back to article The Electric Car Conspiracy ... that never was

It's almost two years since the debut of Chris Paine's documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? The movie has been a success in US theatres and often comprises one half of a double bill with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. But what the success of the movie tells us is more alarming than any conspiracy it purports to unveil: a …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Engine efficiency

    "And however one's sensibilities might be offended by the Hummer, the fact is that the engine inside it will be way more efficient than an electric vehicle for a lot of years to come."

    You wouldn't care to elaborate on this statement, would you?

    Also, if for some reason the EV1 would have been suitable for Europe despite not being right for USA, please explain why it wasn't marketed in Europe?

    While the energy density of fossil fuels is undoubtedly a major advantage, the percentage of people that regularly need to drive more than say 100 miles without stopping must be very low. In 2-car families this would make an ideal 'shopping trolley'.

    While the film may have had an element of hyperbole, to suggest that the car was pulled b/c it was unsuited to the American market simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. No single car is suited to 'the American market' b/c there _is_ no single American market.

    But it could easily have found a niche, like every other model.

    PS Reference to Europe is the Paris angle.

  2. JimC Silver badge

    niche...

    Its "drive more than say 100 miles without stopping" and leaving the vehicle unused for another xx hours.

    In spite of the damn catalytic converters (which give major problems for high effiency engines) the fuel efficiency of motor cars has increased by about 30% over the 25 years (judging by what I drive), but as said its largely masked by larger vehicles, increasing weight etc, all of which are things that militate against electric cars. Safety regs don't help too...

    I rather suspect the niche for electric cars is about 20 electric milk floats a year...

  3. Neil Robertson
    Unhappy

    Efficiency again

    I don't know a great deal about the engine in the Hummer, but I do know that the EV1 made far better use of its Kilojoules than the Hummer ever could, because the electric motor wastes so few of them - if the EV1 can manage 100 miles on the little energy it did store then imagine the future!

    Even my 7 seater Volvo can turn in 50 MPG consistently, but of course that wouldn't suit the American mass market either according the the Oil companies - and the few "electric" vehicles we do see in Europe are either complete crap or tied to using a petrol engine to produce their electricity - and a pretty poor one at that.

    Why can't I buy a car for my wife which will cover the 20 or so miles she drives in a day by being plugged in to the mains for a couple of hours? In fact, why can't I buy an EV1 to get me to work 65 miles away - a journey I always travel alone and with minimal luggage?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the best movie but makes a point

    Why own an EV1, with its limited range (prompting "range anxiety"), limited space for passengers and luggage, and near-inability to function in cold weather, when you could instead have a gas car with none of these limitations for less money? You'd really have to be a green freak to choose the former, and that's what the movie doesn't address.

    But the electric car is being revived, by GM. The Chevy Volt will go on sale in 2010 for under $30,000. It will go 40 miles on a full charge, and it has a small 1L gas generator to recharge its batteries as necessary. It's also a 4 seater and its new A123 lithium-ion batteries reportedly are extremely safe, function well in the cold, and will last the life of the car. So in literally a couple years we will be able to drive electric cars with none of the EV1's limitations.

    (BTW, what measure of efficiency are you using when you say the Hummer is more efficient? A gas car engine is about 20-30% efficient whereas an electric motor is close to 90% efficient. And yes, gas is a great way to store large amounts of energy, but it can't exactly be recharged. Also, you question the "speed" of the EV1. Well, a slightly modified EV1 set a top speed record at over 180 MPH. I wonder how fast your gas car goes...?)

  5. Peter Johnston
    Stop

    It's all about TCO

    Amid all the talk of emissions an inconvenient truth is forgotten - that 80% of the energy a car uses in its life is used in making it. When this is taken into account the Hummer is greener than the Prius. Prius batteries are guaranteed for 10 years and cost upwards of £3k - way in excess of the average value of a ten year old car. Thus when Prius batteries die the car will be thrown away - well before the average UK car life of 16 years.

    Electricity and hydrogen are not power sources - both are made from fossil fuels in power stations or generating plants. Conversion is around 25% efficient so 4 times more fossil fuel must be burnt for an electric or hydrogen car than a petrol one. Batteries use rare elements and heavy metals which are environmentally expensive and damaging to extract and cause a disposal/recycling problem. Their weight makes a vehicle less dynamically efficient further compounding the problem.

    The result: electricity and hydrogen stand up as a way of moving pollution out of cities like Los Angeles but not as a way of saving the planet.

  6. Carl

    @Neil Robertson

    For many years, Peugeot sold an electric 106 which did exactly what you require. However, I don't believe they ever marketed it in the UK although it was reasonably popular in mainland Europe.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Happy new year

    Plenty of other people have already noted the high tosh-factor in the statement re engine efficiency of a Hummer, so I will just say "thank you" to them.

    Anyway, let's accept that a few times a year the typical big American household may need something a bit larger than a "compact" (!) car. The article makes me wonder if America's famous hire car companies (for the holidays) and the taxi companies (for the shorter journeys) have died out since last time I was there, or whether there is perhaps some other reason the majoirity of the US insists on using inappropriately large and inefficient vehicles for the vast majority of all journeys, journey-miles, and passenger-miles.

    Using resources appropriately rather than excessively. What a concept, shame it'll never catch on in the US as we currently know and love it.

  8. Timbo
    Unhappy

    @ Neil Robertson

    "Even my 7 seater Volvo can turn in 50 MPG consistently, but of course that wouldn't suit the American mass market either according the the Oil companies.......... In fact, why can't I buy an EV1 to get me to work 65 miles away - a journey I always travel alone and with minimal luggage?"

    Why have you got such a huge car, when you don't travel too far and travel alone....???

    Er.....so, what have I missed here?

    I'm guessing that, like most other consumers, personal choice for "features, safety, comfort" takes precedence over "saving the planet".....

  9. Matware
    Black Helicopters

    WTF 80% of the energy goes into making the car... my ass..

    Ok on the Hummer vs Prius debate search for

    "Prius Versus Hummer: A Nickel for Your Thoughts". It's a lie that's up there with the unleaded fuel is giving you cancer crud that was peddled in the 80s.

    Nobody should contend the fact that petrol is a denser source of energy than any battery you could name, but following logic that denser is better we could use hydrazine to power cars, or go the whole hog and use plutonium.

    And on the increasing fuel efficiency of cars, every major technical improvement for increasing car fuel efficiency that that has been released into the general car market is at least 40 years old. The technologies have recently helped improve efficiency, like turbos, fuel injection (mechanical), variable valve timing have been around for more than 70 years. The only reason that those gains have been realised is that the car makers have set them selves very low bar to hurdle, by building the cheapest engines they could while oil has been cheap.

    On top of all of that, if an improvement is patented, the care companies won't use it, full stop. I know that GM engineering in Detroit keep a library of patents filed by expiry date, when they expire, they may make it into a new vehicle. The car companies actively stifle innovation.

    I think the film, although biased did a pretty good job of documenting what a big company does when it realises it's about to change the status-quo, and it treated one of it's own divisions as it would have treated a competitor, and snuffed it out to keep the game rolling. It will be interesting to see how the next crop of electric vehicles fair, and what sort of reception they get from the motor industry cartel and their paid law makers.

    Oh, and on a final note, the Prius is a work of business genius. It's a more complex, harder to maintain car, just the sort of thing that car companies love with that long maintenance tail and gave Toyota the biggest green wash.

  10. Sean Aaron

    America's car lifestyle is a problem....

    The notion that consumers somehow dictate what is offered is ludicrous. Consumers choose _amongst_ what is offered. No one was _demanding_ hummers, GM _chose_ to sell them despite the ludicrous nature of the vehicle's size and lack of fuel economy.

    Go the suburban US and you'll see a large part of their obesity problems: people don't walk anywhere -- any journey more than a block is going to be inside of a car. My in-laws live in a Chicago ex-urb called Naperville. I could walk to the retail park every day for weeks and never encounter another soul farther than their front garden outside of the very odd jogging nut.

    This and the propensity of a minority of Americans to take long-distance driving holidays doesn't explain the absence of the electric car. The argument of capitalism as some kind of perfect 19th century notion of Darwinism at work has always been flawed. Sometimes you have to put a gun to the heads of corporate executives _and_ consumers to get them to make the correct choice. Now if only some politicians had the balls to actually take a stand on an issue, we might see alternatives to hybrids and the fantasy of hydrogen replacing petrol.

    Still the same problems folks, but we're limiting our solutions to none, apparently to satisfy the greed of a few. Looking forward to when the oil runs out, personally.

  11. peter wegrzyn

    You can buy several differant electric cars today

    And many more in the future

    http://www.greencarsite.co.uk/cars-coming-soon.htm

    The G-Wiz for instance is estimated that the (soon to be available) Li-ion batteries will give a range of 70miles. The advantages of free parking, no congestion charge, no road tax, very cheap insurance and 60 free power points in central London make it a pretty attract city car. There are 800 in use in London.

  12. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    RE: Not the best movie but makes a point

    Of course a Hummer can be "recharged" - and this is another winning point for the internal combustion engine - you just fill the tank with petrol. And your "recharge" takes about five minutes at many very convenient points around the country (the petrol/diesel infrastructure is already there, charging stations are not), unlike the EV where you need to find a power point and then wait a few hours.

    Consumers buy on ease-of-use and value for money, they will shift to EVs when they are a better consumer proposition. Being green is very secondary to saving dough. And car companies in the US have to like the economics of a car, they have also bought back and shredded petrol models to avoid having to provide servicing and parts for uncompetitive vehicles. It's not like here in the UK where car makers just dump a model and let the user worry about spares.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm actually all for EVs, and if the EV1 had been sold or leased in the UK I would have seriously have looked at one as a second car. But here in the UK, unlike the US, the game has been slanted more towards the EVs - the price of petrol is ridiculous and there are green tax breaks. In the US at the time, I saw petrol prices in Maryland of around 48c per gallon! At the time I had rented a Ford Taurus, but after a day I went back and changed it for a 4.6 litre V8 Mustang convertible, and was happy paying peanuts to fill up the tank almost daily just so I could cruise round with that fun burble coming from the exhaust! Now that the US has started to push the price of petrol up, SUVs are starting to lose their appeal, and this will make EVs gradually more competitive.

    It is amusing that the US film industry had cottoned on to a new way to make money - instead of just making fairytales and having to come up with original stories, they just let politicians make eco fairytales and pocket the cash! Do they care whether the content is factual or not? Probably not, just as long as you don't make a home backup copy on DVD-R.....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    missing the point

    While both movies appeal to the conspiracy theorist within me, I think that we are all missing the point. Regardless of what we do – we need to keep mobile and be efficient with whatever fuels we use.

    I personally think that the internal combustion engine is our best bet (the petrolhead within me)…..we have increased the MPG by over 30% in the last decades. Common rail diesel engines have been a real breakthrough and while we continue on this path, we need to take a look at what engineers & designers like Gordon Murray (McLaren F1 road car) are working on to reduce weight.

    A simple example is the Mazda 323 – from 800kg in its humble beginnings in 1960s to a porky 1200kg zoom zoom equivalent today. Can we not find a way to reduce the weight and complexity without compromising climate control, electric heated seats, electrically folding mirrors, cup holders, double glazing (merc S Class), DVD players and other vital aids in our modern driving experience?

  14. p3ngwin

    exactly

    @ timbo:

    exactly!

    cars used to be smaller, more practical and served their purpose for TRAVELING.

    now people have a lifestyle that requires them to "travel" as much as many hours EACH DAy, so much so that the car needs to be more comfortable to compensate for the stupid life decisions the people make.

    people can't drive responsibly at safe speeds and the states are too stupid and spineless to enforce already existing speeding laws, so the cars have to compensate AGAIN by having ridiculous security and safety features.

    all this means the car from 20 years ago that did nearly 60 MPG:

    http://money.cnn.com/2007/12/17/autos/honda_civic_hf/index.htm?postversion=2007121916

    now cars can only struggle to do half that.

    all because of pandering to the short term needs of the stupid people that forget that the car wasn't initially designed to be a 2nd traveling home, it was designed to get you from one place to another a short time away. not drive for weeks on end holidaying, or commuting everyday for 3 hours.

    convenience costs too much.

  15. Dave Bell
    Flame

    So why can't US Car Companie compete?

    It's apparent that various Japanese and European car manufacturers can sell their in-American products in the USA, sometimes importing and sometimes building factories in the USA.

    And the American companies, such as Ford and GM, struggle. They can't, it seems, build efficient cars.

    Ford and GM own factories in Europe, and design and sell successfuk, efficient, cars in Europe.

    So what is wrong? Marketing? A lack of executive balls? If BMW and Mercedes can build drive-all-day cars for Europe, and sell them in the USA, why can't Ford or GM.

    And if they can build small cars which compete with with Japanese and European designs in Europe, why can't they sell them in the USA, with the marketing advantage of being American?

    If anything, electric cars are a red herring, but it does point at something broken in the US auto industry.

  16. system

    Range etc

    So, the range of an electric car is a problem and hummers are just great?

    The new stanford battery has 10X more capacity then a regular lithium ion, which would give the ev1 something like a 700-800 mile range. The hummer H2 has a 32 gallon tank, with average city driving at 10mpg. The hummer then has a maximum range of 320 miles on a single "charge".

    Even taking in the smaller size of the U.S gallon, that 320 miles is going to cost you about £120 in petrol. The NiMH battery for the EV1 held something like 26kWh, which at around 12p/kWh would cost £3.12 ignoring enefficiency of charging. Multiply by 10 for the stanford battery and you're still looking at only £31.20 to get twice as far.

    At that rate, we could easily add a massive margin for ineffeciency, drop in 2 extra seats and a large boot area and still kick the hummer all over the place on range and price/mile.

    Throw in the dwindling reserves of oil, the increase in renewable electricity generation and the fact that you could actually fit an EV1 on the average british road, I think we have a winner and it's not the hummer.

  17. Steve Todd

    Its not just about the weight of the "fuel"

    It's about the weight and efficiency of the motors that convert this into motion as well. Electric motors are more efficient at doing this, smaller and lighter. You can mount the motors directly within wheel hubs and do away with prop shafts.

    If Tesla can build a car with a 200 mile range with current Lithium cells then using the Stanford research you should be able to build a car with 1/4 of the batteries and a 500 mile range. Who wants to drive more than 500 miles in a day?

  18. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Electric Cars only hide the pollution

    Until a substantial proportion of electricity comes from Wave/Wind/Solar & Fusion, then the Electric car produces more pollution and is more expensive apart from the "tme to charge" issue. Unless you have a secured driveway or carriage, charging is a problem too.

    Electric and Hydrogen cars are both impractical apart from the increased pollution. The main areas of pollution increase are the % losses in the electricity network and battery pack on electric cars.

    Lighter Diesels is what we need.

  19. Wade Burchette

    The electric car is not American

    In America, there is one adage: bigger = better. Americans want bigger homes (a fact that has gotten many into trouble and has sent the economy into a recession), they want bigger cars, they want bigger drinks and fries at McDonald's, and so on. The electric car isn't American because it is small.

    I see it all the time. Though I rarely drive during the morning commutes, when I do I see lots of big SUV's that hold 7 but only have 1 person in it. The people complain about gas prices, but they rather pay more at the pump that give up the big vehicle. So they just complain, but do nothing about the problem.

    And lets not forget American's power obsession. Vehicles with tiny engines are so 1970's. Americans love cars that are loud or have a lot of kick to them. So of the cars that do sell, most have lots of horsepower. That extra power doesn't come free, even though engines are more efficient today.

    If GM made an all-electric SUV, it would sell well in some places. Be that as it may, Americans love oil. And making a documentary about your conspiracy theory isn't going to change American's habits.

  20. Neil Robertson

    @Timbo

    I have a 7 seater Volvo because I have 4 children and a wife to cart around - this stays at home with my wife while I drive a 55mpg Skoda to work (mainly bought because it was cheap and comfortable). I'd dearly love to work nearer home but I took the job because it has the best long term prospects.

    You're right - I did choose both cars for features, safety and comfort - and economy was way up there on the features list.

  21. Peter Hughes

    nobody killed the damn things

    They're just not cost efficient. At the moment. A battery pack to give you the range and performance people expect or even be prepared to accept from a car is a 10k proposition. At least. And it's really only good for 5 years or so.

  22. Don Mitchell

    Conservation of Energy

    Why do people think an electric car would be more energy efficient? You can burn the fuel directly in your car's engine....or you can burn it in a power plant hundreds of miles away, transmit it over power lines, throught transformers, turn it into chemical energy in batteries, then turn it back into electricity and feed electric motors. Every time you transmit electricity, or convert energy from one from to another, you lose some of it. So the efficiency of the electric car can be questioned from first principles of physics.

    If you really cared about efficiency, you would focus on turning fuel into mechanical energy directly and more efficiently. For example, the use of a turbine engine instead of a piston engine.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many of you watch the Wizard of Oz?

    This entire argument isn't about GM or environuts -- it is about the American Consumer. Consumerism is the failure of our society here. You nutters over there had how many hundreds of wars over religion, land, resources and petty greivances. We watched from a distance -- had to do a little growing up of our own in the 1860s (and 1960s). Your failures have always been intolerance of each other. Ours will be indifference and self-absorption. We like being fat and lazy. We like whatever is shiny-flashy for the moment. We've never, ever had to plan for the future save for a few years in the 1930s and 1940s.

    And most important: our 'economic miracle' is spending now rather than saving for the future. 60 years of 'suburbanization' is the only thing that lead us to our current stature. When the pigeons come home to roost on our rusting Hummers and energy-less rotting McMansions 20 miles from any work or food, we'll figure it out. Until then, let us live in our never-never land for the remaining couple of decades we don't have to think about our children's welfare. Besides, by then, we'll be eating the kids.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Why u.s car companies cant compete

    Uhhh Gm cant make cars profitable because they are a health care and pensions firm that also happen to make cars. It has been said that £500 of the price of every gm car is the result of the healthcare burden from employees long since retired.

    Too right about the civic - originaly known as the clean vehicle concept (CVC) it was designed as a response to the new efficiency targets brought about during the '70s oil crisis. It was THE ONLY car which was able to meet the targets without a catlytic converter. Unfortunately detroit iron couldn't match this feat which led to the championing of the cat, which made certain people who owned the resources required to make the cats (platinum etc) very rich.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one

    would be happy to drive an electric car on my 21 km daily commute. Unfortunately, by the time I could get through the 40 to 50 minutes of traffic at below freezing or oppressively hot temperatures, the poor thing would have used all its energy store just to keep the cabin livable. But it would be fine for the other four months when the weather keeps me off my bike. That said, I guess that I'll stick with my regular car until they install gas fired heaters and chillers in those 'lectric jobs.

    "Sometimes you have to put a gun to the heads of corporate executives _and_ consumers to get them to make the correct choice."

    Well said, they are far too risk averse. How is it that mp3 players and adapters are only recent additions to cars? Why did my 2000 car come with a cassette, not CD, player from the factory? WTF is with the 'cigarette lighter' style 'power outlet'? It isn't just the drive train that needs a full lower g.i. cleansing. So, is that quote from Pol Pot or Stalin? Tell me, whose eggs do you use to make your omelets?

  26. Roland

    Volvo doing 50mpg?

    Yeah right... Maybe in taking a trip you drove for 50 miles, and you used a couple of gallons of fuel, but a Volvo doing 50mpg? Check the calculations please.

    Last time I checked, a volvo XC90 or equivalent does about 21 mpg on the highway...

    You know what's scary? We own a '05 Dodge Grand Caravan, which can do up to 25mpg on road trips. I haven't found any other car that gives me the same or better mileage while being able to drive 5 people + some luggage around.

    I live in Illinois, and with the winter weather and all it's simply not an option to drive around in a small car all the time. Ground clearance, greater distances between point A and B compared to Europe. Please do not try to compare the driving situation of the Netherlands or England (or anywhere in Europe) to driving in the US. Please take a look at a map, and see what the difference in scale is between these countries.

    also think about the state of the roads themselves. Around here it's pothole heaven. A friend of ours drives a nice sporty European car, using these low profile tires... and therefore is on his third set of tires this year because of flat tires.

    So the cars built in the US are probably meant for a slightly different market and usage profile. Potholes == car built for comfort, squishy suspension. Car will be heavier and bigger. Car is therefore not so suitable for European markets, where everything is built so close together, any car larger than a compact will look out of place.

    we're (my family) trying to be green, but it's difficult in a land this big, with all these county, state and federal laws... You know what? It's almost like getting laws approved for the European Union... There's still a lot of 'my country first' thinking around there. Only here in the US it will be 'my state first'... Until that has been fixed, I think we're stuck with gas guzzlers, and will be tinkering with electric cars.

  27. Glenn Gilbert

    Hydrogen's the future

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

    Turn the world's deserts into a giant solar panel and export the electricity to the coast where the sea can be turned into hydrogen to be exported to the rest of the world.

    Job done.

  28. Tom Kerrigan
    Happy

    CHEVY VOLT

    Maybe the bit I wrote about the Volt in my last post went unnoticed.

    Chevy is releasing an electric car, called the Volt, in 2010. It will solve all of the issues and complaints raised here. You can go to the site http://www.gm-volt.com for details.

    * It is being built on the next-gen Cobalt platform, meaning it's the size of a regular "compact" American sedan (midsize to Europeans)

    * Its 0-60 time will be around ~8 seconds and it will have a top sustained speed of 100 MPH

    * It will have an electric range of 40 miles but can also run on gas because it has a small, built-in gas generator. (When running on gas, it gets 50 MPG.)

    * Its battery will not be excessively heavy or expensive because it is relatively small--only meant to cover the typical 40 mile use case

    * The battery has a novel chemistry, available TODAY from A123 (not some Stanford research project), which is safer, longer-lasting, and more tolerant of low temperatures than typical lithium-ion batteries

    In short, the whole electric car debate has more or less been resolved and in 2 years there will be very little reason NOT to buy an electric car.

  29. Chris Hipp
    Go

    The world needs comprehensive solutions:

    http://www.oilendgame.com/

    Hippster

  30. Jim
    Flame

    @Matware

    "It's a lie that's up there with the unleaded fuel is giving you cancer crud that was peddled in the 80s".

    This is a lie?

    Seems that the EPA documented that gasoline contains numerous known and probable carcinogens in 1995 (http://www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/02-toxic.pdf) and that these carcinogens can easily enter the air either through evaporation or combustion products in engine exhausts gases.

    Simple research demonstrates that the removal of lead from fuel led to an increase in the aromatic and olefin content of fuel. These groups of chemicals contain (or produce through combustion or incomplete combustion) the carcinogens noted by the EPA.

    Is it really that much of a stretch to put this information together to realise that using unleaded fuel increases the amount of carcinogens pump/evaporated into the air we breath and, intuitively, more exposure = more risk of cancer.

  31. AdrianC

    @"System"/Range etc

    You're forgetting one small detail.

    Take one internal combustion powered and one electric powered vehicle, run both across their full range, until both are empty. Yes, you may get a similar distance.

    Now comes the crunch. Recharge time.

    At the same time you plug the electric car in, start to fill the internal combustion vehicle with fuel.

    Five-ten minutes later, when the internal combustion vehicle's full of juice, unplug the electric car.

    Let's go...

    Mind if I take the internal combustion vehicle for this second round?

    I doubt you'll get off the bottom of the motorway sliproad - whilst I'll be ready for another full range.

  32. Matt
    Coat

    @ Roland

    @ Roland:

    "Check the calculations please" - May I politely suggest you do so too? Neil Robertson was talking about UK Gallons, which are larger than US Gallons (4.54L vs 3.78L), giving far higher MPG figures. It's an elementary mistake that even respectable motoring journals make (In the UK, the BBC's "Top Gear"* committed a US/UK Gallon howler a few weeks ago).

    E.g. the said 25 MPG for your car would equate to 30.0 MPG in the UK.

    His 50 MPG Volvo would return 41.6 MPG were he to fill up in the US.

    (I suspect Neil has a diesel Volvo, which gives a better MPG than a similar-sized petrol engine).

    As for different driving conditions in the US: An old girlfriend's parents lived in the middle of rural Wales. Pothole heaven, very rarely was the road gritted and a 40 Mile round-trip to the store was not uncommon. In order to get to work, her dad needed a something with a powerful engine, and lots of lovely ground clearance. Wales may fit several times over in one county in the US, but the driving conditions in the more rural parts of the UK aren't that dissimilar.

    One thing that does contribute to the fuel economy of 'European' cars, however, is what you guys in the US call 'stick shift'. Before you all flame me, yes, theoretically automatic transmission should be easier on the fuel consumption. But it isn't because it encourages late braking and harsh acceleration/deceleration, and of course you are permanently using the engine to brake (Engine braking is a useful technique, as practised by Police response drivers, but boy does hit the fuel bill hard). Whenever I visit the US, I notice how late drivers tend to leave slowing down, e.g. before a stop/traffic light, compared with the way European drivers have to move down through the gears and gently bring themselves to a stop.

    Also, as mentioned, in Europe we drive Diesels a lot, which are generally more efficient (converting fuel stored in tank to useful output at the crank) than their petrol brethren, despite the increased weight. Another reason for this is the fact that diesel fuel is cheaper than petrol (Except in the UK, due to lack of refinery capacity. Bastards!).

    @Don Mitchell

    "If you really cared about efficiency, you would focus on turning fuel into mechanical energy directly and more efficiently. For example, the use of a turbine engine instead of a piston engine." They tried this. Unfortunately, turbine engines have a power/rev curve that make them totally unsuitable for use in a car. They like high revs and don't like heavy, moving off from the lights pulling a trailer, kind of loads. Don't get me wrong, a turbine-powered car nearly won Le Mans in 1965, but their power curve keeps them more suited to helicopters rather than cars. Now a hybrid powered by a turbine, that's a different proposition...

    Right, geek-out over. That coat with the mittens on a bit of string's mine...

    *Cue flame war on whether Clarkson, Hammond et al constitute a 'respectable motoring journal'.

  33. system

    RE: CHEVY VOLT

    "Maybe the bit I wrote about the Volt in my last post went unnoticed."

    Maybe it's just not that impressive. The EV1 was limited to 80mph, did 55-75 miles in the 1st generation, 0-60 in 8 seconds etc. Apart from possibly being better in cold weather, the volt hasn't made any major improvements on what was available 10 years ago. Besides, chevy is a GM company, what's to stop them killing the volt off as well?

  34. Alistair Silver badge
    Pirate

    efficiencies are relative

    Oil burning cars need a ***heck*** of a lot more crap installed in them to run. Electric cars typically DONT require the same supporting hardware -- i.e. transmissions, cooling systems, oil recycling systems, brake management systems etc...

    Hummer efficient?? ever?? not bloody likely. The number of additional systems added to the baseline concept of box on 4 wheels, with motor to turn wheels is conceptually horrendous. It is these additional systems ***and the energy required to create them and run them*** that makes the Hummer an ecological disaster.

    Certainly producing the electricty to charge your electric vehicle is a point - lets get back to sanity, damn few electricity producing organizations use oil as a source, coal perhaps, natural gas perhaps, hydro and nuclear certainly. More electricty producers are looking at alternatives, (Holland and the south end of britan) while these are some time from coming online, these are coming. There are tidal research pools in several countries. California too has quite a number of alternative electrical sources, some in use and worthwhile, some slightly off the wall.

    It is not likely that in the near future anyone in northamerica (I'm canadian and can include canadians in this brush) will be willing to buy a vehicle with a charge range of 75Km. My personal commute to my workplace is 160K roundtrip -- but I'm a crazy bugger. Further the concept of 'electric car' translates in marketese as ' piece of crap' over here...

    What is needed? -- somewhat more research on batteries and charge/discharge cycles and overall discharge capabilities, and better marketing. Certainly the 'hybrids' that are being marketed over here are quite clearly being driven to market *not* because they are the better choice, but rather because they continue to use hydrocarbon based fuels.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Saving the Planet", My Arse

    People really should stop going on about 'saving the planet'. Earth was doing pretty damn well for it'self for a few billion years before humans came about, and it will continue to thrive well after we're gone.

    What people really mean is 'Saving the Human Race', they just don't want to appear too self-centred.

    Get over yourselves, admit you're little more than a temporary cold to the likes of Earth, and stop giving the Government excuses to make my cigs and petrol more expensive!

  36. Don Casey
    Unhappy

    Where is all that electricity going to come from?

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I live in California (which is fairly green. for the US), and I remember the electicity blackouts and brownouts of a few years ago. And I watch every summer the ISO website showing how close we come to hitting capacity.

    If you take a large percentage of internal-combustion vehicles off the road in this state, and replace them with electrics, exactly where is that electricity going to come from?

    Also, I wonder about all the economic analysis based on electric charges of a few pennies; my marginal kWh rate is over $0.35!

  37. Nexox Enigma

    I'll keep using gas for now, thanks

    @Don Mitchell:

    Actually jet turbines use a thermal cycle that is thermodynamically limited to a lower efficiency than the Otto or Diesel cycles that piston-type engines use. Currently they do run just about the same though, and the turbine has some issues that would make it hard to use in a car (like 60% of the max torque available at idle, slow rpm increases, potential for launching high speed bits of metal everywhere if something breaks or gets off balance, plus loads of gyroscope effect)

    @Glenn Gilbert:

    The massive desert solar panel thing is a neat idea. One of my friends calculated that you need something like 0.6% of the state of Nevada to power the entire US. And I'd bet that there aren't a lot of people that would miss 10%, or possibly even 50% of Nevada, since it is just desert. The problem is that this would cost trillions of dollars, and nobody is in any sort of position to even start this sort of investment yet. It turns out that people don't like paying a lot for electricity, so ~30 cents (US) per KWh from the solar Nevada idea is a little bit less agreeable than ~4 cents from coal and nuclear. Not that many people care enough about the environment to take a 10 fold hit in their electric bill. Plus there would have to be some truly epic energy storage systems for that whole night time thing.

    On Electric Car Efficiency:

    People have mentioned it before, but I happen to have some decent numbers for this stuff. A reasonable gasoline engine today can be expected to get a little above 30% efficiency these days. They generally spend 1/3 of the gas energy driving the wheels, 1/3 heating the radiator(s) and 1/3 on hot gas out the tailpipe. Diesels get more like 40%, and with ultra low sulfur fuels that the US finally got, combined with some neat new engine technology, they run very clean.

    An electric car gets it's energy from the grid. In the US that mostly means coal, and natural gas, with coal dominating the market. Coal is a pretty dirty fuel, and released about 2x the carbon per KJ than natural gas or oil, plus not even all of the coal plants in the US have sulfur scrubbers installed yet.

    Regular steam-cycle plants, like most coal, oil, and natural gas are thermodynamically limited to about 40% efficiency, and that is just for the new ones. Most of the power stations in the country are over 20 years old now, and can be expected to get about 30% efficiency. Then you've got 3-5% losses in transmission lines, 20-30% losses in charging batteries (for very good batteries), and 10% loss for driving motors at their peak efficiency rpm. Add that all up and straight physics will guarantee that your electric car gets lower efficiency than a plain oil fueled one, plus it will probably end up releasing around twice as much carbon into the air, depending on exactly what percentage of the energy comes from coal.

    Electric vehicles are just a bad idea. The best foreseeable replacement for gas cars would be a fuel cell, since those can theoretically be pushed to nearly 100% efficient. For now the hydrogen has to come from electricity, but that is a highly efficient process, so if people can figure out how to store and ship hydrogen while pushing fuel efficiency, we could see a 1:1 competition with petrol efficiency, and potentially reasonably similar range, depending on how the storage comes along.

  38. Chris

    @p3ngwin/Roland

    @p3ngwin

    Back in the days when job security meant something more than "you'll still have this job by the end of next week, probably...", it wasn't such a big deal to lay down your family roots in a home near to where you worked. These days, with a more fluid job market which can and does force people to change working locations on a regular basis, expecting people to then relocate their homes every few years just to keep the daily commute down to a few miles is crazy. That assumes, of course, that everyone in the household works in the same area and relocating the home wouldn't then force someone else to start commuting long distances instead...

    Sure, *some* people make a conscious decision to live long distances from where they work, but many people would gladly live closer to where they work if the houses in that area were affordable or the area wasn't a total dive - very few people actually like spending hours stuck in heavy traffic, or wedged into a packed commuter train/bus, but it's a less disagreeable alternative to driving yourself into debt trying to keep up the rent/mortgage repayments, or wondering how many of your windows will have been broken/doors kicked in/walls daubed with grafitti by the time you get home from work that day.

    @Roland

    Perhaps in the US the only 7-seaters Volvo offer are the likes of the XC90, but over on this side of the pond (where our Volvo driver appears to reside) you can get a V70 estate with two extra seats in the back, making it a genuine 7-seater. If you then throw in a diesel engine, 50mpg becomes quite achievable...

  39. Steve Todd

    @Glenn Gilbert - NO Hydrogen isn't the future

    Firstly where do you get your hydrogen from? You crack water with electricity, so it's just another way of storing electric power.

    Second it leaks. Hydrogen molecules are so small that nothing can keep them all in. Put a hydrogen car in a sealed garage and you'll end up with an explosive hydrogen/air mix. In a week or two of standing still your full car becomes empty, without getting any useful work out of it.

    Thirdly it gets absorbed by metals in which it is in contact. This makes even an empty tank dangerous. Unless you de-gas the metal then you can get fires and explosions if you try to work on them.

    Oh, and for those idiots who say "electric power only moves the source of pollution", your car manages to convert only about 12-15% of the energy in petrol into movement. Even allowing for losses in transmission and charging, fossil fuel power stations are significantly more efficient than that. Throw nuclear and renewable power into the equation and things improve even more.

  40. Stephen Ware
    Thumb Down

    Re Conservation of Energy

    'Why do people think an electric car would be more energy efficient? You can burn the fuel directly in your car's engine....or you can burn it in a power plant hundreds of miles away, transmit it over power lines, throught transformers, turn it into chemical energy in batteries, then turn it back into electricity and feed electric motors.'

    For two reasons. We are not just talking about efficiency. If electric cars took off large scale in inner cities then reduction in air pollution would be enourmous and easly offset some so called loss of efficiencies you are quoting. Secondly its easier to clean up a dozen or so power stations (By legislation or otherwise) than millions of cars spread across dozens of manafacturers with a vested interest in keeping the status quo

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electric Cars Green?

    Anyone who buys that crock is mentally retarded hippy.

    Where does electricity come from? The Power Grid. Every time power is converted it is lessened.

    BATTERIES - One of the most environmentally unfriendly things in the world, and you want a huge one in every car. Genius freaks - go get your sandals!

    Vehicle Life - As said cars in the UK just keep on going and going and going. Electric cars are a crock of crap, battery dies, dump it. Seen as a car loses about 25% of its value just buy driving the thing out of the forecourt.

    BTW WTF is a gallon? Is it some kind of wooden boat?

    And who is this GM? Is the car market now an RPG?

    How about someone makes a real _public_ transport network and STFU about cars.

    Anon

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Physics, @Glenn

    First: Turning all the world's deserts into solar panels. WTF? The energy burden of manufacturing and installing them would be so massive that one would need likely more than a century to make the project pay for itself. Also, what about the people, animals, and other ecosystems that already live in these places?

    Next: Kudos to the fellow who brought up the law of conservation of matter and energy. It's astounding how many people in this thread apparently flunked high school physics. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

    Last: Yes, it's really to bash Americans. We're warlike, wasteful, ignorant and fat. My deepest apologies to the rest of the world-- I can really tell you've been wanting to hear that. ;-)

    Just a point to clarify, however: One could fit the green and pleasant land of Britain into my home state about three times, and maybe more if you got into fractional portions of Britain. My own job often requires days in excess of three hundred miles worth of driving, while carrying heavy tools and equipment. I'm not ashamed to admit that I can only afford one car; does it make me a reprehensible person that I purchased one that serves my needs of both range and capacity?

  43. Lennart Sorensen

    We already have better choices.

    So far the GM Volt sounds unimpressive. My current car (a 2002 Jetta TDI) already gets between 50 and 60 MPG, has a range of about 600 miles (1000km is not difficult on 55L), takes maybe 11s to get to 60 (or 100km/h) although newer models with more power do it better. This is not even using current technology for diesels but rather 15 to 20 year old stuff.

    As for the idea a dodge caravan is an efficient choice, try a dodge sprinter instead. I am sure it gets much better mileage and can seat more than 7 if desired, with better handling and comfort and much higher reliability. Looks a lot better too.

  44. Richard Kilpatrick
    Thumb Up

    Lowbrow

    A well-written article, I thought. However, my take on it is simple:

    In 2003, I owned alongside a couple of others, a 1990 Golf GTi 8v 5 door. A practical, compact, reasonably quick car with no catalytic convertor, no airbags (but still considered a safe car by 1984 standards, when it was released). It returned a consistent 44mpg, returning 52mpg on one 20 mile run where I drove to get the best returns. I ran it on Shell Optimax, since the knock-sensor equipped GTi was designed in an era of choice between leaded and unleaded and would happily use the higher octane fuel.

    In 2004, I got a VW Beetle Cabriolet. A 1.6i model, it did 30mpg. I considered this dreadful for the size of car.

    However, look at the new car costs as well as weight. The 1990 Golf GTi Cabriolet, a 1.8, fuel injected compact convertible cost £13,995. The 2004 Beetle equivalent cost £15,495, despite inflation, increases in earnings, housing costs, the supposed "environmental concerns" of car ownership, and much, much more material used and equipment provided.

    How can the car manufacturers possibly hope to innovate? They are charging a relative pittance for their products. The 1990s saw a mini-Malaise era for Europe, with astoundingly directionless designs (the original Renault Laguna, the 1988 Passat, Saab's 900/9-3) and some truly awful cars. Cars like the Honda Jazz and Mercedes A-Class, offering real innovation in the marketplace, are naturally quite expensive.

    However, for 2003 driving conditions, my little Golf was perfect. The reasons to not keep on driving it were largely based around it being a 14 year old CAR, not a 19 year old DESIGN. If I could have bought a brand new one, I would have done (not counting the CIti Golf).

    To save the planet from car users, we need to:

    Make new cars considerably more expensive, either via taxation or natural market forces (pay the workers what they need, accept that shipping cars for a US market from a US marque from Korea should not be required when that US marque is laying off workers in US plants - the same theory as "food movement" applies; environmentally it is better to make products for local consumption locally and cut out that stage of travel and energy consumption).

    Change working habits. Work from home or provide smaller, local offices.

    Provide viable alternatives. I know the US is even worse than the UK for public transport; Europe and Eastern Europe often show genuinely workable alternatives.

    And finally:

    Accept that cars are dangerous. Stop making the body in white twice as heavy to try and save the occupants if they screw up. Train drivers correctly, accept that sometimes car driving will cause death, and make the cars smaller, more efficient and space-efficient.

    These aren't magical fixes, but I think that making new cars more expensive would have a knock-on effect of increasing used-car values, and making maintaining used cars viable. For many US/Canadian readers, for whom the social norm would be to find cars up to 7 years old utterly respectable, and in the latter case may indeed have financed their new car over that period, the attitude of British car owners would probably be horrifying.

    Oh, and if you can, drive a Japanese import. IMO, the decision to drive a perfectly good (often far, far better than a UK example of the same sort of car at the same age) car which is deemed almost worthless in Japan is very environmentally friendly, despite the shipping to the UK. It means that the car will almost certainly last another 5-10 years if correctly maintained, rather than perhaps being scrapped in a year or two in Japan.

  45. Jim Black
    Linux

    Perspective

    The situation driving in Europe cannot be realistically compared to driving in the greater United States. The conditions are generally significantly different.

    The UK at 241,530 sq Km land area is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. The UK population (estimated) is 60,776,238 for a population density of ~251.6 persons per sq Km. The US lower 48 (excludes Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico) is about 7,663,941 sq Km land area. Lower 48 population is about 299,204,396 for a population density of ~39 people per sq Km. Yes there are large variations in some areas including sections of some states that have less than one person per sq Km.

    Our largest cities (New York, Chicago, etc.) have public transportation in taxis, buses, etc., and the use of individual automobiles is reduced although not non-existent. When you get to the smaller cities and towns, public transportation is rare to completely missing. Distances are not short and commute times by bicycle would take too much time. Plus, the ubiquitous pickup truck is sometimes the only family transportation that the family can afford.

    Although much is made of the style and features of new vehicles, for the vast majority of people the choice has to be made of "how much can I get for the amount I can afford to spend". Another equation is safety - in a collision, the smaller car almost always loses. Hummer's are nice vehicles but not that many people can afford them. Not many people people in the UK drive a Rolls.

    Will electric vehicles ever take off here in the US? I believe so, when the durability of the batteries, the charge time of said batteries (includes hybrids) and when the general resistance to buying something new and untested by length of service starts fading. If the price of fuel begins to approach the prices now existing in Europe, then the size of internal combustion driven autos will come down and the electrics will begin to sell. But mandating anything by law or by pressure always brings out a resistance in independent people. There is also the factor that anything that irritates the environmental wackos delights the common people of the US.

  46. Neil Robertson
    Happy

    50mpg Volvo - no joke

    V70 D5 2.4 Turbo Diesel - 163 BHP so it moves all right too. I've driven 90000 miles in the thing so it's not a one-off either, but with a gentle right foot and smooth driving at about 70MPH I get a steady 50mpg. I've ogled the XC90's in the showroom then looked up the performance & economy figures in disbelief and stuck with what I've got.

    I seem to remember Americans have smaller gallons than the British, which would skew the figures somewhat - we have 4.55 litres in a gallon.

  47. Ade
    Alert

    here's an idea....

    Sorry peeps... thinking.... why not have an electric car with a removable pack that you buy with a ... say £50 deposit... and when your range is running low you pop to a fuel station (petrol/lpg/elec) and swap your depleted pack with a fresh charged one for a nominal fee and then you have no... 'hours to recharge...' problem...and you have your 5 min fuel station visit., thus extending your range to complete your journey.... if you knew you were going on a journey that there would be no stations available, you would buy another pack.. with £50 deposit.... to have in the car to assist on your way.... then going back to your day to day commute, you would return the extra pack and receive your deposite back.....

    see any holes in that??

  48. J
    Flame

    Driving habits

    Yep, that is the problem, mostly. As someone said above, how many times there are huge SUVs with one or two people inside? Do people really need that to go to Food Lion? (store here that only sells... guess it?) Got your first baby? People start bugging you to get a minivan, seriously! It happens with a Brazilian friend of mine here, married to an American guy -- his family keeps asking if they're not gonna get a minivan. She tells him that if he buys one, he can stuff it... Hell, I grew up with two other kids and a Grandma traveling in the back seat of VW cars like Passat and its corresponding station wagon (when we got a bit bigger), and it wasn't any disaster... OK, we Brazilians are not as fat, but nonetheless...

    What about people going to the movies in Hummer H2s or those humongous pickup trucks? More than once I've seen one or two Hummers, invariably taking a bit more than one parking spot, at the movie theater's parking lot. In at least one of the cases I saw only two people coming out of one of them. WTF? And then people complain about the price of gas, which is about $2,85 here now.

    I'm all for having the vehicle that suits your REAL needs (and not just to compensate for the size of your, er, self-esteem), which is quite different from this ridiculous culture of have-to-have-bigger.

  49. Geoff Edwards

    electric car vs petroil

    Not viable, expensive? Some sort of electric tricycle could be built. There is a diesel motorbike that can do 1,000 km on a tankful. We could possibly use little electric cars for local use. But in the UK, why should consumers opt for buying more than one vehicle when they will have to pay double road tax and their second vehicle will be subject to insurance with ( I may be wrong) initially no entitlement to a no claims bonus. No conspiracy, just no proper incentive for folks to buy two vehicles. And we do (most of us) require a vehicle that can take us and our family on holiday etc.

  50. Bas Scheffers

    Most families have two cars

    Most families have two cars.

    You can have one EV for the daily commute for one person, shopping, etc. and the other petrol vehicle that normally gets limited similar use, but is there if you do need to take the entire family out, go somewhere far or need to haul something big.

    It would work very well for me and that is what I plan to do once the bloody things are available.

  51. Timbo
    IT Angle

    @ Neil Robertson

    Neil - no worries - when I read your O/P, I got the impression you used the 7 seater for work....

    And as another poster has said, we've all got a bit lazy nowadays expecting a car to be safe, comfy, roomy, and a joy to drive.....esp. while we're stuck on a motorway coz some idiot has gone and crashed and caused a 20 mile tailback.

    Truth is, we all have to make choices and to a degree there's a huge range of different vehicles available to suit your purpose....what the original article shows is that there may be some skullduggery going on that is restricting choices (of fuel) and choices of vehicles (in terms of basic design etc).

    More frugal, more efficient, lighter weight cars are available - but as was seen in the UK news only today, such a vehicle is not as safe when it collides with very large vehicles such as a 40+ tonne foreign truck or, as happened today, a London bendy bus....resulting in three fatalities...

  52. p3ngwin

    backwards

    @ROLAND:

    "A reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. An unreasonable man persists in attempting to adapt his environment to suit himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -- George Bernard Shaw

    so it seems that the American way of short sighted living is instead of fixing the roads and making them more car friendly, make the cars adapt to the environment and say goodbye to the efficiency?

    "oh look the roads are buggered, shall we make batter roads? nah lets just build cars that can deal with it <plugs finger in hole of leaking water dam, smiles to self as problem is solved>"

    sounds like the USA has it's priorities backwards & rather like that of a child: very short sighted and selfish/naive.

    to the idiots that think "there is already a fuel infrastructure, not so for hydrogen or electric". well did you think HOW that came to be? ONE WAS NEEDED SO IT WAS BUILT !

    now the fuel idea is proving not to be as good as we thought and we need a better way, so lets build the infrastructure needed, just like any smart ass would do.

    the electrical outlets are already EVERYWHERE: THERE IS ALREADY AN ELECTRIC NATIONWIDE GRID!

    keep the existing grid lines as they are and change the generator ends.

    just need to switch from fossil fuel burning generators to more future-proof ways of generating electricity and them BAM!

    "oh look, plenty of electrical stations to charge anything you damn well please all over the place...my where did they all come from? they told us electric was not viable 'cos of the lack of infrastructure...blah...blah...bleet..bleet...."

  53. Martin Usher

    The EV1 was quite practical

    I know someone who had one of those things, he drove it until he was forced to give it up. The problem with the EV1 is that it cost practically nothing to own and run -- apart from the lease payment and the occasional set of tires all you paid for was off peak electricity which works out far cheaper than gasoline (about a third of the cost in 2003 prices).

    Saturn also made a very innovative compact car, the SL1. This is also a dog from the car company's perspective since it pulls in 33..40mpg (US gallons -- 4 liters to a gallon), typically costs about $35 to service and lasts for ever. (Its the one that has plastic body panels over the box chassis so that you didn't get problems with scratches and dings). It was cheap, too cheap (about $12K5), and it got withdrawn for something more conventional about the time that fuel costs started rising rapidly.

  54. Damian Wheeler

    horses for courses

    As pointed out in the article, electric vehicles may be fine for daily commutes, but long trips, hauling things or seating more people may require a different beast. A large proportion of USA have more than one car in the household, sometimes more than one per person. Many motorsport participants have their daily car(s) and a "Tow car" which is only used to pull the race car to the track. Horse racing people often the same only using the v8 to pull the horse float. For a long trip the other option is to hire a car for a vacation. I know that sounds too '80s or perhaps to touristy but for one vacation a year it makes more sense than running the bigger car all year.

    There are other considerations in the US though. The "pickup" is classed as a truck, and so doesn't need to conform to emissions or safety levels as cars do, which makes them appear cheaper. They also qualified the purchaser for tax concessions/rebates in many states, seeming cheaper again. Their government has encouraged people to use these 7ltr petrol v8 American built monsters instead of light japanese or european diesel trucks where haulage is needed, or simply a family car and a trailer for occasional use. My point being it isn't necessarily the consumers fault. The options presented to them are skewed towards what the manufacturers have colluded together to "push" on the market. No overseas companies make a pickup (closest thing is the Aussie ute, or the old Subaru Brumby) so they don't need to compete with imports in that class.

    I think in most 2 car households, there is room for at least one efficient commuter car be it electric, hybrid, small turbo diesel or even .... the bus.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Join the Re-VOLT-lution

    Agree with Tom..the Chevy Volt is the same idea only done properly.

    Join the community of enthusiasts who are watching GM produce this car with scrutiny at http://www.gm-volt.com.

  56. Mike Bremford Silver badge

    Re: It's all about TCO

    Nope. I'd love to know where that 80% figure first came from - I've heard it several times now, but it's a long way from reality.

    There's an exceptionally well-researched answer to this question at http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=433981 - but in 10 words or less, roughly 9% of a car's total energy requirements is from manufacture/recycling.

  57. Martin Huizing
    Jobs Halo

    oil oil oil

    James,

    <Rant>No one can convince me otherwise that the reason for abandoning the electric car project(s) is because of oil oil oil. The stuff that keeps a big (not great) nation running and puts the fear of not needing it in hearts and minds of its citizens.

    </Rant>

    Although true but seriously; The first car was fuel inefficient, slow and dangerous. Because it was innovative more people wanted it and was slowly over time perfected into the beast of beauty we are happy to drive and feel safe in today.

    If only the electric car could receive the same treatment... Yes. It would be slow at first, but after a while modern developments would lift the hunk-of-battery packed road menace into a economic, fast, clean and more importantly; fuel efficient vehicle with all the positives the internal combustion propelled automobile could not provide.

    Large battery? Waiting to be charged? Here in China people are riding battery powered motorcycles (eh... batterycycles. hehehe). These people (and I will be one of them soon) have no problem changing the batteries as they are quite light-weight. Who says, just like notebook batteries, their size won't decrease over time and provide more energy for value?

    My two cents. Thanks.

    Martin

    Jobs iCon 'cause I believe he will invent an iMoped soon!

  58. Philip Gray

    Automotive technology is running in reverse.

    Previous poster on the new Volt electric:

    * It will have an electric range of 40 miles but can also run on gas because it has a small, built-in gas generator. (When running on gas, it gets 50 MPG.)

    I drive a 89 Toyota Celica, between the last time I filled the tank and the next to last (three weeks ago) it managed 37mpg in the city. I routinely drive the car with the truck filled, and fully packed with passengers. I expect to beat 40mpg easily on the highway, or in the city using hypermiler driving techniques.

    I paid $500 for the car some years ago, it now has 240,000+ miles on it, and I haven't done much in terms of maintenance. I did buy new tires last month, it was the first time it had been in a shop in years. In comparison, my wife has had three cars over year 2000 in the last five years, and each one has fallen apart in less than three years of ownership.

    Please, someone tell me why my 19 year old car cost less, breaks less, gets greater gas mileage, and performs better than 90+% of the cars on the road, including the new electric models. Why am I getting better actual mileage in the city than the Prius? When the engine finally does fail, most likely around 400,000+ miles, I'll probably shove a electric motor in the thing.

    There may have not been a conspiracy about the electric cars, but the car manufacturers are surely not doing the consumers any favors. I'm glad to see Aptera, Zap, the BugE, and other vehicles starting to show up on the scene. Maybe something will finally happen and the car dealers will take notice.

  59. Mother Hubbard
    Boffin

    You've all missed the point .. er .. points ..

    For starters, this is a marketing problem; when was the last time you saw Arnold Schwartznsomethingorother (aka: "Dutch") in the south American jungle, smokin' a big-arse cuban cigar and heaving orders out to his crew from the driver's side of a two-door electric vehicle? It just isn't cricket.

    Then there is just big arses; the average American has two chins, four stomachs and three arses - roughly the equivalent of two middle-aged Parisians with a full set of matching holiday luggage, all squeezed snugly into a brand-name jogging outfit. There's a reason these people buy SUVs, and *is* because they're all-American. No Texan wants to drive with a gear-shift in their jixy.

    To top it all off; until the US knock-off a decent Jeremy Clarkson clone, then they'll never understand the essence of *selling* a car. Lets face it, the American version of a "channel" is equivalent to the European process for making Foie Gras, and until they get a genuine geezer into the selling process, the consumer will be forever condemned to buy on cabin features and paint colour, or the sheer glossyness of the brochure.

  60. Mark Hartman

    Hummers vs. Hybrids

    The statement by some that electrics are just as polluting as cars that burn gas is dead wrong. Even with catalytic assistance, electric power is much more efficient, even coming from a grid comprised of coal-burning power sources. Factor in some renewable assistance such as wind and hydroelectric (as we enjoy here in Washington State), and it's no contest.

    The wider issue is that we've got --what? -- 8 billion humans using ever-increasing amounts of crude oil. Who is foolish enough to believe the supply of oil with last more than another few decades, and at exponentially escalating prices per gallon?

    Finding the replacement for oil will, in fact, REQUIRE a lot of oil. Continuing the status quo will push us back into the dark ages that much sooner. Put that in your Hummer and smoke it.

  61. Rick Damiani

    EV-1 - experement that ended, not a solution

    If my lifestyle choices don't match your lifestyle choices then it's my choices that are wrong? Things are a lot farther apart here in the western US than they are in Europe.

    The real problem with pure-electric vehicles is that they don't eliminate pollution, they export it. The EV-1, when it was running off of Los Angeles power, was doing so by burning coal in Arizona. If you think that's green, you've got really funny ideas about what green means. Factor in transmission losses, thermal, gearing, and storage losses in the EV-1, thermal and conversion losses in the recharging arrangements, and thermal losses at the plant, and you've got a pretty inefficient way to move one or two people (with no luggage, mind you) around while introducing the fine people of Arizona to smog and soot.

    What would a scalable solution look like? With current tech? I don't think there is one, actually. Converting a sizable fraction of the current vehicle fleet to EVs could easily double the load on the already over-stressed power grid. With fission and fusion off the table and all the useful rivers already in use, I don't know where that power is gonna come from. Biofuels, with the possible exception of some algae that Shell is working on, are actually more troublesome than coal (look up ocean dead zone for one reason). And don't even start with solar cells. Toxic waste from the manufacturing process and with energy break-even times of 5 to 10 years mean that's even dumber than using corn to make fuel.

    Until something can be worked out, the best bet seems to be to stretch what we have. That means oil-fired hybrids with electrical drive trains. The EV-1 was nothing more than a way to see if an electrical drive train was fesable. It wasn't meant to be a solution, because it *can't* be a solution.

  62. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Matt

    "Engine braking is a useful technique, as practised by Police response drivers, but boy does hit the fuel bill hard"

    Wow, where have you been? That's just soo last century.

    Take a look at the fuel consumption meter on just about any modern, fuel injected car fitted with same. Now take your foot off the throttle without depressing the clutch. Note how the consumption drops to zero. Yes folks, the electronics turn the fuel off when it's not required. Clever really, but a bit old hat these days. Engine braking has cost sod all in fuel consumption since EFi became ubiquitous.

    As for the GM EV1, what killed that was it was a fugly POS. Also, while being built from the floor up as an electric car, it retained the conventional transmission and drive layout (presumably to save a few shekels by using an existing corporate "platform"). A stunningly awful design which richly deserved to sink without trace. Occam's razor says that this, rather than some convoluted conspiracy of right-wing lizards and space gnomes, is the right answer.

  63. James
    Go

    Extra Weight = Safety Stuff

    Spot on. Its worth pointing out that a significant proportion of the extra mass added to cars, accounting for the stagnation of mpg figures despite increasing engine efficiencies, is due to all the extra safety feature that the consumer and regulators demanded.

  64. David Evans

    Lies, damn lies and...

    There are a lot of people here making off the cuff comments about the relative "cradle to grave" impact of internal combustion v. electric cars, but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of actual facts; for instance, is it easier to make a power station (even a hydrocarbon power station) "green" (filters, carbon sequestration etc.) than it is to make make millions of IC cars more efficient? Or not? Do the economics of electric vehicles change with scale? Does it make more economic sense to invest in public transport and keep personal transport out of cities altogether? I see a lot of opinions and vested interests but very little on the way of objective research by people WITHOUT an axe to grind. Where's the science?

    All the other stuff is just marketing; even Americans can be persuaded out of their SUVs and trucks if it makes economic sense, in exactly the same way they were persuaded IN to trucks in the first place if necessary (through regualatory effects; Americans drive trucks because they're cheap, and they're cheap because of legislation that exempts them from a lot of car-related safety and emissions regs. Its not rocket science to work out incentives for electric if the will is there).

  65. Corrine

    @Steve Todd

    Drive more than 500 miles in a day, no. Drive 350 to the ass end of nowhere that only just got electric lights, then drive back Sunday, yes.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Downsizing expectations could help...

    Many commentors here seem to have the idea that there is a choice between small, efficient cars and large, inefficient ones; for those, here's a concept. I once owned a 1981 VW Quantum/Passat wagon turbodiesel. Got me up to 105 mph (with a bit of a run-up), had enough space for a family holiday and then some, and got me 55 to 60 mpg (american) if driven sanely. I'd still have it if rising repair costs hadn't made it too expensive to maintain after 15 years and 450,000 miles.

    The problem most people, not just in the US, have is that they not only want big cars, they want their SUVs to behave like race cars. That means they want grossly over-engined cars. In the US, there are very few places where one is allowed to go faster than 85 mph; who needs a car that goes 160?

    I'm going to keep out of the energy source debate here because I don't have the numbers for an informed opinion, but I will say that much greater fuel efficiency is possible, has been possible for decades, but with many brands, just plain is not offered even as an option. Stick with the smaller engines; they'll get you there and back, too. At half the cost or less.

  67. Frank Bough
    Stop

    I'm only trying to help you Roland

    "I live in Illinois, and with the winter weather and all it's simply not an option to drive around in a small car all the time. Ground clearance, greater distances between point A and B compared to Europe. Please do not try to compare the driving situation of the Netherlands or England (or anywhere in Europe) to driving in the US. Please take a look at a map, and see what the difference in scale is between these countries."

    Oh God, not this tired old garbage again. Roland, fire up your Google Earth and have a look at Europe, you'll find that it's nearly the same size as the US, and with a LARGER population, a MORE extreme range of climates and MORE disparate lifestyles. Just like Americans, we MAINLy live in or around major cities, just like Americans, MOST of us own and drive private cars. Driving across Spain is very much like driving across the American SW, Sweden, Norway et al are very much like the American NW, France, Benelux, Britain and Germany are very much like the American NE - Italy like the SE etc etc. The Canaries and Azores are even a passable substitute for Hawaii.

    We have the same problems, and the same solutions will be applicable. It's merely ATTITUDES (and the Atlantic) that separate us.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Does gas magically appear at the station?

    Sure, burning coal to generate electricity is only x% efficient, transmitting it is y% efficient, etc. etc.

    But let's do an apples-to-apples comparison here. How much energy is expended pumping oil out of the ground, transporting it from point A to B to C to D to barrels to an oil carrier to a pipeline etc., refining it, etc.?

    What we're talking about is called "ground to wheel" efficiency and people debate it a lot but electric vehicles almost always win.

  69. Karl Lattimer

    fuel vs. engine efficiency

    It is true that hydrocarbon fuels contain a lot more energy than you can get into a battery. However electric motors are more or less 100% efficient... I'd like to see that kind of efficiency in a petrol engine... That would give you something like 100mpg!

  70. Stephen Ware
    Thumb Up

    Re Does gas magically appear at the station?

    'But let's do an apples-to-apples comparison here. How much energy is expended pumping oil out of the ground, transporting it from point A to B to C to D to barrels to an oil carrier to a pipeline etc., refining it, etc.?'

    so right...

    And as I stated in my last post its a lot easier to clean up a network of power stations than millions of cars with lots of invididual companies constantly sqealing foul every time new emission legislation is proposed.

    There is so much FUD going on around this thread its unbelievable...

    One other point that nobody has mentioned is that we are in the first generation of Electric vehicles. We are at the equivalent of the early part of the century on internal combustion terms. If as much money was poured into battery and or other technologies (i.e maybe not exclusively electric) as current engine design has enjoyed over the century then efficiencies would be vastly increased. This thread would then be regarded as laughable

  71. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  72. Trygve Henriksen
    Thumb Up

    What about the UNSEEN costs?

    There are now battery/recharge technology that allows you to recharge the batteries in 5 - 10 minutes, which means the EV can be equal to the gas guzzler also on the petrol station...

    Anyway, people mention that there are gas stations 'everywhere'?

    What about the 'hidden' cost to the environment by all those big rigs spewing diesel fumes when they transport the gas to those stations?

    Start adding that to the 'fuel efficiency' calculations...

    An electric recharge station is cheaper to put up, with no danger of exploding(unless the cars use Sony batteries... ) so can be located ANYWHERE there's a power grid.

    In fact, there's no reason they couldn't be combined with parking lots at fast-food joints(Americans would probably love that.. 'want a recharge with that?') or the local grocery store...

    Just park your car, swipe your ATM card and puch the code, plug in the cord, then go for that burger.

    Incidentally, the first model of the Citroën 2CV did 80MPG(not certain if it was US or UK Gallons). Not bad for a motorized bedstead...

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Conservation of Energy

    Conservation of Energy is what allows regenerative braking to suck back your electric cars kinetic energy into the battery. I've not yet seen a petrol engine squirt out fuel when cranked.

    Not useful on motorway and other long distance trips but useful as hell on urban driving, where that limited range hardly matters and gas powered driving is at its worst.

  74. A Bairstow
    Flame

    Missing the point...

    I think this article misses the point that the oil companies have a huge grip on the car market and are literally controlling companies like GM.

    Alternative, cleaner, renewable fuel is a scientific possibility which has not be explored for a reason- it doesnt make as much money and certainly makes no money for the oil companies.

    I thought Who Killed The Electric Car? was a pretty sensationalist movie, but altogher highlights how the new global economy (i.e. capitalism) works.

    I don't give a rats ass about a stupid electric car, but I do care about pollution levels and cheaper, cleaner fuels.

    As for hydrogen fuel cells etc which the Bush administration fully backs, the benefits for them are obvious. They get to install and profit from a new fuel industry, where as electricity already exists and has its stakeholders.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Has this been said?

    Face facts.

    1. To the American general population most want huge hulking beasts that roar and go really, really fast, in excess if possible. The words "Super Size Me" come to mind.

    2. To the Corporate Entities with their fingers in this huge pie it's about money. Nothing else, just money.

  76. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Coat

    Nuke 'em!

    Of course, all those electrickery cars get a whole lot more carbon-friendly if they are powered from nuclear grid rather than nasty coal-fired stations..... Lol, I bet that one has the Greenpeckers in a fit!!

  77. Steve Todd

    @Corrine

    I realise that there are places in the US of A that are still worshiping fire gods, but if Outer Bum Fluff (or whereever the heck it was that you drove to) has electric lights then they also have electric power, from which you could have recharged an electric car.

    You can site more and more wild and obscure examples of where 500 miles on a charge isn't enough, but in practice 99.99999 of all drivers will be able to live and drive within that limit. The remaining fraction can use hybrid petrol/electric cars that use the petrol engine only to generate electric power (and thus can be tuned to run cleanly and efficiently at a single speed).

  78. Darko Dojin
    Paris Hilton

    New British Sports (electric) Car

    Has anyone seen this http://www.lightningcarcompany.com/home.php

    Now, if it wasn't for the pricetag (they are taking £50k deposit + whatever it costs), I would get one. 250 miles range with 10 minutes charge. That's what we need. I don't think that Paris comes as standard or if it is available as an optional accessory...

    BTW, can anybody explain those "NanoSafe" batteries ?

    PS

    Anyone here addicted to Alfa v6 or Ferrari v8 sound ?

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aside

    I read a biography of Edison. He understood what he was up against when introducing the electric light bulb. Basically, it was: infrastructure. There just wasn't any. So he had to invent, manufacture and sell: generators, transmission lines, fuse boxes, wall switches, wall outlets, bulb fixtures, etc. He was a tireless promoter, as he was competing with other light sources: gas, oil, carbon arc, candle, etc. So in the electric car case, one (but not the only one) obstacle is infrastructure.

  80. Roland
    Unhappy

    I stand corrected -- also a couple of things off-topic

    Ah, still trying to get used to the gallons, fahrenheit, ounces and all that... So now I find out that the US gallon is different from the UK gallon, too! Argh!

    Anyways, it's probably all about options that are offered:

    - would like to drive a diesel car over here in the US. Diesel is about 40 - 60 dollar cents more expensive compared to the sludge they call 'regular' here.

    - it's impossible to have only one car here in the US. Coming from Europe, trust me, we've tried for one year. Outside of the main / big cities, there's absolutely no useful public transportation infrastructure. All that they have (around Chicago) is going to be downsized, because of growing costs.

    - This morning it was around -3 fahrenheit (so would be roughly -20 celcius). Haven't done any research on how the batteries take this kind of temperatures. Does anyone know?. Of course, the solution would be a heated garage, but that kinda defeats the purpose ;-)

    - about the road conditions: i don't know if it's comparable. All i know is that the roads are being cut open by the snow plows, salt, high temperatures during the summer. And i'm also talking about the highways / interstates. Traveled a lot around Europe, but never have seen so many problems as I have here in Illinois. so yes, you will look for a more sturdy (looking?) car, which means a bigger car

    Slightly off-topic, but to call the V70 a 7 seater... Maybe with the small kids way in the back ;-)

    Which opens up a whole other topic: load / weight limits on cars. Funny, couple of months ago I read an article about how the 'standard' American has grown in size (no, only in circumference and weight, not in length ;-), and that when you load up a car with four 'standard' Americans, the car would be above its legal load limit. People started panicking about what this would do for their insurance, in case they would get in an accident.

    Which in turn will start another thread about how 'safe' small cars are in the US... Sounds like a good idea for a new TV show. Let's call it Ultimate Car Fights</sarcasm>

    And then my last remark: please start designing cars for people that are 6ft4 and taller. I'm 6-6, and having a hard time finding a car that can fit me properly!

  81. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Love to have one...

    I'd love to have a small electric car to commute back and forth to work, especially since I live in a "municipal power" town where we have extraordinarily low electric rates. The only thing that would concern me is how much of the 50-80 mile range will be left when I am running the heater a full blast to keep my nose from freezing off in the 0 degree F (~-20 C) air.

    BTW, those of who really know what is going on know that the true reason we don't have electrics or hydrogen cars has nothing to do with the science, but all to do with power. As the Bushes are known to be part of the 11 families that rule the world (also called the Illuminary) they have done everything in their power to prevent new technology from being developed and thus upsetting the status quo. In fact, the recent activities in the Middle East were not to secure sources of foreign oil, but actually just the opposite, to make sure that there were fewer sources and that the prices would go up, thus propelling those families into even more powerful conditions. The only reason Iraq was chosen as a target and not some other country is that the Hussein family was getting to powerful and threatening the other Illuminary families. The evidence for this is quite powerful: Two ME countries were controlled by Hussein's. :)

    I'd share my real name, but I am afraid that I might be taken for a one-way trip in a black van......

  82. John Daniel
    Alert

    Article sidesteps the point

    While I agree that the electric car fiasco in California was due more to economics than to a conspiracy, this article seems to me to be counter-productive. Yes, the film may have heaped more glory on the EV1 than it deserved, but the real issue is still the future. *If* we could actually recover 80 to 90% of the energy in fossil fuels there might remain a case for internal combustion engines for many years to come...as we know, the very best of them still waste 60% of the energy contained in their fuel - diesels are roughly 30% more efficicient, but both still are way behind an electric motor. The power grid is already in place, and can (or could) already support a huge number of electric vehicles. Every one that rolls down the road chips away at our dependence on mideast oil (and all the unpleasantness that goes along with our intense involvement in that region) - it takes away one more tailpipe spewing CO2 and sulfur dioxide - meanwhile, it would allow most of us to drive as we do now for no more than $8 to $12 per month's worth of electricity - instead of the $60 to $80+ per month spent now on gasoline at $3 per gallon....and these figures are very conservative. (based on 100 miles driving per week) Even if tailpipe emissions and global warming don't concern you, it's hard to ignore the potential savings over time!

  83. Frank Bough
    Happy

    Roland...

    If you've really 'travelled a lot around Europe' then how come you never noticed how big it is? When we drive our car to the Alps to go skiing in the winter, it's about 800 miles - that's quite comparable with someone living in Chicago driving to Colorado for their winter holiday. When we drive down to Italy, France, Croatia or Spain for our summer sun, we clock up about 3000miles for the round trip - doesn't seem all that small to me.

  84. John Werner

    Fuel Cells - Not Just Hydrogen

    @ Nexox

    Electric vehicles are just a bad idea. The best foreseeable replacement for gas cars would be a fuel cell, since those can theoretically be pushed to nearly 100% efficient. For now the hydrogen has to come from electricity, but that is a highly efficient process, so if people can figure out how to store and ship hydrogen while pushing fuel efficiency, we could see a 1:1 competition with petrol efficiency, and potentially reasonably similar range, depending on how the storage comes along.

    Why is it that everyone who says Fuel Cells thinks Hydrogen. There are other fuel cells. In fact, a small part of a very large company here in the US is developing a fuel cell that is powered not by Hydrogen, but by Hydrocarbon based fuels. There are a couple of distinct advantages of this, both related to how to produce and distribute hydrogen.

    The major drawback to the technology to use hydrocarbon based fuels (Diesel, gasoline -- or Petrol for you UK'ers, BioFuel, etc) is the weight of the fuel cell assembly. So far, they are not making in-roads into passenger vehicles. Where they are doing well is in large trucks. Recent anti-idling laws have posed a problem for long haul truckers who used to idle their engines to provide electricity (and HVAC) for their cabs while they crawled into their sleeping quarters and got a few hours of shut-eye. Hydrocarbon fueled fuel cells solve this quite well. The extra weight isn't much of a problem, and they can tap into the already existent fuel supply on the truck.

  85. Will Leamon

    Dear Brits

    Africa just called and asked if you, the Dutch, and the French wouldn't mind cleaning your shit up there before bitching about what the Americans do to their spot on earth.

    Oh and the Americans said they would love to address this situation but still haven't quite cleared up the mess from 400 hundred years of slave economics that they were born with.

    Cheers.

  86. Glenn
    Gates Horns

    Professor of Bull$hit

    Should be the author's degree, spare me the "the Hummer is efficient `` nonsense. Panasonic was building a factory to produce batteries for electric cars when GM sold the Ovonic (NiMh) patents to Texaco-Chevron and was told (court order) that they could not afford to license the battery production.

  87. Jason The Saj
    Thumb Up

    What the Volt gets right...

    GM EV1

    - unfeasible for mass market (GM is not Ferrari, they only build for mass-market)

    - expensive to build (estimates were as high as $80,000 per car)

    - decent range but no ability to go beyond that range

    - limited seating

    - all this would be reduced if you added all the items now common to many vehicles: stereo & entertainment systems, added safety features (traction control, multiple airbags, GPS units, so on and so on)

    And yes, some will try to exclaim the market feasibility of the EV1. But let's look at Honda's Insight which could get up to 70mpg. It was a two-seater like the EV1 but without most of the EV1's other limitations. And it FAILED!!!! Honda pulled the model (even though it had the best MPG in the USA) because it was unprofitable and unsustainable.

    Chevy Volt

    - GM has addressed nearly ever issue that hindered the EV1

    - 4 seats (and while this may not seem important to you, this makes a significant difference for families. It means "car seat" versus no "car seat".)

    - no range limit. Volt can do a 40 mile commute on just electric. A 60 mile commute (which is what I drive every day to work currently) at 150mpg. Or a 600+ commute and a refill of the generator.

    - all the modern conveniences and safety features we the consumers demand for today

    - adaptive platform can use a gasoline, diesel or fuel cell generator

    So, where as most people keep posting that the Volt offers nothing over the EV1. You're very very wrong! Twice the capacity means the Volt can function as a family car. Something neither the EV1 nor Honda Insight could do. No being stranded - the generator provides means to re-charge from any gas station available nation wide.

    Denying the importance of these two factors is merely dogmatic religionism and irrationality. The 4 seat factor alone is why the lower mileage (44mpg) Toyota Prius succeeded over the (60-70mpg) Honda Insight. It's why when I started a new job that required me to commute and decided to acquire a hybrid. I wound up choosing a Toyota Prius w/ 73K @$9,000 over a Honda Insight w/only 50K for $10,000. We had a baby on the way. And that fact would have made us have to drive my Dodge Durango everywhere the whole family went. So we bought the Prius.

    FYI, regarding the Durango. It gets 20mpg on the hwy. It is a tow vehicle and I was also working from home at the time. Now I have two vehicles, both are very efficient at what they do. (Try carrying 7-passengers and towing a loader trailer with a Prius.)

    - Saj

    PS - "Please, someone tell me why my 19 year old car cost less, breaks less, gets greater gas mileage, and performs better than 90+% of the cars on the road."

    Because it has less safety features & less accessories.

    BTW the MPG ratings have changed over the years. The newer tests reduced the score. So many vehicles rated 35mpg 10-20 yrs ago would score lower by today's standards.

  88. Elam

    The electric dream and £200 to fill up your tank?

    I own a Honda Civic IMA Hybrid that recharges it's battery during braking. (During braking It feels very similar to a tube train slowing down) The power stored in the battery pack is then used to assist the 1300cc Gasoline Direct Injection engine during acceleration. It works very well giving your the torque of a diesel between 200 and 2000 RPM. When the battery charge is depleted you really notice the loss of power. However, the bottom line is this only gains you around 10mpg or so.

    The big issue here is weight. It is ridiculous to lug around two or more tons of SUV when a 500 kilo two or four seater - think original Fiat 500 or mini - could do the same job and achieve 100 mpg or more with a modern high efficiency engine.

    I've been mulling over the issue of the cost of fuel as I sit, with the engine in auto stop mode, in yet another traffic jam on the M25. At the moment it costs around £60 to fill up my Civic. Would I stop using the car freely hen it cost £100 a tank? Or even £200? My conclusion is that I would really stop driving without considering other options when it reached £100. I hear people complaining about road tax at £115 but it really won't be long before a single tank of fuel costs that much.

  89. Roland
    Happy

    Re: Roland...

    Well, tis funny, I asked that myself. I think it's because the landscape is not as varied as in Europe. Also in Europe the scale of things is probably hidden because of the changes in scenery, different languages.

    I miss Europe... and French wine, and Spanish ham, and German pear schnapps, and Dutch coffee... *sniff*

    Last summer did a road trip from Chicago to Yellowstone Natl. Park. (yup, around 3500 miles) Remember the movie 'Dances with wolves'? That's the kind of scenery you'll see for one whole day of driving (roughly 800 miles. American ones, on land ;-)

    Funny thing about going green vs. more power: a comparison between the new Toyota Camry vs the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid / flexfuel... Both had the same city MPG... Here's a link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/automotive/chi-mxa1216matejadec16,0,7572566.column?track=rss

    So that's another trick the car designers are playing on people over here is that 'automatic switch-off of 2 - 4 cylinders'. Guess what? This happens only when you stay below 55 mph on the highway. And of course no one drives 55mph on the highways.

  90. Rick Brasche
    Stop

    Save the planet, ride a motorcycle

    but don't mention the massively increased efficiency that petrol powered bikes have enjoyed over all cars for over 60 years. Rant on about how a toxic battery powered go-kart like the Prius is saving the world, but do everything you can to legislate bikes off of the roads. I'm looking at you, San Francisco. And the rest of California.

    Even without catalytics, their total amount of nasty emissions are greatly reduced compared to even the smallest street-legal 4 wheel vehicles. My 07 FJR1300, (1.3L or around 80 cubes to you V twin guys) *with* catalytics still gets me a measured (actual riding conditions based on measured mileage and fuel input over a six month period) 40 MPG. This is in start and stop traffic, as well as unreasonably fast highway sprints of over 100MPH. On long trips of highway-only at 80+MPH I measure over 50 MPG. If I were to drive reasonably (remember all those 70's gas saving tips!) I could embarass the green-weenie "SMART Car" for mileage-and it only has a 1000cc (1L) motor.

    But it's not about saving the earth, as Honda found out. It's about advertising the size of your Green Member. (they didn't sell enough "hybrids" because they looked too normal). It's about control and forcing people to buy things that Big Government can control. Remember the artifically controlled 'rolling blackouts' of a couple years ago in CA? If there was a true "power crisis", how come state and city officials could pick and choose when and where to shut down power? None of the big businesses were affected, nor were residences in more affluent parts of town.

    How do you drive an electric car when the State decides to "save the planet" by cutting power to your neighborhood? Charge it with a few verses of Kumbaya and a handful of Carbon Credit Coupons?

    I noticed over the years that SF removed the ability for scooters and motorcycles to park at greatly reduced rates on the street, removing yet another economic incentive to going two-wheeled. They don't even give tax breaks to 50cc Vespas getting 100MPG but they'll issue tax breaks to "hybrid" SUV's. Increased legislation aimed at motorcycles include laws saying you cannot install anything on your motorcycle that isn't done at the "licensed" dealer. Nor can you work on it yourself if these laws pass. All for "public safety" (Honor Harrington, anyone?) of course.

    For those of us lacking the money and parking space to own two full cars, buying or leasing some electric toy (that can't be charged at home by any apartment dweller either) for short trips or grocery runs is a pipe dream that the elitist rich love to use to force people to stay untravelled and controlled. "Let them eat cake!" will not convince anyone to buy an EV. However, an inexpensive mid 80's or even late 90's metric cruiser with under 700cc's can be dressed up with enough cargo space for short trips and grocery runs and still run well under $3K (usually you'll come well under that). And in CA, riding is almost year round. In the rest of the country, any winter weather you couldn't ride in would kill the battery of an EV anyways. Or you'd spend a lot extra in energy for the heated garage...

    the Green movement has become the biggest con-job and snake-oil sale of the century. People, government, and politicians are out to rip people off, screw over the weak and shaft the gullible all for their own power and money. Not caring that they're not only causing more environmental damage, but irreparably damaging the efforts of a very few actually doing the right thing.

    Case in point-local car dealer wants to sell you a "new" SMART car. The 07 year SMART car is the first to be reliable enough and safe enough to sell in the US. This local dealer doesn't tell you that they're selling "converted" older model SMARTS (converted at a premium so you're paying over $24 THOUSAND for the go-kart) instead of the 07s which will sell at closer to $14K. Take into account that the previous years of SMART were so unreliable and such poor build quality the company went out of business in Europe and was bought out by Daimler-Chrysler. This "dealer" (also selling ZAP street legal golf carts-read up on the shady activity that ZAP's in trouble for) fails to mention that little fact, hoping to lure people in who've seen the small press blitz for the 07's and sell them a vastly inferior and overpriced product.

    This becomes a serious problem when it goes from a "buyer beware" situation when CA government gets involved with either taxpayer-subsidized tax breaks or even forced purchase by making larger cars "illegal" or taxed separately. Then, government is forcing people to get scammed, and the scammers operating with government blessing.

    Hybrid systems allow multiple charging options and allows the public independence. Proper electric car design using current technology can give us superior performance. Sell people a fair deal, home biodiesel generators, or range-extending generator trailers, and a car that costs close to it's petrol competition. Sell electrics on performance (I've driven both the EV1 and Honda's EV Plus extensively-it's fun to spin the tires on the Impact!) and you'll make inroads. You'll go farther than the con artists even if it takes a bit longer to make the huge profit.

    And the truth to "who killed the electric car?" the Lawyers, and the lawsuit-happy, irresponsible society they infest. That's the true reason the Impacts had to be destroyed. Anyone who refuses to believe that is a big enough fool to buy into the rest of this BS "conspiracy", probably also believes in the AGW religion and is a "911 Truth-er" too.

  91. Anne van der Bom

    Better than most people think

    To all the electric car sceptics: The electric car is an exceptionally good idea for the following reasons:

    1. Mechanical simplicity. No oil changes, leaks of whatever kinds of fluids, worn out belts, clutches, gearboxes. An electric car probably wouldn't need any service at all except for tyre change. Even brake pads can be excluded as an electric car would do electric (regenerative) braking most of the time.

    2. Less noise.

    3. Better performance. Smoother ride.

    4. Less time spent charging than filling up your gas tank. In practice, most people will charge their electric car overnight at home, and will hardly ever have to stop at a charging station.

    It seems a lot of the posters here have probably lived under a rock for the past 5 years. Battery technology is improving fast. Long charge times are a thing of the past, lithium batteries are available that can be charged up to 80% in 10 minutes.

    The battery may be heavier than a full gas tank but you will save weight on the engine + drive train. And because of regenerative braking, the extra weight doesn' t increase fuel consumption as much as it would in a conventional car.

    People saying that an electric car is less efficient clearly don't know what they are talking about. At first glance it seems more efficient to burn fuel in a car directly, instead of burning it in a powerplant, then converting it to electricity and use that to drive the car. The well-to-wheel efficiency of a modern car is below 20%. Modern powerplants can reach 50% efficiency. Even with the grid and battery losses, the overall efficiency of an electric car is better.

    The environmental impact of the chemicals in the battery is greatly exaggerated. The risks can be easily contained. This world is awash in batteries: phones, laptops, mp3-players, toys, power tools, shavers. The list goes on and on. These large numbers of small batteries pose a far greater risk of ending up in the environment than smaller numbers of large batteries. The disposal, dismantling and recycling of cars is an industry already responsible for handling nasty stuff (lead-acid batteries, oil, brake fluid). So with the right laws and proper oversight, car batteries should pose no threat at all to the environment.

    I would say the only thing that currently holds back the electric car is price. The batteries are simply too expensive, by a factor of 5 I would guess. Most other arguments are nonsense.

    By the way, the electric car will not arrive with a bang. My guess is that the Prius will become more electrical with each generation. The current Prius is a gasoline car with some electric stuff. Word has it that the next model will have plug-in capability with an all-electric range of about 20 km. This will improve with each new model, until one day the gasoline engine will become a range extender. Then this range extender will become optional. As less and less people see the benefit of spending money on a range extender, what remains in 20-30 years is an all electric Prius. We will get our electric car by evolution not revolution.

  92. Ed3

    The oil angle...

    No conspiracy? An oil company obtains the patents for and forces the shutdown of efficient NiMH battery pack manufacturing. Why is this not a conspiracy??

    According to the EPA, the 2002/2003 Toyota RAV4 EV costed around $360/yr in electricity, Compared to the Toyota Prius which is around $900/yr in gasoline, and around $1500 to $2000/yr for the typical conventional sedan.

    The RAV4 had a range of 80 miles on a 5 hour charge. Battery life has been proven to be around 150,000 miles... Why are EVs bad again?

  93. Nexox Enigma

    @John Werner

    """Why is it that everyone who says Fuel Cells thinks Hydrogen."""

    I just went there because so far they're the best developed, plus they run cleanest. If you pull energy out of hydrocarbons, the carbon atoms have to go somewhere - probably the atmosphere. At least you could theoretically get a far higher efficiency for a hydrocarbon based fuel cell than an IC engine.

    One point I also forgot to mention about the electric car deal is the grid, which is generally in a state of near collapse. At least here in California it is. If a significant portion of the state/country started charging their cars from the grid while they run their A/C at full tilt all day the electric companies would be in trouble, at least until they could build some more baseline capacity plants, which is generally a slow process.

  94. Anne van der Bom

    @Brasche

    hahahahahahaha. Thanks. It was hilarious!

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lateral thinking

    I'm no crystal gripping tree hugging hippy, but if I were that and bright too, I'd say that you lose roughly 25% of the energy between the trasmission and the road in the rubber. Therefore: what we need is solid wheels.

    / ponch and horse-blanket are in that yurt

  96. Bounty
    Flame

    stuff

    Honda Van for mom and 2 kids + groceries etc, Toyota pickup for camping, furniture et, dad. Not getting 50mpg here. Not really being excessive either. I'd love to have a 3rd vehicle, say a 10,000$ ultra cheap electric vehicle just for going to work. But since that's not gonna happen for a while, I'll have to keep waiting. I'd like if they would continue integrating hybrid tech into everywhere that's effecient. Those of you who are really zealous about green tech, should get together and build a green car company. If you can build a green car for under 20k $ with a 200+ mile range with a fast recharge and/or gas generator you would do well. I'm looking forward to plug in hybrids, and greener tech and hardier infrastructure on the power generation end. Maybe solar roofs on all houses? I'm all for killing off the desert tortise if it will = survivable global temperature for my grandchildren. We could dump any toxic spilloff from solar panel manufacturing or nuclear in Nevada, western Pakistan and ?

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  98. Noah Monsey
    Go

    The movie was biased.

    Truthfully, the movie was very biased. By the time that I saw the movie General Motors had a very successfull fuel cell project under way. Currently most car maufacturers have fuel cell projects in progress. It sure seems that a lot of the comments about have been using out dated information.

    http://www.fuelcells.org/news/updates.html

    There are fuel vehicles cell being leased to the public in California.

    The Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV) recently completed a 2,300 mile trek from Fairbanks, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia proving that fuel cells operate in extremely cold climates.

    Most automobile manufacturers will be mass producing fuel cell vehicles in the next couple of years. The fuel cell vehicle trials have been conducted for several years. Now that the trials have gone through several generations, fuell cells are ready for general use by the public.

    Some companies have complained about the lack of fueling infastructure. The are a small number of hydrogen fueling stations throughout the world. The automobile manufacturers are liiting sales of fuel cell vehicles to locations where fueling infrastructure is available.

    Some of the recent automobile shows have shown fuel cell vehicles. There have also been some articles about how normal the fuel cell vehicles are.

    Please stop being so pessimistic about the future of electric vehicles. The will be coming over the next couple of years. The only difference between the GM EV1 and the full cell vehicles like the Honda FCX Clarity , Ford Focus FCV, GM Equinox FCV is that the fuel cell electric vehicle have made it past the early trials to the point that automobile manufacturers are ready to start mass production.

    We still have the problem of the infrastructure not existing yet. With the Honda "Energy Station IV" you can generate the hyrdogen at home. California is one of several places that have subsidized the building of a few hygrogen stations to get the transition to hydrogen fuel cell cars started.

    Noah Monsey

  99. MIc
    Go

    Where is the street legal four wheeler and Segway-itis

    So one problem I see with the EV1 is the same problem I see with the SmartCar and the Segway (which I call segway-itis) and that is it looks lame as hell. The segway never lived up to its dream because you look like such a dork riding, and don't underestimate the power of vanity combined with one's insecurities to 86 a environmently friendly product like the EV1.

    On to my next Point : The street legal four wheeler.

    Motor cycles are great! the Kick ass they are fast, they are cheap (relatively speaking), they get great MPG, they take up way less room on the road, and they put less wear and tear on road surfaces.Simply put: THey have sex appeal, are efficent, and make more efficent use of out very expensive road resources.

    BUT most people do not feel comfortable riding them especially in bad whether and for good reason. Something I think a steet legal quad would solve. Same cool-fator, efficiency, and road foot print but it would be more familiar of a driving experiance for most riders and safer in the rain. Moreover its a slam dunk to produce. No boffinry required!

    http://www.polarisindustries.com/en-us/OurCompany/News/PressReleases/PolarisRevolverConcept.htm

    So maybe we should ask "Who Killed the street legal Four-Wheeler?"

  100. Jim Noeth

    I can hold my proverbial tongue no longer

    There's another angle that I haven't seen addressed in this lengthy chain of responses. That is that there is a tax built into the cost of gasoline, diesel, petrol, etc. that (in the United States anyway) helps to pay for the roads (and line some people's pockets). While this can be built into an electrical charging infrastructure, it wouldn't be as effective. If I had an electric car, I could quite easily recharge from the mains in my home. But, it would be pretty impractical for me to manufacture my own gasoline at a reasonable cost. Yes, I know that there are some people who recycle grease from restaurants as a substitute for diesel, but, that's pretty small scale.

    The same problem occurs when vehicles start getting better mileage, the tax revenues drop off. So, it's in the best interest of the government to keep the existing system in place.

    As for me, though, I'll keep on driving my full size pickup truck as I want at least a little protection from those 40 ton (US) monsters that I have to share the road with.

  101. Herby Silver badge

    But what will they do on CSI-Miami?

    Those guys go around everywhere in silly white Hummers and stop the crooks in only an hours time. They could convert to a battery powered goodie and do everything within the time it takes for the battery to be used up. Then they get a week to recharge it. Pretty simple, eh?

    The problem is that nobody is realistic. People buy the vehicle that they want, for whatever reason they want. My mom has a Prius, and while she likes the vehicle for its economy, that isn't the reason she bought it. She bought it because she doesn't need to go to the [gas|petrol] station as often. If there was a Hummer that had a 100 gallon tank (US/UK it really doesn't matter) and would take her as far on a single tank of gas, she would probably use it.

    I have a nice Ford Explorer and since my wife seems to want to fill it up when we go on trips it is quite necessary. While it takes about $65 (this week) to fill it up, one tank of gas will take it from sillycon valley to the "ELLAY" area, and it is easier than taking a plane to travel the same distance (who wants to check bags, and sit idle around airports for silly window dressing security??). Besides I get a vehicle at my destination without renting one.

    Yes, some people will use electric cars and like them. Maybe even me for my 12 mile commute (each way). The big problem is that a vehicle in the USA is an expression of "freedom" and we don't want to give it up.

    p.s. Don't get me started on 100 watt light bulbs. That is another rant.

  102. Morely Dotes
    Flame

    This author lies by omission

    The fact is that there were more people clamouring to buy the EV1 than GM ever made cars; the same is true of the Ford Electric Ranger pickup, and the Toyota electric RAV-4.

    The car makers *refused* point-blank to sell the vehicles; it was lease, or nothing, and when the leases expired, the cars reverted to GM's possession, with no possibility of an electric replacement.

    The vast majority of Americans drive less than 50 miles per day; the vast majority of American families also have 2 (or more) cars. An electric commuter vehicle is ideal for economy (cost of operation is roughly one-fifth or less that of a similar-weight vehicle with an internal combustion engine, and may be even better with the current costs of oil products, eliminates pollution problems at the end-user point (it's easier to control pollution on a single, large plant than on millions of tiny ones), and never, ever suffers from a spilled-fuel fire hazard in a crash (no matter what Hollywood tells us in movies, it's almost impossible to make a gas tank explode, but spilled fuel burns quite merrily).

    Electric auto makers other than the major are thriving. Of course, they actually sell cars, and don't field them in a deliberate effort to "disprove" demand.

    Electric cars may also become a means of smoothing peak electric power demands on the grid; please see http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/dn13000-electric-cars-could-act-as-batteries-for-the-energy-grid-.html

    I am a charter member of the National Electric Drag-Racing Association, and I tried to buy every electric vehicle offered by the big auto makers in the past decade or more - and was refused for every one of them.

  103. Dick
    Flame

    It's all a waste of time

    so long as environmental and other regulations continue to push industrial activity from the US and Europe to China, and the Chinese continue to build dirty coal fired power stations to support that increase in industrial actvity.

  104. Brian Lawther

    Brian

    Lot of rubbish posted in the comments, people need to go back to school and learn a bit of science.

    Hydrocarbons are a very dense energy source but an internal combustion engine is not very efficient turning it into power.

    The steam turbine power station does a better job and can be cleaner than an IC engine.

    The EV1 was not a very good design as based on the then current technology.

    They did the right thing in canceling it.

    Todays batteries, electronics and electric motors have moved on beyond what is needed for a viable electric car. See http://www.pmlflightlink.com/archive/news_mini.html

    Please see this web site on what can achieved today with off the shelf componets with no loss of usage. This car will carry 4 adults with some luggage and is based on a BMW Mini. Specs are 0 to 60 mph 4.5 seconds top 150mph

    80 MpUK gallon ( we have 20 fluid ounces per pint US is 16 ounces ) when running the 20kw on board generator. Has about 150 horse power per in wheel motor total 600hp and a 20kw battery. Motors are the brakes as well.

    Volvo are going to produce a C30 based on this technology, if they went to Jaguar and built the body in aluminium as well, it would be even better. Both are owned by Ford at the moment, who want to sell them. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. If any US car company is going to collapse its Ford.

  105. Richard Binek
    Alien

    Why are EV's bad?

    Because many the politicians that pass the laws allowing them are in the paid pockets of lobbyists.

    There is an interesting car company based in Canada - called ZENN motors:

    http://www.zenncars.com/

    Although it can ship to quite a few states and countries, it has been prevented by legislators here in most Canadian provinces through typical stalling tactics regarding regional road-worthiness regulations. These regulations were invariably writeten, and are regularly modified indexing studies funded buy... you guessed it... major automobile associations and petrol firms, eager to keep their sacred cows milkable.

    Especially here in the province of Quebec - a province with abundant, inexpensive hydro-based electricity (we export to the states), where large auto makers have been shutting down their plants over the years, where the state-owned Electric company is a monopolistic entity, one would think a locally manufactured vehicle would get fast-tracked.

    Not so - evidencing the deeply-entrenched and decades-old vehicular lobby.

    Economies and innovations of scale will not happen until wider adoption sets in. Such wider adoption can only occur with innovation. Innovation from the private sector relies heavily on profits. These profits end up being stalled by endless litigation and legislation that the existing companies put in place to protect their own investments - understandably enough (capitalism works).

    I(n democracies, people must make their voices heard above those of lobbyists. The issue lies deeper in the uninvolvement of the general populace and an overwhelming disenchantment of the democratic base both of the political process and a carefully orchestrated decline into ignorance of people's ability to influience government. This orchestration has occurred through the wanton collusion of government and corporations, who both wish to have as governable a population as possible.

    Here in North America, this sedated and sedentary population has been properly mezmerized by the entertainment industry after beeing primed with ridiculously low education standards that discourage people from asking questions and educating themselves.

    Why are EV's bad?

    Because they empower the individual and not the lobbysists - they promote more freedom from the existing corporatocracy in the format of real CHOICE. A poster above said it very well - the existing power base is all about maintaining the status quo by absorbing all means of information dissemination (such as the Net Neutrality ... which gets woefully inadequate airtime), and additional freedom of movement or consumer empowerment (brought about by electric cars and the inevitable micro electro-generation that would follow).

    Government, Oil, Car manufacturers, and even the electric companies wish to keep their monopolistic, monolithic, incestuous private slush funds operating as long as possible. This is why EV's are bad... for them.

    To those who do not wish electric cars - more power to them. They have the right to choose. For those who wish to have a choice - participate in your government, write letters, inform your friends, preach to the unconverted to do the same, or nothing will change. Do not legislate change - participate, innovate and create something better by removing the roadblocks created by government incentives to pick-up trucks, to oil-based companies and to the 'suffering' petro-chems and sclerotic automotive 'giants' (formerly leaders), constantly clamorring for tax-payers monies in the form of incentives.

    Okay, that is more than I wished to state.

    /end rant.

  106. CeeTee

    Europe<>North America

    Comparing Europe with America is frankly ridiculous, and is very relevent to why EVs will never fly (drive) over here.

    I live in Alberta - nearest city is Calgary, some 40 miles away. The next nearest? Edmonton, 4 hours up the highway. Next nearest after that? Regina, 6 hours away. Vancouver's 20 hours, repending on the state of the roads. Factor in the kinds of distances we do on a fairly regular basis, battery-powered cars just ain't an option!

    I drive a 4x4, albeit a Jap one (I like a car with build quality)! The reason? Snow and ice 5 months of the year, and more importantly, once you get away from citys, many roads are gravel, not paved, so ground clearance and traction becomes critical. I need the weight and transmission to drive safely, regardless of any safety equipment added. 4x4 is means relatively poor fuel consumption, which I suspect is why there's only one hybrid SUV on the market here.

    Lastly, the average temperature (day and night) here is well below freezing 7 to 8 months of the year. I would drain the batteries just to heat the car within 10 minutes!

    I can't think of anywhere I've ever been in Europe which compares with the conditions you find in Canada or Northern US, with the possible exception of parts of Scandinavia.

    Ignoring the idiots who MUST have an enormous engine to compensate for lack of sexual equipment, the market here is driven by two things - the need to get to and from places safely and reliably, regardless of road and weather conditions, and the fact that most people live a very outdoor-oriented life here. People actually do use their pickups for the purpse for which they were designed - around here, forcarrying the carcasses of deer they've been hunting. Can't imagine throwing a 700lb Elk carcass in a Prius, can you?

    Horses for Courses, my friend!

    Cee Tee

  107. oldsparks

    The Electric Car

    The TRUTH about electric cars is obvious from a bit of simple arithmetic.

    One brake horse power equals 746watts.

    What is the bhp of a typical small car? I would guess it is around 70bhp.

    So to get an equivalent power in an electric car requires about 52 kilowatts.

    This is one helluva lot of power to get from any battery. No matter which way you alter the balance between voltage and current, the battery to provide that amount of power is going to be so large and heavy that there is no room for anyone or anything in the car other than the driver.

    THAT is the simple truth about why the electric car is a non-starter.

  108. Charles Manning

    None of this is technical

    It is all political.

    * The car makers were required to produce high % of zero-emission vehicles in CA by various dates. They did not want this, so they needed some sort of effort to show that they tried. The EV1 project was designed to fail.

    * The GDP (used to measure the economy) is really a consumption figure that has little real relevance to the strength of the economy. Reducing consumption reduces GDP which does not look good. Thus, regulators have no real interest in reducing consumption: hummers are better than bicycles.

    * The car manufacturers don't want customers buying frugal cars that last a long time. They want people to consume. Consumption is improved by makinbg crap cars that fall apart and need replacing and by preying on the bigger-better mentality of consumers.

    * Advertising works otherwise companies would not be spending billions. That advertising tells peaople to buy Hummers to take themselves to work.

    In short, technical barriers (battery technologies etc) have little to do with this.

  109. Peter Redman
    Unhappy

    The pot and the kettle

    I'm not convinced the author himself is impartial. At all. If you'll google him, you'll find out that he is well known for his anti-environmentalist opinions, is pro GM-food, etc.

    He writes in a different article "Environmentalists instinctively reject or ignore technological solutions to global warming because they are bent on making people atone for their sins." and "They are resistant to geo-engineering solutions because putting an end to climate change would rob them of their raison d’être." What a load of crock!

    Source: href="http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/3950/

    He's associated with an anti-environmentalist group:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=James_Woods

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=LM_group

    This paragraph could have been interesting:

    "The brilliant bespectacled battery engineer Alan Cocconi, who is featured in the film, has come up with a lithium ion battery that appears to store 463 kiloJoules of energy per kilo - an energy density better than nickel metal hydride batteries (250 kJ/kg) can ever hope for, but still 100 times behind that of petrol (44,400 kJ/kg). Perhaps battery researchers at Stanford University will get the difference in energy densities down from 100 to 1 to 10 to 1; but the fact is that oil-based fuel has more than profitability going for it."

    But this is about energy storage, he doesn't mention how much energy is needed to power a combustion engine vs an electrical engine...

    If you look at the complete picture, hydrogen is seriously less efficient than a battery:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/8d/Battery_EV_vs._Hydrogen_EV.png/753px-Battery_EV_vs._Hydrogen_EV.png

    Consult Wikipedia for a more balanced review of the movie:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car?

  110. Karl A. Anderson
    Jobs Horns

    Re: CSI-Miami Hummer

    I'm glad you mentioned that. The first time I noticed the Hummers on the show, I said to myself, "nice product placement!". So I wasn't surprised to read (http://www.insidebrandedentertainment.com/bep/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000976529) that GM paid to get their vehicles on TV shows. "Asked whether his placement of the Hummer on CSI: Miami—one of the most dominant placements this year—actually sells vehicles, Norm Marshall of Norm Marshall & Associates in Sun Valley, Calif. replied, [IRONY ALERT!]

    'I don't think so . . . you don't get that call to action. Not once has David Caruso jumped down from his Hummer and said, 'Get down to your local Hummer dealer!'"

    One wonders just how much car-buying decisions are influenced by advertising in all its forms.

  111. Iliya
    Boffin

    The Future

    Unfortunately, the future is in pulse detonated engines. Fossil fuels will rule for at least 2-3 centuries.

  112. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why does one car have to solve all problems?

    Most families have many cars, they don't need high speed, long range, and large size in each one. Keep the petrol suburban for the long trips, but use a small electric car for the daily 50 miles commute.

  113. Sleepy

    Heat

    Only alluded to by a few, but of course most of the time in the UK we have heaters on in our cars, making good use of some of that 60% "wasted" energy.

    In electric cars that energy is wasted elsewhere.

  114. steven kraft Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Alas for the electric car

    While I am in principle all for electric cars, they are not in any sense of the word a panacea:

    1. They don't so much eliminate emissions so much as move them from the tailpipe to the power plant smokestack. In most cases that is a plus in terms of less pollutant output, but the electric car won't be truly green until reliable and uly large scale renewables or safe nuclear power is available. Loss of electricity in charging the batteries from your handy power plug increases the environmental footprint of the electric car.

    2. Battery life on electric cars is not great. If you have to replace the batteries after 7-8 years it is a MAJOR expense, at least as big a financial investment as a major engine rebuild on a internal combustion engine. Most internal comubstion engine owners would not be happy if you told them they would need to pay for an engine rebuild 7-8 years after buying their car.

    3. Batteries use all kinds of nasty environmentally unfriendly materials--far more so than the materials in an internal combustion engine.

    4. Life throws all kinds of unexpected stuff at you, which an electric car might not cope with very well. Think of it in terms of things your average Reg reader might have to deal with. Commute to and from work, get home and all of a sudden you are called back to work because your network or some servers went down? Now you have to worry about whether your car has the juice to get you to and from work again without a recharge. Get a call to go over to some remote datacenter or DR site for whatever reason--same deal, does the electric car have to ability to even get you there?

  115. Richard Binek

    Europe<>NA? N/A

    Actually, the comparison is disingenuous.

    The MAJORITY of the North American population lives and commutes inside and around its cities. For the people living in 'remote' locations, such as Calgary, I am not recommending changing to the welectric car yet. For urban dwellers and coimmuters, faced with an increasingly taxed and inefficient (at times non-existant) public transit systems, the electric car already offers a far more logical solution (as a second car - see http://www.zenncars.com/).

    Innovation is stifled by the existing corporatocracy in order to maximize its profits. It remains far cheaper (once a critical mass of cartel players is acheived) to legislate or buy out other innovators outright. I am advocating for the removal of self-regulation by the industry players (under the guise of de-regulation - themselves writing their own legislation), stopping the government representatives behooving to industry lobbyists in a mutual back-scratching scenario.

    GM only embarked upon its VOLT concept, fast-tracking it into promised production after an INDEPENDANTLY funded 'for profit' company like TESLA-motors (http://www.teslamotors.com/) disproved the industry 'so-called' experts views:

    * Electric vehicles can only have a ponderous and slow acceleration (Oh yeah?: 0 to 60 mph in <4 seconds...)

    * They can only be ugly and unwieldy and will never have any appeal (check out their website for proof to the contrary (http://www.teslamotors.com/)

    * Electric vehicle will never have an operable radius of more than 60 miles (Oh Yeah? Try 220 miles per charge)

    And this is only with existing technology.

    In the pipes are super and ultra-capacitors, promising 60% reductions in weight. there are items out in the market already, and are in the pipes as we speak to this effect (http://www.ultracapacitors.org/)

    When gradual change happens over time because a company invests in real R&D as a percentage of its revenue (not profits), it grows with the discoveries it contributes over time. This is EVOLUTION.

    When information is stifled (companies buying technologies, stifling production and innovation in favor of its older tech to protect itself), it faces extinction once these efforts fail (and they inevitably will). This is REVOLUTION.

    One is short-term vs long-term gain. Eventually, SOMEONE is going to be left holding the bag, but all the participants in the industry at the top of the ladder are content with passing that bag off to their successors.

    Gasoline-powered engines will remain a staple for many years to come until enough innovations prohibit the price to sustain a distribution scheme that is no longer profitable. That will remain years off yet, especially if you include government incentives to keep remaining far-flung villages and cities from becoming ghost towns until technology can catch up.

    However, we cannot expect to shareholders and private companies to go gently into the night. they will lobby for safety tests, recycling services for all products into the vehicle (that they themselves do not offer), get the governments to impose additional taxes for this industry-wide damaging technology that threatens jobs, bring forth patent lawsuits and attempt buyouts, not to mention promulgate FUD in the form of 'imminent' alternative yet proven technologies such as the hybrid.

    True capitalism has at its core an open and free-market economy where people have choices, because they have the freedom to innovate and offer potentially attractive alternative solutions to a free market. It is the strength of individuals unimpeeded by a tariffed, levvied and heavily regulated marketplace that exemplifies the 'free world'. The age of the electric car is nigh, despite it being almost fourty years past due - more the shame for all the efforts atempted by people to free us from the evils of the petrol industry. Twenty seven years ago, president Jimmy Carter addressed the nation and the American Congress in a speech called "Crisis of Confidence": http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carter/filmmore/ps_crisis.html

    One of the noteworthy quotes: "Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never."

    and the other: "I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun. "

    Congress never went ahead with the five points the president made regarding energy independance, and the results have been crystal clear - "dependance on oil is inevitable and ressources must be secured at all costs" (Foreign as well as domestic and environmental policies have been endlessly created around this precept).

    Should we all applaud the innovation taking place? Yes.

    Should we all decry the stifling and ofttimes hostile environment in which it takes place? Absolutely.

    Must we still live with today's realities? No d'uh!

    There is no acceptable reason other than greed (social malfaiseance) that corporations (private industry) have not offered up a vehicle with ground clearance, good range, decent capacity, acceleration, at acceptable costs, where such a form of transport is required.

    In almost fourty years since man has walked on the moon, over sixty years since the A-Bomb, there has been a true dearth of growth in the propulsion industry, and it has been through managed braking of the profitability and sharing of such ideas as Electric cars, as well as the real solar and aeolian power revolution.

    Just because we have progressed and revolutionized research and information and the way it is promulgated through the internet, does not mean it will remain thus. Any time there is a revolution in the way things work, someone's pocketbook is getting dinged, and the industry is fighting back (read: http://savetheinternet.com/). the automotive and petrol industries will do the same - either by offering up sub-performance vehicles, generating FUD, to working hand-in-hand with government to restrict electricity generation, increasing its polution ratio (by funding coal or oil-based power plants), discrediting new technologies through either studies or attempting to destabilize the supply for the materials required for electricity storage, etc....

    Those in power always fear and fight change. So do those who are comfortable.

    North America has become complacent through inferior education, second-hand sports and entertainment, and it is not by accident, but by design.

    Corporations and governments both despise the smart and informed consumer, as they will indeed demand "horses for Courses", instead of simply accepting the drivel and gruel they proclaim as "the best there is... or can currently... or be in the near future... :)"

    Phew!

    Another /end rant

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  117. Richard Binek

    "None of this is Technical"

    The failure of the electric car is indeed mostly based in corporate and boardroom thinking.

    It took years of struggling for Saturn to finally have one individual at GM turn around and agree that marketing pays off in the long run:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0KJI/is_3_119/ai_n18770102

    If the big guys wanted to, they could sell us on Electric cars in an instant through innovation and marketing. The fact they have not speaks volumes, especially with regards to the left-handed way they have always sold their electric products. the documentary did not state this vividly enough, but every review and posting kept referring to 'future innovations' 'down the road' 'sometime in the next decade'... the undercurrent is always cryustal clear - stay away for now, we are not quite there yet, we will update this eventually. Stay tuned - put off buying innovation another few years.

    If the graphics and computer industry worked on the same precepts, nothing would ever get sold - 'still working on the drivers' - 'ironing bugs out - just you wait until the next generation, we will get it right'.

    Clarity.

    The desire was not there because they did not wish to invest in R&D nor in the overhaul of production lines, upsetting the hierarchy, creating new departments, etc.... far better to rest on laurels and live off of government contracts and a protected customer base. There will be plenty of time to hand off this bag of poo to sucessors....

  118. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The last thing I'll toss out about this:

    Diesel turbine + alternator+ electric motors on each wheel. There. Cheap, clean, fewer parts, and you get to feel good about driving an electric car. Plus, would be great low-end torque.

    Can one of the smart guys do the math and tell me if this is even slightly better than a conventional fuel injected diesel engine with turbo?

  119. Christopher E. Stith
    Go

    car-hauling locomotives

    One very reasonable but badly overlooked solution to part of the problem is overland ferry trains. People want their own car at the far end of their trip, and maybe for a few side-trips along the way. They don't necessarily want to drive the whole way, but they don't want to only go where there's an airport or train depot and have to rent a car on the far end or be stuck with crappy public transport systems.

    If I could drive 20 miles to a train depot that has a loading ramp instead of a car park, get my car strapped into place, and disembark the train 1200 miles away in my own car, I'd probably travel that way. One big electric or diesel-electric locomotive pulling a bunch of people and cars is more efficient than a bunch of cars being driven. The train could even have metered (or included) electric outlets for electric-only cars.

  120. Richard Binek

    "It's all a waste of time "

    Hardly.

    The regulations that seem to push the industry from the West to the East are coming home to roost big-time in China. China has paid a ferociously high price for its economic boom, in the form of its environmental and pollution disasters.

    The only reason for such an export of old industry is precisly because of the paralytic nature of advanced arthritic industrial thinking in the West. instead of investing into innovation and increased efficiency and skilled labour, lets simply cut costs by exporting old technologies to places which are no longer regulated, and see how long we can dangle the carrot of money before them 'ere they wake up and smell the roses.... or actuallly, their industrial waste and sludge lapping up to their noses.

    Excellent article on China's emissions and the harm they do to themselves in the race for innovation and growth:

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070901faessay86503/elizabeth-c-economy/the-great-leap-backward.html

    This has been spurred on precisely because of short-sighted thinking on the part of corporations who wish to maximize their profits on existing technologies at ALL costs (including both human costs abroad and globally, through pollution and economic destabilization, as well as 'jobs-at-home', which can no longer 'compete' using older, more polluting technologies.)

    Thusly, it is hardly a waste of time to debate good corporate practices of investing into R&D and uncovering deliberate mis-management of public and governmental shams such as the GM ill-fated EV1 by the documentary "Who killed the Electric Car?".

    Was it overly dramatic? Yes

    Could it have been more structured and better written? Of course.

    Was it important for this film to come out and influence people by informing them of Tesla Motors, and explain the desert-like climate of innovation regarding batteries, hydrogen and alternative fuels? Absolutely.

    People SHOULD get involved in politics and become edicated and aware of the legislation passed by their representative and call them out on it. I would venture a guess that MOST people in Noorth America are not aware of the legislations their representatives vote on, either federally, state, county or municipally-wise. Distracted are they by all the jingle-jangle of cars going vroom-vroom, both driven and admired by buxom babes in slinky clothing...

    Inform yourselves and rage against the machine that is the lobby - they invest money and time in getting their way with your elected officials. All we need to do is invest time and effort. Such a surprise then that our 'own' time is so precious to us - we should not have to get involved in politics - thats' too much like work or school. We need to have our leiseure time and unwind - catch the latest game (video, pro or college anything), movie, song or television reality drivel. You already elect officials to take care of that. Besides, it does not make a difference, does it?

    And thus it comes to pass, that for truly great evil to come about, all it takes is for men of good conscience to do nothing.

    Electric cars, Hybrid cars, Hydrogen cars, public transit systems that run on time adn are comfortable, and honest legislature - all these things are possible, but not without effort. our future is being stolen from us becasue of inactivity and lassitude, and precisely because people have come to beleive that 'Its' all a waste of time'.

    Doubtlesly you come from the same population group that would gladly roll back all environmental laws, all unions, all human rights including the right to privacy, in order to be expedient. Always seeking the 'quick fix'.

    This is precisely why and how the rights to privacy have been severely abrogated world-wide:

    http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd%5B347%5D=x-347-559597

    In the end, the only ones who benefit from such a mindset are the established 'fat cats' who constantly get wealthier and more weighty.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/national/29rich.html

    There is nothing wrong with building wealth. The problem is when the broader population bases' wealth actually shrinks. http://www.monthlyreview.org/0204yates.htm

    Discussion of ideas in a free forum regarding points of technological interest are certainly never a waste of time.

  121. Richard Binek

    Brian

    The issue is not whether or not they did the right thing in cancelling the EV1.

    The issue is that the EV1 was never intended to grow, evolve nor be a long-term project.

    It was lip-service, pure and simple.

    The filmmakers' commentary regarding praising the technology has only to do with comparing it to existing commercially-developped and distributed EV's 'out there'.

    The film maker rightly demonstrates the complete lack of any visible effort (through marketing, innovation or proper, long-term R&D) from the major auto makers, despite their numerous 'high-tech' acquisitions. Your comment regarding steam-power is completely valid as well. There are many alternative energy sources to combustion (be it internal or otherwise) that have remained either on the drawing boards or undevelopped precisely because the major manufacturers do not wish to unleash a stream of competitors by promoting any technology they do not outright 'own'.

    Can you imagine the potential disaster that faces all automotive makers if someone out there conceives a propulsive system that is not regulatable, using a power source that is readily available?

    Scores of companies would spring up speedily to fulfill demand, and the old demand for existing inventories of cars would dry up like yesterdays dew.

    Tooling up a manufacturing plant would no longer require huge investments, as it would simply become an assembly plant (the manufacturers have taken great pains to divest themselves of making everything), and only the heart of the engine would require a new manufacturing line. Their existing lines would fall dormant and the economic outlook would be dismal indeed. Hence the desire not to innovate, because they might actually become succesful, and imitatable, unless they had no competition.

    Maintaining a stranglehold on the staus quo is supported by the Petro companies as well as other polluting manufacturers (who can always point to the IC engine as a major source of polutants) and even government, that does not wish to see its' citizens too upset (nor its tax coffers potentially slashed) by the social upheaval. Imagine if most of the gas stations simply lost their business virtually overnight, catering only to truckers and gasoline holdouts.

    Nope - far better for everyone to remain in the dark ages of carbon emissions, and pollution.

    Cats, dogs, living together, the end of the world, I tell you.

    John Q Public - a.k.a. Ostrich-head-in-the-sand: "If I don't look at it and can no longer see the root of my fear, I am safe."

    Sigh

    Sorry.

    I concurr with you that people should indeed educate themselves, and thank you for your linky, but it does not seem to wish to connect, sorry :(

  122. Adam

    There's efficiency and there's efficiency...

    Internal combustion engines hooked up to current drive trains only get a tiny fraction of the energy of their fuel into actual driving power. Modern IC engines get about 38% thermal efficiency, which can be pushed a bit higher in some vehicles, but is much the same across models. Coupling that to the wheels is where all the energy is wasted - less than 20% (less than 10% in many vehicles) goes into actually driving the car.

    Hybrids do much better by getting rid of all the frictional and mechanical losses in the drive train. Electric motors have a lot of advantages and that's the major one. Thus the high efficiencies hybrids get and even higher efficiencies when recharging via regenerative braking becomes even more efficient.

    So long as petrol engines are powering a ridiculous transmission system the 12,444 W.hr/kg of petrol is effectively only 1,244 W.hr/kg or less. Thus batteries are somewhat closer to petrol in effective energy density. With a hybrid things improve out of sight for petrol - though the effective density is still only <4,800 W.hr/kg due to the nature of IC engine thermodynamics.

    An EV powered up by a solar array would win hands down in terms of fuel efficiency and that's the "Great Green Dream" of many people who want to survive the present Energy Crisis in style. A lot of people want to cut the Middle-East Oil-Noose from around their necks.

  123. Grant Mitchell
    Go

    @oldsparks

    So how do you explain all the electric cars that exist today? A quick google will give you info on plenty of electric cars that exist in real life... does your arithmetic explain that? Perhaps your calculations are flawed... could it be that's the TRUTH?

    If I were to buy a new car it'd almost certainly be electric. I don't see anything else making any sense for my lifestyle, and as there are several million other people in the city I live in, I'd hazard a guess there would be at least few others out there with similar views...

    I had a colleague who drove an electric car, he took a lot of stick for it, but at the end of the day, the arithmetic did stack up in his favour... He didn't pay congestion charge (8uk/16usd per day), he got a guaranteed parking space at work (which saved a fortune on parking), and he charged up at work for free (which would happily get him home, and into work the following day again for more free juice). That worked out at quite a saving.

    Until I'm forced into needing something with a bit more range however, I'll stick with my trusty hybrid (pedal/electric) Sinclair C5 (they new how to make electric cars in 1985 you know ;) ).

  124. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Adam hit it on the nose.

    Amen!

    " An EV powered up by a solar array would win hands down in terms of fuel efficiency and that's the "Great Green Dream" of many people who want to survive the present Energy Crisis in style. A lot of people want to cut the Middle-East Oil-Noose from around their necks. "

    It appears Nanosolar will produce photovoltaics that I might be able to afford, that will be used to charge the new Volt. Excess energy will be fed back into the grid lowering peak loads in the afternoon.

    I do not want to support Saudi Arabia funding the spread of Islam or funding other countries that hate us (USA in this case). Why would anyone want to fund both sides of a war? Why should sons, daughters, husbands and wives die so the USA and Europe can have stable oil prices? People thought slavery was bad, sacrificing lives in a war for oil stability to maintain a life style is just as bad or worse. We could electrify our transportation reducing oil demand and then only purchase oil from friendly stable countries.

    Out with the oil, in with the electric grid. Drop the fuel cells, the hydrogen infrastructure alone will have a fantastic cost. Put that money for a hydrogen infrastructure in the electric grid as high tech switching centers, super-conducting long distance transmission lines, etc. The brownouts would go away, wind and solar could be utilized better. Sigh... I just wish there was more thinking going on.

  125. Brian
    Go

    Tossing in my 1/50 of a dollar....

    For starters...I am a lifelong "petrolhead". I have several very-large-engined (7.1 liter and above) vehicles. I have drag raced, street raced, etc.etc. I love the sound of gas engines ('specially a properly tuned V8).

    That being said....I live 17 miles from my job. In order to be able to commute I drive a car that gets 30mpg, cost 350 smackers, and is (suprisingly) of American vintage. I drive my other cars when the whim strikes, but have realized that I cannot justify using them as primary transportation when better options are available. Also, I am in the process of converting my 1956 beetle to plug-in electric...a very fun project for me as I enjoy the engineering and tinkering. This will replace my on-road commuter. Its also gonna be a "hillbilly hybrid" with a small removeable propane powered generator , should I need the range extended over, say, 80 miles.

    Over the years, I have come to notice the problems associated with personal transportation. In America, at least in my neck o' the woods, I have noticed (and studied) that the transportation problems are something of a chicken and egg problem. Originally, towns and cities were rather compact and distinct from the more agrarian areas of the country. As such, commerce movement was limited to within townships (except of course where trains and ships were available). Electric (and steam) delivery vehicles become available, gas-burners not becoming widely available until 1910....even then electric and steam were sold side by side, in dwindling numbers, until the early '30s. The power and relative cheapness of gasoline powerplants in vehicles makes them the more attractive to auto manufacturers. With the prevalance of smaller and more personal vehicles hitting the streets, the streets themselves had to adapt. Thus, the U.S. starts planning an infrastructure around the growing numbers of the vehicles. This changes the landscape (much more literally than figuratively). What happens over the intervening decades is that you now have a society with more spread out centers of population requiring more travel for work, goods and service delivery, and recreation.

    The chicken in this scenario is the need (and fashionable want) for more individualized transport. The egg is the infrastructure built to accomodate, which promotes another chicken of individuals needing personal vehicles to travel the increasing distances...yadda yadda yadda.

    I would have to agree that mass-transit devlopement should be pursued and in my area it is promoted vigorously, but the non-individualistic aspects associated with it constantly hamstring it.

    Fuel cell? If you read books other than those that promote it, then you end up with new infrastructure costs...plus some dubious claims of overall efficiently. Nice idea, all-in-all, and I hope developement will realize those lofty goals. Plus, there is potential for new industry.

    Hybrids? I would think a dedicated engine-over-battery setup work be less costly and more scalable in the short and long run. I could be mistaken about this. Plus concerns about battery reconditioning and disposal have not been completely addressed. Not to mention depreciation in value over time. Personally, the batteries are not the largest problem...battery remanufacturing is a potentially a booming industry and batteries can be rebuilt with little (and in some cases, No) effects on the environment. The deprecaition arguement is utter bullshite....value is percieved and supported by those who go along with it. Is the imbued value of a vehicle truly dependent on what society decides is not up-to-date enough...or is the value reflected in the fact that it is actually a functioning mode of transportation, albeit 10 or so years old?

    Pure electrics? Infrastructure augmentation, battery development, high finished product price. Plus, in the current phase of battery performance, maintanance and duration will have to be be kept in mind for prospective buyers.

    From my standpoint, the electricity prices in my area are a plus towards me retrofitting my VW. I am also able to build this car in my garage, cutting costs to me dramatically. The existing vehicle still has tons of maintanace parts available. The newtech I will need to install is supported by several manufacturers.

    Even after this long dissertation, there are those dubious of non-gas vehicle performance. That's fine. Go to evparts.com and check out the vehicles they have retrofitted. Even the super-duper off-roaders will find something of interest as they retrofitted an older model Land Rover which competes in various 100+ mile trail runs...climbing past other gas-fueled contenders and, on many occasions, dragging them out of harms way.

    Another argument made is the visceral elements of driving electrics/ hybrids/ alt. fuel vehicles are not equal to their gasser brethren. Have any of you driven an electric vehicle? I know the TANGO is like being shot out of a cannon on acceleration while cornering like a race-prepped ferret. As arguments go, aesthetics are hardly a reason to promote the existing paradigm that is bringing about its own demise over a potential helpful step in the solution that may not sound like or look like a hotrod (but will more often than not spank your factory-built hotrod).

    Efficiency gains in ICE (internal combustion engines) are still out there. The prob? Large scale manufacturers are strictly bottom-line. New technologies and methods of construction will not be implemented unless mandated by the gov. or the buying public. Another problem is the bullshite laws and rules implemented. for instance, California attempted to sign into law a mandate to improve base economy standards...even Schwarzengettothechopper touted the idea. Wanna know who stymied it? The federal elements of the EPA actually said that California had no right to put that law into effect for its own state to reduce emissions and raise mileage, separate of the rest of the union. Read that again.

    But, if you are really looking (as a petrolhead) for a good reason to support expansion of alt. power vehicles, the solution is fairly straightforward. Alt. power increases....current fossil fuel consumption per capita falls precipitously. Anyone knows what happens next? FUEL PRICES DROP. Eventually the fuel prices drop to the competitive mean with other power schemes (and there will be many....there is no magic bullet) such that petrol will be an option rather than the standard.

    Any fiscal conservatives in the house? Really? This is a field that promotes un-freakin-believable industrial potential. Wanna guess who I hear negative comments about alt. power industry from? See above. This is something that doesn't make sense to me.... if it's the almighty buck and the ever-present hand of the market that must be paid attention to above all else then it would seem to me this is a market to be explored, exploited, and advanced just like....say....oil. Just a thought. Any central planners in attendance? Howzabout developing more interurban areas insteads of developing the hinterlands? Less infrastructure costs to maintain AND urban sprawl could be (in theory, anyway) kept in check...thus, those who want to see unspoilt wild and the like would actually be able to see just that and not an unending row of cookie-cutter abominations that were installed because a developer needed to make a buck and didn't feel like paying the extra bucks-per-acre. Guess thats just the nature-loving hippie in me... fight the power ;) .

    Are you still reading this? The upshot is that most arguments being put forth on this thread could be helpful if they weren't so myopic. We will be saddled with the current transpo problems as long as folks are still willing to over-simplify the problems and solutions. Several elements will be needed to be put in place to effect a solution. It can be done, it oughta be done. At least, thats they way it seems to me.

  126. wayne

    Combustion engine efficiency

    Too much to read, but I did not see the following before I stopped reading.

    Your article points to the energy density of fuel, even compared to recent battery advancements, but this is not the full story.

    Petrol engines are very inefficient. Though you might be able to get 20-30% efficiency (old figures) at an ideal rev range (such as in an hybrid car) in reality it operates over an range of less efficient speeds, and the act of changing the operating speed during travel probably uses an fair bit extra fuel to. Now, put that through and transmission etc and you maybe looking at an ideal rev range producing down to less than 10% efficiency. Now subtract for engines running at less than ideal revs, and braking (though an normal car could be designed with regenerative braking, they are not as well setup for it). So now the differences between the batteries are much less.

    What answer for the internal combustion engine? I have lost track of the number of promising fuel efficiency technologies fro the internal combustion industry that have gone walk abouts in recent decades. These petrol companies want to be broke in 20 years leaving the rest of us to suffer. If all the technologies were put into hybrid engines we could look at efficiencies closer to 50% going to an electric power train that will preserve more than 80% of the energy (conservative) and these companies can be in business for far longer. Add to this an idea like using an bank of super capacitors (research going on for an major Australian car) or an compact battery like the one referred to, that can be charged at home and reduce fuel consumption. The other possibility is fuel cells, if fuel cells can be made sufficiently efficient, we can reduce the size and weight of cars.

  127. Trygve Henriksen
    Paris Hilton

    @Roland

    I'm 6'something, and I have nearly a whole foot of headroom in my car...

    Of course, the Citroen Berlingo isn't sold in the USA, so...

    (It's too sensible: good fuel economy, compact, roomy inside, sliding doors for rear seat passengers, comes with a trolly for wine crates... )

  128. Frank Bough
    Alert

    Brasche

    "Case in point-local car dealer wants to sell you a "new" SMART car. The 07 year SMART car is the first to be reliable enough and safe enough to sell in the US. This local dealer doesn't tell you that they're selling "converted" older model SMARTS (converted at a premium so you're paying over $24 THOUSAND for the go-kart) instead of the 07s which will sell at closer to $14K. Take into account that the previous years of SMART were so unreliable and such poor build quality the company went out of business in Europe and was bought out by Daimler-Chrysler. This "dealer" (also selling ZAP street legal golf carts-read up on the shady activity that ZAP's in trouble for) fails to mention that little fact, hoping to lure people in who've seen the small press blitz for the 07's and sell them a vastly inferior and overpriced product."

    Clearly you have no idea that this is all a fantasy of yours. Seek help.

  129. Jay
    Stop

    @ Unamerican...

    All I would say is what happens WHEN oil runs out and Americans have to use alternatives? Or will their behaviour become more like the description given in the Matrix movie?

    Agent Smith : I'd like to share a...revelation I had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to...classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but...you humans do not. You move to an area...and you multiply...until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to..spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is?

    A virus.

    Just a thought...

  130. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    They're all crap

    They're all crap because electric cars need power stations to burn finite fuel or nuclear fuel to produce the electricity to charge the batteries.

    Petrol/Diesel cars use petrol and diesel which of course is crap because we've soaked up a lot of it and at any rate we require oil to make plastic to make TV's and PC's and laptops etc.

    Oh, and catalytic converters are made out of palladium which comes from one of the most polluted cities on Earth, Norilsk.

    In Norilisk nothing grows for hundreds of square kilometers because of the sulphur and acid rain.

    So - it is all crap!

  131. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Electric motors are strong

    Make no mistake, electric motors are strong. Fully engage a large electric motor and you'll snap any driveshaft.

    The point is, why refine the combustion engine any further when in a few years there will be very little oil to burn?

    Peak oil is coming and if scientists and engineers spent all their time looking at fuel cells and electric power then we'd be making more progress.

  132. Brian Lawther

    Brian

    My thoughts on the future and why the EV1 crushed.

    The coming of the Hybrid and pure Electric car is following some of the basic rules of evolution and bussiness.

    Never expect a truly inovative idea from an entrenched company.

    Although Sony do say you should obsolete you own product before somebody else does.

    Second, in evolution when a new animal/concept comes along that can exploit a new food/money source and it has the field to its self.

    So expect lots of new small car compaines to spring up as they charge a premium for the product, they will not be very efficeint manufactures, then as the product cost falls normaly only about 7 big compaines will be left, plus some small nich players. It allways happens just look at PCs. Example Dell, HP, Apple and what happened to Xerox who invent it, even the old stooge IBM could not make it.

    It will be some new companies plus forward thinking old ones that make it.

    Maybe GM can do it, but Ford is bleeding to death and seems to lacks vision,

    must being run by an accountant.

    Cut and past this link into your browser, http://www.pmlflightlink.com/index.html

    Has links to Volvo and a new company called Lightening which are producing a super sports car, looks a bit like an Aston Martin for 2008, 250mile range and costs about 5 cents a mile to run. PMLs own BMW Mini is just a demonstration of what can be done now, which is pretty good.

    I think PML may be the Intel of the electric car and has shown what the drive train should look like, in wheel motors that do everything. What type of Battery will be the best, is still in the air but it looks like it may be a Silicon Nanowire Li-ion, at present there are Li's that have a good temperature range, capacity and don't burst into flames. We are at the VHS video recorder point, not the best system but will do the job.

    So the practical hybrid/ pure electric car is here now, no argument, just will be a little time before it comes down to an afordable price for everyone and you may be buying from a company you have never heard of. The infrasturer is here to charge them, the performance is ok and the running cost is so low, they will be unstopable.

    The EV1 was a good toe in the water, to see if there was a market but in bussiness opening up a new market does not mean you win in the end.

    HP invented the hand held scientific calculator 18 months before Texas insturment and still sells them, but Casio is the market leader now.

    So pulling back until the technology improved was a sensible move on GMs part,

    don't open the market for someone else.

    The future is allways here today but it normal takes 20 years to realise it.

    An example is the cell/mobile phone, it has taken just over 20 years

    for them to go from a large brick to being lost in the bottom of your wifes handbag and who had heard of Nokia. I predict most people will be driving

    a pure electric or hybrid in 20 years time and fuel cells will be a dead duck,

    to complicated to be worth it.

    Mind you, the UK did have a hydrogen based economy in the late 1800s it was call town gas, piped into most houses, mostly hydrogen and made from coal, was farley safe, as any leak the gas floated up, only in the last 50 years electric has taken over but most people still use natural gas, for heating. Actualy its more dangerous as it pools if leaking and will blow a house to pieces, prefer the old stuf.

  133. Demian Phillips
    Stop

    @johnathan @roland

    "Prius batteries are guaranteed for 10 years and cost upwards of £3k "

    MY 2002 Prius had an 8 year 100K mile on the battery pack and Toyota has consistently quoted me replacement prices of US $2400 to replace it (includes labor). This is from the dealership (price is 2x the cost of the part and labor is 4x sanity safe limits) who always rips you off.

    "This morning it was around -3 Fahrenheit (so would be roughly -20 celcius). Haven't done any research on how the batteries take this kind of temperatures. Does anyone know?."

    I have gone out into my driveway and my Prius tell me that it is -14 deg F and it has started fine. I didn't even see the turtle light that tells me it is running without electric assist (turtle is on until the system warm up enough). I think some guy in North Dakota blogged about seeing it on a morning where it was like -36 deg F or some such. In Ohio it does not get this cold and so far I have never seen the turtle.

    As for your problems a couple states over. I know that a large vehicle is not required for life in america. I lived in the backwoods of West "By God" Virginia and took a Volkswagen pickup truck on some of the most muddy, rutted and impassable dirt roads that sometimes would swallow big 4x4 trucks. I never got stuck no matter how bad the roads were, because I knew how to drive in those conditions. A VW pickup has the same clearance (including the oil pan that sticks down below the frame) as a normal Rabbit (almost none).

    I have had no problems on highways and side roads with the Prius even when our fine people didn't bother to clear roads and my entire journey to work (only a class 2 snow emergency) on the interstate involved clawing my way through 6 inches (or more in places) of piled snow while trying to keep track of what was road by the distance of signs and guardrails.

  134. Peter Mellor

    Coal gas (town gas) was not all that safe.

    Brian

    By Brian Lawther

    Posted Thursday 3rd January 2008 13:57 GMT

    "Mind you, the UK did have a hydrogen based economy in the late 1800s it was call town gas, piped into most houses, mostly hydrogen and made from coal, was fairly safe, as any leak the gas floated up, only in the last 50 years electric has taken over but most people still use natural gas, for heating. Actually it's more dangerous as it pools if leaking and will blow a house to pieces, prefer the old stuff."

    What Brian has called "town gas" is actually better known as coal gas. A few facts:

    It was (and maybe still is, in a few places) made locally, from coal. Each town had its "gas works" in which coal was heated in a furnace and the products captured. These are:

    - Gas: a large proportion of hydrogen, but a *very* significant proportion of carbon monoxide, plus some methane and other odds and ends. (I can't be bothered to get out my school notebooks, and I'm writing from memory.)

    - Oils: the liquid by-products of gas production could be fractionated to yield various useful liquid hydrocarbons.

    - Coke: the solid residue after the coal has yielded up its more volatile compounds. This is almost pure carbon, with some other elements. It can be burned in stoves and was sold as a domestic fuel in its own right. It was also used in large quantities in the production of iron and steel.

    The gas was held in those huge cylindrical gas holders (often incorrectly called "gasometers") that were part of every town's landscape, and piped to each home. The process was pretty efficient overall: almost all of the by-products of gas generation had commercial value, and when you cleaned out your coke-burning stove, you could spread the ash on your garden as a fertilizer.

    Burning coal on a domestic fire was horrendously wasteful by comparison, and all those valuable chemicals went straight into the atmosphere as pollutants.

    The main problem with coal gas was that carbon monoxide is a lethal and insidious poison even when mixed in low concentrations with air.

    It kills by anoxia. When oxygen is inhaled into the lungs, it reacts with haemoglobin in the blood stream to form oxyhaemoglobin, a loosely bound compound that gives up its oxygen readily wherever this is required in the body to sustain metabolism. Carbon monoxide also reacts with haemoglobin, but forms carboxyhaemoglobin, which is stable and does not decompose, with the result that it gradually uses up all of the body's haemoglobin, leaving none to transport oxygen.

    The body has no warning system for anoxia. [1] Instead, it has evolved to react to excess carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which usually accompanies a lack of oxygen "in the wild", e.g., when holding one's breath or being strangled. Imperceptibly, anaesthesia creeps on, as the brain is starved of oxygen until unconsciousness supervenes suddenly, by which time irreparable brain damage may have occurred. [2]

    "Sticking one's head in the gas oven" was a very common way of committing suicide in the days of coal gas.

    Both carbon monoxide and hydrogen form explosive mixtures with air, so there is nothing to choose between coal gas and natural gas (which is mostly methane) in this respect, if they leak into a confined space. Coal gas (due to the impurities in it) has a strong characteristic smell, so leaks were more easily detected. An artificial smell has to be added to natural gas.

    Notes:

    [1] This is a useful argument against "intelligent design" as an origin for the human species. No intelligent engineer would design a system which is crucially dependent on a supply of oxygen for survival and not include a warning device for a lack of oxygen which is triggered *by the lack of oxygen* rather than by a secondary effect which is not always present. If God exists, then He is an incompetent engineer, which rather messes up His claims to be omniscient and omnipotent.

    [2] First-aid tip: Arterial blood is bright red, since it has been oxygenated, and oxyhaemoglobin is a lighter red than haemoglobin. Veinous blood is darker, since it has been deoxygenated by the time of its return from the body's periphery. In the case of anoxia due to strangulation, smothering, drowning, etc., the victim's lips turn blue. However, since carboxyhaemoglobin is also a light red, in a case of carbon monoxide poisoning, the victim's lips will be bright cherry red. (Not many people know that!)

  135. Matware
    Heart

    @Jim

    Sorry to confuse Jim, I was referring to the myth perpetrated by the lead additive company, that the new additives used to replace lead in leaded fuel would lead to an increase in benzene emissions, and hence increased cancer risk. This was peddled by the makers of the lead additive, and was a patently false, as benzene based additives are not required and there were other, safer alternatives (such as ethanol and MTBE) are used instead.

    Although this is not the place to debate the pro/cons of catalytic converters, I suspect the they have lead to a net health improvement due to the reduction of photo chemical smog, and the slow but steady reduction in lead contamination of of out cities.

  136. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Energy density

    People bang on about the poor energy density of batteries. While it is true that the best ones only poses about 1/100th of the energy density of petrol, it takes about a 120 kg of engine and a 35 kg transaxle to convert about 20% of that energy into the required rotary motion to propel a small vehicle. The electric car on the other hand can use a 35 kg motor and doesn't require a gearbox to convert over 85% of it's batteries energy to the required rotary motion. Including the total drive system wheight and efficiency radically improves the picture in the electric cars favour. In real world terms we have electric cars that will go 400 km on a charge. A more relavent detractor to the electric car is the time it takes to "fill up" the battery.

  137. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brian

    In reply to Coward. The battery is no longer the limitation in recharge time, as 10 minute to 80% ones are now availible, it is the peak current requirement.

    Pushing 30 kw in to a battery in 12 minutes requires 30kw x 5 = 150 kw supply.

    Thats a lot of power/current and think of 10 cars at once charging, but if that can be solved then all the technology is in place for electric cars, the argument is over. Just charging will be a bit slower, due to mains supply limitations.

    Or just run the on board generator set, will still give 80mpg.

    Forget hydrogen, to many manufacturing and supply problems.

    It is now just packaging, you could have an electric tomorrow, if the car companies got of their buts and smelt the coffee.

    The Chines are looking at this market,

    so western companies better get a move on.

  138. steve
    Flame

    Oh god, my eyes are melting

    I can't believe i just read all these comments, i think i really need another holiday now.

    We need something other than fossil fuels, does every one agree? They are going to run out, soon. Once we run out, your hummer will get extremely good mpg. It will only run down hill, but that's still great efficiency! Electric cars........ are a good start. I don't think they are the answer, but you have to start somewhere. You need a starting point, then you can improve. Don't even think about diesel being green, it isn't. New research is starting to show just how bad it is for the environment and for a human being's health. It contains nasty stuff, and when burnt and inhaled can bring about a human's downfall.

    We need public transport to be good, on time and clean. (not that any of that is likely to happen any time soon) We have to let go of the idea of each of us having a shiny car. That's going to be hard (i love my car and the freedom that comes with it) but we don't really have a choice.

    My final comment will be in response to this post:

    By Will Leamon Posted Wednesday 2nd January 2008 15:12 GMT

    Africa just called and asked if you, the Dutch, and the French wouldn't mind cleaning your shit up there before bitching about what the Americans do to their spot on earth.

    Oh and the Americans said they would love to address this situation but still haven't quite cleared up the mess from 400 hundred years of slave economics that they were born with.

    Cheers.

    Erm, Will, do some history lessons please? Americans were quite happy to help out with the slave trade until the point the North realised it needed extra soldiers to fight on the front line in there pathetic struggle with the South. Then it was "Fight for your freedom!" to get slaves to enlist so they could be used as shock troops/meat shields. Please step down from your high horse before you make and even bigger idiot of yourself, k?

  139. Peter Johnstone

    For F***'s sake lets see a bit more imagination and will from our politicians!

    IMHO the internal combustion engine is going to be arround for a long time yet. What is needed is some more imaginative solutions to green issues.

    People need to drive to get to work, get the kids to school etc. Those in this situation are not going to vote for a Green party that is perceived to be anti-car.

    Mainstream politicians think that increasing road tax, petrol tax and conjestion charging will make people drive less. For the vast majority of people who fall into the group described above it doesn't. They just pay up and keep on driving.

    I'd like to see some of the vast fortune screwed out of drivers in tax spent on negating the effects of car emissions, such as building sequestration plants to remove pollutants from the air (or even planing trees).

    Getting decent surfaces on the roads, getting councils out of the habit of digging up almost every road in a city as the financial year comes to an end so as to use up their buggets and bring traffic to a stand still. (Yes, CIty of Edinburgh Council, J'accuse) and an end to stupid no left / right turn systems that sheperd traffic onto the busiest roads would make a huge impact on emmissions.

    Decent inner city parking would also help. Limiting waitimng times to four hours so that folk with full time jobs have to go out at lunch time and move there cars to a different area to avoid a ticket is just crazy.

    On a larger scale an international initiative to irrigate deserts such as the Sahara and reverse desert expansion, could turn the desert into forrest / farmland which would provide jobs / food / income might even stimulate climate change in a more positive direction, such as kick starting the water cycle by stimulating natural rainfall.

  140. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't add up

    I recently watched the movie and while there may be some "poetic licence" the thing that doesn't make sense is why GM and the other manufacturers only leased the vehicles and would not sell them. The former drivers of the EV1 raised US$1.9million to buy the cars from GM rather than have them crushed and they were knocked back. WHy? Even if the cars were not selling surely that money would help to recover the cost of manufacturing them? Also, why did all of the car manufacturers take the same action at the same time, i.e., crushing their cars? It doesn't make sense. The drivers were happy with the vehicles even with their shortcomings - why not let them have them? Finally, the few that escaped crushing were stripped of their circuitry. For what reason? It's not as if they were lethal weapons or something. I wonder whether the producers of the movie may be on to something.

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