300 Mile Nissan Leaf?

The 300 Mile Nissan Leaf

In disbelief you read the title, likely thinking, “No, it was a type-o.”  But you’d be wrong.  Nissan announced to an exclusive party of reporters and guests last Friday the future of the Nissan Leaf.  Not merely with a drastically improved range, but improved charging times and autonomy.

The second generation of the Nissan Leaf (not the 2016, that’s 1.5), will have not just double the first generations’ battery, but the middle; going from 30 kWh to 60 kWh.  Many Leaf drivers get at least 4 kWh / mile, but it is entirely possible to score 5+ kWh / mile putting this new generation into the range of 300 miles per full charge.  And seeing that the Leaf is a bit lighter than the Tesla S, it’s obvious why the efficiency works to it’s advantage.

Nissan seemed all too excited to demonstrate that the new battery technology, known as NMC or Nickle-Mangan-Cobalt.  It appears to be a conjoined operation between LG Chem and Nissan to produce this super battery. But most EV drivers will take what they can get when it comes to improved range, outside the price-range of a Tesla S.

Additionally, this new Leaf will sport autonomous driving, likely updated OTA like the Tesla models. Any owner of a higher-end Nissan of just about any model can attest to the nifty bird-eye view of the vehicle when maneuvering for parking.  This concept will be enhanced with a 360-degree RADAR system surrounding the vehicle

We can expect to see this new model and its features sometime in 2018. And it can’t come too soon.  Once it becomes apparent that driving electric (and autonomously), we may see a very large swing toward it.  Efficiency, range, acceleration, maintenance, and quietness are all benefits of the electric car.  Not to mention raw power and torque that almost no internal combustion engine can muster.

Electric Vehicles for Resilience

Electric Vehicles for Resilience 04

Electric Vehicles for Resilience (in natural disasters)

Those involved in the EV movement are quite aware of the portable utility of EVs.  Even those who have survived the recent Polar Vortexes in the North Eastern United States are well aware of how much easier it is to drive an EV after a disaster (especially with a solar roofed home). But there’s so much more and Nissan is promoting Electric Vehicles for Resilience in these situations.

The Nissan LEAF has a 24 kWh battery.  The typical home uses about 10 kWh of power per day. So the LEAF can support the home for more than 2 days.   But Electric Vehicles for Resilience 03there are more advantages.  In a disaster few people have electric vehicles (at least for now). So most will go to a shelter the event.   Shelters usually do not have power immediately following the event. But unlike a gas-powered vehicle, it’s reasonable to bring an EV indoors to power the building, since it does not produce fumes or noise.

Electric Vehicles are portable batteries and their power can be retrieved and transmitted much more simply than gasoline.  We as a society have come to rely heavily on electricity for much of what we do.  And now it is possible to carry that power with us in the case of natural disasters.

Dual-Carbon Battery promises the Future

Dual-Carbon Battery

In what appears to be an announcement out of the blue, Japan Power Plus has rocked the battery market with the dual-carbon battery.  Although there are no demonstrations yet of the capabilities of the dual-carbon battery, the claims are impressive.

As noted in the name, the dual-carbon battery uses two nodes of carbon, one for the positive and another for the negative.  Rather than transferring energy from one node to the other, it is transferred to both.  At it’s most basic the claims of this version of the dual-carbon battery are as follows…

  • Non-volatile (won’t explode)
  • Non-thermal (doesn’t get hot)
  • Plentiful materials (Carbon is easy to come by)
  • Extremely fast charging (20 x faster than Lithium)
  • High number of cycles (3000  or more)

The discovery of the use of sand to make silicon was a fortunate find.  Could the dual-carbon battery be a find of that level?  Promising the same energy, longer life, safer, and the capacity to be recycled, could pull many of the complaints from the table.   Not to mention the use of one of the most common elements in the period table.  If true it could be the a Nikola Tesla-scale idea.

Source: GreenCarReports

What use are Lithium Air Batteries?

lithium air batteries

If you’re involved with academia or electric vehicles, then you are probably aware of the rising interest in Lithium Air battery technology.  If you’re not, this may be an interesting article because it alludes to the possibility of some fairly impressive advancements in battery tech.  So, what are Lithium Air Batteries?


Lithium Air is not entirely new, it was first proposed in the 1970’s.  Since that time several advancements in battery technology have led us to Lithium Ion (Lithium Iron Phosphate, aka LiFe) cells which are in most electric vehicles today.  The trouble with the current tech in LiFe is the relatively low energy density that it has.


Energy density is the amount of energy in a unit of mass that a substance can hold.  For LiFe batteries that’s about 250 Wh / kg.  By contrast, gasoline has about 13,000 Wh / kg.  But Lithium Air is supposed to have 11,700 Wh / kg or by contrast to LiFe batteries nearly 50 times as much energy density.

Right now gasoline vehicles get, at best, 50 MPG, but at an average of about 28 MPG.  Whereas electric vehicles tend to get an average of 110 MPGe.  By contrast again, this is roughly 4 times more efficiency.

Now consider that the average electric vehicle gets about 80 miles / full charge with LiFe batteries.  Imagine if Lithium Air were a possibility today.  That 80 miles would become a possible 4000 miles / full charge.

The average gasoline vehicle goes about 250 miles on a full tank.  So with an average of 28 MPG that means that the gas tank is about 9 gallons.  This to me implies that there is point where the manufacturer is deliberately making the tank smaller than it could have been.  Supposing that average gasoline car had twice or three times the size of gas tank, it could go anywhere from 500 to 750 miles before needing to refuel.  But in the case gasoline, there is a weight cost for each additional gallon.

Electric vehicles do not have the trouble of added weight when refueled or depleted, the weight is always the same.   But would a manufacturer consider making the range of the vehicle 250 miles to match gasoline or pack as many batteries as possible into the space?


I’ll use my Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, as an example.  The LiFe battery pack for the Smart weighs, let’s say, 600 lbs and has a range of 70 miles.  With Lithium Air that same pack would grant 3500 miles of range.  But would it be more reasonable to cut the pack down to a range of 250 miles, making its weight a mere 15 lbs? Or would it be better to cut the weight by 75% (to 150 lbs ) and make the range 900 miles?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Affordable Autonomous Automobiles by 2020, says Nissan. Google Says 2017

Nissan Automomous
Credit: Nissan

For the last three years Google has been on the autonomous vehicle development track in a very public manner.  But how many other companies are doing the same?  Apparently, like development of the electric car, Nissan has been working on the autonomous vehicle.   Although Google expects to have a working model by 2017, Nissan is aiming for this same goal, but three years later.

As proof of their intentions, Nissan claims that they will have an autonomous vehicle testing track completed for use by 2014.  Utilizing the around-vehicle camera system that Nissan has already implemented on many of their models (and Infiniti), as well as artificial intelligence, the prospects for autonomy in the future looks good.

The trouble if any in developing a vehicle that can drive itself is factoring in a monstrous number of vehicle and environment variables.  While the human mind seems to require very little input to take to the task of controlling a powered vehicle, a computer needs a great deal more help.  A computer on the other hand can gather a great deal more input than a human, and may possibly be able to a much better job in management of all those inputs.

Right now, the overwhelming majority of car accidents are due not merely to human inability but poor judgement. A computer can’t be drunk, sleepy, or distracted by children in the back seat.  A computer can however handle incoming phone calls, the radio, air conditioning, and still interact with the people in the car, while maintaining the environment of the road.

If Google or Nissan ever develop a viable autonomous vehicle and that vehicle proves to be many times safer than a human driver, it may become very costly to drive a non-autonomous vehicle (insurance-wise).

What do you think?  Will autonomous cars make us more safe?  Would you be willing to give up your ability to drive? Hit the comments with your thoughts.