We all know what happened. By 1920, the first EV era was mostly over. So will it be déjà vu all over again? Paradoxically, the main adoption impediment isn't EV sticker prices, daunting though they are. It's the lack of recharging infrastructure.
The US government is subsidizing the construction of charging stations. Austin, Texas, already has more than 100 stations in place, but, quite frankly, the buildout rate is nowhere near rapid enough to turn EVs into no-muss, no-fuss mainstream driving machines.
There's also a technology wild card. EV power packs haven't kept up with Moore's Law, and it's not clear if they will ever get significantly beyond the 200Wh/kg energy densities of today's top Lithium-ion batteries. We also don't know how quickly the packs will dip below their not atypical $10,000-plus replacement costs, nor do we know how this will affect vendor warranty costs or used-car resale values.
I've always believed fuel-cell vehicles are a more viable technology than EVs, in the same way that Sony Beta was a better videotape format than VHS. In the latter case, marketplace machinations outflanked engineers' data-driven assessments. This will likely be the case with EVs, in which so many people have so much invested that pulling the plug now would unleash a far worse scenario than fixing the problems.
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller.
@Alex, I believe the answer to your question is in your article here: "The US government is subsidizing the construction of charging stations. Austin, Texas, already has more than 100 stations in place, but, quite frankly, the buildout rate is nowhere near rapid enough to turn EVs into no-muss, no-fuss mainstream driving machines."
The role of the federal US government should be to set standards on things like charging rate, voltage, and environmental disposal rules, not to build charging stations in each neighborhood. If the Feds want to push a particular technology, offer tax incentives to local governments, not the end consumer. Allow the locals to figure out how EVs would work best in their own environment. If it will happen, it will happen.
Just ask Spencer Silver of 3M who discovered an ultra-low tack adhesive in 1968. It wasn't until he met up with Art Fry at 3M in 1974 that they convinced 3M to market Post-It Notes in 1980. Having the US Government issue coupons to consumers in the early 1960's would have done little to spur innovation in the area of slightly-sticky paper...
Very true, let the locals figure out how EVs would work best in their environment. Here in the suburbs of Chicago, a 45 minute commute is typical, although the actual traveled distance is only 15 miles. An EV would work quite well out here even if it had a 100 mile range. If you lived in Montana, that 100 mile range might be cutting things a little close.
I agree with William. The construction of charging stations is one of the biggest limitations and there should be subsidies to local governments for building out these stations in the areas where there is the most likely uptick for EV adoption. Obviously, not every area is a prime candidate. But I would think metropolitan areas like Chicago and Los Angeles (and really any major city, hence commuter route) are fair game. As for Montana and the other big rural interstates, a reliable network of charging stations is critical, but perhaps less so since most won't be taking their EVs on any kind of significant cross-country road trip.
Charging statios are interesting. These big programs get announced, but actual usage is hardly talked about. I recall hearing about the removal of EV charging stations so I looked it up. In Aughust there was an article about Costco removing the charging stations in their California stores. No one was using them. I know there are other examples.
The reality is that you are correct, Alex, that fuel cells are the way to go. There are many options for feedstock for fuel cells. Frankly, the technology is not much of a stretch for EVs. You just replace the battery with the fuel cell. In fact, you may want to make a hybrid that uses a battery with a fuel cell (instead of a ICE). This would allow for recovering energy from dynamic breaking, etc. Frankly, the electric motor and most of the rest of the car remains the same.
Maybe the tax incentives are being given to the wrong place? We've agreed it's an infrastructure problem. The government (federal or local) does not belong in the charging business. The infrastructure is (mostly) there already, but it must be convinced to go the extra mile.
How about doing a carrot-stick approach with the existing gas stations? Petroleum companies get to keep their current tax breaks, but only if they add charging "pumps" to their stations. Or something close to that.
Gas companies, gas stations, are not going to simply disappear. Getting their help will work better if they've a reason to put the charging stands in to the existing locations. No "new" stations need be built.
@TJ I love discussing various ideas, but the largest drawback I see with charging stations at filling stations is time. While filling takes around 5 minutes, charging can take around 5 hours. I don't see many consumers wishing to park their EV at the "filling" station and then finding alternate transportation to their destination.
@naperlou I celebrate the idea of fuel cells. The variety of feedstock permits competition and optimization with minimal retrofitting or equipment replacement. Until we develop the Mr. Fusion device from Back to the Future, perhaps Mr. Fuelcell is a great stepping stone...
Electric cars have had a long and rough history. Today, the biggest questions are: What will it cost? Is it really green or just green washed? Consumers care about the longevity of the planet more than ever before but their bottom is the bottom line.
One question I haven't had answered is what does it cost, out of pocket, for the consumer to charge up the vehicle with average usage. The price of electricity for the home has doubled for us in Northern California over the last two years. Would I pay more to charge a car or to gas in a car? Having more charging stations available is fine but if the consumer is spending $100 to fill a tank that lasts a couple of hundred miles compared to $60 (4 cylinder-of course) for a few hundred miles, the choice is made.
Battery life and distance needs to be much better. But, what tool does it take n the environment to build these cars in the first place? Battery production isn't eco-friendly...yet.
One of the dilemmas with using a pure electric as a city car is that many city cars are parked on streets, not in private garages. As a result, cities would need charging devices running almost end to end on every block. Otherwise, urban dwellers who live in three-flats (common in Chicago) would need to run charging cables from their front windows to the curbs for hours every night while they recharged.
The problem is not subsidies for EV's but the ones for oil, coal, big auto that need to be cut and their full costs in them and both EV's and RE will beat the pants off of them on a level playing field.
Any EV can put a 3-10kw generator on a rear trailer hitch and get unlimited range solving the range problem which really isn't a problem.
And the comparison should be with a BMW, not a Camry as they are high tech future cars, not economy ones.
EV's should have been started as $12k commuter/errand vehicles under 1200 lbs where when done right get 250-400mpg equivalent. Since 1/3 the weight needs 1/3 the battery pack/EV drive thus 1/3 the costs. A 40 mile range Volt battery in these would get 300 mile range!! See the Auto company strategy? Build over weight, over priced EV's and then say see we told you so, EV's are too expensive, etc.
With my lightweight EV's I've never had a problem charging as there are billions of 120vac outlets everywhere!! Gas stations, Libraries, 7/11's, parking garages all let me charge so even before the new charging stations charging wasn't a problem.
I just got my charging card so will try it out soon as Tampa has 12 stations, 2 EV's/station downtown I'll have my pick of spots. Not that I didn't have 500 spots with 120vac in parking garages in the same area. I get 90% charged by 120vac outlets in 3 hrs. Or 15 minutes to 80% by the new 240vac/70 amp EV charge station standard. My EV her costs $.20-.30 to charge and big EV's about 6-10x's that for 100 miles, so far less cost than gasoline.
Since gasoline will hit $10/gal in 5 yrs because we can't pump it fast enough for present production, much less the extra 3 billion new oil consumers from China. India, Indoneasia alone!! Do the math.
So one better have some kind of alt fuel. I like EV's because they are so simple, just the car's starter, battery, just bigger. And leave all that other fuel hungry, very ineff gas, diesel engines in the dust.
One solution for a while is NG which is currently selling for $.30/gal gasoline BTU equivalent!! It only goes to show just how resistant to change Americans and most people are. They rather pay $4/gal than even consider doing something differently. How's that working?
Sadly most of these 'problems' are in people's heads and not a problem in real life. They all have easy solutions.
Cars use the same materials as batteries do so just what is your point Nadine?
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