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A problem with electric cars . . .

XMan

Lifer
Oct 9, 1999
12,508
46
91
I will say that the Tesla actually looks pretty cool. Hopefully they will sell enough that they can get the price point down so that it's more affordable.

However . . . hypothetically speaking, where's the electricity going to come from to power a large number of electric cars? We're having power issues in the summer months already; what happens when say 25% of the cars on the road are pure electrics?

From a scientific standpoint the obvious solution is to a) beef up the transmission lines, which are long overdue to be upgraded, and b) build more power plants. The big question there is, how much of a fix is there from an environmental standpoint if we're just adding more coal-burners? Not an ideal fix, obviously. So solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear are the way to go.

Solar and hydroelectric have geographic limitations. Adding a bunch of new nuke plants would thus seem to be the way to go - but aren't the same folks who clamor for less usage of fossil fuels the same ones who protest new nuke plants?

Ideally speaking we'd do away with coal burning entirely. But I don't think that can be done without nuclear power. Thoughts?
 

Kwaipie

Golden Member
Nov 30, 2005
1,326
0
0
The US has 200 years of coal reserves and coal fired electricity isn't as bad as it used to be.
 

XMan

Lifer
Oct 9, 1999
12,508
46
91
Originally posted by: Kwaipie
The US has 200 years of coal reserves and coal fired electricity isn't as bad as it used to be.
We still need more power generation. If you're going to build a new one, wouldn't it be more logical to build a nuke plant instead of a coal-burner?
 

Rainsford

Lifer
Apr 25, 2001
17,520
0
0
Originally posted by: XMan
Originally posted by: Kwaipie
The US has 200 years of coal reserves and coal fired electricity isn't as bad as it used to be.
We still need more power generation. If you're going to build a new one, wouldn't it be more logical to build a nuke plant instead of a coal-burner?
It would, but as you pointed out, a lot of people don't seem to like nuclear power for one reason or another, for some reason clean coal plants are getting a lot more acceptance.

But you really answered your own question already. Sure, we'll have to build SOME fossil fueled plants, but in at least some areas, solar, hydro, wind and even nuclear are going to work just great. And isn't that fact alone worth it? You don't have to fix the problem entirely, but since having electric cars is simply an energy transfer mechanism, you'll have at least some cars "powered" by solar, hydro, wind and nuclear...which is a lot better than the zero cars like that on the road today.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
22,511
839
126
You are correct. Electric cars just move the energy production from your car's engine to the neighborhood power plant. And our power plants/lines cannot handle this necessary load. For the most part, electric cars are just a feel good bandaid on a much bigger problem.

However, it is much easier to control polution in a few select power plants than to have that polution scattered across the country. Say goodbye to emission controls on cars. Say goodbye to much of the smog in bigger cities.

Also, we have plenty of coal and it is a US product. Keep the money local, provide local jobs, and we are all better off (until the coal runs out of course).
 

ntdz

Diamond Member
Aug 5, 2004
6,989
0
0
It's not that hard to build the necessary infrastructure to increase power supply. And besides, most cars would be charging at night when people use less power anyway...
 

jpeyton

Moderator in SFF, Notebooks, Pre-Built/Barebones
Moderator
Aug 23, 2003
25,387
140
116
Where I live, we get a majority of our power from hydroelectric plants.

Electric engines operate at a much higher efficiency level than internal combustion engines, hybrid engines, flex fuel engines, or hydrogen powered engines.

Electric engines are simple to service; no air filters, oil filters, motor oil, spark plugs, radiator fluid, pipes, hoses, exhaust, etc.

Even if we supplied electric cars with electricty from coal-fired plants, the higher efficiency would still mean less pollution per miled traveled vs. other engines. As America gets more intelligent and starts building nuclear power plants, this would mean significantly less polluation than other engines.

Hydrogen powered cars are 15 years out, operate at a lower efficiency than pure electric cars, with current hydrogen storage devices we are limited to about 120 miles between fillups, they are ridiculously expensive (electric cars were in the mid-$20k during the late 1990s...hydrogen cars currently cost upwards of $750k), hydrogen cars have cold-weather issues, an extensive network of hydrogen stations are needed before sales of the cars can take off (electric cars could be charged at home and at work, much more conveniently).
 

BurnItDwn

Lifer
Oct 10, 1999
25,458
1,057
126
Just charge the cars overnight during non peak time.

At night, it's usually cooler out so there's less electricity being used by AC. Many buisnesses are vacant overnight, so there's a lot less power going to them as well. It will be a problem if everyone tries to charge their car in the middle of the day, but at night, there should be more than enough available capacity.
 

Strk

Lifer
Nov 23, 2003
10,199
4
76
I want to say that Tesla is offering a sort of solar pack with the Roadster. It's basically an attempt to make it so you aren't just using fossil fuels in another form.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
22,511
839
126
Originally posted by: ntdz
And besides, most cars would be charging at night when people use less power anyway...
Originally posted by: BurnItDwn
Just charge the cars overnight during non peak time.
How are we going to convince 300 million people to do that?

There will be a significant number of elderly/stay-at-home people who do morning errands and then come home and plug in the car. Remember high-school students too in the mid-afternoon coming home from school. And all the travelers across the country, because we know no one ever needs gas in the daytime when on a trip.
 

Stunt

Diamond Member
Jul 17, 2002
9,717
1
0
Originally posted by: dullard
Originally posted by: ntdz
And besides, most cars would be charging at night when people use less power anyway...
Originally posted by: BurnItDwn
Just charge the cars overnight during non peak time.
How are we going to convince 300 million people to do that?

There will be a significant number of elderly/stay-at-home people who do morning errands and then come home and plug in the car. Remember high-school students too in the mid-afternoon coming home from school. And all the travelers across the country, because we know no one ever needs gas in the daytime when on a trip.
Who is proposing 100% of the people?

The OP stated "what happens when say 25% of the cars on the road are pure electrics?". 25% on non peak hours (when cars are not in use), is not an unreasonable expectation of people. Agreed there are some limitations, but none that can't be eliminated with minor lifestyle changes.
 

Stunt

Diamond Member
Jul 17, 2002
9,717
1
0
I'd be curious the amount of energy is required to extract and pump raw oil to its final destination, then refine and distribute the gasoline. Obviously it's worth while, but that would create electrical capacity.
 

Genx87

Lifer
Apr 8, 2002
41,085
493
126
Originally posted by: XMan
Originally posted by: Kwaipie
The US has 200 years of coal reserves and coal fired electricity isn't as bad as it used to be.
We still need more power generation. If you're going to build a new one, wouldn't it be more logical to build a nuke plant instead of a coal-burner?
Evil nukes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

/sarcasm
 

jpeyton

Moderator in SFF, Notebooks, Pre-Built/Barebones
Moderator
Aug 23, 2003
25,387
140
116
Originally posted by: dullard
Originally posted by: ntdz
And besides, most cars would be charging at night when people use less power anyway...
Originally posted by: BurnItDwn
Just charge the cars overnight during non peak time.
How are we going to convince 300 million people to do that?

There will be a significant number of elderly/stay-at-home people who do morning errands and then come home and plug in the car. Remember high-school students too in the mid-afternoon coming home from school. And all the travelers across the country, because we know no one ever needs gas in the daytime when on a trip.
What are you talking about? NO NEW TECHNOLOGY has had a 100% adoption rate in the history of the US, it's not like everyone is going to trade in their car for an electric overnight. But even a small percentage on the road, from 10-25%, would make a significant impact in environmental quality.

By the time adoption rates increase, we will have had a gradual time curve to increase the capacity of our electrical infrastructure.

Plus, explain these away:

How many "elderly/stay-at-home people" drive over 120 miles to run errands? How many drive 60 miles to run errands? Chances are that most drive about 5-15 miles to run their errands, which leaves the batteries mostly charged.

Same with "students". How far do they drive to school? I would guess no more than 5-10 miles for a great majority of students in our country. That leaves the batteries near full charge, with no need to immediately recharge during the day.

Cross country travelers are not the target audience of an electric vehicle, nor do they make up the great majority of drivers in our country. Most driving in our country (in terms of percentage of miles driven) is done on a daily basis to/from work/school and running errands.

And the last time we had mass-produced electric vehicles, they used lead-acid and NiMH batteries. Using Li-Ion or more advanced battery technology means significantly greater range than the 120 miles of previous electric vehicles.
 

rstove02

Senior member
Apr 19, 2004
508
0
71
Fully electric cars are considerably more efficient then gas powered ones.

1) An electric engine is dramatically more efficient than a gasoline engine. Both engine types involve the transfer of energy from one from to another (chemical->electricity->kinetic for electric and chemical->kinetic+thermal for gasoline). There is energy lost as thermal energy in both types of engines (thermal energy = wasted energy), but it is substantially more lost thermal energy with gasoline.

2) Power plants are far more efficient in extracting energy from natural resources (i.e. coal). This is because electrical companies make a larger profit in maximizing the amount of energy they can extract from a natural resource. When they are more efficient, they have to buy less natural resources to extract energy from. They will keep pushing efficiency to a point where there is still an economic benefit for them to do so.

Power plants also produce less pollution per unit of energy generated than a gasoline engine.

3) Gasoline engines can only use gasoline which only comes from oil, where electric engines can use energy generated from multiple sources (oil, coal, nuclear, solar, hydro, geothermal, etc). Source flexability = lower price.


All of the above show that electric cars are more efficient in their use of an energy source and using a much cheaper energy source. One of the biggest problems is that electric cars still have a problem of not being economically viable to buy.

If you never come close to recouping the extra cost of the electic car and replacement batteries from the savings from the energy source, the general consumer will not buy it. Even if it breaks even, the general consumer will not buy it because the general consumer can not afford the higher upfront cost of the electric car. I can see electric cars becoming very popular if they every get near (less than 20% over) the same price of gasoline engine car.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
66,636
3,440
126
Solar on the garage roof will power the car. You can sell it daytime when the price is high and charge at night when it's cheaper. Capacitor batteries are also on the way that charge in the time it takes to fill a tank. Electric solar powered gas stations will be a comparative snap.
 

jpeyton

Moderator in SFF, Notebooks, Pre-Built/Barebones
Moderator
Aug 23, 2003
25,387
140
116
To expand on what Moonie said, the need for solar "panels" on rooftops is almost a thing of the past. Solar shingles are almost here; they look like regular roof shingles, can be laid over your existing roof in sections (or entirely), and are plug-and-play; just run wires from the roof into your home electrical grid and voila.
 

conehead433

Diamond Member
Dec 4, 2002
5,182
221
106
The biggest problem with solar power as well as some other alternatives is start up costs, especially if you're trying to power your house. I have seen some solar power strips being sold for the Toyota Prius and probably some other hybrids. I'd gladly drive a Prius fitted with a plug-in and solar panels.
 

Zedtom

Platinum Member
Nov 23, 2001
2,146
0
0
Perhaps this a question better suited for the highly technical forum, but why can't they develop more efficient storage batteries for cars? When they display the newest electric cars, it looks like they are crammed full of batteries.

I look at cell phones and laptops and the development of their batteries over the last ten years, and just wonder what the car battery researchers are doing.
 

Bitek

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2001
9,116
3,075
136
I'd love to drive an electric car if they really figured them out. Elec motors are really powerful and have max torque at initial rpm. If anyone is into RC's they know about brushless electric motors and just how powerful they are. I have a 1/10 scale 2wd truck that has a brushless motor and it does nearly 50 mph with insane torque. I've driven nitros (gas powered) cars and they don't have nearly the acceleration the brushless does. The fastest RC car in the world was electric, 130+ mph. :eek: Plus the motors are nearly maintainance free. Imagine a car with no oil changes, air filters, mufflers, sparkplugs, timing belts, tune ups etc etc etc you get with a gas engine.

Also, elect motors can run efficiently at a very high rpm. So if you have a 40000 rpm motor, you don't need but maybe a 2spd tranny (again less maint.) A brushless motor and a Powerglide would be a sweet car and would last 100K's of miles.

Battery technology is really changing right now. For the longest time it was only lead ot Nicd batts that were used, they they have low capacity and "memory" effects if not treated well. Now most cars use NIMH (Prius.) More capacity, but still relatively heavy per energy unit. Lithium batts are great and very energy dense, but 1.) Li-ions (cell phone batts) can't discharge at high rates 2.) Lithium polymer batts can explode if not handled carefully. Not something you want on the road.

Li Mn Batts are being developed which aren't volitile, and so are other Li tech batts that also solve some of the problems that are really holding back Li batts from going mainstream. These are literally coming out now. Some of these are known as Emoli cells which you find in Milwakee 24V power tools, and another company named A123 is coming out with lithium nano-tech that they eventually hope to move into elect/hybrid cars.

Seriously, over the last year/ 2 years the batt tech has really opened up. You see it in RCs and it will only be a bit of time until we start seeing them in more commercial apps.

Lastly, on the power production point. Power plants can create power much more efficiently than a gas engine which has to work under constantly changing engine speeds and environmental conditions. A power plant can be very highly optimized to burn FF very efficiently, so even if all FF burning converted to power plants from cars, the pollution generated per E unti would be far less. A gas engine is about compromises.
 

Bitek

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2001
9,116
3,075
136
Go to Swami-RC.com for just one of many vids of RC trucks/ cars. On the "Speed trials II" vid he breaks 60 mph in a 2wd 1/10 scale off-road truck with an electric brushless motor. Its crazy fast and does wheelies at 30+ mph.
 

piasabird

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
17,183
60
91
I dont know why people think nuclear power is such a good idea. Where is all of the spent nuclear fuel suppose to go? Do you want it in your back yard? Do you want it transported over your highways?

We could probably make plenty of power off of the Mississippi River. It is not a final soltion, because the level of rivers is not always guaranteed. However, water does not cause pollution. It costs more to build any kind of dams, but the savings in pollution could be worth it in the long run.

There are other ways to make power. People need to have imagination. A land fill has an almost unending supply of methane which is being burned off 24 hrs a day. That heat could be turned into steam for a giant power generator.
 

Rainsford

Lifer
Apr 25, 2001
17,520
0
0
Originally posted by: piasabird
I dont know why people think nuclear power is such a good idea. Where is all of the spent nuclear fuel suppose to go? Do you want it in your back yard? Do you want it transported over your highways?

...
I think it's a good idea because I believe that problem can be solved. Nuclear power is not a fundamentally flawed idea, it's a good idea with a few bugs to iron out :)
 

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