i T’S HARD TO SAy EXACTly WHEn electric cars
went from being a highway novelty to the sleek,
silent staple of the road. As for where they could
go, engineers at UC San Diego are steering toward
a more functional future.
Current electric cars are entirely dependent on
charge stations, which can be hard to come by,
never mind the time it takes to supply a charge.
Today, a long-distance road trip calls for significant
pit stops for power.
M-BEAM, or Modular Battery Exchange and Active
Management, may very well revolutionize electric
vehicle technology by using smaller, rechargeable
units, or modules, within the battery. “It’s similar to
your standard triple-A, double-A batteries that
everyone is used to,” says Raymond de Callafon,
project leader and mechanical engineering professor
at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.
“[M-BEAM] batteries are just much larger voltage,
much higher currents.”
And with battery modules that can be swapped
out as easily as those in your TV remote, M-BEAM
technology hopes to extend the range that electric
cars can travel, indefinitely.
Moreover, if modular technology can essentially
liberate the battery from the vehicle, these expensive batteries could then be leased, dropping the
automobile’s price by upward of $10,000, further
closing the price gap with gas-powered cars.
And electric vehicles are just the start of
modular technology’s potential. According to
M-BEAM collaborator Lou Shrinkle, ’74, CEO of
Pacific Battery Management Systems, the technology could eliminate the use of fossil fuels
for energy storage systems in general, in cases
such as solar backup and portable generators.
The full benefit of M-BEAM may still be some miles
away, but its project engineers plan to showcase their
current technology by taking a modular-outfitted
Volkswagen Golf on a 2,472-mile, coast-to-coast road
trip. The team is currently gathering the remaining
funds needed for the trip, and hoping to attract more
sponsors for a grand tour of M-BEAM in action.
Learn more at modularexchange.com
BY BRANDON Yu, ‘ 16
Modular technology could be key to more efficient electric vehicles.
M-BEAM’s first phase
was successfully funded
through Crowdsurf, UC
San Diego’s philanthropic
for Triton initiatives. Visit
be a part of what’s next!