BBC: Car of the future

They interviewed me on hydrogen fuel cells vs. plug in hybrids. No mystery where I stand.

You can catch the audio here (though I couldn’t open myself). Here’s the part of the written story on plug-ins:

Today’s hybrid cars either generate electricity using the petrol engine or during braking by using the motor as a generator.

In the future we are likely to see cars with much higher capacity batteries, so they can be plugged in at home overnight.

“I think you’re going see two or three companies introducing the plug-in hybrid by 2010,” said Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress and previously responsible for clean transportation programmes at the US Department of Energy.

“You take a hybrid, and you put on it a battery capable of taking an electric charge from the grid, and running for maybe 20 to 40 miles in all-electric mode before reverting to be a gasoline-powered vehicle – because most people don’t travel more than 20 or 25 miles a day, and even less so in Europe than the United States.

“The opportunity is you could run most of the time on electricity, and only use gasoline on longer trips,” he said.

“These cars, like all early model cars, will probably be on the expensive side, but I think there will be a great interest in them.”

One Response to BBC: Car of the future

  1. Klaus D. Beccu, Ph.D. says:

    Hello Dr. Jo Romm, I read your article on Plug-in hybrid cars in the Swiss Journal (Wealth Management, Nov. 07). I cannot more agree with the concept in your article which, of course, is also defended by certain automotive companies. Toyota will bring out a Plug-in Prius in Japan in the very near future and you mention the 2005 .prototype of Daimler-Benz (former D.-Chysler).

    As expert of energy & battery technology of Battelle Geneva Research Center (Switzerland) I have a critical viewpoint on this technique. Why ? At Battelle Geneva was invented in 1967 and pioneer-developed for Daimler-Benz (Germany) the revolutionary Nickelmetalhydride (NiMeHx) rechargeable battery system. In the eighties – after patent protection [in my name] and publication of the results many companies “jumped” on this development and further improved the structure & composition of the alloy-metal absorbing /desorbing the electrolytic hydrogen. The most prominent and successful is the US company Energy conversion Devices (ECD/Ovonics) now associated with Chevron producing (label: COBASYS) and licensing this technology worldwide. Most of the present Hybrid cars (Toyota, Honda, GM etc) are equipped with the NiMeHx battery technology
    The major problem: is not at all linked to the use of NiMeHx batteries but is essentially common to all (low voltage) electrochemical power sources and to the need of a minimum voltage of approx. 200 volts (in reality up to 500 V) to efficiently power the electric traction motor. This requires to put in series a very large number of cells (Prius: 278 cells) which develop their electrochemical capacity in charge/discharge cycles differently or even can result in cell drop-outs or short-circuits. Unless expensive and complicated cell sensors with cut-out circuits for such a large number of cells are applied the only way to solve the problem currently is to use only a share of the available capacity (Prius: less than 50%) which increases the weight of the battery to the double or reduces the driving range. Therefore, the use of Li-Ion cells does not solve the problem. In contrary: the much higher cost (compared to NiMeHx), the many technical problems, e.g. charge sensitiviy, capacity blind drop etc. do not favor Li-Ion cells against the high performance, high capacity and long life NiMeHx- cells. The solution to this problems consists in an electronic converter approach in order to reduce the number of required cells to a lower number (30 to 50). – Incidentally, also the use of fuel cells will require high performance batteries for the acceleration phase of Elektric cars.

    Klaus D. Beccu, Dr.-Ing
    Manager, Electrochemical Powr Sources Dept.
    Battelle Geneva Research Center