Lithium Sulfur Batteries Slated For Takeoff

anal feteSpectrum recently published a post on a new lithium sulfur battery technology specifically targeting electric aviation applications. Although lots of electric vehicles could benefit from the new technology, airplanes are especially sensitive to heavy batteries and lithium-sulfur batteries can weigh much less than modern batteries of equivalent capacity. The Spectrum post is from Oxis Energy who is about to fly tests with the new batteries which they claim have twice the energy density of conventional lithium-ion batteries. The company also claims the batteries are safer, which is another important consideration when flying through the sky.

anal feteThe batteries have a cathode comprised of aluminum foil coated with carbon and sulfur — which avoids the use of cobalt, a cost driver in traditional lithium cell chemistries. The anode is pure lithium foil. Between the two electrodes is a separator soaked in an electrolyte. The company says the batteries go through multiple stages as they discharge, forming different chemical compounds that continue to produce electricity through chemical action.

The safety factor is due to the fact that, unlike lithium-ion cells, the new batteries don’t form dendrites that short out the cell. The cells do degrade over time, but not in a way that is likely to cause a short circuit. However, ceramic coatings may provide protection against this degradation in the future which would be another benefit compared to traditional lithium batteries.

We see a lot of exciting battery announcements, but we rarely see real products with them. Time will tell if the Oxis and similar batteries based on this technology will take root.

The Segway Is Dead, Long Live The Segway

Before it was officially unveiled in December 2001, the hype surrounding the Segway Human Transporter was incredible. But it wasn’t because people were excited to get their hands on the product, they just wanted to know what the thing was. Cryptic claims from inventor Dean Kamen that “Ginger” would revolutionize transportation and urban planning lead to wild speculation. When somebody says their new creation will make existing automobiles look like horse-drawn carriages in comparison, it’s hard not to get excited.

Dean Kamen unveils the Segway

There were some pretty outlandish theories. Some believed that Kamen, a brilliant engineer and inventor by all accounts, had stumbled upon some kind of anti-gravity technology. The kids thought they would be zipping around on their own Back to the Future hover boards by Christmas, while Mom and Dad were wondering what the down payment on a floating minivan might be. Others thought the big secret was the discovery of teleportation, and that we were only a few years out from being able to “beam” ourselves around like Captain Kirk.

Even in hindsight, you really can’t blame them. Kamen had the sort of swagger and media presence that we today associate with Elon Musk. There was a general feeling that this charismatic maverick was about to do what the “Big Guys” couldn’t. Or even more tantalizing, what they wouldn’t do. After all, a technology which made the automobile obsolete would change the world. The very idea threatened a number of very big players, not least of which the incredibly powerful petroleum industry.

Of course, we all know what Dean Kamen?actually showed off to the world that fateful day nearly 20 years ago. The two-wheeled scooter was admittedly an impressive piece of hardware, but it was hardly a threat to Detroit automakers. Even the horses were largely unconcerned, as you could buy an actual pony for less than what the Segway cost.

Now, with the announcement that Segway will stop production on their eponymous personal transporter in July, we can confidently say that history will look back on it as one of the most over-hyped pieces of technology ever created. But that’s not to say Kamen’s unique vehicle didn’t have an impact. Continue reading “The Segway Is Dead, Long Live The Segway”

Crate EV Motor Hits Market: The Swindon Powertrain

Last year brought some exciting news from the unlikely quarter of an unexciting industrial estate in the British town of Swindon, the company Swindon Powertrain announced that they’d be marketing an all-in-one electric motor and transmission. Essentially this would be a crate engine for EV conversions, and since it’s pretty small it would be able to be shoehorned into almost any car. So often these announcements later prove to be vapourware, but not in this case, because Swindon Powertrain have announced that you can now order the HPD as they call it, for delivery in August. It’s not entirely cheap at ?6400 ($7846) exclusive of British VAT sales tax, but when its integrated transmission and differential is taken into consideration it starts to seem more attractive when compared to engineering a random motor onto an internal combustion engine transmission.

They provide a product page with links to a load of data, installation information, and even a CAD model, as well as an ordering page in their webshop from which you can pay the deposit with the rest presumably payable in August before delivery. There is also a range of optional extras including matched inverters, drive shafts, a limited slip differential, and a coolant pump, which makes the whole ever more attractive as a package. 80kW should be enough to lend sprightly performance to all but the largest of cars, so we’ll expect to see this motor ever more often in years to come.

There is already a thriving home-made EV scene which we don’t expect this unit to displace. Instead it will find a niche at the professional and semi-professional conversion level, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an aftermarket springing up offering ready made subframes to fit it to popular cars. If it is a success there will inevitably be copies and probably at a lower price, so it could be the start of a wave of very interesting conversion options. We hope that Swindon Powertrain will do well with it, and will manage to stay one step ahead of the upstarts. You can read our coverage of its announcement and their electric Mini prototype here.

Thanks [Carl Pickering] for the tip.

Hoverboard Becomes Kart In Easy Build

The hoverboard furnished to the world in the 2010s was not the one promised to us by Hollywood. Rather than a skateboard without wheels, we got a handsfree Segway, delivering faceplanting fun for the whole family. [Emanuel Feru] decided to repurpose his into a much safer electric kart.?

The build starts with a pedal-powered children’s kart, which has its drivetrain and rear axle removed. The hoverboard is bolted in its place, with its track and wheel size conveniently similar enough to make this practical. The original circuitboards are left in place, reprogrammed with custom firmware for their new role. [Emanuel]’s code enables the stock hardware to drive the motors with Field Oriented Control, for better efficiency. Additionally, the hardware reads a set of pedals cribbed from a PC racing wheel for throttle input, replacing the original gyrometer setup. With field weakening enabled, [Emanuel] reports the kart reaching up to 40 km/h.

It’s a tidy hack that makes great use of all the original hoverboard hardware, rather than simply throwing new parts at the problem. We’ve seen similar hacks before, with Segways in lieu of 2015’s most dangerous Christmas gift. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Hoverboard Becomes Kart In Easy Build”

NASA Readies New Electric X-Plane For First Flight

Since 1951, NASA (known in those pre-space days as NACA) and the United States Air Force have used the “X” designation for experimental aircraft that push technological boundaries. The best known of these vehicles, such as the X-1 and X-15, were used to study flight at extreme altitude and speed. Several fighter jets got their start as X-planes over the decades, and a number of hypersonic scramjet vehicles have flown under the banner. As such, the X-planes are often thought of as the epitome of speed and maneuverability.

So the X-57 Maxwell, NASA’s first piloted X-plane in two decades, might seem like something of a departure from the blistering performance of its predecessors. It’s not going to fly very fast, it won’t be making any high-G turns, and it certainly won’t be clawing its way through the upper atmosphere. The crew’s flight gear won’t even be anything more exotic than a polo and a pair of shorts. As far as cutting-edge experimental aircraft go, the X-57 is about as laid back as it gets.

But like previous X-planes, the Maxwell will one day be looked back on as a technological milestone of its own. Just as the X-1 helped usher in the era of supersonic flight, the X-57 has been developed so engineers can better understand the unique challenges of piloted electric aircraft. Before they can operate in the public airspace, the performance characteristics and limitations of electric planes must be explored in real-world scenarios. The experiments performed with the X-57 will help guide certification programs and government rule making that needs to be in place before such aircraft can operate on a large scale.

Continue reading “NASA Readies New Electric X-Plane For First Flight”

Hackaday Links: January 26, 2019

The news this week was dominated by the novel coronavirus outbreak centered in Wuhan, China. Despite draconian quarantines and international travel restrictions, the infection has spread far beyond China, at least in small numbers. A few cases have been reported in the United States, but the first case reported here caught our eye for the technology being used to treat it. CNN and others tell us that the traveler from Wuhan is being treated by a robot. While it sounds futuristic, the reality is a little less sci-fi than it seems. The device being used is an InTouch Vici, a telemedicine platform that in no way qualifies as a robot. The device is basically a standard telepresence platform that has to be wheeled into the patient suite so that providers can interact with the patient remotely. True, it protects whoever is using it from exposure, but someone still has to gown up and get in with the patient. We suppose it’s a step in the right direction, but we wish the popular press would stop slapping a “robot” label on things they don’t understand.

Also in health news, did you know you’re probably not as hot as you think you are? While a glance in the mirror would probably suffice to convince most of us of that fact, there’s now research that shows human body temperature isn’t what it used to be. Using medical records from the Civil War-era to the 1930s and comparing them to readings taken in the 1970s and another group between 2007 and 2017, a team at Stanford concluded that normal human body temperature in the USA has been slowly decreasing over time. They proposed several explanations as to why the old 98.6F (37C) value is more like 97.5F (36.4C) these days, the most interesting being that general overall inflammation has decreased as sanitation and food and water purity have increased, leading the body to turn down its thermostat, so to speak. Sadly, though, if the trend holds up, our body temperature will reach absolute zero in only 111,000 years.

Wine, the not-an-emulator that lets you run Windows programs on POSIX-compliant operating systems, announced stable release 5.0 this week. A year in the making, the new version’s big features are multi-monitor support with dynamic configuration changes and support for the Vulkan spec up to version 1.1.126.

Any color that you want, as long as it’s amorphous silicon. Sono Motors, the German start-up, has blown past its goal of raising 50 million euros in 50 days to crowdfund production of its Sion solar-electric car. The car is planned to have a 255 km range on a full charge, with 34 km of that coming from the solar cells that adorn almost every bit of the exterior on the vehicle. Living where the sun doesn’t shine for a third of the year, we’re not sure how well this will pay off, but it certainly seems smarter than covering roads with solar cells.

And finally, here’s a trip down memory lane for anyone who suffered through some of the cringe-worthy depictions of technology that Hollywood came up with during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Looking back through the clips shown in “copy complete” reminds us just how many movies started getting into the tech scene. It wasn’t just the sci-fi and techno-thrillers that subjected us to closeups of scrolling random characters and a terminal that beeped every time something changed on the screen. Even straight dramas like Presumed Innocent and rom-coms like You’ve Got Mail and whatever the hell genre Ghost was got in on the act. To be fair, some depictions were pretty decent, especially given the realities of audience familiarity with tech before it became pervasive. And in any case, it was fun to just watch and remember when movies were a lot more watchable than they are today.

Choosing The Right Battery For Your Electric Vehicle Build

Many a hacker has looked at their scooter, bike, or skateboard, and decided that it would be even better if only it had a motor on it. Setting out to electrify one’s personal transport can be an exciting and productive journey, and one that promises to teach many lessons about mechanical and electronic engineering. Fundamentally, the key to any build is the battery, which has the utmost say in terms of your vehicle’s performance and range. To help out, we’ve prepared a useful guide on selecting the right battery for your needs.

anal fete

Batteries come in all shapes and sizes, and a variety of different chemistries that all have their own unique properties and applications. When it comes to small electric vehicles, it’s desirable to have a battery with a low weight, compact size, plenty of current delivery for quick acceleration, and high capacity for long range.

30 years ago, options were limited to lead acid, nickel cadmium, and nickel metal hydride batteries. These were heavy, with low current output, poor capacity, and incredibly slow charge times. Thankfully, lithium polymer batteries have come along in the meantime and are more capable across the board. Offering huge discharge rates, fast charging, light weight and high capacity, they’re undeniably the ultimate choice for a high performance electric vehicle. They’re also wildly popular, and thus cheap, too!

There are some hangups, however. It’s important to keep all the cells in a pack at the same voltage in order to avoid cells back-charging each other. This can cause damage to the pack, or even explosions or fire. Maintaining the battery voltages to avoid this is called “balancing”. It can be handled in various ways, depending on the exact style of battery you’re using, as we’ll cover later.

Additionally, lithium batteries do not like being over-discharged. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea not to let your batteries drop below 3.0 V per cell. Failure to keep this in check can lead to ruining a pack, hurting its maximum capacity and ability to deliver current.

There are thankfully ways around these issues, and which ones you use depends on the battery you choose for your application. Continue reading “Choosing The Right Battery For Your Electric Vehicle Build”