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The status quo of electric cars: better batteries, same range
May 19, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

The status quo of electric cars: better batteries, same range: A hundred years of advances in electric vehicle technology have scarcely improved the range of mass-produced electric vehicles.
posted by melatonic (45 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
SLEP!

(single link, excellent post!)
posted by Danf at 11:12 AM on May 19, 2010


Hmm, he acknowledges there are cars that are better (Tesla) but dismisses that b/c its not due to better batteries. That may be true, but as a practical matter it makes a big difference to the consumer. There are a lot of 200-300 mile cars in the near future (next 1-2 years), and _very_ few people drive more than that in 1 go. (And if you do it once or twice a year, just rent a car when you need to). A lot of this is like trucks -- people buy them because "they need to haul stuff" which they end up doing 2 or 3 times in a year.

(Some people haul all the time. Some people, like traveling salesmen, drive all the time. Obviously it's not for them, but they are a minority)
posted by wildcrdj at 11:22 AM on May 19, 2010


People you knew this was going to happen
posted by The Whelk at 11:24 AM on May 19, 2010


The extra benefits of modern batteries have been spent on improved speed, acceleration, safety, and features. It's a trade off, and as the article points out we could have a slow, featureless, and incredibly un-crashworthy vehicle like in the old days with a 700% range increase. I think modern vehicles are a good compromise and 100 miles is plenty of range for a typical day's worth of driving around town.
posted by waxboy at 11:26 AM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you were to put the lithium-ion battery of the Nissan Leaf in the 1908 Fritchle, the vehicle would have a range of about 644 km (400 miles).

Yes, but it would not have seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes or WINDSHIELD for God's sake.

I know that one of his points is that cars are a lot heavier because they have useless, heavy, power-sucking amenities like radios, heaters, power-steering and, uh, headlights, but it's silly to compare a car that didn't have power door locks because it didn't have DOORS to a contemporary sedan and claim that failures of battery technology are the reason that range remains limited. Energy density has increased enormously, but we've come to a point where we would prefer to have at least a small chance of surviving an accident.
posted by The Bellman at 11:30 AM on May 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


People you knew this was going to happen to this.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:31 AM on May 19, 2010


There are a lot of 200-300 mile cars in the near future (next 1-2 years), and _very_ few people drive more than that in 1 go.

Wouldn't there be a significant geographical bias to this? In the American west, drives of 200+ miles are totally normal, in a way that isn't the case in more densely populated places.

And like owning a truck, how well renting will work depends on a) how much forenotice you have before needing to use the rented vehicle, b) the local infrastructure for renting the vehicle, and c) if you need to own a vehicle anyway, the rental cost is an extra expense on top of the (perhaps electric) car you already own, while the truck (or gasoline-powered car, depending on what we are comparing) costs you only marginally extra to use to haul or drive long distances.

I say this as someone convinced that we need to get away from our total reliance on petroleum -- just that many of the arguments seem to work poorly outside of dense, often eastern, urbanized conglomerations.
posted by Forktine at 11:33 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


What The Bellman said. The same exact thing is happening to gas-powered cars -- engines are superbly efficient these days (i.e. they can get like 140 HP out of a 1.2 4-cyl), but there's always more weight being added, so it's hard to tell the difference compared to cars from the 80s. Plus, there's the issue of size -- today's Civic is bigger than an early 90's Accord.
posted by spiderskull at 11:35 AM on May 19, 2010


For electric vehicles to be the Apple to the ICE-driven Microsoft PC, a range of forty miles, an overnight recharge, a battery life of six years, and some level of penetration into the garages of mechanics is required. That still says either rent or have a second car for road trips of significant length. For electric vehicles to take off (and by that I mean gain significant market share), recharging would have to take about as often as one refills the tank, adjusted for eco-guilt, oil prices, electric prices, and solar panel prices. The initial price of the vehicle must not be like that of the Tesla Roadster. Going backwards in terms of luxury and safety will not fly.

Everyone says "bike" or "take the subway." That is great if you live in certain cities. Elsewhere, it's not an available option. It would take a generation, perhaps two, to redesign cities and suburbs and work mentality (show up, in the office, at such and such times) to suit mass transit in places like Los Angeles or St. Louis.

That's why I desperately hope that the EESU (an ultracapacitor of fantastic energy containment claims) is not the Duke Nukem Forever of electrical energy storage. It could be an elaborate scheme, now tottering forward on its own inertia, kept from falling by a combination of secrecy and esoteric bits of know-how dropped in by a con artist of perfect pedigree for just that task, or it could be the real deal. The Universe will probably disappoint me with the former, but I may still hope for the latter.
posted by adipocere at 11:37 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, I have a commute (one-way) that varies from 4-9 miles each day, depending on whether I drop off/pick up the kids. Soon they'll start at a new school, and that will go up to 4-26 miles each day. Well within the 100-mile range the Leaf (presumably) has, and if I run a Leaf instead of my current second car (a Versa, which shares a platform with the Leaf) I'll get similar safety, comfort and performance without polluting the air. Can't do that in a 1908 whateveryoucallit.

I'm sure in five years, there will be cheaper cars with more range -- and I will buy one of them. In the meantime, I'll buy a Leaf (I've already put my reserve money up, actually.)
posted by davejay at 11:41 AM on May 19, 2010


Vehicles like the Leaf and Volt are transition steps. Once Lithium-Air batteries are commercially available, electric vehicles will no longer have to be so compromised. The practical energy density of Li-Air is perhaps 1100Wh/kg. At that density, duplicating the Leaf's battery pack would require a mere 21kg, less than a tenth the mass of the Leaf's actual battery pack, which means that it could have a range of 1000 miles at the same weight.

However, recharge time is always going to be an issue with batteries or even the fabled EESU because the recharging circuit becomes the limiting factor. For example, even using a 125 amp, 480V circuit takes 30 minutes to recharge the Leaf to 80%. 125 amps is more than many homes have in total, much less letting you run the dryer and air conditioner concurrently. It's much more likely that as energy density goes up we'll move to swapping battery (or ultracapacitor) packs at charging stations and only charging comparatively slowly at home or at work.
posted by jedicus at 11:43 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the American west, drives of 200+ miles are totally normal

In rural-ish areas, maybe. I've lived in LA and the SF bay area and never driven 200 miles for anything but, well, going from LA to SF. Even if you lived in OC or IE and drove to LA it wouldn't be over 200 miles.

Like I said, not for everyone, but if even 50% of people switched to electric thats a huge reduction in oil consumption.

(I already have a deposit down for a Tesla Model S, hopefully to be out in 2012 :) )
posted by wildcrdj at 11:46 AM on May 19, 2010


adipocere: "It would take a generation, perhaps two, to redesign cities and suburbs and work mentality (show up, in the office, at such and such times) to suit mass transit in places like Los Angeles or St. Louis. "

Quoi? LA has a decent subway that gets used pretty thoroughly. According to LA Metro statistics there are 200k+ weekly riders.
posted by mullingitover at 11:52 AM on May 19, 2010



There are a lot of 200-300 mile cars in the near future (next 1-2 years), and _very_ few people drive more than that in 1 go. (And if you do it once or twice a year, just rent a car when you need to) ... Some people, like traveling salesmen, drive all the time. Obviously it's not for them, but they are a minority)

This is very true if you live in big city areas, and it's very easy for everyone to look around and assume that what you see is the norm, but there are A LOT of non-sales people who exceed that 100 range, and sometimes the 200 range on a fairly regular basis. I do, my wife and I have one car and I'd say we exceed the 100 a day range once ever 10 days or so, and the 200/300 range once a month.

I agree, the majority of trips/days for nearly everyone is less than 100 miles. But, it's not a trivial concern for an awful lot of people, and dismissing it by saying "oh, you can just rent" isn't terribly helpful. Bump that number up to 300 - 400 range, and/or have a system to rapidly recharge (~1 hour) and THEN you'll cover nearly everyone.

But all the presuppose of course that we should continue relying on single passenger vehicles to move the majority of us around. which is a problem, but one that's going to be hard to break.
posted by edgeways at 11:57 AM on May 19, 2010


Also, from Low-Tech Magazine (which originally ran the posted article), how to cut fuel consumption by 75%:

"Air resistance (drag) increases with the square of speed, and therefore the power needed to push an object through air increases with the cube of the velocity"

Much of the exposition in the posted article boils down to an speed-frustrating aspect of fluid dynamics. If you ride a bike you know the feeling far better than if you press on a gas pedal. Speed dramatically reduces efficiency.
posted by melatonic at 11:59 AM on May 19, 2010


There are a lot of 200-300 mile cars in the near future (next 1-2 years), and _very_ few people drive more than that in 1 go.

Anyone with longish commute drives farther *both ways* than current battery technology. Even electric motorcycles can't do it for most. Now if I could recharge at work....
posted by DU at 12:00 PM on May 19, 2010


Ah, then I apologize for the slight to LA, which must have updated since I heard some acquaintances whine about daily commutes years back. Maybe a little Missing Persons bias in there, too. As for St. Louis, I recently ran the numbers on our public transportation system and found it would take over two hours to get to work and two hours to get home. That's a hard sell.
posted by adipocere at 12:02 PM on May 19, 2010


Rather than taking hours to recharge a set of batteries that stay with a car wouldn't it be easier to have battery stations where discharged batteries are quickly swapped out with fully charged ones? That would require standardization of battery design but it would eliminate the need for batteries to have a 300-400 mile range.
posted by plastic_animals at 12:05 PM on May 19, 2010


The same exact thing is happening to gas-powered cars

This was nicely demonstrated on an episode of Top Gear, where they pitted an old VW Golf against a brand new one in a quarter mile drag race.

The old Golf, with a far less sophisticated engine, no on-board computers, and a lot more miles on it won by a considerable margin.

This wasn't to say that the new VW sucked in comparison, it's just that our modern cars weigh significantly more than similar models from just a few years ago, it just happens that for the most part, the mass of the vehicle, and the efficiency of the engines have gone up at a similar enough rate that we haven't noticed it much.
posted by quin at 12:13 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


plastic_animals: "Rather than taking hours to recharge a set of batteries that stay with a car wouldn't it be easier to have battery stations where discharged batteries are quickly swapped out with fully charged ones? That would require standardization of battery design but it would eliminate the need for batteries to have a 300-400 mile range."

And then you have all the fun that we have now with the propane exchanges like Blue Rhino. Drop off your shiny new tank and get a rusted-up beater in return, or you pay for a 15-lb tank that is only filled to 12 lbs for "safety reasons" -- something Blue Rhino is infamous for. Who's to say you'd be getting a truly full battery? Or one that's not already worn out? These are issues that are supposed to be taken care of for you as part of the exchange process, and my experience with Blue Rhino and Amerigas exchanges have always been very poor. I can't see battery exchanges working any better than propane exchanges do now.
posted by xedrik at 12:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read this article in Discover magazine in 1996, and remember thinking what amazing changes were just around the corner. Then, nothing happened. I want my flywheel powered car and hoverboard!
posted by cubby at 12:21 PM on May 19, 2010


I drive an electric vespa-like scooter, here in Seattle. I paid way more for the Lion version, because there is a hill between home and work that the lead-acid version was never going to make. It's still a slow hard climb, and during it all, the battery monitoring system makes sure I know it's really not too happy with what I'm asking of it. The bike is supposed to have a 28 mile range, and it seems to match that, but it's impossible to truly gauge how much battery life you have left thanks to a minimal (4 LED's) indicator system.

The biggest reason I don't use the bike more often (weather aside =p) is how long it takes to recharge (3-6 hours). For me to go 200 miles, assuming perfectly spaced public 110v outlets along the way, charging time alone would be 43 hours. I've still managed to put 1800 miles on it so far, with work willingly paying 99% of the electric bill (One night, just to see if I could fit it in the elevator at home, I charged it in my apartment's kitchen).


It only recently occurred to me that I could drastically increase the effective range by taking it on a ferry over to the Olympic peninsula. d'oh yeah.

On the other hand, watching one of those laptop battery fire videos has given me a new reason to be nervous. I'm riding with the equivalent of 20-30 laptop batteries under my seat....If I'm ever in an accident on that bike, and survive, you'll excuse me if I run a few extra feet away screaming "she's gonna blow!"

Rather than taking hours to recharge a set of batteries that stay with a car wouldn't it be easier to have battery stations where discharged batteries are quickly swapped out with fully charged ones?

The problem is a battery pack isn't an interchangeable good. I'm not going to willingly trade over my brand new battery pack with only 10 charges, for yours with 3,000 charges already on it. Not when they cost $4k to replace, and poor driving habits can lower the overall battery life.

Now if instead of buying a battery pack with the car, I bought a battery service, whereby I could drive into any Joe's E-Car Battery Swappateria, and have some robot switch my dead battery for a freshly charged one, for say $1k/ year, that sounds spiffy and more workable.
posted by nomisxid at 12:23 PM on May 19, 2010


Who's to say you'd be getting a truly full battery? Or one that's not already worn out?

For starters, competition in the market. If a charging station brand becomes known for selling half-empty or worn out batteries, then it'd better be prepared to charge less or else go under. You already see this in the market for standard batteries (e.g., AAs): cheap ones that don't last as long have a bad reputation compared to major brands.

One possibility that I believe I saw on Metafilter was the idea of battery grades. You could pay more to get a battery that was guaranteed no older than a certain age / number of recharge cycles, or you could pay less for a battery that might be older or more thoroughly used.

Second, government regulation would be extremely likely, just as gasoline is highly regulated in terms of octane rating, additives, and precision pumps.
posted by jedicus at 12:26 PM on May 19, 2010


Rather than taking hours to recharge a set of batteries that stay with a car wouldn't it be easier to have battery stations where discharged batteries are quickly swapped out with fully charged ones? That would require standardization of battery design but it would eliminate the need for batteries to have a 300-400 mile range.

I think size/weight and cost would be the big issue, but it seems like the ideal solution would be to have multiple sets of batteries. If cost and size could be driven down at the expense of charging time, I could have battery B charging at home while I'm driving on battery A, and maybe even carrying a spare already charged battery C. That's pretty much what I do with XBox controllers. Of course, this is already too expensive even for say, laptops (unless you're a business traveler or something), so I'm not sure how long it would take for this to be practical with cars.
posted by kmz at 12:31 PM on May 19, 2010


I'm never quite sure how to take Low Tech Magazine. On the one hand, they point out lots of cool stuff. On the other, I can never tell if they're practicing vaccinated time travel on a level that would make the SCA blush or are about to stalk off and start their own medieval recreation group where they plan on loosing 5% of their members to smallpox every year!

Looking at their formula for a good electric car, my daily commute would cost me fingers and toes if not be outright fatal a few days every year. But for better or worse, I live in a world where my corporate masters kind expect me to show up five days a week no matter how cold it gets, so I come away from this thinking I might as well just go buy a poorly tuned 1978 Oldsmobile Toranado with a 403 engine and then throw a couple dozen cinder blocks in the trunk and use that for my daily commute.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:56 PM on May 19, 2010


I mean, the invisible hand of the free market has protected consumers in so many areas of everyday life. Why not battery exchanges?
posted by kaibutsu at 1:03 PM on May 19, 2010


This is very true if you live in big city areas, and it's very easy for everyone to look around and assume that what you see is the norm, but there are A LOT of non-sales people who exceed that 100 range, and sometimes the 200 range on a fairly regular basis.

My wife. 60+ miles one-way on her daily commute. That's a lot of gas. She's exactly the sort of person who would benefit greatly (and benefit the environment) from an electric vehicle.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:07 PM on May 19, 2010


I sure hope we get awesome new battery types or ultracapacitors. But technology development is a funny thing: 3 years ago hydrogen fuel cells were the next great power source, 5 years ago it was ethanol, 6 years ago it was lithium-ion batteries, 10 years ago it was hybrids, 15 years ago it was NiMH batteries, 30 years ago it was ethanol again... As far as I know all of these but hybrid cars have failed to make a dent in energy consumption, but you wouldn't have known it at the time.

If we're constantly daydreaming about the next great innovation that's only 5 years away, we don't have to face the fact that our current consumption patterns are grossly inefficient. Replacing 1 million SUVs with economy sedans would be vastly better for total energy consumption than replacing 1 million economy sedans with super magical future technology electric cars, which might not ever come around anyway.
posted by miyabo at 1:11 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


adipocere: Ah, then I apologize for the slight to LA...

As for me, LA, I apologize for nothing. NOTHING.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:16 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I mean, the invisible hand of the free market has protected consumers in so many areas of everyday life. Why not battery exchanges?

You'll note that I also stated that regulation was 'extremely likely,' just as it is with gasoline.

But even so the failings of the propane cylinder exchange market are not really comparable to a hypothetical battery exchange market. A mature battery exchange market would have dozens of competitors with densely located stations and prominent pricing, just like gasoline stations. What's more, people would need to exchange batteries every 1-2 weeks.

By comparison, there are only a couple of major propane cylinder exchange companies, they aren't so densely located, pricing is not prominently displayed, and people only have to exchange propane cylinders occasionally. Indeed, far fewer people own and operate gas-powered grills than motor vehicles. Thus, it's not surprising that there are market failures when there is inadequate competition, imperfect information among consumers, and a comparatively small market making it harder to spread information about good and bad companies.

I will grant that both cylinders and batteries suffer a kind of market for lemons problem in that it's difficult for a consumer to know ahead of time if a given cylinder, battery, or lemon is of good quality. But regulation can easily require an odometer-style readout of the number of charge cyles or, more fine-grained, the number of watt-hours in & out of the battery, as well as its age.
posted by jedicus at 1:21 PM on May 19, 2010


Any system for storing energy is going to present a risk of accidentally releasing that energy in an unexpected way. Compressed air tanks explode, flywheels disintegrate, gasoline burns (and the vapors explode), and batteries do interesting things when you short circuit them. You definitely do not want batteries with a positive temperature-leakage coefficient under your butt as you drive around town.

I once built a small robot with Cyclon spiral lead-acid batteries; they aren't very power dense (especially in weight, being made of lead) but charge and discharge very cleanly for many cycles. Also, they are capable of supplying a LOT of current in a short pulse -- the X cells I used were rated for about 5 amp-hours, but they can completely discharge in a few seconds via a 500 amp pulse if you short them. I melted a four foot long piece of 12-gauge wire that way, and was fortunate to be working on a metal surface that couldn't catch on fire.
posted by localroger at 1:23 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


My daily commute is 25mi each way, and that's just driving "across town". Cities in the west love their sprawl. I've been contemplating the Leaf vs the Volt, with the added security that should I get stuck in traffic or have to make an extra trip between charges the Volt has a backup, whereas the Leaf does not. Until either of those options have been out on the market for a few months, I think I'll stick to riding the commuter train into work.
posted by msbutah at 1:24 PM on May 19, 2010


The problem with the battery-swap idea is this -- how many batteries does the battery shop need to swap a day? That's the capacity it needs to be able to charge per day, or it runs out of batteries.

Let's say 10 an hour, open 6-11, so 17 hours, 170 battery packs per day. The Tesla cars vary between 40Ahr and 60Ahr (@375 volts) so a 440V 60A circuit will charge them in an hour -- this includes setup/takedown time.

Let's assume a night guy who's responsible for charging packs. One charger can charge 24 packs a day, which mean we are just over 7 chargers to handle 170 battery packs a day -- assume you get enough time from the smaller batteries, so you really just need 7.

You need, then, 440V@420A (7 charges, 60A each,) or 185KW of energy, 24 hours a day, every day the shop is open, to handle 10 battery packs an hour. 4.4MWhr of power every day to drive this battery station. The entire usage of my apartment for the entire month was, amusingly enough, exactly 500KWhr.

This one station eats as much power in a day as my apartment does in 8 months.

And that's only 10 power changes an hour. For one station. How many fillups do you think a regular gas station can do? Say, one every 10 minutes, times the number of pumps? So 24-40+ easy, but I really don't know, but I'm pretty sure it's more than 10 per hour.

Where are we going to get the power? Let's dedicate a typical 1GW(e) nuclear reactor to it. That will run 113 of these. How many gas stations in Chicago? Google maps gave me 7050 hits on "gas stations in Chicago", figure 50% noise, at least, still, that 3500.

Almost 31 nuclear reactor to provide somewhat similar power coverage to the area. Cut that in half, for various fudge factor coverage.

Still, 15 nuclear reactors -- just to charge batteries. Really, 16 or 17, because you need to be able to do maintenance and refill them, just for the Chicagoland area. The whole state of Illinois has 11, and it's one of the more nuclear states. That provides about half the power for the state.

We basically need the entire current power budget of the state of Illinois *just* to power half the cars in Chicagoland in an all electric world. It doesn't work. We can't generate that much electricity. We can't replace gas cars with electric cars. We can't even replace half of them. Replacing a tenth of them, in just Chicagoland, is going to require an enormous -- billions of dollars -- investment in electrical power generation and electrical infrastructure -- you're slinging 400A circuits to all of these gas stations. Never mind the cost of actually generating the power.

How do we do this?
posted by eriko at 2:19 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rather than taking hours to recharge a set of batteries that stay with a car wouldn't it be easier to have battery stations where discharged batteries are quickly swapped out with fully charged ones?

Here
posted by notreally at 2:20 PM on May 19, 2010


How do we do this?

Part of it will undoubtedly be to distribute power generation more evenly. For example, parking lots, home rooftops, big box stores, and skyscrapers could all be covered in solar cells. Another part of it will be reducing the amount of driving of any kind by funding mass transportation.

But beyond that the price of electricity will simply go up as more and more electric cars enter the system. Eliminating the cost of the battery from the equation, the cost per mile for an electric car is vastly less than a gasoline-powered car, so there's a lot of room for the price of electricity to go up. If electricity costs more, then people will drive less. Elasticity of demand is such that it will take a long time for high costs to lead to changed behavior, but it will happen. In the meanwhile higher electricity prices means utilities have the money to build more plants and governments have the tax revenue to subsidize the building of the right kind of plants (i.e., not coal).
posted by jedicus at 2:30 PM on May 19, 2010


RE propane exchange.
In Australia, where everyone has a gas grill and needs a propane refill once or twice a year, there are several propane exchange systems. By law, we can't refill a cylinder older than 10 years, unless it has been re-certified as safe, so the tanks are never that beat up. There is a price premium to swap and go, compared to standing around refilling a tank, but most people seem willing to pay it.
Note too, that the filled tanks aren't filled locally, they are inspected and filled at a central depot, then trucked to your local gas station.
A battery swap service could definitely work along the same lines. Perhaps when you buy an EV you get 'membership' in a program for 7 years, swapping the batteries as required, with failing batteries the responsibility of the swap company. At the end of the 7 years you pay $x for a replacement battery that gives you another 7 years.
The trick to my mind is getting a universal, swappable battery form factor. The manufacturers need to get on board, if they really want to sell EVs.
posted by bystander at 2:39 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


You don't, eriko. But the problem isn't that electric cars are bad, it's that personal "car" transportation is bad. In the post peak energy future, commuting more than a few blocks is, for most people, going to be on cycle or transit. Fortunately, teleworking will be more prevalent. We simply will not be able to afford to drive two hours a day. Cities will become far more dense to support the practically affordable transportation methods. They must. You have explained why yourself, you just didn't explore the full promblem space.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:40 PM on May 19, 2010


The batteries have not really gotten all that better. There have been some small advances, mostly in charging and the ability for the charge to be held longer without a load. But this precious, precious amp-hours-per-volume have not really followed the trend of other technologies.
posted by clvrmnky at 2:46 PM on May 19, 2010


Frankly, I'm surprised that nobody has yet commented on the problem of 'embodied energy' in the battery itself.

"These figures suggest that the embodied energy of the battery - not considered in any research paper that investigates the ecological advantages of electric cars - makes up for a substantial amount of the total energy cost of an electric automobile. At the advertised energy use of 21 kWh per 100 miles, 23,222 kWh would take the Tesla 109,938 miles 176,929 km) far. That's almost 30,000 km (18,600 miles) per year, or 80 km (51 miles) per day. The low "fuel" costs are only half the story if the "fuel tank" itself is that energy-intensive. "

In a society where most of our energy and machinery is not produced very cleanly, this means that electric cars aren't really solving the problem at all, they're just shifting the pollution burden from 'while the consumer uses it' to 'before the consumer uses it.'

We're not achieving any real reduction in environmental impact until we make a vehicle that consumes less as it is used AND is produced at a comparable (or lower) environmental impact to current vehicles. Or we make something that uses SO much less energy that its lower consumption throughout its life cycle offsets the higher initial environmental impact of production.

Until that's achieved, this is deck chairs on the titanic, IMO.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:11 PM on May 19, 2010


Eriko,
Those 3000 battery swap stations serve on the order of 3-5 million cars. Their owners are spending about $5-7 billion a year on gasoline each year under the current regime. Figure $30 billion to build battery swap stations, $30 billion to build power plants, and $10 billion for transmission lines, depreciated over 30 years with interest, is around $3 billion -- totally doable! If you could make an affordable battery pack and sell a few million electric cars, the charging infrastructure is relatively easy.
posted by miyabo at 4:09 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get people griping about capacity. It's not like everyone is going to switch to an EV overnight. And utilities will be chomping at the bit to sell more power. Once there's more demand for power, the resistance to build new plants will be easier to overcome. And even if they're coal plants (although I would hate that), it's still better than gasoline or diesel fuel because electric cars run by power plants are just so much more efficient than relatively tiny internal combustion engines. Multiple studies back this up.

Personally, I'm rooting for wind, tidal and solar energy backed up by nuclear baseline for the energy future.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:20 PM on May 19, 2010


People griping about swapping batteries obviously aren't familiar with Better Place.

People griping about driving long distances obviously aren't familiar with how the vast majority of developed world people drive. You can keep carbon-spewing fuel bingers; there's so few of you it will barely matter.
posted by smoke at 5:32 PM on May 19, 2010


My GOD. That's an awful lot of typing.

The revolution is coming, kids. GET ONBOARD OR GET OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY. It's coming.

Remember the internet in 1993-1994, and how only a few of us knew about it but were really excited about it? Remember how, in 1995-1996, people were saying what a ridiculous waste internet audio streaming was? (unicasting to each recipient) Yeah, funny how that turned out, huh?

We're at that point right now with electric vehicles. You're about to witness a step change in efficiency and power in the automotive industry and it's going to overwhelm all the whiny critics in about 4 years flat.

I will not even bother arguing merits. Step change.
posted by intermod at 8:23 PM on May 19, 2010


I will not even bother arguing merits. Step change.
(emphasis mine)

The case for "alternative" energy in a nutshell, I'm afraid.
posted by atrazine at 3:14 AM on May 20, 2010


Toyota-Tesla partnership announced, Tesla to take over the NUMMI^ plant in 2012 and build the Tesla S sedan there
posted by XMLicious at 11:45 PM on May 20, 2010


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