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Friday, August 21, 2015

EV Update: Chevy Bolt, Tesla's Ludicrous Mode, Speed Record


 Chevy Bolt
Cross posted from Energy Trends Insider

The July announcement from Chevy of its upcoming $38K, 200-mile range Bolt electric car is, in my humble opinion, of similar historical importance to Nissan's announcement back in 2011 of the Leaf. With 55 test Bolts running around, this looks like the real deal. When it comes to electric cars, it's all about the battery and for the Bolt that battery is made by LG Chem. The price and range of the Bolt says it all, which is why Nissan is considering a switch to the LG Chem battery as well. Nissan has hinted that the 2017 Leaf may have a 250 mile range.

Interestingly enough, the impending improvement in battery technology is hurting sales for the Leaf and Volt. I can understand why someone in the market for an electric car might wait a year or so for a version with twice the mileage at a similar price. Conventional cars don't have to deal with major technological leaps that can obsolete all other cars overnight ...battery growing pains.

The second generation Volt using the latest LG Chem battery has a third fewer cells than the original model (192/288) and has roughly a 25 % improvement in range. Extrapolating this data I estimate that a 200 mile range Leaf would require about 479 of those cells: 384 - (0.33 x 384cells ) = 256 cells. ((256 cells/86 miles) x 200 miles)) / 1.25 = 479 cells. All things being equal, the fewer cells a battery management system has to keep track of, the better. The Panasonic battery powered 200 mile range Tesla Model S presently has about 5,000 cells. That's over ten times as many cells and all of the attendant software and hardware needed to connect, charge, and monitor them.

Tesla announced its "ludicrous mode" which would allow a Tesla to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Ludicrous mode refers to faster than light speed in the Space Balls spoof of Star Wars. In the Next Generation Star Trek series they called it warp drive ...engage! Benjamin Zhang of Business Insider was so impressed with ludicrous mode that he wrote an article (complete with photos of ten high-end sports cars) comparing apples to oranges (a $70K electric sports car to much more expensive conventional ones).

White Zombie Photo Via Inside EVs
Student Built Electric Car Photo Via Gizmag

What he should have done was compare the Tesla acceleration to other electric cars like the car built by college students who just broke the record for electric cars (0-60 in 1.72 seconds). Or better yet, compare it to the 1972 electric Datsun 1200 White Zombie built in a guy's garage (0-60 mph in 1.8 seconds). The acceleration capacity of an electric vehicle is a relatively simple matter of driving a big motor with a big battery, connecting the two through fuses, wires, and a controller designed to handle the current draw ...big drill motors on wheels.


Truth be told, too much potential acceleration is dangerous, especially when it's being done on our roadways by anybody who can swing the payments on a $70K car instead of professional drivers at a race track. In an earlier article I described a Tesla wreck on city streets that split the car in half . The back end of the Tesla was jammed in the doorway of a synagogue maybe 100 feet away from the front end of the car. Over-hyping a relatively affordable electric sport car's capacity to accelerate for marketing purposes may come back to bite Tesla. Compared to the really high-end sports cars, the Tesla is actually pretty cheap so there will be a lot of them on the road by comparison. Tesla sales have passed 80,000.

Wikipedia Photo of Beech S35 Bonanza

The Beech S35 Bonanza earned the nickname "Doctor Killer" because it was a high performance plane being flown by non-professional pilots. Tragically, one recently crashed not far from where we were camping earlier this summer.