By on July 31, 2010

This could be the week that separates the electric hype from the electric truth.  Real EVs get in the hands of real drivers for real reviews. Our Dan Wallach drove the Tesla Roadster. Our very own Ed Niedermeyer wrote his “GM’s electric lemon” review of the Chevy Volt for the New York Times. (He didn’t really drive the thing, but the article really drove some to drink, up the wall, nuts – their choice, it’s a free country.)  And Joseph B. White of the Wall Street Journal laid his hands on a real Mitsubishi i-MiEV, for a real life test drive under the grueling conditions found within the Washington Beltway.

Japan’s Nikkei [sub] thought that article so remarkable, that they immediately put it on their wire. That article will be making the rounds.

White being a good journalist, the headline says it all: “Trying To Unplug And Drive.”

Trying. In case some readers don’t grasp the fine irony of someone who dates himself as part of the Windows 95 generation, the subhead lays it on a bit thicker: “Getting the Feel for an Electric Car May Include a Flicker of ‘Range Anxiety’.” Now we’re walking.

Of course there must be the requisite remarks that the i-MiEV is „powered by lithium-ion batteries, which in turn are recharged by the electric grid. The electric grid, of course, relies on a variety of fossil fuels, mainly coal and natural gas.“

Having said that, our intrepid reporter braves the environs of shopping mall city inside of the Washington Beltway. He was warned that “in Japanese city driving, Mitsubishi says the car can travel 80 to 100 miles on one charge. But a Mitsubishi spokesman in the U.S. says on higher-speed American roads, the cars tend to get 40 to 75 miles per charge.” How far will he get when visiting the historic Tyson’s Corner Mall?

First, a problem presented itself: “The MiEV I drove was a Japanese model, which meant the steering wheel was on the right. The gauges – including the display that told me how many miles I had left before the battery charge ran out – presented data in kilometers (a useful way to dust off those multiplication skills).” There wasn’t much to multiply.

The temperature outside was zooming toward the high 90s, so I turned on the MiEV’s air conditioning. The car cooled off quickly, but the range meter took an alarming dive. I was barely out of the driveway, and I had lost six or more miles in range.

Mr. White quickly found another baffling item:

The one thing that is unusual is the effect of the system that harvests braking energy to recharge the batteries – regenerative braking. The car could just coast freely when you eased off the throttle. But that would waste the energy it took to propel you to speed. So the MiEV uses the drive system as a power generator when the car is braking or decelerating. The MiEV takes an aggressive approach to this. Lift your foot off the power pedal and the car slows down abruptly. Even going down a steep hill, it’s not possible to just coast without annoying motorists behind you.

Fair and balanced, White notes one good aspect: “The MiEV is a more practical vehicle than the electric car that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately, the Tesla roadster. The Mitsubishi is designed for maximum space efficiency and flexibility, as are many other Japanese city cars such as the Honda Fit. I was able to get two adult bicycles in the back of the MiEV thanks to the fold-flat rear seats and the high roof line.” The room for the bicycles is there for a reason.

After “making two round trips from D.C. to Arlington, Va.” (for those not familiar with the area: you cross a bridge and you are done) “the combination of driving and maximum air conditioning use had put it somewhere in the mid-20-kilometers range.” Time for a recharge. White finds a “standard wall plug near the driveway at our apartment.” No high voltage pod.

The next morning, “the MiEV wasn’t dead, but it hadn’t recharged either. The plug I tapped into didn’t work.” Mr. White better call an electrician. Or have his wife check the fuse box and the GFI. Or just don’t trust any old wall-plug in the driveway. For whatever reason,  the i-MiEV greeted the morning uncharged.

Undeterred, White and wife “set out anyway for a bike trail in Rock Creek Park, about 3 miles away.” A harrowing scene, right out of the Exorcist, a movie that had been shot in the neighborhood. (Actually, that ivy-covered house was that of my former in-laws. I should have heeded the warning.) White also should have been more careful:

But once again, it became apparent that I was burning off range faster than I was covering ground. The round trip was well less than 20 kilometers. But on our way back, the dash display began flashing a big E at me, accompanied by an icon showing a plug.

This was my first real-world experience with “range anxiety,” the term automakers have coined for the discomfort that strikes early electric vehicle owners who misjudge how far they can drive between charge-ups and fear getting stranded. We made it home without incident – also without air conditioning. I can attest that range anxiety is quite real, especially if you are the kind of person who can’t remember to recharge personal digital appliances far less mission-critical than a car. My oil-free weekend was over. We jumped in the gasoline-fueled Saturn and drove 150 miles round trip on a quest to find a perfect wedding gift. Why? Because we could.

Back in a generous mood, White thinks it might all be his own fault: “I may just not be ready to live the life electric.” Especially not with a dead wall socket in the driveway.

Maybe Mr. White isn’t Windows 95 generation after all. XP or Vista maybe. A veteran of the Windows 95 times wouldn’t have wasted the chance to subtitle the article “Plug and pray.”

(While I’m at it, I need to get something off my chest. Mitsubishi better find a new name before selling the car in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, certain parts of Pennsylvania, Argentina and Uruguay. “Mief” translates to “stink” in German – and you know about our predicament with f, v, and w. That  iMiEV could be mistaken as “I smell.” Or worse.)

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54 Comments on “Beltway Horror: The WSJ In The Grips Of Range Anxiety...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    Strange that he didn’t drive it the 7 miles from his apartment to the WSJ offices on Connecticut Ave and back.

    I’m always struck by the implication that these cars are only going to be bought by one car families, who are going to be left stranded if they need to go more than 50 miles. Rather than as part of a two car family, with short trips and commutes being done with the EV and long commutes and trips being done with a conventional car.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      The biggest cost of owning a car is the capital cost of buying and financing it. Buying 2 cars is never the answer to an automotive problem.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Robert,

      Buying 2 cars is never the answer to an automotive problem.

      I wasn’t aware that the typical family had only one car. I thought most had two. If that’s the case it’s seems reasonable that one could be an EV.

      I must mistaken – I mean really, a two car family? Who’s ever heard of such a thing?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Yes, we are a two car family. We were a four car family when the kids were teenagers. But, that changes nothing. Another car is not the answer to a problem. And neither my wife nor I wants to be stuck with the range limits. Your notion seems to be that current two car families would be willing to have one BEV and a real car. I don’t think that would work. And having three cars is economic foolishness.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    The current day electric car (Volt) costs 40 large (are these things able to be optioned up?–does anyone care?), and sans a $7500.00 tax subsidy* it is something no one but a Hollywood type or liberal politician would ever want to own–and they’d only buy it for appearance sake and for photo-ops. How long will this insane lunacy go on? Even the Twilight Zone only lasted 30 minutes. Oh well, who needs air conditioning, anyway? It’s not like it’s hot, outside, or anything…

    *(memo to US government: with no money in the coffers and record deficits this means either a loan from China that pushes our already unsustainable debt burden onto future generations, or monetary inflation that will devalue our existing currency even more than it already is now.)

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Well then, let the Bush tax cuts (on those making $250,000 a year and over) expire. These patriots’ sacrifice would reduce the deficit and save us from the Evil Chinese, and the rest of us will just keep working and paying like we always have.

    • 0 avatar
      pak668

      Maybe not many would buy a Volt for $40k, but I’m pretty sure that more than 10,000 people will want to lease one for $350 per month.

  • avatar
    tced2

    It takes a lot of energy to:
    (1)move a car hundreds of miles
    (2)run an air conditioner to cool the interior of the car
    Petro-fuels can store pretty large amounts of energy in reasonable volume. Batteries have not yet been developed that have similar energy storage capabilities. I continue to be concerned that delivering energy to the batteries will over-tax our electrical system. I keep hearing that the electric grid is antique. For example, California barely has enough electricity to turn on all the lights, run air conditioners, and run computers – we are going to add the energy requirements of millions of automobiles to this electric system?

    • 0 avatar
      Dukeboy01

      Your lack of faith disturbs me! Once we throw off the eeeeeevil shackles of Haliburton, the nuclear power industrial complex, and the secret cabal of Neo- cons headed by Dick Cheney that plant subliminal messages in the advertisements on children’s TV shows that program the ignorant monkeys who live in red states to buy SUVs, we will then be able to harness the power of pixie dust and unicorn farts to provide us with clean, renewable energy for free.

      And, besides, blackouts are just an opportunity to light scented candles, sit in a circle, sing folk songs, and pass along heroic tales of that time we took a trip to Whole Foods after we forgot to recharge the car and had to lug 50 pounds of organic tofu and gluten free wheat byproducts back to our apartment when the battery died and we asked the homeless guy who lives in the alley behind the New Age healing center (Not the really smelly black one. The white one with the mustache who wears the Detroit Tigers baseball cap wrapped in tin foil and the really cool vintage Hawaiian shirts and talks to his imaginary dog named “Higgins.”) to help us carry our bags and he started to run off with them but then he realized what was in them, so he came back and carried them the rest of the way to our apartment and didn’t even rape us when we got inside. We’ll be able to recapture a grand oral tradition like they had in the Middle Ages.

      Heh.

      Reality is, like, such a total buzzkill.

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      Dukeboy01: Your lack of faith disturbs me! Once we throw off the eeeeeevil shackles of Haliburton, the nuclear power industrial complex, and the secret cabal of Neo- cons…

      Memo

      From Daniel Ellsburg’s psychiatrist
      To: The Dukeboy

      I can see that what we need here is some intense psychotherapy starting with common word associations. Repeat after me: Bush…master. Arm…alite. Coin…telpro. Manchurian…candidate…

  • avatar
    mdensch

    Here’s a story idea for a companion piece to this WSJ article: Take a look at range anxiety next January in one of our northern states. Cold temperatures can sap battery efficiency as much or more than running the A/C in the summer. To compound the anxiety, the effect can be unpredictable and non-linear. But try to tell that to the doe-eyed electric car adherents who insist that electric cars will run the ICE off into the ditch within the next 5 years.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      One of the never-discussed reasons for GM canceling the EV-1 was that the range was very poor in cold climates – in fact the vehicle was basically unusable at low temperatures. (I think the EV1-1 used lead-acid batteries?) Ever try riding around in a car in the cold with no heater? There are several problems – your body is cold and the windows get fogged up.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Ever try riding around in a car in the cold with no heater? There are several problems – your body is cold and the windows get fogged up.

      HA! In the dead cold of an upstate NY winter with NO heat, a friend and I drove a beater Jeep Comanche (with the old Mitsu 2.6l four) from Rochester to beyond Syracuse and back. It was COLD – daytime hi was maybe 10 degrees F.

      On the NY Thruway, passing motorist occasionally stared/snickered at us. We were dressed in thick coats, hats, gloves, scarves. My buddy had a ski mask on for a while. Windshield frost had to be scraped from the inside due to our condensing/freezing breath. Credit cards work best for this – ice scrapers curve the wrong way.

      The drive back wasn’t as bad. The sun came out in patches – it’s amazing how much heat sunlight adds to a cab. Although we never removed our coats. Fun times.

      The heater magically ‘fixed’ itself while my friend was ‘muddin’ the vehicle later that spring. It overheated a bit and evidently ‘burped’ out an air pocket or something from the cooling system bowels – according to the mechanic who allegedly worked on it. He sold it later that year for $400 bucks. It still ran well…

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      No anxiety needed. Batteries don’t work when they are frozen. BEVs kept outside during a Midwestern winter will have a range of zero. Again. Buying two cars is never the answer.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Batteries don’t work when they are frozen.

      Really – then how does my car start in the winter?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      JMO: It depends. Where do you live?

  • avatar
    Andy D

    due to global warming and my meds, my body needs AC during July and August. When I got back from the hospital, the Sailor had installed a small AC unit in my bedroom window. I’m hooked. I drove bugs for 20 yrs, no heat, no AC, but it was cooler then and I was tougher. All my more recent cars have been water cooled with HVAC. It sounds like like they have run into the same problems that doomed the electric car a century ago. The best ZEV is still the bicycle.
    Last night I procrastinated too long in picking my daughter up at Logan . No time for gas. The Weekend get-away traffic had subsided, and I let B6II out to about 15 over. I prolly used less than 3 gallons to hoon 70 miles. Filling up is a breeze too. I’m glad that I have enough spares to keep my 528es going a good while.

  • avatar
    shaker

    “We jumped in the gasoline-fueled Saturn and drove 150 miles round trip on a quest to find a perfect wedding gift. Why? Because we could.”

    Any wonder why we are the largest consumer of energy on the planet?

    Maybe a little “range anxiety” is a good thing.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Any wonder why we are the largest consumer of energy on the planet?

      I have. The answer (according to economists) is that we can afford to be the largest consumer of energy on the planet. We’re rich in energy, land, steel, engineering skills – all the things that make a mobile car culture possible.

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      shaker: Any wonder why we are the largest consumer of energy on the planet?

      We? Are you Chinese?

      http://tiny.cc/hcir5

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Per capita

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      shaker: Per capita

      Then you should really be concentrating on China with your concerns, because if in the transition from developing country to the First World they already consume more energy than any other country, what happens when their “per capita” reaches a standard of living comparable to the West? These metrics are a concern to anyone looking to purchase energy, anywhere. Also, we must consider the “rate” of growth of energy usage. China will outstrip anything we in the West can imagine. Oh well, maybe soon we’ll have Sinopec stations that we too can fill up, when thirsty. Somehow, I don’t think electric cars are the solution. At least now, and at this stage of the game.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      We are their ‘shining city on the hill’ – the path they take will be profoundly influenced by the greatest country on Earth.

      Unfortunately, the world is also so profoundly altered by our greatness, there’s really little left to repeat our success – a “different path” needs to be taken.

  • avatar
    skor

    My brother-in-law is a chemist who explained to me the ugly truth about chemical batteries: No chemical battery will every have anywhere near the energy density of a gallon of gas or diesel — pesky laws of physics, you see. There is no magic bullet when it comes to batteries. The high efficiency of electric motors, and use of light-weight materials can mitigate for this ugly truth, but you still end up with a vehicle with very limited range, and no practical way to heat or cool the passenger compartment. This EV BS is nothing but one big circle jerk.

    BTW, it’s interesting that the same problems that bedevil EV’s today are what killed off EV’s in the early 1900′s: very limited range and long recharge times.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      +1.
      There’s also the notable efficiency advances that have been made with the internal combustion engine. Although much of that has gone into increasing power instead of economy.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      How hard would it be to integrate an ethanol-fueled catalytic heater for the passenger compartment?

      In the winter, you just buy a fifth of vodka, take a few sips, then dump the rest in the heater fuel tank – that way you’d be warmed on the inside and out!

      Of course, the cops might frown on that, and it doesn’t help the A/C problem (would need some sort of small turbine or Stirling engine for that).

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I don’t care for the current crop of EVs (the Leaf being the least awful, IMO) but an EV would be great for the 10-20 mile round trips to Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyer, and Costco that me and the better half find ourselves doing on any given weekend.

    That would save the 330i for trips out of the city and longer in-metro area freeway jaunts, where it has time to stretch its legs.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Sam P -

      I agree, an EV would be great for those short jaunts. But who wants to spend $40,000 on a “short jaunt vehicle”, which also requires you to have a “regular jaunt vehicle” on stand-by?

      I’d rather have my 330i and say, a Honda Civic or TDI Golf if I had to have two cars.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      But who wants to spend $40,000 on a “short jaunt vehicle”, which also requires you to have a “regular jaunt vehicle” on stand-by?

      You have a short commute so you have a “short jaunt vehicle” your wife has a long commute so she has a “regular jaunt vehicle”.

      Is everyone here single? Why is the two car family idea such an alien concept?

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      My wife has an 85-90 mile rt commute. She parks on the streets of Chicago.
      I have the “short” commute at 65-70 miles. I can park in a private garage. I’ve already talked to the garage owners about getting an electric outlet to charge. They said they “might” have something in the next 2 years but if they do it will be metered.

      Our shifts are offset by about 4 hours. Her commute is 90% highway.
      Mine is 80% highway.

      We’d have to be a 3 car family to have an EV under current conditions.

      It WOULD work for us on the weekend, but it seems pretty silly to spend $40k or $350/month to use it 8 days a month.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      My wife has an 85-90 mile rt commute.

      Well, either way, in 3 years when gas in $9.50 a gallon you’re gonna have to move anyway – right?

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      JMO> Don’t think so.

      I have my m-class. Wife has her permit. Scooters can get > 100mpg which is 3x our cars now. That would reduce our cost down to todays costs. (30 mpg @ $3/gal ~ 100mpg @ $9.50/gal). If worse comes to worse, we can take public transport but schedule would have to be adjusted with bosses approval.

      Bicycling would probably take about the same amount of time as public transport here if there are delays (common).

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      If worse comes to worse, we can take public transport but schedule would have to be adjusted with bosses approval.

      Why bother with all that when you can just move closer and buy an EV?

      Oh, and that public transport option is gonna be pretty crowded and unpleasant come sky high gas prices…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW87vXMdXPE

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    D*mn, if Dukeboy01 isn’t writing for magazines and tv, he should be.

    That was brilliant!!

  • avatar
    Steven02

    He lost 6 miles for range from turning on the AC in his drive way… ouch. I live in TX, an AC is a requirement here, even for much of the spring and fall.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    Newsflash: new technologies aren’t perfect!

    I don’t expect electric cars to replace gas cars anytime soon, though I expect hybrids to eventually do so (Honda and Toyota will eventually go mostly hybrid, just wait for the next oil shock). If they ever do, I don’t expect them to be looking like standard cars of today – the X-prize shows the sort of difficulties of powering something on less energy.

    We will see how it works out. I could see these things doing much better in places like Europe and Japan that have more compact cities.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      “new technologies aren’t perfect!”

      True enough. The problem here is that the BEV is not new technology. There were BEVs a century ago. Their peak was before WWI. After that and the spread of electric starter motors, they faded away. Since that time, ICE powered cars have improved enormously. Batteries for BEVs are better now, but not nearly as much better, as modern ICE are better that 1920s ICE.

      There is not enough technological headroom for batteries to improve enough to make a difference.

      Further, charging is and will remain a bugaboo for BEVs. Charging times are, and always will be, constrained by Watts = Volts x Amps.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Further, charging is and will remain a bugaboo for BEVs. Charging times are, and always will be, constrained by Watts = Volts x Amps.

      And political instability will always be the “bugaboo” of ICE. When the Israelis nuke Iran or vice versa or some renegade prince sets of a suitcase nuke at the Abqaiq processing facility – how much are people going to care about charging times when the only alternative is a 8 hour gas line?

      You said your kids are out of the house… that must mean you remember gas lines?

    • 0 avatar
      gogogodzilla

      To: JMO

      Why would political instability have any effect on ICE engines, outside of what we allow?

      In case you’ve forgotten, oil is not the only feedstock to make gasoline. We can make gasoline out of natural gas and coal. In fact, coal gasification technologies have been out there since WWI. That’s right, WWI (1915~ish timeframe).

      So what if Mecca and Medina are vaporized in an atomic fireball? America and China have the world’s largest deposits of coal, so if we dust off that ancient coal gasification technology, we can still have our SUVs with the gas-guzzling engines.

      That is, as long as we want too.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      so if we dust off that ancient coal gasification technology

      Even waving every regualtory hurdle – how long would such a transition take? Will you be able to keep your job that long? How much will it cost?

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    “Lift your foot off the power pedal and the car slows down abruptly. Even going down a steep hill, it’s not possible to just coast without annoying motorists behind you.”

    That’s the way it is supposed to work. You are coasting, even though your foot is on the power pedal.

    That’s one nice thing about a well-designed electric car. Get used to the power pedal working that way, and you love it. You rarely need to use the brake.

    All cars should work that way.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I wouldn’t spend 40 grand on an EV – would much rather have a TDI or a Civic Hybrid for almost 1/2 the price. If/when EV prices (for decent compact sedans) come down to 20 grand in 2010 dollars, I might be more interested.

    And my commute is a 2 block walk, followed by a 6 mile bus ride, followed by a 5 block walk (and my wife and I still have two cars. Mine being a German sport sedan, hers being a Japanese AWD vehicle that’s good in the snow and on dirt roads).

  • avatar
    topgun

    Even compared to other electric cars, the i-Miev doesn’t come out looking good. The Leaf is more spacious, cheaper, can (theoretically) go 100 miles on American roads and arguably looks less dorky. The Volt wipes the floor with the i-Miev as well by solving the whole range-anxiety issue.

  • avatar
    daro31

    Talking about electric dcars and heaters in the northern climes, heck all of us over 60 types who drove volkswagons know how to deal with that, no defrosters-no problem, roll down the window and scrape the ice with a scraper while driving. Of course my 57 volks cost me $100 not $40,000 but hey the price of getting started.

  • avatar
    rsmith317

    Anyone wishing to buy an EV vehicle should be allowed to do so. Just get rid of the tax break and other government crutches and let them compete on their own merit in the marketplace. What makes that so difficult to understand? Ferrari has no problem selling out their vehicles regardless of the price (and without tax breaks). Why? Because people want them. I recently watched “Who Killed the Electric Vehicle?” (it’s always good for a great laugh laugh especially when the wingnuts start crying because those moving pylons were being trucked away)and it never ceases to amaze me that people don’t see that EVs cause more environmental problems than they solve (what happens to all those batteries when they can no longer be charged?).
    Oh well, at the rate we are going, we will be riding in our remote government-controled bubblecars while wearing safety helmets and listening to the audio feed of “The Communist Manifesto”.

  • avatar

    The electric bicycle has a better chance. There is no heating or ac to worry about. but still the mfgs.
    better get their act together.

    Until the price goes down 40%, until they double the battery capacity, until they stop lying about the range,until the lawmakers allow a slightly higher speed, until they stop
    wasting range to excessive acceleration, until the motors
    are of better quality, until all models have regen. braking,
    these babies are going to be a tough sell.

    too bad, cause they could really work for 20 mi. per day ranges
    (communting) at 25 mph.

    On the electric bike, if you run out of electrons, you can still
    get home. Mfg. need to heed conventional bike techonology to keep
    weights low. That means no adjustable bullshit stems, or 10 pound frames.

    I loved your quote about space for 2 bikes inside the car, and why that was intentional.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I didn’t see a price listed for the iMiev. Is it also $40K?

    Or is everyone painting the Volt with the same brush as the BEV’s that don’t have a generator?

    Apples and oranges.

  • avatar
    jmo

    And neither my wife nor I wants to be stuck with the range limits.

    How high would gas prices have to get to get you to change your tune?

  • avatar
    JimC

    Has anyone thought about range anxiety and renting a gas powered car for special trips? There are “0-car family” people, normal people, who actually exist, getting around town by metro, bus, taxi, bicycle, and walking (!). For big trips people like this might rent a car to travel out of town for a long weekend, for example. I can confirm that such freaks do exist (not me though) and their outward appearance is similar to everyone else (except possibly a lesser incidence of obesity) :)

    Something I think we all would agree on- I believe there is some connection in North America between very low oil prices in the 1990s and the current sidewalk-less, bus-less sprawling suburbs, with SUVs in the driveway, driven on long commutes by single occupants (yes, stereotyping).

    What about people who are in between both of those extremes? Families who live a moderate distance from most of their day-to-day needs and wants and don’t have to contend with unpredictable D.C./LA/Atlanta traffic. These golf carts on steroids (with a stereo and nice seats) might work for some of them.

    Food for thought folks.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I doubt the people you are describing would be that interested in owning one of these. They already don’t need them. I am sure that they will stay with their rental cars when they need to take long trips. Would you want to buy one, then not use it? Many of these people don’t have a place to plug it in or park the car. Lots of extra expense to own a golf cart on steroids.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    I’m always struck by the implication that these cars are only going to be bought by one car families, who are going to be left stranded if they need to go more than 50 miles

    There are “0-car family” people, normal people, who actually exist, getting around town by metro, bus, taxi, bicycle, and walking (!)

    You guys give me the giggles. Yes, it’s totally practical to spend $30K on a second vehicle of very limited utility. Particularly for singles or young couples, or any couple with two jobs. You bet. And the one car family?

    I encourage you to live the lifestyle you espouse. I applaud you. Do it so I can enjoy watching. I’ve lived in Tokyo and lived the ‘no-car’ lifestyle. It requires an infrastucture which doesn’t exist in the U.S. (except for a few pockets). You shop every day, because groceries are heavy when you carry more than a day’s worth. Plus the fun of carrying grocery bags while carryin an umbrella. You shop at department stores and have anything over 5 pounds delivered to your house. Commuting by train? The trains run every 3 minutes,until the last train of the evening. Don’t miss it.
    Oh, and here’s an inside joke. Do you know how to fold a newspaper so you can read it while standing up in a crowded train? Have you ever seen someone fall asleep standing up and not fall over because the train was so crowded he couldn’t fall? You’re gonna love it.

    Trains in the U.S.? Here in Dallas, you have to drive to the station. When the gas prices increased, train fares were increased because of heavy usage. Bah. In Atlanta the train system only had a useful station at the museum or the dead heart of dead downtown. All other stations required you to drive away from them to get to any shopping.

    In case you’ve forgotten, oil is not the only feedstock to make gasoline. We can make gasoline out of natural gas and coal. In fact, coal gasification technologies have been out there since WWI.

    One of my close friends is a PhD who was working on coal-gassification. It’s cost effective when oil hits $40 per barrel. He recently abandoned the research after developing a process that could be scaled up commercially. The reason the research was abandoned? Political restrictions were a factor. However the main reason he abandoned it is to work on making fuels from natural gas. The US has a 600 year supply of natural gas, easily obtained. He is working on turning it into liquid fuels (generally diesel). The cost of turning it into ‘regular diesel’ is low enough to make it worth while since it can be used by existing vehicles and the existing infrastructure.

    As for electric vehicles, he laughs. You make coal into electricity, and then move it to the vehicles’ battery, and then use it to run the car. Energy losses all along the line. Additionally, as has been pointed out above, there are physics-based limits to what you can do with batteries. To say that there will be improvements is certainly true, but all the easy improvements have already been found. Now we’re down to incremental improvements.

    You’re dreamers. Enjoy your dreams, but don’t mind me if I giggle.

    /rant off.


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