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

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 1st, 2013

Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Tesla Model S is a Gorgeous Electric Car but You can’t take the Path Less Traveled in It

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 11th, 2013

Week in Review

The joy of the open road is taking the path less traveled.  How many of us taking a drive on a beautiful summer’s day turned down some country road on a whim?  Just because the scenery was beautiful?  Or because there was something interesting down at the end of that road?  That is the joy of the open road.  To travel without plans.  Where the driving is as good as the destination.  If not better.  This is what the electric car, though, cannot give us (see Tesla Model S receives near-perfect score from Consumer Reports by Eric Evarts posted 5/8/2013 on Consumer Reports).

There, we said it. The Tesla Model S outscores every other car in our test ratings. It does so even though it’s an electric car. In fact, it does so because it is electric…

The electric motor delivers impressive power, right now, and it is impressively efficient. The Model S uses about half the energy of a Toyota Prius every mile, and it has more than twice the range—about 200 miles—of any other electric car we’ve driven. Still,  you’ll have to plan ahead for longer trips; you won’t be taking it on a spontaneous jaunt from, say, New York to Cleveland any time soon. You won’t make it. Even with Tesla’s optional High Power Wall Connector, it takes about five hours to charge. On a standard 240-volt electric-car charger, it would take about 12 hours…

We paid $89,650 for our Model S, with the biggest available battery, the most seats available, and the fastest available optional chargers. Then we still had to pay another $1,200 for Tesla’s High Power Wall Connector.

That’s a lot of money.  And for what?  A range of 200 miles?  Which is something like 2-4 hours of driving time.  With stops of between 5-12 hours to recharge between those 200 miles.  That just doesn’t cut it.  The Model S is a gorgeous car.  But it has one serious flaw.  The joy of that beautiful car comes from driving it.  Not sitting at a charging station admiring it.

Cars are meant to be driven.  To take to the open road.  To go wherever that road may take you.  And when the weather or mood strikes you, you take the long-way home.  Instead of the 2 hours on the interstate you take the rambling secondary roads.  And get home when you get home.  Sometimes 4 hours later than you planned.  Because you could.  This is what people want from a gorgeous car.  They want to see the world from it.  Not just the commute to work.

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Electric Cars and Wind-Generated Power – A Giant leap backward for Mankind

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 31st, 2011

Electric Cars don’t Like the Cold and Snow

There have been some big snow storms hammering the U.S. and the U.K.  Huge snow falls have snarled traffic this past Wednesday in the Washington area.  Not exactly Nome Alaska or Fargo North Dakota.  But it still turned rush hour traffic commutes into parking lots.  Cold parking lots.  Unless you had an internal combustion engine, that is.  And most people did as it turns out.  Lucky for them.  For if they had electric cars, they would have been waiting outside for a tow home.  Or walking home.  Because batteries don’t work well in the cold weather (see Cold truths about electric cars’ cold-weather shortcomings by Charles Lane posted 1/28/2011 on The Washington Post).

It is a basic fact of physical science that batteries run down more quickly in cold weather than they do in warm weather, and the batteries employed by vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt are no exception.

The exact loss of power these cars would suffer is a matter of debate, partly because no one has much real-world experience to draw on. But there would be some loss. Running the heater to stay warm, or the car radio to stay informed, would drain the battery further.

If you want to understand some of the science, here’s some of that science:

“All batteries deliver their power via a chemical reaction inside the battery that releases electrons. When the temperature drops the chemical reactions happen more slowly and the battery cannot produce the same current that it can at room temperature. A change of ten degrees can sap 50% of a battery’s output. In some situations the chemical reactions will happen so slowly and give so little power that the battery will appear to be dead when in fact if it is warmed up it will go right back to normal output.

So think of this the next time your wife is about to start her commute home during the next snow storm.  And then imagine this.  She gets home okay.  Barely.  But you’ve lost your electrical power.  So you can’t plug in your car to recharge.

And many electric-car drivers who did manage to limp home Wednesday would have been out of options the next day: You can’t recharge if you don’t have electricity, and hundreds of thousands of customers were blacked out Thursday from the snow. The Post reports that this will be the case for many of them for days.

An internal combustion engine, though, could start up the next morning.  Because cold weather doesn’t affect them as much as they do batteries.  So if you had to go out for groceries or medicines, your internal combustion engine could get you where you had to go.  Even to a gas station if you needed to fill your tank to give you the range to drive somewhere that had electrical power and open stores.

Wind can be Fickle when it comes to Generating Power

Yeah, but, come on, what are the odds of this happening?  For the most part, batteries are reliable.  Electrical power is reliable.  The chance of losing power after ‘going green’ is so rare that it is statistically insignificant.

All right, let’s forget about driving a car in rush hour traffic in a snowstorm with the heater and your lights on.  Because that rarely ever happens.  Let’s look at wind-generated electrical power.  Like in the U.K.  They’ve added quite a few wind farms.  And they’re providing a rising percentage of their total electrical generation.  And, in a recent cold snap, the wind stopped blowing.  And the windmills stopped turning (see Customers face huge bill for wind farms that don’t work in the cold by Tom McGhie posted 1/9/2011 on the Daily Mail).

In the last quarter ending December 23, wind turbines produced on average 8.6 per cent of our electricity, but the moment the latest bad weather arrived with snow and freezing temperatures, this figure fell to as low as 1.8 per cent.

The slack was immediately taken up by efficient, but dirty, coal-fired power stations and oil-fired plants.

That dirty, filthy, nasty coal and oil no doubt meant the difference between life and death for some.  Why?  Because they’re reliable.  The wind doesn’t have to blow and the sun doesn’t have to shine.  They will always be there.  And this is why they serve as backup to wind generated power.  Because coal and oil are more reliable than wind.

So little energy was generated then that the National Grid, which is responsible for balancing supply and demand of energy in the UK, was forced to ask its biggest users – industry – to ration supplies.

So you may not be able to turn on your lights when you get home.  Cook.  Or run your heat.  But you’ll be saving the planet.  Sure, you may kill yourself in the process, but at least you’ll feel good.  For saving the planet.  By being so green.  As you turn blue.

Only Fossil Fuels can Walk it like they Talk It

There will be some sacrifice going green.  Some could even die (if their electric car battery dies during a blizzard before they get home from Grandma’s).  Or you may have found Grandma shivering in the cold because the wind wasn’t blowing that day.  Muttering to herself about the good old days when we burned coal.  And stayed warm.

When it comes down to it, fossil fuels are life.  Renewable energy sources might give us a brief respite from fossil fuels.  But when anything happens with those renewable energy sources, guess who we go running back to?  That’s right.  Fossil fuels.  And it’s time we stop demonizing the great life-giver of civilization.

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Major Automakers Feeling the Pressure to try and Sell Electric Cars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 28th, 2010

Electric Trains Don’t Use Batteries

Electric trains are powerful.  Provide fast acceleration.  And are very efficient in converting electrical power into forward motion.  And yet the majority of trains are diesel electric.  Why?

Cost.  Diesel electric trains use a diesel engine to power an electric generator that drives electric traction motors.  And a diesel electric train can carry its own diesel fuel to produce its own electrical power.  So when you build track infrastructure for diesel electric trains, that’s all you have to build.  Track.

Electric trains, on the other hand, require a whole lot more infrastructure.  For every mile of track there has to be a mile of electrical power distribution.  In subways this is usually an electrified third rail.  In above ground trains, this is usually overhead wires.  And this electrical power infrastructure is costly.  So costly that few trains are electrified.

(For more information on electric trains, see Electric locomotive on Wikipedia).

And Cars Shouldn’t Use Batteries Either

Now, do you know why they build this very costly electrical power distribution infrastructure for these electric trains?  Because they can’t run on batteries.  Battery-power would not let these trains travel the distances they need to travel.  And so it is with cars (see Major automakers zipping electric cars into showrooms soon by Jerry Hirsch and Tiffany Hsu posted 11/27/2010 on The Washington Post).

Because it relies solely on battery power, the [Nissan] Leaf has a range limited to about 100 miles – maybe more if driven conservatively in cool weather and definitely less if the engine is revved up with the air conditioning running on a hot day.

The [Chevy] Volt can go a lot farther, primarily because it is technically a hybrid rather than a pure electric vehicle. It goes about 40 miles on a single charge. When the juice runs out, a four-cylinder gas engine kicks in as a generator and powers the electric drive train, extending the car’s range by about 300 miles.

I don’t know about you, but the commute on my last job was about 50 miles – one way.  And I drove a lot of that in the dark.  In cold weather.  You ever leave your headlights on accidentally? 

When I was in college, my car’s headlight control was a little loose.  When I slammed the car door it turned my dome light on.  Some 6 hours later, I found that my dome light had drained my battery.  And that was just the dome light.  Imagine if it was the headlights.  Or an electric heater plugged into the cigarette lighter.

You can go Further on a Full Tank of Gas than on a Fully Charged Battery.  And that’s while Using the Headlights and the Heater.

Those rosy mileage estimates are all well and good as long as you are driving in the daytime, during warm weather and going downhill both to and from work. 

You have a digital camera?  If so, tell me how much longer your battery lasts when you don’t use the flash?  You see, that’s the dirty little secret about these electric cars.  Unless you put a nuclear reactor under your hood, you’re not going to have the range to go anywhere but to the corner grocery store.

And speaking of digital cameras, how long does it take to recharge your battery?  I mean, can you put it in the charger and then take it right out and start using it?  Is it like going to a gas station?  Where you stop to fill up your gasoline tank and then drive away minutes later?  Or do you carry around extra batteries because it takes too long to recharge a discharged battery?

Pay More and Get Less when Choosing Electric over Gasoline

People know these electric cars will only provide a fraction of the range, reliability, comfort and safety of a gasoline powered car.  And to add insult to injury, you have to pay more to get less.  People aren’t stupid.  So to get people to pay more for less, the government has to subsidize these lemons.  I mean, cars.

The Volt will start at $41,000. The similar-size Chevrolet Cruze LTZ sedan with an automatic transmission, navigation and other bells and whistles is about $26,000.

Nissan’s Leaf hatchback starts at $32,780. A similarly equipped conventional gasoline Versa hatchback from Nissan starts at less than $17,000.

A $7,500 federal tax credit designed to accelerate entry of electric vehicles into the marketplace will reduce the cost of both vehicles.

These cars are almost twice the cost of their gasoline cousins.  And they can only go a fraction of the same distance on a charge.  The ‘backup’ gasoline power plant on the Volt has 650% more range than the battery.  And you know what?  If you run low on gasoline you can top off you tank and go another 300 miles.  With a dead battery.

Bribing People to Risk their Lives in Battery Deathtraps

Unless you’re taking stupid pills, I can’t see why anyone would pay more for less.  I mean, there’s a reason why the majority of trains are diesel electric even when electric trains are more efficient.  Because they can’t run on batteries.  And electrical power distribution systems are just too costly.

If batteries were viable the government wouldn’t have to bribe people to risk their lives.  And they are.  Risking their lives when they drive these cars.  To get what little range they can out of these, they’re going to be tiny little cars.  And light.  To get as much out of that battery as possible. 

But, to save the environment, we have to sacrifice people.  It’s either us or it.  Think about this when your daughter drives off to college or her job. And what she’s going to do if her charge runs out in a bad part of town.

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