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back to article Where am I going tomorrow? My 'leccy car charger wants to know

There’s a definite green tinge to Intel’s European Research and Innovation Conference (ERIC) this year, with a cash-saving electric car charger being touted alongside energy management ideas. It's not escaped El Reg that Intel is touting its green tech wizardry in Leixlip, Co. Kildare, in the Emerald Isle. The "context-aware" ' …

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Downside

The downside is that you start out with a less than charged battery, so you end up discharging the battery deeper than if you started out with a fully charged battery. And the deeper you discharge a battery, the shorter the battery's life.

And what do you do if an unexpected trip comes up? I've had to go and pick my kids up from school when they were sick and take them home. But I wouldn't be able to drive back to work because the battery was too low because it only had enough of a charge put into it to go to work and back.

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FAIL

That is going to be one complicated algorithm

It will need to know what the weather is going to be to compensate for environmental factors like wind, rain and exteme cold. It will also need to compensate for battery degredation over time too. Sure you can make a best guess, but guessing isn't good enough when it needs to be 100% fool proof. People don't always know what they're doing from one moment to the next and getting them to plan far in advance would open up a whole can of worms. People may be leaving themselves vulnerable if the tablets that manage this system are not properly secured. Too much to go wrong. K.I.S.S.

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And when there's an unplanned trip?

When little Jimmy manages to bang his head and need taking to A&E (which thanks to NHS cuts is now 15-20 miles away) you jump in the car and it announces that you're not supposed to be there?

Part of the whole car owning thing is about the ability to make a trip on a whim, unplanned. This would appear to be trying to regiment everyone's life into their online calendar (who else can see it? no doubt the plod & the like want to know what you're planning)

This whole battery-powered car thing is an evolutionary dead end, alternative fuel (hydrogen is promising) is the answer.

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hydrogen is fine except the fuel cells in the few cars on the road at the moment cost, I believe, about 250,000 pounds. Unless someone can make one with a lot cheaper components hydrogen will be hobbled both by the lack of infrastructure and the cost of the components.

As to your question you check to see the range on your car and if not long enough you call an ambulance the way people without cars do.

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So if I figure out a way to get that cost from 250,000 to 1000 I'll be a wealthy man. Right, I'm off to the shed. [Grabs the arc welder, returns to get the hedge trimmer, the drill, ........ and some ordinary household bleach.]

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Anonymous Coward

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a waste of time at the moment, really it is.

It's an expensive process to make Hydrogen, currently it's made from converting Natural gas would you believe. Also it contains less stored energy that petrol.

El Reg should investigate and write an article on it.

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@AC

It's true. The issue is energy density, something that fuel cell, hydrogen and battery advocates always either ignore or prefer not to talk about.

Currently the most efficient form of energy storage for road vehicles is petrol simply because it packs the most energy into the smallest space without the need for expensive, dangerous active storage facilities. Hydrogen can leak from even the most perfect of seals because it's so small and requires extreme compression to achieve even remotely the same energy density as petrol, which then requires expensive and dangerous cryogenic storage. Hydrogen fuel cells are marginally better but still suffer the same basic storage and transport problems as hydrogen. Batteries? They're largely dead weight. Look at the average battery powered car and you'll see that they're essentially useless. People complain about a phone that lasts less than a week, how will they act if they have to "fill up" their car every day? I'd only have to fill my car every day if I was doing a daily commute all the way from lands end to john o'groats.

The only solution I can see is artificial petroleum produced in some sort of high intensity centralised facility (ie not one that requires the use of vast tracts of arable land and food crops). Everything else seems to be a waste of time and effort with very little energy returned on energy invested, especially given the fundamental rebuilding of a large chunk of our infrastructure and economy that always seems to go along with them.

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What if a customer phones with an emergency that needs you to visit today? Or your child has an accident and needs to be taken to a hospital? The range on electric cars is crap as it is without Intel and the electricity company restricting it still further.

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Nonsense

Unless we are unwell, tomorrow is unpredictable.

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Stop

Since when was life that predictable?

Compare and contrast:

Situation:

You go to work for the day, come home and at some point in the evening a family member is taken ill and needs to go to hospital. This may not be life threatening, in which case the Ambulance service wont respond, they will expect you to do it yourself (not unreasonably, in the case of non-emergency admissions)

Case 1:

Conventional car.

You: "Right, lets go, I'll make a quick stop at the petrol station on the way because I was going to go there in the morning before work"

Result:

After a short delay, you arrive at the hospital

Case 2:

Electric car charged to the minimum requirements for expected use

You: "Dammit, the battery is flat and there won't be enough charge in the car for several hours"

Result: Unnecessarily long delay in arriving at hospital and your loved one being treated.

Now, I realise this is a very specific circumstance, but it usefully illustrates the wider point that life simply is not that predictable. In the case where cars can charge to at least 80% of their total capacity in 10 minutes, this would be useful. As it is currently more like 10 hours, sorry, I don't see it.

I know there is an overhead (possibly quite a big one) in using hydrogen to power a fuel cell, and for this reason many see it as unsuitable, but as technology improves, that overhead will drop and you can still fuel your car in a matter of minutes, plus we handily avoid many problems of overloading the national grid at peak times, running cables across the pavement for those without driveways and so on.

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Here's why no father worthy of the title will buy one. If your teenage daughter, out with friends, gets left behind and there's some creep ogling her, she'll call you in a panic. Your response? "Sorry, honey, we didn't plan for a rescue-from-rape call tonight, you'll have to deal with that University of Miami football player yourself, we have to save the planet ..."

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FAIL

What do you mean you can't get a pint of milk on the way home?

|abc

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Anonymous Coward

Pints.

"Sorry boss, I can't come to work this morning because my car didn't foresee me leaving it in the red lion car park overnight without a charging point."

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Top Gear

I can see the Top Gear episode now. Lanky, Dopey and Blinky take a pre-planned trip from the office to the local chipper 10mins away. But on route decide it'd be a great idea to take their new electric car to show their friend Sting. Only thing is, Sting's in Glasgow, so the 3 amigos head off on their cross country adventure, only to run out of juice 20mins down the road.

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footnote

Mind you, they know damned well that the car won't even get half that distance but stil base an entire programme around the 'fact' that the car didn't make it -- accompained by three 'hilarious' patently obvious set-up cock-ups.

If they got rid of the bloody pantomime stuff it might be a good programme - but then it would only last ten minutes.

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Anonymous Coward

*yawns* electric cars are still toys and will likely be toys for a very long time, well until we have a national grid with lots of cheap excess fusion power I'd have thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Hardly a week goes by...

without a news item about new technologies being announced that promise to increase the capacity and speed of charging. At the moment a car like the Nissan Leaf can only do 100-120 miles but new technolgies promise to improve that to several times that figure and I would suggest that an electric car that could do 300 to 350 miles per charge is not too far off (the tesla can do it now but that does not count in the context of normal folk) and that that would not be a 'toy'.

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Pirate

you can go three times as far now

but the batteries will weigh 3 times as much (so you won't go three times as far as you have to cart that extra couple of tonnes of battery around with you) and take up 3 times the volume - so the car will be at least half as big (so it won't go three times as far because of the increased drag - and weight of the monocoque shell)

and of course - with a mains fuse of only 50 amps in your house it will take three times as long to charge.

And with out the subsidies that the Leaf etc all get (some 30% plus of price) it's going to cost three times as much.

And do three times the environmental damage in making the battery and disposing of it after 5 years - at about the same cost as a new car

dead right they are not toys - they are expensive guilt removal bling suitable for either people who are genuinely interested in different tech; or look-at-me-aren't-I-good psueds

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100 miles ... erm, yes but no but

Well yes, it can do 100 miles as long as you only drive at 35mph for a small 1 or 2 mile burst and restrict the other 99 miles to 20mph or less.

Perhaps I exagerate a little but go check what these battery car test cycles are - the old milkfloat was better.

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Uh huh

So I would have to keep an exact electronic diary of where I'm planning to be at all times then? Pffft, I hardly do that with my work diary never mind keep a private one.

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FAIL

so- Creative Diary Keeping for the FUTURE!!

Monday- Land's end

Tuesday- John O'Groats

Weds- etc

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Wait, the new John O'Groats outlet store is next to the mall with the Land's End.

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Unlikely to be flat to start with though is it?

Why is it that in these 'scenarios' those against electric cars the car just managed to make it home that even and is completely flat?

Most journeys are about 20 miles and the range at the moment for electric cars is about 100 so most evenings the charging will take you from about 60 to 80 miles up to 100, if you need the car in an emergency you still have the 60 to 80 miles to use and as long as its plugged in every day its highly unlikely to get down to zero and if it does you press the 'big red button' as the story says to make sure its up to a usable range as soon as possible.

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Meh

Where does the 'smart' bit come in?

Almost all rechargeable things tend to do that already without Big Brother's 'input'.

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WTF?

Err..??

You seem to have missed the point. If it starts day 1 with 100 miles of energy and you do 22 miles per day then it won't charge until day 4 evening and then only enough to do the 22 miles you planed on for day 5. If you need to do another 10 miles (take kiddie to A&E) then tough cheese.

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Rot

a) The range is NOT 80 miles in most electric cars unless you are prepared to drive along at the speed of a bicycle. In most scenarios of reasonable speed the range is down around 30 miles

b) I don't know where this figure for 'most journeys' is - the SHORTEST commute I have ever driven was 15 miles each way. My current commute is 25 miles each way. My longest commute was near 50 miles each way.

If I want to see my son its 260 miles each way.

Electric cars are just the wrong technology. We need something that actually works - all the money and effort on a dead end technology is just not helping us with the basic problem, we need to ditch the petrol engine.

My current daily commute is along a dual carriageway, I do it at 50mph to save fuel at this speed I have some serious problems with the lorries that are (illegally) trying to do rather more than this and get upset with me. I can't imagine taking one of the lightweight electric cars along at the 25-30mph it would need to do in order to complete the journey. The fact I could then charge it for 8 hours at work is a bonus, but by the time I get home of an evening I wouldn't be able to get to rugby training or the gym...

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Mushroom

Benefit the customer?

"...it [the SAP software] will, for example, let your system know that the usual top-up time of midnight is no good tonight because the price has gone up...This kind of precision utility bill is the main benefit for the customer, who can make sure they only pay peak prices when they absolutely have to."

Not unless you're on half-hourly billing. UK domestic unit price doesn't change depending on what the grid load is. It's the supplier that benefits as they can smooth out demand to compensate for errors in their forecasting, which could save them or even earn them a fortune on the spot market.

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Alert

Data share

SAP software will be linked to the now familiar horde of energy sellers.

Expect to find messages asking if you think you're paying too much for your leccy.

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FAIL

But

In my calendar I have. Drive by smash and grab on a cash machine.

Will the tablet, know about the extra weight I'll be carrying?

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Seriously?

Could we get this designed by people who have busy lives, rather than by engineers who've read about lives on wikipedia? We have kids who are active in school, both my wife and I work fulltime and part time, we have to run errands of an evening, we volunteer with local animal shelters, etc etc etc. The idea of planning or scheduling our lives around a car charge is ... mind-boggling.

This is one reason why hydrogen may win out: convenience. With electric cars, those long drives to visit relatives are NOT going to be feasible and we'll be forced to pay more, and spend more time, on public transportation.

Which, come to think of it, is what the watermelons probably want.

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Boffin

Not hydrogen - ethanol. Works almost perfectly in a petrol engine, and works perfectly with only minor re-tuing. Easier to store and handle than Hydrogen, easier even than petrol, almost completely clean, similar energy density to Petrol, what's not to like?

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Pint

re: ethanol - whats not to like?

Simple, the ethanol should be in beer, not in fuel...

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Ethanol FTW

Ethanol burns cleanly, it is easy to store and its only weakness is that it is a bit harder to get going when it is -20C or colder outside. (so my car comes with a block heater pre-installed)

Plus the exhaust smells quite nicely in cold mornings.

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minor problem

The main objection to petrol is the CO2 produced... ethanol will produce CO2 as well.

Now, if we were to run methane then it could be collected from the sewers, true burning this also produces CO2, but as CO2 is mess damaging than methane in terms of greenhouse gas then that is better. The methane is a natural biproduct of so many humans. In fact, thinking of the beer problems below my methane production is higher when I've had a load of beer and a kebab, so perhaps the government will see the advantage of lowering beer tax in order to encourage more methane production :)

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FAIL

Not going to work

I don't put shopping trips in my diary, and they aren't that predictable. It is quicker to walk than drive to my local supermarket, so routine shopping does not involve the car. I take the car if the weather is really bad, I am going to take something heavy home, or I go somewhere other than the local supermarket; and I don't put any of those things in the diary.

Also, I might wake up one weekend day, look out and see that the weather is very nice, and decide to go on a day trip somewhere.

Besides, just in case anyone forgot, electric cars were around before diesel and later petrol cars were invented. They were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s in the days when diesel engines took about 30 minutes to get going with a starting handle, and were very noisy and smelly. In other words, they are old obsolete technology which is unlikely to come back any time soon.

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Facepalm

Half assed half charge!

Only travel at a pre determined time? Hmm there are words for that... Bus... train.... the major point of owning a car is the liberty to travel "at will", not have to worry about there being enough (part) charge for that unexpected trip/detour *tards*

What about those days where someone has an accident and Mr Plod and his traffic womble friend close a road or 5 for the better part of a day while they make pretty lines and take photos? how will this cope with the detour that could involve. Last time it happened to me it involved a 10 mile tour of country lanes.

They really do need to get a handle on real life in the drivers seat. Just another reason the Leccy car is a just a richer townies toy.

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Facepalm

Alternatively.

Fully charge car. Use car. Look at charge gauge on returning home. Decide whether or not it needs topping up for the next day. You know, exactly the process you use now when you look at the fuel guage and go: "Aha. Must go to the petrol station tomorrow....".

The advantage here is that you know *everything* that you might be doing the following day and how much "spare" you'd like, rather than just the bits you've put in your diary and some generic algorithm's guesstimate.

Of course, there's no home for an Intel tablet in that process, which is the real reason for this outpouring of total bullshit.

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Pirate

no

look at charge gauge and think - that'll take 3 hours to charge

the difference with a liquid fuel car is - that'll take 5 minutes to fill...

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Ridiculous

On top of everything that's been posted, who, pray tell, is going to find a way to access that diary?

Say what you want of Jeremy Clarkson, he was right when he said that the first thing left-wing dictators do is restrict movement. So there's the electric car. Then they want to control all the power. And if the government controlling the electric grid doesn't fall under there, I'll eat my cat. And now with GPS and onboard diaries of trips and OnStar-like services, we see where this is leading.

That's it, I'm going to play Rush' "Red Barchetta" and look for an old Delorean.

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Happy

Just in case...

...what type of wine will you be having with the cat?

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Holmes

Oh FFFF

Just charge the car off peak and be done with it

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FAIL

If everybody does that, it's not off-peak anymore.

The really, really, really *MASSIVE* problem with electric cars is that in a world where a lot of people have one, they all charge it overnight.

That's currently the time when the Grid can use the idle speed of coal and nuke plants to pump water up hills for when Corrie ends.

If everybody wants to re-juice their cars during that time, the economics of pumped storage stops working.

To make life more interesting, that same world where everybody has an electric car is the one where there are no coal plants, just lots of windfarms*.

In a high wind-penatration situation, you are *forced* to use radical demand management because the wind doth blow when the wind bloody well wants to, and not at our convenience.

"Demand management" is another term for "Blackouts". This project looks very much like an experiment to see if people will accept blackouts if they only affect their cars.

The best part of it is that if you hand someone a free car in addition to the petrol/diesel one they already have, they probably won't mind if they can't use it for 'unscheduled' trips. In fact, they probably won't mind being told "you can't use it today".

Now take away the petrol/diesel car, and ask them to pay for the electric one. They will refuse to buy that vehicle if you give them either of the above restrictions.

*And gas-burning plants emitting more carbons than the coal plants used to. Don't you just love the lack of joined-up thinking by the Greenies?

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Anonymous Coward

I believe

The order would be:

During the day excess used to pump water up hill

That kicks in for corrie etc.

Electric cars charge over night.

You appear to have forgotten that that is a period in the day before the peak as well as after.

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FAIL

err look here

http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

I think you will find that the period of the day after the night and before corrie is peak demand

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Overly complicated

The basic idea is good, it has just been made way way way over complicated.

What you need to tell it are two basic things:

1. Minimum acceptable charge level/range (ie how much charge you need to get to and from the hospitable in an emergency).

2. When you want it fully charged by - eg 6am.

The charger is clever enough that when you plug it in it works out when to do the charging.

If the battery is below 1 it starts charging immediately.

If it is over 1 then works out how long it takes to charge to full and uses the most optimal approach to perform the charge - ie if the car is at 95% it may turn the charger on at 3am to do the rest of the charging when it is cheapest.

Linking into online calendars and everything is just an optimization and complication too far.

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The bit about the diary..

sounds a bit like techy feature creep to me. The main interesting point is that the elec company can control your recharge from their end to even the load. If you car takes 10 hours to charge from flat and you arrive home with no charge then it should allow you to start charging immediately but for the vast majority of people where they arrive home with a significant amount left then there are obvious advantages to the power companies controlling when that charging takes place.

Surprised that no one has mentioned the possibility of the power going the other way when peak power is required. Power companies would charge you less when you did charge and they would gain extra capacity at peak periods. Possibly not feasible with today's battery tech but say you had batteries that could go for 300 miles then letting the elec companies drain it from say 200 miles range down to 100 during peak demand periods and then charge it back towards 300 when off peak could well be a sensible way of coping with varying power needs.

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Anonymous Coward

Battery swapping stations are the only answer.

The swapping station company can then charge them up whenever power is cheap and we can just carry on with life as normal.

We just have to rent batteries and have a nationwide scheme with universal fitment.

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Good Idea

Only problem is the size of the batteries needed to move 1.5 ton of car, 4 people and luggage more than about 10 miles, and play cds, run the air con, instruments etc...

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Anonymous Coward

No

There not.

The vast majority of owners of electric cars appear to operate quite well with overnight charging at home and the occasional fast charger. Trying to a) Get all the car manufacturers to agree a standard for the battery packs and b) building an infrastructure far more expensive that fast chargers for the rare occurrences when a driver is unable to get to their destination on a single home charge just will not work in my books.

What is happening is that the pace of battery development is increasing with a number of technologies that promise to double or triple the range for no increase in weight. Once we get to the point where a normal (i.e. not a tessla) electric car can do 300 miles on a full charge then such battery replacement sites will become even less used.

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JDX
Gold badge

"While everyone wants to be a bit greener"

Nope. Not really.

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