June 14, 2011

"Not only do electric vehicles produce just as much carbon in their overall cycle as internal-combustion engines..."

"... the need to replace the batteries actually makes the less green than current technology."


No thanks!

123 comments:

BigFire said...

Working AS DESIGN. Being green isn't about result. It's about feeling better.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

Show of hands: who didn't know this already?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)


No, UNPOSSIBLE I say….this is the work of Climate-Deniers!

Shouting Thomas said...

South Park always is right on the money.

The best bit in this episode is San Francisco liberals farting in wine glasses and then sniffing their own farts.

I lived in San Francisco, and it's true.

galdosiana said...

Awwww, wonder what this will do to the overwhelming Prius population here in Madison?

chickenlittle said...

Martin L. Shoemaker said...
Show of hands: who didn't know this already?

I knew it. Pollution displacement is especially meaningless when it comes to gaseous emissions.

Still, I want a performance electric car in my stable one day because I hear that they have incredible torque.

Michael K said...

Show of hands: who didn't know this already?

My hand is up. The foolishness of the entire green movement is a constant source of amusement and frustration. If only I could watch California from another reality, sort of like an ant farm.

Original Mike said...

"...actually makes them less green than current technology"

Good thing they're so impractical that nobody wants them.

chickenlittle said...

The best bit in this episode is San Francisco liberals farting in wine glasses and then sniffing their own farts.

Looking forward to the day when liberals are an endangered species. Maybe then it'll become cool again to be "hip"

Greg said...

And even worse? The rare materials that are needed for the batteries will put us in the same position that we are today with oil - countries (in this case, China) controlling material necessary for our economy.

MadisonMan said...

Is there a difference between Electric Car batteries and Hybrid Car batteries? (As far as how often they are replaced, that is).

We've had our hybrid for 115K miles/8 years, and haven't replaced any battery (knock knock knock knock on wood).

I've just jinxed things, I know.

Shouting Thomas said...

So, in the past week we've discovered that (1) fossil fuels aren't running out, and (2) green tech is a scam.

Well, I knew that before last week.

So, what do we do now?

Drill, baby, drill?

Sarah Palin is such an idiot!

Coketown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crack Emcee said...

And the president is forcing us to go in that direction? Say it ain't so,...

I love how you keep documenting how wrong your vote was, without admitting how wrong your vote was. You're not a conservative yet.

Titus said...

I love those "thanks" and I love that San Francisco episode.

Coketown said...

Holy cow! I glanced outside and there are Prii lined up around the block, horns a-blazin', fists a-shakin', as the mad mob of eco-zealots races to trade in their filthy hybrids for eco-friendly, you know, anything else.

No, not really. If the left can't admit that communism doesn't work, be damned if they'll admit their hybrids are actually bad for the environment.

chickenlittle said...

The rare materials that are needed for the batteries will put us in the same position that we are today with oil - countries (in this case, China) controlling material necessary for our economy.

Which material? Lithium? nickel? other?
____________
wv = "tritio" A hydra-generating nucleus with an extra Newtron.

EDH said...

Does this mean we can now issue "Awareness Citations" to the drivers of electric-powered cars?

Not to say research into electric technology, doesn't show promise on a lot of fronts.

But this rush to full commercialization of existing technology through subsidization seems corrupt to me.

Dark Eden said...

Doesn't the extra demand for electricity also raise prices for everyone, and of course also cause more dirty coal to be burnt to generate all that extra electricity.

Shouting Thomas said...

We can't possibly elect Sarah Palin president. That would be such a disaster because she's so stupid.

We must re-elect President Obama, who's dumped billions of dollars in subsidies into the green tech scams of his campaign contributors.

Because he's so smart.

What a disaster it would be if we elected that idiot, Palin.

Original Mike said...

"Is there a difference between Electric Car batteries and Hybrid Car batteries? (As far as how often they are replaced, that is)."

Good question. Don't know.

rdkraus said...

This will not prevent the Zero from rewarding his union buddies at GM with a super duper large size order for electric cars for the gov't.

Yay !

Scott M said...

The Smug episode of SP stands as an excellent example of their right-of-center genius.

roesch-voltaire said...

The article seems to misquote the study:The report from LowCVP, released last week found that electric cars had slightly higher manufacturing-related CO2 emissions than combustion counterparts but thanks to lower CO2 emissions in use, overall they still showed low whole lifecycle emissions, even if their lead was found to be not much. Right not much improvement yet, but given the rapid developments the price of batteries will be ten times cheaper than now, and will last longer. Until then I will continue to drive my Focus which gets up to 40mpg because it is a better investment.

Scott M said...

The best bit in this episode is San Francisco liberals farting in wine glasses and then sniffing their own farts.

That was hysterical. Combine that with the SF libs talking about their kids "he's just a little bit smarter than the other kids in his class", ie, not wanting to admit anyone is better or worse, but not being able to overcome parental pride at true merit.

Shouting Thomas said...

Here you have the brilliance of our resident commie genius, roesch-voltaire.

This is the argument for fed subsidies for the Chevy Volt, a car that costs $80,000 to produce so that yuppie idealists can buy it for $40,000!

You are truly a genius, roesch-voltaire. I salute you!

Scott M said...

Right not much improvement yet, but given the rapid developments the price of batteries will be ten times cheaper than now, and will last longer.

I have ten bucks that says we won't be using batteries for electric cars within five years and the battery construction issue, charging, etc, will all be in dino territory.

Original Mike said...

"...but given the rapid developments the price of batteries will be ten times cheaper than now, and will last longer."

Care to back that claim up with some data?

Sofa King said...

Show of hands: who didn't know this already?


It's fairly obvious from the fact that they COST MORE!!

Greg said...

From Hotair:

Lithium also poses another blow to the argument for the electric car — its domestic availability. Eighty-five percent of the known reserves are inBolivia, Chile, and China, and lithium is not the only element needed for large-scale production of car battery systems. Large flake graphite is also needed, and China controls 80 percent of the market, along with other “rare earth” elements. Far from ending our dependence on foreign resources, we will merely exchange our dependence from the Middle East to China, which is not exactly an encouraging thought for our future.

Sofa King said...

Right not much improvement yet, but given the rapid developments the price of batteries will be ten times cheaper than now, and will last longer.

Actually battery development has been agonizingly slow; it only seems more rapid because our electronics have gotten rapidly more efficient in watts/FLOP.

Lamar63 said...

@ChickenLittle

The most common Rare Earth Materials used for batteries are Neodymium and Lanthanium. They are found mostly in China. The Chinese mines are an environmental disaster.

PatCA said...

Wait...electricity doesn't come from heaven?

Original Mike said...

@Sofa King: Yeah, it was my understanding that there is not a lot of optimism, at the current time, for a big increase in battery performance.

Original Mike said...

Iowa, Pat. Iowa.

Scott M said...

@Sofa King: Yeah, it was my understanding that there is not a lot of optimism, at the current time, for a big increase in battery performance.

There was a development very recently about a gel someone's come up with that can hold a charge, ie, the battery isn't necessary. You would fuel up with charged gel just like you fuel up gas now. No batteries, no long charge times.

Original Mike said...

Regarding rare earth materials; they aren't rare. But mining them has a big enviromental impact. Thus, everyone's been willing to buy them from the Chinese.

traditionalguy said...

The US Government spends 4 billion dollars a year on faked research/propaganda to swing the United States into the false belief that fossil carbon fuels are bad. "Unexpectedly" it has all been the BIG LIE from today's fascists.

chickenlittle said...

Regarding rare earth materials; they aren't rare. But mining them has a big enviromental impact. Thus, everyone's been willing to buy them from the Chinese.

Ditto with Bolivian lithium. These minerals are found other places.

Also despite the initial surge to fill the marketplace, these metals are not consumed and can be recycled.

chickenlittle said...

But mining them has a big enviromental impact.

So does coal, with which we are most abundantly blessed.

Coketown said...

Is there a difference between Electric Car batteries and Hybrid Car batteries? (As far as how often they are replaced, that is).

We've had our hybrid for 115K miles/8 years, and haven't replaced any battery (knock knock knock knock on wood).


Chemically they're the same (nickel-metal hydride, though some companies are starting to move to lithium-ion. If your car is 8 years old it's using nickel), but probably an electric car's battery would deplete sooner than a hybrid's. Nickel-metal batteries have a standard life cycle of ~1000 charges, meaning you can deplete the battery ~1,000 times before its maximum charge starts to diminish. Since hybrids switch to gas mode their batteries aren't used as heavily as electrics.

If your car is 8 years/115k miles old, odds are the battery isn't charging anywhere near maximum capacity and you're in gas-mode far more often than when the car was newer. Have you noticed any difference in the car's behavior as far as how often and under what conditions it switches between electric and gas modes?

Milwaukee said...

The Chinese mines are a disaster? Well those pretty compact fluorescent light bulbs come from China too. Want to bet they have mercury pollution from that production? And we have mercury pollution from their disposal?

Disposing of used car batteries is already a pain. For hybrid and electric cars it will be more so.

Seeing Red said...

awwww foo - my previous word was ablog....& the post went POOF!



Isn't it amazing this blast furnace we sit on provides everything we need?



ovityl

Sofa King said...

There was a development very recently about a gel someone's come up with that can hold a charge, ie, the battery isn't necessary.

There's all kind of interesting proposals, almost none of which see the light of commercial development due to some combination of (a) cost, (b) practicality, or (c) regulation. I mean, a gel energy storage. Okay, great. Does it work at 40 degrees below? How about 110 above? Does it work in high humidity? Extreme dryness? Does it work despite dust, smoke, or salt? Can it be accurately gauged? How heavy is it? How far will it carry a vehicle on a fill up? Is it not extremely toxic? Will the EPA allow it? What about insurance companies? Is it reasonably explosion-proof? What happens in a collision? Can it be transported by truck? What about by pipe? And of course, is it not too expensive?

Seeing Red said...

heck how do u dispose of it?

Ohhh YUCCA MOUNTAIN!


Talk about redacted FOIA requests.

MadisonMan said...

Have you noticed any difference in the car's behavior as far as how often and under what conditions it switches between electric and gas modes?

If there are any differences, I haven't noticed them. I'll have to start paying attention.

The Drill SGT said...

factor in the cost ($, materials, energy, labor) of an entirely new energy delivery infrastructure:
- high voltage chargers in homes,
- megawatt chargers enroute
- public chargers at destinations
- additional electric grid
- etc

you are talking about an investment of trillions (but hehe, that's the benefit :), to get no discernable benefit except exchanging coal for oil.

now, don't talk about solar or wind until you factor in the fact that we would need to build a new transmission grid, solve the eniro impact issues, invent a mass electric storage technology that doesnt exist, and keep a comparable set of coal fired plants on standby for cloudy windless days.

The Drill SGT said...

PatCA said...
Wait...electricity doesn't come from heaven?


Califonia energy comes from those nasty folks in Arizona

there are laws against creating any energy in California. It all pollutes...

Original Mike said...

"Isn't it amazing this blast furnace we sit on provides everything we need?"

What's in short supply is the willingness to problem solve.

Original Mike said...

"Califonia energy comes from those nasty folks in Arizona"

Heh.

The Drill SGT said...

PS,

having failed to get Cap and Trade through, the EPA is busy putting coal power plants out of business just like the Boss promised before the election...

Browndog said...

The Green movement is a subsidiary of the Communist/Marxist/Socialist movement.

Some people are shocked -[[SHOCKED!!]] I tell you, that it's based on a lie.

....pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones..

Seeing Red said...

AZ should go all Putin on Kalifornia's ass.

Need to conserve it.

bagoh20 said...

Imagine if there was never a thing called petroleum. That we had to struggle with concentrating the highly dispersed and diluted energy sources we now desire like solar and wind. There was never enough, and it was always expensive. Some locations without it, just had to suffer or pay very high costs of transmission.

Then oil is discovered: it's very transportable, cheap and found in abundance in a wide variety of locations and you pump it out of the ground by the boatload leaving no trace of where you harvested it. It virtually comes from nowhere as far as we surface dwellers can tell. It would be considered a mankind-saving miracle.

I suspect if that happened in that order, that wind turbines and solar panels would be torn down and rusting away like horse drawn equipment in a ghost town.

The grass is not always greener is the lesson man never learns.

Original Mike said...

"AZ should go all Putin on Kalifornia's ass."

:-)

Original Mike said...

@bagoh20: I'm sure you're right. Time and again we see illogical positions from the greens. The unifying thread is that they are against whatever it is we are doing now.

Ankur said...

Althouse, that hotair link is based on a news story which made some major errors in its editing.

Here is the the LowCVP report they are referring to in the Australian's news report. Read the report for yourself and decide whether what hotair and what the australian are saying is correct:

http://www.lowcvp.org.uk/assets/reports/RD11_124801_4%20-%20LowCVP%20-%20Life%20Cycle%20CO2%20Measure%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf

The Drill SGT said...

bagoh20 said...
Imagine if there was never a thing called petroleum. That we had to struggle with concentrating the highly dispersed and diluted energy sources we now desire like solar and wind.


well for one thing, if you've seen the pictures and stats from NYC around 1900, we'd be hip deep in horse shit, the EPA would be in the business of mandating horse diapers :)

and the AGW folks would be whining about methane.

Ankur said...

Which is to say: there are certainly other very legitimate reasons to dislike electric cars, but this isn't one of them.

Michael said...

RV: "Right not much improvement yet, but given the rapid developments the price of batteries will be ten times cheaper than now, and will last longer."

This is pretty much what I thought ten years ago when I invested, heavily, in Ballard Power. So did Mercedes at the same time. We were wrong.

Ankur said...

And the reason I pasted the link to the above report is: If you are writing a blog post which is ultimately sourced to that report, it is important to be factual about it.

Let us not let confirmation bias affect our reading of the facts. That does nothing but pollute the debate and make your case weaker.

edutcher said...

So, I guess the only reason Little Zero is still pursuing this nonsense is that Dr Evil will take an even bigger bath on this than on carbon offsets once Climategate came out.

Shouting Thomas said...

So, in the past week we've discovered that (1) fossil fuels aren't running out, and (2) green tech is a scam.

Well, I knew that before last week.


The further along we go, I'm really starting to get into that old line from Mexico,

Companeros of the plow,
Tired and starved and dirty,
There's but one road to travel now,
So grab your 30-30
.

bagoh20 said...

Most Green is a fraud. This is a fact that will never be accepted by the suckers or the suckees, so the sucking will continue.

Snake oil transformed into homeopathy and grew exponentially. As the bullshit gets cleaned up by facts, the bulls gotta go somewhere and for their enrichment there is sucker born everyday.

Maguro said...

The idea that hybrids impact the environment more than a comparable gas-powered car makes perfect sense when you consider that the hybrid is a lot more expensive, and price is the best proxy we have for "environmental resources consumed".

All very common-sense stuff.

MadisonMan said...

You can make an argument for electric/hybrid vehicles being beneficial in some locations. For example, if you produce Electricity outside of the LA Basin, and have most vehicles there be electric, you will mitigate the local pollution. If your energy generation is in a more ventilated location than a seaside enclosed basin under a subtropical high, you've reduced the concentration of pollutants in LA at no real expense -- concentration-wise -- to elsewhere.

My air pollution meteorology professor always said "The solution to pollution is dilution". He had a charming German accent. The underlying (IMO valid) assumption is that you will always have pollution. Not all people want to hear that.

roesch-voltaire said...

As I said for now I chose the Ford Focus over the hybrid as a better investment, bought the stock too, but I have faith in what fellow engineers are working on:
Battery technology under development at MIT could someday make recharging batteries as quick and easy as a trip to the gas station.

Known as semi-solid flow cells, the new battery design turns the chemistry of traditional lithium-ion batteries into quicksand-like tiny particles. The resultant slime — which researchers jokingly call “Cambridge crude” — has an extremely high energy density and is cheaper to manufacture than the innards of a traditional lithium-ion battery. The researchers claim battery cost and size could be cut in half as a result

Sofa King said...

For example, if you produce Electricity outside of the LA Basin, and have most vehicles there be electric, you will mitigate the local pollution.

Not necessarily. Thanks to modern catalytic converters, the exhaust that comes out of an ULEV is often cleaner than the air that went into it. Unless you are talking about CO2 as a pollutant, but in that case "local pollution" is a complete non-issue.

Sofa King said...

has an extremely high energy density

How high? Do you have a figure? Why is it that all the news articles include no figures whatsoever? That does not inspire confidence.

Old Dad said...

11 years ago, I was shopping for a car for my then college aged daughter. We looked at Honda hybrids, and I was interested in the great mileage (50 ish). To his credit, the salesman explained the battery replacement cost--if memory serves, around $6k, and Honda even had a little cost calculator gadget to factor in fuel savings versus battery replacement cost. The hybrid won, but not by much--not enough to convince me to strap a kid with a future $6k bill. I got her a Civic instead, which she still drives.

Phil 3:14 said...

Awwww, wonder what this will do to the overwhelming Prius population here in Madison?

I don't live in Madison but I bought my Prius for the mileage. I'm happy.

Ankur said...

I don't think electric vehicles will ever become the norm based on guilt. They will only become the norm if the cost and cost of owership is less - WITHOUT counting government subsidies. Right now, that is not the case. Which is why, recently when I had to buy a car, I went for a regular internal combustion engine than a hybrid.

However, battery and fuel cell technologies are evolving FAR more rapidly than internal combustion engines. Its just a matter of time before internal combustion for personal transportation becomes as obsolete as typewriters became when computers got cheaper.

Almost Ali said...

I don't live in Madison but I bought my Prius for the mileage. I'm happy.

During what year or at which mile-marker do you expect to reach the breakeven point?

chuckR said...

Its my understanding that Prius and other hybrid batteries operate in a sweet zone of charge state, with a comfortable buffer against deep discharge. With gas providing a buffer against range anxiety, hybrid batteries should be protected from the worst depredations of their owners - fast charging and deep discharge.

Chevy Volt - the car with a $10000 'gas tank' that holds the charge energy equivalent of a couple of gallons of gas. Would you pay $10K for such a gas tank? Nissan Leaf - let me know when you have some ringing endorsements from folks in, say, Chicago, in January. Range or comfort, pick one or prove you don't have to.

Overall, though, I like how hybrids are developing. You can stick a compact electric drive in the ICE drive train, bulk up the typical car battery some more and be able to accomplish few mile long commutes all electric. But in typical commuting, you probably get more benefit from using that electric motor in gas engine automatic start/stop mode. Not cost competitive yet, but then people pay $2K for a car nav system that isn't cost competitive with a $100 Tom-Tom.

roesch-voltaire said...

Sofa you can read the details of this claim--In a new system we call a semi-solid flow cell (SSFC, Figure1), the inherent advantages of a flow architecture are retained while dramatically increasing energy density by using suspensions of energy-dense active materials in a liquid electrolyte.11 This approach to flowable electrodes can produce more than 10 times the charge storage density of typical flow-battery solutions, due to the much greater energy density inherent to solid-storage compounds-- at this link:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aenm.201100152/full

My point is not to make assumptions based on present technology as the future may surprise us-- and the future will be electric.

Seeing Red said...

concentrating the highly dispersed and diluted energy sources we now desire like solar and wind


Ummm Windmills?

Blubber


Hasn't man always used some type of oil?

chickenlittle said...

madisonman wrote: The solution to pollution is dilution

Funny, it even rhymes in German:
Die Lösung für Verschmutzung ist Verdünnung

__________
wv = "barmist" (1) n. One who leavens bread, beer, meade and other fermented beverages. (2) n. The haze or fog permeating a drinking establishment. Now obsolete due to late 20th cent. anti-smoking laws.

Sofa King said...

However, battery and fuel cell technologies are evolving FAR more rapidly than internal combustion engines.

I wouldn't be so certain of that! You are, I think, simultaneously overestimating the progress in batteries and fuel cells and underestimating advances in combustion engine technology.

chickenlittle said...

Ankur said...
I don't think electric vehicles will ever become the norm based on guilt.

Have you seen the hype around the new Toyota "Assuage" coming out in in 2012?

bagoh20 said...

The study shows that producing fully electric cars produces about twice the emissions as conventional ones, but that in use the electric "emits far less, resulting in a total badness that is not that far divergent, with conventional being a little worse. Assuming both are driven long enough without being demolished for some reason. If they are taken out of service early, then the conventional is better. If they are driven a lot, then the electric gets better.

Those are the facts gleaned from a study commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership which makes me think the whole truth is probably worse for electrics.

Not much there really except that smugness is really inappropriate.

Of course technological advancement will improve BOTH technologies in the coming year, but the government will as always waste much of the investment and slow that progress down.

Do you really think the likes of Biden, Obama, and Harry Reid are type of people who can decide the future direction of this technology better than the market with it's millions of minds striving for the best answers. Or should they use their minds to search for the endlessly moving routes to subsidy and grant money. How's that ethanol subsidy working?

MadisonMan said...

During what year or at which mile-marker do you expect to reach the breakeven point?

I've probably reached mine. There are more alternatives for energy efficiency nowadays though than there were when we bought in '03.

Sofa King said...

My point is not to make assumptions based on present technology as the future may surprise us--

That applies in reverse, too, you know. Digital electronics have spoiled everyone and it's apparently common now to assume that every technology will double in effectiveness and halve in cost every 18 months. But that's in invalid assumption outside that particular domain.

Ankur said...

Sofa King, you might be wright. I am basing my opinion (I don't have facts to back it up, because really, how do you measure speed of technological evolution?) on conversations with friends and engineers on both sides of the automotive engineering aisle.

From what I understand, ICE's main improvements have come in injection technologies, catalytic conversions, and other ancillary functions. The core principles of ICEs have remained unchanged for 50-60 years - it smacks of an industry rapidly in need of disruptive technologies. Whether advances in fuel cells or electric powered drive trains are those disruptions or not, I couldn't say.

But if they are, as a lot of engineers seem to think they will be, then we should welcome it for the same reasons we welcomed cars when they became more cost effective than horse drawn carriages.

Ankur said...

hah..I meant: you might be RIGHT

holdfast said...

Anyone who's been to Sudbury, Ontario knows that Nickel is just f'n filthy.

If I had to commute daily (or didn't have kids and dogs to haul around) I'd get a VW Turbo Diesel - great mileage on proven tech.

The US actually has plenty of "rare earth" minerals, we're just too lazy or squeamish to dig them up. That will change when President Perry and VP Palin abolish the EPA.

Sofa King said...

But if they are, as a lot of engineers seem to think they will be, then we should welcome it for the same reasons we welcomed cars when they became more cost effective than horse drawn carriages.


No doubt about that. I am always troubled, though, when public policy is formulated based on assumptions about what technologies are "right around the corner." For example, a lot of public policy surrounding electric vehicles seems to be based on an assumption that, with a just a little bit of competitive mass market R&D, costs will go way down and performance will go way up. That's not a valid assumption.

Original Mike said...

"has an extremely high energy density"

So does a bomb.

AST said...

That was my first question when the idea first came up! Current car batteries are hazardous waste and most landfills won't take them.

Also fuel cells leave pollution as well, unless you run them on pure hydrogen which doesn't exist in nature on the earth. You have to manufacture it. Nobody ever really accounts for everything in their alternate power arguments. Wind farms require power transmission lines and service roads. Solar power takes up a lot of surface area that we supposedly want as wilderness. And so on.

My grandson wanted to play a game on the PBS Kids website and it asked which was greener, to go to town in a car, a bus or by horse. And the "correct" answer was by horse. Apparently, the writer hadn't spent much time around horses.

The Drill SGT said...

Original Mike said...
So does a bomb.


Remind Roger J and I to tell about cooking dinner using plastic explosive (C4).

Browndog said...

MadisonMan said...

Is there a difference between Electric Car batteries and Hybrid Car batteries? (As far as how often they are replaced, that is).

We've had our hybrid for 115K miles/8 years, and haven't replaced any battery (knock knock knock knock on wood).

I've just jinxed things, I know.


good call

Original Mike said...

I believe that hybrids make some sense, though I'd be surprised if they were dramatically better than the ICE on the pollution scale, and wouldn't be surprised if they were worse.

All electric on the other hand, are just plain stupid (except for niche uses like an urban fleet car). Especially so if you live in a cold climate.

The Drill SGT said...

AST said...Wind farms require power transmission lines and service roads. Solar power takes up a lot of surface area that we supposedly want as wilderness. And so on.

Speaking of battery technology, besides being just plain uneconomical, Solar and wind are fairly useless except at the extreme margin until we invent a truly industrial strength energy storage system. And no, the answer isn't flywheels.

Original Mike said...

@AST: What's it going to be like when there are hundreds of millions of old car batteries?

Original Mike said...

"Remind Roger J and I to tell about cooking dinner using plastic explosive (C4)."

Did you live to tell about it?

G Joubert said...

Despite ongoing and ubiquitous claims about the newest and latest breakthrough, battery technology has an established history of evolving at glacial speeds. When there's a laptop battery that can last days instead of hours you'll know there's been at least a semi-breakthrough, and when a charge can last weeks, then we'll be be cooking with gas.

Ankur said...

Sofa king:

Well, yes.

But lets take the example of a pharmaceutical company. Out of every 10 drugs they trial, only 1 ends up in market. So, they have spent money on 9 drugs thinking they are good possibilities, but they ended up being dead ends.

If you grant the role of government as a research funder (a big if), then it is not surprising that grants and funds go towards some techhnologies that succeed and some that don't.

Now, the big if above is..should government play any role in research at all? We can debate that point, and there are good arguments on both sides of the coin. But we can't disagree that government involvement in research has accelerated the development of a lot of things: the internet, nuclear weaponry and energy, the moon landing, the hubble telescope etc. Some of that government initiated research ended up being economic winners (the internet), others didn't (hubble - but it was a RESEARCH winner even if it didnt make us any money).

Note that I am making a distinction between RESEARCH funding versus tax subsidies designed to manipulate consumer behavior.

Bruce Hayden said...

However, battery and fuel cell technologies are evolving FAR more rapidly than internal combustion engines. Its just a matter of time before internal combustion for personal transportation becomes as obsolete as typewriters became when computers got cheaper.

The reason for this is that internal combustion engines have been refined for over a century now, and most of the work on batteries and electric vehicles is much more recent. So, yes, they are a lot cruder in comparison, and have a lot more room for improvement.

That said, you are ultimately going to run up against the physical limitations of the technology. Electric batteries just will not have the energy density of gasoline, and copper just cannot transfer as much energy over a period of time as can gasoline flowing from a fuel pump, by several times.

What you need to do is compare the amount of energy in, say, a pound of gasoline, compared to a pound of battery. And, batteries are still several times as inefficient. And, even if taken to their theoretical limits, gasoline will still have a several times advantage in this regard.

Thus, the physics are against ever being able to get as much electric energy moved to your vehicle in a half an hour, maybe, as you can pump in less than 10 minutes with gasoline. Copper can only move a certain amount of charge over a given period of time (and even then, heat is a problem). This means that it is likely that electric vehicles are not going to replace gasoline ones except where they can be plugged in over night, and where range is not really an issue.

Then there is the inherent range problem. We are already in the territory in terms of vehicle range, where the cost of additional range is almost exponential, since a larger and larger percent of the weight of the vehicle is in the batteries.

And that doesn't even consider the problems of losing the power grid, as happened due to flooding in parts of this country recently, or that vehicle range is going to be significantly reduced in colder climes.

Michael said...

G Joubert nails it relative to the reality of battery storage progress versus the romantic vision of its rapid evolution. This is not a question of Obama coming up with a good idea that scientists are looking into, this is a problem that has been addressed in labs for over twenty years with remarkably little advancement. The laptop battery example is spot on.

Sofa King said...

Note that I am making a distinction between RESEARCH funding versus tax subsidies designed to manipulate consumer behavior.


I know. I am talking more about the latter than the former.

Ankur said...

Bruce Hayden, the energy per pound argument is a good one - but ONLY in terms of abstractions.

In real terms, the only energy density that matters is Joules per dollar, and the speed of that energy extraction, which would be watts per dollar.

Joules per pound will always be higher for hydrocarbons than copper. However, Jules per pound is HIGHEST (among non nuclear energy sources) for pure hydrogen. Why don't we use it? because extraction price for hydrogen is high. Joules per dollar becomes high in the case of hydrogen.

So - batteries don't need to beat the joules per pound mark if they can beat the joules per dollar mark.

However, there is an additional squiggle. In a car, joules per dollar is important, but the weight also has to be kept down. If the battery weighs too much, acceleration will naturally be lower. So, ultimately, the metric that matters is: meters per second squared per dollar, and meters per second per dollar. Batteries are not that far from achieving the tipping point in those metrics - and they are still, as you say, primitive in their lifecycle.

Original Mike said...

Forget acceleration. 100 mile range (when the temerature is 60-deg) followed by an 8-hour charge ain't gonna cut it.

Ankur said...

Which is why I have more hope for hydrogen fuel cells.

Electrics will probably remain a niche in densely populated warm areas where it makes sense - LA, SF Bay, Miami, Houston, San Antonio,etc. And frankly, given the air quality in the LA basin, that wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

Michael said...

Ankur: Load up on Ballard Power then. They have been at it for twenty years or more. Cheap stock price. Good scientists. Etc. good luck.

BJM said...

D'Oh!

Paul Brinkley said...

I'll be another guinea pig, although we won't know that much for a while. I bought a 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid last month. Cars.com claims 36 highway, 41 city. After about 1000 miles, the car's console reports between 33 and 34 mpg. (I'm highly skeptical of that number to the point of asking my dealer about it, though, since it was reporting something like 12 for the first 50 miles.)

For me, the decision was largely economical. I compared stickers between hybrid and non, and came out with about $6000 more in return for about 10mpg (I simply averaged the hwy and city mpgs). A little math from here suggests that if gas were a steady $4 per gallon, the hybrid would pay for itself after 30k miles of driving. If it dropped immediately to $2/gallon, it'd take 60k miles. I will very easily drive this car that far, barring an accident.

In fact, I will likely drive the car until the battery requires a replacement, which is where it gets interesting. There's not enough data on battery replacement cost, since there aren't enough hybrids that have needed it, and battery technology is still maturing. It's also possible that I would trade in the Fusion by then, making it moot (unless the trade-in price drops due to battery uncertainty). Either way, that's years in the future. If I'm still reading althou.se, I'll try to report here in a cafe or something. I'm a fan of hybrid technology only to the extent that I like new tech, and the ability to recover energy from stopping is interesting; I won't take it personally if I have to report that the tech proved to be suboptimal.

For now, though, I'm pretty happy with the car.

Ankur said...

Michael, Ballard's approach has always been to visualize a hydrogen pipeline network like we have for hydrocarbons - where central production is made via electrolysis in areas of ample water supply. That has been shown to be a losing proposition, because 'ample water supply' is nonexistent today, and what is available is used for drinking water and for farm irrigation.

That is also why ballard exited from the automotive space a few years ago.

There are a few research teams in UCLA, Stanford and UT-Austin that believe that the future of energy production is distributed generation - closer to the point of consumption. Kind of like a nested networked (similar to the architecture of the internet), which is much more failure resistant than the current grid model. These teams are trying to adapt that concept into hydrogen production as well - at home hydrogent generation driven by your homes solar installation - not terribly efficient from an energy conversion percentage point of view, but perhaps, eventually, efficient enough from a Joules per Dollar point of view.

Whether they succeed or not remains to be seen. In any case, they are a long away away from market.

Paul Brinkley said...

Ankur: and of course, there's the scheme to build acres of solar cells in the Sahara. Which I must admit would be a good use for that land (what else would you use it for?). Interesting stuff, but as a capitalist, I'd much prefer not to spend someone else's money to build it. :-)

Ankur said...

The other advantage of a distributed generation network - aside from the inherent failure resistance - is much lower transmission costs. We lose a LOT of produced electricity every year in heating the copper atoms it passes through.

Ankur said...

Oh and I almost forgot! There is some work going to capture the steam produced in the steam turbines of nuclear reactors...and electrolyzing that using the same electricity produced by the nuclear power station.

I know, I know - we don't like nuclear power stations in our backyard, but despite fukushima, lets not pretend that nuclear energy isn't an important part of the future of energy policy.

Peter said...

If there are ever a lot of electric cars sold, there'd be a strong argument for building lots of new nuclear power plants.

Because, if you want low-cost baseload electricity, the choice is between nuclear and coal.

The irony is that the 'greens' who promote electric cars are often the most vehement opponents of nuclear power.

But, solar power, absent some storage mechanism, just isn't going to work so well for charging your car overnight. Unless you have a way to import that solar power from someplace 12 timezones away.

Bruce Hayden said...

In real terms, the only energy density that matters is Joules per dollar, and the speed of that energy extraction, which would be watts per dollar.

Not really. Doubling the range of a traditional car requires the doubling the size of the gas tank. But the gas carried by cars is a small fraction of the weight of the vehicle. So, the weight of the vehicle with the added fuel is not much greater than that without the added fuel.

But in battery powered vehicles, the weight of the batteries is a significant portion of the entire weight of the entire vehicle, and that isn't going to change noticeably due to the energy density problem. When you double the range, you need to more than double the amount of batteries required, because you have to transport not just the people, but also the batteries, including all the additional batteries required. So, if half the original weight were in batteries, when you double the range, you may see 3/4 of the weight now in batteries.

Yes, hydrogen would be even more efficient that petroleum based fuels. Obviously, there are serious explosion problems with hydrogen, which would have to be addressed at the storage, pump, and vehicle levels.

But the returns would not be that great. The weight of a full tank of gas, compared to an average vehicle, as contrasted with a similar tank of hydrogen, is just not that different. In either case, they are a relatively small percentage of the entire fueled vehicle (as contrasted with electrical vehicles that have more than a de minimis range).

Original Mike said...

"Which is why I have more hope for hydrogen fuel cells."

Which is fine, and maybe 50 years from now hydrogen will have "won". But it's nutszoid to think that any of these technologies are "just around the corner" (no matter what RVs friends at MIT have told him). They are not. (I exempt hybrids from this conclusion. Hybrids are just gasoline cars which have a nifty energy-recovery system.)

Peter said...

"However, Jules per pound is HIGHEST (among non nuclear energy sources) for pure hydrogen."

The concept of a hydrogen-based energy economy is clever, but there are many troublesome implementation details (and we know where the devil lives).

Today, practically all commercially available hydrogen is obtained from natural gas- the CH4 is processed with water and steam to produce C)2 and H2.

Which is fine if you really need hydrogen. But if you just need fuel, why not just use the natural gas?

Transporting hydrogen isn't so easy either. The ultimate solution may be pipelines, but in the short term transportation will be by truck.

Which is a problem due to hydrogen's very low density. Using a 20,000 pound truck to transport a few hundred pounds of compressed hydrogen just isn't very efficient. Liquid hydrogen is more dense, but, there's energy lost in liquifying it, and more losses in keeping it refrigerated.

Pipelines built for natural gas are not going to work for hydrogen, as the small molecular size of H2 makes it tend to leak out of just about anything. Presumably you'd have to put mercaptan or something in it so people would detect the smell from a leak. And even so, a hydrogen flame is dangerous just because it's practically invisible.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let's put my points in perspective. A gallon of gasoline weighs approximately 6 pounds. At 20 miles a gallon, that means that a hundred mile range of gasoline weighs approximately 30 pounds. A 200 mile range would weigh 60 pounds, etc. Curb weight of my Chevy Tahoe is approximately 4,500 pounds (I am sure that my GMC 2500 Suburban is a bit more). 30 divides into 4,500 150 times. So, maybe 1/150th of the weight of the loaded vehicle is the fuel for maybe 100 miles of range. Doubling that range means that another 1/150th is required, which results in 1/75th of the weight being used for a 200 mile range.

Contrast this with a Chevy Volt, that has a 435 lb battery for a 35 mile range with a 3,781 lb weight, which is a ration of about 1/8.6. So, if you triple that, you end up with a ratio of approximately 1/3. That means that a Chevy Volt, with a 100 mile battery range would have maybe 1/3 of its weight in batteries.

Now, of course, my Tahoe has a bit more room than the Volt, and most of us would rather be in the Tahoe than in the Volt, if they were to collide. But the weight of the energy for the Tahoe is maybe 1/50 that of the Volt, as percentages.

Admittedly, these figures are a bit off. The Volt is a hybrid, so part of that weight is the 149 hp engine, etc. And, I only approach 20 mpg on the highway in overdrive in the Tahoe. But, the point remains, that energy density is very important. Does anyone here believe that battery efficiency is going to increase 50 fold in the near future? (Hint - it isn't physically possible).

Bruce Hayden said...

What I forgot to include in my previous calculations is the weight of the additional batteries. The added weight of the batteries, before 2nd order effects, is an additional 870 lbs to add another 65 miles or so of range. But, the additional 870 lbs of battery are going to require another 290 lbs of battery to transport, but that 290 lbs will require another 97 lbs of battery, with in turn will require another 33 lbs, etc., just to extend the range from 35 to 100 miles. (And, yes, I know that I have simplified a lot here, but the point still holds).

Cedarford said...

.Coketown - " If the left can't admit that communism doesn't work, be damned if they'll admit their hybrids are actually bad for the environment."

Hybrids make engineering and cost sense. They recover lost of the energy spent braking and slowing down. Pure electric cars do not.

RV - "But given the rapid developments the price of batteries will be ten times cheaper than now, and will last longer."

Some fields of applied science and engineering advance fast, others are very slow or run up against hard stops in physics that pretty much form a hard stop on the improvement of a technology. Fossil fuel electric gen plants started out about 8% efficient, then with stunning technological advance doubled by 1910 and got up into 30% effeciency of fossil fuel to electricity by the late 1920s in certain plants. And new materials and superheating afterburners and optimum turbine design gave us almost 40% by the early 40s. And in 70 years since, despite billions spent each year to get tens of billions of R&D payback from a 0.5% increase you have had 3% effeciency in a 3,000 psi triple effect superheated coal plant in the last 70. It all comes down to entropy, waste heat, friction, energy cost of mining transport, materials, losses in downtime and in operation from worn and malfunctiong parts.

Liberals and Greenies, few that have true scientific or engineering backgrounds...limited most times to quoting their stable of green-grant paid scientists..Usually believe that any technology will get ten times better or cheaper if we only try hard and if not - then a miracle discovery will happen so we can go ahead with any currently unworkable energy proposal on the assumption the solution
s discovery will happen right on time.
They insist their idea is good, it just needs that "unobtainium" - then the green or liberal squawks that if only the money that went into wasted things like space, the military, stupid sports had been spent on educating wise environmentally conscious Latinas - all this would have been solved decades ago.

The priciple and 1st lab demonstarion of lithium ion battery concept was in 1912. It took until the 1970s for a serious battery model. Another 20 for Sony to overcome engineering and material obstacles to create small, hugely expensive watch and electronics apps. It took another 20 to get a very expensive system resting on government subsidies and very scarce natural resource and made in Asia into limited range and limited use cars.

roesch-voltaire said...

Cedar I understand the slower development of the battery, I made money on Ballard, got out in time, but lost it on Power Technology which promised improved technology for deep cycle batteries, but have some belief in the grad students at MIt who have developed "Cambridge Crude." Thanks to NASA Francis Bacon's fuel cell got a push, and Geoffry Ballard improved the GE PEM, and now the military is interested in the crude, so yes I think money and research speeds up break throughs.

Sofa King said...

Batteries are not that far from achieving the tipping point in those metrics - and they are still, as you say, primitive in their lifecycle.

Batteries are NOT at a primitive stage of development. That is a canard. In fact, some of the very first "horseless carriages" ran on electric batteries. Electric batteries have arguably been under continual development for longer than the gasoline combustion engine. I understand that there is a great desire to believe that electric battery technology is just in its infancy, poised for an imminent string of major breakthroughs. But it just is not true.

Sofa King said...

I should clarify that there may in fact be imminent breakthroughs in electric battery technology. But "the technology is just in its infancy" is definitely not one of them.

bagoh20 said...

"When you double the range, you need to more than double the amount of batteries required, because you have to transport not just the people, but also the batteries, including all the additional batteries required."

I don't think it's been mentioned that in a gasoline vehicle the weight actually goes down as you drive. The vehicle gets more efficient as it goes through it's range. A battery vehicle has to haul that same weight even when it's contributing little energy at the end of the range.

This phenomenon improves when you increase a gas vehicle's range (larger gas tank), but it gets worse in a battery vehicle (larger battery).

Bruce Hayden said...

Hybrids make engineering and cost sense. They recover lost of the energy spent braking and slowing down. Pure electric cars do not.

I cannot disagree with this, at least to some extent. The problem with my calculations above is that I was using a Volt, which is a hybrid, and tripling the range from 35 to 100 miles merely requires a gallon or two of gas, at 6 lbs per gallon, instead of the 1,400 lbs or so of additional battery required for a fully electric vehicle.

Plus, a hybrid doesn't face many of the other problems that an all electric vehicle faces. For example, when the electric grid goes down (as it did in parts of the mid-west recently as a result of flooding), the car doesn't become an expensive sculpture. And, range doesn't disappear in the winter due to the energy required to heat the passenger compartment and the battery.

And, a hybrid would fit my driving habits decently well. I rarely drive more than 30 miles a day, and most days, fewer than 10 miles. But, on occasion, say every couple of weeks, I need to drive 45 miles each way to the Reno airport. This is beyond the range of many electric vehicles, but would only take a gallon or so of gas in a hybrid.

So, in a couple of generations, I may be interested in a hybrid, but I don't see me ever being all that interested in an electric vehicle, other than say, a golf cart (which apparently qualified for the electric vehicle rebate under Obama's stimulus bill).

AllenS said...

The Drill SGT said...
Remind Roger J and I to tell about cooking dinner using plastic explosive (C4).

Before we were issued heat tablets, we used to get our C4 out of our claymore mines.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of the Infantryman.

AllenS said...

And don't forget the most important energy saving thing of all time!

I said, 'You know what? You can inflate your tires to the proper levels and that if everybody in America inflated their tires to the proper level, we would actually probably save more oil than all the oil we'd get from John McCain drilling right below his feet there, or wherever he was going to drill.' -- barack obama

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