Low Emission Cars and Their Effect on the Environment

A low emission vehicle (LEV) is a vehicle that emits less than 193 g/mile of CO2. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the pollutant that has the highest impact on the environment. Other toxic substances that vehicles emit include sulfur, carbon monoxide (CM), nitrous oxide (NOX), and hydrocarbons (HC). Aside from LEVs, there are several additional categories that further determine the level of emission of a vehicle: ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV), super-ultra-low emission vehicle (SULEV) and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV).

Vehicles that meet SULEV standards include Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, as well as the Ford Focus SULEV variant. However, with the enormous advances in technology we are witnessing today, the goal is to produce as much zero-emission vehicles as possible, and many car makers already invest a lot of money doing just that. Zero-emission vehicles are electric and hybrid cars, that are in use nowadays.

Electric vehicles run on electric motors, that are powered by rechargeable batteries. They emit no pollutants and work quietly, thus contributing to reducing noise pollution, as well. Downsides to this technology is that electric vehicles get significantly lower mileage than gasoline-powered vehicles by as much as 50%, and the time they take to be charged is pretty long – it can last 7-8 hours. These cars, like all other products that involve new technologies, are pretty expensive, because of high production costs.

Hybrid cars use internal combustion engines in combination with electric motors for propulsion. The thing with hybrid vehicles is that they provide better performances than electric cars, but have higher emission levels due to the use of fossil fuels. Hybrids use the gasoline-powered engine to power the electric motor while driving, so it doesn’t need to be recharged. They are less expensive, and more people can afford hybrids, such as Toyota Prius or Honda Insight, compared to electric vehicles.

Latest experiments aiming to produce affordable zero-emission vehicles include fuel cell technology. These vehicles run on hydrogen, which is transformed into electricity by fuel cells to power an electric motor. Experts say fuel cell vehicles shouldn’t be too expensive once they become mass-produced. One of the major negative effects is the hydrogen extraction process, because it is not readily available. It has to be extracted from fossil fuels, which creates pollution. Other environmental-friendly technologies include biofuels, natural gas, and liquid petroleum gas and achieve some positive results in emission measurements and tests.

Qualities of a Regenerative Braking System

Regenerative braking is an essential part of making any vehicle more fuel efficient. The typical (non-regenerative) braking action involves stopping or slowing forward motion through the application of friction pads to the wheels of the vehicle. Unfortunately, this means that the kinetic energy of the moving vehicle is converted into heat and lost. Regenerative braking seeks to convert some or all of that kinetic energy into potential energy, which can then be used to propel the vehicle forward again. The stored energy can either perform this propulsion by itself, or be used to assist the main powerplant (an internal combustion engine, for example) during the take-off process. In either case, the use of regenerative braking leads to increased efficiency.

This is primarily due to the fact that power requirements are greatest during takeoff, as the powerplant has to overcome the static inertia of the vehicle. By diverting some or all of that task to the regenerative braking system, the primary engine is put under less load, resulting in more efficient operation. Additionally, a vehicle’s powerplant is, in general, far larger than is necessary to accomplish its function for the majority of its lifetime – keeping the vehicle moving by counteracting losses due to kinetic friction.

Except in extreme cases (refuse haulers, transit buses) most vehicles spend a vast majority of their time cruising, which generally requires a minimum of power. However, because the engine must be made large enough to get the vehicle moving from a stop, all vehicles are saddled with an engine that is much heavier, larger, and less efficient than it needs to be. Regenerative braking can alleviate this restriction by removing some of the responsibility of initial take-off from the engine and applying power directly to the drivetrain, resulting in a smaller, lighter, and more efficient engine. It also implies that, provided the capacity of the regenerative braking system is large enough, the stored energy can also provide “boost power” to the drivetrain during, for example, passing situations or emergencies.

In order to fulfill its function in the most optimal manner possible, a regenerative braking system (RBS) needs to fulfill certain requirements.

1) It should be lightweight, as any added vehicle weight will detract from any performance or efficiency gains. Additionally, light weight also simplifies retrofitting the RBS onto an existing vehicle platform – while such a retrofit would not see the efficiency gains of a ground-up design which incorporates the RBS along with the resultant smaller engine, it is still possible for an RBS to have a positive effect on vehicle efficiency. The RBS should also have enough energy capacity to capture all of the available kinetic energy. The single parameter which relates to both of those criteria is the energy density – the available energy storage capacity per unit mass or volume. The energy density of the RBS has a profound effect on its usability for different vehicle platforms. As an example, consider an automobile of average mass (1500 kg), moving at 60 kph (36 mph) – this translates into a little over 208 kJ of energy.

Contrast that to a large garbage truck (13000 kg) moving at 30 kph (18 mph), which has around 450 kJ of kinetic energy. As the average speed of a garbage truck during its daily routine is much slower than that of a passenger car, this is not an unfair comparison. What is immediately apparent is that an RBS which has an energy density of only 1 kJ/kg is sufficient to serve the needs of the garbage truck (implying a total RBS weight of ~ 450 kg – less than 0.5% of the truck weight), that RBS would be useless for the passenger car (as it would weigh over 200 kg – almost 14% of car weight). The added mass of the RBS would nullify any benefit gained from regenerative braking. When considering the energy density of the RBS, it is important to include not only the energy density of the storage material, but also any additional weight in ancillary components required to transmit energy to and from the energy storage material. These additional components add mass/weight without providing any direct energy storage capacity, thus de-rating the total energy density of the RBS.

2) The RBS should also be efficient, in both the absorption and release of energy. The benefits of higher RBS efficiency include: more delivered energy during take-off operations (resulting in less engine load), more reserve energy for passing/emergency situations, and a smaller overall capacity/size of the RBS. The last point comes about because inefficiencies must be taken into account when designing the capacity and size of the RBS. Let us consider the refuse hauler case – in order to accelerate the hauler back up to 30 kph, 450 kJ must be delivered after considering all loss effects. Excluding other loss factors (such as tire rolling resistance) an RBS which is 90% efficient would need to have a capacity of 500 kJ – a 40% efficient unit would need over 1100 kJ. Since losses such as friction are intrinsic to the vehicle platform, it is vital that the RBS be as efficient as possible. One means of accomplishing this is to ensure that minimal energy conversion operations (e.g. mechanical kinetic energy to electrical potential energy) are performed.

3) Related to the efficiency of the RBS is its power density in both charging and discharging operations. As its name implies, power density refers to the amount of power that can be delivered per unit mass or volume. The charge and discharge power densities need not be equivalent; indeed, in most cases they are not the same. For instance, a conventional electrochemical battery is typically only capable of being charged at 1/10th its discharge rate. If the power density is not sufficiently high in the deceleration case, some fraction of the input energy is wasted and the total energy absorbed is less than the maximum amount available. Conversely, if the power density is too low during acceleration, additional power is required from the engine, lowering efficiency. It should be obvious that the most power is required at the beginning of each of the acceleration/deceleration actions, as this is when the inertia (resistance to change in velocity) is highest.

4) Another requirement for an effective RBS is its cycle life – that is, the number of charge/discharge cycles it can perform before a noticeable degradation in performance occurs. Higher cycle life implies that the RBS will be able to perform its function for a longer period of time before needing reconditioning or replacement.

5) For the most optimal performance, the RBS should also have high shelf life – that is, once charged, it should be able to maintain its charge for a long period of time without undue loss. While this is not truly necessary during most operations (the recovered braking energy is only held for long enough to assist in the next acceleration event), it is of vital importance in one instance. When the vehicle is stopped for a long period of time (for instance, at the end of the work day), that final braking event provides energy to the RBS.

This stored energy could then be used when the vehicle is started again (for instance, the next day) to provide acceleration, provided it is held with little or no loss. This is a subtle, but important consequence of shelf life – it plays a role in the ultimate size and power of the primary powerplant. Unless the RBS can maintain its stored energy (or have an independent method of being recharged during a long rest), the primary powerplant will still need to be sized to accelerate the vehicle from a dead stop. So while an RBS with low shelf life will improve efficiency once the vehicle is moving (by reducing the load on the primary powerplant), it will not enable a reduction in overall engine size, which is the most effective means of improving overall engine efficiency.

6) The RBS should also possess temperature stability, at least in the range of temperatures likely to be encountered by the vehicle. Fluctuations in the energy or power density of the RBS as a result of changing temperatures will require that the RBS be oversized with respect to both energy and power capacity – this again increases the size and weight of the RBS, reducing its effectiveness.

7) The RBS should also be durable and reliable, because of the intense stresses associated with the deceleration/acceleration events. These are when the forces on the vehicle are the greatest, and comprise the majority of the RBS’s active life cycle. Therefore, there should be intrinsic durability to the design which allows for repeated and reliable actuation under these most stressing conditions.

8) Finally, the RBS should be effective regardless of the specifics of primary propulsion – it should be compatible regardless of whether the vehicle has a gasoline, diesel, electric, or some other powerplant. This either implies that it has a design which makes the mechanical energy of acceleration and deceleration easily converted into the type of the main powerplant, or that its operation is independent of the main powerplant to such a degree that the two can coexist on the same platform. For instance, an RBS that takes the energy from braking and converts it into heat is not useful unless that heat energy can then be used to accelerate the vehicle or otherwise reduce the load of the primary powerplant during acceleration.

Electric Car Components

You have decided to build an electric car. There are a wide variety of electric car components available. Understanding these components and their specific purposes is the first part of building your own. Below is a list of the most common parts that the home electric car builder will need to build a car that meets the needs of the average driver.

Electric Motor

Every electric car needs a motor. Electric motors vary in shape and size, weight and price. They can use AC or DC electricity. A budget builder may choose to use an electric motor from an old forklift or elevator system. There are also lots of electric car-specific motors available for purchase alone or as part of a kit. You will need to choose a motor that will suit your needs for performance and budget.

Motor Controller

The purpose of the motor controller is to adjust the speed at which the motor spins. If 120V were applied directly to an electric motor for example, it would run at full speed. There needs to be a means of adjusting the output of the motor and this is precisely what the motor controller is for. It allows the motor to run at any speed between zero rpm and its max rpm. This part can also be salvaged either from a forklift or golf cart.

Throttle Pot Box

A pot box is a small part that connects to your stock throttle cable. When you push on your throttle, the pot box sends a signal corresponding to the amount of pressure you’re putting on the pedal to the controller which then sends the proper power to the motor.

Adapter Plate

The adapter plate mates the electric motor to a stock transmission. These can be bought for any commonly converted vehicle. Most EV-specific motors have a standard bolt pattern so most adapter plates will work with most motors. If you use a motor from a forklift you will need to have an adapter plate custom built or of course if you’re a decent fabricator you can always do this yourself.

Contactor

This is basically a high-voltage relay. It connects your battery pack to the controller when you turn on the key.

Fuse

A fuse will blow and cut power when too much amperage is drawn.

Manual Switch

There needs to be one (or more) manual disconnects for the main battery pack. This way if all else fails you can manually disconnect the power and safely stop the vehicle.

Batteries

There are many different types of batteries available. The type of batteries that you choose will affect your performance and range.

Charger

There are many different types of chargers available and the charger you need will depend on the batteries you use.

DC/DC Converter

The DC/DC converter takes the voltage of your main (traction) battery pack and reduces it to 12V which keeps your 12V battery charged. An electric vehicle still needs an 12V battery to power all the lights, stereo, horn etc. Keeping this battery charged can be achieved other ways as well. Some EV builders use an alternator that runs off the electric motor and others use a separate 12V charger to charge this battery.

Gauges

You will need to know what’s going on under the hood and this is where your gauges come in. Most basic EV builds use a high-voltage ammeter and voltage gauge (for traction pack voltage) and a low voltage gauge (12V system).

Heater

Although a heater is not necessary to drive the car, it is a creature comfort that we have all become accustomed to. Being that the stock heater in any gasoline car uses heat created by the gasoline engine to heat the cabin, we need to figure out something else to get heat into the vehicle. There are several ways to do this.

Ceramic Element

– This is the most common means of heating an EV. A ceramic element is placed within the heater core or otherwise inside the heater box and powered with the traction pack voltage. The ceramic element basically becomes the heater core and other than a switch required to turn the element on, the system will function as normal.

Fluid Heater

– A fluid heater uses the stock heater core and circulates fluid through it just like the stock system would. The fluid is heated by an electric element and circulated through the heater core by a small pump.

Space Heater

– It is possible to use a small ceramic space heater in the car with an AC power inverter. AC inverters however are quite expensive and this is not typically a cost effective way of heating an EV.

Heated Seats

– Heated seat covers are widely available nowadays and put out a good amount of heat. The air in the car will stay cold but a heated seat can do wonders to make you feel warm.

Heat The Car Prior To Use

– Simply put a space heater in the car for a while prior to use. It will heat the car and stay warm long enough for a short commute.

These are the primary components required to build an electric car at home. There will be other bits and pieces needed along the way but these are the primary components.

Do Hybrids Have A Place In Enthusiast’s Hearts?

Mention the word hybrid in the automotive context and more than likely, the reaction around you will be the stereotyped image of a Japanese commuter car that’s more attuned to sipping fuel than giving a car guy an exhilarating drive. And that wouldn’t be far from reality, as it’s cars like the Prius that have made hybrid cars an acceptable alternative to cars running on gasoline, diesel or LPG alone. Millions of Prii have been sold by Toyota and that wouldn’t be the case if the car did not live up to the expectations of consumers.

Although high performance hybrid-electrics look to be fairly common nowadays, it was cars like the Tesla and Karma that opened the eyes of enthusiasts to the possibilities of the sporting electric car. Now, manufacturers from GMC to Porsche have offerings like the CR-Z, the Cayenne SUV, the Sierra medium truck and the RAV. In effect hybrids have come of age and a little expenditure on aftermarket accessories is all a new owner needs to remove that cookie-cutter look from his/her green car.

Before we dismiss the new crop of hybrids are anything but boring, consider that electric motors produce their torque from zero rpm. In a street car or SUV, torque is what makes the vehicle accelerate hard and fast from a stop. In the urban jungle, this is exactly what you need to pass those pesky cabs or close gaps in traffic. Electric motors have these in abundance and in fact surpass small engines in this aspect. Actually, even big engines. In a recent video posted on YouTube, a Tesla Model S sedan out-accelerated a BMW F10 M5 to 100 miles per hour – two out of three times. And the Tesla S isn’t the fastest-accelerating hybrid out there. At the moment, the king of the hybrid hill is the Infiniti M35h. So the performance is there. And remember, unlike a pure electric, a hybrid still has an internal combustion engine to help power the car and charge the batteries. So you can still take that road trip and blast down that winding road. With hundreds of dollars left over to splurge on refueling yourself, instead of pouring all that money down the gas tank. Or enough money left over to equip your hot hybrid with a performance suspension.

One aspect of traditional performance cars that hybrids will never be able to copy is the beautiful sound of a highly tuned engine. Some manufacturers are reportedly trying to develop aural systems that will help mitigate the loss of that audible symphony. Certainly, aftermarket accessories like exhaust systems will suffer from slow sales. It remains to be seen though how that will be accepted by the public. What’s a fact at this point is that high performance hybrid electrics are here. If manufacturer’s offerings are any indication, it seems that there’s enough interest in these cars to keep on developing them.

Sustainable and Born Electric

How will our future look like? How will our streets look like? What will be the transportation tool that we will use to go from point A to point B? Can we make it faster?

Well, the electric car is born and it seems that it will be there for a while to please our needs. It is what everybody wants, right? A cheap, sustainable and clean type of transportation that goes as fast as a regular car. That is exactly what we need. But, now you might be thinking “Wait a minute. That is not the future! That already exists!” And you would be right. But, the current electric cars on the market are not ready to meet our needs yet. They are expensive, low miles range, and slow to fully charge. Plus, if you are traveling somewhere and your battery is running low, you need an electric charging station to connect your vehicle to a power source. Are those stations everywhere? Are they easy to find? How much would it cost?

So what is happening today? We know that there is a great potential offered by the current electric vehicles. Those cars are very well designed (cool), clean, and creative. People like them. People want to buy them. But they still cannot do so. Those cars are too expensive, too “young” and “inexperienced.” The return on investment is not worth the money yet.

But what can we expect in the near future? Well, most of the biggest car companies are investing huge amount of money in an electric future. They cannot be all wrong right? It is the car of the future. That is undeniable. The “technological boom” will soon allow a 500 miles range with new advanced batteries, and 3 to 5 minutes charging time for a full recharge. Also, some apps will help you find charging stations and show you where to park for the best electric experience you will ever have.

The best part is to come. Let’s imagine a world with only electric vehicles in our streets. Imagine going to work in the morning at 7:30am and walking in 5th avenue in NYC. Imagine going for a run on a Sunday morning and getting ready for your marathon next month. Imagine taking your wife and children to the football game Saturday night? Imagine having dinner in your small apartment downtown Miami. What would you see? What would you hear? What would you smell? Well, the answer is easy. You would not hear a thing; complete silence coming from the roads. No more noise screaming in your ears. No more loud engines! No more ugly gas stations mixed with black smoke making your eyes watery and red. No more disgusting smells that get into your lungs and burn you deep inside and make your blood pressure go up. Imagine a quieter, cleaner and more peaceful world that would be. I know you would like to live in that world. I do too. We are getting there, slowly but surely…

Why Ultracapacitors?

There are some sad statistics: some 85% of energy consumption in the world is covered by the burning of fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – and projections suggest that oil and gas reserves will be able to satisfy the needs of humanity for 50 – 60 more years. And then what? Beginning of the crisis is already in view, especially if you compare prices at gas stations today and some 20 years ago.

So, the prices for petrol have been rising, the amount of petrol is decreasing and this trend will proceed… until petrol disappears completely. And what in return? In fact, various chemical energy sources may come into play. Some ideas have already been probed in hybrid cars and electric vehicles. To understand what kind of power supply may be the most promising it is useful to compare them in terms of specific energy (i.e. energy per unit mass), the ability to produce necessary power (i.e. energy per unit time), the number of recharge cycles, working temperature range, etc.

Consumer Needs

It is widely adopted to estimate the energy in Watt-hours (Wh) and therefore energy density – in Wh/kg. Lithium-ion batteries undoubtedly hold the first place amount commercially available energy storage systems in terms of specific energy – the energy density reaches 150 – 200 Wh / kg which is greater than can be obtained from commonly used lead-acid batteries (30 – 50 Wh/kg). It is true, however, that some energy sources are known to have much higher stored energy. Among them there are fuel cells with specific energy up to 950 Wh / kg and recently emerged lithium-air elements with specific energy up to 1500 Wh / kg (the market is not aware of them yet!).

Of course, the consumer would like to have a cycle life of the accumulator up to hundreds of thousands of recharging cycles. And this is not just a whim. For instance, in modern micro-hybrids equipped with start-stop systems the engine needs to start and stop many times while the car toils its way thought the traffic jams… and no one would want to change the battery every two to three months.

There are other suggestions to improve the batteries when they are used in electric and hybrid vehicles: a good idea would be to increase the horsepower so that the vehicle could accelerate quickly… it is also good to extend the working temperature range… that all would be good… but the nature of the electrochemical processes is a hard thing to change. One of the solutions to many problems with batteries – assembling them together with ultracapacitors.

Ultracapacitors Can Help!

This new name – ultracapacitor (supercapacitor, electric double layer capacitor, EDLC) – has just recently come to the lexicon of experts in the field of energy storage. Ultracapacitors are produced based on the special nanoporous electrode materials with a huge surface area – on the order of thousands of square meters per gram! Ultracapacitors differ from conventional capacitors in that the former have significantly higher specific energy – two to three orders of magnitude larger. And although batteries are still superior over ultracapacitors in the specific energy characteristics, the latter outperform batteries when it comes to power. Besides, the ultracapacitors can survive enormous number of charge / discharge cycles – up to a million and they can successfully operate at temperatures from -50 to +70 oC.

High power density (due to the low internal resistance), wide operating temperature range and virtually unlimited cycling – these benefits are attractive not only for car manufacturers. In recent years the ultracapacitor began invading various market niches, either as stand-alone systems, or in a combination with batteries. Some examples are:

Already In Use…

Japanese company NEC Tokin paralleled small ultracapacitors with lithium-ion batteries in digital cameras, cell phones and laptops – and increased battery life-time by 1,5 – 2 times. This is not surprising since all the power load peaks (although very short – but still harmful to the batteries) were dumped by the ultracapacitors.

Chinese company Aowei has already been producing electric city-buses for over four years. The only source of energy for such buses is the utlracapacitor module which recharges at every bus-stop. The overall mileage of these buses counts more than 20 million kilometers.

The German company AEG offered the use of ultracapacitors for smoothing peak loads on the batteries in portable electric drill and other consumer electronics devices. Such drills used to get stuck when encountering harder area because the accumulators would not cope with the extra load. Now the problem is solved at the expense of the ultracapacitors taking care of the extra power needed to drill through harder areas.

The company ELITE manufactures ultracapacitors for car audio equipment. Pleasant sounding of low frequencies with overtones can be hardly achieved by using only conventional accumulators. In this situation the ultracapacitors also help.

Very promising example of the ultracapacitors application is their use with batteries for alternative energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels.

The Latest HVAC Parts and Energy Efficiency

HVAC is an acronym that represents heating, ventilation and air conditioner. An HVAC system is a home appliance that has gained enormous popularity among the gadget consumers. Such a device is an integrated system of all the three functions mentioned above. It is commonly called as the air conditioner. The device works within an enclosed area and provides superb effect of climatic comfort by artificial means. During sultry summer it provides a perception of chillness and maintains a minimized level of humidity within its scope of action. Alternately, in the winter it provides thermal warmth. However, both the sensory perceptions prove to be soothing and that is why this gadget has become very popular.

Apart from these contrasting functions, an Air conditioner contributes in supplying purified air and maintains effective ventilation. It filters various impurities including suspended particles, microorganism, and pollen grains, etc. that are hazardous for human health. This modern gadget is extremely popular and can be seen everywhere, beyond the division of homes and workplaces. These are most common in hospitals, clinics, schools, restaurants, movie halls and even in churches. Latest technology has enabled devices that consume minimum power. This aspect not just saves unnecessary energy consumption. It helps in keeping marginal power consumption bills and contributes to our savings. The energy efficient HVAC parts are a subject of real wonder when one considers their efficiency level.

There are plenty of air conditioner manufacturing brands spread across the US. These brands have acquired expertise in designing heavy-duty and energy efficient HVAC systems. These systems provide an efficient service that runs for a long time. However, wear and tear issues do crop up from time to time. Professional mechanics prove a bit expensive often more than not. This has, in turn contributed to the rise of the OEM market. Genuine air conditioner parts are available from various OEM stores. Installation procedures are simple and can be carried out smoothly without professional intervention.

Lot of online facilities has come up as well. A customer therefore does not need to get into the market physically for buying these spares. Mentioning the correct batch number of the spare along with the model number and the brand of the appliance is essential for procurement of the right parts. The business entities have designed an excellent network of shipping and delivering. Purchased items are promptly placed at the customer’s doorstep. This is also a factor that has made spare HVAC parts so popular with the client base.

The business of OEM experiences a cut-throat competition almost every day. Interestingly, the customers get benefited out of this. Competitive pricing is one of the crucial factors to sustain in this sector. The retail stores are compelled to offer rock bottom prices for their merchandise. Therefore, promotional offers and heavy discounts are ceaseless events for the customers. The stores also provide sufficient guidance and charge no extra for this value-added service. For all these additional incentives, the sale of air conditioner parts in particular has gone up these days.