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 has made it Possible to drive Cross-Country in an Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 1st, 2014

Week in Review

Tesla has installed charging stations across the country.  You can now drive from Los Angeles to New York City.  As long as you want to take the scenic route and are in no hurry (see Tesla’s 800-mile cross-country detour by Chris Isidore posted 1/30/2014 on CNN Money).

Tesla owners can now drive across the country using the company’s network of charging stations to power their batteries — as long as they don’t mind going about 800 miles out of their way…

Tesla says the route…is…3,400 miles long…

The superchargers provide enough juice in 30 minutes to take a Tesla about 170 miles. There are 32 stations on the route between downtown Los Angeles and New York City, and more than 40 others mostly up and down both coasts.

The Model S, which starts at about $69,000, needs to be charged every 244 to 306 miles, depending on the battery size.

Sounds good.  But for those of us comfortable with ease of traveling with gasoline will not experience that same ease driving from one charging station to another.  Let’s look at this by first looking at a full-size sedan powered by a gasoline-engine.  Like a Ford Taurus.  They can get about 29 miles per gallon on the highway and have an 18 gallon gas tank.  Crunching the numbers for that 3,400 mile trip it will take about 117 gallons of gasoline (3,400/29).  With an 18 gallon gas tank it will take 7 fueling stops to complete the trip (117/18).  Assuming 5 minutes to refuel and another 10 minutes for incidentals (pulling in, pulling out, paying at the pump, waiting for a fuel pump to become available, etc.) that’s 105 minutes (7 X 15).  Or 1.75 hours (105/60).  Adding just under 2 hours to the trip for fueling.

For 32 charging stations to cover that 3,400 miles means they are on average 106.25 miles apart.  So a half-hour quick charge will take you to the next charging station with 170 miles of charge available on your battery.  Assuming 30 minutes to charge and another 15 minutes for incidentals (pulling in, pulling out, waiting for another car to complete their 30 minute charge, etc.) that’s 1,440 minutes (32 X 45).  Or 24 hours (1,440/60).  Adding 24 hours to the trip for charging.  Or a full day.  Or 2 days if you only drive 12 hours a day.  Or 3 days if you only drive 8 hours a day.

Now imagine a world where everyone is driving electric cars.  And there are three cars ahead of you at the charging station waiting for a charge.  Adding an hour and half waiting time in addition to your 45 minute charging stop.  If it was like this at every charging station and you drove 12 hours a day that would add 6 days of traveling to that trip.  Whereas the odds are less likely that you will have to wait for 3 cars ahead of you at a gas station.  Because there are so many more gas stations to go to.

Driving cross-country in an electric car could add 6 days to a 4-day trip.  Making the electric car a novelty at best.  Unless your vacation is all about getting there.  And not about being there.  Where you drive there, turn around and return home.  Because you have no time to spend there due to the time it took to get there.  You could do that.  Or drive a gasoline-powered car.  And do more than just drive on your vacation.

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A 2013 Tesla Model S turns a 9.5 Hour Trip into a 12.5 Hour Trip

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 14th, 2013

Week in Review

There are times when we like to take to the open road and just drive.  And if we have the time there are few things more enjoyable than taking the road less traveled.  Seeking out and exploring things we’ve never seen before.  But there are also times when the journey is so long that we want to make it in the shortest time possible.  For if we’re traveling to the favorite family fun park we’d much rather arrive by 7 PM in the daylight.  Instead of 10 PM in the dark.  So we can easily find our room.  Freshen up.  Have a nice dinner.  Shower.  And get to bed by 10 PM so we can get a good night’s sleep for a long day of fun in the morrow.  Something that a gasoline-powered car can help us do a lot better than an electric car (see We Took The Tesla Model S On A Road Trip — Here’s How It Did by George Parrott posted 12/12/2013 on Business Insider).

Once Tesla Motors built out its Supercharger network of quick-charging stations along Interstate 5, my wife and I decided to drive from our home in Sacramento to Portland in our new 2013 Tesla Model S…

It was almost 600 miles from our home in West Sacramento to our hotel room in Portland…

Our West Sacramento to Downtown Portland driving time was about 9 hours and 35 minutes of actual driving, with another 2 hours in short Supercharger stops–plus a longer stop for a full recharge (for the car) and for us (breakfast) that took a full hour.

That’s another 3 hours added to the trip.  Three hours is a lot of time.  A 30-minute charge time may seem like a short stop but if you’ve ever gone on a long trip (say, driving in excess of 8 hours) a 30-minute stop is excruciating.  Because the sun doesn’t stop with you.  It’s still racing across the sky.  And there is nothing worse than having a 9 hour trip turn into a 12 hour trip.  Where you find yourself driving dead-tired in the black of night.  Drinking coffee to try and stay awake.  Slapping your face.  Talking to yourself.  Anything to stay awake as you drive on and on into the black of night.  Praying you don’t see any moose in your headlights.  And then when you finally get to your room for the night you can’t sleep because of all that coffee you drank.  Which just ruins the first day of your vacation.

Now imagine all of this and you arrive at a charging station and you have to wait in line as other cars get their 30 minute charge.  Or you arrive at the charging station only to find it out of order.  Leaving you to find a 120V outlet to ‘steal’ electricity for 6 hours or so to give you enough charge to get to the next charging station.  Or that your car runs out of charge in the middle of nowhere in the black of night.  Before you ever made it to the charging station.  What then?  I can’t say for sure but I’ll bet it’ll involve an expletive, a reference to your electric car and a yearning for a gasoline-powered car.  As you could be surrounded by lit up gas stations full of gasoline that just won’t do a thing for you and your electric car.

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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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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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