Electric RV and battery evolution update

October 5, 2010 by Bob Difley · 9 Comments 

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By Bob Difley
electric-van-tesla-photoThe van pictured is 100% electric and the first commercial vehicle to use batteries by Tesla Motors, manufacturer of the Tesla electric sports car (that will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds and has a 200+  mile range).

The interesting part of this story–at least to RVers–is that it was made by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation, that also manufactures  motorhome chassis and is experimenting with a hybrid RV chassis, along with Morgan Olson LLC.

It has a gross vehicle weight rating of between 14,000 and 19,500 lbs and an electric driving range of 100-mile. Not quite enough for small motorhomes yet but with freightliner in the game you can expect that they will be looking in that direction, especially when fast-charging stations become commonplace.

Kudoos to Freightliner also for building it of lightweight, durable composites that are completely recyclable. They worked a lot on the aerodynamics, too, to get as much range as possible. But we will probably still go through years of get-there steps first, with hybrid RVs, then natural gas (CNG) powered motorhomes before the all-electric type evolves to higher mileage batteries and abundant charging stations.

There is more good news in the battery development field. A recent study finds that life-cycle analysis of electric vehicles–a type of study that aims to find the complete environmental impact of electric vehicles, taking into account manufacturing, usage, and disposal–turns out that batteries have an even lower impact than most of us thought.

The LCA study finds that the environmental burden caused by the lithium-ion battery is at most 15% of the total impact of the electric car (which includes making it, using and maintaining it, and disposing of it at the end of its useful life). The lithium itself represents just a small part of that; about 7.5% of the impact occurs when “refining and manufacturing the battery’s raw materials, copper and aluminium.” The lithium itself is only responsible for 2.3% of the total.

And as far as a lithium shortage? Not Anytime Soon. Bolivia alone has enough lithium for billions of electric cars and they only have about 1/3 of known world supplies (if there’s ever a big shortage, higher prices would probably lead to new discoveries), and lithium isn’t destroyed when used in a battery, so it can be recycled and reused.

The total impact of EV batteries can be further reduced if at the end of their “vehicle” life they are used for other forms of energy storage, since they can still hold up to 80% of their charge–even after having been used for years in a vehicle. So before recycling them, they could be used to store power on the grid (such as intermittent power from wind farms).

You can read the full story here.

For general RVing and boondocking tips, visit my Healthy RV Lifestyle website and also check out my ebooks,BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public LandsSnowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang our of your RV Lifestyle Buck.

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