A fair test of Electric cars?

A commenter on BNC recently tried to argue that a fair test of EV’s would be when they “routinely drive from Sydney to Perth”. I answered with the following comments. (via Open Thread 5 « BraveNewClimate.)

Is this a good test of electric vehicles? I don’t think so. I think EV’s will cater to 95% of our city driving.

A busy enough highway route like Brisbane to Melbourne might have enough fast-charge or battery swap stations to make the trip doable. I’m just not convinced that Sydney to Perth is a fair request. Surely people who actually drive the Nullarbor are doing so for reasons other than ‘normal’ commuting.

I wonder about that trip anyway. Anyone hear the old news report about the truck of tomato’s driving from Melbourne to Perth, and the other truck of tomato’s coming back the other way? There was a bush fire somewhere in the middle that held up the trucks for a few days. In the end, all the tomato’s spoiled. It was all in the name of ‘free trade’. Is that the kind of nonsensical ‘free market’ messing about that we want to encourage?

No, I’m not convinced Melbourne to Perth is a fair test.

As the beginning of “Who killed the Electric Car” said, “It is true that Electric Vehicles are not for everybody. They are only capable of meeting 95% of our driving needs!” Now if we moved 90% of the car fleet to electric power, I’m sure society can manufacture enough liquid fuels for the remainder.

F. Jeffrey Martin’s “Green Freedom” concept explains how nuclear power plants could suck Co2 out of the atmosphere and manufacturing fuels from it, at a price that will soon be competitive with oil as prices rise just a little over the coming years.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed a low-risk, transformational concept, called Green Freedom™, for large-scale production of carbon-neutral, sulfur-free fuels and organic chemicals from air and water.

Currently, the principal market for the Green Freedom production concept is fuel for vehicles and aircraft.

At the heart of the technology is a new process for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and making it available for fuel production using a new form of electrochemical separation. By integrating this electrochemical process with existing technology, researchers have developed a new, practical approach to producing fuels and organic chemicals that permits continued use of existing industrial and transportation infrastructure. Fuel production is driven by carbon-neutral power.

via Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL): Synthetic Fuel Concept to Steal CO2 From Air.

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2 Responses to A fair test of Electric cars?

  1. specialletters says:

    What did he mean “routinely drive Sydney to Perth” – semi trailers?
    Routinely Phew
    So battery top ups the whole route? How often stop? I find it difficult to understand his test.
    To me an EV that would go for 4/5 hours before a stop needed would be great.
    In the meantime I cannot get do a return from Sydney to Gosford or only just if I hear 150km. Top Ups for another 50km sound useless.
    I did a Honda survey actual survey and I told them about likelihood about my buying an hybrid was low as too expensive and not a significant lowering of carbon footprint
    Low mileage EV may work in town – 100km would cover a good day out in town – would charging up be at home – normal power supply or another special power unit?

    or is it BioFuels and not EV

    • eclipsenow says:

      Well it depends on how much customers are willing to pay for their car in the first place. Some electric cars have much longer ranges, but are much more expensive. But the Better Place battery swap cars have maybe 160km range, which is great for city driving. On the highways Better Place have invented a battery swap that sees you on your way in about 90 seconds. That’s not so bad every 140 km or so is it? (Just to be on the safe side… don’t want to be right near empty).

      The fast-charging option is 3 minutes to get another 50 miles (or 80km). If you stop for a coffee, you’ll be fully charged.

      The main point is that electric cars are cheaper than today’s cars. There’s no Internal Combustion Engine to service, no oil filters and other moving parts to replace, and the energy is far, far cheaper. Electricity converted to an oil price would be at about 80 cents a litre! What do cars do? Most cars sit still 22 hours a day. That means where ever they are they can be charging. Homes and workplaces just need a charging box installed and then you’ll have access to transport at half today’s oil price (let alone the price of oil after the oil crisis hits).

      Another option is that we just save EV’s for city driving and join Internal Combustion Engine car clubs and hire a ‘normal’ car for intercity trips. As I indicated above, strong base-load power like nuclear power can generate enough liquid fuels from air and water, but it will be far more expensive. Yet it won’t break the bank if it is just the occasional holiday trip. Society will just have to adapt to what is possible with the new energy constraints and opportunities of the future. And that’s the thing: who can say how good batteries may get? EV’s don’t pollute the air with particulates that get into our lungs and kill us, and don’t create ugly smog, and are very quiet. So my guess is that batteries will soon have much greater ranges and be far cheaper. The marketplace demands it, and the scientists are constantly working on new energy storage techniques. Just witness the performance of batteries in computers and mobile phones!

      Even better: what about fast rail!? Imagine flying through the countryside at about 300km an hour, and then picking up your hire-car the other end for holiday driving. For all trips under 500km fast rail can get us there cheaper, safer, and faster than airlines with their baggage check-ins and delays. And you could read a good book or check your emails during the trip!

      The bottom line is that we’ll soon have to adapt to peak oil, and I’m just glad there are so many options, even if a few of them require a few behaviour changes.

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