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Are Electric Cars Worth It?
#1
Since we are in the process of cooling down globally, and electric cars are all set to come on strong, what can we expect from both of the above working around each other? Here is what Charles Lane has to say about it. And stop and think: how many people would have frozen to death this last week, with all the blizzards blowing all over the country?

Quote:Cold truths about electric cars' cold-weather shortcomings

By Charles Lane
Friday, January 28, 2011;


Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address.

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.

Here's how thecarelectric.com, a pro-electric Web site, candidly summarized the matter:

"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. . . .

"In a car where all power is supplied by a battery pack you can see where this would be a problem. The batteries don't produce as much power so the car has less power. The batteries also have to work harder so the effective range of the car is also significantly reduced. Charge time will also be longer. Cold has a negative impact on all aspects of battery operation."

"Alongside the negative impact on the batteries cold also has a negative impact on the driver as well. Drivers need to be warm to operate the vehicle effectively so on top of the reduced range and power of the batteries just from the temperature they also must operate the car heater to keep you warm. This will further reduce the range of the car.

"If you live in an area where the winters get extremely cold an all-electric vehicle will have to be garaged and equipped with some kind of plug-in battery warmer for it to be effective in the coldest months of the year. Keep these thoughts in mind if you're planning an electric car purchase; we don't want you finding out the range of your car has been halved when it's five below zero and you're fifteen miles from home."

To be sure, gas-powered cars are hardly invulnerable. Plenty of motorists ran out of fuel in Wednesday night's mega-jam. But my hunch is that electrics would faced similar problems or worse. 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.

Carmakers say they are on top of these issues. General Motors has tested the Volt's battery in cold conditions and says it includes a margin of reserve power for such weather. Indeed, the Volt comes equipped with a backup internal combustion engine, so you need never fear, as long as the tank is full of premium gas (the only kind a Volt can use). Of course, burning gas rather defeats the "green" purpose of the $41,000 (before federal tax rebate) four-seat car. But at least you won't die of exposure on the road.

As for the Leaf, which touts a 100-mile range under optimum conditions (i.e., mild weather and no big hills like the ones I had to negotiate on 16th Street), Nissan is designing a "cold weather package" of options. But neither the cost nor the availability date has been announced.

Now, if the cars were cheaper than gas-powered cars of equal performance, these cold-weather risks might be acceptable. But electrics are substantially more expensive than cars of greater capability - and will be for years to come. Frankly, I don't know why anyone would consider buying one - especially if he or she lives north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

In his address Tuesday, the president reiterated his goal of putting 1 million plug-in hybrids and all-electrics on the road by 2015 and insisted that Congress spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars to achieve it. At present, fewer than 5,000 electrics are out there, so auto companies would have to make and sell about a quarter of a million vehicles annually between now and 2015 to meet his target.

Even with substantial government subsidies, I doubt the president will get there. Michael Omotoso of J.D. Power and Associates - a consulting firm that, unlike the Obama Energy Department, has spent a lot of time asking consumers what they actually want - told me the number could reach 750,000 by 2015, and 1.1 million by 2020 if all goes well.

But the million-car goal is meaningless: It would represent 0.4 percent of the U.S. automotive fleet, yielding no substantial reduction in carbon emissions or U.S. dependence on foreign oil for the government's multibillion-dollar investment. Alternative policies, such as a modest increase in the gas tax or support for more efficient internal combustion engines, would do more to accomplish the administration's legitimate goals faster and at lower cost.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I think J.D. Power is optimistic. This subsidized market niche is just one well-publicized malfunction away from disaster. Perhaps a Volt battery will overheat and burst into flames, as some computer batteries have been known to do. Or maybe a Leaf driver will suffer frostbite while stuck in the next blizzard. Let's just hope one of his neighbors pulls over to help him out.

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“Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up” — Saint Al of the Gore -
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#2
I'm still waiting for the steam engine car to make a comeback. As one guy said after restoring a Stanley Steamer and driving across the country only using waste crankcase oil and cheap fluids for a total price of under ten dollars: "The damn thing can run on buttermilk!"

BTW, the SS had the land speed record of over 200 mph when the Internal combustion top speed was in the high 80's.

The electric car is not green. It is puce.
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#3
WmLambert Wrote:I'm still waiting for the steam engine car to make a comeback. As one guy said after restoring a Stanley Steamer and driving across the country only using waste crankcase oil and cheap fluids for a total price of under ten dollars: "The damn thing can run on buttermilk!"

BTW, the SS had the land speed record of over 200 mph when the Internal combustion top speed was in the high 80's.

The electric car is not green. It is puce.

Bill...................the steam engine was never in in a big way, and never will be. I've been on one before. And while they are nice to play around with, today's society is tuned in to the idea of turning the key and driving off. You cannot do that with steam.
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“Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up” — Saint Al of the Gore -
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#4
In Toronto condominium management boards are sending letters to its members advising them not to purchase an electric vehicle in the expectation that they can have it recharged or powered using the condominium's common electricity.
The true purpose of democracy is not to select the best leaders — a clearly debatable obligation — but to facilitate the prompt and peaceful removal of obviously bad ones. 
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#5
John L Wrote:...the steam engine was never in in a big way, and never will be. I've been on one before. And while they are nice to play around with, today's society is tuned in to the idea of turning the key and driving off. You cannot do that with steam.
Actually, the Stanley Steamer was successful because it was very easy to operate and didn't need a long time to "get up to steam." It was outlawed by blue laws set in place by Edison, Ford, and boot-licking pols who lied about steam cars in the newspapers and made People think they would blow up. (Never happened.) The race cars that set the records were outlawed from race tracks - because "they went too fast and might become airborne." - Just like the turbine cars that reigned supreme at the Indy 500 for two years were oulawed.

One of the Stanley twins was assassinated, and his brother lost heart to continue the company faced with the unfair attacks. How would you like to sell cars that city ordinance said had to be parked outside the city limits? To this day there are only two or three production-line steam cars in existence. Like the Delorean, the parts to build them and restore them were systematically destroyed to prevent the competition.

Kind of sad, if even for just for the classic car enthusiasts. They are the easiest car to build, and the maintenance is far less than put forth. One wag said they had five moving parts and four of them were wheels.

Seeing the problems that electric cars have with cold weather begs the same kind of solutions necessary for stoking a steam engine in practical time considerations. A simple pressurized tank can add an instant start, something the Stanley brothers didn't seem to need.
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#6
WarBicycle Wrote:In Toronto condominium management boards are sending letters to its members advising them not to purchase an electric vehicle in the expectation that they can have it recharged or powered using the condominium's common electricity.

I can remember when I lived in Alaska, many years ago, that we had to have special outside heaters that my parents used to keep the engine oil warm enough, and the battery warm enough, so both could allow the family car to get away in the morning, during a cold winter. I can't remember the details, but electric cars are not going to be all the rage in a cold climate. And if the cold zone starts marching southward soon, even Buzz, down there near Omaha would be advised to also stay away from one. Wink1
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“Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up” — Saint Al of the Gore -
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#7
Electric cars are a waste of money, for the poeple who buy them, and, I agree to the governement too.

Obama has great ideass, but he has poor technical knowldge, a common trait with ecologists.
The electric car is not for today. t's the solution for the future, but for the future only.
It's good to help research in this domain, but it's a bad idea to push for massive production yet.

The elctric car costs twice more for performance twice less. And yes in winter you get even less than that.

Also bear in mnd that a non-recharged battery can freeze up and break under ice pressure. I don't know if electric car batteries contain liquid, I hope not.

There is absolutely nothing attractive in an electric car. At best you can use it for urban driving as a second car. Towns are the only place where electric cars have an advantage because stop-and-start are frequent. The speed is usualy low and the distance short which reduce the impact of the main disadvantages.
Yet you still need the money to afford it.
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#8
The average hybrid has a break even period of around 4 or 5 years vs a regularly powered car of the same model. This calculation really only works on cars that you can purchase both types, where cars like the Prius that don't have a regular model make comparisons difficult.

Full electrics are a new thing, the last one being the ill fated EV from GM in the '80's. Also the hype of a ZEV, the supposed zero emissions vehicle, are over blown as the missions are not gone, they are shifted. Shifted to the electric generation facility. All the knocks against electrics using more power in the winter are very valid. Which is why they are going to be utilizing things like heated steering wheels and seats. Using those will be sap less power than heating the whole car. And I don't know about you, but I like to be warm. And once my feet get cold, I'm miserable.

And with GM's fail car the Volt, how many people are really gonna plug it in? I'll bet most people just keep putting gas in it and depending on the gas motor to charge it. If your cell phone had a little motor in it that would start up and charge it when it was low, would you ever plug it in?

And the batteries never are depleted Fred. They use pretty much the middle 60% of the charge. Never fully charging, never fully discharging.
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#9
yes, the winter doesn't affect cars with combustion engines. lucky you who've never been to russia, where diesel becomes a solid, and the cooler, no matter how much antifreeze you put in, bursts open if the engine isn't running all night. costs quite a bit of fuel, and pray it never runs out or you are dead. i don't think the electric engine cares about frost, the colder, the better.
"You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." Dick Cheney
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#10
quadrat Wrote:yes, the winter doesn't affect cars with combustion engines. lucky you who've never been to russia, where diesel becomes a solid, and the cooler, no matter how much antifreeze you put in, bursts open if the engine isn't running all night. costs quite a bit of fuel, and pray it never runs out or you are dead. i don't think the electric engine cares about frost, the colder, the better.

And that is why there are special 'dip sticks' which are hooked up to electricity, providing heat to the core of the engine block. I just talked about it above "Q". Obviously you didn't bother reading the post, right?
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“Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up” — Saint Al of the Gore -
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#11
Biker Dude Wrote:... I'll bet most people just keep putting gas in it and depending on the gas motor to charge it.
These cars only use premium gas... I guess you need more octane to lug those heavy batteries around.
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#12
Q, The only problem I ever had with my diesel car in winter was with the battery.
Ok, this battery was old and not enough powerful to meet the requirement for my car. But the fact is that in summer all was all right and in winter I never knew if the the engine would agree to start (until I finaly bought a new battery).

Electric cars will be a practical means of transportation the day we know how to store electric energy efficiently.
At the moment we can't even have a decent runtime on battery with laptop computers. When you switch them on it shows that your battery is 60% full and still have for 1h45 of work. 15 minutes later it already gives you an alert that you bettery is too low. I guess with electric cars it's the same.

The very existance of Hybrid cars is the proof of the failure of the electric model.
They have a main electric engine at the mercy of the weakness of the batteries, backed up by a combustion engine, which is too small to drive the car normaly and economicaly.
What we need are normal cars with normal powerful gas engine, with, in option, an electric engine and batteries to use in urban areas or whenever the poeple want to save on gas.
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#13
The Chevy Volt seeks to optimize performance by having the gas-powered motor run at the most efficient speed for generating electricity to charge the battery. Electric motors have better lugging power than internal cumbustion engines, so they can give more efficient performance for the energy utilized. The main benefit of usinig electric motors in any car--all electric or hybrid--is that the motors function as generators to help recharge the battery during braking or slowing down, thus scavenging a significant portion of the kinetic energy, and increasing the car's range by 20% to 30% based on mpg comparison. Since the Volt can also be recharged from the electric power utility, this can save some additional money, assuming that the electric power utility can generate electricity more cheaply than the car can since the utility operates on a bulk scale. The batteries being used now (lithium hydride, or some other exotic formula) have about ten times the storage capacity of the old lead-acid car batteries. The latter will only drive a golf cart about 7 miles or so. The former will drive an electric car about 70 miles on one charge. Some claim more. Some say certain all-electrics can go up to 200 miles on one charge, and can accelerate like a race car. But I don't know if that includes any models currently on the general market.
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#14
Yes, the Tesla was designed to accelerate from 0-60 in 4 seconds and perform like a sports car, in order to sex up the image of electric cars, so that when they produce a less expensive production vehicle, they would have a name in the market. That car was designed for future development all the way. The batteries were just a bundle of laptop computer batteries strapped together, with a ten-year warranty. They knew the batteries did not have a ten-year life span, but concluded technology would give them enhanced batteries before the clock stopped ticking.
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#15
Jay Leno owns such a car, and has shown video clips of it on his show. But it was custom built--using laptop computer batteries. I doubt if he actually uses it much. Certainly not to drive to work in. Where would he park it? It is probably a grand theft auto waiting to happen.
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#16
Electric engines are far better than combustion engines. More responsive, faster, flexible, no heating etc...
But the problem with electric cars is the same as with vacuum cleaners: It's difficult to move around with the wire behind you. The plug can be pulled off the wall if you are not careful.
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#17
they make little noise, no dirt, are the right answer to rising fuel prices, and global warming, and all other perceived or real disadvantages are secondary. i hope combustion-engine driven vehicles will be outlawed soon. not sure about the noise and dirt thing, i bet they too will be customized to annoy other people.
"You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." Dick Cheney
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#18
quadrat Wrote:they make little noise, no dirt, are the right answer to rising fuel prices, and global warming, and all other perceived or real disadvantages are secondary. i hope combustion-engine driven vehicles will be outlawed soon. not sure about the noise and dirt thing, i bet they too will be customized to annoy other people.

Sounds like you are already annoyed "Q". Wink1
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“Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up” — Saint Al of the Gore -
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#19
Fredledingue Wrote:Electric engines are far better than combustion engines. More responsive, faster, flexible, no heating etc...
But the problem with electric cars is the same as with vacuum cleaners: It's difficult to move around with the wire behind you. The plug can be pulled off the wall if you are not careful.

This is probably the most astute observation and Fred makes a valid point here.

Q, they make anti-gelling additives for Diesel. In fact, the Army uses JP-8 instead of *diesel* fuel.
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#20
Ron Lambert Wrote:Jay Leno owns such a car, ... it was custom built--using laptop computer batteries. I doubt if he actually uses it much. Certainly not to drive to work in. Where would he park it? It is probably a grand theft auto waiting to happen.
Actually, all Tesla cars are custom built using the exact same laptop batteries. It is basically a kit-car with some proprietary hardware.
All cars that Jay Leno owns are classic cars. He is one of the foremost car enthusiasts on the planet, and he pays top insurance because all his cars are expensive. Because he is so into them, I'm sure he has lojack and redundant GPS alarm systems on all his vehicals.

The joke that brought him to Johnny Carson's eye was a car video he did of walking through a parking lot and seeing a car with a "Baby on Board" yellow alert triangle. He looked in the window and said, "Ohmigod, I can't see any baby... It must have fallen and got wedged under the seats!" Whereupon he broke a window with a sledge hammer to rescue the baby. Looking inside, he didn't see any baby, so he walked away innocently, saying, "Whew! Lucky for that driver - false alarm!"

Johnny liked cars, too. This was probably the event that put Leno over the top against Letterman to sucede Johnny. That and the famous espionage of Leno sneaking into a storage room next to the executive meetings to hear the discussions. Letterman didn't want it that bad.
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