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Engineers develop algorithms to switch out and recharge battery modules in electric cars

September 29, 2014 in Battery Energy Storage, Electric Vehicles, EV charging, EV News

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. A team of engineers at the University of California, San Diego, are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company.

Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules. They named the project Modular Battery Exchange and Active Management, or M-BEAM for short (

Engineers have already purchased and converted a car, a 2002 four-door Volkswagen Golf. They also built all the modules for one of the two battery packs they plan to use and are now looking for sponsors for their project, including companies or individuals that appreciate the benefits of having small exchangeable battery modules in an electric vehicle.

“This is a game-changing technology,” said Lou Shrinkle, an electrical engineer who is one of the major sponsors of the project. “This idea may seem straightforward, but there were some tough technical challenges that we had to solve to make this system robust and practical.”

Swapping battery modules could also have far-reaching implications for mobile and decentralized electrical energy storage systems such as solar backup and portable generators. The technology can make energy storage more configurable, promote safety, simplify maintenance and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels for these applications, Shrinkle pointed out

Engineers not only believe that their approach is viable, but also plan to prove it. They will embark on a cross-country trip with a car powered by the removable, rechargeable M-BEAM battery modules. They plan to drive from coast to coast only taking breaks that are a few minutes long to swap out the modules that will be recharged in a chase vehicle. They believe they can drive from San Diego to the coast of South Carolina less than 60 hours—without going over the speed limit.

“This requires a completely different way of thinking on battery management,” said Raymond de Callafon, a mechanical engineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. “Electric storage capacity is increased when modules are connected in parallel, but this requires a careful control of stray currents between modules.”

Algorithms for charge estimation and current control

A team led by de Callafon is designing the algorithms for charge estimation and current control, implemented in an embedded system that is part of the battery management system for each module. The algorithms will be able to handle battery modules with different charge levels, chemistry, age and condition and keep the modules working together uniformly. The team has published their findings in a recent paper titled “Current Scheduling for Parallel Buck Regulated Battery Modules” in the IFAC World Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa in August, 2014.

Xin Zhao, the graduate student that is part of the team, explains in the paper that rechargeable, removable battery modules in electric cars would solve numerous problems. Being able to simply swap and combine battery modules would eliminate range anxiety and extend the range that cars are able to travel indefinitely — the average range of most affordable electric vehicles is about 70 to 100 miles per charge. Batteries themselves take 4 to 12 hours to charge with conventional power sources. Newer, fast-charge technology still takes about 30 minutes and involves running very high power through batteries, shortening their lifetime and reducing safety.

What would change

The team says there are many advantages in their approach of recharging and swapping out smaller modules within a large battery. The approach allows for a separation between the purchase of an electric vehicle and its battery pack. The price of electric vehicles would drop by about $10,000 if removable battery modules are leased rather than built into an electric vehicle.

Also, as of today, more than 40 percent of people living in cities don’t have access to wall outlets to charge their electrical vehicles at the curb or in a garage. Exchangeable modules could be taken out of the car and recharged at home. Exchangeable modules would also allow an expanded mix of chemistries and energy densities lowering costs and improving range. Removable batteries could even be brought into the home to be charged and be part of an electricity back-up system.

Challenges and future work

But there are challenges. At 20 to 30 lbs. each, the modules are not exactly light-weight. Researchers believe that as battery technology matures, module size will shrink to about the size of a tissue box, weighing less than 10 lbs. The ability to swap battery modules from an electric vehicle allows easy adaptation of such new battery technology.

A battery system based on exchangeable modules would also need an infrastructure that allows users to lease or purchase the rechargeable modules. Businesses that either charge the modules or rent out pre-charged modules would also need to be available throughout the country. But engineers point out that electric vehicle charging stations, especially fast-charge stations, are not widely available either. Exchange stations could easily be gradually deployed. Imagine simply exchanging your modules at the local gas station that charges them for you, much like you can fill up propane tanks today.

Electric shock can also be a risk during removal and replacement of high voltage modules. The battery management system developed by the research team ensures that the output voltage of the battery is equal to zero unless the battery is in the vehicle and enabled by a key switch. Modules are configured to exhibit only safe low voltages even when fully compromised during and after a crash and have built-in solid-state switches to handle a short circuit condition.

Professor de Callafon is excited about the design and testing of the battery modules using a cross-country trip with an electric vehicle. “The cross-country trip will generate a wealth of scientific data on the performance of the battery modules we have designed.” The team hopes that the cross-country trip will change the way we think about mobile energy storage for electric transportation.

This article (9-16-14) is an EV News Report repost, credit: UC San Diego.

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Formula E partners with Edison Electric Institute

June 12, 2014 in Electric Vehicles, EV enthusiast, EV News, FIA Formula E

EEI convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, Tuesday, June 10, 2014.  (Paul Sakuma Photography)  Courtesy of Formula E

EEI convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Paul Sakuma Photography)
Courtesy of Formula E

Organisers of the FIA Formula E Championship have announced a joint partnership with the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the US-based association that represents all American investor-owned electric utility companies, to work together on the advancement of electrification in the transportation sector.

The announcement was made during the EEI Annual Convention held at the ARIA Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. The meeting explores the future of the US electric power industry and the ways in which electricity is generated and delivered. The fully-electric Spark-Renault SRT_01E race car was also on display at the event, during which Formula E announced its new Global Initiative programme.

The Global Initiative will provide EEI member companies the opportunity to align with the values and goals of Formula E. Electric utility companies will have the unique chance to support the Formula E legacy and education programme. In addition, EEI will leverage The Electric Generation – a campaign to drive excitement in electric vehicles – to support the Formula E mission of educating the public about the benefits and opportunities of electric transportation.

Formula E is the FIA’s global motorsport championship featuring fully electric open-wheel cars racing in 10 of the world’s leading cities. The event kicks off in September in Beijing; other cities include Miami, London and Buenos Aires. The debut of Formula E ushers in an innovative age where a race on the world stage has become the platform to showcase and promote sustainable technology for the environment.

EEI President Tom Kuhn said: “We are excited about our partnership with Formula E and the chance to help demonstrate to people around the world the tremendous benefits of using electricity as a transportation fuel, even in motorsports. Electric vehicles are efficient, fun to drive, and reduce our impact on the environment. Formula E’s cutting-edge race cars deliver power and high performance that race fans everywhere will really enjoy.”

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, said: “We are great advocates of EEI and its commitment to promoting the use of electricity in new, exciting and environmentally friendly ways. With 10 races in 10 different cities around the world, Formula E provides a global platform to promote this message across the globe. We are looking forward to working together for years to come to make a real difference in the energy sector and beyond.”

To learn more about the Edison Electric Institute and its commitment to electric transportation, visit or

This article is a repost, credit: Formula E. Video courtesy of Formula E.

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Bogotá Launches the Largest All-electric Taxi Fleet in South America

September 2, 2013 in BYD, Electric Vehicles, EV News

All-electric E6 Taxis Photo courtesy of BYD

All-electric E6 Taxis
Photo courtesy of BYD

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -Today BYD Co., Ltd., Codesa, Praco, Helm Bank, and ETC held a ceremony at Tercer Milenio Charging Station announcing and displaying all-electric e6 taxis to be put into service in the capital City of Colombia – Bogota. Dr. Gustavo Petro Urrero, Mayor of Bogota, Dr. Adriana Soto Carreño, Deputy Minister of the Department of the Environment and Sustainability, Dr. Néstor García Buitrago, District Secretary of Environment and other important guests were in attendance. The 45, e6 fleet vehicles were all part of that country’s new “BIOTAXIS Project” (authorized by Decree 677 of 2011). “The purpose of this pilot is to replace conventional taxis with the electric taxis and show a visible benefit to investors due to the reduced operational cost of electric vehicles. Anybody who owns a combustion taxi in operation has the ability to replace it with an electric taxi now,” commented by Dr. Gustavo Petro Urrero, Mayor of Bogota.

Bogota’s “Decree 677 of 2011” clearly states the need for the city to develop instruments and tools to support and promote the development of electric transportation policy and has been promoted in conjunction with the Departments of the Environment and Sustainability, Commerce Ministry and the Finance Ministry. “The import of hybrid bus, truck and cng vehicles will be reduced down to 5% from 15%, while the import duty of pure electric bus, truck, taxi and private cars will be entirely eliminated,” explained the minister of the department of the environment and sustainability. “it’s anticipated that 2,250 pure electric vehicles will benefit from this act in just 3 years.” according to a report from the world bank in 2012, the economic loss caused by air pollution in colombia is 570 million pesos (local currency) every year, and pollution from dirty petroleum transportation may have played a role in as many as 5,000 deaths in the country. deputy minister of the department of the environment and sustainability, dr. adriana soto carreño mentioned, “We hope other cities would also introduce pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles into public transportation, to reduce particulate matter and pollution and improve public health.”

The BYD e6 is a 5-passenger, long-range, pure electric utility vehicle powered by BYD’s core technology Iron-Phosphate battery. It is a crossover between a sedan and a SUV with superior interior space and additional 450L cargo space. The nominal range of e6 from a single charge is 300 km. Using BYD’s internally-developed bi-directional charging and discharging technology, the e6 can be fully charged in 2 hours (0-100%). With over 800 e6 vehicles running as public eTaxis today, the e6 fleets have an accumulated range of over 100 million km (as of Aug, 1st, 2013). They are operated two shifts for nearly 24 hours with mid-day supplemental charging required. Through electrifying the city’s public taxi fleet, BYD e6 is achieving reduced Green House Gas emissions and reducing public health care costs.

About BYD

BYD Co., Ltd is a leading-edge provider of green energy technologies that specializes in the IT, automotive, and new energy industries. Being the world’s biggest rechargeable battery manufacturer, BYD also has the largest global market share for cell-phone chargers and keypads. BYD branched out into the auto business in 2003, and has kept a robust yearly growth rate successively. In 2008, Warren Buffett invested $232 million to take a 9.89% stake in BYD. Today, BYD is the fastest-growing Chinese auto company and a global pioneer in the field of new energy vehicles including Dual Mode Electric Models and Pure Electric Models.

Based on its core Fe Battery technology, BYD has worked out a Green City Solution, which aims to electrify urban public transportation systems by transitioning from gasoline and diesel buses and taxis to pure electric ones. In March 2012, BYD and Daimler AG officially announced the entirely new EV brand Denza in China.

In addition, BYD has also focused on the Research & Development and manufacturing of a wide range of new energy products, including energy storage system, solar energy products and LED lighting. For more information, please visit,,, or [email protected].

This article is a repost, credit: BYD,

Triple Digit Oil Helps Electric Car Sales

July 16, 2013 in EIA, EV News, Oil

Courtesy of EIA

Courtesy of EIA

The EIA graph above clearly illustrates that the future price of a barrel of oil is highly uncertain.  City, state and federal governments need to make a greater effort to educate the public about the long-term benefits of electric transportation. 

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) weekly oil inventory report will be under scrutiny tomorrow morning since the two previous reports showed strong draws.  WTI oil is trading near $106 per barrel, and Brent is over $109.  The API oil inventory report today was slightly bearish for oil prices, but it is the EIA data tomorrow that is more closely watched.  Overall, triple digit headlines should help electric car sales.

Despite the hype about shale oil fields, peak oil is a geologic reality that is here to stay.  The price of a barrel of oil tells us that change is needed.     

AAA states that the national regular gasoline average is $3.64 per gallon, so we are nearing the magic $4 barrier, which has caused demand destruction in the past.  Hopefully, Americans will start ditching the pump for the charger in increasing numbers since there are a number of electric car models on the market today.

Many financial strategists believe that market forces will drive the masses to abandon the pump as gasoline prices rise with time.  Unfortunately, it may not be a smooth transition to the new electric era.  As 2008 showed, the oil market can play havoc on the global economy, and it often starts to show at the fringes where the link is weakest.  India is an example of a country which is struggling with a high oil import bill, a weak currency and rising inflation.

The Middle East is an oil supply wild card, as always.  Egypt is not a big oil producer, but its instability could destabilize other countries in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.  Reuters reported: “The United States has avoided calling Mursi’s overthrow a “coup,” because that would require it to halt aid.  Never comfortable with the rise of Mursi’s Brotherhood, Washington nevertheless defended his legitimacy, a position that has attracted outrage from both sides in Egypt.  The crisis in a country straddling the strategic Suez Canal and which has a peace treaty with Israel has alarmed the international community.”

Courtesy of EIA

Courtesy of EIA

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Charging electric vehicles cheaper and faster

April 30, 2013 in Electric Vehicles, EV charging, EV News

Saeid Haghbin and his co-workers have developed unique solutions for isolated and non-isolated integrated electrical vehicle chargers. Photo: Peter Widing Courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology

Saeid Haghbin and his co-workers have developed unique solutions for isolated and non-isolated integrated electrical vehicle chargers. Photo: Peter Widing
Courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology

Press Release: Researchers at Chalmers have developed a unique integrated motor drive and
battery charger for electric vehicles. Compared to today’s electric vehicle chargers, they have managed to shorten the charging time from eight to two hours, and to reduce the cost by around $2,000.

Saeid Haghbin, doctor of electric power engineering, undertook his doctoral studies in order to develop the optimal electric vehicle charger. The result is a novel high-power integrated motor drive and battery charger for vehicle applications, where a new power transfer method has been introduced involving what is known as a rotating transformer.

“The ideal scenario would be to have a charger powerful enough to charge a car in five to ten minutes, but this would cost over $100,000, which is more expensive than the car itself,” says Saeid Haghbin. “The question we posed was: how can we reduce the size, weight and price of the on-board charger.”

Since the electric motor and the inverter are not used during battery charging, the researchers looked into the possibility of using them in the charger circuit and building some kind of integrated motor and battery charger. In other words, would it be possible to use the motor and inverter in the charger circuit to increase the charging power at a lower cost?

“Instead of having a separate isolated battery charger, we introduced a new concept for the power transfer, the rotating transformer, which was developed to transfer electric power while rotating,” says Saeid Haghbin. “The battery is charged through the transformer and a split-phase electric motor that was especially designed for this purpose.”

Model of the integrated motor drive and battery charger. The image shows a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which also has a fuel tank and a combustion engine, but the technology system works equally well with a purely electric vehicle. Image courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology

Model of the integrated motor drive and battery charger. The image shows a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which also has a fuel tank and a combustion engine, but the technology system works equally well with a purely electric vehicle.
Image courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology

The Chalmers integrated charger is, from a university perspective, still on laboratory level. To achieve a more optimal system, further investigations and experimentation are necessary. However, the product has resulted in both a Swedish and an international patent. Chalmers is trying to find a potential industrial user, and Volvo AB is working on the concept for further enhancement to be used in its system.

“Electric cars have been discussed as a possible solution to reduce carbon emissions for a long time, but scientists debate whether this mode of transportation is the future or not,” says Saeid Haghbin. “If we manage to solve the main problems with the battery and the battery chargers, I think the electric vehicles will succeed. And in general, I think electric transportation will become more common in the future, for example trains, trams and plug-in hybrids.”

The research was funded by The Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Centre (SHC)

Read more about the patent

Read the PhD thesis Integrated Motor Drives and Battery Chargers for Electric or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

This article is a repost, credit: Chalmers University of Technology,