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

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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”.

[1] http://evobsession.com/big-tesla-gigafactory-graphics/

[2] http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1096994_tesla-gigafactory-new-photos-show-progress-on-battery-plant-in-Nevada

Scott Wilson

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“LiveWire” Electric Harley

9172dYes, 100% electric- Forbes’ headline was “Hell Freezes Over.”  For angels and devils alike, Saturday was time for some good clean fun, at least briefly.  Project LiveWire is, currently, not Product LiveWire.  The Harley-Davidson Motor Company is taking the rideable demonstrator bikes on tour, officially to gauge interest and get rider feedback (though see below).  I caught the caravan at Brian’s Harley-Davidson, between Philadelphia and Trenton (thanks Brian!).

Anyone familiar with Harley-Davidson knows that, if nothing else, they’re experts at brand management and promotion; this tour date was no exception.  It had to be; LiveWire is both a leading-edge technology and “wedge technology,” in a wedge demographic.  I’ve already seen a call for a boycott from Harley hardliners.  Hardliners created, in part, by prior successes at branding.

9177dWhat you’d notice right away- even before stepping in the canopy- is the sound of the “Jumpstart” test stand doing a run.  Previously, Harley-Davidson brought static motorcycles to events, with the rears on dummy dynamometers.  Bike novices could twist a real, working throttle for the first time, and be introduced to Harley’s hallmark growl and rumble without actually knowing how to ride.  For the LiveWire tour, the Jumpstart version lets people experience near-ideal “throttle” response, with little or no spool-up lag, clutch losses, or other drivetrain slop.  Just realtime torque, throughout a near-ideal powerband too.  EV enthusiasts know that shifting and clutches/torque converters are actually bug fixes, not features.  Now the Jumpstart “riders” do, too.  In any case, the throttle curve could be reprogrammed arbitrarily by someone with access. Continue reading

…Regarding e-EVerything

Don’t forget, we could still use volunteers at the 2014 EV Grand Prix this Saturday (and some setup Friday).  Just check off a SignUpGenius entry, and you’re all set.

As cozy as the electric GP racers are, there’s room for improvement.  E-bikes, by comparison, can be taken on Metro, or via the front racks of buses.  Still, sometimes I just don’t feel like bothering with a regular, 20-lb bike (and a good lock, all my biking gear, etc.); let alone a much heavier e-bike.  It is just these situations where a car is the lazy solution, and a huge barrier for urban living and public transportation (or even Zipcar/Car2Go).

Enter the Inventist Solowheel, debuting about a year ago.  It’s hardly the first personal-sized, electric-powered, gyrostabilized solution; it’s a competitor to the Focus Designs SBU V3, and a “son-of-the-Segway.”  I met Marc Fisher in New York to discuss the Solowheel, and where it’s going; he’s an independent retailer for Inventist.  Marc, formerly of the Maryland suburbs, now lives in New Jersey.  There, he carries his Solowheel down three stories, rolls to a mass-transit stop, and heads to his day job in New York City… where he rolls the rest of the way, then sticks his EV in a corner.  Exactly the sort of thing he could have used to and from his Montgomery County Metro stops.  He’s even got the range (7-10 miles) for lunch and errands.33y
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BEVI Awarded Grant for YES Corps 2013 Summer Internships


Exciting news!  Maryland Clean Cities Coalition member, BEVI, has been awarded a Constellation Energy to Educate grant to advance Youth Energy and Environment Service (YES) Corps 2013 summer internships.  The YES Corps Program advances Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) electric vehicle education.  BEVI will be working with the Electric Vehicle Association of DC (EVADC) and four Maryland universities –  Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), and the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) and Baltimore County (UMBC) to create paid summer internships and fellowships at the universities, and to encourage broader engagement of unpaid interns and high school students interested in participating.   BEVI is actively pursuing collaborations with sisters states as well, including Virginia and the District of Columbia, to leverage these valuable resources to drive clean transportation and clean cities opportunities.
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Using an EV to Power a Home


Click image above to play video.

Over 8 million people were left without electricity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and last summer’s derecho storm left many without power for a week or more. Some resourceful electric vehicle owners in the DC area have figured out how to use the big battery in their cars for emergency power. Television station WUSA, channel 9 in Washington, DC did a story on EVA/DC member Doron Shalvi who used his Nissan Leaf to power his refrigerator when the lights went out at his house during Sandy.

This could have been you, and it is something to think about when you shop for your next car.  Could an EV or a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) fulfill your needs, stroke your desires and enhance your shelter requirements — all at the same time?  The answer, of course, is “Yes!”   Whether it is the next power outage — and there WILL be a “next power outage” —  rising prices at the pump, concerns about America’s energy security and/or a strong desire to contribute to the planet, EVs and PHEVs offer advantages that are unmatched by internal combustion vehicles or even by non-plug-in hybrids.

“Well, couldn’t I just put an inverter on any car and have the same advantage?” you might ask. You could, but it wouldn’t work nearly as well, as Doron Shalvi points out.  And you might have to leave your ICE vehicle idling for days at a time until the power came back on — something that you definitely would not want to do in an enclosed garage.

Would you like to learn more?  Why not attend the next meeting of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, D.C. and meet friendly people who have “been there, done that,” and are delighted to share what they know! EVA/DC member Scott Wilson will give a live demonstration of one of these EV inverter systems at the November meeting. He plans to brew us some coffee from the power coming off of his Nissan Leaf. We will also have pizza and soft drinks.

The public is invited to all EVA/DC meetings which are usually held at the Silver Spring Library on the third Wednesday of each month. See our Meetings page for map and details.