Electric vehicles are completely viable with todays technology. They can't be all things to all people- if you are a sustained high-speed commuter, EV's are not for you. But if you fit the other 95% of the population with a sub-50-mile commute, then EVs will fill your bill.
Battery technology is at the point where 5,000 cycles is easily achievable. DC brushless motors can provide 90-95% efficiency. When coupled with the appropriate transmission, an EV will dramatically lower emissions across the US, lower dependence on foreign oil and usher in an era that is long, long overdue.
If you stay away from fast charging, the hit on you electric bill will be far less than the surplus you will realize from not subsidizing the layest indoor ski emporium.
Interesting comments, but data is better than conjecture. There is a down loadable spreadsheet at http://bit.ly/b5xI64 that allow for elementary modeling of the energy consumption of IC, HEV, PHEV, and EV vehicles. One interesting result is that if a Prius and a Tesla make the same trip from San Francisco to LA at the prevailing 75 mph seen on Interstate 5, the Tesla consumes several times the energy as the Prius and has to be recharged 6 times.
Another thing to consider. It does not matter how advanced the electric grid is. The electric utilities are smart. At any instant (whether under high load conditions in the middle of a hot summer day or low load conditions in the middle of the night) they will be generating power at the optimum of low cost and low pollution. So plugging an EV into the grid requires more power to be generated which, by definition, will be more costly and/or more polluting than the current mix, and more polluting that what generated by the current SULEV or PZEV vehicles. There is no way to finesse this issue.
It is scary thinking of the impacts of huge solar or wind farms. They will need distribution networks and we already have seen what happens to partial failures of the distribution system. It might be better to use individual or local power generation to distribute and minimize the probability of large scale failure.
Automobile energy consumption can be decreased by the appropriate taxation model, given enough political guts. It may be that increased world wide fuel consumption will provide the cost increase necessary to decrease out gasoline consumption.
Get your head out of the sand! By the middle of this century electricity will be generated, transported, stored and utilized much as petroleum fuels are today. In fact, this will have to happen as petroleum is a declining resource with increased demand pressures. Don't you know that China is buying more cars than we are! In ten years they will burn more fuel than we do. The price will be going through the roof! WAKE UP!
And look at the huge costs of maintaining our access to petroleum supplies. Many thousands of lives lost, Trillions and Triliions spent, with fat defense contractors made wealthy. WAKE UP!
With this money we could cover the desert southwest with solar panels, blanket the midwest plains and offshore with wind turbines, build high voltage transmission lines to the urban areas and perfect utility scale energy storage. This would provide a huge number of jobs for engineers, technicans and construction personnel. This will keep energy dollars spend here in the US! WAKE UP!
The transition to an electric economy will occur. Period. The question is when we'll get started as a nation to make this happen and realize the potential it holds for ourselves and our children..
I have been saying this for years. An EV is a lose, lose, lose proposition for society. Except in the low speed, short distance scenario, an EV uses more energy, generates more pollution, does not pay road taxes, and indirectly increases the death rate due to the pollution generated. Society needs to wake up and smell the pollution.
Adapted from an email that I sent to the author, at his invitation:
Emissions-shifting issue: I heard an ad from my electricity supplier, PG&E, on the radio the other day, in which they bragged about supplying an energy mix that was close to 50% renewable, without GHG emissions. I realize that other regions of the nation use other means to generate electricity, with coal-burning being chief among those. But, at least, EVs, not caring about the source of their electrons, give the driver some options and a real opportunity for choice. Where ?emissions-free? electrons are available, as they are in the West, EV drivers can use them. In turn, the proliferation of EVs and the increase in driver demand for ?emissions-free? electrons will spur development of green generation methods and their use elsewhere. Also bear in mind that it is easier and less expensive to control emissions what emissions there are at the generator smokestack, than at the automobile tailpipe.
I have also read that, even with transmission losses and reasonable battery discharge losses taken into account, EVs and their 90%+-efficiency motors use fuel for transportation purposes more efficiently than internal combustion engines. That is to say, if our vehicle fleet were to go electric overnight, not only would net emissions be shifted to power-plants, they would also go down by some significant fraction because the same gallon of fuel would propel more vehicles farther, after being converted to electricity, than if the fuel were used directly in those vehicles. If, on the other hand, electrons were generated locally, without transmission losses, the advantage (and green benefits) of EVs would increase. Tesla Motors did an interesting ?well-to-wheel? analysis some time back, which might provide context and pointers for your own research of this topic. A summary of their results is at their website, here: http://www.teslamotors.com/performance/well_to_wheel.php
Regarding stresses to the nation?s power grid: My understanding is that it is a canard, to say that massive adoption of EVs would lead to an overload. EV owners and battery charging services need only ensure that they get their electrons at night, when demand is usually lowest. This is because conventional power plants like to run steadily. Revving them up or throttling them back is not such a good idea ? to say nothing of shutting them down entirely (as is periodically necessary for maintenance, e.g.). On the other hand, if you leave power plants running, the energy has to go somewhere; overflow is just as much to be feared and avoided, load balance is key. At night, minimum demand means that power plants are flooding the grid with electrons, and something needs to receive them. Right now, energy-intensive industries (such as aluminum refinement) operate at night because they get price breaks from the power companies, in exchange for the service they provide as electricity consumers to balance the night-time load. There are also energy storage services, which convert cheap electricity, obtained at night, into other forms of potential energy (e.g., pumping water to an uphill reservoir), which can be reconverted back to high-price electricity during times of peak demand. Even so, as I read it, there is right now enough excess capacity in the grid at night-time to charge up thousands, even millions of EVs. But at some point, of course, more capacity will be needed. Because our switch to EVs will not actually happen overnight, there should be plenty of opportunity for the energy industry to assess any additional capacity needs and provide for them in a timely fashion -- and, with luck, to provide for those needs in a green, way that involves minimal or no emissions.
Finally, properly designed EVs are fun, convenient, and economical to drive. The full torque of an EV motor is available at all times, so acceleration is always snappy and sure. The motor is much quieter than an equivalently powerful internal combustion engine, and smaller, too, so that it can be placed somewhere convenient to the maximization of passenger or cargo space. ?Filling up? the ?tank? is clean and easy ? just plugging it in ? and maintenance is minimal: most of the routine maintenance issues of cars with internal combustion engines (tune-ups, oil changes, smog checks and adjustments, etc.) simply do not arise with EVs. Some people complain that EV autonomy range is insufficient, even the Tesla Roadster's 200+ miles per charge, to say nothing of the 100+ miles per charge or less, as claimed by other, recent entrants to the EV market. But if you need over 100 miles per day, you are a long-haul driver, which is a fairly small portion of the total driving population. Battery technology will improve (is already improving!) to serve your needs. EVs already provide a daily range (assuming nightly recharges) that exceeds the needs of most motorists. From the battery industry progress I have seen in the last decade, and the technologies I know to be fairly advanced in development, I expect EVs to provide range that will satisfy nearly all drivers, except those who typically drive the longest of long-haul routes or need very large and powerful vehicles, within the next ten years.
The execution of the EV idea is also important. The Tesla Roadster, Britian's Lightning, the AMP EV conversions of Pontiac Solstices, and even the three-wheeled ZAP Alias suggest the potential for EVs to be not just ?real? cars, but ?really exciting? cars. At the other end of the spectrum, however, are anemic, boring, and even ridiculous models that motorists in this country would quickly and rightly reject ? little better than golf carts with auto-bodies and appointments. I am hopeful that EV makers can quickly find the sweet-spot of price, features, and performance, so as to promote the most rapid adoption and evolution of EV technology as possible. But even if they do, it will be years, perhaps decades, before a transition to EVs is complete. We have plenty of time and opportunity to solve current and future problems, if we simply move forward deliberately, keeping our eyes open.
To put my cards on the table, I'm not an industry insider or credentialed "expert." Just a citizen who was trained in an engineering discipline and who has paid close attention to this field since the 1990s because, frankly, I want to understand its investment potential and hope someday to own my own EV. Any journalists or others who want to find material to back up what I have written above can do so without too much trouble, with my sincere encouragement. Understand the facts and possibilities for yourself and make up your own mind. For me, it's "thumbs up" for EVs.
Hey Larry, that's a great point (idling + transportation losses, vs. transportation/distribution of electrons). Tesla's well-to-wheel analysis is interesting here: http://www.teslamotors.com/performance/well_to_wheel.php
But still inconclusive. I'm also wary of the development of millions of highly toxic batteries. Absolutely, I'm no expert. I make no bones about that. But neither am I quick to agree that EVs, while they sound good on paper, are where we should put all our eggs if they aren't coupled with a more comprehensive energy policy that either improves the cleanliness of coal-fired plants, or finds ways to replace them. Of course there are other options too, like fuel cells.
Lots of fodder for discussion. Thanks!
I'm no expert, and it doesn't appear you are either, but before you start talking about "shoving the emissions around" you should really understand the difference bewteen the emmisions generated from the production, distribution, and burning of the fuel in a car and the production and use of the electricity used by an electric car. My opinion is that there would be a significant reduction in overall emmissions from converting to all-electric (or hybrid) vehicles. I think there is a direct reduction in emmissions from generating the extra electricity at the plant and more reduction from the efficency of the electric drivetrain. Think of the millions of vehicles generating emmissions while idling - Electric Vehicles have none. It is a complicated equation that deserves more rigorous analysis and less of people's potentially off-base opinions (including mine).