It is always so frustrating to hear people saying that electric will never displace petrolium fuelled vehicles. The latest batch is just a taste of what is to come. Safer, faster, more stable, and quieter.
I have a FORD Escape Hybrid. It is also safer than the combustion engine version. One reason is that the weight of the batteries significantly lowers the center of gravity. I can drive steep mountain roads in say Yosemite with better traction and "feel" for the road.
I would say the single most important factor is the DRIVERS (plural). The problem is you only have control over one of the drivers in a potential collision. Having a car that can safely maneuver so as to avoid the collision is quite important indeed. The January 12, 2004 New Yorker has a great article about the myths of SUV safety called "Big and Bad". The author describes the difference between "passive safety" (ability to take a hit without being killed) versus "active safety" (ability to outmaneuver a collision so you don't get hit). SUVs have a lot of passive safety, but are not as maneuverable so they can't avoid collisions like a smaller car like a VW Jetta. This makes the Jetta safer on average if I recall the article accurately.
If you don't want to pay for the whole article, there's a Q&A with the author which covers a lot of the material.
True, we would be a lot better off if all drivers were sufficiently aware of their surroundings, but the fact remains there is a lot that can be done to avoid most accidents if you are an aware driver. Anecdotally, all the multi-vehicle accidents I've witnessed, happened because both drivers made a mistake or failed to take evasive/defensive action. I've seen drivers accelarate from the green, and get T-boned because they didn't look left and right before proceeding through the intersection. How stupid are people to proceed through an intersection without looking left and right? They ASSume the other driver will stop. I always look whether I'm the first driver or the last driver in line.
Also, who watches their rear view mirror when slowing for a stop or while stopped at a traffic light? I do. If I see an approaching vehicle that does not appear to slowing down 'fast enough', I will pump my brake pedal (or lever) to flash the brake lights or even temporarily turn on my four-ways to get their attention while they type their latest text message.
Many of my accident avoidance habits and skills were honed from 35 years and well over 100,000 miles logged on a half-dozen or so motorcycles. My life depends upon my ability to predict and be prepared to react to all kinds of bone-headed actions by other drivers on the road. And as a motorcyclist, I've seen it all. There are times when I swear, a driver looks me in the eye, and yet still pulls right out in front of me. (I look for eye contact to 'confirm' whether another driver 'sees' me).
Reading people's head and eye movements, watching the front wheel, not the car to read a lane change, lane positioning, positioning relative to other vehicles, maintaining total situational awareness and so on. Watching the road five to ten seconds ahead to maximize reaction times and so forth. Too many things to address in this format.
As a motorcyclist, I practice the sport. That means I find a remote section of lightly traveled roadway and I will periodically practice 'panic' stops. I know what it feels like to have the front tire howling at the point of lock-up. I will practice evasive maneuvers around an imaginary object in the road. Back in the early nineties, I attended Keith Code's Superbike school. I will admit, the small size of a motorcycle has permitted me to avoid more than one accident. I also drive a Suburban, F-150, a 38 ft RV, as well as a Jetta. :-)
I like your part about looking ahead. I start slowing down when the 4th or 5th guy ahead of me starts applying the brakes. This usually gets the guy behind me to slow down or go flying by me on his way to his next accident or close call.
It's nice to get a different connection between 'lithium ion' and 'safety'. Between fiery laptops, cellphones, and Boeing planes it was starting to feel like batteries would be classified as WMDs. At some point people might wonder about those crazy 20th-century drivers that carried a tankful of explosives in every car. It doesn't bode well for car-chase scenes in future action movies, though...
I have to say, I absolutely cringe at the oohs and aahs of the faithful gathered, in the video. Please!
Someone should take a look at how many cars go through gas sations, say along a busy interstate. And then calculate what volume and weight of batteries that gas station would have to be handling, per day, compared with the volume and weight of gasoline. And factor in that the gasoline car would make perhaps 1/3 to 1/10th as many fuel stops as the battery-powered electric.
Vehicle roll-over was a minor issue, until those swine SUVs became so popular. A battery-powered electric SUV, where the battery sits above the separate frame, would most likely also be more prone to rollover, than a low slung car. The only thing that matters here is to see where the wheel hubs are located, compared with the center of mass. Vehicles meant to ride over rough terrain HAVE to locate their frame well above the wheel centers. Instead, "modern" cars, as of the 1930s or so, have their frames and bodies wrapped AROUND the drivetrain, to lower the center of mass. This is all there is, to the rollover issue. A Tesla is not the same as a big pig of a Ford Expedition.
I agree, Bert. The audience's reaction to that video released by Tesla is a bit too much. I, too, cringed.
Just to be clear, that system, shown in the video, doesn't charge batteries quickly. It simply takes out a depleted battery and replaces it with a fully charged one.
And when it comes to charging, although Tesla is rapidly reducing the charging times, Tesla Model S relies on a network of "supercharging" stations designed exclusively for Tesla. While technology advancements Tesla is making commendable, creating its own network of charging stations doesn't seem to advance the EV agenda as a whole...
About charging batteries, I figured they weren't being instantly charged, Junko. So my comment was, assuming people think this would be a viable large scale solution, just how much heavy lifting and bulky object moving around is going on, behind the scenes? A whole lot.
As you say, a Tesla-only solution like this is not very credible, as a solution to battery shortcomings. If battery powered electrics have a future, it has to be based on a standard approach shared by everyone. So that was the point of my comment. This doesn't seem to be a large scale solution, when you get beyond the marketing gimmick of the battery swap video. I don't want to be one of the "ooh aaah" crowd.
It is impressive to just swap batteries instead of charging. That would make the electric vehicle comparable to a gasoline vehicle in the time to refuel. I'm not sure how they would handle end of life of the batteries. Would the refueling stations bear that cost? Also, you would have to be careful not to get any undercarriage damage. It could ruin the battery.
I look forward to the day when I'll never have to go to a refueling station. The whole idea of having to go somewhere to refuel is so 20th Century. IMO it's like having to walk to the post office to pick up your e-mail.
The inductive-charging scheme wirelessly beams power to receiving coils on an electric vehicle. More specifically, a coil built into an electric vehicle will pick up an electromagnetic pulse as the EV runs over a copper pad buried in the ground.
So, if we bury those pads on streets, yeah, you probably won't have to go to a refueling station!
Cheaper and more efficient just to run contact wheels over electrode patches on the road. Self driving cars should be able to align with contact regions and feedback interlocks can ensure the power is off unless a moving vehicle is passing by. You might even be able to use conductive structures in the main tires.
Induction methods not only have efficiency problems but are like to be order(s) of magnitude more expensive to embed in the road. You need resonant coils and reflectors, careful alignment, high current pulses modulated to track moving cars - far more complex than an embedded conductor path with safety interlocks.
Main drawback of contacts is likely to be in northern regions subject to snow.
A few years ago at CES, Fulton Innovations demonstrated a wireless charging mat for a Tesla Roadster. The efficiency was remarkably close to that of a wired plug-in charger, even with a distance of several inches between the mat and the pickup coil mounted on the underside of the vehicle.
But for all the reasons others have mentioned, and more, it is completely impractical to embed charging mats in the roads and attempt to wirelessly charge EVs that are in motion. Safety issues alone would demand that the vehicle be stationary and well aligned with the coil in the charging mat for a long enough period of time to allow for foreign (metal) object detection and a negotiated, controlled power transfer session. That is not likely to happen if the vehicle is zooming past the primary coil at 45 mph or more.
Given that the US has over 4 million miles of public roads and over 600,000 bridges with one in ten being structurally deficient with an estimated $78 billion repair bill, the notion of now electrifying this aging infrastructure with inductive charging seems a bit unrealistic.
However inductive charging mats for parking areas such as your garage are sure to dominate the charging infrastructure a few years down the road. Nissan is delaying its Infiniti branded EV until the technology is more mature as it wants to launch its EV for the Infiniti line with inductive charging.
BTW, Tesla has stated it hopes to bring to market a DC fast charger with a 5 minute charging time! Just imagine the strain a whole bunch of these 1 MW chargers would have on the distribution grid. If they are successful then road electrification would be clearly be unneeded.
I don't think swapping would work too well as someone would inevitably get stuck with a dud battery that won't get his car to the exchange station. If I were an operator of an exchange station, I wouldn't want the dud either. Years ago I bought a brand new full acetylene B tank. Since it takes a long time to recharge these tanks, the practice is to go to a depot and swap for a full one. One day I got stuck with the last rusty old tank. Now nobody will take it in exchange accusing me of neglecting it. As a footnote, the acetylene B tank has been around unchanged since the 1800s judging by the one on display at one welder supplier. Unlike oxygen tanks that need to be regularly pressure tested, these tanks have no rules regarding inspection.
You might want to find safe disposal of that rusty acetylene tank. They can be spectacular when they fail. The interior of the tank is filled with adsorbant (a clay, IIRC) to stabilize it, cracks and free space accumulating pressurized acetylene will spontaneously explode.
If it is completely discharged by now then maybe not such a worry.
I was stuck with the rusty old acetylene B tank that they had exchanged for my new one and then refused to exchange again, because they said it had been abused. I was able to get them to take it for safe disposal by buying another new tank from them. I'm sure they pulled the same stunt with the same tank on other suckers, saying it was the last tank left when I was desperate. Needless to say, I changed my vendor.
We can expect the same sort of game to be played with a battery exchange system for electric cars.
cookiejar wrote "I don't think swapping would work too well as someone would inevitably get stuck with a dud battery that won't get his car to the exchange station."
It's not just fear of getting a dud, but general consumer concerns about replacing their very expensive and possibly newer EV batteries with someone else's used batteries. Even if there is data showing very little difference in fully charged capacity over the first N years of battery life, consumers have personal histories with rechargeable lithium ion batteries and that experience tells them that older batteries don't hold as much of a charge as newer batteries.
It will be an uphill marketing battle to convince consumers that EV batteries are different, and that they aren't giving up something if they exchange their factory original batteries for some unknown used batteries at the charging station.
- Vehicles like the Tesla-S have ranges and others likely with swappable battery packs will have ranges of 250+ miles or on the order of 1/2 to 1/3 of the majority of todays cars.
- You do not need to store a days worth of batteries, only enough for the (Peak car rate) / (Charging time). If your charging times are on the order of 60-90 minutes, then the storage will be reasonable.
- Battery swap may be the exception, not the rule. Most of the time you will recharge at home, work, etc. Your interstate comment is correct. It is for long haul trips that the swaps will be needed.
Not quieter, Caleb - these vehicles are totally silent and hell they're fast! Tesla vehicles are truly our future! I'm waiting patiently for the 3rd generation vehicle to appear to buy one! Annual Multi-Trip Travel Insurance
@Rick: now that I see the way Model-S mounts its batteries, I have to wonder how the idea of a battery switch station would work in this case? Could this have been one of the points of contention between Tesla and the now defunct Better Place?
Divakar - I've seen a video of the battery replacement process. It drops down. Tesla released a video showing the process being done in about 60 seconds. It's pretty impressive. I would have to imagine that in a real-world setting, it would take longer, but even at two or three times, it would still be very quick.
Most of the posts I would agree with, but with the following caveats:
1. Gas vs. Toxic chemicals - Most newer cars have Li-ion batteries. Though they are the best bang for the buck these days, they are also an environmental disaster. Very toxic So, being marred by burns cause by gasoline, vs. dying a horrible death from toxic poisioning - you pick.
2. So you're driving around in this big battery in a metal car. Hmm, get in an accident, and something shorts out - you think EMS will have the necessary gear (rubber insulated gloves) to exricate you from your 400V DC "cage" - Hmm. . . Think about it next time you take your Pirius for a drive in the country side. . . Maybe in the big city you'd survive. . .
The one surprising note: Given that most vehicles (especially Tesla) have to be re-designed specifically to be E-cars, to get the crash rating they do at this point in their "life" is truly amazing. Hopefully, in 10-20 years, "all" cars will be much safer. Of course, that depends much on the driver, which is still the weakest link in the chain. . .
Whatever happened to fuel cell? Chrysler worked on them years ago (even had a F-1 car IIRC) - but there's not been much to do. . . Sure, talk about safety here - but where are all the NASA engineers? How about a "next-gen" fuel cell: Pour in water, get power out, emit only water/steam. . . Now THAT would be truly wonderful.
And while were at it, can we ditch the wheels and go verticle? Traffic these days is murder!
Lithium Ion batteries are only "toxic" if they burn in which case they do release toxic chemicals. On their own they are considered non-hazardous waste and can be put into a land fill.
There are also many lithium ion chemistries and their potential for catastrophic failure varies considerably. Your typical cobalt electrode lithium ion cell has the potential for thermal runaway if mechanically damaged or through manufacturing defect. LiFeP04, on the other hand, is fairly immune to abuse.
That 400V "cage" requires obviously a positive and negative connection in order to be a shock hazard. I am not saying a shock hazard is impossible, just the likelyhood of an isolated power source becoming a shock hazard is remote. Even if one of the power leads shorts to the metal body, where would be the return path for a shock?
Low temperature fuel cells do not deliver power. They can store the energy, but for a given weight and cost only a trickle of power. They also tend to need very pure fuels to avoid poisoning the expensive electrodes.
A low temp fuel cell might eventually make sense for trickle recharge, if the trickle can get into the kW range for reasonable weight and cost.
EmbeddedSteve718 raises a couple good points. I think we need to understand what the objectives of the road safety tests. Roll over hazard, side impact are primarily related to the mechanical design of the vehicle. The lowest the center of gavity, the safer the vehicle. It has always been the objective of any car makers. Unfortunately, due to the inherent nature of gasoline engine, the center of gavity can go so far. The H-type engine designed by Subaru has improved the center of gavity and yet, it can't beat the heaviest component - battery pack - being put in the almost lowest point of a Tesla Model-S.
Going back to EmbeddedSteve718's points, I believe there are a couple more tests that shall be included to rate the safety of an electric vehicle. I am sure the industry will continue evolve and I still believe electric vehicle is our future of transportation.
Unfortunately, neither race track handling tests nor safety crash test results agree with highway fatality statistics.
The Insurance Institute's website www.iihs.org has both sets of data. Driver death rates http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/Driver-death-rates tell quite a different story from the crash tests.
A most glaring example of the real world not following theory is in the April 17, 2007 Status report, which showed the safest vehicle on the road at the time to be the Chevy Astro van as based on driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. This van, virtually unchanged in design since 1985, which came almost dead last in crash tests, braking tests, and handling tests proved to be the safest vehicle on the road with an overall death rate of 7 per million registered vehicle years!
In comparison, Mercedes E class was 14, Ford F150 was 118, Ford Excursion was 115, Chrysler 300M was 115, Dodge Neon was 161, Volvo S40 was 89, VW Golf was 45 and on and on. Overall, large mini vans as a group were 66, proving the old design almost ten times safer than the newer ones.
Since contractors drive a lot of Astro vans pretty hard, overloaded and poorly maintained, its primitive design must hide some life saving secrets.
In science and engineering, when a theory bears no resemblance to the real world, one throws out the theory and starts again. A good place to start is to do a careful analysis of the Chev Astro van to figure out why it did well and change the crash and handling tests based on the results to more closely resemble the real world. Once this is done, new designs can be expected to be significantly safer.
Perhaps one secret to the Astro van is its lack of distracting electronics and straightforward controls, not requiring one to take one's eyes off the road. At any rate, when it comes to vehicle safety, the only thing that counts is the death rate on the road. Let me repeat, for all you engineers out there, this isn't a time wasting endeavor, but is a matter of life and death.
Rollover was a, mostly overblown, concern with Jeeps and SUVs. Tesla is designed from the ground up as a sports car. Sports cars always have a low center of gravity to enable faster cornering. Although I will give a slight nod that if designed right, EVs have the inherent ability to always have a low CG.
"So the shock wave is pretty much transferred to the area directly behind the engine, with minimal energy absorption." – This is just nonsense. The engine block is not rigidly fixed to the frame of the car so no 'shock wave' can transmit through it. It also has something called mass. The mass of the engine will help work against the momentum of the impact. The engine block will either shear its mounts or cause the frame to bend absorbing energy. It also gets pushed into the firewall in a crash which will absorb more energy and prevent it from entering the passenger cabin. This just sounds like propaganda; knowing one of the biggest EV weaknesses is actually survivability.
"You don't have a highly volatile liquid onboard, which can quickly get away from you during a crash and become a real problem." – This is a fair comment. But let's not forget that EVs have been burning up all over the place due to shorting of the high energy storage. In my mind this is a wash between the two if EV electrical systems designed with collision survivability in mind. Gas burns when it finds heat and air; high current can melt, heat or burn any material. Gas can explode, but in car wrecks it just burns. Batteries can explode, but not very impressively.
All in all I say a score of one to Tesla (not all EVs) and minus two for David Cole.
In spite of the hype and the convenient half-truths, battery technology is progressing at a very leasurely pace. And placing huge new requirements on the electric grid is not a great idea either.
I don't buy into the knee-jerk assumption that EV = battery powered. I like Tesla cars, and it seems to me that a more viable approach is fuel cells. With H2 generators on board. Then, no need for concocting fantastic new schemes where all the downsides are conveniently ignored.
The electric car vs. gasoline car safety discussion seems to be unrelated to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) test results. Collisions from various directions don't test gas or electric safety, they test the outer cage of the car. The impressive test results on the Tesla were probably the result of careful engineering. Perhaps a small benefit unfolded because the small engine allowed for a frontal collapse zone that otherwise would have required extending the car length.