: 4.1

Range Left: 88mi

Outside Temperature: 58

After pugging my Leaf in, I was reminded I had to swing by Almaden for a meeting after work on my way home. This trip would put additional strain on my range because it involved a longer distance (15 additional miles) and more time on Santa Clara county expressways where high-speeds are mixed with frequent stoplights, a bad combo for efficiency. Fortunately the Leaf includes a standard navigation system to help limit your battery-draining wrong turns, however it lacks a feature which I would find handy: a mode to direct you the most efficient way rather than fastest or shortest distance.

After an additional three-hour 120V charge, the CarWings app said I had a range of 105 miles so I un-plugged, packed my extension cords and was off. The balmy weather of the San Francisco peninsula gradually gave way to the warmer valley temperatures of San Jose as I drove south. I’ll be the first to admit that I love my air conditioning, but I reminded myself that my trip home involved crossing a 2,000ft mountain pass in the dark, so I simmered quietly inside the Leaf.

Trip distance: 43 miles

Average speed:35.6mph

Travel Time: 1:25

Average miles/kWh: 6.8

Range Left: 59 miles

Temp: 69

After my meeting (and 3:30 minute 120V charge) I once again unplugged, packed my cords, and hopped in the car to head home. As it was now dark I discovered the other concept that was new to me: reduced range when using the headlamps. As we all know, it takes electricity to light a bulb and although the Leaf’s trendy LED lamps are much more efficient than your average halogen, they still took a slight but noticeable hit on estimated mileage.

One of the big benefits of the Leaf as a commuter car is the fact that it has none of the maintenance costs associated with a regular car. There is no engine oil or transmission fluid to change, there are no spark plugs, no air filter, nothing to tune-up or smog check, no muffler to rust. The only maintenances items according to Nissan are the brake pads, but as the Leaf does a large percentage of the braking task with the electric motor to re-charge the batteries, expect those pads to last many years without issue even in mountainous terrain.

Speaking of that terrain, my last trip of the day took me up a fairly steep 2,000ft mountain pass on my way home. The high torque from the electric motor and single-speed transmission make driving the Leaf in hilly terrain easier than the 106HP and 207 lb-ft of torque would seem to indicate. The way the motor in the Leaf delivers power is quite unlike anything you’ve ever driven before, so my recommendation would be to just take those performance numbers with a grain of salt until there are more pure electric vehicles on the market to compare against. With my first day drawing to a close and the Leaf giving me a 48-mile to empty indication, I plugged it in hoping that 8-hours of 120V charging might at least get me past the half-full mark. Good thing I put that electrical outlet next to our driveway.

Trip distance: 25.2 miles

Average speed: 46.2mph

Travel Time: 40 min

Average miles/kWh: 4

Range Left: 48 miles

Temp: 58

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one “tank of gas” for this review.

Checkout the other instalments of our Leaf trilogy:
2011 Nissan Lead: Day Two
2011 Nissan Lead: Day Three

IMG_1040 IMG_1026 IMG_1038 IMG_1034 IMG_1036 IMG_1031 Well look at that... IMG_1028 ]]> 148
Range Anxiety Strikes Mercedes Fuel-Cell Convoy, TTAC Alum Wed, 02 Feb 2011 21:50:09 +0000

Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles (FCVs) are enjoying something of a comeback lately, as everyone from Hyundai and Honda to GM and Daimler are talking about forthcoming production versions of test-fleet FCVs. And with EVs poised to both dominate the short-term green-car game and inevitably disappoint consumers, it’s no surprise that the perennial “fuel of the future” is enjoying a fresh look from automakers. But if high cost and range anxiety are the flies in the EV ointment, the FCV-boosters are finding their hydrogen cars tend to suffer from the same problems. Daimler says

By 2015, we think a fuel cell car will not cost more than a four-cylinder diesel hybrid that meets the Euro 6 emissions standard.

but that by no means guarantees its Mercedes FCV will be truly “affordable” by any reasonable standard, as diesel-electrics are considered one of the most expensive applications of internal combustion power. And then there’s the whole range issue. Yes, FCVs refuel faster than EVs, but even the most ambitious of Hydrogen-boosters, Daimler, are only pushing vehicles with a 250-mile range. Which is why we puzzled a bit over The Globe And Mail‘s assesment that

Three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL models will make [a 125-day] global trek, which will seek to highlight the real-world benefits of fuel cells versus EVs – mainly their much further range

Flipping over to AutoMotorundSport, we find that the irony which completely escaped the G&M is threatening to overwhelm Daimler’s entire demonstration. And, as is only natural when things like this occur, there’s a bizarre TTAC connection…

So, I’m reading the AMundS write-up on the leg of the F-Cell world tour from Stuttgart to Reims, France, and both German writers start stuck in the F-Cell’s none-to-commodious back seat. Up front, two Americans seem to be trying to set a new speed record, as “Michael” of “Auto Blog” (presumabely Michael Harley of Autoblog) “stared, transfixed, at the speedo and passed the record numbers to his navigator, Jonny.” This “Jonny,” as it turns out, is none other than TTAC Alum and “Auto Trend” scribe Jonny Lieberman, who (literally) had a front-seat ticket for Daimler’s fuel-cell fiasco.

Apparently, even after reaching the F-Cell’s electronically-limited 178 KPH VMax, “The man from ‘Auto Blog’” did not want to give up “a single meter of “Unlimited German Autobahn” (NB: capitalization is a sign of German humor). According to the backseat Germans, the ride flew by thanks to both the velocity and the “extensive ravings” about previous trips to Germany with wives and Porsches.

The pace was only interrupted when a cell phone rang, and “Mission Control” asked the four journos to report when they’d consumed a quarter and half of their hydrogen tank. “Houston, we have a problem,” came the reply from inside the F-Cell, “our tank is already half-empty.”  The journalists are told not to exceed 100 KPH for the rest of the trip, and (counter-inuitively) “Michael” moved over to let least-likely hypermiler in recent memory, Mr Jonny Lieberman, behind the wheel.

The narrative continues:

The crossing of the Rhine has echoes of Apollo 13. “I have turned off all systems” says Mike… The pace now rests at 80 KPH. It doesn’t help. With almost 200 grams of hydrogen after 227 kilometers, the engine is turned off. “How much is that converted?” asks Mike. “Less than a Quarter-Pounder” reckons Jonny.

Inevitable reference here. Professional restraint here.

American stereotype-mongery aside, the real lesson here is that the first two F-Cell vehicles on the world tour didn’t even make it to the first refueling station, a temporary operation that was set up by the several internal-combustion-powered trucks that follow the world tour. Instead, both had to ride in the back of ICE-powered trucks to get to the fueling station, which itself was set up by trucks. Needless to say, part of Daimler’s goal with the Tour is to highlight the need for hydrogen refueling stations… but with enough infrastructure investment, EVs could do everything the F-Cell can. Absent a convincing advantage in range, the head-start in electrical infrastructure (as well as other efficiency considerations) seems to make EVs more practical as a wide-scale zero-emissions solution than FCVs… and the F-Cell World Tour doesn’t seem likely to change that perception. Especially if they keep letting lead-footed American writers do the driving.

Surf over to AMundS for more photos and German-language coverage of the F-Cell world tour

Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Wasserstoff-Tankstelle-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-5584ce45-447799 Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Markus-Stier-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-6c1d2147-447814 Fool cell me once... Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Start-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-1c23cbf6-447809 Mercedes-Benz-F-Cell-World-Drive-Mercedes-B-Klasse-F-Cell-Start-f900x600-F4F4F2-C-2b3d4013-447808 ]]> 36
EVs: Houston, We’ve Solved The Problem Sat, 20 Nov 2010 13:17:25 +0000

The first time I came to Houston, TX, was  in 1986. The “reverse oil crisis” had brought the price of crude below $10, and Houston was a ghost town. In nearby Port Arthur, unused oil rigs piled up at the shore, and grass grew on downtown Procter Street. Now, Houston, home of the Petroleum Club (and some clubs the greater Baruth family would fancy), could become the model city for electric vehicles. According to plan, nobody will be farther away from a charging station than five miles, and you can charge up as much as your EV can eat for a flat monthly fee.

The system is called evGo. It’s a subscription. A flat fee between $49 to $89 a month will be added to your utility bill. It includes a 220-volt “Level 2″ home-charging station , which can charge a typical EV in six to eight hours. In shopping centers, supermarkets and business districts throughout Houston will be between 50 and 150 public charging stations. Some will be hefty Level 3 DC quick-chargers, which can fill your battery in 25 minutes. For subscribers with the right plan, unlimited fill-ups at home and at the public charging stations are included in the flat fee subscription.

There are three plans.

  • The $49  plan gets you an installed charger at home. You pay for the electricity.
  • The $79 plan gets you the charger and unlimited fill-ups at public stations. Charging at home will raise your electric bill.
  • The $89 plan adds unlimited charging at home to all of the above.

(Guess which plan most will take ..) Oh, there is a three year service commitment. Still, at $3,204 spread over three years, it’s not a bad deal. A home charger alone would set you back $1,500 – uninstalled. Unless you are fast and get the free DOE chargers.

Behind the system is NRG, the second-largest utility in Texas, joined by startups such as Coulomb Technologies and Ecotality.

Some people are already against the concept. None of them oilmen. Paul Scott, of the advocacy group Plug In America, likes the basic idea, but is against the flat fee. He’s worried that people charge up whenever they want, instead of waiting until it’s dark, when utilities have excess capacity. They should not worry. Flat fee pricing has a tendency towards getting throttled once enough subscribers are on board.

The system, basically a cellphone flat fee plan on wheels, will take the bite out of high charger costs, range anxiety, and worries about a high electric bill. It is the first system that may pave a way to an electric future. In Houston. Home of the Petroleum Club.

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EV Interest Group Is Worried: Will You Plug In? Fri, 19 Nov 2010 12:20:11 +0000

Did you know that there’s an Electric Drive Transportation Association? It’s a group that wants you to ditch your ICE-powered car and run on battery instead. Their member list is huge. Just about every important automaker is on it. Utility companies  from Austin Energy all the way to the Tennessee Valley Authority are members. Battery manufacturers, component suppliers, infrastructure developers are members. The City of New York is. Hertz is. And if things get dicey, the association can call upon their member L-3 Communications-Combat Propulsion Systems to provide fire support.

But as big as they are, they are scared. They are worried that customers may not plug in. Or, as Reuters put it, they are concerned that “the ‘range anxiety’ drivers of plug-in electric cars may suffer is preceded by anxiety over the wisdom of buying one.” And what do they do to allay these fears? Cheaper cars? Longer lasting batteries? Free charging stations?

None of the above. They started a website. tells you how to find an EV, how to charge it, and how much you will save. If I had traded in my (I admit it) 14mpg Ford Expedition for an unspecified EV, the website tells me that I would save $22.22 per fill-up.  Without asking what car I drive now and which one I will drive in my virtual electric future. Now I’m confused. What fill-up? I thought there won’t be any? And they think my fill-up is 14 gals. My Expedition sucked up 28 gals, and much more out of my pocket.

That calculator is suspect.  If they approach the matter in such a lackadaisical manner, then I won’t believe the other stuff either.  Like that “public charging stations are planned in  major metropolitan areas.” I believe that – duh  - “owners of plug-in cars soon get used to driving past the gas station.” But will they feel “good about saving money and the environment?” Maybe.

Range anxiety? Doesn’t exist on the website. But hey, it’s called – so when your battery runs flat, you still can walk. It’s good for you.

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Nissan Leaf Range Scenarios – Anxiety Provoking Or Not? Thu, 21 Oct 2010 18:13:13 +0000

Yes, we know the drill: range will vary with an EV, even more so than with a gas car. Nissan has now set out a number of scenarios to project the range of its Leaf EV. It confirms what we’ve been saying all along: this is not the car to buy if you like driving fast. There’s little doubt that a Baruthian blast could deplete one in some 30 miles or less. On the other hand, if you like driving at a steady 38 mph…

These scenarios (below) are supplied by Nissan, which also tells us that the battery in the Leaf will lose 20 to 30% of its capacity and range after ten years, depending on its usage and charging patterns. Regularly running the battery down more deeply, and charging it at higher speeds (quick-charge) will deteriorate the battery at a higher rate.

The EPA LA4 Test cycle is the obsolete pre-2008 City Cycle, upon which the Leaf’s nominal 100 mile range is based on, has been replaced with a more difficult LA6 City Cycle. Nissan should fess up, and show the results of the current city cycle.

And an average speed of 55 mph for the highway scenario is also low: the EPA’s Highway Cycle has a 60 mph average. And we all know how many of us drive at sixty. EV range melts disproportionately at higher speeds than a conventional car, because an IC engine runs at relatively higher efficiency at higher speeds (not absolute economy), whereas an electric motor’s efficiency is more constant, and shines at the city speeds, which are the IC’s nemesis.

It will be interesting to see the Nissan’s range at seventy and eighty. Let’s not forget, the Volt was primarily designed for the more typical American driving conditions, for a reason.

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It’s More Car Than Electric! Fri, 08 Oct 2010 14:48:05 +0000

What does the line “It’s More Car Than Electric!” mean? Beats us, but apparently it’s supposed to make you want to buy a Chevrolet Volt. Maybe “The electric car you can just put gas in on those days when you’re not giving a crap about the environment” was too long. Perhaps “It’s actually a series hybrid” didn’t pop with consumers. And maybe “Avoid the scary Range Anxiety® you get with ‘real’ electric cars” was too aggressive. All we know is, GM has registered “It’s More Car Than Electric,” and it’s time to get used to it. Meanwhile, how did we not find the ad parody above sooner?

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Range Anxiety®? Introducing Anti Arrival Angst™ Tue, 21 Sep 2010 21:18:31 +0000

Now that GM is thinking about trademarking “range anxiety,” the only choice left to Nissan is to do something about range anxiety. (Just in case GM is successful with their trademark application, we’ll call it Arrival Angst™ … remember, you’ve seen it here first, just in case we’ll have to call you as a witness.)  According to The Nikkei [sub], Nissan “will offer buyers of its Leaf electric car a service to ease drivers’ dread of having the batteries run out while on the road.” (See, even The Nikkei is staying away from “range anxiety.” Alright, let’s trademark Distance Dread™ also.) So how will that service work?

First off, people will be able to check on their Leaf from a mobile phone or PC. Charge levels can be monitored remotely and the car can be commanded to recharge. That sounds like a pretty lame feature. The car has to be plugged-in for that anyway, so – why?  Much better is the next feature: If the car does run out of juice while on the road, towing to the nearest dealership will be arranged. Arrival Angst™ no more, your friendly Nissan dealer will bail you out.

And finally, we know why Nissan is building a huge data center ( in an earthquake proof location), and what in the world did they mean when they were talking about transferring  the “iPod model” to the car industry, and what were they thinking when they muttered something about marketing “cars based on the value of the information they provide.”

The Anti Arrival Angst™ service won’t be free. It will cost 1,500 yen a month, or $17.50. It will also buy free checkups every six months, and pay for the cost of the first mandatory vehicle inspection. Even if you run out of juice in a desolate part of Japan (which is very hard to find), don’t worry, you’ll be fine: Up to 550,000 yen, or approximately $6,500 in expenses incurred in emergencies will be covered as well. Just imagine what a one month subscription of Valium would cost you, and you’ll appreciate the value of the Anti Arrival Angst™ service. (Nissan: Please contact TTAC for affordable license terms.)  And of course you already know the acronym for Anti Arrival Angst™ . AAA is coming to Japan!

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Range Anxiety® Thu, 02 Sep 2010 14:23:55 +0000

People have a lot of fears with electric cars/extended range electric cars. Will the government subsidies distort the market? Can manufacturers be able to sell them profitably? Are they really that environmentally sound? But the one which gets everyone is “range anxiety”. Will I have enough juice to get me home? It’s an issue which manufacturers are dealing with in their own ways. GM has come up with their own way of dealing with it; they’re trademarking it: With range anxiety being trademarked, someone just dreams the word, and GM’s lawyers will be on top of him, and make him surrender the illicit dream.

The Register reports that GM has applied to trademark the term “range anxiety”. A GM spokesperson (via Jalopnik) said “It’s something we call ‘range anxiety’ and it’s real…That’s something we need to be very aware of when we market (the Volt). We’re going to position this as a car first and electric second…people do not want to be stranded on the way home from work.” Even Joel Ewanick had a few words to say about this. “We’ve been here before,” probably referring to GM’s EV-1, “We have first-hand experience with what the issues are.” also quotes Mr Ewanick as saying “We’ve got a lot of education to do with Volt because it’s a whole new category of vehicle”.

The NY Times reports that Rob Peterson, GM spokesperson said of the application “We’ve been told the process will take nine months or so…but I’m not an attorney so I can’t say for sure.” A good trademark attorney will lecture his client on the “first use” principle. I mean, “range anxiety” already has a Wikipedia entry, and no “citation needed.” Quick! Everybody fire up Google! Who said it first? Now if GM can produce a 50 year old calendar that has “range anxiety” on it, they have a good chance of prevailing.

And what says Tesla about GM gaining the monopole on range anxiety? Ricardo Reyes, spokesperson for Tesla said “By all means, GM can have ‘range anxiety’. To Roadster owners, the term is as irrelevant as ‘gas stop’ or ‘smog check’. We are, however, looking into trademarking ‘Tesla grin’”. Trouble is when a Volt runs out of juice, it can pull into a petrol station and fill up. When a Tesla runs out, it needs to find a power outlet and charge for days. Not hours, DAYS. Could this be the start of a war between GM and Tesla, with Nissan (and their Leaf) getting involved later? I hope so. That means there will be plenty to write about.

Gotta go. I’m searching my posts for range anxiety.

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Japanese Develop Cure For Range Anxiety Tue, 10 Aug 2010 18:21:08 +0000

Range anxiety. The performance angst and penis envy of the new millennium. So you want to be nice to the planet. You no longer want to desecrate dead dinosaurs. You want to plug in and tune out.

But you also want visit grandpa and grandma who live 150 miles away, and you don’t want to overstay your welcome with an orange cord dangling out of the window. What to do? It’s so simple, that we wonder why nobody has thought of it:

We need better batteries! The New Millennium Batteries so to speak. The Nikkei [sub] comes with the glad tidings that Japanese battery and materials manufacturers are working their tushes off to bolster the performance of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles.

  • Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings unit has developed technology for speeding up recharging. Holes in insulating materials and natural graphite, result in recharges that are 50 percent faster. Even with the standard household electricity of 110 volts, recharge time drops from 15 hours to a mere 10. A 30-minute recharge promises 100km (62miles) of sheer driving pleasure.
  • Toda Kogyo teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to develop technology for increasing battery capacity by 50 percent through the use of a newly developed composite material for cathodes. An electric vehicle with this technology can run 50 percent farther on a single charge.
  • Zeon Corp. uses rubber as an anode material, something that will be very welcome in colder climes. Even at 14F, the capacity of a recharged battery is still 30 percent better than what you get today. (Don’t ask what it will be below zero.)
  • GS Yuasa, has succeeded in making a high-performing battery that uses lithium iron phosphate as a cathode material. Lithium iron phosphate is cheaper than the rare metals used to date and gives the battery a longer life. The capacity of batteries using conventional manganese materials drops to 68 percent after 1,000 charges. The new GS Yuasa battery will deliver 90 percent. The battery may outlast the car! This  battery also functions normally at minus 22F. (I wonder why they say that …)
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Weather Or Not: Nissan’s Leaf Range Influenced By Barometric Pressure Tue, 22 Jun 2010 13:28:34 +0000

While GM has problems trying to get the Volt price point to a point where customers won’t suffer a coronary (even with help from the DC sugar daddies), Nissan has a few problems of their own. Nissan is still reeling from the news that a Nissan Leaf would save you the princely sum of $361. Now, Automotive News [sub] reports another black eye on Nissan’s “Prius Killer”. Automotive News says that Nissan’s “100 miles range” may be slightly off in real world conditions. How far off?

How do 38 percent grab you? 38 percent? That leafs something to be desired! (I’m here all week.) As Automotive News puts it, “consider the following scenarios outlined during a recent Leaf test drive:

  • If your Leaf is stuck in stop-and-go traffic, doing 15 mph on a cold winter day with the heater on, you can count on a range of around 62 miles, said the car’s chief engineer, Hidetoshi Kadota.
  • If it’s a hot day, in the 90s, and you’re cruising down the road at 48 mph, your full-charge range would be about 70 miles before having to plug in again to juice up the lithium ion batteries.
  • If the weather’s perfect with no need for air conditioning, you can get 105 miles in normal city-highway driving. And when touring the countryside at a steady 38 mph, the range climbs to 138 miles.” (Will Nissan give you free earplugs, so that you can ignore the honking cars behind you?)

Wow. Who’d have thunk it? Driving conditions and use of air conditioning may vary ones fuel economy figures? What next will they tell us? That electric cars are zero emission? Oh hang on, they DID try that one. After this revelation, Nissan sought to maintain the validity of the Leaf. “Depending on the way you use the air conditioning and the driving mode, the autonomy varies largely,” said the car’s chief engineer, Hidetoshi Kadota. “This is a physical characteristic of electric vehicles.”. Well, that and the tax subsidies.

I see it coming: “Shall we drive over to grandma?” “The weather is glorious. We might not make it back home.”

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Raise Your Hand If You Want A SmartForTwo EV. Now, Show Your Wallet Sun, 13 Jun 2010 15:03:43 +0000

Wired hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head when it titled its recent review of the pure plug-in Smart ForTwo Electric Drive “Smart EV Would Be Smarter if It Were Cheaper.”

Well, it’s not. As a matter of fact, it’s insanely expensive.

Daimler’s Smart plans to make 1,500 ForTwo Electric Drives available for lease beginning this fall. If you want one, get in line. 250 of the 1,500 will be coming to America. Most will go to corporate fleets. 50 or so can be leased by the common Joe, if the common Joe can come up with the dough.

The lease for the battery-powered (batteries by Tesla) midgetmobile will be $600 a month for 48 month lease. That’s after the $7,500 federal EV tax credit. Without government largess, the lease would have been $915 a month. For a two seater. With batteries that are good for 82 miles. When that battery is down to 20 percent, plan on 3.5 hours on the charger to bring it up to 80 percent. That’s a 3.5 hour break every 50 miles. I don’t think so.

Who’s betting that some of the 50 cars will collect dust in the showroom? Or maybe it will be a niche car for guys with a mistress.

“Where’ve you been?”

“Sorry, honey, had to charge the car.”

“And why’s you hair wet?”

“Went to the gym while it was charging.”

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EV Range High Anxiety: Normal Driving May Cut Range In Half Fri, 18 Dec 2009 15:49:36 +0000 starting out on empty

Would you set out for a drive with your low fuel light on, knowing there was no place to buy gas? That’s the painful reality many EV drivers are going to be faced with every morning after unplugging their fully-charged battery and heading out on the road. Most conventional cars have about 50 to 60 miles left after the gauge hits empty, plenty of time to find a gas station. But according to a Consumer Reports test of a Mitsubishi i-MIEV, the stated range of 100 miles with a full battery is more like 60 or 50 under typical conditions, if you consider using lights at night, indulging in heat or A/C, or driving at 65 mph typical. I do. And so will most drivers. Disappointment with their $40k electric mini-car is inevitable. Just don’t say Darryl Siry or I didn’t warn you:

I wrote about the potentially misleading and confusing issue of EV range here, and former Tesla exec Darryl Siry has gone public with his concerns of EV makers’ unrealistic claims here, and more specifically, he took Nissan’s 100 mile claim for the Leaf to task here. The problem is well understood by EVers, but not at all so well by the public. Here’s the sixty second capsule version explanation:

IC engines operate at very low efficiency levels, from effectively zero% at a stop light, to maybe in the teens or low twenties at high speeds. We’re used to getting better mileage (range) on the freeway than in the city. But the amount of actual energy required to propel the car is much higher at speed; this is masked by the improved efficiency of the gas engine at those higher speeds.

An electric motor operates at close to 90% efficiency pretty much all the time, so there is essentially a direct correlation to the energy required to move the car, and the mileage (range). And since EV’s use no energy at a standstill (if the heat, lights and radio are off, as in the tests), city driving patterns are dramatically more favorable to EVs.

That explains why EV makers like Nissan and Mitsubishi are using the EPA City”, or “UDDS” driving cycle. This test cycle assumes an average driving speed of 19.59 mph and in the 22 minute driving cycle, it assumes you only break 40 mph once, for about 100 seconds, and never exceed about 58 mph. Not exactly a typical commute from the ‘burbs.

If the EV manufacturers used the US06 driving cycle, which more closely resembles typical US driving patterns, the projected range would be significantly less. But that wouldn’t look good in all the PR and ads. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: EVs potentially make great city cars. But head out on the highway, and you’ll be looking for an adventure all too soon.

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