Saturday, November 13, 2004

Alternative Fuel Cars: Mini the Electric Car of the Future?

The British Embassy in Mexico runs an electric BMW mini

As I've commented previously the future may be hydrogen and may always remain the future as it would require hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure. Whereas EVs (electric vehicles aka electric cars) and plug-in hybrids (e.g. a Toyota Prius IF it were possible to plug in it to a regular electric socket) are the present and can be charged from the existing electric grid using surplus electricity at night.

This article in the Toronto Star points out how advances in battery technology
used in cellphones can be applied to electric vehicles.

Lithium ion batteries, such as those commonly used in cellphones, address many battery limitations. They have a much higher energy density than the conventional lead-acid batteries used in electric cars — higher even than the NiCads used in cameras, or the NiMH (nickel metal- hydride) batteries employed in hybrid-electric vehicles.To put that in perspective, a typical lead-acid battery can store about 50 Watt-hours of energy per kilogram — a NiCad can store 75 and a NiMH, 100. A conventional lithium ion battery can store about 130 Watt-hours per kilogram and a lithium ion polymer battery as much as 180.Pushing the envelope even further, a lithium ion super-polymer battery, developed and manufactured by a Mississauga firm called Electrovaya, achieves a world's-best energy density of 250 Watt-hours per kilogram.

In more practical terms, California company Lithium House say they can power a car with 230 kg of lithium ion batteries instead of 600 kg of lead-acid types. The company has already got working prototypes using a Chrsyler Crossfire and Chrsyler PT Cruiser. They have also delivered an electric Mini for the British embassy in heavily polluted Mexico City.

Cars like the BMW Mini and Chrysler Crossfire are cars that many people actually want to drive. Enabling production of these models as electric vehicles could help set us on the path to solving many of our energy problems.

Toronto Star article on Electric Vehicles