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Old 04-04-2011, 11:00 AM   #1
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Arrow Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

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A Car Talk Blog by:
Jim Motavalli
Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won’t)
Posted on April 1, 2011 in: Uncategorized|Jump To Comments

The Nissan Leaf: 100 miles, more or less. (Nissan photo)

I know you’re used to me saying that electric cars will change the world, that they’re big green saviors that will glide silently down from Mount Olympus to free us from the tyranny of the tailpipe. Well, yeah, but I see their dark side, too. For instance, will they be funny enough for Tom and Ray to make jokes about when the car world gets taken over by an assault from batteries?

So here are three ways that plug-in EVs will change your life (and three ways they won’t). First, the good stuff:

No more gas stations. Your main fueling station will be your garage. That means no more browsing through the stale candy and muscle magazines, or watching the grease rack go up and down, as you wait to pay for $4 gasoline. Gas stations could become endangered species, with lovingly preserved specimens installed for nostalgic viewing at the Smithsonian.

A level playing field. Nobody knows anything about electric cars, so you don’t have to listen to your know-it-all brother-in-law anymore. In fact, if you read this column you know more than him. There shouldn’t be any gender bias here, either. We’re all students, from the moment we first plug in to a charging station. Take comfort: If you don’t know what to do when the EV runs out of juice on a dark night in the rain, well, nobody else does either.

It’s just another appliance. The electric car plugs into your home’s grid, and it’s got a lot in common with your electric dryer (which probably also runs on 220 volts). Electric cars demystify the world of motoring—there’s a battery, a motor, and an electronic control box to manage them. It’s not nearly as intimidating as that gas guzzler you drive now. You’ll charge your car from your cellphone, just as you’ll soon be using that same phone to control your smart refrigerator. The bill will come from the electric utility, just as it does for those other appliances, and its batteries are just like the ones in your laptop—in fact, in some cases they are computer batteries.

Notes from the dark side:

Charging EVs takes between 30 minutes and 12 hours. (Flickr photo)

Say hello to range anxiety. Think of your 100-mile-range EV as a gas cars always running on the reserve tank. The battery is the only game in town, and every time you turn on the radio, it drains a little. I spent a few cold weather days with the Nissan Leaf and loved it, but trust me when I say that I spent a lot of time looking at the remaining range. The high-tech range gauge adjusts for conditions, so 30 miles can turn into 28 miles. Most people will want to keep a gas car, or at least a plug-in hybrid, handy for the longer trips.

The charge time challenge. How long does it take to charge your car? That depends. There are three levels, from 110 to 480 volts, and that means 14 hours on the slow side and just 30 minutes on the fast side. But even half an hour is a long time if you’re waiting at public charger—maybe you’ll end up nostalgic for five-minute gas station fills, if not the gas station itself. The smart thinking now is that our charging will be mostly at home (80 percent or more), with the rest in public places like malls, big-box stores and Starbucks-type places. There’s going to be some strategy needed here: With Level II 240-volt charging, you’ll need to go see a movie or eat a slow dinner—it takes several hours. If they have 480-volt Level III, you plug in, then shop, drink coffee or play video games and in 30 minutes your car is rarin’ to go again.

The price conundrum. The cheap and cheerful $17,000 Toyota Corolla? Forget about it. It’s EV equivalent is double that, though there’s a $7,500 federal tax credit that everyone gets, plus some great state subsidies ($5,000 per car in California). The trade-off, of course, is two or three cents per mile operating costs, versus 20 to 30 cents for your gas car. But do the math, it’s going to take a while to earn back that initial purchase price. According to commentator Margo Thorning in the Wall Street Journal, “Unless crude oil prices rise close to $300 per barrel and battery costs fall by 75 percent, a plug-in electric vehicle is more expensive than a gasoline-powered vehicle.” Ouch. I think that considerably overstates the EV’s disadvantages, but the price issue is still there.

These equations are likely to change rapidly. Looked at one way, the positives for EVs are only going to improve as the grid gets greener and battery costs come down. And the negatives for gas cars will get more dramatic, because oil prices are unlikely to come down very far, and climate change is advancing relentlessly.

OK, so you’ve weighed the evidence, now watch this Nissan Leaf commercial and see if it makes you guilty enough about polluting the planet to go down and buy an EV:
http://cartalk.com/blogs/jim-motavalli/?p=799
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Old 04-04-2011, 02:54 PM   #2
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

kinda sums up my own viewpoints, yea electric cars are great things BUT if everyone has them they become just as bad, all these cars tapping into the grid gonna drive up electric costs, more coal to be burned as thats the major majority of power plants in the US, not to mention clog up rail traffic even worse than it already is for all these coal trains.

I doubt i will ever see electric cars "take over" im my lifetime, theyve been around 100 years alreay and havent gotten too much better haha
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Old 04-04-2011, 03:00 PM   #3
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

Even the dirtiest coal plant is cleaner than thousands of cars trying to transport their own individual internal combustion engine and emissions equipment. EVs are a win win no matter how you look at it. I'm more interested in the $1/gallon gas I'll be buying 10 years from now. Let all the other suckers pay up for EVs.
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Old 04-04-2011, 04:58 PM   #4
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won’t)

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Even the dirtiest coal plant is cleaner than thousands of cars trying to transport their own individual internal combustion engine and emissions equipment. EVs are a win win no matter how you look at it. I'm more interested in the $1/gallon gas I'll be buying 10 years from now. Let all the other suckers pay up for EVs.
This is not necessarily true. An example is the Toyota Prius.. Toyota Prius vs Leaf powered by coal, Toyota Prius wins hands down, no question in terms of total pollution and the important CO2 emissions which frequently get overlooked. Now a hydro charged leaf would definitely beat the Prius, however I don't like the idea of an electric car being charged with energy that is cheaper that gasoline because it would only encourage use, negating the environmental benefits of going electric over gasoline. Prius to me is an overall winner of a vehicle, but I won't be buying one because it's an autotragic.
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Old 04-04-2011, 11:27 PM   #5
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

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I don't like the idea of an electric car being charged with energy that is cheaper that gasoline because it would only encourage use, negating the environmental benefits of going electric over gasoline. Prius to me is an overall winner of a vehicle, but I won't be buying one because it's an autotragic.
Are you high? We should be so lucky to have vehicles so cheap to run that it encourages their use. If you want to save the environment that bad, kill yourself.
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Old 04-05-2011, 04:33 AM   #6
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Arrow Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

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I don't like the idea of an electric car being charged with energy that is cheaper that gasoline because it would only encourage use, negating the environmental benefits of going electric over gasoline. Prius to me is an overall winner of a vehicle, but I won't be buying one because it's an autotragic.
Unfortunately, electric vehicles will not gain widespread acceptance until they are cheaper to purchase & operate than their gasoline powered counterparts.
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Old 04-05-2011, 08:54 AM   #7
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

I like my electric bicycle but the range is limited and I haven't had to buy a replacement battery pack yet. Pros and cons to everything.
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:02 AM   #8
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

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I don't like the idea of an electric car being charged with energy that is cheaper that gasoline because it would only encourage use, negating the environmental benefits of going electric over gasoline.
That only works out in theory. The arguement was once used against hybrids. Aside form the new car excitement in the beginning, my driving habits didn't change with the Prius. For some, it might have meant a few extra road trips a year. But they'd likely still be using less gasoline overall than without those trips and their old car.

The arguement falls apart because it ignores time. In order to equal the annual gas use of my old car, I'd have to drive the Prius twice as far. There wasn't enough time in the day to do that. EVs have another time constrain in charging that will reduce their total use and driving.
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:33 PM   #9
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won’t)

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That only works out in theory. The arguement was once used against hybrids. Aside form the new car excitement in the beginning, my driving habits didn't change with the Prius. For some, it might have meant a few extra road trips a year. But they'd likely still be using less gasoline overall than without those trips and their old car.

The arguement falls apart because it ignores time. In order to equal the annual gas use of my old car, I'd have to drive the Prius twice as far. There wasn't enough time in the day to do that. EVs have another time constrain in charging that will reduce their total use and driving.
Well the argument does have some teeth because as efficiency goes up, so does usage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons'_paradox

Really interesting stuff there.. I mean driving a Prius 15k miles per year is the same as driving an 2009 2.4L Automatic Camry 7500 miles per year. Even worse, the electric car has the same emissions or worse than a Prius, so if it costs $1000 to drive the Prius 15K miles per year and $500 to drive the electric car 15k miles per year, then you'll be more inclined to drive the electric car. That is bad because then it's an effective downgrade with all the inconvenience and expense of an electric car. Also electric cars are on subsidized electricity costs and may cost only $0.04 per kwh even though they really should be paying the same rate as any other appliance in your house. This is why I hate subsidies.

People used to drive on average around 7500 miles per year back in the 1950s, now they drive 12-15k miles per year now. Cars used to average 4-8mpg and now average 20mpg. People like to go on superfluous errands instead of consolidating them, leading to increased congestion. I mean haven't you ever just gone to the store for a single item, the go back to the same or different store later in the day when you could have just consolidated your trips? It's this kind of behavior that leads to wasted fuel and lots of excessive congestion. I try to consolidate my trips to not only save fuel but save time, however too many people don't do it at all and it's stupid.
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Old 04-07-2011, 07:17 AM   #10
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Re: Three Reasons EVs Will Make Your Life Better (And Three Reasons They Won?t)

I couldn't remember Jevon's name, and while the paradox has merit, it applies more to commercial, business to business, markets than residential. It was originally observed in coal powered steam engines during the industrial revolution.

A factory puts in an improved steam engine, and it has 2 basic options to follow. It could keep product output the same, increasing the bottom line through reduced fuel and possibly labor costs, or it could increase output. Since the fuel costs are likely budgeted for the old engine, and leaving the plant idle for any period of time is an operation loss. Producing more product to sell makes more sense economically. If the factory started using more coal with the efficient engine, the increase in output more than offset it.

A modern home puts in a more efficient washer and dryer. The family isn't suddenly going to start producing more laundry. They might start making smaller, less efficient loads on the whim, but I suspect most people don't consider the cost of a laundry load even with the older washer.

Same with the new family car. It's higher efficiency will make it the preferred car to take. That just means a gas guzzler is sitting parked. There is still the time constraint. An enterprising individual might hire out their new efficient appliance, but the majority won't, and after the newness wears off they'll go back to watching Idle.

Car use has increased with time, but there is more going on than fuel efficiency. The cost of gasoline was low in the '50s. Fuel efficiency wasn't a real concern. The cars did require more maintenance though. What was the oil change interval back then? Most towns were laid out with walking in mind, and I don't there were any malls that the kids wanted the parents to drive them too. There are greater cultural forces than increased fuel efficiency driving the change in driving habits.
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