How can we “refuel” electric vehicles today and tomorrow?

Posted in Car of The Future Project, Car of The Future Project Research on September 18, 2009 by edwinconan

Greenlings: How can we “refuel” electric vehicles today and tomorrow? — Autoblog Green


Among the many claimed advantages of electric vehicles are the ability to “refuel” your vehicles at home, never visiting a gas station again. In principle, the only thing you need to “fuel” an EV is a working plug. However, in life, few things ever turn out to be as simple as they might appear on the surface. For example think about your cell phone. If, like most of us here at ABG, you have had multiple different phones over the years, you have of course noted that every one of them seems to have a different and unique charging adapter along with a completely different battery.

In a small hand-held, pocketable device like a phone, it would seem that standardizing batteries and chargers would be a relatively simple thing to do and yet it has only been relatively recently that most phones have begun converging on mini-USB connector standard. Batteries, of course, are an entirely different matter. Now imagine expanding these problems by several orders of magnitude and applying electrification to a car. Cars live in a greater variety of environments and are expected to last a lot longer than the typical consumer electronics device (do you still have your phone from six years ago?). Read on after the jump to learn more about how the problem of charging is being addressed.

The first and most important element is the charging plug. Most EVs of the recent past, including most home-built conversions, have utilized standard household plugs. While this may seem an easy solution, it is actually quite complex. Most conversions are designed to charge at 110V, which is fine for cars that have limited capacity and lead acid batteries. As lithium batteries with higher capacities become more prevalent, they will need faster charging. As MINI E drivers learned earlier this year, 110V just isn’t going to cut it.

All this means we need a charging solution that can handle 220V or more. There are multiple types of standard 220V plugs for devices like dryers, stoves, etc. None of these are designed for high numbers of insertion cycles. We’ve all experienced 110V devices like vacuum cleaners where the pins get bent and sockets get loose over time. This is not acceptable on a car where the car will typically be plugged and unplugged daily and often several times a day. The plug has to be able to withstand thousands of insertion cycles. Given that cars have to operate everywhere from deserts to extreme winter and jungles, environmental sealing is critical as well.

When GM built the EV1 in the 1990s it tried to address these issues by using a paddle with induction charging capability. For reasons that we will get to shortly, that approach is not being used for the new era of EVs. Instead, automakers have collaborated with suppliers through a Society of Automotive Engineers task force to produce a common connector under the J1772 standard (above).

This plug is designed to withstand at least 10,000 insertions/removals with seals that survive the life of the car. It also supports single phase charging at up to 240 V and 70 A. Perhaps most importantly, it also has support for vehicle to infrastructure communications. This is something that no previous connectors, including the EV1 paddle, supported.

Since affordable electric vehicles will have limited operating ranges for the foreseeable future, they are seen as being most useful in urban environments. The problem is that many people who live in urban environments don’t necessarily have garages to park and plug in to. For that reason, many local governments – e.g., London, Santa Monica– are looking at building or already have built networks of curb-side charging stations. While cities can afford to offer some free charging today to EV drivers because they are few and far between, this situation won’t continue. If EVs become prevalent, drivers will have to pay for electricity.

That’s where the communication link comes into play. The comms link will allow the car to identify itself to the charger/grid so that the driver can be billed. Some companies, like Coulomb Technologies, are working on networks of charging stations and plan to offer subscription plans similar to mobile phone service to pay for charging. The communications system will facilitate this. Even when people are charging at home, the link will allow future smart meters to manage when a car is being charged so that drivers can get the lowest cost during off peak hours.

Most of the major automakers have committed to using the J1772 connector for charging (More info: how GM will use J1772 with the Chevy Volt). One thing these connectors don’t support is 480 V charging. This higher voltage system is being proposed for quick charges with some types of batteries. To support this Nissan will actually equip its upcoming LEAF EV with two connectors, the J1772 and second one for 480V charging. However, before anyone can use this, special quick charge stations will have to be installed at places like businesses and, perhaps, existing gas stations.

The final possibility for the near- to mid-term is battery swapping. There are a variety of problems with this idea that will limit its utility any time soon. First is one of the same issues facing phones: proprietary battery packs. Because battery packs for cars are so large, automakers have to work hard to package them in a vehicle to limit intrusion on passenger space. They are often being incorporated into the structure of the car, making swapping them impossible. Finally, there is the same issue of the connectors that faces charging coupler. The battery connection, is designed for relatively few insertions.

All of these limit the utility of quick battery changing systems. So far, Better Place is the only company proposing such systems and Nissan-Renault is the only automaker that has shown any interest in supporting battery swapping. Other automakers cite the fact that battery technology is still evolving too quickly to commit to standard battery pack form factors along with the previously mentioned issues.

Looking farther out, researchers are still looking at inductive charging as well as mechanisms to recharge vehicles on the go, perhaps from cables or slots embedded in roadways. This however would require huge infrastructure investments and would create many new technical problems. Solar is another possibility, but it wouldn’t be useful at night. Even during the day, solar cells don’t have enough conversion efficiency to power a car with a panel small enough to fit on a car.

Any way you look at it, it appears we will be living in interesting times in the coming years.

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HSV Encore on Ecofriend

Posted in HSV Encore 2020 Concept Car on September 12, 2009 by edwinconan

Eco Cars: HSV Encore 2020 Brings Much Needed Muscle In A Sustainable Package – Ecofriend

hsv encore_1

Eco Factor: Concept hybrid for the year 2020 gets powered by hydrogen and ethanol.

Does our need to go green mean that in the future we will be driving cars that don’t have much under the name of performance? Industrial designer Edwin Yi Yuan thinks that muscle cars can be powered by green fuels, and the HSV Encore 2020 will make Edwin’s dreams come true.

Green Speed Motorcycle on EcoFriend

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 by edwinconan

Eco Bikes: Green Speed Air-powered Motorcycle Aims To Smash Land Speed Record – Ecofriend
green speed_1

Industrial designer Edwin Yi Yuan is hinting toward a future where compressed air would be used as a primary fuel in vehicles such as motorcycles and bikes. The air-powered engine has been lurking around for years with Zero Pollution Motors working to launch air-powered cars soon. The idea does seem fantastic, as air-powered vehicles don’t harm the environment with greenhouse gas emissions and above all, air is cheap and readily available. However, most air-powered engines fail in two ways – either the operating range is no long enough or the speed of the vehicle is too low.

Edwin, accompanied by a team of student designers and their lecturer, has designed a concept air-fueled bike that possibly removes all obstacles associated with air-fueled vehicles. The motorcycle, known as Green Speed Air Powered Motorcycle, is based on an old Suzuki GP100 from the 1970s. The designers removed pretty much everything on the original bike, the petrol tank, the engine, gear box, etc., and just used the frame of the bike, its wheels and brakes.

The engine that used is a rotary air engine. It is the invention of the Melbourne engineer Angelo Di Pietro. The engine is compact, lightweight and powerful and runs on compressed air from two compressed air tanks on the bike. It revs up to 10,000 RPM, and because of this the inventors didn’t need any gear box on the bike. There is only one gear, which is just a sprocket bolted directly to the axis of the engine and chained to the rear wheel.

Compressed air is stored in the bike’s on-board carbon fiber tanks. Once mass produced, the bike will have solar panels that will generate enough energy to compress air and store it in the bike’s tanks, which will increase its range indefinitely.

As the bike was designed as a speed record setter, there is no headlight, brake light or indicator lights on the bike. Instead, there were three little cameras fitted at the front and tail on the bike that are used to record the run. The body works were designed to be aerodynamic and lightweight, and it will be made of fiber glass or carbon fiber.

New Audi Logo

Posted in Car of The Future Project on September 4, 2009 by edwinconan

New Audi Logo Debuts at Frankfurt Motor Show – Worldcarfans

Audi has announced plans to unveil their updated logo internationally for the first time during the Frankfurt Motor Show. The redesigned logo already made an initial debut at the Audi brand’s 100th anniversary celebrations.

Deemed to be “more progressive and contemporary than its predecessor”, the modernized logo stresses “Vorsprung durch Technik” (Advancement through Technology). According to Peter Schwarzenbauer, a Member of the Board of Management for Marketing and Sales for Audi, “Vorsprung durch Technik is a clear promise to our customers – and an obligation for all Audi employees to render our design even more innovative, our drive systems even more efficient and our product range even more emotion-packed.”

The new logo features a bolder version of Audi’s trademark four rings. Audi made minor modifications to enhance their size, color, and overall appearance to represent “technical innovative power and lightweight design.”

Edwin Conan on Car Design News

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by edwinconan

Yes! My portfolio made it into the “Featured Portfolios” Section on Car Design News website: here.

Carbon Fiber Fart Smell Remover

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2009 by edwinconan

Carbon Fiber Stops Fart Smell – Now The Greatest Material In The World : Carbon Fiber Gear

At the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a group of people set out to try and find a material that would help minimize problems with odoriferous rectal gas – aka fart smell.

The tests were done by instilling a tube of 100 ml of nitrogen containing 40 ppm of sulfide gases and 0.5% H(2) at the anus of six healthy volunteers. They volunteers all wore gas impermeable Mylar pantaloons over their garments. They then had them put pads inside the underwear with a variety of materials.

If no pad was in place, the garment alone remove about 5.3% of the sulfide gases. Most of the materials were not very effective, absorbing about 20% of the gases. The best of the bunch were briefs constructed from an activated carbon fiber fabric, which removed 55-77% of the sulfide gases.

Conclusion? Get some carbon fiber briefs if you don’t want people to smell your farts.

The economic crisis and environmentalists have made Aston Martin mad

Posted in Car of The Future Project, Car of The Future Project Research with tags , , on June 29, 2009 by edwinconan

Aston Martin Cygnet Concept Car Revealed – Worldcarfans

Aston Martin reckons it has made a smart move, so to speak, by conceptualising a small city car. Based on the Toyota iQ the Aston Martin Cygnet is a mix of luxury, compactness and environmental friendliness.

Dr Ulrich Bez, the Chief Executive of AM says: “Now is the right time for Aston Martin to take this first bold step to embark on this special project – made possible with the support of an organisation of Toyota’s stature and capability and the intelligent design and perfect city car package of the iQ.”

The Cygnet does not signal the end of desirable beasts like the DB9 and the DBS. It will merely add to the range and give AM access to new markets.

“The offering of a ‘Cygnet’ with a DBS, DB9 or Vantage is a unique combination of opposites,” said Bez, “and a novel transport solution allowing intelligent and sensitive mobility on an exclusive and innovative level.”

The iQ is not a bad place to start with its EURO NCAP 5-star safety package and environmental consciousness. Aston Martin seems to be going into the same territory that Mercedes-Benz entered in the early 1990s with the smart where it initially partnered with Swiss watch maker Swatch. More details will be revealed once the project has been given final approval which Dr Bez expects to be in the not too distance future.

Just like a few days ago, I was shocked by the death of Michael Jackson, I am shocked again this time by the new Aston Martin.

The first thing I did was quickly go to the corner of the screen to check the date, ok, it’s not April Fool Day. And then I checked the display setting of my screen to make sure it is the correct size ratio 10:16, not 3:4. Then I checked my eyes and slapped myself to see if I was in my bed dreaming. I did all those things, because I couldn’t believe what I see on my computer, more to the point, what Aston is doing to Aston.

Aston Martin is pimping a Toyota iQ. I am still having a hard time to accept that. The stupid government and environmentalists have finally forced the coolest car maker in the world to lose its virginity, dignity and exclusivity to make a little, eco and gay micro car. The purity of Aston’s bloodline has finally be ruined.

My problem is not on the actual Aston Martin micro car, but more on the reason of doing this project. Aston doesn’t want to do that in the first place, rather, they are forced to do this project because of the upcoming regulations about fuel economy and emissions. A car maker has to keep the total CO2 emissions of their model range to 120g/km. Ferrari and Lamborghini can use their parents companies’ (FIAT and VW) small car models to average out the model fleet CO2 emission levels, but Aston can’t, they are individual company and only has big powerful and big CO2 emission models, so they have to spend extra money to make a little car to balance the emission.

Why it is always the supercar makers that get hit hard by green hippies and stupid government regulations? Simple, they are the superstars, eye catching. They are first things that pop up in mind. They are people’s targets. People requires a lot of thing from them. Take Michael Jackson for example, on one hand, people appreciate his music, performance on the stage, and his effort on promoting love, peace and his work on charity. And on the other hand, it’s the same people who slander him, sue him for all sorts of things and make his life so miserable, put him under pressure that eventually killed him. And so are the supercars. On one hand people want Supercar makers to make gorgeous, outrageous performance machines to fulfill their passions and dream, and on the other hand, people make those supercar makers to live a hard life of asking them to be green and environmentally responsible. Yes, to cover the same distance, an Aston Martin V8 Vantage does produce more CO2 than a Toyota Prius. But the Prius is driven everyday over the years, and the Aston rarely makes its way out of the garage. So, on a bigger scale, the Prius is more anti-social, more environmentally damaging and evil than the Aston V8. On a even bigger scale, all means of transportations, cars, ships, planes, add up together, contribute 30% of the total global CO2 emission. The amount that supercars all over the world produces add up together is so small that it cannot be measured. In the rest 70%, 50% is from buildings and infrastructure and building the infrastructure. Why the governments only focus on the smaller percentage and not doing anything on the big percentage?

Why can’t people just leave supercars alone? Just like why can’t people leave Michael Jackson alone in his Neverland? Supercars should also live in the neverland, they should be the children who never grow up. People should just let children play, watch them play and smile at them. But no, people think they are smart, and they should do something they think is smart to show that they are smart, and now look, Michael Jackson is dead, and Aston Martin is making micro cars.

Ok, it’s not all that bad and we all have to face it. I have to say, there are some good points. Look at that car, it’s so cute, much better looking than the Toyota iQ which it is based on. And I’m glad that those designers put a drawing of the upcoming beautiful Aston 4 door saloon on the wall when styling the minicar. And thanks God it is only sold to Aston Martin owners as a package. It’s like those soft drink package that you get in the supermarket, you by a 2L big bottle, and they come with a 600ml little bottle. So by driving that infant city Aston, people know that you’ve got a 6 liter V12 DB9 at home, so it is still kind of exclusive. But I’m pretty sure that very soon after the car hit the market, people who don’t have a big proper Aston Martin will be able to get hold of one of those little infant Aston, thanks to eBay and stuff. I’m also pretty sure it’ll be more fun to drive in the city than a big Aston. For a DB9 owner, driving the little Aston will be like when you grown up and look back at the photos of your childhood, it is still me, but just cuter, younger and more innocent. What’s better, if Aston forgets about the exclusivity thing all together and sell the little car separately to the mass market, very soon they will have more money than they have ever thought and they can spend it on making even more beautiful, powerful, unbelievable supercars. The little Aston is created to keep the big Aston alive.

One suggestion to the Aston owners and 007: Why don’t you rent a secured garage at the out skirt of the city, drive your big Aston Martin DBS there and switch to the little Aston to go into the city, do whatever you need to do in the city, then take the lady with you back to the garage, do whatever you need to do in the garage, then switch back to the DBS, then drive home and do whatever you need to do. At least when you stuck in congestion in the city, you can still look at the Aston badge on your steering wheel and dreaming the days you drive the big Aston, just don’t let the fact that it is actually a Toyota iQ wake you up from that dream.