This was a very well written article. I was disappointed that it was not totally updated and rewritten - but I will take what I can get.
Sometimes I think that 'techno-folks' get too wrapped up in technical stuff. The way for anything to happen in the EV arena is for folks to 'WANT EVs'. If one looks at the automobiles that led the revolution at the end of the 19th century - they were not water tight, there was no infrastructure, they cost too much, they could no go long distances, etc. But one important thing happened - folks saw some advantage and a few rich folks bought them and lots of other folks wanted them. The quietest and most reliable autos [electrics] went from market leaders to endangered species in a few years. During this time infrastructure like roads and gas stations grew into existance. If you change a few of the words, the same could happen for EVs.
One problem that folks have is their thinking - we can comprehend that we need to buy a truck to haul stuff, a 2 seat sports car for fun, a small efficient car for commuting, a large vehicle for our 5 kids, etc. The problem is that in most folks mind, each of these specialty cars needs to be able to drive 500 miles in a day - even if they never do it. We have a thinking problem [interestingly almost every argument, or concern, wrt EVs was applied to the first automobiles].
There is no technical reason that the electrical infrastucture cannot evolve. If coal is a problem there is no reason not to use natural gas to generate electricity.
Teslas have already made an impact on a few people and the Volts, Leafs, et al might do the same. Electric racing is usually an eye opener for folks who are used to seeing slightly oversized golf carts being presented 'as the future' - this nonsense turns most folks off. Even though it cannot be measured, the pioneer electric drag racers have done more than their part to promote EVs.
Disclosure [just in case that it was not clear]:
I have been an EV performance fan and was prejudiced before I read the article.
Where are the revolutionary designs?
TJ McDermott asked:
>EVs seem to be taking a very slow, evolutionary path. Why a single motor in the gas >engine's place? Where are the vehicles with a smaller motor in each wheel hub? >Where is the regenerative braking that these motors could offer? Four motors offers >redundancy; you can still get home on three if one fails.
>Where are the revolutionary designs?
In reference to our racing EVs, wheel motors are a BIG negative! First, they would have to be AC types, thus an expensive ~ 100 kW inverter to go with each hub motor - forgetting all the machining costs, the total redesign of the car, and the terrible unsprung weight this adds (ruins handling), each motor/inverter would cost $25,000 X four - $100,000 for 400 kW of power...Yikes! Compare this to our caveman DC drive that cranks out 538 hp @ 1250 ft. lbs torque for ~ $12,000! Additionally, one of the reasons we drag race our EVs, is to change perception about electric cars. In the ‘Street Legal’ racing classes NEDRA created in conjunction with the NHRA, we require the electric motor(s) to be right where an average car-guy would expect to find the ICE, and we also require the car to be largely unchanged from its factory design. This all does great things for convincing performance-minded car fans that EVs don’t have to be radical or weird to be fun and cool - and that, is what will get them into showrooms!
>The future I saw as a kid should have been here already, but it seems as far away >now as it did then.
Try convincing all my friends who are now driving and loving their Nissan Leafs and Tesla Roadsters this...they all feel they are already driving the future. Ask any of them, and they will tell you they were inspired to buy these electric machines after they experienced our backyard EVs blowing away gas-fueled muscle cars and high end exotica on the track .
Although drag racing is rather a silly use of any automotive technology, especially electric, it does suggest that electric vehicles can make inroads through specialized applications.
Perhaps it is not necessary for an electric car to mimic exactly a gas car. Rather it might do what is already does well. If a family has 2 cars, they could use a very modest, simple electric for short trips and commutes of <50 miles round trip, and keep a gas car (or hybrid) for longer trips.
It is also important to develop charging systems based on clean renewable energy. At present most electric vehicles are in fact just coal-fired steam cars (with the boiler and steam engine at the power station.)
I have seen several posst asking why electric vehicles have not become more widespread. I, for one, am EXTREMELY thankful thay have not. Our current electrical grid cannot handle a huge increase in demand that widespread adoption of electric vehicles would require. Not to mention our generation capacity is decreasing as we speak, with the current administration pressuring the coal industry and hindering the nuclear industry. This can only mean one thing as electric vehicles become more commonplace: electricy prices will go up, way up. Will electric vehicles still be attractive when electricy costs twice as much, and you also pay twice as much for your regular household use? What ever happened to hydrogen fuel cells? What about natural gas engines now that we have a massive supply in shale?
Energy storage is the key. Until there is a revolution in storage, EVs and alternate energy sources simply aren't going to work.
The revolution has to both increase the energy density in the storage media, AND bring the cost down. It then won't matter which comes first, people clamoring for it or Detroit pushing it; EVs will come into their own.
People won't make the switch until it's economical. Detroit won't switch until people start buying. Lovely Catch-22.
I'm waiting for Daniel Shipstone to be born so we can get on with this. If anyone has an idea to rival Heinlein's Shipstones, build it and we will come.
It's also interesting to me that the price of EV's aren't at a level to cause a mass exodus of gas car buyers to change of over.
I drive about 35k miles per year. I know that's twice what the "average" driver drives....but I priced the vehicles that could do 100 miles a day (my minimum) and found that the cost of a mid-sized gas powered car plus the cost of gas (for me) turned out to be almost the same as an EV with it's electric consumption requirements over 4 years.
The result for me was this: An EV with a range of 100 miles per day (on one charge) cost so much more than a comprable gas vehicle that the savings in fuel was offset by the higher base price of the car.
Obviously, if the average consumer drives only 40 miles a day, there is going to be some savings more than what I would experience. But until people start really making the switch, what incentive is there for the auto industry to change its ways?
EVs seem to be taking a very slow, evolutionary path. Why a single motor in the gas engine's place? Where are the revolutionary designs?
Where are the vehicles with a smaller motor in each wheel hub? Where is the regenerative braking that these motors could offer? Four motors offers redundancy; you can still get home on three if one fails.
The future I saw as a kid should have been here already, but it seems as far away now as it did then.
Hi Beth, why yes we do. Anyone from any from any manufacturers are free to visit our website at www.nedra.com. We also have a NEDRA Yahoog group dedicated to discussions. There have been a few engineers from several of the EV Manufacturers, but none of the big ones. We know and have talked with several of the engineers at Tesla. However many of the big names are looking at manufacturering econimies of scale to the point that all the fun stuff is left out of their design. Take my Pinto for example. It was an American version of a lack luster grocery getter. Ford would never have put another dime in for another feature until they were faced with exploding cars and were forced to put a $2.50 rubber bladder in the fuel tank. But hey, lose the constraints of big business monetary criteria and you actually can make a Pinto go fast and be fun, and safer too. But most of us are not in it for the money. Its mainly to show people that electric cars can be fun, they can be luxurious if you want, and they can be fast and that it can be done for not a whole bunch of money. If everybody that saw our street legal cars on the track went to Ford, or GM or Nissan or Mitsubishi or Toyota and demanded "We want Fast Sporty Electric Cars that are safe and pretty" they may start to take note. We are seeing some of the overseas manufacturers developing road racing series type cars, so we know they are looking at it. And its just like the old saying goes, " if it wins at the track on Sunday, it sells on Monday".
Fun piece, Chuck. Really enjoyed it. Any chance these speed demons have any wisdom/best practices/engineering techniques that they can impart to the big electric cars guys to advance the technology even further and a faster clip? Is there any knowledge sharing going on?
Half the fun of going to a drag race is hearing the huge roar of the cars -- particularly after the opening flag. I don't see the fun or appeal of an electric car drag race. And as for those kids a couple streets over, I think they'll still prefer the noisy cars too.
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