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back to article How practical is an electric car in London?

If you revel in the independence a car gives you, then electric is not for you. The quoted range of 100 miles (161km) sounds fine, but that's a bit like a quoted ADSL speed. Your mileage may vary. The truth is that if and when the car goes flat, you are in deep doo-doo. Run out of petrol and you can walk to a petrol station, …

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Holmes

On Street Parking

Where I live in SE London 90% of the houses have no allocated parking, I'd like to know if there's an answer to this other than "move to a less pikey area"

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Re: On Street Parking

Unless you want to see parking garages built like most other cities, then no. The answer is going to be to move.

Personally, when the part of town I live in has more residential cars than parking spaces, it IS always time to move. It usually means I can no longer afford the rent, anyway.

That said, electric cars will be the dominant car within the next 20 years. Fast charging, 250+ mile range at ~$30k will spell the end of the ICE almost overnight.

Thank god.

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Coat

Re: On Street Parking

I know some people put extremely loud systems in their car but to ban In Car Entertainment is a bit draconian.

Oh, wait ...

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Re: On Street Parking

"spell the end of the ICE". Err, right. Not everyone lives in cities, you know. And some people even live near to power stations, which is simply where your pollution (in fact, a great deal more - given the inherently wasteful nature of electric generation and motive power) gets pushed.

I've an idea: re-build Battersea Power Station for the exclusive use of electric vehicles. Then London would see EXACTLY the consequences of all this "free, clean" electricity.

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@ecofeco

The end of the ICE in 20 years is most unlikely. In the absence of some unforeseeable brand new energy storage technology, neither physics (ultracapacitors) nor chemistry (batteries) can get within an order of magnitude of the energy density of petrochemicals. If you're seeking something with minimal CO2 emissions, technology to produce petrochemicals (or simply methane) using electricity is a much more probable scenario.

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Unhappy

Re: death of ICE

30k+ miles per year, at motorway speeds, sometimes 3 or 4 passengers, out in deepest darkest Norfolk miles from the nearest house, never mind charging point....

I cant wait.

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Re: On Street Parking

Regarding pollution and electric cars - yes, there is a risk of simply pushing off the pollution. But less-polluting electricity generation is being actively pursued in a number of ways (renewables, carbon capture, even nuclear), needs to be solved anyway for other purposes, and is certainly in principle feasible. The ICE by contrast is inherently polluting, and the best to be expected is more efficient engines or small-scale remediation of their effects.

That said, it would be very interesting to do a comparison of carbon emissions (and other pollutants) from an ICE vs the equivalent emissions from a standard gas- or coal-fired power station, for the generation of sufficient power to drive a car a certain distance. And then of course, as Thomas Gray suggests, to look at the local distribution of those pollutants.

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Re: @ecofeco

Indeed. The only way that the ICE will disappear is if somebody comes up with a cost effective fuel cell which can work off high energy content liquid fuels (perhaps ethanol). I discount liquid (or compressed) hydrogen as producing it is thermodynamically highly inefficient and it's tricky to store and distribute.

Batteries have fundamental capacity constraints dictated by electrochemistry. Lithium is already just about the best candidate we have, as it is the third lightest of the elements, but it still has very poor energy storage (in battery form) when compared to hydrocarbon fuels. Battery powered vehicles could well have a role in short range, commuting and delivery functions, but not for long range delivery or a general purpose family vehicle. For those, some form of easily transportable liquid fuel will surely still be best, and at the moment, the ICE is what we have.

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Re: @ecofeco

Yeah, it would be great to see methane produced using technologies unsuitable for electricity generation (eg, wind, solar). We already have the distribution networks to store and pipe this stuff around, and no dangerous or expensive batteries or exotic slush hydrogen required :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabatier_reaction

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DJO
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Re: @ecofeco

Using a fuel cell to break down ethanol then using the power liberated to turn an electric motor is not significantly more efficient than burning the ethanol in an ICE to get the motive force also the materials needed to make fuel cells are expensive and get spoilt quite quickly so a fuel cell would probably have a far shorter life span than a ICE.

Heart patients will often carry nitrolingual spray, which is just harmless nitroglycerine dissolved in tasty ethanol with a hint of mint oil. This stuff burns like petrol and without the mint oil could be a possible petrol replacement.

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Re: death of ICE

"30k+ miles per year, at motorway speeds, sometimes 3 or 4 passengers, out in deepest darkest Norfolk miles from the nearest house, never mind charging point....

I cant wait."

Well, it's not for everyone. But no product is, and just because some people aren't perfect customers it doesn't make the whole concept useless, just as cable modems are also a moot product for you.

But I do about 1-2k a year, seldom for than a handful of miles. So an electric car would theoretically be great for me. And if I did want to go further, it'd be cheaper to rent for a day than to have a more expensive car to run on the other 364 days.

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Re: On Street Parking

"That said, it would be very interesting to do a comparison of carbon emissions (and other pollutants) from an ICE vs the equivalent emissions from a standard gas- or coal-fired power station"

For me the difference is obvious: A car is less efficient than a power station. And whereas a car spews out fumes at street level, in densely populated areas, power stations don't. Electric is the future of cars... it's just going to take us a while getting there. Remember that the first petrol engined cars weren't exactly practical, either.

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Re: On Street Parking

Someone did a study, it was in MTZ a year or so ago, I was looking for it recently but couldn't find it.

Comparing the CO2 output of a modern diesel vs an electric car using typical current UK electricity mix, they were level, with the diesel obviously being more practical.

Now there is the matter of particulates and NOX, which diesels are rather bad for, but gas/coal stations probably produce *some* other pollutants (gas not so much I know, but still *some*).

This, iirc, didn't include manufacture and disposal, but I could be wrong on that.

The reason we're not all chasing electric cars because they are not the best/cheapest/most practical/going to happen soon enough.

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Re: On Street Parking

Remember that the first petrol engined cars weren't exactly practical, either.

You have to remember that the first petrol engined cars were competing for market share with a horse.

The horse had very limited range, low top speed, little comfort, was expensive to keep, and required daily maintenance.

An electric car that had free parking (in London), free charging, and could use bus lanes would work for me as a daily driver / snotter to get me to work. At £30k, it'd only need to work for 5 years to beat the train on price. I'd still keep my petrol cars for longer trips / fun (a mans gotta have a hobby), and have the eleccy car in addition.

Unfortunately ecofeco is wandering about in fantasy land if s/he expects the changes described to come about in 20 years. They won't. Nor will most of our power be provided by windmills.

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Re: @ecofeco

A lot of research is going into 'flow' batteries which separate the electrodes from the electrolyte so you could just replace the electrolyte much like filling up with petrol (except you'd also want to remove the spent electrolyte).

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Windows

Re: On Street Parking

You can find the answer to this question in Tokyo. No parking - no car. Oh, and no free public parking in the whole city, anyway.

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Re: @Rupert Fiennes

"Yeah, it would be great to see methane produced using technologies unsuitable for electricity generation (eg, wind, solar)."

Volume, mate. That's your problem. Total wind and solar output is around 3 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) annually. Total transport fuel demand is around 63 MTOE. Factor in the 50% end to end losses of renewable power to transport gas and all the wind and solar energy in the land would meet 2% of your transport demand. How much more of the country do you want coating in PV and wind farms?

From a performance point of view chemical fuels are a far better bet than batteries, so power to gas is a more promising technology, but it relies on huge volumes of electricity to cover an worthwhile fraction of electricity demand. If you electrified most UK transport you'd need about four times the generating capacity we have at present, and the only technology going to deliver that is a vast build out of nuclear.

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Re: On Street Parking

I won't cover the same ground as other posters, who have already pointed out some issues with the reality of what you suggest. But I would have to ask, why do you find the end of the ICE even a desirable thing? The electricity your electric cars run on isn't created by magic, much of it comes from fossil fuels, and you can work out the emissions by looking at the energy mix supplying the grid you are charging on. I don't have figures for the UK, but in the USA, electric cars in areas with the cleanest energy mix were equivalent to a petrol with a 95mpg fuel efficiency, but in the areas with the dirtiest energy mix, they were only equivalent to a petrol car with a less than 40mpg fuel efficiency. Read this report for example, excerpt "About 37 percent of Americans live in regions where a Leaf’s greenhouse gas emissions would equate to a gasoline-powered vehicle rated at 41 to 50 m.p.g.". I get 50+mpg from my diesel Scirocco.

With combustion engines becoming ever cleaner, and the energy mix of our electric grids not changing significantly anytime soon, it's simply wrong to promote electric cars on environmental grounds. Clean petrol/diesel cars are competitive on emissions, and the other advantages are huge.

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Re: On Street Parking

An electric car that had free parking (in London), free charging, and could use bus lanes would work for me as a daily driver / snotter to get me to work. At £30k, it'd only need to work for 5 years to beat the train on price. I'd still keep my petrol cars for longer trips / fun (a mans gotta have a hobby), and have the eleccy car in addition.

So as long as you get everything for free, without any of the restrictions imposed on other equivalent personal transport, then it "works" for you? Well, I'm sure it does...

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Re: On Street Parking

A 250 mile range doesn't help if you need to drive further than that, like I will be next weekend. Sure, you'll be able to recharge en route, but recharging is very VERY slow compared to just pumping some squashed dinosaurs from one tank to another. You will need a ridiculous number of charging points at service stations - including those on the back roads, not just motorway service stations where they have the parking space - if you are to avoid humungous queues.

You either need some way of getting 1.5GJ (about the amount of energy in a typical car's full fuel tank) of energy into a battery in a couple of minutes (so an 8-ish MW power supply) or you need some way of swapping batteries automatically. Both are, umm, "challenging" problems. The current Tesla S, according to Tesla's marketing materials (so take this with a pinch of salt) will take *three and a half hours* to recharge with 250 miles worth of energy using their studliest charger. This is why electric cars are only suitable for commuting - journeys you can do on a single charge, with a long break to recharge at both ends. Trouble is, in cities you don't want people commuting in cars at all, because of congestion - you want them commuting by train or bus instead.

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Boffin

@Steven Jones

"Batteries have fundamental capacity constraints dictated by electrochemistry. "

Yes & no.

From time to time I like to take battery capacity and calculate how much of that volume is (roughly speaking ) made up of electrons (which provide the power) and "everything else."

Roughly speaking the electrons are somewhere between 1/10000 and 1/1000 of the whole volume.

There's a lot of wasted space in a battery. Anyone who made a battery that 1% efficient in electron storage volume would be a f**king genius.

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Re: On Street Parking

renewables, carbon capture, even nuclear are inherently polluting, and the best to be expected is more efficient solutions or small-scale remediation of their effects.

there!

fixed it for you

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Paris Hilton

Re: @ecofeco

What would be the noticeable differences with an ethanol powered car? Is ethanol significantly more energy dense than petrol? So would we see smaller tanks? Or cars with much longer range? And would they be any better for air quality? That sort of thing...

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Pint

In other words, they're not sustainable

E-cars do not scale. Period. That's the message of the article.

How come there isn't a wee feisty trailer with a wee feisty petrol- or propane-powered generator? Such an accessory would pretty much solve the entire Range Anxiety issue.

Also, looking at the picture: I can understand why petrol filler necks have to be on one side or the other. But given the simplicity of an electrical socket, why not have a charging port on both sides of the car?

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Re: death of ICE

I believe that's what busses are for.

But an upvote nonetheless - I appreciate that I and the other 25 million or so other non metropolitan drivers are a special case :-) and the article does mention London, which is a pretty hateful place to drive in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: On Street Parking @Psyx

>For me the difference is obvious: A car is less efficient than a power station. And whereas a car spews out fumes at street level, in densely populated areas, power stations don't.

A clear case of: out of sight out of mind...

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Re: Orly?

so you are saying a chunk off of a neutron star would make a good battery?

not for a vehicle surely, it would be too heavy to move.

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Meh

Re: Rakkor Re: On Street Parking

"....move to a less pikey area". Pikeys have caravans, they park them where they like. I would suggest you mean a less Chavvie area.

When I used to rent a place it had no allocated parking, just street parking. It was about five minutes walk from Esher rail station, so if you had to go out on an early shift you usually came back to find some commuter had nicked 'your' parking space, a delivery van was parked in it, or a tradesman's van. That was back in the '80s when I was firmly convinced the majority of London Councils despised all motorists and just viewed us as mobile tax opportunities. I doubt if they will love electric cars any more than they did petrol ones.

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Re: @Rupert Fiennes

Serves me right for not doing the sanity check first then :-)

Thanks

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Boffin

Re: JeffyPooh Re: In other words, they're not sustainable

".....I can understand why petrol filler necks have to be on one side or the other. But given the simplicity of an electrical socket, why not have a charging port on both sides of the car?" To keep build costs cheap. Each socket or petrol filler cap requires a hole punched in the car body panels, each hole means another stamping operation, so more cost. And then each socket require the socket and more wiring, so even more cost. Luxury cars like the Jags often used to have two filler caps.

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Re: On Street Parking

Don't forget they're talking US mpg, 50mpg in the US is around 60mpg over here due to the larger gallon.

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Re: death of ICE

"I do about 1-2k a year, seldom for than a handful of miles. So an electric car would theoretically be great for me. And if I did want to go further, it'd be cheaper to rent for a day than to have a more expensive car to run on the other 364 days."

Wow... some thumbs down on my own assessment of my personal situation.

*slow hand clap*

How do you work that out, geniuses?

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Re: On Street Parking

What about reconverting the downstairs bedroom back into a garage?

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Re: On Street Parking

"You have to remember that the first petrol engined cars were competing for market share with a horse."

Err... they were primarily competing with electric, diesel and steam driven cars and horse-drawn carriages, rather than simply horse-back riding.

"The horse had very limited range, low top speed, little comfort, was expensive to keep, and required daily maintenance."

Horses don't have a very limited range, or a low top speed compared to early cars, and carriages were more comfortable than early petrol driven vehicles. Old car also require daily maintenance.

The electric vehicles were also ahead on the comfort front and far more popular for a while. What finally gave petrol engines the edge they needed were decreased running costs (cheaper petrol), better range than the competing electric cars and an electric starter motor which meant they no longer needed to be hand cranked (which had pretty much made them useless for anyone who can't hand-crank an engine or afford a lacky to do it for them).

"it'd only need to work for 5 years to beat the train on price."

The ridiculous cost of public transport is indeed...ridiculous. It should not cost us more to catch a train than for one person to drive to London and park there all day.

"I'd still keep my petrol cars for longer trips / fun (a mans gotta have a hobby), and have the eleccy car in addition."

Likewise. But that is indeed because I am a motoring enthusiast and WANT more than one vehicle, rather than for a legitimate, practical reason. If I was simply a 'car gets me from A to B' person, it would make more sense for me to have the one car and rent when required.

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Re: @ecofeco

"Is ethanol significantly more energy dense than petrol"

No. OTTOMH it's about 2/3rd as energy rich per volume maybe only ~1/2 compared with diesel.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: JeffyPooh In other words, they're not sustainable

Luxury cars like the Jags often used to have two filler caps.

Because they had two tanks, both of which had to be filled.

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Re: On Street Parking

"But I would have to ask, why do you find the end of the ICE even a desirable thing?"

Well...

1) As a motoring enthusiast, it's kind of exciting to see a new technology being born and harnessed.

2) Electric cars are very quiet. we have the opportunity to turn our cities into quieter, more pleasant spaces to live in. People living next to main roads might get a decent night's sleep.

3) Cars pollute at street-level, rather than power stations which pollute a nice long way away from schools et al and have nice big chimneys to get the grime out of the way.

4) Lots less moving parts in cars. They should be much more reliable in the long-term (battery difficulties aside. Switchable packs are a first step).

5) The theoretical performance is staggering: Massive acceleration, lower centre of gravity, no gear-changes to slow you down, less mass.

6) Safety. The new Tesla leaves every other car behind in crash tests.

7) If we can't make our energy more efficiently in bulk somewhere than we can in little boxes on wheels, we're doing something wrong. Although cars might today be as or less polluting than power stations, that will change as the balance of our grid moves more towards more efficient less polluting production, be it fission, fusion or harnessing the power of tie-die by burning hippies.

8) It would be nice to break our reliance on importing oil from unpleasant dictatorships.

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Re: On Street Parking

"A 250 mile range doesn't help if you need to drive further than that, like I will be next weekend. "

Quite right. And a lawnmower is useless for me because I don't have a garden. It's still a good product for others, though.

"Trouble is, in cities you don't want people commuting in cars at all, because of congestion - you want them commuting by train or bus instead."

Ultimately the crux of the matter. I don't want Google to save me time by inventing a self-driving car: I want it to be cheap for fifty commuters to be in one vehicle. Public transport that doesn't suck is something we'd all like to see, I think.

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Re: On Street Parking @Psyx

"A clear case of: out of sight out of mind..."

No, it isn't.

It's a clear case of cars pollute at street level and their pollution gets breathed in by everyone on the street, whereas power stations aren't right outside nursery schools and have bloody great chimneys.

The two might cause the same pollution overall, but having it away from a population centre is very different on a practical level to having it concentrated in our densest populated areas.

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Re: On Street Parking

"Fast charging, 250+ mile range at ~$30k will spell the end of the ICE almost overnight."

I can 'charge' my petrol car in a couple of minutes, get 450+ miles range with an average of 67mpg and very low emissions and it cost approx £12k. Your dream electric car (which isn't even possible atm) still can't compete with that.

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FAIL

"That said, electric cars will be the dominant car within the next 20 years."

Right...just like computers would bring about the "paperless office". Still waiting for that to happen.

That fantasy was first coined around 1975...slightly more that 20 years ago.

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/1975-06-30/the-office-of-the-futurebusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

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Re: On Street Parking

The real problem with electric cars right now, is the VHS/Betamax problem. Nobody wants to buy a car until the charging stations are everywhere, and nobody wants to build charging stations until they know which system everybody will use.

The recent patent airdrop by Tesla has the power to kick-start the industry. I would say 20 years is realistic. Some cars already go 100 miles before needing charged or swapped, so I only see that improving.

40% of Scotland's electricity comes from renewable sources, and there is investment in more. Reducing our reliance on oil (be it American, Russian, Middle Eastern, or our own) and other finite fuel sources has got to be a good thing.

I don't think it will totally replace petrol in 20 years, but I think the industries will run concurrently until petrol cars occupy the same classic niches as horse-drawn carriages, steam trains and sailing boats (which are still thriving industries, if reduced from their heyday).

I would say using a combination of solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and hydro, we could eventually make all our electricity renewable. Efficiency will increase. With car companies competing for custom and more customers bringing better mass production, the price of the technology will come down. 20 years is quite realistic.

Tesla is bringing out a budget model next year or so. It won't be long before those start being sold second-hand, and we'll all be buying them. If his system wins out, other companies will develop their own compatible versions, and the technology will become standard.

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Re: On Street Parking

I can 'charge' my diesel car in a few minutes also, get over 600 miles of range with 55~ MPG and it cost me £3K. It's also a big estate so I can haul pretty much anything.

Although admittedly it is in no way fair to compare used and new prices, this is simple reality. How much is a used electric car going to be worth, seeing as the battery is considered a consumable, and the battery alone will cost more than an ICE car in decent nick? "Good money after bad" comes to mind, as an example, I bought my car just over 2 years ago, it's a '57 plate. If a battery pack in say, a Nissan Leaf goes: http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=9820 $600/module - 48 modules in the full pack http://www.electricvehiclewiki.com/?title=Battery_specs - $28,800, then my guess is that vehicle is a write off. Does writing off cars because of batteries sound green?).

Yeah, electric cars have a long way to go. It seems fine now if you're an early adopter in many ways, but it in no way can scale the same way ICE vehicles have.

The sheer amount of energy we can pour in a tank in the form of refined oil in a brief time would require some genuinely INDUSTRIAL electricity supplies at every forecourt around the country and many more charging points than petrol pumps. Not to mention a battery chemistry that is going to take that kind of abuse on the chin every day.

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Re: On Street Parking

So as long as you get everything for free, without any of the restrictions imposed on other equivalent personal transport, then it "works" for you? Well, I'm sure it does...

I was trying to be positive :) Leccy cars just won't work for me in any realistic scenario.

While I simply don't buy the whole MMGW/AGW/AAGW/Whatever the mentalists are calling it this week, I am pleased we're at least looking at alternative fules in case the petrol runs out in 50 years when my potential grandchild wants to learn to drive. I don't believe it will, but only my wife is *always* right, so a plan b is ok with me.

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Re: On Street Parking

Err... they were primarily competing with electric, diesel and steam driven cars and horse-drawn carriages, rather than simply horse-back riding.

Sure, but electric, steam, and diseasel cars were worse than the horse, so the horse was the best option available. Once the car could achieve a similar daily range (albeit at a lower speed per hour), the future of transport was set.

Horses don't have a very limited range, or a low top speed compared to early cars, and carriages were more comfortable than early petrol driven vehicles. Old car also require daily maintenance.

Sure they did. A horse can optimistically go about 40 miles per day. The Benz Patent Wagon, the frist commerically available petrol car, could do that in 5 hours. The first long distance trip in one was some 66 miles in a day, during which the lady driver (Mrs Benz) invented brake shoe lining, and had to locate pharmacies at which to replenish the fuel. The vehicle carried 3 people on this occasion, which no horse could do over a similar distance even if it could cover the ground.

The very first petrol powered car had already beaten the horse in all but top speed.

To compete with a modern car which can hold say 70mph all day with a few fuel stops, you'd need more than 8000 horses (assuming a 200 horsepower car). The modern leccy car has 120 years of automotive development to overcome, which is a very different and difficult challenge.

Likewise. But that is indeed because I am a motoring enthusiast and WANT more than one vehicle, rather than for a legitimate, practical reason.

I need a cheap track day car (for when I run out of talent or get collected by someone else that has), and my proper car. The wife also needs a car (something less powerful and costly to run than mine).

Realistically, my wifes car could be replaced by a Leaf - but since it cost £500 to buy and has been reliable for the past 3 years, she may be waiting a while before Nissan want to do a like for like swap.

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Re: On Street Parking

Not sure what marketing materials you've been reading, but a Tesla 135kW supercharger (they opened the first of these last weekend in London to coincide with delivery of the first vehicles, and are rolling them out nationwide) will add 150 miles of range to the Model S in 20 minutes. That's less time than it takes me to go to the loo and buy and drink a Starbucks coffee, and a short stop to get out and stretch your legs every 2.5 hours of driving makes for a very pleasant experience...

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Re: On Street Parking

Interesting that the only response some people have to 8 cogent points - is a silent downvote.

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Pint

Re: On Street Parking

"Sure, but electric, steam, and diseasel cars were worse than the horse, so the horse was the best option available."

The horse was not the best option available though, as evidenced by the increasing popularity of electric cars and bicycles in the era. The horse wasn't even the best option against the horse-drawn carriage. For non-urban transport the steam locomotive was the best option.

"Once the car could achieve a similar daily range (albeit at a lower speed per hour), the future of transport was set."

That's selecting a line of reason after the matter to fit the modern issue, though. It was not solely increased range that sealed the deal, as said: It was the increased practicality due to other technical advances improving the design, that they became cheaper to run AND the range outstripped electric cars (which were slowly starting to win the battle against horses). Range was not the deciding factor... because of the train again. And remember we're talking old cars. 100 miles in a 100 year old car is a bit of an adventure, not a trivial matter.

"Sure they did. A horse can optimistically go about 40 miles per day."

[Heard of the Pony Express? ;) I know it's not overly relevant, but every long-distance horse messaging or courier or stage-coach network changed horses regularly.]

"The vehicle carried 3 people on this occasion, which no horse could do over a similar distance even if it could cover the ground."

Which would be relevant if the late Victorians were covering long distances on horseback, but they were not. They used carriages (which held more than the cited vehicle) for shorter runs and trains for longer runs. Trains left cars of any kind and horses standing for long-distance travel.

Which is relevant today: The combination of short-range electric car and long-range public transport normally moots the need for a long-range electric car... or would do if public transport didn't suck balls quite as hard as it does. *grumble*

"you'd need more than 8000 horses (assuming a 200 horsepower car)."

HP != BHP, remember. And 'horsepower' doesn't even equal horse power.

"The modern leccy car has 120 years of automotive development to overcome"

It can bootstrap a lot of that by simply using existing automatic tech though. We don't need to invent windscreen wipers again. Most of what we have learned is relevant to electric cars. It will take a lot less time, this time around.

Petrol cars spent the first half of their existence as pretty much a luxury product, rather than a mainstream one. I doubt it will take electricity as long to catch up. It'll be a bit rubbish if it does!

"I need a cheap track day car "

No such thing, is there? ;)

"but since it cost £500 to buy and has been reliable for the past 3 years, she may be waiting a while "

This is my problem, too: I do so *few* miles that coughing up for a new car that's much more efficient would be an epic waste of cash. Especially given that my motor only costs about £250 a year to service and maintain.

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Re: @Rupert Fiennes

There's an argument that solar-electric is close to competing with coal. Whether you get the power when you want it is the big issue, and it hinges on some assumptions about future costs of fossil fuel. But all those cars recharging while parked up for the day would certainly ease some of the wrong-time problem, and the pollution benefit can be pretty big.

(OK, it's the Chinese. They've built something about four times as long as HS2 in under three years. They seem rather better at these big projects than we are, though I am not sure I would want to be getting in their way.)

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Re: @ecofeco

Ethanol is less energy dense. You'll need a bigger tank and also you'll have a lower MPG than with petrol. Talk to anyone who's raced petrol and alcohol burning cars.

As for air quality.. are you talking about at the tailpipe or for the whole chain of growing, fermenting, distillation and delivery as well as tailpipe emissions? Methanol is actually more efficient to produce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methanol). But politics play a big part of this

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