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What Needs to Happen Before Electric Cars Take Over the World (nytimes.com)
217 points by runesoerensen on Dec 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 452 comments



Biggest problem I guess will be expanding the charger network, simply due to physics.

On the country side, laying cables for 1MW peak load (4 superchargers @ 250 kW) will be expensive - the grid in rural areas is enough for some farms and small villages, that's it.

In cities, electric-car chargers will have to deal with political obstacles (no one wants to sacrifice free-for-all parking spots!), in addition to the electricity problem - while in a city there might be more available 10+ kV lines (you don't want to do 250 kW over 230V AC, it's over 1k A current!), sidewalks are often enough very slim as it is and it will be difficult to get a charging station installed there, and digging in earth filled with cables is not exactly fun either (been there, done that, it's manual work of the worst kind as you can't even use a proper showel...). Getting chargers in garages will face obstacles of the HOAs, plus the house uplinks usually are without much reserves - my 12-apartment house, for example, is linked to the grid on 3x63A with each apartment (~60 m2) being fed by a single 40A phase. Not much, certainly not enough to feed even two electric cars in the backyard.

Either way you'l have to rebuild the entire grid more sooner than later if electric cars should have a future... there's not enough money to rebuild Detroit's water, where should the money for a full scale grid rebuild come from? It's all decades old infrastructure, no matter if in the US or Germany. Replacing or significantly upgrading it means billions to trillions of dollars.


Electric cars have the potential to be a key part of the solution to load management on a fully renewable grid.

The vast majority of people will usually charge overnight and don't need to regularly charge at peak times. Through intelligent charger management, you can distribute the load of charging across the entire off-peak period. The UX for this can be fairly straightforward - by default you charge at the cheapest rate, or you can press a button to get the quickest possible charge.

The real dividend comes from bidirectional charging, using the collective resources of plugged-in cars as a load balancing reservoir. In exchange for a discount on your electricity, the grid can take a small percentage of your EV's battery capacity when needed. A typical mid-range electric car has a 40kWh battery, which represents about four days of electricity consumption for a typical European household.

Nissan and the British utility regulator ran a two-year trial to examine the long-term impact of EVs on local grid infrastructure. The trial used intelligently-managed unidirectional charging. They concluded that about 32% of local electricity circuits will need to be upgraded by the time that EVs represent a majority of vehicles on the road. This figure could potentially be lowered further by bidirectional charging technology.

http://myelectricavenue.info/

America still has huge potential for efficiency savings, because of the immensely high average household electricity consumption. The average American household uses nearly three times as much electricity as the average European household. Air conditioning is only a small part of this disparity, representing about 18% of the electricity consumption of American households according to the Energy Information Administration.


Great comment!

Currently utilities buy power during peak times from other utilities, or fire up expensive peaker generators to manage the load.

A network of charging cars could be managed as another resource with a price attached to it that may be cheaper than the alternatives. I like the concept of varying the price of the charge based on your participation in the network.

At least in Florida, USA, most residential electric meters are flat-rate (same price per KWh, no matter what time of day you are using). A good portion of commercial meters have a peak and off-peak rate, as well as a single line item charge, based on peak demand, that is often 30-40% of the entire bill. The off-peak rate is often 50% or more cheaper than the peak rate.

Since most people would charge at night, it would probably make sense to have these residential services switched to a demand and time-of-day based meter, which would further reduce the cost of electricity. If someone spends a significant time at home, the charging car could buffer peak loads during the day to offset the additional draw of the nighttime charging.


This sounds great and sensible in a hand-wavy way, but getting the technology in place to effectively use plugged-in EVs for extra peak load capacity will take a long time. This sort of thing was never thought about in grid design engineering until very recently.

Also think about when peak demand happens -- late afternoon on hot summer days. Right at the time when people are getting home, with their EVs discharged (or at least, not at full capacity) after a day's use.


Vehicle-to-grid technology is already being piloted in the UK and will be available to consumers in Q2/Q3 2018. There is an industry-wide roadmap for the development of local electricity markets with real-time pricing. Any customer can choose to have a smart meter installed free of charge; the goal is to have full deployment of smart metering by 2020. These meters use Zigbee to provide real-time consumption data to a wireless display unit. With future firmware upgrades, they will be capable of providing real-time pricing information to smart appliances.

The grid is already perfectly capable of consumer feed-in, hence the huge deployment of photovoltaic solar systems. The metering is not particularly difficult. There is an emerging standard for smart grid communications (LTE on the 450MHz band) that is already in widespread use across the EU.

Completing this transition won't be cheap, but there are no significant roadblocks. We know what needs to be done and we have the technology to do it.

https://www.drive-electric.co.uk/driveelectric-launches-vehi...

http://www.energynetworks.org/assets/files/electricity/futur...

http://450alliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/WhitePaper...


> Also think about when peak demand happens -- late afternoon on hot summer days. Right at the time when people are getting home, with their EVs discharged (or at least, not at full capacity) after a day's use.

Not completely discharged - the little available per car will add up to a lot when there are a lot of EVs. The EV owners who decide to sell to the grid at peak hours (at higher prices) might make a profit doing so.


Even if the expensive infrastructure was put in place to allow electric car batteries to be used as a peak load reservoir, utilities would still need to maintain traditional on demand resources, such as natural gas fired power plants. Using a large number of cars is not dependable, utilities need on demand dependability. What happens if during peak consumption in the evening winter months more people stay out late (such as on New Years Eve) and most people park in places where there's no way to plug in? This would only add to overall infrastructure costs, adding a huge bidirectional grid in addition to traditional power sources that must be maintained year round for on demand use.


We've reached the point where utility-scale storage is a cost-effective alternative to natural gas peakers. The big story has been the California Puente peaker plant -- https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/battery-storage...

Long story short: NRG wanted to build a natural gas peaker plant, California Energy Commission said "can you do this cost-effectively with storage?", NRG said no, then people realized the "no" was based on 4-year-old battery figures. With updated figures (storage follows a manufacturing curve where the more we build the cheaper it becomes, so prices are dropping every year just as they've done with solar), turns out that yes, storage is a potentially cost-competitive alternative to nat gas peakers.

The application to build the plant is on hold to let the battery folks submit a few bids, I believe, but the econmic trends are clear: you can do peaker plants with storage now (or at least very soon).


> Using a large number of cars is not dependable

It's just a matter of safety margins and probability. Traditional powerplants break too, and with enough cars the probability that enough of them wouldn't be available at once is smaller than the probability that enough powerplants break at once.


There is so much work and planning that goes on between the utilities and regulatory agencies to ensure we almost always have reliable electrical supply. Traditional plants have planned outages for regular maintenance, and they are constantly working to ensure there are enough backup systems and alternate routes to ensure there are not outages even during maintenance windows. The amount of cars and the amount of extra grid you would have to build to completely replace these traditional plants would be prohibitively expensive. It's not just a matter of plugging a few million cars into homes.

https://energy.gov/oe/services/technology-development/transm...


A potential issue I see with this is the fact that some people need to get to and from work during hours that would prohibit them from charging at off-peak hours. Night-shift jobs tend to be on the lower end of the pay scale (though there may be a bonus for taking that awful shift compared to their day-time peers.) So there is an opportunity for some regressiveness in this scheme.


As we move towards renewable generation, the shape of the peak and off-peak periods will start to change. In the southern states, you might see very flat pricing, as higher consumption during the day is offset by higher generation from photovoltaic sources.

We will see far more volatile supply, because of the less reliable output of renewable sources. Supply and demand need to be perfectly balanced at all times to prevent brownouts or outages. Balancing supply and demand will become more challenging as we start to take fossil fuel generators offline. This is where smart grid management becomes vital.

EVs could adjust their charging rate in real-time, drawing maximum current when prices are low and discharging at a high rate when prices spike. Smart air conditioning units and refrigerators could respond to pricing on a minute-by-minute basis, running their compressors when electricity is a fraction of a cent cheaper and allowing the temperature to drift upwards by a fraction of a degree when prices are slightly higher. Industrial consumers could pause energy-intensive processes when prices are high and store power locally in battery, pumped water or thermal storage when prices are low.

A slightly extreme example from the UK is the notorious TV pickup. We drink lots of tea and use 3kW electric kettles to make it. During the commercial break in popular TV programmes, there's a surge in demand that often reaches hundreds of megawatts as millions of people simultaneously switch their kettles on. The national grid employ a dedicated team to manage these rapid demand spikes. They study the TV schedules and continuously monitor the grid frequency, turning on extra generation capacity and drawing from pumped-water storage to balance the extra demand. With smart grid technology, the TV pickup could be automatically managed through a real-time market.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_response

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TV_pickup


I was talking to a professor of electrical engineering who performs research on the electric grid. She said that while in theory it is possible to configure cars to charge themselves when electricity is cheapest, currently residential utility plans don’t adjust pricing based on time of day. Your electricity bill’s tiers are based on your total consumption.

Edit: lol, I get downvoted for relaying what a professor of EE told me. Stay classy HN.


Your prof has outdated information.

TOU (Time of Use) rates are becoming more and more common.

In 2019, TOU rates will be the default rate structure for new accounts in California. Many more states are following suite.

Even if they're not the default, tons of places have opt-in TOU structures. EV owners and home storage owners use this a lot.

Some states have even already adopted complicated shit only seen in C&I customers: demand charges. Basically, a portion of your bill will be dependent on your peak demand during a period (ie peak kW, not total kWh).


Here (in Estonia) the pricing changes every full hour. We get pricing for the next day (24h) a day before by 14 (2 pm). This is calculated from weather forecast, expected consumption and available generation resources. This is for residential use. For industrial applications you can buy electrical energy from the grid based on 15 minute pricing slots. Almost all the houses are equiped with online readable power meters.

I think this is the way things are moving in other jurisdictiins as well. In case of Germany and France one of the reasons why the systems have mot been upgraded lies in the privacy rules for the power consumption data according to one smart meter manufacturer.


> In case of Germany and France one of the reasons why the systems have mot been upgraded lies in the privacy rules for the power consumption data according to one smart meter manufacturer.

Not just that, in addition the smart meters cost a bunch of money to install... people don't like paying anything very much.


This.

Norway is going all-in on smart meters, installation has been rolled out this year to ~80% of the country, due to reach 100% next year. The total installation cost is estimated at around 2.5 billion USD for around 2.2 mill. houses, i.e $1000 per house. Which of course we as consumers will be paying for through higher electricity prices.


When I lived in New York State in the mid 1990s, there was time-variable electricity pricing. Being a grad student, I exploited it to do my dishes and clothes after peak hours to save money. Eventually I put my water heater on a timer. I think the rate differential was significant (order of $.07/kWh vs. $.11/kWh).

This is still the case, see: http://www.nyseg.com/YourHome/pricingandrates/daynighrate.ht...

Perhaps you misinterpreted the scope of applicability of what the professor said.


This is not true. (It is for some plans and some locations, but not all.)

I have a plan which charges significantly less during off peak hours.


Interesting (and probably by design) I had to opt out of such a plan when I signed up for "100% renewable energy" with my plan.


This professor has no idea what they're talking about. Every energy supplier I know of in my area offers an off peak discount specifically tailored to electric vehicles.


That depends on the country. In Germany the only discounts I know are for people using electric central heaters which heat up over night (Nachtspeicherofen).

Something as modern as time-variable tariffs... not gonna happen soon here.


I don't think it is un-classy to downvote a comment that is substantially untrue.


Definitely not the case in California. Everyone is on a smartmeter now, and adding an electric car charger will both give you a $500 rebate and put you on variable pricing.


Tesla has already started incorporating stationary storage into some of its supercharger stations to help cut down on peak load. This is not just an act of goodwill, it actually makes economic sense for them, since it cuts down on demand charges from the utilities for high peak loads, as well as reducing the need for bigger transformers and such leading up to the station.

The electrical grid is already sized for peak usage, not average usage. Supercharger stations are also being sized for peak usage, and most of the stalls usually remain empty. Incorporating stationary storage cuts down on the costs incurred by both of these inefficiencies.


> Incorporating stationary storage cuts down on the costs incurred by both of these inefficiencies.

at the cost of 10% more power usage due to the inefficiencies of charging and discharging batteries. Might still be worth it from an electric company's bottom line, but in most markets, it increases greenhouse gas production because we need more kwh of power.


If charging happens at the place where the car spends most of its time, then even domestic 16A/230V sockets would be enough for typical usage (for atypical usage, there are superchargers).


Exactly, charging is greater than 10mph at 16A (typical dryer load). If you drive 40mi (1hr commute?) each way and only charge at home, you can charge in the 8 hours between 11pm and 7am.


Yeah but the load peak when everyone arrives home/at work is what's dangerous for the grid. Even 10k cars at only 10 kW of charging power are a peak load of 100 MW. 100k cars are 1GW - which means the city of Munich with 700k cars has a load potential of 7GW at the minimum.

Either we get a grid that's intelligent enough to balance stuff out or the grid has to be built out with massive reserves, and that's everything but not cheap.


Today's electric cars already have the ability to delay the start of charging. It doesn't need that smart of a grid, just a smartphone app.


How does this work in practice, with a high number of cars with such apps? Say everyone arrives home from commute at roughly the same time, how is the delay factor decided/distributed?


In the most interesting fantasy, the car has an idea of how much it actually needs to charge -- Bolts and Teslas often don't use but a small fraction of their battery on a typical day -- and the grid has an idea of how much wind energy it's going to get in the middle of the night. And you'd combine the two to make sure all of the wind energy gets put into a car battery, or car batteries don't end up full because the owners don't need it tomorrow and the wind is expected to be strong tomorrow evening.

You can do the same solar energy and cars plugged in during the daytime, soaking up excess solar electric generation.


This isn't a fantasy, there's several products that do this and they've been on the market for a few years.

Microsoft provide the api for knowing in advance when energy will be the greenest: https://api.watttime.org/faq/

Some utilities will give you rebates if you use a smart charger to charge at these times (since green energy is both cheaper and time sensitive).

https://emotorwerks.com/products/juicenet-software/juicenet-...


In terms of rural areas, this will be an interesting challenge. When you drive cross country in the USA, you can expect to find gasoline reasonably close to even the most remote areas. The distance to the next gas station from anywhere in the USA is well below the range of the typical car.

However, in regards to cities, you are presenting a situation where the charging station comes to the parked car, rather than the car going to the charging station. While that would be quite convenient, if the charging times are rapidly decreased, there’s no reason car owners in cities would not be able to drive to stations to charge up, as drivers do with gas stations today.


> if the charging times are rapidly decreased

Charging times have an upper bound: physics. 250 kW is an insane amount of power and still you'd need around half an hour to fill a 100 kWh battery, to get even close to the 5-10 minutes of charging like at a gas station you'd need megawatts of peak power... and as there are two steps of conversions involved (grid => HVDC => battery voltage), even with 99% efficiency you have 1% (or 10 kW) of heat loss alone. That heat in the small space of a battery pack is a challenge.


So this is not a perfect comparison but potentially a useful one.

Gasoline has about 33kWh per gallon. A typical gas pump is limited to 10 gal/min flow rate (lets say 8gpm just to be conservative).

That means your gas pump takes about a minute to dispense 250 kWh or 23 seconds to dispense 100kWh. That generates effectively no heat. To charge one electric vehicle at the equivalent rate (assuming it could tolerate it) would take a 15 megawatt power source per 'pump'.

Here is the size of a one megawatt AC to DC power substation:

"The complete ABB megawatt station weighs only 20 tons. At 50 m3, the container’s volume is some 15 percent smaller than equivalent solutions."

https://library.e.abb.com/public/52d148c3c4b02ded85257e4c004...

I own an EV (hybrid really, Volt, but I'm 85% electric). I support electric vehicles enormously. But this is a huge huge problem with scaling that no one talks about. My volt can charge, slowly, at 8 amps (~1kW) while I'm at home, a rate my home power can easily take. Most vehicles in the US are static for at least 8 hours once, if not twice, during the day. Using that time to charge slower is a stopgap but I really doubt that the US grid has the excess capacity for this.


Have you thought of putting solar on your roof with storage to collect the extra energy you produce during the day and then dump it into your car at night?

Yeah, there are efficiency losses along the way, but two points: - More and more net metering tariffs are homeowner-buys-at-retail-pricing-grid-purchases-back-at-wholesale-pricing... the homeowner value of solar's excess energy is getting less - In a lot of cheaper EV purchases, the car company still owns the battery packs. This is for two reasons: 1) They sell you on a new battery pack when your range starts to decline after a few years, and 2) They're going to use the degraded batteries as second-life storage products... maybe not good enough to power your car, but more than plenty to provide a cheap powerwall alternative.

The points you bring up about mass charging is true, but once pricing starts to reflect that, that's going to make home storage far more economical (it already makes economic sense in some markets).


If the range is enough, stopping to charge up for 30 mins means one can also grab a bite to eat.

My parents took us kids on car trips during summer holidays, and usually by the time we needed to stop to refuel the car we also took the time to eat and such.


A problem is not everyone wants to wait half an hour for every charge on a long distance trip. If I'm driving 12 hours, I want to get to my destination with minimal interruption. Having to wait 30+ minutes for each of the 2+ refuelings would be a pain and add a considerable amount of time to the already lengthy trip. I'd avoid that pain point if that's the choice.


How many 12 hour trips do you take? I hear this so much from people who only take one trip a year that would cause this hardship.


I make about 4 trips like that a year. While it is certainly not a regular occurrence it is frequent enough that I would take it into consideration when looking at a vehicle. The point is not that I use the full range of my vehicle all of the time, but that I have the capability to due so. Don't get me wrong. I'm very interested in electric cars. However, the current ranges (which are close to being up to par), and especially the lack of infrastructure and long refueling times dissuades me from actually looking into purchasing one.


I believe our supercharge yesterday gave us 50kwh in 25 minutes.

I'm not disputing your point. It's a HELL of a lot more juice than people are used to thinking on a day to day basis. And it's going to change our infrastructure in fundamental ways.


Is there really a HVDC to battery voltage conversion step? I thought the whole point of quick charging is that you get exactly the DC that the battery needs right from the charger.


Actually, the superchargers take AC from the grid. The equipment at the supercharger consists of a rack of AC to DC converters run in parallel. That creates the DC that is delivered to the batteries at about 400 Volts.


As far as I understand, the car asks the Level 3 charger for a certain amount of volts and amperes, and the charger delivers exactly what the car needs (being able to vary the parameters for each type of car - and yes, those Level 3 DC chargers are big, complex, and expensive). Then the current goes directly to the battery. And this is why the charging gets so fast: there are no intermediate steps. The car just needs to provide cooling for the battery and control the charging process.


>> the superchargers take AC from the grid

> the charger delivers exactly what the car needs

You're both right. A Level 3 charger does deliver the right DC voltage the car needs, and it does so using power electronics that convert regular old grid AC into DC.

Level 1 & Level 2 charging: AC grid -> cable -> onboard charger converts to 400V DC -> battery

Level 3 charging: AC grid -> offboard charger converts to 400V DC -> cable -> battery

Same number of steps, same conversion efficiency. Tesla even goes a step further and uses the same hardware, building out the (low volume) Superchargers "simply" by ganging together a dozen (high volume) on-board charger modules and stacking them inside a weatherized outdoor cabinet. This commonality maximizes their economies of scale.


Wouldn't there be an additional stepping at the transformer for level 1 and 2 chargers to go from AC distribution grid at 480V AC to 110V/220V where the level 3 superchargers can plug directly into the 480V AC mains without a transformer?


Yes, that's a great point. https://forums.tesla.com/forum/forums/updated-how-it-works-s...

For anyone that's confused, it's because now we're really getting into the weeds of how the grid works. :) It's only fair to look back and compare from the same point in the grid, in order to be an apples to apples comparison. Really we should look at the whole electricity supply chain.

Level 1 & 2 charging: high voltage AC transmission line -> local substation converts to 480V AC -> distribution lines (poles or buried) -> pole-mounted or buried transformer converts to 110/220V AC -> household wiring -> cable -> onboard charger converts to 400V DC -> battery

Level 3 charging: high voltage AC transmission line -> on-site transformer converts to 480V AC -> offboard charger converts to 400V DC -> cable -> battery


But that replacement doesn't need to happen quickly, cars won't get replaced sooner well... than the cars are replaced, which is, about once in 15 years. Even if market share of electric cars in dealerships is 100%. So grid requirements will evolve slowly through about 2050, not overnight - which is hardly faster than its normal renewal rate.


In my neighborhood there has been no electrical grid upgrade (other than repairs) since the 1960s (when the subdivision was built). I think your 15 year timeline for normal grid renewal is wildly optimistic at least for most established suburban areas.

Also few people keep their cars for 15 years. I think 5-7 years is much more normal (though perhaps you meant the total life of the car, from original owner to the last).


The average age of cars in the US is 11.5 years. http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-ihs-average-c...

Personally, I keep cars until they're no longer reliable/economical but the average length of ownership is presumably lower and brought down by people who get a new car after a 3 year lease. Although the overall length of ownership has been increasing because of improved quality.


> I think 5-7 years is much more normal

Given the trend (in Germany) to crack down on ICE cars, you're looking at a way shorter timeframe. Once the first court OKs ICE bans, stuff is going to get nasty.


The UK grid company (who also run some of the US grid) put out a report on the impact which I'll summarise as "no big deal". They mapped out a few different scenarios, the most extreme of which got taken, then mangled and exagerrated and turned into scary headlines about EVs destroying the grid.

They then had to issue a second report pointing out that their first report said it wasn't going to be a big deal.

http://fes.nationalgrid.com/media/1264/ev-myth-buster-v032.p...


The USA installed Cable TV, why would charging cables be harder?

The USA spends $500Billion on cars and $400 Billion on gasoline every year. A onetime $trillon upgrade isn't an outsize amount.


> The USA installed Cable TV, why would charging cables be harder?

Because a TV coax cable is 1cm slim and can be installed very easily. Run it over the air on poles, dig it into a small trench, run it via the sewers. Whatever fits best.

A 10 kV or, worse, a 1 kA-capable 3x230V line, not so much. The 10kV (or more) line has special requirements in terms of distance to other cables, a 3x230V line at that capability is pure hell due to its sheer thickness and mass.

Also the charger station will require a transformer... which aren't tiny, and transforming 250kW produces significant heat loss. So either find some free place in earth where you can bury it, or deal with adjacent house owners to install the transformer in their basement.

> The USA spends $500Billion on cars and $400 Billion on gasoline every year. A onetime $trillon upgrade isn't an outsize amount.

Problem is, the car/gasoline spend is done by individuals on small-ish scales. A multi-trillion investment must be fronted by the state - the utility companies don't have nearly enough cash to finance this. But, as noted, the US can't get enough funds to replace Flint's potable water infrastructure or Puerto Rico's broken grid...


And it took many years and is still not universally available. (About 70% broadband penetration seems to be the current number although it may be available to some of the other 30% but just not bought.)


An electric car is at least a $20k investment. If you're buying a $20k car $2k of electrical upgrades are certainly a factor in the purchasing decision, but you can at least afford to upgrade your house and work parking. And realistically the cost is likely to be lower than that, and even not it pays off in lowered fuel costs.


> but you can at least afford to upgrade your house and work parking

1) with $2k you can barely have the trench from your house to the core cable in the street digged. Better calculate 10k.

2) Why the fuck should I pay my employer to put in a charger in the garage? This will, alone for the electric work, add another 1-2k on the bill.


These arguments don't really hold up given that Tesla has already deployed a charging network really wide.

FWIW all of the chargers I've seen didn't require new transformers or lines. Heck they put in 20 spots in Centralia without even digging up the road.


Tesla has only added a few chargers though, and they carefully selected the locations to be places where there are newer upgraded power lines. If electric cars become common chargers will need to be everywhere including older neighborhoods where the power lines are not up to the load.


Yes, and standard chargers can be installed anywhere you can put a clothes dryer. You only need 120kW charging if you're going to be road-tripping. In the 2+ years I've owned an EV I've never had an issue, including doing 300mi+ in a single day about once a week.

Heck, when I bought my current house I didn't need to do anything since the previous owner already had a NEMA 14-50 outlet for their welder.


Yeah it's all so simple until you realize that means every house running a clothes dryer all at the same time between 5pm and whatever time in the evening everyone is done charging.

Los Angeles and parts of the Bay Area have had nearly annual brownouts for the last 20 years just from air conditioners during heat waves. How in the world do you expect that aging power grid (in the fifth/sixth largest economy no less...) to handle a clothes dryers in every house running 4+ hours a day?


>running a clothes dryer all at the same time

Fortunately those "clothes dryers" are already connected to the internet, and have sophisticated power electronics hooked to the grid that can detect voltage sag and phase lag. Connected to a central server, each car (or stationary battery, for that matter) becomes BOTH a sensor that can monitor grid health AND a remote-control load that can be dialed up and down (so long as the car gets a full charge before 7am, or whenever the user chooses).

The internet allows entire neighborhoods of EVs to be controlled at once, so that the substation is at 100% power and no more, and so the distribution/transmission lines are at 100% power and no more.

Is that a hard control problem? Sure. BUT it's easier than overbuilding the electric grid by 2-3x (which is, after all, the largest machine ever built[1]). And given the very large opportunity cost, there's a lot of incentive to solve it.

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/videos/category/innovation/th...


I think 4 hours is on the long end, at least from my usage. For our car 20 miles of highway travel(most taxing for EV) is about 1 hour of charging.

With off-peak rates and people having different schedules(I'm home at 4pm for instance) I don't see why everyone would be hammering the grid at 5pm.


Most people get off work between 4 and 6pm. (this is not 50% of the population, but it is still a large number). They all go home and plug their car in then take a shower. Many days the peak electric use for the day is at 6pm when all those people start cooking dinner (electric stove) or jump in the shower (electric water heater). When a significant number of people start plugging their car in when they get home the peak will go up much more.

Of course as has been pointed out repeatedly a smart charger can manage exactly when the battery starts to charge. However it isn't quite that simple: many of those people will go out again for their bowling league or whatever, and need enough charge in their car.


I imagine they'd handle it by designating off-peak hours, like many utility companies already do, so people will charge their cars then.


> Heck, when I bought my current house I didn't need to do anything since the previous owner already had a NEMA 14-50 outlet for their welder.

Let me guess you're countryside? Friend of mine has a relatively new house in Munich, biggest thing he has is a 3x16A CEE outlet.


I'm going to guess that your friend also has access to a heck of a lot better public transportation that I do.

I'd happily use public transportation instead if I could but the closest one to me(12 miles away) was the one that derailed yesterday.


You know, it is funny that I have heard so many strange hypothetical against the future of electric cars that are contradicted by the current implementation of them. Its really strange.


Many Americans are really attached to the vision of hopping in their personal vehicle with no additional transaction friction and going on long road trips.

EV charging infrastructure isn’t yet well suited to medium to long road trips, so some people discard the whole idea because they’re upset by suggesting a different distribution of friction in their lives.

Whether the actual friction is big enough to matter is hard to say. I drive outside a 100 mile radius about twice a year, and I don’t mind renting cars when I do, so it doesn’t seem especially onerous to me, but don’t underestimate people’s love for their particular car/dislike of rental cars.


It's not so much dislike at rental cars--I rent them regularly when I fly someplace--it's that they're a hassle. In my largely Uber and Lyft-less area, there are a couple of rental car places that are only open during regular business hours. So renting a car for the weekend (very possibly a time when others are renting as well) would involve taking a taxi there before they close on Friday and dropping it off on Monday morning. That's a huge hassle for something I do at least every month so it's not a vision; it's something that I do on a regular basis.


*won't. It can get enough, it doesn't for political reasons.


As with all technological transitions, some municipalities will see the writing on the wall and invest. Others will not, and will see their local economy contract and young people flee.

“The grid to your home can’t even provide enough power to charge your car” becomes a decent reason not to move there.


Parts of the USA. Eagle Mountain, UT has a population of 30,000 and no cable TV. It is just down the road from the NSA building, it isn't like it is in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't much there in 1999. For a city that is very young - nobody wanted to put up money for cable.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Eagle+Mountain,+UT/@40.335...

I'm almost sure the county I live in now doesn't have cable TV anywhere. It costs a lot to roll out a network of anything. I'd guess a power network costs more than cable or fiber.


For reasons she just explained, like digging where there are already cables or lack of budgeting for even higher value utilities like water.


Why can't this just be solved with solar panels and batteries?


That's interesting. Cheap 15% efficient solar panel produces 0.75 kWh per square meter per day in "average US location" [1], whatever that is.

Let's assume average parking space area is 10 square meters (it depends, but it's close [2]) - so that's 7.5 kWh per day.

Average energy consumption of electric cars is 11-16 kWh/100 km [3], let's assume 10 kWh/100 km - that's 75 km range for a day of standing in sun.

That's actually not bad, and should be enough for driving back home from work. Actually, why not just put the solar cells on the car and do away with the batteries (car already has them). It would be less area, but even 20 km of driving for free would be enough for many people.

Hell, I use a car maybe twice a week, usually to drive for less than 10 km. Such a car would basically drive for free for my use case :)

[1] https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/09/dont-be-a-pv-efficiency-s...

[2] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-size-of-a-standard-parking...

[3] http://pushevs.com/2017/05/23/electric-car-range-efficiency-...


Actually, why not just put the solar cells on the car and do away with the batteries

Because you might squeeze 200W worth of panels up there at best. On a sunny day you’ll get about 4 extra miles at the end of your workday. And now you can’t drive home with the sunroof open on that sunny day.


For reasonable cost you can get 22.5% panels. A Camry is 193 inch x 72 inch or ~9 square meters. However, you don't get to tilt the panels and need to deal with shade, but can add cells to the sides which helps though at lower efficiency. Still ~6 hours of full sun equivalent x 9 * 0.225 ~= 12 kwh for a fairly normal shape.

Tesla Model 3 gets 310 miles on 75kwh so call it 4 miles per kwh that's 40-50 ish miles per day if you can stay in the sun.

Current records for solar panels well over 40%, so a fully solar powered car may actually be possible even if stupid expensive.

PS: Those solar challange cars are getting impressive. http://solarteameindhoven.itility.nl/ is a 4 seater doing 60+mph though far from street legal.


Sorry, I meant do away with the batteries at the charging station, not the batteries in the car.


I was more pointing out that with current panels, putting panels on the car isn’t a good idea.


From a weight perspective they still add range so it's not a bad idea. Further, being able to run some fans or even AC while in full sun is a significant benefit.

Car companies are not adding panels because the benefit is not huge, they add complexity and cost, and panels negatively impact styling. Still, you see a lot of campers with solar panels on the roof because a few kwh/day of extra power really does add up over time.


Further, being able to run some fans or even AC while in full sun is a significant benefit.

You’re going to need those fans with giant, black heat sinks on your roof. To the point that I wonder if the panels heat the car faster than fans can remove it.

Still, you see a lot of campers with solar panels on the roof because a few kwh/day of extra power really does add up over time.

You see a solar panel on our VW camper because a 100W panel can easily recharge the battery that runs the 20W of LED lighting, and charge the occasional laptop, not run a 80,000W traction motor. My parents have a 35 foot fifth wheel with A/C, microwave, and other goodies. It has an option for solar panels. They didn’t buy that option because solar panels ain’t gonna do squat for that load. They figured it might buy an extra half day of boondocking before the house batteries run out. No, you see a lot of campers with solar because they either have a small load like us, or the salesman convinced them it would be a good idea on their 40 foot Class A tour bus.


Solar panels convert sunlight to energy, this means they don't heat up as much as you might think. Further, painting the outside of a car black does not heat up the inside of a car as much as you might think. Most heat gain is from sunlight hitting the inside of the car converting to IR, and then being blocked by glass. Thus, painting the inside black is a larger issue.

A 120mm computer at full speed is ~6w and can move 75 cubic feet of air per minute. So, 20w worth of fans can quickly exchange a lot of air.

Anyway, 100W of panels is minimal if your using 20+% panels. You can get that from a 1.5 foot x 3 foot section, a camper can have 20 of those on the roof assuming your starting with mostly clear space.


I agree with you that the solar panels aren't going to run the motor, but the 660W of solar on my RV with a large battery bank and a 3000W inverter have no trouble running everything in my RV including the AC for an hour here or there (though we did replace the AC with a swamp cooler to be able to run longer in the southwest): http://therecklesschoice.com/2016/04/29/diy-rv-solar/


The way I look at it, putting panels on the car is a good idea (because it reduces the need to charge frequently for people who don't drive long distances regularly) that sounds like a bad idea (because the power from panels is so much less than the power requirements of the car while it's running) that sounds like a good idea (hey, why not get energy for free!).

Not everyone will benefit or care about charging their car a few less times per year and adding panels will cost more, add weight, and probably change the appearance of the car, but I think it's an option worth exploring.


hey, why not get energy for free!)

Because that energy isn’t free. Panels cost money, the electronics to get it to the batteries cost money, and increased complexity cost money. You won’t get a sunroof. Those black panels that are specifically designed to optimize the absorption of the sun’s energy will absorb heat.

All so I can get an extra four miles (on a good day) of range after sitting in the sun all day. I’m not going to go as far as to say it’s a dumb idea, but it sure is hell isnt a good one with current technology.


You’re ignoring conversion/storage losses when charging, which are on the order of 20%. And I think actual EVs are much closer to the less efficient end of your range (with the heat on, I barely get 3 miles / kWh on my Bolt, with no environmental controls, it’s about 4 miles / kWh, which is already the least efficient end of your range).


Would it be feasible to put inductive chargers and battery banks under the parking spot, so that no wires are exposed and the spot could be used by non electric cars if required? Maybe a signal to/from the car to determine charge rates and negotiate power feeds? Or is that too much power to pass through a special thin layer of say, epoxy concrete? Seems like a good place to have a battery box, to protect it from heat/rain/lightning.


You mean like this from five years ago? http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-18984160


Over the next 50 years if solar roofs take off ( https://www.tesla.com/solarroof ) I don't see it being that much of a problem on the country side. We probably won't need to rebuild the entire grid, may be able to leave some part of the grid behind. May even be cheaper to do so with savings compared to the alternative options


Solar roofs are just fancy solar panels. And they wont help it there is no sun.

There are two ways of making sure you still get power when there is no sun for your panels: storing power locally and using the grid. For storage, you can have enough batteries to deal with the day-night cycle, but a week of overcast weather in the winter is likely to be prohibitively expensive. It means that the grid is necessary, and it has to be able to cope with peak load.


There's also wind when these winter storms roll through :). I've found out personally that people can also adapt to new situations such as less availability of electricity.


How do street mounted charging ports cope with rain, snow and dirt? Is there a risk of electrocution?


I have an outdoor ev charger (no garage) and I've plugged it in during downpours with no issues. EV charging plugs (J1772) have recessed contacts that you can't touch without tremendous effort and electronics that ensure that they don't turn on the charging current until they are securely affixed to and communicating with the car.

There is a pilot current to establish the communication that coordinates this but it's nothing that would electrocute someone (probably similar to an Ethernet cable).


There are places that have charging stations built into streetlights.


These articles keep omitting a pretty big barrier to adoption: street parking. (Maybe it's a function of US being suburb-centric? But at least the New York Times ought to know better.)

One of 2 things needs to happen, either charging technology improves to the point where you can charge at a gas station in a span of time comparable to refueling a conventional car, or all street parking spots need to be fitted with charging ports for overnight charging.

Neither thing looks likely to happen soon.


This gets mentioned a lot, but I think the point is really over stated. First, there's a huge amount of room for growth in electric vehicle adoption even if we assume that EVs are a non-starter for people who park on the street at night. The problem is worth solving, but we're no where near the point in which it's the main obstacle to further adoption.

Second, cars that are being used will generally spend a fair bit of time parked places other than home. For some subset of street parkers, enough of that parking time will be spent at facilities with public chargers to meet their weekly charging needs. This subset will grow as electric charging infrastructure expands to more places.

My wife and I actually own a Chevy Bolt as our only car and park on the street. We don't drive especially far in a typical week (I take mass transit to work and she works from home), but we generally are able to get all our charging in from our parking when we're out and about. And that's just using Level 2 AC chargers. If we drove further each week (or parked in places with chargers less often) we could easily get enough charging in by shifting some of our grocery shopping to Whole Foods so we can use the DC fast charger there while shopping.

Now this is in a city with pretty decent public charging infrastructure (Berkeley, CA) and obviously even within my city this approach won't work well for everyone. Still, I think it shows a possible way forward that could potentially work for a lot of people without necessarily having to have chargers at every street parking space.


> we're no where near the point in which it's the main obstacle to further adoption

Sure. I'm talking about universal adoption because the article is ("take over the world")

> We don't drive especially far in a typical week

This is a good point, EV range is already long enough that many urban drivers will not need to charge every day.

> For some subset of street parkers, enough of that parking time will be spent at facilities with public chargers to meet their weekly charging needs. This subset will grow as electric charging infrastructure expands to more places.

My point exactly: to reach close to 100% EV market penetration, so will the infrastructure need to grow to 100%. Tricks like going to that one Whole Foods store that has the fast chargers won't work when a significant % of cars are EVs, there simply will need to be a lot more public chargers (or, charging time will need to decrease).


> Sure. I'm talking about universal adoption because the article is ("take over the world")

Once you reach a critical mass of users, taking over the world will be inevitable, even with some of the inconveniences. Finding a gas station, for example, will get harder for ICE drivers as EV vehicles take off (lots of gas stations will go out of business, so you'll have to drive longer to refill your car), auto shops capable of dealing with ICE will become more scarce and expensive, etc...

At some point, the annoyance of owning an EV for some of the extreme edge cases will be less intense than the annoyance of owning an ICE vehicle. Even without proper infrastructure, the switch to an EV will be the only sensible move, even if it requires changing your habits.


> Once you reach a critical mass of users, taking over the world will be inevitable, even with some of the inconveniences. Finding a gas station, for example, will get harder for ICE drivers as EV vehicles take off (lots of gas stations will go out of business, so you'll have to drive longer to refill your car), auto shops capable of dealing with ICE will become more scarce and expensive, etc

It feels like you are making them mutually exclusive, it's far more likely there will be significant overlap... Do you remember the LCD TV transition? There was a period where you could basically get TVs with huge screens for free. That period mostly passed and now LCD TVs are also more reasonably priced anyway. Something similar will no doubt happen with the EV transition, unless an outside force ban them (i.e heavy handed government regulation, like Japan's 5 year car rule or something).

For the gas stations, that infrastructure will also transition, and those huge fuel tanks sunk into the ground aren't going anywhere, i'm sure they will continue to sell petrol along side EV charging stations.

Also all those millions of mechanics with decades of experience aren't about to suddenly forget all their ICE specific knowledge. Additionally parts from breakers yards will will probably be near free.


and those huge fuel tanks sunk into the ground aren't going anywhere

You think I’m letting that pass without pointing out that the fuel tanks are a sunk cost? Gas stations are really convenience stores, they don’t make money on fuel. The only difference will be that we pull up in an EV to get our Big Gulp. Gas or no, that real estate will still be used to sell you chips and lottery tickets.

In the Seattle area, I know of at least three shops that specialize in VW vans, a vehicle last sold in the U. S. over 25 years ago. Three, for a vehicle that wasn’t that popular in the U. S. when you could buy them new. Yeah, yeah, hippy-wannabes and nostalgia, but the fact remains that more than one shop stays in business working on ICE vehicles that are old enough to have been doing keg stands for four years.


> You think I’m letting that pass without pointing out that the fuel tanks are a sunk cost?

That is true, yet it makes no difference to my point.


I’ve been waiting a whole day for someone to pick up on the pun, and this is what I get? :-) Your point stands, I was being a wiseacre.


lol, i saw that but was a bit confused to the extent of explanation you went to "sink" your pun in.


I doubt many will go out of business. At least in the U.S. the stations themselves make maybe 2-3 cents a gallon profit, which likely doesn't even begin to cover operating costs. The vast majority of their income is from the convenience store items.

All but the most poorly run will pay whatever is needed to install electric chargers and stay in the game.


I think the point is that since most people will charge at night, and capacity keeps improving, eventually if evs become really common, people will have less opportunity to buy something at a gas station.


That is definitely relevant, we don't know how much day-to-night load shifting will happen. On the other hand, there's also the probability that people who find themselves needing to charge during the day will often need more time than a gas fuelup would take, making them more likely to buy something. It's hard to predict what will happen of course, but those shop owners are going to fight to stay alive.


Wait until you have kids and are traveling. There is always a snack that was forgotten, a meal missed, or something left at home.


That's not nearly enough to support running a store.


Buying gas is a necessity, but also often an excuse to buy stuff on your way too and from work.


I imagine that they will have to invest in things that will keep people there longer.

For instance at the moment in the UK many supermarkets are putting mini stores in petrol stations.

However with electric charging taking longer, I can imagine that McDonalds might start buying up petrol stations.


It's very common already to have fast food outlets either connected to or adjacent to convenience stores at gas stations.


> Sure. I'm talking about universal adoption because the article is ("take over the world")

I'm not sure "taking over the world" is necessarily equivalent with universal adoption. Getting to a substantial majority of new car sales (currently only around 1% in the US) would qualify in my mind.

> Tricks like going to that one Whole Foods store that has the fast chargers won't work when a significant % of cars are EVs, there simply will need to be a lot more public chargers

Increased EV adoption will incentivize more investment in EV chargers. The chargers at businesses like Whole Foods are being installed with private capital because they think it makes business sense. More EVs means more demand for public chargers which will in turn justify increased investment in those chargers.


> Tricks like going to that one Whole Foods store that has the fast chargers won't work when a significant % of cars are EVs, there simply will need to be a lot more public chargers

Sure, same as it used to be awkward to have to hunt around for a power point in a coffee shop/mall/etc or to figure out where had wifi. Now that's pretty standard fare.

Just like EV charging is today - in most countries there's quite a lot of places you can go to charge at. Soon it'll be every mall and shopping centre, because (at first) it'll be a way to attract customers, and then eventually it'll be expected.


Decreasing charging time might not be as helpful as you think. Lets say a car can be fully charged in 30 minutes: So the driver shows up somewhere and parks in one of the EV charging spaces and plugs in his or her car. They are not going to hang around for 30 minutes so they connect the car and go about their business. When they get back 3 hours later...

This is still a problem if you can charge in 5 minutes.


Not really a problem. Putting chargers in every space in a car park is pretty cheap, they are basically just circuit breakers or even just ordinary domestic style sockets.

Throw in a few fast ones for the people who need them and you are sorted. The fast chargers can be multi-head too, so even if someone finishes charging and doesn't come back someone else can still use it. Most rapid chargers are like that.

Also, if it's still a problem with a five minute charge, why doesn't it affect petrol pumps?


Charging a car requires a nontrivial amount of electricity, so it's not sufficient to add a circuit breaker / socket, you also need a payment infrastructure unless e.g. the municipality is willing to sponsor the energy costs of everyone driving.


Parking spaces in dense areas already act as a huge subsidy toward cars, so I don't think electrical cost is a deal-breaker.

Or you glue on half a parking meter to turn the electricity on and off.


> I don't think electrical cost is a deal-breaker.

Do you have any numbers, or are you guessing?


If you are talking about pure electrical cost, the average cost per kwh in the US is about 12 cents according to NPR.

An average Nissan Leaf battery is about 24kwh (although some cars have much smaller or larger batteries). So if you assume an average Leaf is totally empty, and charging to completely full, that would be a little less than $3 of electricity for roughly 84 miles of range.

To charge a car quickly takes a lot of electricity. But to trickle charge a car takes very little electricity. You can charge cars on as little as 120 volts at 8 amps -- that's less electricity than the average plug-in space heater.

A small parking lot could easily handle 20+ cars simultaneously charging overnight, with just a single standard US household circuit. (100 - 150 amps).


That's interesting, thanks.

But why didn't you consider other costs, such as equipment installation and maintenance?

And what about the grid? Can the grid sustain the equivalent amount of energy that the nation's cars burn every day in gasoline?


It costs $1 to put 8kW (30miles) into a car, and takes about an hour (for a level 2 charger) so the cost of electricity is less than the land value (unsubsidized meter rate) of the parking space itself, in any urban area.


Why didn't you consider other costs, such as equipment, installation, maintenance, etc? Why did you reduce the value to the parking meter rate?


no because carparks don't have the electrical power availed to support charging hundreds or cars at at a time - they will have enough to run the lights but not enough to service hundreds of high amperage car chargers


They won't need to charge hundreds of cars immediately.

When car parks need to charge hundreds of cars at a time, it will be proditable for them to they will build power providing structures.


If you know you will be away for 3 hours, why not use a slow charger instead of the limited fast chargers (that are probably more expensive as well)?


Why does everything good in the world get ruined? Because some people are just dicks. Unless there are active fines for holding up the queue in fast chargers, selfish people will make it worse for everyone.


There are charges, after your car is fully charge if you leave it on the charger for more than 10 minutes you start to be charged for the the extra time you leave you car there.


A multihead charger can move the charge to a different head every few minutes, and can apply quotas or QoS priority.


er no because people are used to going to the gas /petrol station and being able to refuel in 10 min


And the effect on the grid and electricity infrastructure is non trivial and in the USA the grid is not as well developed as it is in the UK Europe so its even worse for the USA with its 110v standard


Why? When this becomes a problem, it will be a revenue source for parking garages, hotels, fast food, etc.

Plus, many gas stations are like mini shopping centers now.


It seems like Tesla is at least hinting to aim for a system where you can basically send your car out to charge and have it back when you need it. Combining auto pilot with this prototype, it is at least feasible that it could work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMM0lRfX6YI

Edit: Also this discussion: https://www.reddit.com/r/teslamotors/comments/5los32/can_a_t...


Let me put it this way, I looked at buying an Electric Car but I live in a house with no driveway so there is no way I can ever own one. I would never risk the idea of driving to a supermarket hoping there is a free charging port for my car, just in case there isn't any free - it's not like I can just queue up the car. It's a huge fundamental hurdle and one that until solved will stop me from ever buying an Electric Vehicle.


In Germany (and elsewhere) the electric utility companies are working on converting street lanterns into car charging stations. This will enable people to charge their cars when parking near their homes.

Another solution (for some) would be to have a charging port in your parking lot at work.


> I would never risk the idea of driving to a supermarket hoping there is a free charging port for my car, just in case there isn't any free

Is the supermarket really the only place you don't park on the street? I realize at the present moment, it might be the only lot/garage you park in with a charger, but as EV adoption increases more public chargers will sprout up.

My point is that opportunistic charging while parked places people go already can meet the needs of at least some street parkers. I don't panic if there are no charging spots available when I park somewhere, because I'm not depending on any one single parking session to charge my car. I get a little charge here and a little there and in aggregate it meets my weekly charging needs (most of the time anyway, weeks with substantially higher mileage need special handling currently).

This is not to say it will necessarily meet your needs anytime soon; however, I think we are at a point where the relative price is the biggest hurdle to adoption. There's a lot of people for whom an EV would be practical with current infrastructure that don't have one. As more of those people buy them, there will be additional incentive to invest in public charging infrastructure. The more public charging infrastructure there is, the more practical EV ownership is for people who can't easily charge at home.


My neighbor dug a little trench to run a cable to the street in front of their house.


These are misconceptions, that stems from applying your expectations from how ICE is used, to BEV.

You don't need to get the time down to the same as it would take to refuel a conventional car, because unlike filling an ICE with gasoline, you can walk away from a charging BEV.

As BEV become popular, you won't see gas stations that offer fast charging. You'll see supermarkets, shopping malls, stores etc. Places that want to attract customers that have 10-30 minutes to kill. You already see this at places where the infrastructure is ahead, like here in Norway.

For most drivers, this is a win. Although charging takes longer, you're usually wasting less time.

Street parking is not much more of a challenge than any other infrastructure improvement. Does your street have light poles? Adding a charging pole isn't that much more difficult. The two can even be combined. Again, you can look to Oslo, Norway. There are street-side charging poles all over the place.

I get that the US is a bit more challenged when it comes to infrastructure. The governments isn't very effective these days it seems. But it's not impossible.

With all that said. The first people who adopt BEVs, will be people with a garage. Of course the people who have the easiest time adopting a new tech, will be the first to adopt it. But once the BEV+PHEV market hits a critical threshold, you'll see the infrastructure bloom.

It's a pretty simple business model: there will be companies that offer to install chargers for free, on the street side, in shared garages, at shopping locations, etc. In return they'll charge a small fee on top of the electricity. Who wouldn't want a free improvements for their citizens, shoppers, apartment tenants, etc?

Once investors realize that these companies will essentially grab most of the revenue of gas stations in a relatively short span of time, getting investments for this business model will not be an issue.


Half the range is really a non-starter. And is that range a "best case" range with ideal weather and new batteries and all down hill, or is that a worst case when its 20 below and the batteries are 5 years old? What's the minimum guaranteed range?

Having to have the car tied up to a charging station for long periods of time just to do normal kinds of around-the-town kinds of trips - also a non-starter.

Can you imagine a hurricane evac with primarily electric cars? Well, kids, we only made it 50 miles because daddy didn't have hours to charge the car after he got back from work...

Currently gas powered cars have a common fuel and storage that does not "wear out" or become obsolete (a tank). Battery powered cars are not quite that way. Kind of in the same way that battery powered tools all have different, incompatible batteries. Those battery powered tools become obsolete all the time when you can no longer find the batteries, or if you can, its cheaper to buy a new tool. So, until they get interchangeable batteries with compatible interfaces, there's significant risk of premature obsolescence, which could significantly inflate the cost. What are you going to do with a 5 year old car in this situation? That same situation is highly unlikely with gas powered cars.


I am on my second Nissan Leaf and can tell you that your concerns are largely unfounded. Most charging is opportunistic, and when you do need to do a big evacuation a Tesla sized battery can last longer than you can safely drive. In fact in the EU legal limits on commercial drivers are already exceeded by battery tech.

As for wearing out, taxi companies with leafs have over 200k on the packs and they are still good. Teslas have hit 500k miles and are still find. All that "new battery every five years" stuff turned out to be nonsense.


"When you do need to do a big evacuation a Tesla sized battery can last longer than you can safely drive"

This is plainly wrong. Let's say it's a Tesla Model S which has a real world range of about 400 km. That is about four hours of driving. I sometimes drive 600 km easily, with one longer break to eat and maybe a few shorters breaks to pee or just get out of the car and walk around a bit.

Your other statements are also somewhat exaggerated, see for example: https://insideevs.com/exclusive-interview-with-steve-marsh-a...

  > 150k miles
  > 50% capacity
  > not used in the cold anymore


The EU legal limit is

> a break or breaks totalling at least 45 minutes after no more than 4 hours 30 minutes driving

and

> 9 hours in a day - this can be extended to 10 hours twice a week

https://www.gov.uk/drivers-hours/eu-rules

The range of a 100KWh model S on the page for the UK ranges from 319 miles at 70mph (four and a half hours) to 514 miles at 45mph (eleven and a half hours). At 100KWh and 3+ miles per KWh (https://forums.tesla.com/forum/forums/real-world-range-new-o...) that's still 330 miles, plus.

Certainly seems like a reasonable claim that the battery can last longer than you can safely drive, particularly if you're not gunning it down a nice fast road.


Yep, on evacuation day, when you are sitting in stop and go traffic, EVs are a big win because they get much better mileage at low speeds.


Wow. A 6 or 7 year old car that is completely useless. A 3 hour charge time to go 65 miles. If it's highway driving - only 35 miles - unless there is a headwind.

Mind boggling.


That's not all:

  > No more regenerative braking
  > 35 mile range now
  > Using the QC (quick charger?) more than once a day voids battery warranty


I’ve seen work electric vehicles advertised that let you plug your electric tools in. No battery powered tools required and no generator. However not all tools are better when attached by a cord - my lithium ion drill is incredible.


I agree the new tools are incredible. Their planned obsolescence interval seems to be a lot shorter, though.


worse, the range issue is exaggerated in winter. all these range numbers are for mild and warm weather. people need to understand how much range you lose in winter which only gets worse the more internal heat you use.

range > charge times > cost. of the first two I am not sure which is easier. besides the cost difference of the power trains there is a serious weight difference as well that was no addressed


Or street parking needs to make way for bike lanes, transit, and pedestrian space!

To be honest, though, electrifying public parking isn't that outlandish either. Fairbanks, Alaska has done it for a while to power engine block heaters.


Wow, an image search for the query "engine block heaters public parking" gave me a peek of how our all-electrified automotive future is going to look like. Impressive.


Sure, it's entirely possible but it represents a major capital expenditure for urban municipalities, probably more than most could afford without external subsidies.


In the long run it saves money on cleaning and dealing with the health consequences.

Like all infrastructure projects there is an initial outlay.


As an electric car owner, I can assure you, that that isn't an issue. You don't need to charge every time you park. A trip to a fast charging station once a week is enough for the average driver (perhaps these will be installed at shopping malls, supermarket parking lots eventually).

People who drive a lot will typically visit fast charging stations when they cover longer distances anyway and also usually own a garage.

So, this is a non-issue. Enough peak (fast) charging capacity (when millions of Germans drive to their holidays in Italy e.g.) is a real problem.


Note that as battery prices drop, just having a larger battery that only needs charged once a week becomes more and more possible. People in suburbs need to drive further for a daily commute, but have easier overnight charging. People in urban centers have more trouble charging but need to drive less distance (and often in the kind of start-stop traffic that EVs work so well for, which changes their range in comparison with an ICE car).


Larger batteries are prohibitively heavy though; electric cars are already pushing the weight up, compensating it with being more powerful, but at the same time they cost more energy to get in motion, which lowers battery life.

Lighter and higher capacity batteries would be ideal, but I'm not sure how feasible that is with current battery tech. I gathered one manufacturer was working on solid state batteries for use in cars, which should give more capacity at the same weight? not sure.


Average commuting distance by car is 8.5 miles in London. The batteries are already big enough and are only going to get bigger/lighter/cheaper.


In the slightly more distant future, when we have perfected autonomous driving, it could be feasible for a car to drive itself to a large parking facility on the outskirts of a city, for example.

Assuming people still want to own their own cars by then.


The low-tech version of that already exists - a lot of big cities offer P+R, that is, you park your car outside of the city and get cheap public transit the rest of the way.

Still only feasible if you're okay spending an extra half an hour traveling and your destination is hard to reach / expensive park at though. If that's automated it'd be neat. I mean it already sorta is if you have a good bus network, but those generally aren't door-to-door. There's also taxis, that is, if you're rich enough you can afford to take a taxi to work every day. Might even be the gig economy / uber becomes cheap enough to make it compete with public transit.


First world city streets already have electricity supply (for the street light and for the buildings). Setting up charging ports is already rather cheap and once cities realize that they can

- drastically reduce air pollution

- make more money selling electricity than just charging for parking

they will quickly start installing plugs everywhere.

Battery range is already at around 500 km for Tesla model S and X and the long range version of model 3, and close to 1,000 km for the new roadster. With the current incremental improvements, in 4-5 years battery range for ordinary medium priced EVs will go beyond 7-800 km on a single charge, super chargers and other chargers will be abundant, and charging will become a non-issue. Within 8-10 years, even the lowest priced EVs will have a range beyond that of combustion engine cars (6-800 km), unless innovation mysteriously were to end.


Id speak to an electrical engineer before you make such wild assertions - upgrading supplies like this will be massively expensive.

Also battery tech doesn't follow mores law so we aint going to get an order of magnitude change in battery tech ever


We don't need improvements at a rate that is anywhere near Moore's law. Moore's law is about doubling transistor density every two years. But for EVs to reach that kind of ranges (7-800 km for mid range price) we just need to add 50-60 percent or so one time, and I'm talking about that happening in 4-5 years. For the cheap EVs that currently have a range of around 3-400 km we need to double one time. I suggest we will get there in less than 10 years and that is not even taking into consideration the fact that prices on batteries keep dropping.

A "modest" 5-10 percent improvement like we've seen historically, for another 7-10 years, and we have more or less doubled the energy density of batteries. Plenty for EVs to beat combustion engine cars.

https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/08/daily-...

https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-battery-energy-density...


your going to need Nobel prize level breakthroughs to make ev's ubiquitous and that will take say 20 years from discovery to industrial production


Battery technology is already improving by roughly 8% a year.

There is no need for a nobel prize level breakthrough.

These modern technologies like photovoltaic and eletric vechiles are already viable today. They are within the same order of magnitude as the technology they are replacing and the gap is decreasing with every year.

There is a lot of useless crap out there that doesn't at all work like gravity batteries. EVs and PV are not part of that category.


"First world city streets already have electricity supply" powering a light bulb in 100 street lights and having enough capacity to charge 100 electric cars are 2 totally different animals and will require significant infra. upgrades.


It’s the exact same cables that powers the thousands of light bulbs, hundreds of computers, AC, TV, fridges etc in the buildings next to the street


Yep and most of the cables are close to max capacity


This is what I never understood : why don't they create cars where the battery is removable and when you go to a "gas" station there's a machine that just change your empty battery for a full one.

In fact I thought about patenting the idea 10 years ago but I didn't have the know-how.


Tesla was going to have something like that, but they ended up dropping the idea for a while. Looks like they might be considering it again, though

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5V0vL3nnHY

https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-shuts-down-battery-swap-prog...

https://electrek.co/2017/09/15/tesla-new-battery-swap-techno...


The battery-swap idea has in fact been fairly well established for a while, but nobody has actually made it work. I believe that Tesla considered going down this route for a while.

Here is a HN classic about "Better Place", a company that rolled out "battery swap" electric cars in Israel. https://www.fastcompany.com/3028159/a-broken-place-better-pl...


Better place did that but it's actually far worse idea than it sounds. People have electricity in their homes and it's much easier to establish a grid of super chargers than building for changing batteries.

It might happen over time when infrastructure is better established.


People have been talking about this for as long as they've been talking about electric cars, and several companies have demoed prototypes. The two main problems are that the machines needed to do this change are very expensive and tricky to maintain compared to a simple gas pump, and more importantly, unless you can get all car manufacturers to agree to a universal standard for batteries and battery access you're going to need a half dozen different machines and batteries at each gas station, driving up the costs even further.


  unless you can get all car manufacturers to agree
  to a universal standard for batteries
And unless batteries get so good that the battery in that £19,000 Renault Zoe has identical performance to the battery in that £90,000 Tesla Model X, they never will :)


Or for that matter people accepting having their brand new Tesla X battery replaced with a 5 year old Tesla X battery.

I suppose one solution would be that cars have two batteries. One battery that is specific to the make/model of the car and one battery that is easily replaceable. So perhaps the cheap Renault basically only has the replaceable battery while the Tesla X has 70% of its battery capacity in it's super awesome main battery and only 30% in the 'crappy' replaceable battery which you only replace when you quickly need an extra 100 miles of range.


I think it was too complex for a demand it has (most people can just charge car at home every night). They will probably revisit it when more electric cars are around (especially later with self-driving fleets, it's a no-brainer).


Kind of like how you can swap the gas canister of a BBQ grill!


The size of battery needed to propel a full-size car makes swapping mechanically prohibitive. It would be like swapping a 4U rackmount server loaded with HDDs.


It's doable, I've seen prototypes where you just drive your car onto a platform and robots do the replacing.


Because batteries get old and need to be replaced, so you'd have to pay for the aging of your battery when you get the new one


You could solve that by subscribing to your battery rather than outright owning it.


you pay for the service and that cost should be factored in.


They did this in Israel. Maybe still are.


Better Place sadly went under in 2013; not enough market penetration, lack of focus on a few target markets, and difficulty getting enough capital together for the infrastructure.


You're still talking today. By the time electric takes over, there is a good chance self driving will be here also.

That's when this becomes possible: Your car will drop you off, go get charged, and come back if you want it to, or just park off-site and pick you up in the morning.

But now think about zip cars and Uber/Lyft. The price of point to point transit will fall from human wage level to robot wage level.

Imagine those services at a fraction of the cost. And more rides would be available also without the need for paid drivers. They'd also deliver mail and food.

Of course... all this was also omitted by the article. But this does appear to be the consensus regarding where this is all headed.


> By the time electric takes over, there is a good chance self driving will be here also.

Either you are very unoptimistic about electric cars, or have an unrealistic view of what self driving is going to mean.

Electric cars are gaining traction, and by all accounts will be 10-20% of new cars by say 2023-2025. A completely driverless self driving car on the other hand is still a fantasy, despite Elon musk's constant claims.


No, street parking is unique enough and inconvenient enough already that electric cars can take over for everyone else and force those who rely on street parking to adapt. Looking for some sources on the population distribution of street parking, I found this [1] (admittedly from 1999, but still pretty informative even if the numbers have changed by more than I'd expect):

> PARKING: Slightly more than nine in ten American households (91 percent) have at least one car, van, or light truck at home for personal use.

> Because 71 percent of homeowners and 35 percent of renters have more than one vehicle, parking space can be a real concern. Garages or carports are common for households living in single-detached units–just over three in four of these homes (76 percent) have a covered shelter for vehicles. Townhouses or row houses, on the other hand, include a garage or carport less than half the time (46 percent). In both mobile homes and units in multi-unit buildings, the proportion is 26 percent.

> At homes without a garage or carport available, vehicles may be left either on the street or in a driveway, parking lot, or other off-street space. For homes without a garage or carport, some kind of off-street space is available at 87 percent of the detached units, at about 75 percent of both the single attached units and units in multi-unit structures, and at 90 percent of the mobile homes.

> All this leaves about 7.8 million households who must rely on street parking. Of course, not all of those households have vehicles. Four in ten households who report no offstreet or garage parking also have no vehicles.

That suggests there are roughly 4.7 million of 100 million households that park on the street. That's small enough that electric vehicles could 'take over' even if those people were holdouts.

[1]: https://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/ahb-9901.pdf


in Norway they have free charging in the street for electric cars. https://youtu.be/zSjYra7cYqY?t=4m8s


Only in a tiny handful of places. But it at least shows that it can be done.


Are you needing parking spaces at all. I think the big benefit is that you wouldn't need parking spaces in cities at all. "Uber" cars could instead drive to the next passenger. You also could avoid driving around over a ton of batteries. Instead you could use self driving battery packs that are laid out on the side of the road and can follow you and dock on to your car if you need an extension.


London is installing electric car charging stations inside lamp posts for street charging

https://electrek.co/2017/11/14/london-electric-car-charging-...


I think that will happen if it will be needed. But there's plenty of people who can just charge car at home every night, that's a big market for adoption


Why can't your (or shared) car go and charge itself while you are not using it?


You are confusing electric vehicles with self-driving ones.


Not confusing. It is so much easier to make electric vehicles self-driving compared to the ICE vehicles. It may be economically feasible to do so in not so distant future. Real estate, including parking spaces is expensive. There was a good Freakonomics episode about that few years ago [1].

Main barriers to self-driving will soon be juridical, not technological. This is not just random internet rambling. I'm an engineer and have been working on commercial autonomous vehicle subsystems for a while. I can with full confidence say that the technology is already there.

[1] http://freakonomics.com/podcast/parking-is-hell-a-new-freako...


> It is so much easier to make electric vehicles self-driving compared to the ICE vehicles.

Why?


Faster response time in motor control, high torque in low revs. Makes math simpler.


What maths? I don't see what I'm missing:

Normal acceleration and maintaining speed is trivial to handle with simple control loops. This isn't like e.g. phase detect autofocus where you want to supply a single input at the start to get to the correct end position; accelerating a massive vehicle takes a significant amount of time, such that a control loop has to: - gradually increase the accerator input from the start point - decrease accelerator input as the desired speed is approached - maintain a constant speed

This is trivial for a control engineer.

In some ways ICEs are easier than electric motors - you get free damping on your accelerator input!

Outside of normal driving, you also have emergencies, where surely the alternatives are basically braking, steering, and hard acceleration, which respectively require engine inputs of 0 (i.e. no gas), no change (or again 0), and max. And hard acceleration is almost never the answer to emergencies anyway.

When does a self driving car need to know "provide exactly X power to the engine", where X is none of [0, a little less than currently, no change, a little more than currently, max]?

Source for control loops: On a general engineering course bachelors, our 1 days labs included one of which a part was writing speed control software for ICEs and one of which a part was writing position control software for an electric helicopter.


Automatic gearbox cars are easy enough to control, for both electric and fuel cars the input is a throttle.


Price? (for normal people)

Yes there are EVs cheaper than teslas at a comparable price to ICE cars, but they don't seem to have comparable performance and utility. I can't make an economically minded decision to buy an EV today unless i'm an EV enthusiast or I have lots of money to spend on luxury. (That was Elon Musks whole point of Tesla in the first place, but the market doesn't seem to have substantially shifted since)

Also for second hand cars, maybe it's different in the US, but in the UK the vast majority of people buy used cars at prices well below the "new price". It's going to take quite a while for EVs to trickle down to that price range for it to be economical for 90% of people to bother considering it.


The general prediction is for the total-cost-of-ownership to be lower in the next few years, and for the upfront price to be lower a few years after that.

Governments and corporations are making plans based on those assumptions. I've not heard anyone credibly argue against it, though there may be quibbles about the exact timing. (And of course, there's geographical variation based on gas prices, government policy, average driving distance etc. so some areas will get there first).

Price deflation of new cars should force the prices on second hard cars down too.

So any argument about EVs being expensive or elitist or whatever is wrong in the medium term.


Yes i agree, it's all timing. My comment is in response to the current state of the EV market.

> The general prediction is for the total-cost-of-ownership to be lower in the next few years, and for the upfront price to be lower a few years after that.

I think upfront price is more important than most people think. The problem with the "total cost of ownership" argument is it ignores the fact that money now is worth far more than money later, effectively increasing total cost of ownership.

For a concrete worst case example consider the difference in upfront cost between ICE and EV, make it into a loan, add interest and _then_ compare it.

Personally i'm totally up for all the benefits of low maintenance though and would happily trade in an equivalent price up front. I hate the complexity and unreliability of ICE, although the excessively integrated computer systems in EVs sound like another mess to look forward to.


This fact is very easy to forget for most of us here, given the salaries in tech. When you're working multiple jobs or are underemployed and trying to support a family, each dollar is some suffering you can alleviate or a problem you can solve now and that is much more important than long term investment. You can't invest if you can't even guarantee that you can feed yourself for long enough to benefit from it.


People scraping together a few thousand dollars to buy a beater ICE so they can get to work are not doing TCO analyses.

It's also a pretty open question what the cost of EVs looks like long-term. Even if we limit the discussion to new vehicles, you can buy a new ICE econobox for close to $15K which could last you 10 years and 150K miles fairly easily. I sure wouldn't bet on an electric car doing that on its original battery pack.


Then you will lose, the good EV cars have 90% of their battery life left after a lot more miles than that.

See: https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1110149_tesla-model-s-b...


For 15k? he wont lose.

I think you and the parent commenter have different definitions of "scraping together a few thousand"... A Tesla model s might be sofa money for millionaires but it's unreachable to us filthy peasants thank you very much.

Try find a decent EV with a battery for longevity that is also affordable.


> People scraping together a few thousand dollars to buy a beater ICE so they can get to work are not doing TCO analyses

Is that something you’ve studied, or are you just guessing? You don’t think there are people with low incomes who budget aggressively?


The reasons why it can be expensive to be poor have been studied and written about rather extensively. e.g. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-greutman/why-being-poo...

I do think many people with lower incomes budget aggressively. However, they may simply not be in a situation that they can optimize for a longer time horizon.


Ok, maybe don’t say they don’t budget then if it’s not true.


On the other-hand, I have seen lots of people who do not have high incomes spend money on luxuriates that make them feel good but the money would be better being invested into something else in the long run.

I am not talking about poor people bringing something into their life to feel good about, I am talking about people who could save thousands of dollars over three months to a year but instead spend on things like EXTRA flat screen TVs, the latest Iphone while they are still under contract to the old one, vacations where they stay in the more expensive rooms, etc.

Many times in talking to them I notice they don't spend the time to do the research on where they should spend the money so they often spend more than me for the same thing and way, way too often demand they want something now.

Example: My landlady was going to sign for a new furnace for her second rental (Installation charge+ $89 a month for the next 5 years), I talked her out of it and it turned out to just need a $50 new motor + installation charge $100).

Last week she had no sound, she wanted to buy a new computer. I backed up her files, used the install partition and reconnected her internet and email.

But she thought no sound means you have to buy a new computer!


Not only do TCO's already include the time value of money, there's multiple business models around taking monthly payments from EV owners equal to their usual monthly gas usage minus monthly electric usage which lets people pay as they save so the prices are more directly comparable.


Mobility services will solve a lot of that. Not only do you spread the initial investment across all customers, you also spread out maintenance and depreciation, while getting economies of scale in fleet management.

I have a hard time imagining a fleet of electric Google self driving cars being more expensive per mile than even the cost of gasoline.

Of course gas will go down to $2 to try to compete, but they’re fighting physics.

Mobility services also have some unique benefits: you can get a 2 seater or a 7 seater or whatever you want for each trip. You can do one-way rides. You can be on your phone. You can be ill/injured, etc.

I just don’t see how an owned ICE can compare unless you are an ICE enthusiast.


I've been watching the used Tesla market, and it would appear that the reduced TCO is already priced into cars in that market. They're very close to the new car price.


Every EV owner in my area seems to also own a gas car too. My landlord commutes in an EV but his wife has a normal suv for all the kid stuff. (Im in BC where long higheay trips are very much the norm.) EVs are fine if you can afford to keep a second vehicle to cover all the things they cannot do.


BC is a bit of an exception because of the low density. In a higher density area, you can count on public transit to take you long distances and use the electric car to make up the difference.

One of the benefits of going full electric would be smog reduction. Again, BC doesn't really have a smog problem because of low density, but somewhere like Toronto or LA would benefit hugely from not having gas and diesel vehicles clogging up the streets (and air).


BC's density is both low and high. For the entire population, it is very low. But if you start with something like 80% of the population, that lives in two or three tiny places, basically the GVRD, Victoria and Kamloops. The BC population is best described as being very dense but surrounded by vast areas of emptiness. Draw a line from West Vancouver (one of canada's most expensive suburbs) to alaska. You will cross only two roads. Dense urban city, a small fence, then thousands of miles of nothing.


This is probably a reflection more of the demographic that can own EV's: wealthy people, likely older with children. Personally if there were a good EV in my price range (perhaps the model 3) I would have no need for a gas-powered car. I don't regularly need a large range and on the once-very-few-months occasion where I do need more range, I can just rent a car


Suv/minivan/wagon aren't wealthy cars, they are suburban/rural family cars.


I guess I don't understand the original post then. Of course if you live in a rural area you'll need a car with longer range than an EV. Most people don't live in rural areas, so most people won't need to own a gas powered car to go alongside their electric car.

It just seems like an unfair complaint about electric vehicles - the problem isn't the EV's, but people buying them without having a good use for them. I don't buy a jackhammer and then complain that I have no use for it


There are certainly good use cases for them but one of the best ones is as a second vehicle. That's more or less the situation I have in an exurban locale. An SUV for weekend trips, snow, hauling stuff and (in my case) a small good gas mileage car for most local trips.

What I wouldn't do is give up the ICE SUV. There's no way I'm going to deal with the hassle of a rental or the uncertainty of a charger system whenever I have a longer drive unless the economics became really compelling.


The classic mom-with-kids is on the road all day. EVs dont have the range/endurance to do the school runs, shopping, then haul the kids to sports. Ive also never seen one even attempt to haul the boat to the lake for a weekend, a very middle class thing in my area. (Rich people dont store thier boats at home.)


A Bolt can certainly do everything you mentioned, except possibly haul a boat. You can fully recharge at home overnight with an inexpensive Level 2 charger. And a new Bolt is definitely cheaper than most new SUVs.


As i sit here in the snow waiting for my car to warm up and my windows defog, as they close the road i need to drive today, im glad not to worry about charging stations. I have 130km of BC mountain driving ahead of me. I need heat+range, two things EVs dont do well.


I know two couples who have replaced one of their ICEs with Nissan Leafs. Now one of them is economically commuting in an EV daily and they retain the ability to take road trips in their partner’s car.

But I don’t see a reasonable way for a single person to have only an EV in my area either. There’s just too much >50 miles away.


250 mile EV's can make 500 mile day trips just fine as long as you can use a charging network. IC's are better if you're doing that every weekend, but most people don't drive over 200 miles a day very often.


Over the last 20 years a 250+ mile range electric would have worked fine for every trip I have actually taken. (Assuming the current charging infrastructure.) Now, with slightly different habits renting an SUV 0-4 times a year is minimal effort and cost.

So, yea if you do 1000+ mile trips monthly without flying then electric is not going to work, but that's unusual.


You arent driving very far then. 250km is barely an afternoon on the road. Im doing some training next month in comox, 260km away from work. Im expected to drive there and back in the same day.


250 miles is 402 km. It's well over 3 hours at highway speeds, which IMO is the limit for any reasonable day trip as a recharge while you're there means it's really 6+ hours per day of driving.

Granted, this assumes you can charge at that location, but EV charging stations are plentiful.


EV chargers exist in many areas, but fast chargers are much thinner on the ground.

So currently, you need to park by a non-fast-charger for 6+ hours at your destination if you want to consume your full range one way. And if all the chargers are in use/broken when you arrive, you’re pretty screwed. Broken is surprisingly common, there appears to be an agency problem with charger maintenance.

I was disappointed to realize this; I’m going to have to borrow a Prius to make my winter break 300 mile road trip. My wife just wasn’t interested in the adventure of searching for available, not currently broken chargers to get the extra 75 miles of range we’d need.

Tesla owners have a better experience in this regard.


Fair point.

I generally assume this is just growing pains, their are over 1/2 million Tesla model 3 reservations. The end point is going to be most parking spaces having a charging station operated at a slight profit. Or possibly even in road charging for absolutely unlimited range.


120miles is the capacity of affordable EV today. We hope it gets better.


Depends on how you run the numbers, saving 1,000+$/year on gas adds up. Maintenance costs are tricky as you do need to replace the batteries, but IC cars also have a lot of expensive repairs that are not relevant on electric cars.

It's the used electric car market that's going to be really interesting. A new battery could for example be longer range than the initial battery, and we are looking at sub 100$/kwh batteries very soon.


Chevy Bolt is 240 miles..


My Ford F150 with a 36-gallon tank is around 550 miles.


Congratulations, you win this week’s Unsolicited Non-Sequitur Award. We return you to our discussion of electric cars, already in progress.


A 4 door Solar car can do a 3,000++ mile range. But, surprisingly people care about other things.

https://solarteameindhoven.nl/stella-vie/


Shhh... that's the not the example they're wanting :)


I agreed. It's about prices

Musk realized the economics and decided (best underpants plan ever) to start at the enthusiast-luxury end with the sports car.

But, his crucial point was that for people already in the luxury market, he'd be able to quickly drop the enthusiast requirement. The cost of batteries that compete with a fuel tank on range does not scale with the rest of the car. Tesla now competes on a side-by-side basis, price considered. They are only in the higher price segments still, but have definitely reached the tall part of the curve with the 3s. He also predicted that the luxury threshold^ above which an EV competitive, would gradually fall.

So, so far he's been right (tsla as an investment... separate discussion. The other stuff ...charging stations, used car markets, etc.. those are are effects, not causes.

I do think the last leg of the price game will be tricky though. Subsidies don't make sense anymore. The innovation has been stimulated already. The volume is going up and keeping up subsidies will be expensive. People will also eventually kick up a fuss about subsidizing some yuppie lawyers nice new car. Cleaning these up is a process because they're a mess. Manufacturer subsidies, buyer subsidies. Lower car tax, which is now a carbon tax.

The biggest subsidy is probably fuel. 40l of petrol (about 500km) costs €50-€55. Half of that is tax. VAT & excise. EVs are exempt by default. These are serious, budget busting taxes. My guess is that EVs will eventually need to pay these, one way or another. They still need roads and such.

Long road until you can pick up a 7 years old Tesla for €5k, but we seem to be on it. The destination will be inevitable long before we reach it.

^The price category.


Georgia (USA) had a very lucrative EV tax incentive: US$5000 on a purchase or lease. The city of Atlanta is perfect for such vehicles: commute under 50 miles, desire to mitigate smog, temperature conducive to good battery performance. Result was a lot of people (myself included) leased a Nissan Leaf for 2 years at practically no cost[1]. This jumpstarted the EV market, persuaded installation of a LOT of chargers, and persuaded many people that EVs are a desirable option (if a bit more expensive up-front).

Eventually demand for the tax credit got so high, and revenue from gasoline taxes dropped enough, that the state dropped the incentive - going the other way even, charging a straight-up $200 annual tax on EVs for road use. The market for EVs evaporated (understandable, because no more free-for-2-years cars). The ripple effects from the artificial demand being abruptly cut off will affect the EV industry for long: people found them desirable, but expect them cheap.

I expect the EV market will eventually happen. They're very nice cars, and starting every day "topped off" is very convenient. Battery technology has progressed well, with enough money & interest to see it thru to seriously competing with petrol.

[1] - The net cost was $zero + upgrades, but it did require considerable cash flow to pull off: you had to lease a $36,000 car and get your credits at tax time - possibly years later. Atlanta has a good confluence of incomes, high-tech interests, and weather facilitating this.


> Subsidies don't make sense anymore. The innovation has been stimulated already.

Debatable; subsidies can make sense for other reasons (internalizing externalities unrelated to innovation) than stimulating innovation.


Agreed. Subsidies should continue, but I would couple them with a carbon tax in a few years, when there are many more EV options on the market, the prices have been lowered, and there are EV chargers everywhere.

Then introduce a large carbon tax and launch a "dump your ICE car for an EV" program for lower income people where they can get an half the car subsidized but the EV can't cost more than $20,000. Use the large carbon tax to fund these subsidies. To increase the effectiveness of the program say that by 2030 ICE cars will be banned in cities and no new sales of ICE cars will be allowed.


The biggest aid to subsidies is "chicken-and-egg" issues: nobody wants to buy an EV if there's nowhere (other than home) to charge it, and nobody wants to install public chargers if there's nobody driving EVs. Atlanta has cleared that hurdle: lots of chargers were installed, reaching critical mass where the worst of those worries are mitigated and both sides willing to take the step to bring more cars & chargers into the system.


Subsidies are justifiable as long as there is a need to counter-balance existing subsidization of the gasoline car ecosystem. In other words, a subsidy that one should be able to do without in a vacuum is still needed in an environment where extraction, transport, refining, etc. of fossil fuel is all more or less subsidized.


The USA massively subsidizes gasoline spending. First of all you have externalities of pollution, and the health related expense for that. Next you have a $trillion/yr in military spending dedicated to providing a secure oil supply.


Product life and price for batteries will be a big consideration. A lot of young and poorer people buy pretty cheap "beater" cars that they keep running as best they can.


How about: We need to shift from individual car ownership to more public transport? Sure it will be great if cars turn electric, but that does not solve issues like crowded streets etc. This would be partly addressed if cars were self driving and shared, i.e. would spend less time standing around unused. Nevertheless, I assume (=don't have data) that public transport would be much more efficient than electric cars in terms of energy/ resource/ space usage.

Maybe in the future, the line between private and public transport will be more blurry, i.e. you take a shared, self driving car to the railway station etc.


In Norway we have a common expression: "Ja takk, begge deler". When given a choice between two things that are implied mutually exclusive, it means "Yes, I'll take both please".

Maybe that's why we have more EVs per capita than anywhere else, and are still investing heavily in improving public transportation. You can do both.

You can even do electric buses. Oslo just got deliveries of its first ones.

I think we'll start to see many smaller self-driving buses, and that more people will prefer these over driving. I know I would. The only reason I prefer driving to work right now is that I have to switch from bus to train when doing public transportation. I don't get enough time in one vehicle to calm down and read something. If it was more or less direct, I'd prefer it, even if I had to walk a bit longer (I consider that a benefit actually). Buses have dedicated lanes here, so it shouldn't take much more time even with a couple of stops along the way.

But that's the future. There are still millions of personal cars sold, and will be for a long time forward. These needs to be EV. Besides, EVs technology will facilitate the development of these self-driving buses. It's easier and safer for a bus to charge itself, than to fuel itself. It's also easier to test self-driving tech in a large fleet of smaller cars.


A few problems with more public transit. First, public transport is not door-to-door; for my commute atm, public transit would take 2 hours (for a 60 km distance), more if there's a hitch on the way. It'll pretty much always take longer because you're stuck on one or multiple schedules.

The other problem in my country is that the public transit networks are already at maximum capacity - train network in particular is struggling. There's pushes to spread people out more, away from rush hour, but employers and the people themselves have to be okay with that too. But yeah, public transit has a maximum capacity, just like roads do.

And of course in the US, the public transit network is substandard, and getting it up to par will take a huge investment - cities will need to be uplifted, etc. But in the US the problem is more political - there's no business that wants to invest billions in a public transit network. And if a government sets it up people will complain that their tax dollars (all three of them) go to things they don't make use of. It's a cultural issue there. The US - and SF in particular - could be in the forefront of public transit for everyone, but nope, muh government.

Full rant mode engaged: The US is the richest country in the world with some of the richest people in the world, but it's not being invested in basics like access to transportation, health care and education to make quality of life for its inhabitants better.

that escalated, sorry.


I approve of your rant :)


It's clear that buses are vastly more efficient in terms of moving large numbers of people around, and so ride sharing alone (even automated) will just continue to tie up traffic. At a point, uber and lyft will have to introduce buses in order to keep their single-use services attractive. But, as long as there is private ownership, we won't have wide adoption of public transportation.

Everywhere in the world I have traveled, I have noticed that usually 1) public transportation is limited only to a town/city, and 2) private buses to move between cities/provinces are limited by market forces, and thus put a penalty on people living farther from economic drivers. Which forces people in remote areas, who on average make less money, to own cars to get to jobs [which robs them of time and money they could be investing in their future etc].

The only way to change the inequality of people getting to jobs/goods/services is to remove private car ownership and institute nation-wide public transportation, and subsidize the more expensive parts of the network. Not only would this be cheaper overall and more efficient overall, it would raise the GDP, reduce pollution, reduce debt, reduce traffic fatalities, and increase upward mobility.

People think cars give them freedom, but they never think about the societal cost.


> People think cars give them freedom,

They don't just think so, they know it

> but they never think about the societal cost.

There is a "societal cost" attached to everything. Housing, Eating, going to the restroom. Society should evolve to make known improvements to people's lives available to more people and not devolve to a point where most modern amenities are considered too expensive for most people.

That said, pretty much everybody hates public transport everywhere in the world. It's better than nothing of course and in some densely-populated areas it's actually an improvement and faster than using a car (the subway). But given a reasonable choice, people prefer having their own cars, just like they prefer to have their own homes instead of sharing one with dozens of other people. Whatever the "societal cost" may be (what's the cost of individual housing?).


I don't think your perspective is realistic. If you think people make reasonable choices, I have some sad news.

People "prefer" a lot of things. People prefer soda and potato chips and 1000-calorie meals. People prefer to not pay taxes for health care and public education. People prefer to get pregnant and not get married. People prefer to live in suburbs away from inner cities full of people who might be different than them. People prefer not to save money. People prefer to vote along party lines and watch TV news that aligns with their views rather than reality. And they also prefer to drive individual cars which are highly likely to injure or kill them, or own handguns which are also likely to injure or kill them, and yet rant like paranoid lunatics if they have to get on a plane with a guy in a turban.

That being said, I know a lot of people around the world who prefer public transportation. It gives them time to read, to communicate. And like you mentioned, it is faster than commuting by car. It is, of course, also vastly cheaper than owning a car. But it also enables people to make more money by getting better jobs, without having to invest in a car, which is often a significant impediment.

> Society should evolve to make known improvements to people's lives available to more people

I agree! Like public transportation.

> and not devolve to a point where most modern amenities are considered too expensive for most people

Kind of like cars, an amenity which is often needed to get a job, but also ties people up in debt from loans and maintenance costs and insurance costs and registration costs and parking tickets and parking lot fees and traffic tickets, making it harder to make a living.

You're saying cars should be made cheaper, of course, but this is absolutely ridiculous. Since 1967, the cost of a car (adjusted for inflation) has either stayed the same or risen. There is no indicator at all that cars in this market will get cheaper any time soon. Other markets have cheaper cars, either because of regulatory influence, or because they simply produce cars at rates that their people can afford. Which means cheaper cars could be sold here, but manufacturers know they can make more money here.

So - what would a "reasonable" choice be? To go into debt to own a transportation method they don't need? Or to buy an SUV so they can drive to Starbucks and spend $4 on a coffee?

People are idiots, and we should not define the terms of our society based on their whims alone.


> If you think people make reasonable choices, I have some sad news.

They make their own choices. It's not up to us to patronisingly decide what's reasonable for them, as long as what they do isn't destroying society itself.

> And like you mentioned, it is faster than commuting by car.

That's not always the case. I live in a large city (1.9 million people) with one of the best public transport systems of the world and depending on where you live, it's faster by 30-45 mins to drive than to use public transport to some other part of the city,

People like me prefer to have time to use as we please rather than strangers to stare at. So we drive when we save time, or when it's raining or when many people are sick and cough at everyone. Unreasonable?

> an amenity which is often needed to get a job, but also ties people up in debt from loans and maintenance costs and insurance costs and registration costs and parking tickets and parking lot fees and traffic tickets, making it harder to make a living.

So does public transport by costing tax money and therefore putting pressure on governments to increase taxes.

> You're saying cars should be made cheaper, of course, but this is absolutely ridiculous.

Please don't make up stuff.

> There is no indicator at all that cars in this market will get cheaper any time soon.

EV will.

> People are idiots, and we should not define the terms of our society based on their whims alone

Exactly my point, the question is: who's the idiot? The one who forces people to cut down on their lifestyle choices (soon we'll have to go vegan because of the societal, environmental and moral cost of meat, right?) or the one who opts for freedom of choice and technological progress to make more choices sustainable?


We've already forced people to cut down on their lifestyle choices in multiple markets in order to help them stop killing themselves and others. Smoking. Drunk driving. Trans fats. Seat belt laws.

Driving was the 12th leading cause of death, and 7th in terms of number of years of life lost, in 2011. This is a major health concern in the US. Is it worth it to kill 36,000 people a year so that they can have the "freedom" of a particular "lifestyle"? I'm sure those who own cars can rationalize it, but if we were talking about motorcycles they would probably be banned from public streets within a year.

There's certainly good to come from making existing choices less harmful, but in the face of no better choice, and the choice not getting any better in the perceivable future, removing the choice is often a good idea.

Moreover, this lifestyle choice has not only negative health effects, but actually lowers local economic activity, to say nothing of worsening income inequality, upward mobility, and debt. Even if you brought the cost down by half (which would seem incredibly odd to me, as you basically have only one or two providers of some of the essential parts needed, so why would they not charge the prices that the market already bears for these products? case in point: car prices have never gone down) you still have all the other negative aspects of cars - death, parking, traffic, pollution, inequality, etc. EV only solves one of those things. The rest have zero practical solutions.

You can also look at it this way: the technical progress does not stop just because cars are taken off the road. You can still improve batteries for a variety of uses, the existing tech is still documented and can be brought back, and when self-driving cars are stable, you can look at whether they are even necessary for auto-lifestylers with a well-funded national public transportation system. Certainly they wouldn't be needed in the numbers they are today.


> Driving was the 12th leading cause of death, and 7th in terms of number of years of life lost, in 2011

Including buses, right? Or do they never crash?

> Is it worth it to kill 36,000 people a year so that they can have the "freedom" of a particular "lifestyle"?

Yes, because it comes with great utility as well.

You could ask the same questions about smoking (in private), drinking alcohol, lack of exercise, flying in airplanes etc. - are you going to forbid all of these?

> Moreover, this lifestyle choice has not only negative health effects, but actually lowers local economic activity, to say nothing of worsening income inequality, upward mobility, and debt.

Yeah, right.

> the technical progress does not stop just because cars are taken off the road.

If you take away a market, you'll hamper progress.


Most folks are not car-enthusiasts. Lots of us would gladly give up driving. So no, its not worth it to us. The utility is all in the time/cost. So a good public transit network would be a fine replacement for car ownership. Nothing at all like smoking, alcohol et al.

Also, busses. A bus crash favors the bus. There are rarely (compared to cars) any deaths. Its a pure public-health win.


> Including buses, right? Or do they never crash?

Oh, I forgot about all those buses constantly crashing. They account for 0.6% of all traffic accidents.

> Yes, because it comes with great utility as well.

A small portion of drivers need their vehicles for a utilitarian purpose. The vast majority use them simply as personal transportation. It's similar to guns. A very small amount of them are used for a utilitarian purpose, and the rest are owned for fun, yet they kill 33,000 every year. If ownership were limited only for utilitarian purpose, these numbers would go way, way down.

> You could ask the same questions about smoking (in private), drinking alcohol, lack of exercise, flying in airplanes etc. - are you going to forbid all of these?

Flying in airplanes? There is no significant health risk from airplanes. The rest are perfectly fine to do in private. The reasons why cars might be eliminated has nothing to do with private use - it has to do with its impact on the public.

> If you take away a market, you'll hamper progress.

An existing market does not necessarily result in progress. We (the US) had the largest auto market in the world for almost the entire history of automobiles, now second to China. We had not only the technology, but actual electric cars, 130 years ago.

Rough timeline:

The first crude electric car was introduced 185 years ago, around 1832. The first successful American electric car was introduced in 1891, with multiple makes and models produced in 1893.

By 1900, one third of all cars produced in the US were electric.

In 1908, the Model T gas-powered car was introduced, and in 1912, the electric starter. The practicality of this method ends the commercial viability of electric cars by 1920.

In 1966, Congress introduced a bill recommending electric cars to reduce air pollution. In the 70s, an oil crisis sparks massive consumer interest in electric vehicles.

In 1997, 30 years later, Toyota introduced the Prius, a hybrid. Within three years Honda, GM, Ford, Nissan, Chevy, and Toyota all produce ALL-electric vehicles.

Here we are, 20 years later, with a lot of hybrids, and one or two all-electric vehicles, pretty much all of which are too expensive or impractical for widespread adoption.

We have invented electric cars twice. Both times the market did not choose progress.


> We have invented electric cars twice. Both times the market did not choose progress.

Please educate yourself about the history of automobiles and why gasoline powered cars were much more practical and won.

Progress is not whatever fits in your utopia or seems best in hindsight, it's whatever improves the current situation. Pollution was not an issue in the 20's and what seemed best then won on the market. It's not a difficult concept.


I guess we should just let you make all the choices for everyone then, sounds like you're up for it.


>and institute nation-wide public transportation, and subsidize the more expensive parts of the network.

Isn't this how e.g. state owned rail companies work already?


If cars moved to mobility as a service model instead of car ownership people wouldnt care about getting into a small two seater car instead of owning a four seater for the times they do need it. You could probably fit six autonomous smartcars into the road space where one F150 is manually driven so we have lots of space to increase road density.


Whenever I run into an argument for something society-wide like this I do a little though experiment: Imagine the world as the argument suggests - in this case that public transportation is the norm. Now imagine I came to you and said, hey, what would you say to a personal conveyance device? Small and cheap enough to park at your residence, can carry you and all your friends/family/churchmembers/whatever as well as their cargo, and there's an existing, nationwide system (highways) they can use to literally get anywhere in the entire continental US, door-to-door, with the only requirement that you pay a little more.

Virtually everyone would dash off their shitty trains and busses in a moment and hop into cars. Even if you told them it would lead to mass congestion they'd point to people whose job it is to stuff people onto trains when they get too full. If you told them it would lead to pollution they might be swayed, but then if you told them electric cars were basically right on the horizon that would seem like an acceptable trade off.

You are arguing for a world that for most of the US would be considered objectively, demonstrably worse than the status quo. Just because you and your personal social circle lives in urban areas and doesn't need or want cars is virtually irrelevant to the national conversation because you are a tiny fraction of a minority that is not going to get any traction as self-driving and electric vehicles become the norm.

Public transportation in the US has already hit its apogee. Nobody wants it outside of dense urban cores, and the nation is largely not urban cores, nor will it be just because you wish it was.


I am not concerned with wishes, as much as inevitabilities.

Getting a car seems attractive because it gives you control over your movements. But with enough congestion, it becomes unattractive, because now your movements are constricted by the movements of other people on the same highway. Suddenly, taking a train becomes more attractive.

Or spread out, live and work in suburbs. Then you run into the Suburban Ponzi Scheme. The suburbs are becoming less safe, and physically declining, as the bills come due. http://www.businessinsider.com/strong-towns-growth-ponzi-sch...


But there is a middle ground solution between large buses and trains and single occupant vehicles. Here is another thought experiment, stand by a busy road or highway for a few minutes. Notice all the single occupant vehicles and how they are all traveling in the same direction. Now picture if some of those occupants were grouped together in the same vehicle and how much more efficient that would be. Lyft line, for example, works pretty well. Wider adoption would make it work better. It should be noted that the U.S., according to recent census data, is "gradually" shifting back to urban core living.


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