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Electric Cars Running on Empty
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  • Fat_Man

    Back before the First World War, my great grandmother drove a Baker Electric. At that time Mrs. Henry Ford (the original) also drove an electric car.

    Electric cars are the wave of the past.

  • Josephbleau

    The Stanley Steamer was a great fast car in the 1920’s , it could run on coal

    • Steve Hix

      Well, if you liquify the coal.

  • Erocker

    Compared to Bush’s hydrogen car the Obama electric car has actually become a reality.

  • Andrew Allison

    Is it really conceivable that batteries can come close to the energy density of gasoline? Not to mention the ineffiency of generating, transmitting, charging and discharging? I can’t help wondering whether we would be better off working on IC engine efficieny (including hybrid technology).

    • benswing

      Batteries that have similar energy density to gasoline exist in labs today. It will take time to develop them for manufacturing, but it is possible.

      • Steve Hix

        How many operate around room temperature?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “irrational “range anxiety,””

    Say rather rational “range anxiety”, the average vehicle owner needs more than a local run about, they also need a vehicle that can take long trips to visit friends and family as well as take vacations and weekend trips to interesting out of the way places. And all without having to purchase a 2nd vehicle which is outside most people’s budget. In addition, what about emergencies, storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, meteors, zombie attacks, alien invasions, and other unforeseeable unknown events? It is completely rational to make sure you have as your first vehicle one that has a very long range with the capability and flexibility of even greater range with gas cans stored on board.

    • Patti

      I bought the Volt (plug in electric hybrid) almost a year ago for that very reason. I primary commute (up to 50 miles) with the vehicle using electric only, but have the flexibility to go on longer trips using gas. With a full battery and gas tank, I can go close to 400 miles without stopping. I went on a 1,000 mile roundtrip vacation last year. If the electricity is out, gas pumps don’t work either as I found out years ago during hurricane Isabel.

    • Charles

      So in case of natural disaster, you would prefer:
      (a) petrol/gas, which needs to be dug out of the ground, mostly overseas, and be processed, shipped, refined, delivered to specific locations, at which point you need a particular company to be in operation to deliver it to your car?
      (b) electricity, which has multiple generation points across the country, or can be generated by facing a panel to the sun?
      Even in the non disaster scenario, I’d prefer a car that automatically has a full charge every morning.

  • GS

    No chemical battery technology to compete with gasoline is even theoretically possible. And if one starts burning the same, or analogous, fuel in a fuel cell, the mass of the cell itself would still be a drawback.

    • Boritz

      And even if such batteries could exist the car would in reality burn coal.

      • GS

        Such batteries simply cannot exist, period. A chemical battery packs its own oxidizer, electrolyte, other parts – and a gasoline engine uses the external oxidizer (air), does not need the electrolyte, and so on.

      • jelloslug

        In 38% of the markets, yes. You always have the option to make your own electricity though. Can’t say that about gas.

        • Steve Hix

          So, nobody is actually making their own biodiesel?

      • Telveer

        Fact: Less than 38% of electricity in US is from coal. Secondly, you can generate electricity cleanly in a variety of ways. There is no “clean” gasoline.

    • benswing

      There are already some batteries (in laboratories) that match the energy density of gasoline. They just haven’t made it to market yet. Like any technology it takes time to develop. Just like the gas-burning engine in your car is not the same as the engine in a Model-T.

      • GS

        Sir, I happen to have a doctorate in chemistry. Take your misinformation somewhere else.

        • Telveer

          So as a Doctor, you should also known how ridiculous it is to compare batteries and gasoline. You are surely aware what it takes to use gasoline in a vehicle. Apart from gasoline, you need a large heavy complicated engine, transmission, exhaust manifolds, catalytic converter, muffler, radiator, and a whole other plethora of stuff. An electric car is a whole lot simpler — not to mention all that is needed to make such gasoline and distribute it to each and every vehicle. Granted batteries alone will not reach the energy density of gasoline but if you just look at gasoline alone, you have to wonder why cell phones and laptops do not come with small on-board gasoline generators.

          • GS

            and with your battery you will also need electric motor/s, controlling circuits, etc. etc. All these are also large and heavy. The comparison is between the energy storage parts only.

          • Telveer

            No amount of etceteras will make an electric drive train more complex to a gasoline one. Looking at energy density alone is not a valid argument. Unless someone figured out a way to ride to work on a can of gasoline.

          • GS

            it is not the complexity, it is the mass. Electric motors are not especially light.

          • Telveer

            Electric motors, inverters, gears and controllers together are lighter than just the weight of a conventional gasoline engine. Not to mention the additional complexity and weight of transmission, exhaust manifolds, cat converters, mufflers and such. In a 4/AWD system, the additional weight in a conventional gasoline vehicle adds up even more.

          • GS

            Not quite. And gasoline is so much lighter and denser in energy that all that greenpissery would be laughable if it did not result in a gigantic waste.

          • Telveer

            OK. Now you are switching back from power train to energy source. Gasoline > Battery when it comes to energy density. I do not think anyone is arguing about that. But to get that higher energy density into a useful format. you need a more complicated, heavier and less efficient system (engine, transmission, exhaust).

          • GS

            gasoline is at least 20x more energy dense than any chemical battery. One gasoline tank (something like 50kg) has enough energy to drive 450 miles – which is what 3 very expensive [and dirty to make, btw] 500kg batteries would do: 50kg vs 1500kg. Plus the convenience.

          • Telveer

            True. No argument about gasoline’s superior energy content.

            Technically, the battery is a tank. And electrons are the fuel. We just need to pack more electrons into the “tank”. And electrons weight a whole lot less to gasoline 😉

          • GS

            Use teleportation or transvection [a medieval term for flying a broom]. Much cleaner, too.

          • Telveer

            Nope. I prefer driving, and I don’t like flying.

        • Charles

          You heard him guys. He says he has a doctorate in chemistry. And if you can’t trust a person with no profile picture and a two-letter username on the internet, who can you trust?

  • JR

    So car companies lied to Obama Administration to get the money they needed. Iran is lying to Obama Administration now to get what they need. The pattern repeats itself.

  • benswing

    This is a rather uninformed article that misrepresents facts throughout. No wonder the author didn’t put his name to it. EVs are new technology that people are unfamiliar with, and dealers don’t know how to sell them. Like any new technology they start out expensive and work their way down to lower prices and higher functionality.

    Also, regarding a battery that can “run a TV for 36 days” it would be about the size of a small living room table (less than 2x2x2ft) and they are getting smaller every year.

  • Craig

    We didn’t let the lack of WMD keep the nation and world from marching on for years to achieve ‘that’ goal.

    So why don’t we refocus on seeing when 1M vehicles will be hit, when batteries become viable for even more folks (ie Tesla Gigaplant), and when 1M vehicles are powered by solar power.

  • Choddo

    and exactly how much has this “policy mis-step” cost? Somewhat less than the clean up of the Deepwater Horizon, I suspect.

    • Telveer

      And that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that the US had spent $8 trillion on protecting oil cargoes in JUST the Persian Gulf since 1976, when its military presence in the region was boosted following the first Arab oil embargo. This is all despite the fact that only 10% of the oil passing through the straits is actually destined for the US. Not to mention the thousands of soldiers the US lost protecting its “strategic” oil interests across the globe. The so-called subsidy given to green initiatives is but a mere droplet in the bucket!

  • Craig

    Any guess on how much the oil spill on the CA coast will cost? Rhetorical.

  • kubel

    I don’t much care about what politicians want to sell. Fact is, electric cars are amazingly more refined to drive and plug-ins are selling at much faster pace and with much better consumer acceptance than early hybrids like the Prius.

    The best car (not just the best electric car), per Consumer Reports is now the Tesla Model S. The GM car, out of all of their brands, with the most customer satisfaction is the Chevy Volt.

    • Mastro63

      “plug-ins are selling at much faster pace and with much better consumer acceptance than early hybrids like the Prius.”

      That’s just not true- maybe the first year of the Prius.

      Volt sales have been a huge disappointment for GM. Leaf sales are up- from almost nothing. Tesla- gets a lot of press- but 18,000 cars in 2014 is pretty niche.

      Hey- you have to start somewhere, right?

  • Mastro63

    Two problems with electric cars-

    The batteries make it more expensive than a normal gas car the same size. So- you spend much more on the car than the savings on gasoline. Better for someone on a budget just to buy a compact car. That’s what I did- especially after a coworker told me that you have to replace the batteries at around 80,000 miles- ugh.

    Also- the killer ap for electric cars- even if they had short ranges- would be for them to replace cars in the city. Short commutes, no emissions, eco-chic- perfect! EXCEPT- few people in the city have parking spaces that would allow them to recharge. A parking spot in a major city can run $40,000 or so. Certainly the graphic artist with a roommate doesn’t have one. You really can’t run a line from your front stoop to the space on the street.

    People who can set up a charger in their garage? Well- that might be a McMansion in the suburbs- but- as we know- they have SUV’s.

  • petemoss2442

    When Dodge put out the 707 hp Challenger, imaginations were reignited on what cars can be. Their sales on all challengers went up 60 percent. People like muscle cars. People like cars that can go 300 miles on a tank, and refill and keep driving. It would take 5 days to go 300 miles with a Nissan Leaf.

  • Bandit

    One more Obama failure – but of course it’s someone else’s fault

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