back to article 'Hippy' energy kingpin's electric Noddy-car in epic FAIL

An electric concept car commissioned by soi-disant "hippie" energy-trading biz lord Dale Vince specifically to “blow the socks off Jeremy Clarkson and smash the stereotype of electric cars” has unfortunately done neither, as on its first public outing the "Nemesis" abruptly ground to a halt in busy traffic and had to be pushed …

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Anonymous Coward

Powered only by renewables

So the lithium in the batteries is renewable is it?

Actually I think that (as usual) this idiot has misread or misintepreted Clarkson. The curly headed northerner seems to be all in favour of fuel cell powered vehicles, it's battery power and hybrids that he has it in for. And that's fair enough. All the evidence I've seen seems to show that hybrids in the real world use no less fuel than their IC powered brethren, and since they use the same amount of fuel they produce the same amount of emissions. Battery power might seem like a teriffic idea, but there are major problems with the cars around at the moment. The biggest of which is actually finding somewhere to charge the car, most people don't have a garage these days and I wouldn't fancy trailling a power cable through the letterbox to a car parked on the street. Then there's the fact that a big enough charge to run a car over a reasonable distance takes a long time.* Another problem is the size and weight of the battery pack needed to give a decent range, which is one reason why so many of the flagship cars are two seaters with no luggage space. The fact that this car is a two seater with no luggage space kind of confirms this. If these people want to be taken seriously they need to build a car that's relevant to normal people. Let's see something that can compete on all levels with a Golf, Mondeo or V50 or whatever most people consider to be a normal car.

* Cue some commentard claiming that you could charge one of these cars in minutes if you had a 500KVA 3 phase supply. Then ask them how they propose building the infrastructure to support this. Or indeed how they propose to pick up the cable and plug required to carry this current. Or how they propose to cool the batteries when they are being cooled at this rate. Or....

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The problem with hydrogen...

The problem with hydrogen is storage. When you compress hydrogen to a useable (sensibly storable) volume, it uses something in the region of mid 80s% of the energy stored within that hydrogen. Add to that the energy required to obtain the hydrogen in the first place and it makes it stack up much less favourably.

What we need is for someone to crack the hydrogen storage problem and they'll be far more efficient, but until then it's a tricky one. Personally I'm in favour of plug in extendable range hybrids where the generator is a fixed RPM engine, much like in a modern diesel train. With proper recycling of the batteries.

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Anonymous Coward

"So the lithium in the batteries is renewable is it?"

No reason why it shouldn't be recycled though

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Flame

Actually...

part of this problem has been solved. There is a common standard plug/cable standard for electric cars -- the name escapes me but I seem to remember it as "Europlug" -- of course, standards being standards, don't expect anyone to conform to it but introduce their own "superior" standard.

Aside from that, general use electric cars don't remove emissions, they just relocate them from the street to wherever the nearest coal/gas/oil power plant is; and as you correctly identified, it'll take a lot of investment to build the required electrical infrastructure to support home charging for electric cars, provided there's another massive lapse of common sense (otherwise known as "green legislation" or "environmental targets" or equivalent) that somehow makes them more attractive to the general consumer.

Meh.

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Anonymous Coward

Longer tailpipe argument?

The mistake you make is in assuming that the energy efficiency of an ICE is anywhere near comparable to an electric motor. An ICE is about 10% efficient, losing ~90% of the energy it produces through heat (hence all the cooling systems required to stop these engines from destroying themselves), whereas an electric motor is over 90% efficient with friction being its biggest enemy.

For the 'longer tailpipe' analogy to be correct you'd have to see ICE-powered vehicles increasing their fuel-efficiency by a good 900 percent.

Of course it's not as cut and dry as this. The electricity transfer from generating stations to homes to allow charging of an EV means some loss of energy efficiency, but then on the other hand transporting hydrocarbons around in tankers to petrol stations is just as big (if not greater) loss of efficiency.

Overall though, an EV is much more energy-efficient than an ICE

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WTF?

really now?

are you in all seriousness going to claim a 90% efficiency conversion from battery power into motion for EVs?

[citation needed]. srsly.

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Anonymous Coward

"Overall though, an EV is much more energy-efficient than an ICE"

Not MUCH more - maybe a bit better

That's a MODERN diesel vs generating electricity by coal

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Silver badge
Boffin

60% lostyou mean?

Modern petrol engines typically are about 30% efficient, which isn't brilliant I'll agree, but is more efficient than the 10% you seem to think, mr AC.

A bigger problem with electric engines is that they use up a lot of energy dragging around the dead weight of the batteries. The reason petroleum products remain so popular is because, as has been pointed out numerous times before, they have the advantage of an incredible energy density, and they don't leave a huge lump of dead weight in the back of the car when they've been consumed. Batteries can't match either of these and probably never will.

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Paris Hilton

What we really need...

What we really need is a way to trap the hydrogen in some more efficient way. Some mechanism where it could be handled fairly easily and in relative safety. Maybe chemistry might have the key....

Maybe - just maybe - we could create a molecule with a lot of hydrogen in it, using another element with lots of bonds. I don't know - something like carbon or silicon or something. We could call them hydro-silicates or similar.

That might make it really efficient to recharge the vehicle and give a long range due to the high energy density.... Hmmm - wonder why no-one thought of this before.

:)

Erm - Paris cos she knows all about getting a good bang for your buck.

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Grenade

you are being ironic..

like say....oh i dont know..hydro-carbons?

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Anonymous Coward

@Graham Dawson

Half that actualy, about 15%.

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You've been beaten to it.

I was chatting to a phd student a few years ago who was working on fun ways to store hydrogen, which involved a) silica b) me not understanding.

It's still very much research in progress - fuel cells have a lot of development left yet before they're as good as they're going to get. Obviously no one yet knows for sure if they're going to be actually useful - that is the issue with research: if we know we wouldn't have to do it!

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Thumb Up

Plus ça change

What pray tell, are the "IC-powered" bretheren? Because here in the colonies, just about any hybrid you can buy will kick the cojones off the alternatives w/ respect to fuel consumption. Are there issues (battery life / disposal / weight ; the safety of nearly silent cars on city streets; cost) with them? Sure. But if minimizing fuel consumption alone were your only goal, you simply can't beat something like a Toyota Prius or first generation Honda Insight.

I used to think of hybrids as an interim technology, until we get a practical infrastructure for the electrics, but ... while waiting for the power-grid to be restored in our Chicago suburb for three days last summer I began to see the advantage of a plug-in hybrid: you can adjust your choice of energy input to market prices and availability.

OTOH...

This reminded of a well-known story which took place back in my home town: a rash engineer tried to prove that locomotives would soon make the horse & buggy obsolete, but a mechanical failure proved the "folly" of all that new-fangled technology. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Thumb_%28locomotive%29). Today I (and thousands of others in Chicago) take trains (albeit, not steam-driven ones) daily, but I know no-one who commutes by horse, here or anywhere there's an internet connection (which presumably you need to read this. :-) ).

There's more commonality than you might think; the "new" technology was basically coal-powered (and as other posters have noted, so is much of the electricity in the UK and probably even more on this side of the puddle). So I wouldn't dismiss this "Electric Joule-aid Acid Test" out of hand...

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Anonymous Coward

Renewable Hydrocarbons

It's possible to make hydrocarbons from the hydrogen in water and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There's been a lot of research done on this using solar power, but there's no particular reason why it couldn't be done using other carbon neutral renewables like wind or tide or whatever. The neat trick here is that you would be making petrol from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which would of course mean you were taking as much CO2 out of the atmosphere as you were putting in by burning the petrol. Neat.

The advantage of this method of energy production is that the infrastructure for storing and distributing the fuel already exists, as do the vehicles that use it.

The problem with the alternatives be they battery power, hydrogen fuel cells or whatever else is that they will need a massive investment in infratructure and they will require that all the exisiting vehicles are scrapped.

I'm sure people will tell me that the old cars will be recycled, as is this process doesn't harm the environment. The problem with all this enforced recycling is that it isn't the environmental universal cure that it is pumped up to be. If you consider the four R's reduce, reuse, repair and recycle, it is the last item on the list that is the worst for the environment. Glass recycling being the perfect example. You glass goes to the recycling bank and is smashed up and melted down to make new glass - not exactly carbon neutral. The old way of doing things where the bottles were returned to the bottling plant, checked, sterilized and reused this of course has much less impact on the environment. Nobody has ever done any thorough research on the relative environmental impact of continuing to use and old car against recyclings that car and manufacturing a new one.

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Silver badge

Maybe it didn't break down

> the Nemesis as "powered only by renewables"

maybe the wind just stopped blowing?

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WTF?

So...

Prototype Car Breaks Down

Not much of a headline really!

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Anonymous Coward

It is, really.

Well it wouldn't be much of a headline had it not been trumpeted as such a big thing in the first place.

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Le Sigh.

Yay! EnviroBashing! How...er...unexpected!

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Le agree

...and by that impressively qualified energy expert Lewis Page as well!

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Grenade

Agree & Disagree

Agree that Lewis is a rabidly right wing anti-anything-green pseudo journo.

However, attacking Vince is fair game and I think Lewis is perfectly entitled to do so. He didn't pick up on the biggest scam with regard to the very misleadingly named Ecotricity. Yes all their OWN energy projects are green ..... -BUT- only ~30% of their power requirement is generated from renewables, the rest comes from purchasing credits from the big companies who burn fossil fuels / run nuclear power stations.

Good Energy is the ONLY green electricity company in the UK - 100% of their energy comes from renewables - and they're a damn site better than the preening shill (Vince).

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Headmaster

Nemesis?

If I remember my Greek Mythology correctly, Nemesis used to make sure that people with an inflated opinion of themselves, received divine retribution.

So possibly the worst choice of name since the British Airship "Mayfly" then.

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Watt's up?

"Vidal and the subs there plainly don't really know what a Watt actually is."

Well it is the Grauniad, who wouldn't know a unit of electricity if it zapped them on the leg . Probably why they still think that all that CO2 in the atmosphere (<0.04%) will lead to thermageddon...

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Of course...

The Graun is also the only newspaper and, to my knowledge, non-science journal with a serious bad science column. Ben Goldacre, the guy who writes it, is only too happy to point out where the Graun (and particularly the sister paper the Obs) cock up or generally get stuff wrong.

What does the Reg have?

Hmm...

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Taken for a ride...?

The Guardian's John Vidal was not the only person to be taken for a ride - albeit an embarrassingly short one. The following is taken verbatim from the Ecotricity website:

"We take the money our customers spend on their energy bills and use it to build new sources of green energy.

Because we run on a not-for-dividend model and have no shareholders or investors to keep happy, we’re free to dedicate all our money to our mission: changing the way electricity is made."

Dale Vince has recently paid £3m for a castle just outside Stroud. He owns an ocean going yacht costing almost £1.5m. The Nemesis cost the best part of £1m.

ALL your money Dale? Really?? We're not nearly as stupid as you think we are.

.

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Anonymous Coward

Powered only by Renewables

As I understand it Vince's company does sell a premium Green only tariff in addition to their Green/Brown tariff. So he could be mainly green.

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Gold badge
FAIL

'...good for "250,000 maintenance-free miles"...'

Go on, do tell.

How many did it *actually* get through before it went so comprehensively titsup on them?

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250,000 maintenance-free miles

Well, this was always somewhere between a PR statement and a blatant lie anyway. Anyone who knows cars, and has done even light research into electric cars, can call BS on that statement right away.

Sure, it's entirely possible to make a drive motor, complete with batteries and controller, that should last a quarter of a million miles without maintenance - IF nothing breaks (heh heh heh). Even series wound DC motors, often considered to be about the crudest traction motors out there (but relatively inexpensive and VERY powerful - popular for electric dragsters and home conversions), usually require no more than the equivalent of a change of spark plugs every 75,000 miles (brush replacement, for the curious). No oil or coolant to change, and the bearings can last AGES if not abused. An AC induction motor (which is the standard for commercial electrical vehicles) requires even less maintenance (no brushes - the only moving points in contact with each other are the bearings).

However, anyone who thinks that they are going to go a quarter of a million miles, in a "performance vehicle," on a single set of modern tires, needs their head examined. Same with brake pads, even with regenerative braking. Likewise, I have serious doubts as to the ability to run the rest of the drivetrain for that distance without proper lube and inspection. Finally, as was so bluntly demonstrated, things break. Even if that car made it into production (including ironing out the bugs), I question just how many could go 250,000 without something breaking.

-d

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If you read the source article...

It states that the reason it failed was because someone forgot to charge the batteries. So, cock-up rather than abject failure. Being fixed by charging up the batteries hardly counts as it being comprehensively tits-up. I don't think you would get far trying to claim that on the warranty.

The journalist said that he wouldn't drive it because of "the curse of the Guardian": it seems that sitting in the passenger seat was enough.

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FAIL

UI issue or User Error?

So did the chap driving the car not bother to check his fuel gauge before he set off? Or is his fuel gauge so obtuse that it was'nt obvious he was running on vapour, so to speak?

Personally even if I ignore the fuel gauge on my car I have a little light that comes on when its getting low. With something as unrefillable as an electric car I'd expect it to be very obvious how much power I had at all times, and a fairly insistent audible warning wthen things got low...

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Anonymous Coward

Transmission losses

Any car that requires recharging from the UK mains system is immediately 40% inefficient. The reason is thats the average loss between the power station and your electricity meter.

So in order to make any sort of electric (battery) car efficient requires a more or less totally new national grid.

You could of course argue that this should be done anyway and I wouldn't disagree with you, but its not going to happen inside the next 2 decades.

Nor is the likelihood that your "eco friendly" car is powered (recharged) by anything other than fossil fuels, 40% of which you have just pissed away in transmission losses.

So we have a situation where if we assume 100% efficiency for batteries and motors then the car is STILL only 60% efficient. That's 60% efficient ignoring all the nasty crap in the batteries, disposal costs and what it cost in environmental terms to extract the nasty crap.

Frankly battery powered cars should be BANNED, not encouraged.

Fuel cell is a totally different ballgame.

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Bronze badge

I'll see your 40%

Actually the grid loses about 8.5%, while your average Internal combustion engine loses about 75% to the flywheel. So I'm not sure you really wanted to bring that point up.

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Stop

Checking your facts

UK Electricity grid losses are more like 7%: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Grid_(UK)#Losses

DEFRA lists petrol as 0.28455kg CO2e/kWh, whereas electricity is 0.04609kg CO2e/kWh with % transmission and distribution losses as 7.4% (2008 figures); see http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/business/reporting/conversion-factors.htm

A Li-ion Battery charge/discharge cycle is 80-90% efficient, and EV electric motors >90%. All of which works out that electric cars are around three times more efficient than petrol cars, even when charged using a conventional fossil-fuel heavy power grid.

Whilst mining and refining the metals in batteries is not environmentally benign, the metals can be recycled at the end of the batteries life, using less energy than mining new material. Extracting and refining oil creates a large number of toxic by-products, and presents a considerable risk to the environment, as BP demonstrated this year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_refinery#Safety_and_environmental_concerns

Finally, read this article on the efficiency Hydrogen Economy, it's not as rosy as you assume, basically, electric cars win: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2003.09.024

In summary, your 'BAN battery powered cars' call may be a little wide of the mark...

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Anonymous Coward

Efficiency

One thing about all the trumpeting about efficiency is that nobody seems to be considering the efficiency of the process of converting the fossil fuel into electrical energy in the first place.

You can't simply say "my car runs on electricity generated from renewable sources" because that simply is not possible in the UK at the moment. An awful lot of out electricity comes from fossil fuels, I can see several power stations from here that are burning coal. We burn the fossil fuels to generate heat, the heat boils water to make steam, the steam drives a turbine, the turbine drives a generator. How efficient is that process?

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And even if you did plug it into a wind turbine

The energy will only be "green" once the kestrel-mincer has generated as much energy as it took to mine, refine, construct, install and maintain it up to that point.

Note very, very carefully: the "payback time" for renewable generators is based on subsidised installation and taxed production. You can only hide the up-front energy cost for as long as fossil plants keep producing it for you. Eventually, the laws of physics will trump your accounting wheezes: the *energy* payback time trends towards infinity, if you include the workforce.

And if you don't count the energy requirements of keeping the meat parts of your industry alive (which V-tards never do) then you're either dooming them to starve to death in a cold dark cave, or tacitly admitting that your wonder-technology is a massive fucking scam, a horrifyingly inefficient way of greenwashing fossil energy into fairy-farts.

If we'd spent all the resources wasted on "renewable" scams on fusion power instead, then we'd all be flying around in aero-limousines by now. Aero-limousines that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into kittens.

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Badgers

Video of Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf) taking the car for a test drive

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfP1P-ohN-w

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Flame

How many 13A sockets does your house have, Lewis?

I bet your house has more than one 13A socket.

Therefore in principle there's (much) more than 3kW available to charge the battery.

Do any readers have electric showers in their houses?

Are they (much) more than 3kW?

But let's not let little details like that spoil Lewis's anti-environmentalist ramblings, eh?

After all, Lewis clearly knows more about the subject than Professor David Mackay, as seen on TV.

Doesn't he?

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Stop

and

does you 10(ish) kw shower plug in to the mains? no? that's a shame.

so you can get a special outlet for the car, but that isn't plugging in to the standard 13A socket that they would like you to believe is possible.

But let's not let little details like that spoil your anti-Lewis ramblings, eh?

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Bronze badge

Way to set your house on fire.

I'm no sparky, but unless you want to rewire your house you're unlikely to have more than 30A on a ring main, which is 6.9kW. I think the main feed into the house is about 200A, which is 46kW, and that assumes you plug the car straight into your consumer unit and have no other load. I hope your wiring is up to scratch...

I liked McKays book too - bought 3 copies, gave them to friends - but no-one is going to be charging electric cars from flat overnight at home, period. We'll be trickle charging at home and topping up with 3-phase power at dedicated stations, which themselves will be topping up their big bank of batteries from a high-load line to the grid. The math doesn't work for any other setup.

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Boffin

Electric cookers

My electric cooker (and many electric showers) use a 30 amp (7kw+) circuit, so 6-7 hours for a 36kw battery with charging losses. OK, not a 13 amp socket, but still available in may homes.

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Silver badge

Are they (much) more than 3kW?

They are indeed - although in the UK a ring main is 30A.

HOWEVER the real point is that there isn't enough generating capacity to charge vast numbers of electric vehicles esp. if people want rapid charging

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Boffin

Re: How many 13A sockets does your house have

Hmm.. without getting technical and confusing you, a 13A socket is /The/ standard way to connect portable things to the mains - the shower you mention is hard-wired; betcha can't detach yours from the wall, take it to your mates house and reconnect it, can you? Well, the same problem exists with the car: you can't go around installing specialist outlets in your house, near your office, your parents house and everywhere else you frequent without frighteningly high costs and so the logical thing to do is base your car's recharging ability on this well defined and highly available 13A socket.

*In theory, you could pull 2 x 13A from a ring main by having TWO plugs on the go - a correctly-wired ring will cope - but you're pushing your luck if you have anything else on the same ring (and most people will have one ring for the entire downstairs floor, knackering that idea) and you also have a small problem of maintaining a balanced load. It's not generally advisable!

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Boffin

Correct me if I'm wrong

But I don't think that's how it works. Each device you plug in draws as much electricity as it needs, using multiple sockets wouldn't really be necessary unless you were worried about overheating.

Of course once you draw more than 32/20 amps (depending on your circuit) the breaker will flip and all your sockets turn off.

So yes in theory you could draw more from your supply but I think if it ever became popular we'd have to set up a seperate circuit or something to stop it tripping everything else

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Joke

I wrote a title but there was a power cut for some reason ^_^

how many 13a sockets do you have in your house that you can run at full draw before your main breaker trips?

I can wait for you to go plug stuff in, if you like.

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Headmaster

I feel like such a pedant but

I think it's 100A not 200. The cut-out fuse is rated at 100 amps.

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Gold badge

Re: How many 13A sockets

Had you bothered to read the article, you'd have noticed that Lewis was responding to a specific claim about the ability to recharge from a *single* and *ordinary* socket.

However, even on your general point I think you'll find that drawing 13A from a dozen sockets in parallel blows your consumer unit into your next door neighbour's garden, and if the entire street plays the same game then you'll blow the local substation away. I quite like the idea of electric cars powered by a nice fleet of nukes and providing CO2-free transport, but I can see that they are going to require some infrastructure investment before they are practical.

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Silver badge

Available?

Unless you want to have a dedicated special socket for your car this isn't exactly "available" to the average householder. The 30 amp main is usually tucked away somewhere it can't do any damage and is hard-wired into the appliances it serves. There's a good reason for this: it's bloody dangerous. Moreso than a 13 amp fused socket, which will generally blow before you do, though you'll be in a bit of a pickle afterwards. Start mucking with a 30 amp main and you're toast. Or, if you're as lucky as I am with live wires(or unlucky depending on how you look at it), you'll have a great party story. You'll also probably have a toasted car.

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Stop

Errm - much worse than that.

Actually a lot of houses are only rated at 80A, with older houses often at 60A. A few more recent builds might have 100A. And unless you turn everything else off while the car is charging you cannot divert a huge amount of that to your car, even if its in the garage and has a HUGE F-ing plug on it.

To cope with more than that would require a new feed to the house. The leccy boards would also need to worry about balancing these very high loads out unless they know EVERYONE had a leccy car and would probably be charging it. So houses might need to be on three phase (even more cabling and expense and upfront energy). And even that might be not enough complication as if a few neighbours had a late night the imbalance might blow the street's substation. So more gear in either the substations or the home to load balance these massive car chargers running at either 0 or 100A+. That would all be a) expensive and b) involve massive upfront costs.

So leccy cars can only really work if - service stations can do a battery swap while you are paying the bill - so about 3-5 minutes like a fill up now. That way only the service station has to be on a huge power feed AND can balance its own loads. Neato.

They might also work for specific situations such as Japanese town cars.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How many 13A sockets does your house have?

Well it has quite a few. However the street outside has precisely none.

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Use electricity from renewables...

to set hydrogen fuel cells.

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Boffin

Stop. just stop.

right, use the tiny percentage of 'green' energy* we produce in an energy-costly process to produce a gas you need to compress and cool to store, requiring more energy, and has a pretty shitty energy density/volume compared to say; petrol.

thats without even getting into how you plan to produce said hydrogen. and if you say Carbon Sequestration Im just going to start laughing. Thermochemical processes as well as having industry-unhelpful biproducts arent really ready for industrial application and we get most of our Hydrogen from steam + methane reforming. anode-based electrolysis hasnt made it out of the lab because you're either constantly swapping out your electrodes due to oxidisation or you're running inert-metal electrodes (usually platinum) which are a) fucking expensive and b; dont solve the other problem of water electrolysis; you need pure water otherwise you're looking at salt deposits, so you have to distill out your water which requires even more energy.

Hydrogen as a 'green fuel' is decades away.

*I have my doubts about the production rate of energy from a turbine versus the energy expenditure to mine, smelt, sheet form, engineer, construct, transport, plant the turbine, and lay the line from the turbine to the grid.

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