A small (10 - 20 HP) ICE w/ generator as a range extender/recharger makes SO much sense. It's light, allows use of smaller battery, would give unlimited range at in-town speeds, allow recharging while parked when trip is over 50% of battery range and totally eliminates 'range anxiety'.
BMW useded this in one of their recent prototypes. I thought it was brilliant.
It almost sounds like we're relearning how and why the internal combustion became dominant, doesn't it? It would be nice if you could just carry the amount of energy you need, and/or pick up more along the way in a quick and efficient manner. Gasoline is not going to carry us in the long term, and battery power (and everything else) brings challenges of its own.
Just to add the point that weight in an electric car is not as negative a factor compared to non-electrics, due to regenerative braking, in fact if the regenerative braking was 100% efficient (that is if all kinetic energy was recovered back into the battery when braking) there would almost be no penalty with the added weight, plus the added stabily if the batteries can be located low and toward the center of the car, and the fact that cars with higher mass are safer in collisions, with all other things held constant. In the real world with say 75% efficent energy recovery, adding 20% to the cars weight (in batteries) would increase energy comsumption in stop and go (or uphill and downhill) driving by 5% maximum. In constant speed driving the only decrease in efficiency may be due to slight increase in rolling resistance due to the added weight.
I agree with the 'smaller, not bigger' approach but 90% of trip needs is a non-starter for most buyers.
A second more efficient car is practical to buy for a lot of consumers but the overhead of owning is not. If the Fed. government wanted to help (without these stupid subsidies) it would mandate that insurance companies and states not insure and license cars but drivers. I can't drive two (or more) cars any further than I can one.
The current EV's being built are not economy cars but advanced tech, statment cars so should be judged by comparing them to BMW's, Lotus, etc, not with a Honda Fit. In that class they are rather inexpensive.
Big auto doesn't want to build cheap ones because they make less and EV's last so long, cutting both replacement and ICE repair parts profits, a major money maker for them.
I agree with Charles a too big battery which I define as over 100 mile range as wasteful. But so is any 1 person in any 3k-4klb cars, EV or ICE.
90% of US trips can be done with an 80 mile range 2 seat EV! And safe, cost effective ones can be done in under 1,000 lbs if they can break from steel bodies/chassis and finally go composite.
I think the Mitsubishi MiEV comes closest on that score (weight-wise), among the current crop of EVs. However, it's not cheap. The Mitsubishi cars web site lists it as "starting" at $21.6K and that's AFTER tax rebates/incentives. So on the cost curve versus gas cars, I don't see how it's cost effective. Electric cars won't take off until the same thing happens for driver as it did for factory, residential, and business owners. Namely, when energy becomes too expense, and you can reap real savings by going green, then people do it in droves. It's "follow the money," as opposed to the tree-hugger effect, which is really just early adopters. Now that gas is hitting $4/gal again, we'll see interest, but mainly in hybrids, which are now essentially mainstream. Plug ins still have a long way to go (economically speaking and I guess range-wise too :)
Generally speaking, the big problem with large batteries is that they horribly inefficient on short trips or when they are depleted. If you are driving an 800-lb depleted battery around, you're carrying dead weight. Same with a short trip to the store: Even if the battery is fully charged, why would you need an 800-lb battery to get a cup of coffee from your local Starbuck's?
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