While the Times article and Chuck's coverage point out the impressive gains EVs have made over the years, it strikes me that the advancements are really diminished when you look at other technology industries like computing, the Internet, consumer electronic devices, and medical equipment. I can't imagine that in 1911 anyone could fathom what's possible today with smart phones or smart grids. When you look at those advances, particularly as recent as the last 25 years, it seems EV battery and vehicle progress pales in comparison.
It's all a question of money and returns. Where returns potential are considered as high, cash is spend in R&D and industrialisation, progress are rapidly made and because of mass volume, technology costs decrease. If not, only few Labs can work on the subject leading to slow technological progress and high costs. Strictly talking about EV, mass market potential and returns on investement cannot be considered as short/mid term. That's why investements are just NIL despit the fact that new EV battery technologies for the future with great potential exist (Li-Su ; Li-Air, AL-Air...)
As long as man will act in priority for short term money return and not in term of long term welfare and earth protection, we will face such nonsense. Petrol ressource should be perserved right now for where it can't be replaced (plastics, some industries...etc)
It seems that battery technology only advances when there is a good market. Battery powered power tools have been around a long time. However only recently have they become more powerful at a lower weight. As the demand went up, the supply followed
You forgot one point: the COST of those "new" batteries is nearly TRIPLE the cost of the old for about a 40% improvement in capacity. Buying a replacement battery (which NEVER are on sale at a reduced price) is now usually more than the cost of the original tool whcih often included one battery (sometimes two!), charger, case, and accessories.
You are 100% correct about the outrageous cost (IMHO) for replacement batteries for power tools and the like. The last time I purchased replacement batteries for my Ryobi 18V set, I just bought another set! For about $30 more than just the batteries would have cost, I got another charger, 2 batteries and two 'replacement' tools. Actually I use the (now) two drills quite a bit - e.g. one with a pilot hole bit in it and the other with a screw driver bit.
But I guess my main point was that we even have these battery powered tools which, frankly, work pretty good. 20 years ago the battery performance was just not good enough. Now good battery powered tools are readily available and accepted by even the professionals. And that trend continues with the new line Li Ion powered tools.
Another similiar revolution took place in the model airplane field. Folk's back in the 80's were flying planes with batteries but performance was marginal (due to battery weight and motor performance) and frankly only done by a few people who did it just for the heck of it.
But today, with the advent of Li Ion (and similiar lithium chemistry) batteries, better chargers, advanced brushless motors and controllers, electric flight is becoming very prevalent. In fact, I have totally switched over from the old internal combustion engines. No more mess! No more fuel cans, no more starters - ah, the future is now!
I think that the automobile market will also develop - it will take more time and we have lots to learn. And the replacement batteries will cost a LOT! $3,200 for a replacement Prius battery is a number I have heard. Still
While far from an expert in the battery world, it certain seems safe to say that there certainly have been improvements in batteries over the years - cost is way down and performance (cost per kwhr or any measure you would care to make) is way up. However it is equally true that the rate of progress has been .... well, slow.
This rather slow rate of change along with improvement in motors, chargers, and converters/controllers (the blocks that act as the interface between the battery and the motors) have, over the years, created new application areas that are now becoming quite common. To name a few: battery powered tools (e.g. drills, saws, etc) and electric powered model airplanes.
I suspect the same thing will happen with electric cars and trucks. They are, at last, reaching some level of practicality and, as the future unfolds, they will continue to develop.
Batteries and electric cars in general will improve as long as gasoline stays expensive. At the current price of oil, EV's are just starting to compete and without subsidies, really can't. As we run out of cheap oil (remember 1 billion new drivers in China and India) gas prices will rise making EVs practical and necessary.
Interesting article Charles. Serveral p[oints. It's not how much an EV will do but will it do the job and for 90% of US trips, the answer is yes even using lead batteries.
The Older 90's EV examples have 5 different battery types. They also except the EV1 were just ICE's converted to EV., lead/NiFE, Nicad, lithium anf NiMh depending on which version as some had 2 different batteries.
Edison battery, NiFE was good but required a lot of watering and self discharge rates were not great, dead in a couple weeks. But some made then are still working at 100 yrs old!!!
Next why do you keep saying Lithium cost $800-1000 when you can buy EV size from multiople caompanies for under $500/kwhr retail? And small cells like Tesla, Toyota uses under $250/kwhr in 10kwhr amounts?
Fact is EV's need to be built differently than ICE's are to make the most of battery capacity. They need to be lightweight, aero and built for the job they are suspose to do. If built that way EV's can do 90% of US trips even with lead batteries which are 3x's the weight of lithiums/kwhr. Secret is have 40-50% of the weight of the vehicle in lead batteries. So by having a much lighter body/chassis by using composites, you need less battery, EV drive, thus cost. This same vehicle could easily hit 350+ miles with lithium batteries.
Now for the added weight of 60-90lbs a small gas generator can give most EV's unlimited range either with a built in space or on a trailer hitch. I expect these to be big aftermarket items as more EV's hit the road.
So it's not really battery advances that is stopping EV's but big auto which doesn't really want them because they are so simple they will rarely break down and require few after sale parts income as no oil filters, tune ups, etc need to be done.
Next the disinformation campaign by big oil PR firms with names like friends of the good earth putting out lies like batteries polluting, not true, but say nothing of the fact 200million lead batteries in ICE's don't have a problem. And of course Chevron buying the NiMH battery patents forcing Toyota to stop making it's 125 mile range RAV4EV, EV-1.
But while most bow to big oil, oil dictators and terrorists it supports with huge cash offerings at the pump, I laugh all the way to the bank paying just $.005/mile for fuel, $.01/mile for battery. Admittedly mine is very light, eff but it could be made in mass production for under $10k with 60-80 mile range and 80mph top speed using lead batteries. And using tech from before 1970, most from 1910.
Hi Jerry: The reason I keep saying that batteries cost $800 - $1,000/kWh is that I'm quoting the cost of building the entire battery pack, with sensors, cooling systems, battery management and cost-over-life issues included. It's essentially the difference between cell cost and pack cost. Please see this earlier article:
There are still multiple retail sources of battery packs/electronics complete that sell for under $550kwhr retail and even A123 ones at under $700/kwhr.
Big auto isn't going to tell you their costs are so low because they'd have to admit EV's are cost effective. Facts are if they are buying packs for over $400/kwhr in mass production they are not real bright as Tesla, others it already.
And another thing is we paid in US subsidies most if not all costs bring these batteries, EV's to market so their actual cost is about nil.
As for the other poster who found my old first EV, it was made 16 yrs ago and while funky and actaully a mistake, it did work for 10 yrs fror only $1k in total costs for those 10 yrs. It did take only 50wthrs/mile though and taught me a lot. And dispite made from wood/epoxy it was rear
My newer one is all composite for production body/chassis finished to a fine standard I hope to bring out late next yr along with an aero cabin 2wh EV MC.
No it doesn't need paint as it's finished clear epoxy/wood constaction including the chassis and rear trailing suspension arm. The pic was taken after living 6 yrs outside in the rain and hit by a car.
What it really needed was another body to fix the mistakes I made in it as my first car design.
Dispite being made of wood a compact car rear ended me at 25mph closing speed and totaled the car while it only took $40 to repair mine. Interestingly the wood/epoxy trailing arm was hit and with the wheel still one, was driven over by the car but was barely damaged and was just bolted back on to new chassis pivots.
Just to be clear I build fast/racing boats and use that tech to build light, strong body/chassis now which I believe as the costs of materials rise, composite uni-bodies will be the future in both EV's and ICE's. In just 10 unit production I can beat big auto mass production cost/body compared to steel while making it stromger and about 50% lighter.
We all know that 100 years ago and still today the problem with EVs is the battery performance. There is not enough stored energy per kg or per liter or per dollars. Until we get 5x or better battery tech, it is not going to be for mainstream.
What I personally see as the possible future of car power plants is as follows:
Build a hybrid that is like Toyota Prius, having quite a small battery and replace the ICE with steam engine powered by let's say 100kW Rossi E-Cat. Steam engine does not necessarily need transmission, but that battery probably is needed to start that E-Cat and move the vehicle while the E-Cat is starting and stabilizing. Assuming of course that it is desirable to turn the E-Cat off after reaching destination. It could be kept on always, if the released heat is not a problem or at least until the battery is again fully recharged.
This would be a zero emission car (if heat is not counted) and it would need fueling up only maybe twice a year. Assuming that possible filling up of water lost in steam cycle is not too much. Maybe later in future steam engine can be replaced with direct-thermal-to-electric materials powering the EV side. Fueling up could be made by exchanging the whole E-Cat with one that has fresh nickel powder. This could be very similar what has been proposed to EV battery swap, but only needed some times per year, not daily or weekly as with batteries. Therefore this fueling could be made in normal car repair/maintenance shops, like maintenance is today done for regular ICE cars.
It would be a mistake to discount the efficiency & performance gains offered by electrically powered vehicles just because batteries are lagging on the development curve. That's why a vehicle like the Volt and other hybrids are such an important step in fully electrifying automotive drive-trains.
It seems to me that the paradigms that most everyone is comfortable with need to shift. EV's would make a lot more sense if interstate highways had embedded power systems whereby the vehicle uses said power for long trips. The battery energy would be more than adequate for everyday activites (work, shopping, errands) but long trips could be enabled by the highway infrastructure itself.
For heaven's sake, yes, let's keep pouring petrochemicals into the tank because they are faster, cheaper, and more energy dense. Too bad they are not renewable (Unless we go to biofuels, which aren't efficient, but carbon neutral).
Let's not start develpment and testing of EVs until the last drop of oil has been sucked out of the ground or tar sands processed at increasing cost due to availibility. We can learn to ride bikes while the billionaires breeze past us in their cars. We can learn to scale down our travel expectations until a 100 mile range sounds like nirvana.
EVs should be expected to spring fully developed and cost effective from day one of their existence. Anything else is a waste.
Why the same should have been said about personal computers, I wasted too much money over the years spending $5000 for a computer I can buy today for $50 (equivalent processing power).
I know you are busy but check out the latest EV times - 6.8!
Also regarding replacement batteries: Remember we are all waiting for the Li-Ion GLUT and the more EVs on the roads means more EV batteries in junkyards!
For those who think EV /battery progress is too slow...What might have been if the Post Office had continued using EV delivery vans in 1975 and demand for improved batteries to service them had remained on the table? 36 years MORE R&D momentum!
Predicting technological advancements is nearly impossible. Speaking from my knowledge of the defense industry, investment into directed research is not necessarily related to breakthroughs in the area of interest.
Many have become accustomed to the fast pace of innovation in the commercial electronics industry, but that is not the case with all fields:
Firearms have seen very little improvement over the last century, despite much research and the constant, critical need by some around the world.
The basic power generator has not seen much improvement despite ever increasing electrical demand.
Patience is a virtue - R&D should always be performed, but must be tempered against budget realities. No one can predict what will spark the next breakthrough or where it will come from.We can only work with what we have and be ready to take advantage of whatever comes our way.
You have a negative attitude. All we need is for government to mandate technological innovation and BANG it happens. The problem is finding the right date when we need to institute the technology as manditory.
I think that while range is a major factor, the idle time spent in charging is a bigger factor. If there was an ICE vehicle with a two gallon tank (for instance) then commuting and shorter trips would be a pain, frequent fuel stops, but they would be possible. With an EV and a 1-20 (depends on whose data you listen to) hour stop to charge it is just impractical as anything other than a secondary mode of transportation.
I agree with you, Tool_Maker, that charging may be a bigger factor than range. Experts tell us that when driving long distances, we should get out of our cars and walk for a few minutes every hundred miles (I don't know how many people do it, but that's the recommendation). If, during those few minutes, we could re-charge our electric vehicles, the range wouldn't be as big a factor. Right now, though, we would have to pull over for eight hours if we found a 220V line and twice that long if we could only find a 110V outlet.
I still don't get why Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which have been viable demonstrated by Honda and others -- Honda had some great ones at the NY Auto Show only a few years ago -- are completely off the table as far as alternative energy vehicles are concerned. They have NONE of the problems of electrics. The only stumbling block is a complete lack of interest and will in building the infrastructure (i.e., hydrogen stations) to support them. This is a Betamax versus VHS argument on steroids, and the poorer VHS technology -- electrics -- has won.
Alexander The simple answer is H2O when chemically disassembled makes some interesting things like explosives, oxidents, corosives, and undrer elevated or decreased presures various predictable and unpredictable reactions. The interesting thing is how the public might be affected by unauthorized modifed designs that cause undesired product liability. In any case CHARGING is NOT the END GAME PROBLEM but rather the eventual POWER SYSTEM CHOSEN which WON'T be a Battery!
No matter the cause, right now I believeit is more important to FIX OUR PATENT system so we can induce inventors of the world to bring their ideas to the USA FIRST and let the MARKET PLACE decide the success or failure outcome.
As far as HONDA, I would bet certain political, patent, underwriting, safety, or industry economics spy network affected their decision at the time. Or did they have such good info on upcomming competition?
See: TATA MOTORS of India, compressed air car due out this year. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy N.For Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air to push its engine's pistons and make the car go. Engine vegetable oil changing of 1 liter is only necessary every 50,000 KM or 30,000 miles. Neat little machine!
Batteries have indeed come quite a way in the past hundred years, there is no question about that. Of course, that does not mean that we now have what it would take to bring about the wholesale adoption of EVs by the majority of people. The lack of enthusiasm is probably what has been saving us from the disasterous discovery that an adequate infrastructure to charge all of the battery power packs just does not exist. Probably, if you were only allowed to recharge your new EV on Thursdays from 1AM to 5AM you might not be completely satisfied with the situation. Clearly, the simple solution to the problem is to develop a battery that runs on gasoline, or perhaps diesel fuel, since it is safer. That would solve our problems, perhaps, if it had no "carbon signature", and ho unhealthy byproducts. Of course there are a whole bunch of physics relationships that will need to be changed for that to happen. So while it "sounds like a great idea, it does have a few obstacles in the path.
It seems that there is a comparison between gas engines, when they were first developed and electric cars today, especially in the low ranges and lack of infrastructure (i.e, gas stations). It would be interesting if one of the automotive historians out there would put together a short article that compares the present state with the birth of the auto industry and see if there is anything to learn.
Why can't the auto industry standardize battery sizes to say 4 or 5 sizes and capacities? This would allow refueling stations to stock batteries in a charged and properly maintained condition. With some forethought auto makers could standardize a switchout system allowing 5-10 minute battery swaps and the customer is back on the road. A side or rear access to quickly change out batteries on tracks/rails and lock them in place for security should not be that difficult.
If you google "Lohner-Porsche" you can get an idea.
No idea what the mileage might have been in the early 1900's, but the technology at some fundamental level has not changed much... Note the credit to Porsche's ideas in the development of the Lunar Rover.
I've mentioned this before on these topics, but an all-electric vehicle has a major problem that ICE vehicles do not have - the EV must store both reactants for the generation of mechanical energy, while the ICE only has to store one of the reactants, gasoline. The other reactant, oxygen, is available for free in the air.
Imagine if ICE vehicles had to store both the gasoline and the oxygen onboard the vehicle. The storage tanks would be huge - not unlike EV battery systems.
The end may not yet be near, but recent statements by two of the world’s biggest automakers point to the fact that the industry has begun to plan for a dramatic decline in vehicles that are powered solely by internal combustion engines.
At the recent Autodesk Accelerate event in Boston, the director of product development for a niche hypercar firm replied "no, no, no" to three answers he got for what makes a car go faster. What was the right response?
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