During a keynote address at last year's DESIGN West, J.B. Straubel, chief technology and co-founder of Tesla Motors Inc., lamented that despite some pretty serious advanced in electric vehicle technology by his firm and others, EVs continued to be dogged by the "road trip question."
While more and more car owners are warming to the idea that EVs offer an attractive alternative to gasoline-powered cars for their 50-, 100- or even 200-mile daily commute, how can they satisfy our urge to occasionally take off on a much longer trip?
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Tesla is trying to answer that question. At a glitzy event held earlier this week at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, Calif., Tesla launched its Supercharger network. Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, revealed the locations of the first six Supercharger station locations, all of which are in California.
Starting next year, the company plans to install Superchargers "in high traffic corridors across the continental United States, enabling fast, purely electric travel from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal and Los Angeles to New York." In the second half of 2013, Tesla plans to begin installing Superchargers in Europe and Asia.
The initial locations of Tesla's Supercharger stations--all in California--are laid out to enable long trips throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona.
The Supercharger stations are designed to work only with Tesla's Model S sedans, which just became available in June. The 480-volt charging stations—which cost about $250,000 apiece—are said to replenish enough power to drive a Model S for three hours at 60 miles an hour in just 30 minutes. Some of the stations are solar-powered, enabling Tesla to provide Model S owners "free long distance travel indefinitely."
Doing the math, one could drive a Model S 360 miles in six and a half hours—including charging time. That's almost—but not quite—the driving distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Assuming the charging stations are placed at appropriate intervals, one could drive a Model S 540 miles in 10 hours. (The initial station locations, including Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Tejon Ranch and Los Angeles, are arranged to enable to Bay Area to L.A. trek).
Hi Frank, yes, "who owns the battery" is always the question. But the answer could be: "not the EV user". For schemes where the battery hardware is swapped out (like the scheme proposed by companies like Better Place), the EV user does NOT pay for (and therefore does not own) the battery - the user is not buying a piece of hardware or a fuel; the user is buying a service: a charged battery, which is really "distance travelled".
Of course, if you have already paid for your EV battery, then you would probably not want to participate in this type of scheme (depending on the condition of your battery!)
But for wet-chemistry batteries, the EV user owning the "battery" is just fine: the battery hardware stays in the EV, only the liquid electrolyte is exchanged; in the case the commodity being purchased is replacement electrolyte, which is more like what we do now with fossil fuels.
As for the practicalities of swapping battery hardware (labour costs, safety issues, etc): as the video shows, a battery changing robot will do this in just a couple of minutes. Of course, this means that batteries need to be built to certain form-factors and standards. But here we are at the cusp of this new industry, if standards are implemented now then this type of idea can become widely adopted. And with that will come the significant benefits of having substantial energy storage connected to the grid.
This 100kW supercharger is a step in the right directions, but not nearly far enough. When they get to 1 Megawatt, it will get a lot more compelling for full gasoline-powered vehicle replacement by EVs.
I'm still hoping for Doc Brown's "Mr Fusion" home reactor mounted on the back of the car :)
Sounds great, but there is a cost associated with replacing used batteries with fully-charged brand new ones. Who will pay that cost, and what do you do with the used ones? Recharge them and offer them at the supercharger station? Sure, I'll let you have my 6 month old batteries in exchange for those fully charged 2 year old batteries because I'm in a hurry and don't want to wait to charge mine.
There are safety issues and labor cost issues as well with this idea. Swapping out a bank of Li-ion batteries in an EV is not nearly as simple as replacing the lead acid battery in a gasoline-powered car. Will each charging station have a staff of well-trained auto mechanics? Who pays for them?
Another idea is very rapid charging, say 5 minutes. This would be more amenable to a large capacitor bank than electrochemical batteries. If the "refueling" station had a high-capacity storage bank charged up and ready to go an electric car could pull up to the "pump", be connected with a high-current coaxial cable, and have a very high energy transfer in a short time. This would allow recharging to be on a par with current refueling times and methods. It would also allow a more constant recharge of the storage bank, thereby reducing surges on the grid from quick recharges. An added advantage is the charged storage bank at the recharge station could be siphoned off during times of high grid demand.
Likewise, I have heard that issue regarding Tesla Supercharger. One of the main why reason electric automobiles have not caught on more is because of their restricted range. In fact, to address this problem Tesla Motors have publicized a plan to set up solar quick-charging stations for Tesla drivers across the nation. The service will be free of charge and will be called as [url="http://www.cardealexpert.com/news-information/auto-news/tesla-supercharger-network/"]the Tesla Supercharger network[/url].
You beat me to it, Fabio. This is surely the way to go. If this existed already, imagine the scorn if you suggested having to spend 5 minutes pumping a high flamable, smelly liquid into your car instead of letting a robot change your battery in 1 minute.
But in terms of "solid batteries": a company called Better Place has already started pilot schemes for this idea in Israel and Australia. The other benefit: the buyer of the electric car does NOT buy the battery out-right: they simply pay for the energy used. This reduces the initial cost of the electric car, and makes the economics more in line with our existing fossil-fuel powered cars: you pay for what you use. Here is a link showing a video of a battery being swapped out of an EV:
This of course means the EV stations need to have available more batteries than there are cars using those batteries. But far from being a disadvantage, this could be a distinct benefit and a revenue generator for the EV stations, because the batteries at the station (ie: not in vehicles) could provide much needed energy storage which is of value to the energy grid (eg: "load levelling"). This allows more effective utilisation of existing transmission and generation assets, and importantly, it can also allow for the more effective integration of renewable energy sources into the grid, and hence faster up-take of renewables.
Why fast-charge, when you can just swap out the depleted battery with a fully-charged one?
Of course, this means all EV car batteries must be the same (or at least are limited to just 3 or 4 variations, or the risk is the station won't have your battery..!)
But if the decision could be made **now** to develop all EV batteries to comply with certain standards (in particular mechanical form-factors that specify size, shape, fixing points and electrical connections, among other features) then that would allow rapid exchange via automated battery exchange stations. The time it would take to swap the battery would be about the same as filling your cars fuel tank now.
This is not a new idea; it has been proposed for decades for the standard red-ox batteries with liquid electrolytes (such as those based on the Vanadium and Bromine chemistries), where the tank of "spent" electrolyte is simply emptied and the tank of "fresh" electrolyte is refilled. There are no huge spikes of electrical power required, the electrolyte can be converted from "spent" to "fresh" over a long time frame using minimum cost base-load power generators.
For sure it makes no sense to compare gas station and electric charging stations. As Jhal said, most of the electric charging is done at home by night, but it can also be done at work as it costs almost nothing to add a standard main plug (no supercharging stuff) in front of any car in any company that have a private parking place.
This way you can charge 4H in the morning, 4H in the afternoon and 8H by night which is much more than necessary. Don't forget that partial charging is no issue for today managed batteries.
And "rich" companies could afford wireless charging when the technology will be viable.