Electric vehicles still in the foothills 

Posted: January 14, 2017 by oldbrew in government, ideology, Travel

Credit: plugincars.com

Credit: plugincars.com

As the author suggests, the wishful thinking of policy makers in the world’s better-off countries shows little sign of turning into success ‘on the ground’ when it comes to electric vehicles. Public concerns about cost, range, battery life, recharging and so on are not going away.

An article in Power Engineering International magazine in 2013 by Penny Hitchin identified progress in the development of electric vehicles, as well as the barriers to progress, writes PEI’s Diarmaid Williams.

Four years later, despite a relative surge in uptake of these vehicles, much of the same barriers remain. It’s anticipated that the evolution of the electric vehicle will transform the nature of electric power, but this evolution is unfolding at a slower rate than perhaps anticipated, or desired given the political expediency to decarbonise.

When Hitchin penned her piece, Charging ahead: EVs and the grid, there were 130,000 electric vehicles in the US. In December 2016 that figure was 542,000, according to Recode website, so there is an incremental rise, even if it’s not as rapid as hoped. The same problems are besetting countries around the world in moving away from fossil fuels and capitalising on the extraordinary progress of renewable power.

It’s a similar situation for cars.

‘Range anxiety’ mightn’t be a phrase that has caught on as yet in the greater public consciousness, which is illustrative in itself, but for many electric vehicle owners it’s an all too familiar condition. A seamless public charging network has so far gone unrealised and for some EV drivers, their vehicles are only really to be relied upon for short journeys.

There are no assurances of working or compatible chargers, and there is also concern at the cost of electricity as well as the rate at which it is dispensed. People expect to change habits to adapt to a new paradigm, but at the moment planning even a medium journey can be complicated.

At the moment despite legislation and taxation eroding the appeal of the fossil fueled vehicle it is still comparatively more attractive than its electric cousin. Most electric vehicles need 30-60 minutes to take enough charge to achieve 60 miles of range. The conventional car takes five minutes to achieve 300 miles. Because of the underdeveloped network at the moment the possibility of pump congestion is a real one.

TSO operators point to the implications for the electric grid if the network is not smartened up to contend with increasing popularity of the vehicles, but they should rest assured that a tipping point appears some way off yet.

The Times letters page recently featured some dissent from electric vehicle owners on these issues. One individual pointed out the outlandish, hard to justify, insurance quote they received when preparing to purchase an EV. Another pointed out that the financial case was lost for a pure EV, when compared to the advantages of the hybrid.

Rather like the idealists in the power sector who believe the world is ready to go fully renewable, cheerleaders for EVs are blinded to true realities. Just as a mix of gas, nuclear and renewables seem in pole position to produce the lion’s share of the world’s power over the coming decades, while storage is perfected, the hybrid vehicle seems to be a better bet, in terms of a bridging transition, than the EV right now.

PEI report continues here

  1. Climatism says:

    I applaud electric vehicles/bikes. I live in Asia and the pollution is awful riding my scooter daily. So I wear a mask 😷.
    BUT, I will only applaud electric vehicles when the only source of electricity that can power them – fossil fuels – is dually acknowledged.

  2. rishrac says:

    The problem I have with electric battery powered devices, including cell phones and tablets, is that after awhile they get tired. I had a battery powered lawn mower. It died after I cut the yard six times. Towards the end it was struggling. My next foray into the electric world will be a bicycle. I saw one from the Netherlands that gets about 50 miles and can be pedaled. Having the electric assistance going uphill would be pretty great. Oh, it’s raining, maybe I’ll just take the car.
    The Droid phone, I have it connected to a battery pack now . It’ll die, even with a new battery, in a matter of hours.

  3. Joe Public says:

    @ rishrac
    “I saw one from the Netherlands that gets about 50 miles and can be pedaled.”

    Holland isn’t renowned for its hills.

    “Seattle’s Mayor Murray kills city-run bike-share program

    …… Some think Seattle’s mandatory helmet law contributed to the system’s woes, while the city’s hilly terrain and rainy weather were also cited as challenges.”


  4. catweazle666 says:

    Perhaps I’ll consider electric vehicles when I can keep a gallon can of electrons in the boot…

  5. oldbrew says:

    ‘a tipping point appears some way off yet’

    Many decades at least.

  6. Curious George says:

    Even with hefty subsidies, only the top 10% can afford an electric car. Electric cars are still waiting for their Henry Ford.

  7. oldbrew says:

    George: we’re still waiting for the original Henry Ford electric car.

    ‘The electric car is nothing new. Ninety years ago, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, two of America’s greatest innovators, tried building one and failed. Daniel Strohl of Hemmings Blog tells us how they killed the electric car.’


  8. p.g.sharrow says:

    The Electric Car will become successful when it becomes practical. As long as the laws of physics are not repealed it is a poor solution for personal transportation. Until then only those people with more money then brains will purchase them.

    There is no cure for stupid…pg

  9. oldbrew says:

    From catweazle’s link:
    Why the electric car has no (wireless) future

    The electric car is not a technology of the future, but from the past.

    The electric car is 170 years old. This may sound surprising, but e-cars predate automobiles with a combustion engine. They were driven out of the market in the beginning of the 20th century because petrol engines had significantly better mileage. One century later, the electric car still faces the same – fundamental – problems. Furthermore, the need for batteries makes them eco-unfriendly by nature. The only possible green future for electric cars is a wired future: hooked up to the overhead lines, like trolleybuses and bumper cars.


  10. steverichards1984 says:

    Until electric powered cars can be refilled in a similar time to conventional cars I can not see them making much inroads.

    However, if a rapid – standard – battery change system could be implemented, then it could encourage their use.
    The link above shows a container lifting device, ignore the container aspect, and the lift aspect! It has 4 rotating bolts that allow connection to a container in seconds.

    Imagine you drive into an ‘electric filling station’, looking like an automatic carwash tunnel.
    You stop at the correct spot, the 4 bolt contraption, under your car, locates your battery, engages with it, lowers it down, slides it out of the way, a fully changed one slides in place, 4 bolts rotate and you are ready to go.

    No human involvement at all.

    With standard sized batteries, leasing perhaps?

    Apps on our phone telling us of queues for batteries etc.

    All we need now is to quadruple our power station capacity……

  11. oldbrew says:

    Battery swapping has been tried with predictable results.

    Better Place filed for bankruptcy in Israel in May 2013. The company’s financial difficulties were caused by mismanagement, wasteful efforts to establish toeholds and run pilots in too many countries, the high investment required to develop the charging and swapping infrastructure, and a market penetration far lower than originally predicted by Shai Agassi. Less than 1,000 Fluence Z.E. cars were deployed in Israel and around 400 units in Denmark, after spending about US$850 million in private capital. [4][5][6] After two failed post-bankruptcy acquisition attempts,[7][8][9] the bankruptcy receivers sold off the remaining assets in November 2013 to Grngy for only $450,000.


  12. Dave Ward says:

    @ steverichards1984 – there are at least two problems with swapping batteries:

    1) There will never be (full) standardisation – it’s possible between different models from one manufacturer, but extremely unlikely across the dozens of different companies.

    2) If you fill your tank with petrol/diesel (or even LPG) you know that you are getting a finite amount of energy. Now consider having a battery pack swapped (particularly with an automated process) – you have no way of knowing how old it is, what state the cells are in, or if it will run down prematurely. Quite apart from the practical aspects of something which could weigh half a ton, and operate at several hundred volts DC. Add a few years of salt corrosion, and what chance is there of continued reliable operation?

  13. steverichards1984 says:

    Oh dear, practicalities getting in the way again….

    However, ISO containers fit lorries and ships, perhaps the initials ISO may be relevant.

    I suspect that an ISO car traction battery would contain some elements of self test, serial number, status of each cell etc and after an discharged drop off it would go through an automatic evaluation of cell life and repaired as necessary.

    Yes salt in the UK is a big problem. It makes you wonder how street furniture survives at all: traffic lights, BT junction boxes, Virgin media boxes, street lights, cable junctions and so on.

    Salt is a technology killer unless well designed for.

    As you say, money is the biggest issue and as there is no demand for electric vehicles currently it is pointless to develop any systems to support them.

  14. catweazle666 says:

    “Oh dear, practicalities getting in the way again….”
    Yes, they always do…
    Go and park up in a motorway service area and count the number of cars per hour using the fuel pumps and then calculate the storage space required for a battery for each car and the frequency with which the batteries would need to be removed and replaced in the appropriate stores. After that, calculate how much power is required to recharge the batteries.
    It just isn’t going to work purely due to the amount of storage space necessary for the batteries and the access to them.

  15. stewgreen says:

    Major problem is second hand value.
    Cos #1 Battery deteriorates
    #2 Tech moves on too fast.

    If it was really about reducing CO2 it would be CO2 intensive vehicles being replaced like buses and delivery vehicles, not low milage ones like Granny’s car.
    – – –
    Tip about Anti-Frackers : Yorkshire Post letters page FoE still in denial.
    Craig Bennett “we stand by our facts*”
    * Fact having a different definition in Greenblob world
    “ASA closed the case informally”
    (he claims in 2013 Cuadrilla had a formal ruling)
    Online the letter/PR has a staged photo.

  16. catweazle666 says:

    “it would be CO2 intensive vehicles being replaced like buses and delivery vehicles”

    Battery powered milk floats were very common once, and trolley buses were used in many cities such as Bradford, where they very suitable because of the hills. Surely it wouldn’t be hard to re-introduce them…

  17. stewgreen says:

    Yorkshire post has a long item today about how Leeds Council spent 10 years building plans to re-implent Trolleybuses and Trams but the scheme didn’t come off
    ” the Leeds trolleybus plan hit the buffers because the £250m scheme was botched from the outset.”