Electric cars are a pipe dream

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Syzygys, May 20, 2010.

  1. kororoti Registered Senior Member

    You really can't use initial price as an indicator of a product's potential viability. Final price, on the other hand, is a great indicator. If the final price has no chance of ever being low, then we might as well give up on the idea right now. Tesla Motors's accomplishments are really interesting. They've got everything a gasoline car would have, aside from price.


    Now here's the real question: If li-ion tech batteries enable 300 mile range for a family sedan right now, ...... what are the odds that maybe another battery tech might exceed that limit even? If it does, wouldn't that mean that electric had actually reached the point of being superior to gasoline, rather than just matching it?

    I think the reason people object to the use of the term "pipe dream" is because most pipe dreams have no potential to be fullfilled regardless of what time frame you put them in.

    If you mean that people are expecting this transition to be easier than it's going to be, then I'd say "pipe dream" is a perfectly accurate term. Moving to electric isn't going to happen without a deliberate and concerted effort.
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  3. John99 Banned Banned

    Technically they should not have to compete in every regard. They can limit the speed to 50mph top speed for consumer vehicles.
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  5. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    I don't think I did. I mean I never said the price wasn't going to drop.

    Now after reading about the Tesla Model S, the base model for 57K doesn't really get any better range and it is still 2 years away:

    "Production for the retail market is expected to begin in late 2012, with a base price of $57,400. The base model will have a range of 160 miles (260 km) when fully charged, and a 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) acceleration of 5.6 seconds. There will also be larger battery packs available with ranges of 230 and 300 miles (370 and 480 km).(The prices for the larger battery packs have not been announced yet.) Normal charging times will be 3 to 5 hours, depending on the battery capacity, and a 45-minute QuickCharge will be possible when connected to a 480 V outlet. In addition, a battery swap will be possible in less than five minutes."

    Now Toyota's RAV4 had 100-120 range, so bottomline is we got a 30% range improvement in 10 years with the better battery.

    Well, as the Wiki quote above shows, with only more batteries, but multiplying batteries ALWAYS extended range, so adding batteries isn't really an improvement.

    This is a sci-fi question, trying to guess where technology will lead. I am sure there will be another technology that is even better, but again when and at what price.

    Mind you, we can also tinker with gasoline (and hybrid) cars and can make them super efficient, extending their range to 5-800 miles. But for the average user a 300 miles range EV would be good enough I guess...

    Just by range alone no, see my reason above.

    Now we just have to sit back and wait what they come up with...

    P.S.: An idea occured to me. Instead of buying the base model Tesla S for 60K one is better of buying TWO other EVs for 30K each. Their range together is 200 miles, better then Model S' 160...
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
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  7. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    I guess that is true. Also they could limit the max. driven miles per day for every car.

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    So I guess the basic argument here is that if we limit gasoline cars by LAW, then EVs can be competitive...
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
  8. Kernl Sandrs Registered Senior Member

    Solar satellite/microwaves

    What if, and this is a big if, but what if in the distant future (50-100 years) We had hundreds of orbital solar satellites, collecting power from the sun, which is far more efficient than what solar panels down here can achieve, what with the atmosphere and whatnot. But what if we had dozens, if not hundreds of them, collecting energy, and beaming that energy down directly to cars via microwaves?


    (Had to break up the URL. apologies)
  9. TBodillia Registered Senior Member

    I want to see the data on these battery operated cars dealing with range vs age. That is, if the battery powered car can travel 100 miles on a single charge straight off the production floor, what will that range be on its one year anniversary? On its 2,3,4 & 5 year anniversary?

    I'd expect to see a 20% drop every single year and the battery not lasting beyond year 5.

    And orbital solar satellites beaming power to cars...so many problems with that I'm not even sure where to begin.

    Motorcycles/scooters are pretty much commuter vehicles. They carry 1-2 passengers. They aren't designed for inclement weather. You don't exactly go grocery shopping on a motorcycle. I looked into buying a motorcycle when gas spiked above $4 per gallon. I would have had to drive that thing every single day back & forth to work for 5 years to recoup the money in gas savings. I'm not about to drive a motorcycle in the snow or in the rain. For a little bit more money, I could have bought a Hyundai with better mileage. The Hyundai, I could drive in all weather AND I could go grocery shopping.

    I buy the extended warranty when offered on any electronic products I buy that comes with a rechargeable battery. That way, when that battery dies and no longer holds a charge, they will replace it for free. And, that battery always costs more than buying the item it is in brand new. I can't think of a single item I own, with a rechargeable battery in it, that has a battery over 5 years old.
  10. kororoti Registered Senior Member

    There's no reason to look at the base model instead of the high end model. If you wait long enough, the high end will eventually become standard.

    A 64-bit, 2ghz, quad core CPU today costs about the same as a 32-bit, 100 mhz, single core CPU used to cost in 1995. In that context, improving something does not necessarily make it more expensive in the long run. In the short run, the faster CPU always costs more, of course.

    True, but with gasoline, it's an efficiency problem. Most modern combustion engines convert about 20-30% of the energy in the gasoline into motion, and of course, the highest you can get in theory is 100% (but you'll never reach that.)


    I don't know that battery storage problems have any theoretical limit at all. I'm sure something must put a cap on it, but if not then one of these days a jump could happen that makes electric so far superior to gasoline that nobody wants to buy gasoline cars anymore. If I were an auto-mobile manufacturer, I would want to hedge that bet by putting at least one foot in electric.

    If someone finds a way to make the cars cheap enough.... that might not be so bad. Maybe leave one car parked at work, and one parked at home, and switch them between commutes?
  11. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Another suggestion that has been made, is that battery packs remain the property of the manufacturers, and users pay rental. This allows a vehicle that is doing a long journey to simply swap uncharged packs for fully charged ones - a 5 minute undertaking.

    Setting up the stations for changing packs is no more difficult than setting up recharge stations, or gas refuelling stations, for that matter.
  12. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    I look at the base model because:

    1. We are trying to solve mass replacement of the cars, not just for the wealthy.
    2. To wait for the high end to come down in price can add another 2-5+ years to the solution.

    Also, transportation doesn't need to be fancy. When the economy downturn gets severe, people should be happy to be able to move from point A to B, not caring about the features of the vehicle. It doesn't need to be as primitive as certain cheap Indian cars today, but about the same features like today's 15-20K sedan's...

    Your computer analogy is good for something else:

    A 5 years old decent machine can do just fine and there is not necessery a need for an upgrade. What most people use computers for, the older machines can do just dandy. The analogy was in cars when we started to add DVD players and such, sure it is fine when you have kids, but really, that is not a major concern when it comes to buying a car.

    Now this Tesla base model isn't really going to be in mass production, it will be still like a novelty item...
  13. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    Let me ask you a blunt question.

    Would you agree that ev's are likely to become practical as family cars given a 10 to 20 year period of development?

    If you answer yes, I have no argument with you. Electric cars in the near future will be essentially gimmicks, and expensive gimmicks, but given time will develop into practical family cars.

    Do you agree?
  14. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    I read somewhere that it was 20% drop after 5 years for NiMH.

    I was reading about Li-ion and there are problems there too:



    Shelf life

    Charging forms deposits inside the electrolyte that inhibit ion transport. Over time, the cell's capacity diminishes. The increase in internal resistance reduces the cell's ability to deliver current. This problem is more pronounced in high-current applications. The decrease means that older batteries do not charge as much as new ones (charging time required decreases proportionally).
    High charge levels and elevated temperatures (whether from charging or ambient air) hasten capacity loss.Charging heat is caused by the carbon anode (typically replaced with lithium titanate which drastically reduces damage from charging, including expansion and other factors.
    A unit that is full most of the time at 25 °C (77 °F) irreversibly loses approximately 20% capacity per year. Poor ventilation may increase temperatures, further shortening battery life. Loss rates vary by temperature: 6% loss at 0 °C (32 °F), 20% at 25 °C (77 °F), and 35% at 40 °C (104 °F). When stored at 40%–60% charge level, the capacity loss is reduced to 2%, 4%, and 15%, respectively.

    Internal resistance

    The internal resistance of lithium-ion batteries is high compared to other rechargeable chemistries such as nickel-metal hydride and nickel-cadmium. Internal resistance increases with both cycling and age. Rising internal resistance causes the voltage at the terminals to drop under load, which reduces the maximum current draw. Eventually increasing resistance means that the battery can no longer operate for an adequate period.
    High drain applications such as power tools may require the battery to supply a current that would drain the battery in 4 minutes if sustained (e.g. 22.5 A for a battery with a capacity of 1.5 A·h). Lower-power devices such as MP3 players may draw low enough currents to run for 10 hours (e.g. 150 mA for a battery with a capacity of 1,500 mA·h). With similar technology, the MP3 player's battery lasts longer since it can tolerate higher internal resistance. To power larger devices, such as electric cars, connecting many small batteries in a parallel circuit is more efficient than connecting a single large battery.

    Safety requirements

    Li-ion batteries are not as durable as nickel metal hydride or nickel-cadmium designs,[citation needed] and can be dangerous if mistreated. They may suffer thermal runaway and cell rupture if overheated or overcharged. In extreme cases, these effects may be described as "explosive." Furthermore, overdischarge can irreversibly damage battery. To reduce these risks, batteries generally contain a small circuit that shuts down when the battery moves outside the safe range of 3–4.2 V. When stored for long periods, however, the small current drawn by the protection circuitry itself may drain the battery. Normal chargers are then ineffective.
  15. John99 Banned Banned

    I meant limiting the EV's to 50mph and was going to put that at 40mph but 50 is easier to sell.

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    Actually 40mph may have many benefits. One is cutting traffic fatalities down to almost zero. Another good idea is to have one design for everyone, but this is not as bad as it sounds.
  16. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Sure. They are practical right now for family useage as long as you don't intend to leave the city.
    But commercially they aren't practical yet. If I have a business to run I don't want to add the extra problem of watching the mile range so my fleet can make it through the shift...
  17. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Well, one reason why EVs have to match the ICE cars is safety. If you want to enter the highway, you have to speed up and maintain the same speed as the others are traveling with. Otherwise you can get run over or slow down the flow of traffic.

    Now certain people argue that allover the max. speed should be limited, I thought that's what you were saying. It could come to that if the economy downturn is severe. Imagine a recession going on for 2 decades with 8-10 bucks gas prices.

    I am afraid if we get to that, EVs are going to be our smallest problems because society will not change piecefully. Actually asking if we are willing to (or able to) give up our way of living is a good question. When you get used to the good life it is hard to implement restrictions, see Greece today....
  18. kororoti Registered Senior Member

    But the high end version is the one we want to see manufacturers re-tooling their factories to build. If we buy the low end version, then they'll retool around that one instead.

    Mostly I'm worried about the battery. Li-ions need to see mass production if their price is ever going to drop. The larger the scale they're produced on, the cheaper they'll get.
  19. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    We can stop worrying!
    Scientist at last have designed a car that can run on water. The only slight drawback is that the water has to come from the Gulf of Mexico.
  20. X-Man2 We're under no illusions. Registered Senior Member

    Navistar announced it had begun production of the FIRST Class 2c-3, 2-ton, medium-duty commercial electric truck in the U.S. — the eStar. It’s also the same vehicle that FedEx has announced it will be testing for fleet use in LA this year.It has a range of 100 miles, an 80 kWh battery pack, can carry up to 4,400 pounds and has a gross vehicle weight rating of 12,100 pounds. For use in an urban or semi-urban environment, a 100 mile range on a 2-ton delivery truck is pretty much all you’d need for an 8 hour day.Navistar expects to sell tons of the estar.And of course others will follow in getting into this huge untapped market.


  21. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Seriously, do some more reading. Problems with shelf-life, internal resistance & safety have been overcome with technologies like Lithium Iron phosphate batteries. This has been the case for years. Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries currently have a slightly lower energy density however there is some serious R&D going on in the industry that looks set to quickly overcome this issue. But the future is going to be all about super powerful super light weight carbon nanotube batteries where we're talking about 100 times the energy density of current technologies. It's some way off, certainly, but there's still going to be very significant advances in the meantime.

    Pipe dreams? No. Technology and economy of scale. The technology is literally on our doorstep and necessity is what's going to drive the price down. I personally think you've been talking to too many free energy tree hugging fruitcakes and it's jaded you so much that you are unable to appreciate a legitimate reality.
  22. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Why? Here you are telling me all the info we need.

    Really? Then how come the EVs of yesterday STILL beat today's EVs? Or at least match them? Basicly no noticable improvement, range is still 100 miles...

    1. If they have been around for years, why the need for improvement?
    2. That's what we have been hearing since 1974...

    1. If the Li-ion phosphate is so good, why do we need another technology? Hint: it isn't so good.
    2. I know, and humans will live up to 200 years.

    I am not saying it will never happen, just that it is STILL a pipedream. Once you have an EV that can cross America with 4 people under 40 hours, then we are talking...

    I can hardly wait...

    ...this year is going to be Linux's....

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    P.S.: Why in this thread everybody is talking about the future's big expectations instead of what we already have???
  23. Rav Valued Senior Member

    This is completely untrue. EV's from the early 1900's had a range of 30-40 miles and a top speed of 15-20 mph. In the 1950's, the Henney Kilowatt EV had a range of 40 miles and a top speed of 40 mph. In the 1970's the Enfield E8000ECC EV had a range of 50-90 miles and a top speed of 70-80 mph. In the late 1990's the General Motors EV1 Gen II running on NiMH batteries had a range of 100-140 miles and an artificially limited top speed of 80 mph. And I'm not just cherry picking examples here. This is properly indicative of the trend.

    In the last decade we've seen a large number of new EV's produced, arguably the most impressive of which is the Tesla Roadster with a range of 245 miles and an electronically limited top speed of 125 mph. Now, obviously the average driver is not going to see close to a range of 245 miles. Under the most aggressive stop/start driving conditions you're going to see a lot less than that. Less again if you consider that with an average charge cycle you're generally only working with 80% of the capacity. But there is no doubt that it has a significantly greater range than any production EV that has come before it. It did after all set the record for this class of vehicle by travelling 311 miles on a single charge.

    But aside from all this, anyone who understands batteries and electric motors will tell you that capacity and efficiency respectively have always been improving, and will continue to improve. EV's are, of course, all about batteries and electric motors.

    Maybe because:

    Last edited: Jun 2, 2010

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