Electric cars in British Columbia

2009-10-07

in Canada, Economics, Geek stuff, The environment

Alison Benjamin in glasses

In 2011, Nissan is planning to launch their LEAF electric vehicle in B.C. The cars have a 160 kilometre range and can be charged to 80% of capacity in 1/2 hour. Unlike a plug-in hybrid, all-electric vehicles like the LEAF are powered entirely by electricity from the grid and cannot use gasoline to extend their range when their batteries give out. This limits their inter-city potential, but could be perfectly compatible with an urban lifestyle, especially as batteries improve and charging stations become more common.

The Nissan-Renault partnership behind the vehicles is the same one that is planning to roll out a fleet in Israel, complete with rapid battery switching stations. From what I have read, it isn’t clear whether the B.C. launch will involve a ‘subscription’ system in the same way as the Israeli one will.

My personal sense is that electric cars will play a major role in future urban transportation. Much as I would like to see private cars pushed out of city centres entirely, the prospects of that happening in most places are poor. Given that, the best we can hope for is making them into lower-carbon entities. Given the many problems associated with large-scale biofuel cultivation, my guess is that their use will be restricted to air travel and niche applications, leaving the bulk of ground transport powered by battery-driven electric motors. Of course, it is key to ensure that those batteries are being charged by low-carbon means like concentrating solar, wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear power.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

. October 7, 2009 at 11:10 am

Men Are From Volt, Women Are From Leaf

By Matthew DeBord
Posted Tuesday, October 6, 2009 – 5:29pm

When General Motors (MTLQQ) began advertising its extended-range electric car, the Chevy Volt, earlier this year, it probably expected comparisons to the well-established Toyota Prius. This made sense because while the Prius uses a parallel-hybrid technology, with the gas engine and the electric motor working together at all times, the Volt employs a serial-hybrid design, with the gas motor kicking in to generate electricity only when the electric battery exhausts its charge. From GM’s perspective, this is an evolution in hybrid design, a step beyond the Prius into a realm of all-electric propulsion, however limited.

When it does arrive in 2010, the Volt will compete with potential Prius buyers, although the Volt will likely cost more (upward of $40,000, as opposed to the mid-$20,000s for the Prius). However, I’m increasingly seeing the Volt pitted against a different competitor: Nissan’s all-electric Leaf, which will also arrive next year. Nissan hasn’t priced the Leaf yet, but media speculation has put it in the mid-$30,000s. It’s an all-electric ride, of course, with an alleged range of 100 miles per charge. That’s 60 more than the Volt’s 40, but without a range-extending backup system.

. October 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm

“Powered by a unique array of thin, laminated lithium ion cells capable of delivering over 90 kW of power, the Leaf’s front-mounted electric motor delivers 80 kW (107 horsepower) and a healthy 280 Nm of torque (208 pound-feet), and it promises brisk and silent off-the-line power, with acceleration from a stop comparable to that of the company’s Infiniti G35. And as Nakamura-san noted, the Leaf has a top speed of over 140 km/h (87 mph).

Perhaps more important than the Leaf’s top speed are its battery’s charging characteristics. In this regard, the car’s under-floor mounted assembly of 48 lithium ion modules (each laptop-sized module is comprised of four magazine-sized cells) offers a number of charging strategies. To yield a full charge, a 200-volt, single-phase AC charger takes less than eight hours, and topping off the battery from a 100 volt single-phase standard home wall outlet will take somewhere around twice that time, so prospective Leafmakers would do well to get 220 volt hookup like their clothes dryer uses out in their garage.”

oleh October 8, 2009 at 6:15 am

I applaud this initiative resulting in less emissions from a vehicle. B.C. with the availability of hydro-electric power to fuel the grid meets your goal of the source of the electricity not being fossil fuel.

Is the reduction in fossil fuels limited because the grid is interconnected. Somewhere it uses fossils fuels. So every kw of hydro to provide electricity for an all-electric vehicle will cause an additional kw of electricity to be generated by fossil fuels elsewhere?

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