AeroVironment gearing up for Nissan Leaf charger installs via certified electrician program

Sunday, January 31, 2010 1 comments
AeroVironment recently partnered with Nissan to supply and install home chargers for customers that purchase the Leaf.  To install these things on a nationwide basis, AeroVironment plans to partner, train, and certify with electrical contractors so they know how to properly install and maintain them.  From looking at their careers page, they are preparing for this program now.  Electrical contracting companies wanting to enter the EV charge market should probably contact them soon to see about entering this program.

AeroVironment recently posted an impressive video on their website which walks you through a customer experience on getting a charger installed.  It's worth a watch...

AeroVironment GoEV Website

Image and Video Source: AeroVironment

A Quick Look at Fast Charging for Electric Vehicles

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 0 comments
The smartest and cheapest way to charge your electric vehicle is at night and "slowly" (>4 hours), but when you need to travel cross country, you NEED to charge up FAST (<15 min).

Fast charging is also known as Level 3 charging, and the NEC defines it as 480V AC Input at 400 Amps...or 192KW.  Since most U.S. Homes only have a 200 Amp service to power the whole home, you won't be finding these in average homes.

In the near future (2011), you'll start to find Level 3 chargers in three primary places...
  1. On or near Interstates, Turnpikes, and other major roads
  2. In the service depots for organizations that have fleets of Electric Vehicles
  3. On the backs of trailers that will come to your car in case you "ran dry"...or to charge the cars of evacuees as they flee a city in case of emergency (hurricanes!)
So why wouldn't you want to charge at Level 3 all the time?  Two reasons...
  • Heat: The act of charging or discharging a battery creates heat.  The faster you charge/discharge, the faster you create heat.  Typically, the higher the temperature in the battery, the faster the battery will "wear out" or become damaged.  That said, it's better to charge slower to get the greatest life out of your battery.
  • Energy Cost: Over the next decade, we will see more use of "Time of Use" (TOU) rates from our utility companies.  TOU ratings adjust the price of electricity during the day...which can vary from 8 cents/hour at night to 30 cents/hour during the day if you're in some parts of California.  TOU rates will incent us from charging during the day when electricity is most expensive and in the highest demand.
Unlike Level 1 or 2 charging, Level 3 chargers will use Direct Current (DC) to charge the batteries...which store electricity as DC anyway.  Why?  Given the high currents that the Level 3 chargers operate at (400 amps), the inverter (the device that converts AC to DC) must be large and heavy...and you don't want excess weight in your car.  

So, who makes Level 3 Chargers?
The big challenges for Level 3 chargers are...

Finally, the long waited "filler hose" for Electric Vehicles has been approved by SAE

Monday, January 18, 2010 1 comments

The "filler hose" thingy (see picture at right) that will be on the end of most charging stations was finally approved by the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE)!  This device will make it simple and especially safer for you to charge your new electric vehicle.

This is a very important step the evolution of Electric Vehicles as this will be the standard connector that new vehicles will use.  Today, each manufacturer uses the plug system that they think is best, but that is not best for us (the user).  Just think if you had to search for a gas station that supported your car!

The J1772 standard was developed by the SAE Hybrid J1772 Task Force in cooperation with major automotive OEMs and suppliers, charging equipment manufacturers, national labs, utility companies, universities and standards organizations from North America, Europe and Asia, so it's been vetted by stakeholders worldwide.

Now, if we could get the makers of cell phones, laptops, and other gadgets to decide on a standard for all of their products...

See the press release after the break...

Charge Calculator for Electric Vehicles

Sunday, January 17, 2010 1 comments
Here's a spreadsheet that I created to do some rough calculations on Electric Vehicle charging, like finding the cost to charge, watts per mile, and the range per hour of charge.  Simply enter the Range (miles) and Battery Capacity (kW/h) of the car you want to solve for in the Yellow cells and see the resulting calcs.  Feel free to change the assumptions such as energy cost, charge voltage and charge amperage too.

What this calculator doesn't do is account for the capacity that an automaker might be guarding to protect the battery.  For instance, even though a battery has a given capacity, the automaker may not allow the entire capacity to be used in order to protect the batteries from damage via over-discharge.

If you find errors or have suggestions, please let me know!  If you save the spreadsheet as an Excel Spreadsheet, you will be able to see the formulas that I used.

  • The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt only charges at 3.3kW/h at Level 2 (220V), so you need to enter 15A for the charging current to see more accurate estimates.  The Coda Sedan charges at 6.6 kW/h, so you would enter 30A for the charging current.
  • The Chevy Volt has a 16 kW/h battery, but limits the use (via software) between 30% and 85% of capacity to prolong battery life.  Therefore you should figure to recharge only 8.8 kW/h.

Test Driving a Tesla Roadster

Saturday, January 16, 2010 1 comments

Do you...
  • Love the acceleration of a very quick roller coaster launch, like Polterguiest or The Increadable Hulk?
  • Like a car that listens intently for your actions and responds instantly to them?
  • Appreciate ultra-light cutting edge materials and being able to lift your hood with your pinky?
  • Like the idea of a no maintenance car?  Except for feeding it sticky tires...:-)
  • Love the idea of filling up your car with clean electricity vs. dirty petroleum?
Then you'll LOVE the Tesla Roadster...I certainly did!

I had a chance to drive a Roadster on my visit to the new Tesla Dealership in Dania, FL near Miami at the beginning of January.  Here is a short list of things I liked and disliked about the car...

  • It's electric (clean!!!)
  • More than 200 miles on a charge!
  • Instant, smooth, silent, linear, and strong power...simply breathtaking!
  • Lifting the accelerator slows the car you are in a lower gear.  The best part is that the braking energy goes back into your batteries vs. wasted as heat...and this means less brake maintenance!  Regenerative braking rocks!
  • Go-cart like handling.  If this car had power-steering, one good sneeze could equal a lane change.
  • Hand-built and unique feeling to the car.  The cockpit was well laid out and had good "character"

  • Not easy to get into or out of if you're tall.  Although I was comfortable when I got in, it's not easy getting my long legs into the car (I'm 6"2").  Your "significant other" probably won't like being a copilot often since it's work to get in it "gracefully".
  • Since the Roadster doesn't have power steering, you have to use some elbow grease to get it to turn...but you get used to it quickly.
  • The heated seats needed a turbo button.  Heating your body with the seats is more efficient than heating the cockpit...and easier on the battery life.
  • Not impressed with the user interface for the onboard computer, but Tesla probably knows this based on the improvements they're putting in the "S".

Charging the Roadster
  • Slow Charge: The base Tesla only ships with a 110v charge cable, which will fully charge the car in about 24h.  You could probably get away with primarily using this if you just used the car daily for short drives (<50m) and only had to top off the Roadster's charge each night.  
  • Medium Charge: If you wanted to fully charge the Roadster in about 8 hours, you could purchase their Mobile Charger for $1000 and plug it into a 240v Dryer outlet.  This is the charging method of choice for cross country travel with your Roadster.
  • Fast Charge: If you want to fully charge your Roadster in 3.5 hours, then you'll need to pony up for the $3,000 fast charger from Tesla and then pay an electrician to plumb it a 240V/100A circuit to feed it...which could be expensive ($500+) since that's a lot of electrons and most homes only have a 200A service to start with.

Driving the Roadster
Here's a video of what it's like to be in the Roadster during a drive...including what it sounds like.  In addition to a 0-60 run, I got to overtake other cars twice, so you can get an idea of how quickly it accelerates...and how quickly it slows down. 

Thanks to the crew at Tesla South Florida for the hospitality and test drive! 

Tesla South Florida
1949 Tigertail Boulevard
Dania Beach, FL 33004

Nissan selects AeroVironment for Home Charging Stations for the Leaf

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8 comments

Nissan selected AeroVironment as their supplier for home charging stations and installation services for the Nissan Leaf.

This is big news!

Why?  The Nissan Leaf will likely be the first high production electric vehicle offered this century.  Going with AeroVironment, it means that Nissan chose to go with a large established company vs. a smaller company that just makes EV chargers (like ClipperCreek).  This is similar to other decisions by large auto manufacturers that chose to go with big companies (Volt=LG, Leaf=NEC) for their battery technology vs. smaller ones like A123.

No pricing has been set, but the charger will be 220v with a J1772 connector.  It's also unclear whether AeroVironment will be doing all the installations themselves, or if they will be using local electrical contractors.  I'm thinking that they'll use local labor to do the wiring.

Given that there is no display on the charger...and the Leaf will have a satellite communications system like OnStar, the AeroVironment charger is probably "smart charger" like the Tesla's...with no direct network connection.  The Leaf communicates with it's mothership (Nissan) for a variety of info...charge level, accident awareness, charging stations, etc..  You can read all about the Nissan Leaf's communication methods at Technology Review.

See the press release after the break...

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 4, 2010 0 comments
Much has happened over the past two months since I presented at the Renewable Energy Expo.  In addition to presenting to other groups, consulting with business to help them create their GTM strategy on Infrastructure, and networking with other experts, I am also a proud member of the steering committee for "Get Ready Central Florida", a soon-to-be partner city of RMI's Project Get Ready

Our "Get Ready" team consist of people from Orange County government, City of Orlando, OUC, Progress Energy, and yours truly.  Over the next few months, we'll be educating Central Florida businesses and governments on what EV Infrastructure is, where it's going, and how they can participate.  We've got our goals done, working groups defined, and our kick off event roughed out.  We're also meeting with auto manufacturers that will be the first to bring their EV/PHEV's to Central Florida.  Our first event will be when Nissan brings the Leaf to Orlando on Feb's all very exciting stuff and the team is focused and engaged.

This week, I'll be in Miami meeting with Charles Whalen, who is the Director of EV Infrastructure for the Florida Electric Auto Association and visiting Ted Scholz, the G.M. for the new Tesla dealership that just opened on 12/18/09.  I simply can't wait to get behind the wheel of such a cutting edge car...assuming I can fit inside it.  I've driven a Lotus Elise before and I needed a shoe-horn to get my 6'2" body in the drivers seat.

I have a feeling that this year is going to be fun!