Who Killed the Electric Car?

Discussion in 'Prius, Hybrid, EV and Alt-Fuel News' started by cagemo, Jul 5, 2006.

  1. Snarf

    Snarf New Member

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    I'm not doubting this statement, but do you have a source to back this up? I have heard this mentioned a few times in different forums, but have not seen any supporting data.

    The long-term viability of EV's is not determined by the ability to implement large-scale overnight. I don't think anybody is proposing that we convert to 100% EV overnight (or even in the next decade). I have no doubt that our electicity distribution could be upgraded to support a gradual transition.

    I also think that you are grossly underestimating the demand for EV's. I don't dispute that the vast majority of the American public is not ready to accept EV at this time, however, it will not take a very large percentage of public acceptance for a successful EV launch. And once it is hown to be successful, R&D will increase greatly. The demand for hybrids was played down in much the same way as EV, but gas prices increased and Toyota's gamble paid off. What do you think is going to happen to EV demand as gas prices continue to increase (India, China demand)? It will likely pay off big for the technology leader. Not a huge risk either for a major auto manufacturer.

    I assume you are making this statement with peak-oil in mind. I absolutely agree, but believe that the critical part is the transition. Early EV development could be one of many technologies that could help soften the transition (Perhaps I am dreaming). The earlier we can reduce our dependence on oil, the better off we will be.
     
  2. vtie

    vtie New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 10 2006, 09:58 PM) [snapback]284021[/snapback]</div>
    I believe it does. It shows that people are not thinking in a rational way when it comes to cars. It shows that cost is almost an irrelevant factor when it comes to mobility. It's incredible, but it's the truth. Why do people buy expensive, gas-guzzling SUV's that cost 3x as much as another car that would bring you from A to B in exactly the same way?

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 10 2006, 09:58 PM) [snapback]284021[/snapback]</div>
    Of course it would help a lot to smoothen out the consumption under normal circumstances. But it's not bullet-proof. It doesn't put a solid upper level on the peak power that you may need. In order to prevent breakdowns, you would still need a mechanism that could limit the amperage drawn by a certain area. Or, in other words, to prevent people from recharging their cars at certain moments if necessary. Any robust, fast large scale EV recharging system would need some regulation mechanism. And that would be very hard to sell. No one really dares to think along these lines.
     
  3. AnOldHouse

    AnOldHouse Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(vtie @ Jul 10 2006, 04:32 PM) [snapback]284039[/snapback]</div>
    Exactly as I already said: Because it's the on-going love affair with the personal freedom available from a personal automobile and because those with the means simply can.
     
  4. darelldd

    darelldd Prius is our Gas Guzzler

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    Aggh! I can't keep up!

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(vtie @ Jul 10 2006, 12:00 PM) [snapback]283975[/snapback]</div>
    Maybe it would best to return to this subject when gas is again sold only every other day - to people forced to wait in line for hours - and only five gallons at a time. Yes, I do remember the 70's.

    The Chinese and Indians are quietly building the hell out of EVs for the very reason that they won't have enough oil to power the coming vehicles.

    We agree there. Thanks for the discussion!


    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 10 2006, 12:29 PM) [snapback]283992[/snapback]</div>
    Yes! If on-peak charging costs 2x or 3x what off-peak charging costs, we can solve this issue.


    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Snarf @ Jul 10 2006, 01:30 PM) [snapback]284036[/snapback]</div>
    Would cement the concept in your mind better if you can find the information to prove it wrong (or right!). I do have some sources, but nothing complete. It is a closely guarded secret, it seems. The one thing we know with certainty is that the oil industry is the SINGLE biggest consumer of electricity in the USA. I have some details on my site which I'll point to later...

    Yes!
     
  5. vtie

    vtie New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Snarf @ Jul 10 2006, 10:30 PM) [snapback]284036[/snapback]</div>
    Overnight recharging is a no-brainer. But people will want to have almost instant recharging, and it's all about surge capacity. One other example: holiday season has arrived here in Europe. This means millions of cars on the road, driving long distances and needing a recharge under the way. All the roads in France are literally full with cars driving thousands of kilometers, bumper to bumper. Do you think people would be willing to wait more than 30 minutes for that? Have you any idea of the recharge capacity you would need to keep this wall of metal rolling on the touristic highways? Or do you think you can convince people to wait one or two days?



    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Snarf @ Jul 10 2006, 10:30 PM) [snapback]284036[/snapback]</div>
    This was the magic of the Prius: a (modest) green advantage, but with almost no drawbacks. It shares the same concepts of mobility as a conventional car, and fits into the current scheme. This compares in no way to EV's. EV's need a change of mentality, and that's not going to happen. The only possible commercial path I see is through plugin-hybrids with big batteries.
     
  6. AnOldHouse

    AnOldHouse Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(vtie @ Jul 10 2006, 04:32 PM) [snapback]284039[/snapback]</div>
    In your scenario, why clamp peak usage only electric usage for charging a vehicle? Why not clamp usage for air conditioning, pool heaters and filters, hot tubs, televisions, home theaters, decorative yard lighting, home computers and anything else that might be deemed "unnecessary usage" at any given time?

    Somehow, the electric generation and distribution capacity for all of these things over the past 30 years has managed to keep up. I am well confident that, especially since electricity is the true "flex-fuel" energy medium, including wind, solar and hydro, that the on-going upgrades to the infrastructure will continue.
     
  7. dipper

    dipper Senior Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(vtie @ Jul 10 2006, 12:43 PM) [snapback]284004[/snapback]</div>
    That is the difference between some European countries and US. In US, the car is our life, not just a status symbol (yes, Americans do use the car as status symbols, but the poor still needs them because our public transportation sucks). On top of that, US is vast that getting from one place to another needs a car.

    In the last few years with fuel prices doubling, we are finally seeing less big SUVs on the road. People are trading 12 mpg SUVs into 20+ mpg Minivans. SUVs prices in the new/used market are going down the toilet. And my commute, I am seeing a lot less SUVs. It used to be 75% SUVs in the SF Bay Area during commutes. Now, probably in the 30% range.

    If you ask a few about EV now, they will jump over it.

    As for taxing cars. States like VA and Maryland have done it already. Put car property tax to resolve all state/county road repair cost... instead of fuel tax.
     
  8. vtie

    vtie New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(darelldd @ Jul 10 2006, 10:41 PM) [snapback]284044[/snapback]</div>
    I don't, but I know what happened. And it only shows how stupid people are, because nobody has drawn any lesson from it. It also shows how fragile the whole system is. If 25% of the U.S. citizen would go to the gas station today and refill their tank from the state as it was at that moment, this would completely screw up the entire oil supply. Imagine a panic situation.

    Now, with electricity it's much worse: you can't easily build surge capacity, and you can't build huge, flexible reserves that can be reallocated rapidly around the country. Oil is a big source of evil, but it can be distributed rapidly and has a huge energetic content. A mobility system based on electricity is doomed to be even much more fragile and vulnerable. The domino effect in case of a disaster is huge.
     
  9. AnOldHouse

    AnOldHouse Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(dipper @ Jul 10 2006, 04:48 PM) [snapback]284050[/snapback]</div>
    Which would be or is unfortunate in that a vehicle property tax does not have a built-in conservation incentive mechanism as does a consumption tax like the liquid fuels tax or even a usage tax on electricity.
     
  10. AnOldHouse

    AnOldHouse Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(vtie @ Jul 10 2006, 04:53 PM) [snapback]284053[/snapback]</div>
    Actually, the very purpose for an interconnected "grid" is the immediate, instananeous redistribution of electricity from one region to another.

    How much of that energetic content of petrol do you think is lost due to transportation, refinement and distribution? That stuff is heavy and it takes a lot of energy to fuel those distribution tankers, and tons of electricity in the refinement processes. How does that compare to the energetic loses associated with the generation and distribution of electricity?

    How long do you think it takes from the time a barrel of oil is pumped from a Middle Eastern country to the time it's actually burned as fuel in an automobile? How rapid is that? Now, compare that to how rapidly electricity is distributed, especially that sourced from other than fossil fuels.

    Consider that a refill is no further than an extension cord away from the nearest electrical outlet. Consider that when there is a grid power failure, no one gets gasoline refills either.
     
  11. darelldd

    darelldd Prius is our Gas Guzzler

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 10 2006, 02:09 PM) [snapback]284064[/snapback]</div>
    Or as a friend recently wrote:
    "Every time you go to a gas station, you take the nozzle and "plug it in" while your wallet is being drained. Instead of the other end of the plug going to your local utility company, it goes all the way back to our "friends" in the middle east."

    Yes, there will be some costs associated with moving away from gasoline. And what are the costs associated with continuing down the gasoline path? There are so many unquantifiable costs associated with our gasoline addition that it makes the head spin! Security of our nation is just one of them that gets swept under the rug more often than not. Our entire way of life is dependent on oil today. And for oil, we depend more and more on nations that we don't even like!

    Indeed. We have not yet come up with a better, more efficient, or cleaner way to distribute power across the country. That it can react to changing needs instantaneously is why we rarely think about our electric needs.

    And I *have* to get back to the part where electricity was not intended for electric cars. Makes me beg to ask: Did we indend to use so much electricity to make gasoline? Should we be up in arms about that unintended usage!? We use energy where we need it. Today we need it for gasoline. Tomorrow maybe we can charge our batteries with it.
     
  12. Snarf

    Snarf New Member

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    And looks like some big money is being spent to make the grid "smarter".

    Link
     
  13. donee

    donee New Member

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    Hi Vtie,

    I think the difference in opinion here is based on geography. California Power companies, with the assistance of the EPRI (US Electric Power Research Institute, which is in California as well) studied the Electric Car issue, and found no problem, as most of the recharge was over night. This conflicts with your expert there in Belgium. Why? - the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream moderates European climates dramatically. It makes summers cooler (and requiring less electric infrastructure) and winters warmer than in the US (even though Europe is farther north).

    In elementary school we learn here how this was such a big problem for the early European settlers in America, that they adopted the Scandinavian log-cabin to survive

    Where Electric cars are practical it is typically warm, and does not get cold. With the weather getting warm to hot, there are typically large electric systems for building Airconditioning. And these systems probably can handle the overnight electric car recharging. Being farther south, typically, the length of the summer day is also shorter in these areas. Which makes for extra overnite charging capacity.

    The issues you bring up regarding the US Electric power systems has to do with the peak capacity during late afternoon. By midnite, the demand is has dramatically reduced.

    Electric cars are very practical in Coastal California, and the Gulf of Mexico states in the US. There are probably some other states, too. There are probably many areas in southern and south east Asia, and nothern Australia that are similarly climate appropriate for the electric car as it exists today.
     
  14. bobr1

    bobr1 New Member

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    It amuses me that electric cars have to be defended under a "we can't handle it if everyone switches to electric cars" scenario.

    To me, this is like saying a hospital should only stock one kind of antibiotic, because they wouldn't be able to handle things if every patient suddenly needed a different one. Hospitals stock a variety of drug treatments because different patients have different needs, even for the same basic disease.

    Electric cars, when readily available, will be adopted gradually. It will take a decade or more for adoption to really appear to have an impact (just as it has taken a decade for hybrids to really start to be understood by the general public.) As electric cars gradually enter the population, we will know what the usage patterns are, and what the power grid infrastructure needs are, and a combination of market forces and government initiatives will likely come into play. I'm not worried about it.

    But suppose, just for a moment, that widespread rapid adoption of electric cars causes a grid/generation "problem". Wouldn't a scheme of making electric car buyers "pre-pay" for electric infrastructure at the time of purchase solve the problem? Simply mandate that electric car buyers pre-pay for all the electricity the car will use in its lifetime (100K miles / 3mi/kWh * 9cents/kWh = $3,000) and mandate that the power companies use that $3K to provide grid and generation enhancements to support electric cars. You then receive a "smart card" to be used to charging stations that gives you "free" access to your prepaid energy.

    Furthermore, someone like Darelldd who installs a grid-connected solar system at home or work would be exempt from the fee, because he is paying directly for the infrastructure himself.

    I'm not saying my idea is particularly great, I'm just tossing it out there to make the point that creative thinking can be applied to any "problem" that fast widespread adoption of electric cars might create. As for whether or not people would go for such a scheme, didn't GM try selling "free gas" with the purchase of an SUV?

    - Bob R.
     
  15. AnOldHouse

    AnOldHouse Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(bobr1 @ Jul 10 2006, 09:19 PM) [snapback]284185[/snapback]</div>
    I believe that a considerable portion of the charges for electricity are already calculated to pay for capital improvements in both distribution and generation facilities.

    The very fact that most generation will occur during off-peak hours simply increases the the overall "sales" of electricity and automatically will drive up the reserves needed for capital improvements to the system, except where, as Darell is doing, one provides their own source of electricity and therefore not only puts no additonal burden on the system, but in fact, generates electricity during the peak hours of the day and feeding it back into the system when it needs it the most and charge the car off peak when demand is very low.

    The only long-term taxation issue I can see with widespread adoption of EV's is the funding of highway construction and repair that generally comes from liquid fuel taxes now, a consumption based tax that automatically favors conservation. I am NOT in favor of per-mile schemes of road use taxation because that has no built in incentive for conservation.
     
  16. vtie

    vtie New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 10 2006, 10:45 PM) [snapback]284048[/snapback]</div>
    Of course the problem is not new, and it's already *the* major challenge for electricity distribution. But lots of EV's with a quick recharge function (<30 minutes) would bring the problem of peak capacity to an entirely different magnitude.


    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 10 2006, 11:09 PM) [snapback]284064[/snapback]</div>
    Everything you say is true, but it does not address the essence of the problem. The essence is that you can't build reserves of electricity that can be allocated rapidly. Yes, you can transfer electric energy with the grid, but it has to come from somewhere. It has to come from some existing power plant, within its capacity. This puts hard upper limits to the amount of peak electric energy you can provide without redesigning the entire system. With oil, you can build large reserves, and have a fleet of trucks that distribute a tremendous amount of energy to any place you want within ours. Building more surge capacity is a simple matter of increasing the reserve and the fleet of trucks. I'm not saying that it's efficient, but it's effective (two different things!). With electricity, peak power has to be created instantly, the very second that it's needed. That's a fundamental difference, providing major problems.
    And this is why business and strategic experts like hydrogen: just as with oil, you can build reserves of it. It has the promise of be the ultimate "battery" for electricity.

    And things will get much worse with electricity. As we move more and more to renewable energy, we have no control at all anymore about the peak capacity. You get the energy when Mother Nature wants to give it to you. If we want to succesfully move to renewable energy sources, we will absolutely need some way to store electrtic energy. That's why so many people rave about hydrogen, whether or not it's ever going to work.

    Again, think about the mass exodus of tourists travelling to the South of Europe right now at the beginning of the holiday season. Millions of cars, travelling thousands of kilometers. Does anyone really think that you can keep this nightmare rolling with wind or solar energy? What if this happens on a rainy day without wind?


    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(donee @ Jul 11 2006, 02:51 AM) [snapback]284167[/snapback]</div>
    Actually, he's from Finland. But I totally agree with your analysis of airconditioning. It makes states like CA huge consumers of electricity, and they already need huge peak capacity, so EV's perhaps won't add too much to it. But that definetely doesn't hold for the majority of the world. The problem is not that the other parts of the world are not consuming enough electricity, but that CA is consuming too much already. I would say that the electricity guzzling behaviour of a state like CA would be a very bad thing to copy to, say, India.

    It's no coincidence that the average U.S. citizen uses almost twice as much oil as the second runner-up country (which is Germany, closely followed by Japan). You simply cannot copy any aspect of the U.S. energy consumption to the rest of the world.
     
  17. AnOldHouse

    AnOldHouse Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(vtie @ Jul 11 2006, 04:51 AM) [snapback]284347[/snapback]</div>
    Except that it's going to take several times more electricity to make the hydrogen available, rather than just charging EV's directly.

    *Some* business and industry experts like hydrogen because a new and extremely expensive distribution infrastructure, yet to be built, will control the single-source energy and make home-fueling impossible just as it is today with gasoline.
     
  18. AnOldHouse

    AnOldHouse Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(vtie @ Jul 11 2006, 04:51 AM) [snapback]284347[/snapback]</div>
    Again, this is where using the right tool for the job comes in. I wouldn't necessarily even expect to use a commuter EV for long distance travel. This is where a PHEV would have it's appropriate application.

    Yes, there are regionally sunless days (thus the importance of having a "grid" to redistribute the available energy and apply it to the demand) but also many places that are virtually never without wind (at-sea wind farms). Electric generation capacity for a greater peak load can be built along with an enhanced distribution system. When the demands are there, it will get built. Again, electicity has the beauty of being directly generated from whatever source is readily available: coal, nuclear, oil, natural gas, wind, solar, hydro, biomass, trash-to-energy, etc. which makes electricity the ultimate in flex fuel. Why waste it in generating expensive hydrogen and trying to duplicate an already extremely inefficient physically-transported liquid fuel distribution system?
     
  19. vtie

    vtie New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 11 2006, 02:08 PM) [snapback]284358[/snapback]</div>
    Of course. Again, less efficient indeed. But there is no choice: particularly with renewable electricity sources, there is no way you can fulfill peak demands. Not even without EV's. If you ever want to replace oil with renewable energy sources, there is an absolute need for a flexible medium that can store massive amounts of energy. It's simply not going to work without that.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 11 2006, 02:08 PM) [snapback]284358[/snapback]</div>
    Actually, several friends of mine refuel their car at home right now. They have a big diesel tank that they fill once a year or so.
    Anyway, I fail to realise why hydrogen would be a single-source energy. If it ever takes off, it would soon become a commodity product that could be provided by a vast number of different suppliers.



    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 11 2006, 02:08 PM) [snapback]284358[/snapback]</div>
    Commuter cars? How many people in the States buy a true commuter car? People buy a big SUV to go to work, for all kinds of nonsensical reasons. If people were behaving reasonably, we could cut our oil consumption by 50% right now today without any new technology. If only people would buy the right car for the right job.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(AnOldHouse @ Jul 11 2006, 02:08 PM) [snapback]284358[/snapback]</div>
    Do you really think that we will ever be able to build sufficient wind turbines and solar panels or whatever to supply the peak energy power for our current electricity system and our future EV transportation? It would be an amazing achievement if we can provide 25% of our average current needs with renewable energy sources. That doesn't include the transport demands, and that does't include peak demands which can be more than 5x the average. Sorry, with all respect, but I think this is totally out of touch with reality. It's easy to say that we will build EV's that run on wind energy, but a totally different thing to realise it on a massive scale.

    Yes, we will have to become independent of fossile oil, but it will hurt. It will hurt big time. We may need to dump the whole concept of private cars, and rely on public transportation only. And use our bicycle.
     
  20. finman

    finman Senior Member

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    "Sorry, with all respect, but I think this is totally out of touch with reality."

    I'm of the opinion that too many people are out of touch with the PEAK oil reality. We have to start using renewables. That includes EVs. The gasoline era is goin' bye-bye kicking and screaming. No ands ifs or buts about it. Either we embrace the EV and prepare (see darreld's website) or we go down with the gasoline ship.

    I will agree that people aren't too willing to change, but it will HAVE to happen. It IS happening. Too slowly for me, but change is afoot...and the aged dinosaur (pun intended) called big Oil is not happy...unless of course we can get hydrogen going, then they'll be VERY happy...with the rest of the world still stuck with fossil fuels...but, hey, it's making hydrogen! Yay!! Please note the sarcasm...

    Cheers,
    Curt.

    PS The end of gasoline does NOT have to be hard...just our nature as human beings that it won't be pretty. It'd be nice if, for once, we changed for the a (cleaner) better future...alas there are some naysayers that seem to make it even more difficult to make positive improvements in our lives...I've a few in my family...the pessimists are everywhere...let's see what the optimists come up with.
     
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