Thursday, November 10, 2016

CNG vehicles drive most kilometers

According to a statistical analysis by the Dutch national statistics agency (CBS) CNG vehicles are driven the longest distance annually. Although CNG vehicles contribute only 0,2% to all distances traveled, they on average travel a distance of 26,400 km per year. Second place is diesel vehicles which drive 23,000 km/year. CNG is popular with people who drive much because they have low cost per kilometer and are more suitable for long range driving than electric vehicles.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Advances in low pressure hydrogen storage

I just read an update on LinkedIn from Mark Cannon, CTO at Hydrogen in Motion (H2M). His company works on the development of a low pressure hydrogen storage system. The hydrogen is adsorbed to a material. This technology is interesting because hydrogen is hard to store. You need a large volume of hydrogen to get the energy you need. For this reason hydrogen is stored at extremely high pressure. Such high pressure storage systems are very expensive.

Mark wrote on LinkedIn: "A year ago we successfully synthesized a material which adsorbed 4.2 wt % hydrogen and desorbed 70% of it at 50 bar and ambient temperatures. For the past year we have been focusing on improving the synthesis of this material and understanding all the mechanisms at play. We are currently adsorbing 5 wt % and releasing 80% of the hydrogen, effectively a 4 wt % material. Gravimetrically comparable to 250 - 700 bar compressed tanks but with a volumetric capacity better than 40 g/l. Now we are increasing material production for demonstration tanks for our strategic partners"

Now 4 weight percent (wt %) doesn't sound like much, but you have to realize that hydrogen is the lightest existing material on the planet. A fuel cell vehicle needs only 5 kg to drive about 500 km. So 4 wt % means that a storage system for 5 kg would weigh about 125 kg, which does not add too much weight to a vehicle. A high pressure storage cilinder for 5 kg weighs about the same.

Now of course this kind of storage technology has downsides as well. The number of filling cycles is limited. When asked Marked answered that "Early tests show 100's of adsorption/desorption cycles. " If a vehicle can drive 500 km on a tank, that means 200 cycles gives the tank a lifetime of 100.000 km.

Filling times are also important. High pressure cilinders can be filled in only 5 minutes. Mark did not mention how long it took to fill, but similar materials require hours to completely adsorb the hydrogen.

The main advantage of these systems is a much lower price. According to Mark: "Goals is to be half the price of compressed tanks of equivalent performance."

If filling times are a problem then you may end up with a hybrid system. Say a 4 kg high pressure cilinder and a 1 kg low pressure tank. The 4 kg can be filled quickly and the final kg serves mainly as an emergency supply in case the main tank is empty. If used, the emergency supply can slowly refill itself from the main tank after this has been refueled. Use as emergency supply also means that the number of filling cycles will not be an issue.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Smart vehicle to grid charging station

Electricity grid operators in the Netherlands have approved the first smart vehicle-to-grid charging station that is suitable for feed-in from vehicles to the grid. This station has been added to the Elaad's register of approved charging stations. Elaad is a collaboration of Dutch grid operators that promotes electric vehicle charging.

Last year a field test was done in Utrecht. This allowed electric cars to be used for temporary storage of solar energy for later use. The charging station is made by General Electric and is the first station to support a 3x63 A grid connection. This high current connection enables for two electric vehicles to be charged and discharged simultaneously (2x 22 kW). This gives the station high flexibility for charging and discharging vehicles rapidly when there are peaks on the electric grid.

In future the grid can also be supplemented with power form hydrogen vehicles, or solar powered vehicles. Vehicles thus play an important role in creating a smart grid that is suitable for supplying increasing amounts of sustainable electricity.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Tesla's master plan part 2

A couple of weeks ago when Tesla announced its bit to takeover SolarCity, I noted down my suspicions that Tesla would introduce a solar powered electric car. A few days later Toyota announced it's new solar powered Prius, beating Tesla to it, although with a hybrid car. A few hours ago Elon Musk seemed to confirm my suspicions as he wrote on Twitter: "Working on Top Secret Tesla Masterplan, Part 2. Hoping to publish later this week." And 2 hours later: in a tweet in response to a blogpost about the reason for the SolarCity takeover: "Kinda. Creating a seamlessly integrated Tesla battery & solar power product that looks beautiful is the reason"
Bets are still on. I don't think it's a seamlessly integrated home system. I think it's going to be an integrated system on wheels.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Nissan develops range extender on ethanol and natural gas

Nissan is developing a new drive train consisting of an electric vehicle equipped with a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) range extender. Nissan aims to bring the technology to market in fleets by 2020. The test runs on bio-ethanol but other fuels such as natural gas can also be used. The fuel is reformed on-board to create hydrogen which is then used in a solid oxide fuel cell.

SO fuel cells more affordable than PEM fuel cells currently used in hydrogen vehicles as they don't require platinum catalysts. Bio-ethanol and natural gas/biogas are also cheaper than hydrogen and require much lower infra structure investments.

The downside of SO fuel cells are the high operating temperature which leads to higher start-up times. Also the reformer has long response times, which limits the use of SO fuel cells in vehicles to range extenders and APUs.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Next-generation Toyota Prius has solar electric drive

The next-generation Prius plug-in hybrid gets a little greener with a the rooftop solar panel for recharging the batteries. While Toyota already produces a Prius with a rooftop solar system, that panel was only used to drive the air conditioning system as apparently Toyota found it to risky to integrate this new technology into the drive system.

Sun power only amplifies the eco-car cred of one of the most efficient vehicles. The cells charge the car even when it is parked and can boost fuel efficiency by as much as 10 percent by allowing longer electric-only driving times.
Unfortunately for U.S. fans of all things green, the technology will only be offered in the Japan and European versions of the car -- at least initially. But Koji Toyoshima, chief engineer of the Prius plug-in and its standard Prius hybrid sibling, says Toyota aims to introduce the panels Stateside too. The problem: The Japan market solar panels are laid on reinforced glass sheeting that doesn’t pass America’s more stringent rollover crash tests.
Toyota doesn’t have the technology to laminate the photo-voltaic cells in a resin that won’t shatter dangerously during a rollover, Toyoshima said. But the company is working on a solution so that it can introduce the solar panels to the U.S. version of the car during its life-cycle.
In Japan, the plug-in Prius will be called the Prius PHV. Toyota has not announced whether the solar panels will be standard or optioned here.
Various uses
Aside from recharging the batteries during a standstill, the solar panels also supply electricity to accessories such as lamps, power windows and air conditioning when the car is running, Toyota says. As Toyota whittles down their cost, Toyoshima said the company hopes to introduce the solar-powered technology to other hybrids across the lineup.

Advancements in solar technology have made solar ready to be used as an additional power source for cars.
Tesla recently made a bid to purchase SolarCity - a hint that Tesla may have similar plans.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tesla + SolarCity = Solar electric vehicle

When Elon Musk announced Tesla's takeover bid for SolarCity he talked about synergy: using solar power to charge up your Powerwall home battery. And then using that electricity to charge your Tesla car. This deal has been criticized by many because there seems to be very little synergy between his car making business and selling rooftop solar panels.
When Tesla announced construction of its own Li-ion battery factory it made sense to people: you use the batteries in cars and you can sell the same batteries for storage at home. Now the thing is: it's no different with solar panels. It has already been shown that solar panels can be used to extend the range of electric vehicles. This bid is an indication that Tesla may be considering offering solar roofs on its cars.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Hydrogen car feeding electrical grid

For the first time in Europe and possibly worldwide a hydrogen vehicle supplied electricity to the power grid. At the Green Village at the Delft University of Technology a Hyundai ix35 was connected to the electrical grid to feed it with electricity. The Green Village site is used to demonstrate new technology. The demonstration marks a step towards a hydrogen economy where excess renewable energy is converted to hydrogen and where hydrogen vehicles can supply backup power at times when there is insufficient (renewable) electricity available. This means that no conventional electric plants will be required as backup.