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Electric Vehicles: Myths vs. Reality

Interesting piece which addresses a lot of the erroneous arguments and preconceptions about electric cars


Tell us all about the electric car you own.

Very good PR, but not exactly an unbias presentation. They seemed to introduce as many myths as they claimed to uncover.

None of it matters, except this:
"Myth 7: Electric vehicles are much more expensive than traditional vehicles.
Reality: While the initial sticker price of EVs is higher than traditional vehicles, you need to do the math to account for a variety of factors. For individual consumers, there is currently a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, as well as a partial federal credit for the charging unit. Several states have additional tax credits on top of the federal ones. Additionally, the average EV driver will save more than $800 a year in fuel (the cost of electricity compared to gasoline). "

In other words, if the government GIVES the buyer money, it can make sense. Subsidize anything to the hilt, and it make sense for the person receiving all the subsidies. This doesn’t mean it makes sense for the country as a whole.

For a better discussion of the pluses and minuses of EVs, read this:

Bottom line: the optimum layout appears to be a hybrid, with a plug in hybrid (as are now coming for the Prius and Insight) the best balance of cost vs. savings. EVs are not.

I’ve believed since seeing what Tesla has done that EVs will eventually become commonplace. The barriers to overcome are the development of a recharging infrastructure to accomodate long range driving and the initial cost. Storage technology could use a breakthrough, but the progress that Tesla has maed with the lithium-ion arrays is promising.

I wish the feds would invest in EV infrastucture development, storage technology development, and bringing initial cost of EVs down instead of countless billions on idiotic things like high speed rail systems that nobody wants and few will use and that will bankrupt us, and for “Cash For Clunkers” type programs.

Few seem to realize the economic benefits of a technological research base. Few seem to realize the enormous benefits that the space program yielded. Perhaps another research program focused on EVs would yield benefits. It’s a safe bet that the current expendatures the feds are planning in dumb things like high speed rail won’t yield any benefits.

Until the miracle battery solution presents itself I don’t see a pure electric car ever being viable.

I could also ask this question. For the sake of argument let’s assume an EV gets an honest 35 miles on a full charge.

It’s stated that most commuters have a drive less than this. So picture yourself in your commute going either to or from work at sunrise or dusk with rain falling and temps in the mid 30s. You’re running lights, wipers, heater, and traffic is at a near standstill. You’re looking at the battery charge indicator dropping faster than you like to see it drop. Now what?

As usual, the -40F weather scenario is left out. You can either have a resistance heater in an electric car (need about 1000 watts for quick warmup) or a mechanical heat pump (expensive) for climate control. Running a standard A/C un it in reverse won’t do it; the energy needed to heat air from -40 to +75 (115 degrees) is a lot more than dropping the temperature from 105 to 75 (30 degrees). So the A/C-heater-defroster has to be 4 times as powerful.

Where I live we pay 12 cents per kwhr for electricity and an electric car would save me about 45% on fuel costs (a whole $405). Mostly because coal generated electricity is cheap.

The saving in CO2, however is very little, since all our power is generated by old style coal plants without combined cycle or co-generation. I estimate a maximum of 25% savings in CO2 generation.

We’ve been this route before, and invite “Cars Cause Cancer” to provide us with the CO2 calculations, based on 9000 BTU/lb coal, power station efficiency to be 40% and 300 miles of transmission lines (with 5% line losses) on average to bring the power to his house. Assume gasoline to have about 14,500 BTU per pound heat content, the overall gasoline car powertrain to be 30% efficient, electric car power train to be 95% efficient.

P.S. Coal has 4 times as much carbon as gasoline for the same amount of energy supplied. So an electric car using coal generated electricity woul need to have an overall efficiency four times that of gasoline powered car. Not likely!

Point well made. The Tesla roadster gets over 200 miles on a charge, but I realize that’s in good weather without all the accessories running…and it’s not a usable family car. The average driver drives 12,000 miles annually, or about 33 miles per day. I’m optimistic that the EVs that will be common could be usable for at least the commuter part of that mileage.

I’d suspect that the average 2-car family could do well with an EV for their daily commute and an ICE car for a family vehicle. I think it could work.

Don’t interpret from this that I’m an environmentalist. I’m not. I believe that we’ve reached a point where emissions mandates are as tough as they should get (and then some) and that most of this “global warming” scare is politics and business and not real science. But I like the idea of EVs. Perhaps I’m just enjoying watching the technology evolve, or perhaps I like the idea of a motor that doesn;t require all the myriad of fluids and have all the maintenance complications that ICEs do. Maybe I just like the idea of a motor that the out-of-control emissions mandates can’t touch.

Exactly. Sure they tout a 150-200 mile rang or whatever. But let’s say you need heat or AC…or lights…or windshield wipers…or even a decent radio. In EV’s each of those things will reduce your range, the climate control can reduce it by 50% or more alone (using the Nissan Leaf as the benchmark). Also the faster you go the shorter the range is.

This description of VW’s prototype EV van summarizes everything that’s wrong with EVs:

“The Bulli?s electric motor – powered by a 3,200 pound lithium-ion battery – delivers 85 kW of power and 199 lb.-ft of torque, with a range of up to 186.4 miles.”

Did you notice? A 3,200 pound battery!?!?! Guess how much 3,200 lbs of battery costs??? The WHOLE VEHICLE shouldn’t weight 3,200 lbs!!!

I thought cars caused cancer. Isn’t that more than just your user name? Electric vehicles are cars. Ergo, electric cars cause cancer.

Why are you promoting something that causes cancer?

You’re looking at the battery charge indicator dropping faster than you like to see it drop. Now what?

Instead of rolling down the window and asking for some grey poupon, you’re asking hey buddy can I bum an electron?

The issues you bring up are the deal killer for me. I’d love a plug in solution. However, I live in a climate that requires heat and cooling, night driving and 35 miles one way. On the weekends, I might want to go on a 500 mile trip. Right now, I can re-fuel in 5 minutes and be on my way. Imagine 100 minutes or 6 hours :open_mouth: I’m not going to want to buy separate vehicles to satisfy those needs. Very few people are going to be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to accomodate the limitations. Granted, there are quite a few people whose circumstances are such that an EV of this nature can work for them. But it’s still a niche product…

Now what?

Solution 1: Keep a gasoline engine driven generator in the back for emergencies and with it running don’t forget to ride with the windows and the hatch/trunk open until someone comes up with an exhaust extension. That, then is the end of low emissions.

Solution 2: Nissan should provide an electric power transfer port and jumper cables to get a fellow Leaf driver stalled with a dead battery going again.

Solution 3: A little off the wall but… A long extension cord to plug into the nearest electric outlet.

PS, I predict that pure electric cars will be found often stalled at the side of the road because their owners neglected to take precautions against running out of battery power.

You also have to realize that the average of 33 miles per day fails to take into account weekends and retired people. 33 miles per day is based on 7 day weeks. You’re driving more if you don’t count the days that you might not do much driving. And there are plenty of car owners who are retired and maybe drive 30 miles a week, if that, who are bringing the average down.

Realistically, I do drive 30 miles a day to work and back. But if I need to run to the store after work, that number goes up. And in some electric vehicles, that means I’d be in trouble unless work was nice enough to provide me with a charging station.

That’s true, I’ve no way of knowing anything about how those miles are distributed. But I also recognize that it wouldn;t work for everyone.

Charging stations at work…that’s a good idea. Perhaps the feds could take those countless billions (trillions?) they plan to spend on dumb ideas like high speed rails and find a way to subsidize charging stations at major businesses and perhaps even municipal parking areas.

In thinking about electric motors replacing internal combustion fossil fueled engines, I wonder if we could draw an analogy with the failure of the electric mower to replace the gasoline powered mower. The electric mower that draws power from the power lines through an extension cord is inconvenient for most people. The rechargeable battery electric mowers don’t have a very long operating time before a recharge is needed. These mowers are also relatively heavy due to the weight of the battery.

I may have to replace my lawnmower this spring. I bought it in 1988–it has a Tecumseh engine and I understand that Tecumseh has gone out of business. However, I think I’ll replace it with another gasoline mower. The electric power cord mower is too inconvenient and the battery powered mowers are too heavy to push. I see similar problems with a strictly electric vehicle. Unless these deficiencies are worked out and I can’t get anything but an electric mower or a electric vehicle, I’ll keep my 1988 Toro mower and my 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass going as best I can.

The thing about the Tesla is that it’s not been proven to actually go that far on a full charge yet. Tesla CLAIMs but as far as I know it’s not been tested in a verifiable real world situation.

A couple of years ago Tesla was supposed to stomp this kind of talk down by providing a real world test with a few reporters following along to make sure the car actually did go 200 miles on a charge.
The problem was that they kept stopping the car to recharge it while claiming that they quote, “wanted to show off the recharging capabilities of the car”.
I thought the point was to make a 200 mile trip between Point A and Point B without recharging?

Just my opinion anyway, but I have a feeling that Tesla is doing nothing more than putting out a lot of hype to keep that investment money (including tazpayers) rolling in.
This happened with a 3 wheel electric car that was heavily promoted a few years back with a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon. Based on what was given about this car/motorcycle I said that I thought it was a scam and there was no way on Earth this thing could be engineered and approved for road use in the time frame given. Of course I was vilified as being a “naysayer”.

Fast forward a couple of years and the investment money is all gone along with the people who were leading this thing. The only thing remaining is a website in which the forums have been removed and any “Contact” is not responded to.
However, the last time I checked an “investment” can still be made.

I could be wrong about the Tesla but I’d sure like to know if that vehicle has actually been tested by an objective source and whether it has ever gone 150 miles on a charge, much less 200.

I’ve gone all electric with my yard equipment; mower, string trimmer, and edger. There are no batteries, just heavy duty extension cords. It’s true, they are a hassle, but then again, so is changing the oil, cleaning the air filter, and replacing the spark plug, all of which I will never have to do again. However, it is a trade-off for much less maintenance, and once I have the cords out, I use them for everything. It wouldn’t make much sense to have an electric string trimmer, but a gasoline burning mower.

I had a neighbor in the 1970s who had a plug-in electric mower. As long as you have a small yard, and enough sense not to mow your extension cord, it works pretty well.

Ever since my diesel Olds in 1981, I don’t put much weight on gas mileage. Paid $800 extra for it to get 27 mpg instead of 20, and cost more in maintenance, repairs ($500 injector pump, $300 starter) and engine only lasted to 200K. Made me feel better but would have been better off with a gasser and paid the extra for fuel.

Nova Science has just done a little series on this on the PPS channel.

One of the segments was batteries. And more specifically electrical vehicles.

There’s a lot of new science working on this now. One engineer wasn’t trying to make a better battery…He said storing energy that way is wasteful. Storing energy chemically is the way to go. So he’s been working on a new CHEAP way of creating hydrogen for a power cell.