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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Game changers in electric transportation



In many instances alternative energy can replace fossil fuels. The one big area where renewables fell short was transportation. Liquid fossil fuels pack an awful lot energy into a pretty compact package. Combined with the fact that gas stations exist in great abundance all over the world, it's a tough nut to crack. Electric cars had poor performance and recharging took forever.

There are a number of factors coming together that will change all that -and relatively quickly too. The first factor is the huge expansion in cheap renewables. Wind and solar generation are getting cheaper and more abundant every year. It makes little sense to have an electric car that gets its electricity from a plant burning dirty coal.

Battery technology is finally producing batteries with enough energy density that electric cars can travel over 200 miles on a charge. There are also quick charge stations starting to pop up that charge batteries in minutes instead of hours.

Of course, Elon Musk's Tesla company is in the news. People lined up to throw money at him for a car that won't be on the road until sometime next year. That's huge. It's not so much that Tesla is making electric cars. Tesla is making really cool cars that are fun to drive and own -they just happen to be electric too.

All eyes are on Musk's Model 3 as if it will make or break the market for electric vehicles. It won't. The really big news is not from the West but from the East. China is making a huge push for electric cars. They will turn them out in the millions, and they will be pretty cheap too. They won't be Teslas, but they will be good enough to get the job done. Expect China to try to flood the world market.

It makes perfect sense for China to invest heavily into electric cars. Their urban pollution is horrific. Replacing gas with electric will help. China has another problem: they aren't a huge producer of oil. Going heavily into electric vehicles will reduce their reliance on imports.

Also under the radar is the quiet invasion of electric buses and delivery vehicles. They make sense in an urban setting where speeds are low and distances between stops are short. Quick charging stations can keep even fairly short range vehicles on the road all day long.

I've had my eye on electrics for years. The idea of electrics powered by alternative energy was a powerful one, but the numbers just never came together. Now they have.

-Sixbears

15 comments:

  1. An electric is great for a city car. But for folks that commute a ways its not as practical. The volt was a made to fail good idea. Imagine an electric with a small generator that could charged as you drove long trips and even could be left charging when stopped. Not as eco friendly but could bridge the gap.

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    1. As the range gets better and fast charging becomes available they will make more sense.

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  2. Even electric motorcycle / mopeds are cropping up here and there. Still a novelty, but I can see some applications for these as well.

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  3. I've always thought that if they'd make then flatter surfaces of electric cars from flexible solar panels, the car's range could be extended at least SOME.

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    1. Some yes, but not really that much.

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  4. If you're a person with any interest in electric cars, and especially coupled with an interest in history, you owe it to yourself to find and watch this documentary:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsJAlrYjGz8

    And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

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    1. My pleasure.

      Much of your post focused on the aspects of practicality and technical maturity of electric vehicles. What I intended to point out with that link (though never said) is "we" often think that we're waiting on technological obstacles to be overcome. In fact, those challenges are dwarfed, and often even created, by social and political factors; namely, the major obstacles.

      Not trying to see evildoers behind every tree, but ...

      A very interesting corollary is the history of the purposeful degradation of public transportation in the U.S. Or the demise of air-powered vehicles and machinery. All of those were already productive, and efficient, 80-100+ years ago.

      It is intriguing to contemplate what our society would be like today had the car maker/oil pumper criminals and their cronies left that alone, or better yet, supported its development and improvement.

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  5. Yes, electrics will probably be the future mode of transportation. I, for one, will miss the deep rumbling of a supped up big block V-8.

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    1. The whine of an electric doesn't compare.

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    2. I remember as a kid being in the backseat of a properly configured GTO with an enthusiastic driver at the wheel. I also remember the impression upon me that my impression in the seat back made as we rocketed away from traffic lights.

      Only from what I've read, though, drivers of top-end electric cars are equally, if differently, blown away by the power -- and even the sound -- of the electric motors in cars like the Tesla Roadster.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LfX3FFqplA

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    3. Maybe someone will record a CD with big block engine noises (if they haven't already L^)

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    4. Anonymous: I was surprised to learn last year that Ford and perhaps others were using the sound system in their trucks and Mustangs to produce fake engine sounds. Apparently people like the engine noise, their Ecoboost engines didn't make enough, so they programmed some low level rumbling into the radio.
      (justjohn)

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