So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Monday, May 26, 2014
The electric car
There's something about electric cars that fascinates me. I want them to be practical, really I do. For decades I've followed their development, both home brewed and commercial attempts.
Clean, quiet, environmentally friendly, simple -what's not to like?
Batteries, that's what.
Batteries are the Achilles heal of the electric car. The rest of the car is easy to do. Energy storage is the issue. Most people do not appreciate the vast amount of energy in liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel. It's immense. Even the best batteries, pound for pound, have only a fraction of the energy of petroleum products.
To make up for heavy batteries often the rest of the car is made as light as possible. That helps, but a light aerodynamic car with a gas engine gets great mileage, and costs less to produce. The numbers just don't work out.
It's a niche vehicle, suitable for short trips in a mild climate. Short, because the range, while getting better, isn't quite there. A mild climate because heating or cooling the car uses energy that cannot be spared from the main drive unit.
That being said, I've come close to converting a gas car to electric a time or two. The last time I'd lined up a donor car, the motor, batteries, control circuitry, -even a welder and machine shop to do the bits I didn't have the tools for. In the end I just could not justify the effort for the end result. After months of work I'd have a slow short range car that would struggle up hills and lose much of its range in cold weather.
Commercial engineering has come a long way. If someone gave me a Tesla electric car I would not refuse it. It's a piece of high end engineering, pushing the envelop of what's possible. Too bad I can't afford to own one. Heck, I can't afford most regular cars -never mind high end niche vehicle.
In spite of all the drawbacks, we will be seeing more electric cars. Battery technology is finally making some big strides. Better batteries are no longer just scientific curiosities in some lab somewhere. Factories are being build to put new technology into mass production.
Now combine that with falling prices for renewable energy sources and you've really got something. For once the trends are going in the right direction. An electric car charged up from a coal fired plant isn't a green vehicle. One fueled by the sun or wind, however, is a different animal entirely.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.