Friday, January 28, 2011

Gregg Witmer EEVC Member of the Year, and EV News Roundup Week of 1/24

Congratulations to Gregg Witmer, the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club's Member of the Year for 2010!  Gregg's meticulous & informative documentation (both photo & video) of his Saturn conversion are available online at

Gregg lives in Mechanicsburg, PA and routinely drives over 100 miles each way to attend EEVC meetings.  I cheered when I opened my January newsletter to find that this friendly, gentle, and extraordinarily dedicated EV advocate had been honored for his contributions to the club and to the cause.  Looking forward to seeing Gregg again at the 21st Century Automotive Challenge in State College -- dates now confirmed, May 20-22 2011! 

EV Tech

Market News & Forecasts

Chevy Volt to be the cover story in the Jan 30 Washington Post Sunday Magazine already posted online, it's a very entertaining (& positive) review

Battery/Motor Technology & Development

Hybrids & other AFV's

& in wider-ranging alternative energy news

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Possibly Too Much Coffee at Tek Park

I just love saying & writing Tek Park.  Isn't it futuristic-sounding?  It's where the monthly public meetings of the MAREA are held, just outside of Kutztown -- there's always a speaker, and afterwards planning sessions for the annual Energy Festival to which all are welcome to stay and contribute.   This year's festival will feature a return to a more educational focus on Friday with schools, including colleges, being encouraged to attend. Mark the dates and if you can't wait, come and meet the all-volunteer crew who put it on and get in on the fun behind the scenes. 

So tonight I got to hear from Bill Yalen of International Battery.  He started by describing their 92,000 sq ft facility in Allentown as having state-of-the-art lab & testing facilities.  In production since 2008, IB spent the last 3 years building and developing their innovative water-based manufacturing process, which eliminates the use of toxic organic solvents -- the main negative environmental effect of lithium-ion batteries, as the lithium itself can be recycled and used again just as the lead in lead-acid batteries is today . 

Lithium itself is far less toxic than lead.  Metallic lithium requires careful handling, but International Battery imports the lithium for its cells in safer powdered lithium iron phosphate form.  And that's all they import: in a process Yalen likes to call "powder to power," all IB's cells and battery systems are built completely in the Lehigh Valley. 

The power in the "true prismatic" or large-format cells IB has developed is considerable: they have up to ten times the energy capacity than standard lithium-ion batteries.  Because the cells themselves are larger, there are fewer connections to fail and the battery is more efficient.  Furthermore, the ferrous phosphate formulation utilized inherently stabilizes the cell's response during an overcharge or short circuit condition.  (Translation: does not blow up when overheated.)

The cells are not sold to anyone else, but are used in IB's up-and-running production line of modular batteries, many of which are now out there in the real world being used or tested.  Yalen presented a variety of applications for their battery systems:
  • distributed energy storage
  • utility scale bulk energy storage
  • renewable energy power regulation
  • ups & telecom
  • military tactical vehicle 
  • soldier auxiliary power unit
  • underwater vehicles
  • NATO 6T replacement (6T = the vehicular battery used across the U.S. and NATO militaries. "The 6T size is used in 95 percent of military vehicles, and the military bought about 700,000 of the batteries in 2008, the latest figures available."   a rather interesting read which throws nickel-zinc chemistry into the mix, who knew?  but I digress, this was not in Mr. Yalen's talk!)
  • PHEV's and EV's - current applications are larger than a typical passenger vehicle, focusing on hybrid buses and, interestingly, on boats, including submarines!
  • utility & specialty platforms
  • auxiliary power units for where the grid is unreliable (these could also be mobile emergency units for disaster relief)
It was easy to see how IB's batteries could qualify for all these applications: they are scalable, modular, and exist in two different chemistries to meet different energy density needs.   Their other cell is lithium nickel cobalt manganese.  This was a brand new formulation to me and extremely pleasing to the ear (like a jump rope rhyme or a line from a poem).  I look forward to getting to deploy it in conversation -- and I think it very smart of IB to have two battery chemistries going at the same time, meaning they're not dependent on just one supply stream.  

Though delicious-sounding, lithium nickel cobalt manganese batteries do not seem applicable for EV's.  They're suitable where energy density is at a premium, but display a tendency under stress to exhibit what Mr. Yalen delicately referred to as "a tendency towards thermal runaway."  

Those inherently stable lithium iron phosphate cells, on the other hand,  can be drawn down nearly 100% without sustaining damage.  I noted a cycle life of 200 cycles, which gave me pause when I compared it to an expected 300 cycle life span of an AGM PbA, but then from the same great lead-acid battery primer where I had looked up that fact I learned  that only 30% of PbA batteries last the expected 4 years.  That's a pretty low number to cross the finish line!

So: PbA is fussy among its other drawbacks, whereas lithium phosphate is cool, efficient, has a rapid response time, and is 50% smaller and lighter.  Because it's highly scalable and can be incrementally modulated, it's basically super-customizable.  International Battery is at the point where it is rolling out production and actively seeking growth in that laundry list of applications above.  Seems like a huge prospective market!

Some applications were more visionary than others.  I got kind of excited over the concepts of migratory power and community energy storage.  "Migratory power" replaces stepping power up and down through transformers and high-tension wires with a central processor, substations, & then community energy storage stations, all linked together.  This is a very cool vision for what would basically be a battery-powered civilization, which we are certainly evolving towards already considering how accustomed we've already become to plugging in to charge our laptops, cellphones & soon cars!   I think this migratory power scheme would work.  

 It does feel like I'm living in the future already, a little bit.   International Battery's presence in Allentown is an authentic manifestation of what I, and the folks at the MAREA meeting, and all the EV owners and would-be owners I know, have been saying for quite some time : listen up!  Renewable energy creates jobs in technology & development as well as manufacturing.  Electric vehicles and renewable energy have a synergistic effect on demand for batteries and residential solar power.  Rapid adoption of EV's powered by distributed, local sources of energy could easily wean this country off its oil dependency and free us of the terrible costs of war hidden in our cheap gasoline.  We have the opportunity to begin rebuilding our own shattered industrial base and restore our domestic economy, city by city, town by town.

Businesses like International Battery create "green jobs" everywhere they grow: jobs that aren't about being exploited by some big box store but worthwhile, real work in a business that's committed to the community.  Globalized corporations have been about damaging the environment, wasting irreplaceable resources, and risking people's health for present gain.  Local businesses grow other local businesses -- and that puts money in everyone's pocket.  Which is another reason why I like the term "green jobs" -- though they are making the money in funny colors these days, have you noticed?

Bonus photos for reading through the whole thing:

My new camera goes beep! every time i press a button oh no

Proof that I did not summarize every slide

Sunday, January 23, 2011

EV Racing!

ECEDRA announces NJ EV Racing Date in April at Englishtown, the largest race-track in NJ -- and I get conflicting reports: first someone who should know tells me it's the same day as the EV-ent in Macungie (April 30), but the website says April 9.

The same date confusion reigns within the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club as to the weekend date for the 21st Century Automotive Challenge in May: is it the 20-22 or the 27-29?  There is autocross at this event as well as range & efficiency competition.

The US also has no date for its race in the EV Cup, and neither does Spain or Portugal.  The other 4 races in the series are in the UK, which already has them all planned.  Kudos to the can-do UK person!
From their press release:
Photo of a sleek racing car.
A Think City EV will be among the vehicles competing in the EV Cup series for electric vehicles in 2011.
Credit: EV Cup
The world's first electric vehicle (EV) circuit race series, the EV Cup, will launch in summer 2011, with seven races, including one planned for the United States. Organizers announced on January 13 that the event will include two classes of racers: a city class of EVs for drivers in race-prepared Think cars, and a sport class with teams racing Westfield iRacers that can reach top speeds of 115 mph. A third category, the prototype class, will not feature races, but will hold time trials showcasing the latest non-production EVs on circuits through streets.
Thinks are trickling into Indiana so this story is practically local and logically that is where the EV Cup should be held, but I guess we'll see.  

A quick fishing trip around the EV racing organizations around the country turned up an awful lot of 2010 calendars.  Come on folks, it's the new year: resolve to update your websites!   So I have no more specific EV-ents to plug (please post a comment if you know of one!), but here are a few great EV racing sites:

Of course, Plasma Boy's website, featuring the beloved and rocket-fast White Zombie.  A video of the White Zombie making one kick-ass start after another was very popular at the 2009 EV conversion workshop!

 I also very much enjoyed the zaniness over at Suck Amps

Their main website is here but I recommend going straight to the most bad-ass racing electric postal van ever by clicking on the image above!

One forum that seems active is V is for Voltage's EV Racing forum.  Look, it's the first animated image ever posted on this blog:

ProEV seems to be a bit dormant at the moment, but I have to include it anyway.  The lithium-polymer-powered Green Imp above bested ICE vehicles in six separate events to win an autocross championship in 2005 and then moved on to road racing.   At the end of 2007, in only their tenth outing, they showed that EV's can take on ICE vehicles directly in a sanctioned road race -- and win.

The history of the Green Imp seems to end there, but the ProEV website turned out to be worth poking around in because of two great things:

a proposed set of rules for EV racing -- the level of detail in this was fascinating, with the writer covering everything from the technical concerns to the entertainment value, and putting forth a complete vision for a professional racing structure.

and another EV history moment -- the Narragansett Park Races of 1896.  The article at says 1886, but I believe that's a typo, not a fact.  While I am sure as soon as people started building cars they were starting to race them against each other,  it was the 1890's and 1900's when EV's battled and often dominated ICE vehicles in the auto racing world.  A.L. Riker, who came 2nd in the 96 race, would equal the winning time of 11:28 12 years later on the same track -- beating the best gasoline car by over a mile -- as I learned from Electric and Hybrid Cars: a History (available at Powell's Books, please don't buy from Amazon) 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

EV's are for Going to Work In, & Delivering Things

Here's one of the great things about an electric car: it plugs in at home.

An EV is ideally suited to be a commuter car: driven a set distance each day (plus extra range to accommodate the occasional mid-day errand) and parked in the garage at night.  Every family I know has two cars; one of them probably generally operates well within the range of a converted EV or one of the new production ones.  Having one vehicle for roving and one that has a dedicated use would be nothing new for most of us.  (And yes, it is still a thrill to refer to the current production EV's out there!)

As EV's move into the mainstream almost every article I read about them mentions range anxiety.  But I've known EV commuters for years, and they don't suffer from range anxiety at all.  They don't need to opportunity charge outside the mall or attempt a trip across the state plugging into Cracker Barrel on the way. They have a routine: they come home in the evening, charge up and head out again in the morning.  EV's are low-maintenance and long-lasting, so they can do this for years, day in and day out -- just like you do.  Unless you telecommute, your drive to work is probably a significant portion of your family's fossil-fuel footprint!

Overnight charging also does away with time spent filling up.  One of the panelists at a BCR mini-workshop once said, "People always ask me how long it takes to charge my car.  I tell them: about five seconds. They go, "What?!"  And I tell them, look: I park it in the garage, I plug it in, I go inside.  In the morning I come out, unplug it, and leave.  It's much faster than standing at a pump!"

Here's one of the great things about an electric truck: it's quiet.  

My father-in-law remembers electric milk trucks on the streets of London when he was growing up.  They were electric because the milk was delivered early, and urban noise pollution was already considered a problem.  Of course, that's not the only reason delivery trucks are an ideal application for EV's.  There is an excellent article exploring the booming world of electric fleet & delivery vehicles here -- though I think the writer is overly pessimistic about lithium-ion's life-span.  I am proud of myself cause I scouted up this link on my own and didn't get it through Dan Monroe!

I have a few more truck links to share here: there is a lot more going on in EV trucking than I thought.  Click on the images for details!

Navistar e-Star 


Ford Transit Connect

Last but not least, courtesy of my recent research into installing an EV charging station at Macungie Memorial Park:  

Metropolitan areas in the US where you might qualify to put in an electric charging station for free 
Note poor little gray PA.

from ChargePoint America's website

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

EV Conversion Workshops on the West Coast This Spring - and Online Resources

NEWS FLASH:  NJEAA meeting 1/18/11 cancelled owing to weather - no Plug-in Prius @ the Rockaway mall tonight

It was a note from a correspondent in Brazil that let me know that Abrán Quevedo has scheduled workshops for this spring -- isn't the internet wonderful?  André will be attending the 5-day workshop in San Diego and will have the good fortune of meeting Abrán in person, which I have never done -- but I acknowledge him as the spiritual father of our East Coast workshops, and very much appreciate his free sharing of ideas and encouraging support in spreading the good EV word.

Abran Quevedo's Kick Gas Co-op

5 Day Workshop - April 18-22 2011
Plus mini-workshops the first Saturday of each month!
in San Diego CA

Click on the flyer thumbnails for details.

Electric Autoshop Onsite Courses
click here for spring 2011 schedule
in Sebastopol CA

Electric Autoshop also has an interesting model for a kind of turn-key EV course to convert a Chevy S-10 at your own location.  They lease their full curriculum plus a conversion kit for $18,000.  See the details by clicking on the logo above.  I have no experience with their program, but the online documentation of it looks very thorough!

Online Forums for posting queries and reading a wealth of other experiences:

Ecomodder does not focus on EV's alone, but clicking on the image below will bring you to their starter EV page.

And DIYElectricCar speaks for itself!  Click on the image below to visit!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where I'll Be in 2011, & Great News to Start the New Year, Part II

To be completely honest, there's so much news I can hardly keep up.  Whew.

Where I'll Be in 2011

First off the bat, I'll be at the MAREA meeting at Tek Park on Tuesday, January 25 to hear all about the local, green source for lithium-ion batteries: International Battery, located in Allentown, and blog it of course. 

Lehigh Valley Green Drinks is also located in Allentown, and you'll often find BCR and pals mingling there on the 2nd Wednesdays of the month at the locally-owned & sustainably-oriented Allentown Brew Works.  I'll be speaking on Wednesday, May 11 on EV's -- kind of a live version of the "Consumer's Guide" video.  Real short!

Click here for a link to the BCR announcements page and get the scoop on those both events.

On Saturday, March 26 Bill & I will present a mini-workshop at the Green Jobs Academy in Bristol, PA.  We will have the lithium-ion batteries for the summer project on display and hope to have a couple of EV's there for test drives. 

Of course the big turn-out of EV's will be for the 3rd annual EV-ent in Macungie over in Lehigh County on Saturday, April 30, 2011.  I'll once again moderate the owner panel.  We expect to feature more production EV's as well as more converted vehicles than ever!  

Finally, on July 25-30 I'll of course be on-site full-time with Bill at the hands-on EV conversion workshop, at the Middle Bucks Institute of Technology in Jamison PA.

Great News to Start the New Year, Part II 

And that leads me to the second half of the great news -- and there are TWO pieces of news.

March mini-workshop listed in BCCC Continuing Education course guide

This catalog was distributed last week in a county-wide mailing -- just as the summer course will be!   This was such an affirmation that BCR is truly realizing its mission to stimulate EV training in local technical high schools and community colleges.   Holding it in my hands made it real  for me how far this project has come in 4 short years and I had to dance around the kitchen with it for a while when it came in the mail.

You must keep in mind that for the last two workshops I've designed, printed & mailed out flyers to all the technical high schools in the county, and handled all the registration.  So I am also celebrating with this linkage gaining a lot more time to focus on planning the workshops themselves!  Thank you, Green Jobs Academy!

If you click on p 21 up there you will see that I am listed as the course teacher.  (They even spelled my name right.)  This was gratifying, but completely not true -- of course it will be a team effort as usual by Bucks County Renewables and all the EV friends we can recruit to help spread the word.

BH Conversions on BCR Team

I am thrilled to announce that Brandon Hollinger -- one of the EV friends I've been fortunate enough to make during the course of our several years showing our vehicles together -- has agreed to officially join the team effort for the July hands-on workshop.  Design & fabrication of the conversion kit for our instructional vehicle will be done by BH Conversions, the EVA shop Brandon has started in Lancaster, PA.

If you haven't seen the quality of Brandon's work on his Saab in person, then click on over to his terrific website and check out his conversions past and present -- you will see why this agreement is great news for Bucks County Renewables and for our students!  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

EV News Roundup Week of 1/10

EV Features
Could Electric Cars' Range Be their Biggest Benefit?   a thoughtful article!  " If the limitations of the electric car can help wean us off our addiction to distance, then I am all for it."

Business & Marketplace

Batteries & Technology

Hybrids  -- & Four Loko into ethanol?!

Other transportation sectors

In wider-ranging energy & environmental news

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2012 Prius Plug-in in Rockaway, and some other plugs

I got an email today from Doug Stansfield, President of the NJEAA, who wrote to share with the mailing list that he has a 2012 Prius Plug-in in his very own possession for the next month.  He'll be hosting the next NJEAA meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Rockaway Mall, and he'll bring the vehicle and offer test drives.  

Doug's Prius Plug-in charging (his Hyundai Tiburon EV was recently totaled in a fluke accident, but how'd he get in on this loaner program?)
I don't usually give a lot of space to traditional hybrid news on this blog, but Toyota's introduction of the Prius Plug-in marks yet another a significant shift towards real change in the marketplace: the first commercial PHEV.  Doug also reports that earlier this week that he was present at the unveiling of the Ford Focus EV in NYC!  

Plugs are popping up all over

Folks, EV advocates helped bring about this moment.  There is a profoundly inspiring article in this month's national EAA newsletter by Felix Kramer on the history of Cal-Cars, the organization he helped found in 2002.  since 2003.  In 2003 he and Ron Gremban started to convert the first Prius to plug-in, and 3 years later they launched a publicity campaign for the Prius+ in order to increase popular acceptance of and eagerness for plug-in vehicles.  They made all their work open source and shared it freely -- at Maker Faires and elsewhere -- in addition to traveling widely to promote the vehicle.  They wanted to spread the word, to put other folks behind the wheels of their own PHEV's, and create a critical mass of customers for production plug-ins.  Says Kramer, their vision was to "turn around one of the world's biggest and hardest-to-change industries."   

Kramer, Gremban, and Andy Frank, the visionary professor from UC Davis on whose work their conversion was based, are all Chevy Volt owners as of this month. 

Now that is a story of a few activists becoming an organized movement and effecting change.  And dig what Felix Kramer -- obviously my new hero -- has to say about EV conversions:
"Cars are part of the built environment. They stay on the road for decades. Just as we need to retrofit our homes, offices and factories, we need to “fix” lots of gasguzzlers.  CalCars and Andy Frank have a few allies like Intel founder Andy Grove who “get” the importance of this approach. We’re demonstrating there are technical solutions and a business case to do it. We promote startup conversion companies , but it’s happening too slowly. We need entrepreneurs and advocates to make the cause their own urgent priority."
Interestingly in the very same issue of Current Events there's a report from the Future of Electric Vehicles USA 2010 Conference in San Jose CA in which Prof. Pietro Perlo, Senior Director at Research Center Fiat, argues "A vehicle has to be born electrical.  We used to say, ‘A vehicle has to be born smart,’ because if you’re born stupid, you can go to university, but at the end you remain stupid.”  In other words, throwing an electric motor and battery pack in a car designed for a combustion engine is not the way to go.

I'm with Kramer, not Perlo, but for offering up lots of points of view and covering both conversion and production EV news, Current EVents can't be beat  -- and the Electric Auto Association, which produces it monthly, is an important voice for our movement. The EAA harnesses the power and voices of many, many EV advocates across the country in helping increase EV awareness and create a real tipping point for change. 

Can't read the latest Current EVents online?   If you're not already an EAA member, click here to purchase your membership and support a national move towards cleaner, cheaper, domestic driving.  

EV Charging Station

Doug has been a busy man this month!  In addition to somehow getting his hands on that plug-in Prius and checking out the Ford Focus EV launch, he is launching an EVSE company called  EV Energy Stations as well:  He writes

"We have custom designed Charging Stations to help roll out the installation of the EV Revolution that is coming!  The OEMs are getting it and launching their own.   Do your part and get in line to buy one!   This is the future!  Help support it today.  Also, contact me if you would like me to talk to your business workplace about installing charging stations.  We are ready to go and can begin scheduling installations in early February."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Great News to Start the New Year, Part I

Back in November I entered a contest to win a 144v pack of used lithium batteries from Elite Power Solutions for our upcoming EV Conversion Workshop in July.  There were 3 winners chosen from 39 entries, and I just learned that Bucks County Renewables is one!  The other two winners were a high school EV program in Hawaii and an electric-ATV building company started by 3 juniors from the University of Louisiana.  Yay us! 

While I've been loyal to good old lead-acid on the grounds of price for years, Bob Batson of EVAmerica recently published a terrific life-cycle cost comparison between EV's demonstrating that lithium-ion actually saves you money over its lifetime despite the higher up-front price.  (Plus, of course, there's no maintenance and the car is like a third lighter.)  The batteries we won are used, and won't give us long-term performance -- but that's okay, because they were ABSOLUTELY FREE (EPS is even paying the shipping) and they will give our students the opportunity to get their hands on frankly more current (ha-ha) battery technology for our 3rd workshop.  

There's More News ...

but this is only Part 1 of the post.

And Now the Weekly News-Roundup 

But first: a note.  I really do read through all the links I put up here in the normal way of things, but this week I am presenting a few I didn't even click through on because it was worth it just reading the headlines.  Friends, the news is good everywhere. 
EV History

... The Jamais Contente was like the original White Zombie!  Camille Jenatzy won his first race in front of 57 other participants and was the only one in the top 10 to use an EV.  Thanks for this one, Dan, I loved it.

EV Business News

Let's Keep Thinking About Replacements for the Car

Italy enforces marketing ban on plastic bag

Year-End Roundup, and a Happy New One to Those of You on the Julian!