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AC Propulsion VW Golf EV conversion
VW conversion with 180 HP electric motor and a $1400 lead acid battery pack that gives the car a 60-70 mile range similar to current state-of-the art fuel cell vehicles costing 1000 times more.

Fuel Cell Disruptor - Part 2

Conclusion of testimony before California Air Resources Board, December 5, 2002.

By Alec Brooks

There has been some disappointment expressed by members of the board that battery technology for electric vehicles hasn’t progressed nearly as much as had been hoped.

The reality is that battery technology has progressed significantly in the last decade. But vehicle manufacturers haven’t been applying that technology in new products. It is interesting to look at what kinds of battery electric vehicles we could have had by now and to compare them with fuel cell vehicles. The results may surprise you.

I will comment on three types of batteries: Lead Acid, Sodium Nickel Chloride, and Lithium Ion. There are of course other types of batteries such as nickel metal hydride that work well in EVs and that bear a renewed look.

Our firm did a conversion of a 4 passenger lead-acid powered Volkswagen Golf. It is fun to drive with about 180 horsepower and it works very well for commuting. The total cost for the battery modules in this car is only $1400. This is based on a quote from the battery manufacturer. The range is adequate – about 60 to 70 miles.

As an aside, CARB should stay away from any ZEV regulatory structure that dictates or rewards range. That could be construed as regulating efficiency. The risk I see in the proposed regulatory structure is definition of vehicle types by range capability.

It might be reasonably argued that the most cost effective way to meet some range target is to improve vehicle efficiency rather than put in a larger or more expensive battery pack. That could be an opening for future attacks on the mandate from Automakers on the basis of preemption of the Federal fuel economy laws.

The sodium nickel chloride battery, also known as the ZEBRA battery, is an advanced technology that is now coming to market. With 120 Wh/kg, the specific energy is four times that of lead acid. The price in low volume is $500 per kwh. For high volume, the price will be $220 per kWh. Life is at least 1000 cycles and calendar life is long too.

We are looking into retrofitting a GM S10 EV with two ZEBRA packs and an AC Propulsion drivetrain. Empty weight will be reduced several hundred pounds and the range should be 200 miles.

ZEBRA Battery
  • In production in Switzerland
  • 120 Wh/kg for pack (4x lead acid)
  • 1000 cylces at nameplate rating
  • No calendar life issues
  • Pricing
    Low vol. $500/kWh
    High vol. $200/kWh
    (24kWh pack: $5280)

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