Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I recently had the great pleasure of going back for a week to Alaska, where I’ve spent many exhilarating summers. I was reminded of the winter cold by seeing all of the electrical outlets by the parking meters in Fairbanks. Every car that is parked there in the winter plugs in their “block heater”. This is an electrical heating element that keeps the engine block of the car from getting so cold that the engine refuses to start.

Figure 1. Fairbanks monthly temperatures, averaged by decade. You can see the huge change in these sub-Arctic temperature over the last eighty years … or not …

That started me thinking about how much energy it might take to heat a car in Fairbanks, versus the energy to drive it around. Here’s how I would do a back of the envelope calculation for a place like Fairbanks, just below the Arctic Circle.

Block heaters run from about 500 watts to a high of 4,000 watts. Most seem to be in the range of one thousand watts, a kilowatt (kW).

In Fairbanks, the average temperature is below freezing for seven months out of the year. So to calculate total use, we could estimate that heater usage will average out to say four months of the year, fulltime. So the car will be drawing a kilowatt at all times except when it is being driven. Call it 23 hours a day.

So 23 hours / day times 1/3 year times 365.25 days / year times 1 kilowatt = 2,800 kilowatt-hours (kW-h) per year.

The price of residential electrical energy in Fairbanks is about 19 cents per kW-h. So that’s about \$500 worth of electricity per year …

Gas (petrol) prices in Fairbanks were about US\$3.80 per gallon when I was there. Assume 10,000 miles driven per year, and say 25 miles per gallon fuel efficiency for the car. That’s 400 gallons of gas, worth about \$1,500.

My envelope tells me that the Fairbanks car might have a total energy cost of say \$2,000 per year.

So car-owners of Fairbanks, when the EPA Police want to arrest you because you haven’t kicked your evil fossil fuel habit, tell them they’re too late — a quarter of the energy to run Fairbanks cars is already electrical, you are already so green it hurts.

(Don’t tell them that due to local conditions and US opposition to nuclear power, Fairbanks electricity all comes from fossil fuels … those kind of folks need their illusions.

w.

PS—Before anyone accuses me of being paranoid about the EPA Police, consider this:

## 160 thoughts on “Electric Cars in Alaska”

1. tty says:

At least in Sweden it is not usual to run the engine heater continuously. One uses a timer set to start the heater an hour or two before the car is needed. This works well for cars used for commuting, but of course is not practical for cars that might be needed at any time and at short notice.

2. |Its nice to see that the US still has “Wanted ” posters
We can’t have them in Britain in case we infringe a criminal’s Human Rights!

December, January, and February is Fairbanks harshest months.
Most people leave their car running.
Period.
Without a heated garage, its just best to leave your car/truck running.
If its 40 below and no end in sight, its just better to leave your car running 24/7.
And that’s with a plug-in to your battery blanket, engine block and in-line radiator heating elements.

4. bushwalker says:

Reminds me of the Tom Cruise character in the movie “Rain Man”, except that it wasn’t so serious a crime back then.

Did he import Frigging Fiats or Fabulous Ferraris?

6. Kev-in-Uk says:

A bit oversimplified IMO, Willis, (as per first commenter) but a valid point nonetheless. I personally get really peed off with the greenies harping on about electric cars and ‘green’ electricity. These people simply do not understand the electricty generation system or how it works. Sure, we can put as many wind farms and solar powers on the system as they like (don’t agree with the real environmental impact though!) but it will never produce 100% electricty all of the time. perhaps if we fitted the greenies cars/tv’s/mobiles with cut out switches to turn them off whenever there is no ‘green’ power available, they may just get the point!

7. Philip Peake says:

I would guess that your estimate of 10,000 miles per year driven is on the low side. The US average is something like 15k. Alaska has more wide open space, and much less public transport.

You also skipped over some interesting calculations on using electric cars in Alaska.
Things like how much power would be required to heat the car, and how much degradation there would be in battery performance at low temperatures (if there is actually any performance at all!).

8. D G says:

While there are those of us who can probably recall pouring hot water over a car battery to get enough cranking power to start an engine, that hardly seems viable for electric powered cars. Further the battery mass may be somewhat higher than that serviced by a crankcase heater.

9. Is that wanted add for real?

Tell them to “Fuccardi-de-offa!”

Max

10. Frank says:

I agree with the fun spirit of the calculation, but to do it right, you would need to do more research. I have spent some time in Alaska, and saw vehicles which had multiple heaters; for the oil, the coolant, and the battery. Some of these heaters likely have thermostats too, so they would not be on continuously. Kinda makes the calculation non-trivial when you have to deal with multiple things going on simultaneously- reminds me of those who attempt to calculate climate…

11. Spinifers says:

The very idea of using a true electric car, like the LEAF, in the far north is insane. The cold saps so much battery power that even the longest-range electric car would be reduced to virtually no distance at all. Especially considering the extra power needed to move the vehicle through snow.

If your car fails when it’s 60 below and you’re not right in town, you’re as good as dead (unless you’ve got a lot of survival gear, which, granted, is always wise to have anyway). With a gas-powered car, even if you get stuck in a ditch or something, at least you can run the engine, and thus the heater, until help happens along. And you can carry extra cans of gas for the really long stretches between towns (and they’re ALL really long stretches between towns in Alaska and the Yukon).

And finally power goes out all the time in Alaska. Often for weeks at a time; I remember at least twice being without power for over a month — both times right around Christmas, when it’s coldest.

I’d sooner dogsled than drive an electric car in the arctic. I’d be a lot more confident I could refuel my dogs.

12. Gary Pearse says:

In Winnipeg plug-ins were common in parking lots at work, etc. Also, during 40below weather, one often also brought their battery inside to keep warm. Leaving your car running in Edmonton, Alberta, I believe is still practiced – if you want to go in for a beer or something to eat you don’t turn your car off. In many warmer parts of Canada, you would probably invite car theft for joy riding if you practiced this way to keep your car warm in winter.

13. George E. Smith; says:

Well your 10,000 mpy and one hour per day driving time says an average speed of 10,000/365 = 27 mph average. That seems pretty low to me; unless Fairbanks has a huge number of traffic lights that keep your car stopped most of the time.

I drive a Subaru Legacy ins Si Valley (actually two f them) and on level roads, at 45 mph, such as a couple of crosstown “expressways”, I get beteween 50 and 55 mpg (instantaneous). The car has an instantaneous mpg readout, as well as an average trip mpg. Then it has a needle like a rate of climb indicaor, that shows whether you are doing above or below the trip average mpog, so you can drive accordingly. When someone cuts in front of me, and then slows down (they always do that) or when one of the dumb traffic lights turns red, then my mpg drops and goes to zero at the light.

The Silicon Valley traffic control algorithm is very simple; a two year old child can make better traffic decisions. The core of the algorithm is “who should I let go ?” So most lights are mostly red, most of the time. If they made a simple change to the algorithm so that it is: “Who should I stop ?”, then most traffic lights would be mostly green, most of the time, and we would likely save about all of the oil that we currently import.

So my 50-55 running mpg averages 27-28 mpg as a result of all the zeros.

Well those lights are programmed by the same sort of people who gave us Micro\$oft Windows, so that explains it.

Hopefully, Fairbanks never gets to the same traffic light density Si Valley has. They do breed, you know. You put in a traffic light to solve one imagined traffic situation, and that light backs up traffic for at least six blocks in all directions, creating new traffic problems so pretty soon you have to install at least one more set of traffic lights somewhere else. It won’t be long before that light comes into heat, and spawns another new light.

A couple of weeks ago, a third world person was crossing the road near my house, in the middle of the block and (s)he got hit by a car and killed. So now they are digging up that street, and the next street over, and the connecting cross street, to install new traffic lights, where none is needed. That will attract even more third world persons to the very same spot so they too can be killed by passing cars. It would have been so much easier if that person, had simply looked both ways, and not crossed until it is clear. The principal advantage of crossing in the middle of the block where there are no traffic lights, is that there IS only traffic coming from two directions to run you down. After they put in the lights, then you go there so that the traffic can run you down from four directions at once.

In some countries, they have some quite crazy pedestrian control ideas: such as “either cars move, or pedestrians move; but never both at the same time.” Well then you can let the pedestrians all go in four directions at once (actually it is a total of 12 directions at once) so you get everyone to their destination in a single pedestrian period, and nO cars move in ANY direction at that time; and now there is only one pedestrian period instead of two or four, or even 12, depending on who pushed the button.

With enough traffic lights in Fairbanks, you could have the cars freezing up anyway, while stopped at traffic lights.

14. Dave Wendt says:

I always wonder about the poor pilgrim wandering about rural Minnesota or some of the more severe Winter states in his fully electric car, who happens to end up stuffed in a ditch on a low traffic back road in the middle of the night. Between the power consumed to keep the batteries operational and the power to run the heater, I would expect it might be a pretty nervous night for such folks. Even in a gas powered vehicle that is not a very comfortable scenario, but if you keep your tank topped up and remember to check that the exhaust hasn’t been covered up periodically it is more of an inconvenience than an opportunity for existential terror.
Admittedly the near ubiquity of cellphones makes the prospect of having to spend long hours awaiting rescue much less likely, but Mr. Murphy is also ubiquitous and he will always be doing his best to guarantee that, if you do end up in such a situation, it will be at one of the few places where coverage isn’t available.

If somebody did gift me with one of these electric wonders I think, before I ventured very far off the beaten path, I’d want to conduct a little driveway experiment to see what kind of duration I could expect with the heater going full blast and the temp 10-30 below F.

15. Old Nanook says:

Electricity prices in Fairbanks are high because the area is without significant access to natural gas. A portion of Fairbanks’ electric power is purchased from Anchorage where it is generated with natural gas. The local electric company also is a participant in the Bradley Lake hydroelectric facility, the energy from which moves over the Alaska Intertie to Fairbanks.

While the Obama regime is officially supportive of the Alaska North Slope Natural Gas Line project which would move North Slope natural gas to the lower forty-eight states and Canada, their fellow travelers in the environmental movement will do probably anything to prevent this project from happening.

Loss of electric power in Fairbanks in the winter is not a joke — it can be a matter of life and death. The same is true of a car that stalls out away from others and will not restart.

16. Andrew Harding says:

Electric cars are supposed to be the salvation of the Earth, they are clean, quiet and there are no emissions because they do not have exhausts. So no CO, CO2, NO2.
It sounds like Green Utopia, BUT the following is true:
1) Car engine uses chemical energy to heat energy to mechanical energy.
2) Electric car uses chemical (plus minute amounts of nuclear and wind) energy to heat energy to electrical energy to mechanical energy.
At each stage of energy conversion there are losses, electric cars cause more pollution than petrol/diesel cars because of that extra energy conversion. Also there are power losses in electricity cables caused by the resistance of the wires.
Basically anyone running an electric car is deluding themselves if they think that they are harming the environment less than someone with a car which has an internal combustion engine.
Provided of course that the internal combustion engine in question, is not bigger than 4 litres and is not a V8.
I love V8 engines!

17. Claude Harvey says:

Now you’ve gone and drawn attention to Alaskan block heaters. If incandescent light bulbs can be banned on politically correct grounds, what do you suppose will happen to electric block heaters? I envision a “vegetarian sled dog” movement coming our way soon.

Very cold climates are one of the places electric cars have an advantage over petrol vehicles, precisely because they can start in very cold temperatures.

There have always been niches where electric vehicles made sense. More than 50 years ago in the UK, our and everyone else’s milk was delivered by an electric vehicle that drove the same fixed route every day, with a large number of stops and starts.

Powering electric vehicles from solar/wind is a good solution to what to do with electricity from these sources. It makes more sense than feeding the electricity into the grid IMO.

But electric vehicles are still impractical for most people and applications. Then there are the polluting processes like battery manufacturing that get outsourced to places like China, and the toxic timebomb of billions of discarded batteries.

19. Has the EPA arranged for a drone to get Alessandro in Naples or wherever?

20. Speed says:

Philip Peake said, “I would guess that your estimate of 10,000 miles per year driven is on the low side. The US average is something like 15k. Alaska has more wide open space, and much less public transport.”

The US Department of Transportation reports that Alaska has 15,719 miles of public roads, sixth smallest of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2009/hm20.cfm

21. chris y says:

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. You don’t need to go as far north as Alaska to experience -40 C/F in the winter, sometimes for several days in a row. We had block heaters in every car we owned. Around Dec 1, a sheet of cardboard was inserted in front of the radiator to reduce the heat loss that the radiator experienced when driving around town. The cars parked in the garage were on a timer that would power the block heaters about 4 hours before the car was needed in the morning. The other car was parked outside, and had a block heater running all the time when it was parked. One dead-calm, overcast morning at -35 C, even with the block heater running all night, the engine barely turned over, and then the fan belt shattered, as in hundreds of little bits. Good times.

22. Speed says:

Citizens of Fairbanks will have a little more trouble kicking the petrol habit than we-uns in more temperate states.

I just finished test-driving the Chevy Volt in temperatures that stayed below freezing for nearly the whole time I had the car. As a result the battery’s range fell more than 30%. In ideal conditions the Volt is supposed to go 40 miles on battery power alone, but I was traveling between 22 and 25 miles before its range-extending gasoline generator kicked in.

I’m not knocking the Volt, which is a technical gem. This is just the way batteries behave in cold weather. Other electrics I have driven suffered similarly in the cold.

Jonathan Welsh in the Wall Street Journal

George E. Smith,

The USA could reduce delays, save energy and increase safety by replacing most traffic lights and a large proportion of stop signs with roundabouts.

This is one area the government should take a leading role in. As people go from resistance to roundabouts to liking them once they experience them.

The money being thrown at solar panel manufacturers, etc, would save a great deal more energy if spent on installing roundabouts and educating people about them.

24. Gail Combs says:

Gary Pearse says:
October 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm

In Winnipeg plug-ins were common in parking lots at work, etc. Also, during 40below weather, one often also brought their battery inside to keep warm. Leaving your car running in Edmonton, Alberta, I believe is still practiced – if you want to go in for a beer or something to eat you don’t turn your car off. In many warmer parts of Canada, you would probably invite car theft for joy riding if you practiced this way to keep your car warm in winter.
___________________________________________________________________
Two sets of keys. I drive diesels and even in New England you leave the engine running when it gets to minus 30F and you can not plug the engine block heater in.

I love the block heaters. With a trickle charger to the battery and the block heater plugged in my little rabbit diesel Pickup was the only car in my apartment complex to start one very cold New England day. I had to jump start the rest of the building – snicker.

25. jorgekafkazar says:

“…It would have been so much easier if that person, had simply looked both ways, and not crossed until it is clear.” –George E. Smith

Personal responsibility is so mid-Twentieth Century.
/sarc

October 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm

George E. Smith,

The USA could reduce delays, save energy and increase safety by replacing most traffic lights and a large proportion of stop signs with roundabouts.

I’ve seen more traffic accidents at the one roundabout I encounter while traveling to and from work each day than everywhere along my route combined–and my trip is about 20 miles one-way. Admittedly, most of these accidents have involved semi trucks with other smaller vehicles, but those semis aren’t necessarily concentrated just at the roundabout, so I’m questioning your “increase safety” estimation.

27. Battman says:

From 1930 to 1945 I lived 12 miles north of Owls Head N.Y. In those days Owls Head was often the coldest place in the U.S. In the last 20 years or so it seems that the weather station there has been removed. In that area and at that time, it was standard practice to add a quart of kerosene to your motor oil in the fall and hook-up a battery charger when temperatures were likely to be -20F or less.
I recenlly acquired a 1978 American Motors Electric Pacer which is presently being restored. This is a research vehicle which will be used to compare the performance of modern lead-acd batteries with Lithium ion and Nickel-metal batteries. I hesitate to predict results before the data is collected (like the IPPC et al) but I expect that taxpayers aren’t and won’t be getting our moneys-worth from the billions being poured into electric vehicles and batteries.

28. Dr A Burns says:

Italy first adopted a Clean Air Act in 1966, with additional regulations added in 1983 and 1988. As for safety, EuroNCAP, the world’s leading independent car safety testing organisation, has named the Alfa Romeo Giulietta at least, the safest car in its category. Not good enough for the EPA it seems. Alessandro is obviously a very dangerous man for trusting European standards.

Alessandro Giordano

Together with his father, Carlo, Alessandro Giordano was arrested in California for selling about two dozen Alfa Romeo cars imported from Italy that met neither Clean Air Act nor vehicle safety standards.

Indicted in 2003, each was charged with seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements in documents required by the Clean Air Act.

Not counting penalties for fleeing to Italy, they each face up to five years in prison and a \$5 million fine.

Don’t try to apprehend this man yourself!

29. chris y says:

Philip Bradley- you say “Very cold climates are one of the places electric cars have an advantage over petrol vehicles, precisely because they can start in very cold temperatures.”

I’d like to see some justification for this startling claim. Li-ion and NiMH rechargeable batteries do not work very well below -20 C. The cold-weather testing I found for the Leaf at -10 C gave about half the range found at +25 C. Also, Nissan says to avoid storing a vehicle in temperatures below −13 °F (−25 °C) for over 7 days. Presumably this will damage the battery pack. I have not found any test results on EV’s at -20 C or colder.

30. Ian L. McQueen says:

A word on block heaters: it is more effective to heat the oil in the crankcase than to heat the block. If the oil is warm and thin, the engine will turn over and start. Heating just the block will still require the battery to turn the crankshaft through molasses-like oil.
A heater and trickle charger for the battery will also help by keeping the battery up to full strength.

My father had a diesel Mercedes back in the 60s. It did not like to start in the cold, and he had to bring a truck-size battery indoors to keep warm if he wanted to be sure that the car would start in the morning. Truck batteries are heavy!!

IanM

31. juanslayton says:

George E Smith: In some countries, they have some quite crazy pedestrian control ideas: such as “either cars move, or pedestrians move; but never both at the same time.” Well then you can let the pedestrians all go in four directions at once (actually it is a total of 12 directions at once) so you get everyone to their destination in a single pedestrian period, and nO cars move in ANY direction at that time; and now there is only one pedestrian period instead of two or four, or even 12, depending on who pushed the button.

Pomona set up a system like this back in the 50s. Got the idea from a fellow named Barnes (traffic engineer for Denver, I think). Called it the ‘Barnes dance.’ It was a great novelty at the time, but like many other ‘improvements’ to downtown Pomona, couldn’t save the area from shopping center competition.

32. nc says:

Don’t forget in subzero temps and snowy roads which increase rolling resistance ,mileage is about halved. Here in central British Columbia the prius owners are quite surprised with their poor mileage, equal or worse than a gasser economy car in the winter. Surprise surprise.

Roundabouts less fatalities and serious injuries, no t boning.

In extreme conditions if one runs out of gas or gets low on fuel, more fuel added good to go. With electric a plugin is needed then the wait for the charge. Maybe a generator could be carried, LOL.

I use a heating pad attached to the under side of the oil pan and transmission, heats the oil and block, works better than a block heater. A block heater does not heat the oil in the pan or transmission as heat rises. Each pad is only 100 watts so a lot cheaper in energy usage.

33. Jeremy says:

Cars will start fairly reliably down to about minus 20 degrees Celsius. Between minus 20 and minus 30, a car may or may not start and you won’t get much opportunity to try as the battery will die very quickly. Below minus 30 degrees Celsius a block heater is absolutely required. Below minus 40 you will require special additives to fuels and lighter engine oils and a block heater is mandatory. Most people leave a car running if it must be left outside and if it is more than minus 40.

BTW – make sure you have heavy winter gear and skidoo boots in the car at all times during extreme winter conditions. If you break down and you are more than a few hundred yards from assistance and you have no special winter clothing then you and your occupants will all die if someone does not rescue you!!!

34. I lived in Fairbanks for 15 years.

As we move, necessarily, from a petroleum based society (oil, after all, is a finite resource), the population of Fairbanks will plummet. You simply cannot live a modern American lifestyle at 40 to 60 below zero Fahrenheit without oil. Period. Electricity is produced with diesel generators. Houses must be kept warm with fuel oil, or water pipes freeze and break. Propane solidifies at 20 below zero.

Electric cars? Forget it. It’s just too damned cold. All of the batteries for an electric car would have to be heated by electricity or they would freeze and shatter. How do you heat the inside of an electric car at 40 below zero? How would electric motors work at 40 below?

It’s not only cold in the winter, it’s dark. This means the electric car would be using it’s headlights all the time it’s being used, limiting how far one could travel.

Nope. Alaska is a fantasy of the 20th Century petroleum economy.

35. Paul Westhaver says:

I recall asking this question to an engineer who works for GM’s engine design division in Pontiac MI. Wile in grad school prior to GM, the engineer won the Shell Fuel efficiency competition one year circa 1995 piloting his vehicle to 1100 Miles per gallon. (I did not get permission to use his name yet)

“You’d need a trailer with a battery pack the size of the propulsion battery pack just to heat the passenger compartment. In gas fueled vehicles, you get the low quality heat almost for free. In an electric car, you’d have to generate the energy then transfer it to the batteries. Effectively doubling the energy needed to run the vehicle.”

He is right and your back of the envelope calculations are proven correct.

Electric cars require 2X the energy in cold climates… unless you are willing to freeze to death while driving.

36. juanslayton says:

Phillip Bradley: The USA could reduce delays, save energy and increase safety by replacing most traffic lights and a large proportion of stop signs with roundabouts.

A modest demurrer here:

37. ShrNfr says:

It will be required soon that all block heaters be powered by renewable energy. But in infiltration of these into the more southern states in the lower 48 will be dismissed by the Goracle as just “weather” which we know is not climate.

38. Austin says:

Unless it was 20 below or colder, I never plugged in. So you have to look at the days when it got below 20 below.

Electric cars do not work well or at all when it is cold. The far North is one place where you have to have something else.

39. davidmhoffer says:

Anthony,
Your numbers are (I think) high for a variety of reasons like the use of timers and also the block heaters themselves (some of them) have monitoring functions so they turn themselves off and on as needed.

But the larger energy premium I would think is in regard to fuel consumption. I lived most of my life on the Canadian prairies and I can attest that even with the engine fully warmed up, fuel economy drops off dramatically in the cold. Fuel injected engines start much better in the cold than the naturally aspirated (carburator) versions I grew up with, but I don’t recall such a large difference in fuel economy with the carburators versus the fuel injection.

Regardless, at -40, fuel economy drops 30% or more. For anyone who puts on a lot of miles…that’s a big Big bill. Now add to that the cost of heating a home…. ouch.

chris y,

They are going to test electric vehicles at McMurdo station in Antarctica where winter temps reach -50F.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-antarctica-ice-electric-vehicles.html

Otherwise I was referring to the fact a niche exists for a vehicle that starts and runs off battery power in very cold temps. Whether such a vehicle is a practical proposition give the limitations of batteries in cold weather is a separate issue.

More generally my point was that electric vehicles should be developed for niches where they have advantages and not at the family vehicle market.

41. The US EPA has been the primary barrier to commercial after market conversions to bi-fuel or flex-fuel vehicles. The EPA’s regulations can cost up to \$200,000 per engine family.
On March 21, 2011, the EPA issued slightly less onerous requirements for vehicles over two years old. See: EPA Announces Final Rulemaking for Clean Alternative Fuel Vehicle and Engine Conversions
The EPA’s bureaucracy still remains a major constraint on rapid conversion to bi/flex fuel vehicles. See: EPA Announces Final Rulemaking for Clean Alternative Fuel Vehicle and Engine Conversions

The USA already spends about \$200 billion EACH year in direct higher costs because of the OPEC cartel. That is worth two trillion dollars present value (\$2,000,000,000,000) that US taxpayers are being forced to pay because of the EPAs throttling conversions, and Congress’ weak kneed failure act to recognize the severe strategic disadvantage we have allowed ourselves to entrapped by. I.e. the OPEC cartel is directly imposing a tribute of \$17,000 on each and every US household (~118 million households in 2010).

Germany lost WWII when the Allies finally bombed their Fischer Tropsch coal to fuel plants.
South Africa survived the UN embargo because of Sasol’s manufacturing Fischer Tropsch plants to convert coal to fuel.
It is time the Non-OPEC world focused on the economic effort OPEC is waging against us and act to free ourselves of this onerous tribute.

42. Dave L says:

Your estimate of 25 mpg for driving in Fairbanks is too high. Many vehicles are pickup trucks and SUVs. Throw in the winter-time idling of the engines and I’ll wager you 12.5 mpg would be more accurate.

There will never be wind turbines in Fairbanks — seldom is there a significant breeze. I have seen a few solar panels, but they would be totally worthless for 4 months of the year.

Air inversions are the rule. The valleys are much colder than the surrounding hills and small mountains. My son lived in a valley outside Fairbanks and had a sophisticated weather system. Last winter the coldest night at his home was -43F. He recently moved from Fairbanks to Texas.

43. Eric Flesch says:

In what sense is “two years shown for clarity” in the decadal graph? The left and right halves are identical! Looks falsely suggestive of being more than it is. “Clarity” would be a single 1 year cycle.

44. “A word on block heaters: it is more effective to heat the oil in the crankcase than to heat the block.”

Combine this with an electric oil pump you can turn on every so often to keep the oil circulating, and you have a really good solution. Even at warmer temperatures, I’ve often thought it would be helpful to have the normal starting mode for a car engage the oil pump for a short time before the starter kicks in, to make sure of maximum lubrication during starting, which is normally when an engine gets its worst wear precisely due to the fact that the oil has mostly drained into the bottom of the crankcase. Add a small electric heating element that can be plugged in when the car isn’t in operation, and you have a winner.

I wonder if any of the car companies have thought about building this into the vehicles as factory standard.

45. Frederick Michael says:

I’m surprised no one has mentioned 0W-30 oil. When I lived up north I discovered that 0W-30 in small engines made a huge difference in cold weather. My riding mover/snowplow started much, much easier with it and you can even feel the difference with a pull-start lawn-mower.

This would be just an incremental improvement in a place like Alaska, but every little bit helps.

46. Drew Latta says:

I’m not sure what the issue is here. I come from Iowa where we have had -35 C nights and I’ve never had any problem with starting a 2001 vintage small truck. But I suppose the Alaska folks have an issue with the long duration of hard conditions and need to leave things running… I can especially see it for diesels.

But the question that strikes me first and foremost is: Is this idling forever to keep a car going just a hold-over from previous generations of vehicles? I

47. climatebeagle says:

Michael A. Lewis says: “As we move, necessarily, from a petroleum based society (oil, after all, is a finite resource), the population of Fairbanks will plummet. ”

Don’t be silly, Fairbanks will be overrun with all climate refugees as it becomes much warmer due to AGW.

/sarc

48. Steve from Rockwood says:

October 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm
Very cold climates are one of the places electric cars have an advantage over petrol vehicles, precisely because they can start in very cold temperatures.
====================================================
Philip, you forgot “sarc on”.
I would go on to suggest that someone develop an electric milk truck for Fairbanks but I have a feeling someone would apply for a grant.

49. B. Jackson says:

I’ve had vehicles start, without block heater assistance, in temps as low as -40C and maybe slightly colder. One trick is a battery with more CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) than came stock in the vehicle. Most vehicles come with a very modest battery, maybe 550-650 CCA but, get one that fits the battery tray with 800-1000 CCA and you’re much better off. The more the better. An engine in good tune with a starter in good shape is a must, as well. Living on the Canadian Prairies, you learn what works and what doesn’t. While I’ve had vehicles start at those temps, I don’t recommend making a habit of it. It’s not a nice feeling when your engine has been running for a few seconds and you can hear the oil pump start to suck up the oil from the pan! I normally plug in when the temps drop to -20C and I use a timer, coming on 2 hours before I leave for work. Any longer is a waste. Where I live, an electric vehicle would be like having a motorcycle, only useful for half the year.

50. Falstaff says:

I think Phillip Bradley’s point has been missed when he says EVs have _an_ advantage over petrol vehicles in cold climates, such as Fairbanks, AK.

As others have suggested, Li Ion batteries do indeed suffer a temporary performance degradation in range delivered of some ~30% at ~-30C, but they will not completely fail to “work”. I suspect this is misconception carried over from a similar partial degradation in the common small starter battery at cold temperatures, which when delivering less than full power do completely fail to start the vehicle.

Some EV’s have a bit of battery thermal management (e.g. the Volt) to mitigate the loss; notably the Nissan Leaf has none. Otherwise however, with respect to cold temperatures a system based on an electric motor must be more reliable than one based than an internal combustion engine with its numerous cold temperature sensitivities: liquid cooling, block temperature, high power starter, fuel (esp. diesel), etc. With these several complete failure modes it should be no surprise to learn that some in Fairbanks “never turn off” their petro vehicles. The EV’s range may restrict it to the niche, close to town applications for some years but I have little doubt it will prove more reliable in the cold.

51. Jeff L says:

Fun calculation …. great nerdy entertainment :))

52. Pablo an ex Pat says:

October 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

“Very cold climates are one of the places electric cars have an advantage over petrol vehicles, precisely because they can start in very cold temperatures.

There have always been niches where electric vehicles made sense. More than 50 years ago in the UK, our and everyone else’s milk was delivered by an electric vehicle that drove the same fixed route every day, with a large number of stops and starts.”

As an ex Pat Brit living in a very climate area of the US I believe that you that you are drawing conclusions based on little, or possibly no, experience. There is no comparison between what would be considered cold weather in the UK and cold in the continental US. And I am not including Alaska as part of the lower 48. None, nada, zip.

I sold a car that was giving me unreliability issues, it was a late model Chrysler, because you can literally die up here if your vehicle lets you down. And if it does and you decide to walk to that light you see in the distance, good luck. It’s better to stay in your vehicle, run the engine at least occasionally and wait for rescue.

Never had to think of that in most places in the UK, relatively temperate and a small place where houses and help are relatively nearby.

Here I carry an emergency survival kit everywhere I go in the Winter months. Thermal blankets, extra clothing, booster cables, tow rope, water proof matches, candles, dishes for melting snow, plug in air compressor etc etc etc…..

Until you feel the cold of a Continental US winter you have no idea what it’s all about. And by the way I love it here, the summers and fall are amazing.

53. Pablo an ex Pat says:

On and I love the winters too, you have to dress properly for it and carry emergency supplies but it’s bracing to say the least.

juanslayton,

When I lived in the USA 30 years ago, the only roundabouts I encountered were north of Boston. Clearly, many drivers had an unfamiliarity problem with them. That would quickly dissapear if they encountered them on a regular basis.

Hence my point about a role for governments in promoting their use.

A few TV ads explaining their advantages would win many people over.

What’s not to like about a change that shortens journey times, saves money, and reduces accidents.

55. October 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I use a heating pad attached to the under side of the oil pan and transmission, heats the oil and block, works better than a block heater. A block heater does not heat the oil in the pan or transmission as heat rises.

Really!!??

Care to cite a physics text on that one? (WHICH law of thermodynamics?)

(Full disclose: Owner of a 5-cylinder Mercedes with a working BLOCK heater here.)

.

56. George E. Smith; says:

“”””” juanslayton says:

October 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

George E Smith: In some countries, they have some quite crazy pedestrian control ideas: such as “either cars move, or pedestrians move; but never both at the same time.” Well then you can let the pedestrians all go in four directions at once (actually it is a total of 12 directions at once) so you get everyone to their destination in a single pedestrian period, and nO cars move in ANY direction at that time; and now there is only one pedestrian period instead of two or four, or even 12, depending on who pushed the button.

Pomona set up a system like this back in the 50s. Got the idea from a fellow named Barnes (traffic engineer for Denver, I think). Called it the ‘Barnes dance.’ It was a great novelty at the time, but like many other ‘improvements’ to downtown Pomona, couldn’t save the area from shopping center competition. “””””

Well you can do the Barnes Dance any time you want in Auckland NZ, and I’m sure most other places there. You can even stop in the middle of the intersection and snap pictures of all the fellow stampeding animals.

Half of all pedestrians killed on the road in the USA are killed on pedestrian crossings with the light in their favor. Simple problem of cars moving at the same time as pedestrians. And don’t give me that well everyone’s crossing there so naturally they get killed there. The losses should be zero; not 50%

Middle of the block is infinitely safer, than at intersections. In California, you aren’t allowed to go on a green light, or after stopping at a red light or stop sign, with right turn on red option, UNTIL the intersection is clear of all previous traffic, and that includes any pedestrians that are on the crossing; no matter where on the crossing they are. Californians routinely run the red light for a right turn, and pay no heed to pedestrians on the crosswalk. The running right turn on red is the biggest source of red light runner tickets in California by far.; and that is an expensive ticket. The cops like right turn red light runners; sitting ducks.

57. Paul Westhaver says on October 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm

“You’d need a trailer with a battery pack the size of the propulsion battery pack just to heat the passenger compartment. In gas fueled vehicles, you get the low quality heat almost for free.

True story; In Michigan growing up, Dad bought a used 1962 VW as a ‘to and from work’ car equipped with a gasoline-fueled heater … don’t know when or how it was installed prior to our buying it, but, it was on the vehicle when we bought it (installed up front under the trunk/bonnet with a vent into the passenger compartment).

Observation: Those puny air-cooled pancake-4 engines in those bugs produced little to no useful heat in the dead of winter I am here to tell ya …

.

58. chris y says:

Thanks for the clarification. The EV’s down in the Antarctic rely have “a maximum speed of 25 mph under “normal” driving conditions and uses an array of lead-acid batteries. For deployment to Antarctica, the EVs were outfitted with insulation for the batteries as well as battery heaters.”

We’ll see if a LiFePO4 battery chemistry ever shows up down there. The only Lithium-based battery technology I know of that can handle -40 C or below are primary non-rechargeable cells based on Lithium Thionyl Chloride.

As you say, there will probably be niches where EV’s make sense. Hollywood and Santa Barbara come to mind at the moment.

59. Philip Bradley says on October 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm

juanslayton,

When I lived in the USA 30 years ago, the only roundabouts I encountered were north of Boston.

Yea – haw! They have come to Texas!

http://www.texite.org/meetings/getfile.php?name=W101B2.pdf

Pg 6 of the document details 11 cities with roundabouts in TX! (Including on in my town!)

.

60. ferd berple says:

Most of the Cars in Canada are already electric. We plug them in during the winter which pretty much keeps them running year round. We also have a lot of renewable energy cars. During the winter when you can’t plug them in, all it takes is a small charcoal fire under the oil pan to warm them up a bit and get them running.

In the north of Canada, where wood and electricity are hard to find, we use perpetual motion cars and trucks. You never shut them off during winter, otherwise they won’t start until late spring when there is enough solar power to get them going again. Once started they seem to run fine until the next winter.

It should be noted that not all cars in Canada are electric. Out on the west coast of Canada in Lotus Land where Suzuki lives, the cars there are all pretty much solar powered. Except for the very rich who can afford Whistler, the cars all pretty much run all year round even if you don’t plug them in.

Recently this has begun to change, led by Suzuki himself who was spotted this summer with an all electric Prius. With a long enough extension cord he can reportedly drive it all the way from Kits to Downtown. No word yet on what sort of mileage the heater gets.

Pablo an ex Pat,

It happens I lived in Canada for 10 years and another year in upstate New York.

I eventually moved to Australia, because I’d had enough of cold, snow and ice.

62. Hoser says:

Andrew Harding says:
October 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

When you have excess inexpensive energy, you can get sloppy with it, and can afford to do things you otherwise could not do. The answer is nuclear power. And enough already with whining about failed technology from the 60s in Japan. Centuries of safe inexpensive reliable power await us making the right choice, the only choice, if humans want to keep living as we do in the West now (or better) beyond 2050.

Electric cars need nuclear energy, otherwise, they are indeed stewpid. And if we don’t consume large quantities of energy per capita, we won’t be able to support the current large (and growing) world population. Sorry, Greens, there’s no going back unless you are planning to kill a few billion of us to get there. Whoever is left after the green revolution will live equally in squalor, except naturally, some are more equal than others on the Farm.

63. Aren’t the ‘internets’ [sic] great!

A short search turned up a picture of a gas (gasoline) fueled heater mounted in a 1963 VW bug as can be seen here a little more than halfway down this page:

http://www.oldbug.com/stubble.htm

Fuel mileage must have been cut in HALF on a 40 HP bug with that baby fired up!

.

64. Ian L. McQueen says on October 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm

A word on block heaters: it is more effective to heat the oil in the crankcase than to heat the block.

Are you ‘series’?

The Mercedes diesel block heater, non-thermostatic controlled, puts out north of 300 W from nominal US AC main voltage (120 VAC RMS) … after five or six hours I can hear ‘steam bubbles’ being generated in the vicinity of the top of the block where that thing is bolted into said block (WHICH is also water filled), and YOU’RE telling us you would rather see it immersed in the oil (or bolted to the oil pan)?

Please, do get ‘series’ … there is not enough ‘thermal mass’ down there.

BTW, car shows not much below normal operating temperature on the temp gauge after five or six hours of heater operation in 40 deg F. wx (this was before I figured out a timer really should be used to bring the heater on line just a few hours before engine starting! Caveat: First time diesel owner here …)

.

65. Timo Kuusela says:

Here in Finland all cars are equipped with engine block heaters.Using winter grade oil is equally important, too heavy oil starts lubricating too slowly and the engine wears out fast.
A cold engine uses up to double the amount of fuel per mile until warm.Carbureted even more, so it is economical to pre-heat an engine when the temperature is cold.The savings are substantial, far exeeding the cost of electricity used.Of course, if the heater has no thermostat and is on 24/7, there will be little or no benefit money-wise.We here have passenger compartment heaters coupled to the engine block heater, so the windows are clear and the car is dry inside eliminating window fogging.They are up to 2000w , so they are about 3 times the wattage of the engine block heater.Still couple of hours before driving is more economical than starting cold.Safer, and that has value too.
Willis did now something that we say here:”He hit a rock with his axe”.

66. Dan in California says:

We engine engineers put a different importance on block heaters. Sure, they make the engine easier to start, and that’s what makes people use them. But the real reason to use them is to limit the wear caused by cold oil not doing a proper lubrication job. Tar is not a good lubricant. And if you have a Mercedes Diesel, the WAIT light timer duration was determined by the marketing, not engineering department. If you let it wait longer, the glow plugs keep on heating and work better. Proud owner of a 300D 2.5T here.

67. JB Williamson says:

George E. Smith,
The USA could reduce delays, save energy and increase safety by replacing most traffic lights and a large proportion of stop signs with roundabouts.

Sounds a great idea, – that is until they decide to fit traffic lights to those roundabouts too.
Here in the UK, we now have lots of roundabouts with traffic lights.

Once upon a time, most drivers were very disciplined at stopping for red lights. No longer, red means go, as long as nothing is coming. So now they have to fit cameras to the lights. Mad.

68. Don E says:

When I lived in Alaska I had two plugs one for the heater (I am not sure what it heated but I think it was the water) plus a trickle charger for the battery. You forgot to calculate the trickle charger. But even at that I would start the engine before taking my shower and eating breakfast and let the car run to heat up the transmission or the car would not move. And then the tires were flat for a mile or so.

BTW VW’s used a heat lamp placed under the engine.

69. Andrew Harding says:

Hoser
Agree totally with you wrt nuclear, only proviso being that it should not be generated anywhere there is a likelihood of an earthquake. I would also like to see the billions being wasted in AGW research devoted to research into hydrogen fusion

70. dwright says:

Pesky Laws of Thermodynamics —- They tend to get in the way of political agendas……

71. dwright says:

Just have to add that the best way to start a shut off a diesel engine in the middle of a Canadian winter is DON’T.

Unless you want to spend 5 hours with a Tiger torch fueled by bad nasty evil propane.

d

72. As several has commented, noone sane (who pays the bill) will have the heater on whenever the car is parked unless it is an emergency car of some kind (one should rather consider a heated garage, anyway). Modern cars start with no problem whatsoever down to -20C. Below this, a heater is a good idea as well as antifreeze in the fuel. Below -40 things get bad (so they say, I’ve no first hand experience with that). Fuel and oil tend to turn into a thick soup, and you definitely should let the engine keep running if you got it started and only need to park for a little while.

The trouble with letting the engine run is local pollution. Extreme cold is linked to inversion most places which traps the air.

73. tty says:

“You’d need a trailer with a battery pack the size of the propulsion battery pack just to heat the passenger compartment. In gas fueled vehicles, you get the low quality heat almost for free. ”

It was not only air-cooled “bug” VW that had insufficient heating. I used to own a diesel-powered VW Rabbit with a 44 hp engine. It had quite decent performance, was incredibly reliable (150,000 miles with absolutely no engine maintenance) and easily made 75 m.p.g. However heating was marginal at temperature below about -15 centigrade. Such a small and efficient diesel simply did not produce enough waste heat.

74. Andrew Harding says:

I have just thought wrt my last posting, if the science of AGW is “settled” why don’t the no-brainers who believe it, give the money they receive in grants for further “research”, to fusion researchers?
I think we all know the answer to that question.

75. Mark says:

Ian L. McQueen says:

A word on block heaters: it is more effective to heat the oil in the crankcase than to heat the block. If the oil is warm and thin, the engine will turn over and start. Heating just the block will still require the battery to turn the crankshaft through molasses-like oil.
A heater and trickle charger for the battery will also help by keeping the battery up to full strength.

My father had a diesel Mercedes back in the 60s. It did not like to start in the cold, and he had to bring a truck-size battery indoors to keep warm if he wanted to be sure that the car would start in the morning. Truck batteries are heavy!!

In the case of a diesel you may need to keep the fuel tank warm as well as the engine. So as to prevent wax and/or ice precipitation. Which would otherwise cause blockages.

76. PiperPaul says:

Spinifers says:
If your car fails when it’s 60 below and you’re not right in town, you’re as good as dead (unless you’ve got a lot of survival gear, which, granted, is always wise to have anyway).
=================

Don’t forget the risk of polar bear attack! But I guess that /could/ be considered Gais’s revenge by some people.

77. Julian Braggins says:

My city of Bathurst NSW is blessed with six lane roads, courtesy of planners considering bullock carts doing a ‘U’ turn in the founding days. Before controls, intersections were difficult for both pedestrians and motorists but now with roundabouts or traffic lights, I agree with E.M.Smith about centre block crossings being safer than light controlled ones.

We used to have pedestrian right of way centre block crossings which were a pain for motorists as people strolled across at will. Now we have refuges each side and centre at the crossing, with motorists having right of way, no problem, three or four paces to cross a lane. With centre parking for trucks for delivery, and angle parking each side, plus covered parking under the malls, the city has virtually no parking problems. Since being nearly skittled by a light runner at a controlled intersection I never use them. And no, it doesn’t entail more walking, as the malls have entrances nearer the block centre than intersections.

Although heat is more of a concern than cold here, I do get temperatures down to -12°C sometimes, and find that a battery as large as I can Make fit makes starting easier, as the nearest service station is 35Km away.
With a diesel engine and some glo-plug failures, I found an easy-start spray can mounted to spray into the air intake controlled by a ‘choke’ pull in the cab made cold weather starts possible.

78. John Marshall says:

Vermont during the winter of ’96 was -30 cold and our hire car refused to start. Locals kept their engines running all night and were welcomed in the morning to a warm car with no icy windows. Though I did see a Land Rover Defender there start and drive away with no problem, and no block heater.

79. Pssh, electricity doesn’t exist in Alaska. Pure propaganda!

80. Mat says:

The one point I get stuck on is that the only cheap [pmsl] Electric cars are the ones that have all the limits on use and the conditions they will put up with as they are built to a price.
Great in London/Milan but the further north you go the more expensive and risky it gets for EV use, but the main problem is many up here cannot afford them ever, an old Jeep is what ? a couple of thou a Nissan leaf is £23.000+£5,000 tax payer sub and the price will not fall for years if at all as which car maker want to cut their own profits? so they will want big government subsidy or tax [which we cannot afford?] and second hand well who wants a 3 year old car with duff battery’s that cos loads to replace ? .

81. Michael Schaefer says:

The Monster says:
October 2, 2011 at 8:05 pm

“A word on block heaters: it is more effective to heat the oil in the crankcase than to heat the block.”

Combine this with an electric oil pump you can turn on every so often to keep the oil circulating, and you have a really good solution. Even at warmer temperatures, I’ve often thought it would be helpful to have the normal starting mode for a car engage the oil pump for a short time before the starter kicks in, to make sure of maximum lubrication during starting, which is normally when an engine gets its worst wear precisely due to the fact that the oil has mostly drained into the bottom of the crankcase. Add a small electric heating element that can be plugged in when the car isn’t in operation, and you have a winner.

I wonder if any of the car companies have thought about building this into the vehicles as factory standard.
———————————————————————————————————
Any modern, actual aircraft engine uses what is called a “pre-oiler” from stock, to pump oil through the oil-galleries to the bearings prior to firing up the engine, to vastly reduce wear.

Older aircraft engines may be retro-fitted with this set, which may also be adaptable to larger-volume car-engines, too (c/o V8’s…).

http://www.oilamatic.com

But then there is THIS one http://www.automotoroiler.com , which is calibrated for use in smaller-volume car-engines from scratch.

82. JohnM says:

English Pensioner says:
October 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm
Its nice to see that the US still has “Wanted ” posters
We can’t have them in Britain in case we infringe a criminal’s Human Rights!

Most UK police feature “wanted” persons, with pictures, on their websites.
Get it right.

Nice to see that the EPA is now a “police” organisation: Mission-Creep anyone ?

83. Michael Schaefer says:

Guess, why all ski-doos still use to have two-stroke-engines these days?

Because a two-stroke with pre-mixed fuel and oil is the PERFECT cold-start-engine.

84. son of mulder says:

Would the cars do less environmental damage to the planet if they remain in Italy? No, they’d do the same damage. The extra damage would be through the energy used to transport the cars to the US. So the EPA’s logic should be to ban the import and export of cars to/from the US ;>)

85. Dave Wendt says:

October 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm
Very cold climates are one of the places electric cars have an advantage over petrol vehicles, precisely because they can start in very cold temperatures.

After thinking about it i tend to agree a place like Fairbanks might be the ideal one to own something like the Leaf, especially if you could afford to use it as a dedicated urban runabout. In that environment any ICE powered vehicle is always going to be a continuing PITA during the extended Winter months, making the electric’s startup ability a definite plus. And as Willis points out the plugin infrastructure is already in place, so you cloud probably find a plug at nearly every stop during your day. Though I’d have to do some further research to verify it, I suspect the regenerative braking system might do a better job of slowing the vehicle in slick conditions. When the lockup threshold gets seriously low ABS brake systems on conventional vehicles can get pretty useless. If I had to venture out into the hinterlands on a regular basis, I’d probably want a different car, but for tooling around Fairbanks a Leaf might be just the ticket.

86. View from the Solent says:

October 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Very cold climates are one of the places electric cars have an advantage over petrol vehicles, precisely because they can start in very cold temperatures.
There have always been niches where electric vehicles made sense. More than 50 years ago in the UK, our and everyone else’s milk was delivered by an electric vehicle that drove the same fixed route every day, with a large number of stops and starts.
===========================================================
Back in the mid-1960s I worked as a milkman in UK. During the coldest months, there were many occasions when those electric milk carts out of my depot had to be towed back in by a diesel truck. Cold and batteries don’t mix well.

87. arcticev says:

Here in Finland some people I know have been driving with their electric cars with lithium batteries around the year, even in -20 to -30 degrees Celcius temperatures. Some as long as 8-10 years now. If the battery pack is properly insulated (unlike in most of the commercial cars), they usually have no trouble to work in extreme cold. Even the driving range is not reduced that much.The charging alone provides usually enough heat and the insulation keeps the temperature in the battery case nominal. It would also be possible to add some electric heaters or blankets to warm the battery case, but they’re usually not needed if the insulation is thick enough. For the interiour heating usually an electric heater (which uses up some of the range) or a gasoline heater is used. The gasoline heater consumes only small amounts of fuel in the winter (just a few gallons should last through the winter) as it’s pretty efficient.

So it’s like with a human being. You need to put some “clothes” on. You can’t just run naked outside when it’s raining snow.

We also use heater blocks and indoor electric heaters in our regular cars, usually timed about 2 hours before we need to drive them. That usually does the trick.

88. David L says:

What’s more efficient? Burning fossil fuel to create steam which turns a turbine which crrates electricity and then transport this electricity for mikes over wire to a home and then into a battery charger to charge a bank of electric car batteries. Use this energy to drive the car and heat the car. OR…. burn the fossil fuel right in the car turning some of the energy into movement and use the waste to heat the interior.

89. arcticev says:

What’s more efficient? One large electric power plant – or millions of small and very inefficient power plants driving around? And in one stationary power plant all the emissions are much more easily contained and filtered.

When the full “well-to-wheel” analysis is taken into account with all the losses in the electric grid, battery charging and electric motor, the electric car is still more than twice as energy efficient as the best hybrid. The internal combustion engine wastes a huge amount of energy and only a portion of the heat generated can be used to heat the interior.

And usually these analysis don’t take into account all the energy needed to extract, refine and ship the gasoline to the pumps. Just as an example, a gallon of gasoline requires 7.5-9kWh of energy, enough to drive Leaf for 30 miles. And this is just the refining.

90. arcticev says:

Also here in Finland a large portion of the excess heat in our fossil-fueled power plants is used to heat our houses. The losses are minimal compared to internal combustion engines in our cars.

91. Dan Smith says:

I viewed a commercial touting the Nissan Leaf, an electric car that retails for around \$28K after a hefty federal tax rebate. Using clever computer graphics, the feature imagined a world where a myriad of personal appliances were run by internal combustion engines, with the attendant pollution of course. Well and good. The Leaf looks like a nifty little car–if you don’t have to run a lot of accesories like heat and/or air conditioning. And that electric power likely comes from a nasty, CO2 producing coal fired generator.

92. Curiousgeorge says:

Some info on temperature and charging/ discharging of Li-On and other batteries. Don’t even think about charging below freezing unless you have a pack specifically designed for that. Among other things you would void the warranty.
=============================================================
Li‑ion batteries offer reasonably good charging performance at cooler temperatures and allow fast-charging in a temperature bandwidth of 5 to 45°C (41 to 113°F). Below 5°C, the charge current should be reduced, and no charging is permitted at freezing temperatures. During charge, the internal cell resistance causes a slight temperature rise that compensates for some of the cold. With all batteries, cold temperature raises the internal resistance.

Many battery users are unaware that consumer-grade lithium-ion batteries cannot be charged below 0°C (32°F). Although the pack appears to be charging normally, plating of metallic lithium can occur on the anode during a subfreezing charge. The plating is permanent and cannot be removed with cycling. Batteries with lithium plating are known to be more vulnerable to failure if exposed to vibration or other stressful conditions. Advanced chargers, such as those made by Cadex, prevent charging Li-ion below freezing.

Manufactures continue to seek ways to charge Li-ion below freezing and low-rate charging is indeed possible with most lithium-ion cells; however, it is outside the specified (and tested) limits of most manufacturers’ products. Low-temperature charging would need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis and would be manufacturer and application dependent. According to information received from university research centers, the allowable charge rate at –30°C (–22°F) is 0.02C. At this low current, a 1,000mAh Li-ion could only charge at 20mA, and this would take more than 50 hours to reach full charge.

Some Li-ion cells developed for power tool and EV applications can be charged at temperatures down to –10°C (14°F) at a reduced rate. To charge at a higher rate, Li-ion systems for automotive propulsion systems require a heating blanket. Some hybrid cars circulate warm cabin air through the batteries to raise the battery temperature, while high-performance electric cars heat and cool the battery with a liquid agent.

93. Don Mattox says:

When I lived in Alsaka we not only had headbolt heaters we also took the battery in every night. The cold also froze any synthetic rubber, such as was in the master cylinder of the brake – you got to use your brakes once per day and had to dismantle the brake cylinder and thaw the rubber every night. Of course we would have been better off with a heated garage.

94. H.R. says:

@JohnM says:
October 3, 2011 at 1:35 am
“English Pensioner says:
October 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm
Its nice to see that the US still has “Wanted ” posters
We can’t have them in Britain in case we infringe a criminal’s Human Rights!

Most UK police feature “wanted” persons, with pictures, on their websites.
Get it right.

Nice to see that the EPA is now a “police” organisation: Mission-Creep anyone ?
========================================================

It’s worse than you thought. The EPA is packin’ heat now. (Don’t get caught littering.)

http://www.epa.gov/oecaerth/criminal/investigations/index.html

95. Les Francis says:

JB Williamson says:
October 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm

George E. Smith,
The USA could reduce delays, save energy and increase safety by replacing most traffic lights and a large proportion of stop signs with roundabouts.

Sounds a great idea, – that is until they decide to fit traffic lights to those roundabouts too.
Here in the UK, we now have lots of roundabouts with traffic lights.

Same thing has happened in Australia. Traffic lights required on roundabouts. Small volumes of traffic have no chance against large volumes of traffic.
And the more important thing. 80% of drivers have, or will never have any idea of how to use a roundabout.

I have no experience re living in cold climates except a good friend of mine who worked in Alaska in an oil exploration camp related this story. At the onset of winter the camp management started 50 gensets. Over the winter period the gensets would slowly die because of some problems. If the number of running gensets reduced to less than 6, the staff in the camp became very nervous. No gensets = death to all in the camp. I would rather live in the desert where it’s 48+ degrees.

96. arcticev says:

The lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePo4) batteries used in automotive use are quite a different breed of batteries than the typical Li-Ion batteries you’re used to in laptops and cellphones. They are usually rated for use in -20°C to +60°C and with proper insulation this can be extended even further. Of course they will loose some range if not properly insulated so that their actual operating temperature don’t drop to ambient temperatures. This has been proven in practical use over here during last full decade of winters. It’s not just some speculation. The batteries used in these examples have been manufactured by Thundersky, who rated these older celltypes from -25°C to 75°C. Currently they rate their cells to operate from -45°C to 80°C. Quite bold claims, but even the earlier ones work just fine if they’re properly sealed from the outside.

97. TimO says:

Note that NONE of the electric car companies have brought up the subject of what happens when you turn on the heater or air-conditioner in the car. If you’re not living in a perfect climate you can watch that battery indicator drop fast enough to make your head swim. Your 100-mile range instantly becomes “OMG can I make it to the grocery store and back”.

Li-po battery packs do not like excessive cold or heat and you can count on having to replace the pack a lot sooner, too. The TRUE cost of ownership of electric vehicles over real-world conditions has never been truly addressed because they know it would sour any thought of adopting them.

98. Dave Springer says:

“In Fairbanks, the average temperature is below freezing for seven months out of the year. So to calculate total use, we could estimate that heater usage will average out to say four months of the year, fulltime. So the car will be drawing a kilowatt at all times except when it is being driven. Call it 23 hours a day.”

That’s not realistic at all IMO. First of all many of these cars will be garaged most of the time and inside a garage a block heater wouldn’t be needed at all. Secondly a block heater only needs to be operated for a few hours before starting the vehicle not 24/7 as a few hours is all that’s needed to closely approach whatever equilibrium temperature it’s going to attain under the circumstances. Third, parking lots usually cycle the electricity on/off with a 50% duty cycle to lower the cost.

I grew up somewhere where it got very cold from time to time (-20F). Gasoline engines don’t have any trouble in temperatures down to -20F. In cold weather starts for these the problem, if any, is almost always the battery. The number of amps the battery can deliver declines with temperature and at the same time the motor becomes harder to crank as the temperature declines due to rising viscosity of the oil. So if your battery isn’t in prime shape it won’t crank the engine over long enough or fast enough to start it.

Diesels are are far more troublesome and engine block heaters are a necessity in very cold climates. This is because diesel fuel viscosity rises with falling temperature. Newer diesels come standard with at least a fuel pre-heater for all climates and with block heaters and option for colder climates.

FAIL

99. More Soylent Green! says:

Internal combustion engines use excess heat to heat the passenger cabin. I lived in northern Maine while in the Air Force, and when it’s really cold out, the engine takes a very long time to warm up. So where do EV’s get their heat for the passenger cabin? How much drain would that put on the battery?

100. Dan in California says:
October 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Tar is not a good lubricant. And if you have a Mercedes Diesel, the WAIT light timer duration was determined by the marketing, not engineering department. If you let it wait longer, the glow plugs keep on heating and work better. Proud owner of a 300D 2.5T here.

Just an FYI here… Synthetic oil will pour at -45 or even lower and pretty much eliminates cold start wear. And leaving your glow plugs running is a very bad thing to do. Normally, they will flash on for ~10 – 20 seconds depending on ambient temps, then automatically shut off unless the key is turned to start — that keeps them on during cranking in most German diesels and some others. However, if one bodges up a bypass circuit the glow plugs can be run indefinitely, which always leads to premature failure of the glow plugs themselves, as well as overheating the wiring harness. I often cycle my glow plugs twice on days below -20 to get a better start, but also adding kerosene to the fuel and using 0W40 synthetic engine oil really helps for extreme cold starting. Another good idea is a battery warmer to compliment the block heater.

I’ll see if I can find the equation for battery performance over wide temperatures. It’s a real eye opener, and the main reason those of us north of 49 won’t be going solar any time soon.

101. Pamela Gray says:

Two winters ago, it was so friggin cold in my laundry room inside my house, that I had to use the block heater on the water lines behind the washer. And this was INSIDE the house in NE Oregon, not Alaska.

102. Frank Kotler says:

When my dad was a youngster, he had a job loading/unloading trucks. He remembered building a fire under the motor, and tieing a rope to the crank so several men could haul on it.

A car with a standard transmission, and no “interlock” on the clutch can be moved by running the starter with the car in gear. Useful when you stall on the railroad crossing – used to happen all the time… in the movies. Every car a hybrid! (just not a very good one) Nowadays, most cars have automatic transmissions, and/or an interlock on the clutch…

Sometimes change implies progress, sometimes not. What’s the opposite of “pro”, “con”? That may explain a lot. :)

Best,
Frank

103. pablo an ex pat says:

October 2, 2011 at 10:10 pm
Pablo an ex Pat,

“It happens I lived in Canada for 10 years and another year in upstate New York.

I eventually moved to Australia, because I’d had enough of cold, snow and ice.”

In which case you know all about the effect of cold weather on lead acid batteries, the milk float analogy was a bad one. Park your car out without heat @ – 20 F or below and you’ll get one or two turns of the crank out of a lead acid battery before it dies and the solenoid starts to go click, click click. At that point the best you can hope for is either a friendly neighbor or a tow truck service to start your vehicle. Did that one time when I was a newbie here, got the T shirt, won’t do it again.

As an aside I now run FULL synthetic 0 W – 30 in all my cars. Stays liquid to – 40 C. If you have ever heard a car engine start in cold weather with conventional oil in the sump you’ll know why. Sounds like a bucket of bolts because the conventional oil has tuned to jelly or worse.

104. Frank K. says:

arcticev says:
October 3, 2011 at 4:10 am

“When the full “well-to-wheel” analysis is taken into account with all the losses in the electric grid, battery charging and electric motor, the electric car is still more than twice as energy efficient as the best hybrid. The internal combustion engine wastes a huge amount of energy and only a portion of the heat generated can be used to heat the interior.”

This brings up an excellent question – for the electric vehicle, how much of the battery is used to heat the interior to keep the driver from freezing? You already need to use some energy to defrost the windows. Let’s see, you need an electrical resistance heater, a heat exchanger, a fan to distribute the heated air…oh, you want to drive the car too? :^)

105. dp says:

It isn’t kicked around much in these alternative energy threads, but the reason gasoline is as affordable as it is is because of economies of scale and ubiquity. Gasoline has become the universal mobile energy source and the entire ecosystem needed to support it in that role has been in place for years. Legislate that away, even partially, and the collapse will be sudden and complete, regionally.

What is affected loss of efficiencies of scale by mandated electrically powered cars? Refineries. Fuel delivery to your area. Storage and retail outlets where it is needed. Fuel storage tank manufacturing. Engine oil (seen the price for Mobil 1 lately?). Fuel pump manufacturing. Distributed service locations. Starter motor manufacturing. Spark plugs. Batteries. Tires. Piston rings. You get the idea.

Another problem – and I’m no expert on this but… Gasoline production is a process that is part of creating other products. You get gasoline whether you want it or not somewhere between a barrel of crude and bunker fuel. What becomes of all the billions of gallons of unusable by-product (gasoline)? It’s not like the petroleum industry is going to put it back in the ground. It is going to be burned somewhere by something.

Net result: Alaskan drivers will have the most expensive transportation on earth. Places like Hawaii will find it more and more difficult to find people willing to ship gasoline to the islands. Electric cars will not be an alternative but a requirement from the standpoint of cost. Fueling stations will shut down. More wind power and fossil fuel power will be required to keep the batteries charged. Electric rates will have to go up, or more subsidies will be needed (effectively the same thing).

Small towns that get an important percentage of their revenue from auto travelers will blow away. Long haul fuel deliveries will become un-profitable – remote towns off the four lanes will suffer and wither. Very rural agriculture operations that depend on cost effective diesel fuel deliveries will have to go fetch their own fuel because the loss of economies of scale prevent cost effective delivery to these places. Co-ops may spring up to counter this, but that produces haves and have nots.

Just do some what if’ing and see what comes to mind when the cost effective transport of goods is impacted by loss of this simple taken for granted concept: economies of scale. Then imagine what the cost to the consumer will be when the price of everything goes up.

And then prepare for the mass migration of people away from these rural areas into sprawling, filthy, city centers with all the attendant crime, misery, and limited resources. Your own version of Haiti, or Bolivia. Now that is something to look ahead to.

Get a copy of “Flowers for Algernon” and see what the lesson is in that story.

106. Thanks Willis, that takes me back. I lived in Fairbanks during the late ’80s early ’90s.

I would point out, too, that you’ve miscalculated. If this has already been mentioned, sorry.
Electric use for cars up there aren’t limited to block heaters. You also have battery warmers (essentially an electric blanket) and radiator circulators. (Many varieties…… the idea is to warm and circulate the liquid in the radiator.)

For the uninitiated, it doesn’t matter if you block is warm if your battery falls victim to the cold, and frozen radiator hoses are tricky to thaw with liquid at -30 degrees or so. Health tip!!!! Don’t keep your bottle in your vehicle! Taking a swig to start or finish your day would have dire consequences in the winter there.

107. Image source: windsun.com

The vertical axis denotes % of charge, horizontal = temp. Note that at -27 the battery drops below 50%. -40 = ~30%! If you have a typical starting battery (most cars and light trucks a sold with these) you will likely not be able to crank the engine over at all, especially with cold conventional oil acting as a heavy drag. One can get higher concentration acid for batteries used in most northern climes which makes the cells a bit less prone to thermal effects. Marine batteries are also more resilient as they have a greater reserve capacity. Insulating the battery will usually keep it from getting too cold over a 24 hour period due to the battery’s large thermal mass. Just be sure to cover the top of the battery as well as the terminals. Keeping the terminals squeaky clean and free of oil is also a must. I always check all other electrical connections as well before venturing North to make sure everything is clean and dry. The freezing temps will expose even the smallest bit of corrosion or moisture and break the circuit.

I used to use a tiger torch for stubborn machines that had frozen solid. Playing the flame under the engine usually warmed things up enough to get the beast fired up. Worked great for un-sticking tracked vehicles that had frozen to the ground. I have worked on machines in temps as low as -70 C. So cold the sweat on my palms would make them stick to metal.

Here endeth the lesson.

108. Looks like the image didn’t embed… Oh well.

REPLY: Just put in the URL to the image – Anthony

109. awc says:

he certainly couldn’t be importing cars from europe because green enviro europe has stricter emission controls that the usa, right?

110. ferd berple says:

David L says:
October 3, 2011 at 3:49 am
What’s more efficient?

The figures I’ve seen say that burning the fuel in the vehicle is better from a CO2 point of view. For every 1 kg of CO2 produced by a modern fossil fuel car, you would get 1.4 kg of CO2 produced at the power plant.

The question of efficiency can be a tricky one. The main issue is that battery efficiency drops off rather quickly, with batteries limited to about 300-1000 cycles. That isn’t very long if you use the car every day. As the battery ages, efficiency goes into the toilet. Contrast this with a modern fossil fuel vehicle which has 100+ years of engineering to get the bugs out.

A similar problem comes up when you look at mass transit. A diesel bus has about the same pollution as 40 passenger cars. A diesel bus seats 40 people. So, unless every car has only 1 person and the bus is full to capacity, cars pollute less than busses for the same number of people carried.

111. dwright says:

arcticev says:
October 3, 2011 at 4:20 am
Also here in Finland a large portion of the excess heat in our fossil-fueled power plants is used to heat our houses. The losses are minimal compared to internal combustion engines in our cars.
——————————————————————————————–
good luck when there’s 100 km between you and the power plant.
try that over 1000 km of mountain terrain chased by greenies that DON’T EVER UNDERSTAND
what cutlines are for and whine about the power for their hairdryers failing…….

now multiply that by 100 000 000 and you might come close to what these “people” are trying to do.

112. vboring says:

Battery electric cars don’t work in the cold because chemicals react slower when cold. You could try to keep them charged and warmed 24/7 just like an engine block, but you’d be aiming for something close to 60F. I’d bet that after about 10 minutes of driving, the battery would be too cold to go on.

Also, they rely on electric coil heaters to keep passengers warm. They are barely sufficient for normal climates and generally reduce the vehicle range by about half. Same goes for air-con.

Hydrogen fuel cells will also have big problems. Their emissions are water vapor. In arctic weather, I’d expect the reaction chamber the accumulate frost and self destruct.

113. klem says:

I reside in a cold climate and there is no way I would risk the lives of my family by driving an electric car in the winter. Once the low temperatures hit those batteries they could run out of juice right in the middle of a blizzard. This is not funny, this could spell disaster. Thank God almost no one is buying electric cars, except a few people who live in warm climates like Texas and SoCal.

Electric cars in cold climes is bad news.

114. ferd berple says:

Any word on when Obama will be converting Air Force One to all electric engines? A bank of those new 130 mpg batteries Chou has on the way should pretty much do the trick. Isn’t NASA switching over to solar power launch vehicles now the shuttle has been scuttled?

Leadership is supposed to lead is it not? Surely folks like Obama, Gore, Hansen they will lead the way in the switch from fossil fuel to electric, and only take electric vehicles. Otherwise, what does it tell the average person, when the rich and powerful aren’t willing to take the same medicine they prescribe for the rest of us?

Why fly at all? Why not simply teleconference using the Internet that Gore invented and stop wasting so much Carbon? Obama, Gore, Hansen they need to show us the way and cut their carbon footprints and help save the carbon for the poor in Africa.

115. bob paglee says:

Way back in winter 1947, as a young electrical engineer working for a large electronics manufacturer, I was sent to Point Barrow and the Navy’s Arctic Test Station to study the thicknessof the ice in Alaska.

We mounted the equipment in a “Weasel” tracked vehicle having an enclosed cab and an internal motor-generator to power the electronic equipment that in those days employed vacuum tubes. The exhaust was vented, but the motor kept us warm.

When not in use, we kept the vehicle inside the heated Test Station building so the vehicle and equipment would be operational for the next workday during the 24-hour night. Other vehicles had to be kept outdoors with engines running continuously around the clock.

When the wind blew from the north, across the ice-covered Arctic Ocean, the outdoor temperature would warm up a bit, maybe to around minus 25F, but when the wind came from the south across the frigid Alaska landmass, the temperature would get very cold, dropping maybe to minus 40F at Point Barrow.

The night I spent in Umiat which is on the Colville River and considerably inland from the ocean,it was really cold — maybe around minus 70F. There’s nothing like a nearby frozen ocean to help warm the local climate. With no ocean nearby, at Umiat, Weasel’s engine had to be kept running continuously because there was no garage for it there.

116. ferd berple says:

klem says:
October 3, 2011 at 8:00 am
Thank God almost no one is buying electric cars, except a few people who live in warm climates like Texas and SoCal.

They are also buying them in Florida. Mostly open air vehicles with a sun shade on top and golf clubs in the back. Not a lot of passing power on the highways.

117. Don K says:

Frederick Michael says:
October 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned 0W-30 oil. When I lived up north I discovered that 0W-30 in small engines made a huge difference in cold weather.

====================

Good point. I started paying attention to oil viscosity after I tried to pour 10W30 oil into an engine after the oil had sat overnight at -20F. It looked, and poured, like Vasoline. I ended up warming the container up in hot water.

BTW, I live in a fairly cold climate. Closer to Anchorage weatherwise than Fairbanks. But nonetheless quite nippy at times. No one around here uses block heaters for commuting vehicles any more. Modern cars complain a bit, but start pretty reliably at -30C (-20F). Below that, it’s a bit iffy, but the place more or less shuts down and waits for comparative warmth to return when it gets that cold.

Caleb says:
October 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Caleb, I doubt the reliability of CO2 concentration data fro Mauna Loa also. It lies north of Kilauea that has continuously erupted for nearly 40 years. Whenever, the Kona (southerly) wind blows the Kilauea fog envelopes Mauna Loa. and much of the west coast of the Big Island. The vog is visable, has an odor and obviously contains a high concentration of CO2. I am not aware of how the lab on Mauna Loa differentiates between well mixed CO2 and that in the vog. It seems intuitive that their data may not be reliable.

119. Dave Springer says: ….
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dave, you do make some points, in that it isn’t always -20 F there. That’s probably closer to 5 months out of the year, but, for 3 months out of the year, it was much colder than -20. Things change, but when I was there, most cars were not garaged. And, unless the garages were heated, it wouldn’t make that much difference. You are correct, the battery is what is most important, in my estimation, but block heaters and antifreeze circulators are important as well.

I’ve always had difficulty communicating how things were up there. It isn’t something that is easily understood by people that haven’t experienced it. It isn’t the temps that momentarily swing down to -20 deg F that is the problem. It is the constant pervasive cold. I remember taking off my heavy coat to go outside when it warmed up to -20 deg F, on a bright and brief sunny day. Those days, the scenery was breath taking. The sun would shine on the ice of the trees and other objects and sparkle a tantalizing, yet, deceptive invitation.

I was a medic at the hospital on Ft. Wainwright. I found a lady crying in the lobby. I inquired as to her problem. She had a flat tire and couldn’t change it. It was about -40 at the time. I was in the middle of my first winter there. Being the good Samaritan that I was, I went to change her tire for her. I twisted the lug off of her wheel in an instant. I cried with her. That car wasn’t going to move anytime soon. We didn’t have outlets in the parking lot. That lady would essentially be home bound for the duration of the winter. That is the cold that attacks that area. It is surreal.

120. Falstaff says:

arcticev: I agree. The idea that vehicle grade batteries can not charge below freezing is nonsense. EV Li Ion batteries use a different electrolyte that sacrifices some energy density, prized by laptops perhaps, for the advantage of better temperature and other performance metrics.

Thundersky 288WH battery spec:

121. Dave Wendt says on October 3, 2011 at 2:42 am

Very cold climates are one of the places electric cars have an advantage over petrol vehicles, precisely because they can start in very cold temperatures.

After thinking about it i tend to agree a place like Fairbanks might be the ideal one to own something like the Leaf

What do you do about windscreen defrosting – INSIDE? Recall, you exhale WV which immediately freezes on contact with cold glass …

I know some of these off-the-cuff response are _not_ very well thought out … and so it will be back to gas(oline) powered heaters again for the passenger compartment.

.

I’m sorry, but there are no such things as Electric Cars. Y’all must be talking about coal-fired cars and such.

On the other hand this might qualify …

123. Don K says on October 3, 2011 at 8:14 am

I’m surprised no one has mentioned 0W-30 oil.

To the *smart* ones, it is a given (I have to ask, we were all born yesterday?) …

Maybe I should mention sometimes-critical consumer electronics and performance at low temperatures, devices like: pocket ‘cellular’ telephones, Tom-Toms (GPS map and navigation devices), and secondarily MP3 players, iPads, pods etc, laptop computers left in the vehicle …

.

124. pablo an ex pat says on October 3, 2011 at 6:50 am

Park your car out without heat @ – 20 F or below and you’ll get one or two turns of the crank out of a lead acid battery before it dies and the solenoid starts to go click, click click.

Must have been a very weak battery; the few occasions I cranked a car in those temperatures battery capacity was not an issue …

2003 Dodge Ram 3500 diesel cold start at -24F (no block htr)

Equal opportunity – gas vehicle start
The Ultimate Cold Start -21F -30C

.

125. Dave Wendt says:

_Jim says:
October 3, 2011 at 8:58 am

What do you do about windscreen defrosting – INSIDE? Recall, you exhale WV which immediately freezes on contact with cold glass …

I did specify that I was talking about using the vehicle strictly within the environs of Fairbanks where plugins are widely available, which should allow enough charge to be maintained to run the car’s heaters through the day. You’d need to be quite religious about topping up the charge every night, but the denizens of Fairbanks seem to well indoctrinated in terms of plugging in at every opportunity.

126. A bit late. I should have realised my error. Thanks Anthony.
For those that missed it, this image goes with my post above on battery charge rates in various temps. The vertical axis is % of charge.
Again, Image Credit goes to windsun.com.

127. beng says:

*****
George E. Smith; says:
October 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

The Silicon Valley traffic control algorithm is very simple; a two year old child can make better traffic decisions.
*****

As an engineer I get frustrated at the blatant inefficiency of almost all traffic light operation (but there are rare exceptions, showing that it can be done properly). Traffic sitting endlessly at intersections, everyone looking at each other & waiting. Surely some traffic-engineers should come up w/something that would react much more quickly & efficiently. Or is the nanny/litigation state so intrusive that it wouldn’t be “safe” for engineers to design lights to move traffic so efficiently? That’s my bet.

PS I still see school buses habitually stopping at RR crossings that haven’t had trains cross them in 25 yrs & the rails have been long removed on either side of the road.

128. Yes, but in Winter, in Fairbanks, Alaska, they can just mount a small solar panel to the roof of their auto-mobile to run the “block-heater”, right?

129. dwright says:

on K says on October 3, 2011 at 8:14 am

I’m surprised no one has mentioned 0W-30 oil.

To the *smart* ones, it is a given (I have to ask, we were all born yesterday?) …

5w-30 within spitting distance of the Montana border….

130. One last tip or two on this side-subject then I’m off to the mills.

It is also an excellent idea to put two small bottles of gas line antifreeze in a gasoline fuel system a week or so before venturing into the deep freeze. There are many products for naturally aspirated and injected engines, just choose the right one. Just don’t ever add methyl hydrate to a fuel injected system! You will wreck the seals.

Also, when I suggested adding kerosene to the fuel, I was of course talking about diesels only! About 1 litre does the trick most times for temps down to -30. 2 to 5 litres for extreme cold. Most fuel stations up north will have already gone to winter diesel, but sometimes it helps to add a bit when going into severe cold. Anti-gelling juice is wise as well if you expect lower than -35. Howe’s Diesel Treat is a great all around fuel additive for all diesels in all seasons.

131. PhilM says:

The only way I see of having a practical electric vehicle will be after they develop cost-effective nuclear electrical gensets on board the vehicle. NASA has them in use on their satellites with RTG’s and RHU’s. No reason they could not be adapted to help power an EV except for the GreeNazi’s hatred of Man’s innovations.

132. nc says:

For those dishing my use of a heating pad for the engine and transmission, 30 years experience where it can reach 50 below at times. Whats your experience?
Heating with a block heater, warm block cold oil pan. Do a test with a bare hand, feel the block, warm, then feel the bottom of the oil pan, cold.

I have used defiled incandescent light bulbs to warm an engine, bulbs on top, cold block. Bulbs under the engine, warm block. Like I said, 30 years real world experience.

Those heating pads use a lot less energy than block heaters.

133. dwright says:

There is a 1 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Delta Junction that is supplying power into the grid that supplies Fairbanks so technically not all the electricity is fossil fuel powered just most. : ) Also Golden Valley Electric, which supplies Fairbanks with power, is working on building a 24 MW wind farm. http://alaskarenewableenergy.org/2011/09/delta-wind-farm-owners-seek-state-certificate/
—————————————————————————
when the wind stops blowing you buy power from Plutonic/BC Hydro and the greenies STILL chase loggers off of cutlines locally

Speed says (October 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm): “[quoting WSJ article] I just finished test-driving the Chevy Volt in temperatures that stayed below freezing for nearly the whole time I had the car. As a result the battery’s range fell more than 30%.”

But global warming will fix this problem, right? In a few years Alaskans will be tending their orange groves on electric tractors.

135. I see a number of people who think a garage is a good idea in the north. In reality, it decreases the life of the vehicle, particularly if it is heated. The constant massive temperature fluctuations tends to cause things to break prematurely. That is why you should plug in and leave it plugged in. Also, for those referring to -20C as “Really Cold”. Where I come from we look forward to it warming up to -20C. That’s T-Shirt weather.

136. Falstaff says:

ferd berple says: October 3, 2011 at 7:49 am
[…]

The figures I’ve seen say that burning the fuel in the vehicle is better from a CO2 point of view. For every 1 kg of CO2 produced by a modern fossil fuel car, you would get 1.4 kg of CO2 produced at the power plant.[/i]

That’s an odd conclusion. Most people, especially here, know that the average power plant has a much higher energy conversion efficiency than an internal combustion engine: almost 50% for the power plant, higher still for combined cycle plants that use the waste heat, only 25% at best for the ICE and as low as 12%. And that’s just the vehicle efficiency, which still does not count the energy used in refining the petroleum (a large fraction of energy content) or transporting it possibly around the world ending at a local service station.

More figures:
o EIA: 2.095 lbs CO2 from coal power plants per kWh, net over all US coal plants. New plants ~1.9 lbs/KWh
http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/co2_report/co2emiss.pdf
o EPA: 19.4 lbs CO2 per gallon gasoline combustion.
http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/420f05001.htm

So:
CO2 (lbs) per mile:
EV (4 miles/kWh – battery to wheel): 0.52 lbs CO2 from coal per mile
ICE Vehicle (25mpg): 0.77 lbs CO2 from petro per mile

o EV power comes from natural gas (soon to be 1/3 US power) cut the EV associated power plant CO2 emissions in half.
o EV power comes from hydro, nuclear, wind (almost 1/3 US power) , all EV emissions, not just CO2, are negligible compared to the ICE Vehicle.
o Refining and transportation are included double the petroleum emissions.

Like many here, I’m not really concerned with CO2 emissions in the near future; I am concerned with the more traditional emissions problems for which again the ICE Vehicle is much worse than the EV: concentration in urban areas already at the margin, NOx, ozone, benzene, etc.

The question of efficiency can be a tricky one. The main issue is that battery efficiency drops off rather quickly, with batteries limited to about 300-1000 cycles.
LiFePO4 batteries going into EVs get 2-4000 cycles. If the battery size is 25KWh/100 miles (Nissan Leaf), battery life is likely 300,000 vehicle miles.

That isn’t very long if you use the car every day. As the battery ages, efficiency goes into the toilet.Not rapidly, at least not for Li Ion. ICE efficiency also falls off with age.

Contrast this with a modern fossil fuel vehicle which has 100+ years of engineering to get the bugs out.No surprise really for a transportation engine that requires thousands of moving parts, rejects ~80% of its energy as heat, requiring extensive cooling, has zero torque at zero RPM, requiring a complicated transmission, on and on. Compare all that to the electric motor’s one moving part and 93% efficiency.

137. Falstaff says:

Trying again w/ the markup:

ferd berple says: October 3, 2011 at 7:49 am
[…]

The figures I’ve seen say that burning the fuel in the vehicle is better from a CO2 point of view. For every 1 kg of CO2 produced by a modern fossil fuel car, you would get 1.4 kg of CO2 produced at the power plant.

That’s an odd conclusion. Most people, especially here, know that the average power plant has a much higher energy conversion efficiency than an internal combustion engine: almost 50% for the power plant, higher still for combined cycle plants that use the waste heat, only 25% at best for the ICE and as low as 12%. And that’s just the vehicle efficiency, which still does not count the energy used in refining the petroleum (a large fraction of energy content) or transporting it possibly around the world ending at a local service station. So it does not require much calculation to know ahead of time that even if the power source is coal an EV is going to have less emissions:

More figures:
o EIA: 2.095 lbs CO2 from coal power plants per kWh, net over all US coal plants. New plants ~1.9 lbs/KWh
http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/co2_report/co2emiss.pdf
o EPA: 19.4 lbs CO2 per gallon gasoline combustion.
http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/420f05001.htm

So:
CO2 (lbs) per mile:
EV (4 miles/kWh – battery to wheel): 0.52 lbs CO2 from coal per mile
ICE Vehicle (25mpg): 0.77 lbs CO2 from petro per mile

o EV power comes from natural gas (soon to be 1/3 US power) cut the EV associated power plant CO2 emissions in half.
o EV power comes from hydro, nuclear, wind (almost 1/3 US power) , all EV emissions, not just CO2, are negligible compared to the ICE Vehicle.
o Refining and transportation are included double the petroleum emissions.

Like many here, I’m not really concerned with CO2 emissions in the near future; I am concerned with the more traditional emissions problems for which again the ICE Vehicle is much worse than the EV: concentration in urban areas already at the margin, NOx, ozone, benzene, etc.

The question of efficiency can be a tricky one. The main issue is that battery efficiency drops off rather quickly, with batteries limited to about 300-1000 cycles.

LiFePO4 batteries going into EVs get 2-4000 cycles. If the battery size is 25KWh/100 miles (Nissan Leaf), battery life is likely 300,000 vehicle miles.

That isn’t very long if you use the car every day. As the battery ages, efficiency goes into the toilet.

Not rapidly, at least not for Li Ion. ICE efficiency falls off with age.

Contrast this with a modern fossil fuel vehicle which has 100+ years of engineering to get the bugs out.

No surprise really for a transportation engine that requires thousands of moving parts, rejects ~80% of its energy as heat, requiring extensive cooling, has zero torque at zero RPM, requiring a complicated transmission, on and on. Compare all that to the electric motor’s one moving part and 93% efficiency.

138. Falstaff says on October 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Why would you imagine an EV can not manage a window defroster? Did you miss this earlier:

One word: Physics (verily ‘the physics involved’)

Enough?

Please, now fantasize for us a scenario where precious battery power is diverted from locomotion to the simple creation of heat energy for the defrosting of a safety-glass windscreen (I skimmed the first couple pages of the red you cited and could see no end to ‘filibustering’ or PR; a text search on the terms ‘windshield’ and ‘windscreen’ also yielded NO HITS on that page) …

Back over to you for further explanation on how an electric vehicle is going to handle the exhaled breath of occupants considering their very breath will wind up layering the windshield with successive layers of fine, vision-obscuring ice.

.

139. peter_dtm says:

arcticev says:
October 3, 2011 at 4:10 am

……………………………..

And usually these analysis don’t take into account all the energy needed to extract, refine and ship the gasoline to the pumps. Just as an example, a gallon of gasoline requires 7.5-9kWh of energy, enough to drive Leaf for 30 miles. And this is just the refining.

——–

Just a quick question – not intened as being rude or anything BUT

Would that 7.5-9kWH be for refining the amount of crude required to produce 1 (us) gal ?
If so; it is a wrong comparator. Light distillates are almost waste products from the crude oil feedstock; which is used to make chemicals. I know in the 60s & early 70s ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) used to throw its light distillates away – then some bean counter realised they were throwing petrol away – and arranged to sell it instead.

We forget; crude oil is needed/used for far more impotent things than petrol; diesel or light bunkers !

140. Dave Wendt says on October 3, 2011 at 9:44 am

I did specify that I was talking about using the vehicle strictly within the environs of Fairbanks where plugins are widely available, which should allow enough charge to be maintained to run the car’s heaters through the day.

Battery power – heaters? Where is operation of the ‘heaters’ specified via the batteries?

What is the mileage reduction when ‘heaters’ are used?

25 mile range of Chevy Volt becomes 7?

.

141. Falstaff says on October 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Compare all that to the electric motor’s one moving part and 93% efficiency.

No time now to verify, fact-check and possibly refute your every jot and tittle, but, you’ve nicely skipped into a comparison on that last line of ‘apples to coconuts’ without an intervening step of ‘well to wheels’ consideration on that ‘lectric vehicle (the ‘tronics, the batteries, the conversion efficiencies in multiple steps incl power station, xmission lines onto substation then distribution lines onto the pole pig and finallly the ‘charger’ and its thermal losses) …

.

142. nc says on October 3, 2011 at 11:25 am

Those heating pads use a lot less energy than block heaters.

re: heating pad vs block heaters –

“Diesel starting”. I guess you missed that part somewhere …

.

143. Falstaff says:

_Jim says October 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm:

One word: Physics (verily ‘the physics involved’)

Enough?

Please, now fantasize for us a scenario where precious battery power is diverted from locomotion to the simple creation of heat energy for the defrosting of a safety-glass windscreen

The motive power required to move a sedan down flat road at 60MPH is about 22KW (30HP), or perhaps 25KW drawn from the battery. What’s the heat load required to defrost a windshield, 0.5 KW? Use 2KW if you like – bleed heat from the e-motor and battery.

… a text search on the terms ‘windshield’ and ‘windscreen’ also yielded NO HITS on that page) …You saw the Antarctic capable passenger vehicle, complete with windshield?

Jim – Keep your petro vehicle as long as you like. I plan to keep mine. I won’t vote to take it way nor even vote for EV subsidies.

144. nc @ October 3, 2011 at 11:25 am

While I credit your ingenuity in providing a ready source of heat to the oil pan — a heat pad will indeed warm the oil very nicely — the problem is that the cylinder heads and block (and all the bits inside) are left icy cold. The nice thing about a properly installed, quality block heater is that it will warm all parts of the engine, including the oil in the pan. Even though the pan feels cool or even cold, the oil has warmed a fair amount, and when pushed through the warmed crank, cams and passages it is further warmed, thus reducing to near zero any chance of damage. Pushing warm oil over an icy cold block will simply cool the oil down to ambient by the time it reaches the heads and other critical parts. That won’t help much. A block heater makes sense after dropping below T-shirt weather, (0 to -20) and is essential for both sweater weather, (-20 to -30) and light winter jacket weather (-40 and below) I may try your idea though, the next time I push past Norman Wells, in February, when a heating pad is needed just to get a good nights sleep.

;)

145. Falstaff says:

_Jim says: October 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm

… you’ve nicely skipped into a comparison on that last line of ‘apples to coconuts’ without an intervening step of ‘well to wheels’ consideration on that ‘lectric vehicle (the ‘tronics, the batteries, the conversion efficiencies in multiple steps incl power station, xmission lines onto substation then distribution lines onto the pole pig and finallly the ‘charger’ and its thermal losses) …

In my last paragraph above I’m comparing an ICE to e-motor only in terms of vehicle reliability and simplicity of design, in answer to the comment about “100 years” of innovation. In terms of heat transfer management the automotive engineer has a nightmare of a design task in disposing of the perhaps 80KW of rejection heat in a 60mph sedan: radiator, water pump, belt drive for the pump, overflow reservoir, thermostat, passenger heat firewall, undercarriage keep away from exhaust, on and on, most of that requiring yet more moving parts. Relatively speaking, heat disposal design on an EV is simple. Today’s ICE is a marvel of collective innovation, but it is also no wonder it took a century to get here given its fundamental problems.

With regard to well-to-wheels and total energy consumption / emissions production, yes electric transmission incurs maybe an 8% loss plant to wall outlet, the charger takes another 10%, and the battery-motor controller another ~7% during discharge: still small compared to petroleum refining, transportation, distribution losses.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission#Losses

146. Paul Westhaver says:

Oh Boy…..

Falstaff said…”No surprise really for a transportation engine that requires thousands of moving parts, rejects ~80% of its energy as heat, requiring extensive cooling, has zero torque at zero RPM, requiring a complicated transmission, on and on. Compare all that to the electric motor’s one moving part and 93% efficiency.”

Except one thing…

Your 93% efficient transformer (transforms electricity into rotational motion) requires a power source. That would be one of those imaginary 100% efficient batteries no doubt.
The kind that does not exist…. the kind made from lithium oxide or lead oxide or some other nasty metal oxide that doesn’t last longer than 2 years.

Why didn’t you just say to make cars with already-spinning rubber tires. That way they are 100% efficient. I like rubber tires that are already rotating, no electric motors required!!

By the way, just make every day sunny and 72F, and toss in a cure for cancer.

…(sarcasm)…

147. One last, last comment here. But this is very much in the vein of _Jim’s comments;

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2011/april/cars/chevrolet-volt/overview/index.htm

We’ve been getting the low end of the electric-only range, usually between 23 and 28 miles, undoubtedly due to this winter’s deep freeze. The car’s electric range is very susceptible to cold weather, primarily because the heater runs on electricity. We also found that an extended highway cruise shortens the electric range.

And the following was the coup de grace;

The electric seat heaters help, but not enough. When the temperature dips below 26 degrees, the engine will turn on even during the electric portion of a trip to produce more heat.

Sounds like a Prius. Which also seems to need the engine virtually all of the time to haul around all those dead batteries.

148. Falstaff says on October 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

With regard to well-to-wheels and total energy consumption …

Johny -(Falstaff)-come-Lately may think he has plowed ‘new ground’, but we covered this stuff 2 1/2 years ago (April 2009) here on Anthony’s website! At the time I was the proxy ‘advocate’ for elec vehicles but my main thrust was the efficiencies in the electric generating, transmission and distribution network over (mainly) hydrocarbon fueled vehicles. See the link above and begin to learn …

.

149. MarkG says:

“Today’s ICE is a marvel of collective innovation, but it is also no wonder it took a century to get here given its fundamental problems.”

It’s no wonder that the ICE took over from the electric car a century ago because of the electric car’s fundamental problems.

We’ve already tried these things and abandoned them as soon as the ICE came along. A further century of EV development and we still can’t make them viable for more than a few specialised uses.

150. Brian H says:

Just FYI, the Tesla Motors EVs hold their battery temps constant. They perform just fine in cold weather. LiIon batteries are not the same as lead-acid, in any case.

Owners of the little Roadster EV in Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, love them. As do those in Edmonton.

But the proof of the pudding will be in the Model S, which will be widely distributed in the ’12-13 winter. The economics will be particularly interesting.

151. arcticev says:

Anywhere there’s talk about electric cars, it boils down to couple of arguments. One of them over here is usually “how will they work in winter”? Well, I’m not suggesting that we would have similar winters like in Alaska. Thank god no. In worst case the temperature here in southern Finland drops to about -30°C (and that’s rare, typical it’s around -5°C to -15°C). And electric cars have been proven to work better than gasoline engines, which typically have trouble starting. Mostly because of the frozen lead-acid batteries.

About the heating: A 3000W rated petrol heater we use here in Finland uses up about 0,35 litres of petrol in an hour (0,1 gallons). They are often used in electric cars as they’re efficient and do not eat up the range of an electric car. In a typical winter the usage is only 15-20 litres of petrol, assuming about 10000 miles of yearly driving and our winters (not as bad in Alaska, I admit). So it’s so little it won’t change the “green-factor” much. But if you heat an electric car cabin with for example a 3000-5000W electric heater, that’s about 3-5kWh. A typical electric car uses 15-20kWh per 100km. If you could drive, say average of 40mph, that would be about 10kWh in an hour of driving. Add 3-5kWh to that and you could estimate that the range would be about 25-33% less. I wouldn’t dare to say that electric heater would eat up much more juice than that.

But that’s just how it’s here. I can’t say how these same electric cars would work in -40°C or more. To be honest, I wouldn’t risk it myself in Alaska, before throughout testing. But I would possible test it out and see how I could insulate and keep the batteries warm. Maybe add an additional heater, in addition to a proper battery box insulation (3cm or more of insulation with no heat bridges). It might work, or it might not. But so far all of this is just speculation, before someone driving an EV comes to tell about his/her experiences here. The truth is that you just can’t throw a typical electric car like Leaf into Alaska during winter and hope it will just work fine. Most likely it won’t, or it’ll have drastically reduced range. I also have no idea how long ranges are expected of a car in Alaska. But with an electric car with a properly insulated battery box (with some electric heating blanket) and a petrol heater to heat the cabin, I would definitely try it out, if about 60 miles of range would be enough (to be on the safe side). Just for the environmental point of view, I’d rather concentrate on switching to electric in much warmer climates… It’s does not make much sense to electrify Alaska, where lives only 0,23% of the population of USA. But let the people decide what they want to drive with.

There’s no doubt that electric car would be practical vehicle, even in moderately cold environments (like in Finland), if it meets the drivers daily needs in range. For me, it will be the perfect choice. Here even the electric grid is so clean it will have only 1/3 emissions of a new Prius, if not powered by renewables. But typically the upfront price has been ridiculously high. There’s no technical reason for the high price, as it’s only because of economies of scale. An electric motor and it’s controlling electrics are much cheaper to manufacture and easier to install and maintain than any internal combustion engine and exhaust systems with catalytic converters. So far the batteries are the most expensive part. And I would compare batteries to gasoline prices.

As an example Thundersky/Winston 25kWh batteries would cost around \$7000-8000 for an average size electric car with about 100 mile range, at current prices. If you assume they are at least 10 year / 100 000 miles investment (and they will be useful even after that) and during that time they would prove to be about 2-4 times cheaper than buying petrol during that time, assuming gasoline prices will stay the same (which they won’t). By 2018 battery prices are expected to be halved. Here the price of gasoline is just below \$8 per gallon, and it will only go up. So you might understand why I’m so interested of electric cars. It would cost me \$27000 just to fill up my tank during this 10 year period (in US it would be about half of this). And after that, they are recycled, with 95-99% of the material back into use.

And mind this, I’m not an “evil greenie”. I support nuclear power and anything else that makes sense either economically or environmentally. Preferebly both. And this is just the reason why I’m also so interested of EV’s. I loathe the German greens because they decided to stop using nuclear power. And now they’re building 10-20GW of new coal power. How green is that??? Bastards.

152. Dave Wendt says:

_Jim says:
October 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Battery power – heaters? Where is operation of the ‘heaters’ specified via the batteries?

The Leaf is a 100% electric vehicle so everything runs off the battery

http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/index#/leaf-electric-car/specs-features/index
battery heater
front and rear heated seats
heated 3-spoke steering wheel
Automatic Temperature Control (ATC)

Fairbanks is a town of a little over 30,000 in population. The Leaf has a nominal 100 mile range. With a full charge to start and frequent plugins throughout the day, even allowing for the range loss from the severe cold, it ought to handle your daily errands and commute. I live in a similarly populated berg and on a bad day rarely rack up more than 30 miles if I don’t have to leave town, which was the niche role I specified for the Leaf in my comment.

153. Anti freeze I suspect is useful. But how do wind turbines work. They don’t do they in freezing weather. Collect ice on their blades, that tends to fall off and hit some unsuspecting cow or person or car. And they break into flames.

154. harrywr2 says:

George E. Smith; says:
October 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Well your 10,000 mpy and one hour per day driving time says an average speed of 10,000/365 = 27 mph average. That seems pretty low to me; unless Fairbanks has a huge number of traffic lights that keep your car stopped most of the time.

The roads are not plowed clear in the wintertime. At least not when I lived there. Winter driving is over packed snow. Starting and stopping distances on packed snow are considerably longer then a dry road.

155. harrywr2 says:

Falstaff says:
October 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Most people, especially here, know that the average power plant has a much higher energy conversion efficiency than an internal combustion engine: almost 50% for the power plant

Are you kidding. The average efficiency of a US power plant is in the low 30% range.
The 50%+ claimed by combined cycle gas is in base-load mode at an optimal set of input codntions. (Ambient temperature,cooling water temperature, elevation etc).

Here is the blurb for a GE state of the art CCGT
http://www.ge-energy.com/products_and_services/products/gas_turbines_heavy_duty/flexefficiency_50_combined_cycle_power_plant.jsp
60% efficiency down to 87 percent load

156. artw says:

arcticev says:
October 3, 2011 at 4:10 am

And usually these analysis don’t take into account all the energy needed to extract, refine and ship the gasoline to the pumps. Just as an example, a gallon of gasoline requires 7.5-9kWh of energy, enough to drive Leaf for 30 miles. And this is just the refining.”

Unless I missed it in the commnets, the “well-to-wheel” analysis for the ICE vehicle would have to be a “mine-to-wheel” analysis for the EV. What is the energy required for extracting, refining, and shipping the materials (lithium and what else?) that the batteries use? What is the energy required for disposal or recycling/re-manufacturing of the batteries, when the batteries are beyond useful life? I bring up the disposal/recycling energy since gasoline is replaced by electrical energy in the EV.

Many people like EV and hybrid vehicles due to the non-existent to low tailpipe emissions (which is a good thing, especially in smog prone areas) but are we trading these emissions for another form of pollution?

artw