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Electric cars and the energy gap

This week’s Briefing kicks off in Germany with some good news about an all electric vehicle breaking a speed record.

Toyota Motorsport (TMG) made Nürburgring history yesterday by setting a new electric vehicle (EV) lap record of 7min 47secs on the 20.832km Nordschleife race track.

To achieve this TMG’s electric powertrain used two electric motors to deliver peak power of 280kW and a top speed of 260km/h.

The two-seater car, weighing in at 970kg, significantly improved on the former lap EV record of 9min 1.338secs set by the Peugeot EX1 earlier in the year.

TMG says it will begin commercial sales of its electric powertrain technology in 2012.

TMG

TMG’s two-seater electric car achieved a speed of 260km/hr

Still with EVs, and news of a lecture that is to be held in Birmingham on 30th August exploring the issues that need to be met concerning wider electric vehicle adoption and plugging a perceived energy gap.

The lecture, organised by the IET, is part of the 14th European Conference on Power Electronics and Applications.

The talk, part of a series of lectures entitled ‘Electric Vehicles – the journey from power station to wheel’, will also cover the need for significant investment to meet the gap between needs and capability.

In publicity material, Dr. Tony Whitehead, director of policy at the IET, said, ‘Government and industry are driving adoption of low carbon transportation, which is a huge step in the right direction, however, discussions on the electric power generation capability are vital if the UK is to meet the new environmentally friendly behaviours that are being encouraged.’

Sheffield Hallam University is this week offering a glimpse at the future of robotics.

According to the event’s blurb, the Towards Automatic Robotics Systems (TAROS) conference will point to a future where automated devices can help in a variety of domestic and professional scenarios.

Jointly organised by Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield University, it will take place between Wednesday, August 31 and Friday, September 2, at Sheffield Hallam’s Furnival Building.

This year’s TAROS conference will see experts discuss how the 21st century will see sweeping social and economic changes due to the advance of robotic technologies such as animal-like robots, self-driving cars, assistive robots for children and adults with special needs and robots for farms.

A robotic exhibition takes place in the Furnival Gallery on Thursday 1 September from 3.30pm to 5.30pm to be followed by a public lecture.

The exhibition will feature robotics from industry and from University laboratories including Shrewbot, which can seek out and identify objects using its artificial whiskers using a new technology that was developed jointly by the Active Touch Laboratory at the University of Sheffield at Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Finally, HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations Mike Weightman is expected this week to publish his final report this month into the implications for the UK nuclear industry of the 11 March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which badly damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station.

Energy and Climate Change Sec Chris Huhne asked Weightman on 12 March to report on the issue and an interim report was released in May, which outlined 26 recommendations to improve safety in the UK nuclear industry.


Readers' comments (22)

  • So, all these years pushing for electric cars and now we are starting to look in depth at the power generation required to support them. Seldom has the expression "putting the cart before the horse" seemed so appropriate.

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  • I wonder what the re-charge time is compared to the conventional re-fuelling of a petrol-engined version? Just think of the queues at filling stations. Furthermore - is the life of the car the life of the battery pack?

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  • The first step is to mass produce and electrify mopeds and motorbike. This is because the range is the most appropriate and the recharge time is the most convenient. This will also reduce the awful noise of mopeds. The combustion system is also the poorest in terms of BSFC/kW and the cost to profit ratio to improve the combusiton system of moped through research is not favorable. This is the achievable goals currently available.

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  • Refuelling of electric cars can be much faster. Just look at refuelling your Swatch.

    Old battery out,
    new battery in.
    Done.

    Just need to develop standardised batteries and plugs.
    And looking at standard mains plugs this is asking for the impossible.

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  • Lets look at the realities and at least try to be objective.

    The perceived energy gap is not perceived, it is a reality as green energy has failed to meet any of its targets. Solar being a particular example, yet how much taxpayers money has, and is still spent on many white elephant projects. This needs stopping now and the money spending on alternative energy systems which work, or show potential, and nuclear. Nuclear sceptics need to understand the facts and realities, not make decisions on information from systems decades old.

    Electric cars will highlight another problem, the National Grid, and its inability to deal with such an increase in load, so who will pay for is upgrade.

    If we look at vehicles themselves we see something interesting, only 20% of their emissions are from their use. The remaining emissions are from their manufacture and disposal, a point lost on many. For the doubters i suggest you look at the only in depth survey into this, and its published on the What Car magazine website. Already we know that electric vehicles need to be as light as possible for their maximum efficiency, this will introduce many materials which are higher polluters than steel into their construction. How carbon efficient is this?

    This raises the question of why we are dealing with the lowest polluter and not the highest, at present this is cursory and nothing more.

    On the issue of pollution or carbon emissions, what about the masses of electronics and rare earth motors? These are massively carbon intensive to manufacture and cannot be effectively reprocessed as conventional materials can, or reused. This is the reason many electronic devices end up being burned in third world countries, a well known issue. This needs factoring into the equation and researching properly so we can assess the carbon impact of such control electronics and motors.

    As for battery swapping, who will allow the funding for all battery types to be stocked for every vehicle, and pay for it. Already planning permission has been denied for a town centre battery swapping station, the reason? emissions. What about the warranty implications of having a new car and putting a secondhand battery onto it, particularly when it breaks down. Manufacturers will exploit this (and already have) to the full to avoid warranty claims.

    Just a few points to consider before we all get caught up in what can best be described as a fanciful ideology.

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  • My colleague saw the new Nissan Leaf on the road in the midlands two weeks ago. On the back was a sticker claiming "Zero emissions". They obviously forgot about the emissions associated with charging it up and making the damn thing in the first place!

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  • I just want an electric city car that costs £8K with a range of 100 miles and the same comfort level as an IC engine car. As a second car it would be perfect. The batteries need to last for at least 10 years.

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  • So lets slay a few dragons:
    1. Charging time for vehicles. Most now will charge in a few hours over night. The recent CABLED study in Coventry and Birmingham showed that people don't generally travel as far as they think and therefore the charging will not take as long as a full charge. Some fast charging facilities may be needed, but probably rarely needed. Most people just got into the habit of plugging in when they parked (at home or at work) into conventional 13A sockets. Linked to a smart meter the charge time of the fleet can be smoothed to off-peak demand.

    2. There are still carbon emissions from electric vehicles. Yes, but will become no. We produce a small, but increasing amount of renewables, but some places, such as Orkney, are already >100% renewable on occasions. More renewables = fewer carbon emissions.


    3. The grid needs an upgrade for vehicles. No it does not. It will need it in places to get the renewables to market, and it will need it to overcome past chronic under-investment, but the demand of vehicles overnight will be less than the present peak demand. Probably adding around 20% to UK electicity demand.

    4. Battery life limits the life of the car. Why? We will swap components in a conventional car at key service intervals such as Catalyst, tyres, oil etc. Batteries will be used up, but provided it is planned then this is just another service item.

    Overall: Electic vehicles will not work for every occasion and for every user, just as a 18 wheel truck is rubbish for going shopping. It is about finding the right tool for the right job. Electic will have its place and over time we will find that we do more with less. We simply do not have the luxury to keep on doing what we are presently doing, and the sooner we realise there needs to be something beyond the fossil fuelled engine the better.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • So lets slay a few dragons:
    1. Charging time for vehicles. Most now will charge in a few hours over night. The recent CABLED study in Coventry and Birmingham showed that people don't generally travel as far as they think and therefore the charging will not take as long as a full charge. Some fast charging facilities may be needed, but probably rarely needed. Most people just got into the habit of plugging in when they parked (at home or at work) into conventional 13A sockets. Linked to a smart meter the charge time of the fleet can be smoothed to off-peak demand.

    2. There are still carbon emissions from electric vehicles. Yes, but will become no. We produce a small, but increasing amount of renewables, but some places, such as Orkney, are already >100% renewable on occasions. More renewables = fewer carbon emissions.


    3. The grid needs an upgrade for vehicles. No it does not. It will need it in places to get the renewables to market, and it will need it to overcome past chronic under-investment, but the demand of vehicles overnight will be less than the present peak demand. Probably adding around 20% to UK electicity demand.

    4. Battery life limits the life of the car. Why? We will swap components in a conventional car at key service intervals such as Catalyst, tyres, oil etc. Batteries will be used up, but provided it is planned then this is just another service item.

    Overall: Electic vehicles will not work for every occasion and for every user, just as a 18 wheel truck is rubbish for going shopping. It is about finding the right tool for the right job. Electic will have its place and over time we will find that we do more with less. We simply do not have the luxury to keep on doing what we are presently doing, and the sooner we realise there needs to be something beyond the fossil fuelled engine the better.

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  • I agree with Kerry Green. My daily commute to work is about 40 miles and I would cheerfully use an electric car as a second vehicle. But it mustn't cost £25k and be subsidized to the tune of £5k by the UK taxpayer.

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