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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Automakers can’t sell All-Electric Cars and Hybrids because Car Buyers don’t Want Them

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The American car buyer has looked at all-electric and hybrid cars.  And after about two years of looking at them they are telling us what they think about them.  They don’t like them.  They don’t want to buy them.  And the automakers are starting to get the message (see Buyers, automakers raise doubts about electric cars by Chris Woodyard posted 9/28/2012 on USA Today).

Having largely exhausted a pool of electric-car devotees as buyers, automakers are facing headwinds in trying to make plug-in cars a mass-market product.

Nissan joined General Motors last week in offering deeper lease discounts on its premier electric car. The latest deal on the all-electric Leaf brings the lease payment closer to the level of a comparable non-electric car, not counting the gas savings, an analysis for USA TODAY by Edmunds.com finds…

Yet, some automakers are stepping back when it comes to battery-only electrics:

Toyota, for instance, announced this week that it will bring as few as 100 of its electric version of the Scion iQ to the U.S., not the thousands expected earlier. Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada warned that current all-electric cars just don’t meet the range requirements of most drivers.

The electric car is perfect for someone who doesn’t drive anywhere.  Where the range of the all-electric car isn’t an issue.  If you have a short commute to work or all your needs are satisfied within a 10 minute drive from your house than the all-electric car is for you.  Well, that.  Or walking.  But if you have a 30 minute drive home from work in a winter blizzard you’re going to want a gasoline engine under the hood.  To keep you warm.  To keep your windows defrosted and ice free.  To keep your headlights shining bright.  And best of all, to get you home so you don’t have to walk home through that blizzard.

EV start-ups aren’t having any easier time. Tesla warned in a filing this week that production of its new $57,000-and-up all-electric Model S sedan has fallen far behind schedule.

The higher price also has put off buyers, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report concluding that the government’s up-to-$7,500 tax subsidy for buying an electric car will cost taxpayers $7.5 billion over seven years but does not make up for the extra cost of the cars. It found that electric cars average $16,000 to $19,000 more than a comparable gas-engine or hybrid vehicles.

But cheap leases, along with the savings on fuel costs, have closed that gap some, at least for the Volt and Leaf.

GM has sold 13,497 Volts in the first eight months of this year, according to Autodata, more than three times as many as in the same period last year. The total has been helped by the fact that on the $39,995 Volt, Chevy is offering a $299 monthly lease after a $1,529 down payment.

The Edmunds.com analysis finds that before adding in fuel savings, this amounts to 34 cents a mile for the life of the lease, compared with 22 cents a mile for a comparable, non-electric Chevrolet Cruze, which has a sticker price of less than half a Volt’s.

This is the big problem with all-electric and hybrid cars.  They cost too much.  And people only buy them because the government slaps fat subsidies of taxpayer money on them.  Or by the sales of gasoline-powered cars.  For when they sell a car below cost they have to recover that cost elsewhere.  And the only place they can is in the price of the cars people want and are buying.  Those cars with a gasoline engine under the hood.

So if you want one of these electric cars you have to make big sacrifices in your life.  From not driving anyplace more than a 10 minute trip from your home.  To not buying other things because you’re paying so much more for a car than you have to.

It is clear that the all-electric and hybrid cars are just not viable business models now.  That could change.  But for now any more taxpayer money invested in electric and hybrid cars is money wasted.  Because car buyers simply don’t want to buy them.  Now all we need is for our government to learn what our automakers have learned.

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The Luxury Tesla Model S impresses with Performance and Range

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2012

Week in Review              

The Tesla Model S is some car.  And it’s electric.  With the performance of a gasoline-powered sports car.  Although without quite the same range (see Elon Musk: Tesla Model S Is About ‘Breaking A Spell’ by Hannah Elliott posted 6/22/2012 on Forbes).

The Model S is impressive. It fits seven people and will go 0-60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds at a cost of $49,900 after $7,500 in federal rebates (that’s with a 40 kWh battery and160-mile range). An $84,900 85 kWh Performance variant gives a 300-mile-range; a $97,900 Signature Performance version adds such niceties as Nappa leather interior, exterior carbon fiber and special wheels. Top speed on that puppy is 130 miles per hour, with a 4.4-second 60mph sprint time. Each variant comes with an eight-year, unlimited miles guarantee…

Well, that 4.4 sprint time will beat a 5-Series on the track. The sub-$100,000 MSRP will beat the Aston on price. The 300-mile drive range beats Chevy Volt’s 40-mile max. If production ramps up as much as Musk has promised—20,000 produced annually–this could be the start of something big. Stay tuned.

A 300 mile range is greater than the Chevy Volt’s 40 mile range.  But the Volt has something the Tesla Model S doesn’t.  A gasoline engine.  After that initial 40 miles the Chevy Volt hybrid can switch over to the gasoline engine.  And continue driving on the gasoline engine.  For a very long time.  And when it runs low on gas it can quickly refill the tank.  And drive again for a very long time.  Unlike the all-electric Tesla.

The Tesla is no doubt a gorgeous car but it’s not for traveling the country in.  At least, not without a lot of planning.  And a lot of rest times scheduled for recharging.  Limiting a stress-free day-drive to about 125 miles one way.  Depending on the speed limit that might be about an hour and a half of driving.  This should get you back without a recharge.  If you want to take a chance of being without transportation for awhile to recharge you could go closer to that 300 mile range.  If you’re willing to pay an additional 70% for the extended range, of course.  If not you’ll have to settle for that 160 mile range.  Or a round trip to someplace about 60 miles away.

The all-electric car is really only for short commutes.  A short drive to work.  Plug the car in.  A short drive to lunch and back.  Plug in the car.  And the drive home.  Where you will, of course, plug in the car.  If that’s you this car is for you.  If you want to pack the family into the car and travel cross-country you may be better off in a hybrid.  Use the gasoline engine to get where you’re going to.  Then putter around when you get there on the battery.  With a full tank of gas.  Just in case.

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Carbon, Carbon Cycle, Crude Oil, Petroleum, Hydrocarbons, Oil Refinery, Cracking, Sweet Crude, Sour Crude, Gasoline and Diesel Engines

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 25th, 2012

Technology 101

Crude Oil is made from Long Chains of Carbon Atoms Bonded Together with a lot of Hydrogen Atoms Attached Along the Way

Carbon.  It’s everywhere.  And in everything.  Like all matter it cannot be created.  Or destroyed.  It just changes.  As it creates the circle of life.  The carbon cycle.  Plants and trees absorb carbon out of the atmosphere.  And converts it into biomass.  Into wood.  And into animal food.  Where the digestive system converts it into carbon-based living flesh and blood.  That exhales carbon.  Plants absorb carbon and release oxygen.  Plants can’t grow without carbon.  And we can’t breathe without plants growing.  Carbon is constantly changing.  But never created.  Or destroyed.  From diamonds to pencils.  From sugar to carbonated soda.  From plastics to human beings.  It’s everywhere.  And everything.  Why, it’s life itself.

Carbon is a time traveler.  Carbon that once traveled through the atmosphere disappeared millions of years ago.  Buried underneath the surface of the earth.  Under intense heat and pressure.  Plankton and algae and other biomasses decayed until there was almost nothing left but carbon atoms.  Long chains of carbon atoms.  Forming great, restless pools of black goo beneath the surface.   Waiting for the modern world to arrive.  Waiting for the internal combustion engine.  The jet engine.  And plastics.  When they could be reborn.  And see the light of day again.

Crude oil.  Petroleum.  Black gold.  Texas tea.  Hydrocarbons.  Long chains of carbon atoms bonded together with a lot of hydrogen atoms attached along the way.  In the ground they’re mostly long chains.  When we get them above ground we can break those chains into different lengths.  And create many different things.  C16H34 (hexadecane).  C9H20 (nonane).  C8H18 (octane).  C7H16 (heptane).  C5H12 (pentane).  C4H10 (butane).  C6H6 (benzene).  CH4 (methane).  Some of these you may be familiar with.  Some you may not.  Methane is a flammable gas.  Hydrocarbon chains from pentane to octane make gasoline.  Hydrocarbon chains from nonane to hexadecane make diesel fuel, kerosene and jet fuel.  Chains with more carbon atoms make lubricants.  Chains with even more carbon atoms make asphalt.  While chains with 4 carbon atoms or less make gases.  All these things made from the same black goo.  A true marvel of Mother Nature.  Or God.  Depending on your inclination.

Older Coastal Refineries make more Expensive Gasoline than the Newer Refineries due to the Availability of Sweet versus Sour Crude

Another great carbon-based product it bourbon.  Made from a corn sour mash.  We heat this and the alcohol in it boils off.  That is, we distill it.  We run this gas through a coiling coil and it condenses back into a liquid.  And after a few more steps we get delicious bourbon whiskey.  Distilleries give tours.  If you get a chance you should take one.  You won’t get to sample any of the distilled spirits (insurance reasons).  But you will get a feel for what an oil refinery is.

An oil refinery works on the same principles.  Boil and condense.  And cracking.  Cracking those long hydrocarbon chains apart into all those different chains.  Long and small.  Into liquids and gases.  Even solid lubricants and asphalt.  All made possible because of their different boiling points.  The gases having lower boiling points.  The solids having higher boiling points.  And the liquids having boiling points somewhere in between.

Refineries are complex processing plants.  Not only because of all those different hydrocarbon chains.  But because of the crude oil introduced to these plants.  For there is light sweet crude.  And heavier sour crude.  The difference being the additional stuff that we need to remove.  Such as sulfur.  An environmental problem.  So we have to remove as much of it as possible during the refining process to meet EPA standards.  The sweet crudes are lower in sulfur.  Making them the crude of choice.  But this has also been the most popular crude through the years.  So its resources are dwindling.  Making it more expensive.  As are all the products refined from it.  Especially gasoline.  The more sour crudes have higher sulfur content.  And require more refining steps to remove that sulfur.  Which means additional refinery equipment.  So the older refineries that were refining the light sweet crude can’t refine the heavier sour crudes.  Which is why the refineries along the coasts make more expensive gasoline than the newer ones in the interior refining the heavier sour crudes.  Due to the availability of sweet crude versus sour crude.

The Modern World is brought to us by a Complex Economy which is brought to us by Petroleum

One of the main uses of refined crude oil is fuel for internal combustion engines.  In particular, gasoline engines and diesel engines.  Which are very similar.  The difference being the mode of ignition.  And, of course, the fuel.  Gasoline engines compress an air-fuel mixture in the cylinder.  At the top of the compression stroke a spark plug ignites this highly compressed and heated mixture.  Sending the piston down.  If the combustion occurs too early it could place undo stresses on the piston connecting rods and the crank shaft.  By trying to send the piston down when it was coming up.  Causing a knocking sound.  Which is a bad sound to hear.  And if you hear it you should probably make sure you’re using the right gasoline.  If you are you need to have you car serviced.  Because continued knocking may break something.  And if it does your engine will work no more.  So this is where octane comes in the blending of gasoline.  It’s expensive.  But the more of it in gasoline the higher the compression you can have.  And the less knocking.  Which is its only purpose.  It doesn’t give you any more power.  The higher compression does.  Which the higher octane allows.  Using the higher octane gas in a standard compression engine won’t do anything but waste your hard earned money.

And speaking of higher compression engines, that brings us to diesel engines.  Which are similar to gasoline engines only they operate under a higher compression.  And don’t use spark plugs.  These engines compress air only.  Which allows the higher compression without pre-ignition.  At the top of their compression stroke a fuel injector squirts diesel fuel into the hot compressed air where it combusts on contact.  Diesel fuel has a higher energy content than gasoline.  Meaning for the same volume of fuel diesel can take you further than gasoline.  Which is why trucks, locomotives and ships use diesel.  But diesel tends to pollute more.  The smell and the soot kept diesel out of our cars for a long time.  As well as the difficulty of starting in cold climates.  Advanced computer controlled systems have helped, though, and we’re seeing more diesel used in cars now.

The modern world is brought to us by a complex economy.  Where goods and raw materials traverse the globe.  To feed our industries.  And to ship our finished goods.  Which we put on trucks, trains, ships and airplanes.  None of which would be possible without a portable, stable, energy-dense fuel.  That only refined petroleum can give us.  It’s better than animal power.  Water power.  Wind power.  Or steam power.  For there is nothing that we can use in our trucks, trains, ships and airplanes other than refined petroleum products today that wouldn’t be a step backwards in our modern world.  Nothing.  Making petroleum truly a marvel of Mother Nature.  Or God.  Depending on your inclination.

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If you Really Care about the Environment you’ll Keep Driving your Gas Guzzler

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 22nd, 2011

Week in Review

It was bad enough that electric cars were inconvenient as hell.  And plaguing drivers with range anxiety.  Now we learn that they pollute more than cars with a gasoline engine (see Update: Fisker Karma Electric Car Gets Worse Mileage Than an SUV by Warren Meyer posted 10/20/2011 on Forbes).

The Fisker Karma electric car, developed mainly with your tax money so that a bunch of rich VC’s wouldn’t have to risk any real money…

As I calculated in my earlier Forbes article, one needs to multiply the EPA MPGe by .365 to get a number that truly compares fossil fuel use of an electric car with a traditional gasoline engine car on an apples to apples basis.  In the case of the Fisker Karma, we get a true MPGe of 19.  This makes it worse than even the city rating of a Ford Explorer SUV.

Congrats to the Fisker Karma, which now joins corn ethanol in the ranks of heavily subsidized supposedly green technologies that are actually worse for the environment than current solutions.

The environmentalists hate SUVs.  That’s why they wanted to get government to subsidize these ‘clean’ electric cars.  I put ‘clean’ in quotes because as we have just learned they pollute more than those despised SUVs.  Imagine that.

So, I guess if you really care about the environment, you’ll keep driving your gas guzzlers.  Because one of the worst of the gas guzzlers pollutes less than the electric car.

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Wind Farms don’t Deliver but a new Gasoline Engine May

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 6th, 2011

During Peak Demand Wind Power Generated less than 5% of Capacity

Before President Obama banned U.S. deep water oil drilling he was for it.  But that support was only half-hearted.  More for political purposes.  Because he just doesn’t like oil.  And high gasoline prices don’t bother him either.  In fact, he likes them.  They’re more of an incentive for people to pay more for electric cars that don’t drive as far as those hated gasoline counterparts.  Which will please his liberal environmentalist base.  And please his crony capitalist Big Business friends who make green energy generation equipment.  To provide this huge new electrical demand to power all those electric cars.  Like General Electric.  Who builds a lot of green products.  Including windmills.

Renewable energy is all the rage in the Obama administration.  It’s the ‘in’ energy this season.  Clean.  High-tech.  Currently nonexistent so it will add a whole bunch of taxpayer subsidized jobs to the economy.  It’s win-win for the administration.  And best of all, for them, it doesn’t work (see Wind farm efficiency queried by John Muir Trust study posted 4/6/2011 on the BBC News Scotland).

The research, carried out by Stuart Young Consulting, analysed electricity generated from UK wind farms between November 2008 to December 2010

Statements made by the wind industry and government agencies commonly assert that wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year, it said.

But the research found wind generation was below 20% of capacity more than half the time and below 10% of capacity over one third of the time…

During each of the four highest peak demands of 2010, wind output reached just 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity, according to the analysis.

You know, there is a reason why ocean transports aren’t sail-powered anymore.  Wind was unreliable.  It sometimes didn’t blow.  And it wasn’t a concentrated source of energy.  It took a lot of rigging to hold up a lot of sail to push ships slowly across the ocean.  When the wind blew.  And it didn’t always blow. 

Coal and the steam engine changed all of that.  Shippers replaced their sail-powered ships with steam-powered ships.  And they’ve never looked back.  Eventually replacing their coal-fired engines with oil-fired engines.  Some of the world’s navies even took it a step further.  They replaced their oil-fired engines with nuclear reactors.  Some of these warships can stay on station for 6 months and longer without ever refueling.

See the trend?  Energy sources became more concentrated.  Engines became smaller.  Which allowed people to ship more stuff for less.  This is progress.  It’s why they can sell a lot of those electronic toys we so enjoy so cheaply.  Because they can ship so many of them that the shipping cost per unit is like the cost of a postage stamp.  Using wind farms, on the other hand, is the opposite of progress.  It’s going backwards.  This less concentrated energy source will take acres of windmills at a high infrastructure cost to produce a trickle of electricity.  All it will do is enrich the equipment manufacturers.  Who will show their gratitude with generous political contributions. 

Crony capitalism at its worse.  And because this technology won’t solve our energy problem, our energy problem will always be here.  Government couldn’t ask for anything more.  Please the environmentalists.  Throw subsidies at their cronies in Big Business.  Sustain political donations from same.  And never fix the problem.  Which means this cycle just keeps repeating.   Politics.  It’s a beautiful thing.  For some.

The Internal Combustion Engine is Reinvented

Wind power is not really a viable energy source.  When fleets of electric cars ‘plug in’ it won’t be windmills providing the power.  It will be either a coal-fired plant.  A natural gas-fired plant.  Or a nuclear plant.  To provide reliable power during peak demands will require an energy source less fickle than the wind.  So if we want those electric cars, the environmentalists will have to embrace that which they hate.  Fossil fuels.  Or their archenemy.  Nuclear power.

Is there another way?  Perhaps.  But it’s a fossil fuel alternative.  But one that the environmentalist may even warm up to (see New Car Engine Sends Shockwaves Through Auto Industry by Nic Halverson posted 4/6/2011 on Discovery News).

[R]esearchers at Michigan State University have built a prototype gasoline engine that requires no transmission, crankshaft, pistons, valves, fuel compression, cooling systems nor fluids. Their so-called Wave Disk Generator could greatly improve the efficiency of gas-electric hybrid automobiles and potentially decrease auto emissions up to 90 percent when compared to conventional combustion engines.

The engine has a rotor that’s equipped with wave-like channels that trap and mix oxygen and fuel as the rotor spins. These central inlets are blocked off, building pressure within the chamber, causing a shock wave that ignites the compressed air and fuel to transmit energy.

Sounds like a lot of science fiction.  But did you get that one number?  Reduce emissions by 90 percent?  An internal combustion engine that is almost emission-free?  What’s not to love about that?  Sure, it still uses gasoline, but it uses it so much more efficiently.

The Wave Disk generator uses 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion; standard car engines use just 15 percent. As a result, the generator is 3.5 times more fuel efficient than typical combustion engines.

Researchers estimate the new model could shave almost 1,000 pounds off a car’s weight currently taken up by conventional engine systems.

More efficient, lighter and near-emission-free?  It’ll exceed every CAFE and emission standard the environmentalist demands from the automotive industry.  This engine has everything.  It pleases the environmentalist.  Reduces our consumption of foreign oil.  And with such a small, efficient power plant, the auto companies can make the big cars people want to buy again.  What’s not to love about this engine?

Last week, the prototype was presented to the energy division of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is backing the Michigan State University Engine Research Laboratory with $2.5 million in funding.

Oh.  They used federal funding to develop this engine.  It would seem to the layperson that an engine as wonderful as this would have a market.  A big market.  And could attract private investors.  I mean, they’re building expensive cars that no one will buy without a massive federal subsidy (to both the buyer and the seller) just to please the government.  An engine like this would make life so much simpler for the auto companies.  And so much more profitable.  Which suggests this may be too good to be true.  For the best things in life don’t need federal subsidies.  If there is a market people will take risks.  If there is a profit to be made people will bring good things to market. 

More Power with Less Fuel is Progress

The Wave Disk Generator may be for real.  For it is a step in the right way.  It uses the same concentrated fuel we use today in our cars.  But it uses it more efficiently.  Reducing the size of the engine.  While providing more power.  With less fuel.  This is progress.  This is good.  The only thing of concern is the government’s involvement.  For this is the same government that is investing in wind-generated electricity. 

Yes, it’s possible that the government backed a winner here.  Anything is possible.  I mean, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Time will tell.  Perhaps one day we’ll see the Wave Disk Generator under the hood.  But if the government is involved, don’t hold your breath.  It could be awhile.

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