By on February 6, 2007

pieh.jpgOn January 24, President Bush issued an executive order. All federal agencies with 20 or more vehicles in their fleet will now use plug-in hybrid vehicles– “when PIH vehicles are commercially available at a cost reasonably comparable, on the basis of life-cycle cost, to non-PIH vehicles."  Cool. So, ah, where are these government buggies and when will we see some sporting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crest on the doors? This, my friends, is what’s called a “faith based initiative.”

Nobody in America currently sells a plug-in hybrid. Some seriously brave hackers have converted a Toyota Prius or two. And that’s about it. General Motors wooed a covey of press at the Detroit auto show with the Volt, their collective dream of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The spinmeisters say it may be on the street in three years, if it’s able to fly General Lee style over a fat, flaming obstacle: batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are currently our best electricity storage devices. They serve the lap-top and cell phone world nicely– at least for the moment. Compared to other batteries, they’re fairly light. On the downside, they catch fire if their insides are exposed to oxygen; not a great feature in a car. But it’s not an impossible situation. The all-electric Tesla Roadster uses an array of 6,831 lithium-ion cells, deploying a number a safety devices to keep it from becoming Tesla toaster.  

The other downside: weight. While the two-passenger ultra-light Tesla can get away with schlepping a bunch of batteries, a mid-size sedan, pick-up truck stuffed with a bed full of peat moss or an SUV full of Boy Scouts, sleeping bags, tents and scarves are going to struggle just to get rolling.

General Motors hopes new, lighter batteries will be developed before people start asking when they can pick up their Volts. Notice the qualifier. The General isn’t committing to a timeline for the Volt. What they and their Detroit brethren really, really want, what the battery world probably needs, is a Manhattan Project-style initiative to give the domestic battery community a… um… charge.

The League of Beleaguered Gentlemen may actually get their wish. In the President’s 2007 State of the Union address he said, “We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles…” Not exactly a promise of billions, brains or tax-breaks, but it’s nice to get a nod. China, Korea and Japan have national lithium ion battery development programs, putting them each a half a lap ahead. But, the US has lithium reserves in Nevada, so it’s not out of the race. And the lithium race is not the only game in town.

When it comes to who really killed the electric car, the culprits are cost, weight, safety and power limits. Scientists have been looking for a better battery since Edison. More than a few think they’re almost there.

Former Air Force major Ross Dueber used to design batteries for the Strategic Defense Initiative. After retiring from government service, he didn’t take any confidential tax payer research to start Zinc Matrix. Dueber’s dudes are developing energy storage systems based on zinc (duh) rather than lithium, mostly because of that annoying flame out problem. Cost and weight will have to wait. At the moment, zinc offers no advantages there.

Europositron of Finland is working on nano technology they hope will lead to the production of rechargeable aluminum batteries. The prototypes are safe, fully recyclable and boast 20 times more capacity than current batteries. To put that in perspective, a pre-crushed GM EV1 with Europositron tech would have extended its range from 80 miles between charges to almost 600. Aluminum batteries are still at least two years from market.

The vanadium redox flow battery is the brainchild of Professor Maria Skylass-Kazacos (and team) at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Cheap, environmentally tolerable, vrf’s can be refueled in minutes, mechanically. The vanadium redox battery stores energy in a liquid electrolyte solution. The batteries can be charged by pumping in new goo, just like gas at the old fillin’ station.

A UK company called RE-Fuel is working on vehicles using vanadium batteries. Their 50 mile range leaves the comnpany concentrating on urban delivery trucks, shuttle buses, airport tenders– the kind of worker-bees that don’t venture far from the hive.

In the end, it all comes down to physics. We use a lot of gasoline because it’s a damn fine way to store energy. The need for new batteries is clear, though. You can tell because a Presidential administration made of ex-oil men says it’s time to look for alternatives. This year’s class of batteries gets by with barely a passing grade and the under classes coming up don’t look much better. So, a little advice for the next generation: stay awake in Chemistry. 

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100 Comments on “Developing the Electric Car: Who’s In Charge?...”


  • avatar
    tsofting

    Good update on the state of the art in battery technology! Seems the world has been waiting for a breakthrough in battery technology since our great-grandparents silently cruised the streets in their Baker Electrics.

    And – we are just as eager as they were to be able to store some serous miles in a battery pack!

    It has been said that the sole most important reason for the incredible advances in electonics and computer technology from the sixties up to now can be attributed to the fact that the booster rockets of the US were inferior to the booster rockets of the Soviets, so – everything had to be miniaturized, way beyond what anybody fathomed at the outset. Then – why is it that battery technology has not gotten the same “boost”? There should be plenty of motivations to develop batteries that could store juice for space flights, for submarine use, for aircraft use, and so on. Thinking of the zillions that have been spent on such programs for the past 40 or 50 years, why hasn’t any really knock-out battery technology come out of it? I mean, if Pentagon-Locheed-Northrop-Boeing-NASA couldn’t do it, how can we expect The General, or indeed any corporation to be able to do it?

  • avatar
    shaker

    “when PIH vehicles are commercially available at a cost reasonably comparable, on the basis of life-cycle cost, to non-PIH vehicles.” Hmm… such a commitment! There will likely be thousands of private, “early adopters” before the gov’t even considers fleet purchases. I’m sure the oil lobby will have a say as to how much the tax credits will be for a viable plug-in-hybrid (“PIH”?), so that there’s a smooth “transition” to such technology.
    Of course, your phrase “faith-based initiative” was the more elegant way of making the same point, which is why I enjoy this site daily!

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Watch little-known BYD auto company from the PRC. BYD are primarily known as the 2nd largest cellular phone battery supplier in the world. They’re working on an IRON based battery. Sounds heavy but iron is cheap. Their prototype eF3 electric sedan (a clone of a Corolla with Honda tail lights) seems to be a step forward, and mass production “may be around the corner.”

    Trouble is, where I live? I don’t think electric cars would cut the mustard even with the best and brightest battery technology ever envisioned, because just exactly how would I keep warm? The drive-in to work this morning was 2 degrees F. I drove 18 miles. There is no place to plug the car in in the parking lot at work, if I had an electric.

    Maybe a car with a 60 mile or 200 mile range in the summer would be fine for me, but I “bet” nobody would venture out in the cars in 2 degrees F. because either they would freeze, or the amount of electricity to heat the interior would be so extreme, that the car would stop and THEN they’d freeze.

    “In theory” electric cars seems to be the way to go. But, that’s been the case since early last century!

    That old TV ad? A small revision. “Show me the BATTERY!”

  • avatar
    bestertester

    this is a story that gets written about once a decade.

    electric cars would be good if the batteries stored enough energy, had acceptable longevity, were not dangerous in crashes, and weren’t chemical-waste time bombs. these are the important new facts in
    2007, 1997, and 1947.

    industry says would-a, could-a (as in: we “would a” built them if the technology was ripe); and now dubya says shoulda. so what?

    n.b. i am not criticizing the article, which i think is well-written and to the point.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    Iron heavy? Would still be an improvement over lead….

  • avatar
    ash78

    Can anyone support or refute this for me? I’m still unclear and I’ve heard it both ways:

    Assuming your area’s power plants are coal-based, it pollutes more to use electrical motors to accomplish the same work as a small internal combustion engine on gasoline (eg, mower, car).

    I’ve heard this in criticisms of electic lawnmowers, but I don’t know if it’s true. On one hand, I would think economies of scale would create more energy per ton of pollutant at the powerplant level, but then I’ve heard the distribution of that power reduces its effectiveness. Apart from going nuclear (which we should do, IMO), is it really environmentally better to switch cars to electricity regardless of how great the batteries are?

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    A great article, a good read.

    Ash78 hit the nail right on the head, regarding the bigger problem with electric vehicles. At the end of the day, you plug it into an outlet, and charge up the batteries with ‘dirty’ electricity! Without a clean and renewable method of PRODUCING and STORING electricity, we’ll never move forward.

    I don’t know what the best solution is, (if I did, I’d be rich!) but I do think within 100 yrs we will be free of petrol, but obviously we’ve got a long way to go before the technology is viable, and even longer before our society is accepting.

  • avatar

    Regarding tsofting’s comment of, “I mean, if Pentagon-Locheed-Northrop-Boeing-NASA couldn’t do it, how can we expect The General, or indeed any corporation to be able to do it?”, there’s a real easy answer.

    Profit. Capitalism.

    If there’s a real chance out there to make a serious buck, somebody’s going to find a way around the limitations. We may love to slag GM on this site, but the bottom line is that they’re just as dedicated to making money as BMW/Toyota/Porsche/whoever’s considered cool at the moment.

    And when they’re hurting as badly as current, the incentive to come up with something profitable is even greater.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    No offence intended, but I think a tad bit more recearch may have been warranted on this article before writing. Like most articles on EVs, it still fails to take into account current developments and available technologies, and is biased towards writing about EVs in the far future tense. Lithium Ion nanotechnology is already available on the market. All one has to do is take a trip to the local hardware store and check out the new lithium ion cordless power tools from DeWALT. They use a mass produced lithium ion nano battery developed by A123 Systems in the US. Incidentally, this is the same company who was awarded the contract to build the batteries for GM’s Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid.

    The future may be closer than you think.

    As for the cost, weight, safety, and power issues, I must respectfully disagree. The high cost of any EV is traditionally in the batteries, which currently need to be bleeding edge to make an EV or PIH viable in the market. Existing technologies like LiION nano batteries are currently doing more while costing less, and need only more extensive mass manufacturing to bring the costs down to reasonable levels for high power EV and PIH battery packs. These advances in manufacturing are happening as we speak.

    The higher weight has also been traditionally in the battery pack, but no longer, as new batteries are more power dense and lighter.

    By mentioning safey as an issue, I can only assume the accusation is against the battery pack again since improperly designed LiION packs have been known to exhibit thermal runaway. These are not the batteries that will ultimately be used in mass market EVs or PIH, for that very reason. But all is not lost. LiION nano batteries for example exhibit no such safety issues, work over a wide range of temperatures, and could be considered many times safer than strapping an explosive tank to the underside of your vehicle. The rest of the car can be engineered to be as safe as any other ICE vehicle.

    Power is a non-issue for a properly sized EV drivetrain, and well designed EVs, like the Tesla Roadster or the AC Propulsion T-Zero, are typically much faster than thier ICE counterparts. The limit to towing power is again traced back to the battery pack, which must supply both power and range, within confines of size and weight. As battery packs improve, more powerful drivetrains can be used while still delivering a reasonable range and reducing the weight of the vehicle. Electric motors have more torque than you can shake a stick at, hence their use in diesel-electric trains, which are in essence a serial hybrid much like the Volt, using a diesel generator to power and electric drivetrain.

    The EV and PIHs have gotten a bad reputation due mostly to percieved issues with range and cost. The EV1, while not for everyone with it’s limited range, still worked well for many people who loved it as a very economical commuter vehicle. We are so used to ICE power, that we forget how many developments and compromises have gone into making drivetrains safe and user friendly over the past century or so. With so much misinformation regarding range, cost, weight, safety, and power still floating about, coupled with little talk in the media about the many advantages of driving an EV or PIH, it’s no wonder it’s taking so long for the market to accept them. With new deveolpments in power density, like Lithium Ion-Sulphur, just over the horizon, the race for the better battery is just picking up speed.

  • avatar
    amclint

    ash, electric motors are more efficient and take less energy to go the same distance as gasoline (60-70mpg equivalent is what I’ve read). That said, I believe right now as it stands electricity will still have a higher environmental burden if you compare charging your car every night and filling up with gas once a week.

    What you have to keep in mind is that doesn’t matter, if you can centralize where everyone gets their energy (ie, a power plant) you can be much more effective at making that power plant efficient than upgrading peoples cars every few years with better technology.

    If even a small percentage of people had electric cars they would have to do some changes to power plants to handle the increased load I would assume. The tesla takes an 220v outlet from what I was reading, and that is some serious juice if you think that it takes a few hours or more to charge.

    That said, it’s my personal opinion having dealt with batteries and their inherent problems that we have some very large hurdles to jump before we can really get past the big problems with batteries. Like one of the other posts in here, how do we make these cars viable in the winter? Some of the technologies they are making new are very fragile and it remains to be seen if they can withstand the torture that a regular automobile goes through.

  • avatar
    whitenose

    ash78, the problem with that total-power-generation-is-worse-for-electric argument is mainly the sources it comes from — largely, if you follow the trail, a network of hard-right-wing ExxonMobil/other oil-company funded think tanks, which also happen to be the single source for all global warming skepticism. These people are not credible. The thing is — same as anything else — you can start from different assumptions and come up with a number of different answers.

    It is also transparent hypocrisy if you assume that most of our future power comes from nuclear — another fantasy of the right wing, but one that actually might be politically possible if they can figure out something reasonable and cost-effective to do with the waste. There are commercially-viable safe nuclear reactors operating in other countries.

  • avatar
    amclint

    kgurnsey, you sound like you sell batteries for a living :)

    No offense, but you do.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    Regarding the environmental issues, the bulk of scientific study I’ve come across states that EVs are more efficient at putting power to the road than ICE, even if the power is produced by coal. Modern coal plants are much cleaner than people think, and though not ideal, the biggest advantage to an EV is the choice of your power source. Want to be super green? Plug your EV into a bank of solar cells on your roof, or a personal wind generator on your property. Or buy your power from a clean power generation company in your area. True, the electrons filling your car or powering your house don’t come directly from the clean green company of choice, but by signing with them you help subsidize the construction of more clean power, which displaces ‘dirty’ power currently in the grid, and increases the overall percentage of green power available.

  • avatar

    kgurnsey: We are so used to ICE power, that we forget how many developments and compromises have gone into making drivetrains safe and user friendly over the past century or so.

    The ICE is probably the most refined machine on the planet.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    No, I don’t sell batteries, or anything related to EVs. I’ve just been tracking the technology closely for many years. Having driven an EV (Ford’s EV Ranger) years ago, I can attest to the advantages they offer personally.

    As to the winter issues, living in Canada means I’m rather close to the challenges there as well. The fact is that EVs can, and have been, designed to opperate efficiently in cold temperatures, (and even tested at Transport Canada’s cold weather testing facility) a fact that is made even easier by the batteries that are being developed to work over a wider range of temperatures.

    Most EVs have heaters in them that work very well to warm up it’s passengers. So well in fact, that you don’t have to wait in the freezing cold for the ICE to warm up before you get any cabin heat. Imagine not having to wait for heat! But no-one ever mentions that…

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    I recently read something that said that a good portion of the California cars could be electric, even be recharged via their decreped and overtaxed electric grid – IF the recharging were mostly done overnight.

    Makes sense. Most of us are asleep, and as things stand right now, much of the power capacity is taken off grid during the night.

    Yes, “the Electron Economy” seems to make much more sense than “the Hydrogen Economy” once you delve deeply into it and read a lot of information (i.e. get through tons of noise to get to signal).

    As things stand right now, my Prius can only go about 1 mile on electricity at a time. That’s the best production semi-electric car in “reality-world” right now.

    We have a long way to go, if it is to come about in “reality-world” and be affordable for the average Joe and Jane.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Oh, sorry, forgot to add one comment (sorry for the double post). Blame it on my age.

    Toyota initially commented, at the introduction of (either the first generation Prius in the US or 2nd I can’t recall) that the reason that the Prius was NOT a plug-in car, was the fact that the Prius was WAY cleaner in exhaust than a purely electric vehicle powered by the typical mixture of coal-generated power, nuke power and hydro power.

  • avatar
    SuperAROD

    Great article on the state of Battery technology. Didn’t realize what the hold up was on plug ins. Great that the administration is on board with alternative energy, as is the market.

  • avatar
    ChartreuseGoose

    Two other things that weren’t mentioned were carbon nanotube ultracapacitors and lithium nickel manganese oxide batteries.

  • avatar

    I’m holding out for dilithium crystals powering a bank of flux capacitors.

  • avatar
    1984

    Ash-

    Assuming your area’s power plants are coal-based, it pollutes more to use electrical motors to accomplish the same work as a small internal combustion engine on gasoline (eg, mower, car).

    I brought up the same question up to a college of mine that in the past worked on the EV1 program. Basically he explained it like this:

    Coal/CNG/Oil power plants are running at their peak efficiency all of the time, they never shut down or go through cold startups and the emissions are confined mostly to one concentrated area. Automobiles however almost never operate under ideal conditions for near perfect emissions (most of the emissions are expelled during days like today) and the pollution is spread across highly populated areas instead of one confined less populated area.

  • avatar
    amclint

    I would hope that most agree it’s better to isolate pollution that spread it across a vast landscape, at the very least we would have a small number of electric plants to clean-up emissions on as compared to millions of individual cars.

    I’m gunning for a super efficient hybrid car, I would love complete electric but I don’t have faith that a viable commercial solution is forthcoming. Tesla motors has millions invested and has hired some of the brightest engineers available and they still use laptop batteries and are just ‘hoping’ along with the rest of us that something else is going to come along in the next couple of years.

    Where is flubber when you need it?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Toyota initially commented, at the introduction of (either the first generation Prius in the US or 2nd I can’t recall) that the reason that the Prius was NOT a plug-in car, was the fact that the Prius was WAY cleaner in exhaust than a purely electric vehicle powered by the typical mixture of coal-generated power, nuke power and hydro power.

    When considering “pollutants” other than CO2, that’s probably true. However, if we regard CO2 as a “pollutant,” a pure EV vehicle probably is “cleaner.”

    If I remember correctly, somewhat more than 50% of the energy in coal reaches your electrical outlet. A pure EV should be about 90% effciient, for an overall efficiency of 45%.

    In contrast, an ICE is something like 35% efficient and then there are drivetrain losses, too. Most of the mass of gasoline is carbon, so most of the exhast is CO2.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    …and without clean power to juice the batteries up, why bother?

  • avatar
    kph

    The world isn’t running short on energy, it’s running out of energy in liquid and gas form, which is exactly what ICE’s need. But the energy to weight ratio of gasoline is very favorable compared to batteries, making them ideal for mobility purposes.

    I once met somebody who was getting ready for a week long dog sledding trip. He carried pure lard and butter for both him and his dogs.

  • avatar
    i6

    It’s presumptous to think that the federal stipulation for PIHs stems from a concern for the environment (unless Bush specifically said so in his comments). My own presumtion is that this is more of a foreign policy initiative than an environmental one, as it would help reduce U.S. dependance on oil from such as Iran and Venezuela in favor of domestic coal.

    Also, there is some confusion throughout this article and subsequent posts about the exact technology being discussed. Is it PIH or full-electric cars that are the issue? PIHs are feasable with ANY battery technology as the gas engine can take over wherever the battery drops off. Not so much with dedicated electric vehicles, so comparing the Volt to the Tesla is not particularly useful.

  • avatar
    1984

    On a side note, electric motors produce O-3 (Ozone). O-3 is toxic and a major component of smog.

    I love irony.

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    My problem with an EV is all the variables that would affect range. Heat was mentioned but what about A/C, headwinds, detours, and more passengers or cargo than usual? Also, I could see many instances when I would get home and not plug in my car because I was planning on making one short errand in a half hour, but then plans change, the phone rings, someone comes to the door and I forget all about that plug. Next morning I go out and don’t have enough charge to get to work. With a gas burner or hybrid, I drive a mile to the gas station and in 3 minutes I’m at full power.

    Now, what if EV batteries were standardized and easily replacable (like a cordless drill)? And what if I could drive that mile to the gas station where they also kept a rack of battery ‘pods’ on a charger and (for a fee) I could exchange some or all of my batteries and be on my way in less time that it would take to pump gas. It wouldn’t be that different from exchanging propane tanks for a gas grill.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    KixStart wrote:

    When considering “pollutants” other than CO2, that’s probably true. However, if we regard CO2 as a “pollutant,” a pure EV vehicle probably is “cleaner.”

    If I remember correctly, somewhat more than 50% of the energy in coal reaches your electrical outlet. A pure EV should be about 90% effciient, for an overall efficiency of 45%.

    In contrast, an ICE is something like 35% efficient and then there are drivetrain losses, too. Most of the mass of gasoline is carbon, so most of the exhast is CO2.

    I believe the figures for the Prius are 60% efficiency, almost “twice” the efficiency of the typical ICE engine car. Certainly, that was Toyota’s goal, to use 1/2 the fuel while doing the same job.

    I have a 2002 Hyundai Sonata V6 mid-sized car and a 2005 Toyota Prius hybrid mid-sized (interior) car, and essentially, the Prius does the same job as the Sonata, using 1/2 the fuel.

    So perhaps Toyota are making a retrograde step with any future plug-in hybrids. But it that is what the market (or more to the point, Governments) demand, then so be it.

    Besides which, the difference in overall efficiency becomes closer when ethanol at 10% is added to gasoline.

    My Prius loses 7% or MORE in efficiency on E10 (10% ethanol 90% gasoline) while our Sonata loses something like 20%. Taking into account the amount of oil it takes to produce ethanol, no matter how you cut it, ethanol is total foolishness and a total waste (when made from corn).

    But this is what happens when idiots in Washington and state capitals make demands on the market instead of letting the market make demands on the market.

    You’d think we’d have learned from the Russians and Chinese with their “5 year plans” but you’d be wrong.

  • avatar
    amclint

    I would hope if batteries got that good we could figure out how to setup a car to charge itself when parked at home. The robot vacuums and lawnmowers charge themselves at docking stations, why not cars?

    The gas station idea I would say is unlikely, swapping batteries would be tricky if they are anywhere near the size they are now. I would say high amp charging at a gas station would be more likely, but I don’t know enough about that to be sure. I can’t imagine the energy required to charge several cars at one station all at once.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    Yet somehow evil O3 producing electric motors can be used indoors where ICE’s cannot without ventilation… True in theory, but as much of a concern in reality where the amount produced is small and can be dealt with easily using special coatings and such.

    Jonny: Sources of clean power were discussed farther up the thread.

    The comparison between hybrids and EVs is applicable, as long as you are talking about serial plug in hybrids, and not the current crop of parallel hybrids.

    Parallel hybrids (Prius et al.) use both the elecric motor and the ICE to propel the vehicle, and as such the ICE is running most of the time and it acts more like a conventional ICE vehicle. Some, like the current Prius and Civic hybrid, can allow the electric motor to run independantly under a limited range of circumstances. Others, like the Insight, are simply an electric assist.

    Serial hybrids are essentially full EVs with a generator tacked on for extended range. The vehicle acts, operates, and is designed as a full on EV.

    Plug in hybrids can come in either serial or parallel form (assuming with the parallel setup that there is the option to run the motor independant of the engine, otherwise there’s little point). Thus, the serial plug in hybrid (i.e.: Volt) is in essence a full EV with a small ICE generator to make up for a smallish battery pack.

    Hope that helps.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    Jeff in Canada:
    February 6th, 2007 at 10:24 am
    At the end of the day, you plug it into an outlet, and charge up the batteries with ‘dirty’ electricity! Without a clean and renewable method of PRODUCING and STORING electricity, we’ll never move forward.

    Jeff, an example of this already exists. Example is the “Solar Two” concept developed by the US gov which is being commercially installed in Span as “Solar Tres”. Basically, molten salt is used to store solar energy to provide electricity at night or when it’s cloudy. One can envision many such types of systems. Another is in Finland (I think) which has a large wind turbine whose excess electricity produces hydrogen, which is then converted back to electricity in a fuel cell when there’s no wind. This runs a small island town, but my memory is fuzzy.

    Wikipedia on Solar One, Two, and Tres:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Two

  • avatar
    i6

    kgurnsey,

    That helps, but as long as there is an ICE back-up then I still don’t see how battery technology is the “fat, flaming obstacle” that will impede the development of PIHs (even serial PIHs).

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    amclint,

    I agree that you should be able to charge at home but unless they develop instantly charging batteries, being able to exchange them for already charged batteries at a local charging station would be beneficial for longer trips, power outages at home (frequent this past year where I am) or forgetting to plug in. I understand your point about automatic docking stations but if they can make that work for a car then I’d think they could also work out the details of my idea. I would also assume that batteries will evolve to be lighter and smaller and separating them into replaceable pods of maybe 10-15 pounds each would be practical.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    There are batteries out there than can handle pretty amazing charge rates. LiIon nanos are one of them. With a powerful enough charger and the right batteries, you can be up and going in a matter of 5-15 mins. Considering the advances in range, and the fact that you always start with a full charge every morning, the only time you’ll need to stop for a charge (assuming you remember to dock your car) would be for long trips, where you’re probably taking a 15 min bathroom/donut break at that point anyway. Seeing as how the infrastructure for electricity already exists everywhere, it’s not a big leap to have charge while you charge charging stations at rest stop parking spots.

    The experience of anyone who has owned an EV, to my knowledge, indicates that pluging in when you get home simply becomes a habit, since there’s no reason not to plug in even for short periods of time between trips, and thus forgetting to plug would be akin to leaving your lights on and draining your starter battery. It happens, but rarely, and you don’t often do it twice. Most often, EVers are amazed at discovering how much of a pain it is to actually have to stop and fill up.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    That would be a pain to actually stop at a gas station and fill up. Just to clarify.

  • avatar
    biturbo

    Good article Michael!

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Good summary, hope to see an update in a year or 5 when progress permits.

    ChartreuseGoose –

    The energy density of ultracapacitors is supposed to be far too low to be a practical battery replacement, EEStor’s claims of radical improvements have yet to be independently verified.

  • avatar
    miked

    amclint: I can’t imagine the energy required to charge several cars at one station all at once.

    It would be unfeasible even for one car. At least unfeasible to have it safe enough so that you don’t kill yourself when filling up with electrons.

    Here’s a quick calculation:

    1 gallon of gas has about 60 kilowatt-hours of energy.

    Let’s take an ICE car that gets 30mpg, that means that it takes 2 kW-hours to go about a mile. If EVs are more efficient which seems to be the consensus, then lets say an EV only takes 1 kW-hour to go a mile.

    If we want a 300 mile range on on EV, we need to be able to store 300 kW-hours of energy. Actually, we’ll need to store more because getting the energy out of the battery and into the motor is no where near 100% efficient. So let’s say we need to store 600 kW-hours to go 300 miles.

    Now we go to the electron station to fill up, lets say we only want to wait 5 minutes for the charge, that means we need to have an average power input of 7200 kW over those 5 minutes.

    Standard power mains (not HV transmission lines) will be either 10 kV or 5 kV. I’ll do the calculation at 10 kV because that will be the most efficient. So 7200 kW at 10 kV is 720 amps. Imagine the size of the wire needed to carry 720 amps. And do you want to be the one plugging in your car to a 10 kV socket that has the capacity to deliver 720 amps? Also remember, that 10 kV is enough to arc in plain air, so for safety if we cut that down to 5 kV we’d be at nearly 1500 amps. (assuming that there’s 100% efficiency in the charging step – which ain’t happenin’)

    The electron station would need to have to be able to suck the 720 amps off the grid per car! The grid can’t handle that in it current state.

    So even if we had the perfect battery, we can’t get away with any convenient quick charge at an electron station, we’ll need to do trickle charge at home.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    i6:

    Batteries are becoming less and less of an obstacle, and in theory are no longer an obstacle at all. From what I understand, the biggest obstacles left are battery cost and general industry lethargy and inertia. Serial PIHs like the Volt are a good next step since the smaller battery packs needed are less costly, but it will also start to ramp up mass production, bringing costs of the batteries down for future, larger, full range EV battery packs.

    As for changing the inertia of an ICE dominated industry of Titanic proportions, well, your guess is as good as mine. Nevertheless, Subaru and Mitsubishi have both tabled EV concepts set for production in 2009-2010, as well as the commitment to PIHs from GM and the emergence of the Tesla Roadster, AC Propulsion eBox, and the Veturi Fetish.

  • avatar
    amclint

    miked, read up on this article and you can get a gauge for how much energy is needed in an electric car, it’s also a good read to compare efficiency of a gasoline vs electric car. They site many sources, so it would appear legitimate but I have not verified the sources.

    http://www.electroauto.com/info/pollmyth.shtml

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    miked: i like your term “electron station.” I don’t trust most people to be anywhere near anything drawing 700+ amps. that’s nuts. of course, most people shouldn’t be allowed to drive cars at all and use gas stations as they currently exist…

    kgurnsey: batteries are not an obstacle except for cost? well, then i guess obtaining a 200+mph car isn’t hindered by obstacles anymore either. veyrons for everyone! what the H am i doing in this rusted out toyota when I could be in a challenge stradale? screw that, i’m getting a huey.

    i don’t know if i like the idea of a battery exchange at the electron station. ever borrow someone else’s cell phone or ipod and find out that through use and abuse you get about 20 minutes of battery life? i don’t want someone else’s junk. they’d have to figure out a way to meter what the battery actually outputs over your use and bill accordingly.

  • avatar
    miked

    amclint: according to that link, EVs need .19 kW-hour per mile, so my estimates are 5 times too low – that means that you’d need 3.6 kA of current to charge your EV in 5 minutes at an electron station.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    We need a combination of large grants being put into battery development and solar cells. If you can coat your roof with solar cells that can store at least 50% energy from the Sun then you won’t need the dirty electricity and won’t loose any by have to transfer it. Then I make my own energy and charge my car. Also add a few cells to the top of the car.

    Seems like a much better use of money than fighting everyone in the Mid-East.

  • avatar
    amclint

    miked, read up on the tesla motors site, they site several references to government calculations used in their claims. I’ve looked at a few of the EPA sites in particular and the formula’s are accurate. I agree that charging stations are impractical but the tesla site shows 50kwh of stored energy in their batteries and 86% efficiency. 3.5hr charge time using a 220v outlet isn’t bad. Not nearly as bad, but still a nightmare for the grid and there would be some idiot getting toasted because he spilled his soda on the power cable charging his car.

    Anyway, interesting read, worth the time for sure.
    http://www.teslamotors.com/learn_more/white_papers.php

  • avatar
    shaker

    If a large-scale adoption of PIH and EV is feasible, the “new and existing infrastructure” will have to include: Smart/timed home chargers (to prevent a the huge sudden draw on a time-zone’s grid when all the 9-5 ers get home), home solar cells, and possibly 5-10 KW diesel or natural gas generators in the basement/garage (in case of a power blackout), and “electron” stations capable of fast charging vehicles when they’re away from home. Actually, it’s a huge opportunity for “home-brewed” innovation that our government should support (in stages), as it would be a big change to the “petrol based” system that we have now. A lot of thought will have to be used to make the transition sensible and without a major economic upheaval. (Even though the oil companies are making alternative-energy “noises” right now, it’s only hype designed to delay the inevitable…)

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Great article, thanks.

    I like the idea of serial engine design, where the ICE powerplant is only used to charge the batteries. A car that allows about an hour a day of driving on batteries would suit most commuters, i think. If you need to go further, the generator would kick in. Pretty simple solution.

    Recharging could be done at home, or at work. Just because there are few workplace recharging stations does not mean that there will never be any… it could be a perk, like on site child care. It could be a shopping perk also, like free internet access when u get a coffee.

    I am not swayed by the “lously powergrid” argument. In Philadelphia, the powergrid is as ancient as just about anywhere, yet power outages are extremely rare. No one suggests that we no longer build huge office bulidings, strip centers with humongeous stores, condos, apartment complexes -or anything else for that matter – because of inadequete electrical supply. Worst case, people can recharge at night, when demand is low. No one will do that, you say? Price electricity a few cents cheaper at night. People will respond. In droves.

    As for the “dirty electric” argument, i would say that its easier to control the emissions of a hundred electric plants, than a hundred million cars. Cheaper too.

    I would love to see more about electric cars in whatever form they take. Also other alt-fuel cars, like bio-diesel.

    On a cynical note, I wonder if anyone raises the “lously powergrid” argument when they plug in the sixteen appliances necessary to watch TV these days, or the net effect of 5000 sq foot houses using electric heat, or the combined effect the recharging of billions cell phones, ipods, laptop computers, portable computer devices, digital cameras, and the entire concophany of rechargable battery operated electric devices that populate our daily lives.

    Seriously, we need to stop bitchin and get to work.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    Plug-in EV’s seem so vaporware-ish to me. And I think Honda may be first to offer real-world solutions. But who knows, GM may suprise and come through with the Volt.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    The batteries may be here sooner that you think…

    For example, I fly remote control Model Airplanes. I have a modest scale model of a WW2 Stuka Dive Bomber. I built the plane last year, and I had a choise between a .60 ci ICE engine (about $285) or a Brushless AC electric Engine, with an 18volt 4000ma Lipo Battery setup (around $400). Now granted, the electric setup was more, but just the fact that the system was even avalible, and the price point between the ICE setup and the electric setup are getting closer every month. Already, most of the guys at my flying club own at least 1 electric airplane, and some days no one brings an ICE setup out at all.

    For the record, I did set up the stuka with an electric motor. It is kind of weird to watch a plane with a 5 foot wing span almost silently fly around. I get about 20 minutes out of one charge, and she flies pretty well.
    –C. Alan

  • avatar
    GlennS

    Nice article! Thank you.

    We need a combination of large grants being put into battery development and solar cells.

    Honda was experimenting with ways to produce energy to create hydrogen for home filling of their hydrogen cars (due in limited quantities 2009). GM is looking into this too (for the year 2011). Honda ended up engineering solar cells. Now they’ve created a company to mass-produce thin-film solar cells. See: http://world.honda.com/news/2005/c051219.html

    As far as batteries and other alternatives, some auto manufacturers do not agree on “which road to take.”

    For full text, see: http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070201/FREE/70131001/1024/LATESTNEWS
    [My bolding below.]

    You could call this: “GM versus Honda on future technologies.”

    Automakers presented sharply conflicting views Tuesday [30 JAN 2007] to a Senate committee looking for ways to cut vehicle fuel consumption.

    John German, regulatory manager for American Honda Motor Co., reminded the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that his company is on record in favor of higher standards.

    German questioned the wisdom of rushing to build plants and filling stations for fuel that is 85 percent ethanol, known as E85.

    He also expressed skepticism about prospects for plug-in electric hybrids. Even if dramatic improvements are made in batteries for plug-ins, he said, motorists would not save enough in fuel to justify the vehicle cost for at least six years.

    His views contradicted those of the other automaker witness: Beth Lowery, General Motors’ vice president for energy and environment.

    Lowery said GM favors reforming the corporate average fuel economy program, or CAFE, for cars. But she said “it’s difficult to pick a number” for where standards should be set.

    GM is a major proponent of E85. It also has unveiled a concept vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, that would be a plug-in electric car equipped with a small engine to recharge batteries.

    Lowery said government should help expand the availability of alternative fuels such as E85 and should spend taxpayer money on battery development.

    Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said GM didn’t seem to be offering much in return. He called for “shared responsibility.”

    As the title of this article asks: Who’s in charge?
    Don’t count on the U.S. government, that’s for sure!

    It’ll be really interesting to see which auto companies come up with viable alternative-energy vehicles in the years ahead.

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    I like the idea of driving my car into a docking station that will charge the car with intellegence. I have heard that in Toronto, the electric companies are going to be installing smart meters that will allow companies to charge different rates for different times of the day. Night charge your car and save $$

    As a side bonus, if you had a 300 KW hour battery (or possibly two of them) sitting in your garage, you could run the house for a long time in the event of a power failure. No more soft Rocky Road.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Off-peak charging?

    Sun-Powered Rav4 – Almost

    OK, they’re not quite powering their Rav by the sun but they’re getting close. They trade peak electricity for off-peak electricity to charge their Rav on the cheap. It’s not clear whether or not this is a model that’s sustainable in large scale. In any event, off-peak charging schemes are available today. Most utilities offer a significant rate break.

    And either a regular EV or reasonable range or a PIH-EV with reasonable EV-mode range could find a lot of use today. How many trips are 20 miles or less? The key question is cost, not too many people are willing to commit extra $$ up front just to be green. But a reasonable-cost xEV that saves money down the road, even with limited range, would almost certainly sell tolerably well. Toyota’s certainly willing to take a chance on getting enough volume with their current H-EV program.

    Which brings me to the real problem… Notice the SPV cell manufacturer? Sharp – a Japanese company, unless I’m greatly mistaken. Who else is emerging as a major player in SPV? Honda – a Japanese company, unless I’m greatly mistaken. Who simply brought out hybrid cars without a lot of bother testifying in front of Congress and all that? Honda and Toyota – Japanese companies, unless I’m greatly mistaken.

    There’s doing it and then there’s talking about doing it. The Japanese are doing it. We’re talking about doing it. That’s not nearly as rewarding.

    Detroit can make money going green – the Japanese certainly think they can – but they’ll have to produce some product to get there. Fire the suits testifying in Washington, cancel the lobbyists, stop sponsoring fake consumer interest groups and, using those savings, hire the guys that can make this happen.

  • avatar

    Stick solar panels on your roof, and federally subsidized low interest loans for panels on your work’s roof, and charge off them. Cut out the distribution costs and the coal plant. In 5 years they’ll break even on the production costs. Suburban sprawl, unlike dense urban development is actually ideal for small solar installations at home and work.

  • avatar
    frontline

    Is this viable ? 1000 cc turbo diesel , powering the generator, which charges the batteries, which powers the electric motors………tiny motor running steady state at , lets say a couple gallons an hour, charging the batteries , then powering the electric motors.

    running the diesel steady state would produce lower emisions and much higher fuel economy. Again , is this viable???/

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    insightOwner Wrote:

    Stick solar panels on your roof, and federally subsidized low interest loans for panels on your work’s roof, and charge off them.

    One problem is that the panels are on my roof of my house, and the car is at the office all day. Besides, the cost of the panels would likely exceed the cost of the car.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    There’s doing it and then there’s talking about doing it. The Japanese are doing it. We’re talking about doing it. That’s not nearly as rewarding.

    Agreed. And on that note, for pistonheads who like sports cars: Honda will show a hybrid sports car concept in Geneva.

    Honda Small Hybrid Sports Concept represents Honda’s proposal for a future hybrid model.

    The Concept demonstrates a unique fusion of advanced hybrid technology and fun-to-drive sports car characteristics.

    …has been designed by Honda R&D Europe based in Offenbach, Germany explores the idea that a car can have a low environmental impact yet still deliver all the driving enjoyment expected of a compact sports car.

    Above is from: http://www.vtec.net/news/news-item?news_item_id=658383 where you can find a drawing of the car–in coupe form.

  • avatar
    miked

    frontline: that’s probably the most efficient way to have a hybrid. that’s the way diesel-electric locomotives work, and you know that people in the transportation industry really care about fuel efficiency. if you run a serial hybrid you can rid yourself of the whole drive train. all you’d need are smallish (20-50 hp) electric motors at the hub of each wheel. you’d lose a little in having more unsprung weight, but i think the trade off would be worth it with the loss of the rest of the drive train. you’d get regenerative braking, all wheel drive, very easy computer controlled traction control and great torque from 0rpm. i really think that’s the future of hybrid cars.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Cavendel, yes, the panels are on your roof and the car is at the office but through the magic of the electric distribution grid, you can sell the electricity to the utility in the daytime and then buy some back at the office at higher rates or buy a lot back at night at cheaper rates.

    There’s at least one other family out there with a “solar Rav4;” there was an article about them in “Home Power” magazine a while back (can’t find a link at present). Same deal: they sell their surplus SPV-generated electricity to the electric company in the daytime and then buy it back at a discount price at night. Their electric bills work out to pretty much nothing a month, too.

  • avatar
    amclint

    Ah, talk about acceleration! Hub motors would be nuts, the GM ones for their truck are pretty lame but as the primary drive with microprocessor control they are clearly superior to the mechanical stuff we’ve been doing with differentials.

    There was a company a few weeks back that had a news release about a car they modified with their electric motors, the motors were at each wheel and even though it looked goofy they had it functional. Not highway safe or anything, but at least people are serious about this stuff. This is the new computer industry if you ask me, there is a lot of passion here that you don’t see anywhere else. Automotive engineers are coming out of retirement to work on this stuff because they want to be a part of it, now we just have to get some serious funding available and the competition for it will make some fantastic things possible.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    This reminds me of an article I read in a Wired magazine regarding the increased energy demands of electronics and the need to develop safer, denser energy storage with weight in mind. One such technology is called “nanograss.” A drop of electrolyte sits on top of a grid of fine wire mesh. When the electrical charge of the mesh is changed, it causes the electrolyte to drop through the mesh onto whatever material reacts with the electrolyte to produce electricity.

    When the energy demand is not needed, the electrical charge of the mesh changes yet again and brings the electrolyte out of contact, thus shutting off the power. It can probably be applied to cars to create long lasting batteries.

    here’s a link: http://www.21stcentury.co.uk/technology/nanograss.asp

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    KixStart: If you are a fan of being green or just like the idea of having all that tech in your house, then go for it, but financially it will be a total loser.

    Electric companies will buy power from you at wholesale prices and sell to you at retail prices. Even with late night discounts, you’ll be buying for considerably more than you sell.

    The daily interest on a loan for enough panels to charge your car would likely exceed the daily cost of electricity to charge your car.

    Solar power is not economically viable for home power generation yet.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Hope I didn’t miss any other comments that may have addressed the looming devil with the whole thing — the likely very high cost of replacement batteries, which, unless addressed up front, could make any of these vehicles a potential liability 3-5 years later, lowering the trade-in/resale value significantly.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Anybody who has lived off the grid by necessity or choice will tell you that solar power is not a full time answer. Most of these people also have deisel generators as a back up power supply or suffer through the lean times (winter) because solar power appears to be part of their religion.

    As far as the electric grid being able to handle the increase in peak elctricity demand. I live in California where we experienced rolling blackouts approximately six years ago. True much of this power shortage was manufactured by companies like Enron, but the main electric utility in this state, PG&E (who also went bankrupt due to the state’s regulations combined with the illegal business practices of certain power wholesalers/producers), claimed that the rolling blackouts were partially caused by an inability to increase the electric supply coming from Arizona due to the undersized transmission mains in that portion of the grid. They had been trying to install a second high power transmission main in that section of the west for 20 years, but the project was continually blocked by NIMBA and environmentallists concerned about EM radiation causing cancer or birds dieing on the power lines. Working in the domestic water business, we must design a water system to be able to meet the peak demands when people wake up in the morning and come home from work in the nights. Similar design considerations would be necessary for the electric grid. This also leads into the production issues. Once again, at the time of the rolling blackouts, no new power facilities had been built in the western grid in over 20 years. Why? NIMBA and environmentalist groups. Nobody wants a nuclear, coal fired, or, as is most common on the west coast, gas fired power generation facility near their house. They all want cheap easily available electricity just build the power plant near somebody else’s home. Finally, without quick charging abilities, electric cars will never work for hauling products over long distances or for the family vacation. It isn’t untypical for me to drive 500+ miles on one or more days while on vacation, and I frequently exceed 200 miles when I’m out in the field as part of work.

    If we want electric cars, we will need to face up to the costs that go with them. I’m not some ostrich with his head in the sand, I realize that fossil fuels won’t be a viable energy source in the future, but I also realize that proposals like hydrogen power (a total joke IMO) and electric power must be thought out. It seems that most people that you hear in the news today think electricity comes from an outlet in the wall (just like water comes from the faucet in the sink) and don’t realize what goes into producing and delivering the electricity to that outlet (or water to that faucet).

  • avatar
    amclint

    Lumbergh21, the key to any new development is support. Whether that be in a private industry or through government funding doesn’t matter. It takes people wanting a change to make it happen, honestly I love a big burly V8, but I also understand that my greed doesn’t do squat for my 3yr old who is going to have to deal with our planet too. I don’t care for the extremist environmentalism that limits building of necessary infrastructure, that is just stupidity with a voice. What I do care about is moving forward, we’ve been stuck on fossil fuels way too long if you think about our development in other areas. It’s really kind of sad that we’re still using oil and gasoline, there are differences to 100 years ago but by what margin? Surely not the margin of doing math on paper and the computers we have today, the key I think is getting young people excited just like happened 30-40 years ago with electronics.

  • avatar
    mbz16V

    Europositron is an investment scam!

    Just a quick look at their website revealed it was a bunch of pseudoscience nonsense with no substantive evidence to back up their claims.

    No prototype after 10 years of research. Ha!

    Follow the link below to learn what a battery engineer said after talking to the founder of Europositron.

    Wikipedia Aluminum Battery Discussion

    Just so everyone knows, Lithium Ion advancements are the only short term hope for PHEV’s.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    amclint:

    I agree, I just get tired of hearing how simple it would be to convert to electric cars tomorrow or within the next three years. I believe some of the claims by previous posters that the electric infrastructure and production facilities already exist to support a complete conversion from internal combustion engines to electric cars is not accurate at least not in California where the charge (no pun intended) for electric vehicles seems to be centered. The infrastructure does not exist and many of the same people on TV and in the media crying about the lack of electric vehicles are the same ones fighting against construction of new electric production facilities and upgrades to the carrying capacity of the current electric grid, at least where I live in California. Heck, there’s a “wind farm” in the SF bay area that was taking heat for the number of birds that are killed each year from flying into the windmill blades. Expansion of this facility is a no-go from the start due to environmental hurdles due to the increased bird depredation it would cause. This is the sort of mindlessness that a person living in California reads about or hears about if not on a daily basis at least a weekly basis just from the local newspaper or TV news.

  • avatar
    amclint

    Yeah, I have many friends in California and do business there nearly every day. I understand exactly where you are coming from, here’s to hoping that the government steps in and allocated some $ for research and development of better vehicles.

    You’d think the environmentalists want to live without power and transportation they way they fight everything. Come on, fighting windmills? At least they aren’t belching smoke into the air, I would take windmills over coal fire plants any day (i think they look cool!)

  • avatar
    nino

    I have the answer;

    SLOT CARS!

    Since everybody who wants electrics just assume that the infrastructure to support them will just be built, I figure we go one step further.

    How about we electrify HOV lanes that will run electric cars while charging them at the same time? This could easily be done with some sort of magnetic thinga-ma-jiggy to transfer the electricity from the roadway to the car. You could theorhetically have electric cars with coast-to-coast range.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    Great article on E.V.’s

    I really hope the tech.comes through in the next decade thats also affordable.I really find it a long road for any of the manufactures,but if the market is ready,as all indications suggest someone will.

    One question I’d love to ask is why G.M. could’nt fit the Volt with a 4 cylinder turbo or small 6 cylinder & release it?Only a re-name would be needed.The design alone would sell.

  • avatar
    nino

    Heck, there’s a “wind farm” in the SF bay area that was taking heat for the number of birds that are killed each year from flying into the windmill blades. Expansion of this facility is a no-go from the start due to environmental hurdles due to the increased bird depredation it would cause.

    Yep, we are having the same problem with getting a wind farm built off the coast of Long Island.

    In my opinion, if a bird flies into a windmill blade, that’s called natural selection.

  • avatar
    nino

    One question I’d love to ask is why G.M. could’nt fit the Volt with a 4 cylinder turbo or small 6 cylinder & release it?Only a re-name would be needed.The design alone would sell.

    Probably because it can’t hold a motor and the wheels don’t spin.

    The Volt was never meant for production. It’s a big model like the kind we built as kids.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Cavendel:

    Under net metering laws, you’re allowed to sell small (i.e. home windmill, usually up to 25kW) amounts of electricity back to the power company at the same price you pay for that electricity. They are in effect buying your power at retail when your production exceeds your consumption, and selling it to you at retail when the reverse is true.

  • avatar
    kestrel

    I had this huge response typed up, but IE ate it. :(

    Anyways, I don’t feel like typing it again, so here it is in summary

    1) Gasoline drivetrains are not efficient because cars need to operate over a wide range of power (20-200 hp (or more)). Electric motors can be ~90% efficient over most of their operating range, and have no drivetrain losses as they bolt to the wheel.

    2) Treating powerplant exhaust for emissions is a lot easier than treating car exhaust. For one, powerplants don’t move. Extensive emissions monitoring, scrubbing, and sequestration are all viable emission control options on power plants; imagine bolting a sequesterer on your car.

    3) Coal power plants form the baseline for the power grid, but are unlikely to be the plants that actually deal with a fluctuating power draw like car charging. That will be dealt with via natural gas, solar, or wind.

    4) While the electric infrastructure would not be able to handle a complete switch to electric overnight, it is more viable than a hydrogen or ethanol infrastructure that doesn’t exist.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Steve_S:

    We need a combination of large grants being put into battery development and solar cells. If you can coat your roof with solar cells that can store at least 50% energy from the Sun then you won’t need the dirty electricity and won’t loose any by have to transfer it. Then I make my own energy and charge my car. Also add a few cells to the top of the car.

    Seems like a much better use of money than fighting everyone in the Mid-East.

    Although I agree with your last statement, I don’t want government involvement. Good Lord, please! Government (with its uneducated politicians, bloated bureaucratic red-tape and stupid demands) only screws things up and slows things down.

    Stop the madness, I say!

    The government should stay out of it all. The little 2.5 should stop oinking at the trough for “grants” and “gimmes” for studying the problem.

    The time for studying is over. Now it’s time to build!

    If the little 2.5 can’t figure out how to make and market a new technology, to hell with ’em and the SUV’s they rode in on!

    Honda and Toyota have done it (while ALSO selling SUVs); and I don’t remember government grants being handed out to them.

    Edit: I missed the comment on solar panels….

    Folks, let’s all try to bear in mind that manufacturing solar panels is an expensive, highly petroleum-dependant, highly pollutive manufacturing process.

    I’m all for technology! But let’s not go getting all orga…er, “excited” about solar panels until they can be made to outlast their “cost penalty,” “oil penalty,” and “pollution penalty.”

  • avatar
    amclint

    Yeah, wth? Why are solar panels so expensive and low yield still? My dad sells these things, and looking at the prices vs the ROI it’s nuts. They have gotten better, but the process is painfully slow. For cars they are just not practical, it seems like there is something everyone is missing….the sun has so much energy yet we only tap a tiny piece of it.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Although I’m not a big fan of George W (Dubya), I recall a presidential speech from the early 60’s setting a national goal to put a man on the moon within 10 years. At the time, the technology to accomplish such a feat was not available, but we managed to accomplish the task.

    Although I have lost much of my childhood faith in the techonological ability of the good old US of A, I dont see the problem in at least setting a timetable and earmarking government money for R&D (aka Rust and Decay).

    So what if the battery technology comes from a lab in East Slovakia-vania-stein? Damn near all of our rocket and jet engine technology came from our friends in Nazi Germany (Sorry Mr. Goddard).

    Lets quit saying it cant be done and take a national-crack-at-it. What the heck, if we dont spend money on developing batteries, our elected blank check boys in DC will pi$$ it away on something else.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Jonny Lieberman:

    “…and without clean power to juice the batteries up, why bother? ”

    Electric power is not perfectly clean but is generally much cleaner than IC engine using gas. If we signficantly cut pollution this is worth the bother.

    You set up a “straw man” argument – nobody said that electricity was “clean” (whatever this means) but that it makes less pollution.

    BTW I think that batteries are a real limit – but electricity is cheaper and cleaner.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    shaker:

    Battery replacement is another bit of misinformation. Most, if not all, of the modern batteries that are either being used, or could be used in hybrids or EVs are lasting the entire practical life fo the vehicle, well past the 100,000 mile mark. There are Prius’ out there with high miles and no replacement battery packs needed.

    While there is a theoretical upper limit to how long a battery pack will last, the same can be said for any major component in an automobile. The practical reality is that it won’t ever be an issue for most people.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    cheezeweggie:

    …I recall a presidential speech from the early 60’s setting a national goal to put a man on the moon within 10 years. At the time, the technology to accomplish such a feat was not available, but we managed to accomplish the task.

    Yes we did, but look at the (government-run) space program today. What are we doing up there? “Playing house” in an international space station that WE, the US, have to take most of the responsibility for? For God’s sake, we’re continually re-doing the work that some of these other nations are messing up. It’s costing us money. Money that is confiscated from you and I. Of course, I’m assuming that you pay taxes…

    And NASA is still using an over 25-year-old shuttle technology, has experienced a 40% loss (two shuttle disasters) with no new models even attempted? What’s up with that? Even “The General” can beat that abysmal record!

    This is a prime example of government INefficiency. Why oh why should we give them MORE responsibility?

    Although I have lost much of my childhood faith in the techonological ability of the good old US of A…

    I have NOT lost my faith in the ingenuity of the American People. I just refuse to trust my politicians’ words to faith.

    I dont see the problem in at least setting a timetable and earmarking government money for R&D…

    I DO see a problem with this. A major-mongo-gynormous problem. What you’re saying is that you are okay with the confiscation of private property (tax dollars) for use toward a personal goal (chosen by government officials). Please tell me, what’s wrong with the American People deciding what to do with their own money?

    I bought a Prius with my money. I invest in new companies making groundbreaking advances. If the government contines to confiscate ever more of my money, I will not be able to do these things.

    So what if the battery technology comes from a lab in East Slovakia-vania-stein?

    On this point, we agree. After all, I drive a Prius. :)

    Lets quit saying it cant be done and take a national-crack-at-it. What the heck, if we dont spend money on developing batteries, our elected blank check boys in DC will pi$$ it away on something else.

    No, let’s quit saying “let the government do it.” And that’s what “a national crack at it” means!

    All the government has done is discourage investment and prevent us from using our own petroleum reserves by the passing of laws. I say these politicians are downright incompetent. We used to fire people for incompetence, or at least move them to sweeping floors in the Shipping/Receiving department.

    When did we start to reward them by giving them more responsibility?

    Instead, I would like to see the market dictate the direction of this. Toyota and Honda have already “taken a crack at it,” and they seem to be doing well. The General and FoMoCo have even bought some of Toyota’s and maybe Honda’s technology.

    Although they have their drawbacks, there ARE solar solutions out there. In fact, you can buy personal solar panels, inverters, and batteries at Harbor Freight Tools.

    Why screw with that by letting the government decide who is to be “favored” with money, grants, or invitations to speak before Congress?

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    I keep hearing people saying that electric cars won’t work b/c they won’t work for them – as if their needs represent all of our needs.

    Everyone’s needs just are not the same. Yeah you can’t haul much (pickup) or tow much (SUV) or haul alot of people (minivan). These are small cars designed to haul a couple keisters around town and even the homebuilts do this well with lead-acid (read low tech) battery technologies.

    An electric can’t go cross country in the traditional sense either but stop focusing on what it can’t do and start focusing on what it can do. I hear the same arguments against small cars but our small cars have served us faithfully and cleverly for 20 yrs getting excellent gas mileage the whole time. If we need to haul something we drive a different vehicle. 99% of the time our cars haul 1 or 2 of us around town or back and forth to school/work/sports/club meetings/grocery/etc. Perfect jobs for electrics with existing technology.

    The 1990’s EV1 would go 80 miles plus with heat or a/c but then GM crushed them. The Toyota RAV4 EV will travel 120 miles per charge and according to several stories I have read about them, many are still running around with the same battery with well over 100,000 miles on them. What more could I ask?

    Energy diversity: existing power grids would prob need upgrades to power thousands of EVs I agree but if the demand is there, the upgrades would be made. Why not add solar to the roofs of homes and businesses to offset peak loads? A single panel (130 watts) is $650. Several companies now make roofing shingles that look like shiny rubber shingles that double as solar cells. Cool stuff. $15K for a large installation and it pays off in about 7 years. It’s good for an estimated 30 years. 23 years of profit? Sounds good to me.

    Quick and dirty calcs showed me that a 16 panel installation will generate enough daytime power to charge a single EV. For our family where we have deliberately chosen to live in a small town where our drive distances are short, we could prob keep two EVs topped off.

    Make the power, pump it into the grid during the daytime (peak hours) and suck it back out during night time offpeak hours. I truly believe that this technology will evolve quickly if more and more average folks are utlizing it. Look how fast our gadgets have evolved in the past 20 yrs or our computers. Progress follows money right?

    Why drive all the way to a gas station when I can charge at our house? Would you drive to a gas station to refill your cellphone if there were not batteries for it? How different is charging you car at home than charging your gadgets at home? We could also network our chargers to charge on a schedule best suited for the power company. We could add recharge stations to our work places and make it a perk like we do employer provided fitness centers. We could add solar panel covered car ports for our cars at work to offset the electrical load and initial cooling requirements on a hot day. There is even now solar panels that double as windows – meaning those big shiny glass office towers could be producing power to offset their consumption.

    I’m firmly convinced that GM (among others) is waving hydrogen and fuel cell concept cars to convince us that they are at the bleeding edge of progress without ever intending to sell this technology to us for daily use. A pacifier of sorts. Look what we’ll be doing in 20 yrs…. Blah, blah, blah…

    SHOW US WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR US TODAY!!!

    Well, today we could be driving EV1 or RAV-4 EV technology had the car makers not quit on us. There are no arguments that make me believe any differently. We have batteries that will carry us 120 miles. How many miels do you drive a day? Bet MOST of us travel fewer than 60 miles a day. If you drive more, maybe you would be better suited to a hybrid.

    Heck, GM even owned the battery technology and then sold it to Chevron. I have visions of technology being held back from us or an oil company recognizing the coming end of cheap oil and looking for new ways to sell us energy technology. I’m firmly convinced that all sorts of industries hold back technology from the market place until they have gotten every last cent from existing technology.

    We have the cars and the control systems. We can argue about the cost of an EV but if they can sell us a hybrid for $25K, why should an EV be any more expensive? Take our the hybrid ICE and replace it’s engine with more batteries. Same basic controller, same basic motors, add an external charge circuit.

    What the car companies may be doing is trying is give us what we (the unenlightened consumer unwilling to chage our ways) are demanding which only an ICE can do – quick refills giving us unlimited range.

    We need to embrace the new ideas like the city car which is being satisified with smaller more efficient vehicles for short distances. Who cares how these cars accelerate or handle at the edge of grip when it is designed for lower speeds and easy parking! Who cares how perfect the seats are udring 500 mile trips or how well it tows a boat when its a car for errands. Keep the big SUV in the garage for the weekend trips or to tow the boat.

    Apparently this is a concept that is tough for the American driver to accept. Soe many of these people respond with ridicule. There is a mentality that we must buy the largest, fastest, and most capable vehicle we can afford. We don’t always need 300 HP, 4WD, seating for 8 and the ability to tow 6,000 lbs. What most of us need is a 1987 Toyota Tercel. Yes, it may not be what we WANT.

    The car makers are also going to try to do their best to sell us existing technology. This is where the most profit is. They have made the investment already to provide you with what we have – ICE engines, and the current vehicle feature list. They would also like you to buy the higher profit ratio vehicles such as the big vehicles as the cost of materials is about the same for a smaller vehicle and a larger vehicle. Labor is roughly the same but we’ll only pay $17K for a Neon but we’ll pay $37K for a large SUV. At least that’s how I see it.

    These EVs represent a huge investment in new technology that won’t pay off for quite a while. This is also the part where I should mention all the traditional auto business partners who make components that would be left out of an EV like mufflers, valves, belts, radiators, etc. They want you and me to keep driving what we drive today so they stay in business.

    GM’s Volt is an interesting concept but it is a concept that I don’t think they ever intend to build. It is a simple advertising gimmick for them like all those concept vehicles. They want gov’t subsidized battery research but I have to wonder how much value we the tax payer have gotten from GM (and other car companies) for older projects like the fuel cell vehicles or the hydrogen vehicles or ??? We’ll never see those tax dollars result in a car in our driveways. I wonder how much of that money is quietly siphoned off to other car company projects?

    Why can’t they do like any other company and hammer away on the problems on a small scale on their own? I am convinced that funded by the gov’t they’ll just waste the money on projects that never reach the consumer. I would however fund gov’t project not under the control of any car company.

    All that said, my family and I want America off of foreign oil. How many of these BigOil business deals have indirectly lead to the political and social meses that we call the middle east? How many terrorists have we indirectly funded? I consider the cost of the current war in Iraq as part of the oil tax. Wish we could have spent that tax money on alterantive energy research that would have weaned us off foreign oil a bit more. Of course foreign oil would have lowered their prices a bit more for a while to attract their American addicts back all over again and in the end, another generation of billionaire oil executives would have been funded for life.

    I DON’T think that ethanol or drilling in the ANWR is going to alter our fortunes that much either. We need to begin altering how we do business by diversifying our power generation and diversifying how we consume our resources – that means more variety in the ways we get around. SUVs and other large vehicles have a valuable purpose but they don’t need to be the main method of hauling ourselves around and certainly a stupid way to haul around lone persons. Do we NEED to be rushing semi-trucks down the interstate at 75 mph? Would we not be better off safety wise and fuel consumption wise if we limited them to 60 mph? How about hybrid trucks? How about electric trucks (see electric trains of Europe) that enter road paths and are powered wholly or partially by overhead wires? Or some sort of automated track system? Alot of possibilities that really aren’t cost effective now BUT we ought to do some things now about how our society functions to wean ourselves from oil…

    Why not drill the ANWR? Because planes won’t run on batteries anytime soon and we might find ourselves in some future war where we need some homegrown resources to defend ourselves using that oil and our military. We drill it and we’ll consume it as prices are driven down.

    Need another reason to “kick the habit”? China… India…

    Once these country’s citizens begin to join the first world and are finally able to buy the cars they have admired for years we’ll see the price of gasoline rise and rise and rise. If consumption goes up significantly (imagine 500 million new cars hitting the roads in China and India) and drilling and refining capacity remains the same what does the price do? $3.50 a gallon will seem cheap by comparison.

    Then there is the global warming effect. IF those people are correct then we’ve got even more reason to stop buring fossil fuels. Note that many ofthe most vocal opponents are from “Institutes” and other brain trusts quietly funded by Big Oil. All I can figure is that there must be a whole group of people who are making fortunes from oil-as-we-know-it and they don’t care what it might do to planet earth b/c they’ll be dead by the time the damage is done having had a lifetime of wealth.

    We have two young children and I think it is important to leave them a world that is not on the verge of a global enironmental disaster that will lead to all sorts of disasters.

    If the global warming bunch is wrong then what harm have we done becoming more efficient? More questions than answers of course. Al Gore on one side (preaching th sermon but failing to live by his own words) and Big Oil trying to convince us that our addiction to oil is not dangerous.

    Good night all!

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    ZoomZoom:

    “I DO see a problem with this. A major-mongo-gynormous problem. What you’re saying is that you are okay with the confiscation of private property (tax dollars) for use toward a personal goal (chosen by government officials). Please tell me, what’s wrong with the American People deciding what to do with their own money?”

    Weer to stoopid to no wats gud fer us.

  • avatar
    EJ

    Several posts are questioning the CO2 emissions of electricity that might be used in plug-in hybrid cars.

    Electricity has a fabulous well-to-wheels efficiency, much better than an internal combustion engine.
    So, even if you start out with coal-fired power you come out ahead of a regular gas engine (with respect to a Prius it might be a draw).
    But, of course, coal has only a limited market share.
    For instance, my utility, PG&E in California, uses coal only for 3% of its power; 56% of electricity comes from non-carbon sources (nuclear, hydro and renewables) and most of the rest comes from natural gas.
    Thus, PG&E has a very low average carbon content of electricity of 0.52 lbs CO2/kWh.
    The US national average carbon content of electricity is 1.44 lbs CO2/kWh.
    (These numbers refer to averages; they don’t apply to charging at night using base load)
    Suppose you get 5 miles per kWh using electric propulsion in a (somewhat modest) car. You would emit about 0.10 lbs CO2/mile counting PG&E average carbon content. That’s the same emissions as a car that gets 190 MPG!!
    You would emit 0.29 lbs CO2/mile counting US national average carbon content. That’s the same emissions as a car that gets 66 MPG.
    So, it’s possible to get a big win in CO2 emissions by using electricity from the grid in a plug-in hybrid.

    Combine this with solar cells on your roof and you win even more CO2. That’s financially viable, because of subsidies and the price difference between peak and night electricity (charge your car at night from the grid and supply solar electricity during the day to the grid using time of use metering at peak retail pricing).

    Since the grid is sized for peak day use, it can easily charge a lot of electric cars at night.

    Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline, because it doesn’t have the OPEC mark-up and has less taxation by governments.

    The biggest issue with plug-ins is the batteries. But why not start with a modest battery pack, with a range of, say, 10 miles?
    I don’t understand why GM is set on giving the Volt a 40 mile range. That way it just looks like a publicity stunt.

    I’d love to have a Toyota Camry or Sienna with a 10 mile plug-in hybrid feature!

  • avatar
    Tyler D

    Ash, I’ve got Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. That is clean enough for me.

  • avatar
    frontline

    Lets discuss incremental progress!

    If GM can add battery storage , generator, elec motors to-

    Suburban size vehicle that would average 25 miles to the gallon

    25 MPG would be a 100% improvement over what I get now with my 07 Denali around town

    That would be incredible for my family , I would save $1000 a year !

    Lets take baby steps…

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Zoom Zoom,
    Sometimes letting the market decide is not what’s best for the future of society or the environment. The market has dictated our disposable everything hydrocarbon based economy and look at it’s legacy. The free market is always based on profits and a “gotta have” attitude. Heck, look what the free market has done to the big 2.5. They just cant build enough of those Dodge Hemi’s and Ford Expeditions to keep up with demand…

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Wow! This is an awesome discussion. The knowledge here is incredible! This should be TTAC – Blog/Auto Consulting Corp.

    To the point of the article and comments; I appreciate the realists sanity checks as those factors must be considered and there are far too many people who think there is nothing more than a vast conspiracy keeping us from moving to any one “green” transportation system. However, these issues can clearly be overcome.

    Unfortunately, we need to expend tax dollars and rely on the government for infrastructure at a minimum. The only thing that is going to motivate the kind of change in people’s and government’s willingness to takle the various challenges that lay ahead is economic pressure. When gas becomes more expensive than other technology it will be replaced.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Unfortunately, we need to expend tax dollars and rely on the government for infrastructure at a minimum.
    While my experience is only in California, what would really improve the infrastructure here would be for the government to get out of teh way and allow the existing utilities to upgrade the transmission and electric generation facilities.

    The only thing that is going to motivate the kind of change in people’s and government’s willingness to takle the various challenges that lay ahead is economic pressure. When gas becomes more expensive than other technology it will be replaced.

    I totally agree. Personal comfort is always the biggest motivator for people. The use of trucks for hauling goods augmented and to some extent replaced the countries reliance on railroads as it became more cost effective and efficient. Cars became teh norm rather than horses as they became more cost effective and efficient. I don’t have complete faith in a free market system, because I believe there are too many dishonest selfish people in this non-ideal world, but I also believe that these dishonest selfish people are better controlled in a free market than in an oligarchy where a relative handful of intelligentsia decide what is good for us.

    EJ:

    But, of course, coal has only a limited market share.
    For instance, my utility, PG&E in California, uses coal only for 3% of its power; 56% of electricity comes from non-carbon sources (nuclear, hydro and renewables) and most of the rest comes from natural gas.
    Thus, PG&E has a very low average carbon content of electricity of 0.52 lbs CO2/kWh.

    Without verfiying the numbers themselves, I still find some fault with your analysis of the situation in California. I believe you are painting too rosy of a picture in terms of how power in this state will be produced in the future. Given the current political climate in this state, the use of nuclear and hydro electric generation will not only decrease as a percentage of energy production in this state but also in absolute numbers of Mwh. PG&E has closed down some minor hydroelectric production facilities in the past 20 years and has had a significantly more difficult time in renewing their leases for the larger ones. I don’t see the next round of lease renewals getting any easier. While I don’t expect to see the destruction of the major dams providing hydroelectric production, irrigation water, and flood protection, some of the medium sized ones such as those on the Pit River may fall by the wayside, and the chance that any new hydroelectric projects will be brought on line is nil. I think anybody familiar with California can see that nuclear power generation is a dead subject in this state. I think examining the carbon cost of electric powered vehicles assuming that all additional electricity needed for their operation comes from coal fired plants is not only a “worst case” scenario, it is realistic. People are not willing to pay for nuclear power, hydro power, or other alternative sources at this time and the one fossil fuel that we have plenty of in this country is coal. All of this isn’t to say that your conclusion that electric cars would produce lower emmissions than cars using internal combustion engines is incorrect. I just think that the prudent thing would be to examine the emmisions based on the assumption any additional electric production comes from coal fired power plants, rather than hoping for breakthroughs in solar voltaics or increased use of nuclear power generation, wind power, and hydropower.

  • avatar
    ret

    Sometimes letting the market decide is not what’s best for the future of society or the environment. The market has dictated our disposable everything hydrocarbon based economy and look at it’s legacy. The free market is always based on profits and a “gotta have” attitude. Heck, look what the free market has done to the big 2.5. They just cant build enough of those Dodge Hemi’s and Ford Expeditions to keep up with demand…

    The free market hasn’t “done” ANYTHING to Detroit. They did it to themselves. You might as well say, “Look at what the free market has ‘done’ to Toyota.” For that company, a free market seems to be working out pretty well, dontcha think?

    Yes, the US auto industry is getting the $hit end of the f**k-stick right now, but that’s all part of a free market. It has served us well for over two hundred years and has provided us with the best living conditions of any humans who have ever lived.

    And technological advancement and increased wealth is probably the BEST thing that could ever happen for the environment. Simply put, rich people can afford to worry about the environment. Poor people worry about keeping warm and eating, not about endangered species and deforestation.

  • avatar
    Marco

    EJ: The biggest issue with plug-ins is the batteries. But why not start with a modest battery pack, with a range of, say, 10 miles?
    I don’t understand why GM is set on giving the Volt a 40 mile range. That way it just looks like a publicity stunt.

    I’d love to have a Toyota Camry or Sienna with a 10 mile plug-in hybrid feature!

    I’m guessing that the reason there are no 10 miles serial hybrids is that the ICE –> electricity —> battery –> electric motor conversion ends up being pretty inefficient. Enough so that such a car wouldn’t offer any advantages. Can anyone confirm?

    The only thing that is going to motivate the kind of change in people’s and government’s willingness to takle the various challenges that lay ahead is economic pressure. When gas becomes more expensive than other technology it will be replaced.

    Governments can easily motivate the market to come up with solutions that lessen our dependance on oil: lower income taxes by 200 billiion dollars then increase fuel taxes by 200 billion dollars (~1 dollar/gallon).

    No CAFE standards, no R&D pork barrels for large government welfare addicted companies, no token programs to buy 20 weird EVs for some public agency. It wouldn’t cost anything.

    I bet you that average corporate fuel economy would increase by several MPG within the first year. Private R&D in EV, fuel cell and hybrid technologies would also increase significantly.

    The only people who wouldn’t benefit are those that buy so much fuel that the resulting 10% federal income tax break would not be enough to cover the 1$/gallon more spent on fuel each year.

    IMO, if you are part of that group, then you deserve to pay a little more for the 365B$ clusterf*ck going on in Iraq.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    And technological advancement and increased wealth is probably the BEST thing that could ever happen for the environment. Simply put, rich people can afford to worry about the environment. Poor people worry about keeping warm and eating, not about endangered species and deforestation.

    Ret, I stand corrected. The wealthy 1% in the US have certainly done so much for the environment. I’ll bet thay all have a shiny new Prius parked right next to the limo at the summer home.

  • avatar
    rtz

    http://www.valence.com/SafetyVideo.asp

    Lithium is the best choice for today. Build what you can today and use the better batteries when they are made available.

    Need just a few big bats and not ~6,000? Here’s some big ones:

    http://www.kokam.com/english/product/battery_main.html

    In a race car: http://www.proev.com/

    Here is your Chinese connection for big, cheap lithium batteries:

    http://www.thunder-sky.com/home_en.asp

    Now build some 850hp ev’s(640,000 watts)!

    http://cafeelectric.com/products/zilla/index.html

    1hp=746 watts

    http://www.evsource.com/

  • avatar
    rtz

    The reduced maintenance that an EV offers should also be mentioned.

    The EV is: Motor, controller, charger, and battery.

    What it isn’t: Oil and filter changes, air filter, spark plugs, wires, coil(s), head gasket(s), valve cover gasket(s), front and rear main seals, pan gasket, water pump, alternator, serpentine belt, timing belt or chain, radiator, hoses, coolant, the entire exhaust system, fuel pump, filter, injectors, EGR valve, idle air bypass valve, mass air meter, throttle position sensor, knock sensor, oxygen sensors. I’m sure there’s more.

    http://img211.imageshack.us/img211/2073/lnn2006img2883eu4.jpg

    The power plant is not our problem. The air polluting car we drive everyday is! We can fix, change, and deal with our part of this. The pressure on cleaning up those coal plants will happen.

  • avatar
    nino

    Not to be a Luddite here, but I think it’s telling that there are no buses, taxis, or other forms of public transportation (with the exception of commuter trains) that are either electric or hybrid power. I would think that these would be among the first applications for electric vehicles.

    Another concern I would think, are the health effects of sitting inside such a strong electromagnetic field a significant part of the day. With the evidence of cancer clusters existing around high tension power lines, I would think that there has to be some kind of effect sitting inside an electric vehicle.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    There are electric busses:

    I have no comment on your second point. Still a topic I am looking into. It maybe that the motor contains most of this field. On the other hand would the health concerns be any worse than dealing with gasoline, air pollution, etc?

    I think hybrid and electric technology is still a very good approach for urban traffic.

    Chris

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    nino:
    February 8th, 2007 at 11:43 am
    Not to be a Luddite here, but I think it’s telling that there are no buses, taxis, or other forms of public transportation (with the exception of commuter trains) that are either electric or hybrid power.

    there are electric buses in philadelphia now, they are all over Rome also.

  • avatar
    Ernest

    OK! I an out of my leage. You writing know-it-alls. I have one question for you. WHO KILLED EDWIN GRAY. And why did GM, Ford, and Chy-Dumbler (sp no purpose) droped Edwin Gray’s design for electric auto motor. Was this man a nut or a genius, a huster or a dreamer. CAn you find the truth?

    How can a Calif. based Company build a $100,000 EV car that will do 130 MPH for 250 miles. and the BIG Three cannot?

    Now, ZApp said it will build a EV car that will do 155 MPH for 355 miles. Cost unknown..

    Ok! I have asked to many questions and have given no answers.

    Can you give the PUBLIC written answers

    I would love to see these questions answered in newsprint, would not you??

  • avatar
    Gypsy

    I have a theory why GM killed the EV1. It was too popular and had no maintenance. I also had an very long life expectancy. When I say too popular I mean the auto makers don’t want to build a car with a million mile motor and no maintenance needed. I would not be as profitable as the current old tech cars. The battery in the later EV1’s had over 100 mile range and that is all 90 % of the people need to go back and fourth to work. Save the old gas guzzler for the trips or rent one.
    The early post really show peoples tendency to hand on to old ways. Oh and by the way in cold weather the electric heater throws out heat right away and test in Canada showed an 8% decreases in range for electric cars. They always start and don’t have any coolant to freeze. It would be great if my car only lost 8% in cold weather. I go from 31 mpg in warm weather to 26 mpg in cold weather. An EV would be far superior.

  • avatar

    This is great, that people have already begun to think about the great oil weaning. Heard of Altairnano and the Lithium Titanate battery? I had know idea that such a tech already exists, to recharge (or fry a cord) in 10 minutes! It seems that the president felt forced to admire such a possible oil adversary. No hybrids needed anymore, just pure electricity, rivaling the fastest of any material alternatives by the speed of light. Even “dirty”, from coal, is still somewhat less CO2 emmitting than the best of the “efficient” auto engines. Large power plants are inherently more so due to the nature of physics unless resistence losses from (thousands of miles) of powerlines are accounted for, an unlikely scene as many, more localized plants would become necessarily afforded.

    A recent study shows that large wind turbines could produce 330 gigawatts (GW) of average electrical power just offshore from Cape Cod, Mass., to Cape Hatteras, N.C. Following is a qoute:
    “The estimated power supply from offshore wind substantially exceeds the region’s current energy use, which the scientists estimate at 185 gigawatts, from electricity, gasoline, fuel oil and natural gas sources.”
    ( http://www.physorg.com/news89650495.html )
    This is PRIMARY energy for nine states! Oil, though, can still be used, afterall, it’s the great oil age that got us started. Are you willing to pay a little extra for carbon sequestration and storage, I am, especially since electric cars cost less to charge than their equivalent.
    However, they will wipe out the aftermarket industry, that’s why they’re working on the less efficient “hybrid”, a pile of more moving parts based on oil. GM’s Volt will actually use an ICE to charge the battery pack, what’s the good in that (other than pure research) since there is always a loss of energy for each “conversion”? It only gets 35 mpc, way less hopeful than Altairnano, Tesla motors, and even ZAP! (one of these companies boasts a 20,000 charge cycle, more than 10 times that of other batteries)! The big money exactly replicates conpiracy theory in the ways of market domination – they can’t help not to, that’s their business, to continue with all the (current) 20th century infrastructure. It is our responsibility to do what we can to promote the massive clean energy revolution so needed by humanity – and indeed the planet. It is not advisable anymore to hug trivial matters (also called green)that limit the production of clean energy. That would be desastrious since energy is the basis of billions of people and their billions of electric cars!

  • avatar
    gtwildfire

    HEY… Here’s a crazy idea. What about using an ICE and generator to power electric motor(s) to propel a car and bolster the range of the batteries for long-range driving?

    Got news for ya. It’s not only not a crazy idea, subtract the batteries and you have a formula proven in the Diesel-Electric Locomotive. These locomotives have not only proven their design, they are among the most efficient machines for moving mass on Earth.

    Battery developments that will redefine electric vehicle capability are not far in the future at all, and by completely re-thinking the automobile’s propulsion (as is happening, do some research) all of todays vehicles including all current “Rube Goldberg” hybrids will be exposed for what they really are: EXTREMELY inefficient.

  • avatar
    Ron in Texas

    Hey! how about turning to a group of engineers to answer the question. Do electric cars save the country energy (BTU’s)? Let them do a ‘life cycle’ energy balance of gasoline verses electric.

    My ‘gut feel’ as an chemical engineer is that its much like the Ethanol debacle. The impact on imported oil and consumer cost, if positive, is insignificant.

    We may have to go overseas to find a group that’s competent and unbiased.

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