LG Innotek on Aug. 28 announced it will begin production in early 2015 of an electric motor for use in automotive dual-clutch transmissions (DCT) that does not use rare-earth metals—a world-first for this application, the company claims. The motor also is 4% lighter than comparable motors that use precious metals such as neodymium and dysprosium—long considered essential in the manufacture of e-motors, such as those used in the hydraulic pumps of some DCTs, due to their magnetic properties. But the metals are environmentally controversial and are subject to commodity price fluctuations. LG Innotek developed its technology over more than two years, and has registered 13 related Korean and foreign patent applications for it. The auto industry has been studying alternatives to rare-earth metals in various applications. LG will build its new rare-earth-free motors at a factory in Mexico.
Tesla Motors is learning that making trouble-free autos is no easy task. In this week's SAE Eye on Engineering, Senior Editor Lindsay Brooke looks at the American electric car maker and recent reports of problems with its Model S luxury sedan.SAE Eye on Engineering can be viewed at http://youtu.be/kgbdTHxuegw. Access archived episodes of the SAE Eye on Engineering podcast at www.sae.org/magazines/podcasts.
Watch the video at http://youtu.be/kgbdTHxuegw.
As alternatives to silicon (Si), use of wide-bandgap materials (WBGs) such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) for power electronics in electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles can have a major impact on systems and overall vehicle costs, according to a Lux Research report. “Efficient power electronics is key to a smaller battery size, which in turn has a positive cascading impact on wiring, thermal management, packaging, and weight of electric vehicles,” said Pallavi Madakasira, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Silicon vs. WBG: Demystifying Prospects of GaN and SiC in the Electrified Vehicle Market (https://portal.luxresearchinc.com/research/report_excerpt/17422). A power savings of 20% for the Tesla Model S, for example, could result in cost savings of $6000 in battery cost, or 8% of the vehicle's cost. Lux says SiC could displace Si as early as 2020, and notes that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Power Electronics and Electric Motors initiative is spending $69 million this year to define performance and cost targets for power electronics; the Japanese government funds a joint industry and university R&D program on power electronics that includes Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.
Lux Research says at 2% power savings, if battery costs fall below $250/kW·h, SiC diodes will be the only economic solution in EVs requiring a large battery, such as the Tesla Model S. However, for plug-in electric vehicles, the threshold power savings needs to be a higher 5%.
Panasonic will handle the cell-making activity at Tesla's coming battery manufacturing facility dubbed the Gigafactory, the two companies announced July 31. Panasonic already supplies cylindrical (18650 type) battery cells for the Tesla Model S from its factories in Japan. The automaker is in the process of selecting a site in the southwestern part of the U.S. for a large-scale battery factory to meet demand for future additional Tesla vehicle models and to supply the stationary-energy-storage market. Panasonic's cylindrical cell operation at the Gigafactory will take up half the space in the building, with the remainder to be used by Tesla and suppliers to assemble the newly developed cells into modules and full battery packs. Expected capacity at the Gigafactory is 35 GW·h of cells and 50 GW·h of packs per year by 2020; to meet that pack target, Tesla will import additional Panasonic cells from Japan.
Tesla and Panasonic earlier had agreed to co-develop a new battery cell technology. Shown is the Model S.
The Electric Power Research Institute has announced a collaboration with 8 automakers and 15 utilities to develop and demonstrate an open grid integration platform for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). General Motors and Honda are among the automakers involved. The goal is to develop a customer-friendly interface so PEV drivers can more easily participate in utility PEV programs, such as off-peak or nighttime charging rates, according to an EPRI release. In the first phase, EPRI and the participating companies will develop a standardized demand-response solution, which is a signal a utility sends to an energy management company to communicate the supply and demand needs to the grid. The company will then communicate with designated PEVs in the area to manage energy consumption to follow the grid’s needs, according to GM. The program could also help mitigate the impact of strain on the grid during peak periods and could help curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPRI. Sumitomo Electric will develop the core platform technology on the first phase. The globally applicable software platform complies with standards set by major international organizations, including SAE International.
Honda is one of eight automakers collaborating with the EPRI to develop an open grid integration platform for PEVs. It already is participating in a V2G demonstration with the University of Delaware and NRG Energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Office has issued a request for information (RFI) to the research community and relevant stakeholders, according to a release. The DOE is seeking feedback about fuel-cell technology validation, commercial acceleration, and potential deployment strategies for continuous fuel-cell rechargers (range-extenders) on board light-duty battery-electric vehicle fleets. Also requested is technical information and information on vehicle makes and models that are the most feasible for an aftermarket modification to extend vehicle range using a fuel-cell system. Light-duty all-electric vehicles with fuel-cell range-extenders for commercial fleet vehicles potentially have comparable or better performance than internal-combustion-engine propulsion systems for battery electric vehicles. Electric drivetrains might benefit from batteries for delivering power and fuel-cell systems for energy storage and peak power needs. For details, see the RFI announcement DE-FOE-0001145 or email questions to FuelCellCOBRA@ee.doe.gov with “question” in the subject line. Responses to the RFI must be submitted by 5 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 7, 2014.
The Franche-Comté region of France and the French postal service, La Poste, are testing hydrogen-based range-extender kits from Symbio FCell in Renault Kangoo Z.E electric vehicles used by La Poste. The vehicles are equipped with hydrogen fuel cell range-extender kits and were deployed in the first quarter of 2014. The above fuel cell, used in the trials, achieved approximately 320 km (200 mi) range—more than doubling the range of the pure BEV version of the Kangoo.
Harley-Davidson has for a number of years dispatched an engineer to SAE's annual Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Symposium for the purpose of gathering intel and making contacts in the EV field. One tangible result of Harley's SAE participation is Project LiveWire, the company’s first electric motorcycle concept. The Motor Company built 33 examples at a cost of more than $200,000 each, for the purpose of soliciting feedback from customers and media regarding the bike's performance, technologies, and styling. Harley-Davidson is also offering a simulated riding experience through Jumpstart for customers who do not ride, the company noted.
LiveWire engineers led by project chief engineer Jeff Richlen designed the machine's powertrain around a 3-phase ac induction motor that produces 74 hp (55 kW) at 8500 rpm and 52 lb·ft (71 N·m) of torque immediately off idle, according Richlen. The electric bike is Harley-Davidson’s lightest product, with a claimed curb weight of 463 lb (210 kg). In comparison, H-D's new Street 500 and Street 750 V-twins tip the scales at 489 lb (222 kg).
The bike’s battery pack contains lithium-ion battery cells. Because the EV is still in development and only for demonstration, Harley engineers are not focusing on pack size or capacity. Rather, they're focusing on the bike’s potential and gathering feedback, Richlen said. Harley held a media ride with a small fleet of LiveWire EVs in Manhattan on June 24, and writers who attended praised the bike's overall balance and suspension, while noting its limited range--60 mi (97 km) per charge.
Harley-Davidson also announced it is hiring several positions to support EV development and its electrical engineering resources, as well as working on Project LiveWire and similar endeavors.
Project LiveWire is Harley-Davidson's first all-electric motorcycle development. Its first rideable concept bike (shown) has a 60-mi range.
The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has launched its new Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials, which aims to accelerate discovery, design, and deployment of new materials, according to a release from the laboratory. It also supports President Obama’s Materials Genome Initiative, which seeks to bring new materials to the marketplace.
In focusing expertise from ORNL’s science portfolio, capabilities in high-performance computing, and success in creating new tools for discovery, the institute seeks to speed the arrival of next-generation materials, including battery materials.
When it comes to battery materials, the challenge is looking at ions as they move and the changes in electronic structure at the same time, but the combination of leading researchers in imaging, computing, and materials science could meet this challenge, Michelle Buchannan, the Associate Laboratory Director for Physical Sciences, said in the release.
The national lab, located in Tennessee, houses several major user facilities of the Department of Energy Office of Science. ORNL is also home to one of the DOE’s largest theory groups. Researchers in materials science, chemistry, physics, and computational science work to find the missing links needed to compile a full understanding of materials.
The institute will integrate computing and experimentation in real time, which will allow researchers to capture and analyze immense data streams. By enabling tailoring of materials, this new knowledge will improve the efficiency of converting solar energy to electricity (in solar cells), transporting energy to the grid (superconducting cables), converting chemical to electrical energy (batteries), and other tasks.
"Our imaging research has helped build a comprehensive picture of operational mechanisms and failure and degradation in batteries. Now, this institute aims to bridge the imaging data with mesoscopic and atomistic predictive theories through the use of large-scale data analytics and image analysis, known as 'deep data,'" Sergei Kalinin, the institute's director said in a release.
The materials by design approach is expected to aid in extending both the lifetime and energy density of batteries.
Sergei Kalinin, of the Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials, will serve as its inaugural director.
BMW is doubling down on its commitment to carbon fiber with major capacity increases at the plant that makes the material for its new i brand of lightweight electrified vehicles. The plant (located in Moses Lake, WA, and owned by a joint venture between BMW and SGL Group called SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers) currently operates two production lines, exclusively for BMW i, with annual output of about 3000 ton (2721 t). A previously announced expansion is now in progress to double capacity, and with today's announcement at a groundbreaking ceremony for the next expansion, capacity will grow to 9000 ton (8165 t). Each of the expansions involves two additional production lines. When completed in 2015, the plant will be the world's largest producer of carbon fiber, according to BMW. Total investment for the original plant and the two expansions is $300 million. Energy for the plant's operations comes via hydropower from a nearby dam/power station. Currently used only for its i models and for some body panels on its M models, BMW says it will expand application of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic derived from the carbon fibers beyond those model types.
A new electrolyte developed the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) serves not only as an ion conductor, but also as a cathode supplement in batteries. Potential uses of the technology include remote keyless entry systems, cardiac pacemakers, sensors, and other applications "where replacing or recharging a battery is not possible or desirable." The ORNL team demonstrated the new concept in a lithium carbon fluoride battery, considered one of the best single-use batteries because of its high energy density, stability, and long shelf life. When researchers incorporated a solid lithium thiophosphate electrolyte, the battery generated a 26% higher capacity than what would be its theoretical maximum if each component acted independently. The increase is caused by the cooperative interactions between the electrolyte and cathode. As the battery discharges, it generates a lithium fluoride salt that further catalyzes the electrochemical activity of the electrolyte. This relationship converts the electrolyte—conventionally an inactive component in capacity—to an active one. The researchers say the improvement in capacity could translate into years or even decades of extra life, depending on how the battery is engineered and used.