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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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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Crude Oil, Separators, Pipelines, Cathode Protection System, Pump Stations, Tank Farms, Refineries, Distribution Centers and Gas Stations

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 26th, 2012

Technology 101

Pipelines Crisscross the Country carrying Raw Crude Oil to Refineries and Refined Petroleum Products Out

Do you know what the most fascinating thing about the gasoline you burn in your car?  Only a few weeks earlier it was raw crude oil in the pores of rock deep underground.  The oil business is a remarkably efficient business.  Remarkable machines, pipelines and refineries have made getting gasoline into our cars a fast and speedy process.  But it hasn’t come cheap.  Those machines, pipelines and refineries are incredibly expensive.  Which is a power incentive to move and process that crude oil quickly.  From oil underground to gasoline in you gas tank.

And that process begins at the wellhead.  Because what comes out of that well is not pure crude oil.  What comes up the well is a frothy mixture of oil, gas and salt water.  They have separators located at or near the wellheads to separate this mixture into its components.  Getting the gas out of the oil is easier than getting the water out.  This often requires additional processing.  They can ‘dry’ the oil by cooking the water out.  Heating the oil (by burning some of the previously separated gas) in a container sends the oil to the top where it floats on the water.  The water pulled out of the well and separated from the oil is not clean enough to pour into a river or stream.  So they pump it back from whence it came.  Into another well.  Where it can help force more oil up to the surface.

They pipe the oil mixture from the wells in an oil field to these separators.  Pipelines from the separators carry the processed oil (and natural gas) to pipeline terminals.  Where they feed into a main pipeline that carries the oil to a refinery.  (Natural gas does not need refining and simply enters the pipeline system that distributes natural gas to end users).  Pipelines crisscross the country carrying raw crude oil to refineries.  And refined petroleum products out.  Sending jet fuel to airports.  Diesel fuel to railroad fueling yards.  And gasoline and diesel to the distribution centers that feed our local gas stations.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline holds about 9 Million Barrels of Oil inside the Pipeline at any Given Time

There is a lot of political opposition to pipelines.  They say they are an environmental disaster waiting to happen.  In truth there have been few pipeline disasters.  For two reasons.  It takes an enormous investment to get oil out of the ground.  So any leaks in a pipeline would greatly reduce the return on their investment.  Secondly, oil is flammable.  Any pipeline leak could light the fuse to a powerful explosion.  Which would reduce their return on investment far more than just a leak.  So they make these pipelines out of high-strength steel with welded joints.  They even x-ray the welds to detect any defects.  Because any lost oil is lost profit.  Which means any accident that hurts the environment will hurt them in the pocketbook.  So they will protect the environment because that is the best way to protect their investment.

Steel corrodes.  Especially when in contact with the earth.  In fact, the chemical interaction of the elements in the soil with the steel in the pipeline acts like a battery.  Creating small electric currents that can accelerate the corrosion process.  So they cover these steel pipelines in layers of tar-like material and an insulation wrapping.  In addition to this they install a cathode protection system.  Where another more corrosive material is placed in contact with the pipeline so it corrodes instead of the pipeline.  Or they install an active system where they bury anodes underground along the pipeline and attach a DC power source.  They connect the positive terminal of the power source to the anode system.  And the negative terminal to the pipeline (the cathode).  This current can prevent the galvanic action that can accelerate the corrosive process.

Oil is thick and viscous.  It doesn’t flow easily.  So they need big (diameter) pipelines.  And lots of pumps to push this oil to a refinery.  Even under high pressures this oil moves leisurely along at about 3-5 miles per hour.  But it doesn’t have to move fast.  Not once we fill these pipelines with oil.  Because new oil pumped into the pipeline at one end pushes out oil at the other end.  And when it does it pushes out a lot of oil.  In fact, our pipelines hold far more oil than all our storage tanks at all our refineries.  The pipeline that crosses Alaska (the Trans-Alaska Pipeline) is about 4 feet in diameter and 800 miles long.  If you do the math that comes to about 9 million barrels of oil inside the pipeline at any given time.  By comparison a modern large oil tanker can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil.

We burn Gasoline in our Cars that mere Weeks Earlier was still Underground in the Porous Matrix of Rock Formations

There are pump stations about every 60-100 miles along a pipeline.  These pumps suck a lot of energy to pump that viscous fluid.  But it is still more cost efficient than shipping that oil by truck or rail.  These pumps usually have a roof over them.  But no walls.  To prevent any buildup of explosive vapors from accumulating.  Which is one of the drawbacks of dealing with petroleum oil and its products.  Especially the stuff we eventually pump into our gas tanks.

At pipeline terminals, refineries and tanker ports there is a backup of oil waiting to enter a pipeline.  Or to be refined.  So we have to store it.  In tank farms.  Where tidy rows of squat round tanks with floating roofs (to prevent any buildup of explosive vapors) hold enormous amounts of oil until the next stage in the oil processing system is ready for it.  But not for long.  These tank farms at our refineries hold maybe 2 weeks worth of oil.  Not much.  But enough.  You see, oil doesn’t sit still for long.  For it takes about two weeks for oil on average to travel from the wells through the pipelines to the tank farms at our refineries.  So as the refineries draw down this oil in the storage tanks new oil arrives to replace it.  In a continuous, wondrous process.  That ends at the gas station.

Refined petroleum products leave the refineries pretty much the way they arrived.  In a pipeline.  The refined products are thinner and less viscous.  So the outbound pipelines are smaller in diameter.  After refining they pump gasoline into another tank farm.  These tanks feed another pipeline network.  These pipelines eventually terminate at distribution centers.  It is here where tanker trucks fill up to replenish the underground tanks at our local gas stations.  The gas entering these distribution centers is the same.  The different gas stations will add their own additives at this point to differentiate their gas from their competitors.  Then we pump it into our car.  And then enjoy the American experience of travelling the open road.  Burning gasoline that mere weeks earlier was still underground in the porous matrix of rock formations.

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Volkswagen testing the Anemic American Electric Car Market

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 24th, 2012

Week in Review

Volkswagen is testing the American market for an electric car.  They will lease 20 electric Golfs for a nine month period to determine that there is no market for electric cars in America (see Volkswagen to test electric Golf in U.S. by Chris Woodyard posted 3/23/2012 on USA Today).

Volkswagen, which has scored big with diesels in the U.S., is about to expand its horizons. It’s going to field about 20 Golf electric vehicles in a test, Automotive News reports.

It’s only a nine-month test, but it should be at least a start in trying to see how owners will deal with the notion of having to plug in their car every day and other issues. It’s a prelude to the e-Golf, which will arrive in showrooms sometime next year, the News says.

Diesel cars are successful for one simple reason.  They still use fossil fuels.  Just like gasoline cars.  So there is really no changing of one’s driving habits to go diesel.  For pretty much every gas station in America has diesel fuel.  Which means if you’re cruising down the highway enjoying a great American past time you can pull in any number of convenient gas stations.  Fuel up.  And get right back out on the open road.  Americans like that.  The freedom of fossil fuels.  Going wherever the road takes you.  Secure in knowing that you’ll always be able to get back home.

Contrast that with an electric car.  That won’t let you do any of those things.  Cruising the open highway.  Or going wherever the road takes you.  Instead you’ll be sweating bullets on the drive back home after work.  Praying you have enough charge to make it.  As you squint and shiver, driving in the dark with the headlights and the heater off.  To conserve what electricity you have left in your battery to make it home.  And heaven help you if you run out of electricity on that drive home.  Because you can’t walk to the gas station, borrow their gas can, fill it up with electricity and pour it into your battery.  Instead you’ll either have to tow your car home to an electrical outlet.  Or run one long-ass extension cord to your car and let it charge overnight.  So you can drive it home the next morning after the battery recharges.

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