Power storage advances from unexpected sources

Renewable energy storage kicked into high gear

Published In: Intelligent Utility Magazine May/June 2011

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WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS A GREATER IMPACT ON SOCIETY, A Bugatti Veyron Super Sport or a Tesla Roadster? Both have spectacular performance reviews, with the Super Sport setting top speed records. Both will turn heads driving down any road or even through any parking lot in the world. Both are truly engineering marvels.

However, the engineering accomplishments behind both vehicles will be dwarfed by the advances Tesla has made with its power storage devices. Let's take a look at a few numbers for both vehicles (see table).

These numbers are astonishing. As a "car guy," the opportunity to drive either of these vehicles would be amazing. However, as an energy professional, these numbers are even more astonishing.

 BUGATTI VEYRON SUPER SPORTTESLA ROADSTER S
PRICE$2,975,000$110,000
FUEL CAPACITY/ RANGE26.4 Gallons240 miles per complete charge
ENGINE16 cylinder, 4 turbo
1200 horsepower
4,486 lbs.
Full electric motor
288 horsepower
2,723 lbs.
PERFORMANCE0-60 mph: 2.6 seconds
1/4 Mile: 9.87 seconds
Top Speed: 267 mph
0 - 60 mph: 3.7 seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.6 seconds
Top Speed: 125 mph
(electronically limited)

 

Amazing heat output

The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport was designed and built for one purpose-to set a new speed record. It is also what I like to refer to as a "straight-line car." What I mean by that is simple: Even with that much horsepower and amazing technological advances, there are cars (and some cost under $100,000) that can beat the Super Sport around a road track.

But the most amazing statistic about the Veyron SS is its heat output. We have had the technology to turn heat into energy for a long time. This vehicle requires 10 radiators; your car only has one. Some experts say that driving this car the length of time it takes to go through one full tank of gas produces enough heat to power 10 homes for a year! The engineers at Volkswagen have truly created an amazing accomplishment and a flat-out ridiculous automobile, and I greatly applaud their accomplishments.

Storage cell range astounding

From the beginning, Tesla's vehicles have been groundbreaking. In the past few years, the company has racked up even more amazing accomplishments. It shaved two full seconds off its 0-to- 60 time on the roadster. The range on its storage cells has greatly increased. In fact, a fully charged Roadster S can go about six times farther than the Veyron, assuming the Veyron is running at top speed. That is theoretical, of course, because there are only a few roads on the planet where the Veyron can travel at top speed for that long (it takes the vehicle 12 minutes to burn through a tank of gas at top speed).

This year's model of the Roadster can get about 240 miles per charge. The 2012 Model S Sedan will get 300 miles per charge, showing just how quickly this technology is advancing. (For those of you wondering about recharging, the car uses the same outlet as mostly everything else in your house and, if hooked up to the same voltage your refrigerator is plugged into, it can fully recharge in four hours.)

I recently asked Tesla a few questions about its storage devices. To date, the company has no plans to adapt its batteries to other industries, but is actively sharing the technology with other automobile manufacturers. Tesla isn't able to say how quickly these storage devices are going to advance and become more efficient, but all signs point to an incredibly rapid advancement.

Energy industry connections

Relating this to the energy industry is pretty simple. President Obama's direction for energy independence is calling for 25 percent of our national power to be renewable power by 2025. Renewable power is bountiful in our country; harnessing it and connecting it to the grid is the challenge. Storing it is also another challenge. This is where Tesla's advancements fit in.

How would you like to not have an electric bill each month? Better yet, how would you like to receive a check each month from your utility? I live in Denver, Colo., where we experience more than 300 days of sun each year. Wind power is also very accessible here due to our geographic terrain.

I have many neighbors with solar panels on their roofs and the sun is out long enough to power their homes for the majority of the peak hours. Now, if we look toward the future and picture a single or a few small storage cells in your garage or basement with solar panels on your roof, your home can be 100 percent self-powered.

Portable power

The astronauts aboard Apollo 13 survived for days on less power than I use in my office in one hour. Imagine if they had one of these advanced storage cells. Hospitals utilize uninterrupted power supplies for good reason, but their power supplies are inefficient and don't last very long. Imagine if they all had advanced storage cells. Last summer I saw portable solar panels designed to use for camping. Imagine if they designed a storage cell that could power a campsite for days. How about portable wind turbines with storage cells used to power a water purification system in Africa? The ability to have continuous portable power that doesn't require fuel has an unlimited number of potential uses, all of which can make the world, and potentially even other planets, a better place to live.

Societal impact

To answer my initial question, Tesla will have a much greater impact on society because of its storage cells. The advancements in these storage cells have the potential to reach across numerous industries. Although the Bugatti Veyron SS is a real engineering accomplishment, it is just a car. Records were meant to be broken and I'm sure that Michael Hennessey, Jerod Shelby and Dusty Dronet will be beating the Veyron SS's record in a very short time period.

Tesla isn't gunning for production car land speed records. It is not designing vehicles for a single purpose. Instead, the company is designing a line of completely electric-powered high-end automobiles. However, its impact on society will be greater than any other automobile manufacturer and, in my opinion, will surpass what Henry Ford did for the world.

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Comments

Automobile Changes

Automotive technology now improved a lot in terms of everything. Several new car models are now available with latest technologies. Tesla is one of the popular car maker in the car industry making its marketing and business better than before. Now, it is doing well in the industry due to it new lunched EV. Bugatti Veyron is the World's fastest car and also very popular for its performance. It is quite expensive and also the most costliest one. Car engine service and repair also one of the necessary thing related to car's performance.

Tesla claims

Claims for the Tesla are grossly exaggerated. This is the quote from the author: "For those of you wondering about recharging, the car uses the same outlet as mostly everything else in your house and, if hooked up to the same voltage your refrigerator is plugged into, it can fully recharge in four hours." Assuming a legal speed to cover 240 miles in 4 hours we can safely say the car would be driven at around (ho-hum) 60 mph. Going by the laws of classical physics, if speed is doubled, the power required must rise by 2 to the 3rd power, that is, a factor of 8. Hence if the car is driven at half speed, 62.5 mph (to match the claims) the power required is one-eighth of full rated or 288 ÷ 8 = 36 horsepower. Over four hours time that converts to 107,381 watt-hours. 107,381 watt-hours must then be resupplied to the battery in the acclaimed 4 hours (ignoring heat losses). In order to achieve this by the same voltage as your refrigerator, to wit, 110 volts, you would need to draw 244 amps continuously over a 4-hour period. Can you say "up in smoke?" The maximum safe amperage for 110 volts is typically 20 amps which translates to 2.2 kw of power, an order of magnitude less than what is needed. Claim refuted. OK, but let's be fair and say it really needs a 220 volt outlet. Doable, if you have a special purpose circuit that can handle 122 amps continuously. Most/average households are built to handle a maximum of 100 amps with a mix of loads, 110 and 220 volts, going on at the same time. So the Tesla EV is not plug and play without modifications to your household circuitry. Then as the previous commenter says, there are other draws on a car's power, such as A/C, lights, hills, etc., that will reduce performance. When promoters of the Tesla learn to turn down the hubris, I might get interested.

Claims for range are not yet proven

While I commend Tesla for their work, I note that Teslas claims for range, as indeed all electric car makers claims for range, are not yet proven. They are often set using unrealistic assumptions for driving and bear little relationship to the needs of the average driver. Add AC, lights and radio and run the car over the hills of Tennessee and let me know. I feel that electric autos should use the same cycle that gasoline cars run to establish fuel economy. Further, when these shortcomings are raised, there seems always to be a break-through just around the corner that resolves all of that. The real difference is that VW has sold all of their cars and they work. Tesla has had problems delivering any workable cars and has burned through so much development money that it is unlikely that Tesla will ever make a profit selling cars. Lastly, neither of these cars does much for the needs of the average driver, other then giving them something to look at in traffic. If your facts are correct, then we must certainly start heating our homes with gasoline as it apparently has more energy for heating then anyone ever thought.