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Electric Vehicle Pros & Cons

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,896
Discuss the pros and cons of EV's here.

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  • prm1prm1 Posts: 4
    Here is a good analysis of Hydrogen electric vs battery electric.

    http://www.evworld.com/view.cfm?section=article&storyid=750

    He quotes Los Angeles Times writer Dan Neal on Honda's Solar farm generating hydrogen for their hydrogen car:

    "I'm driving pharmaceutical-grade California sunshine: hydrogen generated in an experimental solar-powered station at Honda R&D America's facility in Torrance", and "I'm driving on pure hydrogen, the converted essence of the sun itself."

    The only problem, the author then points out, is that the Honda solar farm/Hydrogen production facility "on a daily basis, 32 kWh is consumed to make 1/2 kilogram of hydrogen. Of that 32 kWh, only about 8kWh is provided by the fuel cell system to run the vehicle's drive motor ; the other 24kWh is wasted.", and then states that for a battery electric "it will take about 0.30 kWh/mile for battery charging, or 8.4 kWh for 28 miles." Hmmm. So if they would have just used the same solar panels to charge the battery, they would have driven about 106 miles vs 28 miles for the fuel cell.

    You can't argue with that logic. Let's go Hydrogen!

    In any case, fuel cells are just a replacement for batteries. The car is still electric. There is no reason not to build battery elcetric vehicles now until fuel cells are viable, is there? That's the big lie. When car companies say they are waiting for fuel cells to improve.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    That's the big lie. When car companies say they are waiting for fuel cells to improve.

    Absolutely. People need to understand that the established auto manufacturer's business model is based on the ICE. I hear a lot of comments that the auto makers would enthusiastically embrace EVs if they really believed anyone would buy them. That's just not true. Toyota would not make as much money selling 400,000 Camry EVs as they would selling the same number of ICE Camrys even if the mark-up over cost was the same. Maintenance and spare parts is a big component of the auto industry's revenue. EVs are relatively maintenance free and electric motors last longer than ICEs.

    The emergence of EV manufacturers will be similar to what we saw in the early 70's when the Japanese imports started showing up. Initially the domestic big 3 chose not to compete in this segment of the market. Primarily because it involved building cars that weren't as profitable as what they were currently producing. Well look what that shortsightedness got them.
  • Although I love the idea of having an all electric car for daily commuting, I can't get over that I also have a need for a car that I can use to take long trips with. I just can't afford to have two vehicles; one for commuting and another for when I take trips.

    I wonder if there is a way to have the wonderful all electric vehicle for commuting, but still have the ability to have the vehicle be able to travel for a full day without having to be re-charged or so that I wouldn't have to stop more than say 1/2 hour for that full day's travel? I would approximate that a full days travel might be 10-12 hours.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I agree that, given the current state of technology, EVs aren't suitable for everyone. But I believe they would suffice for a significant portion of US drivers and as technology improved that percentage would increase. Actually I think its the cost of EVs rather than the limited range that represents the biggest obstacle to mainstream acceptance.

    For those people that say they need a vehicle capable of travelling distances over 200 miles. I wonder how many times a year trips of this length are made? If the answer is around 3 then how much would it cost to rent a vehicle on those occasions? Some people already do this to keep miles off their personal vehicle. When you consider that the cost of electricity is about 1/4 the cost of gas then the rental expense could be recouped in gas savings.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "I wonder if there is a way to have the wonderful all electric vehicle for commuting, but still have the ability to have the vehicle be able to travel for a full day"

    Plug-in hybrid.
  • I would bet that if the manufacturers could focus on providing a vehicle with Electric only as the primary motivation, but with a very small engine to recharge the battery, in cases where extended driving is required and plugging in is not possible, that there would be a line out the door... :) I know that I would be one of them!
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    From an engineering perspective I don't know if a dual drive system(PHEV) or even an ICE just as a re-charger is the cleanest solution. The problem seems to be the ability to extend the range per charge. That becomes less of an issue if the time to charge is reduced to something comparable to the time to fill up a tank of gas. That seems to be the way battery technology is headed. The Tesla Roadster re-charges in half the time of GM's EV1 or Toyota's RAV4 EV. Still 3 1/2 hours is a long time. Ultra capacitors may be the holy grail when it comes to storage devices for EVs. Rapid recharge, almost zero degradation over time, less hazardous materials. Here's a link to an article from an engineering professor at MIT.

    http://www.businessweek.com/autos/content/jun2006/bw20060628_655501.htm

    http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2006/06/26/mit_research_may_s- pell_end_for_the_battery/
  • Quick charge and extended range...almost seems too good to be true. I know the cost will be quite high, but if it's not too high, I'll be on board. :D
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    If this ultra capacitor technology pans out the initial cost probably will be very high. The nice thing is that it never wears out so, potentially, you'd only have to pay once in your lifetime. If that's the case I'm sure you'd eventually recover the cost in gas savings.

    The ICE would almost immediately become obsolete.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "From an engineering perspective I don't know if a dual drive system(PHEV) or even an ICE just as a re-charger is the cleanest solution."

    Any discussion involving the "cleanest" solution must include a discussion of the source of the electricity.

    I know there is a lot of emphasis in here regarding the use of renewables (predominately solar/wind) but the facts are these:

    Between 1993 and 2004, the amount of electrical energy produced in the U.S. from 'other renewables' (principally solar and wind; not including hydro) increased by 18.6% (from 76,213 to 90,408 gigawatt/hours). Over that same period of time, the total amount of electrical energy produced in the U.S. increased by 24.2% (from 3,197,191 to 3,970,555 gigawatt/hours).

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html

    Conclusions to be drawn: despite two terms of the most 'renewable friendly' administration as you'll likely to get, despite numerous advancements in renewable technology, despite ever rising energy costs and worldwide increases in demand of petroleum products, the % of electrical energy the U.S. produces from renewables has gone DOWN over the last 11 years (from 2.4% to 2.3%).

    Over that same period of time, the amount of electricity produced from fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, NG and other gases) has increased from 69.8% to 71.1%.

    So, my question is this: IS the 'cleanest' solution, given the CURRENT power production infrastructure, electricity?
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    By "clean" I meant from a design perspective, not environmental. Having both a battery driven electric motor and a gasoline powered ICE is not an ideal setup. Which is not to say that I oppose PHEVs but they represent an intermediate/evolutionary step towards a purely electric vehicle.

    In regards to the environment and electricity. Electricity at least has the potential to be generated in an environmentally friendly way. I suspect that the past 11 years are not representative of the current trend towards renewables. In that time the cost competitiveness of wind and solar has improved significantly and should continue to. Afterall, the sun and wind are always going to cost the same. The cost for electricity generated for natural gas and coal will continue to rise. Once the tipping point is reached the composition of where we get our electricity from should start to shift towards renewables.

    Even if that doesn't turn out to be the case at least we can produce our electricity from domestic sources.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    >>"I wonder if there is a way to have the wonderful all electric vehicle for commuting, but still have the ability to have the vehicle be able to travel for a full day"

    "Plug-in hybrid."

    Current plug-in hybrids (e.g. a plugin Prius) have it backwards. Why do you want to carry around an entire drivetrain for your ICE, when you predominantly want to use electric? Direct electric drives are more efficient than an electric assist, plus dedicated electric generators that operate at a single rpm are much more efficient than automobile engines with their requirement for wide power bands.

    For extended trips where you don't want to stop to plug-in, take one of these:
    http://www.acpropulsion.com/Products/Range_extending_trailers.htm
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Ah. I misunderstood where you were going WRT your 'clean' statement.

    "Electricity at least has the potential to be generated in an environmentally friendly way."

    Potentially? Sure. I'm just pointing out the facts AS THEY ACTUALLY ARE. Potentially, everybody within range of mass transit could be using it, rendering virtually all of this discussion moot. But let's deal with the real world.

    "I suspect that the past 11 years are not representative of the current trend towards renewables."

    So let's look at the 'current trend' (up to the total numbers for 2004 - I haven't seen the final numbers for '05):

    2000 to 2001: 80,906 down to 77,985 (decrease of 3.7%)
    2001 to 2002: 77,985 up to 86,922 (increase of 11.5%)
    2002 to 2003: 86,922 up to 87,410 (increase of 0.6%)
    2003 to 2004: 87,410 up to 90,408 (increase of 3.4%)

    Seems to be all over the place. Yes, it is generally increasing but I don't think THESE numbers show any rise in the rate of increase. I've heard (read) a lot of verbage related to how cost competitiveness of wind/solar has 'improved significantly' but I haven't seen the NUMBERS to back these claims up.

    "Afterall, the sun and wind are always going to cost the same."

    Sure. But the fact that the sun and the wind are 'free' isn't the issue. It's the cost to EXTRACT the energy from the sun and the wind which is the issue.

    "The cost for electricity generated for natural gas and coal will continue to rise. Once the tipping point is reached the composition of where we get our electricity from should start to shift towards renewables."

    Yes. But that point IS NOT NOW.

    Over the last 11 years, our demand for electricity increased by over 770,000 gigawatt/hrs. In that same period of time, production of electricity via renewables increased by 14,000 gigawatt/hrs.

    Therefore, the inescapable conclusion is that OTHER sources (fossil fuels and nuclear) made up the other 3/4 of a million gigawatt/hrs.

    So, my question (slightly restated) remains: would widespread use of electric vehicles be 'cleaner' for the environment given the CURRENT source of electricity?

    "Even if that doesn't turn out to be the case at least we can produce our electricity from domestic sources."

    Virtually all of our electricity IS currently produced from domestic sources (coal, NG, nuclear, hydro, solar/wind, etc.) We only produce a bit over 3% of our electricity from petroleum products, and that is both domestically and foreign sourced.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Interesting concept.

    "...dedicated electric generators that operate at a single rpm are much more efficient than automobile engines with their requirement for wide power bands."

    True. Which is one reason why most hybrids like the Prius use CVTs which allow the engine to operate in a much narrower rpm range.

    However, I think (and this is just my opinion) it would be easier to market the plug-in hybrid than a system requiring a tow-behind trailer. Most people want the whole thing in a single tidy little package.

    Why not an electric car with an on-board diesel powered generator (vastly scaled down version of what one might see on a diesel/electric locomotive). It could be run as an electric plug-in commuter if desired or use power generated by a very small on-board diesel for longer trips?
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    You're lumping hydro-electric into your renewable figures. For whatever reason energy generated in that manner has decreased. I'm referring primarily to solar and wind. Solar energy now costs around 25 cents per kWh. Depending on where you live the state and federal tax incentives can get that down to around 10 cents per kWh. Wind is already under 10 cents per kWh. On my latest electric bill I paid 10 cents per kWh and with all the other fees, taxes and surcharges it was closer to 13 cents. So these renewable means are already cost effective, depending on location.

    Sure. But the fact that the sun and the wind are 'free' isn't the issue. It's the cost to EXTRACT the energy from the sun and the wind which is the issue.

    The cost to extract is the cost of the conversion device. Either a wind turbine or solar panel. These cost have steadily declined over the past 15 years.

    So, my question (slightly restated) remains: would widespread use of electric vehicles be 'cleaner' for the environment given the CURRENT source of electricity?

    Yes, it would be cleaner for the environment. Because, as you pointed out, 100% of our electricity does not come from burning coal and natural gas. Even if it did it is easier to maintain 1 smokestack than 1 million tailpipes. And as you also acknowledged, we are not dependent on foreigh sources for our electricity. So EVs are definitely the way to go. And we can always expand our nuclear energy capacity.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    "However, I think (and this is just my opinion) it would be easier to market the plug-in hybrid than a system requiring a tow-behind trailer. Most people want the whole thing in a single tidy little package.

    Why not an electric car with an on-board diesel powered generator (vastly scaled down version of what one might see on a diesel/electric locomotive). It could be run as an electric plug-in commuter if desired or use power generated by a very small on-board diesel for longer trips?"

    I agree. I think an on-board generator probably makes more sense then a tow-behind. The benefits of the trailer (or some sort of dockable generator) would be the reduced weight and space taken up by something you don't need 99% of the time.

    The other nice thing about an all-electric drivetrain (as opposed to the current Prius) is that the basic design doesn't have to change as new electrical storage devices become available. For now you can hook in a diesel generator. In the future you could hook in additional improved batteries, a fuel cell or nano-capacitors as those technologies become viable, but your basic drivetrain doesn't have to change to accomodate them.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "You're lumping hydro-electric into your renewable figures."

    No, I'm not. Look at the chart. There is a seperate column for hydroelectric (which was at 268,417 gigawatt/hrs in 2004). Right next to the column for "hydroelectric conventionals" is a column titled "other renewables". The note indicates that this column is for: "Wood, black liquor, other wood waste, municipal solid waste, landfill gas, sludge waste, tires, agriculture byproducts, other biomass, geothermal, solar thermal, photovoltaic energy and wind."

    ALL of my figures were based purely on "other renewables".

    "Solar energy now costs around 25 cents per kWh."

    Actually, according to solarbuzz.com (very pro-solar, I assure you), they show the average price for solar power running closer to 30 cents per kWh. They also state that "...solar is a long way from competing with conventional power generation costs at 3-5 cents/kWh..."

    http://www.solarbuzz.com/StatsCosts.htm

    Meaning that it is MUCH more economical for utility companies to produce power from sources other than solar. Solar begins to make more sense when constructed/installed by the individual user since the consumer obviously pays much more than 3-5 cents/kWh. But this is why solar PV isn't being done wholesale by the electric utility companies.

    Wind power makes a lot more sense (and cost a lot LESS cents) than solar PV. However, I find it absolutely typical that some of the very congressman most adamant about pursuing renewable energy voted AGAINST having a wind farm in their back yard. They took a perfectly golden opportunity to set an example and pissed all over it.

    Beyond that however, I'm always interested in seeing how many more wind turbines have been constructed everytime I drive through west Texas. It seems as though for every oil pumper which has stopped pumping, 3 new wind turbines have been erected.

    "Yes, it would be cleaner for the environment."

    Would it? Odds are INCREASING that the electricity would be produced from the consumption of fossil fuels, since the % of electricity produced from fossil fuels is climbing, not declining.

    Let's talk about those million tailpipes. Common sense tells me that the VERY folks likely to convert from ICE to a 100% electric vehicle are ALREADY driving something very clean (at least LEV if not ULEV), so how much dirtier are THOSE million tailpipes compared to......that new lignite coal power plant constructed to supply the electricity for those million non-tailpipe electric cars?

    Meanwhile, the other 200 million folks are still driving 10-year old Malibus or Dodge Intrepids or Ford 150 trucks (and are the LAST folks to ever consider a 100% electric car).

    "And we can always expand our nuclear energy capacity."

    We already are (just not fast enough IMO). Electricity from nuclear energy grew 29% over the same period of time that 'other renewables' grew by 18.6%.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    "Yes, it would be cleaner for the environment. Because, as you pointed out, 100% of our electricity does not come from burning coal and natural gas. Even if it did it is easier to maintain 1 smokestack than 1 million tailpipes. And as you also acknowledged, we are not dependent on foreigh sources for our electricity. So EVs are definitely the way to go. And we can always expand our nuclear energy capacity."

    As a matter of fact, barely over 50% of our electricity is generated by coal. Even dirty coal is marginally better than burning gasoline in an ICE, but not all the coal is dirty. In California, we use no coal and our power is very clean, so the pollution benefits are huge.

    Even if the entire country was powered by dirty coal, you would have a small reduction in pollution and dramatically reduce our dependance on foreign oil. That is a compelling argument in and of itself.

    It is also true that the same electric car you buy today has the distinct possiblity of running progressively cleaner over it's long life than it does today. That is simply not the case with any ICE.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "Even dirty coal is marginally better than burning gasoline in an ICE"

    Is it? I'd like to see the figures that support that.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I agree that solarbuzz is very pro-solar.

    It is really impossible to come up with an accurate cost per kWh since it is dependent on your location. A solar panel in Phoenix is going to produce a lot more electricity than one located in Seattle even though their costs are the same.

    You seem to be knowledgeable in these things so you must realize that one of the factors driving up the cost of solar energy is the demand for PV cells is currently outstripping manufacturing capacity. Countries like Japan and Germany are very aggressively pursuing solar energy and pretty much buying up the global supply of PV panels. Maybe they aren't as smart as we are.

    In 2004 the US installed 90,000 Megawatts in PV solar capacity bringing total capacity to 365,000 Megawatts. Essentially 25% of the total was installed in one year. In 2005 another 105,000 Megawatts was installed. This represents nothing short of explosive growth. The fact that it has yet to make a dent in our energy composition is because it started out at 1/10 of 1 percent. BTW, these stats come from solarbuzz, a source that you obviously feel is reputable.

    Where can you buy electricity for 3-5 cents per kWh? The fact that utilities might be able to generate electricity at this cost is irrelevant to the consumer that now has the potential to generate his own electricity.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    "Even dirty coal is marginally better than burning gasoline in an ICE"

    Is it? I'd like to see the figures that support that.

    Here is a Canadian study:
    http://evworld.com/library/CanadaFuelCycle.pdf

    "battery electric vehicles operating in provinces which rely primarily on electricity generated from coal, will produce 55% to 59% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to a gasoline internal combustion engine vehicle, and will produce between 80% and 92% less total other (non-CO2) emissions depending on the specific type of coal used."
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    "Where can you buy electricity for 3-5 cents per kWh? The fact that utilities might be able to generate electricity at this cost is irrelevant to the consumer that now has the potential to generate his own electricity."

    Ditto that. I just paid over 19 cents per kWh for a good part of my bill last month (the rate steps up with usage). That makes the 27 cents per kWh for a sunny location not sound so out of line.
  • Thanks to everyone for the wonderful insights and information. I definitely feel better about considering the purchase of an all electric vehicle.

    Based on your comments, I feel safe to conclude:
    1. Electric is less polluting and will continue to improve,
    2. Battery technology will continue to improve to allow for longer range and less interruption for re-charge,
    3. Those of us that are able to generate our own power will have an increased motivation to do so, which should also help drive down the price,
    4. Gas prices will increase to the point that even those that would prefer to keep their old polluting vehicles, would have to let their wallets dictate a cheaper solution.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "Where can you buy electricity for 3-5 cents per kWh?"

    You can't. But you are ENTIRELY missing my point.

    If one buys an electric vehicle, and PLUGS INTO THE GRID, the odds that the electricity they use will be from solar PV will be essentially ZERO.

    Why? Because utility companies can produce electricity all day long at 3-5 cents per kWh using fossil fuels.

    Now, if one were to install their OWN set of PV cells (which is where all the explosive growth that you mentioned is coming from), and THEN plugged their electric car in, this would be the 'cleaner' solution.

    Please understand, I'm not AGAINST electric cars. I'm just saying that those who go that route and pull energy off the public grid MAY NOT be reducing pollution/demand for fossil fuels as much as they think.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I'm just saying that those who go that route and pull energy off the public grid MAY NOT be reducing pollution/demand for fossil fuels as much as they think

    I agree with that. The terms "green" or "clean" are not absolute. It would be more accurate for a person driving an EV to state that he has made a "greener" choice. He is still impacting the environment, just not as much as if he was driving an ICE.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Thanks for posting the link to the Electric Vehicle of Canada link comparing emmissions of ICEs to that of power plants supplying the electricity for replacement EVs.

    I'm going to dig a little deeper on this issue but I have this comment to make regarding one of their assumptions:

    They've comparing the emmissions from various types of power sources supplying electricity for EVs against the vehicle emmissions from an AVERAGE fleet of cars using ICEs.

    Is this a valid assumption to make? How likely are owners of large trucks/SUVs to move to EVs? And how likely are the owners of EVs to be migrating from current LEV and ULEV cars?

    I'm going to try and dig up the emissions numbers for the vehicles which are actually USED by those most likely to make the step from ICEs to pure EVs. I'll then compare THOSE emissions numbers to the emission numbers used in that analysis.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "It would be more accurate for a person driving an EV to state that he has made a "greener" choice. He is still impacting the environment, just not as much as if he was driving an ICE."

    Again, we don't know that.

    The EV study reference above compared the emissions from various power plants to the emissions of AVERAGE vehicles.

    If one is already driving a LEV or ULEV Honda (or perhaps a hybrid like the Prius), if THOSE people make the jump to EV, what is the comparison of their current ICE emissions to that of a power plant?

    In all honesty: who is more likely to make the jump to a 100% EV - the current owner of a Prius or the owner of a 10-year old Chevy Malibu?
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    "Please understand, I'm not AGAINST electric cars. I'm just saying that those who go that route and pull energy off the public grid MAY NOT be reducing pollution/demand for fossil fuels as much as they think."

    The 50% of electricity that is coal generated might not reduce emissions as much as people think (although it still reduces emissions), but the other 50% of generated electricity would reduce emissions dramatically.

    In this whole discussion I don't hear enough talk about how electric cars would dramatically reduce the amount of oil we import. At the moment the national security issue is the most important factor to me. The increased efficiency and dramatically reduced emissions are gravy.

    I think it is criminal that politicians help Detroit and Big Oil to suppress the electric car, and then spend many billions to fight foreign wars to stabilize the middle east oil fields.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "In this whole discussion I don't hear enough talk about how electric cars would dramatically reduce the amount of oil we import. At the moment the national security issue is the most important factor to me."

    For a very good reason, I will not contribute to such a discussion.

    Discussions regarding emissions comparisons and energy production can be done in a (somewhat) level-headed means. Facts and data can be presented and mulled over. Agreements can be reached (I think) without too much animosity.

    However, if some individuals simply feel COMPELED to drag politics into this discussion, it can ONLY end up with one side wanting to pull the ears off the folks on the other side.

    If your INTENT is to run me off, then by all means let's have this discussion degenerate into whining about 'Big Oil' and 'foreign wars to stabilize oil fields'.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I thought that we were primarily talking about CO2 emissions. In which case whether a car is rated LEV or ULEV is completely meaningless. So it appears we are actually talking about criteria air pollutants. If that's the case then it probably is possible, but unlikely, for a person to be polluting more with an EV. Coal power plants vary widely in how much pollution they pump into the air. The older plants are more than 10 times dirtier than the newer ones. So if you get 100% of your electricity from one of these older plants then maybe going EV won't help with air pollution. From the perspective of saving gas you will be doing more than the driver of a hybrid.

    Tesla Motors has an arrangement with solar installers for buyers interested in re-charging their Roadster with the sun's energy. People that can afford this car can probably also afford a PV system. That represents closing the loop.
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