Swiss company ABB is a leading global technology company that specializes in power and automation control devices for industry. For the past 3 years, it has been using advanced supercapacitiors to rapidly recharge the batteries of electric buses in Geneva. Supercapacitors are like a spring that can be slowly compressed (charged) and then later release its stored energy very rapidly — in this case, to charge an electric vehicle. That means they can use energy from the electrical grid to get ready to recharge the next vehicle, whether its a bus, a truck, or a battery powered car.
Container ships account for much of the pollution along the world’s coastlines, their massive engines burning pollutant-laden heavily oil into the air. Robotics company ABB has developed an Onboard DC Grid system that studies show reduces fuel consumption by 27%, and without any exotic power systems.
Companies are going to great lengths to make their fleets more efficient, including the installation of solar panels and even skysails in an effort to reduce energy use. ABB’s system is both more complex, and far more simple than these concepts. Tested on the Dina Star, an offshore platform supply vessel, the Onboard DC Grid system sends power through a single DC circuit to the four massive motors driving the propellers. This allows the engines to operate at different speeds for peak efficiency, which can return up to 27% better fuel economy.
More importantly, the ABB system works with the ship’s autopilot system, which takes care of much of driving out on the open ocean. Even with the computer in charge, the Onboard DC Grid system resulted in a 14% fuel savings, which saves tens of thousands of dollars in fuel every trip, never mind the massive environmental savings. There was also a significant reduction in engine room noise, down some 30%, which ship engineers are sure to be thankful for.
As ABB notes, this is an important step towards partial electrification of the massive container ships we all unknowingly rely upon.
Source: Green Car Congress
While electric cars haven’t caught on in China, a partnership between ABB and Denza wants to build the world’s largest EV charging network. But there’s still the matter of, you know, selling electric cars.
Switzerland’s ABB is teaming up with the Shenzhen Daimler New Technology Company, better known as Denza, to build what it claims will be the world’s largest EV charging network over the next six years. The network will support what is hopefully the first steps towards an electric car-driving majority.
China has laid out ambitious plans to get 1.5 million EVs on its roads by 2020, and they need to do it more than any other country. Epic levels of smog have reduced visibility to just a few feet in many of China’s most-populated cities, though consumers have been reluctant to buy even heavily-subsidized EVs.
That’s because China’s EV charging network, or lack thereof, makes planning a trip via EV all but impossible. Many of China’s early electric cars are also little more than glorified go-karts in a country that puts a high priority on material prestige. That said, Denza is a 50:50 venture between Mercedes-owner Daimler AG and Warren Buffet-backed BYD, so there’s plenty of money, luxury, and technology available to the next wave of Chinese EVs.
Denza dealerships will not only install fast chargers on many lots, but will also sell fast chargers for home use. Then, working from urban areas out, Denza will build a larger charging network across most of China, eventually building what may be the world’s largest charging network. They won’t be alone either; sales of the Tesla Model S have begun in earnest in China, and you can bet the first steps towards a national Supercharger network are on the way.
Could China really become a leader in electric vehicles despite this slow start? For you doubters, just keep in mind that it took less than a decade for China to build the largest high-speed rail network in the world. In other words, I wouldn’t put it past them.
Folks and authorities in New Jersey are still cleaning up the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and the serious power outages have led to a renewed interest in microgrid, battery backup technology. Just a few weeks after Sandy, General Motors and ABB showcased a microgrid backup system using five old Chevy Volt batteries.
Using car batteries as backup power systems for individual homes is not a new idea. The Nissan Leaf EV is testing a home battery backup system in the wake of the Japanese tsunami/earthquake that ravaged the nation last year. As envisioned though, GM and ABB’s microgrid backup system would be able to store up to 50 kWh of energy and would be paired with a neighborhood transformer.
The Volt T-cells are repurposed and air-cooled rather than liquid cooled, operating at just 5 kw of their 111 kw capacity. This allows for up to two hours of battery backup power at 25 kw per hour. The average home consumes about 29 kw a day in juice, though that number can fluctuate wildly. Suffice to say, having some power in an emergency situation is better than having no power, and it would give people a chance for last-minute preparations.
Can we blame Hurricane Sandy on climate change? Most scientists won’t say. But there is little doubting that “extreme” weather events are happening with increased frequency, and Hurricane Sandy managed to expose critical issues with America’s aging infrastructure. This could lead to the development of localized “microgrids”, like the SPIDERS system currently being deployed at Fort Carson in Colorado.
Repurposing used Chevy Volt batteries is another great use of old resources for new purposes. If events like Hurricane Sandy become the new normal, microgrids and battery backup systems will play an increasingly important role in our daily lives.