announcing the development of a "Super Charge" Li-ion battery that - thanks to the application of nano-particles to its cathode - can, it's claimed, be recharged to 80% of capacity in just 60 seconds. To quote from that Toshiba press release:
"A breakthrough technology applied to the negative electrode uses new nano-particles to prevent organic liquid electrolytes from reducing during battery recharging. The nano-particles quickly absorb and store vast amount of lithium ions, without causing any deterioration in the electrode. "
Firstly: do you view this as true nanotechnology?
DS: No. As best I can tell from the brief description, the invention is simply a demonstration of Fick's Second Law, i.e., diffusion time scales with diffusion distance.
More precisely, time scales with the square of the distance. So if one reduces the particle size by a factor of 10, the diffusion time is reduced by a factor of 100. This alone is not nanotechnology. But if the particles are on the order of nanoscopic dimensions, i.e., 10 - 100 nm or so, the company is smart to refer to them in their press release as nano-particles.
EVUK: And secondly: although the Toshiba cell uses liquid electrolyte,could nano-particles also potentially be applied to the sLimcell's negative electrode in order to "quickly absorb and store vast amounts of lithium ions" and thus achieve (very) fast recharge times?
EVUK: So high energy density and potentially fast recharge times. Well, we may not believe in panaceas - but this certainly looks to us like the nearest anyone has yet come to creating the perfect battery. But what about the sLimcell's life expectancy - in terms of charge/discharge cycles?
DS: Life expectancy is unknown at this time pending a full-scale investigation of failure modes.
EVUK: We're also pleased to note, incidentally, that Toshiba will be focusing primarily on automotive applications - not consumer electronics...or medical devices!
DS: Toshiba has made a business decision. I don't know all the factors that they considered in doing so.
EVUK: Finally, if I could just jump from Japan and Toshiba to China.
- As many of our readers are no doubt aware, the Chinese government has demonstrated a unique, strong-arm commitment to the rapid development of a new generation of long-range advanced battery vehicles - as most recently evidenced by the impressive range of advanced EV's on display at last year's(Oct 12-14) Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai.
And it's no surprise that Government ministers and scientists have described battery EV and fuel cell development as the "space race for the 21st century" and are, in marked contrast to Western governments, clearly committed to fast-tracking EV development not only in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics but also of course with a view to helping the country meet its long-term Kyoto obligations.
So: given also the fact that so many Chinese companies are now riding the wave of that country's sustained economic boom and increasingly looking abroad for potential joint-venture partners etc - I wonder, not to put too fine a point on it, if you(MIT) would be willing and able to look seriously at any proposals that might emanate from that country?
(I might add that EVUK receives a lot of mail from Chinese EV and battery manufacturers - we know we are widely read there.)
DS: A serious proposal from a credible entity would be given proper attention.
April, 2005 Branson's blue sky brainwave? No - MG Rover were already planning hybrids!
- Richard Branson's "radical" and "original" idea? That MG Rover should produce hybrids! (Independent on Sunday, 17 April)
Oh dear Richard...EVUK had already reported in February in some detail that MG Rover - with partners MIRA, Powertrain Ltd. and Pi Technology - were, pre-collapse, set to exhibit their government-funded hybrid concept/prototype in some shape or form(MG TF or saloon?) at the upcoming Clean Energy/Transport Expo(May 5-7 2005) at London's Business Design Centre.
Strange then that Mr. Branson should appear to be claiming the idea as his own in this April 17 article in which he says:
"My solution is a radical one, but would help with what I see as Britain's pending energy crisis. We should steal the green mantle from the Japanese and Americans and become the first European manufacturer of hybrid cars."
MG Rover's TF 200 HPD hybrid - terminally "unplugged"?
Now don't get us wrong - we would have given Branson's green "intervention" an unqualified thumbs-up if he had said something to the Independent to the effect that:
"Many people - who know about these things - have long been calling for a transition to electric and hybrid vehicles: I thought it was high time that influential and wealthy entrepreneurs like myself add their voices to the chorus - and put their money where their...etc. etc."
In other words, while it is good to have the Virgin boss on board at last - it's a pity he's been so late arriving at this particular destination...
UCDavies' Team Fate's "Yosemite" Ford Explorer plug-in doubles hybrid fuel economy
Now - what are the odds that Branson's next even bigger idea will be...er...radical 100+ mpg plugin-able hybrids - like the 100+ mpg Ford Explorer hybrid - the "Yosemite" - that Professor Andrew Frank has developed with "Team Fate" at the University of California at Davies(see EVUK report Feb 2005) or the Li-ion-enhanced 125+mpg Prius+ hybrid(see Calcars for photos) that Valence-EnergyCS recently presented at EVS21 in Monaco. (Incidentally, EVS21 has - like the twenty EVS's before it - remained almost completely unreported by a mainstream media that appears incapable of moving beyond endless "concerned" reports about the symptoms and effects of global warming - incapable of focusing instead on solutions and prevention...)
"Easy EV" - à propos airline entrepreneurs.
In 2000 - we succeeded in ambushing Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou at the posh London launch of the Industry Standard Europe magazine(now defunct..) - and spent three minutes at the bar attempting to persuade him that electric vehicles(rent..lease..manufacture..whatEVer) would offer a great future-proof investment opportunity - especially in London - given the then imminent introduction of Mayor Ken Livingstone's congestion-charging scheme.
Needless to say, Stelios humoured us with his familiar expansive and benign smile and promised - charmingly but unconvincingly - that he would think about it.
So Stelios why not think - blue sky think about it again - indeed why not go one(or two..) better than Sir Richard - fly even higher - with some genuinely "radical" proposals for plugin(able) hybrids and pure battery EV's?
Note: eagle-eyed EVUK'ers may have noticed that an important link(posted in our February news report) to Parliamentary answers re: the UK Govt's back-door/barn door financing of MG Rover" suddenly and mysteriously ceased to function shortly after news of Rover's demise hit the headlines.
Do not despair - we have tracked down this eye-opening little Hansard(UK Parliamentary records) piece again complete with new link: it appears that the original URL - which had worked perfectly - was changed slightly by unseen government hands shortly after the MG Rover collapse was announced at the beginning of April. If this link should mysteriously die again in the next few weeks we will assume that someone may be playing hide and seek with the truth...
1) Rover TF 200 HPD hybrid : while it may seem like a contradiction in terms, Rover spokesmen always went out of their way to reassure their ICE-fundamentalist base(as well as petrol-tax-collectors and oil company bosses..?) that the HPD hybrid technology was not about traitorous capitulation to the green lobby eg. boosting fuel economy, reducing emissions levels - but was designed primarily to enhance power, performance, acceleration and muscle (quote) "without increasing the environmental impact".
April, 2005 "Race to the Future" - Watch CNN's electric go-kart report now !
- An adrenalin rush to save the planet?
For the past month or so the CNN series "Global Challenges"(Sundays 22.00 CET) has included this fast-paced - and by TV standards - environmentally-liberated report into Gordon Foat's(Green Motorsport) hopefully fast-track crusade to clean up not only racing - but the cars we drive and the energy we use to power them.
Although we did ask ourselves at first if we could justify posting this up as a "News" item - we soon decided that any positive TV coverage of battery electric vehicles - especially out of Britain - is eminently newsworthy simply by virtue of its sheer rarity value.
And what's more, unlike our defiantly ICE-blinkered, loyal-to-oil media and politicians we have no problem whatsoever connecting the luminous dots - compare and contrast - between the headline-hogging endgame currently being played out at MG Rover and the subject of this unusually green, technologically evangelical story from CNN.
(.....No - we have little doubt that Rover could have saved itself - and helped save the planet - but it would have required an "abrupt mindset change" - an infinitely more visionary and courageous management team - a "Phoenix-not-Dodo" consortium of Steve Green(Greener Energy") and Gordon Foat "think-alikes" - and a thoroughly "de-ICE'ed" government and media to match. So much for real-world in the UK !!)
CNN's racey and otherwise inspiring "Global Challenges" report is however slightly spoiled towards the end by the, nowadays, seemingly obligatory inclusion of a conspicous piece of hand-me-down anti-battery/pro-fuel cell spin - you know it's coming the moment the camera begins lurking ominously over an oh-so nasty and dirty little mains plug and lead trailing darkly down to the e-kart's battery charger.
Yes - it's that familiar point you reach in almost every ZEV-related mainstream media report where you feel a sudden uncontrollable urge to scream :
"Well - why don't you sign up for 100% renewable electricity from a top-rated green supplier like Good Energy then!" ...or
"Battery-powered vehicles are more energy-efficient - well-to-wheel - than FCV's ! ...or
"Why can't we have both? Battery and fuel cell vehicles? We somehow manage to live with both noxious petrol and diesel cars don't we ?"
But all credit anyway to Green Motorsport's Gordon Foat and to CNN for this rare example of joined-up eco-journalism - and for doing what most TV companies - including our own
ICE-fundamentalist ..er..."Kyoto-concerned" BBC, Channel 4, ITV etc. so resolutely refuse to do: bring battery EV's , ZEV's and green micropower right to the heart of the Global Warming debate.
Watch: CNN's electric go-kart/Green Motorsport feature "Race to the Future" - courtesy Ladybird Racing UK.
1) MG Rover's much-vaunted breath-of-hot-air 2002 tie-up with China's Brilliance: take an amusing drive down memory lane with this joyous March 2002 BBC report - and weep!
2) ..then contrast that with EVUK's own February 2002 comments on the same Rover-Brilliance news...
...or with our more recent(Feb 2005), pre-collapse, "Rover - throw the rest of us a bone" remarks.
(*Glossary note for non-English / non-jargon speakers:
"ICE" = Internal Combustion Engine!)
April, 2005 Toshiba's new nano Li-ion for cars etc. - recharge in 60 seconds...and at least 1000 times !
Toshiba's March 29 press release makes especially encouraging reading thanks to the unusual and welcome emphasis the company places on the potential automotive(albeit "hybrid") applications of its breakthrough nano-cathode lithium technology:
"Initial applications will be in the automotive and industrial sectors, where the slim, small-sized battery will deliver large amounts of energy while requiring only a minute to recharge. For example, the battery's advantages in size, weight and safety highly suit it for a role as an alternative power source for hybrid electric vehicles."
Whilst several other companies and organisations have also announced nano-Lithium advances in recent months(Altair in particular - see Lithium Hotlinks), press releases have - disappointingly - almost always given primary focus to the technology's potential use in portable consumer electronics - mobile phones, laptops, camcorders and the like.
Toshiba say they "will bring the new rechargeable battery to commercial products in 2006" - but at what point the battery will be released for general sale is unclear.
No indications either as to price at this stage - but with the prospect of high volume production for the auto industry coupled with the increasingly fierce space-race-style competition between the world's leading battery manufacturers - you have to say that the Li-ion price-prognosis has never looked so good.
On the crucial question of energy density(read "EV range") - although Toshiba do make reference to the Li-ion cell's "high energy density", no precise Wh/kg figure is given. However the comparative performance bubble-charts provided in the press release(click image above) indicate that energy density/capacity is marginally less than the very highest capacity Li-ion cells currently on the market.
See Toshiba 29 March 05 Press Release: "Toshiba's New Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Recharges in Only One Minute".
March, 2005 EVS21 in Monte Carlo(April 2-6): a quick look ahead - and back.
EVUK spent several months last year working in close consultation with EVS21 Project Manager Simone Mirza in a concerted effort to ensure maximum battery vehicle representation at the coming exhibition.
It had been clear to us from our initial contact with the organisers in mid-2004 that - as we had feared - hybrids and fuel cell technologies were tending to dominate proceedings: knowledge and appreciation of the wider battery vehicle universe among event co-ordinators appeared fairly minimal at that stage. (No surprise really - this general state of off-the-radar BEV-obliviousness is after all precisely what our media and major automakers have worked so hard to create over the years....)
Now, in 2005, the looks pretty healthy from a battery vehicle perspective - with a few notable absentees: AC Propulsion(TZero,Scion, Tom Hanks etc?), Wavecrest and, ironically, Monaco-based MDI(Air Car), for instance, appear to have chosen to stay away.
But we are looking forward to breakthrough announcements and revelations from a number of exhibitors - in particular from G-Wiz manufacturer Reva(see below) and Valence(Saphion).
1) India Times June 2003 - REVA MD Chetan Maini talks of plans for a long-range quick-charge EV(quote):
"While I feel an 80-km run will meet 90 per cent of the customer's requirements, nevertheless, we will also offer options of a 250-km drive charge and other option," he added. Besides, quick charging options would also be available, wherein a buyer can charge up to 80 per cent of the battery in 20 minutes."
2) EVWorld confirms REVA's plans in a March 2005 report
"REVA to Debut Next Generation Electric Car"
March, 2005 UK race car & aerospace specialist plans novel zero emission Li-ion hybrid.
Intrigued? Puzzled? A hybrid with no tailpipe emissions?
Although we have been sworn to near-total secrecy on this tantalizing development(we cannot name the company in question or be too specific about the technology involved...), we can reveal that:
a) We were recently contacted by a renowned UK and US-based low weight vehicle manufacturer and composites/plastics specialist with extensive race car and aerospace experience. It is the company's first foray into Zero Emission Vehicle territory - you will for instance find no prior references to them(yet!) in the pages of EVUK, EVWorld, Electrifying Times etc.
b) Although the company's ZEV hybrid concept cannot perhaps, in the strictest sense, be described as 100% original and unprecedented, the configuration of component elements being proposed is, to the best of our knowledge, unique and certainly refreshingly innovative. (And no - we're not talking flywheels here...)
c) The company expects to have a Ford-based "mule" conversion trialled and tested by the autumn "at which point we will go public and you will be the first to know".
So fellow EVUK'ers - please continue to watch this space for exclusive breaking mule news later this year...
(Note: we will not confirm or deny any guesswork or speculation as to the identity of the company or the technology being developed - but please feel free to email us with your best guesses!)
March, 2005 Batscap/Bolloré unveil long-range Li-Polymer BlueCar (formerly "VBE1") at Geneva Motor Show.
Batscap/Bolloré's 200 km/charge, 135 km/h Li-Polymer-powered BlueCar
+++ Hot Breaking News +++
The first pictures and full detailed specifications of the VBE1 - now renamed BlueCar - have now been posted up on the Batscap website - however, at the time of writing, no photos have yet been posted on the Geneva Motor Show site itself.
(Why on earth not?! Given that the Kyoto Treaty came into full force just a few days ago - amid much triumphant, US-bashing political and media self-congratulation - ZEV's/EV's should surely now be hogging the limelight and the flashlights...and generally stealing the show here in Europe.)
Dispelling another popular myth, Philippe Guédon - BlueCar designer and creator of the Renault Espace - told the Agence France-Presse that:
"Technically, electric cars are slightly less expensive to manufacture than petrol-powered cars. The problem of cost is primarily a result of low production volume." (Translated from: Autoactu/AFP)
Also: Dassault Group unveils long-range Renault Scenic-based Cleanova III - yes "III" - see Geneva Motor Show's SVE/Cleanova III pages:
"With the CLEANOVA III, SVE is now introducing an all-new concept and technology compared to traditional electric vehicles, in particular in terms of range, battery loading time, vehicle performance and driving comfort."
Dassault's long-range Scenic-based Cleanova III debuts at Geneva Show
See also: EVUK's November 2004 "VBE1" report: "BatScap/Bolloré's low-cost, long-range li-ion VBE1 - an update".
Only EV's Pass Department for Transport's New Green Label Test"
- Kyoto concerns aside - here's one more reason why EV's should now more than ever(theoretically at least..) be enjoying the full glare of the media spotlight here in Britain in particular...
- On February 9th EVUK was contacted by BBC TV's Six O'Clock News correspondent "Tom S." seeking photogenic EV's(and drivers) for an imminent news item about Alistair Darling's / the Department for Transport's soon-to-be-launched(Sept 1 2005) colour-coded eco-labels for cars(click image for detail). Only battery electric vehicles, he told us, had been awarded a green colour code rating :
"We're trying to put together a piece on the government's new green labelling scheme for new cars. It would go out tomorrow on the Six O'clock News. The scheme has a rating system from A to F, taking into account C02 emissions and other factors. We're interested that the only cars in the A category are battery electric cars. As a result we were wondering if you could put us in touch with an EV owner who might be prepared to show off his/her car and do a television interview. "
As it turned out though - having duly provided the BBC's man with an (inevitably) shamefully short short-list of UK EV's including the e_Mercury, Steve Green's Jester and even the G-Wiz - we were later told that the planned news item had been indefinitely postponed to make way for yet more late-breaking "Charles and Camilla to Wed" titbits and shenanigans....proving once again that - faced with the choice between the future of the monarchy and the future of the planet - our mainstream(aka sideshow) media will go for the royal nuptials every time...
Speaking at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership Annual Conference, Alistair Darling said:
"The labels will send a clear message to motorists that they can make a real difference by choosing clean, fuel-efficient cars."
The glaring irony here of course is that Britain's car showrooms won't be selling any green-labelled cars for many years to come unless carmakers, car-advertisers and their legions of Clarkson-clone media motor-mouthpieces are also pressured by government into genuinely changing their spots and shaking off their barely concealed contempt for (brace yourselves..) "brown-sandal-wearing, nut-roast-munching, tree-hugging bl**dy environmentalists".(We all know those "labels"..)
Until that happens, green labels will merely serve as a graphic reminder of successive governments' chronic failure to turn green rhetoric and green tokenism into certifiably green - ZEV - showroom product.
1) BBC OnLine report .
2) DfT press release .
3) The DfT reports that car-buyers' interest in eco-information is very low:
"..the showroom research found that, in practice, environmental information is not of widespread interest to car buyers, and that car labels are not important for car buyers or sales staff as sources of information in practice."
Again - the mainstream media alone has the power(but sadly not the will...) to change all that. So just when will Darling & Co. take on the mainstream media - TV in particular? Our publicly funded, ostensibly publicly accountable, public service BBC - and Top Gear - would be as good a place to start as any...
Click for more News >>>