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).
I want to like electric vehicles for road trips, but this still comes up a bit short for me. A gas fill up is no more than 10 minutes even with a bathroom break and snack binge. When I'm on the road, I tend to be very impatient to get where I'm going, especially on long trips. I can't see myself fidgeting impatiently for 20 extra minutes every time I need a charge. It would be mental torture. Also, no option of wandering off the beaten path for for an occasional scenic view along the way would also make a long trip less enjoyable. Such spontaneity is useful for breaking up the monotony of long trips. Nevertheless, it's still a step in the right direction, and for trips that only require a single recharge, it would at least be tolerable.
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 :)
I wonder what it does to battery life, to attempt these high-current charging sessions.
Anyway, sorry, this idea still relies on batteries, still requires way more "fueling" stops than the competition, and each stop is still way longer than anyone would accept in a gasoline powered car. Which means, among other things, that *if* BEVs ever did become somewhat popular, you'd have really long qeues behind each one of these stations.
Still puts a heavy burden on the electric grid (assuming popularity of BEVs), and still limits people who want to get off the heavily beaten path.
The answer has to be with fuel cells and on-board H2 separators.
@Bert- fair points, especially about the long lines that would form for 30-minute charges if EVs were really popular. But about the grid, Tesla says the solar-powered Superchargers actually give more back to the grid than it will take to charge the cars.
Heh. They might claim that, but does that claim cover the case case where the stations are operating around the clock?
Think of it this way. If each car had solar panels on their roof, would that provide enough energy for driving the car? I mean, assuming more than just a tiny little experimental vehicle?
Now exacerbate that problem by a 30-minute "refueling," where the energy required for each car driving 3 hours or so is crammed into 30 minutes. And by the fact that you're doing this for potentially many cars simultaneously.
I'm sure one can do the numbers, to determine just how much solar panel area would be required. All I can say is, roof panels on EVs don't come close to generating enough power. So multply that car-roof area by at least 6 * the number of cars fueling at a time * a factor to account for the fact that this calculation only works for 12:00 noon on a sunny day * a factor to accoun t for the fact that the roof area isn't enough for practical cars, and that should give an idea whether you can net give the grid any power.
Your thought experiment is pretty meaningless... the charging station is not limited to the area of the roof on the car.
However, your conclusion is probably right. If the station was being run 24/7 it wouldn't work. Good thing Tesla knows how many cars they are selling in each area and can plan accordingly.
Obviously, the roof of the car was intended to give an idea of the area required for solar panels. As opposed to just armwaving about how these charging stations were going to be able to give you free energy.
According to a Tesla chief engineer after the unveiling, the damage to the battery is no different than any other form of charging. It's designed to bypass the charging hardware and do some other stuff that a biologist like me doesn't really understand. Keep in mind that the 85kwh batteries have an 8 year warranty.
As for Hydrogen and other fuel cell technologies... you have an even greater infrastructure problem and/or at least with hydrogen it's even worse, because you are literally using MORE electricity to make hydrogen than it would take just to run the car with electricity to begin with.
Infrastructure problem? We can't deliver gasoline, diesel, or bioduels to standard gasoline stations?
You put a hydrocarbon fuel in a tank in the car. And then you extract the H2 on board, and feed the H2 to the fuel cells. You may need a small battery, similar to that of a mild hybrid, for short power bursts.
No energy shortfall, no infrastructure change, no heavy and low specific energy battery to contend with, no problem with friving range.
Look it up. It's doable, and I think it has a lot more potential than battery-powered electrics.
This doesn't really scale. Imagine 1000s of electric cars driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They would all have to stop at the one station at Harris Ranch. If it is like the picture shown, there might be just four charging stations. So the wait is going to be a heck of a lot longer than 30 minutes.
These Tesla cars and stations seem more of a solution for a handful of wealthy electric-car hobbyists.
I don't really mind, because if they ever do come out with cheap battery or super capacitor technology that allows for -affordable- 300 mile plus cars, then it is useful to have our wealthy friends spend their money helping develop the required infrastructure.
You are thinking an electric car is like building a new gas car. 95% of my charging will be done at home in my garage. A large number of people commute less than 300 miles a day. Superchargers aren't the gas stations of electric cars, they are just for taking long trips.
As electric cars become more popular, obviously more stations will be built. You could make the same argument against gasoline cars when the first stations were going up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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].
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.
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