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back to article Who are the biggest electric car liars - the BBC, or Tesla Motors?

In a world-gone-topsy-turvy moment, the BBC has been accused of virulent anti-green bias by advocates of electric motoring, including Kryten from Red Dwarf and - of course - famous battery-car manufacturer Tesla, maker of the iconic Roadster. The Mini-E in action. Credit: Mini Don't try doing an Italian Job in one of these ( …

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Flame Of The Blogging Week

If anyone 'unknown' had written that in a blog or a comment, they'd have been disregarded as a crazy ranting fanboy.

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Paris Hilton

I'm surprised

I'm surprised ol' Kryten cant charge up an electric car using one of his groin attachments!

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Isn't that

groinal?

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Boffin

Cheap electricity for cars? Tcha! Right.

Anyone deluding themselves that when the gubmint loses the cash cow that is hydrocarbon duty, it won't lash up the price of electricity for transport is deluded. We'll either end up with spy-in-the-sky roadpricing or astronomically priced electricity (or knowing the British government - of all hues past, present and future - both).

Can't wait for the tales on Watchdog of Mr Smith from Luton who took his electric car to France and discovered he needed an adaptor which costs £500 then went to Belgium and discovered he needed a different one, etc...

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Flame

Really!?

We all know there are huge limits to EV's. They're not for everyone - agreed. But if the Beeb had done a contrasting "a week commuting in an ev" with a 30 mile/day journey into and out of London every day - it'd be a completely opposite, very positive story rather than the obsurd stunt they pulled.

You'd take the train/coach if you wanted to do that trip and you had an ev, which is what the gov want us to do anyway. It was totally stupid of the bbc

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True but....

It still highlights the fact that the infrastructure for more than a very small percentage of the population to drive e-cars simply doesn't exist and is unlikely to do so.

The costs just don't scale to the majority of the population using e-cars.

I'm not a sceptic, I have been interested in climatology since the early 80's, am currently completely convinced by the evidence for man made global warming and have lived a 'green' lifestyle for 23 years.

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Really?

>>You'd take the train

Yup, that is execatly what you would do for a weeks commuting.

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Stop

...and where's the demand?

"It stil highlights the fact that the infrastructure for more than a very small percentage of the population to drive e-cars simply doesn't exist and is unlikely to do so"

Quite so: and the reason that infrastructure isn't likely to improve soon is because one of the things the BBC reports highlighted most successfully was that a demand for even the current poor infrastructure simply doesn't exist at the moment.

One of the most telling comments in the BBC reports was that when they pulled up at a charging station, a small crowd would frequently gather. This was because the BBC car was the first e-customer they'd ever seen there...

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

"We all know there are huge limits to EV's. They're not for everyone - agreed. But if the Beeb had done a contrasting "a week commuting in an ev" with a 30 mile/day journey into and out of London every day - it'd be a completely opposite, very positive story rather than the obsurd stunt they pulled."

You mean, say, leaving EV's to jobs such as delivering milk door to door or traversing golf courses?

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A useful stunt?

There's certainly some excessive hype in this affair, but both journeys tell us something. Perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that Jeremy Clarkson drove a car from London to Edinburgh and back on one tank of diesel. And perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that electric cars, when the infrastructure exists, will potentially reduce pollution within cities.

I'm reminded of the way that LPG was promoted as a fuel, and I remember how few places there were to get it. Locally, there was an agricultural machinery dealer (who would also convert your vehicle), and the district council transport depot. Ten years later, it's still two places, a different two, as far as I can tell (and the site I checked for that goves a price comparison from Novermber 2009).

But the ugly reality is that electric cars are going to be for those in well-paid jobs, and the rest of us will, as fuel costs rise, become dependent on public transport. It was Tony Blair who linked his name to the phrase "joined up writing", and failed to deliver on the promise of more-coordinated government. This lot don't even seem to be trying.

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FAIL

Convenience

I expect my current vehicles to do long or short haul without hassle. These electric cars are still gimmicks rightly shown by the Beeb to be impractical. There is no need for comparison between journeys if the charge won't last long then one snow storm and the electric car is just as bad on a commuter trip.

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@Dave Bell

Not sure how the landscape is in the UK these days with regards LPG but you can get it at most places here in Oz. That may have something to do with most local cars having 4+litre engines though thereby making the savings significant.

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@ Bob, Hitchen

agreed - impractical. This IS a real-world test.

I first thought "OK who would do a long journey, the beeb is being naughty".

The truth is if you own an electric car that's your budget shot for a normal car - unless you're rich.

@ the person who wrote "[for long journeys]...you'd take the train/coach", I must challenge: if you have to travel 500 miles, in midwinter, what are the odds of your destination being reasonably and affordably reachable by public transport - and with luggage/tools/gifts? What if it's not in a major city centre? I laugh at the thought of public transport to visit family wintertime in suburban Merseyside, from where I am in Hertfordshire.

Fact is, I'll go broke, freeze my t*ts off, get flu from my fellow passengers, get robbed, and/or dvt and nerve irritation from staying sitting down, a bad back from lugging my kit and my several meals, it's just not on.

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... and where is the ability to supply any demand?

Parking a leccy car in the driveway is going to triple or more the average home's leccy use.

Being able to charge overnight is fine if you're dealing with very small % of the population using e-vehicles.

Being able to charge, say, 25% of UK cars over night would add considerable load to the electrical supply system. That would need a massive increase in power station building and need new power lines etc. And no, switching to CFL lighting won't be enough.

New battery technologies that charge in 10 minutes or whatever don't solve the problem. The energy still needs to come from somewhere.

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I think the BBc deserves more credit . . .

Yes, the Mini-E may be intended as an about-town runabout but how many mass-market drivers will have one car for round town and another for longer journeys? If they don't have a private drive and charger what are the chances that they keep two vehicles -one for occasional use on long journeys. It is not at all unlikely that, if e-cars grow in poplarity, people will need to use them, maybe only occasionally, for longer journeys. And, without significant improvement sin battery capacity/recharging time, this will still be a concern.

i like the idea of electric cars for many reasons; comabating local air pollution and noise in towns for example but there needs to be realism too.

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Boffin

So why not just change the bloody batteries...!!

I had an electric car when I was a kid. I'd run it round and round the carpet and then, when it stopped, instead of plugging it into the mains to charge, I'd just take the old batteries out and put in a new set of HP7's!

So why this nonsensical assertion that you need to recharge the battery *IN* the car? All that is needed is simple bit of cooperation between the car manufacturers to pick a standard battery format/ layout, drive up to the garage, park in the right place and mechanical systems unplug the old battery (which is taken away for recharging), plug a new charged one in and away you go!

Charging up your battery "at the pump" makes as much sense as refining petrol at the garage!

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Logic is already there.

We do it already with calor gas bottles. You buy one expensively at the beginning (like when you buy the car) And then just plug in a new one when needed. You then take the empty one to a local dealer to swap for a full one, the dealer charges a small fee for the gas, with probably some kind of cost attached to handle the empty battery. A truck comes when needed and takes all the empties and drops off a load of filled ones.

Same logic can be applied to car batteries and forecourts are an easy enough place to do it, decent manufacture and the battery can be plug in as well. (Though weight might be an issue and you might need a couple of blokes or a machine to help if you are a pensioner for example)

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agreed

And for the cold weather on the commute keep a spare battery canninster (or whatever they would use or call it) in the car just in case you get stuck in the snow on the motorway for instances, its the only way I can see eletric cars working (Replace the battery at a garage or take them out and charge them up in the house, but do feel they need to be a lot lighter and need to get rid of the guff that are not needed on a daily basis to keep weight down.

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Japan are working on battery changers

Exactly right, there is no need to charge them in car. Japan I am sure were working on e-cars and mechanisms to change batteries at service stations.

Much more sensible solution.

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Happy

Sounds

like swappable batteries at petrol stations make most of the problems listed in the article go away...

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L.B
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Some reasons why changing batteries will not work...

...just imagine you have just spent £23000 on a new e-mini, and after driving your new toy about for fun on the very first day you get it, you have to change that battery.

The battery your hand in is a lovely new one which allows say 80-100 miles, you get back an old (2-3 years) duffer that as the manufactures admit will have only ~60% the capacity, or even worse is about to fail completly 5 miles down the road.

Then think of how many batteries a typical station would have to have to guarantee that the next one to go out has been there long enough to be re-charged? Storage space is not cheap and unless every car manufacturer agrees on a standard, there will be many types and sizes.

But the biggest problem is simply weight; these batteries are not light weight, just think about how much of a typical laptop's weight is the battery and now think of changing something 100-200 times the size or maybe you would rather changing 20-30 separate smaller ones and have all those physical connections to break and fail.

EV's are just toys, and will remain so until:

- Batteries can be made to last longer without massive degradation.

- The charging times can be lowered (although this would still need massive upgrades to the grid)

- Have a range that covers the typical extended days journey (150+ miles at speeds over 50mph)

- Are capable of doing the above and carry 3 to 4 people with luggage.

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Boffin

Another tech limitation

i think the same way. Instead of charging the batteries they should be swapped. That would render mute the problems or recharging time and battery wear/lifetime. For example when they start performing under 75% of their original specs, they are retired of the cycle and recycled.

But alas batteries are HUGE right now (most weight well over 100 kg). a mechanical replacement system would be changing a limitation for another. Swapping batteries is a winning strategy only if the user can swap them manually and safely.

Of course changing the WHOLE battery may not be necessary, or maybe fuel cells may be better for this purpose.

And of course that will only be meaningful if hydrogen is obtained out of the fossil fuel ecosystem...

Is a big complex problem.

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@LB Some reasons why your objections won't work:

1) Batteries, when being replaced/ recharged can be assessed for charge capacity and any that aren't up to scratch can be returned to a central depot for reconditioning or recycling.

2) Storage space isn't a problem if you rip out one of the underground petrol storage tanks which hold (according to a quick bit of searching) upwards of 45,000 litres of fuel.

3) The changing process would be mechanical, you wouldn't have to carry the things around yourself. It would not be difficult to design something with connections sturdy enough to handle being swapped in this way. All it requires is cooperation from the manufacturers.

4) I'd take a guess that all petrol stations already have three-phase AC connections which would make charging easier and quicker.

5) With battery swapping you would get a typical extended day's journey, especially if combined with hybrid technology which would carry 3-4 people with luggage (although how many cars actually *do* that in the course of a year?!)

All of the above can be made to work, people just have to *want* them to work.

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N2

Some reasons why changing batteries will not work

.... And are not made of the most toxic materials known to man.

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FAIL

Batteries ain't calor gas canisters

19kg Calor gas canisters hold 19kg of propane, when full, however old they are. Batteries don't behave like that, so would you like to swap your discharged battery, especially the new one you got with your car, for something of unknown provenance, age and capacity at a swap station?

Even if we can solve the battery problem (energy density by weight and volume, and lifetime), we will have a much harder time solving the energy fill rate that petrol & diesel give us. A 50 litre fill of petrol takes about 2 minutes. The energy density of petrol is around 30MJ/l, so assuming a 20% efficiency of an IC engine, that's about 300MJ of useful energy in 2 minutes, i.e. 2.5MJ/sec which is 2.5 Megawatts! I don't see filling stations, or the National Grid, providing that kind of electricity supply infrastructure to recharge electric cars.

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Auto Battery Exchange

This is already under development by Better Place and the Renault-Nissan alliance and is due to be rolled out in Denmark and Israel for initial testing. Battery changing takes 1-2 minutes, is fully automatic and you don't need to get out of your car.

Batteries will be leased from Renault.

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Quick Drop

Nope, you're wrong, it is already a reality. Look-up Better Place and Renault Quick Drop. Battery degradation is not an issue as you'll only use it for one 'charge' before replacing it with another.

It will be the battery suppliers responsibility to ensure all batteries are at a reasonable level.

Whilst energy density doesn't compare with petrol, you do get the advantages of a much better traction motor than i.c, as well as greater efficiency. The car construction also doesn't have to take into account the greater weight and vibration inherent in reciprocating engines.

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Re: Another tech limitation → #

Until there is a much lighter and more efficient battery technology, fuel cells will remain the only reasonable possibility. Why not obtain the hydrogen with nuclear power?

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Boffin

Change the electrolyte, not the battery

There has been work done on flow batteries, which work on the basis of electrolyte which becomes discharged through use, and can be replaced from external tanks. You then have two tanks on board, one filled with charged electolyte, which flows to the the discharged tank.

Then, when you need to recharge, pull into the filling station which replaces your discharged electrolyte with charged electrolyte, and recharges the discharged electrolyte to reuse for later customers.

At the moment the energy density is not great (comparable with Lead acid batteries), but research into this technology is likely to lead to great improvements - researchers claim to have a prototype which is approaching Lithium Ion capacities:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091012135506.htm

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Boffin

"conventional 240-volt outlets"

Just because you don't have them in your home, does not stop these from being conventional 240-volt outlets:

http://tinyurl.com/240vSockets

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FAIL

Well no but...

Do I really have to point out the fact that Tesla's PR team damn sure worded that to have you believe they meant wall socket?

Do you want to post a link to quotes from domestic sparkys on the cost of fitting a 32 amp socket at home?

Can your household electircity supply even cope with the added demand bearing in mind you'll most likely be charging it overnight when everyone's home and using the countless other electrical appliances?

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Boffin

Since you ask...

>Do you want to post a link to quotes from domestic sparkys on the cost of fitting a 32 amp socket at home?

Wearing my domestic sparky hat...

I would typically charge GBP 150 to GBP 350 to supply, install, test and do the paperwork for one of these sockets. The price would mainly depend on how far it was from the consumer unit, and what additional switchgear was needed. This is about the same as it would cost to install any dedicated circuit.

>Can your household electircity supply even cope with the added demand bearing in mind you'll most likely be charging it overnight when everyone's home and using the countless other electrical appliances?

A single-phase 32 A socket outlet is capable of supplying approximately 8 kW, which is similar to the requirements of a typical electric hob or shower unit. The typical supply to a modern house is 100A and most older property will be get at least 60A. There are ways of switching demand around where the incoming supply is limited anyway.

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But in reality...

... the electric car would be used for a short journey to work, where a slow speed charger would charge the electric car over 8 hours whilst the driver was sat at a desk, before the short return journey. As long as the driver is doing something else, it doesn't matter how long the charging takes.

Indeed, car journeys are so short that most could be replaced with bicycles on, largely, a one-for-one swap, if we as a nation could be bothered to think rather more about what cyclists want, not just what car drivers want. In the 1960s, The Netherlands had the same attitude towards cars as in the UK, but they deliberately, not accidentally, decided to take a different approach.

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FAIL

oops

the 50Amp fuse in the mains box stops you dead in your tracks.

and that is what the existing mains infrastructure is designed to deliver to domestic houses - 50Amps. So don't try changing that there fuse - you would risk turning the house wiring into a poor imitation of electric fire elements - and after the fire brigade puts your house out; you'll find the insurance won't pay out either ......

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Unhappy

hills - its those damned hills

Holland is flat - they think the brow of a bridge is a big hill. As such they are ideally suited to bicycles and good old fashioned human muscle power.

Try that in Wales; round the Pennines - or even in & out of the London Bowl.

Different approach because they had different approaches to the hills they had to conquer

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@peter_dtm

Isn't the main fuse in the UK home the canister fuse supplied/maintained by the electricity board which is rated at 100A - I know because one went in a friends how when I was there (dodgey wiring job) and they came out and replaced it.

Are you referring to some kind of safety switch etc on a RCB switchboard? Maybe new builds have a different supply but a lot of post-wars have the 100A canister.

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someone must've thought of this...

As battery technology develops, we will get batteries that can be charged faster - that doesn't appear to be in doubt. Who says then, that the 60A or 100A of domestic electricity is the bottleneck? If you're going to have a dedicated charging point, surely trickle feeding some kind of rapid discharge device like a big capacitor would be the way round it. Charge the device all day at a few amps, then release it into the car battery in a much shorter time when convenient.

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Gold badge

Gears

It's why there are gears on bikes. I don't get this problem with hills, people spend lots of money to go to gyms and get a muscle work out but won't ride a bike because of hills?

Anyway you can get bikes with electric assist for wimps who can't be bothered to get fit.

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Not major issue

8KW isn't much different to an electric shower. Would need 10mm wire though from consumer unit.. Mind you that's equivalent to 4 2K electric fires - a lot of electric! The costs are mounting all the time to acquire and run an electric vehicle

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FAIL

true..

from a domestic consumer standpoint.

heres another viewpoint.

I design transmission/distribution networks, we calculate demand to be, typically, 2.5kWh per household - this makes allowance for the fact that we dont all use the same ammount at the same time.

now 32amps at 240v is 7.6kWh

oops

now imagine a street where 30% of residents drive milk floats, all on charge, all night

OOPS.

bunging more and more transformers into substations to get more MVA is not technically possible, levels of fault current become un manageable fairly quickly, in many supergrid sites its a problem already. By the time the protection opens a breaker under fault conditions then some part of the kit has been damaged by the fault current. (no we cant make the breaker open quicker)

so more and more substations...

and more and more OHL's or cables to join them all up (suits me just fine :D)

what was that about cheap leccy?

Then theres the cost of the batteries, and their ecologically safe disposal.

Not to mention the tax system currently treats leccy cars as a loss leader, that will be a distant memory by the time the average bloke in the street is in a position to buy one.

Also by then the cat will be out of the bag as to just how piss-poor all them windmills we have just thrown up are, so generating capacity will be unable to meet even current demand.....

prolly a good time to buy shares in horses

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Happy

trickle feeding some kind of rapid discharge device like a big capacitor would be the way round it

in other words a fucking battery!

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FAIL

32A x 240v = what?

I would like to know where 'Naughtyhorse' works, so I can avoid it. He says:

"I design transmission/distribution networks, we calculate demand to be, typically, 2.5kWh per household - this makes allowance for the fact that we dont all use the same ammount at the same time.

now 32amps at 240v is 7.6kWh"

Oh dear -- a kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a unit of Energy, not Power which is measured in kilowatts (kW). 32A at 240V is indeed 7.68kW (leaving aside that the nominal voltage is 230V), so he did the calculation correctly but apparently doesn't know his SI units very well. Not a good advertisement for someone who "designs transmission/distribution networks"...

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Coat

I've cycle-commuted in two of those three...

it isn't the hills that are a problem. It's

1) The "Sorry mate, I didn't see you" road users with an engine

2) The filth you get covered in from the same road users.

Luckily, I survived, and even had a wash since.

Mine's the highly reflective one.

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Stop

I am shocked, SHOCKED!

Holy Mackeral!

Lewis Page in anti-green tech article shocker; quelle surprise...

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Pint

Lewis you've finally done it!

Most of your articles seem to have a heavy bias towards something or other that means I can't agree with all that you say.

In this case, you've attained 100% agreement!!!!!

Send me your address and £10.00 for postage and I'll send you a pint!

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Maybe the next challenge for the BBC

would be to see if Milligan can do a weeks worth of typical short distance commuting (like 99% of all car journeys) in a petrol car for under fiver?

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5 mile round trip a day costs..

...me nothing since I walk it. Cars? Pffff.

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FAIL

Or...

They could test a hydrogen car and tell all these e-tards where to get off.

Lost all respect for Llewellyn, I always thought he had an IQ but clearly I was mistaken.

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Anonymous Coward

walking still costs you ;)

More you exercise the more calories you need to consume, so it will cost you something... if you did 20 miles a day I wager your food bills would rise. Your shoes will wear out faster too ;)

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