Weekly Electromobility News

Maserati is Joining the Electric Car Club; Formula E Third Season Kicked Off in Hong Kong; Henrik Fisker is Coming Back with an EV “Spiritual Successor to the Fisker Karma”

Maserati is Joining the Electric Car Club

According to the Car and Driver, Maserati wants to build an EV by 2020. This news came out from Maserati/Alfa Romeo’s engineering head Roberto Fedeli.

The electric Maserati is expected to be “a sleek grand-touring coupe”. One of the interesting tasks is to give the electric car the Maserati identity – the brand is proud of its fine-tuned signature engine sound. There even is a composer working at the company. It becomes tricky since electric cars sound very different (in any words, quiet).

Another task is to make the car enjoyable to drive. EVs are heavy from the weight of battery. Fedeli said “Torque and power are interesting for a very few seconds but then the weight does not let you enjoy the car on a normal road.”

Formula E Third Season Kicked Off in Hong Kong

Formula E – The electric version of Formula 1 – kicked off its 3rd season. The Round 1 HKT Hong Kong ePrix raced on Oct. 9, first-ever waterfront ePrix. The circuit is about 2 km, with 10 turns.

In this eventful race, the defending champion Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams) got the title, although he started at the fifth place. Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Lucas di Grassi had a great race too, catching up from the 19th place to finish at 2nd. Renault is leading the team standings with 37 points.

Next round will be in North Africa Marrakesh on Nov 12. Formula E has expanded to 10 teams this season, with the addition of Jaguar and Faraday Future. Carmakers like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have plans to build teams for the 2017 season.

Henrik Fisker is Coming Back with an EV “Spiritual Successor to the Fisker Karma”

According to Fortune, Henrik Fisker, the creator of the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid (and also BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage), said he was launching Fisker Inc. to build a new electric car. The new car will be a “spiritual successor to the Fisker Karma” and have “the world’s longest electric range of any production car previously developed,” Fisker said.

The car will run 400 plus miles on electric, supported by a different battery chemistry developed in-house. Moreover, the car “will include dynamic, never-before-seen design features, combining advanced materials with the use of the latest optimization software. The car will have more rear legroom and headroom than any of its closest competitors”, according to Fisker’s press release.

Fisker plans to unveil the EV in the second half of 2017.

Weekly Electromobility News

International Energy Agency Publishes Global EV Outlook 2016; Fortune and Tesla Disagree on the Materiality Topic; China Creates a National Innovation Center for EV Battery

International Energy Agency Publishes Global EV Outlook 2016

The report is available on International Energy Agency (IEA) website. It points out that 1 million electric cars were passed in 2015 (1.26 million to close the year). 1% of market share for EVs has been reached in 7 countries, including Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, China and the UK.

Moreover, the battery cost has decreased by a factor of four since 2008. Ranges of over 300 km are expected from EV makers, which are believed to be encouraging for EV development.

The Electric Vehicle Initiative has a goal (20 by 20) of reaching 20 million EVs globally by 2020. The Paris Declaration targets for 100 million EVs globally by 2030.

Fortune and Tesla Disagree on the Materiality Topic

On May 7, a fatal Model S crash happened while the car’s Autopilot was on. On May 16, Tesla told the government about the accident, according to Reuters. On May 18, Tesla started a new stock sell.

Fortune published an article saying that the accident “was a material event” and followed it up with another article titled “Tesla Said an Autopilot Crash Would Be ‘Material’ Before Elon Musk Said It Wasn’t”.

Tesla’s response to Fortune was later put online by Fortune. In the response, Tesla said “Fortune’s article, “Tesla Said an Autopilot Crash Would Be ‘Material’ Before Elon Musk Said It Wasn’t,” is fundamentally incorrect.”

China Creates a National Innovation Center for EV Battery

According to People.cn, a national innovation center for EV battery was established in Beijing. The center is the first of manufacturing innovation centers initiated by the “Made in China 2025” project.

The center will be operated in “company+partnership” mode, integrating resources from government, auto industry and academy. 3 billion yuan (or $448 million) will be used for R&D between now and 2020. The center plans to improve EV battery performance and catch up with Japan and Korea by 2020.

What Could Go Wrong for the Tesla Car Battery at the Supercharger

A Tesla Model S electric car caught fire during charging at a Supercharger in Norway, on January 1. The driver left for a store nearby while waiting, and a few minutes later, the car started to burn. Fortunately nobody got injured. Tesla said it is “undergoing a full investigation”.

It seems like every time this happened to Tesla, it could make the news (an unparalleled treat for a car company) – Let’s count: The collide with a “large metallic object” near Seattle, the crash in Mexico, the tow hitch hit in Tennessee, the wall adapter in Irvine, the unplugged fire in Toronto and this Supercharger one. Nevertheless, electric cars are still arguably safer than conventional cars in terms of e.g. number of fires per billion miles driven.

Tesla receives such a great deal of attention (and concern) partly due to the fact that its cars represent the fast growing trend to go electric. And the new thing about the electric cars is that they use batteries.

A lithium-ion battery has a few chemicals in it, among which there are 1) some fuel that can burn – the organic solvents and 2) some oxidizer (think about the air) that the fuel can burn with – the cathode material. Yes, you are right. We are trying to complete the fire triangle. So when there is too much heat, the battery can catch fire.

Please don’t panic yet. For one thing, lithium-ion batteries have been around for 25 years. You cannot live without them, literally. Your phone, your laptop, your iPad… And the Earth is still rotating just fine.

We just need to make them behave. And they usually do under normal use and conditions. Things can go wrong however under abuse conditions, such as physical deformation (crush and penetration), external short circuit, overdischarge, overcharge and external heat. Batteries can get shorted and/or generate a lot of heat. In extreme cases, temperature can start to climb up self-sustainably, so called thermal runaway.

One more thing: lithium dendrite growth from the anode to the cathode inside the battery stack. The battery makers are pursuing higher energy density, so the car can run longer and one can talk on the phone for more hours. (Please see the Battery Status Tracker on energy density on our homepage)

One design approach is to stuff as much electrode materials in a battery as it allows. As a result, the anode can start to have trouble digesting lithium ions from the cathode, especially during fast charging. Lithium can therefore be plated on the surface of the anode. Dendrite can grow, reach the cathode side and cause internal short circuit and heat generation.

The Tesla supercharger can charge the 85 kWh battery from 10% to 80% in 40 mins. It is not that fast, considering Nissan Leaf can charge to 80% in 30 mins and Microvast LpCo battery can be fully charged in 15 mins (Please see the Battery Status Tracker on fast charging on our homepage). However, we are talking about a 120 kW charger charging a big 85 kWh battery. The process itself can generate quite some heat from the resistive heating already. (BTW, Electric cars usually have battery cooling system on board). On top of that, if some cell(s) falls into the abuse category and too much heat is generated/sustained, there is enough fuel and oxidizer to complete the fire triangle.

So, as one can imagine, it is a crucial but difficult task to manage batteries in electric cars within normal use and conditions, because they are big (hundreds and thousands of times bigger than the batteries in a phone, in terms of the energy inside among other things) and they consists of tens to thousands of smaller cells which tend to have slightly different characters (but we really need them to be as identical and as under normal use as possible).

Electric cars are doing alright, for now. Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S both crossed 1 billion-mile mark in June 2015.

Another Big and Small Things from Apple

Remember the 17” and 12” Apple PowerBook ad featuring Yao Ming and Verne Troyer? The punchline was “the next big and small things from Apple”. More than a decade later, Apple is doing it again – this time with a (possible) electric vehicle (EV) and the Apple Watch.

Big thing first – the electric vehicle. Numerous sources have revealed the company’s target ship date of 2019 for the EV. The project has a nice code name Titan. We did not hear much about it until late 2014. Multiple companies have been associated with this affair – BMW, Tesla and Faraday Future, just to name a few.

The rumor is that the Apple would model its EV on BMW’s i3 electric car. The two parties have good working relationship – for example, BMW integrated iPod into its car audio system back in 2004. However, it was also reported that the new EV would look more like a minivan (makes me think of VW’s electric Budd.e. Anyone else?).

Regarding Tesla, Apple could make good use of Model S (& Co.) technologies for Titan. It has been heard that Apple would plan to buy Tesla, and people even put a $100 billion price tag for it.

As for Faraday Future, it is speculated that the EV startup would be a front for Apple’s project. Faraday Future just released its concept car FFZero1 at CES 2016. The high-profile company could be backed up by Yueting Jia, the founder and CEO of Chinese company LeTV.

Most recently, Steve Zadesky, Apple’s Vice President and the Project Titan’s person in charge, announced that he would leave the company after his 16 years tenure.

After all, nothing specific about the Apple Vehicle has been disclosed for now, but it is pretty exciting to see what kind of a “big” electric moving “thing” Apple can come up with.

The small thing – Apple Watch. Since the debut, almost 7 million of them were estimated to have been shipped. I personally like the smartwatch. It can remind me to stand up from time to time. I can set up a calendar, talk to friends and certainly watch the time, while keep my phone in the pocket.

I am curious about its battery of course. The batteries for wearable electronics are developing into a sizeable market, thanks to fast growth of the electronic products themselves. The 38mm Apple Watch is powered by a 205mAh Li-ion battery (LIB) and for the 42mm one, the battery is 246mAh. The battery of my smartwatch is pretty good for now; 75% of charge can still be there by the end of the day. The official charging time is 1.5 hours to 80% and 2.5 hours to 100%. Some data online suggested an energy density of 450 Wh/L. (Please see more energy density data at Battery Status Tracker on our EMvalley.com homepage.)

Talking about batteries for wearable devices, Panasonic takes the approach of pin-shaped (like small cylindrical) LIBs as well. In Oct. 2014, it announced by then the industry’s smallest pin-shaped battery CG-320. The battery has a diameter of only 3.5mm and is 20mm tall. The specific energy was calculated at 81 Wh/kg and the energy density at 253 Wh/L. Panasonic is providing cylindrical 18650 LIBs to Telsa for its EVs.

Multiple sources in China reported that Apple Watch’s battery supplier can be Desay, but on its website there was no information available on smartwatch batteries. Desay should be one of the battery suppliers for iPhone.

Interestingly, Apple may be going to offer 2 limited editions for the Asian market to celebrate 2016 Chinese New Year, featuring a joyful red-colored band. Moreover, Apple Watch 2 should come out this year, probably after the WWDC in (maybe) June.