Range anxiety remains a key concern among motorists who are on the fence with regard to adopting fully electric vehicles into their lives, and even for seasoned users of battery electric vehicles, longer trips out of town in urban-use EVs where charging facilities are scarce will take more forward planning.
In some instances, charging points aren’t available to figure into said plans, and that is where back-up measures are required. When a petrol or diesel-engined vehicle has run out, or is about to run out of fuel with no refuelling station close enough, a jerry can is typically the answer.
Where most people have taken on new skills and craft through various stages of our pandemic-driven lockdown, electric vehicle enthusiast Datuk Abdul Ghaffar Ramli devised a form of flat-battery rescue for BEVs – the EV Jerry Can, beginning work on this project in June this year, and fully self-funded.
First entering government service in 1979, Ghaffar joined the Tun Ismail Atomic Research Centre (PUSPATI) as a research officer. He was then appointed the head of nuclear technology programme in 1984. Ghaffar held the post of director at the defence science and technology centre, then become director-general of the science and technology research institute for defence (STRIDE) in 2002, until retirement in 2013.
Essentially a “very large powerbank” for electric vehicles, the EV Jerry Can prototype was presented virtually to an EV enthusiasts’ community in a video call. The unit takes the form of a case approximately the size of an airline carry-on trolley bag.
This is housed within a series of 32650 LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate) battery cells, and a 500 W external charger will recharge the EV Jerry Can to full capacity (2.4 kWh) in about four to five hours, said Ghaffar. Connectivity to the electric vehicle is with the CEE 16 protocol, which then connects to a portable EVSE and either a Type 1 or Type 2 connector, depending on the vehicle’s need. Ghaffar’s Renault Zoe EV uses a Type 2 connector.
Despite the battery pack being rated at 2.4 kWh, Ghaffar says he has not been able to squeeze the maximum from the pack due to some dud cells. However, early measurements indicate AC to DC conversion at 82% efficiency, which should yield around 2 kWh. With the Zoe’s energy consumption rate of 140 Wh per km, the 2 kWh provided by the Jerry Can should provide an additional 14 to 15 km of range.
Granted, 14 or 15 km isn’t much, and really is intended to get you to a more substantial port of replenishment. Looking ahead, Ghaffar is working on his second, supplementary pack which will use 16 prismatic-cell batteries, instead of the 128 cylindrical 32650 battery cells of the present unit, which weighs 35.4 kg.
The second battery pack will not have its own inverter, and instead pairs with that of the existing battery pack. Ghaffar decided to cap the second battery pack’s capacity to 2.5 kWh in the interests of weight saving to 28 kg, instead of an earlier 4 or 5 kWh capacity target that would have weighed 37 kg.
This would theoretically give 4.9 kWh in total battery capacity, and essentially double the 14 to 15 km additional range to around 30 km with the second pack. However, this has to be consumed not all at once, but sequentially – since the voltages in each pack may be different, the packs need to be used one at a time for safety, says Ghaffar.
With costs of developing this battery pack tallying RM3,500 so far, will this eventually go on sale as an end-user product? “I don’t intend to commercialise it, although I have talked to some companies to see if they are keen,” said Ghaffar, who is also considering renting out the packs or offering them to vehicle recovery firms for roadside emergency charging of EVs. It “would be cheaper than towing them,” he said.
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