Could Range Extenders Make EVs More Accessible?

Plug-in hybrids represent a perfect middle ground between EVs and the gas-powered cars many are used to. They generally rock a range of around 30 miles, allowing the majority of daily driving to be done without burning gas. But they sport a combustion engine that, depending on the type of hybrid, can either charge the battery or power the car directly.

But these range extending engines are heavy, and take up a lot of space that could be used for more batteries. While 30 miles of range can be enough for the average commute, some may see plug-in hybrids as a compromise.

And so, in order to build a no-compromises, long-range EV many manufacturers are looking towards external range extenders. As reported by Electrek, Ford has patented an EV range extender meant to sit in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s essentially just a generator shaped like a toolbox that can charge your truck.

I think this is a very interesting idea. By making the range extender an external generator they can build an electric pickup truck without any compromises. It’s a full on EV, and those who need the extra range can purchase the range extender separately. Since it’s removeable, drivers don’t need to lug around all that weight unless they’re going on long trips when they need the range. Generators are very heavy though, so I don’t imagine it’s a swap you’ll want to do often.

Researchers at Tesla have had an even more interesting idea. They’ve published work on a range extender that can be towed behind an EV. And in true Tesla fashion, it’s all-electric. It’s a pretty simple idea really. If we’re limited by how much battery we can shove in a car, we can just tow more battery behind it. There is sure to be a limit in terms of weight capacity. But the flexibility given by towing would allow this type of range extender to be used by all sorts of EVs, not just pickups. EVs are actually really good at towing.

Despite this though, I don’t think any of these external range extenders will see the light of day. They are a very good idea, and solve the same problem plug-in hybrids solve in a very elegant way. But this is only a problem today. Battery technology has been making significant advancements in the past few years and isn’t slowing down. So while it is a great idea, by the time it would take for one of these to reach market I don’t think it will still be needed.

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Nissan Shows The Potential Of Bidirectional Power

Nissan has always lead the charge when it comes to bidirectional power standards in EVs. There is a lot of potential in use-cases such as vehicle-to-grid charging. Yet most other manufacturers care little to bring bidirectional charging capabilities to their cars.

Nissan has shown off the true potential of bidirectional charging capabilities with its new RE-LEAF. It’s a disaster response vehicle built to provide emergency power where it’s needed most following natural disasters. With a higher ride height and all-terrain tires, the RE-LEAF is built to navigate potentially treacherous terrain.

It truly shows off the potential of EVs in disaster relief scenarios. It’s just a Nissan Leaf modified for better all-terrain handling. There’s nothing special about this technology used to potentially power life-saving medical or communications equipment. But putting everything together in this package really shows off what can be done with many cars on the road today.

I get it, bidirectional charging technology is boring. But it’s a relatively simple technology with tons of potential. Hopefully the RE-LEAF brings more awareness to this technology and pushes other manufacturers to take a deeper look at it.

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Are EV Subscription Services The Way Of The Future?

A bill is being considered in California that would lay down the legal framework for electric vehicle subscription services in the state. The bill aims to expand access to EVs to many drivers, including those with low-income. The idea of EV subscription services is very interesting and could introduce many drivers to the technology. Without the commitment of buying a car, range anxiety might not be as big of an influence.

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Why It’s So Difficult To Get Stranded In An EV

Becoming stranded in an EV without charge could be a massive problem. Without widespread mobile chargers or V2V charging, there’s little that can be done with a stranded EV short of calling a tow truck. Luckily, there are a lot of systems in place to prevent you from ever running your battery that low. And a new test with the Hyundai Kona in Germany shows that with some smart driving, it’s almost impossible to end up too far from a charger.

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Full Self-Driving Might Be Closer Than We Expected

We’ve been hearing that full self-driving has been on the horizon for years at this point. With many failed promises from Tesla, and the release of FSD being constantly pushed back, it doesn’t feel like it’s ever coming. But we’ve gotten a new expected release date from Elon Musk. And this time, it might actually be happening.

We’ve known for quite some time that Tesla has been working on a complete rewrite of the foundation of Autopilot. This has naturally slowed visible progress on Autopilot, as the majority of work was being done behind the scenes. We have still seen some progress, such as the interesting traffic light and stop sign control feature. But the addition of that feature still doesn’t get us anywhere near FSD.

That rewrite is nearly done, and apparently we can expect the first rollout of FSD in 6-10 weeks.

This “quantum leap” could be very exciting. With the rewrite of Autopilot nearly finished, we’ll finally see all the work Tesla has been putting in over the past couple of years. Things like traffic light and stop sign control and summon were really just finding ways to push the limits of the old system. But with the new system, Elon says he can make his commute with almost 0 interventions. That is light-years ahead of what we’ve got currently.

But I am worried that Elon says “Almost at zero interventions”. Almost 0 interventions is still more than 0 interventions. I wouldn’t say it’s full self-driving if it still requires some intervention. That almost could be interpreted in many ways. It would only require intervention in rare circumstances, and Elon used almost to not imply Autopilot is a perfect system.

But I think there are real problems with an almost perfect system. I’d say it may even be more dangerous than an obviously imperfect system. People have been abusing the limited capabilities of Autopilot for years. If the system only rarely requires intervention, I imagine many more drivers will be act carelessly.

I could be worried about nothing. But if the new Autopilot system isn’t able to handle almost every situation safely, at least parking the car when conditions are not favorable for the system, we will have problems. I’m sure Tesla has thought of this, and hopefully, the system does a good job of alerting drivers when they need to take control.

I just hope we don’t see too many people falling asleep at the wheel. This is a very new technology and it will take time to audit it’s capabilities and establish regulations. Hopefully we won’t see too many careless drivers before that happens.

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Would Knowing Your EVs Power Consumption Change Your Driving Habits?

It can be hard to calculate just how much money you save by switching to an electric car because many of those savings can end up hidden. There’s the obvious benefit that EVs tend to require far less maintenance than their gas-powered counterparts. Some of the biggest savings come from cheaper “fuel”, but that gets mixed up with the rest of your electric bill.

Unless you’re willing to do some math it’s difficult to get a sense of just how much you are paying to drive your EV. Your energy usage can vary greatly from month-to-month, so at best you can only estimate how much power your EV is pulling. But Siemens is testing out a solution, the Meter Integrated Charger, or MIC.

The MICs are currently being tested out in New York, with the hope of making drivers more aware of just how much money they are saving. With this technology, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’re spending to “fuel up” on your power bill.

The goal here is not rationing electrons. While this could help drivers become more aware of their charging habits, choosing to charge in off-peak times for savings, the primary goal seems to be driving EV adoption.

Siemens is working to promote EV adoption with our full range of charging equipment and solutions, and this could be a game-changer for EV drivers in understanding their fuel savings when they switch to EVs.

John DeBoer, head of Siemens eMobility solutions and Future Grid Business in North America

They don’t want you to stop driving to conserve power. They want to show you just how much money you are saving by driving an EV. They want to prove how little power is required to run an EV, and they want you to tell your friends. Word of mouth has been a powerful force behind the success of Tesla. And something like the MIC could make that force even stronger in pushing EVs forward.

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Audi Is Looking To Bring V2G Capabilities To Their EVs

I’ve been very outspoken about the potential benefits of bidirectional charging technology. V2G(Vehicle-To-Grid) charging could help massively accelerate adoption of renewable energy like solar without requiring massive battery pack installations. But up until now, very few auto manufacturers seemed interested in the technology, with Nissan primarily leading the charge with their CHAdeMO standard.

But it seems like Audi is looking at the possibility of adding bidirectional charging capabilities to their cars. They’ve partnered with the Hager Group to research the technology and released a fantastic video explaining how it works.

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Hydrogen Fuel Cells Need To Die

10 years ago, hydrogen fuel cells sounded like a very attractive prospect. Cars powered by hydrogen fuel would have a lot of the same benefits as EVs, such as lower emissions and near-silent operation. They had the same hype “future-tech” vibe as EVs, that they could realize the dream of a sustainable future. But while EVs have realized that dream, it’s turned to a nightmare for fuel cells. It’s time to let the hydrogen fuel cell die.

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