Pulling the plug: EV battery module exchange put to test

A team of engineers at the University of California, San Diego, plans to make a cross-country trip in an electric vehicle — without plugging the car in once.

Instead of going by the traditional plug-and-wait protocol for EVs, the engineers will swap out rechargeable, briefcase-size battery modules on the fly as they travel from San Diego to the coast of South Carolina in less than 60 hours.

The engineers plan to make the trek next year in a 2002 Volkswagen Golf they converted into an EV. A chase car is to follow close behind with a supply of fresh modules that will be charged with a backup generator during the road trip.

The trip will demonstrate the practicality of the team’s Modular Battery Exchange and Active Management system (M-BEAM), which engineers say will challenge the modern notion of EV ownership.

The idea is that M-BEAM would allow consumers to purchase vehicles while leasing the modules, which people could charge at home or pick up from businesses that would charge and distribute fresh units. Module exchange stations could mirror how some gasoline stations handle propane tanks.

Sticker prices for EVs could drop by about $10,000 if batteries are leased, the researchers say.

Such a system would make EV ownership possible for a wider range of consumers and combat range anxiety, says Raymond de Callafon, a mechanical engineering professor at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering. He is leading a team that is crafting algorithms for charge estimation and electrical current control of the modules.

One of the perks of M-BEAM is easier power management.

Coast to coast boast
A team of University of California, San Diego, researchers says a drive from the West Coast to the East Coast would take 10-12 days in a standard EV. Using their modular battery concept, the researchers will attempt to make the drive in 60 hours. The route, with approximate distances between checkpoints
Start: San Diego
Checkpoint 1: Phoenix (350 miles)
Checkpoint 2: Albuquerque, N.M. (420 miles)
Checkpoint 3: Amarillo, Texas (285 miles)
Checkpoint 4: Oklahoma City (260 miles)
Checkpoint 5: Little Rock, Ark. (340 miles)
Checkpoint 6: Memphis, Tenn. (135 miles)
Checkpoint 7: Atlanta (380 miles)
End: Charleston, S.C. (300 miles)
Approximate total distance: 2,470 miles

If someone drives in a car with 10 modules, for instance, de Callafon said the system can schedule currents so that just two modules are depleted instead of all 10. Then the driver could replace the two spent units to get back to a full charge.

The algorithms will enable modules of varying charge levels, chemistry, age and condition to work in unison.

Worried about getting shocked when removing the module?

The management system is designed to protect people from electrical currents when lifting units from the vehicle. The modules don’t emit any voltage unless the car is running.

“It also allows you to keep up with the latest battery technology. If you buy an electric vehicle and the battery is fixed in there, your warranty expires and that’s it,” de Callafon said. “Or, if a new battery comes out to market, you wouldn’t necessarily have to buy a new electric vehicle. Here, you could just put the new modules in there, which is kind of nice.”

To make the cross-country journey, the team will use 18 modules at a time that together could get around a 150-mile range, said electrical engineer Lou Shrinkle, who initiated the research on his own nearly two years ago before partnering with de Callafon last year.

The group, which also includes several students, estimates that it will reach South Carolina in less than 60 hours without exceeding the speed limit.

The modules, which have energy capacities of 1.6 kilowatt-hours at around 20 to 30 pounds each, will be replaced during five-minute pit stops. When combined, the 18 modules can provide 29 kilowatts per hour.

As battery technology progresses, researchers say the modules could one day shrink to the size of tissue boxes and weigh less than 10 pounds.

Their usefulness extends beyond EVs. The modules could double as portable generators for residential use.

“Working on battery packs for cars as I have in the past, it was pretty clear to me that the charging station approach, it’s not a bad approach, but I think what we’re seeing is that a lot of people are not exactly satisfied with that approach,” Shrinkle said.

He added: “Fast charge times aren’t going to arbitrarily scale down with the technology because of the level of power that has to go in the car. I just didn’t see that we’re going to get 350-mile refuels in five minutes. That didn’t look reasonable, so I started thinking of another approach of a swap.”

The team chose the Golf because it’s an easily convertible lightweight car with plenty of battery storage space. Project partners are Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley.

UC Berkeley Professor Scott Moura was involved in the algorithms on state of charge and health estimation for the batteries. Carnegie Mellon Professor Jeremy Michalek did economic studies on the use of modules in EVs.

The hope is that the Department of Energy and other agencies will get behind the project with funding.

One day, Shrinkle envisions, EV drivers will toss a few modules in their trunks before a road trip.

“As an EV driver myself, I would love that. Just go on a trip, you could buy a half dozen and, if you aren’t using a lot of luggage space, throw some modules back there and give yourself a little range boost,” Shrinkle said. “Also, if you’re driving and you run out of juice on the freeway, you call AAA and he’s got three or four modules” to slide in.

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala

2015 bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet Impala

DETROIT – Trash to fuel, the stuff of the 1980s sci-fi comedy movie trilogy “Back to the Future,” is now a reality. The 2015 Bi-fuel Chevrolet Impala – not a tricked-out DeLorean – really can run on leftovers, table scraps and, oh, yeah, grains from brewing beer.

Cleveland-based quasar energy group uses organic waste to produce a renewable energy source known as biogas, which is then converted into Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) – one of two fuels that can power the 2015 Chevrolet Bi-fuel Impala.

Biogas is the raw mixture of gases given off by the breakdown of organic materials kept in an oxygen-less environment. The resulting methane gas is then processed, removing all carbon dioxide and impurities to make Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). When compressed, RNG is a direct replacement for CNG.

Since biogas can be made from most organic materials, quasar insources raw materials, otherwise considered waste, from a variety of industries. For instance, its Columbus, Ohio Renewable Energy Facility processes up to 25,000 wet tons of biosolids from the City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities for wastewater.

Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, contributes food waste for CNG-production after it’s been macerated in an industrial-sized InSinkErator Grind2Energy garbage disposal. And don’t forget beer: Anheuser-Busch’s Columbus brewery provides an organic by-product to quasar for conversion to methane gas.

“If you can buy renewable fuel at $1.95 per gallon while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, everybody wins,” said Mel Kurtz, president of quasar energy group.   “quasar’s Columbus facility can produce 1.3 million gasoline gallon equivalents of CNG each year.”

That’s enough to fill the CNG tanks of 163,000 Bi-fuel Impalas at least once.

2015 bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet Impala

Though CNG fueling stations are prevalent in states like California and Oklahoma, infrastructure in some states is scarce.

“To avoid feelings of range anxiety common in owners of CNG-only vehicles, we made the Impala bi-fuel, allowing our customers to drive on CNG when available and on gasoline when it’s not,” said Nichole Kraatz, Impala chief engineer.

The CNG tank mounted in the trunk has the equivalent capacity of 7.8 gallons of gasoline, which is expected to offer approximately 150 city miles of range on compressed natural gas based on GM testing. With gasoline and compressed natural gas combined, expected range is 500 city miles based on GM testing. EPA estimates are not yet available.

Impala’s bi-fuel system seamlessly switches to gasoline power when the CNG tank is depleted. Drivers who wish to change fuels while driving can do so by simply pushing a button. A light on the instrument panel indicates when CNG is being used, and there is no interruption in the vehicle’s performance.

Operating on CNG can result in an average fuel savings of nearly $1.13 per gasoline-gallon-equivalent based on a national average of $3.24 per gallon of gasoline as reported by AAA and $2.11 per gge of CNG, reported by CNGnow. Also, CNG vehicles typically have 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, according to the California Air Resources Board.

The Bi-fuel Impala is factory-built so its CNG fuel system is validated by GM and covered by GM’s three-year/36,000-mile (whichever comes first) new vehicle limited bumper-to-bumper warranty and five-year/100,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited powertrain warranty. The Bi-fuel Impala is the only bifuel-capable sedan on the market to offer a factory warranty.

When the Bi-fuel Impala goes on sale later this year, it will have a starting price of $38,210.

Editors’ Note: Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price includes destination freight charge but excludes tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment.

About Chevrolet

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.9 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design, and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.

About quasar energy group

quasar is a Cleveland, Ohio based renewable energy company that designs, builds, owns and operates anaerobic digestion systems. quasar has thirteen operational anaerobic digestion facilities throughout the United States with several more under construction or in the planning stage.  qng (quasar natural gas) is derived from the anaerobic digestion of regional organic waste streams and is available to the public at quasar stations in Columbus, Zanesville and Wooster, Ohio.

Quasar Contact:
Caroline Henry
Quasar Vice President, Marketing

Silverado HD Strong Arms the Competition

DETROIT – How tough are heavy-duty trucks? A recent frame-twisting test found that the use of roll-formed steel in its bed allowed the tailgate of the 2015 Silverado 2500HD pickup to be lowered on uneven terrain while greater twisting of one competitor’s frame kept its tailgate from being lowered.

AMCI Testing, a third-party research firm hired by Chevrolet, recently subjected the 2015 Silverado 2500HD and a Ford F-250 Super Duty to a rigorous frame twist test, in which the truck was driven onto two staggered ramps, where the wheels on one side of the truck hit the ramp before the other, placing a large amount of torque on the frame. Measurements were then taken for the distance of displacement of the cab body and the bed, determining the amount of twist to which the frame is subjected.

AMCI found that during the test, the Silverado HD’s frame allowed 0.26 inches of twist, while the F-250 Super Duty allowed 0.94 inches of twist, 262 percent more than the Silverado. The twist was so great on the Ford that when under stress, the tailgate could not able to be lowered, while the Silverado’s available EZ-Lift and Lower Tailgate operated normally. You can see the test here.

“The use of high-strength steel in the Silverado HD is what allows the Silverado to handle even the toughest of jobs,” said Jeff Luke, General Motors’ executive chief engineer for full-size trucks. “Paired with a fully boxed frame, high-strength steel is what makes the Silverado come from the family of the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickups on the road.”

Roll-formed steel in the Silverado HD vs. the stamped steel bed of most competitors involves using a higher-grade steel that’s stronger, lighter and more durable. The fully boxed frame provides a rigid foundation.

The Silverado’s body is also constructed using similar high-strength steel. Approximately 67 percent of the cab is constructed with high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels. They’re used in the A-pillars, B-pillars, rockers and roof rails, as well strategic sections on the interior structure.

Ultra-high-strength steel is used in areas of the rocker panels and underbody to help improve crash performance. The Silverado uses more high-strength and ultrahigh-strength steel than any competitor’s full-size pickup truck, according to market research firm Ducker Worldwide.

About Chevrolet
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.9 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design, and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.

From GM News….

Camouflaging New Chevrolet Volt is Balancing Act

article.articleMon, Sep 29 2014

DETROIT – The styling of the next-generation Chevrolet Volt is one of the automotive world’s best-kept secrets. Keeping customers and media eager to see the successor to the groundbreaking original at bay until the new Volt debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January is tricky business.

First, it is engineers, not designers, who are charged with creating camouflage that balances styling secrecy with the need to validate the Volt and its systems in public.

“If it were up to me it would be a shoebox driving down the road,” said Lionel Perkins, GM camouflage engineer. “The design team wants us to cover more of the vehicle and the engineering team needs to have enough of the vehicle’s weight and aero exposed so that the tests in the development process are consistent with the product that will come to market.”

The engineers responsible for the “cool” designs covering the car might deserve style points but their efforts are intended strictly to hide the metal beneath.

Some of the tricks of the trade:

  • Black and white patterns The color scheme creates a shadow that hides vehicle design elements.
  • 3D – Layered camouflage throws off onlookers, but has to be applied without interrupting airflow around the car.
  • Swirls – In the old days of car camouflage, the design relied mainly on a grid pattern, but over the years engineers discovered that grids are difficult to realign if a piece is removed to make a change to the car. Swirl patterns better hide such developments.
  • Bubble wrap – Camouflage can be made from many different materials including plastics, vinyl and foam. Good, old bubble wrap is a lightweight, easily attachable three-dimensional material used to confuse prying eyes.

The camouflage package on the next-generation Volt was started six months in advance of early development. Every vehicle is different and tricks are constantly updated to keep spy photographers and the curious guessing.

“Each car is unique. We are like a dress maker, and the car is our model,” said Perkins. “No two models are the same. We need to make the right dress that fits the body we are dealing with.”

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.9 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design, and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.