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Is Everyone So Anti-EV?

6760 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'm not all that sure about the alleged advantages of pure electric vehicles, myself, at least as long as an appreciable fraction of electrical generation is based on fossil fuels.

Say you drive an EV in LA, which means that when you plug it in, the electricity might be generated from a coal-fired plant on the Navaho rez in Arizona (so you're exporting your pollution). Then the electricity gets shipped over the power grid, which is by no means lossless (10% at least, IIRC), you charge your batteries, which again aren't 100% efficient, and lose yet more energy when you extract electricity from the batteries to drive around. Plus if you want any sort of range, you're using more energy to haul around quite a weight of batteries, not to mention the energy & environmental costs of making & recycling those batteries.

So figuring all that, are you really gaining much, energy-wise, from an EV versus an Insight? Maybe if the technical and/or political climates would allow building non-fossil powerplants, it would be a different story.
 

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Just skimmed through it, but notice the table about halfway down, where they compare an EV1 against an Acura 3.2 TL, and get 69 mpg-equivalant vs 24 mpg? But stick the Insight in there instead, and you get 69 vs 73 (about what I get), not to mention that I think they left out transmission system losses. So the Insight is better now (and I think could readily be improved by a third or so), and offers much greater range, acceleration, handling, etc.

Of course for a completely fair comparison, you would have to find two vehicles with very nearly the same body style & performance.
 

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But remember, those EV dragsters only have to go a quarter mile :) For more range, you have to add more batteries, which means more weight - not just the weight of batteries, but also the structure to support them. That in turn affects handling & acceleration... The basic problem is that batteries just don't offer anywhere the same energy density as gasoline or other fuels.

Of course the Insight design isn't the only way to do a hybrid, either. I think if I were doing one, and batteries were cheaper, I would do an electric drive off a battery pack maybe 5x the size of the Insight's. That pack would be recharged by something efficient, like a small gas turbine, that would run at constant speed.

Then when technology allows, you could swap out the turbine for a fuel cell - which doesn't have to run on hydrogen. Maybe ethanol/methanol, so you could grow your fuel.

As to fighting wars over oil... Well, I disagree, but I'll stay off politics, and just say that it helps to have read the Koran :)
 

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"EVs do work, and work well. EVs in use: golfcards, forklifts, lift trucks, milk floats..."

All of which are short range, low speed, usually operated within a very short distance of a charge point. And notice that many of them, like forklifts, are applications where battery weight is not a drawback - gas-powered forklifts often have hundreds of pounds of cast-iron weights bolted on :)

"I love fuel cells. We can make hydrogen as green as we want, just like electricity..."

Hudrogen fuel cells suffer from the same kind of drawback that electric vehicles do: with current technology, there's no way to store the amount of energy needed without adding a lot of parasitic weight.

Then there's the cost issue. The Insight battery pack costs a couple thousand, right? How many packs would be needed to drive a full-electric Insight for even 20 miles - 5, 10, 20, even more?
 

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"The best way to REALLY get high mpg, I believe, would be to use the exact Insight body & chassis, except reduce the height (roofline) by 6 inches. (I calculate a 0.22 drag coefficient)..."

You may be mistaken :) Reducing the height just changes the flat plate area, while Cd depends purely on shape, so total drag is Cd * FPA, right? I for one would be happy with an Insight-shaped thing that was 6" or so narrower, too...

"...electricity can be as green as you want it, or as dirty as you want it. We do not have the same choice with gasoline."

But liquid-fueled cars don't have to run on gasoline. Conversion to e.g. ethanol/methanol is dead simple.

"New batteries will offer long ranges (200M), but are fantastically expensive. The price will go down with mass production, but the auto makers won't mass produce..."

Which is where hybrids fill in a gap. Hybrids need some batteries, but not nearly as many as full EVs, therefore they can use more efficient/expensive ones. Battery makers now have a market into which they can sell some new technology without having to invest lots of money in an "if we build them, they will sell" proposition. So maybe in 5 or 10 years, the cost of efficient batteries will come down to where we can afford EVs that use them.

"You have an EV around town, then a gas car for long trips. Or, keep a pure EV for short range, then take the hybrid on long trips. Lots of people have more then 1 car."

So do I: the Insight for most driving, and a pickup for hauling stuff. But now I'd need three :) As for renting... well, if you have the sort of mind that can plan such things in advance, and don't mind wasting time driving to the rental place, dealing with their hassles, etc, then go for it.
 

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"...isn't "grain alcohol" (ethanol?) horribly inefficient? ie. Takes more energy to tend and harvest then it can produce."

Can't quote figures, but I can't possibly see how it could be. It takes what, a few passes 'round the field with a tractor, and a truck drive to the processing plant?

You have similar production costs with any form of energy. With gasoline, there's all the well drilling & pumping, building pipelines & oil tankers, running the refineries, and so on. For EVs, you have all the production costs tied up in batteries and the power grid.

The difference is that using ethanol &c requires only incremental change. There's no need to invest hundreds of billions in new infrastructure, or hope for technological breakthroughs in hydrogen storage or battery design. You can leverage most of the existing infrastructure, and maybe have something on-line that would at least meet minimal needs before the next time the Saudis decide to shut off the tap.
 

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"Last time I looked at the numbers, it cost about 2 cents on average to completely charge an "average" EV."

Been thinking about that, and I don't believe it can possibly be right. So while I'm twiddling my thumbs here, I'll do some back of the envelope calculations. This is just off the top of my head, so yell if you see mistakes :)

1 HP = 746 watts. I figured out that it takes about 17 hp to move the Insight at a constant 65 mph on level ground. So allowing for some acceleration & such, say it takes a bit over 20 hp, on average. That's 15 KW, so driving for an hour uses 15 KWhr of electricity. The local power company has some complicated rate tables, but I think my power bill works out to about $0.11 per KWhr, or about $1.65 to drive my hypothetical pure EV Insight for an hour.

On the gas side, I get a bit over 70 mpg, and drive about 70 mph, therefore it costs about $1.81 (today's prices) to drive my real Insight for the same time. Not a whole lot of difference there, especially if you add in the extra battery weight you'd have to have to get any range from the pure EV.

So with current prices, I don't see any major operating cost advantages either way.
 

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"17HP is way too much to be moving a car around..."

You think so? What's your reasoning? That number is what I calculated for my Insight - I posted the calcs on another thread somewhere around here. Anyway, there's a mountain road near here that I drive frequently, four-lane, near-constant slope, and gentle enough curves that I can descend without braking. Once the battery reaches full charge, I'm coasting at 65-70 mph. With fuel cutoff, I should be burning no gas, but have the same engine & drivetrain friction as I would at that speed on the level. So I know the weight of the Insight, distance, and elevation change; from that I calculated horsepower consumed, and got about 17 hp.

"Ethanol is less volatile than gasoline..."

And it's bio-degradable, so you can save weight on evaporative emissions controls. And if you do get a spill, all you get are a bunch of hungover fish :)
 

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"...something like 6 or 7 hp to maintain 55mph in stock form..."

Well, that's 55 mph. If I find a hill that I can coast down at a steady 55, I'll redo the calculations and see what the Insight does at that speed :)

"...and just like engineers weren't quite able to make the nuclear power thing work out as clean, safe and limitless as they thought..."

Actually, you know, they did. Unfortunately they came up against the immovable obstacles of public ignorance and hysteria: "Ohmigawd, it's nuclear! We're all gonna die!"

"...burn more coal in cleaner technologies..."

No, no, no! Do not burn coal. Even if you burn it in the cleanest imaginable technology, you are still releasing massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is ultimately not real good for much of anything except certain thermophilic bacteria :)

The same argument, of course, applies as well to petroleum, which is why you need to move as much as possible into some sort of closed carbon cycle. Ethanol seems the most obvious way to do that. Now of course you can't simply grow all of it you need, but you can make a start. Then you can add things like for instance engineered bacteria or yeasts living off the waste heat of nuclear reactors, and producing ethanol as a by-product.

That's the long term, though. In the immediate future, I'd just like to see the world in a position where it doesn't have to kiss Arab butts lest they cut off the oil supply.

"Infrastructure is being built that requires us to drive further and more often. Almost everyone's dreamhouse located miles in the country, miles away from everything, miles from your job, schools, stores, etc."

Not true for me. I live in the country, I can do all the shopping and so on with one trip a week - less if I forego fresh fruits & such - and could do the bulk of my work by telecommuting. Doing all that wouldn't affect my total driving much, because most of is in fact done to get even further out, to the lakes, mountains, & desert where my real life takes place.
 

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"It would be fantastic if many of the interstates were replaced with long distance electric rail lines."

Supplemented, yes. Replaced, no. What you don't consider is that the interstate also efficiently serves lots of points between A and B. A rail line would have to stop often to serve all these places, thus delaying all the passengers who don't want to get off at that particular point.

If you have enough people who want to go from A to B on a regular schedule, the rail makes sense for them. However, you still need something for all the other people who want/need to go random places at unscheduled times.
 
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