US utilities moot massive EV order to boost car biz
Don't want the Big Three's electric car plans kyboshed by credit crunch
'Leccy Tech The idea of somebody picking up the phone and ordering 10,000 Chevy Volts should be more than enough to improve any General Motors executive's day - and it may not prove to be that hopelessly optimistic.
Senior folk at several US electricity generators and suppliers are worried that the current financial turmoil engulfing the Big Three car makers may derail their electric car projects, the Wall Street Journal reports. The answer? Jointly replace their vehicle fleets with 'leccy cars and vans.
The car makers would get guaranteed multi-year orders – something they generally would sell their grandmothers for – as well as getting electric car infrastructure development undertaken by the very people best placed to do so: the power companies.
Meanwhile, the power companies would be creating an internal market for their own product rather than having to buy petrol for their fleets and could develop demand models without running the risk of the grid going tits up due to unforeseen demand.
One of UPS' 12 Modec-made electric delivery vans
A couple of recent studies have come up with some persuasive figures. According to the Electric Power Research Institute, if 60 per cent of US light vehicles were electrified by 2050, the national power consumption would only increase by around eight per cent while cutting CO2 emissions equivalent to those produced by 82m cars.
Another study, by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, found that 73 per cent of light vehicles could be charged overnight using existing infrastructure and supply thereby saving 6.2m barrels of oil – 52 per cent of current US imports – every day.
It's also the sort of deal that may make Washington re-think the $25bn handout that Detroit is so eager to get its hands on and that is currently held up partly on the fear that rather than being used for anything of long-term environmental value it will simply tide Ford, General Motors and Chrysler over to the next crisis.
Could something similar work in the UK? There is no reason why not. E.ON alone runs a fleet of 5900 vehicles. British 'leccy van maker Modec – which recently announced a deal to supply 12 electric vans to UPS in the UK – would also jump at the opportunity, we suspect.
What a joke
If Grant is correct and they think this vehicle should be priced at $40K that is F-ing ridiculous. The correct price for a small electric vehicle is about $10-15K. The whole reason Detroit is in the mess they are in is because they are making $40K vehicles that cannot be afforded by the average American. The whole concept of vehicle leases is a recent idea created to put stupid consumers into huge SUVs they couldn't afford to buy. The only way Detroit will survive is by building cars that consumers can afford - and that means a median price below $20K.
"In 1904, with lead-acid batteries, a relatively unsophisticated motor, and a chain-driven transmission, the Columbia Automobile Company had an electric car on the market that had a 40-mile range before needing to be charged.
100+ years later, with advances in battery technologies, electric motors, drivetrains, and automotive design, there are new electric cars coming out on the market... that have a 40-mile range before needing to be charged.
Why does this strike me as immensely funny (and not in a good way)?"
Well, it's not as if I like defending the auto industry, but that really isn't a fair comparison. Those early vehicles were made of very light, relatively flimsy materials (essentially, as they were called, motorized carriages) and had both poor acceleration and low top speed. These modern vehicles, while possessing similar range, are substantially heavier, faster, safer, and more reliable. Hauling around 10 times as much weight (note: "10 times" selected to be illustrative, not literal or accurate) at a much higher rate of speed and still achieving the same approximate range is certainly indicative of substantial progress.
To those who expressed concern over the use of lithium-ion batteries, I couldn't agree more, and I'm surprised that no commentor has, as yet, raised the issue of fire. If we pump out millions of Li-ion batteries for laptops every year and still can't figure out how to design them not to overheat, can we solve that problem for automotive uses? Also, aren't lithium titanate batteries supposed to have much greater energy density? They might not be readily available yet, but it would seem sane to invest in a technology that could improve range by 10-40% (more numbers being pulled out my ass, can't recall what the article on LiTitanate said) without increasing the size of the envelope.
Regarding what Paul said:
"I don't consider swapping batteries at a charging station to be a sensible idea either. It would fix the shape if cars for good, as you would need a common form factor, and they are not small. UCs could be built to fit the structure of the car."
Think outside the present form! There is no reason why a single large envelope must be used; after all, the "battery" in an electric car is just a bunch of smaller ones packed into a larger package with a few leads. It would make more sense, in my mind, to swap batteries in a manner similar to the old full-service days. Say, for example, that a normal car's engine compartment is your battery compartment. You pull into the station, and pop your hood. An attendant greets you, disconnects and removes your several standard-sized batteries one at a time, replacing them with fresh ones as he places the spent batteries on the station's charger. It would seem logical that each battery unit would have a diagnostic connection, so your vehicle could estimate total charge and give you a readout analogous to a fuel gauge; you have X kwH before empty. Eh, I'm off on a tangent.
The ol' skull 'n' crossbones, because theft of electricity ('leccy piracy?) is going to become a major crime.
As I look out my window
At the inches of snow on the ground (still falling) and the below 30 (F) temps, I wonder how long a set of these batteries will last...will I get to work...will they get me back home...will my employer install recharge stations...hell, will anyone install recharge stations?
If that "Also 10,000 x $40,000" means that these things will cost $40k apiece, there's no way in the world that a "normal" person of "normal" means will EVER be able to afford one. Sure enough, just like the fancy 'leccy cars touted...the wealthy, the exhibitionist, the "more money than croesus" folks will have one so they can tool around and show everyone how "environmental" and "green" they are. MEH!