View My Stats

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Electric cars: A sparky new motor | The Economist

A fascinating commentary from my pal, Kent Ballard. He's a journeyman machinist,
understands more about electrial things than most of us .. . and is a damned
good writer.

Here's his take on electric cars:

Electric cars are a wonderful idea. So is an ant-igravity device you
could hook on to heavy things to move them around with ease.

Neither has been invented yet.

General Motors would have sworn by all that's holy they could build
either one if it meant their survival. As for the other car companies, I
imagine it's much the same.

The first Toyota Prius models are now approaching the lifespan of their
batteries. When owners hear what it will cost to replace them, there
will be a glut of dead Priuses (Priuss? Priuri?A buncha cars with Prius
badges.) on the used car market. They'll eventually be melted down to
make ice skates or tin flutes. Who would buy a used car with such an
outrageous price knowing they have to pay even a great deal more to
power a very limited-range automobile? The way I see it, no one is
looking ahead here. I see absolutely no market for used electric
vehicles in any appreciable numbers. To my way of thinking, any and all
electric vehicles that have even been hinted at so far will eventually
cost the consumer more per mile than a gas or diesel powered version.

Then there's the small problem of literally running out of juice on a
hard winter's night while the driver is still six miles from his
workplace or home. A few times of that happening and families will begin
to rethink their "green wisdom" about buying the thing in the first place.

The battery technology simply does not exist now. They can use all the
propaganda they want (and they'll do it, too), they can say their target
market is the urban or suburban driver, and they will sell a few cars to
those who haven't thought this out. What will happen to a person at home
when they get an emergency phone call just after they plugged their car
in for its long recharge and another family member is out in their
"primary" gas-powered car? They will suddenly realize there's a ton and
a half of useless metal and plastic taking up space in their garage. It
wouldn't take much imagination to think of a hundred similar scenarios.

What about one-car families? I hope they like being groped by TSA thugs
or have an Amtrak schedule handy, because they will never be able to
take that very expensive car on a vacation. Again, useless. No--worse
than useless. Mere uselessness doesn't often cost forty thousand dollars.

Have you heard any rumors about an electric pickup truck? Neither have
I. Imagine a pickup being advertised by loud announcers and show girls
on TV claiming to get 200 miles to the charge. The fine print will say,
"Only when not carrying cargo or towing." Throw a grand piano in the
back and a few 50 pound bags of dog food. That 200 miles will suddenly
turn into about 40.

When it's dark or stormy, we turn on our lights. More power loss. We
need heaters so we don't freeze to death behind the wheel. Still more
power loss. Each one of them cuts range. Will playing the radio become a
decision for someone trying to get home in one of these things? And more
pulling power costs a great deal more in amperage. Imagine a current
Prius powerplant in a four wheel drive work truck that must drive
through deep mud and snow, carrying at least two fully grown men and
1,500 pounds of cargo. Now imagine it's dark and they have the heater
on. I hope they don't become stuck in a drift and hope to winch
themselves out. Then again, they couldn't go far enough not to simply
walk back to their shop or farm anyway.

Star Trek is a dandy show, one of my favorites. None of those gizmos
have been invented yet. But the public, moviegoers and TV aficionados
all, have allowed themselves to blur the line between that which is
physically possible today, and that which is not. And they're allowing
the PR departments of major car corporations to feed on that. We'd all
like electric cars. Hell, I'd like an electric pickup truck, given a
sustained supply of high amperage in a lifelong battery that could
recharge in the time it takes me to fill the tank on my gas truck--and
assuming it wouldn't cost as much as a house.

But we simply don't have the technology yet. We're not even close to
having that kind of technology.


No comments:

Post a Comment