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Junk the SUV - the future is here

by senilebiker Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 08:29:46 AM EST

While the Senilebiker was out running a few errands on his trusty steed this morning, he stopped at the local biker treff punkt (watering hole in German), and stumbled across a photoshoot for the RWE electric Smart car.

Whipping out his cell phone, he took the picture below.

smart plug in

Cross posted at Eurotribune and daily Kos

On returning home, after begging his tired old Dell to get its sh*t together, he was able to come up with the following info.

The Electric Smart car is one of a series of prototypes supplied by Smart, a subsidiary of Mercedes, to RWE for real world testing.

The basic specs of the vehicle are as follows:

The smart fortwo electric drive will be in regular daily use at RWE. With its eco-friendly sodium-nickel-chloride battery, the car has a range of around 115 kilometers. This can be recharged to 80 percent of its capacity in 4 hours at any ordinary domestic 230 Volt power point. Maximum capacity is reached after eight hours of charging.
The high-temperature battery is located beneath the floor of the vehicle, and - as Daimler's own laboratory tests have shown - it can handle at least 1000 charging cycles, equivalent to a calendar lifetime of approximately ten years. It provides power for an electric motor fitted in the car's rear in place of the conventional 3-cylinder gasoline engine. The motor gives the smart fortwo electric drive a top speed of 112 km/h. And with NEDC running costs at around 0.02 euros per kilometer, the car has the potential to compete with diesel engines.

Now it may not be your idea of the perfect car, but when gas runs out, you might be happy to have one of these to get to work or do the shopping. Particularly interesting is that most people would be charging overnight, when electrical demand is low - not so good for solar, but fine for wind generated energy.


I was invited to the launch of this car in London earlier this year. The fact that Riversimple is an LLP is because I convinced Hugo Spowers a partnership enterprise model using the UK LLP is the only way he can achive his aims.

It enables the vehicle leasing model - road transport as service - in a simple but radical way.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 09:26:48 AM EST
Oh and by the way, at the launch I met Sebastian Piech (of Porsche etc fame) whose family money is what got the project going.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 09:34:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Commercial Hydrogen is currently produced by cracking oil or natural gas, so it is a derivative hydrocarbon product.

The other method of producing H2 is electrolysis which requires a large amount of electricity, and is cost inefficient. If you need to produce electricity to crack water, why not just use the electricity to power the vehicle?

Having said that, there is maybe a future for H2 in air travel - but the safety issue is horrendous, as is the weight issue for high pressure, or the temperature issue for cryo H2.

by senilebiker on Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 10:08:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't say I agree with Hugo about the hydrogen economy!

I'm a cynic myself.

We need more energy density, particularly for planes.  I like the work on ammonia etc being done by the likes of Stranded Wind often to be found posting here....

But tiny fuel cells could be replaced with tiny batteries/ capacitors, of course, and naturally I'm a big fan of the enterprise model, which aligns everyone's interests towards a sustainable outcome...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 11:24:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... towards a sustainable outcome".

Supposedly what our elected representatives are meant to do, though they confuse their own select circle with 'everybody'. Their alignment should be with a pock-marked wall.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 12:00:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are already designs on the drawing board to make very efficient versions of H2, including ammonia, directly from offshore wind, because we find the wind and the water together.  if the delivery technologies, like fuel cells or direct IC engines, progress as planned, wind will deliver the higher density H2.

The first versions of floating wind-powered hydrogen ships that i saw were in '74.  i believe that was 1974.  the technology has progressed some since then.  The idea is to combine a floating foundation with the necessary desalinization and H2 production stages rather than shipping the electricity back onshore, since the water is already there.

Floating also means it works outside the North Sea, like in Japan or Argentina.  it could even be done in Patagonia, which has by far the most concentrated wind resource in the world, and shipped as various products just like crude.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 06:07:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So instead of shipping guano from Chile or from Patagonia it'll be wind-powered ammonia?


I saw some interesting technology the other day. Wind powered vessels.....whatever next....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 22nd, 2009 at 07:18:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would never work in practice. There would always be days without wind when you'd have to use your nuclear reactor.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 02:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or sit at port waiting for the wind to pick up.

If we became less impatient life would suddenly be easier.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 04:08:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is an important point. Many (most) goods are not time-critical. The only reasons it matters whether a container full of computers is one or two or three months underway is that 1) sailors have to be paid for their time and 2) having things in the pipeline reduces the relative return on investment.

But with proper warehousing, you would not lose revenues in the absolute sense. And in a full world - where production is constrained by access to raw materials - absolute revenues make more sense as a measure of firm health than return on investment.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 05:27:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But warehousing is out of fashion, it's all Just In Time™ now!

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 05:56:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a manger once who was so cautious - and always wanted so much prior justification for doing something different - I dubbed him a "just too late" manager.  A bit like the whole cliamte change control thing?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 05:27:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The very earliest version, from the cover of National Geo.

Sure i've already posted this here.  Later versions had very sophisticated submerged hydrogen production stations.  All designed by the chief designer of the world's first nuclear submarine, Wm. E. Heronemus.  (My mentor.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 10:50:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not so knowledgeable about ammonia as a fuel, but the additional nitrogen molecule will add significantly to the weight of the fuel.

Having worked in the Industrial gas industry for twenty years, I am familiar with the problems of production, handling and storage of hydrogen, and simply put, of all the common gases, hydrogen is the one that gives rise to the most safety issues.

The first liquid H2 plant in Europe was built in the eighties, and as a product, it was a failure,because of the transport/storage problems. The most significant application was for space flight. For the rest, compressed hydrogen worked out just fine.

by senilebiker on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 02:20:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Compressed is OK.  the first H2 pipeline was built from somewhere in the Ruhr valley to near Köln in the late 20's (article says 30's, believe it's wrong).  It's remained in full use to the present.  notice what's happening now.


"There was a study two or three years ago which calculated that around 300,000 cars could be operated by the excess hydrogen. That is plenty for the short term, we just need to gain access to it. The plan is to build five refuelling stations along the route which are connected to the main pipeline by smaller ones. We have asked Air Liquide to calculate the cost per kilometre of these smaller connecting pipelines so we can get a clearer view of the infrastructure costs," explains Koch.

Another option, he says, is to build filling stations directly at some of the chemical sites along the pipeline. At a plant near Cologne, for example, there is a chlorine electrolyser which can produce hydrogen at very low cost: as low as €2 to €3 per kg, compared to around €12 - €25 per kg at a hydrogen filling station in Berlin.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 10:44:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1  million cubic feet of H2 is about 1/15th of what is used to launch the space shuttle each time.Liquefied, it would fill one 11,000 gal container, which wouldn't run 300,000 cars.

Even 1 miilion cubic feet per day wouldn't be enough as this would work out about 3 cubic feet at atmospheric pressure per car per day.

by senilebiker on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 11:02:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd trust the people behind the NRW project, but not the journalist.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 12:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With a 115 km range on one charge I don't see how 1,000 charge cycles equals ten years.  Assuming 5 charge cycles per week for fifty weeks per year this would give about four years.  But 115 km is a very practical range for a lot of commuters and the cost to recharge, ex possible battery replacement cost, is good.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 01:52:19 AM EST
1000 charges at say an average of 100 km between charges gives you 100,000 km, or 10,000 km per year, which is not far from average Euro usage.  Factor in that you wouldn't use the Smart for the longer trips, like annual vacations, then 10 years seems about right.
by senilebiker on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 02:13:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming that you de-charge fully before you re-charge, or that the battery is a lot better at handling partial re-charging than most batteries I use.

Maybe that's factored into the lifetime, but my experience with batteries for consumer electronics tells me to be skeptical of claims to their lifetime...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 02:33:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who on ET knows enough to write a diary about why rechargeable batteries both large and small don't live up to expectations? (Battery life, overheating problems, size and weight, etc). Other (battery-using) technologies seem to have progressed much faster over the last twenty-odd years, than battery technology itself. Can anyone explain the reasons?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 03:14:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Consumer electronics producers really don't have any incentives to lengthen the life of their batteries...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 03:35:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lithium-ion battery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Research claims

In April 2006, a group of scientists at MIT announced a process which uses viruses to form nano-sized wires. These can be used to build ultrathin lithium-ion batteries with three times the normal energy density.[55]

As of June 2006, researchers in France have created nanostructured battery electrodes with several times the energy capacity, by weight and volume, of conventional electrodes.[56]

In the September 2007 issue of Nature, researchers from the University of Waterloo, Canada, reported a new cathode chemistry, in which the hydroxyl group in the iron phosphate cathode was replaced by fluorine. [7] The advantages seem to be two-fold. First, there is less volume change in the cathode over a charge cycle which may improve battery life. Secondly, the chemistry allows the substitution of the lithium in the battery with either sodium or a sodium/lithium mixture (hence their reference to it as an Alkali-Ion battery).

In November 2007, Subaru unveiled their concept G4e electric vehicle with a lithium vanadium oxide-based lithium-ion battery, promising double the energy density of a conventional lithium-ion battery (lithium cobalt oxide and graphite).[8] In the lab, lithium vanadium oxide anodes, paired with lithium cobalt oxide cathodes, have achieved 745Wh/l, nearly three times the volumetric energy density of conventional lithium-ion batteries. [9]

In December 2007, researchers at Stanford University reported creating a lithium-ion nanowire battery with ten times the energy density (amount of energy available by weight) through using silicon nanowires deposited on stainless steel as the anode. The battery takes advantage of the fact that silicon can hold large amounts of lithium, and helps alleviate the longstanding problem of cracking by the small size of the wires. [10] To gain a tenfold improvement in energy density, the cathode would need to be improved as well; however, even just improving the anode could provide "several" times the energy density, according to the team. The team leader, Yi Cui, expects to be able to commercialize the technology in about five years.[11]. Having a large capacitive anode will not increase the capacity of the battery as predicted by the author when the cathode material is far less capacitive than the anode. However, current lithium-ion capacity is mainly limited by the low theoretical capacity (372 mAh g−1) of the graphite in use as the anode material, so improvement could be significant and would then be limited by the cathode material instead.

There are trials with metal hydrides as anode material for lithium-ion batteries. A practical electrode capacity as high as 1480 mAh g−1 has been reported.[57]

In April 2009 a report in New Scientist claimed that Angela Belcher's team at MIT had succeeded in producing the first full virus-based 3-volt lithium-ion battery.[58]

Recent studies performed at SUNY Binghamton by M. S. Whittingham et al. determined that vanadium ions can be incorporated into the iron-containing olivine structure of LiFePO4; a small amount of vanadium (around 5%) enhancing the rate capability of the LiFePO4 olivine cathode material. The resulting compound material had higher electronic and ionic conductivities, and they were of comparable magnitude. The doping reaction kinetics were optimal under reducing atmosphere during the synthesis of the LiFe0.95V0.05PO4 material.[59]

Battery tech has improved sigificantly over the last ten years. Back in 2000, Li-ion AA capacity was less than 1000mAh. Now it's getting on for three times that, with room for more improvement. It took about three years to 'productise' the original Li-ion batteries, so some of these developments should be along shortly - assuming they're cheap enough to mass produce.

Car batteries are a tougher problem because the wider temperature range and higher output currents mean more physical, electrical and chemical stress. Car batteries need to be able to handle freezing starts, and I'm not sure how many can do that yet.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 04:59:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Car batteries need to be able to handle freezing starts, and I'm not sure how many can do that yet.

You can just do it like the Russians did: Build your car strong enough to withstand lighting a fire under the engine to melt the oil :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 05:35:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My 5-year old Apple notebook's battery had a useful life of a few minutes, at best, right now

My 3-year old basic Nokia phone still has pretty much the same multi-day battery life as in the beginning.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 06:54:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thats probably down to you running the laptop plugged in, the best way to retain battery life is to unplug the laptop as soon as the battery is full, otherwise, running it and minimally recharging causes damage to the battery cells. Modern laptop charging cuircuits will reduce the damage, but dont eliminate it entirely. Your mobile phone will be run mainly disconnected, so this problem wont occur.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 07:44:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I unplugged my laptop.
by senilebiker on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 07:53:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what about removing the charged battery, and putting it back in when needed? will that lengthen life?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Sep 24th, 2009 at 02:09:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NiMH batteries as used in hybrid cars have indefinite lifetimes. The charge/discharge cycle only uses about half of the full capacity of the cells, in order to avoid the regions near full and empty that cause the most damage to the chemistry.

They work down to around 0 F (-20 C), below which a regular lead-acid battery is used to start the engine.

by asdf on Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 at 11:26:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there a price for this yet? I am seeing more and more gas-powered Smarts here, and they look like nifty cars.

I heard a radio story in the last couple of days about the much-ballyhooed Chevy Volt. It's to cost somewhere in the range of US$40,000 and will have a range of 40 miles. Or maybe it was 80. They plan to bring it to market by the end of 2010, but I am not holding my breath. Detroit is sooooo far behind the curve on all this stuff.

by Mnemosyne on Thu Sep 24th, 2009 at 12:16:19 AM EST
No price yet, but you can extrapolate the battery cost from other cars like the Prius. They're going to be expensive...
by asdf on Fri Sep 25th, 2009 at 11:32:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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