Saturday, July 31, 2010

Re Volting


If this could be any happier I'd puke. All we need now is lots of red banners waving and some videos of goose stepping soldiers with tanks and missile launchers. Government Motors indeed - they've got a Five Year Plan for us, and we've paid for it!

In case you haven't heard, the new Volt retails for $41,000. Base version, that is - the one with some goodies costs $45,000. The Nissan Leaf costs eight grand less. Buy Amerikan!

Or, buy a conventional dino burner - the Chevy Cruze is basically the Volt without the electrics, and it starts at around $17k to $23k for the fully optioned version.

The whole idea of electric cars and their advocates who think we should all be forced to switch over - or incentivised into buying into the idea has always put me in a sour mood. If the technology worked and the cost was competitive, there would be no need for such Machiavellian maneuvering. We as taxpayers have footed the bill to help bring this car out, and we'll still be on the hook for the DOE's plan to install 15,000 240 volt home charging stations - about 4,400 available to Volt "owners."

Even if we all ran right out and bought/leased Volts and their ilk - the products won't meet our needs:

The heart of the automobile (and of automobility) is its potential.

The automobile’s potential is its greatest secret—an open secret and yet, it often seems, a forgotten one. The big SUV in my garage may occasionally make a 10-mile trip to Walmart or 2-mile run to the volunteer fire station when the siren sounds. But it has the potential—the size, the power, the range—to take me, my friends, and our bicycles over the mountain to a distant bike trail, or 1,100 miles with a load of furniture and books to my son’s house in Florida.

A century ago, the gasoline-powered automobile revolutionized personal mobility. It did it so profoundly and swiftly as to make it a routine aspect of our daily lives. Wide-ranging mobility is so normal that many people, particularly in the anti-car crowd, have forgotten its importance. On whatever day you may happen to read this, Americans will travel 11 billion miles in their cars, going to work or to lunch with friends, shopping, visiting the doctor or dentist, picking up materials for a home project, transporting kids to soccer or a pet to the vet—compacting into a few hours tasks which, had they even been contemplated before the automobile, would have taken carefully planned days or weeks.

This marvelous potential, whether we use it a little or a lot, is woven deeply and invisibly into the fabric of our economy and of our lives. We Americans do not buy cars merely to get from point A to point B. We do not buy cars to meet average 20- to 40-mile-per-day travel expectations. We buy them with the idea that they can take us where and when we want to go, day or night, good weather or bad. What’s more, we buy them for their potential to carry not just ourselves but our families, friends, poker cronies, softball teammates, dogs and cats, antiques, tools, fishing rods, Avon deliveries, picnic lunches, easels and paints, Salvation Army donations, church bazaar cookies, saddles and tack, groceries, vacation paraphernalia, and whatever else we may dream of with some degree of comfort and safety across town or country. And, oh, yes, we might be dragging a boat or a couple of dirt bikes or a pony trailer behind us as well.

This powerful potential is at the crux of replacing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). Can EVs ever develop the potential that ICE cars routinely deliver? This is not merely an issue of range, but range plus the sheer reserve power to carry real-life loads, deal with emergencies, and finesse the unexpected detour or delay.

I've been sitting on this article, kinda waiting for some inspiration to include it in a post. The stupid video above was just that. As they say, read the whole thing.

On the new Nissan Leaf:

Take, for instance, the case of the celebrated and much-anticipated (coming to the United States in December) Nissan Leaf EV, with its projected range of 100 miles. This car has been touted as a breakthrough on range for a “decent”-sized EV with seating for five. We cautioned recently that its 100-mile range might not be realistic. Now, one of Nissan’s top engineers has warned that the Leaf’s range may be reduced by as much as 40 percent under what most drivers think of as typical driving conditions. Hidetoshi Kadota, the Leaf’s chief engineer, says, for instance, that if you are driving in heavy traffic on a cold day and using your heater you should expect your range to drop to about 62 miles. And that is predicated on your driving at about 15 miles per hour. At higher speeds the range will presumably drop more.

If you happen to be driving on a very hot day, using your air conditioner, you should expect a range of 70 miles—if you keep your speed under 50 mph. But on a really nice day, when you don’t need either your heater or your air conditioner, you may be able to drive more than 130 miles in your Leaf, provided you cruise at a steady 38 mph. Kadota’s estimates not only contemplate speeds the vast majority of drivers would find laughably unacceptable, they are also apparently based on the Leaf with a single driver. No passengers. No noticeably heavy cargo.

This is not the potential most Americans expect in their cars. While in some quarters it may be exciting to contemplate even a theoretical 100-mile range, let’s put that in a little perspective. Here’s a headline from Motor World, January 15, 1914: “Ford To Build That Long Looked For Electric Car.” A subhead notes that the car “Will Employ Special 100-mile Edison Battery.” The article reveals that the great Thomas A. Edison “has been developing a battery especially for the purposes of the Ford electric and has succeeded so well that a 400-pound battery, capable of operating 100 miles without recharging, is assured.”

Well, history tells us nothing was assured about Edison’s battery or the Ford electric, which was never built. It is sobering to consider that after almost a century Nissan—with its $18,000 lithium-ion “sandwich” battery pack that weighs 660 pounds—is promising the same range that had been “assured” with the Edison battery, back before the First World War.

Electric cars just plain won't work for most of us. They might work as a second vehicle for those in certain circumstances, but any time some heavy lifting or unexpected extra miles or load on the motor might be encountered - forgeddaboutit.

Maybe I'm just a selfish Gaea hating knuckle dragger, but do y'all really think this thing would work for moi? I live twelve miles from the nearest town. I live forty five miles from my job. Of that forty five - over twenty are gravel. Do you really expect an electric car to be able to make the trip (one way now!) through mud and or snow? When the temps drop to below zero, do you really expect the batteries to perform as they would in their optimal temperature range - say around seventy or eighty degrees? How about when it's over one hundred during the summer? Can the motor pull the load on gravel and the air conditioner? With a load of groceries? Or would I have to limp it home and fire up the ol' gas guzzler to take an extra trip just to buy groceries or any other possible heavy item?

I can hear it now: "Oh, Jeffro - it's clear the electric car won't work for you - exceptions will be made." Exceptions will be made is something we hear all the time - you'll be exempt from that tax, your business won't be required to follow this safety standard, you don't have to report that income - whatever. It's bad policy. If it isn't good enough for everybody - it's bad social engineering - not that there is good social engineering. Loopholes are for the elites who write up this stuff, because they know and deserve better than the hoi polloi. For thee but not for me.

But Jeffro - if we don't pour cubic tax dollars into at least trying to find alternate energy resources for our transportation - where will we be?

What? Y'all don't think businesses and entrepreneurs over the world aren't trying to find the magic solution? You don't think battery manufacturers aren't working their butts off trying to make a better battery? You don't thing energy companies aren't spending their budgets away trying to find effective sources for our energy needs in the future? The people/companies who succeed will be friggin rich beyond their wildest dreams if they succeed. Conventional fuels from biomass? Workin' on it. Other forms of engines? All kinds of avenues covered. Even stuff like power loss over distances in electric lines is being studied. Any way to save a little. Capitalism tends to do these things if there is a demand, and there is a demand. So, government funding of some "green" initiatives can and does impede progress - because government can't read the future and by funding their pet projects - they are causing unfair competition for the other possibilities that just might work.

So, for now - you can pry my keys to my gas guzzling Z71 pickup from my cold, dead fingers.


drjim said...

Spot on!
One of my friends bought a Honda Fit a while back, and since she tends to be a bit "green" she got a major ration from her "greener" friends because she didn't buy a Prius. She explained it by telling them the the Honda Fit got better "mileage" than the Prius, used fewer natural resources to build, and didn't have an incredibly eco-UNfriendly Nickel-based battery that was very enviromentaly costly in terms of production and disposal.
And Jeep has a HEMI in it!

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

Yah but....if you mute the noise the brunette is still super hot.

Jeffro said...

drjim: Mmmmm, HEMI. 'Tis a good thang.

CVPH: She shure does pack it in all the right places!

Jinglebob said...

I live 60 mioles from any town of any size I can do business in and usually have to go another 25 or so on to Rapid City or Spearfish to get parts and supplies. They think I can do that in one of these little puke excuses for an auto?!!!

Freekin' communist, socialist sonsabitches!

Jeffro said...

Yeah, but Robert - think of the kittens who won't be crying if you do drive one!