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John Petersen is the executive vice president and chief financial officer of ePower Engine Systems, Inc., a Kentucky-based enterprise that has developed, built and demonstrated an engine-dominant diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain for long-haul heavy trucks that promises fuel savings of 30 to 40... More
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  • EPower Engine Systems; Exploring The Limits Of Hybrid Truck Efficiency 258 comments
    Jan 31, 2013 8:57 AM | about stocks: AXPW

    On Tuesday January 29th I visited ePower Engine Systems with Brad Warneke, an Axion Power International (OTCQB:AXPW) stockholder from Indianapolis who graciously invited me to join him, covered my out-of-pocket costs and paid a discounted day rate for my time. While I've been talking with ePower's CEO Andy Claypole for about three years the site visit was our first face-to-face meeting and the detailed discussions were tremendously educational for me.

    ePower's concept for building a Class 8 Tractor with a hybrid series electric drive started with Jay Bowman, age 57, who describes himself as a "Jack of all trades" and has spent over 30 years making machines work together in manufacturing environments. Jay and Andy met while Jay was working as a consultant to Andy's former employer, the Ventures Group of Nova Chemicals, which had bought Jay's modular building products company. While Andy was skeptical when Jay first talked about his plan to build a hybrid Class 8 Tractor, he quickly saw the light when Jay built a prototype with a 97 horsepower diesel engine mated to a 60 kW generator and a 60 horsepower electric drive motor in a cab-over Mac chassis.

    (click to enlarge)

    Jay's Gen-1 prototype was underpowered, but it got an impressive14 mpg at 35 mph with a 45,000-pound load and served as indisputable proof of concept. Based on those results, Andy joined the team and ePower started working on a Gen-2 prototype with a Peterbuilt chassis that offered more "real estate" for heavier components that could run at highway speeds with an 80,000-pound load.

    Throughout the development process ePower's primary goal has been to explore the outer limits of Class 8 Tractor fuel efficiency by using the smallest possible components to power an 80,000-pound vehicle at highway speeds. The current configuration uses:

    • A 197 horsepower four cylinder John Deere turbo-diesel;
    • A Marathon generator that produces 128 kW at 1,800 RPM;
    • A 150 horsepower Marathon electric drive motor; and
    • An off-the-shelf five-speed automatic transmission.

    The engine is governed to run at a steady 1,800 RPM from the moment it's started until the moment it's turned off. That engine speed is apparently the fuel efficiency and emissions sweet spot and it provides a constant 128 kW of power for the drive and battery systems.

    I made a point of asking about the transmission since the Gen1 prototype didn't have one. Jay explained that electric motors have great instantaneous torque, but torque falls off as motor speed increases. The drive motor they chose for the Gen2 prototype is most efficient at 3,600 RPM. So instead of forcing the motor to operate faster than its optimal speed, the transmission lets them keep everything in balance.

    I took this picture of a spare drive motor and transmission they had sitting in the shop. The plastic chair in the background gives you a rough idea of size. The combination is probably 2 feet in diameter and seven or eight feet long.

    (click to enlarge)

    When Brad and I drilled down into the question of engine size, Jay explained that it would be relatively simple to use a six-cylinder engine with a bigger generator and drive motor, but each substitution would cut fuel economy. Since ePower's primary focus at this point is maximizing fuel economy, they're using small components for the prototypes even though they assume that some operators will be willing to trade a little fuel economy in return for more power in challenging terrain.

    In their description of how the ePower drive works, Andy and Jay explained that the diesel generator running at 1,800 RPM has plenty of power to accelerate an 80,000-pound GVW tractor and trailer from zero to 35 mph, and to power an 80,000-pound truck at 65 mph on level ground. They also explained that without supplemental boost from the battery banks, the truck is a bit of a dog when it comes to accelerating from 35 to 65 mph or climbing hills.

    As I noted earlier, the diesel engine is set to run at a steady state speed of 1,800 RPM, which is the optimal fuel efficiency and emissions point for the engine. That engine speed, in turn, keeps the generator output at a steady 128 kW. The drive motor has first priority on the available power, but any power that isn't used for the drive motor is shunted directly to the battery banks to keep them at an optimal state of charge.

    When the truck is running steady state at highway speeds, the generator has 6 to 8 kW of excess capacity that provides a slow trickle charge to the batteries. When the driver takes his foot off the accelerator, however, the generator output available for battery charging can quickly ramp to 128 kW. When you add regenerative braking current from the drive motor, it's not unusual for the combined system to dump a transitory 650-volt charging current at up to 300 amps (~195 kW) into the battery banks. In other words, the transitory charging currents during braking events are enormous and those currents frequently gave rise to some fairly catastrophic failures with both flooded and AGM batteries.

    While the original Gen2 design used 56 AGM batteries to provide 650 volts of battery boost, Jay decided to increase the number of PbC batteries to 60 so they could keep the batteries at 11-volts and avoid the top end of the PbC's charging curve where the internal resistance increases rapidly. To date, they've limited the cycling range from 11-volts down to about 10-volts, which hasn't put much strain on the batteries. Over the next two weeks they will slowly increase GVW from the current weight of 50,000-pounds to the target weight of 80,000-pounds, and increase the depth of discharge as they reduce the cut-off point into the 5-volt range. They'll also be adding a control chip to the diesel generator that will boost engine speed beyond 1,800 RPM for hill climbing.

    When Jay began to describe the differences he's observed between the PbC batteries and the flooded and AGM batteries he used in earlier prototypes, he explained that the other batteries were always in a state of conflict with his machines. As a result, the machines weren't happy and neither were the batteries. When he started talking about the PbC he got a big smile as he explained that his machines are "happy" with the PbC and the PbC seems to be "happy" with his machines. The conflicts and tensions he's observed with other types of batteries simply don't exist with the PbC batteries. Jay's reserving judgment until he's had a chance to really punish the PbC batteries with a deep discharge and heavy recharge, but he's clearly a man who thinks he's found the batteries his system needs.

    While the PbC batteries were delivered in mid-December, ePower experienced a number of component failures that delayed the installation and testing. The first problem was an over-voltage spike from the generator that fried the control electronics. Then they had some minor wiring issues followed by a capacitor failure in the drive motor. While each of these problems introduced a delay, none of the problems was directly or indirectly attributable to the PbC batteries. By the time Brad and I arrived, the problems had been resolved and the tractor was fully operational, as we experienced first hand during our brief test rides.

    My test ride in the ePower tractor was quite an experience.

    The first thing that surprised me was there was no change in engine pitch when the truck was sitting at a stoplight, accelerating or decelerating. The driver explained that the engine is governed to run at 1,800 RPM and it never changes. They apparently plan to add both idle and idle elimination functionality that will kick in if the truck isn't moving and the batteries are fully charged, but for now they view it as a minor issue. They also plan to add electronic cruise control to improve efficiency even further, but they don't want to increase electrical complexity until they've finished characterization work on the batteries.

    The second thing that surprised me was the quickness of the tractor's acceleration from a dead stop. It moved smoothly through the gears and didn't feel all that different from riding in an SUV. While part of the quickness was undoubtedly due to the absence of a trailer, the driver explained that he had to be careful in heavy traffic because other drivers frequently underestimate the speed and responsiveness of the tractor. He also explained that even with an 80,000 GVW, the tractor was extraordinarily quick because of the electric motor's low-end torque.

    The last subject Brad and I drilled down into was the question of ePower's retrofit cost and the incremental cost of PbC batteries.

    Andy explained that they landed on a $70,000 price point a couple years ago because they expected the ePower retrofit to compete with a conventional five year major overhaul that cost about $35,000. While the cost of a conventional major overhaul has risen sharply in the last couple years and can run up to $60,000 for a rebuilt Tier Three engine, ePower has stuck with the $70,000 price point because its the number they've discussed with potential users and they don't want to change their pricing without a lot more proof of performance than they have today. When you account for the incremental cost of the ePower retrofit and the incremental salvage value of the old engine that won't be replaced, ePower reckons that the cost of its retrofit is basically a wash when compared with the cost of a rebuild.

    A conventional rebuild, of course, won't offer the 50% fuel savings that ePower expects from their hybrid drive.

    The only complaint ePower has about the PbC battery is pricing. The PbC batteries cost about twice as much s the AGM batteries they used on the last version and three times as much as the flooded batteries they used in the Gen1 prototype. That being said, ePower originally expected a two-year replacement cycle on their AGM batteries and they think a five-year replacement cycle is possible for the PbC. Since their prior experience with AGM batteries showed that problems started to arise within six months and got pretty severe within a year, they think the PbC will be worth the price premium if it has the durability and service life Axion expects.

    I'm sure I've overlooked any number of issues readers will want to explore in greater detail and I encourage you to ask questions. I'll provide the best answers I can and hopefully Brad will chime in with more color when he gets a chance. I was very impressed with what I saw during our afternoon at ePower and think this could be a tremendous market for the PbC.

    Disclosure: I am long OTCQB:AXPW.

    Additional disclosure: I'm a former director of Axion and I was paid a discounted day rate for visiting ePower with Mr. Warneke. In the future, I hope to be retained as legal counsel for ePower.

    Stocks: AXPW
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Comments (258)
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  • Lots to digest. I love it!


    Its clear that this application needs the PbC ("some fairly catastrophic failures with both flooded and AGM batteries.")
    And so far so good.


    Its going to call for yet more patience, as clearly this is not yet a product that is ready for market. But I'm very impressed by ePower's ability to innovate and find what works, clearly they are not limited by conventional wisdom when it comes to hybridization!
    31 Jan 2013, 09:17 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » ePower is thinking they'd like to do about a dozen trucks this year and maybe fifty next year, but the economics are so good that I see a real risk of insatiable demand if the PbC batteries work as anticipated.
    31 Jan 2013, 09:41 AM Reply Like
  • >JP ... I get the feeling that we might hear more about a product launch in the March-April time frame. Is that a good guess?


    I do hope you told them about battery price moderating with scale over time. Still, if the performance is as good as expected and last even close to a rebuild cycle it should be a topic just to grouse about. Cheap batteries just get cheap results. The price of the rebuild sounds about right to me but a trucker friend was put off about it and said it only made sense to him in a new glider chassis. Alas, people always want improvements at cheaper prices. We'll see ... soon, I hope.
    31 Jan 2013, 09:36 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » ePower would like to do a PR tour with the truck that will include the NTEA Green Truck Summit in early March.



    At the same time, they had some unexpected delays and the owner is anxious to get his truck back to work. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the show.


    One of the things we talked about was the idea that they'd priced the retrofit too low. With conventional Tier Three rebuilds running $50,000 to $60,000 and offering no future fuel savings, offering $36,000 a year in fuel savings for $10,000 to $20,000 in incremental cost (before the salvage value of the old engine and transmission) strikes me as an unreasonably low price point.
    31 Jan 2013, 09:47 AM Reply Like
  • >JP ... Did they mention any performance differences with the high voltage cabinet inverters. I worry some about this because (without going to the documentation) it was this component that led to the batteries burning on the Green Goat. I suspect this has been one of the harder problems involved with the Norfolk Southern BE program.


    It is nice to hear that the Axion PbC looks to handle the transient spikes, it is the conversion equipment that causes me doubts since the capacitance characteristic is a new wrinkle and not included in current "off-the-shelf" equipment. I get the sense ePower might suspect the same by backing into the SOC & full recharge regimen. We don't need any fires.
    31 Jan 2013, 09:59 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Jay mentioned that he first considered the series hybrid idea in the late 90s and early 00s, but the power conversion and control electronics were too crude and too costly. Now he believes he has a far more robust system than he could have gotten a decade ago at a reasonable price point.


    Axion's engineers have apparently been very involved in making sure that ePower's electronics will play nicely with the PbC. I think both companies view this as a great opportunity that must be carefully nurtured.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:07 AM Reply Like
  • RE: NTEA Green Truck Summit:


    Over 20 Hybrid and Alternative Fuel Vehicles Available for Test Driving at the Work Truck Show 2013
    Source: NTEA
    Created: January 22, 2013


    More than 20 commercially viable hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles will be available for attendees to test drive during the Work Truck Show's Green Truck Ride-and-Drive event.



    Twitter for the show:


    Crosspoint Kinetics will be there for you ZBB fans :-)
    31 Jan 2013, 11:03 AM Reply Like
  • Great stuff JP. Thanks to Brad and you.


    I saw there was some issues with climbing hills still. Would Florida be a good market to start in while the kinks of climbing hills is sorted out?
    31 Jan 2013, 09:56 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Jay is pretty confident that increasing the depth of discharge on the PbC and chipping the engine to allow higher RPMs will resolve the hill climbing problem. He said he'd know for sure within a couple weeks. I think the entire Gulf Coast region will be a great proving ground for the ePower hybrid.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:01 AM Reply Like
  • >JP ... Agree. There is a lot of trucking in the San Antonio to Miami coastal region and not more than 100 foot of elevation with a few hills in Alabama & Florida panhandle.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:08 AM Reply Like
  • Very informative report, JP. Thanks.


    It is pretty clear ePower's product is not as fully developed as I had thought. As DR suggests, a product launch in late March or April might be in the works.


    There is a disconnect between "the PbC batteries were delivered in mid-December" and TG's November cc remarks unless the PbCs were shipped via "slow boat to China". TG claimed shipment on November 7.


    Was any discussion of the PbC battery group size and voltage or of the AGM batteries they replaced?
    31 Jan 2013, 10:25 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Any timing errors are mine and mine alone. The only point of that particular discussion is that the delays have had nothing to do with Axion or the PbC batteries, something ePower reiterated a couple times during the meetings.


    The first battery delivery to ePower was for one of the two existing Gen2 trucks. Assuming the first installation goes well, the second truck will be promptly refitted with PbC batteries. From there the speed of the sales ramp will be entirely dependent on demand. ePower would like to take its time and only retrofit a dozen trucks this year, quadrupling to 50 next year. They also want to train fleet owners and service organizations to do their own wrench work using kits that are drop-shipped by ePower.


    ePower is using 12 volt PbCs to replace 12 volt AGMs. I'm assuming that they're using the same Group 30HT form factor as Norfolk Southern, but I didn't specifically ask.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:41 AM Reply Like
  • D-inv,


    Jan/December (or November) doesn't matter too much to me; I'm just glad to have our resident numero uno Axionista actually riding around in a vehicle that includes a PbC =)


    This could be the start of a bigger theme - imo.
    31 Jan 2013, 01:06 PM Reply Like
  • Sales = quality product + exposure to the market.


    I would suggest a lot of overtime to get a couple of demo trucks available for the March show.
    31 Jan 2013, 02:06 PM Reply Like
  • baz ... we think similarly re-riding around in a PbC populated vehicle.


    I noted the timing disconnect from investor expectations point of view. This is end-January. Batteries shipped in early November vice December document a time requirement of two months (instead of one) to simply transition from an AGM battery pack to a PbC pack.


    It is great to know that the PbC itself did not contribute to the delay (relative to prior expectations) to date. But, the info also drives home greater awareness of brownfield risk in moving forward.


    I rate application market development to date as akin to that of a human infant that has just transitioned from leaning on coffee table, end table, chairs, walls, etc. for balance support to first half-step-with-stretch transit between two familiar supports. Boosting VW to 80K from 50K is a full step or two transit. I see increasing depth of discharge down to 5V as free form, solo wobble into the wild blue yonder.


    A second ePower order for PbCs before the end of the current quarter is possible, but next quarter is more probable IMO. I don't look to the truck motive power application to help anymore with upcoming financing than it already has, or for any noticeable revenue until 2H'13.
    31 Jan 2013, 02:22 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » D-Inv, the Gen2 ePower trucks have been hauling 80,000 pound loads at highway speeds for at least six months. They've had a ton of battery problems, but the basic systems work. Ramping from 50,000 GVW to 80,000 GVW on a vehicle that has already demonstrated the ability to haul 80,000 GVW is nothing more than properly testing a new battery system that's already proven its merit in three years of testing by a first tier railroad.


    You're talking about fitting a sprinter with a new pair of track shoes. We're not teaching him to walk.
    31 Jan 2013, 02:39 PM Reply Like
  • "They've had a ton of battery problems, but the basic systems work."


    Isn't that analogous to diaper changes? FLABs and AGMS were bath water. ePower kept the baby, but needed to use several sanitary wipes before re-dressing it.


    ePower Engines has the makings for sprinter class performance in my opinion. Otherwise, it is doubtful I would still hold Axion stock at this juncture. But, at present ePower has a prototype in continuing development which will continue at least through drawdown of PbC charge to 5V level. Availability of Axion technical people to work with ePower heightens confidence that addition of 30K lbs mass increase in regen braking stress on the batteries can be incident free and muster the Gen3 truck through preschool. Discharging the PbCs to 5V successfully will prep for middle school. Ordering batteries for a second vehicle might be entry to high school and track team membership. Building a fleet of 12 - 20 Gen3 ePower tractors this year could signal fitting new shoes for a sprinter in search of an athletic scholarship.


    To be clear, I am quite disappointed the PbC equipped ePower tractor development is no further along than it is. That the full, already identified ideal operating range of the battery has not been implemented and test driven. I'm confident I'm not alone in expecting one-to-two months empirical operating data on a PbC populated class 8 truck by this time. But, opportunity to collect data requisite to commercial sales remains to be realized.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:31 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » ePower is not in a data limited business. They have several truckers standing in line wanting to have conversions done but ePower is not willing to go forward until they believe their battery problems are solved.


    OEMs want reams of data before they make commercialization decisions. Guys who operate fleets of hundreds to thousands of Class 8 tractors are often willing to roll the dice on a couple prototypes even if they're not fully documented to an OEM's satisfaction.


    Axion is used to dealing with OEM's who won't put their name on a product without mountains of data. Businessmen who are trying to impact their bottom line today are often far less risk averse, particularly if they have to spend the money anyway.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:38 PM Reply Like
  • "Businessmen who are trying to impact their bottom line today are often far less risk averse, particularly if they have to spend the money anyway. "


    I don't doubt that for an instant, JP. They are not worried about possibly large, but undefined, product liability risks. But, they are successful business people not prone (in large numbers) to throwing $,thousands into endeavors without comfortable expectation of return on investment in due course. I don't expect many operators would be willing to commit $100K+ to a tractor rebuild to hybrid without anything more than a month or two of data. IMO, more solid data will be needed for ePower to achieve any market scale. And I expect that data will have to be strong enough to counter the negative performance PR generated with Gen1 and Gen2.


    OTOH, let the truck operator community observe 10 - 20 firms try, and add, to entry ePower hybrids and ePower could need to fly (not sprint) to meet demand.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:25 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Their first customer bought two and he had to fight his way to the head of the line by arguing that he owned his own tow truck for times when something went wrong. The first purchaser also rebuilds about 30 trucks a year in his 150 unit fleet so a $140,000 gamble that could save him millions a year in fuel costs seemed like a pretty good risk.


    The ePower retrofit is not a idea that owner-operators will consider without a good deal more data, but the hundreds of mid-sized fleet operators are another story altogether – particularly when they can confirm performance data with a call to an independent peer.


    Axion wants to sell a bozillion batteries a year. ePower wants to do a dozen trucks this year, about 50 next year and then take the growth rate up a couple notches. With a potential user population of a million trucks, those goals are not unreasonable.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:37 PM Reply Like
  • John: IMO there's a facet of the entrepreneurs' personality that many folks fail to factor in. The folks who started and may still run these companies are *not* risk averse in the extreme. There's a little bit of a "cowboy mentality" that allowed them to start out in the first place. And it likely helped get them to their current status when the xth gamble paid off and offset the ones that didn't do so well.


    Folks that spend their days just avoiding the risks have difficulty understanding this sort of behavior.


    But it's exactly what I think will serve Axion well by accelerating the perception of viability for the company, as opposed to some rather lethargic entities that shall go unnamed here.


    Anyway, this wasn''t to say small O/Os will consider it, just to highlight my opinion that larger owners *will* easily consider these risky moves as a "normal" part of the success they achieve.


    And the early owners you mention support that. This is something many folks may not understand.


    31 Jan 2013, 05:49 PM Reply Like
  • Truckers and small to medium fleet owners. Talk about an entrepreneurial renegade group of people. Not a big problem selling some level of managed risk to this group. They live it all the time.




    PS On the opposite side of the coin don't come through the door with shiny fluff and BS.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:54 PM Reply Like
  • I am an R&D guy who spent 40 years developing new products, but in a somewhat different field. Most of the products I worked on ended up making lots of money for decades, but they almost always took longer to get to the profit making stage than the accounting department demanded and the marketing department promised.


    I have now morphed into a small fry investor who recently bought a little of Axion stock based on John P.'s analyses in this blog. I do understand why many comments here reflect a sense of urgency to get some sales for a company that will shortly run out of money. I fully expect that another dilution of stock will be necessary in the next few weeks. A bit sad, but as basically an R&D person I understand that development and customer evaluation often follows its own schedule. That said, I am impressed with what I am reading here. It seems that ePower will have a real business with hybrid trucks before very long and that Axion's batts will play a significant role. Even with some more dilution, it seems that what is still a quite speculative investment in Axion has a very decent chance of strong payback with some patience. J.P. I am sure is not always correct, yet I have bought into his fine, upfront analysis. I do hope he finally makes a lot and that I get a tiny fraction of this following his perceptions.
    31 Jan 2013, 09:54 PM Reply Like
  • D-inv
    I'll state I feel pretty much the same as you.
    I still feel there will be more help to the share price by the raise, but not near as much as I hoped.


    I am encouraged things are going along, just not as fast as I thought.
    31 Jan 2013, 09:56 PM Reply Like
  • John: Great summary!


    I'm curious as to the battery configuration. Is it one long string or a set of substrings. What prompted this is wondering about the power provision and charging bias: more towards big volts and few amps or the other way around?


    Was the configuration chosen due to restrictions inherent in the electronic control components or some benefit inherent in configuring the batteries the way they do?


    Is the current (pun intended) motor capable of taking the full power available from the combined IC engine, battery and control electronics system? If not, have they considered others? Is there even an anticipated need for that to be considered? I guess yes since they are considering "re-chipping" the IC.


    Last, encourage them to take a camera inside the cab on one of the drives and post the recording - I'd love to "get the feel" of it.


    Thanks to you and Brad for the visit and report!


    31 Jan 2013, 10:42 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » With a 150 kW drive motor operating at ~650 volts my guess would be a single string but I didn't ask. What they want to do is use the batteries to make up the difference between the rated output of the generator and the maximum input potential of the drive motor.


    The test drive videos of their Gen2 vehicle on YouTube give you a pretty good feel for the quickness from the chase car. It scoots.


    I did a little 28 second video when they started the truck so that people could hear what the engine sounds like at 1,800 RPM, but decided that filming the test would probably be boring. Maybe Brad was smarter than me.

    31 Jan 2013, 11:04 AM Reply Like
  • Good article JP, in the side of the electric motor my impression is that having smaller ones bt 2 instead of one could be interesting, in electric motion bigger not necessary means better, having smaller ones in the wheels or the axle means that torque is still higher and the effort is more distributed.


    In this case we are talking of re-manufacturing the truck but if they decide to build their own a lot can be done, frankly I don´t know why Peterbilt, Kenworth, tec, are not doing this.


    31 Jan 2013, 03:36 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » A lot of smart folks are working on wheel motors but I don't know that anybody's even close to one that's big enough or durable enough for heavy trucking.
    31 Jan 2013, 03:50 PM Reply Like
  • John: There's a decent reason, I think, for not doing wheel motors, beyond the complexity and up-front cost. Weight. Not only is load capacity reduced, but suspension needs adjustment (beefing up?) and more weight slinging around (up and down) is harder on the drive-train components.


    There's also increased exposure to damage from road debris, off-road excursions, etc.


    31 Jan 2013, 03:57 PM Reply Like
  • All: A 650 volt nominal supply voltage and 60 batteries requires a single series string, with each battery charged to around 10.8V. Call it 11V per battery. This is consistent with what JP reported the ePower spokesman said.


    If the actively controlled current limit from the batteries is set to 300A by the motor controller, 650V x 300A = 195kW. Or about 260Hp. That's already well over the motor rating of 150kW. I will assume the motor can be over driven for short periods of time if its internal temperature is monitored.


    Given that the generator can add another 125kW, the overall system seems more then capable of keeping up with the other trucks when they come off the line ;-)
    31 Jan 2013, 05:39 PM Reply Like
  • Very encouraging news! Thanks to John and Brad for giving us such a good look at where ePower is on their project.


    It sounds like they are being very methodical in testing the batteries' capabilities: "To date, they've limited the cycling range from 11-volts down to about 10-volts, which hasn't put much strain on the batteries. Over the next two weeks they will slowly increase GVW from the current weight of 50,000-pounds to the target weight of 80,000-pounds, and increase the depth of discharge as they reduce the cut-off point into the 5-volt range."


    Recall the graph for internal resistance of the PbC we talked about earlier in the week from Dr. Buiel's comments:


    They have barely touched that sweet spot (6 to 11V) if they are only cycling between 10 and 11 volts. There is much more capacity for deeper discharge.


    Last summer we talked about how the PbC could tolerate up to 400A charging inputs, as I recall. So the plan to use regenerative braking and dump 300A back into the batteries is well within the capabilities of the Axion battery.


    We have only just begun to learn what the PbC is capable of in the right engineers' hands. What an elegant solution!
    31 Jan 2013, 10:44 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I'm very encouraged by everything I saw. Now we just have to await confirmation that the PbC can handle the strains. As near as I can tell the ePower duty cycle is a very close analog to the NS OTR duty cycle.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:06 AM Reply Like
  • "The PbC batteries cost about twice as much s the AGM batteries they used on the last version."


    Sounds like our speculation about price was a bit off. I recall discussions that the price would be quite close to what an expensive AGM cost (Tim E had provided data on AGM cost)
    31 Jan 2013, 10:57 AM Reply Like
  • D Lane: Recall that Tim referenced the absolute "top of the line" batteries. We don't know what they used before? Our price speculation might still be in the ballpark.


    31 Jan 2013, 11:02 AM Reply Like
  • Hopefully Axion put some margin into their numbers. Also I'd bet the AGM weren't top of the line if they can come in 50% under the PbC. Ultimately people will pay for performance. I hope we keep hearing success stories with the Epower testing.
    31 Jan 2013, 01:09 PM Reply Like
  • Still, having PbC batts with a big price differential is dangerous, Lithium batts failed not because of technical issues but price.


    If AXPW is thinking they are the Apple of the batteries world....think again.


    31 Jan 2013, 03:41 PM Reply Like
  • >Advill ... It's a little early in the life of Axion's PbC to say it is expensive or cheap. Of course it is not going to be competitive with commodity product offerings from other battery manufacturers because it is not produced in commercial quantity into (and for) commercial products. You might just want to give some time to find a price point.
    31 Jan 2013, 03:51 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Advill>, I wrote an article a couple weeks ago about economies of scale in new product manufacturing. The basic rule is that the marginal cost of value added manufacturing activities declines by 20% to 30% with every doubling in cumulative production volume. Since the bill of materials for a PbC is not tremendously different from the bill of materials for an AGM battery, most of the price differential is "value added manufacturing activities" and while Axion won't talk about future economies until they're realized because conservatism is in their DNA, significant cost savings can be reasonably expected.


    The problem with lithium-ion batteries is that most of the value added manufacturing activities have been in widespread use for a couple decades and the best companies in the world have already exploited most of the potential savings.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:10 PM Reply Like
  • Exciting news, as with any new concept or prototype some trial and error accompanied by a lot of tweaking is expected. Based on your visit, comments and their history with other battery types, sounds to me like they are on board and moving forward with confidence in the PbC. Are they continuing to look at other batteries and concepts, or is it your opinion they have made a concept "selection" and are traveling over the PbC highway?
    31 Jan 2013, 11:10 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » As far as I know they're not looking at any other solutions. If the PbC fails to meet ePower's expectations, their "Plan D" solution will probably be some sort of battery-supercapacitor combination, but think they'd have a hard time finding enough space for supercapacitors.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:20 AM Reply Like
  • JP & BW - Thank you. This furthers you definition of Generation 3 batteries, if I remember your nomenclature correctly.


    Truly, PbC is the solution to a problem that is awaiting discovery by people with a specific problem: the necessity of deep charge/deep discharge...power storage and power transfer, in order to make their products work or work more efficiently.


    I believe most investors do not understand that PbC is not 'just another battery, like all the other batteries out there'. These people may focus on weight or price and think 'well, interesting, but I'll wait for something really new'.


    These investors do not understand PbC isn't a replacement for other batteries, because other batteries:
    1) Will not accept charge or discharge at the same rates, and/or
    2) Do not self regulate in certain important ways, and/or
    3) Have more ambient temperature safety issues, and/or
    4) Need much complex electronic control systems.


    PbC is a different kind of animal. So, when people begin to work with it, such as BMW or ePower, or NS, a whole world of opportunities opens up....and with those opportunities a whole new set of problems to resolve. For instance, anciliary machinery has never had to deal with the PbC's power characteristics and must be modified. So, the solution takes time. But, in that solution comes game changing products.


    In a few years, the early Axion investors will look back and wonder why more people didn't get it and invest earlier. PbC will usher in products that we need, but were never thought possible. For instance, a battery powered heavy duty truck that gets such good mileage that trucking becomes much more profitable and that makes the early adopters more competitive. Why?


    The rates are set based on traditionally much poorer mileage; the ePower trucks and NS locomotives present a tremendous competitive advantage...and a lot of extra $$$ in the pocket of the early adopters.


    When I was in the music business, I was part of a great blues band, but we were never hit the big time. Looking back, I see I didn't understand that it wasn't all about our product...the great music. It was about: Getting our product in front of people who needed our product to make money for their company.


    In like manner, PbC is great music. Axion is in the early stages of getting their product in front of people whose success depends on solving the problem that the PbC solves.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:16 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » The process can be frustratingly slow as users test the hell out of the PbC before making a decision, but that's to be expected with a totally different device. One thing's for sure, we're a lot closer to the end of the trail today than we were three or four years ago and the fact that the PbC hasn't had a major setback is very promising.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:23 AM Reply Like
  • "In a few years, the early Axion investors will look back and wonder why more people didn't get it and invest earlier."


    :-) And then some might just be happy thinking it was worth the wait.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:01 PM Reply Like
  • Hat tip to Brad and John for taking this adventurous trip and sharing their findings. Great write up John.


    John, Could you possibly put in some technical terms your comments about how the power/conversion package in the application played not so well and better with the LABs / PbC batteries respectively? Just some bullet points possibly? Also when does the braking resistor come into play
    31 Jan 2013, 11:33 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Their data logging with the flooded and AGM batteries was not as good as it will be with the PbC batteries and the problems they encountered with flooded and AGM devices were generally discovered after the fact when they found a puddle of molten lead and plastic where a battery should have been.


    The resistor brakes are used whenever the combination of generator charge and regenerative braking charge would be too much for the batteries to handle. For example, some very bad things can happen if you try to pour 128 kw of transitory current into a bank of AGM batteries.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:52 AM Reply Like
  • Thanks John.


    Also perhaps if they are braking and the PbC bank is filled they would use the resistive load. This would make the braking distances more consistent in all instances. I was initially just wondering if they still had more power during certain conditions then the PbC bank could handle. Maybe they are still playing nice during extreme charging as well/ I'd guess they are still anxious after their AGM melt down. { Did they have to contact the NTSB or the NRC and declare an event? :( }
    31 Jan 2013, 12:03 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I don't think so, but the truck did have to limp along for 300 miles without battery boost.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:15 PM Reply Like
  • All the more reason to add coasting and SS. In due time. That will be the easier part once they have the energy storage system "playing nice" with the power/converter package.


    Still think it wouldn't take very long for this thing to jump right to the new vehicle market once it passes statistical muster in the conversion market. Why delay the savings to end of life for the vehicle. Plus the efficiency will be higher with a full redesign. Also, in due time.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:23 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » One of the standard risk factors in every new business is the risk of managing growth if it comes too fast. This is one of those ideas that could grow very quickly if it catches hold and spreads to the OEMs. So far the statistical data has been at a lower level than Axion is accustomed to in its OEM relations, but they seem to be helping ePower in that respect with better data retrieval and analysis.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:28 PM Reply Like
  • John: Since Paccar (KW & Peterbuilt) is already testing (CPST), one on the track and the other being built, we know they are seeking alternatives to "conventional" now.


    It wouldn't surprise me if they have something in the works like ePower is pursuing. If not, I suspect they would jump fast when ePower starts showing sudden growth. The other "bigs" would probably be in there shortly too.


    With the RRs taking noticeable parts of trucking biz, all the trucking outfits will be seeking ways to both gain back share and work with the new paradigm the RRs present with their intermodal business.


    Being able to promise a higher percentage of drivers "home every (other) night" with shorter hauls (to RR yards in many cases?) and reduced costs for fuel might be the ticket for them.


    Just thinking out loud,
    31 Jan 2013, 12:39 PM Reply Like
  • So how long till some sort of JV with somebody (Google?) with mapping data, computation power, logistics or route mapping (UPS/FEDEX?) where you know exactly where you are and when the next hill or coasting opportunity is coming as (optional!!!!!) inputs to the BMS? This is part of what NSC's LEADER does, right? Google might do it (somebody's sabatical?) just for the publicity!


    All on the "road" to the driverless truck (and more unemployment)?


    Don't know what the grant/matching-funds market is like for this kind of thing these days ... but in the old days this kind of systems development request would be a layup application in the right hands.


    Wish I knew more about what the big boy trucking firms do w.r.t GPS now and what systems are available to independents through truck manufacturers.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:45 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks John. I think you're right on the opportunity point.


    And it's good that Axion, with it's more mature relationships in large industry, is helping ePower on the data collection side. Partnerships that are built on mutual respect are great things. I see enough opportunity here to make it well worth Axion's efforts for sure.
    31 Jan 2013, 01:16 PM Reply Like
  • John is the puddle reference poetic license?
    31 Jan 2013, 02:14 PM Reply Like
  • wtb: I am not holding my breath waiting for the guvmint to support driverless trucks. That would threaten jobs in the truck freight industry and upset certain unions.


    Big Rail would also be unhappy with reduced man-hours/ton-mile for trucks, since they now have a real advantage.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:58 PM Reply Like
  • >SCH ... agree. My grant comments were originally written w.r.t to the mapping/elevation data serving as input to the BSS in the easily sold vein of reducing the use of fossil fuels. The driverless trucks got thrown in as a "late edit/joke ...
    1 Feb 2013, 10:14 AM Reply Like
  • Jon,


    If the 60 PbC's were discharged 20% on a hill, approximately how long would it take to recharge them at highway speed with a 6-8kw trickle charge?. Sorry I am kw/amp challenged.


    31 Jan 2013, 11:44 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » The 60 PbCs probably have 30 kWh of capacity so a 20% recharge might take an hour with a 6 kW trickle charge, or less than three minutes if there's a matching downhill that lets the generator pour 128 kW into the battery array.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:47 AM Reply Like
  • I think we cannot emphasize enough this particular difference between the PbC and conventional LAB or AGM.


    The ability to accept very high current out of the generator and motor for fast recharge on the downhill leg, after expending kW climbing the hill, is what makes the PbC completely different and game changing compared to other lead chemistries.


    The ability to not heat up and combust, and to operate from the arctic to the tropics without sophisticated temperature regulating systems, is what differentiates it from the expensive Li-ion alternatives that have comparable charge acceptance.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:35 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks for your response.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:53 AM Reply Like
  • A 197 horsepower four cylinder John Deere turbo-diesel;
    A Marathon generator that produces 128 kW at 1,800 RPM;
    A 150 horsepower Marathon electric drive motor; and
    An off-the-shelf five-speed automatic transmission.


    John: Can you walk us technically challenged folks through how the above works in the key scenarios? For example, when climbing a hill/accelerating are we talking about 197hp (soon to be more) from the turbo-diesel engine passed through the transmission plus 150hp from the electric drive motor (powered by the PbC batteries)?


    If that is the case, aren't we talking about 350hp while a standard rig is powered by a 600hp engine? It would still seem to be dramatically underpowered.


    Also, I was very, very happy to read that ePower expects the batteries to last 4-5 years. How often are they assuming the batteries will be rejuvenated via the 36 hour recharge that Dr. Buiel mentioned?


    Finally, the $36k in annual fuel savings implies the tractor will be operated for approximately 200,000 miles per year ($3.50/gallon for diesel and increase from 6.7 to 10mpg). I had thought that typical number was 125,000 miles per year.


    To me, this last point isn't all that important. I think that with essentially no incremental cost for the ePower refit and the batteries likely lasting for most, if not the entire life of the refit, it will make this a no brainer for trucking companies. The big issue in my mind goes back to my first question. If drivers think the rig is underpowered they won't want to drive it. My suspicion is that in the end, ePower is going to have to go to the V-6 engine option that you mentioned. Did you receive any information about the cost, power and fuel savings associated with that option?


    Thanks very much for a great report!
    31 Jan 2013, 12:35 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » There is no direct link from the engine to the drive wheels because the ePower hybrid is a series electric drive.


    Just like a railroad locomotive the engine runs at a steady speed and drives a generator that puts out 128 kW at 1,800 RPM.


    Electricity from the generator goes through the power control electronics to a 150 hp electric drive motor that can probably accommodate something on the order of 160 or 170 kW. Any electricity that's not being used by the drive motor gets dumped into the battery array.


    When the tractor needs to accelerate or comes to a hill, the engine continues to generate 128 kW and the batteries kick in another 32 to 42 kW of transitory power for acceleration or climbing.


    The current industry average for Class 8 tractors is 5 mpg. The 6.7 mpg number is the DOE's Supertruck Program goal. For 125,000 miles a year a typical truck will burn 25,000 gallons of diesel while an ePower hybrid will burn 12,500 gallons. At $3 that works out to a savings of $37,500 per year. At prices above $4, the savings are closer to $50,000.


    The ePower hybrid is not a mountain goat and will never be the choice of independent owner-operators who want to jam the Rockies at 70 mph. For fleet owners who haul freight and obsess over fuel costs, insurance premiums and ensuring that their drivers obey the rules at all times, the ePower tractor is adequate for the job and may well be the cheapest solution around. It's also way quicker than a conventional truck with the same load because the series electric drive has so much low end torque.


    ePower will ultimately do what the customers require, but the vast majority of customers will go for the cheapest way to haul a load from Point A to Point B and the driver's preferences will have very little value in that calculus.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:55 PM Reply Like
  • "It's also way quicker than a conventional truck with the same load because the series electric drive has so much low end torque."


    That should work quite well for short haul delivery vehicles in urban/suburban use and not so well where 35 - 55 mph transition periods are more prevalent.
    31 Jan 2013, 01:04 PM Reply Like
  • apmarshall, there definitely are some funny numbers being quoted in spasms of enthusiasm.


    A serial hybrid, by definition, is only powered by its electric motor. I, too, think a 150 hp electric motor will be unsatisfactory. Something like 400+ hp is more appropriate.


    The "200,000 miles per year" is illegal with a single driver. A 2000 hour work year at 60 mph is 120,000 miles, and don't forget rest stops, refueling, loading and unloading cargo, and maintenance. A serial hybrid will have it greatest impact in stop and go traffic, not flatland cruising at 60+ mph.


    I am highly skeptical of the huge (absurb?) improvements in mpg and operating savings quoted. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," as Carl Sagan said. As much as I would like ePower to be a large user of PbC batteries, the claims and data so far are in the same category as HOH, gapless sparkplugs, miracle gasoline additives, and just one step above perpetual motion machines.


    Don't misunderstand me - a well-engineered serial hybrid should work and tow 80,000 lbs with a smaller diesel engine. My skepticism is that it reduces fuel consumption by 50%, and also maintains highway speeds comparable to current trucks in non-mountainous terrain. The phenomenal claims are being made EXCLUDING start-stop or APU opportunities. Sixty HT30 PbCs adds about 4500 lbs.


    From memory, dropping speed from 60 mph to 30 mph is about a 1/3 improvement in fuel economy if the engine and transmission are appropriately sized and geared. Driving slower is not a great breakthru.


    Everything I read about ePower smacks of hype, not science. Sorry, fellas. I look forward to some hard data to prove me wrong.
    31 Jan 2013, 01:25 PM Reply Like
  • God forbid any company we are associated with is agressive with their PR and claims.
    31 Jan 2013, 01:34 PM Reply Like
  • JP, something seems to be wrong with the power calculations. A 150 hp motor = c. 112 kw motor. (with a few % variance depending on the motor efficiency). Overloading the motor, say climbing a hill, will increase energy consumption and make it overheat, but does not increase energy output significantly.


    If the generator is constantly putting out 128 kw, there never is any demand on the batteries. The motor cannot utilize it.


    If the electric motor was 300 hp ( c. 224 kw), the 195 hp generator (128 kw) can maintain steady operations on the flats, and use 100kw battery power for 10 or 15 minutes to get up short hills.
    31 Jan 2013, 02:17 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Rick, 400 to 600 hp is typical in the trucking industry, but that doesn't change the fact that it only takes about 120 hp to move an 80,000 pound load at highway speeds. The big diesel engines are sized for the torque required to put a tractor-trailer in motion and get it up to speed. With battery boosted electric drive, the plentiful torque lets you deal with a much smaller engine that consumes far less fuel.


    The average train in the US uses series electric drive to move 400 ton miles per gallon. In comparison, trucks in the US average 130 ton miles per gallon. The ePower system moves truck performance a little closer to rail by using the same drive technology. Since I believe skepticism is always a good thing, I've asked ePower to put me directly in touch with the owner of the Gen2 prototypes.
    31 Jan 2013, 02:21 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks Rick. I can go back to sleep now.
    31 Jan 2013, 02:30 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Rick>, I pulled the power numbers from a presentation I got from a VC in Lyon France. It's entirely possible that an error worked its way into the calculations that I don't have the engineering chops to argue one way or the other. The drive motor may very well be bigger than 150 hp, which would make sense because your power use calculation at 150 hp ties well with their explanation that the generator typically has 8 to 10 kW of headroom that can be used to trickle charge the batteries.
    31 Jan 2013, 02:33 PM Reply Like
  • For us to doubt " Jack of all trades " at this time is not very exciting. Just don't forget that Jay is not a one man show. He is supported also by Axion and other techies. Important thing is, he is " putting his money where his mouth is ". He is using his own money to pursue his own ideas. He would be less than smart if he did not believe strongly that it would work. Even if his ideas don't pan out. so what ? Axion's involvement is obviously sanctioned by Vanni, TG and other Tech staff. It would be ludicrous to think that they are so incompetent to support an idea which is as flawed as implied here. If that were the case, what are we, Axionistas, doing here ?


    Are we smarter than ePower ? Can we redesign his gig for him and guaranteed to work at no cost to him ? If we can, we are guaranteed tremendous number of batteries per year in sales. If not, lets just wait a little while and see where the test data leads us. After all, I believe that they are almost down the stretch now. Just need to compile the data for them to go forward.


    jmho !
    31 Jan 2013, 02:49 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks for the contrasting viewpoint Rick. It is very valuable.
    In support of what you are saying, every other series hybrid I know of is targeting urban drive cycles with frequent stops to take advantage of braking regen. I have read that parallel hybrids are superior for drive cycles featuring fewer stops. . .


    Since ePower is using a transmission, maybe it is a parallel hybrid?
    31 Jan 2013, 03:07 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I don't know of any other series hybrid electric vehicles. There are battery dominant electric vehicles with range extenders like the Fisker Karma and the e-trucks from Balqon, but I haven't seen any other engine dominant series electric vehicles with battery boost.


    If you have a couple references that would be great.
    31 Jan 2013, 03:10 PM Reply Like
  • John,


    Great article. Above you state, "[s]ince their prior experience with AGM batteries showed that problems started to arise within six months and got pretty severe within a year"


    Do they have any experience with AGM systems pulling 80,000 lb tractors at 65 mph and associated mpg numbers or are the only numbers from pulling 45,000 lbs at 35 mph?
    31 Jan 2013, 03:12 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » ePower's Gen1 prototype only pulled 45,000 pounds.


    Both of the Gen2 prototypes were bought by a trucking company in Iowa that has been running them with 80,000 pound GVWs for several months.


    The only problems the owner has reported are increasingly frequent battery issues and lackluster performance on hills.


    Between the changeover from AGM to PbC and the new diesel engine chipset, ePower expects to resolve both issues.
    31 Jan 2013, 03:17 PM Reply Like
  • If that's the case, are the mpg numbers really only claims or are they already backed up by hard data?
    31 Jan 2013, 03:19 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I hope to talk to the owner later today or tomorrow. Once that call happens I'll have a better idea of what the data set looks like,
    31 Jan 2013, 03:21 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks John.


    I am very interested in the data we hope you receive from your conversation.
    31 Jan 2013, 03:28 PM Reply Like
  • for JP (references) I was thinking of these:


    Parker Runwise hydraulic hybrid


    BAE Systems Hybridrive for transit bus (with A123 energy storage)
    31 Jan 2013, 03:32 PM Reply Like
  • That seems to be my experience in driving a big rental RV that was costing me more than a economy hotel room every 3 hours or so - since I at first was trying to get to my destination in my accustomed freeway driving style. =)


    I also appreciate the reality check of the 120,000 miles a year driven by a single driver.


    "From memory, dropping speed from 60 mph to 30 mph is about a 1/3 improvement in fuel economy if the engine and transmission are appropriately sized and geared."
    31 Jan 2013, 03:50 PM Reply Like
  • Ishi,


    I agree, at the worst case we are getting good on the ground data in the public domain. And if ePower goes gangbusters then more "power" to them.
    31 Jan 2013, 03:55 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I don't think the Parker Runwise is a series hybrid, although the BAE bus clearly is. While the ePower system will apparently perform well in a city driving environment, they've optimized the system for the open road and believe that's were users will get the best economy.
    31 Jan 2013, 03:56 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Rick>, I just got an e-mail back from Jay Bowman on the drive motor horsepower question. He said:


    "Hi John it is 150 Hp but we over rate it up to 324 HP during acceleration and high power demands for brief periods of time."


    The motor they're using for the drive system is not a specially designed and rated electric drive motor. It's primary uses are in heavy industry where they tend to leave some rubber in motor ratings.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:03 PM Reply Like
  • JP, you cite 400 ton miles per gallon for rail to trucks at 130. (3.07x). This claims (p. 42) claims 413 ton miles per gallon to 155 (2.66x, the gap is narrowing), so "close 'nuff fuh gubmint work." Trains have three big advantages over trucks:


    1) steel wheels on steel tracks have much less friction than rubber tires on concrete.


    2) While trains and trucks have about the same frontal area, the mile+ lengths of a train will always have much less air resistance than hundreds of 60 foot trucks.


    3) Most train runs are straighter, more level, less congestion (no stops) and have more constant speed than truck routes.


    None of these are impacted by batteries. Claims that an incremental 4500 pounds of batteries will double the mpg, i.e., to 310 ton miles per gallon, seem unbelievable.


    I fully understand the concept of a small engine for a serial hybrid, and do not question that a 100-200 hp engine is adequate for flatland highway speeds. I maintain a high horsepower / high torque motor is necessary to get a truck up to speed and maintain speed up hills (Not the Rockies). It probably needs to be bigger than 300 hp.


    31 Jan 2013, 04:14 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Based on your last question about the drive motor horsepower I asked Jay Bowman for clarification. He said:


    "Hi John it is 150 Hp but we over rate it up to 324 HP during acceleration and high power demands for brief periods of time."


    Based on that response, it sounds like they're running a ~300 hp motor at a steady state of 150 hp and only using the overpower for acceleration and climbing, which I believe is what you suggested.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:30 PM Reply Like
  • Isn't the Chevrolet Volt a series hybrid?
    31 Jan 2013, 06:02 PM Reply Like
  • Wrightspeed is also promoting a series hybrid--a plug-in using A123 cells. Like the others I've found, its not for tractor-trailers--its for medium duty fleet trucks.
    Like ePower, its for retrofits.
    "Removing the factory truck’s original engine, transmission, and differential means that the 400-kilowatt/536-horse... Wrightspeed drive, with microturbine and batteries, adds no weight to the vehicle"
    31 Jan 2013, 09:55 PM Reply Like
  • Hi Rick,
    I ran big trucks with the M11 Cummins rated at 310 horses for 7 years here in the 11 western states with 9 and 10 speed transmissions. While going up the big grades was accomplished at 25-30 mph with apprx 80,000 lbs I was getting 5.5 mpg. Acceleration was slow as were steep grades. But on runs from LA CA to Dallas my fuel average could climb as high as 6.5 mpg because of the relatively flat running on the I-10 and I-20 (I was regulated to 62 mph). I have to admit that I was happy when the company went to the 425 Detroit, my fuel stayed around 5.5 mpg to Dallas, but the company didn't have to rebuild the engines as often. There are trade offs in many different ways when looking at a 5 year economic plan. If your running relatively flat freeways for long distance it doesn't require much power to keep rolling, just to get rolling.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:03 PM Reply Like
  • Stilldazed,
    What would it be worth to run at 10+ mpg even if you had to go back to the dogged acceleration speeds of days gone by?
    31 Jan 2013, 10:09 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist,
    As a company, the fuel savings would speak for themselves. As a company driver I would hope the company would up my mileage pay to help compensate for the lost miles each day (roughly30-40 miles a day was the difference between the M11 and the Detroit). But you can't discount the instant high tech status the driver would receive at the truck stops, pride in the ride. ;-)
    31 Jan 2013, 10:35 PM Reply Like
  • Stilldazed,
    Pride is one thing.
    Supporting the family another.
    Point well taken. I had not considered.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:42 PM Reply Like
  • Great article,, Thanks JP and Brad,, and good comments Rick K,, although I will note that the large LTL carriers often get 2 trips out of one tractor in a 24 hr day. 250,000 miles a year could be done legally. The routes that they use are predefined so there is a benifit there also.
    btw, I am talking about hub to hub driving here, (which they do alot of) and not the PUD ,,local delivery stuff.
    5 Feb 2013, 10:16 AM Reply Like
  • Fuel cost is a biggie, but so is labor. In line with apm's comments, if the rig is underpowered (slow) and requires more time to cover a route, reduced operating costs from better fuel efficiency will be offset to some extent by higher labor costs.


    If "dog time" is attributable to declining torque as electric drive motor rpms rise, one of UQM motor designs mentioned by HTL that boost torque at higher rpms (or something comparable) might be very advantageous.
    31 Jan 2013, 12:54 PM Reply Like
  • D-Inv: Keep in mind that a lot of these fleets run fixed routes, often for large or steady customers, over which they have optimized speed for fuel efficiency already. So there's likely not (much?) increase in driver time.


    Even if there is, with the fuel expense and savings being bandied about do you expect any operator would say "No, cost me an extra $3K year in driver pay"?


    I suspect not.


    Remember, in the industry *overall*, the best expected *average* OTR point-to-point almost never exceeds 55 MPH. And it's usually closer to 50 MPH I bet.


    31 Jan 2013, 03:21 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Another point that's important to remember is that while an 80,000 pound capacity is common, a full 80,000 pound GVW is relatively rare because so many big shippers have bulky and relatively light cargos.


    I'm sure Tim Enright can flesh out the details better than I can, but 80,000 pounds is generally the exception rather than the rule.


    While I'm on the subject of weight, the ePower retrofit adds about 4,500 pounds of batteries but it eliminates about 2,500 pounds of engine, transmission and other running gear. So the net weight gain on the finished tractor is about 2,000 pounds.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:00 PM Reply Like
  • Plus diesel fuel not being hauled.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:09 PM Reply Like
  • So including everything in the calc, it's a net weight gain of about 2,000 lbs? I looked at several 150hp, 3600rpm AC motors on Marathon's website and, if I'm looking at the right things (I'll readily admit I'm no engineer), they weigh about 2,000-2,200 lbs.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:11 PM Reply Like
  • JP, sorry if I sound so argumentative. You state that the net increase in weight is c. 2000 lbs (including the 4500 lbs of PbCs). I would have thought replacing a 400 hp engine with a 200 hp engine, 128 kw generator, 150 hp motor, and probably at least 100 lbs of control circuitry and wiring would have been a wash, not a savings of 2500 lbs.


    A Cummins on-road ISX12 (425hp) only weighs about 2900 lbs. A John Deere 150 hp weighs about 1300 lbs. A Marathon 150 hp weighs about 2,000 lbs.


    Maybe I have the wrong models, corrections appreciated.


    There is a transmission in both cases. The fuel tanks are unlikely to be changed, although some owners may elect to not keep them as filled.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:57 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » It's always tough when you get a little argumentative because I don't have the engineering chops to stand my ground against you. Besides, I respect your input as highly knowledgeable and cynical but fair.


    On the other hand, I know the two Gen2 trucks exist and have been hauling 80,000 pound loads at highway speeds for several months and getting between 8 and 12 mpg depending on terrain and traffic. Since monitoring performance is in the hands of a third-party owner operator, I find the factual representations are more credible than they would be if ePower was in control of everything.


    As far as the weight gain goes, I'm just reporting what Brad and I were told. I will say, however that little tiny turbo-diesel looks awful lonely under the hood.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:03 PM Reply Like
  • "I will say, however that little tiny turbo-diesel looks awful lonely under the hood".


    Maybe that's why it's "mated" with a transmission!




    31 Jan 2013, 05:12 PM Reply Like
  • John---can you clarify for us, which trucks are which? How many PbC trucks are there and how many AGM? How many are on the road and how many are in the shop? If the Gen2 trucks are AGM, how is it they they are working?
    31 Jan 2013, 05:32 PM Reply Like
  • About 7lbs per gallon.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:39 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » The turbo-diesel has a thing going with the generator.


    It's the electric drive motor that has a thing going with the transmission.


    You'd be a terrible continuity editor for a soap opera.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:42 PM Reply Like
  • Well, let's hope they all play nice in bed together and make lotsa babies with Axion Inside!
    31 Jan 2013, 05:53 PM Reply Like
  • John: I know, but in the ADD society we live in, nobody would notice.


    31 Jan 2013, 06:08 PM Reply Like
  • "Nobody would notice" not true. 48 would notice and publish it in his horror flick of the mutated offspring resulting from the unnatural mating between a possessed transmission having its way with the turbo-diesel while the generator is forced running the electric drive of a driverless class-8 truck.
    31 Jan 2013, 07:03 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » An Axion sort of "Duel" sequel eh?



    As Spielberg's second film, Duel marked the start of an amazing career.
    31 Jan 2013, 07:09 PM Reply Like
  • Rick,
    "There is a transmission in both cases. The fuel tanks are unlikely to be changed, although some owners may elect to not keep them as filled."
    This was one of my questions as far as weight goes. I would assume that most truckers, to save weight, only fill up when they need to and if they are traveling shorter distances don't over fill their tanks with more gas than they need (of course if bad weather is an issue they may over fill expecting delays). So if they are getting better gas mileage, and so need less fuel, or need to fill up less often, are they offsetting some of the weight of the batteries by carrying less fuel on average? I don't have a clue either, way, but your questions did make me wonder, since if you look at the fuel tank size on a Suburban vs my Honda Civic you will see they are sized differently assuming different mpg.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:44 PM Reply Like
  • 75 gals at around 8lbs a gallon = ~600 lbs... wouldn't think it would make that compelling a difference in performance/mileage on a fully loaded truck... 600lbs = 1% of 60,000 lbs
    1 Feb 2013, 06:02 PM Reply Like
  • Most OTR rigs have 2- 200 gal tanks. That's 400 gallons total capacity. To reduce tank size and get it down to your figures would be a small help.
    1 Feb 2013, 06:48 PM Reply Like
  • 48 and LT,


    Also, if you look at the figure above you will see that they claim the rig itself weighs 800lb less than a standard OEM configuration, not including the weight savings due to the smaller fuel tanks and fuel weight savings.
    1 Feb 2013, 11:11 PM Reply Like
  • Oh, and by my math, if the two tanks hold a combined 150 gallons, and the figure above says that this is enough to travel 1400 miles, then it looks like ePower is claiming a maximum mpg of 9.3 mpg.
    2 Feb 2013, 07:13 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » The first graphic was for ePower's Gen1 tractor which is very different from the two Gen2 tractors owned by the trucking company in Iowa.



    So efforts to nail down mpg numbers based on three year old presentation materials are an interesting mental exercise but meaningless.
    2 Feb 2013, 08:08 AM Reply Like
  • John,
    I wouldn't call it meaningless. Maybe not up to date, but it tells us they were already claiming up to 9.3 mpg on the Gen1 truck, which is 60% better fuel economy that your standard 5.5 mpg class 8 rig. It will be interesting to see the numbers from the companies who are testing the rigs to see what the real world numbers are. Even at the Gen1 level of efficiency it seems like a no-brainer if your company's routes allow you to use the system.
    2 Feb 2013, 11:14 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » The 8 to 12 mpg range with a 10 mpg average is apparently what the owner of the two Gen2 trucks is reporting. These beasts have been on the road hauling loads for in Iowa over six months. The problem is that a universe of two vehicles operating in the same area don't really tell us what the broader experience will be on different routes.
    3 Feb 2013, 05:36 AM Reply Like
  • >JP ... If it is true that a working rig is getting 10 mpg, even in Iowa, there should be ranks of people standing ready to give it a whirl in any region. That kind of savings is worth a try. The fact of mileage is not publicly acknowledged right now so any broadcasting of news like that is only truck-stop bragging. Still a powerful tool but rumor only and some might chalk it up to "superslab" myth. I'm wanting & waiting for a public declaration.


    Alt-energy, and batteries in particular, have been getting a lot of bad PR recently. It would be nice if the sector could put a "here-&-now checkmark in the win column, even if from 2 companies nobody ever heard of. Better still, if some known industry names from either Transport or Energy took notice and got curious to prove or disprove an existing 3D fact. We sorely suffer from anonymity.
    3 Feb 2013, 10:20 AM Reply Like
  • I wonder where they are in Iowa. IIRC, we've talked at length about the ePower solution being good for gentle slopes, but most of the state is quite hilly--not sustained mountain climbs, to be sure, but it's certainly not Kansas or Nebraska.
    3 Feb 2013, 10:23 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I would love to see more and better data and remain confident that it will come in time. I figure meeting the SuperTruck goal a couple years ahead of time would be fabulous and anything more is just icing on the cake. I've never met a company that wasn't a little on the optimistic side, but spending an afternoon with ePower I am convinced that they're too smart to go too far with claims they can't prove.
    3 Feb 2013, 10:28 AM Reply Like
  • >JP ... And so I await.


    It is a simple idea (difficult to implement) and proven to work. Railroads are slow adopters but the Green Goat almost flew out of the shops until the reality of component development at the time proved the idea too early.
    3 Feb 2013, 10:42 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » One of the things Jay emphasized was that the components he wanted were too expensive in the late-90s and early-00s, and they didn't really hit a reasonable price point until 2008 or 2009. I wait and watch, but remain optimistic.
    3 Feb 2013, 10:51 AM Reply Like
  • Renzo, At 5:53 in the video if you want to get a feel for where they are located. But then we don't know the routes.


    3 Feb 2013, 01:32 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Andy has placed a call to get me in direct contact with the owner. When we talk I'll write a follow-up.
    3 Feb 2013, 01:50 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks John!


    I was not proposing we annoy the business owner. I figured this might give a better than nothing guesstimate of the topography in his core area of business.
    3 Feb 2013, 02:20 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I'm looking forward to talking with the owner and finding out how he's using the tractors, what he likes and what he doesn't like.
    3 Feb 2013, 02:38 PM Reply Like
  • John, I'm sure it will be a great conversation. I'd be interested if you could get a feel for how he might feel this would fit in his fleet based on the size of his operation given whatever durability issues he has seen find resolution. A talk with one of the drivers would be great as well but probably less probable due to schedules and perhaps other limitations on availability.
    3 Feb 2013, 02:53 PM Reply Like
  • I think this is a point not to be minimized.... new gee-whiz claims are made all the time... about some miraculous invention or innovation or whatever that's going to revolutionize the world... and for those I try to mentally apply two tests:


    1) If it's so easy, then everybody should be doing it, and if they aren't, why?


    2) Ok, if it looks legit, why hasn't it been done before? What's different now? What's the recent leap-ahead advent or development that suddenly makes it viable or possible?


    I mean, given all that the RRs have done, it's not like diesel-electric hybrid-trucking is some kind of new lightning-strike idea.


    And ePower answers that question quite plausibly... regardless of what we think of RE, electric cars, solar dreams etc etc.. .there's no denying that the past decade has seen a tremendous amount of development and refinement of all the constituent components... batteries, inverters, motors, generators, rectifiers, power electronics, embedded computers, software, etc etc etc... there's a tremendous amount of synergy at work in all that... virtually everything HAS gotten better and cheaper in this arena to some extent... and now with ePower we're seeing some of the fruits... that they can now, finally, actually put this together at a price that begins to make meaningful sense for close, almost there but still the thing has a MAJOR handicap, the AGM batteries that funkify and fail too soon, and so basically all but goon the economics. So it's still no happy dance in the endzone. And then...then here the PbC comes in at just the right time as the key critical piece that just totally seals the deal and polevaults the entire package up and over the wall right into the freaking gold zone winning circle.


    That's why not before now.
    That's why everybody hasn't been doing it.


    That's why if this really proves out, if no $hit 10mpg+ with a full load is the real-world deal, it's going to be an effing earthquake.
    3 Feb 2013, 04:14 PM Reply Like
  • ii
    That piece of tape is from northern Kentucky.
    South-East of Cincinnati before US 75 and us 71 split.
    I spent an hour trying to place it in Iowa argh! I feel like such a dummy.
    Gateway Community and Technical College - Boone Campus
    500 Technology Way, Florence, KY
    (They drove by a sign and took the exit for it.)
    Is a great place to get a meal and or spend the night.
    Students cook the food are waiters clean the rooms raise the food, (in season) bare for the animals Etc. everyone has to work.
    If your in the area give it a try.


    BTW the company is in South East Iowa.
    in the middle of a triangle
    Des Moines Iowa
    Omaha Nebraska
    Kansas City Kansas
    3 Feb 2013, 08:19 PM Reply Like
  • Froggey, I remembered the snip in the video relative to a corporate name. I posted the home site of the suspected parent co. of the OTR testing.


    I certainly know that ePower"s current location is In KY. But I thought that was their development location vs their partner in "fleet" testing.


    PS The educational institution you are referring to sounds great if it's turning out students that are finding their way toward their aspirations. Your comments tell me many are and that's great. :))


    PPS Sorry or being an early contributing dummy on this mission.
    3 Feb 2013, 11:45 PM Reply Like
  • Renzo
    On your map the company is 10 mi north of the border 50 mi from the western border find Clarinda. 6 mi east of there.
    Slightly orange I'd say.
    Doesn't tell us where they drive tho. They could go into the mountains or on the flats. More likely both.


    On Google maps.

    3 Feb 2013, 11:54 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks, Froggey.


    I'm just suggesting that if the ePower rigs work well in the kind of hills I drove many times on I-80, then there are a lot of places they will do well.
    4 Feb 2013, 12:55 AM Reply Like
  • In comments to some previous JP blogs over the last couple of years, Jaybird & I have mentioned that there exists an electric motor technology from Chorus Motors that has high torque from stall to full running speeds and can take temporary overloads because its materials tolerate high temperatures. It is smaller and lighter weight than similar wattage motors and can be driven by smaller, less expensive electronics. It may need a fixed gear in a truck application, but likely would not require a transmission or any fluid cooling, further saving weight and cost.


    The technology could easily produce a motor for big rig trucks, but no such prototypes now exist. The first application will be for Wheel Tug, a child company of Chorus, who is putting the motor in the nose wheels of 737s and Airbus equivalent planes. A Germania 737 with such motors in the nose wheels can be seen taxiing under its own electrical power on the Wheel Tug or Chorus Motor website. Several airlines have reserved slots for this self-taxi system, but FAA approval to fly such planes is likely about 18 months away.


    The start-up company does not now have funding or time to make motors for the rolling mode transportation industries. But they might support an outfit that wanted to fund some prototypes for their use if it was clear that a very large market (in dollars) could be developed in a reasonable time. Such a motor could become a later generation improvement to say an ePower truck tractor or work as a motor/generator for start/stop mild hybrid systems. For the airplane application, this motor technology is essential to make the system work, not just an impressive improvement and should become a hugely profitable business because airlines will be able to greatly improve their profit margins with it, saving fuel and time as well as lowering pollution, airport noise and main jet engine wear.


    In general, Chorus Motor or Wheel Tug by itself is not now a good topic for SA as an investment idea. Wheel Tug is pre-IPO by several years. A parent company of Chorus, Borealis, who, in effect, owns most of Wheel Tug does trade in the Pink Sheets, but only very thinly. Within 2 months, it is likely to trade on an European exchange, but still in small quantities. That said, when on an exchange, it could be worth some discussion on SA. The potential upside from its ownership of Wheel Tug is huge, likely greater than Axion to my mind...but in the near future so difficult to acquire or sell if need be. But certainly the motor technology complements much of what Axion is doing and should be quite interesting to Axion when they are financially able to think ahead a product generation or two.


    As a disclosure, I have acquired some Borealis stock via the pink sheets slowly over several years and own a little bit of private placement stock in Wheel Tug. I am a personal friend of the founders.
    4 Feb 2013, 05:08 AM Reply Like
  • Renzo,
    I grew up in Iowa and drove from Dubuque to Iowa City to Des Moines for most of the first half of my life. Iowa is definitely one rolling hill after another. I would think the ePower rig would work perfectly there.
    4 Feb 2013, 10:22 PM Reply Like
  • ii
    No problem. I think it was even IDed as Kentucky when JP first posted them.
    Even so it should have only taken me a few minutes. Unfortunately I kept ignoring all the Kentucky connections and tried putting the square peg in the round hole.
    Pounding does help sometimes. :)
    4 Feb 2013, 10:51 PM Reply Like
  • Excellent point! While a load of beer or ceramic tile may max out close to 80k, most loads, as you note, are much lighter. The sweetest of all? A trailer full of empty aluminum cans, 6,000 lbs!
    5 Feb 2013, 02:35 PM Reply Like
  • I don't think that anyone is talking about there being any reduction in cruising speed for trucks. When I wrote "underpowered" I didn't mean that the truck couldn't get to 65mph, I meant that it would take longer to get to that speed and that drivers could be uncomfortable with the slow acceleration.


    Rick, great feedback. Thanks. I do agree with you that something isn't quite right with the numbers.


    Ishikawa, I did not mean to imply that the ePower guys don't know what they are doing. A big part of the purpose of this group is to analyze publicly available information to enhance our understanding of Axion and its business opportunity, and hence get ahead of movements in the stock price. What you seem to view as a bunch of people engaging in useless speculation and arguing about unknowns I view as a valuable collective attempt to increase knowledge.


    Just a rhetorical question, but does the information JP provided in his instablog and the 64 comments so far increase our knowledge of Axion? Do you think this information should increase or decrease Axion's stock price? At this moment the stock price is up 1/100 of a penny on very light volume.


    Personally, even though I asked skeptical questions about the HP provided by the ePower system, and (not previously stated) I am skeptical about a 100% increase in fuel economy, I believe that yes, this news should result in an increase in the stock price. We've learned new stuff today even if some of it eventually proves to be inaccurate. Rest assured, this board will accelerate that refinement process to the advantage of all of us. Thanks again JP for your report and your gracious response to questions.




    31 Jan 2013, 04:06 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » We're all learning together and I have no problems with probing questions. I know that the torque of the ePower truck makes it much quicker from zero to 35 than a conventional truck. The response that I just got from Jay Bowman helps clarify that they over-rate the motor to 324 hp for brief acceleration and hill climbing intervals. With those kinds of operating parameters, the "underpowered" appearance may simply be a question of appearance. Ultimately the trucking companies will make the decisions that are best for their businesses.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:17 PM Reply Like
  • I just had time to read about 60 posts here. I might add this was very informative...even the negative comments have merit.


    It looks like the theory is working...which I am quite surprised this quick. I am glad AXPW is assisting. That is a big plus as they know what it takes to make the PbC work.


    This has potential, and I am glad that Jay already knows he has to pair his system with a larger engine to keep customers happy.
    I also like:
    - going to try to get owners to do the wrench work, he can turn out more retrofits that way, cheaper too.
    - If it works well this year, do more in 2014, then it could really move forward fast.
    -The MAIN thing is we and the world gets to see a working solution with PbC as the main driver.


    thanks for all the input, very informative and raises my hopes not only for trucks but a variety of applications. We just need to see the PbC work where others have failed.
    This is what I wanted AXPW to do 2 years ago. Put the battery to work where people can see it..
    31 Jan 2013, 04:19 PM Reply Like
  • "This is what I wanted AXPW to do 2 years ago. Put the battery to work where people can see it..."


    That was also Dr. Buiel's point, as well.
    2 Feb 2013, 01:17 PM Reply Like
  • Its a good point, but it is difficult to find applications that wanted to pay for the PbC without assurance it would work. Now that the testing data is available from the NS testing I'm sure more would be willing to buy.
    2 Feb 2013, 02:54 PM Reply Like
  • " Now that the testing data is available from the NS testing ...."


    ? The only thing I've seen from NSC testing is an order for enough PbC batteries to build a yard switcher BEL. Have the testing results been published?
    2 Feb 2013, 03:04 PM Reply Like
  • No test results were published to my knowledge. But Axion conducted testing side by side NS and Penn State. The results of the testing proven by Axion is their internal source and can be backed up by the NS order. Just because it isn't made public does not mean ( as I understand it) that Axion can't use the data internally.
    2 Feb 2013, 03:12 PM Reply Like
  • D-Inv: The fact that NSC *increased* their order after the DOE grant was received should be telling us something.


    2 Feb 2013, 03:18 PM Reply Like
  • HTL,
    Yes, it lets us know they have extra batteries laying around. :-)


    In all earnestness, I am assuming the fact that the NS999 has been moved is simply that it is now being prepared for service.
    2 Feb 2013, 03:24 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist: When I first saw the order increase my mind wandered over to "What else are they doing"? We know they are committed to "greening" & saving $ everywhere they can. I thought of buildings and their cranes as immediate potential new efforts to use the PBC. I assume they also have track-side solar powered data acquisition and telemetry stations.


    I suspect some effort in one or more of these areas might be a good fit for the PbC. Least likely, I think, would be the trackside stuff as traditional AGM or LAB might be a better fit.


    Anyhoo, ... I'd like to see them order a PC (or a few) for the Juniata shops! :-))


    2 Feb 2013, 03:33 PM Reply Like
  • Good point, HT. I'm thinking those extra PbCs were purchased to prototype another piece of equipment they plan to recover braking energy on or to stabilize grid power draw by devices with multiple bursts of activity each day. Cranes used to transfer shipping containers from trucks to RR cars might have potential for braking energy capture.
    2 Feb 2013, 03:38 PM Reply Like
  • D-INV: one of the reasons that crane application came to mind is that some time in the days of yore someone had mentioned such an application and we saw links to pics of some company doing it (with Li-ion IIRC).


    I suspect a visit to Bangwhiz's search facility would reveal the sources.


    Imagine every NSC (and other RRs) equiping every switch yard (may not be useful there though) and intermodal node with cranes with PbCs in 'em!


    Warms the cockles of my heart just thinking about it! Two factors play to our strength there: DCA and KIAS (Tim's King In A String motto). Rapid lift, rapid descent provides recapture of a huge amount of energy at high rates and every cycle increases the "balance" in the string if any imbalance should occur.


    Add in the lifetime and the TCO, fuel savings ... It's a winner in my book and we should see them at sea ports as well.


    2 Feb 2013, 03:49 PM Reply Like
  • HTL, Perhaps?

    2 Feb 2013, 04:07 PM Reply Like
  • Or sent to the lab for the grant testing
    2 Feb 2013, 04:09 PM Reply Like
  • Iindelco: I think that was it!


    2 Feb 2013, 04:16 PM Reply Like
  • LT: "going to try to get owners to do the wrench work"


    It's very likely that ePower's larger customers have their own service shops and/or arrangements with a local shop that gives them good rates due to the volume of business.


    I *suspect* that some of the larger owners (the "I've got my own tow truck" ones?) may have requested this ability as it can reduce their costs substantially. And if they have mechanics that make road calls, that's another plus for having their own "kit".


    31 Jan 2013, 04:36 PM Reply Like
  • That was my point, they save on both ends. It won't take much training & a drop in unit to make it fast & easy.


    Rick & ApM...both of u have good questions and reservations. I see nothing that can't be overcome quickly ... one reason being they are doing their "testing" on the road, not a lab. No CEO, COO, CFO managers & boards to satisfy.
    The only slow down is if the first match with elect. motor to truck engine melts down too quick.


    The fact that they are using a big motor at 50% capacity mostly should meet the sweet spot for durability on the electric motor.


    They are a couple of years away from big things, but 50 working trucks will bring people in to see it. Even the big boyz. I would expect ePower gets taken out within 3 years max.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:12 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » If I can land ePower as a client they should be a fun one.
    31 Jan 2013, 05:43 PM Reply Like
  • The need a good patent lawyer first JP :)
    31 Jan 2013, 05:57 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I think they may already have one, but patent law is one of those dark arts where I rely completely on other lawyers who know more about their specialty than I do. I heard once that the first step in a patent application requires the decapitation of a black rooster, but sometimes myth gets mixed in with lore.
    31 Jan 2013, 06:07 PM Reply Like
  • I said that lightly, but I have been thinking ever since reading these posts here....
    Most of what they use can be bought "off the shelf" or ordered now. There is enough info on this blog for an engineer to patent it.
    They better patent it like apple did the iPhone or else KW & PB will have it and gone.
    31 Jan 2013, 06:11 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » With 83 comments this Instablog is beginning to feel more like a main pages article.
    31 Jan 2013, 04:43 PM Reply Like
  • It doesn't do ePower a bit of good to try to sell smoke. The time to make a judgement is when they have finished development and announced a finished product, not will its still in the lab, so to speak. In the meantime I will wait and see. Thanks for the report and DD.
    31 Jan 2013, 06:28 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » After spending the afternoon with ePower I don't think they're selling smoke. They're still testing the Axion battery but it the PbC works as expected then ePower has a tiger by the tail.
    31 Jan 2013, 06:32 PM Reply Like
  • Hi Mr. John.


    Thank you very much for all the information provided to us.
    The truck of the photo: I see very well equipped with batteries, but need a tire change. (ja,ja,ja).


    Have a nice night and again Thanks a lot.-Carlos
    31 Jan 2013, 07:17 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » That is classic attention to detail Carlos. You get the gold star for today.
    31 Jan 2013, 07:20 PM Reply Like
  • I simply want to add a different perspective to the blog.


    First thanks to both of you for taking the ride. All the information is helpful.


    Second, thanks to Rick K for continuing his crusade to make sure the power/electrical numbers are accurate. Most of us have no clue except for what you post.


    Third, Its all about the batteries. If e-power goes broke I don't care. I suspect that the NS experience with the PbC will be reitterated in the E-Power tests. Its the results of the battery being used in the real world that will move other big OEMs to "purchase" the PbC.
    Testing is important. Being done with testing is even more important.


    Thanks to E-Power for proving the PbC. I hope their business plan comes together and they need millions of PbC per year. But I hope more than that, that other OEMs are looking at the PbC as a "buy now "item.


    Fourth: I really like the fact that the E=Power hybrid system comes from a garage of a self made mechanic. Its the American Dream. Hope that business realities don't overtake these guys. Help America save millions of barrels of oil a year. Its a good goal.
    31 Jan 2013, 08:35 PM Reply Like
  • John, just re-read the article and again many thanks for it... I do have a minor issue though that may present something of a conceptual stumbling block to full understanding if it isn't pointed out. I could be wrong though and certainly invite corrective slings and arrows... Anyway, it's just this... WRT to the diesel engine you state:
    "The engine is governed to run at a steady 1,800 RPM from the moment it's started until the moment it's turned off. That engine speed is apparently the fuel efficiency and emissions sweet spot and it provides a constant 128 kW of power for the drive and battery systems."


    There's a bit of problem with this. While it's very true that the engine can be governed to run at a constant 1800 *RPM*, the power output can vary over quite a band depending on the actual torque load placed upon the engine (which would also determine the amount of fuel flow). Thus, if the engine is running at 1800 RPM with no load whatsoever, it is probably using minimum fuel flow just to keep it turning.. but once you actually load the engine, the governor is going to sense a minute slowing as a result and call for more fuel... enough to be able to deliver enough energy to the load to keep the RPM up at 1800... so what I'm saying is that even though the engine maintains its constant speed, the torque and thus power output will vary over a range, in this case I guess from zero usable all the way up to the 128KW max steady state... so at a stoplight for instance, with the engine running and the batteries fully charged, the generator, though turning, would actually not be delivering any real* power to the load, and thus the engine would be burning much less fuel than when cruising on the highway, when real* power was indeed flowing through to the wheels...


    I know the real engineers need to jump in here before I get too deep, but I didn't want to let an important concept get confused and mangled without at least an attempt... ;)


    * "real" power has a distinct and important meaning in the electrical world... and it gets real complicated and real mathematical real quick... but in short it takes a lot more effort (due to back emf) to turn a generator that's connected to an electrical load than one not connected to anything, whose terminals are open..


    SiHiBi, D-Inv, RK, DR, please jump in and save me (and others) if I gooned it.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:30 PM Reply Like
  • Not being an engineering intellectual , or any other kind of intellectual, I am thinking that a constant rpm of 1800 gives mximum fuel efficiency even if the load isn't constant.


    I get what your pointing out. But believe that trying to adjust for load simply complicates the fuel savings equation to a point of limited returns.
    But would love to hear what the smart guys think.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:47 PM Reply Like
  • >48106 ... I'm at a loss to understand the question.


    I think you're wondering how a constant 1800 rpm handles the generator load (?). The engine is going to turn those rpm's and there is not necessarily a constant 128 kW being generated. The easiest explanation for that is quite similar to how "cruise control" works. Think of the "gas pedal" as a potentiometer and the system will adjust fuel flow as load increases while rpm stay ~constant. I would imagine the batteries would kick in when the "gas pedal" passes some mass flow efficiency point to supplement the engine.


    I hope that is somewhat correct and maybe even a partial answer to what I think perplexes you.
    31 Jan 2013, 10:53 PM Reply Like
  • Hi 86,
    Keeping constant speed on a flat road won't work the generator hard, it is the acceleration and hill climbing that would load the motor generator package and that is the reason for the batteries, to help level the load. It may not be perfect, just good enough to increase fuel mileage. The thing about a 500 hp engine is that without a dyno there is no telling how much power makes it to the ground through the drive train. The wrong transmission and rear end can eat up power to the ground. There are a lot of things to think about and check out depending on where you are going to run to match the drive train of a truck to its intended terrain and purpose.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:12 PM Reply Like
  • 48: Agreed.
    31 Jan 2013, 11:23 PM Reply Like
  • DR, I wasn't perplexed, merely trying to correct that very point... I just didn't want folks thinking that just because a generator is being turned at a constant (1800) RPM, that means it is necessarily producing and delivering a constant 128KW to the load. That it all depends on what the load is demanding at that moment. And further, that that varying load will be transmitted back to the diesel engine driving the generator and thru this feedback the governor will schedule the proper amount of fuel flow to meet the load at that moment... So there are two modes/routes to go, with the one that they are apparently taking now being that the generator keeps running at this constant 1800 RPM with varying power output (with concomitant varying output efficiency) or in the second mode, as SiHiBi describes for max efficiency the diesel engine starts and stops as needed, running either at full-tilt 1800 RPM at max torque, load, and power output or else completely stopped until needed. Of course, for this second mode to work well the truck would have to be capable of some movement on batteries alone, which per JP doesn't seem to be the case, for now at least. In any case, I find this whole project to be fascinating and exciting, and I think the prospects are huge. I commend and admire everyone involved and am rooting for their success with everything I got. Everyone who has explored this idea before never had PbCs to work with. Now they do. It's a completely different animal and could lead to a wildly different degree of success than heretofore achieved. I might be with RK in perhaps wanting to temper expectations for such seemingly outsize fuel savings, but if that's what real-world drivers are actually experiencing with the platform (and it sounds like they have for the past six months at least) then like Slim Pickens I say YEEHAW! And bring it on!
    1 Feb 2013, 03:27 PM Reply Like
  • I haven't seen mentioned the possibility of turning the generator output down to zero. I don't know the type, but if everything is done using dynamically generated magnetic fields (some tech type will need to correct or clarify this for me) rather than permanent magnets, the generator could go to near-zero drag (load) on the IC just by cutting the juice to the stators and armatures, right?


    Then the IC engine could run *very* low fuel consumption.


    Have I thought about this correctly? Is it possible to do this even if there's permanent magnets by de-energizing the other component (the armature most likely)?




    1 Feb 2013, 03:45 PM Reply Like
  • HTL, To me, generators and motors are both elegant and complicated. (epic understatement alert). If there's no power being drawn from a generator (IE open terminals) then there's really not much resistance to turning it. You still get full (open circuit) voltage at the terminals, but like a battery that is just sitting there with voltage present at its terminals, unless there is a circuit (load) connected, the battery, and generator, is not doing any work, and thus (in the generator's case) doesn't need any energy input to keep it turning beyond that needed to replenish what's being lost to friction...
    1 Feb 2013, 03:55 PM Reply Like
  • >HTL: re: diesel with low/no load and therefore very low fuel consumption.


    You are partially right, HTL. But the EFFICIENCY of the diesel drops substantially as you lower the load and reduce fuel flow to keep the RPM constant. Basically you are running the engine and driving the friction loads at very low efficiency. If you slow the diesel down to some minimum idle speed the losses will fall as the compression and friction speed related losses fall.


    The fuel consumption drop between an unloaded idle and a full stop may not be very large, but they are real. Think of a 3 mile gentle downhill slope that only needs 5 or 10kW to keep the truck moving. There is no real need to run the engine at all.


    As route elevation mapping comes online, the question of whether to shut off the engine will be accurately resolved. An extra 1 or 2% efficiency could result, again depending on the exact road conditions.


    I can even see the truck itself supplying data on a specific route engine loading to the central data gathering system. But I can also see a GPS system that can recognize when it is traveling a route previously driven by the same truck. It could then optimize battery SOC and engine SS issues. Which then generates more data and etc. A virtuous feedback loop :-)
    1 Feb 2013, 04:24 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » That isn't going to happen in an engine dominant series electric drive unless you have a hellacious downhill and very full batteries.
    1 Feb 2013, 04:26 PM Reply Like
  • SHB: Thank you. Now a dumb-ass question. Is the efficiency loss holding the RPM at 1800 so great as to overcome the savings of no-load? If not, then it still seems a usable strategy. My thinking is I don't care about the efficiency when examining my wallet - I care am I saving some money regardless of the efficiency of the engine at that moment.


    OTOH, I agree ideal would be idle speed or even coasting start/stop if the IC engine can be restarted quickly enough.


    But that's not current design and I'm not suggesting they should look at it now. Just trying to learn more.


    Again, thanks!


    1 Feb 2013, 04:43 PM Reply Like
  • "Think of a 3 mile gentle downhill slope that only needs 5 or 10kW to keep the truck moving. There is no real need to run the engine at all."


    No need to run the engine PROVIDED the route is flat for some distance following the downhill run. If the battery reserve power is used on a downhill run it would not be available to supplement genset power on a close-at-hand uphill run.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:04 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » In an engine dominant series hybrid the battery is ONLY used for acceleration boost and hill climbing.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:12 PM Reply Like
  • D-inv, Yep. The reason why mapping of routes creates an opportunity for optimizing how the electrical accumulator is utilized. Basically what NS is looking forward to doing with their OTR electric loco. Once you map the route and write the code you can just use it over and over. You could also make it adaptive based on the fact that you have variables like unusual stops, varying temperatures and road conditions etc. All the stuff you can do with sensors and puters. Fun stuff.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:17 PM Reply Like
  • John, any further thoughts or elaboration on the possibility/prospect of them implementing start-stop functionality in a future revision?


    Also, while I would never want to see a plug put on the thing, is there in fact no possibility for some limited motivating on battery alone, a la the prius?


    sorry, one more also, what about hotel loads, creature comforts, APU functionality? Are they addressing or including that yet? I would think with 30KWh / 60KW+ of onboard energy/power available that those needs would be satisfied handily by the main battery bank...


    drat, one more... it occurs to me that this platform could/would be absolutely fantastic as a basis for a high-end RV/motorcoach... built-in big powersupply/energy bank AND improved fuel mileage. Any discussion of that idea at all?
    1 Feb 2013, 05:33 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » At this point ePower is focused on optimizing the engine dominant series hybrid. I'm sure bells and whistles like idle elimination will come in due time but I can't imagine that they're terribly concerned with those issues for now. Remember, when other drivetrains are wasting fuel at a stop light, ePower's generator is making sure the batteries are brought back up to optimal state of charge in preparation for the next acceleration event.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:37 PM Reply Like
  • I guess I've managed to make my exuberance sound like greedy and impatient carping. It's thrilling to know/see that their existing creations are actually out on the open road performing...REALITY. And I don't know if the full meaning of that has really sunken in for everyone yet.. But I still confess.. I can't help seeing all the possible refinements/extensions as even further excitement. So ya'll can hit me with the Jon Springer damp rag if you need to, but I think this application is going to prove a very biggie.
    1 Feb 2013, 06:13 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I agree with you and believe Brad does too.
    1 Feb 2013, 06:20 PM Reply Like
  • me three !!
    1 Feb 2013, 07:45 PM Reply Like
  • HTL: I don't know enough about diesel engines to have an answer.


    I will speculate that under light loads it could make sense to lower the diesel SPEED to reduce the generator output. The generator control system can control its output voltage with varying engine speed, so there isn't any obvious problem with doing it. If the engine speed is reduced while keeping the fuel injected in each cycle close to constant, the efficiency should be higher then holding engine speed constant and greatly reducing the fuel mass per cycle.
    The idea being to keep the peak combustion temperature up in the cylinder, but firing it less often for the desired lower power output.


    I believed I mentioned that this can get complicated :-) Tweaks WILL occur to boost efficiency, even if by only a few hundredth of a percent for each successive change.


    The IC engine as it exists today is massively more efficient then it was 120 years ago. With computer simulations to play with, improvements should occur a bit faster these days!
    1 Feb 2013, 11:06 PM Reply Like
  • JP: Got it! :-)
    1 Feb 2013, 11:09 PM Reply Like
  • John,
    Thanks for this instablog.
    One quick question after first-pass reading, how much kw power does the battery pack provide to help during acceleration?
    2 Feb 2013, 02:44 AM Reply Like
  • SiHiBi, one issue I could see with that (reducing generator RPM) is maintaining frequency...
    2 Feb 2013, 04:16 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » BugEYE> I didn't specifically ask about their maximum discharge amperage from the batteries, but with 60 PbCs the string would have 600 to 660 volts at top of charge and could probably discharge at 200 to 300 amps for relatively brief acceleration and climbing intervals.


    In total that would be somewhere between 130 and 200 kW of boost.
    2 Feb 2013, 05:38 AM Reply Like
  • Thanks John,
    An electrical system handling 600 volts 300 amps is a tremendous piece of work, very intimidating. No wonder those delays. Even the wires have to be carefully designed and thoroughly tested otherwise excessive heat may be generated caused by surge current due to skin effect, which may blow insulating coating of the wires away in seconds.
    Fortunately epower tech staff should already have extensive experience with such system. With the help from Axion power, they would make it though predicting timing may be extremely difficult.
    2 Feb 2013, 10:32 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » ePower had a pretty good handle on the wiring and circuitry before Axion entered the picture. So far Axion's biggest contribution beyond the PbC has been a variety of enhancements in their data logging and analysis to identify system elements and other details that need or can benefit from adjustments, tweaks and other improvements. I suspect that the knowledge and experience Axion gained from three years of work with NS and Penn State in a similar operating environment will give ePower a real leg up as they refine their system.
    2 Feb 2013, 11:21 AM Reply Like
  • Remember BugEYE we're mostly dealing with a DC system here. Can't imagine the system is going to be that dynamic.


    Skin effect for those interested.

    2 Feb 2013, 11:34 AM Reply Like
  • " "


    Fascinating! Thanks for the education guys.
    2 Feb 2013, 11:38 AM Reply Like
  • >481: Frequency shouldn't be a problem. Generator output gets rectified into DC before it charges the battery OR goes to the motor. Any other system would be a practical nightmare to integrate, IMO.
    2 Feb 2013, 12:39 PM Reply Like
  • The safety issue for technicians working on the system is serious. There needs to be safety training with a demonstration of what high voltage DC can so to the careless.


    I once "shook hands" with a 500V, several kW capable DC power supply. I brushed a terminal with the back of my hand. It was the smell of vaporized ME that first caught my attention :-(


    High current DC arcs are nasty! Burned a nice cone shaped crater in my hand before I got away from it. Since it didn't do any lasting damage, it counts as a learning experience. But it sure ruined my day!
    2 Feb 2013, 12:51 PM Reply Like
  • SiHB, I stopped wearing my wedding band and watch during my first year out of school when a coworker laid his ring across a lower voltage big ole DC supply. Man there was gold everywhere. Fortunately he had his safety glasses on. And the current path was obvious until it was gone. (I got into 480 VAC once when a supplier tapped into the primary power in front of the disconnect. I normally would not have had this happen but the machine was approved by a fellow coworker and in production. No tag on the door, no yellow wire nuttin'. Fortunately only a sore arm.)


    PS AOI 6 in this article may be of interest to you.

    2 Feb 2013, 01:18 PM Reply Like
  • SiHiBi, iindelco, all, ... if you look at the first graphic in John's article



    It clearly shows the drive motor as AC induction type... also the diagram appears to show both a rectifier and inverter... Anyway, unless they made a major revision in gen2, I *highly* doubt we're dealing with a predominately DC system...
    2 Feb 2013, 02:32 PM Reply Like
  • SiHiBi, as stated below, I don't think this is correct... but I'd sure like to get a group focus and ruling on the question. Maybe the "practical nightmare" is exactly one of the big challenges they had to overcome to make this work (where nobody really had before) and is where some of their secret sauce lives (in addition to the PbC bank)... I just have a hard time believing for highway cruising (the predominant mode of operation) that they would want to live with the losses involved in an AC Generator ==> Rectifier ==> DC drive motor energy path. But I certainly could be full of it.
    2 Feb 2013, 02:57 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks 48, My primary thoughts were around the wiring. Much of the wiring is in the storage area which is all going to be on the DC side of the system. The wiring between the generator, inverter and drive motor are minimal compared to the DC side with all those PbC's connected.


    Sorry, should have clarified.
    2 Feb 2013, 02:58 PM Reply Like
  • Hi guys I am not worrying about their wiring a bit indeed. I just tried to show anything could go wrong with 300 amps even the wiring. The real picture of current in/out battery pack would be rectangle wave like with peak and bottom at positive/minus 300 amps and this kind of transition from +300 to -300 could happen in less than one second.


    As the diesel engine is the only real power source for the truck, I, as a dilettante, think predicting MPG is relatively simple. The number should be a little less than ( due to overhead and occasionally unfavorable SOC of the battery pack) a truck with "A 197 horsepower four cylinder John Deere turbo-diesel" towing 80k pounds cargo at 65 MPH on flat highway. All other parts of system are built to absorb extra power from vehicle decelerating and to provide HPs during accelerating, thus making the diesel engine believe himself running at 65 MPH on level highway all the time. That is my ignorant understanding of the system. Hope you guys could enlighten me as always. TIA.
    2 Feb 2013, 06:05 PM Reply Like
  • Impeccable logic. What's the number?
    3 Feb 2013, 08:39 AM Reply Like
  • Well this may be old but it's timely for those of us without any background it trucks.


    TIAX (2009) Assessment of Fuel Economy Technologies for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Final Report, TIAX for the National Academy of Sciences, November 19.



    Pg 14 says a number of hybrids and batteries have been tested and the final report is due out on April 1 (2012) unfortunatly i can't find that one.


    the final results of the whole study is here. It may have been posted here as well but it came out at Christmas and I missed it anyway.


    On pg 30 assuming a new truck
    No mild hybrid (regenerative breaking and idle elimination) was tested.
    Odd as elsewhere It says 5% of fuel is wasted idling. $1,000 gal yearly per truck. Total fuel use a bit over 20,000 gal.
    Parallel hybrid costs $35K-$45K extra.
    Series-parallel costs $45K-$55K extra
    1 Feb 2013, 01:10 AM Reply Like
  • froggey, interesting comment on slide 19 of (The DoE Supertruck update). Lots of interesting ideas to improve mileage, from using cameras to replace rear view windows to waste heat recovery. "Electrifying" the truck, for air compressor, air conditioner, steering, and supercharging, has opportunities, not mentioned in ePower conversations so far. Over 50% of the energy from diesel is wasted as heat.


    Hybrid drive is expected to only improve mileage by 5-10%. Not 50%.


    No specific discussion on battery types, though.
    1 Feb 2013, 10:27 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » The DOE is studying parallel and "series-parallel" systems for heavy trucks. They've completely ignored a series electric drive with battery boost. The expectations for one class of technology have no bearing on the experience gained with another.


    Like you Vani Dantam approached ePower with a preconceived notion that "the idea can't work." Once he started digging into the details the response was "well I'll be damned." ePower's design and value engineering are still pretty crude, but the fundamental performance differences are amazing.


    This morning I posted a reply I got from Jay Bowman that does a better job of explaining what they're doing than I ever could. Take some time, forget the preconceptions for a while and ask yourself what happens when you replace a 400 to 500 hp engine with a 200 hp engine that gets by with a little help from it's battery friends.
    1 Feb 2013, 10:50 AM Reply Like
  • >JP ... You stated " ... Vani Dantam approached ePower with a preconceived notion that "the idea can't work."". Personally, I find that amazing. The idea that ePower is working on has, seemingly, always been near the top of my list of trucking solutions for things from Class 8 to the common pickup. It can (will, has) work for trains, too, except for that little battery problem. Biggest difference between what I'd thought about & ePower is gearing.


    I think ePower Engine Systems has a winner & I am impatient to read some industry/customer reviews.
    1 Feb 2013, 11:22 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Vani started out skeptical because ePower was doing something very different from what all the big OEMs are doing. The monster mining trucks have been series drive for years but the technology flowed down into the OTR market. That gives rise to an NIH mentality where "nobody else has tried so obviously it can't be done." Today Vani is a believer and he's apparently making some very high-level introductions in his contact base.


    I'm hoping to get on the phone today with the owner of the trucks so that we get away from ePower's claims and focus on the user's experience.
    1 Feb 2013, 11:30 AM Reply Like
  • JP, I have never said a series hybrid won't work. I explored the concept several decades ago, and a few years ago was working on a project for a major package delivery company utilizing a series hybrid and an unconventional engine. At that time, no batteries were adequate. I still think there is a lot of efficiency and effectiveness in a series hybrid. I can't speak for Vani, but I look at serial hybrid as "obvious, duh," not "can't work."


    I don't doubt 150 hp can drive a heavy truck on the flats; with better aero, friction and hotel reduction, it might get below 100 hp. I have no reason to disbelieve that a truck or two has gone tens of thousands of miles, as have many EVs. Just because a few Teslas have many miles on their odometers does not prove it is a good, sustainable technology.


    However, I am highly skeptical that a simple change to hybrid is going to improve mpg or tmpg by 50% or more. Billions have been spent by majors to improve fuel economy. Serial hybrid is not a new idea; it has been around for many decades. Major improvements in fuel economy need a holistic, top to bottom, approach, looking for wasted energy, not just a different power plant.


    Over 60% of the energy in diesel is wasted as heat. If some of that heat can be made useful, perhaps charging batteries, THAT will be a big number.


    Will a PbC powered serial hybrid truck be successful? Maybe, I don't know. I hope so, as do most readers of this blog. I question if 30kwh is enough to make a difference; I look forward to some hard data.


    I do not think ePower or Axion is well-served by unsupported statements that appear to be exaggerations. Data, data, data.
    1 Feb 2013, 11:36 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Data, data, data can only come from one of two places:


    1. Testing, testing, testing; or
    2. Users, users, users.


    Axionistas whine and bitch all day every day about Axion choosing the first path with OEM customers that require Axion to keep its head down and its mouth shut.


    ePower is even poorer than Axion and it doesn't have the treasure chest of cash that would be required to follow the first path.


    It does, however, have lots of potential customers in the trucking business who do dozens or even hundreds of rebuilds every year and are willing to assume the risk of paying for a retrofit or two or ten and finding out how for themselves how the system performs in their business.


    ePower's goals are quite conservative with plans to do a dozen trucks this year, 50 next year and then follow where the market leads.


    They've built a couple trucks, tested them in-house and put them in the hands of an end user. They're reporting results based on the information they have. As they get more trucks on the road the data will get better. The numbers may stay as wonderful as they have been for the trucking firm in Iowa and they may fall off as trucks end up in the hands of users with more challenging routes.


    Frankly I'm appalled by the "damned if you do and damned if you don't" attitude that sometimes permeates these Concentrators.


    Axion finally has a customer that's buying batteries, using them in the real world and talking about results as they develop, but some highly respected commenters are pounding the table and calling the claims bullshit because ePower doesn't have four years of OEM testing data.


    Axion has plenty of type one programs that it can't talk about. Criticizing the only type two program because the work isn't done yet seems unfair.


    Frankly I couldn't care less whether the ePower retrofit saves 50%, 25% or 10% as long as the trucking companies think it's a worthwhile investment and they buy enough ePower products to make a difference in Axion's revenue from the sale of batteries.
    1 Feb 2013, 11:58 AM Reply Like
  • From reports earlier that the owner of the two trucks ePower has converted to hybrid "won" a competition to be first to try the design, it seems multiple truck fleet operators are fully aware of who that fleet owner is. Empirical performance data prerequisites of others in the trucking business might be diluted or substantially met by seeing or hearing of that initial prototype owner operating or ordering more than two hybrid tractors. That just might kickstart ePower kit demand to a pretty high level in very short order.
    1 Feb 2013, 11:59 AM Reply Like
  • JP I suspect that it is just out of a sense of frustration by those (maybe all) of us shareholders who had hoped that AXPW would by now be basking in the glory of widespread recognition of the PbC and its obvious,to us, place in the energy storage world.


    All that being said since we are all investors we are unhappy that the share price remains sooooo low.
    1 Feb 2013, 12:19 PM Reply Like
  • >JP ... If there is something new that seems to or might work but for just what no one knows, example the PC, I prefer dissemination, Item (2). It must just be the "redneck" in me that I can appreciate, welcome & understand Item (1) testing by the "Big Boys". Item (1) will, over time, provide definitive answers (data) on specific purpose applications and economics of manufacture, sales and patents. Item (2) is the method that gets my imagination going. Item (2) leads to evolutionary diversity of use & crowd sourced improvement tinkering. Trial & error exploration the "Big Boys" can't afford to or just won't explore.


    Data is nice & useful but I'd be happier with sketchy data and something available to tinker with. Hell, I still think Stirling Engines might have a future even as 20 years of tinkering says I'm not totally wrong ... but wrong.
    1 Feb 2013, 12:35 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » My frustration with the share price runs deep and my fury over the behavior of the 2009 and 2012 investors knows no bounds. But make no mistake. Axion has a crappy share price because that's the way the vast majority of Axionistas want it.


    Over the last three years the price has been controlled by the investors who bought stock from the company in 2008, 2009 and 2012. The stock distribution is now at a point where those buyers are no longer relevant and the only thing that matters is our behavior. Unfortunately, nobody wants to believe that truth and we're stuck where we're stuck.
    1 Feb 2013, 12:42 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks, JP. Well said !!


    We, Axionistas, should not be so critical with users of PbC batteries in their innovative ideas. "damned if you do and damned if you don't" attitude is not just offensive to these people ( I would be, if I were one of them ! ), it is inappropriate. After all, they are developing their ideas with PbC that are paid for, not donated by US. jmho.
    1 Feb 2013, 02:18 PM Reply Like
  • 100% agree!!


    "Axion finally has a customer that's buying batteries, using them in the real world and talking about results as they develop"
    1 Feb 2013, 02:22 PM Reply Like
  • Agree,


    Yet many might be light on dry powder and/or life events might be forcing the to capitulate.


    However those who have professed to waiting for things to happen, while sitting with some stockpiled ammo, may want to start nibbling away again. imho
    1 Feb 2013, 02:25 PM Reply Like
  • JP, everyone is frustrated over share price and the time to market for the PbC.
    In defense of axionista's only fair to say that we have been lucky with the amount of new shares issued and the amount of shares dumped by big holders that axionista's have been able to absorb them.
    IMO, big sellers have only been gone for a month or two and the stock went up from <.25 to .37....not too bad considering.
    Hopefully this changes, but for a company burning $10 million/year and issuing new shares back to back....I don't feel too bad.
    AXPW needs sales no matter where they come from or who to.
    1 Feb 2013, 03:08 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » The big problem with the last couple years is that the big dumpers managed to convince the street that Axion is a $.32 stock and it isn't.


    I have never seen a nano-cap where one first tier player after another wrapped their arms around a technology that wasn't even a product yet. Hell, if Axion was a biotech the market cap would be a half billion and investors would be lined up around the block. Instead we've had miserable market performance for too damned long and that scares people who can't believe something this exciting is still selling for pennies. It's all a perception problem, but it is a major perception problem.


    The net outcome in the Concentrators is we all make a conscious effort to restrain our enthusiasm and in the process worry that the pony we just got as a present may poop if we feed it and then there will be a mess to shovel out of the stall.
    1 Feb 2013, 03:47 PM Reply Like
  • John: It's human nature, IMO. At some level all want to believe the days of bottom feeding are over but it takes time for folks to see and accept that may be the case, especially with worries about the nature of the coming capital raise.


    For myself, I've seen my desired "grind up" begin and am convinced of it. All the up and down going on is just the normal part of that grind and I treat it as noise, from the long-term investor POV, and as opportunities from the POV of trying to get more in hand.


    Others will get there.


    1 Feb 2013, 03:54 PM Reply Like
  • JP, what AXPW is doing now with ePower is what I argued for 2 years straight they should do & people said they did not have the money to waste on small projects and BMW & NS would deliver long ago. It is very positive they are spending the time and resources developing the mkt.
    IMO, they should not stop here...go and get 3-4 projects in different potential markets such as grid, Cube applications, etc. and take some low hanging fruit. Anything to prove that they work. Betting the company on BMW & NS is just too risky.
    When word gets out that the tech works, the stock price will follow.
    1 Feb 2013, 04:12 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I understand the human nature of it and am usually pretty sympathetic, but there are times when I just want to grab somebody by the lapels, shake them really hard and scream "don't you understand that we've already won this battle?"


    Collectively the Axionistas are the most awesome group I've ever seen. Individually they spend a lot of time worrying that they're all alone and will be last in line to get a clue.
    1 Feb 2013, 04:23 PM Reply Like
  • JP, it would be great if you could expand on your comment,


    "he's [Vani's] apparently making some very high-level introductions in his contact base"


    That really stood out to me.
    1 Feb 2013, 04:33 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Vani is very well known in heavy truck manufacturing and ePower is eagerly looking forward to planned visits from at least one first tier OEM that Vani has already introduced to them.
    1 Feb 2013, 04:49 PM Reply Like
  • Oh No,
    "ePower is eagerly looking forward to planned visits from at least one first tier OEM"


    Now ePower will be under the NDA umbrella of the OEMs. What paint will we be watching dry then. Those pesky OEMs spoil all our fun.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:17 PM Reply Like
  • JP---that's what I thought. Hmmm. What do you think is the nature of the interest, if you can say?


    When will Axionistas get a chance to invest in ePower? lol
    1 Feb 2013, 05:25 PM Reply Like
  • Might make the outcome bigger but will it not slow things down in the near term if a larger OEM takes it on? They might want to engineer the thing to a far higher level vs continuous improvement while ramping up.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:32 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Futurist> ePower may have to sign an NDA if it does something with an OEM, but there's no way it will be restricted from talking about its own activities in the retrofit market.


    Mr Investor> Like Axion, ePower has lots of opportunities. They're primarily interested in the rebuild market, but if an OEM wants to play in the new vehicle market, or for that matter seriously consider playing, I'm sure that ePower would be happy to listen.
    1 Feb 2013, 05:39 PM Reply Like
  • JP---thanks. I hope their discussions go well.
    1 Feb 2013, 06:02 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Since anything that moves more batteries is very good for Axion, I do too.
    1 Feb 2013, 06:21 PM Reply Like
  • And if it's Freightliner or anyone else that may be testing the PbC for their APUs, they already have a PbC testing headstart, we think.
    1 Feb 2013, 07:13 PM Reply Like
  • Mr Investor,
    Last time I checked, ePower has an investor list of five people who each own 20% of the company. If the potential for this technology is anything close to what they are saying, I don't think those five people are in any hurry to take on new investors. Unless, of course, those new investors come with a "very" big check!
    1 Feb 2013, 10:46 PM Reply Like
  • John,


    "Like Axion, ePower has lots of opportunities. They're primarily interested in the rebuild market, but if an OEM wants to play in the new vehicle market, or for that matter seriously consider playing, I'm sure that ePower would be happy to listen. "


    And you'd be happy to help them negotiate those John! ;-)
    1 Feb 2013, 10:49 PM Reply Like
  • LabTech, for myself, anyway, I was just dreaming out loud. Nothing like a vast potential mkt AND short time-to-revenue to get the juices flowing for a whole lotta high risk-reward, deep-pocketed investors.


    2 Feb 2013, 10:01 AM Reply Like
  • John. Rick has a point about a simple hybrid change not being able to effect a 50% improvement in fuel efficiency. Perhaps you could check with ePower on this point. If the figure comes in less than 50%, it probably won't kill PbC in this application since there are other benefits.
    3 Feb 2013, 09:18 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » A series electric drivetrain is not a "simple hybrid change." It is taking the drive technology from locomotives and mining trucks and putting it on the road. Before ePower, nobody had done that. The big change isn't the hybrid drive. It's the series electric drive.


    I don't question Rick's argument that a 100% improvement in fuel economy isn't likely to hold when the series electric drivetrain is rolled into other regions with more challenging terrain than Iowa. But there's a huge difference between saying "the long-term average will probably be lower" and arguing that the current claims must be untrue.


    The industry average nationwide is on the order of 5 mpg. The DOE's SuperTruck goal os 6.7 mpg. ePower's one customer has been getting 10 mpg with two trucks in Iowa for the last six months. It won't bother me a bit to see ePower's fleet average fall sharply as more trucks are put on the road because even 6.5 mpg would be one hell of an accomplishment.


    We are not investors in ePower. We own Axion; a company that wants to sell lots of batteries to ePower. While their data set is very limited, ePower has demonstrated enough performance that they're likely to sell a dozen trucks in 2013 and 50 more in 2014. As Axion stockholders those are the only numbers that matter to us.
    3 Feb 2013, 09:55 AM Reply Like
  • Seems to me RickK and JP could both be correct. Mpg realized by the one firm operating ePower vehicles could easily be getting as much as 12 mpg without achieving a 50% increase in fuel economy on that individual firm's truck routes. Or, it could be serving mostly 200 - 300 mile routes with multiple stops and realizing better than 50% increase in mpg. Improved mpg from downsizing the engine and running that smaller engine at optimum rpm would be supplemented with kinetic energy recovered in braking multiple times that could significantly supplement its primary energy source (diesel fuel).
    3 Feb 2013, 10:19 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » We absolutely need more data, but given a choice between testing, testing and more testing, or users, users and more users, I'll take the latter because I'm sick to death of trying to follow game changing ideas as they develop behind an iron curtain of NDAs.


    Give me a few successes and even throw in the occasional epic fail. In time the users will figure out what makes sense for them and what doesn't.


    In the meantime Axion will be selling batteries, growing revenues and getting introduced to people who've never heard of Seeking Alpha.
    3 Feb 2013, 10:34 AM Reply Like
  • A link to JP's "monster mining trucks"


    Electric drive motors, no batteries (yet).
    3 Feb 2013, 06:36 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » I'd hate to imagine how many batteries it would take to optimize a 2.7 MW diesel gen-set.


    In the small world department, Liebherr's world headquarters is about 20 miles from my home in Switzerland.
    3 Feb 2013, 07:18 PM Reply Like
  • Hi Rick.
    For me the next good market for AXION PbC is HEAVY MACHINERY. I was in CERREJON Coal mining two weeks ago. A big Dumper like that consume 1.100 glns. per day.
    The dumper goes up with 200 Ton. and down to the mine discharged. I think the dumper can go down with batteries.


    Thats my opinion-Carlos.
    3 Feb 2013, 08:33 PM Reply Like
  • > A link to JP's "monster mining trucks"


    Now that is what some would call building to scale.
    3 Feb 2013, 09:15 PM Reply Like
  • John. Thanks for the clarification.
    3 Feb 2013, 11:10 PM Reply Like
  • All, I'm a EE and not an ME. But I have spent considerable time studying IC engines and think I understand the thermodynamics at some level well below expert.


    Any IC engine, if naturally aspirated (no supercharging), has a RPM and load at which it will produce the maximum kWh/kg of fuel. That's the maximum efficiency of converting fuel into work. In this case the generator also becomes part of the "convert into work" system.


    In a diesel, if the engine speed is to be held constant as the load is decreased, the amount of fuel injected in each combustion cycle must be reduced. Less fuel means lower peak combustion temperature if the air mass sucked into the cylinder is unchanged, hence lower efficiency. Higher temperature of the working fluid in an IC engine is (almost) always associated with higher efficiency.


    For a series hybrid to give the best mileage, the motor-generator system should be running at optimum speed AND load, OR it should be OFF. The idea is to keep the MoGen supplying its ideal power rating to the drive motor and/or the battery. Any power not going to the drive motor therefore will charge the battery.


    If the drive motor load is substantially reduced, as in slowing down or going down hill, the extra generator output charges the battery. If the battery is at max charge, the MoGen turns OFF and the battery alone supplies the drive motor. When its SOC reaches its lower programmed level, or the drive motor demand exceeds the generator operating point, the MoGen starts up. This is how the optimal series hybrid would work. Motor at peak efficiency or OFF.


    The current ePower design seems to reduce the MoGen speed if its full output isn't needed. This puts the engine into a lower efficiency operation region. Not optimal, but an obvious place to start refining the series hybrid system. Stop-start can be added later for extra efficiency.


    Hope that helped. Its not a simple subject. A substantial amount of real time computer software is going to be needed to juggle multiple variables and squeeze maximum efficiency from the system. Glad I don't have to write it ;-)
    1 Feb 2013, 01:57 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » ePower's system is engine dominant and the truck can't move an inch on batteries alone. The diesel powered generator provides the first 128 kW of electricity for the drive motor and the batteries provide the upper tier power when needed for acceleration and climbing only.


    To the best of my knowledge the engine speed is either 1,800 RPM or off. I imagine there are some modest inefficiencies at times when the battery is fully charged and the truck is poking along at a speed that only requires 75 kW of power, but those cases are the exception rather than the rule.
    1 Feb 2013, 06:16 AM Reply Like
  • >siliconhillbilly ... The balance between the motor shaft turning slow (slower shaft speed=more kW input) enough to keep load on the generator so the engine can run at an optimum efficiency point (higher speed=more kW output)is, I think, the most probable reason for the transmission. The battery bank takes up the slack at low end of the rpm range (max. torque) for the motor.
    1 Feb 2013, 02:29 AM Reply Like
  • DRich: Roger.


    It is also trivial to keep the engine speed constant at lower generator load by reducing fuel. There are many ways to "diddle" the system for better efficiency overall, even if one part is operating at reduced efficiency.


    If I HAD to guess, I would say the current version will increase mileage, when used on the type of routes it is designed for, by between 10 to 20%.


    This might be increased by another 5%+ by adding Stop-Start, when the truck is used in an environment with stop lights and/or frequent speed changes.


    Lots of testing obviously remains to be done. I hope the trucks are equipped with lots of extra sensors (multi-axis accelerometers are one) and a "black box" that records all sensor data.


    Evaluating this data should allow serious tweaking down the line, for even more efficiency. Good for finding those Oopps! moments too!
    1 Feb 2013, 12:45 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » In response to Rick and others who commented on the horsepower issues, I asked Jay Bowman to clarify the horsepower rating of ePower's drive motor and got a wonderfully detailed response from the inventor. I hope this helps.


    "If you look at the difference in horsepower ratings between an internal combustion engine and an electric motor it helps to think of it in this way. An internal combustion engine produces power and an electric motor handles power. Since an electric motor responds to load by drawing more current it is a totally different animal rating wise compared to HP ratings in an internal combustion engine.


    The type of electric motor we are using can be over rated (more current applied) up to 3 times its continuous HP rating, dependent on heat produced within the windings. So in actuality we are running our electric motor at its continuous HP rating (150 HP) while driving on flat and level terrain at freeway speeds. When we need to accelerate or climb a hill we then over rate our motor up to around 324 HP for that period of time. This does produce additional heat within the motor but due to the location, insulation used and airflow to the motor this is not a problem in our system.


    Most tractor trailers combinations will have more HP available than our system but we make up for this difference in running our electric drive motor at higher RPM than a typical diesel and running with higher gear ratios to produce the required rear wheel torque.


    Modern reasonably aerodynamic tractor trailer designs require 110KW to 120KW to haul 80,000lb at freeway speeds. (150HP to 160HP) This however does not satisfy the extra power requirements for hills and acceleration. This is why most conventional tractors trailers are equipped with engines in the 434HP to 500HP rating. Our batteries come into play during these high power demands acting as a boost power provider under those conditions."
    1 Feb 2013, 09:52 AM Reply Like
  • That explanation makes sense to me. 475 hp going uphill is roughly what a diesel engine produces.


    What I am ecstatic about is that the battery works. We are going to have a real life customer that buys batteries each year for their product. Not for their testing lab.
    1 Feb 2013, 12:19 PM