Why Electric Cars Are Safer

Charles Murray, Design News

Tesla Motors’s recent five-star sweep in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety ratings shed light on an important aspect of electric cars: They’re inherently safer than vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

Tesla’s Model S served as a prime example of those safety advantages, recording the highest (five-star) ratings in frontal, side, rollover, and overall crash categories. The Model S joined the 2013 and 2014 models of the Ford Focus EV, which also captured five-star NHTSA safety ratings across the board.

.Experts said that the performance by both vehicles was not surprising. “There are some very inherent safety dimensions to the design of an electric vehicle,” David Cole, chairman emeritus of The Center for Automotive Research, told Design News. “The design may have had more to do with energy storage and powertrain issues, but the safety advantage is a gift that comes along with it, and it’s very real.”

Tesla Model S's lithium-ion batteries are placed low in the vehicle, dropping its center of gravity.   (Source: Design News)

Tesla Model S’s lithium-ion batteries are placed low in the vehicle, dropping its center of gravity.
(Source: Design News)

Cole noted that electric cars have three primary safety advantages over their gasoline-powered counterparts. The first is that the batteries are located low in the vehicle, dropping the center of gravity and reducing the possibility of rollover. The second is the elimination of the internal combustion engine, which typically transmits crash energy rearward.

”An engine block is just too rigid,” Cole told us. “So the shock wave is pretty much transferred to the area directly behind the engine, with minimal energy absorption.” In contrast, he said, electric car batteries deform and absorb energy during a crash.

The EV’s other key safety advantage is the elimination of gasoline, Cole said. “You don’t have a highly volatile liquid onboard, which can quickly get away from you during a crash and become a real problem.”

In a press release, Tesla claimed that its Model S was approximately 50 percent better than other top vehicles in rollover tests. “During testing at an independent facility, the Model S refused to turn over via the normal methods and special means were needed to induce the car to roll,” the release said.

A separate claim by Tesla that “the Model S achieved a new combined record score of 5.4 stars” has since been refuted by NHTSA. A statement on the government agency’s website said “NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond five stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories.”

Tesla’s high-profile effort to publish its safety news may serve as an important step for the electric car market, however. Companies that build gasoline-burning cars have been less inclined to publish such news, Cole said. “With the exception of Tesla, manufacturers are not going to talk about this,” he explained. “Most EV makers sell a lot more internal combustion engine cars than electric cars, so it’s not something they want to publicize.”

To date, electric cars have done well in NHTSA ratings, although several have yet to be rated. The Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiEV have received mostly four-star ratings, while the Fit EV, Spark EV, Fiat 500e EV, and RAV4 EV are awaiting evaluation. Chevy’s Volt, which incorporates a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery along with an internal combustion engine, received mostly fives in its NHTSA evaluation. Thus far, Tesla and Ford are the only automakers to receive across-the-board five-star ratings on their EVs.

“They’ve definitely done a good job with the design of those cars,” Cole said. “There’s no question about that.”

Crafting the Ferrari LaFerrari

Crafting the Ferrari LaFerrari

How Ferrari built its most advanced supercar’s gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, yet…

la ferrari 5

Ferrari’s limited-edition supercars are special. They appear about once a decade, cost a small fortune — which has never hurt sales — and often become the benchmark for next-generation supercars at Ferrari and in the industry.

Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo says the new LaFerrari is no exception because of features such as the supercar’s gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, its Formula One-inspired carbon fiber cockpit and its state-of-the-art active aerodynamics.

la ferrari 1

Cutting-edge ideas

Replacing the Enzo was far from easy,” said Roberto Fedeli, Ferrari’s technical director.

“With help from the HY-KERS system, LaFerrari’s lap time at Fiorano was 1 minute and 20 seconds, making it 3 seconds quicker than the F12. LaFerrari also needs less than 3 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 62 mph, less than 7 seconds to go from 0 to 124 mph and 15 seconds to go from 0 to 186 mph.

When development of Ferrari’s HY-KERS system started in 2009, Ferrari predicted the hybrid’s parts would add about 441 pounds because of the electric motors, batteries and wiring. By the time Fedeli’s team was done with LaFerrari, the HY-KERS system’s weight was down to 330 pounds. The electric motors and control systems weighed about 132 pounds, the batteries 198 pounds.
la ferrari 2
Not a plug-in

Fedeli pointed out that LaFerrari is not a plug-in hybrid. The batteries are charged in two ways: during braking and every time the internal combustion engine produces more torque than required, such as in cornering.

“Rather than cutting off the engine, we store the excess energy in the batteries so that energy can be used to provide a boost the next time the driver accelerates,” Fedeli said.

Technically, LaFerrari can travel 9 to 14 miles in pure electric mode, but Ferrari has limited the top speed in full battery mode to 3 mph to discourage drivers from trying to use the supercar as a zero-emission vehicle.

“You can exit the garage in pure battery mode, but that’s it. This car is designed for extreme performances,” Fedeli said.

EVMaster vehicles in 2013 STEM Rally competition in Arkansas.

News Release

logoEV 2
EV 5

Electric Cooperatives’ Electric Vehicle Rally Planned for April 19 in Little Rock

Little Rock, Ark. — April 16, 2013 — The Electric Power Research Institute projects that more than 1.2 million plug-in electric vehicles will be deployed in the United States by 2015. Arkansas students are ahead of the curve as they have been exploring the technology for 10 years.

The students are involved in the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas Electric Vehicle program that includes a curriculum that incorporates a variety of disciplines, including math, auto mechanics, physics, engineering, electronics and journalism. More than 160 participants from 12 schools will display their knowledge and driving skills at the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas Electric Vehicle Rally on Friday, April 19 at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock.

Students participate in competitions that test the students’ abilities and their vehicles’ performance capacities. The public is invited to attend the rally events that begin at 9 a.m. There is no charge to attend.

“The students involved with the electric vehicle program are well-positioned for future opportunities as electric vehicles become more and more common,” said Rob Roedel, manager of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. “There are more than 27 of the educational vehicles deployed in schools in Arkansas. Since 2003, the students have continued to learn and increase their knowledge of electric vehicles.”

The event kicks off with technical inspections and rigorous safety inspections of the student vehicles. Then, oral presentations by the students and troubleshooting competitions test teams’ abilities. Next, academics are left behind as the participants move to the track and strap on helmets for an acceleration event. An autocross competition follows with many twists and turns. Teams then participate in a quiz bowl to test their knowledge of science and electric vehicles. The teams then return to the track to test how far the vehicles can go on a single charge. The on-track and pit lane strategies make this event one of the most exciting in the rally.

Participants in this year’s rally include: Arkansas Career Training Institute; Arkansas Tech University – Ozark; Cabot High School; Central Junior High School (Springdale); Fayetteville High School; Hamburg High School; Mabelvale Middle School; Paragould High School; Southwest Junior High School (Springdale); Springdale High School; and Viola High School.

Throughout the year, students complete activities, develop video presentations and take part in a wide range of projects. The highlight of this project is the design and construction of electric vehicles that the students enter in the statewide competition.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to more than 490,000 members, or customers, in Arkansas and surrounding states.

For additional information, contact:

Rob Roedel, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, 501.570.2296 or

For information about purchase vehicles and parts, contact EVMaster at:  or call 770-722-8509


GM President: It’s Time to Electrify & Educate


This week, General Motors North American president Mark Reuss reinforced his company’s commitment to electrified vehicles, but cited a need for better education to foster the breakthroughs needed for next-generation electric cars.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 500 automotive engineers and suppliers at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Convergence conference in Detroit on Tuesday, Reuss said the US faces a critical need for engineers who can lay the foundation of innovation needed to transform the auto industry. He said:

The young people entering our colleges today are our advanced battery engineers, designers, and light metal experts of tomorrow. If they don’t choose those paths or are ill-equipped to do so, we will have a skill shortage that will undermine our resurgence in smart manufacturing and technology.

During the conference’s keynote address, Reuss said GM plans to pull the wraps off the company’s next extended-range electric vehicle, the Cadillac ELR, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. Pre-production versions of the ELR, which will use a powertrain like the one in the Chevy Volt, will hit the streets in the fourth quarter of 2013. To build the vehicle, GM has already invested an additional $35 million in a production plant in Hamtramck, Mich., where the Volt is being built.

gm president

GM North American president Mark Reuss told an audience at SAE Convergence that the performance of US students in science and math is “disgusting.”
(Source: SAE)

“Despite what the naysayers will tell you, this industry is headed toward electrification,” Reuss said. He added, however, that “it may take a lot longer than we thought until the transformation is truly complete.”

Reuss expressed concerns when talking about the availability of talent that’s needed to make the transformation happen, however. He cited studies showing that US students ranked 21st in science literacy and 25th in math literacy among the top 30 developed countries. He also said that 68 percent of US eighth graders tested below proficient levels in math and reading. “That’s frankly disgusting,” he said. “This country simply cannot afford to fall any further behind the rest of the industrialized world in educating its young citizens.”

Reuss added that the auto industry should be concerned that many of today’s best young technical minds are more attracted to the Silicon Valley than to the Midwest Rust Belt. “We need to convince them that the auto industry is the most dynamic, exciting industry on earth,” he said. Otherwise, “they will go to places like Google or Apple or SpaceX or elsewhere.”

Reuss emphasized, however, that meeting the needs of tomorrow’s auto industry is more than a matter of attracting top people. The industry will need both a depth and breadth of talent, he said. “It’s really a simple path: Educate our young people as best we can to prepare them to succeed in these new opportunities,” Reuss told the standing room crowd. “Let their innovation and their ideas lead us into a future that’s electric.”

Folding Car Is the Ultimate City Vehicle

Anyone who has ever attempted to find a parking spot in San Francisco during peak hours can tell you that a small car is your friend. And it doesn’t get much friendlier than the new Hiriko Fold, a car that slaughters any potential parking woes.


Unfolded, the entire vehicle is only 2.5m long. However, the parking genius comes in the Fold’s ability to compress to a length that can accommodate three vehicles in a standard parking spot. It is able to compress itself thanks to a front chassis that pivots to become vertical. Entry and exit of the vehicle takes place through a large front panel door, which allows the driver and passenger to step out of the vehicle’s “face.” Each wheel can be controlled independently, allowing for a staggering turning radius and seamless parallel parking in tight spaces.

As a tiny car fanatic, I was initially ecstatic to see the shrinkable shape of the Fold. However, the more I inspect the vehicle, the more concerned I become. The Fold is also 100-percent electric with a range of 120km. That is just over the distance it would take to go from Palo Alto to San Francisco and back. Additionally, I am extremely interested to see how the car performs in a head-on collision, especially considering that the only exit is through the front.

The Hiriko Fold is currently being tested in Spain and will be available in Europe in 2012 for 12,500 euros ($15,660). The vehicles are also being considered for ride-sharing similar to the bicycle program currently available in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

Researchers aim to create mobile ‘MacGyver’ robot

Georgia Tech Assistant Professor Mike Stilman poses with Golem Krang, a humanoid robot designed and built in Stilman’s laboratory to study whole-body robotic planning and control. Stilman’s research aims to give robots autonomous capabilities to perform rescues using tools found in the environment. [Georgia Tech Photo: Josh Meister]


Robots are increasingly being used in place of humans to explore hazardous and difficult-to-access environments, but they aren’t yet able to interact with their environments as well as humans. If today’s most sophisticated robot was trapped in a burning room by a jammed door, it would probably not know how to locate and use objects in the room to climb over any debris, pry open the door, and escape the building.

A research team led by Professor Mike Stilman at the Georgia Institute of Technology hopes to change that by giving robots the ability to use objects in their environments to accomplish high-level tasks. The team recently received a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to work on this project.

“Our goal is to develop a robot that behaves like MacGyver, the television character from the 1980s who solved complex problems and escaped dangerous situations by using everyday objects and materials he found at hand,” says Stilman, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. “We want to understand the basic cognitive processes that allow humans to take advantage of arbitrary objects in their environments as tools. We will achieve this by designing algorithms for robots that make tasks that are impossible for a robot alone possible for a robot with tools.”

The research will build on Stilman’s previous work on navigation among movable obstacles that enabled robots to autonomously recognize and move obstacles that were in the way of their getting from point A to point B.

“This project is challenging because there is a critical difference between moving objects out of the way and using objects to make a way,” explans Stilman. “Researchers in the robot motion planning field have traditionally used computerized vision systems to locate objects in a cluttered environment to plan collision-free paths, but these systems have not provided any information about the objects’ functions.”


This image shows a laboratory simulation of a robot rescue capability that could result from research sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. Controlled by a human operator, a robot known as Golem Krang creates a bridge from a board to rescue a trapped human. [Georgia Tech Photo: Josh Meister]

To create a robot capable of using objects in its environment to accomplish a task, Stilman plans to develop an algorithm that will allow a robot to identify an arbitrary object in a room, determine the object’s potential function, and turn that object into a simple machine that can be used to complete an action. Actions could include using a chair to reach something high, bracing a ladder against a bookshelf, stacking boxes to climb over something, and building levers or bridges from random debris.

By providing the robot with basic knowledge of rigid body mechanics and simple machines, the robot should be able to autonomously determine the mechanical force properties of an object and construct motion plans for using the object to perform high-level tasks.

For example, exiting a burning room with a jammed door would require a robot to travel around any fire, use an object in the room to apply sufficient force to open the stuck door, and locate an object in the room that will support its weight while it moves to get out of the room.

Such skills could be extremely valuable in the future as robots work side-by-side with military personnel to accomplish challenging missions.

“The Navy prides itself on recruiting, training and deploying our country’s most resourceful and intelligent men and women,” says Paul Bello, director of the cognitive science program in the Office of Naval Research (ONR). “Now that robotic systems are becoming more pervasive as teammates for warfighters in military operations, we must ensure that they are both intelligent and resourceful. Professor Stilman’s work on the ‘MacGyver-bot’ is the first of its kind, and is already beginning to deliver on the promise of mechanical teammates able to creatively perform in high-stakes situations.”

To address the complexity of the human-like reasoning required for this type of scenario, Stilman is collaborating with researchers Pat Langley and Dongkyu Choi. Langley is the director of the Institute for the Study of Learning and Expertise (ISLE), and is recognized as a co-founder of the field of machine learning, where he championed both experimental studies of learning algorithms and their application to real-world problems. Choi is an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas.

Langley and Choi will expand the cognitive architecture they developed, called ICARUS, which provides an infrastructure for modeling various human capabilities like perception, inference, performance and learning in robots.

“We believe a hybrid reasoning system that embeds our physics-based algorithms within a cognitive architecture will create a more general, efficient and structured control system for our robot that will accrue more benefits than if we used one approach alone,” says Stilman.

After the researchers develop and optimize the hybrid reasoning system using computer simulations, they plan to test the software using Golem Krang, a humanoid robot designed and built in Stilman’s laboratory to study whole-body robotic planning and control.

This research is sponsored by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research, through grant number N00014-12-1-0143. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.

Source: Georgia Tech

Published October 2012

Harvard Researchers to Develop Green-Energy Storage Battery

Elizabeth Montalbano

Harvard University researchers are working on a new type of battery based on organic molecules to store renewable energy in an effort to make it more viable for wide-scale use.

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) has awarded a team of researchers at the university’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) a $600,000 innovation grant to develop what is called a flow battery for the storage of energy from sources such as wind turbines and solar panels, according to ARPA and the university.

Researchers are collaborating with Sustainable Innovations LLC, a commercial electrochemical system developer, on the project to develop the battery with practicality in mind, hoping to displace fossil-fuel energy through its development, they said.

103321_920866A team of researchers at Harvard University are working on a new type of battery based on organic molecules for storing renewable energy in an effort to make it more viable for widespread use and displace fossil fuels as energy sources. A $600,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the work.
(Source: Harvard University)

While automation, robotics, and other types of technology are making the use of renewable energy sources generated by solar and wind power a more competitive option to traditional power, the energy is still largely dependent on the forces of nature because there currently is no good, practical way to store large quantities of it, said Michael Aziz, a professor of materials and energy technologies at SEAS.

“Storage of very large amounts of energy is required if we are to generate a major portion of our electricity from intermittent renewable sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaics,” he said in a press release. “Currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem.”

Aziz and his team think flow batteries, a type of highly rechargeable fuel cell that stores electrical energy in the form of liquid chemicals, could be the answer to this problem. The batteries are so-named because the chemicals are flowed past electrochemical conversion hardware and then stored externally in low-cost tanks that can vary in size, according to researchers. The tanks can be very large, permitting the designers to decide on the size of the electrochemical conversion hardware for setting peak power capacity and the storage tanks that set the energy capacity.

As a point of contrast, in solid-electrode batteries, such as those in cars and mobile devices, power-conversion hardware and energy capacity are packaged together, which means they can only maintain peak discharge power for less than an hour. However, studies show that renewable energy needs one or two days of peak discharge power to move through the electrical grid, researchers said. This makes the use of these types of batteries cost prohibitive, according to Aziz.

Flow batteries alone aren’t the answer either, since those currently under development also have limitations in terms of price. “The chemicals used for storage in flow batteries can be expensive or difficult to maintain,” Aziz said.

The key to researchers’ work is to replace those chemicals in a flow battery with organic molecules found in plants that can be synthesized artificially without a high price tag. Other benefits of the molecules are that they are non-toxic, can be stored at room temperature, and cycle very efficiently between the chemical states needed for energy storage, Aziz said.

Harvard researchers won the grant as part of ARPA’s OPEN 2012 program, which distributed $130 million in funding to support innovation in energy technology.

Nissan turns auto/home power-sharing into reality

Junko Yoshida

5/31/2012 6:31 AM EDT

TOKYO – Nissan launched here what it calls its “Leaf-to-home” power supply system, designed to turn Nissan’s electric vehicle Leaf into a backup electricity supply for residential homes.

The “Leaf-to-home” system, scheduled to go on sale in mid-June at Nissan dealerships in Japan, makes Leaf the first electric vehicle that can be used to curb power drawn from the grid during peak consumption hours in Japan, according to Nissan.

The EV Power Supply System developed by Nichicon is a two-way charger capable of both fully charging Nissan’s EV, Leaf, in just four hours (half the time of an ordinary charger) and also supplying a home’s electricity distribution panel from a Leaf’s high-capacity batteries.


When fully-charged, the lithium-ion batteries in a Leaf store up to 24kWh of electricity. That’s more than enough to power the average Japanese household for two full days, according to the Japanese auto maker.

In addition, the EV Power Station can charge the Leaf in just four hours – about half the time of a normal charger.

Nissan plans to sell 10,000 Leaf-to-home units during the fiscal year. With Japanese government subsidies in place it costs around 330,000 yen ($4,153).

Nissan is boasting that the system can come to a household’s rescue in a blackout or other emergency. In Japan today, fear of blackouts haunts every community since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

With the nation’s nuclear power plants now shut down since early May, Japan is abuzz with anxiety about an anticipated summer power crunch. For the first time in more than 40 years, Japan will derive no energy from atomic power. Until last year, nuclear energy represented 30% of Japanese power consumption.

However, even without nukes, the power shortage might not happen. The latest news now suggests that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda may give a formal order to restart two nuclear reactors at the Oi plant in western Japan next week. It would then take two or three weeks to get each one up and running, according to reports here.

2012 AR EV Rally report.

2012 AR EV Rally at Pulasky Tech.

We had great coverage of the 2012 EV Rally on Friday. Here are a few links for your viewing pleasure.

KARK – Channel 4 :

KATV – Channel 7:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Many more photos and the list of winners will be posted on later this week.

Also, look for an article in an upcoming edition of Arkansas Living magazine.

Here are the 2012 winners:


First:                      Corning 3

Second:                Hillcrest

Third:                    Corning 2



First:                      Corning 3

Second:                Corning 2

Third:                    Springdale

Quiz Bowl

First:                      Corning 3

Second:                Cabot

Third:                    Paragould


First:                      Hamburg

Second:                Fayetteville

Third:                    Hillcrest


First:                      Fayetteville

Second:                Viola

Third:                    Central Junior High (Springdale)


First:                      Hillcrest

Second:                Corning 1

Third:                    Arkansas Tech – Ozark


First:                      Arkansas Tech – Ozark

Second:                Cabot

Third:                    Paragould


Rob Roedel

Arkansas Electric Cooperatives

No virus found in this message.
Checked by AVG –
Version: 2012.0.1913 / Virus Database: 2425/4983 – Release Date: 05/07/12

Rinspeed UC?


The UC? from Rinspeed, a subcompact two-seat electric car, was designed to reduce emissions and the need for gasoline, eliminate or shrink traffic jams, and to fit on trains. Consumers could take their UC?s along on long-distance train trips for use at their destinations. (Rinspeed even designed railcars that could onload and off-load UC?s quickly.) The electric motor gives the car a top speed of 75 mph with 96 lb-ft of torque, and a 65‑mile range. The transmission has three positions: forward, neutral, and reverse. On the inside, the driver uses a joystick to steer. And the UC? name? It stands for Urban Commuter, or the rhetorical, You see?