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'EV Triumph' Needs More Perspective, Less Hype

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Real cost of energy
icefield   1/12/2013 6:24:57 AM
IMO, all the discussions about the economics of electrical vehicles vs those fueled by fossil fuels ignore the real cost of the energy. Perhaps it's because it's too difficult to measure, or perhaps it's because we would like to ignore the issue. Likely somewhere in the middle.

With a few exceptions, the cost we pay for fossil fuels (and the electricity generated from them) does not include the indirect costs of the waste products - CO2, NOx, ground level ozone, etc. I know there is a wide variety of opinion about these issues, but it is kind of hard to ignore the smog in larger cities, or the dramatic increases in atmospheric CO2 in the past century. Perhaps the effects are not enough "in your face", or occur on time scales longer than a human lifetime, so they are harder to appreciate. But there are costs, and we are not paying them. Yet.

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Re: Perspective indeed
Cadman-LT   1/12/2013 10:40:06 AM
I have as you do concerns about battery life. I guess I am thinking old fashioned, but a gas engine can last "forever" if maintained properly. To put a mileage life on the batteries seems weird to me. What if you treat it bad, does that drop significantly? I don't trust batteries lasting even a percentage of the amount that they are claimed to(in our electronics they sure don't!). I also do not think they have had time to be tested...Gas powered cars can be sold after using them for ten years. When do the motors start to use more battery than when they were new?  What happens to battery powered cars after ten years? Just throw in new batteries like a remote control? What if the car is beat up, is it worth buying new batteries for?  To me that's like buying a used car and throwing in a new engine. Guess I am old school, but I'll wait and see how it all pans out.

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Re: Perspective indeed
Weldon   1/12/2013 11:06:40 AM

The cost of battery pack replacement for a Prius is $3K.   It is claimed that a used one can be obtained from a salvage yard for around $500, although my recent search did not find an available one, but I did locate battery pack cells on e-bay that can be used for replacement/repair with the extra effort to balance the cell profiles. So there is also a refurbishing process, but one needs to be well educated about safety in handling high DC voltages.

If the criteria for purchasing a EV were simply the cost of replacing the battery pack, then I would have never purchased another vehicle with ICE due to the cost I incurred for replacement of two transmissions at nearly $2K each.   Given that the mean time to failure for battery packs is somewhere above 200K miles, we all know that the scrap yard is full of ICE cars that haven't reached 200K miles and burn lots of oil due to various reasons.  In the specific case of the Prius, because the cost of replacing the battery pack is coming down to the point of replacement cost for engine or transmission in a conventaional car, then you need to begin to take a balanced approach to look at failure rates and number of potential replacement components.  Interestingly enough,  the Prius' drive transmission is far simpler than a conventional transmission. Hence, one talks about battery packs vs transmission replacement costs.  From this viewpoint, I came to the conclusion that it's not as big an issue as folks have made it out to be with the exception of the final arguement that the electric vehicle repair is far more specialized at this point in time as compared to conventional automobiles...

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True, But...
mr88cet   1/14/2013 9:51:53 AM
I perceive that current-day battery EVs fit into the "getting there" category.  GM's EV1 was a valuable learning experience, but it was a DOA product - waaaay too short a range to have any real value.  "Nice try," GM!  The Leaf and Volt, are a lot better.  They are "getting there," but they're far from "a dream come true," and I expect that in 15 years, we look back at them and again say, "nice try."

However, the Leaf is good enough that, if my family did need two cars, I probably would buy one, and in fact would most of the time drive it, instead of my 2009 Prius.  However, the range is still too short to avoid needing a gasoline-powered car in the garage too.

Before I bought a partially-electric vehicle, I would not have guessed just how much gasoline engines would come to gross me out.  Driving on electric feels so clean, quiet and elegant, that when the engine kicks in I feel like I'm jumping back a couple decades, back to the age of dirty, noisy and kludgy.

I really do wish I could drive electric all the time, but, again, the current crop of EVs is still firmly in the "getting there" category.

Curt Wilson
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Re: Stay dreaming my dear US friends
Curt Wilson   1/14/2013 4:33:47 PM
Hellmut - you have managed to deliver one of the most fact-free rants I have seen in a long time.

You say, "Every year the hurricanes start to impose a bigger cost on your country." The fact is, we are in the longest period in our history without a major (F3-F5) hurricane strike. We just went through the longest period in our history without any hurricane strike at all.

You say, "The ice on the poles is melting closer to the worth case scenarios, so you might go to Florida to visit those large cities sumerged in the Atlantic Ocean." The summer melting of the (floating) Arctic sea ice has absolutely no effect on sea level. The measurements of the land-based ice on Greenland and Antarctica are so close to zero change that any trends are within the margins of measurement errors. Even if you accept the maximum reduction rates, they would contribute less than a millimeter per year to sea level rise.

US government scientists this year examined the recent record of sea level measurements, using satellite altimeter measurements, satellite gravity-change measurements, and ocean heat content measurements. They concluded that the average sea-level rise rate during the satellite era has been 1.3mm/year, without any acceleration. That comes to 13cm (5 inches) per century. Does this require radical actions?

You say, "Every year more and stronger tornados affect your country with a increasing number of deaths." Again, completely wrong. Strong tornados (F3-F5) show a long-term decreasing trend. There has been an increase in the reported number of weak tornados (F0-F2), but that is due to better detection from new technologies like Doppler radar and personal video cameras. We are presently in the longest period in our history without a single tornado-caused death.

You say, "All of this besides beeing extremely expensive for the whole economy that has to pay the bill, you are loosing the time to implement change." Americans spend 5 times as much on heating as on air-conditioning. A warm year actually gives a major boost to the economy due to reduced heating costs. Even the IPCC now agrees that there have been no trends in extreme weather -- see their recent Special Report on Extreme Weather (SREX).

You simply have no idea what you are talking about.

Hellmut Kohlsdorf
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Re: Stay dreaming my dear US friends
Hellmut Kohlsdorf   1/15/2013 1:07:26 PM
Dear Curt, you are absolutely right! Germany has decided as a hobby, as we are too wealthy, to give up completely power generation based on nuclear plants. Germany because of the same reason has decided to change the whole grid to fit the needs for regenerative energy! Germany is taking heavy efforts to switch completely to regenrative energy. Germany is investing billions of Euros to reduce power consumption in housing and industry. All of this because Germans are known to be day dreamers and have difficulties to understand technology!

Some island states in the South Pacific are buying the right to relocate their whole population to another state because their country is in the process to get covered by  the ocean. Of course dear Curt, they all do this because they are too rich and there is not really a need for it!

But to be honest I consider it brave how you are willing to represent the lag of knowledge by many in the USA! But of course, as the whole univers just exist since a couple of thousand years after God build it in 6 days to rest, due to the effort it took, on the 7th!

As to energy consumption in the USA  makes me remember a secretary working for one of the largest US semiconductor companies in the Silicon Valley, that put on the heater because the temperature in the builing was too low, while outside the temperature was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

The 20th century has been the US century, were the USA have deafeted totalitarian and criminal regime in Germany, were the USA have contributed in an very important way to develop societies to democracy, to the freedom of the individual. The 21st century will that not see persist.

Hurrican Sandy, one of the most expensive hurricans in history and what happened to New Orleans is just because scientist have been able to measure hurricans more precisly!

I am writing all this, because it is my believe that the benefit anlysis I read here is assuming 2 things I consider wrong, and were I am wrong if Curt is right. One that we can continue generating CO2 consuming fosil energy sources which also means using traditional combustion engines and second that it will continue to be so that oil stays as "cheap" as it still is today!

The whole issue is far more complex and multifacetic than that what the discussion is showing! If the 2 assumptions I am listing in the former paragraph and which would confirm what Curts believes, are wrong, than the question is if a society wants to be an early adopter defeating the problems and finding creative and cost effective solutions which will make its industry boom! Germany is known to have a booming industry while most of the rest of Europe is suffering from an US started economic crisis. The US is also been impacted heavily by the crisis. If we analyze this from the perspective of the US automotive industry, the US automotive industry has lost aprox. 6% market share while German automotive manufacturers are wining marketshare. Wheer are the Fords and Chryslers?

Germany since about 24 years has made dramatic efforts to restructure the framework in which the industry works. This is very painful but the result is a booming industry! Its industry, forced to by the politically set framework has adapted itself with the well known results! Germany is continuing restructuring itself and tremendous costs that have to be covered on top of the huge costs the German reunification. The result is a continuous restructuring and improvement of the competitive situation now and in the future. Do you see something similar taking place in the USA? Is this because the US industry is so agead of everybody else that it does not need that? Your country is frozen by a ridiculous and irrational fight between the 2 mayor political parties! End of February the next financial cliff will be reached while the debt is growing. The ratings of the USA are starting to deteriorate which will increase the interrests for the debt.

Curt Wilson
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Re: Stay dreaming my dear US friends
Curt Wilson   1/15/2013 3:48:17 PM
Helmut -- I notice you did not even try to refute a single point I made.

Are you talking about the Germany that is planning to build up to two dozen new coal-fired power plants to make up for the shortfall from its shuttered nuclear power plants? Plants that will burn the filthy high-carbon brown coal that you strip mine?

Are you talking about the US that has reduced its CO2 emissions to below its 1992 levels (no other developed country has done that) from its rapid conversion to clean low-carbon natural gas?

Are you talking about the Germany that imports huge amounts of electricity from France's nuclear power plants on days when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow?

Are you talking about the US that has turned into a net exporter of natural gas and is on path to become a next exporter of oil within the next 20 years?

Are you talking about the Germany where many major industries are looking to move many of their large plants out to avoid the high cost and low reliability of energy supplies they anticipate?

You provide anecdotes without context -- I provide data from scientific research. Hurricanes and tornadoes are not getting worse. The US has always been vulnerable to them than Europe is. You make irrelevant snide remarks about creationists, but you are the one who believes the world was this benign Garden of Eden without extreme weather before humans created industrial society.

Go look at the actual sea level from those Pacific islands you are concerned about. Nothing is happening. Those islands are poor and overpopulated, so I understand why they would want money from developed countries and try to move some of their population off.

Hellmut Kohlsdorf
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Re: Stay dreaming my dear US friends
Hellmut Kohlsdorf   1/15/2013 5:17:16 PM
Dear Curt you claim issues massively that are partly based on partial knowledge. You claim to have scientific data on which you base your statements, but I see no reference to such a document. I do not want to engage in the duplication of the absurd arguments given on environmental meetings from the UN.

The basis of my arguments is what I do consider a fact and it is that if we continue polluting the environment burning fosil carburants that have the sun light of millions of years stored and which by releasing them within a couple of decades and CO2 with them to my believe based on information I have living here in Germany is starting to show catastrophical consecuences.

The second key issue is the delay or inability to adapt the industrial structure of a country leading to serious economic problems. The fact is Germany has gone through the restruturing and is continueing to do so. The result is economic wealth and leadership in technology. The opposite is economic downturn and the loss of competivity and an explosion of national debt. Further the USA is showing a total inability to address the problems you have due to partisanship of the parties.

So when we return to the starting pont of my comment, to judge the activities to change the propulsion system of cars from combustion of fosil materials to pollution neutral technologies, you have to make up first your mind of the 2 basic assumptions that define what approach is meaningful to somebody arguing about those early offerings.

Is the generation of CO2, not from a bit less than 3 billion people in the world were only those in the first world were generating pollution when I was a kid, to the 7plus billions today were China, India and the people in the other far east states are participating and therefor generating pollution, not an issue?

Are you or anybody assuming the increase of the cost of energy will continue like in the last 30 years or will it grow faster when the real costs are billed?

Do you answer that both those assumptions are no issue, then why shoulkd we loose ourselves in data of different source? The USA will cover its demand of the next 15 to 20 years burning the fosil energy sources available through new technologies and probably even start expoerting them. The result is a continueing growth of pollution like in the last decades. The result is a loss of those 15 to 20 years to adapt its infrastructure to renewable energies and as we are dealing with in this thread continue using combustion engine cars.


As to the coil based energy plants you mention in your response your giving an example of partial knowledge! As discussed in other threads here, one issue is the storing of energy harvested when there is light and when there is wind. Those coil based plant plans are not progressing, because the experience in the last years has been that those only switched on plants when a lag of energy exists at certain times make their operation not profitable, because renewable energy usage has preferences.

As to the high cost of energy. There is a law in Germany that companies whosse competitivness is affected by energy prices are left out of paying aditional fees due to the costs of changing to renewable energies. As a consequence no German company is forced to leave this country due to energy costs!

As to the CO2 levels. Yes, Germany, as a mayor industrial country has done so and surpased those goals.

As to the import of energy from the nuclear plants from France. Over the year 2012 Germany is still exporting energy and not importing net. Such a phrase is what I call partial knowledge! Energy is dealt with at a trade center like you do with other raw materials through the whole of Europe. In such a dinamic market which works similar to a stock exchange, you buy and sell at every moment. So the view of the net of a total year tells you if by stopping all operations of nuclear plants from one day to the other in Germany after Fukujima could be compensated or not.

As to natural gas. We have many pipelines to Russia which deliver natural gas. We have the complete infrastructure in place, including the storage of the gas for weeks of demand. Efectively this is one of the approaches to store energy that benefits from an existing infrastructure and is being discussed as of now. When there is an over offering of energy from wind, sun or thermal energy from the heat in the ground, this energy could be used to generate natural gas replacement from CO2 in the atmosphere and store it in the existing natural gas infrastructure. Than power plants that generate extra electrical energy when there is too much demand and to little wind and sun from that energy source.

But as I wrote, the issue is much more polifacetic. You might have read, that the european energy producers are working and implementing huge power plants based on solar energy around the mediterranean sea. You might have heard from a place called Sahara? You might have heard that the south of Spain has plenty of sun and is very dry? Wellthose are much better places to generate solar energy based electricity.

But again this is also only one face of the issue. Another one is to adapt the grid, in Germany and through the whole of Europe to transport electricasl energy via continuous high voltage power lines.

So the reslt of this many aspects of the change from fosil energy to renewable energy sources represents a huge restructuring effort and a huge study and development of many different technologies, which in a mix all together under the forces of the market will result in know how which will allow i.e. German companies to gain leadership and collect the profits of early involved players in the market.

All of this will not take place or take place much more slowly in the USA in the next 15 or 20 years if by burning your newly made available energy sources, that have the not so funny side effect that gases that come out with the water while washing your dishes i.e. start to burn! Combine this with your debt problem and than you might understand why real friends of the USA and its people, and I consider myself one, are worried!

Now this place is one were the leading engineering community discusses technical issues and its scares to see how partial knowledge and a preset mindset is preventing those capable to start fixing the things end up trying to confirm their already made opinions. If here this is the case, what do you expect those to do and judge that have less knowledge?

EV vehicles are a platform that is searching for the proper way to replace fosil combustion based car engines to something sustainable. As I have pointed out ones and again, the answer is polifacetic. If you continue burning fosil material as an energy source, if the total picture is ignored and not taken into account, an EV vehicle willnever be a good offering.

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Re: Perspective indeed
Cadman-LT   2/12/2013 9:17:20 AM
Weldon...I would not think anyone would really WANT to buy a USED battery. Also, I have never had to replace a transmission. Just saying.

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Re: Perspective indeed
Weldon   2/12/2013 9:52:39 AM
Cadman,   LOL... Lots of folks repair cars and don't just buy new.  My vehicles last to 150K-200K miles, so a transmission replacement is not wanted, but falls into the category of  "expected maintenance" at some point along the way.   The point is that the battery pack is simply a replaceable component of the car, just like other components of the ICE vehicle's drive train.

Here is how it is done with a $1800 remanufactured battery...




Not so difficult, but one has to be very safety minded and respectful of the DC voltage.

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