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Telsa Roadster in action
The Tesla Roadster incorporates a powerpack behind the passenger cabin that incorporates more than 6,000 individual lithium battery cells, giving it a range of 220 miles.

Powerpack Standards Can Bring EVs to Everyone Now!

Can the deployment of electric cars be hastened by the standardization of their energy sources?

By Elliott Reitz

By mounting the batteries into swappable powerpacks, suddenly Electronic Vehicles (EVs) can quickly gain the unlimited range of the current gas powered vehicles with multiple power technology options.  When the charge in your powerpacks runs low, stop for a swap at a gas station.  We’ll probably stop calling them gas stations.  Maybe we’ll start calling them service stations again, or maybe power stations. 

The enabling technology for powerpack standardization is the electric motor and control circuitry of the most modern EVs.  The modern EVs replace mechanical transmission, shafts, and universal-joints with an electric motor for each wheel. This also gives the vehicle full time all wheel drive.  Modern hybrids also use this same technology in place of a mechanical transmission.

The core technology of a vehicle is obviously the power source.  A universal standard for mounting a powerpack allows selection of the power technology based on the driver’s needs.  And best of all, we continue having unlimited range like we have now via gas stations, regardless of the technology selection within the powerpack. 

Powerpack technology selections will be based on driver needs such as hot or cold climates, long or short range, costs, and other factors.  The cost of recharged or refurbished powerpacks would depend on their internal capacity and technology.  Competing technologies will immediately benefit due to market niches.  A vehicle could even be fitted as a Hybrid (e.g.: 1 gas pack and 1 battery pack).

Each available technology has benefits and limitations. Gas engines offer virtually unlimited range thanks to the numerous gas stations but are becoming expensive to operate.  Fuel cells have long range but do not (yet) work at very cold temperatures.  Hybrids have better range but still rely upon gas and have the extra weight of dual drive-trains.  Batteries alone are limited in range and could overburden the national electric grid if plug-in EVs were used universally without major upgrades to the grid or other charging mechanisms.  And the various battery types have their own benefits and limitations including temperature, weight, charge/discharge time, and so-on.

Since standardize powerpacks will work regardless of the internal technology, multiple technologies will be directly stimulated by the easy interchange and market forces.  The market forces will also create a natural selection among the emergent technologies according to the forces at work in the local areas. Examples include temperature, altitude, humidity, range-needs, terrain (hills), cost, and so-on.

At home we can use the same swappable Powerpacks.  Assuming we use rechargeable batteries for our cars we’ll want to have our own charging station to take advantage of the cheapest solar or wind power source.  And in a home-powerpack-array, we’ll again want one with an internal combustion generator for longer power outages.  Note the powerpacks will provide the whole house with uninterruptable power like we use now for computers.

Those without solar or wind may be able to plug in at night.  And here is another business opportunity.  Power stations will be able to make even more money by applying wind, solar, or even simple volume purchasing of the power to recharge the powerpacks more cheaply than can be done at home.  Some previously bad locations like deserts and hilltops will become great sources for cheep recharging power and thus ideal for new power stations.

Current industry wide battery standards (AAA, AA, C, and D) provide universal benefit in a wide range of applications.  We may want to start with similar size-extensions and easily tubular mounting.  In power-hand-tools we already have a few standards for cordless drills, saws, and so-on.  The benefits are clear.  1 set of charged batteries can be used with a collection of different tools. 

For vehicle applications 1x2x2 feet seems a good size.  It might weigh around 100 lbs but still be easily swappable at home via a dolly apparatus.  Power stations could use robots.  The 1x2x2 foot size would allow a powerpack to fit into a motorcycle and still be large enough to contain anything from 8 common car batteries, to a gas engine or even a fuel-cell.  Two or more would power a car or SUV.  Maybe trucks would do better with an even larger standard.  Each standard would need to specify the size, mechanical and electrical connections, and voltage range.  Electrical connections will presumably be a pair of primary terminals for power exchange and a smaller secondary pair for data exchange. 

Thus it seems a simple deduction that Powerpack standards will have a dramatic impact making EV technology more common in numerous applications, especially automotive.  If anyone has some venture capital to power up this concept email me at reitze@verizon.net to make it real. 

Times Article Viewed: 15781
Published: 19-Aug-2008

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