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Big Battery EVs Under Fire

Light plug-in hybrids, like the Prius PHV, have a better near-term outlook than pure electric cars with big batteries.   (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)
Light plug-in hybrids, like the Prius PHV, have a better near-term outlook than pure electric cars with big batteries.
(Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

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Re: EV Batteries
warren@fourward.com   10/2/2012 12:01:48 PM
Amen, brother!  There should be no government involvement in the marketplace.  Period!  Let supply drive demand.  It has always worked in the past. I don't know any politician or bureaucrat who can decide for me what to wear, eat, or drive.  None!  Let the market drive production.

100 miles might be enough for some people.  Plenty of people drive around our small town in golf carts.  That is enough for them.  I live 8 miles from a larger city with some hills between us.  I would want something a little heftier than a golf cart. 

I really need something that will go 200 miles reliably, as that is the most I drive 99.9% of the time (50% margin of error :-)).  How hard can that really be?  I bet most of this nation could get by happily with that.  Especially if we could solar or wind charge it and not pay a utility monopoly.


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Re: EV Batteries
wishboneash   10/2/2012 12:34:52 PM
Great post kyleaf. yars and their like want to close their eyes when it comes to the true cost of oil. We just spent a $1 Trillion or more in the last decade on assuring that. I have a 60 mile round trip and my Leaf is handling that very well for the past one 1.5 years. The Leaf *CANNOT* be driven like a gas guzzling ICE and most intelligent EV owners know that. There is a bit of a compromise and adjustment in driving style. A high efficiency car needs to be driven appropriately as there is little margin for waste. A 25mpg car is less than 15% efficient in terms of converting the energy in gasoline to traction. The EV is over 90% efficient. IF you are an engineer you understand the implications of this. It costs me $1.10 to drive the 60 miles. No ICE will come close.

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experience in best
wedonedat   10/2/2012 12:41:03 PM
It comes as no surprise that the battery is limiting the acceptance of electric only cars. I have been slogging my way through an electric conversion for two years now and have gained a greater respect for the technical challenge of electric only transportation. Range and battery safety/reliability/longevity is without doubt the most significant challenge to overcome. My conversion platform is a 1972 SAAB 99.

I have coined a term, EVgallon, which represents the amount of battery capacity necessary to produce approximately the same result in an ICE vehicle. An EVgallon comes out to be 6KWh. My LiFePO4 battery weighs 150 lbs takes up nearly the entire volume of the former gas tank and yet holds only one EVgallon of charge. So, my vehicle, when completely charged, can go approximately as far as the original vehicle with 1 gallon of gas in the tank.

This actually works just fine for driving the kids to school, or athletic practice, or doing a grocery run. It charges in about 1.5 hours off of a 220v 15 amp service, so it is very functional in that way. However, there is no way in He!! that this technology is going to challenge an ICE vehicle for long range or heavy load operation. Replaceable battery packs is really not practicle either as one "gallons" worth of batteries is 150 lbs. I don't seem many "Leaf" owners lifting six 75 lbs blocks in and out of their vehicles. Also notice that the Toyota pluggable EV has less than one gallon capacity. This probably explains Toyota's reluctance to make its hybrid pluggable. A lot of additional electronics to accomplish little additional vehicle ability.

I have owned electric scooters and electric motor bikes, which seem to perform much closer to their ICE counterparts, so maybe there is where the emerging market really is.

For now, EV is probably constrained to short run haulers. My wish is that the tax credits would stop but that legislation would be initiated to give insurance breaks so that there is no inherent penalty for having multiple vehicles for different purpose. Having a vehicle devoted to kid hauling would be wonderful. This mode of use is probably the least efficient for ICEs and the most plausible for EVs.

Re-aligning the insurance issue could go along way toward supporting the manufacture and sales of this specific purpose additional vehicle market.


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Re: Scientific breakthrough
technowatcher   10/2/2012 12:42:10 PM

There is one company that I know of that is actually deploying battery swap stations in several countries on a trial basis.  see:  http://www.betterplace.com/

While the concept has some issues (eg. how do you guarantee that every battery pack is as good as the original?) - it seems pretty workable and practical.

There is a bigger issue, however.  Most people (esp. non-technical zealots like some posters here) seem to ASSUME that EV's are the future, if only the cost can be brought down.  They think that EV's are automatically the best solution, that they are "obviously" zero emissions.  Clear thinkers, in contrast, study the details to understand the bigger picture - that EV's are only as "clean" as the power grid that charges them.  The batteries are the weak link, with high cost and also rare, expensive, often caustic chemicals, and a huge issue with useful battery life and recycling old ones.

I think the fundamental question needs to be asked (and answered) - what, exactly, is the problem that EV's are supposedly solving?  If it is to get us off of fossil fuels - they don't really do that (with today's avg. power grid)...only shifting fuel from oil to mainly coal+natural gas.  If THAT were the main goal, we could easily shift ICE cars to run on natural gas or coal-based synfuel (as China already is).  In the more distant future, solar-created synfuels could be used - eliminating the need to further burden the electric grid or have massive batteries, yet acheiving 100% renewable power for cars and all the infastructure, range and convenience as today's cars.

I think that hybrid cars make much more sense than EV's because they acheive fantastic MPG gains in city driving, yet make do with frugally small batteries (and maybe in the near future - ultracapacitors instead of batteries).  They are the best balance of efficiency, range, practicality and economics.  THAT is the reason that Toyota is not very interested in pure EV's - as the hybrid leader they are aware of these facts.

In the end, once the distortions from the massive government support spending on EV's  stops - what will drive the mass market is ECONOMICS.  EV's are just a passing fad for mainstream cars, but will probably remain a viable solution for short-range city cars and taxis.  

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Re: EV Batteries
CharlesM   10/2/2012 12:43:34 PM
There should be no government involvement in the marketplace.  Period!  Let supply drive demand.  It has always worked in the past.

That may be funny, but it's not grounded in reality. The world spends $775 billion per year in subsidies for fossil fuels.  And OPEC, an illegal cartel, influences oil prices by modulating supply. How is the market "free"?

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Re: EV Batteries
jfphx   10/2/2012 12:50:40 PM
OMG  wake up and look around. Here in the US oil companies have been getting corporate welfare for over 100 years. In the recent past this corporate welfare is in the billions of dollars. Worldwide automakers are almost universally receiving substantial government assistance. This includes companies like Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Kai and many more. Yet you think US companies don't deserve the equal footing with their worldwide competitors. There's a time and a place for government assistance. Oil companies don't need that assistance anymore but new emerging technologies are the way technology has been commercialized since the dawn of civilization.  It's like going to a fight where are your right hand is tied behind your back and you have a 20 pound weight attached to your left leg, not a fair fight.

User Rank
Re: EV Batteries
kyleafdotcom   10/2/2012 12:52:21 PM
@wishboneash You know many of the EV bashers have never been in one. Our Leaf is perfect for my wife's commute, she makes it to work, school, and back to the house no problem. I can't emphasize enough how great it is to start with a full tank every morning, just unplug the car (in a comfortable garage) and go. Never late to work because you are low on gas. I'm sure it is self indulgent, but as it turns out, many MANY vehicles out there are indulgent. I've posted before that I have two children in the Army, and they have both been deployed in the middle east recently. If you don't think they are protecting our oil supply, you are kidding yourself. Iran would fill the vacuum if we pulled our Navy fleet out of the waters surrounding the middle east, and oil prices would skyrocket. So tax dollars for this or tax dollars for that, I'd prefer to use my Kentucky coal miner powered Leaf over any OPEC oil powered ice any day. We are so close to the solution that gets us off the OPEC drug, using home grown oil, NG, coal, solar, wind, hydro, so close.

User Rank
Re: Valid points
CharlesM   10/2/2012 12:57:15 PM
But how do we get the costs of new technologies down without economies of scale which cannot occur without demand? This is the chicken-egg syndrome that only government can solve. That's why there are gov't cost incentives for early adapters, who are still willing to pay more and accept early technology risks. But only this way can the costs and reliability issues of mass production be solved. We can't wait for a magic cold fusion-esque breakthrough to occur (fuel cells, anyone?), and even if that does occur the transition of whatever that is to mass production will still be costly and unreliable until significant deployment happens.

Meanwhile you're always free to not be an early adapter and buy for only your pocketbook. In that case, your best bet is a used car with maybe 40k miles already on it, a small economy four cylinder. Most everything else is just throwing your money away. You can get one with a turbo if you want performance (--but why, given your frugalness?).


User Rank
Re: EV Batteries
warren@fourward.com   10/2/2012 1:07:17 PM
It wasn't meant to be funny.  It is the truth.  The free market works every time it is tried, and always will.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Re: There you go again
Charles Murray   10/2/2012 1:12:39 PM
The fact that you disagree with this article doesn't mean that UBM articles are biased, CharlesM. Moreover, your accusation about Chevy Volt battery fire stories couldn't be more inaccurate. During the media-wide spread of battery fire stories, we were the ones that pointed out -- repeatedly -- that there was nothing to worry about.

See "Experts Say Managing Risks Properly." http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1366&doc_id=250517

See "Don't Worry, Your Battery Won't Explode." http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1366&doc_id=242177

When the Volt production was idled in March, we were the ones that said, "It isn't a sign that the Volt is dead or electric cars are disappearing." See, "GM: We're Not Pulling the Plug on Chevy Volt," http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1366&doc_id=240199. Two weeks ago, when Reuters wrote an article saying Volt production costs exceeded its selling price by $49,000, we were the ones going to bat for GM and saying the Reuters assessment was wrong. See "Chevy Volt: Not Time to Panic," http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1366&doc_id=250517.

Regarding our Avnet Drive for Innovation: Editor Brian Fuller has toured the country with the Volt, driven it up Pikes Peak, and written a boatload of positive stories about it. When I reviewed the Volt, I called it an "astonishing vehicle, a lot of fun to drive, yet stingy in its use of energy." We've also done a similar positive review on the Prius PHV.

Oh, and there's also our Engineer of the Year award three years ago: We nominated JB Straubel of Tesla Motors, named him the winner, and wrote a four-page magazine piece about his efforts. See "Tesla Engineer Boosts EV Range to New Heights," http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=228520.

If that shows a "drumbeat" of bias against EVs and sustainability, then we sure have a funny way of showing it.

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