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Under the hood of EVs and hybrids (photos)

To bring electric cars to market, an entire industry of battery manufacturers and charging station providers is ramping up.

Martin LaMonica
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
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Packing power

Here's a look inside the battery pack made by Johnson Controls Saft which will be supplied to BMW and Mercedes for upcoming hybrid models. There are several 6-amp cylindrical battery cells packed into a module, but the entire pack also includes a battery management system and a thermal management system.

Keeping batteries within a certain temperature range--avoiding extreme hot and cold temperatures--will improve battery range and life. In this photo, you can see how each of the cells is surrounded by an aluminum casing, including small rods that come up between the batteries. Underneath the cells is a heat sink and a refrigerant is circulated through the heat sink to maintain an optimal temperature.

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Removeable charger

If a person buys an electric-only car, rather than a plug-in hybrid, then they most likely will want to take advantage of faster, level II charging ports. Using a home's 220-volt service in the U.S. can cut the charge time roughly in half compared to a regular outlet. This charge point, made by Levinton, can plug directly into a dryer outlet and can be removed if a person moves. Ford has chosen Levinton to supply home charging stations.

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Scheduled charging

Charging at off-peak hours, usually from the late evening until the early morning, is important to not strain the local distribution grid. Utilities often offer cheaper, off-peak rates as well, which can lower overall fuel costs. Automakers and charge station providers are developing software for car charging, such as this application from charge company Ecotality which is running on Cisco's Home Energy Controller. A person can schedule charging to ensure a car is full in the morning while getting the cheapest rates. It also shows total money spend on electricity for fuel and the equivalent savings from not using gasoline.

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Mitsubishi electric

Mitsubishi tomorrow at the New York Auto Show will reveal the final pricing and delivery details for the all-electric iMiev. The car, which will get as much as 85 miles on charge, will be available in California, Oregon, and Washington in November this year and then in the northeast states in March of next year, according to a company executive. By the fall of next year, it will be available nationwide. Mitshubishi will have an installation deal with Best Buy for assessing a home's wiring for charge stations and support.

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All electric Volvo

A look at the upcoming Volvo C30, all-electric, 4-seat sedan which Volvo intends to start leasing later this year. One way that the company plans to extend the driving range, which will be about 100 miles, is to use a heater that runs on ethanol. A heater can take four kilowatts which, if left on for six hours, can completely drain the battery.

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Battery pack for Volvo

The battery which will go into the Volvo C30 is made by Indianapolis-based Ener1. The component on the left fits in where the gas tank would go and the other portion will go down the middle in the back. The size of the battery is a reminder of how important improving energy density is in auto batteries. Lithium ion batteries have plenty of power to move a car, but better energy density would mean that a battery of a given size would allow for a longer range and take up less space, saving on costs.

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Plug-in Prius truck

Toyota's Plug-in Prius is expected to be delivered to consumers next year and, unlike all-electric vehicles, it has a relatively small 5.2-kilowatt-hour battery. That will only allow for about 10 to 15 miles on EV only mode, but it keeps the cost down and means the battery can be charged in three hours off an ordinary 110-volt outlet. The car itself is essentially the same as the 2010 Prius, although there will be a little less cargo room. It will also come with this 110-volt charger.

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Mobile battery charger

Roadside assistance for EVs? It's going to happen at some point, which is why Australia-based Club Assist is developing products for electric cars.

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Transit Connect battery

Midsize vehicles for fleets are turning out to be a promising market for electric vehicles. Here is a look at the battery pack in Ford's Transit Connect utility truck. In addition to battery cells and a thermal management system, there are electronics for the battery management system to monitor the charge and temperature of each individual cell.

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Siemens motors

Most of us are familiar with the shape of an internal combustion engine, but what about electric motors? These motors from Siemens are auto-grade motors which convert stored energy from a battery into motion.

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