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Vehicle Electricification: April 18, 2013

Vehicle Electrification
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DOE issues RFI on fuel cells as range-extenders for EV fleets

07-Jul-2014 18:23 GMT

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 with “question” in the subject line. Responses to the RFI must be submitted by 5 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 7, 2014.

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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 debuts LiveWire electric motorcycle project

30-Jun-2014 18:54 GMT

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.

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Project LiveWire is Harley-Davidson's first all-electric motorcycle development. Its first rideable concept bike (shown) has a 60-mi range.

Oak Ridge unveils Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials

26-Jun-2014 16:55 GMT

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.

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Sergei Kalinin, of the Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials, will serve as its inaugural director.

BMW and partner to increase carbon-fiber output

09-May-2014 18:43 GMT

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.

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White polyacrylnitril precursor for carbon-fiber production at Moses Lake.

Remote keyless entry systems a possible app for special battery chemistry

04-May-2014 13:38 GMT

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.

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ORNL researchers challenged a long-held assumption that a battery’s three main components—positive cathode, negative anode, ion-conducting electrolyte—can play only one role in the device.

GKN to buy Williams' motorsports-proven flywheel technology

01-Apr-2014 21:37 GMT

The flywheel energy-storage technology that was used in, among other things, the Le Mans-winning Audi R18 e-tron quattro is being sold by Williams to GKN Land Systems for use mainly in mass-transit vehicles. Williams initially developed the technology for its 2009 Formula One car but has since switched focus to the automotive and mass-transit sectors including buses and trams. Williams claims the technology can improve fuel economy and reduce emissions by about 30% by capturing some of the energy otherwise lost as heat in braking. The deal involved two units of the Williams group. Mike O'Driscoll, group CEO, said: "The Williams Hybrid Power business has been developed very successfully over the last few years, and is now at the point of broader market commercialization." ​GKN Land Systems designs, manufactures, and supplies products and services for the agritechnical, construction, mining and utility vehicle markets.

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This flywheel unit from Williams was used in the Porsche 997 GT3 R Hybrid endurance racecar.

Chinese company's U.S. arm completes acquisition of Fisker

25-Mar-2014 12:52 GMT

Wanxiang America Corp. (the U.S. arm of a Chinese auto parts manufacturer) has completed the acquisition of the assets of failed U.S. auto startup Fisker Automotive, the companies announced today (March 25). Wanxiang last month won an auction for the assets with a bid of about $150 million, but closing of the deal had to wait until federal regulatory approvals were granted. As part of its bid, the company promised to restart production of the Karma plug-in-hybrid sport car, which Fisker had produced in very low volumes and with the help of a $528.7 million conditional federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technologies Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program that it later defaulted on. The Karma was assembled by Valmet at a plant in Finland. Fisker had planned to move production to the U.S.—to a closed General Motors plant in Delaware it purchased. But those plans did not come to fruition, and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2013 having sold fewer than 2000 units. Wanxiang said it is considering whether to build the Karma and several variants in Delaware or at a different U.S. location. Last year Wanxiang purchased U.S. battery maker A123Systems, which also had received a DOE loan.

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A Karma plug-in-hybrid sports car on the streets of Pasadena in 2013, before Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy. (Patrick Ponticel)

Toyota tilting three-wheeler enters the 'real world'

24-Mar-2014 17:50 GMT

Confined to private road courses to date, Toyota's tilting three-wheeler takes to regular roads beginning today (March 24). Ten units of the single-seat i-Road are undergoing a roughly eight-week public trial in Tokyo for evaluation of the vehicle's suitability for city driving and of its impact on how users decide what journeys to make with it. A longer-term evaluation is slated to being in the city of Grenoble, France, sometime this year. The i-Road has two wheels in front and one in the back. Propulsion is via two electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery that on a single charge gives it a range of 30 mi (48 km) at a steady 19 mph (30 km/h). Maximum speed is 37 mph (60 km/h). Minimum turning radius is 3.0 m (9.8 ft) and wheelbase is 1695 mm (66.7 in). Curb weight is 300 kg (661 lb). Click here to read a previous Automotive Engineering article on the i-Road.

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"Real-world" evaluation of the i-Road begins today in Tokyo.

Kia pushes energy-density frontier with Soul EV battery

09-Mar-2014 11:20 GMT

Kia Motors Corp. is using what it maintains is a 360-V lithium-ion battery pack of “class-leading” energy density (200 W·h/kg) in the 2015 Soul EV to give it range of about 200 km (125 mi) on the European Driving Cycle, and “real-world” range of 80-100 mi (129-161 km) in the U.S. The cells and the battery are the same in all regions. Supplied by SK Innovation, the 192 cells are packaged into eight modules and deliver a total battery capacity of 27 kW·h. The cell cathode is of nickel-rich NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) chemistry, with the raw materials for that and other components optimized for energy density, durability, and safety. Kia says high-performance anode and gel electrolyte additive materials were developed. The new electrolyte additive allows for better range by more effectively dealing with low and high temperatures. A “special” ceramic separator with improved thermal resistance properties is used. The cell casings are of polymer pouch type (as opposed to metal), and the battery pack is air-cooled. Standard equipment on the Soul EV includes receptacles for SAE J1772 Level 1 and Level 2 ac charging, as well as CHAdeMO dc fast charging (480 V).

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The battery in the 2015 Kia Soul EV was the result of a three-year development program with lithium-ion cell maker SK Innovation. The car goes on sale in the U.S. in third quarter 2014.

TRW steering-wheel concept supports automated driving

04-Mar-2014 18:29 GMT

TRW Automotive's steering-wheel concept being shown at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show supports semi and fully automated driving via several multifunctional features including hands on/off detection. The steering wheel is featured in Rinspeed's steer-by-wire XchangE electric vehicle concept. The lightweight design incorporates the following functions, which can be activated by touching transparent switches:

• A "Drive Mode Manager" (DMM) display, located at the top of the steering wheel, illuminating "A" when the vehicle is in automated mode. If the driver touches the steering wheel, "M" (manual) becomes illuminated, indicating that the driver is ready to take back control. If he then touches "Push to Drive" (PTD), control is given back to the driver. Similarly, if the driver later takes his hands off the wheel, the DMM display automatically changes from "M: to A" and the vehicle continues to drive in an automated mode.

• Gear shift—the driver can move from park, neutral, drive, and reverse using the relevant switches on the steering wheel.

• Turn indicators—the indicator switches are illuminated white (ambient lighting), and when activated the corresponding left and right arrows flash.

• Electronic Horn System (EHS)—the horn can be activated by touching a conductive area on the steering-wheel airbag cover.

"With the increasing number of electronically controlled functions in the vehicle, certain controls can be eliminated or packaged into the steering wheel, offering more space and flexibility for the car interior," said TRW's Guido Hirzmann, Group Leader, New Technology, Mechatronic. "For example, with the XchangE vehicle we have been able to remove the center console and integrate the gear shift into the steering wheel."

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TRW's concept steering wheel offers a number of multifunctional features including hands on/off detection to help support the driver during semi-automated and fully automated driving situations.

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