By on May 20, 2008

351739987_359c73c29c.jpgIt’s Monday, December 27, 2010. A Chevy customer sits behind the wheel of his brand-new, fully-charged, plug-in hybrid Volt. He’s heading off to the office some fifteen miles away. Three years ago, our early adopter was one the first to put his name on the waiting list at gm-volt.com. Since then, he visited the site religiously for daily updates. And now the Volt looks set to deliver on all of GM Car Czar Bob Lutz’s promises. But… the Volt driver’s journey into the future is about to be a lot shorter than he’d imagined.

His thirty-mile round trip California commute is well below the Volt’s advertised forty mile all-electric range (AER). So the EV enthusiast confidently instructed the dealer to purge the range-extending gas tank. His new-found freedom from OPEC, Hugo Chavez, Middle-East terrorists and money-grubbing Big Oil is intoxicating. He’s on the phone telling his stock broker to short Exxon.

He keeps his speed five miles an hour below prevailing freeway traffic. After only thirteen miles, the low battery warning lights come on. The Volt coasts to a stop on the shoulder. A head is scratched, epithets uttered.

Meanwhile, Katrina II is bearing down on New Orleans. A Louisiana Volt driver packs his family into his EV and heads for relatives in Mobile, Alabama, some 130 miles away.

Since he normally uses his Volt strictly for urban all-electric driving, the gas tank is empty. Traffic crawls along jammed I-10. The gas stations have all closed. The shoulders are littered with cars that have run dry. As he pulls into his relatives’ driveway, 13 grueling hours later, the Volt’s low-battery warning lights are just coming on.

Non-EV drivers will have a hard time believing that any vehicle can achieve ten times the range in stop-and-go-traffic than it can attain on the open highway. EPA statistics have trained them to believe that vehicles operate more efficiently at highway speeds than they do in city traffic— even though it’s not an intuitive conclusion (they know it takes more energy to “push” the car through the air at increasing speeds).

This discrepancy between expectation and reality comes down to the internal combustion engine's (ICE) gross inefficiency. Most automotive ICEs in the world use about 30 percent of the energy content stored within their gasoline. (Most of fuel’s energy content disappears into heat and carbon dioxide.) And that’s under optimal conditions. Typically, an ICE's is in single digits or teens.

An EV is an entirely different beast. Due to the excellent efficiency of all parts of the EV system (batteries, inverter, motor), cumulative efficiency exceeds 70 percent at virtually all speeds. So an EV’s energy requirements almost perfectly reflect the actual energy being expended to move the vehicle.

This results in spectacular range in city traffic and traffic jams.

In our first Volt scenario, the cutting edge commuter had to “climb” a modest three percent grade at a constant 70mph. This challenge knocked 67 percent off the Volt’s 40-mile projected AER. In scenario two, the Volt achieved maximum efficiency during 10mph stop-start traffic.

In fact, gasoline packs 80 times more energy per pound than a lithium-ion battery. It’s only the EV’s superb efficiency that makes them feasible. BUT aerodynamic drag increases with the square of speed. In other words, the faster an EV travels, its power requirement increases disproportionately. So until battery density increases further, and quick charging becomes commonplace, EV’s are still best suited for urban environments.

[The Volt’s range projections—13 miles and 130 miles-- may be off by a mile or two. But drive a Volt into a headwind at the eighty-mile speed limit in flat West Texas with the A/C on, and simple physics dictates that the Chevy’s AER range will be somewhere in the teens. You can’t fight Newton.]

The Volt’s range-extending ICE gen-set overcomes its labile range– at a price. To compensate for the battery’s inherent limitations, the extended range Volt will have to lug around hundreds of pounds of complex machinery. That extra weight reduces range further. Not to mention adding unwelcome/expensive complexity in the service bay.

Meanwhile, cheaper, long-range EVs and quick-charging batteries are around the corner. Nissan has announced its intention to sell an affordable 100-mile range pure-EV in the US by 2010. Nissan partner AESC has developed batteries that can be recharged to 90 percent in fifteen minutes, or 60 percent in five minutes. And with battery density increasing by some eight percent per year, by 2017 that 100 mile range could well be 200 miles. Cross-country trips for bladder-challenged moderate-speed drivers become doable.

Until then, don’t believe everything you hear. Our calculations suggest that “Maximum” Bob Lutz’ 40-mile EV-only jaunt in a Volt mule must have been at no more than 50mph average. That’s good, maybe even great. But it’s still not good enough. 

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43 Comments on “Chevrolet Volt : Home, Home on the Range?...”


  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Hi Paul,
    Enjoyed the speculation.

    Actually, 40 miles on electric power tells us little. Without specs on the battery pack nothing.
    Cars have gone far farther on outlet love.

    I have never questioned that the Volt’s range goals are acheivable. They are not necessarily challenging.

    The challenge has always been, and remains, what will it cost and when will it arrive?

    Typically by this point before the release near production ready vehicles are in test. Mark Verbrugge, the director of GM’s Materials and Testing labs says he would like 3-4 years to test the batteries. 2010 is not responsible.
    Cost estimates have climbed.

    A guy in his garage could cobble together a car that will go 40 miles on a charge, many have.

    Maybe I am over skeptical. Maybe.
    IMO 2010 is out of reach. Was at the Detroit show in 2007.

    As always,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    shaker

    I beg to differ on the 130-mile “stop-and-go” scenario. From a standing start, the electric motor will draw the most current, and assuming that the regenerative braking is 100% efficient, the same current will be supplied to the batteries upon stopping.
    The resistive losses of the electrical cabling and control circuitry will play a significant role in low-speed stop-and-go driving, due to large amounts of amperage being shuttled back-and-forth between the motor and battery. (It’s Ohm’s Law; the power lost in any resistance is the square of the current multiplied by the resistance).
    You’ll see that in a “real-world” application (i.e. Prius), that the “city” mileage is only slightly better than the “highway” mileage; this is due to the inefficiencies cited above. But at least a hybrid is recovering momentum as electric charge, as opposed to dissipating the loss as heat in the brakes and transmission.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Batteries are affected by environment. Extreme cold or heat will reduce ability. Imagine the Katrina II scenario on a hot august day or commuting in the dead of winter. The ICE doesn’t lose much efficiency in these extremes, in fact that heat byproduct keeps the occupants comfortable in the winter.

  • avatar
    menno

    Prius (2005 and now 2008) can go about 1 to 1 1/2 miles on electric only, and I did it this morning, even though temperatures were in the low 40′s. Pretty much anything below 37 degrees, and the MPG drops off for several reasons, including the fact that the engine runs to keep us warm.

    Prius has 60% overall efficiency, approximately twice that of a conventional automobile. Yep, it translates into 50 mpg for this mid-sized car vs. about 25 for a conventional mid-sized car.

    HOWEVER, regenerative braking is only 30% efficient at charging the battery on Prius.

    I notice that steady-state 48-63 mph is very very efficient in the Prius. In moderate temperatures (above 37 degrees/below 70 degrees, air cond. off), little wind (which affects MPG), snow tires off (all seasons on), flat and level, battery at normal (8 out of 10 bars) – I’ve seen 70 to 75 mpg for miles on end. I kid you not.

  • avatar
    N85523

    (Most of fuel’s energy content disappears into heat and carbon dioxide.)

    Warning: My scientific nitpickery lurks ahead.

    Energy cannot be converted into matter. Energy can only be converted into another from of energy. Chemical energy in gasoline is converted to kinetic energy and heat. Water and CO2 are products of the reaction, but not what energy is converted to.

    I did enjoy this editorial. It addresses many of the issues automakers and car buyers are going to have to face if the EV is ever to become viable.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Paul Niedermeyer, I’m having a very difficult time believing 130 miles will be achieved except under the most very favorable circumstances.

    In the Katrina II scenario, simply running vehicle systems for 13 hours (blower fan, computer, guages, lights when dark) will be a significant drain on the battery. If they run the A/C, that will hurt significantly.

    I mention this partly because, in about 2 to 6 hours, you’ll probably see a post over at GM dash Volt dot com, titled, “experts predict up to 130 miles AER on Volt!”

    menno, Have you ever managed 70+mpg on a “trip?” Or do you eventually give in to the urge to go a little faster?

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    I don’t care – bring them one. They will be much better than anything on the road today if done right. In fact just give me an Astra with the Rav4-EV system installed, no ICE.

    That design could be ready immediately and as the RAVs have proven – they are good for at least a decade and at least 100,000K miles. Unfortunately they are also $50K+ when they appear on eBay.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    By the way, did anyone see that Stanford came up with a way to increase a battery’s capacity by two to three times using silicon nanowires? That take the RAV4-EV design from 100 miles per charge to 200 or 300 miles per charge. The Volt goes past 100 miles on the same battery size. All my driving needs can now be done with electricity.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Unless it’s a second car no one is going to buy an all electric car. You need to have something that can go an unlimited distance. Whether that is on gas, diesel, e85, hydrogen or whatever doesn’t matter (as long as there is infrastructure). People rarely need an AWD CUV but they get on over a FWD for the few occasions a year it would be helpful.

    I think the volt will be a good start and it will only improve in time as battery and technology improve. If GM is successful with this I expect an editorial by TTAC where it eats crow.

  • avatar
    shaker

    EV’s are a definite example of “YMMV” (Maybe the new moniker — the YMMV-EV?)

  • avatar
    gamper

    Some interesting considerations are brought up, but what really is the point about speculating on speculation. Attempting to put holes in the operational limitations of a car that does not yet exist seems an excercise in futility. I suggest that you attempt to nail Jell-O to the wall as a more productive use of time.

  • avatar
    altoids

    Very nice article, Mr. Niedermeyer. You hit the nail on the head.

    A few of the comments seem a bit confused about reasons for low-speed EV range – I will restate them.

    1. Air resistance is the chief determinant of engine load at high speeds.

    2. ICEs are incredibly inefficient when operating outside of the optimum range.

    These are the reasons why the Smart gets worse mileage than the Fit or Yaris at highway speeds. The Smart, because of it’s short wheelbase, has a taller profile and a larger frontal cross-section, which give it more air resistance than other small cars. This gives it lower mileage, in spite of the smaller engine displacement and lower curb weight.

    In ICE-powered cars, the impact of speed on mileage is obscured by the inefficiency of the ICE in stop-and-go traffic. Even though the mechanical load on the car is much lower, the engine is also much less efficient, so road and highway mileage are similar (24/34, etc).

    In electric vehicles, the electric powertrain is almost equally efficient at low and high speeds, so the difference in wind resistance directly impacts total EV range in a obvious way.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    This article seems like an entirely reasonable assessment of an all-electric vehicle’s potential range. And to be honest, it’s crap.

    Today, you could drive any well maintained ICE for days on end, stopping only a few minutes every 400 miles for fuel. That’s the miracle of internal combustion and the kind of performance we should demand from a car, and I’m sorry, but an EV just doesn’t cut it. Even a fast charging battery would take 1/2 hour to charge, and would only drive less than 100 miles at highway speeds.

    I say again, we need liquid fuels, we just need better ways of producing them.

  • avatar
    Alex Rodriguez

    If you have a small engine to run on when the batteries die, then what is the problem? It is all about cost and MPG. If a Volt only pulls 20 miles on pure battery, and then the next 20 miles at 30 MPG on the engine, you’ve done 60 MPG.

    There are going to be a lot of upper income people to whom this is attractive, not only for the MPG, but because of the “environmental” statement the vehicle makes.

    If Chevy can make the exterior of the car a “home run” this car will do fine and hopefully allow them to drive the cost of the technology down.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Alex Rodriguez: If you have a small engine to run on when the batteries die, then what is the problem?

    Nothing, from one point of view. The Volt is a good addition to the mix of vehicles that will be available. But a lot of Volt enthusiasts don’t have a clear picture of what the advertised 40 mile AER really means. And they’re going to be paying a substantial premium for the cost of the range-extending engine.

    I happen to think that given most households have two or more vehicles, it generally makes more sense to have one be a pure EV (like the Nissan), especially since the range on them will be 100 miles. Use the second (conventional) vehicle for long-distance trips.

    The Volt is trying to be two things at once (EV and ICE driven), and its price/performance ratio will suffer for that.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    Great article.

    Hey, Paul, can you post the software you used for the simulations? I’d like to play with that too…

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    EJ_San_Fran: No, “Tom” posted it at the gm-volt.com engineering forum only as a document. Try contacting him there:
    http://gm-volt.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=3

  • avatar
    nonce

    If a Volt only pulls 20 miles on pure battery, and then the next 20 miles at 30 MPG on the engine, you’ve done 60 MPG.

    The battery still cost you a lot. At Tesla-quality ranges, the battery costs about $100 per mile of range. 20MPG @ $4/gallon means 5 miles per dollar or 20¢ per mile. That means 500 trips if electricity is free (and to a first approximation it is).

    If GM can make the Volt they’ll easily sell quite a few, just because people want to stick a finger in the eye of the oil companies. But significant market penetration will require the economics to benefit the customer.

  • avatar
    AES

    Couple points-

    The logic of this article is confusing. “cheaper, long-range EVs and quick-charging batteries”. The A123 cells being developed for the volt are already fast-charge. I’ve charged them myself from dead to 100% in fifteen minutes. At the same instance, it seems strange for a site that’s argued against the volt from a battery price perspective to do an about face and argue in favor of MORE batteries. Especially with little evidence for those Nissan batteries being cheaper once the same economies of scale are applied to the competing chemistries in the Volt.

    Second, a lot of the scenarios described in the article seem to be indicative of poor planning on the part of the owner more than anything else.

    Thirdly, the extra heavy weight of the ICE will probably be negligible. The GM family 0 engines weight about 182-200 pounds on average, which according to GM’s data would probably reduce range by only a mile or two. As another poster pointed out, it’s all about the aero.

    Thirdly- the first scenario is just preposterous. The car would never just go dead for one simple reason – the forty mile range is reached at 50%charge depletion. In theory one could go another 40 miles, albeit at the expense of deep-cycling. That’s inherent to the design of the car. I mean c’mon TTAC, that’s basic information that’s been out there for over a year. I know this was an editorial, but it’s hard to take stuff on the rest of the site seriously when that’s the underlying sentiment. Call me biased, but so are you.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    SteveS: Unless it’s a second car no one is going to buy an all electric car. You need to have something that can go an unlimited distance. Whether that is on gas, diesel, e85, hydrogen or whatever doesn’t matter (as long as there is infrastructure). People rarely need an AWD CUV but they get on over a FWD for the few occasions a year it would be helpful.

    I think that depends on what you use that vehicle for. I drove a gasoline powered four cylinder that will go 300 miles per tank and 125 miles per hour (but not 300 miles per tank at the same time). I have never had it past 110 mph and never NEEDED to go faster than about 80mph. Even then I’d get a ticket.

    My car goes months without ever leaving a 50 mile radius of my home. Really the only time it leaves is if we make the conscious effort to take it rather than our four-door roomier CUV.

    FWIW this CUV has AWD and it gets used about once a year MAYBE. In fact right now it’s been over a year since the last time I needed AWD and that was only b/c I chose to cross a very steep field.

    sean362880: Today, you could drive any well maintained ICE for days on end, stopping only a few minutes every 400 miles for fuel. That’s the miracle of internal combustion and the kind of performance we should demand from a car, and I’m sorry, but an EV just doesn’t cut it. Even a fast charging battery would take 1/2 hour to charge, and would only drive less than 100 miles at highway speeds.

    YOU need a liquid fueled vehicle. Everyone I know with one or two exceptions COULD use an EV for daily transportation with recharging at work with existing (1997) technology. I haven’t needed a vehicle that would travel for day on end with only refuels. Well, we did go to Florida a couple years ago and we took the compact so we could put the top down but I could have just as easily taken the CUV or rented something.

    Alot of people I know already use a large vehicle for one spouse and out of town trips while using a smaller compact for the other spouse and only commuting and city driving. These same people could change from a gas powered compact to an EV – especially a plug-in hybrid like the Volt where if they needed to they could drive out of town.

    We have a small 2-door compact and a 4 door CUV. I have a trailer. Do I need two tow-capable vehicles just b/c I have a utility trailer? No, I leave the compact car parked and drive the CUV for that trip.

    I did some simple math. $3.72 at 17mpg for 200K miles is $43,764. At $4.00 that’s $47,058. A 34 mpg compact costs half that to drive. I’m not even taking into account the cost of the larger vehicle’s larger tires, larger brakes, 6 quart oil changes vs 4-quarts, shocks, everything.

    Funny how the cost to drive a large vehicle about matches the projected cost of a Volt if you used it on electric power only. What’s it cost to recharge – a dollar? Two? My daily commute would cost $5 a day.

    Go ahead and tell me with all the advances in battery tech in the past decade that if there were a million EVs running around there wouldn’t be some additional advances…

    EVs are not for everyone. But for a huge number of us they would be perfect. There would be a line of early adopters ready to buy if they were available at $25K and more after the neighbors, family and friends drove it a little. I think gasoline powered cars would within a decade or fifteen years become like those hude 70s/80s station wagons – not a bad idea but eclipsed by better products. (Stuff that handles and gets some mileage to boot, not necessarily SUVs).

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    AES: Thirdly- the first scenario is just preposterous. The car would never just go dead for one simple reason – the forty mile range is reached at 50%charge depletion.

    Sorry, you’re wrong. The Volt’s battery range of use is strictly limited between 30% SOC and 80% SOC (for longevity’s sake). Under no scenario will you be able to draw down more than this 50% range of the battery. That’s what the range-extending ICE gen-set is for.

    I’m not saying these scenarios are likely, but I am saying that they would play out like this (more or less) under the circumstances as described.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    The 13-mile range commute includes 3% hill climbing. That corresponds to a 2000 feet climb. So that would be quite an extreme commute: to the top of a mountain!
    However, it does demonstrate the difficulty of mountain climbing in EV mode.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    EJ_San_Fran: Yes, but I used to have a commute like that, from Big Bear Lake to San Bernardino; it was over 2,000 feet.

    My point was to show the extremes, although at a steady 70mph without a grade, you’re still looking at an AER of some 26-28 miles.

  • avatar
    AES

    Paul-

    80% to 30% is 50% charge depletion of 16kWh. That’s 4.8kWh still remaining in the battery. In conservative driving (assuming 300 or so Wh/mile) that’s still enough to let the car crawl another 16 miles to a gas or charging station.

    In the situation you described, the customer had no gas to power the range extender, but he would still have access to the reserve battery power (which, btw, contrary to your state, DOES actually get partially utilized during the up and down SOC “hills” of the charge-sustaining/series hybrid mode, which maintains the battery at AVERAGE of 30%SOC).

    I think it would be highly unlikely GM would let the car just go dead with the reserve battery power still there. In LA freeway traffic where sometimes there are no spots to pull over, that’s a safety issue that trumps the longevity issue.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    If the price of oil pops and another oil glut occurs all this goes out the window in a hurry. There are all the makings of a bubble in the oil markets right now, the demand is subsiding and oil prices are tied more to exchange rates and speculative guesses than production costs or use.

    Cars are usually a multi-year commitment. If someone commits to an electric vehicle and oil gets cheap again how much aggravation will they be willing to put up with on a daily basis to recharge and pay attention to the charge levels? You might bring a gallon of gas to a dry car, are we going to have electric tow trucks that charge up your car for a fee when you miscalculate?

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    # EJ_San_Fran :
    May 20th, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    The 13-mile range commute includes 3% hill climbing. That corresponds to a 2000 feet climb. So that would be quite an extreme commute: to the top of a mountain!
    However, it does demonstrate the difficulty of mountain climbing in EV mode.

    And you get to regeneratively charge the whole way down.

    Seriously, EV’s will be a good solution for a large number (majority?) of commuters. It does not have to be suitable for all drivers at all times. The ICE is not – it is very wasteful and polluting in stop and go traffic.

    I could easily live with an EV for my daily commute and a hybrid for the big family car to go long ranges. Or I could just attach an engine trailer to my EV for range extension.

    I also have a beef with the 300 mile range requirement. While thinking your car can take you hundreds of miles on a moment’s notice is sort of liberating, a rental ICE car could do the same thing.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    GS650G, Oil would have to drop dramatically in price to be cheaper than electricity. Because of the efficiency of the well-to-wheels involved in EVs, electric operation is cheap, cheap, cheap.

    It may also be somewhat inconvenient but, once one owns one, I think they’ll be happy enough with the operating cost to keep it.

    I think an EV really makes for just about an ideal second car and the only “families” I know with just one car are single people living alone. And some of them have two.

    But few will pay a great deal for a compromised vehicle. 40-mile range? Seats only two? Better be cheap.

    bfg9k, check this out.

    And think “rent,” rather than “buy.”

  • avatar
    rtz

    GM should make it do 80 miles electric just because.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    Am I missing something, or is there no actual data-based validation of the simulation model? “Tom” was looking for feedback on his methodology. I don’t think he was claiming any level of accuracy.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Captain Tungsten: And he got it (feedback). It’s been evolving over a period of time. As I said, it may not be 100% accurate, but it’s been cross-checked to what GM has given for specs to give a good degree of comfort.

  • avatar
    ttilley

    EJ_San_Fran: The 13-mile range commute includes 3% hill climbing. That corresponds to a 2000 feet climb. So that would be quite an extreme commute: to the top of a mountain!

    That would be Scotts Valley to Los Gatos. Or Half Moon Bay to San Mateo. Or, slightly more than Orinda to Oakland. All very plausible commutes.

    Of course, during commute hours these routes may see significant stop-and-go. Which would help.

    Tom.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “Most automotive ICEs in the world use about 30 percent of the energy content stored within their gasoline. … Due to the excellent efficiency of all parts of the EV system (batteries, inverter, motor), cumulative efficiency exceeds 70 percent at virtually all speeds.”

    Well, it is sort of an illusion. The electricity is generated by a process that has efficiency limits as well. An old coal fired plant may run at 36%, while the most modern natural gas powered combined cycle plant may run at 60%. What makes the electric vehicle look efficient is that it gets to outsource part of its in-efficiency.

  • avatar
    bmwfanboi

    One disconnect I can’t get over is that EV’s do best in a dense urban environment, but the infrastructure for charging many cars doesn’t exist there. How is someone that lives in-town going to charge their car? Will they run an extension cord from the 5th floor to the 3rd sub-level of the parking garage? I can’t see the people in Boston’s back bay area running cords out to the street, assuming they’re lucky enough to park in front of their building.

    And if more than four people at the office try to charge their car, do they have to take turns to get close to an outlet? I’m sure the owner of the office building or parking garage won’t appreciate paying for all the electricity for these freeloaders.

    So really, the first mass adoptions of EV’s will have to be in suburbia, where lots of people have individual garages, commutes are long(er) and speeds are high(er) and a round trip (plus errands at lunch) can be made without needing a recharge.

    I’m sure that eventually, the infrastructure will develop for people to plug their car in at the mall or big-box discount retailer so they can shop while waiting 15 minutes to 4 hours for their EV to recharge.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    ttilley: “Of course, during commute hours these routes may see significant stop-and-go. Which would help.”

    If you mean to imply lower speeds, then perhaps. But regenerative braking doesn’t recover all the kinetic energy of the vehicle during braking, the conversion isn’t 100% efficient. Some of the energy used to accelerate the car will be irretrievably lost on braking.

    Overall, range might even be worse in stop-and-go.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    December 27th, 2010, lol. That’s 4 days more optimistic about the 2010 release date than I am.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    bmwfanboi: One disconnect I can’t get over is that EV’s do best in a dense urban environment, but the infrastructure for charging many cars doesn’t exist there.

    But it could…

    How is someone that lives in-town going to charge their car? Will they run an extension cord from the 5th floor to the 3rd sub-level of the parking garage?

    Not at all. The “modern” building would have multiple charging stations hanging on the wall. Those charging stations could have card readers that a resident swipes a card through to unlock the charging station and bill their “account”. Or maybe the cost to charge would be so low that the owner allows them to charge for free like some owners provide free water or free cable.

    Right there is a futuristic business: managing these charging stations. You install them, service them, and bill the electric car owner for the power with a little profit for you and the building owner. Send me a little money for the idea.

    I can’t see the people in Boston’s back bay area running cords out to the street, assuming they’re lucky enough to park in front of their building.

    Again not a big deal. Install charging stations that look like parking meters. Once your car is attached to the meter, the charging cable would be locked into the car and the meter to eliminate theft. A shot range communicator (like Wi-Fi) could connect your car to your home computer to advise you of the battery charge and alert you to any tampering. Sort of an alarm system.

    You might say that ownership would not be practical until the infrastructure existed. It’s the chicken vs the egg logic. EVs are not for everyone.

    Folks who have to park on the street might be be some of the last people to adopt EVs. To me – a suburban guy – I can imagine even owning any vehicle in that environment b/c I could not work on it, could not protect it, could not wash it. I guess it is all about what you are used to.

    Charging at work would work well if the fast charge batteries come to market. 30 mins and your car is charged. Of maybe the system that a company in Israel wants to put into use where you buy the EV and lease the battery and you can stop at drive through shops where they swap the battery for you in minutes would be better. I don’t like the idea of leasing anything but that’s just me.

    And if more than four people at the office try to charge their car, do they have to take turns to get close to an outlet? I’m sure the owner of the office building or parking garage won’t appreciate paying for all the electricity for these freeloaders.

    No, they could use that as a method to attract employees – see, you can charge your car at work at no cost or at a minimum cost and we’ve got a dozen parking spots with chargers. Just like health insurance is a perk.

    Another idea would be carport style covered parking with solar on the rooftop assisting the electric bill for charging the employee vehicles. I’ll bet as EVs reach the grid that price for electricity will climb a little and solar will become more popular. TODAY you can have an EV and rooftop solar that charges the car. Your house makes power during the day and sells it back to the power company and then you buy it back at night for a net cost of zero to charge your car. The only thing is that they don’t sell that at Lowe’s Hardware and the local GM dealer so people aren’t looking to buy that. As soon as there are a few in the neighborhood or family that do, sales will take off because people are basically “sheeple”.

    The other day I said:
    Everyone I know with one or two exceptions COULD use an EV for daily transportation with recharging at work with existing (1997) technology.

    I meant: to say they could drive to work and home again WITHOUT charging at work with current technology – well, 1997 technology (Rav4-EV).

  • avatar
    nonce

    Charging at night isn’t that expensive. We’re talking a penny a mile. If someone has a parking garage, it’s not that expensive to run electrical outlets. It’s a pretty normal thing. They can be programmed to only be live when electricity is cheap.

    Day charging is more expensive, and people don’t want to depend on their employer to provide them with power. It really cramps one’s job prospects to have to ask your employer “do you provide charging stations for my car?”

  • avatar
    jthorner

    If fuel costs continue to be high and higher we will probably see more people have one or more commuter cars which are supplemented by something bigger and less efficient for long trips, or they will rent that larger vehicle when the need arises.

    The US DOT already shows that the US had about 1.2 vehicles per licensed driver in 2004 ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908125.html ). I suspect that amongst suburban living commuters that ratio is higher and will go higher still. In that case, an electric only commuter car might find a real market. In our circle of friends people are already allocating their family fleet to users and uses based on fuel economy.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    http://www.autoblog.com/2008/05/23/british-company-building-electric-range-extended-rovers/

    Would someone please call Rico Wagoner quick, these folks may have the Laetrile for Chebby Volt which Rico had been looking for very long time.

  • avatar
    ChartreuseGoose

    “Today, you could drive any well maintained ICE for days on end, stopping only a few minutes every 400 miles for fuel. That’s the miracle of internal combustion and the kind of performance we should demand from a car, and I’m sorry, but an EV just doesn’t cut it.”

    I hear this a lot in regards to EV’s.

    It’s bollocks.

    Total crap. Bad argument.

    You know why? Because nobody just drives 400 miles on a whim. People drive 50 miles on a whim, but any trip longer than that is typically a planned journey.

    And for those, rent it. Or join ZipCar. A rental is cheaper than buying and running a vehicle that far exceeds your normal requirements simply so you have the capacity in reserve. I’ve run the numbers; running an EV most of the time and then taking a 1200 mile round trip twice a year is cheaper than owning a gasser.

    So own an EV, rent gassers for long journeys, or buy both in one with a RE-EV. But a 400 mile trip you maybe take twice a year is not a convincing argument against EVs and EV ownership.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    ChartreuseGoose, I imagine there ARE people who go more than 400 miles on a whim.

    While not a “whim,” we have been known to drive beyond the Volt’s nominal AER range on very short notice; 150 to 200 miles on as little as 10 minutes’ notice. Since it’s something we can do and think little of, it’s hard to recast is as a “luxury.”

    I’d be delighted to buy an EV with 100-mile range but, as a multi-car family, one of the vehicles will probably continue to be a high-mpg gasser.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Something else occurred to me… what will rain do to the Volt’s range?

    Driving with .5cm (about a fifth of an inch) of rain on the road at 100km, tires 20cm wide might displace 100,000 kg of water every hour, per tire.

    My math might be wrong and the skim of water that’s on the road in a rainstorm might, typically, be less than .5cm.

    Still, it seems like a lot of work and it’s all going to come out of the battery.

  • avatar
    ChartreuseGoose

    “ChartreuseGoose, I imagine there ARE people who go more than 400 miles on a whim.”

    To be blunt, I doubt there’s enough of them to matter.


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