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Nico Metten on the Electric Vehicle Revolution

Is The Electric Vehicle Revolution Real? That is the question that Nico Metten asks, over at Libertarian Home. Metten’s answer, surprise surprise: no. His English could do with a little cleaning up by a native of these islands, but that quibble aside, and on the basis of far less technical knowledge than him, I share his doubts, although in my case the proper word would probably be: suspicions. I suspect everything tinged with Green to be … suspect.

Ken Ferguson, commenting at Libertarian Home on the matter of electric vehicles, argues, in contrast, that this “revolution” is real, and is driven by the need to cut down on air pollution. He supplies this link.

And indeed, you do now see electric vehicles all over the place. Here is one I photoed a while back, just a walk away from where I live, getting an electro-refill from a special roadside charger:

But are electric engines n vehicles the only way to cut down on harmful vehicle engine emissions, or could regular or not-so-regular petrol engines be part of similar reductions, perhaps by having something bolted onto the end of them to take care of those emissions? Or, could vehicle emissions be somehow cleaned up by other means, with devices not attached directly to any vehicles? Do such things already happen? And: How harmful are those emissions, actually? (See above: “suspicions”.)

Since concocting the bulk of this posting, I notice that another Libertarian Home commenter, Jordan Lee, echoes many of my doubts, and one in particular of my questions:

Is there a way to make fuel burning cars more efficient in cutting emissions?

Cars are now being sold on this exact basis. But how far will they get in doing this, and how efficiently will such cars continue doing their number one job, of being cars?

The Samizdata commentariat contains some notably well-informed techies. I’ll be interested to read whatever anyone may feel inclined to say about this.

74 comments to Nico Metten on the Electric Vehicle Revolution

  • Kjhales

    One of the big problems with internal combustion engines is that they need to suck in oxygen to burn the hydrocarbon. But what we actually feed them is a mix of 80%nitrogen, with a feeble 20% oxygen; most people call this “air”.

    Engines are run in a crippled mode to avoid producing nitrogen compounds in the exhaust.

    Develop efficient oxygen concentrator technology, better than what supports your ageing, smoking parent, and you will have (truely) green engines.

  • Steve Borodin

    Look at PM10 and PM2.5 on this graph:

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/681445/Emissions_of_air_pollutants_statistical_release_FINALv4.pdf

    Both down to about 20% of 1970 values. Nitrogen and sulphur oxides tell a similar story. This is a success story. I am far from convinced that the anti-internal combustion lobby has a case. This is a simply an offshoot of the scientifically illiterate climate con.

    Moreover, electric vehicles simply transfer the pollution from the exhaust to the power stations and the smelting works that produce components of the batteries.

  • Mike Borgelt

    IIRC electric cars were originally touted as solutions to city air pollution by transferring the pollution to a power station whose pollution could be relatively easily cleaned up or was essentially non existent (nuclear, hydro). Then good IC engine clean ups became available, lessening the pressure to develop electric cars although interest spiked during the oil crises of the 1970s. The IC engine cleanups were touted as “the exhaust consists of nothing but pure, clean, water vapour and carbon dioxide”. Of course when you now define CO2 as pollution electric becomes a choice but you had better have a non CO2 producing electrical source.

  • Bruce

    “a non CO2 producing electrical source.”

    The eco-nazis HATE Nukes and Hydro, preferring, instead, those hideously inefficient wind-farm / bird-shredder things or “solar”

    Anyone like to guess how much MINING and SHIPPING, both also LOATHED by said ECO-NAZIS, is involved in making wind-driven generators and solar panels?

  • The first time electric competed with IC was over a hundred years ago. As technology improves, there’s no guarantee that yesterday’s winner will be tomorrow’s winner. It just makes sense periodically to blow the dust off and see if the other alternatives end up being better given intervening progress. Over the past week or so, we’ve had multiple instances of movement that might impact the market viability of electric cars. If that translates into an electric car win, hats off and three cheers for capitalism managing the transition away from IC.

    Carbon nanotubes apparently are looking to make several material science revolutions including battery storage, a perennial weak point of the electric car.

  • Eric

    It really depends on the safety and power density of batteries going forward. The newest cars coming off the line have about a 400 mile range, which is the most I’d be willing to drive in a day anyhow. They’re more expensive to buy but cheaper to operate, so the money is a wash.

    The real unknown, IMO, is safety. You can’t get more range without a higher power density, and as the article notes the more power you pack into a small space the more your battery starts to take on the characteristics of a bomb.

  • Phil B

    You need to take into account energy density.

    At the moment, battery makers are desperately trying to reach a specific energy of 450 Wh/kg (Watt-hours per kilogram), Petrol already offers 12,000 Wh/kg. One horsepower is 750 W, so turning Watt hours to Horsepower hours, batteries give 0.6 HP*h per kg, while petrol give 16 HP*h/kg. Petrol has over 26 times the energy density.

    Now that means that … let me see. An imperial gallon of petrol weighs 7.2 pounds and my car will do about 40MPG and about 450 miles on a tank full for a total weight carried (and diminishing as I drive) of 81 pounds. To do the same range as 1 gallon of petrol, (40 miles) I would need to carry a deadweight in batteries of 192 pounds. For a total range of 450 miles, 2160 pounds or nigh on one ton of batteries. Guess what? You need to lug around that weight of batteries and that means you need to expend power to do so.

    OK, people will say that most journeys are less than 50 miles (commuting) but not all. I was a motorway comms engineer and drove about 1200 miles a week so needed a car with more than a 200 mile range on a fill up. Speaking of which, I can fill the car in 5 minutes, tops. For a 450 mile range, then I would need to fill up a battery car twice. What would the charging time be, I wonder? Not five minutes, that’s for sure.

    Add in the problems with overloading the existing electrical distribution system and transmission losses, then unless it is a niche application (such as electrical milk floats – does anyone get milk delivered nowadays? I should imagine in most cities, theft of your milk would be extremely likely) it is not viable.

    The batteries on existing electric cars have a lifespan of about 7 years and they are so costly that it is not economically viable to replace them so the car gets scrapped. Effectively, at todays prices, you would have to spend the cost of the car every seven years to replace the batteries (assuming that inflation continues). That is, if you spend $50,000 on a new car now, in 7 years you will be looking at a replacement battery cost of about $50,000. Since most of the energy expended in the car is used in building it, then throwing away all that invested energy doesn’t make sense, at least to an engineer. A diesel four wheel drive with a V8 could last 300,000 miles and is almost certainly less polluting (taking into account the energy needed to produce the steel etc.)than a typical electric car.

    However, it won’t stop the dreamers, schemers and those greens who know naff all about engineering pushing it through.

  • Roué le Jour

    This was discussed at some length over at Worstall’s, but just to emphasise a point made by Phil B, you would need a substantial increase in generating and distribution capacity to convert all vehicles to electic and it isn’t feasible on that point alone.

    BTW, just imagine excitable Parisien youths setting light to a charging electric car. What larks!

  • Mr Ed

    It’s obvious isn’t it? Make electric cars lighter by reducing crash protection and/or making the entire car afap of battery material, bugger the consequences, and when death rates rocket, ban useful hydrocarbon-powered cars to remove the risk of collisions between ‘green’ cars and the ‘unsafe’ safe cars.

    I’m sure Mrs May would agree to this if it helped ‘the Environment’ in about 5 minutes if it was properly explained to her.

  • Gingerdave

    I drive a Vauxhall Ampera (the Chevrolet Volt in a UK skin). This is a hybrid car with enough battery for 30-50 miles depending on the weather, and an IC engine to give you another 250 miles.

    That 40ish miles of battery is enough for most commutes, so the IC engine only gets used on longer journeys. Yes, you have to charge electric cars a lot more than you fill up an IC car, but unless you’re driving far enough to need a recharge during the trip, it’s not important.

    Batteries (especially big automotive batteries) can be taken apart and reconditioned, so it’s going to be worth replacing them in a few years. There are some electric cars (Tesla, I think) that can have the battery removed and replaced with a charged one, so removing a worn out battery doesn’t require scrapping the whole car. This also allows the 5-minute recharge!

    That extra weight, low in the car, makes it more stable so it’s safer.

    OK, the electricity bill has gone up, but the petrol bill is down by much, much more. The rooftop solar panels are arriving next month.

    Surely the samizdatistas would approve rooftop solar? Anything to get you off the grid is a good idea!

  • bobby b

    If they switched to small, light, urban-only vehicles made for short drives at low speeds, they might build a viable market as they await battery development.

    But, as things stand, the early adopters all want larger luxury vehicles with tremendous power and range. Expectations are too high for new technology.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Of course, unless you have lots of sunlight for solar power, your electricity will come from coal mines, or Nuclear power stations. What do Greenies think about that?

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    I look forward to the day when solar cells are so cheap and lightweight that we can use them on dirigibles! The day of the Solar-powered hot-air airship may be closer than we think…..

  • Stonyground

    As far as I know, EVs are only affordable to buy in the first place because the purchase price is heavily subsidised. They are also cheap to run only because petrol and diesel are very heavily taxed. If everyone was driving them, then they would presumably have to have a separate tariff for charging them. I used to have a Saab 9-3 that had a range of around 600 miles, it could be tanked up in less than two minutes.

    “…the early adopters all want larger luxury vehicles with tremendous power and range.”

    Well yes, because that is what they have now. Normally a new product will catch on if it is an improvement on the products that are currently on the market. This happens without government subsidies. The subsidies are only required if the new product is actually worse.

    I think that it would make more sense to electrify all the railways first. Proven technology already exists and it would probably cost less.

  • llamas

    @ Gingerdave:

    “That extra weight, low in the car, makes it more stable so it’s safer.”

    Forgive me being so direct, but – bullsh*t.

    The trivial advantages in dynamic stability (body roll and side loading on the tires) that are gained from a lower CofG are 100x offset by the combined negatives of a much-higher overall mass (more energy to dissipate) and the compromises that must be made in other areas to try and protect the vehicle and its occupants.

    A battery-loaded vehicle with a low CofG will spin out on an icy curve more-easily than its ICE equivalent (higher mass), and when it does, it will spin longer and harder (higher rotating mass) and do much more damage if it hits something hard (more kinetic energy).

    If two vehicles of comparable size have identical mass, then a lower CofG is likely a benefit. But that’s not the case here – a battery-powered vehicle will always have significantly-greater mass than a comparable-size ICE vehicle, and the fact that the CofG is a bit lower gives slightly-better cornering performance and no more. Just compare (say) the Nissan Leaf at 3500# to (pick your preferred ICE subcompact car here) at around 2500#. The Nissan has almost 50% higher mass. F=ma and KE = 1/2mv^2.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Rob Thorpe

    The company I work for is involved in autonomous cars and electric cars. They see things differently. I’ll try to describe what they think, which isn’t quite the same as what I think.

    The view is that autonomous and electric are closely related. So, in the near future they’ll be autonomous cars. Firstly, they’ll be used as taxis in the small urban areas of warm places. That’s because the technology isn’t well enough developed for other scenarios. Waymo (aka Google) are doing their first autonomous Taxi trial in Phoenix Arizona. The target is taxis because the autonomous driving technology is very expensive. These taxis will probably be electric, range will not be a problem because they’ll be restricted to urban areas anyway.

    It’s widely believed that this taxi model will grow. As the technology progresses the cars themselves will still be owned by firms like Uber. Different lengths of trip will be served by different vehicles. Let’s say you hail an autonomous taxi from your phone. If you ask for a short route a small taxi will be sent. If you ask to go from one city to another then a larger vehicle with much larger batteries will be sent. As it drives the route it may stop when the battery gets low. But, the battery won’t be charged. The car will go into a place owned by the taxi company. Then a mechanism will remove the flat battery and replace it with a fully charged one. I believe a Japanese company already have a mechanism that does this. The battery will then be stored away and charged.

    People are aware that battery energy density comes with risks. The view is though that autonomous vehicles will decrease the number of traffic accidents so greatly than the risk will be acceptable.

    I don’t exactly agree with this view, but it’s not crazy.

  • CaptDMO

    “bobby b
    May 17, 2018 at 7:41 am
    If they switched to small, light, urban-only vehicles made for short drives at low speeds, they might build a viable market as they await battery development. ”
    Yeah, those are called golf carts, in “retirement communities”.
    I’ve been led to understand there are certain (US) gub’mint subsidies for these, and zero “pay attention” competition on the roads with 40 ton trucks.
    I don’t THINK they have shrapnel spewing mandatory “safety features” built right in, nor “remote access” to the electric consumption and controlled EVERYTHING in them.

  • llamas

    @ NUJG:

    ‘I look forward to the day when solar cells are so cheap and lightweight that we can use them on dirigibles! The day of the Solar-powered hot-air airship may be closer than we think…..’

    Not dirigibles, which have no sustainable density control. Consuming fuel was actually a major factor in extending the flight endurance of the great dirigibles, which could only otherwise dump non-recoverable ballast or valve off non-recoverable lifting gas to control lift. Strenuous efforts were expended in that era to develop a way to selectively recover water from the engine exhaust gasses so as to be able to take on added ballast and offset the lost mass of fuel. But all dirigibles essentially end up in a corner where they can’t go up anymore, only down, because they have an absolute maximum altitude (pressure height) above which they cannot go, and the only way to prevent exceeding the pressure height is to valve off gas.

    I don’t know what a hot-air airship is. TMK, nobody has ever built a hot-air-lifted dirigible. A quick calculation suggests that it is not possible.

    Blimps, on the other hand . . . . . Solar would make for an awesome blimp. It could stay up, essentially, forever.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Jacob

    The high air-pollution is indeed a big health problem in city centers. In this respect not all IC engines are the same. Most of the air-pollution is caused by diesel vehicles. Diesel cars were about 10% of the cars some 30 or 40 years ago, they are about 50% of the cars now.
    This was caused by “green” pressure – to reduce CO2 emissions. Diesel cars emit, indeed about 20% less CO2 than gas cars. The hysterical climate-change-brigade caused the promotion, via tax incentives, of the diesel cars. We need to ban diesel cars and return to the good ole’ gasoline. (This would require a complete retooling of most car factories).

    As to electric vehicles – they are not viable now. Battery technology does not supply, now, a viable solution. Batteries are too expensive and slow-charging.
    It is possible that battery technology will drastically improve in the future, but that’s more of a wish than a technical reality. For now – the electric car “revolution” is based on ideology and wishful thinking and not on technical facts.

  • Jacob

    “I think that it would make more sense to electrify all the railways first. ”

    Absolutely. Not “all railways” but surely those that move in urban centers where pollution is a big problem.
    And also urban buses. You need to electrify the urban buses, this will reduce pollution very much. This is possible as they run a fixed itinerary which is not very long.

    Doing these two things (rail and buses) solves 80% of the urban pollution problem.
    And then – ban diesel cars.

    The electric vehicle is, at this time – ideologically driven nonsense.

  • Stonyground

    I really love my diesel car. I can see a case for keeping them out of areas where poor air quality is a problem, but banning them completely seems a bit draconian.

  • Jacob

    On the other hand – electric bicycles (and scooters and motorcycles) are, indeed, a revolution. They are cheap, efficient, short range and very handy in an urban environment. They help reduce the number of cars on city streets.

  • The newest cars coming off the line have about a 400 mile range, which is the most I’d be willing to drive in a day anyhow.

    It’s not so much about the range as the time to recharge. Motorbikes have a pretty poor range, but when it takes 5 mins to refuel it doesn’t matter. Unless there’s a step-change in technology, recharging electric cars involves hanging around for 30 mins or more.

  • Jacob

    “I really love my diesel car. ”
    There is nothing a diesel car does that a gasoline car doesn’t do better…
    (I’m talking about cars, not trucks or heavy vehicles).

  • Tim the Coder

    A lot of this comes from people not understanding the difference between an ENERGY SOURCE and an ENERGY STORE i.e a fuel/battery.
    These people are then taken advantage of by crooks/politicians out to enrich themselves by selling the latest snake-oil, evangelising the latest Gaia/Earth Mother neo-religion and by the eco-loons whose survivor guilt has made them wish to destroy everyone including themselves.

    There are no electricity mines: Electric Power is a FUEL/STORE and not a source. It must come from somewhere. The innumerate think windmills are the answer, because they cannot add up. Some haven’t noticed it gets dark at nights, especialling in the winter, so believe solar power is their answer. They will soon be late….as in the ‘late Arthur Dent …frozen solid too)

    In reality, electric cars are powered by nuclear fission, burning fossil coal and burning fossil gas. In Europe currently, largely gas from Putin’s Russia. How nice.
    So electric cars are far from ‘clean’, indeed they are far dirtier, because of the terrible properties of electricity as a store.
    The energy density of batteries is awful (as described by another commenter) and will remain so until the Unicorn farm is located and difefernt set of Physics is dcreate (see Potter,Harry). That makes for not-very-good cars that cannot go anywhere. And the recharge time is ridiculous.

    Recharging a petrol or diesel car is an energy transfer of several megawatts for the minutes it takes. The efficiency is almost perfect: a few watts for the pump.
    Recharging a battery is seldom better than 90% and often lower: ever felt your phone/laptop battery when charging? If a car battery of equivalent capacity to a car petrol tank is ever developed, try charging that at 2MW to achieve the same forecourt duration. Waste heat to be disposed of, perhaps 200kW, maybe more. That can only be dumped in the air (where else? we could boil the local river…). I’ll leave it so someone else to work out the mass flow rate of air necessary to dump 200kW at an exhaust temperature of say 300 Celsius. Similar to a jet engine efflux. For each car on the forecourt!

    Likewise, Petrol (& DERV) is a FUEL, not an energy source. Very good ones, with high energy density, low cost, efficient transfer, and a major infrastructure already present for safe distribution and storage. It so happens the cheapest way to make this FUEL is currently from crude oil (an ENERGY SOURCE) but that is only because of the abundance of crude oil. It is old technology to make it from coal, and even older to make it from air and water (see Agriculture). It is proposed that a future Mars expedition would make its own hydrocarbon fuel from the local air and water, just add an another ENERGY SOURCE: in the Zubrin Mars case, fission.
    This is not speculation, regimes that have been cut off from crude oil supplies have produced synthetic petrol on a national scale. Usually rather unpleasant regimes, that’s why they got cut off….but doesn’t change the engineering.

    So even Peak Oil need not replace Petrol & diesel, and if with the infrastructure why would it? You’d just manufacture the fuels synthetically.
    Even use a windmill, if you must!

    Most of the electric car stuff is arrant nonsense backed by hawkers and propped up by massive subsidies on the gullible.
    They may have a place in very local closed environments (indoors, is a good example) but as a national scale transport infrastructure it’s there with the fairies.

    All for cleaning up exhaust emissions, but that’s been done. I recall a test where the exhaust of a petrol car in LA was cleaner than the air entering because of all the hydrocarbon pollution (from trees, not from cars!).

    The only thing driving the scam is the effort of some to reclassify plant-food as a pollutant, and once they are all safely put to death (Mr Ecks will say how) then we can get on with reality.

    I’ll leave for another day the topic of the self-driving car lobby’s attempt to invent the minicab.

  • There are some electric cars (Tesla, I think) that can have the battery removed and replaced with a charged one, so removing a worn out battery doesn’t require scrapping the whole car. This also allows the 5-minute recharge!

    I don’t know what percentage of a new car’s value is represented by the battery, but I expect it is substantial. I’m not sure the owner of a sparkling new electric car would want to see his expensive new battery replaced with a shoddy reconditioned one the first time he drives it.

  • There is nothing a diesel car does that a gasoline car doesn’t do better…

    Torque, and miles per gallon fuel consumption.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I have to say as an engineer I find this whole debate amusing.

    Engineering is by nature incremental: just because there is a difficulty today does not mean there will be a difficulty tomorrow: and non-engineers find great difficulty in wrapping their minds around this fact. In 1903 the Wright Bros were running around a field in North Carolina: 20 years later Snoopy was battling it out with the Red Baron: 20 years after that the Spitfire and the Hurricane set the skids under Hitler: and in just 65 short years after 1903 we were on the moon.

    At the moment it is all academic: technology is way ahead of legislation. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill 2017-19 is currently being debated in parliament to set out how new technologies will operate.

    I am an automation engineer: if you only knew what we have up the tubes for you it would be the high road to the wet house: you would not like it at all: not no-how. Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Or – lets get down to brass tacks:

    When you remove the following from a car:

    • Engine
    • Engine management
    • Engine control
    • Gearbox
    • Fuel injection, carburettor, fuel pump and fuel management
    • Turbocharger or supercharger
    • Exhaust system
    • Exhaust gas re-circulation
    • Fuel lines
    • Fuel tank
    • Ignition
    • Starter motor
    • Transmission and drive train
    • Water cooling, radiator and fan
    • Cooling for air, cooling for oil
    • Air filters and oil filters
    • Lead acid battery, charger and alternator
    • Associated instrumentation
    • Human driver

    And you insert:

    • Battery under floor or in bodywork
    • Motors in wheels
    • Automated motor control/steering/connected car data software and hardware
    • Wireless charging/drive

    What you achieve is:

    A saving of a great deal of space and weight: which is why Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) look so odd: you don’t need a bonnet because you don’t have an engine or anything else for that matter, so you can do all sorts design-wise: you don’t even need a front or a back: you can make it circular or spherical if you wish. And you reduce the vehicle to a device not much more complicated than a Kenwood food mixer: you reduce the device from about 20,000+ components to plus/minus 3000 components: the power-train alone has a reduction of about 2000 parts to about 20 components. A Tesla Model S has fewer than 150 moving parts, including the drive-train, windows, controls, suspension and doors. A typical internal combustion engine car has about 10,000.

    The implications are:

    Production and design innovation can take off using advanced production techniques, 3D and 4D printing and customised programmed production. A whole raft of new entrants can put most of the established automobile makers out of business. The existing vast production facilities geared to export are replaced by smaller highly automated and flexibly programmable factories sited where the markets are.

    The implications for society are immense and not yet understood: transport systems and technologies are merging like TV/PC/mobile/laptop technologies are merging. Will there be any call for car ownership at all? Will self-driven car ownership run parallel with driverless and be a symbol of status? It will impact on improved safety and therefore on insurance: plus taxi/lorry driving, city design, mass transport systems and very much else.

    Of course you’ll see it coming. With cars, say, first there was cruise control, then anti-lock brakes, then adaptive cruise control, then automatic lane-following, then automatic parking… We’re not going to be travelling in fully general-purpose autonomous cars anytime very soon, but they are going to do more and more things for themselves.

    The same applies in nearly every sector. The machines will take over more and more mundane tasks, and gradually join them up into more sophisticated tasks, but just about everything will happen gradually.

    AI is getting very good at some kinds of things — but “general AI” is still quite a long way off, and it too will have lots of precursors as machines get better and better at joining the dots for themselves.

  • Mr Ed

    There is nothing a diesel car does that a gasoline car doesn’t do better…

    Not ‘endure’, Diesel engines tend to last much longer than petrol engines. I have a Diesel way north of 250,000 miles.

  • pete

    I don’t see electric vehicles all over the place.

    I see a few in affluent parts of my area, and even there they are vastly outnumbered by Range Rovers and other large, lumbering and expensive fossil fuel vehicles.

    Ferraris and Bentleys are more common than electric cars in the Hale, Knutsford, Wilmslow district.

    If electric cars were practical and cost effective the government would not need to give purchasers £5000 of taxpayers money to help buy them. People would be rushing to buy them.

    However, I think electric cars are becoming slightly more popular. I pass the Tesla showroom in Knutsford several times a week and sometimes I never saw a customer in there for weeks on end. Now I see one every four or five days.

  • you would not like it at all:

    Don’t be so sure

  • MadRocketSci

    If you’re talking about vehicle emissions the way engineers actually talk about vehicle emissions, you’re concerned with two things: NOx (NO, NO2 – constituents of smog and acid rain), and incomplete combustion products (CO and carbon particulates). These are the emissions that engineering an IC engine can actually do something about. Ideally, everything coming out the turbine or tailpipe would be pure CO2/H2O.

    All of these goals are in conflict 😛

    If you run an engine fuel rich, you get more stable combustion and operation, very little NO/NO2, slightly lower temeperatures and efficiency, and nice aromatic exhaust loaded with incomplete combustion products. That’s what everyone did back in the day when gas was cheap and all they were concerned about was simplicity and stability.

    If you run an engine fuel lean, you get much less stable combustion, more NO/NO2 production (spare air leftover heated by the reaction), sharply lower temperatures and efficiency, and less incomplete combustion products.

    What jet engine combustors do is run what is called an RQL cycle, where at different stages along the length of the combustor can, varying levels of external air are forced in to control the gas-mixture profile. RQL – Rich, Quench, Lean. First the bulk of combustion near the fuel injectors is done under fuel rich conditions, then a ton of air is forced into the gas stream quenching the combustion, lowering temperatures so that NOx isn’t forming out of the air, but not so much so that the combustion of CO into CO2 isn’t continuing apace. Then some trick is pulled near the rear of the combustor (I forget) to finish off the CO->CO2 combustion. Temperatures at the back end need to be as high as possible (for efficiency), but not high enough to damage turbine blades.

    (All of the above information is public knowledge from a university class)

    As for EVs: Their fundamental challenge is a factor of 1/30 by weight and 1/10 by volume energy density ratio relative to gasoline. The tank for an equivalent amount of energy storage has to be 10x larger and 30x heavier.

  • llamas

    @ Terence Patrick Hewett, who wrote, in part”

    “What you achieve is:
    A saving of a great deal of space and weight:”

    Self-evidently, not a weight saving. Just see my example, above, of a Nissan Leaf vs a comparable ICE automobile.

    Or, since you mention the Tesla Model S – A Tesla Model S weighs 4800 pounds. Let’s compare with a fancy European high-performance sedan, like a BMW 5-series – which weighs 3800 pounds. No weight savings there. Do the same comparisons for other vehicle classes, you’ll see the same results.

    Your other points, about complexity, parts count, reliability etc, are well-taken and have a lot of merit. However, I would point out that the average ICE automobile these days has no problems making 100,000-or-more miles of life with no repair attentions at all beyond oil changes and wear-out items like brakes and tires. This is generally well-beyond the point at which a battery-powered auto will be at end of battery life, which is a massive repair cost. Guaranteed. So that reduced complexity etc irall very well, but the cost savings achieved are more-than-offset by the unavoidable costs inherent in the battery technology.

    llater,

    llamas

  • MadRocketSci

    I am an automation engineer: if you only knew what we have up the tubes for you it would be the high road to the wet house: you would not like it at all: not no-how.

    Everyone making “plans” about the shape of society would do well to remember that, ideally (in a world without politicians forcing things on us), society would be shaped by the sort of products people want to buy. If they wouldn’t like it, they aren’t going to buy it of their own free will. Enter some sanctimonious mandarin to force it on the recalcitrant livestock “for their own good”.

    Will there be any call for car ownership at all?
    Why do you people want to force most people to own fewer aspects of their lives? Why do you guys always want to take my car? (And my house, and my lawn, and my machine tools, etc etc.) Who supports your wonderful automated factories (whatever they end up producing) if no one is buying cars?! Henry Ford could figure that one out – and his contemporaries are slandered as robber barons. Our current crop of Silicon Valley geniuses seem on some sort of power-trip to dominate and control people.

  • Surellin

    The question is what is the source of the electricity that runs the vehicle? Hereabouts electricity is generated by burning coal, so an electric car would essentially be coal-burning. Elsewhere, might be hydro, gas, nuclear, whatever. Electric cars are not necessarily virtuous, they just put the fossil fuel burning out of sight.

  • Jacob

    Yes, diesel cars get more miles per gallon, about 20% more. But I don’t think this is so important…

    And – electric cars are better cars, as terence patrick hewett correctly explains. No doubt about that. If only they could have an energy storage device (battery) that worked as well as gasoline. It is “only” this deficiency that makes the idea impracticable for now.

    As to automation – it is welcome, in IC cars too, electric cars are not indispensable for introducing automation.

  • Jacob

    Many people talk about “The Future”. (Electric cars are The Future).
    I don’t know the future, neither do they. When I hear talk about “The Future” – I know the speaker is a sentimental charlatan.

    Do electric cars make sense NOW?? Answer: NO.

  • Fred Z

    The post and most of the comments beg the question and assume the conclusion that “emissions” need to be curbed.

    I use emissions to mean CO2 and not the particulates and nitrogen compounds some commenters noted.

    The reasoning that suggests CO2 is causing AGW and that AGW is bad is a tottering ramshackle tower of incompetence, stupidity and dishonesty. The dishonest part I quite admire, because the average human and taxpayer is a sucker and it is immoral to let him keep his money. The rest? I live in Canada. There are still patches of icy snow in shaded ravines a few km from my home. Hurrah for emissions.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Fifty years ago C P Snow wrote on the fact that science and the humanities regarded each other with mutual incomprehension; and it has got much, much worse. A re-reading of Snow’s ‘The Two Cultures’ seems eerily prescient.

    “If the scientists have the future in their bones,” he claimed, “then the traditional culture responds by wishing the future did not exist.”

    That raving old madman F R Leavis’s poisonous response, exemplified this attitude and temporarily it triumphed.

    The world is driven by business, science, engineering and technology. The development of the transistor by Bardeen/Brattain, at AT&T Bell Labs in 1947 and the mass production of same, wrought changes in society that dwarfed any of those achieved by political philosophy. The invention the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 has ensured a barely controlled dialogue between millions and has changed the world forever.

    ‘nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.’

  • Jacob

    terence patrick hewett

    The piece above is pure poetry.
    It has nothing to do with electric cars.

  • Pat

    I believe it was Paracelsus pointed out that the poison is in the dose.
    If the dosage of any particular pollutant has been reduced to the point that it does no harm then further reduction is pointless.
    But each reduction in pollution costs more than the last, so reducing output below the level it does harm is in fact harmful- there has to be something else the money could have been used for, maybe better healthcare, and we have to do without that.

  • John B

    The number of cars on the Planet has increased enormously over the last century and engines have got ‘cleaner’. What exactly is the problem? People are not dropping like flies as a result and the great nitrogen emissions scare is another doom that does not survive close inspection.

    Despite the hype, there are no reports attributing thousands of deaths to nitrogen compound emissions. As usual these have been misunderstood and misreported… deliberately?

    There is not a single death certificate anywhere which gives inhalation of such compounds as cause of death.

    What was reported was that people with existing respiratory conditions ‘may’ have had these conditions made worse by nitrogen compounds in the air, and this ‘may’ have contributed to a worsening of their condition and rearlier death.

    But there is no way it is possible to quantify this or be certain nitrogen compounds in the air has a significant effect.

    Thousands of people are killed and injured in accidents involving motor cars… we do know that… and we except the trade-off because the benefits of having cars far outweigh the cost of those deaths and injuries. The same is true with air quality.

  • Jacob

    “The same is true with air quality.”

    The fact is that we should aspire to breathe air, as clean as possible. It goes without saying…
    The fact is – the air is much more polluted (in city centers) than it need or can be. This is caused mainly by the diesel cars, which were promoted and subsidized because of climate-hysteria induced policies. This needs to change, and at no cost – actually this is a cost saving measure.

    Other measures to reduce pollution like electric city buses and trains are also more than cost effective and feasible. What can be done should be done.

    On the other hand – promoting electric cars by regulation and subsidy (as is done now) is not justified.

  • Patrick

    Is the EV revolution real?
    Yes.
    On what timescale?
    Not one fast enough to matter in the short or medium term. Battery tech is simply not there yet.
    In the long term we’re all dead anyway and I think I will prefer to put banana skins into the flux capacitor of my DeLorean.

  • Brian Swisher

    I, for one, would be happy if we could get ethanol out of gasoline and corn restored to being a non-government-subsidized foodstuff.

  • Eric

    It’s not so much about the range as the time to recharge. Motorbikes have a pretty poor range, but when it takes 5 mins to refuel it doesn’t matter. Unless there’s a step-change in technology, recharging electric cars involves hanging around for 30 mins or more.

    My point about the 400 mile range is the car’s battery is going to last longer than my ability to drive it safely in a single day. If I have a place to plug it in while I sleep, an eight hour charge time will be perfectly adequate.

  • Eric

    The question is what is the source of the electricity that runs the vehicle? Hereabouts electricity is generated by burning coal, so an electric car would essentially be coal-burning. Elsewhere, might be hydro, gas, nuclear, whatever. Electric cars are not necessarily virtuous, they just put the fossil fuel burning out of sight.

    Electrical power plants are much more efficient than car engines, particularly the combined-cycle type, which can reach over 40% efficiency compared to about 25% in the best automobile engines. Furthermore, power plants have fancier pollution control equipment and are easier to monitor. For every pollutant save CO2, a modern coal power plant is going to be better than the engine in your car per mile traveled.

  • RRS

    Having only scanned the erudite comments, I may have missed any dealing with a principal issue: the limited efficiency available from internal combustion engines; i.e., the capacity to convert “fuel” energy into kinetic energy that propels a vehicle.

    An “interim” solution to that deficiency has been employed as the diesel-electric propulsion systems of rail locomotives.

    We may yet see a development (From Southwestern Research Institute, inter alia) of a similar “interim” system in the form of relatively small radial gas turbines, consuming compressed natural gas, powering generators that drive electric propulsion motors; with far greater efficiency, possibly better than the axial JF turbines used on aircraft.

    All can be externally (rear mounted) in stylized nacelles. The possibility exists for the use of hydrogen fuel as well.

  • Higain Antennae

    I’d like to know the specifics involved in reconditioning damaged or worn-out car battery components. Battery components that cannot be reconditioned or recycled and end up as battery waste products in expensive waste control facilities someplace?

  • Sam Duncan

    “Many people talk about “The Future”. (Electric cars are The Future).
    I don’t know the future, neither do they. When I hear talk about “The Future” – I know the speaker is a sentimental charlatan.”

    Just what I was about to say. Purely electric cars (hybrids are another matter) may be a future, they may be part of the future, but it’s far too early to tell if they will be to the late 21st Century what ICE-powered vehicles were to the 20th.

    That future is certainly not just around the corner. For the foreseeable future – inasmuch as it is foreseeable – they’re a niche market.

    “The day of the Solar-powered hot-air airship may be closer than we think….”

    You realise that this means the end of the horse-drawn Zeppelin?

    (Link to classical reference.)

  • Bruce

    Another issue, especially in the northern Hemisphere, is corrosion.

    The salt laid on roads to ward off “black ice” seems to be responsible for the rather short structural life of vehicles in such regions.

    What happens to “electric” cars when they are regularly bathed in brine?

  • Phil B

    Terence Patrick Hewett

    using advanced production techniques, 3D and 4D printing

    I am intrigued by the “4D” printing. I thought time was the fourth dimension so would that mean printing a component now for something that was needed three weeks ago or printing it now for something that is needed in three weeks? That last scenario is how manufacturing is operated today so I’m a bit comfused.

    It reminds me of this Dilbert cartoon:

    http://dilbert.com/strip/2011-05-10

    Signed,

    Confused of Nelson South, NZ

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    I’m sure there will always be some horse-drawn Zepellins somewhere. I just think that if we could have solar-powered dirigibles, or blimps, then the airships of the future would be able to go anywhere! Maybe we should call then Skyships. They could refuel (air) anywhere for the air-cells, and also use solar power, stored in efficient batteries, to move anywhere.

  • terence patrick hewett

    @ Phil B

    I have this vision of E H Shepard’s illustration in Wind in the Willows of Toad dressed up in goggles, coat and gauntlets with Badger, Moly and Rat trying to take his Motor Car away from him: “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!” Don’t worry boys – we’re not taking you willies away!

  • Eric

    Not dirigibles, which have no sustainable density control. Consuming fuel was actually a major factor in extending the flight endurance of the great dirigibles, which could only otherwise dump non-recoverable ballast or valve off non-recoverable lifting gas to control lift.

    This is a solved problem. The most modern designs contain bags into which helium is pumped from the cells under high pressure as fuel is expended. The major factor holding back The Great Airship Revolution is cost – anything that large and complex which needs to be rated for human flight is going to cost, literally, a billion dollars. When Boeing and Airbus design a new air frame they expect to amortize the cost over hundreds or even thousands of units, plus military sales. What’s the demand for Hindenburg class airships? Three or four, perhaps?

    The price of fuel is going to have to go up by an order of magnitude before we see “giants roaming the skies” again.

  • Engineering is by nature incremental: just because there is a difficulty today does not mean there will be a difficulty tomorrow: and non-engineers find great difficulty in wrapping their minds around this fact. In 1903 the Wright Bros were running around a field in North Carolina: 20 years later Snoopy was battling it out with the Red Baron: 20 years after that the Spitfire and the Hurricane set the skids under Hitler: and in just 65 short years after 1903 we were on the moon.

    All true, but what is remarkable about the motor car is how little it has changed since the Model T Ford. They basically got the concept bang on from the start and the only improvements have been refinements rather than step-changes (in contrast to, say, the switch to jet engines). As an engineer and former vehicle mechanic, I think all this talk of electric cars is very premature.

  • NickM

    Some good points here. Electric cars are great in principle. The problem (as pointed out by better knowledged folk than moi) is batteries. Quite simply they are not good enough. They are not good enough in terms of range, mass and the truly perverse ignoring of the environmental impact of making them. The latter is the dragon in the corner. A few years ago folks at, I think, MIT made a petrol powered IC engine about the size of an OXO cube that would drive a laptop for days on end (you refilled it with a syringe) and nothing happened. Alas.

    The fundamental greenie myth is the idea that you only count running emissions. About 20 years ago BMW published a paper on the environmental impact of their cars. They, obviously, tend to make faster motors than most of the rest. But, because they aren’t cheap they tend to last. What this paper pointed out was that in terms of petrochemicals the BMW uses less over it’s complete life cycle than a lower petrol/diesel using car. This is simply because you have to drive a car into the ground before what you put in the tank exceeds what was done in the factory (and the rest of the supply chain).

    Just behind me is 2001 vintage Vauxhall Corsa. It has a 1L petrol engine. That has served for 17 years. That is truly green. That is way greener than a Tesla. God alone knows what the environmental degradation of the Lithium mines is like but that of course is in another country.

  • Jacob, most pollution is caused by the local Councils. They put up road humps and low speed limits, most motorists ignore all the humps at great risk to the car, but it is impossible to keep a small to medium car inside the limit without dropping a gear. Once you do that emmissions rise in the local area. NICE recognised that some months before Christmas and issued a warning to all Councils to stop putting road humps in. They refused on grounds of cost, but recently in Stockport we have had a large number of humps put in with the usual congestion and pollution. Councils pretend to be green but are the usual hypocrites!

  • terence patrick hewett

    @ Tim Newman

    Yes, you are right: basically they took an horse and cart – abstracted the horse and added an engine. Everything was there already from the horsedrawn mode – suspension, leaf springs, brakes, bodywork, lights, boot. And railway carriages were an extrapolation of the stage coach: all they did was take 4 stage coaches and mount them on one platform and voilà! A railway carriage!

  • terence patrick hewett

    @ Tim Newman

    As to premature – we have been working on this for 25 years: only now it has it really emerged in the public prints as an issue. Automata of course have a history stretching back through the Victorian era right back to Ancient Greece.

    It took the internal combustion engine 50 years to displace steam/horsepower and during that time both technologies ran in parallel.

    1st stage driveless cars are already coming off the production lines and I do not see the process of displacement to be any different to the displacement of steam and horse by the internal combustion engine.

  • Bruce

    Perhaps the engineers here could consider this:

    Re-think electric car design.

    Motors in the hubs, all four of them. Thus, no transmission, driveshafts, differentials, CV joints, etc. Sensors in the motors that tell the “brain” about temperature, “slip”, etc. Using something like a “stepper” motor in the hub would possibly be one way to replace the differential(s). LOTS of air-flow to keep the temperatures under control during hill climbing etc.

    Don’t forget that the Volkswagen’s dad, Dr Ferdinand Porsche, also designed and BUILT heavy tanks with electric final drive.

    Depending on the design of the motors, they could also provide “regenerative” braking, becoming generators during light “engine” braking or coasting and thus charging the battery a little bit.

    Make the battery “sled” an easily removable tray that slides out at the “refueling” station and is replaced in a matter of minutes by a fresh, fully-charged one. This might require actual humans to work at such stations; employment bonus.

    Don’t forget a second, much smaller battery to “hold up” all of the essential electronics that may require it, as well as things like “hazard” lights, etc.

    Brakes would be ceramic discs, with conventional dual-circuit hydraulics. Going to need a replacement for the vacuum-driven master-cylinder booster or folks will not be happy. Diesel vehicle use a separate vacuum pump already. Initial pressure on the brake pedal to remove power to the motors and cut in “regenerate” / dummy-load mode, then the hydraulics, complete with that wonderful British invention, ABS, come into play.

  • Michael Taylor

    The greatest population growth is in Asia.

    In Asia, that population is very rapidly urbanizing.

    For densely populated urban areas, particularly where it’s hot, electric cars are viable for all transport needs, and a massive public boon in terms of the urban environment (both emissions and noise).

    The future of cars will not be determined in Europe. It will be/is being determined in Asia.

    Witness Hong Kong: Teslas everywhere, thank god.

  • Albion's Blue Front Door

    Driverless cars (which seem to go hand-in-hand with electric cars in the minds of many of the leftist persuasion) would deny a lot of peoplf the fun of actually driving. I have a relative who lives in deepest, darkest Islington who dreams of being in an electric, driverless car or taxi because, I realised, as he isn’t allowed to drive in London the way many non-Londoners can drive then everyone will be classed as the same.

    See, we will have eliminated jealousy as well as the Internal Combustion engine. Oh joy!

  • Albion’s Blue Front Door: to be honest I would love a driverless car, or as it see it, a robot chauffeur. I like cars, I just loath driving them personally, which is why I take Uber everywhere and have not owned by own car for more than 20 years.

  • Peter Melia

    To be sure the electric vehicles are pollution free. That is, they emit no products of combustion.
    But no one ever talks about where all of this fine electricity comes from?
    All power generation emits pollution, so as a starter, this power plant pollution should be appended to the car. Then if the power station is a diesel, pollution the difference between the pollution emitted by the prime mover, and the emissions of any petrol driven car..
    So in practice the pollution of the source generator should be allocated to the “pollution-free “ vehicles.
    There are no pollution-free vehicles.

  • Jon

    I’m rather surprised to see the vitriol against Tesla here. It’s a private company spending private money in pursuit of profit. Some countries subsidise electric vehicles with taxes, but I bought my diesel with a scrappage allowance which were/ are common, so it’s nothing new.

    There seems to be people falling into the ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ fallacy. If we can run a car fleet without paying money to countries who hate us to get the things to move, perhaps they would be less able to afford their wars (covert and otherwise) against us and we could reduce the surveillance of our own citizens?

  • bobby b

    Jon
    May 20, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    “It’s a private company spending private money in pursuit of profit.”

    Just like Solyndra.

    Gotta admire those private risk-takers.

  • Julie near Chicago

    You’ll have to pry my non-driverless car from my cold, dead hands!

  • Rich Rostrom

    Gingerdave @May 17, 2018 at 7:34 am:

    There are some electric cars (Tesla, I think) that can have the battery removed and replaced with a charged one, so removing a worn out battery doesn’t require scrapping the whole car. This also allows the 5-minute recharge!

    Tesla has scammed about $70M-$100M in subsidies from California with this. California has a scale of subsidies for electric vehicles, with those capable of “quick recharge” getting a bigger swot. Tesla claimed that if a vehicle’s discharged battery could be swapped out for a charged battery at an automated station in a few minutes, the vehicle should get the higher “quick recharge” subsidy. Where the scam comes in is that there are exactly two battery-swap stations. In the world.

    As to reducing pollution from IC engines with “something bolted onto the end of them”, that’s what catalytic converters do. But they don’t eliminate all the nasty stuff generated by IC.

  • Darryl Watson

    The tone of the commentators here struck me as odd; certainly treating any effort by Greens as suspect is a good and justifiable idea. Fair enough! But I have gotten the impression that the bulk of readership here sneer rather loudly over their jam and toast at any notion of electric car advancement… so I spent several days listening to (and watching) youtube videos about Tesla cars, primarily from people who have driven them, or own them. Elon isnt perfect, nor is his product. The Model 3 starts out at $35K and can be had with all the goodies for $54K. Far from being a ‘pedal car’ as someone here commented about Tesla cars, the thing goes fast, and has features that gas car veteran companies only look at and try to copy, while quietly flogging their product people to catch up. There are plenty of videos making a compelling case for how Teslas and other electric cars cost half as much per mile to operate than gas vehicles, on average. Criticisms about lack of charging stations are melting away as more and more appear. (The last 2 years I lived in Miami on a sailboat, the marina where I moored had two FREE charging stations.) Electric cars are starting to innovate and use capacitors to capture the power from regenerative breaking, and so on. These technologies are not static, and some are usable right now. So I have to say that the original post that the Electric Car Revolution is not here, is demonstrably wrong. We’re right in the middle of it.

  • Mr Ed

    But I have gotten the impression that the bulk of readership here sneer rather loudly over their jam and toast at any notion of electric car advancement

    I would hope that the negativity 😉 is founded in objection to:

    1. Any compulsion towards the elimination of ICE cars.

    2. The lies and obfuscations around the environmental, safety and health consequences in this area.

    3. Subsidies or differential tax regimes that skew the ‘market’.

    4. Lies about battery capacity and likely progress in that area.

  • Darryl Watson

    Mr Ed- I used to say the boldest lies were laptop battery life claims. Over the last decade that phenomenon has lessened to the point where I no longer pray for lightning bolts to be hurled at the marketers, because lifetimes have indeed improved significantly. There are plenty of liars about, and a pox on their loins, as always, but there is evident improvement in storage capacity, enough to be sufficient for my needs, now that I do not drive 100 miles a day.

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