Skip to comments.One Gallon – the Achilles’ Heel of Electric Cars
Posted on 02/19/2012 12:09:07 PM PST by Brookhaven
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Ha. I did the same calculation. Even if gas goes to $5 (unfortunately, not unimaginable), it would amount to pre-paying 60,000 miles worth of gas @ 30 mpg.
True but won't you use that "extra gas" you save while braking by accelerating back up to speed?
The real phoney part here is the ignoring of the Volt gas tank which extends the actual range to several hundred miles. You won't need to spend fifty hours charging batteries to go to Atlanta.
That having been said, the "one gallon" equivalence to the entire multihundred pound battery fiasco is a compelling image. I'm sticking with my fossil fuels thankee very much.
It’s more than common sense. It’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The Three Laws of Thermo go like this:
1. You can’t win. (ie, you can’t create more energy than you started with)
2. Not only can you not win, you can’t even break even. (any time you convert energy from one form to another, there’s a conversion loss)
3. You can’t quit the game. (you can’t create some isolated, special environment in which the first two laws don’t hold, because the outside universe will enforce the first two laws from outside your little unicorn habitat.)
As for diesel-electrics: That’s part of the reason. The other is that when diesel/electrics first started, they used series-wound DC motors. For those who don’t read up on various types of motors for fun and profit, series-wound DC motors produce incredibly high torque into a stalled load - just what you want when you need to get a train off the stopped position. If you were to try to drive the wheels directly from the diesel, you’d have to have some manner of clutch to bring the load onto the engine without stalling it.
This is unlike steam, where you can directly couple the expansion pistons to the wheels without a clutch. You can’t do with diesel engines.
Today, diesel-electrics use different types of motors with modern, solid-state DC motor drives, which allow the engineer to control the torque and acceleration to a very fine degree, which enables longer trains.
To be fair, the progress in PV panels has been much greater than the progress in battery technology, relatively speaking. That doesn’t mean that PV pencils yet, it just means that it sucks less than it used to.
Batteries, on the other hand, suck every bit as much as they have for decades.
I didn’t mention the number of drive wheels.
I didn’t mention dynamic braking either but that is a good point.
My point was that the Volt was sold on the idea of having an engine running at it’s most efficient speed or speeds and then driving a generator that could drive the wheels or charge the batteries or both but since the engine is connected to the drive train, the idea of running at its most efficient speed is out the window.
Then again, maybe it does, and maybe you're wrong, LOL.
Diesel-electric powerplants became popular because they greatly simplified the way motive power was transmitted to the wheels and because they were both more efficient and had greatly reduced maintenance requirements. Direct-drive transmissions can become very complex, considering that a typical locomotive has four or more axles.
1) The car is sold as an electric car.
2) The engine is there to charge the batteries and drive the drive motor and an engine’s efficiencies if it is tuned for that are higher than one that has to go from 1-6000RPM. Drive your car sportingly and you use more gas and more (not much) wear on the engine. I assume the same thing happens with an electric vehicle but one thing an electric motor can do that IC engine cannot is supply 100% torque at 0 RPM. Pretty cool. I bet if they eliminated the batteries and electric motor and used a four cylinder, it would get better mileage.
3) I had high hopes for the Volt but it just isn’t finished. The problem of charging times is there but a range equivalent to one gallon of gas makes zero sense. They made a lot of noise about super capacitors that could be charged quick, I haven’t heard that in a while. Like the article states, I think the battery technology is not there yet. I think the Tesla has over 6000 individual cells. Must be fun to wire.
4) All the talk about quicker charge times mean installing a high current box in your garage, I recall it was $3,000 and I don’t remember if the main breaker box has to be changed as well.
5) I do think it’s a good idea when all the technologies finally come together. I don’t like the rebate of what, $7,500? Do you know anyone with a Volt? I would like to hear what a normal commuter thinks of the car.
Ha, an X1/9! A good looking car but the joke was that x stood for experimental and 1 stood for the engineer that designed it and 9 stood for the engineers that fixed his design.
Uhh, those four cylinder Chrysler engines, weren’t some sourced from VW? Better than a Vega but not much, I think it least had a cross flow head. I don’t know what genius thought of putting the intake and the exhaust on the same side of the head was a good idea. At least the Cosworths heads were well designed and injected. I’ve been looking at them on Ebay but they don’t have the ‘72 Camero look and they desized the engine to 2.0 liters. I wonder what a little work (cams, EFI tuning) and the 2.3 liter bottom end would do?
I did a rough estimate of the cost difference between a Volt ($40K) and a Cruze($15K) (same chassis) If I recall, the payoff in difference between gas and electric (free charges) would be around 150,000 miles.
What a coincidence - that's how our academic and bureaucratic masters see it, too.
My friend has a Volt. He actually went to Michigan to buy it, because they initially weren’t sold in Indiana.
He loves the car, now realize that he is a “techy” person and really appreciates the complexity.
His daily commute is about 20 miles round trip.
I know for sure that he went at least 5 months without buying gasoline. After a year of ownership he’s more enthusiastic than ever.
Then again his wife buys a new Vette every year so he has that to drive if he wants to do burnouts.
It brings to mind the Volt commercial were all the small appliances are powered by internal combustion engines. With the implied "oh, this is awful, lets' replace all these messy ICEs with a nice clean Volt."
Powered by coal.
BTW, I do think that Tesla has the best approach to car batteries given the current technology. Leveraging the volume production of rechargable AA's was way smart.
The Volt does use a 4 cylinder gas engine. 1.4 liters.
My son and I built a 1970 Vega Kamback with a 350 cu. in. V-8 with about 300 h.p.; the dang thing was never engineered for such power (although Chevy did make the V-8 Monza on the same chassis). Acceleration was awesome, but the handling, steering, and brakes really were not up to the task. The cost of totally re-engineering the car was prohibitive; I took it apart and sold it.
I’m sure the hot rodding was worth the experience.
But you’re right, they build Corvettes that have the chassis dynamics to complement the power.
I’d agree with that. They both suck, batteries suck worse.
The Volt only seats four people while the Prius seats five.
There is a Plug In Prius being introduced at a better price point than the Volt.
My point was that Chevy is doing some financial gymnastics to be able to lease a $42,000 Volt for only $369 a month with nothing down. Mercedes gets $349 a month for their new $34,000 C250 with $4000 down.
Something is rotten in Denmark because Chevy is pocketing the $7,500 Tax Credit (that we all pay for) to make the lease deal work at that price.
Government Motors strikes again.
So, he mostly runs in electric drive and recharges at home or work?
I kept asking this question and never get an answer, maybe your friend would tell you. How much does charging his Volt add to his electric bill?
They also do it because gearing for such a beast would be a nightmare; electric motors have the ideal power curve for a locomotive because they deliver maximum torque at zero RPM.
He does most of his recharges at work. They have a couple charging stations, likely added with “stimulus money” LOL.
I’m sure if you look over here:
You’ll find plenty of info.
To me there’s no $$ savings in the Volt, because the capital cost is so high. You buy it because you enjoy the technology (like my friend), or you’re worried about a fuel shortage (like 1973-74) and must have mobility over relatively short distances.
But the laws of physics still make PV panels a non-starter. In mid-lattitudes at noon the total energy received from the Sun is roughly 1,300 watts per square metre, so even if a 100% efficient PV panel were developed (the best are <20%), it would take a panel of at least 300 square feet to meet the needs of the average home. If you wanted to run your home 24/7 from solar, count on a panel at least five times that size plus a couple of tons of batteries.
Actually if you look at the powertrain history of mine haul trucks, you’ll see that torque converter / powershift transmissions have moved up the size range displacing diesel electric drive at increasingly large sizes.
In 1980 almost all mine haul trucks over 90 tons capacity were diesel electric. Now CAT uses torque converter / powershift all the way to 400 tons capacity. This configuration is more efficient, and CAT has spent the capital to design, develop, and tool up for mechanical transmissions in this “mega” size category.
Which conveniently falls at the point where you need to put down $10,000 for a new battery.
Oh, I agree.
All I’m pointing out is that some progress has been made in raising the efficiency of PV cells. As you point out, the current commercially available cells are running < 20% efficiency. Look where they came from tho - back in the 70’s, they were just a bit over 2%. Right now, a Boeing subsidiary (Spectrolab) is developing PV’s with efficiency over 40% for space applications. They’re obviously still expensive, but in the grand scheme of solid state development, the crush on margins is ruthless. Ergo, in the last 40+ years, we’ve seen an order of magnitude improvement on PV cell efficiency.
There hasn’t been anywhere nearly the same percentage improvement made in batteries.
Both technologies are not going to “solve” anything anytime soon, individually or together.
The only technical error in the article is it overstates the amount of “gas” the Volt battery has. The Volt’s battery has about 10.5 useable kW. One gallon of gas has 36.6 kW.
Regardless, the Volt is a re-volt-ing display of heavy handed government causing miss-allocation of resources.
That’s an awesome random bit of trivia applicable to the topic at hand.
I love Free Republic for stuff like that. I bet you never see anything similar at DU, for instance.
That reminds me of a friend’s V8 Vega. It twisted the unidbody and he actually had to cut the doors at the front fenders so they would open and close which meant it was soon un-drivable. It moved though.
The Kamback, I built the engine for a friends, it was a cool car. Unfortunately, it needed a windshield and the Kambacks was different than a regular Vega (how stupid is that?). He was poor as I was so we ended up putting the window (because we bought the wrong one and they didn’t have the correct one so they said) in and it hung over one side. Not a great rig bit it lasted as long as he had the car. It was like a modern version of a 55 Nomad, OK, so that’s stretching things but it was a cool car.
Hopefully that will be rectified in November, but my Faith in an Electorate that could propel a phony like Obama into the White House does not inspire confidence that such illustrious ignorance can be overcome.
Cool, a report by a regular driver. Does he plug it in every night? Did he buy the quick charge option and has he noticed an increase in his electric bills?
Did he donate the $7,500 Tax Credit to Obama’s Campaign?
Just funnin ya...
I never took a longish trip without my tools, gasket set, and a spare head in the back of my Vaguely-A-Car.
It sure did handle well, though...after I replaced the sour-slide with a 75 Astre 4-speed & axle; and also used the stiffer & better spring-rate Astre rear suspension.
I had 4 wrecked Vegas & Astres for parts, BUT every one of them had wrecked front ends and destroyed engines. I was never able to drop an Iron Duke into it, like I really wanted to.
Yes, of course, which is the only "advantage" a hybrid has over a regular car. In a regular car, you use gas to get up to speed, then scrub off that speed as heat in the brakes, then use more gas to get back up to speed again. So you end up using twice the gasoline.
In a hybrid you use gas equivalent energy to get up to speed, then about 10% of that energy is returned to the battery during braking. When you accelerate again you use the same gas equivalent energy to get back up to speed, but since you "recovered" 10% it only takes 90% of the energy to get back up to speed. So your "gas tank" is 10% larger.
Just don't run the heater, or the A/C, or the radio...
That having been said, the "one gallon" equivalence to the entire multihundred pound battery fiasco is a compelling image. I'm sticking with my fossil fuels thankee very much.
So am I. Very much so, thank you very much!
He’s kind of a Libertarian, but I guarantee you he claimed the $7500 tax credit, LOL. Not a political guy at all, just loves tech stuff. You know the nerdy kind who has all their home HVAC, security, lights, etc on a master computer control.
Mine had the slip and slide powerglide as well and put the 4 speed box in as well. It was the good 4 speed that I think was made by Borg Warner?? Not the Opel one that had the shifter sticking out of the tranny.
Carried the same tools and parts except I never carried a head because I’d had ones the were checked out by a machine shop, milled, the block milled everything was square and it still wouldn’t hold a head gasket for 2 months so I figured why bother? I think it was the block because I had one block that would hold head gaskets and one that wouldn’t and they were both sleeved so I chalked it all up to ‘tolerances’ and what they said was acceptable wasn’t really correct.
It did handle great.
I’d though about the Iron Duke but you could get performance parts for the regular Vega engine. Of course adding power to something that was so unstable was probably unwise.
Mine had the water bath block, with sleeved cylinders, but without the coolant distribution tubes, so tended to eat the valve(s) on #4. Not as often as a gasket, but often enough that on longer trips I added the freshly machined head to the kit.
And, yes, it was the B-W 4 speed. Good thing I had made the conversion, too. I had to drive it about 50 miles out of the Oregon Coast Ranges over logging roads to pavement, then find an open shop, after my brakes failed: tranny & hand brake only.
Not a bad idea at all, especially if you'd done it a number of times as every Vega owner who was mechanically inclined to do, it didn't take forever to swap head gaskets (I always used the special Fel Pro one since it was supposed to have addressed the design flaws of the original) the only thing is the head weighed more than the block. I carried my empty block into high school auto shop and people wondered how did I suddenly get strong to be able to pick up a block, then I let them pick it up and they were less impressed...
Remember the device you had to use to get the cam out? What a nightmare. Luckily I was a military brat and the Base auto shop had the tool and they'd let me borrow it anytime I needed it so I called the shop in LA I'd bought the high compression pistons from whose name I've long forgotten and asked which stock cam was the best (I was poor) so I went to the wrecking yards which had no shortage of Vegas which should have given me a clue. I got my header there as well.
So I grabbed a couple of cams and if you had tool and the hood off and only put 4 bolts in the cam cover, you could swap cams in minutes except for the cam belt tension was set by the sliding water pump which technically meant you needed a new gasket ever time you took the belt off but nine times out of ten and if you didn't use a pound of gasket seal it didn't leak luckily since it was harder to change the water pump than the cam. So I went with the one that I felt gave me the best seat of the pants feel. Not terrible technical, I should have use a stop watch and an exact length of road but I didn't.
What has happened to our society that term tranny & hand brake only has a sexual connotation ??
The Vega was good for laughs with 300 h.p. We stiffened up the rear suspension with additional coil springs and inflatable air bags in the coils. The ride was very bad; we also put in a modified turbo 350 automatic tranny with a 3500 rpm stall speed torque converter. The engine ran an Edlebrock single plane intake with a 650 cfm Holley double pumper. The dang thing would lift the front end about a foot off the ground upon takeoff if we revved the engine up with the front brakes locked. Eventually, the rear end blew up and on one run the right front upper ball joint broke clean off. Too much power and too little re-engineering. And we also cracked the windshield because of the torque which caused body flex. I figured at that point it would have cost another $10 grand to make the thing work.
About ten years later we now have built a 1972 Camaro SS with a 410 cu. in. Chevy big block. At least the Camaro is the proper platform for a 400+ h. p. engine.