14 November 2008

Who Killed The Electric Car?

Here we go again.
Since I was a kid, Popular Mechanics magazine has done this to me-
"Amazing new process promises Golden-Egg laying goose in every household!" And inevitably the article comes with wonderful pictures to help you visualize the goose dropping the golden orb into its nest on your hearth. Life will be nearly perfect.
I wish I had a nickel for every "build your own helicopter" article I've read. I'm disgusted enough with those that I quickly skip them... AFTER looking at the pictures.

Regular readers know I have a 32 mile drive to work. For this post, that's an important number. With present battery technology, 30-40 miles seems to be the max. range for most of the electric cars I've researched...
That's with NEW batteries and optimum weather conditions. And that leaves many questions unanswered:
-What if it's raining and I have to use windshield wipers for the entire drive?
-What effect will headlights have on nighttime range?
-What will cold temperatures do to battery performance?
-What about heat during Winter... A/C in the Summer?

I've had an ongoing conversation with a friend/former classmate about a movie she saw-

"Who Killed The Electric Car?"
It's another of those "Michael Moore" style movies that suggests there was some sort of Government/Big Oil conspiracy to keep electrics from gaining a foothold.
I'm really skeptical.

We've all used golf carts.
We have one at the airport that we use to run errands there. It's a wonderful tool and we use it a lot. But the batteries get weaker and weaker, shrinking the range of the cart until they have to be replaced. Then WOW... the cost of replacing the batteries is quite a shock!

Some time ago we discussed this same topic when Tesla issued the press release on their Roadster. Obviously it is gorgeous. It's also very quick, and Tesla claimed a range that would make it practical for me to use on my daily commute. But there was a six-figure problem: It comes with a $140,000 price tag. At $5 per gallon for gasoline, I could drive my present beater 700,000 miles with that money.
And then there's this.
Even with a six-figure price tag rich folks were lining up to buy the car, yet Tesla can't seem to get the cars to prospective buyers. Remember the DeLorean, folks? There's a reason we don't see new companies getting into the automobile business every day.

But with the present energy environment electrics are sexy. I've been watching
this one for some time now. It's interesting because it will have "motorcycle" status in many states and will sneak underneath the safety requirements for cars, thereby lessening production costs. (Not to say it's not safe... check the link for details.)

Now, again thanks to Popular Mechanics magazine, I'm watching the new kid on the block. Sexy. An enthusiasts car, promising useful range. But there's still that $$$$ problem, isn't there?

At some point there will be a "Wilbur and Orville" moment in this industry, and it all revolves around some sort of battery revolution. We're not quite there yet.
But maybe tomorrow?
I'll keep reading Popular Mechanics and I'll update ya when something exciting happens.


CJ said...

Big problem for me and cars like that one - my dog won't fit and she goes where I go 95% of the time I'm not working.

But, it is cool looking...


jinksto said...

I wonder how many other people just had to figure out that you used 25/MPG as a baseline. I find myself doing that kind of stuff all of the time. A while ago another blogger posted something about a trip that she did and included fuel and time figures in an offhand comment. That cost me nearly an hour with an E6-B figuring out the flight plan that she used.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is true that EV technology in its present form is not perfect for everyone's purposes. However with many extended range EVs hitting the market as early as next year, that is set to change. And it does not come with a six figure price tag either.

Greybeard said...

Thanks for that info, alias.
Got any links for these affordable extended range EV's?
I'm definitely interested.