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Re: [EVDL] Commercial delivery EVs for FedEx, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Staples, Frito-Lay,

On 11 Dec 2010 at 18:41, Willie McKemie wrote:

> isn't it so that essentially all the trouble with early EVs was
> associated with lead batteries?

I guess you could say that, and that's in accordance with what I recall.
Almost every "for sale" ad I read for a used lead acid EV said "needs
batteries." But then, not too many EVs were made with other types of

There were some, however. I should note that the following is based partly
on my recollection of what I read at the time and partly on hearsay, so
anyone with more accurate and direct information is welcome to correct me.

A significant number of EVs - I would guess somewhere between several
hundred and a few thousand - were fitted with Saft NiCd batteries in the
1990s. Some of the early-90s dual motor Solectria Force GTs with these
batteries are still in service with the original batteries. One sold on
Ebay a couple of years ago.

>From what I learned from Solectria in the late 1990s, a small number of
later Forces with the MR (reduced maintenance) type batteries also proved

However, many European EVs with these same MR NiCd batteries had major
problems with battery failures. In some cases these failures scuttled pilot
EV programs.

I think (but don't know for sure) that the MR NiCd Solectrias succeeded
where the PSAs failed because the PSA EVs demanded more current from their
Safts than the Forces, which were factory limited to 200 amps.

Saft had specified that up to 5C would be acceptable for short periods.
This was 500 or 675 amps. EVs that drew those kinds of currents had
spectacular failures until Saft finally redesigned the separators in those
batteries. I know of a couple of hobbyists who tried the older (pre-2000)
MR batteries in DC EVs with 500+ amp controllers. They had catastrophic
battery failures similar to the PSA EVs'.

Saft NiCd batteries (not the MR type) were also used in some Chrysler
TeVans. AFAIK, these have been pretty reliable with some still in service
on the original batteries.

Some of the TeVans were equipped with Eagle-Picher NiFe batteries. I didn't
get the impression that these worked out as well as the Saft NiCd batteries,
but if I ever heard any of the details, I've forgotten them. Rod Hower was
involved in the TeVan project and may be able to tell us more.

Some Solectria Forces were fitted with Ovonic NiMH batteries. Reportedly,
these have not held up as well as the NiCd batteries. Some private owners
have converted their cars to lead batteries, partly because the replacement
module costs from Ovonics were astronomical.

OTOH, there are some Toyota RAV4-EVs with Panasonic NiMH batteries that have
gone well over 100,000 miles on the original batteries.

A few hundred (?) large vans and trucks were fitted with tubular plate lead
batteries (I think by Chloride) in the 1970s and 1980s. From what I read at
the time, these were quite reliable - and also very heavy and expensive. I
think at least some of the GM Griffon vans from the UK were so fitted.

Those are the EVs from the 1970s to 1990s with advanced batteries that I
know about and can think of right now. Others who were involved with EVs
during that time may know of some others, and may be able to tell you how
those EVs' reliability compared with that of EVs powered by lead batteries
of the time.

I should also point out that (from what I can tell) these more advanced
batteries mostly went into EVs sold for fleet use, where the MUCH higher
cost was more acceptable. Not many average guys like most of us would have
spent $50k and up for a daily driver in, say, 1992.

David Roden - Akron, Ohio, USA
EVDL Administrator

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