Lithium-Ion Batteries and Electric Vehicles – Alternatives as 2012 Supply Crunch Nears

The long-suffering poor will rise up and bless Mr. Edison

Excerpt from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 6, 1903, on word that Thomas Edison would build a $450 Electric car.

With the impending transition to Electric Vehicles’s now all but certain, much attention must be paid to the technology, as like it or not, Jamaica will soon have to make the transition to EV’s by virtue of the fact that our Japanese made gas guzzlers may soon be of no longer able to run, monuments to inefficiency parked along the roadside for the scrap-metal traders to devour.

This is due to an impending chronic spare parts shortage. Jamaicans are not as inventive as Cubans, who can get by on modified older cars. We like the modern and the new albeit we lack a culture of regular maintenance visits to the garage, opting to DIY (Do It Yourself), much to the detriment of our prized Motor vehicles. So if EV’s were to come to Jamaica, how would they be maintained and realistically, who would buy them?

Chevy Volt
Chevrolet Volt

The choices of EV’s are growing, as the Americans, EU and the Japanese have begun focusing on making their models for an early Spring of 2011 release ad later in the summer of 2011, the Year of the EV.

No matter what make of vehicle, they all have one thing in common: they all use Lithium-Ion Batteries. GM (General Motors) made this choices for their battery technology since 2007, when they had announced their intentions of making their first EV, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt or 2011 Chevy Volt for short, which is based on Range Extender Technology, set to retail for about for about US$41,000 dollars. Range Extender Technology differs from a Hybrid Electric Vehicles by the mere fact that the Engine, instead of turning the wheels directly, powers an Electric Motor in a super quiet Flex Fuel Electric Generator, producing electricity that runs the four (4) Electric Motors that live at each wheel.

At speeds below 80km/h, the so-called Economy Mode, the 2011 Chevy Volt runs quiet like a golf cart, so quiet that it may need a noisemaker like the 2011 Nissan Leaf to avoid accidentally hitting down pedestrians. The EV becomes woefully inefficient at speeds above 80km/h due to the vehicles own momentum keeping the vehicle moving and not necessarily needing the Electric Motor’s help, resulting in a heating effect due to Eddy currents in the Motors windings that can feedback to the Lithium-Ion Batteries, increasing the possibility that the Lithium-Ion Batteries to explode, a phenomenon for which they are notorious. Thus at speeds above 80km/h or when the Lithium-Ion battery is drained, the Flex Fuel Electric Generator begins to take over, powering the four (4) Electric Motors as well as charging the two hundred and eight (208) interconnected Lithium-Ion batteries.

Electric Motors powering the four (4) Motors at each wheel is far more efficient, as the four (4) wheels being powered simultaneously, effectively an All-Wheel Drive System, is far more efficient than the use of a Crankshaft and Differential Gears to transfer mechanical motion to an axle that has to overcome the vehicle’s weight and thus its inertia or unwillingness to move, the main enemy of EV that made them unsuccessful when Oldsmobile attempted “electrics” back in the 1902 when the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing, possibly tired of horses, decided to go into making Motor cars.

Their concept for an EV was an initial success, mainly as it reduced the need for the buyer to purchase anything else other than to remember to plug in the vehicle and go each day. Blessedly simple to drive, one could have easily mistaken it for an out-of-date boxy version of a one hundred (100 mi) mile 2011 Nissan Leaf or even a 2011 Mitsubishi iMiEV. To move forward, one merely moved the lever forward to “Drive” position and the speed was controlled by how much you pressed the gas pedal. Stopping was not such a simple affair, though, mainly due to the lack of the computer control system that now exists in 2011 Chevy Volt and without which, such a complex vehicle, the most complex GM has ever built in twenty nine (29) months. To reverse, simply move the lever into the “Reverse” position. Simplicity could not be simpler, even back in the 1900, hence its initial popularity.

Unfortunately, the 1901 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, a gasoline powered vehicle the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing also made, began selling like hotcakes, owing possibly to the fact that the then EV’s only had a range of forty (40 mi) miles, making them mighty unpopular for cross country routes. Increasing the onboard load meant that they would shut off on you with no means of being able to restart – unless a passer-by happened to have an Electric Generator onboard, highly unlikely back in the 1900’s. This is not even mentioning Grace Fish, daughter of J.M. Studebaker and wife of the company’s Executive Committee Chairman bad experience with the early models, which turned her off from driving forever. Seemingly, so did everyone else.

The Electric Vehicle was dead in ten (10) years after its 1901 debut, possibly leaving many to think Thomas Edison promise was not possible. They were in fact, limited by the technology of their time, as Lithium-Ion Batteries were not yet discovered or developed. Not to mention Big Oil, back then in the form of J.D. Rockefeller owned Standard Oil, who may have spread propaganda against Thomas Edison’s vision that would have left Rockefeller less than the millionaire he became, excluding from the lucrative business model of vehicles needing the Black Gold to drive around. Rockefeller eventually became wealthy and built the Rockefeller Centre and the Empire State Building, both monuments to Black Gold. He also started the American Tradition of Philanthropy, which other have followed, so as a suspect in the murder of the early Research and Development of EV’s, he is not all bad, having paid his debt to Society.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.