First Electric Cars now an Electric Helicopter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 1st, 2013

Week in Review

The federal government is doing everything it can to stimulate electric car sales.  Because they’re so green.  But despite huge government subsidies for both manufacturers and buyers people just aren’t buying them.  In large part because of their limited range.  Keeping away potential buyers.  And filling electric car owners with range anxiety.  That dread that fills them when they start worrying whether they have enough battery charge to get home.  And getting stranded a long way from home.  Of course, this range anxiety could be worse (see 18-rotor electric helicopter makes maiden flight by Tim Hornyak posted 11/25/2013 on CNET).

The VC200, however, has a proper cockpit for two, and is described as a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) manned aircraft that doesn’t quite fit into any traditional category of flying machine.

It has 18 zero-emission, battery-powered electric motors for propulsion instead of the traditional combustion engines of helicopters. A frame and branching supports for rotors are made of carbon fiber help keep the weight down.

E-volo says the Volocopter VC200 can offer passengers a quiet, smooth, green ride. The vehicle is also easy to fly by joystick, and will have low operating and maintenance costs.

The VC200 flew to a height of some 70 feet during its test flights, which were recorded in the video below, which is pretty noisy but that may be due to the camera position.

It can fly for about 20 minutes with current battery technology, but E-volo hopes that will improve to allow for flights of an hour or more.

Really?  An electric helicopter?  It’s bad enough having your electric car coast to a stop on the road after your battery dies.  But to fall out of the sky?

Before a commercial jetliner flies it calculates how much fuel they need to get them to their destination.  To get them to an alternate destination in case something prevents them from getting to their primary destination.  And a reserve amount of fuel.  For the unexpected.  They are very careful about this because a plane cannot coast to a stop on a road.  If they run out of fuel they tend to fall out of the sky.  So the FAA is pretty strict on fuel requirements.  Can you imagine them certifying an electric helicopter that can carry only one battery charge?  That has to power the craft regardless of the weight of the air craft?

On the one hand pushing the bounds of technology is a good thing.  We can develop better batteries to use in our mobile devices and tablet computers.  But electric cars and electric flight?  The very design requires solving a paradox.  To get greater range we need more/bigger batteries.  But more/bigger batteries means greater weight.  And greater weight means reduced range.  That is, the very thing that increases range also reduces range.  The current technology just isn’t good enough to give us electric cars or electric flight at this time.  And any tax dollars that go to subsidize it is tax money poorly spent.

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President Obama directing Federal Regulators to increase our Electric Bills

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 29th, 2013

Week in Review

President Obama couldn’t get Congress to pass a carbon tax (aka, cap and trade) into law to increase the cost of electric power.  So he is going to use his regulatory powers to increase the cost of electric power (see Obama directs EPA to end dumping of carbon from power plants by Steve Holland posted 6/25/2013 on Reuters).

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he is directing federal regulators to develop a plan to end the “limitless dumping of carbon pollution” from U.S. power plants.

Translation?  President Obama is directing federal regulators to increase the cost of your electric bill.

Carbon dumping?  They make it sound like these power plants are driving down country roads in the dead of night and pouring carbon out of barrels over the pristine wilderness.  But it’s just the smoke coming out of smokestacks.  Most of which is scrubbed clean these days.  Thanks to previous costly regulations.  What’s next?  Breathing tests to calculate how much carbon we dump each year?  So they can tax our breathing, too?  Because we exhale a greenhouse gas?  Of course, with Obamacare that won’t be so hard to do.  As the government will have their fingers in our medical records.

Beware buying your electric car.  That is, if you think it will be less costly than paying for very expensive gasoline.  First of all, one of the reasons why gasoline is so expensive is because of the taxes the government tacks on to the price per gallon.  Which is supposed to maintain our roads.  Of course that’s hard to see these days with our crumbling infrastructure.  They are collecting a ton of money.  But where it goes is another question.

Now that we have moved into more fuel efficient cars and electric cars and hybrids what is our thanks?  They want to put a black box in our car to track the miles we drive.  So they can tax us per mile.  Because we’re not buying enough gasoline to maintain the roads.  Or so they say.  So even though we’re saving money by buying less gas we’ll probably end up paying more to drive in the long run when they start taxing us per mile.  Giving electric car owners no advantage for sweating bullets wondering if they have enough charge to get home.  For they’ll be paying as if they are driving a big gas-guzzling car that gives them no range anxiety.  But all they’ll get is the range anxiety.  And it now will get worse.

Never buy gas again.  That’s what they told us.  And we shouted, “Hurrah!”  And, “Take that you greedy oil companies.”  While those who bought electric cars thought they would plug in anywhere for free.  But electric power isn’t free.  It costs.  You will see it in your electric bill as you plug in overnight.  You will see it when you have to swipe a card to use a charging station away from home.  And thanks to President Obama’s directing federal regulators to increase the cost of producing electric power you will see how costly driving an electric car can be.  Even when it buys no expensive gasoline from those greedy oil companies.

The tough fuel economy standards?  The hybrids?  The electric cars?  None of them were about us saving money.  It was about making us do things we didn’t want to do.  And now that we have what is our reward?  Higher electric bills.  And a lower standard of living.  As more of our paychecks will go to pay for the government’s intrusion into our private lives.

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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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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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Lithium Ion Battery Fires ground entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner Fleet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 20th, 2013

Week in Review

The big drawback for electric cars is range.  For after a battery powers all the electrical systems (heating, cooling, lights, etc.) what charge is left is for going places.  And if that place is more than 30 miles away few people will feel comfortable taking a chance that they will have enough charge to drive there and back.  Unless that trip is to work where the car can recharge for 8-9 hours while at work.

Range anxiety is the greatest drawback to an all-electric car.  For if you run out of charge there is only one way to get your car home.  With a tow truck.  For you can’t walk to a gas station and ask for a can of charge to pour into the battery.  Charging needs an electrical source.  And time.  So the Holy Grail of the all-electric car industry is a battery that can hold a lot of charge.  But is small and does not weigh a lot.  And can be recharged in a very short time.  Right now that Holy Grail is the lithium ion battery.

But there is a cost for this Holy Grail.  There is a lot of chemistry to do this.  Chemistry that can produce a lot of heat.  Catch fire.  And explode.  Which has happened in some electric cars.  As well as in some airplanes (see Bad Batteries Seen as Best Case for 787 Overcoming Past by Susanna Ray, Alan Levin & Peter Robison posted 1/18/2013 on Bloomberg).

Other aircraft bleed air off the engines for a pneumatic system to power a variety of critical functions, such as air conditioning. That diverts power from the engines that they could otherwise use for thrust, and means they use more fuel.

With an electrical system for the jet’s other needs, the engines become much more efficient. The 787 uses five times as much electricity as the 767, enough to power 400 homes. To jump- start a so-called auxiliary power unit that’s used on the ground and as a backup in case all the plane’s generators failed, Boeing decided on a lithium-ion battery because it holds more energy and can be quickly recharged, Mike Sinnett, the 787 project engineer, said in a briefing last week.

Those capabilities also make lithium-ion cells more flammable than other battery technology, and they can create sparks and high heat if not properly discharged. Chemicals inside the battery are also flammable and hard to extinguish because they contain their own source of oxygen, Sinnett said.

A couple of battery fires have grounded all Boeing 787 Dreamliners.  The last commercial jetliner to receive such an order was the McDonnell Douglas DC-10.   Which happened after an engine came off while taking off at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.  Due to a maintenance error in changing out the left engine and pylon.  Causing the plane to crash.  After investigation they found the slats did not mechanically latch into position.  When the engine ripped out the hydraulic lines the slats retracted and the wing stalled.  The plane slowly banked to the left and fell out of the sky.  Killing all on board.  The DC-10s were grounded worldwide until the hydraulic lines were better protected and the slats latched to prevent them from retracting on the loss of hydraulic pressure.  Now no 787s have crashed.  But few things are deadlier to an airborne aircraft than a fire.  For there is nothing pilots can do other than to continue to fly towards an airport while the plane is consumed by fire.

Stored chemical oxygen generators in the hull of ValuJet Flight 592 were stored improperly.  They were activated.  Producing oxygen by a chemical reaction that generated a lot of heat.  The heat started a fire and the oxygen fueled it.  Once the pilots were aware of the fire they turned to the nearest airport.  But the fire consumed the airplane and fell out of the sky before they could land.  Killing all on board.

Fire on an airplane rarely ends well.  Which explains the grounding of the entire 787 fleet.  Because these lithium ion batteries run very hot when they make electricity.  And they can generate oxygen.  Which is the last thing you want on an aircraft.  However, both Airbus and Boeing are using them because they are the Holy Grail of batteries.  They’re small and light and can hold a lot of charge and nothing can recharge as fast as they can.  Which is why they are the choice for all-electric cars.  Even though some of them have caught fire.  This is the tradeoff.  Smaller and lighter batteries are smaller and lighter for a reason.  Because of powerful chemical reactions that can go wrong.  So to be safe you should park your electric car outside and away from your house.  In case it catches fire you’ll only lose your car.  And not your garage or house.  Or you can stick to the gasoline-powered car and not worry about battery fires.  Or range.

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Car Company misleads People with their Deceptive Electric Car Ads

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 25th, 2012

Week in Review

How do you sell an electric car?  You avoid telling too much of the truth (see Banned, electric car ad that was miles from reality: Vauxhall commercial forgot to mention model’s petrol engine by Sean Poulter posted 8/21/2012 on the Daily Mail).

For carbon-conscious drivers, the advert for an electric car with an impressive 360-mile range seemed too good to be true.

Unfortunately, it appears it was, as the real range of the electric batteries in the Vauxhall Ampera is a rather more modest 50 miles.

And to go beyond that, it relies on help from a somewhat less green source – a petrol engine…

Vauxhall insisted its claims about the Ampera were genuine and that once in ‘range extender mode’, it can indeed keep going for 360 miles…

The advert for the car – which costs just under £30,000, including a £5,000 Government grant – briefly showed the vehicle plugged into an electricity source…

Vauxhall insisted the Ampera is a truly electric car because the petrol engine does not drive the wheels, but acts as an on-board generator for the electric motor.

The US company also argued that the 360-mile claim was conservative and significantly understated the range achieved in vehicle tests in order to allow for ‘real world’ driving styles.

So the US company used a £5,000 (approximately $7,910 US) Government grant to advertise this car.  Something systemic in the electric car industry.  Government subsidies.  For they just won’t work without them.

Glossing over that petrol (i.e., gasoline) engine is pretty significant.  Because probably the biggest thing holding back all-electric car sales is range anxiety.  Will a driver be able to make it home before their battery runs out of charge?  Which is really not an issue for someone with a 20 minute roundtrip commute.  But a huge issue for someone who drives 25 minutes or more one way.  For once you arrive at your destination you have to find a receptacle to plug in your car.  And you probably won’t be able to go anywhere for lunch.  Unless you have a friend with a gasoline-powered car.  So imagine a person’s surprise if they bought what they thought was an all-electric car and marveled at their 360-mile range.  Never noticing the gasoline engine coming on.  And never buying gasoline.  Until their car coasts to a stop somewhere.  Away from home.  With no lights, radio or heat.  And probably in a unfamiliar neighborhood.

Unless you strip a car down to nothing but batteries you’re not going to get much more than a 50 mile range.  At least for now.  Because that’s about all current battery technology will get you.  Which is why no one is taking these all-electric cars on the family vacation.  Or to work.  The carbon-conscious will at best drive a gasoline-electric hybrid.  And drive most of their miles on gasoline.  But they will still have that smug look of satisfaction on their face because they know they are saving the planet by driving a hybrid.  Even though they may be burning just as much gas as they once did.  Unless they drive in the dark.  With no heat in the winter.  Or air conditioner in the summer.

Why was this car company not exactly being forthright in their ad?  Because they want to sell their cars.  In a market where so few people want to buy what they’re selling.  So they embellish the truth in advertising a wee little bit.  But it sure makes one wonder what they tell these people when they’re in their showroom.  Because it is really hard to believe that someone would actually buy a hybrid thinking it was an all-electric car.  I mean, these people are probably going to look under the hood.  And they may even ask if the car is an all-electric car.  Like that ad led them to believe.  What then?

Could there be another reason?  One that hasn’t anything to do with people buying their cars?  Could this just have been a way to help obtain further government subsidies?  By pointing out great advances they’re making in their battery technology.  As well as showing how much more was possible with just a little more government funding.  Perhaps.  It sure seems more plausible than lying to customers.  Who are generally smart.  As opposed to government bureaucrats.

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Honda has New Electric Car that gets 118 Miles per Gallon of Gasoline

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 10th, 2012

Week in Review

Honda is selling an electric car that can get 118 miles per gallon of gasoline.  Even though this car doesn’t consume a drop of gasoline to go those 118 miles (see Honda electric car gets 118 mpg, but costs add up by Jonathan Fahey and Tom Krisher, Associated Press, posted 6/7/2012 on Yahoo! Autos).

At 118 miles per gallon, the Honda Fit electric vehicle is the most fuel-efficient in the United States. But getting that mileage isn’t cheap — and it isn’t always good for the environment…

The electric Fit has an estimated price tag nearly twice as high as the gasoline-powered version. It would take 11 years before a driver makes up the difference and begins saving on fuel…

People drive an average of almost 13,500 miles a year, so a typical driver would spend $445 on electricity for an electric Fit over a year, and $1,552 on gasoline for a regular Fit…

A fully charged Fit EV can go 82 miles, meaning a daily commute could cost nothing for gasoline.

First of all the 118 miles per gallon is meaningless.  An electric car doesn’t go a single mile on gasoline.  So if you divide the miles you’ve driven by the amount of gasoline you used to go those miles you’re dividing by zero.  When you divide anything by zero you get infinity.  But 118 is NOT infinity.  So there is a formula they use to give you a comparable mpg by calculating cost per mile.  But as gasoline prices and driving distances vary this number is a moving number based on some assumptions.  And, in the end, meaningless.

And speaking of driving distances, who has ever leased a car?  I have.  My lease was for 15,000 miles per year, though.  Not 13,500.  And I went over on miles.  About 3,000 miles.  So let’s assume that the average miles people drive per year is 18,000.  If you divide 18,000 miles by 365 (the number of days in a year) you get 49.3 miles per day.  Leaving you a cushion of 32.7 miles (82-49.3).  Unless you’re running the air conditioner (or heater in winter).  If so subtract about 20% from that 82 miles.  Giving you a range of 65.6.  And a cushion of 16.3 miles.  Or less if you’re car pooling (more weight means shorter battery life).   Or if you’re stuck in rush hour traffic with the air conditioning (or heat) on.  Or run an after work errand.

Pretty soon you’ll be worrying about making it back home.  We call this range anxiety.  Also, few people own a car for 11 years.  The two-year lease is a popular lease for the car may remain under the factory warranty for the term of that lease.  But if you buy an electric car and hold it for 11 years to get your investment out of it there’s a chance it will be out of warranty when you’ll need some big ticket repairs.  Such as replacing the batteries.  It’s why a lot of people lease.  They’ll live with a car payment forever just to have a car that is no older than 2 years and will always start when they need it.  And never have to deal with the hassle of taking the car in for service.  Or get a very expensive out or warranty repair bill.

The electric car market is confusing.  Because we understand gasoline-powered cars.  We understand mileage.  How far we can go on a tank of gas.  And know that it takes only a few minutes to top off the tank.  Which feels like forever if you’re in a hurry.  Imagine having to wait an hour or two to recharge.  That will really feel like forever.  But if you never drive more than 20 miles a day and don’t care about cost savings, you can enjoy driving a car without ever having to visit another gas station.  Which wouldn’t be bad for a retiree.  But not very practical for someone who really puts some miles on a car.

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New 480V Charging Stations allow about an Hour’s Drive between Half-Hour Charges

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 17th, 2012

Week in Review

They found a cure for the range anxiety of electric cars.  A fortune in infrastructure spending.  Now all they need to find a cure for is time anxiety (see First big piece of ‘Electric Highway’ gets juice by JEFF BARNARD posted 3/16/2012 on the Associated Press).

Spaced about every 25 miles, the stations allow a Nissan Leaf with a range of about 70 miles to miss one and still make it to the next. Electric car drivers will be able to recharge in about 20 minutes on the fast-chargers. The charge is free for now.

“I would say range-anxiety with these fast chargers will be nearly a non-issue for me,” said Justin Denley, who owns a Nissan Leaf and joined the caravan.

Inspired by the stations, his family is planning a trip from Medford to Portland, a distance of about 280 miles. Last summer, he took the family on a 120-mile trip to the coast and had to include an overnight stop at an RV park to charge up.

He expects the trip to Portland to take perhaps three hours longer than in a gas car, because the only chargers available for the last 100 miles are slower, level 2 chargers.

Level 1 car chargers use 110 volts, like a regular home outlet, and it can take an entire night to charge a vehicle. Level 2 uses 240 volts, like a home dryer or range, and can charge a car in three or four hours.

But Level 3, which uses 480 volts of direct current, makes en route charging feasible by boosting a Nissan Leaf’s 45-kilowatt battery from a 20 percent charge to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes.

Are we there yet?  Parents had better get used to hearing this.  Especially if they have to stop every two hours for a half hour rest to recharge the car.  If they’re at a charging stating with a Level 3 charger.  And if they are I hope they keep the kiddies away from it.  For they don’t even let licensed electricians to connect and disconnect a 480 volt circuit without the proper protective clothing.  It’s a little thing we call arc-flash.  The electrical flash as a high-voltage circuit connects or disconnects as the voltages makes the current jump the air gap.  Ionizing the air like a bolt of lightning.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a dangerous voltage to plug into then you might as well look for the charging stations with the motels attached.  Or an RV park where the family can bed down in their shoebox of a car.  To spend the night when their batteries recharge.  Adding an extra night or two to that afternoon drive.  A family drive that we made once upon a time in a gasoline-powered car.  Leaving and returning home on the same day.  On a single tank of gas.  Lucky for us these days we have time to kill in our lives.  Money to burn.  And children who love to sit quietly in a car for hours on end and have large bladders.

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Vancouver building Charging Stations for Electric Cars that aren’t there to use Them

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 25th, 2012

Week in Review

Vancouver is going all in on electric cars.  Even when no one is buying them (see City to build 67 more electric car-charging stations by 2013-Vancouver by Tara Carman posted 2/23/2012 on the Vancouver Sun).

The City of Vancouver is taking an “if you build it, they will come” approach to electric vehicles, announcing an $800,000 pilot project to expand the number of charging stations in the city…

Less than one per cent of Canadians have purchased an electric vehicle, according to Brian Murphy, a senior man-ager at J.D. Power and Associates. One of the reasons is likely the price of the vehicles, which typically run more than $40,000, plus the $2,000 it costs to purchase and install a charging station in private homes…

Another discouraging factor about electric vehicles is “range anxiety” about having to take trips that are 200 kilometres or more, Murphy said. A full charge will take the Nissan Leaf, for example, about 160 kilometres, depending on the terrain and weather conditions.

The article includes a photo of a man in what appears to be a gas station for electric cars.  Happily plugged in.  And charging up his battery.  Luckily for him it appears to be a nice day.  It’s daylight.  And he’s not wearing a coat.  So he should have no problem standing there for 5 hours or so until his battery charges.

This is the dark side of range anxiety.  If you don’t make it back home on your charge you are stranded.  Because batteries don’t charge as fast as you can fill a tank with gasoline.

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Driving an Electric Car gives you both Range Anxiety and Your Battery can Make your Car Catch Fire Anxiety

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 13th, 2011

Week in Review

If range anxiety wasn’t enough now there’s this.  After sweating bullets worrying whether or not that you’ll make it home on your battery charge.  Keeping the lights and the heater off to improve your chances.  And then, after making it home, you have to worry about something like this (see Volt fire 3 weeks after crash prompts safety probe by Chris Isidore posted 11/11/2011 on CNNMoney).

Federal safety regulators are investigating the safety of lithium-ion batteries after a fire started in the battery pack of a Chevrolet Volt three weeks after the vehicle went through a crash test…

NHTSA says it has investigated an incident and has concluded that, “the crash test damaged the Volt’s lithium ion battery and that the damage led to a vehicle fire that took several weeks to develop after the test was completed.”

That incident, the agency says, “is the only case of a battery-related fire in a crash or crash test of vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries.” It went on to say that it will conduct additional testing of the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries.

The nice thing about a gasoline-powered engine is that the gasoline is stored separately from the things that make it go boom.  Fuel injectors (or carburetors on older cars).  And air.  You see, for gasoline to go boom you have to convert it first into an aerosol by pumping it through a fuel injector (or a venturi in a carburetor).  Then mix it with some air.  Then ignite it with a spark plug.  So it’s sort of like ‘some assembly required’ to get the energy out of gas to make a car go vroom.  Not so with a battery.

A battery’s energy comes from a chemical reaction in the battery.  From chemicals inside the battery.  That are there while you’re driving.  While you’re charging.  Even while you’re parked.  There always there.  And if something happens that disturbs their containment bad things can happen.  But unlike a gasoline leak, chances are you’ll never see or smell anything to warn you of a potential problem.  You’ll just know you have a problem when you have a problem.  Like your car being on fire.

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