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'EV Triumph' Needs More Perspective, Less Hype

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Re: Wishing won't do it ! Commitment will
ecolamp   1/11/2013 11:45:44 AM
I've been in Research and Engineering since 1965.....I've had the opportunity to sit and listen when I was young and participate when I got older in conversations with some real "Heavy-weights"of the engineering community......No matter what the product...... Progress always came about when the Government put-up the money..... nobody else has pockets as deep as uncle sam !.........Witness the Manhatten project, walking on the moon, the F117. The electric vehicle (a government research project for the post office back in the 70's) Without Government sponsered research the US is doomed.....In the old days the government would own all of the equipment at a facility and let a contractor operate it.......Do you really think the oil companies are cable of the same level and do they have the good of the US public in mind......I think not......There are no Henry Fords left in America.......they moved to China thanks to state department policies.....Demand that the state department stop.

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EV's - You can't show me the money
Contrarian   1/11/2013 11:20:43 AM
Have you ever added up all your yearly car maintenance costs? You might be in for a surprise.


Yes, I have.  I have a somewhat unique among consumers perspective on BEV's because I have one, and have 10 years' worth of operating data on it.  During the same period I owned (and still do) a "gas guzzler" Mercury Marquis.  I can say, with copious data to back it up, the Marquis is far cheaper to own and operate per mile than the EV.  Not a comprehensive study to be sure, but living with an EV for that period of time taught me a lot of things about EV's, energy and transportation in general.

The ~$.04 per mile electricity cost is a compelling selling feature but the battery cost per mile put the EV behind my 20mpg ICE right out of the chute.  Factor in a single electronic module or battery repair or replacement and you're even further behind.  A new motor controller, BMS or battery charger can easily cost as much as a rebuilt ICE or transmission.  I would consider the ICE no less reliable than a motor controller or BMS as each are equally complex in their own way.  Oil changes and basic maintenance/repair for an ICE are relatively cheap and easily budgeted.  A power/driveline repair or failure on an EV is rarely simple or cheap.  A damaged or failed battery pack can render an EV beyond economical repair.  EV proponents quickly play the ICE repair/maintenance card when defending EV costs but ICE reliability has improved tremendously in the last few decades.  I've had terrific reliability and low repair costs with all my ICE vehicles over the last 30 years.  I don't think my experience is unique.  Time will tell if EV's are more or less reliable than ICE platforms.

The Telsa is a poor basis for comparison because I, nor few others would no sooner buy a $100K EV than a $100K ICE, no matter how "nice" it is.  My Marquis is more powerful and rides a lot quieter and smoother than any EV I've ever driven.  Whoops, I guess that's an unfair comparison.

It's not about saving the planet for most people, including myself.  It's about affordable transportation.   If a BEV shows up on the market that makes economic sense in its target market, it will succeed.  Otherwise, not.  It's pretty much as simple as that.  Fabricating artificial value doesn't make it somehow affordable to those who don't have the money.  I can buy a near-luxury ICE vehicle for what a compact Ford Focus EV costs today.  For now, the ICE is still the best choice for nearly all consumers.  Unless there is some giant breakthrough in batteries soon, I don't ever see that changing.   The arguments for saving the planet, funding wars for oil, tailpipe vs smokestack emissions and all that is just a bunch of crap because I can't control any of that.  All I can control is the check I write to pay for transporation so I can continue my way of living, which is all most people do.  Make EV's viable in "Joe Sixpack" market, and they *will* be flying out of showrooms like iPhones.  (BTW, has anyone studied the impact all these smartphones are having on the planet?)

In all fairness there were aspects to owning an EV I really like but they're not so great I'm willing to spend many thousands of dollars more to have. 

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Re: Don't believe the hype
CharlesM   1/11/2013 11:10:26 AM
You're way off the facts, Gtxragtop. You've omitted all the other inefficiencies including that of the internal combustion engine. The electric grid is getting cleaner all the time, and the percentage of power that comes from coal was down to 42% in 2011 (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_power_in_the_United_States). In 2009 it was still under 45% and all fossil fuels totaled less than 70%, the balance almost all coming from cleaner natural gas (which you probably love). (Per EIA via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2008_US_electricity_generation_by_source_v2.png)

Moreover, we can easily do much better with almost no pain. My power utility TVA, which covers seven politically red states in the southeast (not exactly tree huggers-ville), offers green power to be sold directly to the residential customer.  A mere $8 per mo. will cover 1000 miles of EV driving (12k/yr) and raises the total fuel cost from about 3 cents/mi. to 3.8 cents/mi. Still about a third cheaper than fueling a Prius (and even more when gasoline prices inevitably spike), and that electricity is certified to come exclusively from green sources including wind, solar, and methane from landfills (and not even hydro power or nuclear).

Also, per the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) there is currently enough excess capacity on the grid at night time, when thermo-electric plants can't throttle down and most EVs do their charging, to accommodate 1 million EVs! That's now and comes at virtually no additional pollution or capacity costs.

The Chinese grid is a TOTALLY different situation than the grid here and thus is completely irrelevant to our fuel and pollution mix (and largely thanks to the fed gov't agency called EPA). 

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Re: Wishing won't do it ! Commitment will
shrimper53   1/11/2013 11:00:06 AM
Sorry, but you lost me when you spout the typical lament that all we need is government "limits" and influence. 

Oil and gas (i.e fossil fuels) ARE and will continue to be THE only viable, PRIMARY source for powering personal transportation.  As you did acknowledge , things will change as othere technologies "come of age".  That is what we all must realize.  But do not fall into the trap of reliance on government.....  case in point - we still have no better (arguably worst) position when it cometo foreign oil dependence than in the early 1970's...   

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Re: Resistance is Futile!
GTOlover   1/11/2013 10:45:40 AM
And I will feel OK knowing that I resisted the "borg" collective. If you do not like the outside restaurant that services its smoking clientel, go somewhere else! As far as the stoplight, I can get my childish thrill knowing that my Pontiac will blow your doors off! May not be practical, but satisifying. Just because you demand all live within your world vision, does not mean we all will!

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Wishing won't do it ! Commitment will
ecolamp   1/11/2013 10:36:32 AM
Wishful thinking and manipulation of statistics won't do it.......At least not for the small group of informed consumers.....We need commitment by the department of energy or the department of transportation at both the federal and state levels to limit and maybe reduce the influence of foreign and domestic oil and gas companies.....There is absolutely no reason why we should be continuing to depend on fossil fuel at the pump...notice I did say at the pump, I would expect energy suppliers to continue to burn fossil fuel until such time as geothermal, wind, or solar, or whatever comes of age. The US state department has the power to change the future but will it ever have the will ? I hope so, because they control the destiny of our childrens children.

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Re: Don't believe the hype
snipelee   1/11/2013 10:31:52 AM
Good people,


Until an EV or hybrid can reliably and cost-effectively tow a boat over distances, seat 7-9 passengers, and otherwise beat-out today's modern diesels (which are effectively banned in the US)- they simply cannot be considerd a solution. EVs will never have the power storage and density required for normal, everyday use. Hybrids combine the inefficiencies of EV with a poor overall power-to-weight ratio. 

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Re: Don't believe the hype
kodaiflow   1/11/2013 10:18:39 AM
These discussions always seem to apply a linear analysis that holds all other values constant.  It is true, one part of the question is if technological advances will increase battery capacity and reduce charge time, but how society will evolve over the next 20 years to change the requirements of a personal transport is a larger issue.  Lack of infrastructure spending would make long commutes challenging, and Gen Y'ers may make different lifestyle choices that will effect the range, speed and capacity demand. To a baby boomer, their car is far more than a transport utility.  This may not be true with new generations, especially depending on how new media fragments the ability to re-enforce certain messages.  Modernization in the insurance industry like linking liability coverage to the operator's license rather than a vehicle registration could make rental markets flourish.  This would reduce the consumer's hard limits on the performance of their primary vehicle, as they could lease specialty vehicles for temporary needs.  

The world is non-linear system, and as such, follows the rules of chaos theory.  The one thing we can be sure of is that Cialis and Viagra will go generic in the next decade, and that is bad news for pick-up trucks and muscle cars. That should be positive for electric cars too.

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Re: EV's aren't Smartphones
CharlesM   1/11/2013 10:15:27 AM
Smartphones give people something they like, want, or need.  EV's don't do that...

People don't want or need to lower their fuel costs?  Fuel for an EV costs about half that for the highest MPG hybrid generally available, eg, Prius.

People don't want a car that's inherently smoother and quieter than anything else on the road?  Why are they buying Lincolns, Cadillacs, Lexuses, etc.?

They're otherwise a lesser performing and more expensive solution to what people already have.

You have not been paying attention to Automobile magazine and Motor Trend (and other reviews) where their Car of the Year, a Tesla S sedan, blows the doors of the perfomance of cars like a BMW M5 and costs about $3000 less, not including huge fuel and maintenance savings (and a $7500 tax credit). That is NOW.

Lower cost EVs in the $20k class with better batteries may be a few years away, but I wouldn't bet it will be MANY years away. And SOME price premium is warranted to get the lower maintenance costs and quality experience (quiet, smooth, high start torque) of an EV. Have you ever added up all your yearly car maintenance costs? You might be in for a surprise.

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Re: Perspective indeed
Weldon   1/11/2013 10:12:43 AM
I enjoyed the article.   It puts production into perspective.  In other industries, there are curves for projections of volumes.  It would be nice to see the curves and not just 10 year projections, but the point is well made that the various forms of electrics are not immediately going to replace existing technology.

I am a tall / 230 lb person, so generally believe most of the advances in efficiency are restricted to the little people of the world.   A couple of years ago, I supplemented my F150 pickup with an economy car to avoid the high cost of fuel, but still need the utility of the pickup, so keep it parked until needed.  (I am still getting used to sitting in an egg crate (Toyota Echo) along side trucks on the highway.)    I recently did my first test drive of a Prius and was reasonably impressed with the regenerative features, but quickly realized this was not a car for passing others on the rural 2 lane highways and is best used by rural mail carriers or in town delivery/taxi...  The Prius happens to have the same 1.5L engine in my Echo, but driving characteristics are entirely different.

I recently have read of the Nissan system to coast the engine while maintaining a 25V battery system for electrical needs.   I think up to 10% gains from this kind of technology while not hybrid, allows using smaller engines and getting most of the fuel efficiency of the hybrid is going to become mainstream for all manufacturers in 5 years timeframe.   I am not sure how this fits into the categories of this article, but 10% mileage enhancement, if one can retain reasonable passing performance is going to be a winner.

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