Advances in research of electric car batteries presented at #AAAS

electric_carA number of interesting things have occurred at the AAAS meeting in San Jose the last few days, here is one that caught my eye. As many readers know, I have an electric car (seen above), which runs on 12 volt Lead-acid batteries which are so heavy that most of the energy to the motor is used to move that heavy mass of lead around. Electric cars don’t make a lot of sense for an all-around car, but for in-city use, such as errands or delivery, they could be quite viable with better battery technology.

This newer Lithium-sulfur batteries show promise beyond the current favorite lithium-ion batteries due to their energy density and lighter weight:

lithium-sulfur-battery-vs-othersThe current energy density of lead-acid batteries (not depicted on the chart) is around 60-100 Watt-hours per liter, well below all the others.

The lithium–sulphur battery (Li–S battery) is a rechargeable battery, notable for its high energy density.[1] By virtue of the low atomic weight of lithium and moderate weight of sulfur, Li–S batteries are relatively light; about the density of water. They were demonstrated on the longest and highest-altitude solar-powered airplane flight in August, 2008.

Lithium–sulfur batteries may succeed lithium-ion cells because of their higher energy density and reduced cost from the use of sulfur. Currently the best Li-S batteries offer energy densities on the order of 500 W·h/kg, significantly better than most lithium-ion batteries which are in the 150 to 200 range. Li-S batteries with up to 1,500 charge and discharge cycles have been demonstrated, yet are not commercially available (as of early 2014). (Wikipedia)

Let’s hope that they come to the market soon, not just for electric cars, but for many other applications that need high energy density and low weight.

Leading scholar presents advances in research of electric car batteries at AAAS

via the University of Waterloo

Lithium-sulphur batteries promise to extend the range of electric cars at least three times over current lithium ion cells and at much lower cost, making electric cars practical and potentially more appealing to a mass market. Linda Nazar, professor of chemistry from the Faculty of Science at the University of Waterloo, will present a perspective on the promise and reality of lithium-sulphur batteries at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in San Jose, California. She will highlight recent innovations in nanomaterial strategies and new electrolytes that can help these future-generation energy storage systems realize their potential in emerging markets.

Professor Nazar and her research group are best known for reigniting interest in the lithium-sulphur battery by proving that such a battery, once considered impossible, could be a reality. Recently, her group resolved a major technical hurdle by developing the first high-performance sulphur cathode with the use of manganese dioxide nanosheets.

Nazar is Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She is a member of BASF’s Research Network on Electrochemistry and Batteries, and serves as a lead scientist on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research.

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New Materials and Approaches for Advanced Batteries (part of the Next-Generation Batteries for Mobile Devices and the Grid symposium

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300 thoughts on “Advances in research of electric car batteries presented at #AAAS

    • That’s what I noticed straight away. I don’t know anything about lithium sulphur batteries but I researched lithium ion batteries for use in the total loss ignition system of a race bike. There’s a lot of obfuscation in the marketing of lithium batteries, mainly in quoting Watt hours rather than the Ah standard for lead/acid types. The ‘equivalent’ lithium battery recommended as a replacement for a 10 Ah lead acid one typically has a capacity of 48 Watt hours, is about 1/3 the weight and costs about 3 times as much. A truly equivalent energy capacity of 120 Watt hours would be prohibitively expensive and not very much lighter than the lead acid one. This is similar to the way solid state amplifiers were marketed in the 60s – ‘Peak Power’ rather than the rms rating quoted for valve amps. Buyer beware?

      • There is a lot of “obfuscation” (AKA BS) in ALL today’s portable power technology pedlars for use in vehicles.
        Until there is a genuine breakthrough in storage technology electric cars and bikes are at best, dreaming in Cinemascope, at worst – typical Oil Can Harry’s.
        As an electronics engineer i am outraged at the misuse of Nikola Tesla’s good name in perpetuating the latest myth being pitched in the land of fruit and nuts.

      • An interesting development regarding the economics of the electric car: I had a ride in a Tesla from Quebec City to Ottawa ~400km. We didn’t start with a full charge, but a network of free charging stations existed all along the way. Some were coffee/pastry shops where you could plug in while eating or taking a coffee. The chargers in these small places were low amperage of course, and chains of hotels have complimentary plug ins that, if you sleep overnight, it gives enough time to get considerably recharged.
        One fellow I was told about by my friend, took his family on a week trip to the Maritime provinces and, with his network on the car computer, planned their trip to be free of electricity cost. Apparently one can drive from Montreal to Miami without paying a cent for power. Motels and shopping malls that don’t have such a service had better get one or they will be cut out the loop. Tesla also has some super high amp chargers at intervals that will fill you up in about an hour or so, at least in eastern Canada and the eastern US. This was a commercial development that hadn’t been figured on when projecting viability of electric cars.

      • Gary,
        Please reread your post and replace “free” with “mooch” or “sponge” or “freeloader.” Somebody is paying for the chargers and the electricity (and don’t get me started on the green hypocrites who want “free” electricity but seem to have a cognitive disconnect about where, exactly, electricity comes from). The electricity that you and your friend are getting for “free” is being paid for either by higher costs to the customers of the coffee/pastry shops and hotels or by taxpayer subisidies. They may not cost you anything, but I’ll bet most people have better things to do with their money than provide you with “free” electricity.

      • Gary Pearse, given the number of electric cars on the road there should be no rush on the part of hotels and malls to provide charging stations. The cost of building and operating the stations is probably more than any profit they would make from the guests. There is a charging station in Gila Bend, AZ, attached to a Carl’s Junior. I have passed there many times on the way to Phoenix from Yuma and have never seen a car using the 8 stations that are available. If you were driving an electric car from Yuma to Phoenix, you would have to “top up” there, or you wouldn’t make it.

      • This is why I cannot refer my skeptical friends to this web site. It’s not the first time that a graph has been presented here without units on one of its axes. I cannot understand how anyone wanting to be taken seriously can just leave out this information. As someone who has a skeptical outlook, I find this kind of thing disappointing and embarrassing.

    • Well both watt.hrs or Joules if you wish per kg and per m^3 are of interest.
      Whrs per litre implies that it is the electrolyte that is important, and not the plate material which after all is going to undergo the oxidation / reduction chemistry.
      The paper makes it sound promising, and hopefully that is so. But just wait until the enviros get up to speed on the accelerated sulfur mining.
      I think that current world usage of sulfur can be met, from recovery from coal burning smokestacks, with no sulfur mining needed.
      That would all change if Li-S batteries get rolling.
      Not arguing against this; but caution that it is not an open season on sulfur haters.
      It will be interesting to see which way Elon Musk goes with his Tesla Battery.

    • Your post reminds me of my college days.
      VW Bugs were popular, and one fellow student actually had a big key attached to the rear hood of the car.
      Probably got tired of the wind up jokes and comments.

      • Silicon valley is full of key wind up cars. Some folks never get the message until they see one in the Roman coliseum.

  1. The ultimate irony is that the energy luddites in their quest to “save the planet” are making electricity costs soar.

  2. From the data published by the CalEPA on the life cycle GHG emissions of electric vehicles, EV’s only reduce overall GHG emissions in areas where CO2 emissions from electricity production are low. CA uses hydro and nuclear as well as much NG and whatever wind and solar are available. So CA has an average emissions factor of 0.75 lbs/kW-h of power production. Even with this low emissions rate, EV’s in CA still only reduce GHG emissions by 30% from gasoline vehicles. Take those EV’s out of CA to most other states and the emissions will increase to levels well above those of gasoline vehicles.
    As far as regulated emissions go, a running car or truck with emissions control devices emit essentially no meaningful amounts of “pollutants”. about 90 to 95% of vehicle emissions occur during starting and warm-up, not during normal operation. So short trips are more “polluting” than long trips. Thus EVs have a place for this use as noted by Anthony.
    A better approach to reducing emissions is to use diesel powered vehicles that get 20-30% better fuel efficiency with a fuel that has much lower evaporative emissions than gasoline. Remember that ethanol in a hydrocarbon fuel increased vapor pressure which requires that the gasoline in E10 fuel be of very low volatility. This cuts out 10-20% of the available gasoline produced at a refinery from the blending pool which actually hurts overall refinery efficiency and does nothing for “energy security”, one of the points made by those supporting corn ethanol as a fuel blend component.

    • EVs are the prefect target for solar panels. If you can charge during the day using solar, you can ride home free. And solar charging all weekend might give you all Monday free too.

      • All energy is “free” the costs are for collecting and converting it to a useful form, and solar panels are not efficient in this regard. The Earth charges the same for coal or gas as the Sun does for light.

      • If solar panels were 100% efficient there is not enough room on the roof of a typical automobile to generate enough Kw in the few productive sunlight hours to go the typical distance between job and home…

      • “You can ride home for free” Except for the days when the sun don’t shine and you have to spend the night at work. Then you find you didn’t sleep well at work and were tired the next day and got into an accident and were taken to the hospital without clean underwear. Mom wouldn’t be too happy with you over that one.

    • and ethanol eats all the plastic valves and hoses in my small engines – lawn/garden tractor, rototiller – should leave it as food except farmers in Midwest US depend on the subsidies which weren’t needed last summer due to excellent growing conditions from bitty global warming and ~400 ppm CO2 from clean, green fossil fuel burning (and elsewhere of course)

      • Premium grade is recommended for all small engines – usually in the newer manuals and certainly an informed shop will tell you to avoid the regular and mid grade fuels containing ethanol. Some small engines come with a warning sticker but folks don’t always pay attention.
        On another note, I have checked fuel consumption on my Sante Fe crossover in the same 1200 km trip several times using premium versus regular. I get 10 to 20% better fuel economy with premium versus E10, on average about 15%. So on long trips, I almost always buy premium gasoline as the price difference is usually less than 15% so I get better performance with premium.
        I NEVER use anything but premium fuel in my small engines.

      • yup and if in area like I am (mid maine) there is NO non-ethanol blend available.
        the other issue is less btu which really bite in -15 F weather, not only in cars where the heat is utilized but tractor for snowblowing has to be run with choke on a lot longer or run a hotter plug which strains coil packs.

      • Well in the USA, I don’t believe it is legal to market a gasoline engine automobile that won’t operate properly on regular 87 octane rated fuel.
        Yes the car manufacturer can “recommend” that you use premium fuel, but they can’t require that you do. So the hot European cars can’t be sold in the USA, and especially not in California.
        But high octane fuel doesn’t ping as much as regular, so you can let the engine get all carbonned up for longer, before the pinging starts, so that helps the manufacturer support their phony 50,000 or 100,000 miles between tuneups.
        And with the longer carbon chain molecules needed to get higher octane, the carbon / hydrogen ratio is higher, so I don’t see how you get more energy going that way.
        Yes I know you can get more power out of a high compression engine that requires higher octane fuel. But that is exactly the direction that causes your engine to start burning the air to make nitrogen oxides, and that is why EPS regs ban very high compression engines in USA. You also get much higher bearing loads with a high compression engine, and American V-8s are already short on crankshaft bearings.
        Now I drive a Subaru Impreza, which is rated at 32 mpg on the highway, and 28 around town.
        Just yesterday morning (Presidents Holiday) I drove on highway 9 (Cupertino and Sunnyvale) from near Highway 85 in Cupertino, to Highway 101 in Sunnyvale, and I never got a red light the whole way so I was on cruise control at 40.0 miles per hour (the posted limit) My actual MPG was over 50 for the entire distance, and for at least half the distance it was above 65 MPG. I did get a few seconds drop down to 22 MPG going over the peninsular railway overpass. So much for the 28 rating.
        And last Sunday, I drove the 380 mile round trip from Sunnyvale to Dinuba in the central valley, at 62 mph on cruise, and di 42.6 mpg for the entire trip.
        So who needs better fuel mileage ??

      • Thanks Bubba and Wayne, that would explain the problems I have occasionally in my 8 hp 400 GPM water pumps. The irony is that I would need a fleet of 400 GPM water pumps in California during what is being proclaimed on the front pages of the local papers about twice a month as a historic drought, the likes of which haven’t been seen in over 1000 years. Methinks they spew a lot of hyperbole around here.

    • Once one takes Diablo Canyon NP generation out of Cal’s grid then, factor in NG and coal generated replacement electricity imported from Utah and Wyoming , and Cal’s carbon footprint looks no different from other states. Washington state, with its abundant hydropower is the only state that the anti-carbon greens can bold hold as an example. And the irony is all those hydrodams built 70-90 years ago, before environmentlism became a religion, they want to tear down now.

      • When you factor in the CO^2 generated to cook all the portland that went into pouring those dams, plus the diesel to drive the earth movers, haul the materials, etc. you might not be looking at much savings after all.
        When you actually analyze the renewable systems from the ground up most aren’t worth it except from a ‘feel good’ standpoint. I have seen several analysis of photo voltaic and wind systems that were hard pressed to show any overall reduction in CO^2. I wouldn’t be surprised if hydro didn’t fall into the same category. Most of the ‘Green’ proposals come from the heart, definitely not from any engineering knowledge, or common sense for that matter.

      • “When you actually analyze the renewable systems most aren’t worth it ”
        You sir must never have heard of passive solar heating.

      • rodmol,
        It’s currently around 3 degrees outside, got down to -1 or -2 last night. The sun is out today and my electric backup for the heat pump has run since about 9:00 this morning. Nope…. haven’t heard about passive solar.

      • There is one “renewable” system you should look into to save money on that expensive electrical backup for your heat pump system. Firewood. It most definitely is “worth it”

      • John M.
        Take a walk in the forest some time.
        Look around as you walk.
        Take note of all the dead trees lying on the forest floor rotting away.
        You can get plenty of firewood without ever “killing a tree”

      • I guess you don’t buy into the “holistic” approach to forest management, where even dead trees have an ecological niche.
        I guess you’re just anti-science.

      • We’ve got ~75 acres in Timber Management. I can usually collect enough from the dead-fall close to the house to last the winter. On sunny days I don’t need the wood stove until sometime after 10:00 or 12:00 PM when the Trombe walls quit working. The heat pump & electric backup only come in when I get too lazy, or too stove-up to haul wood.

      • No John M, I believe it is good forest management practice to remove dead trees and underbrush. It has the added benefit of decreasing the chances and the intensity of forest fires.

      • By pure coincidence, I was surfing through Tom Murphy’s Do The Math Blog this morning and came across his discussion of EVs. http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2013/08/man-bites-ev-will-ev-bite-back/#more-1397 He addresses most of the things folks have mentioned here, plus an additional point that I had only vaguely been aware of. If you plan to charge your Tesla equivalent at home in ten minutes not only will you need 2500 amp electric service (@240 volts), you’re going to need to dump maybe 20 kWh of waste heat somewhere. (Murphy is using 80% charging efficiency — which is what he measures for his plug in Prius — for his calculation

      • Good rule of thumb is ….an acre of forest produces about a cord of “dead wood” each year.

      • “When you factor in the CO^2 generated to cook all the portland that went into pouring those dams, plus the diesel to drive the earth movers, haul the materials, etc. you might not be looking at much savings after all.”
        In many parts of the world earth dams are more common than concrete dams. And a hydro power station will run 24-7-365 for a century or more with no fuel and a minimum of care and maintenance. What other power generation comes even close to that?

        • tty:
          But the enviro’s don’t want ANYBODY to build ANY dams ANYWHERE, and are demanding the taxpayers pay to remove existing, power-producing dams across the US.
          But, more important, most good dam sites in the US are already out-of-limits, or are already built-up by people smarter than today’s political enviro’s. Overseas? There are some good sites left over. But even the Chinese faced huge enviro protests (internationally) over the power plants at their latest big dam.

      • DonK, most houses have 100 to 200 Amp service. You not only would have to beef up the drop from the pole to your house, you would have to beef up service from your neighborhood, all the way back to the nearest mains.

      • Rodmol, to keep a healthy forest you need to let it burn once in a while. Some species of pines out west will not germinate unless they are heated by a forest fire. Forest fires also keep down tree-killing pests. Almost all the old Lodgepole pine trees in Colorado have been killed by an infestation. Rather than managing the forests, they need to be allowed to burn so that new plants can germinate. There are a couple of papers available on this subject from Colorado State University.

      • @Joe . . that may well be the case Joe but I made my living off of designing and building dams and I like them. The harm they do is imaginary and in lots of them the fishing is great. So please, leave those dams alone people they are our friends.

      • So the natives who live around the base of Mt Kilimanjaro, long ago burned up all of the trees in the area, which is why they now live on a desert, and why there is little snow on Kilimanjaro, because the trees aren’t there.
        I know a guy who runs his diesel tractor on old used cooking oil from a donut shop.
        Trouble is the donut shop doesn’t use enough fat to keep even one farmer in donut oil for his tractor.
        So rodmol has his normal quite impractical solution.
        If we all used wood; dead or not for heating, we’d all be living in a denuded desert environment. with no wood to burn.

    • Dr. Bob: Most of the efficiency advantage of diesel is due to its higher density compared to gasoline. The energy content on a weight/mass basis is about the same. Also, the number you quoted for blending impact of ethanol is incorrect. Not sure where you got the numbers, but if you want me to check them, I will.

      • There are 3 contributors to Diesel greater efficiency. One of them is, as you pointed out, the fact that fuel is sold by volume rather than mass (kilogram). The other two outweigh that factor though. One is the thermal efficiency of any similar engine varying with the 3/2 power of the compression ratio and Diesels run at ~22 compared to the Otto cycle at ~9. The other reason is the lower pumping losses across the throttle plates. Diesels have no throttle, but Ottos have to pay the loss at P=Vdot X dP where Vdot is m3/sec and dP is Pascals.
        Bottom line is Diesels are about 25% more efficient than Otto cycle engines. Big diesels (e.g. marine and stationary) are better than 50% efficient.

  3. the purpose of the vehicle is to transport a body from A to B so it would be quite cool if the body itself could be the battery.

    • In a few days I’m on my way to Floral City, Fl. in the middle of a fifty mile long rail to bike trail to ride my HPV ICE Trike. I expect to add 5 or 10 miles per day until I’m riding 50 miles per day comfortably, then I’ll do a couple of leisurely centuries.
      We’ll get there with our bikes folded into the back of my 12 y.o. VW TDI diesel that still does 50 mpg.

  4. Doing research on electric cars the most interesting fact? I found was that the all electric range of todays latest models does not exceed 100 miles (except for the Tesla), the same as it was a couple of decades ago.

    • But when I was a kid back in the 50’s , a certain well known dairy used to use electric milk floats… and we lived down the valley and their base was up the top of the other side … a round trip up and down very steep hills loaded with glass bottles in crates along with bread etc …. of around 30 miles! This was stop start delivery as most houses had their milk delivered this way!! That was 65 years ago …. they were quite famous here in Buckinghamshire UK ….. but nothing has changed with all that fantastic technology , I seriously doubt that a modern equivalent would match it!

  5. You know, when my gas tank reads “10%” full, I can stop at a station and fill it to “100%” in minutes.
    Now, when one can do that with electric cars, we will really be getting somewhere.
    Just making an observation.

    • My 25 mile^2 Island would be fine E-car country except that we aren’t even supposed to install instant high wattage water heaters for the 30 year old infrastructure. Who is going to pay for new larger cables under the Death’s Door Passage?

      • BBCA Top Gear tested two EVs a while back. Took them three days to travel 250 miles. The attended a lot of historic lectures amd drank a lot of tea during the 13 hour recharge.

    • A gallon of gasoline is 33kwh of energy. About the same amount of power that an extension cord plugged into your wall socket in your house can supply in 20 hours!
      The highest rates appliance in a house is typically a stove which can supply about 10 kwh/h (50A max at 240V). About 1 gallon of gasoline every 3 hours.
      So, for all practical purposes an electric car can only replace the equivalent of 3-4 gallons of gasoline per day from existing home wiring, no matter how efficient the battery, which means that electric vehicles must be very much lighter than present day vehicles and/or there will need to be a huge boost in residential electrical supply.
      And don’t even consider turning on the heater or air conditioning while disconnected from the charger.

      • This is really the killer in both directions. To avoid comparing apple and orange units, gasoline is around 12.5 kw-hr/kg. Li-S is around 500 W/kg, and might on a good day and with a tail wind scale to 700 or 800 W/kg, leaving it a very solid order of magnitude short of gasoline. This means that one needs 24 kg (call it 50 pounds) of Li-S battery to replace a single kg (call it a 1/3 of a gallon) of gasoline, or 150 pounds of batteries to replace a single gallon. So in ADDITION to the fact that charging stations have to provide at least 36+ kw-hr of electricity at an average cost at $0.10/kw-hr of around $3.60 in order to charge the battery (assuming 100% efficiency, hah), your car has to carry the weight-equivalent of a human per “gallon” of gasoline displaced. The volume is similarly scaled — 3 kg of gasoline is roughly 4 liters or 1 gallon, so that each “gallon equivalent” of LI-S battery has roughly the volume of an entire tank of gasoline.
        I have some friends who have bought all-electric cars, and they are constantly running out of charge just driving to work and back every day. They have to run extension cords out of the physics building to try to recharge during the day so they can drive home by the evening. They don’t dare to run the heat on cold mornings lest they use up energy they’ll need to get home.
        Batteries are a technology that is still an easy order of magnitude short of where it needs to be to make electric cars make sense. If one has to replace them every five years (1500 charge cycles) it isn’t clear that they are ready to support standalone PV-solar houses, either — once again one needs a massive pile of batteries to hold enough charge to run a household for several days of possibly cloudy weather or winter/summer demands of a heating or cooling system. Note that it takes an entire rooftop of PV-solar working for an entire day to provide 1 gallon’s worth of equivalent energy for an electric car (just as it does to provide all the energy required for the household in a day).
        The computation of energy expenditure and carbon production is all by itself scary. Coal based electricity makes about 1/3 more CO_2 per kw-hr than gasoline does. It is produced at an efficiency that is comparable to that of a gasoline motor. It is shipped long distances at a loss through conducting wires, and charges batteries with an additional loss to resistive heating of the battery itself, especially at high current levels (I^2 R does not favor rapid charges for a given internal resistance). It is then used in the car at a third or fourth efficiency penalty, as the motor itself heats as it runs and the internal resistance of the battery is still there heating it as well. All in all, electric cars make no sense at all as far as carbon is concerned unless you live someplace with nuclear power (I do), don’t mind paying 2-3x as much for transportation over the lifetime of the car, don’t mind having your house rewired to double its electrical service so you can charge your car, don’t mind spending more on a month’s electricity for your car than you would spend running my old Ford Excursion for the same month.
        At the same time, one could argue that well-designed hybrids like the Prius do make sense (I may be biased, as I own two). They don’t rely on external charge, they simply regenerate otherwise wasted kinetic energy of your car into recoverable kinetic energy and, by replacing the high-torque needs of a car during startup from stop with an electric motor boost, permit the car to cruise with a significantly smaller gasoline motor than it would otherwise need. Li-S batteries (or any related technology) would most definitely improve their range and efficiency still further. They are STILL borderline inefficient from the pure cost point of view. One is still probably better off spending $10,000 less on a small, fuel efficient all-gasoline car than buying a Prius, because the marginal cost of the gasoline saved by the increased mileage of the Prius over the lifetime of the car may or may not break even depending on what gasoline prices do. But there one can view the extra cost as “insurance” of sorts against a rise in gasoline prices and a tradeoff between cost of car now and operational cost later.
        It is in some sense a shame that hybrid and energy regeneration technologies aren’t being widely implemented in all kinds of cars. Even my Excursion (back when I still owned it) could have had its gas mileage stretched by 20-40% (especially in the city) if it had even an extremely simple electronic system that would shut the motor off at full stops, use a medium-sized battery to start the car moving and restart the engine from a full stop, and use an electronic braking system to recover KE while running to keep the battery mostly charged without the need of direct addition from the engine. One could even use gas-gas hybrids and shut the main gasoline engine off and kick over to a lawnmower engine equivalent to do the restarting and save a huge amount of money compared to chugging gasoline through 8 to 10 cylinders while idling in driving that is 10-20% idling at stop signs or stop lights. This makes ever so much more sense than all electric cars.
        rgb

      • Can anyone comment on whether electric cars, or trucks for that matter, make sense in confined industrial complexes such as an aerospace manufacturing facility? There are a lot of vehicles that, since they don’t leave the complex, are not licensed, don’t travel at high speeds or go long distances, and are never far from recharge or battery replacement. Even wind and solar power sources have their niche markets, so what are the niche markets for electric cars?

      • You forgot that an electric motor and battery is around 90% efficient whereas a tank of diesel is only 30% efficient.
        so BEV is 3 times better than your crude maths says it is. It’s still not good enough mind you 😉

      • Thank you, Fred & rgb@duke!
        Prof. Brown (rgb) wrote, “So in ADDITION to the fact that charging stations have to provide at least 36+ kw-hr of electricity at an average cost at $0.10/kw-hr of around $3.60 in order to charge the battery (assuming 100% efficiency, hah), your car has to carry the weight-equivalent of a human per “gallon” of gasoline displaced.”
        In case anyone was skimming, and missed it, that’s $3.60 (at an optimistic $0.10/kWh) to buy the electricity needed to charge a battery which stores the amount of energy available from one gallon of gasoline.
        Such a deal, eh? And for that coolness you will spend just about exactly twice the price of the Hyundai Accent or Ford Fiesta, either of which would give you 3x-4x the driving range, and the ability to “recharge” (refuel) in under ten minutes, instead of overnight.
        http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/compare/?trims=12677-368177_12869-373556_12786-366618
        The reason you can “fill the tank” on a Nissan Leaf so cheaply (for $3 or less) is that it has a very, very tiny “gas tank.” Its battery pack (when new) stores about 24 kWh of energy, which is the equivalent of 2/3 of a gallon of gasoline. The impressive thing about that car is not that it is driven by an electric motor, but that, on a good day, it can go as far as 84 miles on a “full tank” of 2/3 gallon (24 kWh) of fuel.

      • “You forgot that an electric motor and battery is around 90% efficient whereas a tank of diesel is only 30% efficient.”
        Uh, no. Modern diesels are getting near 50% efficient (and may already have reached that point). So efficient that manufacturers are starting to add electric heaters, because there just isn’t enough waste heat to warm the car any more.

      • rgbatduke:
        “They have to run extension cords out of the physics building to try to recharge during the day so they can drive home by the evening. ”
        I am very surprised the university doesn’t have charging stations. Even in our slimly populated cities in the Great White North, free charging stations are popping up all over. In the centre of our oil industry, Calgary, Alberta, free charging stations are provided at many stores to promote electric vehicle use. Now, as a person who lives over 100 km from the nearest city, I store several hundred gallons of liquid fuel (diesel and gasoline) on site but for city folk, I have to think a Prius or electric vehicle will be a good choice for short daily commutes.
        I recall that Zermatt, Switzerland was all electric back in the 60’s including the train to and from the community. (Well, not all electric – horse drawn vehicles also) From that experience, I have always believed there is a place for EV’s in specific uses.

      • Wayne, correct me if I am wrong, but when I was in Calgary many many years ago, I distinctly remember that a lot of the parking spaces at the hotel had electrical outlets specifically installed to power the block warmers for cars and trucks. Not much of a stretch to use them to charge vehicles no?

      • rgb: “One could even use gas-gas hybrids and shut the main gasoline engine off and kick over to a lawnmower engine equivalent to do the restarting and save a huge amount of money compared to chugging gasoline through 8 to 10 cylinders while idling in driving that is 10-20% idling at stop signs or stop lights.”
        How about have the car’s computer disable half the cylinders in those situations?

      • “I distinctly remember that a lot of the parking spaces at the hotel had electrical outlets specifically installed to power the block warmers for cars and trucks. Not much of a stretch to use them to charge vehicles no?”
        Ours at work are, I believe, limited to about 400W, and only run for a few hours a day (AFAIR, four hours is where the benefit from a typical block heater maxes out). 1.6kWh probably won’t get you far.
        Besides which, why should companies be subsidising some employees’ transport? If they get free electricity, I’d better get free gas.

      • Ha ha. Yes, a lot of visitors from warmer climes thought we had electric vehicles years ago because of all the block heater cords hanging out of the grills of our vehicles.
        But no, some businesses actually have single purpose EV charging stations along with preferential parking near the store door. There are not many, but the numbers are growing.
        Eg: http://www.mec.ca/AST/ContentPrimary/Services/Stores/Calgary.jsp
        http://metronews.ca/news/calgary/433137/calgary-parking-authority-unveils-electric-charging-stations/
        http://ucalgary.ca/utoday/issue/2013-09-18/electric-car-charging-stations-now-operating-eeel
        http://evco.ca/site/node/379
        http://metronews.ca/news/toronto/867651/go-offers-electric-car-charging-at-train-stations/

      • ferdberple,
        Excellent point, this advice should be on the label and government/ MSM advertising and pushing the “benefits” of EV’s

      • Had a Prius for about 5 years. Gave up on it after the “brake actuator” died thrice in a year, at $2500 each. (That is the computer controlled equivalent of what is a brake master cylinder in a normal car….at a tenth of the price and more reliable). Sold it and replaced with a VW Jetta diesel, very good trade. Moral…even though the Prius makes a lot of sense in its regeneration algorithms, the infrastructure still sucks. Might get better in 20 years when half the cars on the road are hybrids, but I’m not paying the price now. The Jetta, by the way, gets about the same highway mileage (42-45) as the Prius did.

      • Both the UK power grid and the grid in New England are on the edge of failure during this extreme cold as they can barely supply sufficient power during peak demand. It is not feasible for either the UK or New England to support electric cars as their electric grids and power generation even using interconnectors from neighboring grids, just do not have the capacity. All the CO2 and energy calculations and installations of chargers at gas (petrol) stations are a pipe dream – the electric grids cannot supply sufficient power.. Start listening to system engineers for a change.

      • Rgb, I recall Prof Med. Thring telling me in the early 70s that improving engine efficiency was fine but bigger savings could be made by using regenerative braking as used in modern hybrids. I agree that hybrid technology should be more widely used to increase fleet efficiency. As well as the advantages mentioned by rgb it allows the engine to run close to its ‘sweet spot’ most of the time. The best would be a diesel hybrid which would combine the higher thermodynamic efficiency of the diesel cycle with the regenerative technology, such systems have been used for some time in hybrid trains.

      • there is an idea. the government can buy us all electric cars using quantitative easing to pay for it, which we can use on those days when we don’t need to go anywhere.

      • A pox on distance. Will I be able to drive the ten miles home from work stuck in a four-hour Interstate highway traffic jam at night (lights on), snowing (windshield wipers on), in zero-degree (defroster and heater on) weather? Ask the commuters in New England (US) how well an electric car would fare this winter.
        Not all of us live in sunny California.

    • I think that’s the point of the enviro-movement. It is not to get electric cars to have the equivalent convenience and costs of gas powered cars but to change our expectations. In your example, to not expect to re-fuel your car quickly at any time of day or night, but to adjust your life-style to accommodate over-night re-fueling.
      In that vein, from the enviro-heads point of view, solar and wind increasing electricity costs is a good thing. It will force people to reduce their electricity usage and eventually find bliss in an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
      It is arrogance, hubris and narcissism in other words; my way is the best way and that’s why everyone is going to act the way I want them to. Religious fanatics have a similar perspective.
      There are actually vegans who make their dogs become vegetarians and somehow think that is a behaving on a higher plane, or something like that.

    • Here you go: Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes.
      The new generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries. Lichter, charge faster and longer durability. Within2 years on the market. That’s progress. Link here: http://media.ntu.edu.sg/NewsReleases/Pages/newsdetail.aspx?news=809fbb2f-95f0-4995-b5c0-10ae4c50c934

      • What’s the energy density? It’s conspicuously missing from the press release. Since they aren’t boasting about it, my guess is that it’s nothing to boast about.

      • Ah yes, the latest revolutionary new battery technology. They usually crop up two or three times a year. Oddly enough they never seem to go into production.

      • Batteries, be they Pb-H2SO4, LiPo or LiEs, begin corroding upon assembly. Their lifespan is limited by corrosion time to 3 – 5 years and electrolysis to 300 – 500 equivalent full charge-discharge cycles.

    • Very true, but what most do not realize is if all vehicles were electric, we would need to double the generating capacity of the nation plus greatly upgrade the capacity of the grid to handle the increased load. It wouldn’t matter if you had the perfect battery that could hold enough energy to go 300+ miles and charge in five minutes.

      • I actually made it near enough 3 times the grid for an all electric ‘carbon free’ society.
        No windmuills tho. Just nukes

      • Sam: ++ Batteries are not the issue. Charging is. Any battery powered car uses energy per mile, which must be replaced. (and then some as the process is not 100% efficient) If you have an 80 kwh battery that needs 60 kwh of charge, to do it in an hour takes … 60 kw. (actually more because of losses). To recharge in 15 minutes takes 240 kw. And so on. The connectors and wires get rather large, If only one person does it, no big deal for the power grid. When 50-100 or more plug in, the grid crashes. “Better” batteries won’t help. I see reports of these breakthrough technology batteries every week, but never any real product. And no mention of the charging issue.

    • The standard 8 gpm gas pump puts energy into a car’s tank at at rate of 5 MW. Can you imagine wiring a home or a gas station for 5-MW lines and letting them be handled by average drivers? How about the “fuel of the future” fantasy of liquid or ultra-high pressure hydrogen? The refueling station of the future must include a concrete bunker at minimum safe distance for the disembarked passengers to shelter while the certified refueling technician in the flameproof, blastproof, anti-static suit performs the operation from a checklist.

  6. What are the units on the vertical axis? How about a comparison to gasoline and diesel? The last time I looked batteries of any kind were rounding errors in comparison. In rough numbers a Tesla gets 200 miles on a single charge of its 2000 pound battery versus 3 gallons = 50 pounds of gas in a regular car.

    • 3 gallons of gasoline is 100kwh of power. About $10 of electricity at residential rates, depending where you live. About the same as 3 gallons of gasoline. No cost savings to be had from electric, especially as gasoline prices are likely to stay low and electricity prices are set to skyrocket.

      • A car cannot use anywhere near the actual energy contained in gasoline. A large part of gasoline’s energy
        is removed as unwanted heat by the cooling system, which requires energy itself to operate as well.
        A Tesla Model S battery requires 100 kWhrs to completely recharge, although only 85 kWhrs gets into the battery for use. Driving range for a fully charged Model S varies from 200 to 250 miles. If those 3 gallons of gasoline (containing 100 kWhrs energy) were to be used in a comparable vehicle, it would likely struggle to get 30 miles per gallon, or 90 miles driving range, and cost 10 cents per mile. The Model S, using avg electricity costs of 12 cents per kWhr, will cost around 5 cents per mile (but that does NOTinclude road taxes which are contained in gasoline prices). If using San Diego peak electric rates, or Hawaii rates, it would cost about the same per mile as a gas powered Model S. But, of course, the very expensive battery must also enter into any cost analysis and in that case the electric car becomes far more expensive to operate at current battery prices.

      • Well the range of a fully charged model S, is more like 80 miles than 250 miles.
        That is because, once you leave your charging station, aka house, the only place you can be sure of getting a boost is back at home, so your range is effectively halved by lack of electric gas stations. And then if you want to use your vehicle at that destination, your safe return range is more like a third of the battery capacity.

    • paullinsay
      3 gallons gasoline > 25 pounds of fluid; more if you include weight of gas tank infrastructure

    • Do NOT attempt volume-mass conversions in archaic units. 3 US gal is 11.5l. Gasoline density is ~0.72 kg/l. Mass is 8.3kg, less than 18lbs. Battery:fuel weight ratio around 100:1

    • I lost interest, when her ‘brief comments on global climate disruption’ became an extended personal paean.
      How mixed up do you have to be to call carbon ‘pollution’, when it is the basis of all life on this planet?
      How mixed up do you have to be to lament lower heating fuel prices for your fellow Canadian citizens during another brutally cold winter? “….Because of course the price of oil is currently down but that’s not what we want to happen.” she eulogizes at approximately 3:40. The unmitigated, arrogant, elitist gall of such an uncaring progressive statement defies belief.
      Just unbelievable, uncaring obliviousness to the misery and hardship the AGW scam creates….. Why? Because We have to save the planet, even if it kills You!

      • I don’t think I would make that hard of a judgement on her based on this video alone. Not everyone examines every issue that comes before them with same vigilance. Everyone decides what they must examine and reject and what they will take and go with the flow. We only have so much time in the day and so much sanity. Her expertise is battery technology and I think we can accept that. There’s a question at the end that someone asks if battery technology ever match that of gasoline energy and she replies never.

      • Golden,
        I hear similar platitudes uttered by progressives in the Seattle area. They are oblivious to the misery and hardship their misguided utopian agenda causes to folks living outside the urban centers. When I have made them aware of the hurtful consequences of their agenda to folks living in the country, their most common response is “Not my problem.” “Why should I care about country rednecks?” is not uncommon either.
        Yes – her expertise may be in battery chemistry and technology. It is not AGW. Not fuel costs. Not ‘carbon’ pollution. Not who should live or die in a brutally long and cold winter because she really needs the price of fuels to be high to keep the government funding for battery research secure and plentiful!
        Did it occur to you ask why she states “….Because of course the price of oil is currently down but that’s not what we want to happen.”? Now you know why that’s not what she wants to happen. Now you know why she espouses the AGW meme as a prelude to a technical discussion of battery technology.
        If energy is inexpensive and plentiful, her well funded research activities (and corresponding pay and perks) will evaporate.

  7. If the world ever really did need an alternative to fossil fuel transport. I’d say use nuclear to make octane. But it’s all moot. There is plenty of fossil fuel and the emitted CO2 is highly beneficial.

      • Current EV battery packs are in fact, maintained at a more or less constant temperature, primarilly to extend battery lifespan. Of course, this requires electricity, normally from the grid while plugged in.
        When the EV is operating, the battery pack generates sufficient heat to maintain temps, and a radiator
        removes unwanted heat in warmer ambient temps.

    • George I agree with you, same here in UK where cars need lights on in the middle of winter from 15:00 – 09:00 (or all day if it is cloudy) plus heating the car with AC and cooling it in the summer to stop the windows steaming up due to our humid climate. As part of my job I drive about 18,000 miles a year locally. I do not have the time to sit and wait while the car charges up. On the other hand my wife does less than 5000 miles a year (mostly short journeys so an electric car would be ideal for her. “Horses for Courses” springs to mind

      • When our gas cylinder is empty, we swap it. Maybe the same could be done with batteries – swap instead of waiting for a recharge?

      • Your battery costs $10,000, wears out over time, and weighs half a ton. Your gas cylinder… doesn’t. So you buy a new car, take it for a drive, stop at a battery swap station, and they replace it with a knackered old battery from a ten year old car.
        That means, at a minimum, it’s really only going to work with battery leasing, not purchase. Then you have to standardize batteries so you don’t get to that battery charging station and discover they don’t have any batteries that fit your car and you’re out of power to drive any further. Then you need machines which can swap those half-ton batteries and are compatible with all cars… if theirs isn’t compatible with yours, you’re still SOL even if the battery is.

  8. Thanks, Anthony.
    This Lithium-sulfur battery technology looks very promising, if people can continue to use current petroleum-based cars and trucks to get there.
    If not, it is dead before it had a chance because poor people can not afford electric vehicles.
    Every time one transforms energy from one kind to another there is a conversion loss.
    This planet is loaded with high-density petroleum energy that works independently of winds and clouds. If we get rid of the fear of CO2.

  9. coincidentally came across this in Sunday AM reading (my pictures don’t often post I believe due to substantial packet loss via crap dial-up here in Green and Forward and COLD Vermont)
    source –
    http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/198462-new-aluminum-air-battery-could-blow-past-lithium-ion-be-refilled-with-water
    What I don’t like about most of these batteries is the requirement of rare earths – a processing cluster what and true environmental pollutant – not clear on new ones.

  10. The obvious obstacles to EVs are 1) cost of batteries, which includes lifespan 2) recharge rates
    Weight of batteries is a lesser probem, since the advent of regen braking has mostly eliminated weight
    as a mileage penalty. At twice the capacity of current li ions, li-S batteries are bound to be cheaper. The question is : “How much cheaper?” As battery cost decline and larger battery capacities available, longer driving ranges become feasible, recharge rates become of lesser importance, mostly a concern on trips. Lithium sulfer seems to be a big advancement, but whether great enough to usher in mass production of EVs remains to be seen.

    • What do you mean by “the advent of regen braking” ?
      You mean there have actually been total goofballs who built electric cars that didn’t have regenerative braking.
      Back when the standard available battery was the Lechlanche cell, or carbon zinc, electric auto dreamers talked about using regenerative recharging, if you could make a rechargeable battery.
      Early electric car designers dreamed of individual pancake motors in each wheel, eliminating any kind of transmission. I guess they were not sports car designers, because they apparently never heard of unsprung weight.
      Even the fabulous Mercedes Benz W196 Grande Prix car of 1954 / 55 used inboard brakes, to get the weight of the brakes off the wheel.
      Elon Musk doesn’t seem to have heard of inboard brakes either.

  11. As we are already working with the lightest possible elements to make batteries, the energy density has a limit, which means that it batteries will never match that of gasoline or diesel. As we are not about to run out of petroleum, CO2 is PLANT FOOD, and we need more CO2 to boost food production as the planet cools.
    Electric cars will have a niche but, they neglect all kinds of details. Maybe a battery will be good for 1500 cycles, but that’s four years of daily use or six years used only week days. What’s the cost of the battery and replacement cost. Tea’s battery costs a fortune to replace.
    Also, a person away from home will need to recharge and cannot afford to sit for hours while it is done normally. Quick charges will thus be desirable, which can easily cut the life of a battery in half. You can gas up a car in five minutes—that’s hard to beat.
    And, did they talk about how battery failure behaves. Tesla car make good bonfires when the battery short out.

    • Electric cars have their place. if you do mainly city driving and can let it recharge (with more than a 20a/120v hookup) all night without getting stranded during the day, it’s a great trade off. If you need to travel more than 60-70 miles every day (long commute) there is just no way they can compete. Especially when you get into the real world comparison of vehicles. Fuel consumption, for instance, dramatically reduces the longer you are able to cruise at a constant speed in a gas or diesel powered vehicle. In an EV you use more electricity to drive the motor(s) in an EV faster, with efficiencies dropping significantly after you hit the design peak of torque load.
      But EVs certainly shouldn’t be driven by the government. They are a square peg that can’t fit into a lot of round holes. Each persons’ situation is different and should evaluate what they need to use accordingly.

  12. The most efficient technology (Excluding battery type) for electric motive power was invented in about the 1950’s. Diesel-Electric. A small, but efficient turbo charged diesel powering a generator, which charges the batteries which drives the motors. It could be setup to startup when being driven when batteries needed charging. Would consume far less fuel than conventional diesel powered vehicles, would not need a new recharging infrastructure (You would simply use what is there, ie, a gas station), would not emit as much CO2 as batteries being re-charged from the grid.
    Simple! And the technology is available and, relatively, cheap.

    • Yes, this modification could be made to the Tesla Model S, remove three-quarters of the 1700-lb battery and replace it with a 15 kw motor-generator set and tank, make the vehicle much lighter, better performing, and much more economical to purchase. I discussed this with Tesla’s engineering manager. Musk insists that Tesla remain a 100% electric vehicle company.
      The battery is only a few inches thick, covers the entire bottom surface of the car. Otherwise I would introduce this modification as an after-market option, make the Tesla Model S the world’s greatest hybrid vehicle.

      • There was a petrol-electric car, sadly went out of productionn in 2012 (Maybe because of a lack of subsidy?). It was called the Fisker Surf. It was featured on the British motoring BBC TV show called “Top Gear”. Looked really good!

      • “Musk insists that Tesla remain a 100% electric vehicle company. ”
        Otherwise he would have to compete with VW for fuel efficiency. Too tough. Rather, sell a hundred luxury cars a year and pump and pump and pump ( and dump ) the stock.

      • Why not eliminate the battery altogether, along with the superfluous electric motor, and remove the generator from the motor generator set, and then couple the 15 kW motor to the wheels.
        Then you would have gasoline from gas tank to motor to wheels. Super compact and efficient, without having to carry all that permanent weight penalty.
        I get 40 plus MPG out of my gas/motor/wheel car and I can even carry stuff in it.

    • There is no compelling need for the weight and complexity of a DE electric drive. Mechanical transmissions are a mature technology and now offer CVT transmissions that provide efficient automatic shifting yet are around 98% efficient. Even the best electric drives will be less efficient. I drive a modern european Ford midsize car with a turbocharged diesel engine that delivers a dependable 52mpg on journeys at Freeway speeds and approaches 60 mpg on country roads. This beats the real life performance of the Prius and Honda hybrids with ease.
      Diesel electric transmissions make sense in a marine application where you can increase redundancy by having several engines in separate locations drive the vessel through swivelling azipod thrusters but not for cars.

  13. These sulfur batteries look like an excellent solution for all night spotlighting for coyotes. Electric cars, on the other hand, are a solution looking for a problem.

    • If you kill all the coyotes in your block/town/county/state, more will come from far away to occupy the newly emptied territory. Why? You can’t kill them all. Leave the coyotes alone…

      • I much prefer the coyotes over the electric cars. The electric cars are too often driven by total idiots. I know; I’ve seen them on the roads.

  14. I’ll bet those living in New England are sure as hell glad the electric car, solar and wind power, anti-coal crowd haven’t prevailed yet.

      • And there is another row of bird-killers on the ridge in the background.
        Can’t see it clearly (in a still photograph)? Wait until you are condemned to hours of them moving in real life. UGLY!

      • Yup, that’d be Lowell on the West skyline, Sheffield in the foreground.
        They are already spinning – excellent infrasound has driven families from homes – but then we have increased electrical rates, so what’s the problem?
        Incidentally, we have an actual debate happening in St. Johnsbury, 7 PM Monday, Comfort Inn( for anyone in the neighborhood). About possible Carbon Tax and between John McClaughry –
        http://vtdigger.org/2013/11/24/thing-two-might-know-john-mcclaughry/
        and Jon Erickson, Econ Prof at UVM Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources.
        You can look him up if you want, but be advised, this is another post-normal pseudo-science, sociologist, anti-science, IPCC reader, policy writer.
        Looking for damning questions please . . .

      • The irony is that if they dug a few holes filled them with akcali iron batteries, Giant edison cells, and drained off the hydrogen into a tank then most wind farms would be able to do peak load. Charging the batteries and h2 tank and powering the grid via a fuel cell and the batteries.

      • Beautiful scenery; what is all that green and dead brown junk around those magnificent sculptures ??

      • It looks like our children won’t know what a picturesque landscape looks like anymore, except maybe in history books or historical photos. Did anyone remember to take a photo before those bird choppers went up?

    • When I first moved to Vermont from Los Angeles, locals took great pride in explaining there were no oil rigs or refineries in New England.
      Not so proud they refused to use the fuels, just proud enough to expect others to do the work for them.

      • That’s called “sour grapes.”
        It may be possible with newer technologies, but when I lived there, New England had NO economically recoverable petroleum deposits. Siting a refinery just about anywhere there would be idiotic, too, just from engineering and logistic standpoints (ignoring the ignorant politicians).

  15. Although the wide use of electric cars regardless of battery configuration will increase the demand for fossil or nuclear generated electrical power(at each conversion stage it is hard to overcome the losses), the reality is that widespread use of electric cars will never become a reality until a delivery system(hot rail) on major highways is built to allow powering the motor & charging the battery while driving. In this fashion the need for massive battery storage is eliminated as there are very few areas for the masses where one gets farther away from a major freeway or interstate than 50 miles. Virtually every mode of advanced mechanical transportation occurred after the roads or rails were built.

  16. What is Elon Musk building in Nevada? The sweetheart deal he negotiated could price competitors out. He is paying no payroll or property taxes for a decade, and even able to sell tax credits to other companies.

  17. “Electric cars don’t make a lot of sense for an all-around car, but for in-city use, such as errands or delivery, they could be quite viable with better battery technology.”
    Electric cars are viable today, but their niche is quite narrow.
    Electric cars are so expensive, they can be bought only by the affluent. The limiting factor in electric car sales/usage is not battery technology, it is the cost of the cars.
    “This newer Lithium-sulfur batteries show promise beyond the current favorite lithium-ion batteries due to their energy density and lighter weight:”
    The challenge in the marketplace is cost, not energy density or weight.

    • No. Energy density gives you effective performance/range limits.
      Charge rate governs ‘fill up times’
      overall costs govern cost per mile
      ALL of these have to be within certain limits

      • Nissan Leafs cost $30,000. The cost of entry makes all other factors irrelevant except for people not concerned about cost.

    • Gamecock,
      For many years, in much of the UK – before the rise of the hypermarkets using a white fluid as a loss-leader – most urban and sub-urban deliveries were done by the milkman, driving a milk float – an electric [lead-acid, for sure] battery-powered, lightly build ‘sub-truck’, carrying crates of milk bottles, and in due course, cream, juices, bread – even potatoes.
      The always-accurate Wikipedia has a few photos here: –
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_float
      Limited range needed; charged overnight; even a fairly benign tax regime; deliveries six days a week.
      What’s not to like?
      Auto

    • Well the cost is irrelevant if the result is a net available energy loss rather than a gain.
      Tesla is profitable, only because they sell carbon credits which they never generated, to people who run real profit making businesses.
      I could print my own fiat carbon credits and sell them to other people to make money out of nothing.

  18. A battery swap system would be great, if it could be worked out. Large solar collection facilities in sunny locations “fill” lots of batteries, which are then transported to battery “gas stations.” Rather than recharge, the discharged battery pack would be swapped out for a fresh one. This would have to be doable in about 10 minutes or less, to make it the equivalent of filling up your tank now.
    I wonder how far from that possibility we are?

    • You lose far less electricity when transmitting by line than if you were moving a load of batteries across the highway. Batteries are _heavy_. The only way it could work is to swap your used battery at the, er, “gas” station and then have that station recharge the battery for the next swap.
      The hindrance to this is threefold:
      1.) No gas stations currently have massive electrical hookups to the grid (and….would we want a huge electricity pipe to a gas station next to the, you know, gas? I’ve seen high currents cut right through metals as if they were butter, so a failing fat electrical pipe next to liquid fuel storage might be bad. Although I have no idea if gasoline and diesel could catch fire/explode from purely electrical input.)
      2.) The speed of these recharges would still be fairly slow. Charge a battery too fast and it’ll explode. Even the Tesla superchargers need about an hour to fill from 0 to full. (it’s something around 175 miles per half hour of charging and the crappy battery does ~270 miles). If all of the current gas/diesel vehicles were magically made into EVs and likewise for gas stations to charging stations, you wouldn’t be able to handle the number of batteries that need swapping. You’d have far more batteries than you could charge. (and this is assuming that half of those gas->EV conversions charge exclusively at home)
      3.) Toxic waste. Quite simply, batteries are TERRIBLE for the environment. They are noxious to make, carry use risks (fires and explosions), and don’t just biodegrade when the 1500 use-life is over with. Recycling their components is often too expensive compared to making more. Lead acid (the battery in your gas car) batteries are currently fully recyclable but they often are disposed of improperly. Same with car tires.

      • “Although I have no idea if gasoline and diesel could catch fire/explode from purely electrical input”
        Gasoline and kerosene sure can. It has happened with aircraft.

      • Fluid gasoline and diesel are not flammable for being too rich to support combustion. They must be vaporized and carefully mixed with oxidant to ‘explode’. Hydrogen, now that is a different story, will explode from 2w/w to 96w/w.

    • JamesS
      Assume 1,000 pounds of battery per car, and 100,000 cars (mid size city): You’re wanting to transport a hundred million pounds of batteries around in the name of saving energy?
      Assume batteries yield 1 mile per 4 pounds of weight; gasoline yield 1 mile per 3oz @ 40MPG. You’d be moving batteries equal to 21 times the weight of the equivalent gasoline.

    • That system was tried in Israel. Modified Renault cars if I remember correctly. The idea was good but I understand that they went bankrupt.
      Iab

  19. Cutting through all the numbers, the most sensible electric solution today is a plug-in hybrid such as the Chevy Volt. Chevy claims 38 all-electric miles per charge which is sufficient for daily use for a large chunk of US automobile owners. Beyond all-electric miles it’s gasoline. No range limits. Instant gasoline refills. Long weekend and vacation trips. Does it pencil out in dollars and cents without a taxpayer rebate? Probably not. But cars are not a purely rational purchase in any case.
    Chevrolet currently claims that Volts have driven almost 700 million EV miles out of a total of 1.1 billion miles driven.
    http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car.html#how_volt_works
    Batteries will get there someday but not tomorrow.

    • I would like to see the source for “38 all-electric miles per charge which is sufficient for daily use for a large chunk of US automobile owners.” Having been damn near everywhere, I can’t think of many places where it’s common to not have a decent commute. According to USA Today, the average commute is 25.5 minutes one-way. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/05/americans-commutes-not-getting-longer/1963409/
      If you assume that both the cars are only using electricity for driving (because stop-and-go will eat your battery to death if you are using any accessories) and 40 mph is the average speed, that means that the average American will just eek home each day under that 38 miles. No stopping for groceries, no hitting the bar, no meeting your brodawgs for ultimate frisbee, nothing.

      • According to the US-DOT, Federal Highway Administration, the Average Annual Miles per Driver is 13,476 which, based on a 365 day year, is 36.9 miles per day.
        http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/bar8.htm
        What counts as a “large chunk” is open to interpretation but the above numbers support the statement that “38 all-electric miles per charge [ … ] is sufficient for daily use for a large chunk of US automobile owners.”
        People I spoken to who own and operate Chevy Volts use them daily for commuting and buy gas once every three to six weeks. I once had a 45 mile each way daily commute for which 38 miles would save only a little over a gallon a day. On the other hand, many people I know live and work in the same or nearby suburbs and would only need to visit a gas station to buy lottery tickets.
        I stand by my statement.

      • I have never seen a Volt plugged in. My suspicion is the drivers bought them for the cool factor, or they work for Chevy dealerships.

      • Speed, 365 days a year? In other words you drive to work and back every single day of your life? That’s really, really abusive of raw numbers (or sad, depending on if that’s an accurate representation of someone’s life.) Sorry, but the reality is that they drive back and forth to work for 250 days a year (5x50weeks) and the rest of the time they either go nowhere or take long trips (e.g. traveling to see family on thanksgiving or Christmas).
        Sorry, but even with this additional information, I cannot buy into your assertion, especially after I just linked to average one-way commute times. And getting into the “Gas savings” of the Volt expands on your original statement that was exclusively focused on the battery life, especially when your secondary backup statement is “many people I know.”
        Well, “many people I know” travel more than 30 miles each way. 🙂

      • Speed,
        You calculations of average driving miles per day suffer from same problem as earth’s global temperature – it is not very useful in real life.
        Why? Because you don’t commute to work on weekends. So, you have to drive over 50 miles for 5 days and then you drive very little for 2 other days – or your household uses only 1 car instead of 2.
        And more than half of the population will not be able to commute to work on 38 mile charge.

    • Are you trying to get us to believe that Chevy Volts have done 64% of ALL miles driven on the roads. (that’s 7/11 in case you want to check) ??

  20. Scientists should forget their obsession with energy density. Existing Li ion batteries such as used in the Tesla are fine and give 300 miles range which is more than adequate for urban use. The problem is, and always will be, battery COST per unit of energy stored.
    Having run a major international advanced battery programme for electric vehicles and power storage in the late seventies and early eighties (private sector funded!), I have a particular interest in developments such as described in this article. Virtually no progress has been made in improving the cost metric.The new Tesla ‘mega factory’ will reduce manufacturing cost, but it will still be far too high to challenge I.C. vehicles in the mass market.
    Because of this, widespread use of E.V.’s is a pipe dream, as is battery storage for load balancing of ‘renewable’ energy sources.

    • So in other words due to economics, pure electric cars are for those who like novelty items or for the top 5% earners who like to pretend they are green, while owning 5,000 square foot homes and multiple non-electric autos and or planes.

    • Old’un
      February 15, 2015 at 8:18 am
      “Scientists should forget their obsession with energy density.”
      No, it’s critical. Depending on energy density you reach an asymptote where adding more storage does not increase the range. That’s why all current “affordable” small EV’s hover at the 100km range limit, while the comparable gasoline car has a typical 600km.
      David Mackay computed it in “Without Hot Air”, you find that book online.

    • Well I bet if you did some digging, you might find that the “cost” of that electric vehicle is somehow related to the energy density of that lousy battery.
      If you could increase the energy density of the battery by a factor of ten, you could use a much smaller battery and a lighter car, and that would cost much less.
      It is NOT a cost problem; it is and always has been a technology problem.
      A practical technology for electric cars does not exist. If it did, then you wouldn’t be able to keep people away from them, and they would be affordable.
      But so long as you treat it as an economics problem, you will put economists to work on solving it. You need to put scientists and engineers to work on the technology problems or they will never be solved.
      It has always been that way with alternative energies or resources, and it always will be.
      Economic problems are solvable with a pen. You just decree the solution; that’s what Obama does.

  21. Do the LI-S batteries have the same property of exploding when mishandled that their Li-Ion cousins have?
    That could be a large hurdle to overcome when considering it for highway applications.

      • Charlie
        Gasoline is certainly flammable, but only very infrequently explosive (i.e. in Hollwood or on Myth Busters).
        Your statement implies society has a long history of actively ignoring wide-spread legions of exploding cars – something that all of us know from our daily lives is simply not true.
        Good grief.

      • Have you read USAF rules for air transporting Li Ion batteries? They don’t quite require one man continuously guarding each individual battery with an extinguisher.

      • Gasoline of any kind is not explosive, but it still is highly flammable. An explosion requires very particular conditons, like a propane/air bomb. Witness the recent car train crash in New York. Befuddled driver for sure, but that kind of fire is hardly less of a problem than an explosion. A couple years ago a semi tanker carrying gasoline rolled over on an off ramp in Harrisburg, PA. The ensuing fire stopped traffic for a day on the main highway and they had to replace a $100M overpass, which took close to a year.
        Any kind of high density power supply can cause massive problems. Horses never exploded or caught fire, but they had other problems.

      • Lithium Ion rechargeable CELLS such as AA size for example, are simply not available for sale in the USA, although they may be used in computer or laptop batteries.
        You can buy Lithium Ion BATTERIES but not lithium Ion CELLS. That is because the batteries must carry inside a current limiting and over-temperature protective circuit.
        So you can get Ni-MH rechargeable AA cells, I have dozens and AAAs as well for my cameras and flashes, but you can’t get Li-Ion cells.
        Li-Ion cells can not be carried or shipped aboard any commercial airliner, but you can carry your laptop battery.
        UPS and Fed-Ex have special rules for shipment of Li-Ion cells (to battery assemblers.
        So Tesla is not alone in having a big battery headache.

    • That’s what I thought. I know little about LiS cells but I had a notion that they were favourite for model helicopters because they have a good power to weight ratio, but they could ignite, almost spontaneously.

      • No, current model cells are lithium polymer ion: not lithium sulfur.
        And also lithium iron phosphate. Heavier but tougher.

  22. If it’s for CO2, then don’t do it. if it’s for better transportation, then I won’t have to pay for it and, by all means, do it. If you have to hurt or derive your success by hurting an alternative, it is not better. If it’s about being futuristic, pay for your own vanity and remind yourself that electric cars are really, really old school for several reasons.

  23. This past week I made two trips from my home in Maine, one to Quebec City, 585 miles round trip and to Sugarloaf Mountain, 250 miles round trip. My Volvo XC 70 started at minus 15 F with no problems. It handled snowy roads with the lights on and we were comfortably warm. We were also in a vehicle in which we could survive a collision with a moose. We were able to purchase gas in remote small towns in Northern Maine, but I didn’t see any signs advertising charging stations. Don’t look for many folsk in this region to be buying electric cars.

  24. With higher energy density comes higher explosion risk. It remains to be seen if these batteries can be made crash safe. The metal-oxygen type batteries are a lot safer, because they don’t have instant access to all of the energy.

  25. I’d be interested in seeing actual data on battery lifetime vs. ambient temperatures. How well do batteries survive in Phoenix with summer temps hovering +40 degC and in Yellowknife, NWT with winter temps hovering -40 degC? My own experience with golf cart and road vehicle lead acid batteries in Saudi Arabia is not good.

    • You normally want to shutdown charge to Li-Ion at about 50 degC and discharge at around 60.
      You really do not want them to go over 70 as they can enter thermal runaway state, with explosion resulting (the industry uses “venting” as a safe term for that particular event)

  26. Interchangeable batteries. Sort of like those propane tanks you get for your outdoor BBQ available at Wallgreens and a lot other places these days. A simple means to slide them in and out is all that’s needed

    • Steve
      If given a choice between a “ruptured tank” propane automobile accident and a “ruptured tank” gasoline automobile accident, pick the gasoline car…words to live by.

      • The propane tank wouldn’t necessarily have to rupture to cause troubles in an accident. If the fuel line is compromised, then there is an instant burst of liquid propane to be concerned about. The tanks are fairly strong. I converted a rotary motor Mazda p/u to propane trying to meet smog requirements. It ran fairly well, but there was a power loss. The fuel mileage dropped as a result. I had to always be on top of how much fuel I had, and where the closest propane station might be. I started carrying a 7 gallon tank as a reserve. It sat next to me on the floor of the passenger side. It was somewhat reassuring to know that in case of a bad accident, at least I wouldn’t burn to death.

  27. There are two ends of the scales to consider. The IC engine at one end and the electric motor at the other. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and the ONLY way to approach this is to try to eliminate the problems in BOTH. The answer is, therefore, HYBRID technology.
    Hybrid vehicles have already proven their worth in efficiency so to promote either an entirely-gasoline or an entirely-electric vehicle is wrong and only the reserve of the relevant proponents.

    • The answer ?!?!
      What was the question???
      A Honda Accord Hybrid costs $7,500 more than a Honda Accord. That crushes any advantages gained from adding hybrid technology. Or even HYBRID technology.

      • Gamecock,
        Good answer,
        Another answer: let the market decide not the government or the misleading media. People have answered and low electric car sales are their answer, they are much smarter than Washington.
        I have two gasoline powered cars and don’t see any disadvantage, in fact a huge advantage when the American free market system is allowed to discover and bring fossil fuels to market at $2.00/gal.
        I have been without electricity for 1 week periods several times in the last two years and would not consider a car that needs electricity from my house unless I also invest in a generator.
        At least I could get to the store for food or a hotel if necessary not being totally dependent on electricity. BTW I also have a gas stove in the kitchen for cooking, gas hot water heater for bathing and would not want it any other way.

  28. I’d recommend a large grain of salt. I seriously investigated LiFePo4 batteries several years back because they appear to offer cost/performance savings over lithium ion. The savings exists, but so do all sorts of problems with the LiFePo4 such as nonstandard decline. Or in other words, otherwise identical batteries in the same batch, in the same circuit would decline at different rates – which in turn completely hoses the electrical system.
    Energy density is thus in no way an adequate means to evaluate the utility of any given battery technology. Cost, reliablity, number of cycles, etc all matter.

    • I have a LiFePO4 battery in my Honda motorcycle for about 2 years now. Ballistic and Shorai both sell drop-in replacements for the Pb-acid batteries from the manufacturer. Unlike Li polymer, LiFePO4 batteries use the same charging circuit as factory stock. Better cold performance and less self-discharge in addition to lighter weight are all improved.

  29. These Lithium-sulfur batteries have arrived just in time to start consuming the sulfur mountain caused by the legal demands for ‘low sulfur’ diesel!

  30. I for one think this is all very exciting. Anyone who thinks electric cars have no future isn’t looking at the level of commitment by governments around the world. An example being the agreement signed in the UK recently by the government and opposition. Almost unheard of before…..
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/14/cameron-clegg-and-miliband-sign-joint-climate-pledge
    More and more money will be invested in reducing our dependence on oil and coal. It doesn’t matter whether you or I like it…. it is the future.

    • Electric cars will have a future when they’re self-driving, and can go off to a central charging station when they’re not in use. Especially, when they’re owned and operated by an Uber-type service.

    • Just because the three indistinguishable parties in the UK sign a suicide pact, doesn’t mean much. And where is that ‘more and more money’ going to come from, when the British government has already doubled its debt in the last few years? The country is bankrupt, and increasing the cost of energy will only make the economy collapse faster.
      Electric cars had a great future a hundred and fifty years ago, until someone invented the internal combustion engine and they became obsolete overnight. It’s taken us that long to remember why they sucked.
      Now, I’d agree that, in the far future, they’ll probably be the norm: no-one’s going to be driving a gasoline-powered car on Mars or the Moon any time soon, and you won’t want to drive them in a sealed habitat of any kind in free space. But I can’t see they have any future on Earth, unless you can install nuclear power sources that only need replacing every couple of years.

      • Hey – Miliband has ‘A’ Level Physics!
        I’m not sure the others could recognise a simple lever.
        Still – they’re following the Green Blob, although it does look – to an outsider – as if they’re taking Brezhnev’s money after all these years. They’re not, ‘cos that was old, useless roubles [contrast with Generalissimo Putin’s new useless roubles]. But it looks that way.
        Auto

    • Simon
      So how long do you think this uneconomical government-subsidized scheme will run on other people’s money?

    • I don’t understand, where does the electricity com from, if not coal or gas it will double in price as promised by the President.
      Investing money to replace oil/coal has been a bust so far for the average guy given the wast of tax dollars with negative results. That’s exciting?

      • A point that should be considered in all of this, is that they always talk of charging cost of 0.10$/kwh. Here in California there is a 3 tiered rate system which is now around 11 to 12 cents for baseline usage. I have never been able to stay within the baseline even though I was a minimal user, careful about turning off lights, no air conditioner, and so on. Despite that, my electric bill always had a portion of 3rd tier billing which was triple the baseline rate. If I were to purchase an electric vehicle, then I would have to pay triple, around 38 cents per kwh to charge the vehicle.

  31. <blockquote By virtue of the low atomic weight of lithium and moderate weight of sulfur, Li–S batteries are relatively light; about the density of water.
    I do not fully understand the meaning of this quote nor its pertinence. Lithium and sulfur are respectively of higher atomic mass than hydrogen and oxygen. Actually the ideal battery would be lithium-air because the air wouldn’t have to be stored on-board. And better still would be replaceable packs of lithium which would allow instant refueling and lightweight for convenience. Even replaceable packs of current Li-ion batteries are somewhat bulky and heavy. The technical and materials problems are still quite daunting, however.
    I teach senior capstone design in an engineering college. We participate in the SAE Baja competitions year and decided a few years ago to build an all electric version as a separate project. Why our original sponsor decided to start with lead acid cells I do not know, but the vehicle was fun for about 15 minutes and weighed in at twice the gasoline SAE vehicle. Year by year we improve the vehicle and this year we are switching to lithium ion batteries, in hopes of extending the fun to 45 minutes or so; plus using swappable cell banks for fast refueling. They are still surprisingly bulky and heavy.

    • The recent Paris-Dakar rally included an electic powered racer. The entire set of battery packs had to be replaced every ~300km or so. I don’t have any more detail than that sadly.

  32. When cell phones first came out they were big and clunky. When they got smaller they included replaceable batteries so that the owner could carry a spare and never run out of juice.
    Now … we’ve pretty well put all those problems to bed. And so will it be for electric and/or hydrogen powered cars.

    • Hint: the power requirements of cars are set by the laws of physics, while those of cell phones are set by the laws of technology. You need a certain amount of power to push a car-shaped object along the road at 60mph, and that power requirement doesn’t obey Moore’s Law.
      And, even today, poor reception that requires the phone to boost its transmit power will suck the battery dry in a day or less.

      • MarkG wrote, “Hint: the power requirements of cars are set by the laws of physics … ”
        Perhaps you meant “energy requirements” as in, “Regenerative braking reduced the amount of energy required to drive from home to the grocery store.” Or, “Increases in battery energy density, specific energy and reduction in charging time will make electric cars more practical.”

      • Try 2 or three hours with poor reception and -10 C temperatures. I carry TWO portable battery packs when I go skiing. I shut the phone off in the back country as the phone gets so hot searching for service you can hardly touch it.

      • Speed
        Umm…no, I think Mark meant “power” not simply “energy”.
        Try driving your car (any car) at 70MPH with “regenerative braking” or “good karma”, whatever. Energy is simply the ability to do work; power is how fast (e.g. 70MPH) you do work. Energy and power are related but not interchangeable.

      • No, I meant power, which is why I said power. Regenerative braking is irrelevant when you’re driving at 60mph on the highway, since… you’re not braking. Nor, as I’ve pointed out before, does it make much difference on a gasoline car, since most already shut down the fuel injectors while you’re braking. Regenerative braking just means the engine has to burn more fuel, either keeping the engine running while you brake, or keeping it idling for longer if you brake faster. Taking your foot off the gas and letting the engine slow you down you probably saves more fuel.
        Yes, you can make a car more aerodynamic, but you can’t half the power usage that way and still have a car that many people want to drive; and you certainly can’t do that every couple of years, as you can with CPUs. Most of the fuel consumption improvements of recent years have come from reducing power wasted in the engine and transmission, not reducing the amount required to keep the car moving.

      • MarkG wrote, ” You need a certain amount of power to push a car-shaped object along the road at 60mph, and that power requirement doesn’t obey Moore’s Law.”
        But you need a certain amount of energy to get your 60mph car the 274 miles from St. Louis to Chicago.
        MarkG also wrote, “Regenerative braking is irrelevant when you’re driving at 60mph on the highway, since… you’re not braking.” Correct.
        MarkG continued writing, ” … most [gasoline cars] already shut down the fuel injectors while you’re braking. Regenerative braking just means the engine has to burn more fuel, either keeping the engine running while you brake, or keeping it idling for longer if you brake faster. Taking your foot off the gas and letting the engine slow you down you probably saves more fuel.” Wrong. Gasoline engines shut the fuel off when coasting (foot off the gas) in gear whether or not the brakes are applied. Some go further and stop the engine while the car is stopped. Regenerative braking substitutes generator drag for brake friction in order to add energy to the battery which is then used in lieu of some or all of the gasoline energy when accelerating from the stop.
        Give it up. Hybrid cars use less (external, ie. gasoline, diesel or grid supplied) energy than non-hybrids. Much less in stop-and-go and a little less (because they have smaller, more efficient engines) at constant highway speeds.

      • “But you need a certain amount of energy to get your 60mph car the 274 miles from St. Louis to Chicago.”
        Yes, and? What exactly is your argument here?
        “Wrong. Gasoline engines shut the fuel off when coasting (foot off the gas) in gear whether or not the brakes are applied. Some go further and stop the engine while the car is stopped. Regenerative braking substitutes generator drag for brake friction in order to add energy to the battery which is then used in lieu of some or all of the gasoline energy when accelerating from the stop.”
        Sigh.
        If you let the car coast to a stop, it doesn’t burn any fuel in the process. If you use brakes, it still doesn’t burn any fuel, but you’ll spend more time idling because you’ll stop faster. If you use regenerative braking, you’ll recover some of the energy that would otherwise have been wasted heating the brakes, but you’ll still burn more gas than you would have if you just coasted to a stop, and inefficiencies of converting kinetic energy to electricity, storing it in a battery, and carrying around an electric motor to use that electricity mean you’ve almost certainly wasted more than you’d have saved by not using the brakes.
        Which part of his is hard to understand?
        “Give it up. Hybrid cars use less (external, ie. gasoline, diesel or grid supplied) energy than non-hybrids.”
        Where did I say they didn’t?
        Though, of course, they only use less energy in stop-and-start driving, and all that heavy, complex powertrain gadgetry is completely wasted on the highway.

  33. I live in northern Vermont and we are in our second month of subzero night-time temperatures. My 40-mile commute to work typically is in temperatures of -10 to -20F each morning and returning in +20 to -10F at night. The extreme low this winter in our area was -32F. My TDI Jetta requires half the trip each way to warm up even though it leaves from an insulated garage that remains at +20-30F. How far can a wonder battery EV drive in those temperatures and how cold will the passenger compartment be?

  34. Here in the UK it’s been calculated that if we converted to all-electric vehicles the electricity grid (FYI the whole of the UK is on the same grid, plus interconnects to France, Netherlands and Ireland) would need to double its capacity. Apparently it would cost a lot of billions – heading towards trillions- to do that. As others have pointed out there’s a lot kWh in a tank of hydrocarbon fuel. Irrelevant, but fascinating, petrol (gasoline) packs a punch about 6 times greater that nitro glycerine weight for weight.
    MikeA

  35. Just like clockwork, every 2 years the emergent, breakthrough technology is breathlessly announced.
    If anyone can create a battery with anything near the power to weight ratio to a gallon of gasoline(or diesel),they will be a billionaire … assuming they can solve the liability problem.
    For show me a compact energy storage package and I will show you a potential bomb.
    Car crashes happen, how a high capacity storage battery reacts to being breached, mixed with random chemicals or /and shorted out is tough to anticipate.
    But will be loved by the ambulance chasing crew.

  36. Well, perusing all these comments by folks much more familiar with the topic than I,
    I can see that I won’t be getting an electric car this century. Maybe in the next century.

  37. How many soldiers injured in last 30 years due due to ignition events with lithium-sulfur dioxide batteries?

  38. Batteries versus fossil fuels, (versus gollum, zombies and cannibals?) Smart Phone vs Zippo
    http://what-if.xkcd.com/128/
    If a methanol fuel cell comes along to run small appliances on a liquid “go juice” the whole game changes. An environmentalist worried about Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Climate Impacts from energy production ought to put aside all the political and academic energy wasted in windmills and “renewables” and invest instead in research on fuel cells. Or, explain why in the 21st century we should feed the 20th century electrical grid with energy from windmills for which the technology has barely advanced since Don Quixote protested them littering his landscape in the late 16th century. Wind and wood and tides and hot-springs are not a vision of the future, they are an echo of a distance past.
    I would consider the argument that methanol, a poison, would be better replaced with ethanol, a soothing consumable beverage. It does make the fuel cell technology a bit more challenging. But, reducing risks to children and idiots does offer advantages.

  39. Advances in batter technology are always welcome but one of the coolest advances I think is Freightliners P10HH (compressed air hybrid vehicle) I believe UPS put them on test in 2009 hoping for 40-50% reductions, but I think it worked out to only 30% when relaunched in the 2012 version, but this looks real good for, say, garbage trucks which have high weight and can use slower acceleration and get high return on braking (in compressed air).

  40. Your electric car makes no sense economically. Cost of battery replacement alone makes your “short trip” argument fall apart. Lithium baterries will be over twice the price. In addition the electricity has to be generated (from what?), converted to the battery, then to mechanical energy. What is the net efficiency, 20%?
    I’m surprised you are so foolish about a technology that is so inefficient and ineffective.

  41. So with ultra high mileage and ev vehicles when will a mileage tax be introduced to pay for the road infrastructure? If a transponder is used for tracking mileage all the “1984” people will start frothing at the mouth.
    A mileage tax would put a dent in the perceived cheap transportation costs for the ev and hybrid.

  42. Note that gasoline and diesel vehicle owners subsidize electric and other alternative fuel vehicles because there isn’t a road tax on the electricity or alternative fuels.

  43. There’s a fair bit of chatter here about how all-electric vehicles are suitable for short-distance urban commuting. How about something altogether better – a bicycle? My old commuter hack bike is 10 years old, and has done about 30,000 miles. I charge it up by eating my breakfast (super low-tech) and it’s light enough that I can push or carry it home if something breaks. No high current electric charging facility required, just tea and and toast. OK, so a scottish winter isn’t as severe as you get in Calgary, but we do get frost and snow, and it is possble to buy studded tyres, and most of the year isn’t winter anyway.
    For other uses, my car is a family-sized diesel station-wagon, similarly 10 years old, and good for another 10. One 5-minute ‘charge’ will take it 600 miles. A friend has a Toyota Pious. The battery-pack intrudes to such an extent that there’s no useful luggage space left, well, not if all the seats are occupied.
    Sorry, not tempted.

  44. In addition to the cost, weight, density, and other legitimate issues discussed in the thread there is also the question of resource availability. I haven’t researched specific details for several years, but previous research indicated to me that ramping up production/sales of Lithium battery based vehicles to the 50-100 million per annum range (87 million+ in 2013) may not even be possible. Lithium is not found as widely in mineable/extractable quantities as oil & gas, or iron, copper or aluminum or other common resources. If I’m not mistaken, the electric motors also require rare earth and/or strategic minerals that are problematic as well.
    Its on thing to talk about a few hundred thousand or couple million vehicles over a coupe decades, but 100 million per year every year is a completely different ballgame.

  45. Elon Musk says home batteries are coming. Don’t know how good this technology will be out of the gate, but when it gets up to speed it will destroy the business model of the utilities. RIght now if you have solar power at home you have to feed it into the grid and get your power the same way – imagine if you could store it on your own and be completely self-reliant. It would be even more revolutionary in developing countries, where a small solar array and a bank of batteries could power a village without the need to build out massive infrastructure.
    http://rt.com/usa/231911-tesla-batteries-home-power/

    • “it will destroy the business model of the utilities.”
      Not a chance. Capital costs will remain a barrier to personal energy production.

      • Totally agree! I did some reasearch in to off-grid generation back in 2000, simply was far too expensive to do it properly to provide a reliable system.

      • Gamecock,
        Sir Harry has never seen a highrise apartment nor a city. Sort of makes me wonder how long he has been on Planet Earth. He also says “a small solar array and a bank of batteries could power a village.”
        From numerous comments above, this doesn’t seem likely. One might get lights and a few other things. Heating? Cooking? Cooling? Makes me think that ‘small’ ought to be attached to the village and “large” to the solar array.

        • John F. Hultquist, correcting SHF

          From numerous comments above, this doesn’t seem likely. One might get lights and a few other things. Heating? Cooking? Cooling? Makes me think that ‘small’ ought to be attached to the village and “large” to the solar array

          .
          No.
          A very, very small village. With no power at all right now. with a very large array in the dry wilds of a central Africa desert at high altitudes.
          With no industry, no shops, not even a blacksmith forge or cartwright shop, or mill or sewer’s home. No sewage treatment, no water pumps, water treatment facility, no doctor’s office, hospital, clinic or mid-wife’s clinic. No heating, no HVAC, no fans, no lights. No cookstoves, house lights, fans, or even refrigerators or freezers.
          Yes. If SHF gets his way and the SHF, then you too, can live like your ancestor’s did on solar power and without transportation, living off of the land…. and dying in squalid misery and parasitic-ridden disease, starving in the cold at age 25.

  46. Buy an electric car. Then tow it with your horse. Simple and sustainable. What’s not to like about that?

  47. Another consideration is that there is a massive infrastructure throughout the US and other countries that allow on to drive almost anywhere. This includes refineries, gas stations, fuel storage tanks, pipelines, tankers, barges and trucks that deliver liquid fuel extensively throughout most countries even to remote areas. This was built by the capital of large companies, small companies and even individuals who opened gas stations.
    The cost to replace fossil with another fuel source such as electricity is massive and in fact the government is already doing this on a minuscule scale with tax dollars. Also one needs to keep in mind the non fuel products from crude oil such as plastics that are extensively used in the products we enjoy today.
    Of course the government does not mind telling us that they will use more of your tax dollars to provide electric battery charging stations everywhere, they just hide the cost.

  48. Lithium is a psycoactive drug. It treats depression and can suppress creativity and independent thought. So if our lives are to be run on Li batteries will some of it leak onto us? Is that part of the plan – to solve simulaneously the problem of climate skepticism, by a kind of chemical mental castration?

    • Sodium fluoride is already used for this very purpose, hence in the water. Calcium fluoride would help your teeth, a little.

      • Calcium fluoride in the water would mean increased costs for industrial users of water who fully expect their water to consist entirely of H2O. At present they have top at great expense remove all the chlorine and fluorine and cough mixture and any other medications put into the water, of which no more than 0.001 % is every actually drunk by someone, or something (animal).
        People whose kids have sugar decayed teeth should buy their own fluoridated tooth paste if they want fluoride in their kids.

  49. The only overwhelming potential advantage from electric vehicles is the generation of electricity and associated pollution remote from the point of use. Mainly of benefit in cities.
    That aside electric technologies are presently materially inferior.
    Low energy density batteries which limit range. Simply increasing the size of battery packs is not a solution as adding batteries adds weight making the “package” less efficient
    Limited recharging infrastructure. Creating new generating capacity is possible but hugely expensive. The distribution infrastructure (cables, substations etc) would also need major upgrade.
    Long recharging times. Fast charging may be possible but would require more extensive changes to the distribution network even if overall average demand was unchanged.
    High cost and possibly limited life and safety issues with battery packs.
    Also worth noting that energy consumed in use is a function of vehicle weight, speed, acceleration, aerodynamics. EV are not zero energy and a comparison with conventional vehicles needs to recognise efficiencies in the production chain – electricity generation, transmission losses, battery losses, charging losses, motor efficiencies etc. Hard data is difficult to find but given the current battery weight penalty there may be little to commend EV over conventional.
    Current EV sales are either niche applications or heavily subsidised. In the UK capital subsidies ar4e provided and taxation of energy for vehicle use is massively higher than for domestic.
    For electric vehicles to take a substantial chunk of sales they need a real competitive operating advantage to justify the costs of infrastructure development. At present they are almost wholly deficient and I would not expect 100% electric to become common for (optimistically) 10-20 years. Hybrids may be the future as it could allow vehicles to benefit from both technologies – short and city journeys on electric with the ability to undertake longer runs. But this comes at a cost of increased complexity and capital cost.

      • In todays world Green means Greenbacks $$$, Otherwise they would be pushing for green none polluting technologies like hydrogen powered cars.

  50. To me using the grid is only putting money in the pockets of the big polluters. If you can make hydrogen as simple as this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyDdEuQafn4 with only 9 volts and salt water , then we’re all being stooged. Stanley Myers had the right idea with his water powered car making hydrogen on the go with no storage . http://waterpoweredcar.com/stanmeyer.html Will coal ,oil and gas ever give up their energy monopoly and let this technology advance ?

  51. The only thing that gasoline is good for is burning in internal combustion engines. If we stopped using it for that, then what are we to do with it?

  52. Elon Musk has no magic formula. At the deep discounts he offers for pre-purchasing replacement battery packs, his LiON battery storage for the Tesla S is still $211/kWh and the energy density is 125 Wh/kg. A typical efficiency gasoline generator can store electricity before generation as fuel in the tank at an energy density of 250 Wh/kg and a cost of about $1/kWh. This 2:1 ratio in favor of gasoline holds true when performing a detailed comparison of drive-train and energy storage components and the comparative range and acceleration between a Tesla S and a 2012 Mustang GT.
    A Tesla S with the 85 kWh battery pack is a $95K-$120K car (depending on options) that requires an additional purchase of at least a home charging system if not multiple systems at distances not to exceed its 230 mile maximum practical range (as reported by actual owners). The average American’s home utility service itself will need an upgrade to handle the higher power demand of the 220V charger. If the neighbors all decided to buy electric cars, the distribution grid itself would also need to be upgraded because everybody will be driving during the day and simultaneously charging their cars on 220V during the night, pulling more peak current.
    If the Tesla S is driven like a regular car, it will require a new $18,000 battery pack every 5-8 years. When one does the math, it is not even close to a good business case over buying a conventional gasoline or diesel car. A 2012 Mustang GT has twice the horsepower-to-weight ratio in the drive train and twice the energy density in storage, and costs 1/3 the price and overall 6:1 advantage. The reason most cars today do not have Tesla’s lightweight aluminum body is that aluminum requires 5 times as much energy per pound as steel in its mining, milling, and manufacture — hardly good environmental stewardship, and pricing the car out of reach of most consumers.
    Speaking of environmentals, when the up-front emissions associated with the mining of the rare-earth elements and toxic lithium and the manufacturing of all the batteries is taken into account and amortized over the life of the car, the emissions of a Tesla S per mile are higher than a Jeep Grand Cherokee (http://www.uniteconomics.com/files/Tesla_Motors_Is_the_Model_S_Green.pdf ).
    For all this, Tesla’s commercial viability depends upon $7,500-$15,000 per car in federal and state buyer credits plus now about $200 million paid to Tesla corporate in undeserved zero-emission credits from other car manufacturers. Even so, they produced a grand total of 22,450 cars in 2013 and lost $74 million on the year, and production declined in 2014 (we’re running out of Justin Biebers, thank God).
    Musk is a very smart guy and is welcome to take a turn at cracking the stubborn battery problem on his own time and money, but not to dine anymore at the public trough of taxpayer handouts. It’s time to stop being taken in by the snake oil and perpetual motion “giga-promises” of dubiously green energy entrepreneurs.
    If there is a coming revolution in electricity storage of the necessary magnitude to make it really viable, it is likely to be nuclear, not chemical.

    • Ike,
      Good, thoughtful comments. Elon Musk is a HE-RO to the greenies. But it’s not so hard being a hero when taxpayers are forced to subsidize your idea.
      If EV’s were such a great idea, then Ford, GM, Toyota, Subaru, etc., would have been producing them for many years. But they don’t get the unwilling help of already hard-bitten taxpayers.
      It seems like all the wonderful Green ideas like windmills, etc., are being produced based on subsidies, not on market deemand or any other legitimate reason. Too bad the public is so ignorant of Bastiat’s ‘Broken Window fallacy’, which is what’s really happening.

  53. All we need now is a gird that can handle the vast energy needed to power those vehicles. Given that most grids barely cope as it is and are under serious stability onslaught of variable input from wind/solar this whole discussion is pretty pointless.
    The only way to replace fossil fuel is by a groundbreaking invention of a safe mini matter/energy powerplant. Till then the only valid, efficient and safe way to drive electric is diesel-electric.

  54. The change over from gas to electric is to big a leap. To go green means getting rid of all the gas guzzlers ,a total waste of resources already paid for. Why not keep the old beast and combustion engine and save the planet by using a hydrogen conversion kit. People have used natural gas conversion kits to run their V8’s on for years , why not hydrogen ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh9jPdL6VDQ Surely if this got funded most of the pollution problems would not exist.

    • Because there are no hydrogen mines. Hydrogen is plentiful, but it has already been burned to make, for example, water. Releasing the hydrogen from existing “ores” takes more energy than you get back by burning it in your car engine. Plus, the NOx emissions from an Otto or Diesel cycle engine are just as high when burning hydrogen because NOx is created in the high temperature process using air as an oxidizer, just like burning gasoline or Diesel fuel.
      Then there are the secondary problems like storing it and carting it around. Hydrogen’s density is so low that even the cryogenic liquid form has a density about like styrofoam (.017 kg/liter). Pressurizing it as an ambient temperature gas takes a significant additional amount of energy that is not recovered in combustion. Then there is the safety aspect. If you spill some gasoline while filling your car, it evaporates. If you spill some hydrogen, it is far more likely to burn or explode. A hydrogen explosion is what blew the building apart at Fukushima, not the nuclear fuel.

    • In order to reduce the explosive characteristics of hydrogen you could bind the atoms together with carbon and then burn it to produce power on demand.

      • Just an engineer

        In order to reduce the explosive characteristics of hydrogen you could bind the atoms together with carbon and then burn it to produce power on demand.

        And those new molecules of carbon and hydrogen would not require elaborate energy-consuming, wasteful cryogenic piping and exotic materials like stainless steel and cryogenic insulation and the bigger carbon-hydrogen molecules would be easier to pump (more effcient, yah know) and the bigger molecules of carbon and hydrogen would not leak right through the walls of those expensive exotic material pipe walls needed for hydrogen, and the cheaper and faster welds you need for the cheaper and more efficient carbon steel pipes would be more reliable and be safer ….
        MAN! Why didn’t I think of that! We should do that right now! Combine the gaseous unsafe hydrogen produced with some readily available carbon source ….

  55. “Hybrid vehicles have already proven their worth in efficiency so to promote either an entirely-gasoline or an entirely-electric vehicle is wrong and only the reserve of the relevant proponents”
    One comment above observed that a Prius had comparable fuel consumption to a similar I/C only car. Last night I watched an episode of “Top Gear”, the UK motoring programme. Well known petrol head Jeremy Clarkson drove the latest BMW M3 and was seen making full use of its performance. He then climbed into BMW’s latest i8 hybrid, and was bowled over by the seamless integration of electric / combined / petrol only power. So much so that he chose it over the M3. However, on returning to the studio, he changed his mind, for a number of reasons, The single most telling one was the “Real World” fuel consumption – not the marketing figure of 134mpg (UK Gallons), but a pathetic 31mpg!!! He said that many owners are reporting similar results. Undoubtedly they are driving “enthusiastically”, but why would you spend that sort of money on a high performance vehicle and not make use of it? The upshot of this comparison is two cars with similar performance, one a full four seater with a decent boot space, but the other very definitely only a two seater, carting round a sizeable battery pack and two motors, yet giving little or no overall benefit.
    Unless a hybrid is utilised primarily in electric only mode (and assuming cheap or even free electricity) I see little advantage over a well designed conventional car. What is really needed is a cheap, light, and compact brake energy recovery & engine assist system, which would help considerably in stop-start city driving, but without the substantial weight and space penalty for long distance highway use. Most modern vehicles are now doing a form of this with so called “intelligent” alternators, but they don’t have the ability to pull away from a standstill without the engine.

    • The i8 is a sports car. If you drive it in London would be £25 a day and 31 mpg otherwise.
      James May has his own i3 runabout. This car costs pennies per mile, literally! No clutch, noise, gearbox, no vibrations.
      Use your electric and the cars timer or phone remote to prewarm/cool/defrost the car before you get in. Flipping heaven!

  56. PMHinSC
    February 15, 2015 at 9:20 am
    Can anyone comment on whether electric cars, or trucks for that matter, make sense in confined industrial complexes such as an aerospace manufacturing facility?
    =============================================
    Yes. We used battery powered fork trucks in the factory I worked in 40 years ago.

    • For those who think cost is the only important factor, and range, speed, and charging times are all minor issues for widespread acceptance, we already have such inexpensive, battery powered vehicles, yet they serve a relatively small niche.
      They’re called golf carts.

      • My golf cart is only a small one. Over 100 hp, climate controlled, a smooth, silent ride and 60~95 mile range between coffee breaks.
        Life is so tough….

  57. Patrick
    February 15, 2015 at 7:47 am
    The most efficient technology (Excluding battery type) for electric motive power was invented in about the 1950’s. Diesel-Electric.
    ================================
    Submarines used it decades earlier, before WWI.
    Electro-motive diesel trains have been ubiquitous since the 1930s.
    Weight and space considerations are different for cars than for ships and trains. There have been some still-born attempts to use electro-motive systems in cars. I vaguely remember a Jaguar concept where they used a pair of turbine engines to run generators to charge batteries. It would work, but the engine noise was too great.
    Like electric cars, the technology has been around for a century. That it hasn’t been used in cars in a hundred years tells me it’s not likely to be.

    • After further review . . . they didn’t decouple the generator-diesel engine in submarines until the 1930s.

    • To be fair, Diesel-electric locomotives are not hybrids. The electric part is the transmission, not an energy storage feature. Modern locomotives generate about 600 HP per axle; each axle having an electric motor of about that size. The Diesel engine turns an alternator and all the power goes to the wheels via the electric ‘transmission’. Delivering 3600 HP to the wheels with a mechanical transmission while moving at 0.5 mph would be extremely difficult, not to mention the clutch that would be rather a high maintenance item. 🙂

    • It’s a more efficient system when one considers all factors in conventional (Gas only powred) transport systems. I mean, you do not need a country wide network of charging points for fully electic powered cars, if we are going to use them as a serious alternative to gas powered cars. In a city, it would probably work, but then we have public transport for that need. The battery pack on such a vehicle can be much much lighter than a full electrically powered car, saving even more “fuel”. This is one problem with battery (Energy) storage (Its the same for off-grid power systems), it just does not work as well as a gas powered system. We already have a country wide system of fuel/energy supply and storage. We call them gas stations and gas tanks.
      The Fisker I mention above is a great example of how such a gas-electic system would work, sadly no longer made!
      I did not know there were diesel-electic subs before WW1. I do know the Germans were developing their “E” boats just about the end of WW2, and if they had got more than one into service, the war of the Atlantic would have been very lost for the Allies.
      Diesel-electic locomotives are, indeed, not hybrids. Hybrid cars have a gas engine with a conventional transmission. Connected to the transmission is an electric motor. Both provide power to the same transmission. The electic motor is used until more power/speed is called for, the gas engine then starts, proving power and charge. I am talking about a total petrol/diesel-electic system. It’s the best way to extract the most “energy” form the fuel and convert that into motion through tranction motors in which each wheel can be driven independently removing the need for heavy transmissions/axles etc.

    • Can anyone comment on whether electric cars, or trucks for that matter, make sense in confined industrial complexes such as an aerospace manufacturing facility?
      It depends on the performance requirements.

  58. All this is moderately amusing for those of us who have been studying the thermodynamics of energy production and propulsion for the past 40 years.
    When I was in grad school, one of my professors came up with a marvelously simple alternative to electric batteries: liquid air. You run it through an evaporator (using the heat from the ambient air environment) and an expansion-cycle engine. If you consider the fact that the Carnot efficiency is measured relative to the lowest temperature in the cycle, it works out to something very respectable, even in cold air (think in terms of Kelvins). There were practical problems in their attempts to bring it to mechanical fruition, but not necessarily unsolvable. Their funding was almost nil, so no surprise.
    But the point is that liquid air, aside from the cryogenic temperature, is a pretty benign and extremely cheap commodity. You can fill a tank as fast as with gasoline. It causes no special hazard in a collision and leak scenario. It cannot catch fire (cold, remember). It is not toxic or a smothering hazard. (They started out with liquid nitrogen as the “fuel,” but realized it might prove to be a suffocation hazard.) It is infinitely reusable. There is already a supply and distribution infrastructure. You still have an energy penalty to run a heater, but at least you could smile at the irony.

  59. “Advances in the Storage of Fossil and Nuclear Energy to Power Electric Cars.” There. I fixed the title for you.

  60. A lot of words expended here. Lets cut the BS to a couple of lines.
    Lithium sulphur cells have a severe life issue, the sulphur expands/shrinks & cracks enough over a couple of cycles to kill the cell. They may never happen
    Another is Lithium silicon and that also has huge problems.
    A way to increase capacity is going to be the ability to implement carbon nano tube tech for more surface area.
    I only wish people degenerating here about Tesla’s and the like, to stop being such jealous and clueless bigots. Most times your comments are so far removed from the facts, they make a mockery of this blog.
    Its embarrassing.

    • Just for a reference….. where would a traditional automotive lead-acid battery be placed on the chart?
      Someone else has to be precise, but anecdotally I tested 2 lead-acid EVs before lucking into a cheap lithium-ion EV (see my other posts). My guess is well to the southwest on the graph. The range just isn’t there, nor is battery life. Street-legal EVs basically didn’t exist until lithium-ion came on the scene.

  61. Add a super fast charger to half the garages of all the new electric car owners. Let’s guess each one uses 30 kilowatts to charge the new super electric car batteries in an hour. (33 KW x 1 Hr = 30KwH which is a SMALL electric car battery. Musk’s is 58KwH today but I quote: “Average Tesla battery capacity to be 100kWh by 2020” from other reports. To charge it in an hour will take about 130 kilowatts from the utility. Let’s dream about 2020, like Musk, for a little….
    Let’s say 30% of the 11,000,000 projected 2020 population of Los Angeles own an electric car with a 100 KwH battery to charge at LEAST every night because electric cars became wildly popular and government promoted by idiots who can’t do math. 11M x .3 = 3.33M electric cars. Half of them use quick chargers of 130 KW and half use overnight chargers (8 Hr rate) 16.25 KW. To plug this car into a house outlet, 15A @ 120VAC would take DAYS to charge. 15×120=1.8KW 130KWH/1.8=72 HOURS at full current on a house circuit…not an option. Shifting this load to some “filling station” down the block only shifts the load, not reduce it, or makes it worse trying to charge quicker, yet. So, 130KW x 1.67M cars = 21,710,000,000 KILOWATTS to charge just the quick charger owners and 2,713,750,000 KILOWATTS to slow charge the rest in 8 hours, in time to get ready for work in the morning. Total load that first hour JUST CHARGING CARS = 24,423,750,000 KILOWATTS or 24,423,750 MEGAWATTS.
    http://www.energy.ca.gov/2012_energypolicy/documents/index.html#EnergyDemandForecast
    According to the graph on page 4 CA plans on making a total power of 70,000 Megawatts by 2020, somehow. To charge electric cars ONLY they are going to be 24,373,750 MEGAWATTS SHORT!!
    Can you see how ABSURD selling lots of electric cars is, now? ABSURD!!
    Solar and wind are also an ABSURD pipedream. ELECTRIC CARS ARE POWER PIGS!

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