Electric cars are a pipe dream

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Syzygys, May 20, 2010.

  1. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Yes, I agree long-haul diesel trucks will be the first. They use so much fuel / year that system can pay back the capital cost.

    I think the first car use of exhaust heat will probably be for AC. The old Servel gas refrigerator is not a lot of capital (no motors, etc) and the exhaust can replace the gas flame. BTW, Einstein made some refinements to it, AFAIK, they added too much capital cost to eve be used. It is a very clever system, with no moving parts - would last longer than the car, trouble free. It may be best to just let it run year round and over whelm it in the winter with "free heat."

    As far as getting electric power, perhaps a little via solid state devices. Their efficiency is low (<5%) but that not too important as the exhaust heat was going to be thrown away. Mainly any exhaust heat system must not increase the back pressure.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2011
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  3. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    The financial impact of this just hit me.

    What that means is when I buy a car like a Leaf without a battery pack, the owner of the Battery Swapping Station has to buy me a battery and he has to buy one to swap with me when I come in, and he has to buy enough extra batteries to allow for the fact that where I swap batteries won't always be at the same location etc.

    My guess is for every car that is bought, the swap stations would need to buy nearly 3 batteries, thus at about $10,000 for a Leaf Battery, it would cost the swap station more for batteries then it would for me to buy the car.

    I must be missing something......


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  5. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    A "mishmash of features" "attempting to appeal to the largest population" is exactly the definition of "optimized."

    Today's conventional ICE cars are the product of decades of competition and improvements. They are among the most optimized products that one can purchase. If they seem suboptimal to you, that probably just means that you are insisting on a narrow, stilted optimization criterion, and ignoring the salient criteria (which include not just price, but performance, safety, reliability, maintenance costs, comfort, style, various electronic featues like navigation, back-up cameras, etc.).

    Price isn't much of a problem - plenty of cars more expensive than, say the Nissan Leaf, get sold every year. In a few years, used EVs will start to be available at lower price points (even supposing lower-cost new models aren't developed).

    What needs to happen is drastic improvements in range between recharging, and massive deployment of recharging stations.
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  7. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I guess you did not read my long post 1536 carefully but I also considered fact that the Leaf's battery will not go into the Volt etc. so just at the recharge station there needs to be more than 3 batteries of each type for every battery in a car. Thus, counting the one in the car, that battery swap system buys ~ 4 batteries per EV on the road. - clearly an impossible system, except as I noted above.
    Only that you are still underestimating the financial cost as at least three different size batteries (even if world could agree on only three different standard sizes all of the same geometry) are needed at the battery swap stations.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2011
  8. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    I did actually, it just didn't hit me at the time that a company offering a battery swap system takes a bigger financial hit if I buy an EV than I do.

    Which has even more implications when you think about it.

    It would mean that when you bought the car you would have to sign a contract with the Swap company to pay them an amount per month based on how many miles you drove and how many times per month you could swap, but that means it would have to be a transferable contract and you would have to sell it to the person you sold the car to. While the value of the car would go down over time, the monthly cost of this contract would not and I think this would tend to make the value of the car plummet as it got older.

  9. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    OK, the trucks that reek of acetic acid when they go by must be running the new low sulfur diesel and the ones belching black smoke and the traditional foul stench are running the old diesel. Gotcha.

    Like I said, depends on what is considered a 'construction' vehicle.
  10. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    The ones belching black smoke are probably older, independently-owned trucks that need an engine rebuild, which their owners can't afford to do in terms of downtime or cost ($10 k).

    If they can get away with it without getting busted, they'll drive those things until they actually break down before they fix them, because if they aren't rolling, they aren't paying child support.

    I get really annoyed though when people talk long-haul trucking for the long-term future...because trains are SO much more efficient a way to move freight long distances that it makes no sense to do as we're doing now-rip up trackage/neglect it, while using trucks to move freight.

    I don't think the trucking industry's sustainable...at least not interstate. I think the trucking firms are going to crater one by one...the independents first, as they are more marginal.

    Diesel car engines cost about 5k to rebuild. They are burning way cleaner than they used to...and if I could, I would get one in a heartbeat.

    Diesel...hybrid, plug-in???
    No drivetrain-electric motors at the wheels powered directly off the batteries?
    A small engine that runs at a constant RPM, keeping the batteries at between 80-100% of charge...maximizing the life of both???

  11. Success_Machine Impossible? I can do that Registered Senior Member

    Development costs include alot of things, design is just one part of it. They should spend more time on design. Anything can be improved if more thought is put into it.

    There are dozens of battery swap stations being built in Israel, Denmark and Japan. They managed to secure the financing. Plus the business model is a subscription based on miles driven per month. Drivers don't pay for each battery swap.

    You're getting ahead of yourself. I'd deploy these stations for compact cars first, and see if business is brisk enough to justify upgrading later.

    You're comparing the energy consumption of gasoline cars to electric cars. If you equate them you end up with an inflated value for battery swaps. But electric cars are much more efficient than gas cars. But let's say you have a point, in principle... all the swap station owner would need is a delivery service to bring more batteries from somewhere else. Trucks deliver gas to gas stations like this all the time.

    What was the cost of all the infrastructure needed to refine the gas? Don't tell me it cost 5 bucks!

    I've read many times that constant speed turbines can achieve 60% efficiency. If American powerplants aren't achieving this, it's time to upgrade. I wish governments would stop giving out massive grants for this kind of stuff and incorporate replacement costs into their financing. Jeesh! Similarly I've read many times that the basic efficiency of the typical gasoline car engine is between 20-24%.

    Consider this:

    Annually you burn X-billion barrels of oil in gasoline cars that have an efficiency of 0.20 roughly. Imagine instead that the entire country converted to electric cars, but continued to burn gasoline in the stationary powerplants that provide the electricity. Well, the system now has an overall efficiency of 0.45, so you end up importing and burning just half the oil you did before, to move the same number of cars, and you haven't even changed the ultimate source of the energy! Think about it. And think about how many other types of fuels could be burned in stationary powerplants. Doesn't have to be gasoline, but at a minimum you will have cut your imports of foreign oil in half.

    Better Place timed their battery swap station at 1 min 10 sec per swap. The last time I filled up the tank it took me over 7 minutes. That gas station had two rows of pumps with four lanes and could handle 8 cars simultaneously. Because it's so quick, a battery swap station could handle nearly the same number of cars with just one lane, and they would all be back on the road in the nearly the same timespan.

    Really? I have a 25-year old solar-powered calculator that has no battery at all, and only needs ambient light to function. I literally have to cover the solar cells completely with my finger to get the screen to dim. Even then it doesn't lose the data. As soon as I lift my finger away from the solar cell, the screen powers back up and displays the same answer as before. You must have bought a lemon.

    That would never happen. These batteries wouldn't be generic like you buy at Walmart. Each battery would have an ident code telling the network how old it is, and whether it should be taken out of service and reconditioned. The service provider would have a simple database showing how old each battery is. Their basic financing would require them to track the age of their batteries, to get the best salvage value, etc.

    I'm impressed with the results they got in their DOE lab. But read your pdf again. You know how they achieved the higher efficiency for the advanced IC engine? They ran it at CONSTANT SPEED. Specifically, they ran their base model light duty diesel engine at 2000 rpm because that was the peak efficiency point for that engine. And this is "future" technology for cars & trucks? I don't think so. Cars & trucks don't run their engines at constant speed. That's the main reason their efficiency is rock bottom around 20%.

    Besides, turbines in stationary powerplants already do far better than their "advanced" reciprocating diesel engine. As I said earlier, if we burned all that oil in power stations instead of cars, and made all the cars electric, we would consume half the oil we do now.


    Currently many cars burn E10, or gasoline mixed with 10% ethanol. If an electric transportation sector used the stationary powerplants to cut total energy consumption by half, but also injected the same total amount of ethanol as cars consume now, then oil consumption would be reduced to just 44% of current levels.

    Eg. According to this model the fuel of the stationary powerplants would be E40, with 60% gasoline in the mix. That's the same amount of ethanol as consumed now, but with the gasoline fraction reduced by 56% from current levels. MORE than half!
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011
  12. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Really? What they appear to have done is secure Government funding and for an Israeli company to get funding from the Israeli goverment doesn't impress me that much.

    Then provide a LIST of these DOZENS of stations you claim are opening.
    Give LOCATION and when they are opening because I can't find this list. (at best I can find a list of the names of 9 towns in Israel where a battery swap station will supposedly open by the end of this year but I can find no specific plans for any stations in Denmark or Japan (beyond the one pilot station in Japan which ended last year))
    Indeed, it's easy to brag about your supposed solution's abilities when it doesn't actually exist.

    And at present it doesn't actually exist since no production cars have been delivered, so how well this functions in real life remains to be seen.

    No, but it is fully paid for by the cost of each gallon of gas.

    Their site says: the process is automated, similar to going through a car wash, so the driver never has to leave the car. In less than five minutes, a robotic arm removes the depleted battery and replaces it with a full one and the driver is back on the road.

    So one lane can handle about 12 cars an hour, and if you show up with just 3cars in front of you, it's a 20 minute wait.....

    That's exactly what the Volt does.

  13. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    The question is: by how much? After a while, you reach a point of diminishing returns, wherein huge efforts are required to achieve marginal improvements.

    Note that both Israel and Denmark are very small countries, and that Japan exhibits extremely dense population. Even then, "dozens" of stations is still insignificant. To even make a dent in the US market, you'd need to deploy tens of thousands of such stations. The thing about a big, sparsely populated country like the USA, is that you'd have to first deploy a huge nation-wide network of such recharging stations, before it would be useful for anyone to buy the cars. Building 50 of them wouldn't do it - you'd never be able to take the car out of a small region, which is useless.

    With exactly what amount of government assistance/subsidy/backing?

    What kind of caveman still uses a dedicated calculator? Don't you people have smartphones? Or the internet?

    They do if you put a continuous variable transmission in them. As many car makers are already doing, on a commercial scale.
  14. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Are you sure these are battery swaps and not recharge points - that is all I have heard of. Do you have any reference? Have all battery sizes for different EVs been standardized to be the same, even the geometry?

    A subscription + use charge is fine, but does not change the fact that the capital cost of the swap station and the batteries at it is certainly more than 1000 times higher than the gasoline system's capita cost providing the same traveling miles to US travelers.

    It is true I only included the capital in things at the station not the ocean ships hauling the petroleum or the refineries etc. But neither did I include the cost of factories making the batteries or the mines get lithium ore and processing plant cost to get lithium, etc.
    That is a help and only selling EV is a few states would help reduce the initial capital requirements. But it does not address the fundamental problem the much greater capital cost PER MILE OF TRAVEL of the battery swap system vs the gas system. I don' know off hand how may kWh of energy is in $5 of gasoline but guess the same kWh is much more than $500 if it stored in a battery only counting the capital cost of the battery and not charging anything for the energy stored in the battery.
    No the total energy conversion efficiency from fuel at power to power turning the wheels is LOWER than simply burning liquid fuel in the car for power to turn the wheels. Furthermore, drivers wanting a recharge in the afternoon/ early evening peak recharge period will not wait half an hour for their car in line for recharge comes to the head of the line (or from some truck to find a fully charged battery at some other recharge station to deliver it to station where your car is waiting.

    BTW You seem to think that loses in the turbine driving the generator is what limits conversion of say coal to power. The main loss is that heat is the lowest form of energy - covering it to highest form is always efficiency limited by the "Carnot limit" (Th -Tc)/Th where Th is the hot temperature (Kelvin scales) both available and for steam system not too high a pressure. And Tc is the temperature of the exhausted flow, which is more than the ambient temperature. ...
    So how well or badly it works had noting to due with "self-discharge" rate of batteries which mainly increases with each deep use cycle. Thus a rent batter system will not be very fair unless in the car is a recoding device that records the battery discharge and recharge history. I can complely destroy a battery in one charging by seriously "over volting" it. Many years ago the charging voltage regulator in my car failed and a nearly new battery lead/acid was destroy. I.e. month use charge is not adequate.
  15. Success_Machine Impossible? I can do that Registered Senior Member

    No, they take out a loan first, then build the infrastructure. Selling gas allows them to make payments on the loan. Battery swapping stations for electric cars will work the same way. Once fleets exist, then they can introduce the same cars to consumers and gradually expand the network of swapping stations.

    They're smart. They're not overselling it. But I watched their video and it took 1 min 10 sec and the car drove away. With three cars in front of you, you'd wait 3 min 30 sec. I've waited longer at a gas station when all the pumps were occupied.

    You're practically making my argument for me. The Volt is an electric car with a gasoline-fuelled generator in the trunk. So, you're halfway there. A stationary powerplant could make use of other fuels besides gasoline: coal, biofuels, nuclear, solar. The sky's the limit.

    You'd be surprised how many people never go anywhere, or own a very small vehicle or bike. If they go on a roadtrip they might rent a minivan, but only for a short time.

    What's the "internet"? LOL. It's wierd how much I switch back and forth between the pocket calculator, the number keypad on my computer, spreadsheets, clicking a software calculator with a mouse, and picking up a pencil and doing it the hard way.

    Fairly often a car will have to come to a stop. The CVT helps alot, and is more efficient than other types of transmission, but it's not as good as an actual constant speed turbine. Of course I'm taking the high road with that argument. You get what you pay for. With turbines you even have the option of co-generation that can push the efficiency up to 80%. Nothing beats turbines. Maybe rocket engines, but they burn rather hot and don't last very long.
  16. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Finally you've said something that makes sense and it's what Billy and I have both been saying for some time: this possibly makes sense to FLEET owners.

    If and when it makes sense to regular retail customers remains to be seen.

    Except I've watched that video and it isn't the real life version. They start the clock once the car is in position over the battery bay, but in real life the clock starts when they start to drive it in and then it gets hooked to a conveyor (not in the demo) and then the underside get's washed (not in the demo) and then the car moves to the swap location, so it takes longer than that demo, which is why in real life they say it takes "under 5 minutes". And since the number of bays would be a major limitation, wait times could quickly become an issue during peak swap times.

    If you've been reading this thread you would know that I've been an advocate for the Volt for some time as I think it is a more viable solution to the average needs of the US consumer (other contries may have differing needs) but the Volt is not a battery powered car, it's an extended range hybrid. It's main problem is it is still too expensive for most users. In the mean time more economical choices are the Prius and the coming Plug in Prius along with various other hybrids now entering the market.

    Battery powered cars like the Leaf fit a much smaller niche and are mainly for Urban use.

    Complicated systems like you keep pushing, with huge up front costs, like the swappable battery version of the EV may make sense for Urban fleet cars like Taxis and local delivery vehicles (and in countries which don't make any of their own autombiles), but not particularly suited to the normal consumer requirements in countries which both build and offer many competing models.

    Finally, the kiss of death to this in my mind is their choice of car company.
    Who in their right mind would buy a Renault?
    You do realize they are no longer even sold in the US don't you?
    For good reason.


  17. Success_Machine Impossible? I can do that Registered Senior Member

    If the gov't finances the swap stations then they could be built faster. They'd get the ball rolling, so people wouldn't be stuck in this muddle about what comes first, the cars with no recharge stations, or recharge stations with no cars.

    Fleets are just one way, and a really slow way, to get the ball rolling. Chances are though, the owner of the fleet won't make his swapping station open to the public.

    Got a link to that video, I'd like to see it?

    The Volt is an electric car for the first 50 miles. Beyond that, the engine starts, and if the engine engages the wheels mechanically rather than just generating electricity, then the efficiency of the system goes straight into the sewer. I'm betting that most of the time, the pure electric mode will be what is used. I like the Volt, and if you can afford one, you should buy one, since you'll be pumping money into the market for those types of vehicles. That money will spur design improvements that will bring down the price. Eventually the multiply redundant Volt propulsion system consisting of an undercapacity battery, engine, drivetrain, fuel system, etc. will be replaced by a single high capacity battery. Simpler, and IMO inevitable.

    If the price can be reduced and the performance adjusted to the same as those competing models, then pure electric is better for the country because it would halve the energy consumption (and probably pollution) for transportation, cut oil imports by more than half. There's probably more benefits I just can't think of right now.

    Europeans would. I've seen some seriously HOT cars in Europe that I'd drive in a heartbeat. Not so much in North America. Europeans are innovative. Their car models might not appeal to your ego, but they might appeal to the intellect of someone else. And North American car makers have had their problems.
  18. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Sure, if a govt had the money to do that, but I don't see one with that much spare cash laying around to spend it on transportation.
    See Billy's analysis, you need over two and possibly as many as 3 batteries per car in a swap system, plus thousands of charging stations, plus hundreds of swap stations AND the will/desire to mandate standards in a brand new market (standards have a way of hurting new development).

    Too bad, but from a way to actually get something like swap stations started this makes much more sense then retail sales. Fleet cars operating in Urban settings are a much better match to the limits imposed by the technology. Fleet companies would buy many thousands of the exact same model and use them in a relatively restricted area (you don't take fleet cars on vacations) and the company can do a much better job of sizing the number of batteries and swap stations to the demand, and the Fleet owns the cars and the batteries, so bunches of issues are eliminated. Which brings up an important point. Our transportation needs vary, so why shouldn't the solution match the need?


    Which is not the way to think of the car at all. The mileage of the car simply varies based on the mileage between recharges. (EPA only gives the Volt 35 miles on Battery, not 50)

    So drive 45 miles and your MPG is 168.
    Drive 60 miles and your MPG is 89
    Drive 75 miles and your MPG is 69.
    Don't charge your battery at all and your mileage is 37 MPG.

    EPA figures most US drivers will get ~93 MPG with the Volt, which is quite a bit better than the Prius.


    It's hard to say what will happen eventually, but the fact remains that NOW a car with a single high capacity battery is simply not a viable choice for most buyers in the US. The cars that are being sold can't swap their batteries and the number of charging stations is very limited.

    Our average NEW car gas mileage is ~34 MPG so the Volt at ~93 MPG has the ability to cut our automobile fuel use by 2/3rds and can do it without any new infrastructure to support it or change in driver habits.


    Yeah, but be honest, I bet none of them were built by Renault.
    You know that they have a seriously tarnished reputation for low quality.
    More to the point, the choice of Renault as the car maker seriously limits buyers outside of France (no sales in the US and Renault is only a paltry 3% of the UK market).

  19. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I think that correct, but there may be one exception: It would require a car manufacture to make basically the same car every year (or identical WRT to all the battery swap conditions) There is (or at least was 25 years ago) such a company - Checker. Mostly they sold taxi to companies smart enough to do Life cycle cost. On that POV it was one of the cheapest cars, as very well made. 300,000 miles was about the typical minimum expected life, if there was no accident and car was well maintained, as fleet owner would do. My PhD thesis adviser bought one and it out lasted him - was his last car. Part of the economy / saving was no retooling cost or redesign for style changes.

    The interiors do get wear, cokes spilled in them if used as taxi cabs so a Taxi company might sell you a four year old cab, especially if your don't paint over their telephone number and let you continue to use their base to swap for a fee. (Perhaps part fix Dollar amount and part based on time lapsed and miles driven since last swap was made.) If you came in one day with a battery that they had not put in, possibly one with high self discharge rate, they would no longer swap for you.

    There would be relatively few who would like this being a "captive customer" and they need to drive by the swap station without that be too much of a detour nearly every day. I doubt if the cab company would abuse the "captive customer" as he is one of the few who will take old cabs off the cab company's hands - they might only charge for the energy and $10 for the swap. A fleet battery swap car has essentially zero resale value to the general public - A new owner would need to cease making battery swaps and have home recharge (battery in the car) facilities. This fact makes battery swap cars less attractive to even the fleet owner, unless he plans to run them until he turns them over to junk yard.

    later by edit: "... President Barack Obama will announce on Friday fresh commitment from five major companies, including FedEx and United Parcel Service , to reduce oil consumption by upgrading their fleets. The two transport companies along with AT&T , PepsiCo and Verizon are charter members of a National Clean Fleets Partnership group that aims to reduce use of diesel fuel and gasoline in their companies' cars and trucks by using electric vehicles and alternative fuels. The five companies are pledging to reduce their collective petroleum consumption by more than 7 million gallons a year by deploying 20,000 hybrid and other types of vehicles that run on biofuels, electric power and other advanced technologies, ..." - Billy T bets 90% of the reduction will be a switch to natural gas and 0% to battery swap systems.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 2, 2011
  20. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    The final Checker models were produced in 1982.
    The company filed bankruptcy in 2009.
  21. Kajalamorth The Doctor Registered Senior Member

    Hydrogen fuel cell is potentially the future. However Hydrogen as many people here do, is very very flammable... Hindenburg anyone? But it seems that this idea is far more convenient and practical then battery powered. Batteries take to far long to charge.
  22. X-Man2 We're under no illusions. Registered Senior Member

    Slated for production in 2013 at least for the Japanese market,news is making it's way around the net of the EV car known for now as the SIM-LEI.34 companies had a hand in the prototype car and for an EV car the stats are impressive.This cute four-seater from SIM-Drive sips juice off a Toshiba 24.9kWh lithium ion battery, and can go from zero to 100km/h (62mph) in just 4.8 seconds, with maximum speed topping at 150km/h (93mph). What's more impressive, though, is that SIM-Drive managed to squeeze out a driving range of 333km (207 miles) on a JC-08 cycle under general urban traffic conditions in Japan.

    I admit the SIM-LEI is a different looking car especially towards the rear but aerodynamics played a huge role in the extended range.As more and more attention is paid to the EV segment,we should continue to see record breaking numbers.Even if range drops off a bit for the production units,to see 150-175 miles per charge is great.

    For more info simply search for SIM-LEI.
  23. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    It's interesting, but they say the car won't be available till 2013. Let's see what numbers it produces and at what price when it is actually made.

    For instance that car does not appear like it would meet any of the low speed crash resistance requirements of US cars.

    This is equivalent to a 5 mph crash into a parked vehicle of the same weight. The standard requires protection in the region 16 to 20 inches above the road surface

    It's a tough standard to meet and prototypes almost never do.


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