Nomadic Power CEO: Tesla Thinking Of Mobile Batteries As Range Extenders

1 year ago by Mark Kane 61

Nomadic Power Range Extender Trailer

Nomadic Power Range Extender Trailer

Nomadic Power Range Extender Trailer

Nomadic Power Range Extender Trailer

Nomadic Power, a German company that develops range extender trailers for electric cars with support funding from the European Commission, unexpectedly put out a press release entitled: “Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk Confirmed the Concept of Mobile Batteries as Range Extenders“.

Oh really? He signed in?

Their idea is to build special stations with trailers full of batteries, that an EV driver could rent, hook up and drive to the next station. When the trailer is idle, it could also work as energy storage.

Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk confirmed thinking about the concept of mobile batteries as range extenders – Nomadic Power will achieve series readiness in 2016

Nomadic Power will offer Nomads as range-extenders for rental at major arterial roads across the country. If you are a San Francisco-based owner of a BEV and decide to go to Los Angeles, you can ‘hook up’ a Nomad at an Autobahn station just outside San Francisco, drop it off at a station outside Los Angeles, and then have the freedom and “lightness” of a small car in the target city.”

“Nomadic Power is a high-tech company from Germany, with a development center in Stuttgart. Nomadic Power develops and markets mobile energy systems for decentralized storage and mobile use of electric energy.”

Nomadic Power’s CEO Manfred Baumgaertner said:

“We are delighted, that Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk is thinking about a concept like ours for even more extending the range of the Tesla models. We’re working on that concept with support from European Union and German government and will achieve series maturity very soon. This confirms our approach to build a long distance mobility provider for all electric vehicles on the market.”

Nomadic Power doesn’t provide exact words from Elon Musk, nor the whole context, but we found it.

Elon Musk, during a recent visit in France, was asked about even higher range electric cars like 800 km (500 miles). You can watch the video from 15:45 below.

The answer was “That’s a lot” and then Musk noted the problem of large battery packs for such high range – when you’re driving on short distances, you are hauling all that mass without a reason (by the way, the price of the larger pack will be much higher too).

Tesla’s intention is to find the sweet spot for reasonable range, price, and performance. Base scenario is to go to somewhere around 500+ km (300 miles) and build out the fast charging infrastructure.

Elon said also that there is trailer idea that might work for long range, and it seems to be enough to issue the press release “Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk Confirmed the Concept of Mobile Batteries as Range Extenders“. Well, Elon probably thinks about all the options, and most of us interested in EVs also considered on-board range-extender, battery swap, dynamic wireless charging and things like this.

It’s also important to note that Tesla battery swapping, with one pilot station in California, isn’t spreading around the world and there must be a reason for its lack of support. Even if Musk thought about mobile trailers, it never even made it to the pilot stage.

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61 responses to "Nomadic Power CEO: Tesla Thinking Of Mobile Batteries As Range Extenders"

  1. Foo says:

    HUMSTER3D?

  2. Texas FFE says:

    This is the first news release Nordic Power has put since they received their 2 million Euro grant about a year ago. As far as I can tell they still don’t actually sell or rent anything. There must at least one person still working there to write this new, no information news release.

    I used to be real excited about the eBuggy trailer but the company has been so quiet I’m expecting them to just fade away and disappear. I sent Nordic Power an email last year asking when ebuggy would be available and how I could get my hands on one but there was no response to my email. I still think eBuggy is a good idea but the technical challenges associated with a commercial operation my be too overwhelming.

  3. Koenigsegg says:

    I’m not driving around some stupid trailer for extra range

    1. Art Isbell says:

      I’m not driving around every day with some stupid oversized heavy battery pack for extra range when I could connect an extension trailer only when I actually need the extra range.

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        Extra battery also gives you more power which means better acceleration and better battery longevity.

    2. Leptoquark says:

      At first, I thought the same thing, but then I realized it’s actually a good idea, since you can rent it for the specific trip, but don’t have to own it. I would definitely use it on my twice yearly trip from Washington DC to Ohio in my Leaf.

      I can see these things all over America’s interstate autobahn system.

  4. Daniel says:

    No news here. Aerovironment did this decade’s ago. Just Google the T Zero it had a matching pull behind range extender. One was a portable generator fueled by gasoline. Also offering the possibility of adding cargo space in The unit when you would most likely need it. If traveling far enough to need to boost the range of your BEV.

    1. Dave K. says:

      http://www.evalbum.com/type/PGTL Been done, at least 3 different ways. 1 Gas engine pushing EV. 2 Gas engine spinning generator. 3 Extra batteries connected to EV.

  5. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    It’s stretching the truth waaaaaaaaaaay past the breaking point to say Elon making a passing remark that a range extending trailer “might work” shows support for Nomadic Power’s ability to build practical (and affordable) battery pack trailers.

    Was Elon even talking about a trailer full of batteries? Let’s not forget that AC Propulsion’s tZero was essentially the prototype for Tesla’s first car, the Roadster. Now, the tZero did have a range extending trailer. But it was a gasoline powered genset trailer, not a battery pack trailer, as the photo linked below shows:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/Acp_tzero_DSC00467.jpg

    But it’s always amusing to see a startup try to grab onto the coat-tails of a popular, well-known company, and ride that to success.

    Does that ever actually work? It comes across to me as an act of desperation.

    1. SparkEV says:

      Range extending trailer idea was discussed in EV1 days among enthusiasts. tzero may have one, but the concept is probably much older than even EV1.

  6. Leeper says:

    I love the idea! It would be great to be able to rent one of those uhaul style for long trips. Also to power remote hunting and camping sites silently for weeks.
    If they could hook into the supercharger network, that would be a huge advantage.

    1. G2 says:

      Good thinking Leeper!

  7. Anon says:

    I could see them as something to rent, if you’re going cross country…

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      If you’re gonna go thru the hassle of renting something for a long trip, why not just rent a gasmobile (or a Volt) and do away with range anxiety altogether? That also avoids the problem of pulling a trailer requiring limited top highway speed, which is the last thing you want on a long trip.

      A range-extending trailer for PEVs is an idea that’s often discussed, but you’ll note that no company is rushing to put one into mass production. I suspect the market for that would be extremely limited.

      1. Nathanael says:

        Because gasmobiles are unpleasant to drive and electric cars are fun to drive.

        1. Nathanael says:

          … I don’t think battery trailers have much of a market. But I’ve been surprised how far I’ve gone out of my way to *not* rent a gasmobile.

  8. Nix says:

    A roof rack battery pack could make sense too, if you had robot hoists to mount them.

    But every penny put into an infrastructure to make them available everywhere, so you don’t have to drive a long ways to pick up an extender, would be better spent developing faster chargers in more locations.

  9. Nix says:

    Unless they have plans to partner with Tesla to have supercharger access, I don’t see why they are talking about Tesla.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      They’re talking about Tesla because that way people, and the media, will pay more attention. Mentioning a popular, well-known company in a press release is, unfortunately, a common tactic employed by wannabe startups.

  10. Roy LeMeur says:

    Even JB Straubel made a range extending trailer.

    Bottom line is the word “trailer”.

    Who wants to tow one? You can just about count the number of willing individuals on one hand.

    Might be great as a remote power source with accordion-like solar panels (been done), but as a commonly used option for range extension? No Way.

    People simply can’t be bothered with trailering or engaging the half a brain cell required to do it safely.

    I am surprised we let some people operate toasters.

  11. SparkEV says:

    Usually, long trips involve carrying more stuff. If range extendind trailer has room to carry stuff, it would be ideal. Then you don’t need SUV or minivan, but a regular EV + range extending trailer. This would especially benefit 80 miles range EV, and those without DCFC.

    Trailer capability has other advantages, not just range. If EV can tow 1000 lb $300 trailer, they can make short trips to Home Depot for plywood, etc, something that would require gas truck rental.

    1. kosee says:

      I think the competitor ep tender, who is making ice range extenders for small electric vehicles shows their concept with a rack on top of the extender where you could mount some stuff. I don’t know how much though and if that company is ever going to mass produce this is also a big question…

      1. SparkEV says:

        Roof is more limiting than trailer, especially with regard to battery. You can have 1000 lb 60 kWh battery plus room for 4 suitcases (or 8 for longer trips) for 4 or 5 people in trailer, but not likely to have luggage plus range extender on roof. Basically, trailer would eliminate the need for SUV in most circumstances.

        Since EV driver rent gas SUV for long trips anyway, if for nothing else than to carry stuff, renting range extending trailer wouldn’t be much less inconvenient.

        1. kosee says:

          Sorry I think my post wasn’t clear. English is not my first language, I’m dutch and consider myself rather good at it but sometimes I use a wrong word that looks totally good in a sentence but means something else. Just Google the EP tender and all will become clear.

          So it looks exactly the same as this thing, but you can put stuff on top of it, not on the roof of the car. Hope now it’s clear.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            kosee, thanks for pointing to this.

            Is the EP Tender actually being manufactured, or is this just a startup looking for investors?

            http://www.eptender.com/

            1. kosee says:

              I’m actually not entirely sure. What I do know is that they have actual working prototypes and not just fancy pictures and words.

              The company talks in a paper about their competitors (in English) and sees tesla as using a too heavy battery. It believes 100 mile EVS with ep tenders or nomads are the future for long distance travel. The paper writes that hauling more mass is useless for 98 percent of travel. I don’t disagree immediately because it’s basically using Elon musks points against him saying a smaller battery might also suffice using such solutions.

              Interesting stuff but I think vehicles like the bolt are going to make this company shortlived. Perhaps as a niche market for renting it for 500 mile plus trips they could succeed.

          2. Rick Danger says:

            kosee, your post was clear, SparkEV read it too fast 🙂

            1. SparkEV says:

              Serves me right for trying to read it under 7 seconds. 😉

              Seriously though. EP tender is great. I wish they could make it happen. But seeing how EV other than Tesla X are prohibited from towing (not sure about Zoe in photo), I don’t know how well it’ll work in today’s market.

              I didn’t know Elon, etc. thought that about battery. Interestingly, that’s one of my gripes for going with ever larger battery with EV. I hope Model 3 will allow towing, both range extender and regular home depot trips, so I can get rid my gas guzzler.

              1. Leon Skum says:

                Germany wins again with this prototype:

  12. Max says:

    How would this work, since EVs generally do not work when plugged in? Would there be a special connector? If so, why don’t they just add a system to allow for DCFC.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Max said:

      “How would this work, since EVs generally do not work when plugged in?”

      Surely that’s just a software safety feature, designed to prevent a plug-in EV from driving off while still plugged in. It likely would require a software upgrade to allow driving while plugged in, but I suspect no change in hardware would be needed.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Upon further reflection…

        It occurs to me that BEVs are designed to either charge the battery while sitting still, or discharge the battery to power the car when it’s moving. Not both.

        Ideally, to take advantage of a range-extending battery pack trailer, the car should be able to choose to draw electric power from either the car’s battery pack, or the auxiliary battery pack in the trailer. That would require a special plug and electrical cable, bypassing both the normal charging port and the onboard charger.

        It might actually be easier to customize a Volt to work that way, because it’s already designed to allow electricity from the onboard generator to bypass the battery pack and power the traction motors directly. I would guess that any other other hybrid EV that’s capable of operating in serial hybrid mode would work as well.

        1. wavelet says:

          There are two big issues I see:
          1) A technical one. There would have to be some kind of flexible cable carrying very high current & voltage from the trailer to the car; it would need a quick-disconnect feature, and any safety issues carefully desgined-for (in case of accident, the electrical connection would need to shut down automatically)

          2) I’m sure such a cable is doable, if not necessarily cheaply.
          However, you’d need all or most of the EV manufacturers to agree to a standard for this cable — otherwise, the trailer company would need a different trailer for each EV model — not cost-effective.

          Given the carmakers have yet to settle on reasonably uniform charging standards — getting them to do so for trailers is extremely unlikely (for one, the long-range BEVs have less need of such trailers, and their makers are likely to want to keep their competitive advantage)

          3) Since EV batteries vary widely in voltage and momentary power requirements, it’s not going to be easy to design a one-size-fits-all trailer.

          Where will the DC-to-DC conversion from the trailer battery to the voltage needed by the car be carried out? I’m not at all sure this conversion can be carried out without significant energy loss.

    2. Art Isbell says:

      Why not have the EV extension trailer be totally self-contained in that it would have its own propulsion motor so that no difficult integration with the EV’s propulsion system would be necessary? Sensors in the trailer tongue could sense EV deceleration which would trigger extension trailer regen and EV acceleration or steady speed which would trigger extension trailer assist.

  13. I used to think that REx trailers were really dumb but there are a few good use cases.

    If you need to move a short range EV from one city to another city, it could be a good solution. A commercial car hauler is $1.50-$2.00 per mile.

    As a one way rental, you could make a business case for it. It would probably be expensive to develop, and not many people are interested on towing trailers. Whether or not an EV drivetrain is up to a trip carrying an extra 1,000 lbs over mountains is an open question. Where to charge a big pack somewhere other than a supercharger is still being developed.

    But these are all solvable problems. As EV market share grows, this could be a niche market, just like other u-haul type services.

  14. Wouter says:

    I think that for a German it makes so much more sence. An EV on the autobahn gets drained really fast. There is no speed limit on the autobahn for regular cars. There is a limit of 80 (kph) if you have a trailer though. You no longer look like a fool going 80 with your Tesla, it’s a legal obligation.

    You would win twice with a trailer. Once because of the extra batteries and twice because of lower speed.

    1. mr. M says:

      You would win twice with the trailer regarding range. But loosing twice regarding time. The Autobahn is used to travel fast. The trailer is of no help in the highway.

      If you travel far, you want to do it quick. Better drive 120kph constant for 300 km and use the supercharger. You will be 30-40% faster than using a trailer!

    2. Dr. Steelgood says:

      In the meantime, you are allowed to go 100 km/h with a trailer in Gernany, if you fullfill some prereqs. For details, please read
      http://www.boeckmann-anhaengerprofi.com/zulassung_anhaenger_61.html
      To all:
      I had this idea the other day, too. The question is: Should the battery pack in the trailer discharge while driving (which might be dangerous and require official permits), or better use it as a mobile supercharger during a stop anywhere when and where there is no real charging station available within reach.

      1. Texas FFE says:

        Discharging while driving presents some difficult technical challenges. The trailer batteries would have to be wired into the batteries of car. Batteries don’t balance themselves very well even with a battery management systems so the two battery packs would unbalanced.

        Since the batteries would not be balanced one battery pack could get overcharged and distroyed during charging. There would probably have to be a transfer switch to switch completely between the two battery packs. You would have to stop the car to switch over batteries but the 12V should prevent programming loss during the switch.

        The Supercharger trailer would be the less complicated and less expensive option. But you could never discharge more half the trailer battery at a time. So it would take two stops to get 75% of the charge out of the trailer battery with diminishing values on each consecutive stop.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Texas FFE said:

          “There would probably have to be a transfer switch to switch completely between the two battery packs.”

          Yes, you definitely would not want to connect them directly, for the very reason you stipulated.

          “You would have to stop the car to switch over batteries but the 12V should prevent programming loss during the switch.”

          No reason you should have to stop the car, if it was designed or customized to allow for switching from internal battery pack power to external (trailer) battery pack power. The car can switch from battery power to regen and back again, without having to stop.

          In fact, if the car was designed (or custom redesigned) for it, the power electronics would automatically toggle switch which pack it was taking power from, as needed.

      2. super390 says:

        64 mph in a 200 by 400 mile long country is not unreasonable travel time.

  15. Someone out there says:

    Too bad EVs don’t come with towing hooks… (except for the model X)

    No, I don’t see a future for this product. An improved fast charging network and the bigger batteries in the future will make this thing obsolete very quickly.

  16. chris says:

    Just build the damned batteries in the cars .
    There, job done.

  17. Texas FFE says:

    An extra 60 kWh of battery would add at least an extra $9000 to the price of the car at today’s battery prices and an extra 1000 pounds of weight. But 1000 pounds is not a lot of weight for a trailer and being able to rent the batteries occasionally would cost far less than having to buy them. If you really need the extra range, even if you already have a long range BEV, the battery trailer makes a lot of sense.

    1. SparkEV says:

      So true. Many people say they want 100kWh or 100000kWh battery in EV while ignoring that will cost more and weigh more, affecting performance and efficiency. Far better is to have EV battery the size that’ll meet 90% or 99% of needs with DCFC, and detachable means to meet the rest (eg. going camping in the woods).

      I like trailer, because regular trailer can also be used to haul stuff short distance, eliminating the need to rent gas truck for big items like refrigerators.

  18. tosho says:

    The time needed to rent, hook up, and later return the trailer at a specific location would certainly be more than a couple of 30 min. stops at a supercharger.

    1. Mutwin Kraus says:

      There is a picture at the top of the article which shows their idea for how to build the rental station. It actually looks a lot like a Supercharger station.

      I’m sceptical of their concept, but not of it being possible to use an App for renting the trailer in a matter of minutes once they build these stations. Not needing humans to handle each rental should also help keep running costs low.

    2. Texas FFE says:

      If you really need the extra range then you are probably looking at charging at RV parks, not Superchargers. So you are at maybe 9 hours to charge, not 30 minutes.

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Yes, and it would take no longer to rent a gasmobile for that trip, so you wouldn’t have to put up with the inconvenience of stopping to recharge, nor dealing with the hassle of pulling a trailer.

      Again, I think the market for this would be very limited.

  19. jstack6 says:

    Tesla has so many Super Chargers why would you both with a battery trailer?

  20. wastingtime says:

    Well, driving around in city traffic with a heavy 100kWh battery when you only need less than 20kWh in all of your daily commute is a waste of money, resources and acceleration.
    Main reason most of us want more range are for the few longer trips where quick charging might not always be possible/practical.
    That’s why the BMW i3 REX solution appeal some.
    But instead renting a battery powered range extender for these few trips sounds even better.
    One problem is that most BEVs are not registered for towing trailers, except the expensive Model X which already carries a 90kWh battery and access to the supercharger network.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      wastingtime said:

      “Well, driving around in city traffic with a heavy 100kWh battery when you only need less than 20kWh in all of your daily commute is a waste of money, resources and acceleration.”

      Far from it. Let’s count the advantages of a larger battery pack:

      1. Longer range, so greater flexibility in taking trips

      2. Ability to charge faster en route, so less time waiting

      3. Fewer battery cycles, so less loss of pack capacity over the years

      4. Higher power available, so better performance

      5. Less worry about range loss in cold weather

      6. Higher resale value, especially since the battery pack won’t be as degraded

      7. Greater ability to take a second trip on the same day without waiting to recharge

      Higher costs and greater weight are becoming less of an issue over time, as battery prices come down and energy density improves year-on-year.

      1. Speculawyer says:

        That is all true but wouldn’t it be nice to have a really cheap commuter EV that poor people could buy?

  21. mr. M says:

    I would love a 60kWh Leaf with a Range extender with 40l of gasoline. That would be awesome and make everyone happy.

  22. David S. says:

    Here’s an interesting read about EP Tender and Nomadic Power. It was published at the European EV Congress last december

    “Modular energy for electric vehicles: a paradigm shifting innovation for the transport sector”

    http://www.eptender.com/SiteAssets/EEVC%20paper%20EP%20Tender%20-%20Nomadic%20Power.pdf

  23. Mayhemm says:

    Elon Musk thinks about A LOT of things. I doubt he’s dedicated much time to this. Still, some is better than none.

    I would be interested in something like this if they could minimize the range/power loss while connected and not end up with inconsistent power delivery like an i3 REx. Power would need to be in the area of 50kWh to be worth it though.

    Tesla seems to be losing interest in a truly gasoline competitive long-range EV over the last few months though. I’m not sure whether this is due to delays in more important areas (like Model X and the Gigafactory) or if it’s simply a matter of all the douchbags with Superchargers in place and 20km between communities insisting that nobody will buy them.

  24. Speculawyer says:

    Count me in on those that think this is NOT a terrible idea.

    If there was a STANDARDIZED DC port where all (or many) EVs could accept DC power from a battery in a trailer, it would be a great way to give short range EVs the temporary ability to drive long distances on those rare occasions when necessary. Someone like U-Haul could stock the trailers and people would use them when move or want to take a long driving trip.

    This would allow commuter EVs to be very cheap when battery priced drop.

    Imagine if you could buy an 85 EPA-rated mile range EV for $12K that has a DC input port which you could connected to a larger battery trailer when you need to drive for hundreds of miles. You could drive an EV for the same up-front cost of a cheap gas car and grab a battery trailer when you want to drive to grandmother’s house.

  25. Phaedrus says:

    Back in the old days, I read about the adventures of a guy that drove a converted VW Rabbit with lead acid batteries. For longer range, he used to hook up a trailer that was made from the front part of another Rabbit. The trailer used the gas engine AND drivetrain to push the EV without using battery power, a.k.a. pusher trailer. He had made some controls to be able to throttle and operate the engine. Pity I forgot the name of the guy. He was a true pioneer. This is an interesting concept imho. It would be easy to do it with batteries and a build-in electric motor, so the trailer pushes the car instead of the car pulling the trailer. Maybe with some interfacing, both the car and the trailer may be powered by electric motors at the same time. No power transfer from trailer to car is then needed.

    1. digicool says:

      Should the trailer’s motor run out of power, a second trailer could be hooked behind the first and all three motors can now be powered from the second trailer and so on.. Brilliant!

    2. Jay says:

      Been there, done that. It’s easy and works quite well (with a single trailer ;-).
      http://insideevs.com/explained-mitsubishi-miev-range-extender-story/
      I’m currently building a battery-electric pusher with a VW drivetrain and Kaylor Kit adaptor for a shunt-wound motor, yielding simple three mode operation- Push, idle, Regen. Contactor control, so simple, cheap, and failsafe when the contactor coil power from the vehicle drops out.