Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

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Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/technology/personaltech/19pogue-email.html?_r=1&8cir&emc=cira1

From the Desk of David Pogue

By DAVID POGUE

Last
Sunday, "CBS News Sunday Morning" broadcast my report about Better
Place, a radical, overarching plan to replace the world's gas cars with
electric ones--really, really quickly. The nutty thing is, it just
might work; the streetside charging outlets for these cars are already
under construction in six countries and two U.S. states. (You can watch
the story here.)

As always, there wasn't enough time on TV for the whole interview.
So here's a longer, edited excerpt of my chat with Better Place chief
executive Shai Agassi, former SAP executive.

DP: Explain how this is different from all the failed electric car programs that have come before.

SA: Most of the car efforts were done from within the car, and
assuming that there is no infrastructure change at all. It's as if
people were trying to build cars, but skipping over the gas station.

We started from the infrastructure. We came up with an electric car
that would have two features that nobody had before. 1) The battery is
removable. So if you wanted to go a long distance, you could switch
your battery instead of waiting for it to charge for a very long time.

And 2) It was cheaper than gasoline car, not more expensive. Because
you didn't buy the battery. You paid just for the miles and for the car.

DP: So what will you guys make? What will you do?

SA: We sell miles, the way that AT&T sells you minutes. They buy
bandwidth and they translate into minutes. We buy batteries and clean
electrons--we only buy electrons that come from renewable sources--and
we translate that into miles.

DP: What are we talking about here? What's the infrastructure you're building?

SA: We have two pieces of infrastructure. 1) Charge spots. And they
will be everywhere, like parking meters, only instead of taking money
from you when you park, they give you electrons. And they will be at
home, they'll be at work, they'll be at downtown and retail centers. As
if you have a magic contract with Chevron or Exxon that every time you
stop your car and go away, they fill it up.

Now, that gives us the ability to drive most of our drives, sort of
a 100-mile radius. And that's most of the drives we do. But we also
take care of the exceptional drive. You want to go from Boston to New
York. And so on the way, we have what we call switch stations: lanes
inside gas stations. You go into the switch station, your depleted
battery comes out, a full battery comes in, and you keep driving. It
takes you about two, three minutes--less than filling with
gasoline--and you can keep on going.

DP: But it sounds like you're talking about a parallel universe,
where there are hundreds of thousands of charging spots and switch
stations. There aren't any.

SA: Well, that's what we're building. If you think of our first
location in Israel, we will have about a quarter of a million charge
spots before the first car shows up. Just like you wouldn't buy a cell
phone on a network that wasn't built yet. You have to first build the
network. And then let the cars come in.

And so we put a massive investment in big infrastructure projects: Green jobs. A new electric infrastructure for cars.

DP: And has nobody said, "By the way, this is crazy?"

SA: Oh-- about nine out of ten people say it's crazy. But the other ones are actually saying "Where can I put my money?"

We raised $200 million in a seed round, the largest seed round of
any startup in history. We raised a $135 million a week ago in Denmark
to put the same network in Denmark. We're raising $700 million in
Australia to build this network on the biggest island you can find. So
this is actually getting a lot of support and a lot of funding.

DP: Which governments are actually signing up?

SA: Israel was first. Denmark signed up next. Denmark is the host of
the next climate change conference, and the prime minister really
backed this up: They put a huge tax on gasoline cars, 180 percent tax,
and zero tax on electric vehicles.

Australia signed up after.

Then we went to the U.S. Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco,
coordinated an effort of all the mayors in the Bay area to create the
next transportation island, the San Francisco Bay area. Even though
it's not an island.

Governor Lingle of Hawaii was really the driving force behind
getting us to Hawaii. And then the Premier of Ontario announced about a
month ago that we're gonna go to Ontario. And Ontario, most people
don't know, is the capital of cars in North America. They make more
cars than Michigan these days.

And there's a lot of interest beyond these first six networks that
we've announced. We're talking about 25 countries around the world, and
various different governors and mayors in the U.S.

DP: Hawaii's an island. Australia's a big island. Why islands?

SA: Contained islands are easier to work with, because you have sort of an ecosystem of cars that don't go in and out.

DP: Now so far, these electric cars that are coming to market:
Tesla, $100,000. Volt, $40,000. How much will one of these cars cost?

SA: If you take the battery component out of our car--which is what
we do; we don't let you buy the battery, we buy the battery--then our
cars are on par with gasoline cars. So an SUV will cost roughly the
same as an equivalent gas SUV, roughly in the $20,000 range. A sedan
will cost roughly the same range. About $20,000.

What we also do is, if you're committing to driving a long
distance--for example, if you're committing to 20,000 miles a year--we
give you a discount. And a discount can be sometimes $50 a month,
sometimes $100 a month, towards the car. In other words, we pay for
your financing of the car. And so you get a car that's actually cheaper
than its gasoline equivalent, depending on how many miles you commit.
You can go all the way down-- and in the case of people who drive a
lot, like taxis--all the way down to zero.

DP: Free car? If you sign up for the maximum minutes plan?

SA: This is Oprah for everybody. Right? (LAUGH) It's, "You all got a free car!"

DP: Now, you don't strike me as a guy with a lot of car experience.
Why is everybody buying into this vision that you, a software guy, are
bringing them?

SA: Well, I'm more of an integration guy. So if you think about it,
even though I was at SAP, SAP is about understanding the art of
technology, the software part, but also understanding the processes of
business. And if you look at what I did in the past, I managed teams
who brought about a 100 products a year. We had labs in 25 countries
around the world. Very, very complex solutions that drove the largest
companies on earth, including car companies. What I bring in is that
understanding of complexity of both the technology and the economy.

When you look at the problem mobility with a fresh set of eyes,
sometimes you find solutions that the guys who are sort of locked in
the inertia of day-to-day business--have missed.

DP: What do you think about hybrid cars?

SA: Well, the most successful hybrid car in the world, Prius, is
roughly around 1 or 2 million cars. Out of about 750 million cars. In
other words, we're having 0.0 percent effect on oil consumption.

During those 12 years, we added 200 million gas cars. We're moving
really slowly if we're gonna go to hybrid! What you need to do is you
go to zero: zero emissions, zero oil. And you have to scale it to
infinity, if we really want to make a difference.

DP: I hear a lot that the battery technology just is not here for
electric cars. It has to work in the Arizona summer. It has to work in
Fairbanks, Alaska. Short battery life, lethal to throw into the
junkyard when it's done. Have you thought about this stuff?

SA: Yeah, so let's demystify batteries for a second. As a
consumable, the batteries we're getting today are roughly in the range
of about $.06 to $.08 a mile.

If you try and find gasoline, in the U.S. you're roughly at about
$.10 to $.12 a mile. So the first thing is it's cheap. Second thing is,
the batteries we're using are not lead-acid batteries. They're lithium
iron phosphate. All within the 35 most common elements in nature. So
they're not dangerous to the environment.

Three: They're consumed for a very, very long time. These batteries will last multiple generations. 20, 25 years.

The fourth element is that there's always a better battery around
the corner. Now in the past, that was a negative thing. Because you
were afraid to buy a car and get stuck with a car that has a battery
that's an older generation. And then not be able to sell it. It was a
very, very negative thing.

What we've done by decoupling the car and the battery is, we took
away that fear. You may buy a car with generation 1 battery today, and
then three years, five years, ten years from now, you may get a
different battery that's designed with backwards compatibility into
your car, but gives you longer range.

DP: How will it work for a subscriber? Specifically?

SA: Most of what we've done is try to make it convenient. We don't
want you to pass a credit card when you charge the car. We don't want
you to pay every time you switch the battery. We looked at it from the
angle of convenience.

And so we're probably gonna see three different pricing models. In
some places, you'll see it sort of as pay-as-you-go, very much like a
gas tank. I mean, if you think about it, a gas tank is sort of the
prepaid phone-card model of cars. You come, you buy 400 miles, you
drive 'em. You buy another 400 miles.

So they'll be something like that in the base package. There'll be a
fixed number of miles, plus a surcharge if you go more than that--1,500
miles a month or something in that range. And then there'll be the
all-you-can-drive model. You pay one-time fee, you and your family can
drive as much as you want on that car.

And we like those guys the most. Because effectively, what they do
is they take the drivers who consume the most oil, and spew out the
most pollution and CO2 emissions, off the road first. 'Cause if you
come and tell people there's a flat fee, then the guys who drive the
most, the extremes of the extremes, think you're crazy, and they're the
first ones who come in and jump. So it's a self-selection process of
the guys who we want to get off the road first.

DP: Oh. And-- do you have any idea how much that might cost?

SA: It depends on the price of gasoline in the market that we're
coming in, because we're replacing gasoline miles. So if you're in a
country where gasoline is at $7, $8 a gallon, which is what Europe is
right now, the cost of a mile is much higher. If you're in the Bay Area
or in Hawaii, you're paying a lot less per mile. So we need to be
competitive with the price of gasoline in the location. That's why
Europe has a significant advantage over the U.S. in getting these kinds
of solutions in place.

DP: Your critics have had their potshots. What are the realistic obstacles?

SA: This is a massive integration project. And everything needs to
happen roughly at the same time. In other words, the cars need to show
up at the same time as batteries need to produce in scale. At the same
time as the infrastructure's in the ground. All of that needs to be
synchronized with beautiful software that runs inside the car. And then
back-end software.

And then all this has to happen at a scale that is scary, to a
certain degree. We need to be at 100,000 cars in 2011. About 100
million cars by 2016 to 2020. A thousand-times growth in production
capacity and in installation capacity. There's never been a project of
this magnitude in history.

DP: No.

SA: But if we don't get a hundred million cars, by the end of the
next decade, [the world will have] a billion gasoline cars on the
road--and we're done. We don't know how to produce enough oil for a
billion cars. So humanity needs to switch before we run out of natural
resources: air and oil.

DP: But aren't you just shifting all the energy producing pollution from the individual tailpipes to the power plants?

SA: Well, we have committed to only buying clean electrons. So we've
made a decision that if we put a car on the road, we put a renewable
source on the grid at the same time.

DP: Aren't the gas and oil industries going to want to squash you? They'll have lobbyists and PR…

SA: So, something fascinating happened over the last 12 months. The
price of oil fluctuated up and down, from a $100 to $150 to $50 a
barrel.

And it drove everybody in the industry crazy. We know what to do
with oil: We drill, baby, drill. Right? But at $50, we can't drill.
It's so expensive to drill, that the price of the oil doesn't pay for
the cost of drilling. The fluctuation is worse to the car companies and
the oil companies than any stable price, high or low. And so what all
these car and oil companies are asking for right now is some sort of a
stabilizer.

They need a company that would give an alternative that would be
fixed in price. And they want it to be stabilized roughly around $75 to
$100 a barrel. That's what they tell us. "$75 to $100 a barrel allows
us to find marginal oil." And so they're actually liking us now. They
want us to succeed because we're viewed as a sort of a stabilizing buoy.

DP: But you're also viewed as someone who's trying to end the oil industry.

SA: Well, they don't think it's gonna happen that fast. (laughs)

DP: It seems like you're the gatekeeper of all this. You could
become Bill Gates. You could become the guy who changed it all and
became fantastically wealthy and successful. Have you crunched the
numbers at all, and said, like, "Yeah, I'm glad I quit SAP"?

SA: First of all, I'm already glad I quit SAP. Not because SAP isn't
a fantastic company--I love SAP--but because there's a purpose in life.
And that higher purpose is much more important than making money. I've
been extremely blessed and successful. I sold my first start up at 30.
I sold it again at 33. I made enough money in both cases that my kids
don't need to worry about money.

So I've never done anything for money that point, at age 30. But
when you find a great purpose in life, you gotta pursue it. It's when
your big question finds you. You can't let it go.

One of the things that we've done that is very interesting, unique
for a first mover, is, every government we go in to, we ask for one
thing: "Make sure that you build an open, standards-based network." So
that we can't lock any competitor out, and competitors can't lock us
out when they show up. We want to make it so that the networks are so
open, that I can roam from my network to their network and back.

We believe that if we align all the vectors together, we'll get
adoption much faster. We had to opt for either speed or greed, and we
picked speed.

DP: So speaking of these networks. When I plug into one, how does it know who I am?

SA: We have a protocol that goes between the car and the charge spot
that says, "I'm car number 41, I'm seeing charge spot number 72." And
the charge spot says to the central computer, "I'm charge spot 72, I'm
seeing car 41." And the central computer says, "Okay, relax, I know
you're there. And I'll tell you when you can start taking power."

And it tells them to take power when the utility, the supplier of
electrons, says "I got power for you, for that many cars." Utilities
tell us every three seconds how many cars can charge. And based on
that, we moderate. The cars that need it the most importantly right
now. So we sort the priority of the cars, based on how much they've got
and how far they can go, and what's the probability the driver will
show up again. If you came into work, and you're usually ten hours at
work, you won't charge immediately in the morning. If you just came
home, it's 5:00 and you don't leave, usually, you won't get charged.

But right as you park your car, you can press a button that says, "I need juice now." We put you in the top of the line.

So there's a lot of software, very simple. Mostly it's one click. But we do a lot of management behind the scenes.

DP: Do I need to install a charging spot in my garage?

SA: Yes. It's about $250 to $300.

DP: So I can't just use a regular power cord?

SA: You could, but what we're trying to do is make it so that when
you plug in, YOU don't pay for the electricity. WE pay for the
electricity; you only pay for the miles.

DP: What's the best hope of when we'll start to see these cars in America?

SA: Our stated goal is that mid-2011, we'll be in mass consumption.
And the fist sites are Israel, Denmark and Hawaii. The second half of
2010, we'll be running a massive test: tens of thousands, hundred
thousand spots in Israel. And right after that in Denmark with. Testing
our software, testing our hardware, testing the switching, the entire
network.

We've just installed the first charge spots in the U.S., in about 50
parking lots, tested the equipment for installation. In a couple
months, we're installing the first switch station in Japan.

It's about 2 and a half years of testing, from now till the mass release.

DP: Wow, that's really fast.

SA: For a transformation of this magnitude, it's immensely fast. Yes.

DP: By the way, how do you stop teenagers from just walking by and unplugging everybody?

SA: Oh, it's a secret. And they shouldn't try it. (LAUGH) No, you can't just plug it out. You need your keychain.

DP: Oh, so the outlet locks onto to the socket?

SA: It has a mechanism in there to avoid vandalism.

DP: Oh. You've thought of everything.

SA: No. But we've thought of some of the things. (LAUGH)

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

The curious thing about this is the possibility that there is not enough energy being generated from zero carbon sources to provide for the electron demand. Much like the issues faced by rapid wind turbine production and installation, if at some level the system is not complete, in the wind turbine case, transmission infrastructure, than your consumers face a service hiccup . At least the storage issue is solved, all those batteries when idle, and not likely to be in immediate use are full, perhaps they could supplement the loads for other energy use, lighting homes, offices. Give back to the grid.?

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)
charlesHearn wrote:

The curious thing about this is the possibility that there is not enough energy being generated from zero carbon sources to provide for the electron demand. Much like the issues faced by rapid wind turbine production and installation, if at some level the system is not complete, in the wind turbine case, transmission infrastructure, than your consumers face a service hiccup . At least the storage issue is solved, all those batteries when idle, and not likely to be in immediate use are full, perhaps they could supplement the loads for other energy use, lighting homes, offices. Give back to the grid.?

Charles,

I see this is your first post - Welcome!

You raise an interesting point. Since they seem to have planned the rest of it so well, I expect (and hope) that they have considered your concerns!  Undecided

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

Ditto.

Would I still be able to drive my car when it is not windy? I think I would rather pay for the electricity at home myself. I can't see a need for vast numbers of on street parking connections. I think these would just be a way for a monopoly generator (or maybe the government by way of tax) to overcharge for the electricity.

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

Sam,

Electric cars are certainly an improvement over gasoline-powered cars.  No argument there.

But if we simply replaced all of our current cars with electric cars, we'd be not much better off.  Building cars of any kind consumes a tremendous amount of energy and resources.  Maintaining roads is entirely dependent upon declining petroleum supplies.  The suburban and exurban sprawl made possible and perpetuated by individual car ownership has a vast range of negative environmental and social effects.

We have to change a lot more than how we power cars.  We have to change the way we use them.  And we have to change the way we live.  The phenomenon of cars being the primary mode of individual transportation, regardless of what energy source they are fueled by, is simply unsustainable.

I personally would like to see more money and attention being devoted to re-localizing our cities and towns, improving public transportation, re-writing zoning restrictions that prohibit mixed use, revitalizing urban areas and generally moving towards a less resource intensive way of life.  

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

One step at a time, Chris, one step at a time. Wink

It takes time to wean people off what they've used all their life. Your concerns are valid, but it will take time to change the direction of this massive ship.

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

Sam,

The problem is that if we invest a lot of money (which is currently in very short supply) on technologies that are ultimately unsustainable, we have less left over to use for the major changes in infrastructure, public transportation and land use that are necessary for long-term sustainability.

I realize that the direction I'm proposing is not politically viable at this point, but that doesn't mean it's any less necessary or that we'll be any more protected from the consequences of not doing it.

Chris

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

Chris,

The government is not the place to turn for this kind of innovation. As always, it comes from the private sector.

Years ago there was an excellent program on PBS called "Connections" - came from England as many excellent PBS programs have. It showed how a product that we use today evolved from an original idea many years (even centuries) ago and gradually morphed into what we have today.

The point I'm making here is this: Is it not conceivable that the electric car idea can gradually morph into more efficient electric transportation of all sorts (streetcars, trains, even planes)? Remember, while we are all concerned about Peak Oil and other problems, converting solar and/or wind and/or wave energy into electricity is an ongoing process. As time goes by, these technologies are getting better and better. There is nothing wrong with having private transportation (i.e cars) if the world manages to develop a natural way of generating the energy needed to produce them and power them.

Will the world survive long enough for this transition to occur? That's an entirely different question!  Wink

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

Thank you so much for posting this, Sam.

 I think the most important aspect of this massive project is the shift in focus in certain technologies that it represents by its success thus far. Can you almost hear the competitors lining up behind the project?  I've always thought that it is not our level of technology that keeps us sucking oil and other limited resources, it is the focus of developing technologies.

When I commuted 165 miles per day in the 1980's, a huge percentage of my travel was highway miles.  I often wondered during that "dead" driving time why somebody didn't develop wind generated energy for cars (generated by the speed of the car or train). I know that at that time, I was traveling a lot faster than the wind turning any wind turbine. :-)

Rosemary

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)
SamLinder wrote:

There is nothing wrong with having private transportation (i.e cars) if the world manages to develop a natural way of generating the energy needed to produce them and power them.

I'm afraid I can't agree with you here, Sam, for the reasons I mentioned in my post above.

The impact of individual car use is greater than the energy needed to produce, run and maintain them.  They require tremendous amounts of raw materials as well, and that is unlikely to change.  They have encouraged a type of land use and development that is patently unsustainable.  Cars require roads to drive on.  Roads require huge inputs of fossil fuel (petroleum) to maintain.  The construction and maintenance of the highway system takes money, resources and energy away from building and rebuilding more energy-efficient modes of transportation, like rail.

The solution is to re-localize, travel less, live where we work, travel in groups (trains, buses, on-demand taxi-vans [electric, of course]) when we must, walk, ride bicycles (as long as we have tires for them) and live a much less energy-dense lifestyle.

 

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)
Chris Kresser wrote:
SamLinder wrote:

There is nothing wrong with having private transportation (i.e cars) if the world manages to develop a natural way of generating the energy needed to produce them and power them.

I'm afraid I can't agree with you here, Sam, for the reasons I mentioned in my post above.

The impact of individual car use is greater than the energy needed to produce, run and maintain them.  They require tremendous amounts of raw materials as well, and that is unlikely to change.  They have encouraged a type of land use and development that is patently unsustainable.  Cars require roads to drive on.  Roads require huge inputs of fossil fuel (petroleum) to maintain.  The construction and maintenance of the highway system takes money, resources and energy away from building and rebuilding more energy-efficient modes of transportation, like rail.

The solution is to re-localize, travel less, live where we work, travel in groups (trains, buses, on-demand taxi-vans [electric, of course]) when we must, walk, ride bicycles (as long as we have tires for them) and live a much less energy-dense lifestyle.

Chris,

Careful, my friend, you're in danger of being logical! Wink

While your solution makes a lot of sense, I think mankind has an infinite capacity for resolving problems. Asphalt roads do, indeed, require fossil fuel to build/maintain. However, what about concrete roads - of which there are already many? What if mankind some day comes up with a natural material to replace fossil fuel roads?

While your suggestion to re-localize has merit, it also can have the downside of creating even more mega-cities than we currently have - not an appealing proposition in my opinion.

If the world population were back under a billion, it might be feasible to return to a village/town life style. With the current population of 6 billion plus, I don't think that is doable - in my lifetime or my grandsons.

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)
SamLinder wrote:

If the world population were back under a billion, it might be feasible to return to a village/town life style. With the current population of 6 billion plus, I don't think that is doable - in my lifetime or my grandsons.

Sam,

I personally think it's highly unlikely that we'll continue to have a population of 6 billion plus for very long.

Re-localization need not entail inhospitable density if redevelopment is done well.  North American towns and cities would look more like their European counterparts, and less like a Wal-Mart parking lot.

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)
Chris Kresser wrote:
SamLinder wrote:

If the world population were back under a billion, it might be feasible to return to a village/town life style. With the current population of 6 billion plus, I don't think that is doable - in my lifetime or my grandsons.

Sam,

I personally think it's highly unlikely that we'll continue to have a population of 6 billion plus for very long.

Re-localization need not entail inhospitable density if redevelopment is done well.  North American towns and cities would look more like their European counterparts, and less like a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Chris,

I hope you're right and I'm wrong. Being an eternal pessimist, I won't be holding my breath. Wink

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

And that is the problem Sam......  we don't HAVE time!

As Chris pointed out, it takes ~ 90 barrels of oil to build a car..  How many cars are in the US?  Must be at least 100 million?  Could even be 200?  say 150, that's ~ 1,500,000,000 barrels of oil, JUST to build the new fleet, and that's assuming they're ALL small......  Oh and that's roughly 4 billion tons of greenhouse emissions too!  Before you even start driving the darn things...

Then there's the battery swapping idea.....  seems like a good idea, except the problem with electric cars is the availability of the resources to actually make batteries.  Here, this idea has just DOUBLED (at least) the size of the problem.  The metals used in batteries, lead, nickel, cadmium, zinc etc are at or near peak.  Increase demand, and just watch the cost soar! 

And then of course there's the other ticklish issue of just where will the money come from?

Some people just do not get Limits to Growth...

Mike 

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

"
While your solution makes a lot of sense, I think mankind has an infinite capacity for resolving problems."

No, no no no no no no no!!!!!!  Sam, mankind has an infinite capacity to use RESOURCES!  Unlike the resources which are finite...

The way I see things, building all these electric cars just proves that with fossil fuels, you can do ANYTHING.....  even build electric cars!

Mike 

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Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

"I often wondered during that "dead" driving time why somebody didn't
develop wind generated energy for cars (generated by the speed of the
car or train)"

Sigh......    This is perpetual motion territory...... 

Say you had a wind turbine on the roof of your car.  It would slow the car down.  Simple drag increasing friction, and a wind turbine causes HUGE drag, quite a bit more than a wing mirror or you driving with your elbow on the window sill!

So what do you do?  You put your foot down to keep your speed up.  Now, you need even more energy to keep the car going fast.....  so the turbine has to work harder, causing even MORE DRAG, so you put your foot down some more, which then....

In any case, no wind turbine is designed to work in 50 or 60 MPH wind.....  they'd all self destruct at speeds like that in no time at all.

Mike 

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DaveK
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Joined: Mar 22 2009
Posts: 9
Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

The big question is where is the electrical energy going to come from ? It's all very well saying it will be renewable, but that doesn't solve the problem.  Where is the energy going to come from to build the renewable energy industry ?  You see it's all a matter of timing - a typical large PV panel produces 1 KW.h / day but takes 3,000 KW.h to build, including all the energy spent in mining the raw materials, refining, super-refining, transporting. (These are figures from Sydney University based on building a 100 MW solar farm). 

The problem is not so much the ratio of energy invested (EI) to energy returned over its lifetime (ER), but that you have to front up with the EI first, and then wait for 8 years while that energy is paid back, before you get into an energy profit situation.  The energy has to come from somewhere, so it can only come from what we have now - fossil fuels.  So demand for solar panels creates demand for fossil fuels.

 And if the PV factory keeps on making panels, it will be 17 years before the entire project makes an energy profit.  And if the PV industry grows its production each year, the break-even point can extend out to 50 years or even to infinity. So PV panels are NEVER going to save us.

 I have written this up in detail, including the necessary spreadsheets at www.peakoil.org.au/news/energy_profit.htm . You can alter any of the numbers if you don't like the ones I have chosen, but it won't affect the outcome much.

In an era of falling fossil energy consumption, due to Peak Oil and Climate Change agreements, there will not be enough fossil energy to spare to build PV factories and operate them in sufficient numbers to create a significant proportion of our energy from PV.  The same argument goes for wind and nuclear and anything else you can think of.  People haven't caught on yet that although technology has always come to the rescue in the energy-rich past, it won't come to the rescue in an energy-constrained future.

 

Dave

 

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sunson
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 29 2009
Posts: 42
Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)
Damnthematrix wrote:

"I often wondered during that "dead" driving time why somebody didn't
develop wind generated energy for cars (generated by the speed of the
car or train)"

Sigh......    This is perpetual motion territory...... 

Say you had a wind turbine on the roof of your car.  It would slow the car down.  Simple drag increasing friction, and a wind turbine causes HUGE drag, quite a bit more than a wing mirror or you driving with your elbow on the window sill!

So what do you do?  You put your foot down to keep your speed up.  Now, you need even more energy to keep the car going fast.....  so the turbine has to work harder, causing even MORE DRAG, so you put your foot down some more, which then....

In any case, no wind turbine is designed to work in 50 or 60 MPH wind.....  they'd all self destruct at speeds like that in no time at all.

 

Exactly :) I was about to point all this out but Mike has already done a good job :)

One more thing I wanted to add:

There is never a 100% efficient machine. There are practical limits to efficiency. "Energy" captured by the turbine will be lost in it's ball bearings, and shafts and electrical cables and devices. 

I'm not giving up on technology as a whole. But I'm definitely *not* for unsustainable technologies like these. I mean... tell me again, why do we need cars so badly? Just take the issue of loss of soil fertility - this single issue along itself is going to need I-don't-know-how-much amount of time and money!

 

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sunson
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
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Posts: 42
Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)
DaveK wrote:

The big question is where is the electrical energy going to come from ? It's all very well saying it will be renewable, but that doesn't solve the problem.  Where is the energy going to come from to build the renewable energy industry ?  You see it's all a matter of timing - a typical large PV panel produces 1 KW.h / day but takes 3,000 KW.h to build, including all the energy spent in mining the raw materials, refining, super-refining, transporting. (These are figures from Sydney University based on building a 100 MW solar farm). 

Interesting... since the wikipedia page for Photovoltaics claim that the Energy Payback Time for modern PV technology is about 1.5 to 3 years (these use Crystaline silicon PV systems).

Of course, I'm not refuting your original point, but if given enough investments in the right direction, maybe we won't lose it *all*.

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speakcat
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Joined: Mar 17 2009
Posts: 9
Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

America almost had a mass produced electric car pre WW I.  Henry Ford had teamed with Thomas Edison to design and produce them.  Edison was developing a battery pack system that initially tested well.  Later test results seemed to indicate sabotage of the battery system.  "Gas" stations were to have charged battery packs ready to swap with decharged battery packs.  Another problem was that a large portion of Edisons Menlo park research and development site was mysteriously burned even though the site was designed to be fire proof.  Afterwards, gas cans were discovered, some of which had not burned.  Sabotage?  You bet.  Henry Ford had already decided that gasoline engines were a dirty, noisy, and dangerous way to go.  He had further decided that internal combustion engines damaged the atmosphere and that oil supplies would eventually become a problem.  Ford had already committed to building the new electic car and had build a new factory ready to start building cars powered by Edisons battery packs.  Then Menlo Park burned halting battery development and WW I started shortly afterwards.  Fords new factory was converted to building trucks and other vehicles to be used by the allies.  Can you imagine what cars would be like now if we had over 90 years to refine mass produced electric cars?  My source is the book INTERNAL COMBUSTION by Baker.  It is one of the best and most informative book that I have read in years.  If you are willing to think, this book will help you understand how society and economics have really worked for thousands of years.

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Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

Look, I won't argue that weird stuff happened to kill the electric car....  BUT, the point really is that it doesn't matter whether we had inherited electric motors instead of oil powered ones, cars could only ever be sustainable, environmentally, socially, or economically, IF their numbers were kept low, and I mean REALLY low, like no more than 10 or 20 million world wide....

It's another classic case of a hockey stick.  As CM says many times in the CC, "more cars, always more cars..."

Mike 

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