Skip to comments.One Gallon – the Achilles’ Heel of Electric Cars
Posted on 02/19/2012 12:09:07 PM PST by Brookhaven
Would you buy a car that held only one gallon of gasoline? Neither would I. Yet, we've invested billions of dollars developing and promoting a car with a gas tank (the batteries) that only holds one gallon's worth of energy.
The Chevy Volt's batteries hold the same amount of energy as one gallon of gasolineone single gallon.
I've heard that new super batteries are just around the corner. All we have to do is invest enough money and they'll appear. Just like computers (in the 1950's they were the size of rooms, today they can be held in the palm of your hand), battery development is whizzing along at a blurring pace. Unfortunately, that isn't true. The development pace of batteries is nothing like that of computers.
A better analogy for battery development is radio. In the 1950's most people listened to music on AM radio. In the 1970's, FM radio became the standard for listening to music. Digital radio was introduced in the 2000's. Each of these was a step up in quality, but they weren't such a huge step that they made the old standards obsolete.
Alkaline batteries were commonly used in the 1950's, and they still are today. Plug a C, D, or AA battery into any device; odds are it's the same alkaline battery technology they were using back in the 1950's. Nickel batteries appeared in the 1970's. Lithium batteries appeared in the 1990's, and have three times the capacity of 1950's alkaline batteries. Truth is, the change in battery technology is slow, slow, slow.
The Chevy Volt battery pack weighs 435 pounds. That's what's required to store the energy found in one gallon of gasoline. If you wanted to create a Volt that had a five gallon energy tank, it would require at least 2,175 pounds of batteriesliterally over a ton. Even if batteries suddenly became dirt cheap, the weight alone makes creating a car that holds more than a couple of gallons of energy unfeasible.
When Consumer Reports tested the Volt, they managed to get 28 miles on a full battery charge; which sounds about right for one gasoline gallon's worth of energy.
The Nissan Leaf did a little better. Consumer Reports got 68 miles out of a full charge (about two gallons worth of energy). Nissan didn't use more advanced technology than the Volt. The Leaf has a larger battery than the Volt (660 lbs. Vs 435 lbs.) and the non-battery part of the car weighs less (2,694 lbs. Vs 3,346 lbs.). Nissan just put more batteries in the car, and made the rest of the car lighter.
So, why isn't just adding more batteries and making the car lighter a solution? Look at the Tesla Roadster. It gets 211 miles on a full battery charge (that's what Tesla claimed in a lawsuit against the show Top Gearwho said they only got 55 miles per chargeso we'll go with that over the 250 plus miles Tesla claims in their advertising). 211 miles is still a great range, but how did they achieve it? They increased the battery pack to 992 pounds (557 pounds more than the Volt) and decreased the non-battery weight to 1,731 pounds (2,053 pounds less than the Volt). The Tesla Roadster is a small, small car. I'm sure it's fun as a sports car, but if ask it to do any of the mundane tasks in life (carry a family, or bring home a load groceries) it's not anywhere near to being up to the task.
The fact is, when it comes to practical vehicles, the Chevy Volt is the state of the art, best in class as far as electric vehicles go. The best electric vehicle available only holds the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasolineone gallon.
This might still be workable, if you could refill the electric gas tank in just a few minutes. Unfortunately, it takes at least 8 hours to fully recharge the batteries in the Volt. A drive from Atlanta to Birmingham (about 150 miles) takes about three hours (I drive slow and like to make a couple of stops along the way). If I tried to make that trip in the Chevy Volt, it would take about 50 hours, because I would have to make five 8-hour stops to recharge the battery.
Would we be calling a car with a conventional internal combustion engine with a gas tank that only held one gallon of gasoline the car America had to build? Would we have spent billions of dollars developing that car? Would we be offering $7,500 tax credits to encourage consumers to purchase that car?
Yet, that is what we've done with the Chevy Volt. We've put all our money and efforts behind a car with a gas tank that holds the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. The Chevy Volt, or any other electric car, will not be the answer to our energy problems until we can equip a car with a battery pack that can hold the same energy equivalent as the gas tanks in current cars. Given the history of battery development (tripling capacity every 40 years), that will be somewhere between 120 and 160 years from now.
Buying an electric car today is the same as buying a regular car that only holds one gallon of gasoline. Building one is, well...I'll let you answer that one yourself.
Here in TN they have built a network of charging stations at Cracker Barrel restaurants. The idea being you can make a triangle between Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga and have refueling stops for the Leaf along the way. I looked at one of these stations to see if people are paying for the electricity (they’re not). I did some googling and discovered that there is a (subsidized) company that you can get a card from that lets you activate the charger. there is no cost for the card, nor the energy. They are trying to get more grants to put in more of these free stations. This is how they are trying to push this through; make it where you can charge up for “free” and put the cost off on those evil gas consumers.
About 90 thousand miles worth of gas.
Direct mechanical drive is far more efficient than conversion. That’s not “cheating”, that’s common sense.
The ONLY reason they have diesel electric locomotives is the necessity to power all the small wheels because of the low coefficient of steel wheels on steel rails.
If it takes hours to recharge a Volt’s battery from a wall socket or charger, then just how much does a couple of seconds of braking (i.e. the time it takes to completely stop the vehicle) each time you approach a stop sign or traffic signal?
I think that the author’s point is this:
“What is the point of the battery pack and the electric drive?”
For the cost of the weight of the battery pack and electric drive, the car could have a larger petrol tank or just save weight by not carrying the extra weight around. Also, the battery’s weight remains the same as you deplete the charge. At least petrol tank loses mass as the fuel inside it is expended.
My Chevy Cruze is the same basic platform as the Volt without the motor and batteries. Similar 1.4 l engine but with a turbo and a 6 speed trans.
It weighs approx 1000 lbs less, cost $18,000, and gets 40 mpg on the highway using regular instead of premium.
I love it.
Hehehehe...! Similar here. Besides a Vega my buddy and I autocrossed, I got REAL good at replacing head gaskets in those 2.2 -2.5 Chrylsler 4 cylinder engines as well as the Vega. I could replace the head gasket in my ‘94 Voyager in way less that an hour.
Oh and rebuilding the Weber on my FIAT X1/9. I kept a coffee can filled with cleaner in the trunk. When it wouldn’t idle at less than say 3k I’d pull over, clean and rebuild the carb in a couple of minutes. The Fiat would be good to go for another week or so.l
Don’t ask about the carbs on my Mom’s ‘71 XJ6 though. I hated those as well as the inboard rear brakes.
There are two viable niches:
1) gasoline cars with a SMALL battery (a few minutes capacity) that would allow for regenerative braking, and electric power assist for acceleration or going up hill, to enable having a smaller gas engine but still have decent peak power, and
2) Electric golf carts to enable old people to get around their gated communities and get to the community supermarket and back. The cart doesn't need to have long range, nor be capable of high speed.
There ya go! A much better buy than the Federally subsidised Volt.
Apparently consumers have figured it out....
Cruze sales - 232,000
Volt sales - 7,600
Ok, the Volt has an internal combustion engine that burns gasoline to produce electricity, which is then used power the electric motors that drive the car.
(1)What’s the point of having a battery pack?
(2) Is it really more green to burn gasoline to produce electricity to power a car, than to simply burn gasoline to power a car?
There’s nothing disingenuous about it.
Consumer Reports said they could only drive 28 miles on the Volt’s batteries before they were drained (including the braking). 28 miles per gallon is typical for a gasoline only powered car.
Of course, there are plenty of gasoline powered cars that get a lot more than 28 miles per gallon. By that standard, the Volt’s batteries how less than the energy in one gallon of gasoline.
In Washington State somebody in the legislature, a democrat, is trying to add a tax on owners of electric cars because they don’t pay gas tax. A real WTF moment.
Indeed. And the Cruze isn’t subsidised out the wazoo the way that he Volt is.
The Volt’s battery pack performance becomes more ridiculous when compared to a Diesel-powered car.
Optimistic. This article just stated that the Volts 430lb battery = 1 gallon and the Leaf's 660lb batter = 2 gallons of gas. So 10 gallons of gas would range from 3,300lbs to 4,300 lb. 1200 pounds for 10 gallons gas equivalent would be a MASSIVE leap forward from today's battery technology. MASSIVE.
The old rule used to be that it takes longer to recharge a battery than to discharge it.
That’s what it comes down to. The laws of physics aren’t suggestions. Energy density has always been the Achilles’ Heel of these things. There is simply no way portable electric storage can match the energy content of a similar volume of gasoline. Limited range and lack of environment control (most people want heat in winter, cooling in summer) will make these things pretty impractical for most people.
FYI, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, so it can store energy in both a battery *and* a gas tank. According to Wikipedia, the gas tank has a capacity of 9.3 gallons, giving it a range of 379 miles. GM calls the Volt an ‘extended range electric vehicle,’ terminology that may be more confusing than informative, but one *can* continue driving after the battery is discharged. On the other hand, the Leaf and the Tesla cars are pure electric vehicles, so you are indeed stuck for a while once their batteries are empty.
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