The more Electric Cars people drive the greater the Stress on the Electric Grid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 16th, 2014

Week in Review

Have you ever noticed your lights dim when your air conditioner starts?  They do because when an electric motor starts there is a momentary short circuit across the windings.  Causing a great inrush of current as they start rotating.  Once they are rotating that inrush of current drops.  During that surge in current the voltage drops.  Because there is no resistance in a short circuit.  So there is no voltage across a short circuit.  And because everything in your house goes back to your electrical panel that momentary voltage drop affects everything in your house.  Including your lights.  The lower voltage reduces the lighting output.  Momentarily.  Once the air conditioning motor begins to rotate the short circuit goes away and the voltage returns to normal.

Air conditioners draw a lot of power.  And during hot summer days when everyone gets home from work they cause the occasional brownout.  As everybody turns on their air conditioners in the evening.  Stressing the electric grid.  Which is why our power bills rise in the summer months.  For this great rise in demand causes a corresponding rise in supply.  Costing the power companies more to meet that demand.  Which they pass on to us (see Electricity Price Surged to All-Time Record for March by Terence P. Jeffrey posted 4/16/2014 on cnsnews).

The average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity hit a March record of 13.5 cents, according data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was up about 5.5 percent from 12.8 cents per KWH in March 2013.

The price of electricity in the United States tends to rise in spring, peak in summer, and decline in fall. Last year, after the price of a KWH averaged 12.8 cents in March, it rose to an all-time high of 13.7 cents in June, July, August and September.

If the prevailing trend holds, the average price of a KWH would hit a new record this summer.

All-electric cars are more popular in California than in Minnesota.  Because there is little cold and snow in California.  And batteries don’t work so well in the cold.  AAA makes a lot of money jumping dead batteries during cold winter months.  So batteries don’t hold their charge as well in the winter.  Which is when an all-electric car requires more charge.  For the days are shorter.  Meaning that at least part of your daily commute will be in the dark and require headlights.  It is colder.  Requiring electric power for heating.  Windows fog and frost up.  Requiring electric power for defogging and defrosting.  It snows.  Requiring electric power to run windshield wipers.  Slippery roads slow traffic to a crawl.  Increasing the time spent with all of these things running during your commute.  So the all-electric car is more of a warm-weather car.  Where people who don’t live in sunny California may park their all-electric car during the worst of the winter months.  And use a gasoline-powered car instead.

As those on the left want everyone to drive all-electric cars they don’t say much about the stress that will add to the electric grid.  If everyone switched to an electric car in the summer it would be like adding a second air conditioner at every house.  Especially after work.  When everyone gets home and plugs in.  Causing an inrush of current for an hour or so as those discharged batters recharge.  A discharged battery is similar to an electric motor.  As it’s the current flow that recharges the battery cells.  There’s a high current at first.  Which falls as the battery charges.  So summer evenings will have a lot of brownouts during the summer months.  As the added electric load will greatly stress the electric grid during the evenings.  A demand that the power companies will have to supply.  At the same time they’re replacing coal-fired power plants with less reliable renewable forms of power generation.  Such as solar farms.  Which will be fast running out of sunshine as these cars plug in.

If people switch from gasoline to electric power in their cars en masse the average price for a kilowatt-hour will soar.  It’s simple economics.  Supply and demand.  The greater the demand the higher the price.  And there is little economies of scale in power production.  Because more power requires more fuel.  And the kicker is that even people who don’t drive will have to pay more on their electric bills when people switch from gasoline to electric cars.  And their gas bills if gas-fired turbines provide that peak power demand.  Raising the price of natural gas.  Making everyone pay more.  Whereas only drivers of gasoline-powered cars are impacted by the high cost of gasoline.


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Hot and Cold Weather reduce Range of Electric Cars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 22nd, 2014

Week in Review

AAA makes a lot of money during cold winters.  Because when the temperatures plummet a lot of batteries won’t start their cars.  A low cost service call for AAA.  For all it requires is about 5 minutes of time on site and a pair of jumper cables.  Connect the cables to the dead battery.  Give the AAA vehicle a little gas to increase alternator output and the car with the dead battery will start up like it’s a summer’s day.  And as soon as it does the driver can drive home.  She doesn’t have to wait for the battery to charge.  For it will trickle charge on the drive home.  While the car’s alternator will provide all the electric power needed to run the defroster blower on the windshield, the electric defroster on the rear window, the headlights, the turn signals, the stop lights, the radio, whatever.  Once the car starts gasoline will do the rest by providing the rotational motion that spins the alternator.  None of this could happen, though, with an all-electric car (see Electric car range fluctuates in extreme weather, reports AAA by Richard Read posted 3/21/2014 on The Christian Science Monitor).

We’ve known for some time that battery range in electric vehicles can fluctuate in response to temperature. However, studies and simulations have produced varying estimates of how much range owners can expect to lose…

To carry out its tests, AAA used a 2014 Ford Focus Electric Vehicle, a 2012 Mitsubishi iMIEV, and a 2013 Nissan Leaf…

When tested at the moderate temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, AAA says the three vehicles averaged 105 miles per charge. After the thermostat was cranked up to 95 degrees, however, that range plummeted to just 69 miles.

The batteries performed even worse in cold weather. When the vehicles were tested at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, they averaged just 43 miles — a 57 percent reduction in range.

Imagine yourself driving home in a February blizzard after work.  With a 30 minute drive home on the expressway.  Which is crawling along at a slow speed due to the bad weather.  Your normal 30 minute drive home turns into an hour.  As you inch along in heavy traffic.  With your wipers running.  Your heat on.  Your headlights on.  Your windshield defroster blower running.  Your rear window defroster on.  And your stop lights blinking on and off as you ride your brake in stop and go traffic.  All of these things just sucking the charge out of your battery.  Imagine all of that and tell me which kind of car would you rather be in.  An all-electric car that has only 43 miles of charge in it?  Or a gasoline-powered car that can sit in that traffic for 3 hours (or longer) before getting you home with everything running while keeping you toasty warm inside?

If you don’t want to wait for a tow truck standing next to your all-electric car in that blizzard to tow you home after it runs out of charge in that stop and go traffic I’m guessing you’ll probably choose the gasoline-powered car.  Which is why few people are buying these all-electric cars.  People don’t want a car that can only be driven in nice weather when there is little traffic on the road to slow your way home.  That’s why they choose gasoline-powered cars.  Because it will drive in anything and will always get you home as long as there is gasoline in the tank.


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There will be Carbon Emission whether we Power our Cars from Poo or Gasoline

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 2nd, 2014

Week in Review

Hydrogen is very flammable.  It’s why we use helium in our blimps.  Because using hydrogen is just too dangerous.  As the Hindenburg disaster has shown us.

So hydrogen is a pretty dangerous thing to be messing with.  Unlike gasoline.  Which is pretty safe and stable in the liquid form.  You could even put out a cigarette in a puddle of gasoline.  It’s dangerous doing so.  And you shouldn’t try it.  But the most dangerous thing about gasoline is its vapor.  Ignite that and there will be an explosion.  Which is what happens inside our internal combustion engines.  Where our cars first aerosolizes the gasoline, mixes it with air, compresses it and then ignites it.  Of course that explosion is deep within our engines.  Where it can’t harm us.  Still, it isn’t advised to smoke while refueling.  Because there are gas vapors typically where there is gas.  And you don’t want you car exploding like the Hindenburg.

Fuel cells use hydrogen to make electric power.  All you have to do is stop at your hydrogen fueling station and fill up your hydrogen tanks.  Just don’t smoke while doing this.  Because hydrogen in its natural state is an explosive gas.  This danger aside the hydrogen fuel cell is about to give the all-electric car a run for its money.  And last’s night meal may be providing the hydrogen (see POO-power comes to California: Orange County residents to trial SUVs fuelled by human waste by Mark Prigg posted 2/25/2014 on the Daily Mail).

The fuel-cell powered Tucson can drive for 50 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, and its two tanks hold about 5.64 kilograms (12.4 pounds).

Costs of compressed gas in California range from about $5 to $10 per kilogram, depending on the facility, and it takes around three minutes to fill the tank.

Hyundai says it hopes the technology will become popular – and will take on the electric car as the eco-vehicle of choice.

‘Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission vehicle technology, so we’re thrilled to be a leader in offering the mass-produced, federally certified Tucson Fuel Cell to retail customers,’ said John Krafcik of Hyundai Motor America.

‘The superior range and fast-fill refueling speed of our Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle contrast with the lower range and slow-charge characteristics of competing battery electric vehicles.

‘We think fuel cell technology will increase the adoption rate of zero-emission vehicles, and we’ll all share the environmental benefits.’

If you crunch the numbers and compare it to a gasoline-powered Ford Taurus the numbers aren’t so good.  A Ford Taurus gets 29 miles per gallon on the highway.  And has an 18 gallon gas tank.  Which means one tank of gas will take you 522 miles on the highway.  At $3 per gallon for gas that one tank of gas will cost you $54.  By comparison the fuel cell gives you only 282 miles on a full tank.  And costs between $28.20 and $56.40 for a full tank.  Dividing cost per mile that comes to somewhere between $0.10 and $0.20 per mile.  While the gasoline-powered Ford Taurus costs about $0.10 per mile.

So at best the fuel cell will have a fuel cost equal to the gasoline-powered engine.  But it only has about 54% the range on a full tank.  Meaning you’ll have to stop about twice as often to fuel up with the fuel cell.  And good luck not blowing yourself up playing with hydrogen at the fuel pump.  That is if you can even find hydrogen fueling stations along your drive.  The only real good thing you can say about a fuel cell when comparing it to a gasoline-powered car is at least it’s not as bad as an all-electric car.  And those zero-emissions?  Sorry, that’s not exactly true.  The hydrogen may be zero-emissions but making the hydrogen isn’t.

First, sewage is separated into water and biosolids.

The waste water is cleaned, filtered and treated for reuse, while solid waste is piped into airless tanks filled with microbes.

A byproduct of their digestion is a gas that’s 60 percent methane and about 40 percent carbon dioxide, which is burned at the plant for power generation.

However, some is filtered and piped into a unique, stationary ‘tri-generation’ fuel-cell device, designed by the Irvine team, that produces electricity, heat and hydrogen.

The hydrogen gas is then piped several hundred feet to the public pump where fuel-cell autos are refueled daily.

Almost half of the source gas is carbon dioxide.  And carbon dioxide has carbon in it.  This is the same gas they want to shut down coal-fired power plants for producing.  Oh, and methane?  That’s a greenhouse gas.  This is the gas coming out of the butts of cows and pigs that some are saying are warming the planet.  And when you burn methane guess what you get?  Water and carbon dioxide.  More manmade carbon emissions.  That’s a lot of global warming they’re creating in the effort to prevent global warming.

This is one thing fuel cells share with all-electric cars.  They may be emission free.  But the chemistry to make them emission-free isn’t.  We’re still putting carbon into the atmosphere.  We’re just doing it in different places.  And if we are wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier just to keep using gasoline?


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The Ford Model T is probably a Safer Choice for a Cross-Country Trip than an All-Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2014

Week in Review

The United States is no doubt tired of winter.  It’s been a long one.  Snow, ice and cold.  Especially cold.  With below-zero temperatures in northern states.  And freezing temperatures even in southern states.  In fact, it’s been such a brutal winter that every state in the United States but one has snow.  Florida.  It’s just been a long, cold winter.  But it’s been a good one for those in the snow removal business.  And for those in providing a jump-start for dead batteries.  For batteries just don’t like cold weather.  Which is another problem with all-electric cars.  In addition to finding a place and the time to charge them (see Tesla Model S Electric Car Versus … Ford Model T? A History Lesson by John Voelcker posted 2/14/2014 on Yahoo! Autos).

While the fast-expanding network of Tesla Supercharger DC quick-charging stations now permits both coast-to-coast and New York-to-Florida road trips by electric car, the magazine conducted its test last October…

And as it points out, in its area of the country (Ann Arbor, Michigan), there were no Supercharger stations last fall.

(There is now one, along I-94 in St. Joseph, Michigan, 26 miles north of the I-90 cross-country corridor–one of 76 operating U.S. Supercharger locations as of today.)

So it couched its Tesla-vs-Model T test as the equivalent, a century later, to the question it imagined potential buyers of the first automobiles may have pondered: How does this stack up against my old, familiar, predictable horse..?

In due course, small roadside businesses sprang up to sell gasoline for the newfangled contraptions, usually in the same place they could be repaired.

But travelers couldn’t be confident of finding gasoline until well into the 1920s, a result of the Model T turning the U.S. into a car-based nation almost by itself.

Imagine driving across a state the size of Michigan on a road trip.  From St. Joseph to Detroit on the other side of the state it’s about 200 miles.  Which it will take you over 3 hours to drive at posted speed limits.  Now imagine driving this with only one gas station to stop at.  One you’re not familiar with.  One that you will have to drive around a little to find.  While you’re running out of energy.  Now imagine you’re in an all-electric car.  And you find this one charging station and there are 4 cars ahead of you waiting for their 30-minute quick charge.  Which could increase your charging time from one half hour to two and a half hours.

Every gas station has electric power.  So every gas station could sell electricity for electric cars, too.  If someone had to wait a half hour to charge their car that is a lot of time they could be buying stuff from the mini mart all these gas stations have.  So why aren’t they building these things?  Is it that they don’t want the liability that might come from a faulty charger starting a battery fire?  Is it because there are so few all-electric cars to waste the investment on?  Is there a question of how to charge for electricity?  Or do they not want to turn their gas stations into parking lots with a bunch of cars waiting for their half hour of charge time?

Perhaps the reason Michigan only has one Supercharger station is because Michigan has long, cold winters.  Limiting electric car traveling to the summer months.  In fact, if you live in a northern state look for the charging stations some big stores have installed to show how green they are.  Chances are you won’t see a single car at them during the winter.  For when it comes to cold winters gasoline has it all over batteries.  Gasoline provides far greater range.  You can jump-start a gasoline engine in the coldest of winters and then drive home.  And if it’s cold you can crank the heat up to make it feel like summer inside that car.  Something you can’t do in an electric car without sacrificing further range.

The Model T was an improvement over the horse.  But the electric car is just not an improvement over the Model T.  Because a gasoline-powered car is superior to an all-electric car.  For if one was going to travel across a state the Model T would have better odds of getting you where you were going before running out of energy.  And even if you ran out of gas someone could bring a can of gasoline to you so you could drive to the next gas station.  Whereas an electric car would require a tow truck to the next charging station.


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Tesla’s Battery Swap System gives the Gasoline-Powered car a Run for its Money

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 23rd, 2013

Week in Review

The BIG problem with the all-electric car is range anxiety.  Will I have enough charge to get home?  If I don’t how long will it take to recharge my battery?  So I can get home?  You see, if you’re running low on gas you can always pull into a gas station and fill your tank in about 5 minutes.  Maybe 10-20 minutes if there are cars at all of the gas pumps and you have to wait for them to fuel first.  Then you’re back on the road with your car mechanically exactly like it was before you stopped.  The ONLY thing changed is the amount of fuel in the gas tank.  If the all-electric car can match that then people will get over their range anxiety.  And start buying them.  With a new battery swap system, Tesla believes they have done exactly that (see Tesla Shows Off A 90-Second Battery Swap System, Wants It At Supercharging Stations By Year’s End by Chris Velazco posted 6/20/2013 on TechCrunch).

Tesla can swap a Model S’s battery in just 90 seconds (that’s less time than it takes to fuel up a regular car), and you won’t even have to get out of your seat to do it…

Once a Model S owner parks the car on a designated spot, a platform raises from the ground to disconnect and grab hold of the depleted battery. The platform then descends back into the ground, dumps the battery, retrieves a fresh one, and rises once more to connect it to the car…

Frenzied drivers will still have to do some work, though — they’ll have to drop off the battery on the return leg of their journey and pay an unspecified “transport fee,” though they can also choose to keep the battery and pony up the difference between the price of the old and new batteries…

Outfitting each of those stations with the ability to quickly replace batteries and get motorists back on the road presents quite a logistics problem. There’s the cost to consider — Tesla expects each battery swap station to cost about $500,000 to build, to say nothing of the maintenance and infrastructure costs that will come now that someone presumably has to stop by each station and replace worn-down batteries.

When you get gas you’re not removing nuts and bolts.  There are no studs that can break.  No threads to strip.  Yes a battery swap is quick and hands-free but there is a chance for something to go wrong when you’re replacing a part of your car.  Especially a part that hangs underneath.  The odds may be slim that something will happen.  But when you’re gassing up this cannot happen.  Because you don’t need any tools or machines to put gasoline into the gas tank.

What if it’s winter?  And the bottom of your car is ensconced in ice?  Will there be an attendant there to chisel the ice away so the automated system can work?  And if driving on snow and ice there’s always a chance that you may spin out of control and bounce the bottom of your car off of a curb or something.  Will that cause anything to become misaligned so the automated system won’t work?  And if you cracked your battery pack will the automated system notice that while removing it?  Or will they unknowingly recharge a cracked one and give it to some unlucky driver?  Or are all battery packs new at these recharging stations?  If so that could make this battery swap more costly than buying gasoline.

Will every all-electric car have the same battery pack?  Will they all have the same charging capacity?  Or will each car that has a different battery need its own automated system?  That’s something else you don’t have to worry about with gasoline.  For you will be able to burn gasoline from any gas station in any of your cars.  Which means all you have to look for when you need fuel is a gas station.  For anyone will do.

Pit stops in NASCAR work well.  They’re fast.  And everyone is doing the best job they can with the best spare parts available.  But they don’t share with the other pit crews.  With these battery swap stations you have to place a lot of trust in your fellow Tesla drivers.  That none of them are trying to unload a damaged battery without anyone being the wiser.  I’m sure they’re all trustworthy.  But do you want to take a chance when driving at 3 in the morning?

The Tesla battery swap station is impressive.  But stopping for gasoline is so much easier and simpler to do.  And you never have to worry about what some other driver left you.  This is another huge investment in addition to the charging network they’re installing.  What happens, say, if after making this massive investment a new battery technology comes out that makes the previous ones obsolete?  As well as these battery swap stations?  What then?

Guess I’m still skeptical.  Even when it comes to what may be the finest all-electric car ever built.  For Tesla has made a beautiful car.  And brought it as closer to the gasoline-powered car in terms of range and convenience.  But it’s not a gasoline-powered car.  What we’re familiar with.  Which gives us a sense of security when driving.  Even driving home in the middle of the night through a blinding blizzard.  Confidant that our car will always be up to the task of getting us home.  Even when we may not.


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Tesla to expand Charging Network which may lead to the Success and then Failure of the All-Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 1st, 2013

Week in Review

There’s nothing like hitting the open road.  And just driving wherever your car takes you.  Because for some it’s the journey.  Not the destination.  For America has a special love affair with their cars.  They are symbolic of the liberty our Founding Fathers gave us.  The freedom to go anywhere.  All you need is a tank full of gas.  And a gas station or two along the way.  Which is something the all-electric car just can’t do.  But it’s not for a lack of trying (see Tesla tripling supercharger network for LA to NY trip by Chris Isidore posted 5/31/2013 on CNNMoney).

Musk said that the expansion of the network of superchargers, which allow the company’s cars to be recharged in about an hour, will cover most major metropolitan areas in the United States and southern Canada. While owners can charge the car using ordinary electrical current at home overnight, the supercharging stations are important for relieving drivers’ anxiety about running out of power and being stranded on long journeys.

“It is very important to address this issue of long-distance travel,” he said. “When people buy a car, they’re also buying a sense of freedom, the ability to go anywhere they want and not feel fettered.”

I don’t know about you but waiting an hour to recharge while on a road trip kind of defeats the purpose of hitting the open road.  Driving.  An hour doesn’t seem like a long time.  But the next time you go to a gas station stay there for an hour and see how it really feels.

At a speed limit of 70 MPH that’s like adding an additional 70 miles to your trip every time you stop to charge.  Or more.  For what happens if all the chargers are in use and there is a line of Tesla cars waiting for a charger when you arrive at one of these charging stations?  Because you’re not the only person driving a Tesla?  What then?  Whenever you pulled into a gas station with every pump in use you never had to wait 2 or 3 hours for your chance to spend an hour fueling your car.  But the success of all-electric cars could very well do this.  If enough people are driving them.  Well, the success would be short-lived.  For after the first hour-plus wait for a charge people will no doubt sell their all-electric cars.  And buy something gasoline-powered instead.

And here’s another thought.  Some horrific storms just blew through the Midwest.  Causing some huge power outages.  Right along some major interstate arteries passing through the state.  What do you do then?  When you need a charge and there is no electric power available?  Chances are that you’d have enough gasoline to get you to a gas station that didn’t lose its power.  But if there is only a charger every 80-100 miles you’re going to need a tow to the next charging station.  Making it harder and harder to enjoy your journey.  While your gasoline-powered companions mock you as they continue on enjoying their journey.

Someone should think long and hard about these things before pouring so much money into a charging infrastructure.  For that infrastructure will only work if they have few cars using it.  In fact, the success of the Tesla could very well lead to the failure of the all-electric car market.  When the reality of the charging problems of the all-electric car become apparent to all-electric car owners.  Who simply won’t want to spend a large part of their day waiting for a charge.  Or a tow truck.


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The Lithium-Ion Battery still not Ready to Power a Practical All-Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2013

Week in Review

If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the all-electric car with a real useful range you can start breathing again.  For the one technology that promised the most is having a setback.  Because of its propensity to burst into flames (see FAA sees lessons from Boeing 787 battery woes by Andrea Shalal-Esa posted 4/13/2013 on Reuters).

Lightweight and power-packed, lithium-ion batteries are used to power electric cars, laptops, tablets, cell phones, satellites. They are even used on the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet. The number of cells manufactured globally has leapt to 4.4 billion in 2012 from 800 million in 2002.

But safety remains an issue. The battery industry still does not have a foolproof way to predict or prevent internal short circuits in the cells, according to experts who spoke about the issue this week at the National Transportation Safety Board forum…

In the Cessna case, the FAA required that lithium-ion batteries in the Cessna Citation Model 525C, be replaced with nickel-cadmium or lead-acid batteries, older technologies that are not as volatile. Airbus officials have said they think lithium-ion batteries can eventually be made safe, but that the company was shifting to nickel-cadmium for its forthcoming A350 jet, because it doesn’t want to risk a delay in bringing the plane to market.

If you’re buying a replacement lithium-ion battery don’t try to save a buck.  Just bite the bullet and buy the brand the manufacturer recommends.  So it doesn’t burst into flames.

If these are not safe to go onto airplanes without some extraordinary precautions just imagine that all-electric car you plug in overnight in your attached garage.  There have been a couple of garage fires.  Not many.  But that’s probably more to do with the fact no one is buying these all-electric cars.   Why are these so dangerous?  Because they contain a lot of energy in a very small package.  Sort of like our early steam engines where a lot of steam pressure was in a very small package.  And when something didn’t go right like a pressure relief valve sticking they blew up in a massive explosion.

This is the risk when you try to get a lot of energy out of small packages.  They can do a lot of work for us.  But if something goes wrong something really bad can happen.  And until we can get past this point in the development of the lithium-ion battery we won’t have a practical all-electric car any time soon.


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Boeing’s 787 Battery Solution illustrates why the All-Electric Car remains more of a Novelty than a Legitimate Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

The problem with the all-electric car is the battery.  To get a decent range requires a large battery.  But a large battery adds weight.  The heavier the car is the more battery power it takes to drive the car.  Which, of course, decreases the range.  So the only solution to this problem is to come up with a better battery.  One that is smaller and lighter that can charge quickly and provide great range.  Currently, that battery is the lithium-ion battery.  The same technology Boeing used on their new 787 Dreamliner.  Those same planes that showed the drawbacks of getting more energy out of a smaller and lighter battery.  They generate a lot of heat.  And can burst into flames (see Boeing has “good” Dreamliner battery plan fix: official by Doug Palmer and Alwyn Scott posted 4/5/2013 on Reuters).

Boeing Co (BA.N) has a “good plan” to fix the battery problem that has grounded its 787 Dreamliner jets, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said on Friday as the company prepared for a test flight to check the battery system revamp…

It’s still unknown what caused the two batteries to overheat, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. Boeing came up with measures it says make the battery safe. It put more insulation in the battery, encased the battery in a steel box, changed the circuitry of the battery charger and added a titanium venting tube to expel heat and fumes outside the plane.

This is a good fix for an airplane.  For if there is a fire in the battery compartment you want to vent the heat and fumes outside of the airplane.  So the airplane doesn’t catch on fire.  Of course, this solution is not a very good one for an all-electric car that parks in attached garage plugged in overnight.  For there will be no freezing air blowing across that titanium tube like a plane flying at 40,000 feet.  That intense heat just may start the car on fire.  Or the garage.

To increase sales of the all-electric car they need to increase the range.  Even if you’re driving at night in winter with the heater and lights on.  And get stuck in stop and go traffic that adds an hour to your drive-time home.  But to do this you need to put more energy into a smaller package.  Which is often not the safest thing to do.  As Boeing learned.  So until they can come up with a battery that can give people the range to make it home safely without the car (or garage) catching on fire the all-electric car will remain more of a novelty than a legitimate car.


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Boeing’s Problems with Lithium-Ion Batteries illustrates the problem of the All-Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

The greatest cost of all airlines is fuel.  Airplanes that burn less fuel make airlines more money.  And help airlines go from losing money to making a profit.  Aircraft are complex machines.  Full of high-tech stuff.  But one of the best ways to burn less fuel is not all that high-tech.  You just make planes lighter.  One of the ways of doing that, though, is very high-tech.  The new lithium-ion battery.  Which packs a whole lot of energy in a tiny package.  Allowing Boeing to make their Dreamliner just a little bit lighter.  Allowing it to burn less fuel (see Japan Finds Swelling in Second Boeing 787 Battery by Mari Saito, REUTERS, posted 2/19/2013 on the New York Times).

Cells in a second lithium-ion battery on a Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner forced to make an emergency landing in Japan last month showed slight swelling, a Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) official said on Tuesday.

The jet, flown by All Nippon Airways Co, was forced to make the landing after its main battery failed…

The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority grounded all 50 Boeing Dreamliners in commercial service on January 16 after the incidents with the two Japanese owned 787 jets.

The groundings have cost airlines tens of millions of dollars, with no solution yet in sight.

Boeing rival Airbus said last week it had abandoned plans to use lithium-ion batteries in its next passenger jet, the A350, in favor of traditional nickel-cadmium batteries.

Lighter and more powerful than conventional batteries, lithium-ion power packs have been in consumer products such as phones and laptops for years but are relatively new in industrial applications, including back-up batteries for electrical systems in jets.

As it turns out it can be a little risky packing a whole lot of energy into tiny packages.  It may make batteries lighter.  But it’s like putting a tiger in a box.  If it isn’t a good box it’s not going to restrain that tiger.  And that’s what sort of has been happening with lithium-ion batteries.  People who bought discount replacement cell phone batteries saw those cheap knockoffs burst into flames.

Lithium-ion batteries have a tendency to burst into flames if they are overcharged.  This is the risk of using concentrated energy.  It’s why they grounded the entire fleet of Boeing Dreamliners.  And it’s why the all-electric car is not practical.  The one battery that gives it a useful range can be a little temperamental.  Like a tiger in a box.


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One of the Finest All-Electric Cars is Beaten by the Cold Temperatures of the East Coast

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2013

Week in Review

The all-electric car is great as long as it’s warm and you don’t plan on driving great distances (see Tesla stock dips on poor Model S review by Maureen Farrell posted 2/11/2013 on CNN Money).

The idea of a driving an electric car has always intrigued me, but after reading a New York Times review of the Tesla (TSLA) Model S on I-95, it sounds like a total nightmare.

According to the writer, the battery on the Model S drained much quicker than promised in cold weather during a recent trip up and down the East Coast. With only a few charging stations in the Northeast, the writer was forced to turn off the heat in 30 degree weather to conserve power. And that didn’t help him much. At one point he needed to get towed for 45 minutes to the next charging station.

Here are some excerpts from the New York Times article.

The 480-volt Supercharger stations deliver enough power for 150 miles of travel in 30 minutes, and a full charge in about an hour, for the 85 kilowatt-hour Model S. (Adding the fast-charge option to cars with the midlevel 60 kilowatt-hour battery costs $2,000.) That’s quite a bit longer than it takes to pump 15 gallons of gasoline, but at Supercharger stations Tesla pays for the electricity, which seems a reasonable trade for fast, silent and emissions-free driving. Besides, what’s Sbarro for..?

I began following Tesla’s range-maximization guidelines, which meant dispensing with such battery-draining amenities as warming the cabin and keeping up with traffic. I turned the climate control to low — the temperature was still in the 30s — and planted myself in the far right lane with the cruise control set at 54 miles per hour (the speed limit is 65)…

At that point, the car informed me it was shutting off the heater, and it ordered me, in vivid red letters, to “Recharge Now…”

I spent nearly an hour at the Milford service plaza as the Tesla sucked electrons from the hitching post…

When I parked the car, its computer said I had 90 miles of range, twice the 46 miles back to Milford. It was a different story at 8:30 the next morning. The thermometer read 10 degrees and the display showed 25 miles of remaining range — the electrical equivalent of someone having siphoned off more than two-thirds of the fuel that was in the tank when I parked.

I called Tesla in California, and the official I woke up said I needed to “condition” the battery pack to restore the lost energy. That meant sitting in the car for half an hour with the heat on a low setting…

The Tesla people found an E.V. charging facility that Norwich Public Utilities had recently installed. Norwich, an old mill town on the Thames River, was only 11 miles away, though in the opposite direction from Milford.

After making arrangements to recharge at the Norwich station, I located the proper adapter in the trunk, plugged in and walked to the only warm place nearby, Butch’s Luncheonette and Breakfast Club, an establishment (smoking allowed) where only members can buy a cup of coffee or a plate of eggs. But the owners let me wait there while the Model S drank its juice. Tesla’s experts said that pumping in a little energy would help restore the power lost overnight as a result of the cold weather, and after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford.

Looking back, I should have bought a membership to Butch’s and spent a few hours there while the car charged. The displayed range never reached the number of miles remaining to Milford, and as I limped along at about 45 miles per hour I saw increasingly dire dashboard warnings to recharge immediately. Mr. Merendino, the product planner, found an E.V. charging station about five miles away.

But the Model S had other ideas. “Car is shutting down,” the computer informed me. I was able to coast down an exit ramp in Branford, Conn., before the car made good on its threat.   Tesla’s New York service manager, Adam Williams, found a towing service in Milford that sent a skilled and very patient driver, Rick Ibsen, to rescue me with a flatbed truck. Not so quick: the car’s electrically actuated parking brake would not release without battery power, and hooking the car’s 12-volt charging post behind the front grille to the tow truck’s portable charger would not release the brake. So he had to drag it onto the flatbed, a painstaking process that took 45 minutes. Fortunately, the cab of the tow truck was toasty.

At 2:40 p.m., we pulled into the Milford rest stop, five hours after I had left Groton on a trip that should have taken less than an hour. Mr. Ibsen carefully maneuvered the flatbed close to the charging kiosk, and 25 minutes later, with the battery sufficiently charged to release the parking brake and drive off the truck, the car was back on the ground.

And this is perhaps the finest all-electric car in the market.  And it is a modern marvel.  But even as high-tech as it is it still can’t change the law of physics.  Batteries don’t work well in cold temperatures.  It takes time to charge a battery.  Even at 480 volts.  And it should also be noted that charging lithium-ion batteries is itself not the safest thing to do.  For if they over charge they can catch fire.  These are the same batteries they have on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  That the FAA grounded because their lithium-ion batteries were catching on fire.

Had he been driving at night he probably would have gotten a message that the car was shutting off its headlights, too.  To conserve battery charge.  Which would probably be a little more hazardous than driving without heat in the dark.

If you drive where it is cold the last thing you want is for your car to shut down.  Unable to get you home.  And this is the warmth and security a gasoline engine gives you.  You can top off your tank the night before to be extra safe you won’t run out of fuel.  And if the temperature falls to 40 below zero over night you will have the same amount of gasoline in your tank in the morning.  If you get stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in 40 degree below zero weather you will be able to stay toasty warm.  And if you’re driving after dark you will even be able to see where you are going.  Thanks to gasoline.  And the internal combustion engine.

Or you can try to save the environment and die of exposure instead.  Your choice.  Gasoline.  Or electricity.  Range anxiety or carefree driving.  Shivering in the cold to squeeze out a few extra miles.  Or sitting comfortably in your car with your coat off.  Killing an hour every time you charge your car perhaps once or twice a day.  Or spending 10 minutes pumping gas maybe once a week.  Pain in the ass.  Or convenience.  Your choice.


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