The ICE technolgoy is older than you are, Rob. It's clearly not a sustainable solution for the planet. Despite the estimates, fossil fuels are FINITE. Think of your kid's future, or your kid's kid's future!
@Vimalkumarp thanks so much for being the first one to comment on the blog and thanks for your appreciation of my writing style too. I figured this topic was important for all of us on a personal level, so I wrote it as such. And I totally agree with you - we need more engineers working on the issue of smarter battery technology!
@naperlou thanks for the feedback on the weight of the Tesla! I guess I bought into their marketing hype that the engine is of lower weight. Whoops. And also thank you for pointing out the IEEE Spectrum article on weighing the costs/benefits of EV vs. ICE. I also know that my almater, Carnegie Mellon Universitiy, did a similar study and found out that ICE had less of an environmental impact (based on today's technology for energy sources). But as you can tell from the posts that have followed yours, it's a complicated issue!
ChriSharek: I looked at the article you mentioned, and there are some good points there. One is in my comment. The sources of electricity can become cleaner over time. There is no guarntee of that, but I would expect the trend to continue. Assuming that an industry would become as efficient as another industry over time, just becuause of increases in scale, is not a good assumption. The components of an electric car are, in many cases, the same as an ICE vehicle. Electric motors have been used in transportation for a long time (locomotives) and electric motor production will not become more efficient just because of scale in the automotive industry. The only real differentiator is the battery. That is NOT guarnteed to get better at a sufficient rate over time. I believe, without any special knowledge, that there will be another technology that will power our cars in the future.
On the other hand, considerinf the source, I wouls take the IEEE article over a NRDC article on a technical matter. If you had read the IEEE article, you would know that the author did not expect to get the answer he did. I don't believe that the NRDC would have published an article if their results were the same as the IEEE article. The IEEE has no incentive to put down electric vehicles. Their main focus is electrical. They are also a professional organization, not an advocacy group. So, I wouldn't count articles as a way of trying to find the truth.
@ioconnor thanks for your post re. my decision on what car to buy - and yes, it's complicated and you highlighted many of the issues and concerns that I have (that weren't in the article b/c of space requirements). Thanks for the reality check!
Interesting article, no doubt. But like Rob says, don't count the ICE cars out just yet. A lightweight ICE driven vehicle with a good stop-start system could easily cut fuel consumption in half for average city driving. That much would not be difficult at all. The two big enemies are power steering and air conditioning. Pwer steering is the reason that my engine does not drop back down to idle when I shift into neutral and coast up to a red light. Some idiot has decided that it needs to hold 1500RPM for me to be able to steer. A small hydraulic accumulator would be a much better way to handle that. And for the other enemy, air conditioning, it would take a revision of the entire concept to include much better insulation so that cars would not heat up so very rapidly. And it may well be that a lot of people would much prefer that all fuel be burned up in the next few years to giving up their air conditioned vehicles. That 5 to 7 horsepower driving the compressor and fan is about equal to the power needed to drive a modern car down the road at a constant speed. But it does not seem that this unfortunate fact is given much attention, probably because the backlash would bve a show-stopper.
William K. brings up a good point re the lightweight vehicle. The Toyota Prius just automatically comes to mind. The Prius has something like a 1.5L engine with a 13:1 compression ratio to increase engine efficiency. Does anyone know if Toyota (or anyone else, for that matter) has ever set up a Prius to run pure gasoline-electric (i.e. none of the "hybrid" stuff that requires the battery pack)? I can't help but believe that if you just lose the weight of the battery pack, you might get better highway milage than the hybrid. An automatic engine start/stop feature would go a long way toward improving milage in the city. An electric/hydraulic PS system might replace an engine-driven PS pump. I know a lot of researh has be done on an electric servo type PS system ... and I'm not really sure that this hasn't already been implemented on some vehicles.
Like William K, I think that we're probably stuck with the ICE for the foreseeable future. There are still a number of improvements that can be made to this component. Can we say, "REAL variable diplacement"?
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