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Electric Cars?

May 25, 2010 21:15:26.960

With how little I drive, an electric car might actually be worthwhile for me - assuming that it could be recharged in a reasonable time period. That's where this article about "faster" charging made me wonder. Consider:

Most Level 3 stations are considered “fast chargers,” but they don’t have to be. The conventional wisdom is that if an average EV battery can be charged to full in about a half hour, then it is a fast charge.

Which tells me that electric cars, at least with the technology available now, are useful for... maybe people like me. Now, how many drivers fit that profile? I don't know, but even for light commuters (my wife drives around 15 miles one way), it's simply useless. Why? Right now, a car trip doesn't have to be plotted out. If you notice you need gas, you pop into a station, and you leave 5 minutes later. With electric cars? Well, you better plan on staying wherever you are for awhile when you charge (the "fast" chargers are still awaiting standards, and the next level is an 8 hour wait).

I just don't see that working out very well for most use cases. Sure, you could use it for short trips - but heck, for less money, a hybrid or regular car will do the same short trips and also let you go as far as you want.

So... what's the market segment for this? I'm not seeing it.

Update: Popular Mechanics sketches out a scenario for 2020, when EVs have become somewhat widespread. The thing that popped out at me is how much more power generatio capability we'll need for that, never mind the time issues I outlined above...

Update 2: In the comments, it was proposed that instead of recharging stations, we simply have battery exchange stations. Well. There are two problems with that:

  • At least at present, there are no standards in this area - a Tesla battery won't work in a Leaf, or vice versa
  • The Leaf battery is 600 pounds. That's not a simple drop in/replace operation. Never mind the storage requirements for the supposed exchange station - any station about the size of a current gas station will run out of space quickly.

I pulled the weight from this article

Bottom line - electric cars are not practical for most real world uses...

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posted by James Robertson


Re: Electric Cars?

[Alex Schenkman] May 26, 2010 3:49:52.456

This company has a smart solution: change batteries at the gas station...


Re: Electric Cars?

[Henry] May 26, 2010 5:57:16.061

That, or a bit further into the future, fuel cells.

Re: Electric Cars?

[james Robertson] May 26, 2010 6:45:02.722

Well, the problem with replaceable batteries gets to time. These battery packs are not small; replacing one is no 5 minute task. Instead, it will involve fairly heavy equipment. Which means that it will be more like getting an oil change (in terms of time investment) than getting gas.

Which still leaves you with having to plan for that, which I think is a showstopper in terms of market acceptance.

Re: Electric Cars?

[Joachim] May 26, 2010 9:31:35.648


maybe there is something even better: how about refilling a battery just like tanking your car?

here is a technology called "redox flow batteries" and it is a refillable battery.

I think that is the technology to use, since you'd be able to reuse gas stations, tankers and all the existing infrastructure. A car would be charged within minutes...

Re: Electric Cars?

[anonymous] May 26, 2010 9:54:02.398

Are publicly accessible electric car charging stations very common yet? Would you currently have to ask whatever place of business you are shopping at if you can borrow their outlet for an hour?

Re: Electric Cars?

[james Robertson] May 26, 2010 11:17:14.262

There are virtually no level 3 stations (and no real standard for them, either). The current theory seems to be that you would drive to work, plug your car in, and have it charge during the day. How this is cheaper for your employer is an exercise left to people who believe that electricity springs magically from the wall...

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