Earth Day: Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are the wave of the future, whether it’s from sucking too much oil out of the ground, or because of improved battery technology. Most internal combustion engines are unsustainable, and if you’re thinking about the environment – or working on an entry for The Hackaday Prize – an electric vehicle is the way to go.
Here are a few electric vehicle projects that are competing in The Hackaday Prize that show off the possibilities for the electric vehicles of the future.

An Electric Ninja

Motorcycles are extremely efficient already, but if you want a torquey ride with a lot of acceleration, electric is the way to go. [ErikL] is hard at work transforming a 2005 Ninja 250R into an electric vehicle, both to get away from gas-sipping engines and as a really, really cool ride. Interestingly, the battery technology in this bike isn’t that advanced – it’s a lead acid battery, basically, that reduces the complexity of the build.

And They Have Molds To Make Another

Motorcycles aren’t for everybody, but neither are normal, everyday, electronic conversion cars. [MW Motors] is building a car from scratch. The body, the chassis, and the power train are all hand built.

The amazing part of this build is how they created the body. It’s a fiberglass mold that was pulled off of a model carved out of a huge block of foam. There’s a lot of composite work in here, and a lot of work had to happen before digging into the foam; you actually need to choose your accessories, lights, and other bits and bobs before designing the body panels.

While the suspension and a lot of the mechanical parts were taken from a Mazda Miata, the power and drive system are completely custom. Most of the chassis is filled with LiFeMnPO4 batteries, powering four hub motors in each wheel. It’s going to be an amazing car.

Custom, 3D Printed Electric Motors

If you’re designing an electric car, the biggest decision you’re going to make is what motor you’re going to use. This is a simple process: open up a few catalogs and see what manufacturers are offering. There’s another option: building your own motor. [Solenoid] is working on a piece of software that will calculate the specifications of a motor given specific dimensions. It will also generate files for a 3D printed motor given the desired specs. Yes, you’ll still need to wind a few miles of copper onto these parts, but it’s the beginning of completely custom electronic motors.

38 thoughts on “Earth Day: Electric Vehicles

      1. They always are. Try operating a rare earth mine in the US – you need to process nuclear waste (Thorium) if you do, so it’s cheaper elsewhere.

        We have regulated so thoroughly, ‘dirty’ businesses have fled elsewhere. NIMBY at it’s finest.

      2. They always are. Try operating a rare earth mine in the US – you need to process nuclear waste (Thorium) if you do. Many large businesses will tend to maximize their profit by operating where the regulations are loose (it’s cheaper in the short term when you don’t have to care about the devastation left behind).

        The US have regulated so thoroughly, ‘dirty’ businesses have fled elsewhere. NIMBY at it’s finest.

  1. “Most internal combustion engines are unsustainable”

    Why? It’s the fuel they’re running on that’s unsustainable, not the engines themselves. If people focused more on alternative fuel sources more than the next big vaporware battery tech, we’d probably be in a better environmental position right now.

      1. Coal generated electricity is still much cleaner than the petrol by far. Separating the constituents of crude oil uses enough electricity for refineries to require their own large substations! Do YOUR research, m8,ill rek u kent.

        1. 5-6 kWh per gallon (ugh) seems to be the agreed amount. There are research papers, but they complain about how the oil industry has not published energy figures for a very long time now, and assumptions have to be made based on historical data. Refining oil involves lots of heating and cooling and the energy use is self evident.

          1. Actually, what is being said is that creating electricity from coal is cleaner than the sum of refining the gas and then burning it. Honestly, I have no idea if that’s true, but I could see it being true.

          2. It isn’t. The energy expenditure of refining oil is just around 20% of the energy contents of the fuel, but the fact of the matter isn’t that simple because gasoline and diesel are merely one product of a refining process that produces everything from asphalt to pharmaceuticals. You can’t attribute the energy to the fuel alone.

        2. The EPA estimates coal based electricity to cause 4x its cost in health and environmental issues – not including the global warming potential.

          Everything from toxic chemicals leeching from the piles of fly ash, to particulates causing lung cancer and smog, and spreading radionuclide waste around the countryside, to water pollution from coal mining.

          Petrol is far cleaner than coal.

    1. What kind of alternative and sustainable fuels did you have in mind? It all boils down to where you get the energy…anything solar based requires a LOT of surface area, be it wind farms, photovoltaic/thermal solar or agriculture. Also needs more reserve capacity. Current nuclear power can’t directly power chemical plants. (best to “burn” the electricity directly) Geothermal works only somewhere, also the plants are small.
      I personally think that the problem IS the inefficient combustion engine that has to lug around over a ton of steel just to move >400kg of people, trains are even worse…
      The one key benefit of electric vehicles is that the exhaust of the power source, clean or not, can be away from people, not directly in the cities. Also, large sources will be more efficient, as they can afford co-generation cycles and such.

      1. The big one I’m interested in is ethanol, primarily due to it’s high octane rating (more poooower! :D). I understand that we’re currently making it out of corn at the moment, which is a lossy process. But there are many alternative ways to make it. It’s as much an engineering problem as it is a scientific problem.

        There are obviously many advantages to electric cars, and I think we’ll almost certainly see them replace a majority of the cars on the road, sooner or later. However, there will be people (myself included) that like ICE cars enough that we’ll continue to operate them despite the economics (I don’t even want an automatic transmission!). Consider the sports cars and classic cars that are still on the road, people don’t want to give them up. So while making better EV’s is a good thing, I think it’s important to keep in mind that ICE cars aren’t going to disappear completely, and that there will always be value (especially now!) in working towards completely sustainable and economically viable alternative fuels.

          1. Ummm… if you tune an engine with more advanced ignition, higher compression ratio or more boost, you get more power. That’s obviously what I was getting at, you need a higher octane rating to do these things.

          2. Resistance yes, but to detonation, combustion has to happen in order for the engine to work… more resistance to detonation -> compression ratio can go up -> greater efficiency & more power

          3. As compression ratio goes up, peak combustion temperature goes up and the engine starts to produce NOx pollution, which is a bad thing because it makes for smog and acid rain, and reacts with sunlight to form nitrosamines which is the carsinogenic compound in tobacco smoke.

            Hence why fuel cells are a far better idea than piston engines, if you want more power.

    1. Do some research on how much energy it actually takes to make biodiesel… the net energy outcome is not that great and the CO2 outcome is most likely less then one…Also, rapeseed is toxic to wildlife…

      Photovoltaic panels (and electric cars) are a better use of the needed area (which would still be huge), photosynthesis has terrible efficiency, best leave it to things electricity cant do – producing food.

      1. I saw a demonstration decades ago about biodiesel from sunflower seeds (the oil, not confectionery type of sunflower) It was estimated that a farmer could produce the fuel he needed to operate his farm from 10% of his acreage, as opposed to 25% if he used horses/oxen to do his farming.

      2. I actually want to convert one of my cars to electric. For drag racing. My daily cars are and always will be powered by a liquid fuel. My fiesta gets ~400 miles to a tank my 530d ~600 miles to a tank my mercedes recovery truck will get around 400 to a tank aswell. I cant see batteries maturing to that sort of range with a 5 minute charge time any time soon. Not to mention cost of replacement batteries. All my cars are over 160,000miles and over 12 years old. If they were electric id be hunting for a new battery or two(infact they would all be on there second or third). I had to put a new engine in the fiesta last year, it cost £450. Theres more to electric car running costs and environment than imediate fueling up costs…

        1. If large battery packs for cars and trucks become a common thing, it will become profitable for someone to buy the aged ones and recycle them for the rare earth metals. (or disassemble them for good cells to use in refitted packs)
          The engine for the fiesta cost so little because it was used, cost of a new one would be…a lot more…just like the combustion engines, the older packs will still be usable, just with less capacity, given the cost of new ones I can definitely imagine a used pack market…

  2. Not so sure about motorcycles being efficient when most aren’t even as efficient as the Prius. They would probably still win in overall carbon footprint due to far less materials used in manufacturing, but most are pretty bad (other) emissions wise. But the EV is just awesome…

  3. I wish you guys would have spoken up about how MW is designing from the ground up for mass production compatibility. They have great documentation on why they make certain design choices and you can literally see the compromise unfold right before your eyes.

    This project has great momentum and will produce something phenomenal.

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