By on September 16, 2014

A heretofore unknown publication dubbed Gadget Review published a video outlining  “How to Charge BMW’s i3 Electric Car in a Desert (or Any Where)” using a Honda generator. I’m sure that somebody somewhere thought that this would be a great concept for “shareable” content (including the part where the host attempts to run the generator inside the vehicle). The actual idea didn’t yield a ton of juice for the i3’s battery, but the idea of using generators to assist EV charging isn’t entirely unknown.

Long before the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s EV experimented were far cruder, and involved, you guessed it, Honda generators rigged to battery packs as an ersatz range extender. According to a former GM engineer and friend of TTAC, the generator would kick in as the batteries depleted themselves, allowing the prototype vehicle (a Geo Storm) to recharge the batteries and make its way home. “Some of those guys ended up working on the EV1 and are still at GM,” he told us. “I bet that’s where the inspiration for the Volt came from.”

This begs the question – why not just get the i3’s optional from the get-go, and avoid this problem altogether?

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26 Comments on “Generating Content...”


  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I don’t much care for their cars, but Honda sure has the small-engine thing nailed.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Same idea… executed with a bit more polish:

    http://www.evnut.com/rav_longranger.htm

    I’ve also seen pics of a similar rig behind a Tau-Zero (electric roadster of sorts).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Armchair experts always want them, but the problem with generators on EVs is that they are very inefficient.

    I once calculated that a cheap generator which could keep my Leaf going indefinitely would only be getting 16 mpg as I drove, vs the 120-130 MPGe that I get as an EV. The Volt’s generator gets maybe 38 mpg, and the i3’s generator doesn’t provide enough juice to keep the car going indefinitely.

    If you want a generator on your EV, it costs you something – $4000 in the case of the i3, complexity, and the inherent desire to minimize its use (ironically).

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Armchair experts vs. delusional fanatics. The day that youz guyz can tell me what that one MPGe takes in terms of electric grid infrastructure costs, is the day that we can talk about comparing mpg to mpge. Till then, a better comparison is that an EV vehicle charged on a HD generator gets 16mpg vs 32+ mpg it would get with an ICE engine in a comparable size vehicle, i.e. Leaf vs Versa.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        If you charge at night, there’s no “electric grid infrastructure costs.”

        The only time the grid runs out of gas (so to speak) is early evening, when high A/C and other loads can overwhelm demand. This was a familiar situation for PEPCO subscribers in the late ’60’s. The solution for electric cars to keep the “electric grid infrastructure costs” at zero is to have EV charging participate in load-shedding plans, which is a natural, anyway.

        Nobody expects an RE-EV lashup of any kind to approach ICE efficiency for, say, a constant 70mph over an hour, but the RE-EV still offers regenerative energy capture and other benefits. The value in a trailer-mounted generator is that it adds flexibility to vehicle use to provide extreme long range when you need it and is otherwise left behind when you don’t. Owning one isn’t even necessary, if the solution was common enough, they could be rented when you intend to ferry the vehicle to some distant location, which keeps your vehicle capital cost low.

        • 0 avatar
          Stumpaster

          “If you charge at night, there’s no “electric grid infrastructure costs.””

          Wow, just wow.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            It’s a fact.

            Electric demand drops off dramatically after dinner and further after everybody goes to bed. There’s plenty of idle infrastructure available at that time. EVs could do something useful with that idle capacity. EVs are a natural for charging schemes with load shedding.

            I’ve been in the electric utility business; they’d love to see more EVs on the road because they can profit from it without significant additional capital expenditure.

          • 0 avatar
            vvk

            > Electric demand drops off dramatically after dinner and further after everybody goes to bed.

            So when 100,000 heat pumps in suburban Philadelphia switch to emergency heat because the temperature is 0’F, you think that demand drops off dramatically at night? Obviously you have never lived outside of your California la la land.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Here in TX, TXU offers a “Free Nights” plan where all your electric consumption between 10 PM & 6 AM is free. Clearly, for TXU at least, time shifting your consumption to smooth out their delivery schedule is worth more than the electricity itself. (Of course, they recoup some of the losses through higher prices during peak hours.)

            It is similar to how power companies offer rebates for solar power, not because they care about the environment that much, but because every kWh you produce is a kWh they don’t have to, and subsidizing 10% of your price is a whole lot cheaper than paying 100% for a new plant or plant expansion.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @vvk So when 100,000 heat pumps in suburban Philadelphia switch to emergency heat because the temperature is 0′F,

            I have a heat pump in New England. When it gets too cold, it switches to oil heat, not electric. If that fails, then I suppose it would switch to resistive electric.

            What happens when people crank up their 10,000 btu window air conditioners in the summer?

          • 0 avatar
            DC Bruce

            I would submit that having a heat pump as far north as Philadelphia that uses electric resistance heating as a backup is a dumb idea. In any event, if your heat pump is capable of working down to the single digits, the number of times it will need “auxiliary heat” is pretty small, even in Philadelphia.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @Stumpmaster: You know, the MPGe calculation isn’t somebody’s dream world. It’s based upon the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline, namely about 33 kWh/gal.

        The electricity consumption of an EV is known, so the MPGe is readily calculated.

        Another way to view things is to use Edmunds’ MPGc, which compares the operational cost of an EV vs an ICE.

        As far as infrastructure costs, you’re already paying for that when you fill up an EV.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    If it will also run my house in a black out, and the trailer has more storage for a log trip, I could see someone making some money on a generator trailer. Also would have a market for airport use as electric is the new thing in fun flying. Electric motor gliders and aircraft nearly like them may save general aviation.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I’ve been watching this closely. If we can double battery capacity for a given weight, GA will really benefit. Our IC engines are so expensive ($35K for a new 160hp Lycoming) that battery cost is not the major issue, weight is.

      We already have electric motor gliders, the next frontier is electric training aircraft (the average training flight is about an hour). The holy grail is to drop training costs to about $50/hour for the aircraft and energy required. That should improve the new pilot graduation rate and help to enlarge the market.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        bunkie: “Our IC engines are so expensive ($35K for a new 160hp Lycoming)”

        That seems like rather a lot for an engine. Is there some other underlying problem that battery power won’t address?

        • 0 avatar
          Japanese Buick

          Very small niche market and high certification costs to bring new entrants to market = very expensive piston aviation engines.

          But the $35k cost is for a factory new engine and isn’t what most plane owners pay. Most plane owners go reman or overhaul. Last time I had to replace my plane’s 160 hp Lycoming with an overhauled replacement, it was “only” about $20k including accessories and labor.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Plus auxiliary generators are not subject to the same emissions standards that apply to cars; they pollute far more per watt generated. In most cases you would pollute less by just driving a ICE car than you would running a generator to charge your electric car.

    Not to mention the effect that hauling or towing a generator would have on efficiency; the hassles of handling recharging with your generator, the added maintenance…

    Bad idea.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      The LongRanger qualified as ULEV.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      ” auxiliary generators are not subject to the same emissions standards that apply to cars; they pollute far more per watt generated”

      Amen to that! I use three AC generators, two gas, one diesel, and the black smoke they spew waters the eyes, ears, nose and throat, even against the wind.

      Only the Honda EU6500iSA Inverter is “clean” under load when compared to the other two.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        and the black smoke they spew…..

        What are you running? A generator running on gasoline or lp/NG should not be producing visible smoke…even a diesel should not be “blowing coal” all the time…

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      In fact, from a strictly emissions stand point, a regular ICE car is cleaner than a plug-in hybrid (when the engine is needed) because it’s more effective at heating up & maintaining the temperature of the emissions equipment.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        redav: “In fact, from a strictly emissions stand point…”

        There’s a lot of room for doubt on this claim. First, once the battery is depleted, none ofthe PHEVs run the engine to recharge it; engine power will be reuquired very frequently, if not continuously, because there’s no significant battery charge available to move the car.

        Then, it’s an uphill battle for a 40mpg car to beat a 50mpg car on emissions (if we assume similar emissions control schemes). Less gas in is less pollutants out.

        Finally, where the PHEV would probably not run anywhere near continuusly would be in stop-and-go. Then, it’s a 50mpg hybrid against a 25mpg car.

        You might be right but it’s certainly not a lopsided win.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I wonder if the nauseating Gadget Dork was made aware that in half hour you can bicycle 4 miles that he gained in charge? Slowly.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Yes. Just but the range extender version. It is 3kw from the Honda vs 24 kW from the i3. Price per kW on the i3 generator is a steal.

    I can’t wait to see the next gen volt, supposedly it will have an Atkinson cycle 3 cylinder that’s purpose built for regeneration, which should greatly increase overall car energy efficiency.

    I might make my first ever new car purchase a volt if the next generation is as good as rumors are claiming.

  • avatar
    mcs

    My solution for charging in locations where I can’t readily find a charger is to get a portable L2 charging station that can plug into 240 volt RV outlets. This means I could take the EV on camping trips away from EV charging stations and still pick up a level 2 charge at the campground.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Wow, what a stupid video. Is this guy trying to mimic a Top Gear episode? Am I supposed to take any of his other Gadget Reviews seriously after this?

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