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Is Everyone So Anti-EV?

6755 Views 49 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  boogetyboogety
I just downloaded those excellant 1 page Insight brochures from the "comments" thread, and was greatly impressed. However, one thing hit me like a hammer: the bold text proudly proclaiming "The car never needs to be plugged in". Am I the only one that sees this as a major disadvantage? We should not be hyping the fact that it cannot be plugged in, we should be maligning it. Evertime I give the "standard speech", and they ask if you have to plug it in, I always say "Unfortunately, I can't.". Which then leads to the discussion about why not being able to plug in is a major disadvantage, and how auto manufacturers should be striving for both pure electric vehicles, and true hybrids which CAN be plugged in...

Just a thought.
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I do not believe that EVs are slow. There are very impressive EV dragsters, since the capacity for electric motors to carry a load is limited merely by temperature, which takes time to accumulate. That's why they are used to pull trains. Massively overload them for a short while to get the train up to speed, then let the motors cool down while you coast down the track.

I do believe that EVs are more effective at exporting their pollution than they are at reducing it. That would be difficult for an EV owner to accurately evaluate, since out of sight is out of mind. Meanwhile, when I consider the way we tend to increase our dependency upon the grid until it massively fails, as it recently did in NY and adjoining states, I can't see where shifting the substantial energy needs of vehicles in America to be supplied by the electric grid as a good thing. Again, the grid seems to have infinite capacity, but it doesn't, and you don't find that out until you've exceeded that capacity.

The essential problem with electric vehicles is that the least expensive battery technology is also the most efficient battery technology in all areas except for portability. Lead acid batteries are more energy efficient than any other battery type, but they are heavy, and for portable applications that require as much kenetic energy as shoving a car around, lead acid batteries do not work well.

More exotic battery chemistry is expensive, especially at the capacity levels required to drive a car hundreds of miles. Even with exotic batteries, the compromise is between capacity and weight. More of one is more of the other, and more weight requires more capacity to carry, and effects your design options for space, suspension, braking, etc.

Hybrid technology makes more sense. You are taking the strong points of both gas and electric technology and coordinating them in a way that complements the whole vehicle. Take a gas engine just large enough to do what gas engines do well: Cruise for long distances. Do not build it large (and heavy) enough to give the vehicle low end torque or impressive accelleration. Use electricity for that.

Add an electric drive system that does what electric drive systems do well: Add low end torque so you can run the gas engine at minimum rpm for lowest pollution and highest gas mileage, and give the vehicle the accelleration for getting up to highway speeds, passing Hummers and climbing East Coast mountains. Don't make the batteries large enough for long distance cruising, which would substantially add weight.

It doesn't make any sense to plug in a hybrid because the actual energy held in those batteries is not enough to move the car very far. At peak boost, the battery adds about 10% to the power that the gas engine is providing. It would not be worth the added weight and cost needed to add the circuitry to the car to provide a plug to charge the battery.

That 10% is quite significant for accelleration and the weight reduction and fuel efficiency the hybrid gets compared to a gas engine that would produce that same 110% horsepower, while that oversized engine spends most of its time cruising down the highway. But that 10% could not drive the car. That's the whole point of a hybrid system.

Engineers have been trying to get EVs to work well for decades. They've been working on hybrids for a small chunk of one decade. If EVs were that much better than hybrids, it seems like they'd have better results by now.

Fuel cells offer a new way to change the math for the basic battery capacity and weight problem for EVs. The battery (fuel cell) can be of a size needed to provide the power level needed for the car, and then the fuel tank size and weight determines the capacity. Meanwhile, the problem with fuel cells is that though in theory hydrogen is everywhere, in practice, getting that hydrogen in useful form requires a lot of energy, and the whole point here is to conserve energy. The fuel cell promoters seem to forget that.

Individuals may have a great experience driving their EVs. They don't have to deal with their pollution because it goes somewhere else. They also don't have to deal with the collapse of the grid because there aren't enough EV owners yet to bring down the grid. This is simply not a technology that most of us could turn to because the impact on the common resource would be greater than it could handle. We can't take all our limitless energy lust and shove it all through the electric grid. We need to diversify our energy consumption.

Drive your car with gasoline as miserly as you can make that vehicle with that resource. Cook your food with natural gas or propane. Electric heat is convenient, but not efficient. Refrigerate your food with electricity. It is more efficient than propane, though propane is quieter and more pleasant to live with. Heat your house with wood or oil or gas. Eventually, air conditioning will cease to be practical. It consumes too much energy, despite our short-sighted denial in that regard. When we have to choose between energy for air conditioning or for growing and distributing food, likely we will abandon air conditioning.

If we don't start using less energy, there will be too little time to figure out how to provide basic energy for other generations in the not so distant future. We are already fighting wars over oil, and pushing to suck oil out of places we previously decided to protect from the industry. Sooner or later, we'll have to use less. I wish we'd start tapering down now so we won't have that really rude shock when suddenly it is all gone and we spend that last drop fueling war machines to make sure we get it instead of "somebody else".

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Meanwhile, 55mph is slower than most people are willing to have as their top speed, and you need horsepower to accellerate up to that speed. It's nice to have all these discussions, but the basic truth is, if EVs were just a matter of getting the math right, it would be done by now, since quite a few rather intelligent people have been working on the problem and you don't see a lot of EVs running around, and there's more to it than most conspiracy theorists would like to think. It's not just because big corporations don't like the idea. It's because the idea isn't working. Looks great on paper. Looks worse on the road.

As for alternate fuels, the issue being ignored here is the raw calories it takes to push that much metal that fast over that many miles for that many people. The Sun does not provide us with enough ergs in any way that we can capture it in a corn field or a solar collector or whatever to then expend as much energy as we spend pushing vehicles down the road. Petrolium offers us an enormous amount of energy, which we are wasting very casually.

Unfortunately, the supply is not infinite, and just like engineers weren't quite able to make the nuclear power thing work out as clean, safe and limitless as they thought, likely they won't come up with any OTHER way for us to perpetually avoid the simple need to throttle back on our consumption.

We need to adapt to using less energy before we suddenly are forced to use a LOT less energy. Making a car go up to 70mpg is one effective way to do that. Getting more people driving more efficient cars is another.

Replacing all the gas cars with methonol cars that waste fuel as much as the gas cars waste fuel won't do it. Replacing all the gas cars with EVs won't do it. Diversifying the fuel sources is a good thing, but the bulk of it needs to be petrolium simply because there isn't enough energy in any other portable, effectively refinable and distributable form.

We need to stop generating electricity with petrolium products and use what is left of them for more exclusively functional energy (things you can't do well with anything else), improve burn more coal in cleaner technologies like fluidized beds and improve scrubber technologies for the burning of coal to produce electricity and commercial heat (fluidized beds can only be effective within certain size and continuity of use parameters).

Basically, we need to back up and figure out what forms of energy are effective at which tasks, and rethink how to make the most use of what we've got with the least impact on the environment. How can we sustainably grow, store and distribute food, how can we sustainably transport people, heat homes, provide water (hot and cold) and generally manage power with less waste and chaos than our current misuse of our resources.

The future (if they survive) will look back on us as we look at crowded Medieval cities with sewage thrown from buckets in upper windows into gutters by the side of the road. They will wonder how we made it this far, having such a reckless and crude approach to energy resources.
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