@Karen: thanks for this nice post. you have depcited the scenario in a wonderful way without losign the gravity of the situation. the fact that hte batteries for EVs (and for most consumer electronics) are still inefficient and that we go to wait for smarter battery technology that recharges an EV by green energy is the reality.
@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!
Karen, the weight of the batteries, as you point out, is very problematic. We have debated this in Design News quite a bit. I was just looing some of the numbers up. For example, the Roadster weighs about 2,700 lbs. The Lotus Elise, after which it was modeled, weighs about 1,900 pounds. The Tesla S is a VERY heavy car. It weighs over 4,600 lbs. The BMW 5 series (the 550 model, which has similar power) is 4,300 lbs. Since the chasis cannot be lighter (similar requirements for safety, rigidity, etc.) there is not much scope for lightening. I think that fuel cells, or other technologies will be a better long term solution. The electric motors are much lighter than a ICE, and the transmissions, when they are used, are simpiler and lighter.
Another thing to consider is that the IEEE, in Spectrum Magazine, did an analysis of the environmental imact of the current electric car and concluded that it was worse than current ICE vehicles. That is a difficult analysis to do, but you put your finger on it when you mentioned the coal burning power plants. Now, the only thing about that is that the power sources can change to become more green without you doing anything. Refining gasoline is also a major source of CO2.
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.
@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!
When all of the dust settles on EVs and hybrids, I believe the winner will be a very efficient internal combustion engine. So far it seems clear (at least to me) that car makers will not make much of a dent in the looming CAFE standards by selling EVs and hybrids. The CAFE standards will be met with highly efficient ICEs. Just wait. In the next few short years, we'll see some real advances in the efficiency of ICEs.
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!
Hey ChriSharek, I understand your concern about burning fossil fules. Yet I still believe the ICE will end up winning the CAFE standard race. When it comes down to it, at this point EVs and hybrids are also powered by fossil fules -- except in rare instances.
I am somewhat skeptical about 3X efficiency for EV vs ICE. If one looks at 1) the charging system (the utility grid) and 2) the currently additional cost of the battery pack, there's a big question in my mind regarding supposed improved afficiency of EVs. To the efficiency of the battery/mnotor/regen braking system, one needs to add (subtract) the efficiency of the grid generating system, etc. In addition, there is a serious convenience (and possibly safety) factor with a pure EV: What if you are away from home and the battery runs out of charge? Can you get to a charging station? What if you need to get someone to the hospital...on a dead battery. And how long will a charge take - without harming the very expensive-to-replace battery pack? We hear talk of "driving up to a service station, plugging in and getting a full charge in 10 minutes." Really? Or wishful thinking?
To veer a bit away from the EV/Hybrid/ICE question, one might want to also want to consider just what a family car entails. Obviously, there are many answers to this question, but for people living in the northern half of the USA, here's a possible answer: a moderately (without a windshield that turns into a greenhouse/oven in the sun) streamlined "box on wheels" with sufficient room for family members - say 2 adults and 2 kid - plus baggage/groceries/soccer gear/whatever. It would be nice if the car had some reasonable ground clearance so it wouldn't bog down if you had to drive through 6 inches of unplowed snow, and 4-wheel or all-wheel drive with antilock brakes, traction control, etc. would be nice. If that sounds a bit like a small SUV, you are correct. For a single or couple, a subcompact car is fine - the one-person commute to work, although the typical road-hugging, low ground clearance car is definitely a fair-weather vehicle. Spending a snowy night sleeping on the rug in your office because you know that you won't be able to make it home may be good for war stories, but it's not a way to live, in my book...
As for what sort of engine or motor would power such a car, I think the ICE is still the way to go. I have a 2011 Subaru Forester (a small SUV) which typically exceeds 30 MPG; such a car with a diesel engine would probably exceed 40 MPG. If one is trying to make a social statement, then by all means, go with an EV or Hybrid, or a small "bullet on wheels" that will get 50 MPG or better. But be prepared to give up a lot of convenience if you do.
When we buy a car, we have to make a number of not necessarily complementary choices, and ultimately, the indiviual decision is based on economics and convenience: are we willing to make a compromise; to pay a bit more in fuel costs in order to more closely meet our transportation needs? I'm not too worried about using ICE power; I think the global warming thing is vastly overstated, and we don't seem to be running out of oil and natural gas in any great hurry. In the meantime, cars (of all sizes) are becoming more efficient and research on truly practical (and affordable) batteries for EVs is ongoing. I suspect that practical EVs will be available long before there is a shortage of fossil fuels.
Hey Brooks, I agree that practical EVs will be available long before fossil fuels give out. It will happen slowly. At some point fossil fuels will become so expensive that EVs won't seem so dear. Plus, EV technology developments will bring down the cost of EVs.
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"?
A while back power steering was an uncommon extra price option, and those cars were quite a bit heavier than many of today's very light vehicles. So how about adding a tax on power steering as an un-needed luxury item. That would serve as a start in removing the obstacles toward really good stop-start systems. An added benefit would be reduced weight and improved reliability, as well as getting better milage.
Right you are, William K. I managed to drive a 1965 Ford Country Sedan (station wagon) with a 390 CID engine, A/C, and NO power steering. It wasn't much fun to parallel park but once you were moving, steering wasn't really an issue.
A power steering system would certainly not be a requirement for a vehicle under 2000 lbs GVW (maybe for a HC driver). The line you always get from manufacturers re power steering is ".... FWD vehicles are harder to steer and need power steering....." Many years ago I drove a vehicle w/FWD and NO power steering. I couldn't really tell much difference between it and a RWD vehicle, as far as sterring difficulty under normal driving conditions. Anyway, all the extra compnents turn out to be additional failure points.
I had a similar experience, Hank-4. I learned to drive on a 1965 Bel Ait station wagon with no AC, no power steering and a stick shift. It was tough to parallel park and tough to learn on, but after that, every car seemed easy to drive.
Wilkliam K, I like the idea of adding insulation to cut donw on the need for air conditioning. The insulation would be a one-time cost, and the savings on fuel would probably pay for it over and over. I was fine without air conditioning when I lived in Michigan. Now that I'm in New Mexico, it's a different story.
@Karen, really nice article. I do hope that the researchers find a way to make the car battery charging system totally green either by a better recharging system or by discovering some new powerfull battery source that has more engergy density to weight ratio. It will truly solve many problems relating to fuel efficiency and eco friendly environment.
PS I do hope that you decide the best car for yourself and for this environment as well. Best of luck!
Your stated criteria is safety, comfort, fuel efficiency, and style.
1) Tesla is the safest as money can buy. As tests have shown.
2) Comfort is subjective. Tesla is the most quiet, has the best acceleration, handling and trunk space. However you may find the big screen distracting and an annoyance. Not many people like technology and what is technology today may be absurdly primitive outdated reminder of the bygone foolishness.
3) Fuel efficiency. They say coal plants are twice as efficient as car engines. So if you buy into that and the possibility they may come up with even more environmentally power plants Tesla is clearly the best. Tesla also has eight year unlimited mileage warranties. And if you live near one of their superchargers your electricity for recharging will be free forever. However you might want to go with a standard vehicle you can take your family on vacations without range anxiety or planning. Efficiency is great but should you really be thinking about that with a family?
4) Style. That's all in the eye of the beholder. Your eyes.
They may make shock absorbers that convert movement into electricity. Seems as natural as making breaks that are regenerative. Surely this is an idea that is ready for implementation! MEMS for MEMS sake though don't make me want to buy a car. In fact just the opposite. To me they represent possible failure points... What might be more important is keeping that 12 year old part of the family for the next six years. Being able to buy love usually doesn't come so easily!
@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!
Karen,before getting a new car you should do complete reky on different cars and different technologies. Yes Evs car are insufficient for few users whose daily milage is very high. Basically i myself is in the process of getting a new car but unable to decide because as we knw these days Hybrid cars are too in and logically they are very economical from feul point of view(PRIUS) but the mantainance of the battery is very expensive secondly there batteries are very costly as well.
If i will go to get a car i will try to check out the resale valua of that particular car as well. For me comfort, feul effeciency, resale value and definitely cost matters a lot .
It is said that electric cars dont pollute at all this is not correct according to me because when the batteries are charged they emmit certain gases depending upon the type of batteries. They can be hydrogen, oxygen , suphur fumes or other however hydrogen and oxygen are not harmfull but there mixture can cause pollution.
Secondly we usually creat hype that cell phones emit electromagnetic radiations however electromagnetic radiations emmited by electric vehicles are far more than that.
Debera, the "pollution" you're referring to that is emitted from limited number of STATIONARY, FEDERALLY REGULATED power plant stacks has more air pollution controls than you can imagine. In an Air Pollution course, we visited a coal burning plant in Orlando so we could see first hand the controls on top of controls that scrub the emissions from this plant. There is no comparison with the millions of MOBILE tailpipes some of which aren't even STATE-regulated any longer (Florida included).
With the addition of more and more solar and other renewables along with the tightening air pollution requirements, the grid is getting cleaner every day. Electricity is the ONLY correct answer.
According to one estimate, the US could cut its' oil imports by 20% if American citizens bought fuel efficient cars instead of gas-guzzling SUVs, trucks, and overweight overpowered saloons. The route to fuel efficiency doesn't lead from 3.6 litre 2.5 ton pickups to a Prius. A 1.6 litre, 100 hp, 1.4 ton saloon meets the automotive requirements of virtually every city dweller - just look to Europe - for a significant saving in purchasing and running costs, as well as environmental impact.
Where I live there is an ever increasing market segment for the super-mini style car - as in Kia Picanto, Honda Jazz, Toyota Jazz, etc, - simply because they make economic sense. You can always hire a Camry for a bi-annual out-of-state trip.
Stupidly in Florida, we have started buying Full-Sized SUV Yukons for our Sheriff vehicles. Then our governments complain about how the Ad Valorem taxes are down and they need to "do more with less". What a joke.
Battar, you are spot on. If we would only purchase what we NEED rather than what we WANT or can afford, we would ALL be better off.
This was a most disappointing article. So many gross inaccuracies, where to start?
The weight of the car is of minor importance; what matters is the overall energy efficiency of the vehicle. EVs are at least 3X more efficient than internal combustion cars, even if they weigh more.
"A few hundred miles" is plenty of range for daily use. For road trips Tesla is building a Supercharger network.
Even running on 100% coal EVs are still a little better environmentally than comparably sized gasoline vehicles. Your state gets only 48% of its electricity from coal, so you're already doing better than twice as good. The coal numbers are declining rapidly as utilities switch to far cleaner natural gas.
Lithium batteries do NOT contain lead. They are NOT a disposal problem - they are nontoxic and readily recycled. No EV manufacturer makes a car that requires new batteries every three years. Tesla warranties their batteries for eight years, so they must expect them to last rather longer than that.
Battery powered cars are NOT inefficient. In fact they are far more efficient than gasoline vehicles - by at least a factor of three.
Hello! I am so glad that this blog is sparking even more discussion. Someone on Twitter just pointed me in the direction of the group "Better Place" and their founder, Shai Agassi who recently wrote an article in his LinkedIn Group on how "Tesla a Threat to the auto industry but Detroit is reacting all wrong"
I agree with you that the battery is still a limitation, Karen. For me, it's insufficient. With one child still in college, I often drive 350 miles on a saturday. There's no EV that can adequately address that problem yet, and EVs are still too costly for me to keep one as an "around-the-town" car.
My impression is that the energy harvesting suspension tale has been rather completely debunked. On most roads there is just not enough suspension travel to generate enough power to be worth the effort. Of course, gravel roads with the washboard potholes would be the exception, but most folks avoid those where there is any other choice available. All that you need to do to prove that is put a temperature monitor on a shock absorber and then wrap it with insulation, and watch the temperature rise as you drive. Not enough energy to be worth the expense of collecting it, given the small amount of power that the alternators use. And in addition, there would be a much smaller amount to recover when stuck in slowly moving city traffic.
Likewise, regenerative braking would not work out very well in typical slow city driving, although it could be worthwhile in a more suburban scene.
For any energy harvesting scheme to be worthwhile, the amount of energy available must be adequate, other wise, just because it can be done does not mean that it is worth doing.
You are asking the right general question, you aren't using the best tools to analyze the answer.
1) I admire you are looking at EVs for a family car, but, be aware, that the technology isn't ready for main stream, you when you buy an EV are being an Early adopter, and need to be a savvy user. Buying an EV car today is much like buying a personal computer in 1983, you need to be Nerd Friendly and willing to play with the technology.
2) The measures to analyze a car isn't Curb weight but you probably want to consider Grams CO2/KM or Levelized Cost/ KM. Why do you care what the weight is? Are you going to pick it up? Weight matters within the same format and type, it matters less comparing an EV to a hybrid to a ICE engine. EVs perform great on crash because they are heavy, that low battery keeps them from turning over and handle momentum.
3) By 2020, electrics will have fully invaded the market, but, right now EVs are closer to the 1930's then the 1980's. That means you have to consider Daily Range requirements and then consider Weekend range requirements and then family trips. When i was a kid, my parents would buy tiny little cracker box cars, Mom had a Fiat 128 and Dad drove a Toyota Corolla. You could fit 2 adults and 3 kids in the back but for trips out of town, they would rent a car for the holiday, usually a station wagon, so we could take the dog, coolers, luggage, etc.. With an EV, you may need to do that for awhile.
4) Level 3 chargers are growing fast, right now what is a "Adventure" figuring out how to go cross country on electric, is rapidly turning into a task equivalent to driving a diesel or propane car. You will need a map of the stations, but you are unlikely to find yourself range challenged. http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger http://www.afdc.energy.gov/locator/stations/results?utf8=%E2%9C%93&location=&filtered=true&fuel=ELEC&owner=all&payment=all&ev_dc_fast=true&radius_miles=5 THere are 181 Level 3 chargers nationwide, soon there will be more. What you need is enough range for daily driving
5) The Hybrids are the gateway drug to an EV, consider a Prius V mini wagon, or a
Toyota Highlander Hybrid or a plug in Prius,
6) WHat powers your grid drives your carbon loads, but you can buy power from clean sources. In DC, we can buy electricity from Clean Currents, what prevents you from
opting for Clean electricity? Also, you can get a 2 KW solar array and go to generating your own clean power for the car.
If you want a big family van or 7 passenger car, the EV's aren't really there at good price points, but, if you can delay 2 years or look at a Leaf or FIT EV or Spark EV as a supplemental car, the market is expanding fast.
For recharging an EV from a solar charger, the big challenge is that most solar chargers work poorly in the dark. And given that the classic work schedule has one away from home doing work during the sunshine hours, that winds up being a problem, and I don't see an easy way around it , except to have two battery packs and charge them on alternate days. BUt that is both expensive and a lot of work.
The effort required to obtain a charging station at a place of employment is certainly not trivial by any stretch. In addition there is always the probability that some others would choose to park in that spot, either to use the charging connection or else just because they could. Perhaps it would be easier to do in some prts of the country and at some employers, but my preference has been to work at the smaller organizations that are not so very gifted with all kinds of resources. Besides all of that, my EV would still need charging on those days when I don't go to work. In addition it is not clear that there would be enough solar electricity available from a reasonably priced array to charge an EV in the time of available sunshine. And in this corner of michigan we often have days that would not power solar charging at all. So while solar generated electricity is probably a good idea in principle, it is probably not the best choice for charging up a car.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.