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I DISSED the electrified vehicle experience only two days ago (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-Uj). However, there are also other EV happenings that suggest a brighter future for battery electrics, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars; BEVs, HEVs, PHEVs and FCEVs, respectively.
● At an advanced battery conference in Tokyo, Toyota described progress with two research goals beyond nickel/metal hydride batteries (as in many Prius HEVs) and lithium-ion batteries (as in the Prius PHEV).
The first, expected in cars by 2020, is a lithium-ion battery that uses a solid electrolyte rather than the conventional liquid one. Such “solid-state” batteries have as much as four times the energy density of conventional ones. They also exhibit a chemical stability that allows a higher voltage and charging rate.
Several years beyond this, Toyota envisions production of lithium-air technology, in which the anode’s oxidation of lithium and the cathode’s reduction of oxygen induce the battery’s current. Lighter packaging is a benefit, this in turn leading to higher energy density. The latter can be exploited in greater range or smaller battery size, or a balance of the two.
As cited by Toyota’s Shigeki Suzuki in Automotive News, March 11, 2013, Toyota’s overall goal is to achieve energy density approaching that of the lowly gasoline tank.
It’s said a battery today—even one of lithium-ion technology—has energy density only about 1/50 that of a typical tank of gasoline.
● Participants at the Tokyo conference agreed that significant production volumes and continued cost reductions would be critical to FCEV success. Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and, through a joint venture, Nissan/Mercedes-Benz/Ford have already announced plans for bringing FCEVs to market over the 2015-2017 timeframe.
Cited in Automotive News, March 11, 2013, a Honda spokesman said the company predicts FCEV profitability once annual volumes of 50,000 are reached, say, by 2025.
Similar to the BEV battery quandary, a current fuel-cell stack accounts for nearly half the cost of an FCEV. Plus, materials such as its platinum catalyst account for a third of stack cost.
One strategy of cost reduction is enhancement of stack power allowing reduced size and thus needing less material. Another is seeking commonality of hardware across different vehicle technologies.
At the Tokyo conference and other venues, Toyota engineers have noted their 2015 FCEV will cut costs in several ways: less platinum catalyst, elimination of humidification hardware at the stack inlet, and more efficient design of carbon-fiber fuel tanks. See comments offered at the SAE 2013 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium (www.wp.me/p2ETap-QK).
● On the other side of the world, at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show last week, Volkswagen introduced its XL1. Achieving 261 mpg on the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle), the XL1 is claimed to be the most fuel-efficient production car in the world.
Not that mass production of this plug-in diesel hybrid is envisioned. For now, the XL1 will be sold in only Germany and Austria, with an initial run of 250 vehicles.
Any fuel economy beyond 235 mpg is particularly significant, as this value is equivalent to Europe’s magic 1 liter/100 kilometers. Indeed, in Europe, the XL1’s 261 mpg is likely reported as 0.9L/100 km.
The XL1’s styling recalls that of the VW 1-Liter, a 2002 concept car that had a claimed 0.159 CD. The 1-Liter weighed only 639 lb. and was powered by a single-cylinder 8.4-hp diesel of 299-cc displacement.
By the way, this earlier one resurrects from time to time. The latest is “VW to Build China’s Peoples’ Car for $600.” Yeah, with carbon-fiber bodywork.
More realistically, the XL1 plug-in diesel hybrid combines the grid access and interactive efficiency of a plug-in hybrid with the light-load fuel sipping of a diesel—albeit with the cost penalties of both technologies.
A fascinating car. But quoting hybrid specialist Dave Hermance, rest his soul, a diesel hybrid is akin to wearing suspenders with a belt. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays, 2013