More Power to Electric Vehicles

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar*

In some ways, the car of the future is a blast from the past.

The electric car was invented more than 100 years ago, but was overtaken in the 1930s by petrol-powered autos.

A brief history of electric vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) are getting a second wind as a more sustainable alternative to cars. EVs produce no tailpipe emissions—an important quality because global carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars and freight transport are forecast to double by 2050 according to the International Transport Forum, with cars accounting for the lion’s share.

While the electricity powering EVs may be generated by fossil fuels, it still pollutes about 40% less than regular cars. And that could be cut by shifting toward renewable energy for the electricity EVs use to charge up.

About 180,000 EVs are on the road today, a drop in the ocean compared with the global fleet of over a billion petrol -powered cars, a number expected to grow to three billion by 2050. The Electric Vehicles Initiative, a forum of 16 countries, hopes to get 20 million EVs on the road by 2020, which would represent 2% of total passenger cars.

Electric car in charging

In other words, we’re still a long way from the future.

Why are EVs such a hard sell? The advantage of petrol-powered cars is unlimited range, something that has become inseparable from the essence of “automobile”—this thing that lets you go anywhere, at any time. EV ranges run from 70 to 100 miles (112 to 160 kilometers) on a single charge. Statistics show that 95% of vehicle trips in the U.S. are less than 30 miles and that only 1% of trips are more than 70 miles, so current EV range is plenty for most trips.

People cite worries about having to look for a charging station, or that charging will take longer than topping off the gas tank does. However , EVs have advantages.

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Drivers are accustomed to a routine of filling their gas tanks weekly, even though it’s smelly and, in bad weather, unpleasant. “One of the conveniences of electric vehicles is you plug it in overnight and don’t have to go to the charging station,” says Don Anair, research director of the clean vehicles program of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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A range of innovations aims to address some of the technical problems.

  • Better batteries. Consumer electronics such as smartphones have helped drive advances in battery technology, particularly in improving battery life while reducing size. Auto-makers are shifting to lithium-ion batteries, from nickel-metal hydride batteries. However, researchers continue to chase new technologies, such as lithium-air, silicon alloy anodes, lithium metal graphene-anode and other battery combinations. Already, the cost of batteries for plug-in EVs has dropped by half in the past four years, and the size and weight have shrunk 60%.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells. A technology at an early stage of commercialization is EVs powered by hydrogen fuel cells. “It’s a good option for consumers looking for an EV, but who don’t have a place to plug in to charge,” Mr. Anair says.
  • Old mixed with new. The hybrid uses both electricity and petrol fuel, with a growing range of choice. At the mostly-petrol-with-a-little-electricity end of the spectrum, conventional hybrids switch to electric in high-consumption situations like traffic jams, with batteries charged by regenerative braking and the gasoline engine. Plug-in hybrids run on the battery and switch to the internal combustion engine when the battery is out of juice. At the mostly-electric end of the spectrum, an EV with a range extender keeps powering the wheels from the battery while a small gas motor charges the battery enough to run the car farther. A range extender allows for a lighter-weight battery, which helps improve efficiency.

The first battery-powered vehicles with range extenders are on the market. BMW’s electric vehicle, the i3, now has an optional range extender that adds up to 75 miles of driving on a charge. General Motors has added a range extender to the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera.

In the future, consumers will have more choices of low-carbon vehicles to drive,” Mr. Anair says.

  • Lighter vehicles. Reducing weight, whether for EVs or conventional vehicles, improves efficiency. The internal combustion engine burns fuel to make power, but only 25% to 30% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline turns the car’s wheels, while the rest is lost as heat, explains Lawrence Burns, professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan. If the driver weighs 150 pounds (68 kilograms) and the car weighs 3,000 pounds, then only about 1% of the energy is being used to move the driver. “We have to get vehicles more in line with our body weight,” he says.

Lighter materials such as aluminum, carbon fiber, magnesium, composites and steel alloys are gaining favor already, as a way to meet fuel efficiency requirements. Ford’s new F-150 pickup truck , for example, now has an aluminum body, reducing the weight by 700 pounds.

F-150

With nanotechnology, we are able to create new types of materials with new products,” Dr. Burns says.

One reason why consumers shy from lightweight or small vehicles is how they withstand crashes. In the future, connected and driverless vehicles will improve traffic flow and reduce accidents. “We can have cars that don’t crash, so we can get mass out of the car,” Dr. Burns explains.

Connectivity and big data could help in another way: by improving systems for people to share vehicles and to deliver goods more efficiently. A global shift away from cars could save $100 trillion, cut 40% of urban passenger transport emissions and avoid 1.4 million early deaths by 2050, according to a new study.

We not only need to improve the vehicles or fuels, but also to think of the whole transport system and how you can improve services in passenger transport and logistics, making use of information and communications technology,” says Nils-Olof Nylund, research professor at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, which has launched a program to make Finland a model country for sustainable transport by 2020.

In looking at mobility as a service, the goal is to reduce the need for cars and instead increase public transport, walking and biking, he says. Key to public transport are frequency and communication—people don’t like to wait for public transport, especially in bad weather. Knowing exactly when the bus will arrive, thanks to a smartphone app, can eliminate that barrier.

In addition, buses, which run along fixed routes on fixed schedules, are ideal for electrification—charging stations can be located on the routes, Dr. Nylund says.

What I see coming is not one thing but a combination of connected, shared, driverless, tailored vehicles, combined with business models focused on selling miles, trips and experiences, not just cars, gasoline and insurance,” Dr. Burns says. “Technologically, I don’t think there’s anything that stops us from having a dramatically more sustainable transportation system than in the past.”

 

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

Creating the Future of Mobility

By Neno

Recently, German Handelsblatt published an interesting photo gallery on the Future of Mobility as it’s shown by automotive innovators on this year’s L.A. Auto Show.

I found this an amazing perspective, and a pity it seems still somewhat far off from today’s real life vehicle innovation on the glossy stages of the motor show. Now we know innovation cycles are getting rapidly shorter; the future is accelerating and those mobility dreams of tomorrow might be already parking in front of our doors.

The innovation forefront of our vehicle manufacturers is creating fascinating designs of mobility solutions that are integrated into their urban, architectural and energy systems in surprisingly new ways:

  • Bio engineering and new intelligent materials will make our vehicles more personal and relevant for us. At the same time, we will have safe and seamless mobility experiences.
  • Our future mobility solutions will be modular and integrated with smart grids. This is how they will become lean and sustainable – in their production, in use and when they are withdrawn from service.
  • Wheel-less concepts might even take us off-road Kangaroo-like or swarm under ground like river fish. Can this go as far as for our roads to become playgrounds then?

The high performance, multifunctional and configurable vehicles so many people can afford today – are the result of at least 50 years of engineering of systems and processes.

  • For a vehicle to perform according to requirements, many thousands of variables and relationships between electrical, mechanical and software components need to be designed, tested and validated for faultless operation.
  • For a vehicle to get from the design office to the dealers showroom at the right time at right cost and right quality – cash flow management and production processes including supply chain must be excellent.

Obviously – to minimize cost, time and errors – most of these creative, procedural and administrative activities are being carried out virtually today. The boundaries today are the “vehicle” or “production plant” systems. These systems can be managed and their physical, logical and human interfaces to the external world are defined. It is common practice today to virtually validate the kinematic behavior of an opening car door, the mechatronic behavior of an electric window closing and the procedural behavior of an assembly line design.

When we think about new mobility experiences, their boundaries are being opened; physical interfaces will be arbitrary, human interaction unprecedented. It seems that the creators of these new experiences will have to be designers, architects and strategists with a “magic” imagination to create and communicate possible scenarios and behaviors. More than likely, they will use software tools to immersively navigate mobility concepts that don’t yet exist. Intelligent virtual universes will help them dynamically explore ideas in precise physical and logical conditions. Similar to how we can simulate how a cat sees our urban reality, the creators of tomorrow’s mobility solutions will be able to take any perspective they want to ensure we will like and value their invention. I can hardly wait for this new era of mobility experiences  :-)

Go innovators, go!!  :D


Neno HorvatNeno HORVAT is a member of the Transportation&Mobility Industry team.

Blue Sky Solar Car Follows the Sun Across Australia

By Suzanne

A fleet of cars are racing 3,021 kilometers (1,877 miles) across Australia this week powered by nothing except solar energy. Among them is a car from Blue Sky Solar which was designed using Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.

Thirty-eight teams from 22 countries competing in the World Solar Challenge departed Darwin on Sunday the 6th and are expected to arrive in Adelaide Sunday the 13th. Vehicles must be highly efficient to both make the long trek and to make it in the fastest time.

Traditionally building vehicles for the race can be a year’s long process. But the Blue Sky Solar Car team was able to build a vehicle in just 13 months. Paul Park, Managing Director of the University of Toronto Blue Sky Solar Car team, said:

This was the first generation car on which we used the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. Not only did it help us collaborate better and improve work flow tremendously, it was critical to us being able to design and deliver the vehicle so quickly.

CATIA allowed us to fully integrate the systems in the vehicle and gave us the flexibility to design a world-class aero body while SIMULIA highlighted potential problems early in the design process and helped us avoid over-design.

3DEXPERIENCE design and realistic simulation apps allowed the Blue Sky Solar Car team to work on all their car’s systems under one interface – including mechanical, electrical and aerobody – from the first concept all the way through to manufacturing. The team deployed DELMIA’s Human Builder and virtual manikin applications in order to visualize ergonomics and driver comfort, and even identify and remedy flawed calculations in the design phase. SIMULIA’s advanced simulation technology aided in further validating the design intent – an analysis that had previously been done using only rudimentary hand calculations.

After three days the Blue Sky Solar Car team is in 9th place. You can track the vehicle here.

Watch “See You at the Finish Line”:

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