Who's stopping the electric/solar car?

Hi all,

Daft question huh? Not really.

Scratch beneath the surface of the oil underworld and there’s all sorts of murky goings on. There’s a slick food chain here and ultimately (like all chains) there a link at the end.

Considering the fantastic things we can do with electricity, to create the electric car is, to put it simply, too easy.

In this age of ‘Global Daycare’ a powerful and sensible electric/solar car is a given.

So, why not?

It’s “too easy” to create an electric car, huh? Well, then, get out there, create one, and make a few billion dollars.

The trick isn’t building a car that uses electricity. The trick is finding a dense enough energy store medium (or source) to provide the electricity.

For example for a 1000kg car to go from 0 to 28 m/s (100 kmph) you need 6500W of power. At 500 W/m[sup]2[/sup] solar incidence and 20% efficiency panels you’d need a solar array 8 m (24ft) a side just to generate that power.[sup]*[/sup]

Discounting earlier storage, which would drive the overall mass of the car anyway

I once watched a movie called “Who killed the electric car?”. It was rather one-sided and occasionally accusative, but it did definitively establish a couple of things:

  1. Some major car companies created electric cars, after being forced to by californal emissions laws or something. These cars were leased to the public.

  2. When the environmental law expired/was revoked/changed, the car companies retracted the leases, collected the cars, and locked them up. They have possibly been destroyed by now.

  3. The people who had driven the cars were very sad to see them go.

This is, of course, assuming the movie wasn’t a total fabrication: total lies and creative cosmetic mods to cars to show charger slots and stuff. I’m sorry, but I have no further information.

Though batteries have gotten a lot better, they eventually fail, and fail and a lot faster than a well-maintained internal-combustion engine. Heck, there are plenty of cars from the 1990s and earlier rolling around. The EV1 (the central vehicle in the ~documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?) wasn’t around long enough to track long-term problems.

I’d personally love to see cities filled with electric vehicles for daily commutes, but a more attainable goal is more widespread use of econo-gascars like the various Toyota, Honda and Hyundai subcompacts.

What I’ve heard is that it’s too hard to design an electric car that can go a long distance on one charge, would charge in a reasonable amount of time, and wouldn’t be hugely more expensive for their size than a conventional car. I think that’s about what you’d need to get electric cars to be a significant fraction of the market.

Here’s an LA Times article from about 4 years ago by actor Peter Horton (Gary on thirtysomething) and his experience with the EV-1.

I was working for a state facility and attending a state school for several years before this article came out. Both (along with a number of other public facilities) had electric car-only spaces in their parking lots with functioning chargers that conformed to the EV-1’s charger form factor. So infrastructure, at least locally, wasn’t that big a problem.

It is the oil companies. By continuing to sell cheap gas they are holding back the use of electric cars.

Not that the somewhat low availability could possibly have anything to do with it.

Or the part where the low rolling resistance tires were horribly dangerous in poor weather, the projected failures as the cars reached 7 years old being nasty liabilities (remember, GM paid for maintenance on 'em, IIRC), the poor cargo capacity, and the really horrid winter behavior.

We can make perfectly good electric ‘city’ cars. We can’t make perfectly good ‘do anything’ cars. Quite. Yet. Getting closer.

From what I’ve read, a plug-in hybrid car comes close to a good “do anything” car. The statistic I heard is that the average commute is under thirty miles a day, and a hybrid car can go that far on batteries alone, so one could plug in the car at night and only have to fill the tank every month or so.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=480386691536327252 They are being made in a few places.,with small funding and no huge infrastructure. Could a determined auto company have made them. ? I believe so.

Do you have any proof that the ‘oil underworld’ has anything to do with whether or not there are electric cars? Because you state it doesn’t make it so and I’ve seen no evidence that there is some sort of loony conspiricy to keep them out of the marketplace but the big oil tycoons.

Or, to put this another way…is the electrical generation folks in on it too? Whats in it for them? After all, supposing we actually COULD simply switch over to electric cars en masse, wouldn’t they stand to gain BIG dollars? After all whether its oil or hydrogen or electricity, SOMEONE has to supply that power…and the rest of us are going to have to pay. So, if we go with your core premise…why haven’t the electric generation companies gone whole hog on creating electric cars? Do they not like to make money?

And here I thought it was a pretty big technical challenge. After all, just about every country and company that has a significant auto production capability has been working on the problem for decades. Maybe they have all the stupid scientists and engineers working for them, ehe? :slight_smile:

IOW, do you have a cite for how easy it really is to create a useful electric car that can be mass produced in the quantities needed, is comparable in price to the current internal combustion engines out there, and meets the needs of a majority of the target consummers? If so, please provide it.

What exactly is ‘Global Daycare’…and how does it ‘prove’ that such a car is a given? Or that its ‘easy’? Or, well, anything?

Because its more technically and economically challenging than you seem to understand?


I’ve seen tables, though, that suggest you’d have to drive the car on these short commutes for 20 years or more before the premium one now pays for a plug-in hybrid comes out to less than the money you’d spend on normal-car gas, even with prices expected to remain high. We’ll need early adopters to buy enough of these cars to drive the price down before they get widespread use. When the plug-in hybrid option costs about as much as, say, automatic transmission, we’ll see how successful they are. I don’t think I’m likely to ever get one, living in Montreal. Winter conditions could make a battery-system unreliable.

Electric cars are relatively easy to make. People have been making them for years. They do however have lower range than similarly sized and powerful cars that run on gas. It also takes longer to recharge a electric car than it does to refill the tank of a gas car. Eventually the cost of gas, both monetarily and perhaps environmentally, may make the inconveniences of electric cars less of an issue.

Just wondering, but, have there been any comparisons on the miles per dollar basis between gas and electricity? Say for a 25mpg conventional car, with $3 gas, that’s 8.3 miles per dollar. So if you’re gettin electricity straight out of the wall (not using your hybrid to generate it) how far can you get on a dollar’s worth of electricity?

Better factor in where the oil is and who we get it from.

Agreed! And greed… There is no real political will to change anything and that’s problem #2

Gas contains roughly 1.3 * 10^8 Joules
An internal combustion engine is about 25% efficient.
This means for a 25MPG it takes about 1.3 * 10^6 joules to go a mile.

There are 3.6 * 10^6 joules in a kilowatt hour.
Where I live the cost of electricity is roughly 14 cents a kilowatt hour.

Battery charging is about 66% efficient for nickel metal hydride batteries. This number seems to vary a lot based on quick internet scans.

Electric motors are about 85% efficient. So 2.3 * 10^6 joules are needed to go a mile.

So about 9 cents a mile. Or about 11 miles per dollar.

15 or so years ago I was consulting for all sorts of alternative energy powerplants, including hybrids, electric and compressed natural gas.

Believe me, the big auto companies would have LOVED to come up with an economically viable electric car. The big problem was batteries. They needed a lot of them, they needed them super-efficient, and then you still had to hope the driver wouldn’t use a heater or headlights.

Batteries have gotten better in the last 15 years, but not good enough. Remember those computer battery recalls a couple of years ago when Sony, Dell and some other laptops suddenly caught on fire? Imagine that with a battery pack big enough to power a car.

Range is the big problem. On a nice summer day you might get 100 miles out of a charge – enough for commuters. On a cold winter night, you’re going to get considerably worse performance. And unlike a gas or diesel-powered car, you can’t just put in a quick two gallons to get you home.