UMD Solar Charging

UMD logoSpeaking of the University of Maryland… The College Park Campus, already well-represented in the area’s charging count, just won’t stop.  Three parking structures will not only install more EVSEs, but solar canopies to power those charging spaces.  The campus as a whole already runs a solar “farm” nearby, as well as buying solar and wind credits.  Then in late 2016, the Terrapin Trail, Regents Drive, and Mowatt Lane Garages will be powered by solar roofs.  The coverage won’t just shade vehicles and provide EV power; the three canopies will send surplus power to other campus buildings.

This is all in addition to American University and GWU producing or buying a majority of their electricity from new solar ventures, and Catholic University’s onsite arrays.  UMD has more charging, but theirs is a suburban campus of course.  American and GWU have their own Metro stops and bikeshare racks, and each still has a token EVSE.

“Center for Research in Extreme Batteries”

UMD logoarmbrndSpeaking of the military- the University of Maryland and the Army Research Lab have formed the Center for Research in Extreme Batteries (CREB), and it just held its first colloquium.111144dThey’re working on lithium-sulfur cells, and solid state anodes, of course- everyone’s working on them.  But as the name implies, the Center is also studying beyond-state-of-the-art tech that’s applicable to us, and some not- niches like thermal batteries, that run a missile for a few seconds to a minute, to batteries that have to last thirty years or even longer.  And there’s the stuff the average person doesn’t see: tools and diagnostics, like battery x-rays, neutron beam scanning, and ion beam scanning.  So the next biggest presence was probably NIST. Continue reading

EV Air Quality and Human Health

Time to throw another shovel of dirt on the “EVs are just coal burners” myth.   Professor Volker Sorger’s group, in George Washington University‘s Electrical Engineering department, sought to test that hypothesis.  Their conclusion: no.  In multiple future scenarios, mass adoption of EVs still results in better DC health gwsmloutcomes, despite the area’s four coal plants and negligible hydro.

Pepco’s energy portfolio, while cleaner than the national average, is hardly spotless.  But EVs, as we already knew, use a fraction of the energy of GVs (gas vehicles), as internal combustion and multispeed transmissions are surprisingly lossy.  What’s more, adoption of EVs (which mostly charge at night) gives a utility options to run their plants and grid better.   Further into the future, EVs used as electricity storage (“V2G”) or simply as flexible power demand (“V1G”) enable smart grids, and clean generation (such as wind turbines) closer to demand.  Coal or oil, where used as an electricity source, is often kept away from homes, blunting the health impact.  But gasoline engines emit pollutants everywhere, residential or not.  Overall, EV scenarios showed a noticeable drop in lung cancer, and hundreds of fewer DC/MD/VA cardiopulmonary-related deaths per year.  Continue reading

Brief News on Short Cars

We already knew GM was releasing the Spark EV for Maryland sales- the first East Coast market.  Now, Honda announced lease renewals for Fit EVs; they don’t want to kill the electric car (yet).  Current leaseholders, and customers for used Fit EVs, can sign two-year extensions or leases respectively, for $199 a month.  There is no down payment or mileage limit, and collision coverage is included.hfev

It’s not all mooncakes and saki, however.  The terms indicate this extension is the end; there will be no option to re-extend or purchase in 2017.  And this is all assuming you can find a Honda Fit EV.  The company made little effort to promote or sell them any more than they had to.  Still, we’ve got members who have one and they recommend them.  As long as you like blue, apparently.

How Big is the Tesla Gigafactory – Washington DC edition


As I write this, the Tesla Gigafactory is currently being built in the Nevada desert, near Reno.  In case you haven’t been following this remarkable project, it is to be an enormous factory for manufacturing lithium ion batteries, entirely in the 18650 cell format, which will be used in upcoming Tesla models.  In fact, by 2020, the Gigafactory alone will produce 50 GWh/year of batteries, equivalent to all current 18650 production worldwide.  I’ve also read that additional Gigafactories may be in the works.

The enormous scale of this project is one aspect that makes it so fascinating.  People all over the place are noting the factory’s gargantuan size.  In fact, when I comment on it in online articles (under the handle Leptoquark), I’ve taken to calling it the “River Rouge of batteries”, in homage to the famous Ford River Rouge factory complex in Dearborn.  When the history of our transition away from gasoline and back to electricity is written, the Gigafactory will likely have a prominent place in that history.

Recently, Zach at EVObsession wrote a piece[1] summarizing size comparisons of the Gigafactory with other large structures, including Dallas Cowboys Stadium and the US Capitol building, which got me to thinking: since so many tourists visit Washington DC every year, the spacing of the iconic landmarks on the Mall would make a good way to understand the scale of this project.

So, using Zach’s estimates of about 1100 m by 430 m for the dimensions of the building, and allowing for a surrounding parking apron matching the Tesla simulation, I created two images.  The first is a map of the Western end of the Mall, showing that the Gigafactory would fit neatly between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.  It would cover the Reflecting Pool, Constitution Gardens and the National World War II Memorial.  The green boundary is the parking apron.

The second image is the view to the West looking out of the top of the Washington Monument, which I took on a recent visit.  I’ve added the Gigafactory building outline in a perspective view.  Note especially the size of the people in the foreground.  This matches the scale of people in recent pictures[2] from Bob Tregilus of the construction site itself.

Hopefully, these images can add some perspective on what is now under way in the Nevada desert.  Or, as Dr. Morbius put it in Forbidden Planet,

“Prepare your minds for a new scale of physical scientific values, Gentlemen”.



Scott Wilson