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back to article Tesla, Nissan, BMW mull all-for-plug, plug-for-all electrocar charger plan

Three of the biggest electric carmakers are thinking of teaming up on charging networks for their e-vehicles, according to reports. Now that Tesla has said its keen to share patents with its rivals in a bid to improve the popularity of e-cars, Nissan and BMW want to work with the firm on charging, folks whispered to the …

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Good luck with that one

"letters"

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Anonymous Coward

Sustainable Transport

A car stuffed so full of rare earth metals that it's already travelled many times round the planet in component form.

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Pint

At least spying will stop

BMW accused of spying on low cost electric car Autolib'

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/10299447/BMW-accused-of-spying-on-low-cost-electric-car-Autolib.html

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Trollface

Quite right!

What we need is another standard. I guess 1 more standard is better than 100 more...

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Service stations are going to need their mains supplies upgraded if electric vehicles ever become popular (and vice-versa), especially when a 'fuel stop' may take a couple of hours for each EV. I know Tesla's 'supercharger' can do it in 30 mins, but how many 120kW outlets can you install without your own sub-station?

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" but how many 120kW outlets can you install without your own sub-station?"

Never mind the sub-station, that's easy and cheap (certainly in the same league of cost as installing a petrol station's tanks). The problem is that the distribution network wasn't designed for this sort of additional load, so you need to reinforce your connection to the transmission system, and that tends to be expensive.

And that assumes you've got the electricity. Once you start using a number of electric cars you run into the problem that the UK grid is built for today's needs, of variable peak demand, winter to summer demand variation of 3x. In gross terms, transport fuels use more 20% final energy than all forms of household energy, and more than twice as much as all industrial demand. If half of all transport were converted to electricity, then your aggregate demand for electric power doubles. But that's aggregate demand over a year. In terms of peak demand you'd be talking of perhaps a four to eight fold increase.

Potentially smart charging could help minimise that, the problem is that minimising it isn't enough - if we have a week long winter high pressure zone sitting over the UK, that guarantees really cold weather, no wind output (and in winter solar output is negligible) then it is only practical to not charge your EV if you don't use it.

If people are happy to put off charging cars for periods of say ten days in winter and walk everywhere, then EV's might work. Urban eco-hipsters may find this acceptable, but they should be using the bus or cycling in the first place.

And there's a slight cost problem. Even with fat subsidies, EV's are more expensive cradle to grave than ICE vehicles. If take up of EV's is significant, then government need to start making up the lost tax revenues, in which case we see universal road tolling, so even for EV users, the costs of their mobility rise

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The Other Side of the Coin

How's membership at Pessimists United?

If half of all vehicles switch to electric, you'll have a surplus of petroleum. Guess what can fuel electric generation capacity? Petroleum - and virtually every other fuel on the planet.

And we somehow managed to wire the *entire nation* the first time. Why is the task of upgrading for additional capacity insurmountable? Are you still running on the same lines and stations that were first installed, or has Britain at any point in the past century upgraded your grid? Did you forget how?

And if there's one thing at which government excels, it's creative taxation. Why must the government switch to universal road tolling - can't think of a single alternate? And if they do, and drivers skip the petrol tax, but pay a road toll, why must the cost rise rather than the government switching the form of the tax yet remain revenue neutral?

I realize change can be unsettling, but try to consider that if people choose to switch from ICE to electric, they will do so because it offers advantages for which they are willing to pay, not just to add stress to your life. As long as the switch to electric is gradual as people make choices rather than government-mandated on a specific date, the infrastructure will adjust in response. Happens all the time.

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Re: The Other Side of the Coin

If half of all vehicles switch to electric, you'll have a surplus of petroleum.

Really? I'd imagine that what would actually have is a massive reduction in extraction rates in order to maintain current petrol prices.

Before half of all vehicles switch to electric, we need a battery technology that works at scale and is cheap enough to be used in half of all vehicles. Li-ion is already the most popular kind of battery ever made, and electric cars use the most popular kind of li-ion cell - the Tesla S has 7,000 of them. There simply isn't the scale for li-ion, despite it being one of the most mass produced items on the planet.

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Happy

Reply Icon

" but how many 120kW outlets can you install without your own sub-station?"

Never mind the sub-station, that's easy and cheap (certainly in the same league of cost as installing a petrol station's tanks). The problem is that the distribution network wasn't designed for this sort of additional load, so you need to reinforce your connection to the transmission system, and that tends to be expensive.

-----------------------------

Just install a petrol or diesel powered generator at the filling station. Plenty of fuel there to power it as needed. Problem solved!

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WTF?

Re: The Other Side of the Coin

"If half of all vehicles switch to electric, you'll have a surplus of petroleum. Guess what can fuel electric generation capacity? Petroleum - and virtually every other fuel on the planet."

I thought that the whole point of the electric vehicle exercise was to reduce the burning of fossil fuels!

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Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

Battery swapping may persuade people to buy electric cars, thinking they'll be able to 'fill the tank' in a time comparable with a petrol vehicle. But what happens to the 'flat' batteries? Presumably they'll be recharged on site, since getting a charged set delivered every day would be problematic (they're heavy items).

Doing a back of the envelope calculation about recharge times and the number of 'customers' seeking charged batteries every day, you end up with a need for (being highly optimistic) 50-100% more batteries than you have electric vehicles. Being pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) you'd need 3-4x as many. Given that the battery pack is a substantial part of the cost of any electric vehicle, someone's going to have to invest massive amounts to make this possible. (The recharging unit would also need a power supply equivalent to the output from a small power station, but that's almost a secondary consideration.)

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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

Doing a back of the envelope calculation about recharge times and the number of 'customers' seeking charged batteries every day, you end up with a need for (being highly optimistic) 50-100% more batteries than you have electric vehicles. Being pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) you'd need 3-4x as many. Given that the battery pack is a substantial part of the cost of any electric vehicle, someone's going to have to invest massive amounts to make this possible. (The recharging unit would also need a power supply equivalent to the output from a small power station, but that's almost a secondary consideration.)

Care to share those calculations (especially assumptions)? Your conclusion has no merit without the benefit of those numbers.

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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

Let's say a medium-sized petrol filling station handles 1,000 cars a day - 80% of them between 0700-1900. Recharging all these 40kWh batteries in a day requires a 2MW supply. If it takes an hour to recharge each battery (as it does on a Tesla 120kW super-charger) you're going to fall behind the flow of cars with the aim of catching up overnight (when electricity's cheaper), so you'll need a good few hundred batteries in reserve to last the peak period. You can reduce the problem by charging faster (though I'm not sure how practical that is), but then your power supply requirements increase, and you can't make use of off-peak electricity. And this is assuming the very best (most expensive) technology available - most cars take much longer than a Tesla to recharge.

It's not rocket science, is it?

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Boffin

Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

power stations use "hourly demand statistics" which are averages, which is where the overnight slack partly comes from - that is predicted load and avoid cool down .

With a bit of modern communication, all cars could synchronise with predicted power station loading, and maybe make the whole system better?

I mean, turning on your lights, the kettle, heating or your computer are on demand. I see no reason a fixed charge cycle of this size cannot be timed.

Anyone?

P.

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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

Let's say a medium-sized petrol filling station handles 1,000 cars a day - 80% of them between 0700-1900. Recharging all these 40kWh batteries in a day requires a 2MW supply. If it takes an hour to recharge each battery (as it does on a Tesla 120kW super-charger) you're going to fall behind the flow of cars with the aim of catching up overnight (when electricity's cheaper), so you'll need a good few hundred batteries in reserve to last the peak period. You can reduce the problem by charging faster (though I'm not sure how practical that is), but then your power supply requirements increase, and you can't make use of off-peak electricity. And this is assuming the very best (most expensive) technology available - most cars take much longer than a Tesla to recharge.

Thanks for those figures. Those are something which cab be verified and discussed.

It's not rocket science, is it?

No, it's escrow analysis, which is, indeed much simpler.

A simple escrow analysis of these numbers can tell us exactly how many batteries a station will

need in order to meet demand. Since you've given no more detailed picture of the demand curve, we'll assume for this discussion that it is uniform between 0700 and 1900 (high demand ~= 66.67 cars per hour), and between 1900 and 0700 (low demand ~=16.67 cars per hour). Further if you can recharge 1000 per day, you can recharge ~41.67 batteries per hour. Finally, let's assume you want a reserve of 10% (100 fully charged batteries) to deal with a sudden rush (in the case of such a rush, those reserve batteries will be replaced/recharged by an external service provider.) This is all we need for the escrow analysis.

By my calculation, the charging station only needs to store 442 batteries to supply the needs of the 1000 cars they service daily.

If the batteries took two hours to charge, the station would need to have 1171 batteries on-hand.

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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

Your figures presume zero capacity left in the batteries of cars that use the facility.

1,000 cars a day seems optimistic for the early days of this technology. It might be a good number if few petrol stations serve electric cars, it might be way too high if facilities are more widespread.

I don't generally wait for my car to be empty of fuel before filling up. It seems reasonable that the same would be the case for both battery swappers and battery rechargers.

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@Terry

Obviously you won't get 1,000 cars a day on the first day. But if the aim is that one day most cars will be all electric, those are the type of numbers you need to deal with. OTTOMH I don't think the absolute numbers affect the argument too much - in fact, with smaller numbers you might need an even higher proportion of 'spare' batteries to cope with peak demand.

Unless I'm about to set off on a long journey, I don't generally fill the tank until the fuel warning comes on. Why would you? But I suppose battery power might lead you to want to 'top up' more frequently.

The bottom line - it doesn't matter if you 'only' need to provide 50% more batteries than cars to make battery swapping a practical proposition or if the 'real answer turns out to be 200% - the cost (whether borne by the manufacturers or the motorist) will kill the idea stone dead.

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@Steve

Thanks for doing the heavy lifting, which confirms my back of the envelope guesswork. There's no point in trying to produce a detailed demand curve, which would vary day to day and location to location in any case. But whatever it is, to make this idea work you'd need to provide substantially more batteries than cars. And that's a huge cost in both financial and environmental terms (batteries aren't very ecofriendly either to manufacture or dispose of).

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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

"Your figures presume zero capacity left in the batteries of cars that use the facility."

If the batteries have any charge left in them, it would probably be a good idea for the facility to do a discharge first as batteries still don't like constantly being charged from partly empty. Which means your cycling will probably take longer for a battery that isn't completely discharged.

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Re: @Terry

"Unless I'm about to set off on a long journey, I don't generally fill the tank until the fuel warning comes on. Why would you? But I suppose battery power might lead you to want to 'top up' more frequently."

Not only that, unlike with petrol, you can top your car up every night at home so in the morning its *always* got a "full tank". If that was the situation now with petrol cars, how many petrol stations would you need? 5 or 10% of what we currently have?

Once electric cars get to say 200-250 miles on a full charge (about double what it is now?), what percentage of cars would need to recharge mid day / journey ? And if the ones generally being driven on those long journeys had standby petrol generation, like the BMW i3, even that need goes away.

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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next? @raphael

"If the batteries have any charge left in them, it would probably be a good idea for the facility to do a discharge first as batteries still don't like constantly being charged from partly empty."

Not true. Lithium Ion batteries are much happier with regular top ups, and actually don't like being fully discharged (they're not keen on being topped up to 100% if they've only been used lightly - say from 90% to 100%). I think you're thinking of the old NiMH or NiCd batteries.

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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next? @raphael

"Lithium Ion batteries are much happier with regular top ups, and actually don't like being fully discharged"

Precisely. My family took a hybrid on an extended trip, and the computer kept the battery charge between about 50% and 80%. This surprised me at first - I expected a full recharge, all-electric operation until exhausted, the repeat - until I considered the type of battery employed.

Amateurs with a stack of envelopes are no match for professional engineering. They just post more often.

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@Joe 35

A full electric 'tank' is about 1/4 of a petrol tank (in terms of range). Overnight top-up is fine for the daily commute (for most people, which in a petrol car would require a weekly refill), but a reasonable journey will demand a refill halfway. I think the number is more like 50-75% not your 5-10%. We'll see, if we one day get to a largely electric powered vehicle fleet. But for this and numerous reasons that others have noted, I'm very doubtful this will ever happen.

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Facepalm

Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

"Your figures presume zero capacity left in the batteries of cars that use the facility."

Umm, if you have paid for a full battery, why would you swap it if it wasn't completely or near completely empty?

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FAIL

There's a scene in the 70s sitcom "Porridge"

where Fletcher is being pressured by McKay to tell him how the inmates digging a tunnel managed to get rid of all the earth.

"Oh, that's easy Mr McKay" says Fletch breezily. "They dug another hole, and put all the dirt in there."

Why does that remind me of electric cars ?

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Re: There's a scene in the 70s sitcom "Porridge"

I don't know. You tell me. Why does it?

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A standard plug but

let's hope Apple don't bring out an electric car

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Re: A standard plug but

You beat me to it.

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Re: A standard plug but

Came for this. Yet another industry that will have standard connectors. Apple is not amused.

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Re: A standard plug but

Damn straight. In fact, they would sue round corners.

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Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,

Without any hint of irony?

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IEEEeeee!!!!

This is something the IEE should be drafting and putting into the next revision of The Regs (BS7671). Section 6 is Special Locations, Section 611 was added in the last edition to cover highway supplies, start drafting up and testing Section 612 to cover charging points immediately.

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Happy

Battery Cars.

"Nissan is the world’s largest maker of cars that include an electric motor, while BMW and Tesla account for 80 per cent of the world’s battery-only cars."

what about Tamiya?

I expect they have quite a large share of the battery car market. :-)

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Re: Battery Cars.

I'm also fairly sure most cars have an electric motor, if only to spin the internal combustion one up to speed!

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Re: Battery Cars.

Wiper motors, electric window winders, fuel pump......

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Re: Battery Cars.

In fact, is it even possible to find a car that doesn't have an electric motor in it? Other than toys and go-karts?

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Petrol station analogy?

I thought the idea of electric cars was to charge them when they are parked up, either overnight night at home or in car parks. Certainly the charging stations around my city (Manchester UK) fit this model.

I can see some benefit in battery swapping stations for people travelling longer distances between cities etc but would think most users of electric cars would be driving around the city or doing short commutes, relying on a single battery.

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Electric car batteries don't "swap"

Why are we talking about battery swapping? Quoting Wikipedia on the Nissan Leaf for example "…the battery and control module together weigh 300 kilograms…" Batteries are built in to a car body (not the boot) with particular attention to weight distribution. They can't be "swapped" even with a forklift.

Notwithstanding all that, I do see a market for a portable and interchangeable small battery pack of maybe 15kg for emergency use to get you home, or to the nearest charging station. A stuck driver might call an RAC van to deliver a loan or leased battery (or two). To make such a service work needs a connector in the car boot, with standardised plug and voltage settings. Would be handy if more than one could be run in parallel, if only to keep the individual package weight manageable, so each battery pack would need an input and an output connection to make a daisy-chain. Car makers should seriously consider keeping that option open.

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Re: Electric car batteries don't "swap"

Yes, it's ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to swap a car battery on the fly!

http://www.teslamotors.com/batteryswap

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Re: Electric car batteries don't "swap"

Just a standard connector and interface for a petrol/diesel pusher trailer for the rare cases where you need to do a big trip would be great. Pop up places where you can rent them. Typical daily charge would be done at home.

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Re: Electric car batteries don't "swap"

Ok, I'm wrong. And this is how it works:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/pikeresearch/2013/06/27/tesla-tries-out-battery-swapping/

"...Ideally, the [Tesla] Model S owner will return to the station and retrieve the original battery pack when finished with the replacement pack, once again paying the service fee [currently about $60 to $80]. The owner may choose not to go to the station and have the older pack delivered to them for a fee, or choose to simply keep the replacement pack and Tesla will submit a bill for the value difference of the battery pack based on its age."

And you do this every week, right? And you live handy to a Tesla Station? Or Tesla and BMW and Nissan will have interchangeable batteries?

But hey, why don't you keep a spare battery pack at home and swap it whenever it suits you (but did they mention that it weighs 544kg? see http://www.roperld.com/science/TeslaModelS.htm )

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Re: Electric car batteries don't "swap"

http://www.teslamotors.com/batteryswap

Yes but it was only 'designed' to have battery swaps with a single staged demonstration hiding every detail. The reality is it isn't happening and likely never will.

The claim and staged demonstration let them screw more zero emission vehicle credits out of the California Air Resources Board - mission accomplished....

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Re: Electric car batteries don't "swap"

> A stuck driver might call an RAC van to deliver a loan or leased battery (or two).

Good idea. Another possibility might be for the RAC to tow the vehicle whilst simultaneously recharging through a cable run along the tow bar. Once you're close enough to your intended destination and charged-up enough they can let you on your way. (It won't be cheap but then 'relay' or whatever they call it at the moment isn't either.)

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If you've ever wondered if electric cars are actually any good...

... you should read this Oatmeal comic: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla_model_s

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There are already decent standards

Like normal Schuko-Plugs for slow charging with up to 10 amps single phase, or IEC60309 plugs for 3 phase up to 125 amps.

Both are rather common and easy to install. There's even one network which operates via a flatrate. You pay some money and get a key. Others install little locked boxes in public places, with a socket and a power meter and get their cost paid by that money. It's extremely simple and works well.

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"Nissan is the world’s largest maker of cars that include an electric motor, while BMW and Tesla account for 80 per cent of the world’s battery-only cars."

Well pretty well every part of that line is wrong apart from it has words.

Nissan is the biggest seller of battery only cars (BEVs). Toyota with their hybrids probably sold the most cars with an electric motor. Tesla own top end of the market but in volume not even close to Nissan. BMW are mainly selling range extended i3s not pure battery ones. Hard to find correct numbers but between 2:1 or 5:1 REx vs BEV for i3s.

Terminology: http://blog.ucsusa.org/comparing-electric-vehicles-hybrid-vs-bev-vs-phev-vs-fcev-411

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going to need on-site electrical storage

the service station of the future is going to need a large onsite storage bank- no way mains power is going to be enough to supply on-demand to the half dozen or so stations down any reasonably busy urban road. Especially at lunchtime/after work. Since it only needs to hold the charge for a couple hours between peak usage, would supercapacitors be suitable?

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