Company Announces Diesel-Powered, Range Extending, Towable Trailer for Electric Cars

By · November 01, 2010

EMAV PRU diesel-powered range-extending towable trailer for electric cars

Here's an idea that's just been waiting to find an investor and reach the mass-market. Indiana-based start-up, Electric Motors and Vehicle Company (EMAV), announced today that they will begin selling a towable, diesel-powered, range-extending trailer for electric cars starting late next year. Although there are numerous examples of homebaked contraptions that do the same thing, I believe EMAV is the first one to try and commercialize the concept.

EMAVs PRU diesel-powered towable range extender for electric vehicles

EMAVs diesel-powered, towable range extender for electric vehicles is due to go on sale at some point late next year.

Officially called the Power Regeneration Unit (PRU), EMAV says their device is meant to extend the range of an EV by up to ten times on one tank of diesel while also providing extra cargo space for those long road trips.

"For electric cars to be truly viable for a mass consumer audience, we need to bridge the gap between low-range electric vehicles that can travel moderate distances to electric vehicles which can truly become the sole family vehicle," said Wil Cashen, founder and President, EMAV. "JD Power says that sales of electric vehicles will hit only two million in 2020–that is slow adoption, much due to the current range of these vehicles. Our goal is to move the marketplace beyond the first generation of electric vehicles to more powerful and rugged cars that also have endurance. This will evolve the electric car paradigm from a supplemental to a primary car for consumers."

The PRU is self-powered with an on-board 28 HP electric motor that uses sensors to match the speed of the towing vehicle. According to the company, this feature increases the efficiency of the whole package by lowering the power demand on the EV's motor. The PRU has a 6.6 gallon diesel tank and carries a set of lithium ion batteries with a 5 year/100,000 mile warranty. When cranked up to its full output, the PRU can supply 25 kw of power from its .75 liter, 4-cylinder diesel engine.

EMAV says the 1,220 pound trailer is being designed to work with any electric vehicle and will cost around $15,000. To me that seems like a steep price for the benefit. Perhaps the PRU would be better suited to something a rental company can loan you for that family vacation? I'd be willing to pay $50 a day for the utility when I needed it, but I don't really see the need for buying a $15,000 trailer that I'll use maybe three times a year. Now, if this were also a pop-up, ultralight tent trailer then there might be a more compelling reason to buy it outright.

To produce and bring the PRU to market, EMAV has expanded their existing partnership with Mopar which has already resulted in an off-road camper-trailer for Jeeps. Those camper-trailers reportedly have 300,000 miles of real-world road testing and the PRU is based on the same platform.

Comments

· · 3 years ago

Any word on how they tie this into a particular EV's electrics? I would hope that the $15K includes the installation fee.

Also, driving with a trailer is not always easy -- backing up is particularly tough. The one implementation I have seen of this idea had the trailer's wheels steering with the car; but doing this on all sorts of different cars would not be feasible.

And this has it's own batteries? Why? If it generates power, then why also expand the battery capacity of the "system"?

Sincerely, Neil

· DutchInChicago (not verified) · 3 years ago

This seems such an obvious solution to the one or two long trips a year that would be outside my (future) leaf's range. Rental would be the way to go as long as it would be cheaper to rent then an complete ICE car. Very encouraging.

· · 3 years ago

Neil, no specifics on how they will tie it into the EV's batteries or what kinds of software that might need. It may be that a car like the LEAF, for instance, is wired to not allow charging when it's moving. If that's the case then I see this being very hard to implement. I would also hope that the $15K includes the installation. Not quite sure what kinds of calculations they did to make the conclusion that having a self-powered trailer with its own batteries is more efficient than just having the EV do double duty and pull the trailer itself. It may be that the batteries on the trailer are need to smooth out the power supply to the EV and provide a bit of a buffer so that the supply doesn't fluctuate.

DutchInChicago, I'm imagining you mean cheaper to rent than a complete ICE car would be when you consider all input costs including fuel for any given long trip.

· · 3 years ago

Brings up a few more questions than it answers. It is a generator? It has storage batteries? It has an electric motor? It matches the speed of the towing vehicle? I'm not sure how all that information meshes!

ACP built the Long Ranger for the Rav4EV. It had automatic steering so you backed up as if you didn't have a trailer, and the trailer turned for you. Pretty slick and it actually worked! This was ONLY a generator, and tied in to the main traction pack of the car - charging as you drove. As long as there was gas in the tank, the Rav4 could drive highway speeds forever.

Say look... I have a page for it on EVnut.com:
http://evnut.com/rav_longranger.htm

· · 3 years ago

Thanks for the link Darell! I had completely forgotten about the RAV4 long ranger. But you're right, the announcement generates many questions to be answered. I don't really understand the benefit of dragging along a bunch of heavy batteries and a motor either.

· · 3 years ago

Not just heavy... heavy and expensive!

· · 3 years ago

First a 28 HP genset isn't going to be able to keep your EV running at highway speeds. Even with the additional batteries, which provides 25 kW, that won't do it. The LEAF, for example, draws 80 kW under load.

Second, so how do you connect this contraption to a modern EV? J1772 won't let you charge while moving and there's not a DC, save for the 440 VDC fast charge, interface available.

· · 3 years ago

I think 28HP/25kWh is probably plenty for a decently efficient EV. For example, the Edison2 VLC only requires 3.5HP to go 50MPH, and with a serial hybrid, since it is running at a constant RPM at peak efficiency driving a fixed load, it would just have to keep ahead of the drain rate on average; not peak.

If it acts like the plug-in systems for the Prius, then they would have to "piggyback" onto the stock battery, but this would require splicing in a connection to the generator. And would it do this with DC? That would seem to be the most efficient, but the voltage and the cable size, etc. could get tricky.

Then there are aerodynamic considerations; both drag and crosswind stability. This type of system *could* be used to improve the aero drag of a given car, but this design doesn't look all that conducive to doing this.

Sincerely, Neil

· · 3 years ago

Neil -

I assume you mean kW, and not kWh. I agree that for a small car, 25 kW should be reasonable power to sustain freeway speeds. But then it also has to deal with the extra drag of the trailer as you mention!

· · 3 years ago

Indyflick -

I have to take exception... I drive a car that is shaped like a barn door - and on the freeway, I only draw over 28 kW when I'm going up hill or accelerating. On the flat I use far less than that. 28 kW constant input would keep my car going freeway speeds indefinitely. The Leaf has the capability of drawing 80 kW... but that is under MAX load, not average. My Rav4EV can only draw 50 kW max, and the motor is rated at 30 kW continuous.

· oscar (not verified) · 3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

$15,000?!! you could buy a brand new Honda Civic!!

Only way this could work is if for example the owner of the Nissan LEAF use his 100 mile EV for city driving and for that occasional long trip RENT the Power Regeneration Unit.

Anyways IMHO Better Place business model is better:
*EV cheaper than petrol cars
*unlimited driving range through 59 second battery swaps
*batteries that are always fresh for the lifetime of the EV

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Better_Place

ff

· · 3 years ago

This gives you more than a simple range extending device, it also gives you an extra trunk to haul plenty of stuff, I could appreciate that on long trips.

I doubt the diesel engine meets the same regulations as diesel cars do.

· · 3 years ago

@ Anonymous -

The problem is that business models are pretty cheap. Nobody has yet told me how all these multiple battery packs (obviously we need more than one per car) will be paid for. How they will be appropriately distributed. How I'm assured a charged one, in good shape will be ready when I need it. How all car makers will agree to use the same type of pack.

My business model is even better:
Cars cost $14.95 and look really cool.
1000 mile range
59 second recharge witih no special wiring needed
batteries never degrade

Seriously... business models are great. But we're all forced to deal with reality. Even Better Place.

· · 3 years ago

The United States is too spread out for Better Place to take the place of range extenders on long trips.

While this (expensive) trailer looks good, keep in mind that they haven't even built a prototype yet, as per http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/11/range-extending-trailer-charges-you...

· · 3 years ago

I like JB Straubel's pushers as they don't need to convert the mechanical energy to electric and back again:
http://www.jstraubel.com/EVpusher/EVpusher.htm
http://www.jstraubel.com/EVpusher/EVpusher2.htm

· Lad (not verified) · 3 years ago

Ideally the answer is better batteries and I believe that will happen in time; however, I envision an interim solution based on a one wheel articulating trailer linked to the back frame of the car at two locations; this would cure the steering problem. The gen-set would generate power to charge the existing batteries and the electonic would be hacked to start when the battery is 1/3 down and to stop at full charge. I think a 220 AC generator would do the trick, tied into the charge port. Hey! if you run low on electricity, just park for awhile until the gen-set catches up. The trailer and gen-set needs to be as light and small as possible. This trailer is not what I see as the solution. it is way too large and heavy.

· Lad (not verified) · 3 years ago

The basic trailer could be something like this only not as long: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://motorcycletrailer.com/sw/imag...

· Steven (not verified) · 3 years ago

This general concept of a range extending towable trailer makes a lot of sense, if not for every EV owner then at least for neighborhood car rental agencies. For those of us who own grid-tied PV systems even the Electric Motors and Vehicle Company (EMAV), with ‘batteries included’ MIGHT make sense. IF an EV owner doesn’t pay an unacceptable premium in lost efficiency toting around all that battery dead-weight, it would be really nice to have another ‘bill payer’ function to justify the cost of a battery backup / generator system for our grid-tied PV systems. Right now my electric utility is sufficiently reliable I simply can’t justify the cost of a dedicated battery backup system. However, if the EMAV system could provide this dual-use functionality, even the remotely theoretical possibility of an extended electrical blackout with all that generating capacity sitting idle on my roof might push me into a purchase.

Could the justification for the ‘batteries included’ EMAV design be based upon a simplicity and least intrusive approach; that is, when the EV battery has been drained it might be simpler to switch power sources from its internal battery to the EMAV battery and subsequently to recharge only the EMAV battery to avoid inadvertent damage to the EV internal battery.

· · 3 years ago

Steven -

Better than using an expensive generator trailer with a small battery pack - use your CAR as your backup power source. Bigger pack that you've already paid for.

· Alan (not verified) · 3 years ago

I can see u-haul having this, private ownership makes no sense. If you have to take your electric car on vacation, then you pick up the trailer, rent for a day and drop off at your destination, and do the same for your return trip.

As to that pusher idea, it maye be a functional option, but I can just see the lawsuits coming.

Better still, rent an efficient ICE for the long leg of the trip, switch to an EV at your destination. I can see the car rental companies putting 'vacation packages' together in the future!

· · 3 years ago

All makes sense to me, Alan!

The ICE trip plus EV at the end is similar to how we fly places now and rent a car at the destination. I figure that most of this is just interim fixes anyway as batteries and charging get better and cheaper.

· Steven (not verified) · 3 years ago

Hi Darell,

I'm guessing you might be able to tell me how to do this:
"Better than using an expensive generator trailer with a small battery pack use your CAR as your backup power source. Bigger pack that you've already paid for."

I'm ready to spring for an off-grid capable inverter like the Sunnyboy Sunny Island. But I'm getting the impression there are no commercially available charging stations capable of feeding power stored in the car battery back into the grid.

Regards,

Steven
.

· Alan (not verified) · 3 years ago

@Darell

Don't know if you sw this : http://www.capstoneturbine.com/news/story.asp?id=512

and ... http://www.capstoneturbine.com/news/story.asp?id=536

-------------------
"Our Whisper Eco-Logic vehicle is a plug in electric car with an on board turbine generator to keep the batteries charged and extend the range of the car beyond that of a typical electric vehicle," said Dick Langford, Langford's Founder and Managing Director. "This sets it apart from the hybrids now available such as the Lexus and Toyota which use conventional 4 stroke engines to provide both vehicle drive and battery charging. In early demonstration testing the car is getting up to 80 miles per gallon and travels 40 miles on electric power before the Capstone turbine generator starts up and charges the lithium ion batteries,"
-------------------

An EV hybrid makes sense to me, the Chevy volt with this engine would be amazing. Rather than 100 mile long range EV only vehicles, a solution which reduces the amount and weight of batteries and balances it out with a very efficient ICE diesel or Hydrogen fuel cell is the way to go.

Have you had a look at the UK's Riversimple hydrogen EV fuel cell car. It is a brilliant concept which could even be better with an EV option. They have a 40 pound capacitor pack which is charged by regen power, the electricity in the capacitor pack is then used for acceleration which accounts for 80% of the power usage. the cruising power comes from a tiny 6kw hydrogen fuel cell, giving it an amazing range and a top speed of 50mph.

Hydrogen fuel is essentially the same as a battery, and the technology is very closely tied to EV's. When someone says Fuel Cell vehicle to me I think 'Electric Vehicle' - they just use different battery technologies to store the energy - both are chemical reactions! - This site should include fuel cell vehicles as well, as a combo of EV and fuel cell technologies will be the ultimate way forward.

As to the range extenders, I can just see the next Leaf having a capstone C30 diesel engine like the Whisper Eco-Logic above - and that would really 'Shock!/Jolt' !! the Volt world !

They'll call it the 'Nissan Live' .... lol

· · 3 years ago

@ Steven -

There are folks who already use their Prius for a home generator unit. The concept is quite simple... making it code legal is another thing. ;) Vehicle to Grid is the technology you're after here, and it has been demonstrated many times. Wide adoption is still a bit away, but I do believe it is coming. When you're plugged in, the power company will be able to talk to your car and vice-versa. And at home you'd be able to easily power the house through the same system.

My comment was just that instead of buying a trailer full of batteries to power the house... you might as well use the same tech to power the house with your car when needed.

· · 3 years ago

Alan -

Yup, I followed your links earlier. Of course GM did an EV1 hybrid with a turbine as well.

I'll reserve my thoughts on H2 for another thread, though there is plenty of information on my EVnut site. I do understand that a battery is basically an efficient, compactly packaged, self-contained fuel cell. :) I'll have a look at the Riversimple. Have not heard of it before.

· · 3 years ago

@Steven,
Another problem with off-Grid systems such as the Sunnyboy Island is that they can't charge an EV yet either. They have built-in battery chargers for lead-acid batteries but won't work with Li-ion or the integrated chargers in EVs. I suspect, however, that once EVs are readily available an Li-ion batteries get cheaper,, solutions will emerge to charge your EV directly from solar and perhaps use the EV to source electricity too.

· · 3 years ago

@Steven,
Another problem with off-Grid systems such as the Sunnyboy Island is that they can't charge an EV yet either. They have built-in battery chargers for lead-acid batteries but won't work with Li-ion or the integrated chargers in EVs. I suspect, however, that once EVs are readily available an Li-ion batteries get cheaper,, solutions will emerge to charge your EV directly from solar and perhaps use the EV to source electricity too.

· · 3 years ago

BTW, I forgot to add, the 'range extender' turbine C30 engine from capstone can run on diesel, bio-diesel, aviation fuel and kerosene. They also have a turbine that will run on Natural gas or Propane. Having this lightweight turbine with a choice of fuel would be a great option, more so than a gas driven ICE.

As to the question regarding plugging into the power grid, why would you do that with your EV car. If you look at Bill Nye and Ed Begley JR, they both use solar cells and wind turbines to charge batteries, and use this to power their house. Excess power is then fed to the grid.

I'd like to take this one step further, have my electricity stored in hydrogen fuel and have my house run off a hydrogen fuel cell. Now if I had a hydrogen fuel cell car, then having the fuel cell from the car provide additional power to the house would make more sense.

These technologies are not mutually exclusive.

· Steven (not verified) · 3 years ago

I suppose the administrators of this will want to adhere to the principles of tolerance and respect for differing opinions. I must tell you, however, as a person with severe deficiencies in a scientific and engineering education and a former victim of Bush II's 'hydrogen hype' I find that tolerance hard. From what I can understand - even if some engineering breakthrough brings the cost of fuel cells within reach of ordinary consumers (batteries are bad enough!) - and a whole range of other problems like building a hydrogen infrastruture, basic physics dictate that energy stored as hydrogen can NEVER be as efficient as energy stored as electricity!

As for Bill Nye and Ed Begley Jr. (and a lot of other people!), they have more money than me. I'd love to be able to afford a dedicated battery backup system for my PV. That's the whole issue - finding some excuse to justify the enormous outlay of cash. And from what I can gather in the discussion about this product, the EMAV battery trailer / generator ISN'T it.

· · 3 years ago

Differing opinions are just that - different. EV's to my mind are a step in an evolutionary process to fuel cell based vehicles. That's just my take on it, I could be wrong. People scoffed at electric vehicles, the EV1 was a disaster, but here we are somewhere down the line looking at EV's as a viable technology. Without the likes of Tesler, and even Chevy with the EV1 we probably would still be stuck in reverse. Fuel Cell vehicles will have their place too, so discouraging or disparaging the technology makes no sense. Bill Nye and Ed Begley jr are early adopters, and its the early adopters with large pockets which help develop the technology - look at the Volt, even the leaf, these vehicles are not for the lowly masses, but for those that can afford it. Hydrogen's biggest problem is infrastructure and I believe the answer to this is home based and co-op refilling stations. It has to be driven by the people - the early adopters, relying on the government or big business will see it fail.

I had this idea/dream 25 years ago to build an RV with a roof covered in photovoltaic cells, along with a pop up wind turbine. The idea was to turn this power into hydrogen and burn it through a conventional internal combustion engine, having the exhaust gases collected in a condenser. My plan was to drive across the USA and go as far as each tank would take me. With the advent of newer technology, super capacitors, fuel cells, regenerative braking etc brought on by alternative vehicles, maybe my dream can one day be put in place - for my retirement drive across America in 25 years time !!

I did a little research on this trailer idea last night, looks like every person who has ever owned an EV has built one of these things. It does make sense in a way, and if it can be standardized and become a u-haul or rental car option, who knows, we may see a lot of these little things on the road. In other countries like South Africa one sees these little trailers (covered utility trailers) everywhere, anyone going on vacation seems to drag one behind. Maybe the next gen of electric cars will be designed to have a removable range extender!?

I wonder what Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison would think of things now, they had the feud of all feuds. I'm betting today if they were still around they would have put their differences aside and would be working together - after all BOTH their technologies won! (OK Edison might not see it that way ....!)

Alan

· · 3 years ago

>> As to the question regarding plugging into the power grid, why would you do that with your EV car? <<

I'm not sure what question you're really asking here. The reason to plug into the grid and have bi-directional "charging" is so the power company can rent your battery storage, and sip small quantities of energy from large quantities of local EV batteries to shave peak loads instantly when needed. The energy is then replaced in the pack when the peak has passed. The driver sets a limit on how much capacity must remain in the pack at all times. This is cheaper and far less polluting than building/fueling/operating a peak power plant.

As to why you would want to power your house - because many people today use gasoline generators to power their homes in times of emergency/power outtages. Wouldn't it be great to fuel up your EV with sunshine or wind during the day, and use a bit of that stored energy when the sun isn't shining, or wind isn't blowing?

Using EVs as our renewable energy storage devices has many benefits... and really has the potential to allow renewables to become a far larger percentage of our energy mix.

· · 3 years ago

Alt-Alan -

Thanks for the civil discussion. And I truly do understand where you're coming from. I'm still not sure that this is the best place to offramp into FC discussions, but here we are. A few comments on what you've written... and a bit of background on my experience.

>> Differing opinions are just that - different. EV's to my mind are a step in an evolutionary process to fuel cell based vehicles.<<
Understood. In my mind, today's EVs are a step in an evolutionary process toward better EVs and energy storage solutions. I don't see H2 FCVs as being the better tech or the better energy storage solution. At least not in the short term and the current realities by which we are constrained. Waiting around for perfection is no longer an option.

>> People scoffed at electric vehicles <<
Only the ignorant people (myself included initially), the mainstream press, and the "stakeholders" who had nothing to win with EV adoption, and everything to lose. The folks who actually knew some stuff didn't scoff at EVs. And this is different to what's happening with FCV's today. The people who are scoffing at FCV's today are not the same ignorant or money-vested folks who scoffed at EVs yesterday. In fact Ballard himself saw no future for FC's in vehicle applications.

>> the EV1 was a disaster <<
It is a disaster that GM created. It turns out that GM can (or at least could... when they had money) make a disaster out of any vehicle program it wishes. GM did not fail to succeed with the EV1. GM succeeded in failing with the EV1 (yes, a Darell original quote!). So I'm not really sure what the point here is. The EV1 was a fantastic car. My 2002 Rav4EV was and still is a fantastic car. None of these 90's EVs were failures. GM destroyed its EV1 program (along with the cars), but that has nothing to do with the stand-alone viability of the great BEV they created.

>> Fuel Cell vehicles will have their place too, so discouraging or disparaging the technology makes no sense. <<
So here's my deal on FCVs: Their (continually un-fulfilled) promises have been used to destroy EV programs time after time. The main reason we don’t have ANY zero emission vehicles from the major automakers (until this month) is because of Fuel Cell promises. We lost ten years of EV innovation because all the big automakers told us that they didn't want to build EVs... that what they (and we!) really wanted were FCVs. And the car companies promised us we'd have them in showrooms. In 2000, GM told us we'd have a million of them by 2010 (shouldn't be that hard right? Been working on them since the 1960's). And because of these promises, the CA Air Resources Board let everybody off the hook. The car companies no longer had to waste their time with EVs when FCVs had such a rosy future that was backed by the whole industry. The idea was to let the car makers build what they wanted to build instead of forcing them to build BEVs (of course they were NEVER forced to build BEVs.. they were forced to build Zero Emission Vehicles. And surprise! Not one automaker decided to build a FCV to fulfill that obligation. Every single one of the car makers designed and brought to market a BEV in just a few short years. They then diligently tried to kill their EV programs in favor of building a handful of “test” FCVs.

And here we are. Production EVs being made again 14 years later...(and billed as "the first EV" in almost every case - sigh). And the Fuel Cell Vehicles? I've not heard about mass availability with any more surety than I’ve heard for the past 15 years. Where would EV tech have been if it weren't stalled for over 10 years by the promise of FCVs? We'll never know, but we can certainly guess.

So yeah... I agree that all alternatives need to be explored. But NOT at the expense of the most practical, efficient, affordable, viable choices! And we need to let the winners run - and the industry and shown us countless times that the BEV is what we can build today. FCV's may very well be the way of the future. But what we need now (honestly, what we needed 20 years ago!) is the way of *today*. And that way quite simply belongs to the more affordable, more efficient and more practical BEV that exist right now in today’s reality.

· · 3 years ago

Alan and Darell,

Liking the discussion here. If you had asked me at any point over the last 25 years of my life, chosen at random, what kind of technology I thought would be powering our future vehicles, there is probably an 85% chance I would have said fuel cells. The reason: up until about 4 years ago that's exactly what I thought. When I was in 7th grade I distinctly remember reading a Popular Mechanics article that hailed FCVs as the next big thing and how we would all be driving them within 10 years. That was in the mid-'80s. Looking back, almost every decade since then that has been the mantra... they're always a decade away from being viable (catalyst technology, infrastructure, advanced chemistry, new discoveries, miniaturization of the stacks, storage technology, etc.).

After about 2.5 decades of this I began to wonder if something else was holding all of this hydrogen fuel cell business up. Then I discovered that battery electric car technology has been around for 100 years and we are fully capable of producing really NICE, safe and consumer friendly electric cars right now... in fact we've been capable of doing that for 100 years. As Darrel points out, we recently had many nice examples during the California EV mandate days... none of which were disasters by the way ;) Almost every person who's ever had the chance to drive an electric vehicle for more than 3 months ends up liking them—a lot. In fact, so much so that most of them have become advocates. They were just normal folks before the EV experience, not some group of ragtag freaks as the mainstream media would have you believe.

I don't believe in a silver bullet solution by any means. Jetliners will likely never fly on electricity. Long haul trucks will need some monumental shift in battery technology before they can ever become electric. And there are many other examples where today's EVs just don't cut it… but you don't need to satisfy 100% of every transportation need to have a successful technology. Point is, we have the technology now and once people are given a chance to get past what the talking heads in the media tell them, EVs become their beloved mode of transportation. I believe that biofuels, natural gas and even hydrogen have their place in our energy future, but I don't think hydrogen makes sense for transportation.

FCVs have some incredibly significant hurdles and handicaps to overcome before they could ever be as good a solution as EVs or, even, NGVs:

Infrastructure: It costs tens of millions of dollars to install one hydrogen fueling station. Compare that to about $50,000 to install one fast charge station for BEVs and $3,000 to install one Level 2 station for BEVs (plus no environmental risk analysis). Natural gas stations cost about the same as gasoline/diesel stations to install; roughly $5 million dollars. If we are looking to spend our taxpayer money wisely in this country, the best bang for the buck is clearly electric infrastructure.

Storage: Hydrogen has the worst energy density of ANY other element in the universe. Because of this it has to be compressed by incredible amounts to make it usable. You can compress hydrogen in two ways; store it under incredible pressures (~13,000 psi) or freeze it to almost absolute zero (approx. -150 degrees F). Both of those solutions require huge amounts of energy to do and incredible technology: Woven carbon fiber and kevlar tanks or scientific grade refrigeration units. Although batteries are not perfect, they are about a zillion times better than that and, of course, gasoline and natural gas are relatively high energy density to begin with, although NG has to be compressed quite some to get there as well.

Transportation: Unless hydrogen is made on site, it will have to be transported in much the same way that gasoline, diesel and natural gas are transported now: with pipelines and tankers. Only with Hydrogen it requires incredible technology to keep it in compressed form (see above under "storage"). Also, because Hydrogen is the smallest element in the known universe, it requires special materials that don't allow it to leak out. It is so tiny that some commonly used materials just can't hold it. Electricity can be transported on existing infrastructure with relatively minor modifications. If you think we can solve all of that by simply making hydrogen on site, see my last point below,

Generation: All hydrogen currently is made from petroleum products. Certainly it can be made from biogas or generated by splitting water with electricity (hydrolysis), but there is very little of that going on right now. Even if it was, the catalytic process that does the splitting of water is only about 10-20% efficient, meaning most of that electricity used to split the water is wasted. Once you split the water, now you've got to find a way to store it, using a ton more energy to get it either compressed or frozen. In the end you're talking about about a pitiful efficiency. If you're going to use electricity to generate hydrogen, why not just use it to fill a battery and skip all those middle steps? It's far more efficient.

· · 3 years ago

some good comments, Nick and Darell

I have to agree with you, too much time has been lost the past 10 years on EV development, but I don't think this can all be blamed on fuel cell development. One could argue that the development of hybrid technology too has slowed and interfered with the advancement of EV technology as well as Fuel Cell technology. On the converse one could argue that even though this may be true when discussing hybrids, we can also argue that it has brought us to a new way of thinking, and that hybrid technology may be the way we do things in the future.

Now, if we can get a 200-300 mile EV with a quick charge, then that may be the technology of choice we see in the future.

Batteries may offer the most cost effective solution but I still don't see it as the 'ideal' solution (that's the failing idealist in me!) - the creation of millions of tons of batteries does not excite me, just how sustainable is it in the long term? Also lugging around the battery pack which will give the 200-300 mile range is also questionable, I'm wondering if a car with a long range removable battery pack would be the answer. Have a 40 mile range car for every day use (better yet, a configurable pack for your individual range) and a removable plug in pack for the long range trips ...

some interesting comparisons here http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/education/pdfs/thomas_f...

Now for me, if I were facing a real world choice and had two cars in front of me to choose from, both were the same price, both had home based refilling stations, and one were a BEV and the other a FCEV, I'd still be tempted to take the FCEV ......... if it means having to drive a BEV or Diesel-Electric Plug-in-Hybrid for the next couple of years before this happens, I'm happy doing that too.

· · 3 years ago

Alt-Alan -

Nope, it can't all be blamed on Fuel Cell promises. There are many other factors that have aided the delay. But so far the only tangible product that has come from all of the personal automobile Fuel Cell Vehicle promises and "research" has been the destruction (or 10-year delay, depending on how we look at it) of BEV programs.

>> the creation of millions of tons of batteries does not excite me, just how sustainable is it in the long term? <<
Since nothing exists in a vacuum, we have to compare this concept to other options for it to make sense. For example, the creation (and burning) of untold billions of gallons of gasoline also doesn't excite me (I'm speaking of the untold billions of gallons that we've bruned while waiting for the FCV to save us from it). Does the creation of millions of tons of fuel cell stacks excite you? Or the batteries or capacitors that will also be needed for FCV's? In the end, we find that private automobile transportation isn't sustainable no matter what. Our goal - I think - is to find the least damaging, the most effective and the most practical and efficient technology that allows us the transportation we desire. So far, waiting for fuel cells hasn't helped us down that path. And in fact has thown obscene amounts of money away.

>> both were the same price, both had home based refilling stations, and one were a BEV and the other a FCEV, I'd still be tempted to take the FCEV <<
I have to admit that if I were standing in front of a Honda Fit and a Ferrari Testarosa... and they were both the same price and got the same gas mileage - I'd be tempted to take the Ferrari. :)

The point, of course, is that they do NOT cost the same. And beyond that... the FCV is going to be less efficient than the BEV. The dream of a perfect propulsion technology is wonderful. Yet again... we're stuck with reality.

· · 3 years ago

@Darell - You can call me Alan :) ...... If you were standing in front of a Honda Fit and a Ferrari Testarosa .... we all know ..... you'd choose the .......................... Leaf ;)

My fear is that the vehicle manufacturers are going to make hybrid technology the de-facto alternative technology - mainly to entrench or keep their internal combustion programs going for as long as they can. EV's requiring range extenders will be given engines like the volt - the only difference being they use diesel or something other than gasoline. We will still however be stuck with a system which entrenches and maintains the current status quo. Being able to create your own fuel be it electricity/hydrogen/natural gas/bio-diesel etc will not be encouraged or be given any credible chance. 90% of all consumers will still buy their product from a supplier, very few will generate their own through renewable sources. These costs are going to be kept deliberately high.

As to the argument regarding the efficiency and costs of running a fuel cell, I have to ask you this - if you are generating your hydrogen from home, using a renewable energy source, off the grid, and its is costing you pennies to do so, is it not better than having to pay for or maintain the existing infrastructure and current status quo. If you choose to do it through batteries and I choose to do it through a fuel cell - do we not both win!?

I'm hoping that a program like Riversimple succeeds, and that other companies make use of their ideas and technologies that they have shared with their open source license. I'm betting that their $315 a month all inclusive maintenance lease would appeal to a lot of people here! This little 50mph 240 mile range car is about to hit the roads in the UK

Alan

· · 3 years ago

BTW Darell, checked out the EVNut website - some good stuff there.

· · 3 years ago

@Alan,
Regarding your comment that " if you are generating your hydrogen from home, using a renewable energy source, off the grid, and its is costing you pennies to do so "
This is one factor in the biggest problem with fuel cells - cost. In this case, you only need only 30% as many solar panels or wind turbine generating capacity at home to go the same number of BEV miles as FCEV miles. This is because the regenerative Fuel Cell process is at best about 30% efficient. This all assumes ideal temperature and pressure control. Realistically, you can assume only about 20 - 25% efficiency, losing about 50% of your energy in an electrolyzer splitting water into H and O, then losing another 50% in a fuel cell recombining them to produce electricity.
Another cost issue, of course is the platinum needed for the fuel cell membranes. Sure, cheap, carbon based fuel cells are being talked about and have been for the past several decades but show-stopping issues keep coming up.
The final cost issue is the refueling station problem.
I, for one, spent nearly $20K on enough solar panels to handle my driving with a BEV. I wouldn't relish the thought of paying $80K to buy enough for an FCEV. I also don't have enough roofspace without cutting down a nice tree.
I don't worry too much about the serious PHEVs such as the Volt. In the long run, market pressures are going to push them in the right direction (more battery, less ICE) even though the legacy industry clearly is devoted to protecting its legacy ICE investment.
Then, of course, there is Tesla . . . :-)

· · 3 years ago

Alan -

>> BTW Darell, checked out the EVNut website - some good stuff there.
.
I couldn't tell if you were kidding or not. You do know that EVnut.com is my site, yes? I have to ask because I've had some folks argue with me while using EVnut.com as their source of info. I find that fall-down hillarious.

Thanks for the good discussion - I have the same response ex-EV1 has on the use of renewables to fuel a FCV vs a BEV. Yes, it is great to use renewables for all our energy. A BEV will require far less energy, and therefor much less solar/wind/whatever generators. Renewable energy is great. But it doesn't quite grow on trees in a way we can use it!

As it stands right now, a FCV would require 3-4 times as much energy per mile as compared to a BEV.

· · 3 years ago

Darell, yes, I know its your site - that was meant as a compliment !

· · 3 years ago

:-) good to go!

- Darell
EVnut.com

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

A little late to the game here, but with the range extender generator, I wonder if the gen-set would be within the weight capacity of one of those hitch baskets. It would negate the towing worries, and wouldn't be any worse than having bicycles on a hitch.

· scott beddome (not verified) · 2 years ago

Wouldn't towing an already charged set of batteries similar to those on the EV (Leaf etc) double the range?

And/or couldn't you simply add a charger for that second battery set and then just switch between the car and trailer?

· · 2 years ago

@ Scott,

Sort of. Though towing anything - especially something as heavy as a second set of batteries - will shorten your range. How would you add charge to that second battery set on the trailer while driving? (If that is the implication?)

Yes, adding battery typically ads more range. At the expense of lots of money, and reduced efficiency.

· Tomas Smalley (not verified) · 2 years ago

This is a great idea - however could it not be considerably simpler if it were simply an extended range battery only pack that was designed to be rented and re-charged at the vehicles destinations. PS I only found this because in a moment of personal epiphany I thought of the same thing. Both bummed and elated that someone came up with the same idea!

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