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Old 12-18-2009, 06:23 PM   #21
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Large Hadron Collider - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heh, reminds me of someone once saying: learning about the universe in macro and micro scales by smashing particles together at high energy is akin to trying to learn music by dropping Steinway pianos from the 30th floor.

Notes will produced, but the melody is lacking.

Still, something useful will come out crashing particles. Eventually. Maybe they will actually find Higgs Boson.

So what do we do, once we have a unified theory of everything? Will that merge philosophy and physics? Will the Dalai Lama agree with physicists?
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Old 12-18-2009, 06:36 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
The great news is this: A manufacturer has finally found a way to make their electric cars match the performance of their conventional cars. When this electric car runs out of juice and stops moving, it exactly matches the typical behavior of any other Renault. Brilliant!
Ah ha someone else mirroring my thoughts - I still remember Renault's well earned reputation when they hit the American market/er freeways in numbers in the 1960's.

Also cured me of VW Bettles - I blew up four engines on I-5 in the 60's before I returned to a big gas sucking American V8.

heh heh heh - remember the 70's when emission controls arrived - give a few years to work out the kinks - unless you 'must' be a first mover.
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Old 12-18-2009, 06:41 PM   #23
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Large Hadron Collider - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heh, reminds me of someone once saying: learning about the universe in macro and micro scales by smashing particles together at high energy is akin to trying to learn music by dropping Steinway pianos from the 30th floor.

Notes will produced, but the melody is lacking.

Still, something useful will come out crashing particles. Eventually. Maybe they will actually find Higgs Boson.

So what do we do, once we have a unified theory of everything? Will that merge philosophy and physics? Will the Dalai Lama agree with physicists?
Of course. But don't expect vice versa - physicists work off grants - they always need to look for something.



heh heh heh - R&D kept me employed for many a year - not as a physicist though. .
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Old 12-18-2009, 07:56 PM   #24
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I'm sitting tight and just watching what's coming down the pike while I keep driving my 2000 minivan. I want my next vehicle to be functional for me but somehow more efficient and less polluting or GHG emitting. A lot will depend on any new innovations for larger vehicles (a little econobox @ 50mpg just doesn't work for me) that make them leaner and lighter but still able to carry some cargo. I'm thinking that some combo of electric w/gasoline backup will make sense for the way I drive - 95% communting type mileage from Nov-May, combined short/long the rest of the year. But I have this sense that we're at the turning point of some big changes in how our cars get us from here to there and I suspect I'll have a number of options when the time finally comes for a new car.

So here's a question from someone with no background or expertise in this area - electric cars need to be recharged so why haven't I heard anything about some sort of PV panels integrated into the top horizontal surfaces of electric vehicles for recharging on the go or while parked? Wouldn't it make sense?
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Old 12-18-2009, 08:06 PM   #25
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So here's a question from someone with no background or expertise in this area - electric cars need to be recharged so why haven't I heard anything about some sort of PV panels integrated into the top horizontal surfaces of electric vehicles for recharging on the go or while parked? Wouldn't it make sense?
That is mentioned a lot. It isn't done because it's a very wasteful use of the PV panel.
First, a panel that will fit on top of a car will only generate enough juice to run the windshield wipers. Second, the panel will be oriented incorrectly most of the time you are parked (unless you park on a southward-facing hill). And if there are trees, buildings, or you park in a garage--much less juice. Also, the panels have weight, and moving them around with an electric motor doesn't make good sense.

Better to put the panels on a nice, steady rack facing the right way and plug in when you get home.
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Old 12-18-2009, 09:13 PM   #26
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Large Hadron Collider - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heh, reminds me of someone once saying: learning about the universe in macro and micro scales by smashing particles together at high energy is akin to trying to learn music by dropping Steinway pianos from the 30th floor.

Notes will produced, but the melody is lacking.

Still, something useful will come out crashing particles. Eventually. Maybe they will actually find Higgs Boson.

So what do we do, once we have a unified theory of everything? Will that merge philosophy and physics? Will the Dalai Lama agree with physicists?
I don't know. And sometimes it seems like a waste to have all these great minds and monumental resources chasing down particles when so many practical problems need to be addressed.

But about 200 years ago, some bright minds were noticing that a compass moved when a nearby wire was connected and disconnected from some plates of metals in a salt solution. That sure didn't seem very useful either When I think about that, I figure maybe we should let these great minds go exploring.

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Old 12-18-2009, 11:41 PM   #27
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Here's to hoping for a magical Moore's law-like exponential increase in battery storage capacity, efficiency, cost reduction, etc. .
You have no idea how many times I have set through meetings in the last 20 years where a Silicon Valley electronics/software type shows charts comparing Moore's Law and the progress for chips with improvements in battery energy density.

If they show it for the purpose of emphasizing the increasing importance of improving battery energy density I give them a brownie point or two but if they even hint that they are going put battery technology on a Moore's law trajectory I write them off as either scientifically illiterate or a technical version of Bernie Madoff.
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Old 12-19-2009, 12:07 AM   #28
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The Moore's law that FUEGO references really does not apply to the physics of electric vehicles. The charge/discharge cycle of batteries is already in the 80-90% efficiency range, as are electric motors. There just isn't that much left to squeeze out. They can make improvements in cost, power/weight and power/size ratios - that will help the economics and range, but efficiencies just don't have too much further to go.

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WARNING - boring techy stuff follows:

Efficiency is not the issue. Energy density is the issue. Energy density is limited by the inherent voltage of a chemical reaction and the amount of charge that you can get from a give weight of reactant and the amount of "infrastructure mass" you need to include to efficiently get current in and out. The limits for the first two are well known. The later is a little fuzzier but in general a battery is considered to be near its limit for optimization when the actual energy density is about 1/3 of the theoretical based on the first two factors. There are materials being investigated that have energy densities of up to 10x those of current materials but the challenges associated with them are significant (think 20 years of R/D) and when you do the calcs you find that a 10 fold factor improvement at the materials levels does not produce a 10 fold factor improvement at battery level. There is also work going on to try to reduce infrastructure mass.

The efficiency of an ICE is limited by the Carnot efficiency. To get a efficiency of 90% you would need to operate the engine at a temperature of about 3000oC with NO mechanical losses. This is just the heat engine "inefficiency" and it doesn't even take into account all the frictional losses for the mechanical parts. The maximum theoretical flame temperature of gasoline in air is only about 2000oC. So the answer is that you just can't get to 90% efficiency by burning hydrocarbons in an ICE. In addition there aren't a whole lot of materials that will hold up for very long at a temperature of 3000oC. 80% is theoretically possible but IRRC they are only about 30-35% now. I'm not an expert on the challenges for improving it.

Fuel cells are not limited by Carnot efficiency. That is why people are interested in them in spite of the challenges.
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Old 12-19-2009, 01:44 AM   #29
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After digging, I did see a 100 mile range. Good for some, good 90% of the time for others, but that is a barrier - what do you do the other 10% of the time? I think the VOLT 'extended range' concept makes more sense in the US, unless you are a 100% urban driver.
90% is a pretty good "niche" to fill. What about the other 10%, you ask?

1) The spouse has a long-range car, whether it's gas or hybrid.
2) Rent a car.
3) Battery change stations such as the Silly Valley VC is proposing.

(I prefer renting for road trips anyway - better the mileage on a rental rather than my own car.)


As far as the ICE providing more value, no matter how much we act like an ostrich, externalities can't be ignored forever.
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Old 12-19-2009, 02:17 PM   #30
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These are exciting concepts, but I wonder how much is real and how much is vaporware. They are "announcing" this over two years BEFORE they are really available. Seems like more a marketing and positioning statement than a serious product announcement. If they do follow through and actually produce them for a reasonable price I'd be very interested.

PS The website is very "arty" but really quite horrible to try to get information out of. Makes me think they are targeting people who care more about what a thing looks like than what it is.
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Old 12-19-2009, 03:36 PM   #31
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WARNING - boring techy stuff follows:

Efficiency is not the issue. Energy density is the issue. .... (think 20 years of R/D) and when you do the calcs you find that a 10 fold factor improvement at the materials levels does not produce a 10 fold factor improvement at battery level. ....


The efficiency of an ICE is limited by the Carnot efficiency. .... 80% is theoretically possible but IRRC they are only about 30-35% now. I'm not an expert on the challenges for improving it.

Fuel cells are not limited by Carnot efficiency. That is why people are interested in them in spite of the challenges.
Thanks mb, great summary of the current situation and likely future of these technologies.

I really do think that the efficiency of batteries and motors is lost on the average person (even the average person with an interest in environmental issues). You just can't get 2x improvements when you are already at 80% eff. There is no "there" there. Looking at it the other way, making some great progress and cutting the wasted energy in half ( a 2x improvement by one measure) would represent a 12.5% improvement in eff. Not enough of a change to take EVs from marginal economics to "no-brainer". But as you say, there is room for reducing size/weight/cost.

There is an R&D offshoot from Caterpillar that is working with carbon foam nan-tech to be used in lead-acid batteries. Sounds like they are trying to address the "infrastructure mass" that you mention. Their goal is to make the lead plates super light - they predict lithium performance at lead-acid costs. Last time I checked, they had replaced one plate, but there was still work to do to replace the other. Haven't checked lately.

Home - fireflyenergy.com

edit/add - forgot to mention - ICE is limited by Carnot numbers, but you can harness the waste energy by other means (such as the 6 cycle engine I mentioned). I've heard of using piezo elements in the muffler so the sound is absorbed and turned into electrical energy, how about a sterling engine to run off the remaining waste heat? All technically possible, but they have their complications and cost issues.

Also, I'd have to look up the number, but theoretical eff of fuel cells is not so great (60-s %?), unless we come up with some cheap form of hydrogen I really think batteries will win over fuel cells overall.

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90% is a pretty good "niche" to fill. What about the other 10%, you ask?

1) The spouse has a long-range car, whether it's gas or hybrid.
2) Rent a car.
3) Battery change stations such as the Silly Valley VC is proposing.

(I prefer renting for road trips anyway - better the mileage on a rental rather than my own car.)


As far as the ICE providing more value, no matter how much we act like an ostrich, externalities can't be ignored forever.
Those are all good things that would make a limited range vehicle more acceptable. But they are still negatives (or at least perceived negatives), or at minimum require a change in thinking which isn't always easy. If EVs provided other big benefits, the negatives would be easier to adjust to for the average person. And "pulled out of the air" 90% number is a subset - some people require long rang enough of the time that it just would not be an option for them.

But how do you get the average person to respond to those externalities, if we don't make him/her pay for them? We can eliminate subsidies for fossil fuel, raise the tax on fossil fuel to make those externalities more "real" to the car buyer, but so far our politicians haven't gone that route (and I'll stop there to avoid turning the thread political - it just is a fact at this point).

Assuming that does not change, the best thing is for the EV to actually be an overall more attractive choice for a large % of drivers. But it looks like that will take better batteries (cost and performance), just as it has for the past 100 years. When that happens, people will buy them. But we just are not there yet, no matter how much we wish it were true.


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These are exciting concepts, but I wonder how much is real and how much is vaporware. They are "announcing" this over two years BEFORE they are really available. Seems like more a marketing and positioning statement than a serious product announcement. If they do follow through and actually produce them for a reasonable price I'd be very interested.

PS The website is very "arty" but really quite horrible to try to get information out of. Makes me think they are targeting people who care more about what a thing looks like than what it is.
Agreed. If there isn't already a thriving market in Europe for EVs, with their shorter drives and higher gas prices, you have to ask yourself - why not? When they are more ready for "prime time" in Europe, they will start making inroads here, but not before - the logistics are just tougher here.

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Old 12-19-2009, 10:29 PM   #32
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A couple more points on EVs - one positive/negative depending on your starting viewpoint, the other positive.

The first gets back to my aggravation at labeling EVs as "Zero Pollution". They get their power from the grid, and that is not pollution free.

Some rough numbers, then some DOE and EPA numbers...

OK, so the battery charge/discharge might be ~ 90% eff, and the motor ~ 90% eff - so say 80% overall. Pretty darn good.

An ICE in a vehicle is ~ 20% eff - hmmm, pretty awful in comparison. But....

ROUGH NUMBERS: A typical power plant is 36-40% eff, some newer designs 48%, and a *single* cogeneration plant listed as near 60%. (source: Fossil fuel power plant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ). So, let's go with the upper end of typical - 40%. Eight % transmission losses and you are at ~ 37% eff (.92*40). 37% * the 80% of the EV and you are at ~ 29.6%. Hmmm, good, but not so much greater than the 20% for ICE.

So if we converted every vehicle in the US to EV, we could say that instead of burning 100 bazillion units of fossil fuel over X time period, we only burnt 68 bazillion units of fossil fuel. OK, that's better, but it sure isn't zero - not even close.

OK, my rough numbers assume all fossil fuel generation - the US has some nuclear and hydro and renewable - but it gives a ballpark view.


DOE/EPA NUMBERS: Electric Vehicle Efficiency Analysis

Quote:
In 2007, a DOE-sponsored analysis found that there is enough excess off-peak capacity in today's electrical grid to power the conversion of "up to 84% of U.S. cars, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs)" to plug-in hybrids with a 33-mile pure electric range.

That same study found that under that scenario overall greenhouse emissions would decrease by up to 27%. .... particulate and SOx emissions would increase
Hey, I was pretty darn close at 32% reduction! Wait a minute, I assumed 100% EV, they assumed 84% on the present grid, hmmmm.... .84*32 = 26.88% versus their "up to 27%". I bet they spent a lot more money than a short #2 pencil and a (literally) back of an envelope (and wikipedia)!

And the EPA says (in a table):

If your electric power source is coal, a 30mpg car will emit LESS CO2 than an EV! (and even less particulates and SOx). I guess I won't feel too guilty while getting 27mpg highway in my 1900's technology ICE that can actually make the occasional 300 mile trip I need to make on that highway

OK, so coal is bad - but the numbers aren't all that much better for the US grid average. It takes a 45 mpg car to do better than an EV. So that is good, but it just ain't zero. As good as EVs may be, they are not some panacea to pollution and CO2 emissions. And remember - future advances in EVs won't change these numbers much. Efficiencies are already near the max, only range and costs have the room to improve markedly. That affects adoption rates, not these efficiencies.

THE POSITIVE: OK, the above is actually good news for EVs overall, just not the "great" news that I think most people expect. But there is more good news. EVs don't care how the electrical power is generated - unlike "flex fuel" cars, you don't do anything to your EV to change it to charge from Nuclear generated electricity, or wind, or solar, or biomass, or any power that someone might dream up in the future. If it makes electricity, your EV will eat it. That's good, but only meaningful if we come up with low cost sources for that power.

I was actually surprised at these numbers. I thought that EVs would look better than that.

-ERD50
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:59 AM   #33
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So if we converted every vehicle in the US to EV, we could say that instead of burning 100 bazillion units of fossil fuel over X time period, we only burnt 68 bazillion units of fossil fuel. OK, that's better, but it sure isn't zero - not even close.
True, but here's another way to look at it from a "glass half full" point of view.

In 2008, the United States imported 57% of the petroleum it used (source: EIA’s Energy in Brief: How dependent are we on foreign oil?). So that would mean we imported 57 bazillion units of fossil fuel using your numbers above.

That means we are producing 43 bazillion units ourselves (not including untapped reserves). Getting the total usage down to 68 bazillion units means we are now importing 25 bazillion units instead of 57 bazillion. Translation: We cut our dependence on foreign oil by 56%.

Or put another way: Instead of producing 43% of our needs domestically, we are producing over 63% of our needs. Only 37% of our oil comes from foreign sources instead of 57%, and for national security purposes that seems significant.

Note that I'm not necessarily arguing for doing this because it would come at extreme cost. But depending on how you look at it or "spin the numbers", what doesn't seem all that significant when viewed one way can become so when looked at another way.
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Old 12-20-2009, 11:15 AM   #34
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True, but here's another way to look at it from a "glass half full" point of view.
Yes, but the reality is going to be far from those numbers, I would think.

First, I'm sure that cutting our demand for oil does not translate to cutting our imports by that same amount. We will probably continue to buy oil from whatever market provides it at the best cost, and that will likely be some combination of domestic and imported. I guess you could say we cut our "dependence" by that amount - but I doubt we would keep up our domestic capacity at the level we need to be "independent" while we were still importing some big %. So, would we really be "independent" - have the ability to just cut imports one day? I doubt it, unless we chose to pay more for domestic oil all along and build up the infrastructure as some strategic plan. I just don't see that we have the motivation for that, and maybe we shouldn't. Why use up the oil that we have that is still expensive to obtain while we have cheaper alternatives on the market? I say save the hard to get stuff for when prices go up. It just seems to make sense, and that is why we do exactly that. I guess I'm saying that you are applying a static model to a dynamic market.

Second, those numbers assume everything goes electric. Even if a bunch of companies put good, cost effective EVs on the market *tomorrow*, it's gonna take a decade or more just to replace much of our current fleet. And we are probably a decade or more away from EVs really being mainstream. They will hit urban areas first and guess why - those drivers drive less miles, so %-wise that is a smaller % of the total "fleet-miles".

A lot can change in 20 years. That's about all it took for American cities to go from being inundated with horse manure and dead horse carcasses, to some work horse breeds almost going extinct (they butchered them for food - it wasn't cost effective to feed them) - all due to some unforeseen new technology, the "horseless carriage".

Who knows? The "solution" may be so far from EVs that we may look back at threads like this and laugh at our silliness.

-ERD50
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:46 PM   #35
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...
OK, so the battery charge/discharge might be ~ 90% eff, and the motor ~ 90% eff - so say 80% overall. Pretty darn good.

An ICE in a vehicle is ~ 20% eff - hmmm, pretty awful in comparison. But....

ROUGH NUMBERS: A typical power plant is 36-40% eff, some newer designs 48%, and a *single* cogeneration plant listed as near 60%. (source: Fossil fuel power plant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ). So, let's go with the upper end of typical - 40%. Eight % transmission losses and you are at ~ 37% eff (.92*40). 37% * the 80% of the EV and you are at ~ 29.6%. Hmmm, good, but not so much greater than the 20% for ICE.
...
While I agree this is an important angle to look at and keep in mind. You are no longer comparing apples to apples.
If you are going to include the innefficiencies in producing and transmitting the electricity you also need to include the innefficiencies in producing and transmitting the gasoline.
How much energy does it take, on average, to pump the oil out of the ground, then transport it to refineries, refine it and then ship it to gas stations?

This is also a big area that EVs have an advantage over gasoline in that as the electrical generation becomes more efficient, there is no need to re-engineer the cars. They can use electricity from coal, natural gas, hydro, wind or solar interchangably. Now if you want to change the make-up of gasoline, you need to rework the refineries, and possible the cars themselves.
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Old 12-20-2009, 04:23 PM   #36
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The first graph shows how common household innovations were adopted in the 20th century. Note that these were all things that have been proven highly useful. No Heath Brown contraptions need apply.

The second curve shows how different people adopt innovations. It's possible to be an innovator in one area and a laggard in another. I'm generally in the early majority group. I like to see other people work the bugs out and wait for the innovation to become a commodity so the price drops.....as I suspect many of us LBYM would do. The spread of an innovation is highly reliant on uptake by the early majority.
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Old 12-20-2009, 04:37 PM   #37
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Thanks mb, great summary of the current situation and likely future of these technologies.


-ERD50
Thanks but you seem to have picked up on some points and missed others.

Regarding batteries the point is that efficiency is not the correct metric to judge battery performance and that although battery tech does not progress at the same rate as semiconductors significant improvements in batteries are possible but require long term investment.

As an example if you flashback 25 years the state of the art battery had an energy density of about 35-40 watt-hours/kg. Current state of the art is pushing 200 Wh/kg. This is an improvement of a factor 5. Similar improvements have been made in other performance metrics. A similar improvement is possible in the next 25 years but requires significant development and investment. This would enable electric cars with no performance disadvantage (e.g. driving range, etc.) versus ICEs.

As far as I can see the performance improvements in ICE that would enable efficient, low pollution vehicles has not advanced as quickly as those of batteries (for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and true EVs).

Because of the limitations of ICEs, I think that the risk/reward ratio for investment in battery development is better than that for ICEs for developing efficient vehicles.
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Old 12-20-2009, 04:38 PM   #38
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I like to see other people work the bugs out and wait for the innovation to become a commodity so the price drops.....as I suspect many of us LBYM would do. The spread of an innovation is highly reliant on uptake by the early majority.
You must be really old to have waited for all those things.

The only ones on the list that appeared after I was old enough to buy something were the VCR, computer and the cell phone. The microwave appeared in student vending areas in ~1970 but wasn't generally available so I left it out.

We got a VCR long after Beta-VHS wars were over and they "only" cost about $200. I got my "first computer" in the late sixties but since it cost 7 figures and I was paid quite a bit to work on it, I don't count it. My next computer I purchased in the mid 90's. I got a cell-phone 2 years ago, for emergencies only.

I hope to live long enough to want an electric car.
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Old 12-20-2009, 06:59 PM   #39
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Nice graph Mead, I am probably typically an early adopter with most tech things. With EV's I am probably fit in the innovators (although I don't really do any innovating, just free marketing).
As soon as someone can build me an EV will a 100 mile (or better) range that is a small sedan or compact, I'll buy it.
My current bet is on Nissan's Leaf. But I certainly wouldn't mind the Tesla Model S.
If a roadster met my needs, I would be driving one of those right now
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:28 PM   #40
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Thanks but you seem to have picked up on some points and missed others.
Actually, I think we are in agreement - I may have stated it in a round-a-bout or unclear way, or both!

I think we agree that batteries and motors don't leave much room for power efficiency improvement as they are already pretty darn close to theoretical limits ( 80s-90's and 100 is the wall).

We also agree that batteries can and will and are getting lighter/smaller/cheaper - that trend will continue (you have a much better handle on the limits of this than I do). But... that does little to improve my ROUGH calculations on the amount of energy that EVs would consume from the present (largely fossil fuel) grid. OK, lighter batteries mean we will get a bit better miles/KWHr, but again, these are VERY rough numbers. And for the near term, if batteries dropped their weight and cost in half, most cars would just double the battery pack to provide better range, the present weak link for many people. So we'd still be carrying the same weight - efficiencies wouldn't change much, if at all. It would help adoption, but I already assumed 100% adoption anyway, just for an example.



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As far as I can see the performance improvements in ICE that would enable efficient, low pollution vehicles has not advanced as quickly as those of batteries (for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and true EVs).

Because of the limitations of ICEs, I think that the risk/reward ratio for investment in battery development is better than that for ICEs for developing efficient vehicles.

You are probably correct, but... if EVs give a 32% reduction in GG, and increases in some other pollutants, I wouldn't totally rule out the ICE (with hybrid power - electrical or mechanical) coming close to that in the next decade. But they probably are a dead-end not too far out.


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Originally Posted by Zathras View Post
While I agree this is an important angle to look at and keep in mind. You are no longer comparing apples to apples.
If you are going to include the innefficiencies in producing and transmitting the electricity you also need to include the innefficiencies in producing and transmitting the gasoline.
How much energy does it take, on average, to pump the oil out of the ground, then transport it to refineries, refine it and then ship it to gas stations?
Yes, I'm sure that power plants have some economy of scale over gas stations on every corner. But %-wise, I bet it's pretty small. Gas stations still get delivery by semi-loads. And I did use the absolute top end of the 36%-40% range for fossil plants in my ROUGH numbers, I doubt it would make a big difference.

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This is also a big area that EVs have an advantage over gasoline in that as the electrical generation becomes more efficient, there is no need to re-engineer the cars. They can use electricity from coal, natural gas, hydro, wind or solar interchangably. Now if you want to change the make-up of gasoline, you need to rework the refineries, and possible the cars themselves.
Absolutely - one of the reasons EVs will shine when we finally get some significant % of power from various renewables.

-ERD50
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