EV Conference Sheds Light on Electric Technology
International conference attracts academia & businesses alike.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State University and other schools from around the nation have been busy with “Plug-In 2011 Conference & Exposition,” an electric vehicle technology confabulation that started on Monday and concludes today. Exhibitors of electric vehicles, hybrids, charging stations and related technologies joined with industry brains to bring this conference to the Oak City.
North Carolina State University is the de facto educational host of Plug-In 2011, an engineering school that works closely with ABB, an international engineering company to make vehicle electrification and sustainability a reality. NC State’s FREEDM Systems Center, particularly its ATEC or advanced transportation energy center, is where ABB and NC State are currently testing a Chevy Volt battery system to see if it can be used again after its useful life propelling the Volt has ended.
General Motors, maker of the Volt, would like to see these batteries repurposed, perhaps to serve the electric grid. The testing of the battery includes using an inverter, a project that ABB and select university faculty and grad students are currently working on.
Conference attendees were given the opportunity to tour ATEC, to learn what is behind the university’s effort to advance electric drive. ATEC’s mission is develop technologies that move the United States away from foreign sources of oil to new technologies such as electric drive. ATEC states that every year four tons of CO2 are produced by each car in the U.S. and released into the atmosphere for 45 years. They claim that this causes global warming, something EV technology can reverse.
ATEC believes the PEV or plug-in electric vehicle technology will eventually replace the need for the combustion engine. However, many challenges remain including limited range. While most drivers can operate locally on electric charge only, as with a Nissan LEAF or a Mitsubishi i-MiEV, these vehicles restrict longer range driving as batteries must be recharged. Even with a quick DC dump of electricity, travelers making the 250 mile trip from New York to Washington, D.C. would have to recharge twice, stopping for about 15 minutes each time.
Clearly, PEVs are not made for long haul driving, rather for people who need local transportation. PHEVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt, can extend that range as a small, gas engine kicks in to deliver additional power. Toyota and Ford are among several automakers bringing PHEVs to the market although Ford has a PEV Transit Connect for sale and a BEV Ford Focus in the planning stages.
ATEC isn’t satisfied with PEV technology alone. The center notes that coal powered, polluting electricity plants are what is charging most EV batteries today, therefore the center is advocating for solar and wind energy among the alternatives. Some states require the use of alternative fuel sources, yet another way to cut back on oil and to reduce emissions.