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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Welcome to the future

‘Why did it take nine hours to go 130 miles in our new electric Porsche?’, was the question Linda Barnes and her mysteriously un-named husband found themselves asking at the end of a very long day, as reported by the Guardian:

A couple from Kent have described how it took them more than nine hours to drive 130 miles home from Bournemouth as they struggled to find a working charger capable of producing enough power to their electric car.

Linda Barnes and her husband had to visit six charging stations as one after another they were either out of order, already had a queue or were the slow, older versions that would never be able to provide a fast enough charge in the time.

While the couple seem to have been “incredibly unlucky”, according to the president of the AA, Edmund King, their case highlights some of the problems that need ironing out before electric car owners can rely on the UK’s charging infrastructure.

Though beset by tribulations, Ms Barnes keeps the faith:

Linda says she now knows why most drivers charge their cars at home overnight and avoid using the public network. “Our car is lovely to drive and electric cars are the future. However, someone needs to get a grip of the charging infrastructure,” she says.

Buried deep within that paragraph lies the answer to her question.

40 comments to Welcome to the future

  • MadRocketSci

    Electric cars are all well and good (provided people choose to pay for them), but they’re coal powered cars unless you build out a ton of nuclear plants.

    Furthermore, you won’t make a dent in the “fossil-fueledness” of your civilization unless you solve the real problems: Electric long-haul semi-trucks, electric container ships, electric steel mills and blast furnaces.

    I suppose it *could* be done with sufficient dedication to nuclear fission – reactors on the ships.

    Re: internal combustion vs battery chemistry: A factor of 50 in energy density by mass, and 30 by volume isn’t the sort of thing you can sweep under the rug with engineering finesse. And that factor isn’t going to budge: It’s a matter of the kinds of bonds you’re forming and breaking to store and release the energy. That’s a difference in degree severe enough to be a difference in kind in terms of the sort of things you can do with it.

    My problem with the greens has always been that they don’t know what they’re doing, don’t *care* to know what they’re doing, and will break the world. When that happens, we all starve.

    When you pull the trigger on a gas nozzle, you’re transferring energy at a rate of several 10s of MW. A sense of proportion in these matters is desperately needed.

  • MadRocketSci

    I support research into all potential modes of energy production, storage, and use. Energy is critically important for our civilization – without it we all (~90% of us that can’t be supported by animal-powered subsistence farming and a plant-fiber technology base, on the land that that tech-base can use) die.

    It would be interesting to see if they could, for example breed a form of algae that can produce oil as a byproduct of photosynthesis (remember reading about research along these lines) – a way of storing that energy that might be useful to us.

    I’ve worked on fusion research myself. I now know more about why it’s taken so long and IMO, we need to be building fission plants in the meantime.

    What I *don’t* support is pretending we have viable alternatives, misleading the public, and wrecking the infrastructure that industrial civilization has come to depend on. Certainly, spend a little or a lot on research, but don’t pretend you have in hand what you don’t.

  • bobby b

    In fairness, it was likely a bit hard to travel our country by ICE auto in the early days before gasoline stations were ubiquitous.

    And it’s going to be much easier to make charging stations ubiquitous than it was building gasoline stations with huge underground tanks.

    I’m seeing this same “there’s no charging stations!” theme all over the place lately. https://jalopnik.com/i-took-a-harley-davidson-livewire-on-a-road-trip-and-ev-1845749463

    This all reminds me of someone complaining that the Wright Brothers’ first plane had lousy bathrooms. There are good reasons to disparage non-subsidized electric vehicles. This one seems unfair.

  • Mark

    I suspect the great milk float mis-selling scandal will arrive well before 2030. I would be very interested to know where exactly the tiny fraction of actual sales of milk float have gone geographically and how many to private buyers (as opposed to company cars or other wise paid for). My personal belief, for what its worth, is that this low hanging fruit is currently being harvested: those well off enough to indulge in a toy, fanatics, company car buyers (I know two of those). I don’t think this is a particularly large demographic.

    For most real people in the real world, milk floats are just not practical, certainly far too expensive, and anybody with a single functioning brain cell will obviously want to wait until something resembling a practical charging network capable of handling several million of these things demonstrably exists (there is no intention to provide one BTW, even it it were practical – which it isn’t).

    Nothing says cunt quite like a porsche. But whining about an “electric” porsche in the Guardian? Ye gods!!!!

  • Eric

    However, someone needs to get a grip of the charging infrastructure

    I like how she just assumes this is someone else’s job, even though she doesn’t know who that might be. You’d think charging infrastructure is something a potential purchaser would look into before paying that kind of money for an EV.

  • Kenneth C Mitchell

    “However, someone needs to get a grip of the charging infrastructure,” she says.

    IN a nation that NEVER HAS BEEN ABLE to generate enough electricity, that’s a fool’s errand. And insisting on wind power to do the trick? She DESERVES to be stuck by the roadside.

  • David Roberts

    I would love to buy an electric car, when:

    1. the extraction of raw materials, required to make the car batteries and electric motors, is done in a manner which harms neither the miners nor the environment.
    2. the car batteries, at the end of their life, can be recycled.
    3. the vehicle cost, without subsidy, is less or equal to the equivalent of a petrol car.
    4. the electricity supply system can cope with the demand of most cars being electric.
    5. the range of electric cars comfortably exceeds 350 miles.

    Given the last point I do not think the charging network is an issue as over-night charging will mostly be sufficient.

    How long will I have to wait?

  • Gene

    This isn’t about building the charging infrastructure to replace our ICE cars with electric ones. MadRocket’s comments about Greens aren’t accurate. The more powerful Greens know exactly what they’re doing, and have no intention of building the capacity to power all those electric cars. The point is to radically diminish the number of cars, with any form of coercion necessary.

  • Roué le Jour

    If the government was serious about phasing out internal combustion engines they would be announcing a power station building programme. The fact that they’re not doing that indicates they’re not serious, just virtue signaling.

  • Allen

    Imagine trying to find gasoline for your car 120 years ago. We are definitely going to have to upgrade our power grid if electric cars are going to be a thing.

  • bobby b

    Roué le Jour
    November 29, 2020 at 2:58 am

    “If the government was serious about phasing out internal combustion engines they would be announcing a power station building programme. The fact that they’re not doing that indicates they’re not serious, just virtue signaling.”

    I remember one of Ayn Rand’s sub-themes. It was, essentially, that progressives could simply make a need known, and capitalists would eventually rush in and fill the need in the hope of making a profit. “You’ll always produce!” is how Reardon eventually heard it (IIRC.)

    So, they can ban ICE cars and then just sit back and watch as real producers jump in and build those chargers and power generators. It’ll get taken care of – “they’ve always taken care of things, they can’t help it, it’s just their nature.”

    In their minds, government doesn’t need to worry about charging stations or generating capacity. Some profitty scum will build those things in order to make money off of them.

    This all doesn’t mean they’re not serious about changing society. It just means they’re not very good at it.

  • Agammamon

    I just took a look at electric charging fees in the US – in most places these people are paying way more for electricity than they would for gas to go the same distance.

    While waiting 4-10 times as long to do it.

    And the kicker? Most of the electricity they’re buying is produced by coal!

    Paying more to fail to ‘save the planet’. Or even to reduce pollution.

  • Agammamon

    bobby b
    November 28, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    And it’s going to be much easier to make charging stations ubiquitous than it was building gasoline stations with huge underground tanks.

    I would have to disagree there. Its not that hard to dig a pit and put a tank in it and then cover it up. Other than that you’re using the already existing road network to transport your energy.

    To do electrics everywhere requires the building out of high-power/voltage transmission lines. Even the footprint of an electric vehicle charging station isn’t going to be smaller (probably larger) simply because you can’t just sit there with a line of cars that’s moving every 5 minutes – you’ve got cars that have to sit 30+ minutes even with level 3 charging.

    Even for level 1 charging – well, say your company wants to fit out the parking lot with level 1 chargers (after all everyone is going to be in the office for 6+ hours anyway)that’s a massive power draw and your electrical infrastructure is going to have to be beefed up to handle it.

  • Stonyground

    The extra time needed to charge an electric car compared with the two minutes needed to fill up with petrol or diesel is significant. If you are not going to have to queue for hours to get a spot there will have to be hundreds of chargers lining the roads. Early motoring pioneers could extend the range of their vehicles easily by carrying fuel cans on board when going on long journeys. The infrastructure that grew up to supply them with fuel and food for their journeys didn’t appear because of motorists whining about it in the Guardian.

  • Pat

    They would have been quicker on a bicycle. And far less CO² emissions to build the thing, far less for the energy to drive it. Far fewer mines needed to extract the necessary minerals.

  • There’s lots of charging stations in my borough. I can, however, count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’ve seen one of them being used…

  • After its long rest, my old post barking parking teslas is now fully charged and ready to be read again. 🙂

  • Stonyground

    At age fifty eight my time for the bike leg of an iron distance triathlon was around eight hours. That is 112 miles, so for someone a bit younger 130 miles in nine hours is credible.

  • jmc


    You are completely correct. Ever since Tom Quinn (Jerry Browns best buddy) took over CARB in the late 1970’s in California these people have been very upfront about their goals. They want to ban all private cars except for a few electric cars owned by the affluent and rich. Electric cars have always been vehicles for rich people who live in cities or rich inner suburbs. Everyone else is suppose to use public transit. Live in rural areas or need to drive for your living. Tough. You vote the wrong way anyway so the sooner you move out of state the better.

    Not sure what is suppose to happen now that pubic transit has collapsed due to the same peoples utter mismanagement of just another human corona-virus. The one upside of the current Covidian Catastrophe is that its the end of the whole New Urbanism crap. Which was little more than the rich kids who grew up in the suburbs driving out existing big city residents who got in the way so that these suburban kids could have a pleasant lifestyle during the five or ten years they actually lived in the big city. These suburbanites have so far destroyed San Francisco, Portland and almost there with Seattle.

  • Why do I suspect that the “somebody” who will build the electric charging stations, will be the government?

  • bobby b

    Anecdote =/= data, but driving across South Dakota and Wyoming and stopping in small towns, I was amazed at how many had an EV charging lot.

    Usually they were one or two streets off of the main drag (in towns that were about four streets deep), and were small lots attached to the backs of newer gas stations.

    So, they are popping up in unlikely (to me) places, they are getting built privately, and they are forming a network close enough to allow for cross-state travel – at least in South Dakota, which is not known as an early adopter for anything.

  • Duncan S

    bobby b

    What’s South Dakota’s planning/zoning regime? Are the South Dakota gas stations owned by individuals, franchises, chains?

    Here in the UK, whilst the early roll-out of ICE vehicles in the early C20th was helped by businesses in every town, village, and hamlet setting up a petrol/gas filling station, over the years the smaller independents have closed, unable to compete with the oil companies, or the supermarkets.

    (In the village where I live (on a main trunk road) the vacant lot on the side of the road is still referred to, by older residents, as the “petrol station”, even though it closed over 40 years ago.)

    Sadly, the days of an enterprising stable/hotel/shop/garage owner setting up a service station in the UK lie in the distant past “BP” (Before Planning). The biggest challenge/barrier to the rollout of an efficient country-wide charging service is the local council planning department.

  • Mr Ed

    Someone tell Boris this needs sorting and he will probably accept a plan for electrified motorways with overhead power cables at £100,000,000 per mile and pantographs retrofitted to electric cars at £50,000 a time. A snip compared to the cost of Smart Motorways in the UK.

    Bear in mind the cost estimates for motorways from 2007 from that link:

    In 2007 it was estimated that ATM could be introduced within two years at a cost of around £5-15 million per mile[16] as opposed to 10 years and £79 million per mile for widening.[17][18]

    £79,000,000 per mile to widen a motorway, almost £15,000 per foot?

    And what’s the betting that your Twitter/social media feed (soon to be required) will be checked before you can recharge your car?

  • lucklucky

    It is amazing no one here names Boris attack against ICE engines Totalitarian.

  • Jacob

    Boris attack against ICE engines Totalitarian.
    It’s just idiocy. He won’t be around to implement it. Words are cheap. But with attack against ICE engines and promotion of offshore wind – it emerges that he is a big idiot.

  • Mr Ed


    It is amazing no one here names Boris attack against ICE engines Totalitarian.

    Indeed, but I think that it is a given for all but one of the commentators around here, with Gary no longer active, the resident troll still being fed, that it is totalitarian. The essence of almost all government plans is to regulate the very air that you breathe (on the pretext of preventing a (primarily) respiratory infection, and all else follows.

  • Paul Marks

    Electric cars came before petrol cars – but for various reasons it has never been a very successful idea. That may change in the future – but not with current technology.

    The fact that the tens of millions of cars and so on could not be powered by the electoral transmission system would not worry the Agenda 21 – Agenda 2030 “Build Back Better” international totalitarians. As ordinary people are not supposed go round the country anyway.

    Alexander “Boris” Johnson? He does NOT make these decisions. They are made at an international level – by the bureaucrats, “scientific experts” (scientists in the Sir Francis Back “New Atlantis” sense – they have no real interest in science as the pursuit of truth) and Corporate Leaders.

    Those people blaming Mr Johnson (or the lady) are sadly mistaken.

    If only it was the fault of Mr Johnson – it would be so much simpler if he was some sort of evil Mastermind.

    “But the Prime Minister has a duty to stand up AGAINST the evil of the international establishment elite”.

    True – but only an exceptional person would stand up against them.

    Not automatically a very good person – just someone who was very much out of the ordinary, that is what is needed.

    And Mr Johnson is NOT really “Boris the Eccentric” – he is Mr Alexander Johnson of Eton and Oxford. He is NOT a rebel.

  • Mr Ed

    Electric cars should have a theme song in all their adverts ‘(You won’t get) Home on the Range‘.

    “Have I stood here amazed, with my battery drained, if the journey exceeds two hours.”

  • llamas

    Perhaps overlooked . . .

    From the article:

    “Paid-for charging sites typically cost 30p per kWh, which is about twice as much you would pay if doing it at home. You will pay about £10 for 33kWh of electricity at a rapid charger – in most cases enough to drive about 130 miles.”

    The energy content of gasoline/petrol is about 9kWh per litre, so that 33kWh equates to about 3.5 litres of gasoline. Which would (at current UK prices) cost you about £4. So they’re charging roughly 2.5x as much per unit energy as the petrol station on every corner, for a service which is (by this and many other accounts) extremely spotty. And every virtually-every watt-hour of that derived from fossil-fuel sources.

    The quoted range of 130 miles for 33kWh at £10 is highly-misleading in the context of the article – Porsche quotes an energy consumption of 27 kWh per 100 km for the Taycan that’s the subject of the article, so the energy to go the 130 miles suggested in the Taycan would actually be about 57 kWh, at a cost of £17. That’s equivalent to 15 litres of petrol, or enough for 170 miles of driving at the average fuel consumption of the current UK petrol-powered new-car fleet.

    It’s a great business model – charge 2.5x as much for fossil-fuel energy as your competitors, while taking at least 20x as long to deliver it. The only problem I can see with the success of this approach would be the little issue of getting people to actually choose it of their own free will. Oh, I know how to solve that, though – we’ll simply get the competition outlawed! What could possibly go wrong?



  • bobby b

    Duncan S
    November 29, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    “What’s South Dakota’s planning/zoning regime? Are the South Dakota gas stations owned by individuals, franchises, chains?”

    Decidedly BP – Before Planning. This is a conservative libertarian state with lots of Gadsden flags flying about. The planners will rule right about the time the old bar sign joke – “free beer tomorrow” – arrives.

    Stations are mostly individually-owned franchises. So, owner-financed.

    I spoke to one owner about the charging stations. He said that Tesla offers installation incentives that make it an easy decision if you have an unused spot on your pavement. Users are upscale from the typical SD farmer type, and hang around and buy food and beverages as they wait, and he can charge a profitable price on the power. He gets no government incentives to install the chargers.

    So, it appears that they may well establish a usable charging network during the time of peak government subsidization of the vehicles. If they can then drop vehicle prices enough to make up for the eventual loss of subsidy, they might make it.

    I would welcome it. I love EV’s – if they can raise the amp-hour/weight ratio a bit, they’re going to rule the dragstrips. My objection comes when they try to force me out of my ICE vehicles. I think there’s room for both, and I feel intelligent enough to make my own decision.

  • llamas

    @ bobby b – in my last road trip West, I was also struck by the number of EV charging stations I saw signposted.

    But I wonder whether you aren’t seeing this a bit rosey. After all, here’s all the publically-available EV charging stations in SD


    There’s a grand total of 42 publically-available EV charging locations in SD, with perhaps 250 total outlets, and that includes the proprietary Tesla locations. SD is over 400 miles side to side and 250 miles up-and-down. Once you leave I-80, your choices rapidly diminish to zero. I think your ‘network to allow for cross-state travel’ is a bit of a stretch for anyone except those who plan their travel meticulously and have plenty of spare time.



  • Jimmers

    I have a friend who is a hospital consultant. He has just bought himself an electric Jaguar IPace. It’s heavily subsidised either by or through the NHS to encourage uptake. The subsidy actually makes it cheaper than much smaller ICE cars; add in the free parking space and charging and it’s a no brainer. Of course, we are paying for it.

  • bobby b

    llamas, I saw charging stations that aren’t reflected on that map. Mostly small towns, off of I90. I can’t speak to why they wouldn’t be on that list.

    But, even if one discounted those, looking at that map, and knowing that I90 IS the main route across the state, it looks as if they do have an established network of chargers for across-the-state travel.

    I do know that one can reach Sturgis – on the West end of the state – from Minneapolis easily on an electric motorcycle, and those have shorter ranges than the autos.

    Of course, I do tend to see everything a bit rosey.

  • The Jannie

    The last time I checked, the Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid had an electric range of 34 miles – no lights, no heater, no aircon, no stereo etc etc. Similarly Scania made a noise – which faded – about their electric truck ( a 3 tonner, I think ) which did 3 miles per charge . . .

  • Mark

    Do androids dream of electric sheep?

    No, “greens” do.

  • Gingerdave

    A few comments on range.

    Charge at home. It doesn’t matter what the infrastructure is like if you can charge overnight at home. The longer the range, the less the need for charging stations.
    I have a plug-in hybrid – I can do about 40 miles on electric before the ICE kicks in. OK, our commute is short, but that’s enough to do all our usual trips.
    If your maximum daily mileage is 100 miles, a 120 mile battery will do the job.

    Normally, I use the ICE about once a month (so longer than 40 miles). With a 150 mile battery, I’d have to use a charging station on about half of those trips, and with a 200 mile battery I’d use them on two trips a year.
    OK, maybe my mileage is low but I suspect the principle holds for a lot of people. If 200 mile cars are standard (and they are rapidly becoming so) how many people will be able to do 90% of their miles just on home charging?

    The first generation Reanault Zoe could do about 80 miles, I think. Not much use for long distance work, but a good commuter car. A third generation Zoe will do 250 miles, on the same chassis and body. More efficient motors and better battery chemistry. The ability of human ingenuity to solve problems is a common theme here when it comes to food production, why not electric cars?

    A few years ago, we looked at buying an electric car, and decided against it on range (100 miles). One feature was the sat-nav, which knew where all the public charging points were and would plot you a route past these at the right intervals to recharge. It doesn’t matter if the charging points are a mile off the beaten track if your satnav knows where they are. Still difficult with a short range car, but a modern one is far more practical.

    If I have a 200 mile car, and am driving far enough to need to recharge on the way . . . I don’t mind if it takes 30 minutes to recharge. That’s about 2.5 hours, I want to stretch my legs and someone will need a drink and the loo!

  • Duncan S

    Further to my earlier comment re filling pumps springing up in early C20th UK, I’ve just seen this picture posted of the Ellangowan hotel in the village of Creetown, Kirkcudbrightshire. The car may help date the picture.

    Note the fuel pump.

    Note also, no need for a huge hole in the ground to accommodate a fuel storage tank.

    (Several generations of my family, including my younger brother, were born in this village, and, for a time, my grandfather worked in the hotel bar)

  • Mark

    “Charge at home. It doesn’t matter what the infrastructure is like if you can charge overnight at home”

    If ten or more million milk floats were all connected to 13A sockets in any given night, I would beg to differ!

    Don’t forget, this is what we are being told we will be able to do. Those who have a driveway at least.

  • Chester Draws

    The ability of human ingenuity to solve problems is a common theme here when it comes to food production, why not electric cars?

    Human ingenuity has limits.

    The issues with electric cars won’t be solved by more stations — the real problem is the lack of electricity in the first place and the amazing cheapness of petrol allowing it to be massively taxed and still effective.

    You may find it cheap to charge at home now, but how long will that last once everyone is trying to do the same? No country is close to having enough electricity, let alone “green” electricity. Those, like the UK, that import electricity are going to be in a double world of hurt once their suppliers start keeping it for themselves.

    You may find it cost effective to drive an electric vehicle when only the petrol ones are paying for the roads and their are subsidies to purchase them, but once road user charges have to be placed on electrics and subsidies are withdrawn, it will be very different. (Note, if the aim succeeds to get less cars on the road, then the road charges are going to spread among fewer and fewer people. Driving any distance will either become eye-wateringly expensive or the governments that tax petrol heavily are going to have major holes in their budgets.)

    Neither of these problems are going away, and any solution is going to be very, very expensive.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    The real problem is the lack of super-duper-highways in Britain. Who can expect to go fast on any of those quaint roadways?
    Q. Do androids dream of electric sheep?
    A. No, but ‘green’ New Zealanders do!