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The Tesla Model S is a great-looking car but, unlike some, I still don't see electric cars as being the future. Batteries are still too heavy, take too long to charge, are too expensive and require materials that in widespread use will probably become far more of a problem than fossil fuels in terms of scarcity.

Of course, there can be and no doubt will be technological innovation in this space but (IMHO) the future of personal powered transportation will still be fuel-driven.

What will change is the source of that fuel. It may be some kind of hydrogen-rich fuel (methane or ammonia) or it may be making the necessary hydrocarbons from the air and/or seawater.

Portable fuel supplies are just too convenient. The relative simplicity of the internal combustion engine (or some derivation thereof) is just too advantageous compared to even optimistic long-term alternatives.

EDIT: the amount of cognitive dissonance when it comes to electric cars is mind-boggling eg:

A: the benefits are too numerous to list

B: can you use it in an apartment?

A: no...

Or the amount of infrastructure retro-fitting that needs to happen (power to parking garages being just one). Or ignoring issues or range and recharge times. Even with swappable batteries, even if that were a thing that people would do (there are security, weight and cost issues), the recharge time is still an issue.

Power is not free. An electric vehicle still needs to get power from somewhere and that power requires all the normal transmission infrastructure.

Someone brought up what's happening in NJ but if you had an electric car you'd be even more screwed. At least now you can transport gas to people.

Seriously, out of cost, weight, range and charging time all of them need to get an order of magnitude better to even be on par with fuel-driven vehicles.

How exactly have electric vehicles "already won"?




Imagine if we were the other way around. Everyone was driving electric cars and someone was trying to get us on gas.

I charge my car every night. You're telling me I now have to drive to a "gas station" every time I need to recharge? And we need to ship gas all over the country now? And gas costs _how_ much!?

And then I also have to bring it into the shop every few months to "change the oil"?

And look at the thousands of moving parts! That thing is going to start breaking down after 5 years, tops. Look at all the scheduled maintenance? Shit, replacing just the timing belt will cost me thousands!

And if I turn it on in my garage it will literally kill me and my entire family? No other product I own is nearly that dangerous.

What a joke. I'm keeping my electric car.


Not really the same. You can take a dozen jerrycan of gas that will last you for a long time, and that does for the same price as the gas you'll buy at the station, which is precisely what people did before you could find gas stations every few miles.

Not so for electricity: charging and taking 10 batteries with you on a trip is much more of a hassle and quite expensive. Fuel is really the deal-breaker for the buyers who won't go with an electric car until "fuel" is available everywhere. The other points are moot until this issue is solved.


My point is that you can find these terrible deal-breakers with every transition. It's not enough to just point them out.


I believe these problems are already somewhat solved. The Chevy volt uses a hybrid system. Runs off electricity exclusively, with a small gas powered engine to charge the battery pack when need be. The backup engine can perform at its most efficient rate of rotation, and electric motors are so much more efficient than their combustion engine counterparts. As a Mech eng, I would be willing to bet that burning gas in a modern power-plant would be more efficient than using the fuel in a car. So much of the energy is lost in the form of heat, that lost heat could be harnessed. These problems are already addressed; it’s about what you require out of your car that should determine what type of car you need. I don't travel outside of the city. If I do I use public transit (GO tansit, live in Canada). The future will require trade-offs, there is no way that the status quo is sustainable


My guess is that the Volt is a stopgap, whereas Telsa are skating ahead of that puck. The Volt works for now for most people for most of their trips, which is awesome. However, you are still dealing with a whole host of moving parts and my guess is maintenance costs will be higher than either a pure EV or pure gas powered.

Given the rate Tesla are going, I think the plug-in hybrid (or indeed any hybrid) is going to look fairly quaint in 5-10 years.


The difference is, the money spent on gas infrastructure is already spent, paid for, and profitable. This happened a long time ago. The infrastructure to allow the same number of cars to park for 30 minutes+ to recharge has not been invested in, not been paid for, and not been profitable for decades. If it had been, your argument would make sense. As reality stands, though, you're just furthering the case as to why electric cars are fighting a losing battle.

I have to leave my car parked where? For how long?


The gasoline infrastructure is not entirely free from cost. It costs of lot of money to staff gas stations, to deliver the fuel and to maintain everything. The sites themselves are in prime locations and could be repurposed to higher value activity. The fuel tank trucks are cumbersome and dangerous, and the refineries more so. Charging your EV at home and work is already sufficient for, I assume, the vast majority of passenger miles. While long-distance road trips are a lot less common, they are cracked by electric cars when batteries can power for 8-10 (and higher) hours per day and we can use hotel/motels/carparks to recharge. We are not there yet, but the power density curves are pointing the right direction.


Electric may be the answer in the near future. I still don't believe it is now, but I do applaud companies and individuals for helping push that innovation forward. The electric market is in a catch-22: electric powered cars are expensive, and it will only get cheaper when more people start buying into it. I see cars like the Volt having more mass-market appeal for the next decade than the Tesla. I applaud Musk in everything he does, and the Tesla is a fine brand of high-end cars. But electric is, in my world, not a viable option at this time.

Electric is great. Batteries suck. And they're not getting better fast enough. The world got used to filling a tank in 5 minutes and forgetting about it until they've run their 300-400 miles worth of fuel. I say electric is fighting a losing battle because the best arguments I see in this thread consist of "it only needs to charge overnight", "it's about on par with the cost of a gas guzzler", and "you can fill it most of the way in 30 minutes". Sure, it's progress. But good enough isn't good enough when it comes to battling an entrenched competitor. We're looking at a decade before electric is no longer a fringe thing (basically 20 years after the mass market introduction), and in between then there's no reason something like a Volt can't provide more benefit than a Tesla or a Leaf. You might only drive hundreds of miles once per year, but do you really want to shoehorn yourself into a car that makes this virtually impossible in exchange for mild relative inconvenience as opposed to no relative inconvenience?


I'd hoped that BetterPlace might have an answer to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Better_Place But considering their difficulties in the last few weeks - perhaps not them. The Battery-Switch concept is potentially sound though.


Those of us who own electric cars know that electric cars have already won. They are just too good compared to regular somewhat-junky gasoline cars. The benefits are too numerous to list.

The only problem that I have with my Roadster is that if I want to take a long road trip, there has to be a big stopover in the middle, which makes trips much longer. The Model S solves that. Therefore, EVs have won. They are here now, they are real, and they work. All that needs to happen is for the cost to come down, but there is nothing preventing that.

If you have parking at home, an EV is way better than gas or hydrogen because you never need to take your car somewhere to fuel it, ever (unless on a very long road trip). You just come home, park, and plug it in. It is hard to communicate how good this feels until you've had an EV for a few weeks and you're driving past all these gas stations and kind of laughing because you don't need them.


While I'm all for EVs and would happily change if I could afford to, this strikes me as off:

> ... if I want to take a long road trip, there has to be a big stopover in the middle, which makes trips much longer. The Model S solves that.

The Model S has a range of about 400 km (250 miles). For long highway-type trips, that's probably about 4 hours of driving. Which is not much.

It won't get you from Köln to Berlin or from Paris to Lyon or from New York to Toronto, to pick a few random examples that slightly exceed 400 km. Those are distances that people would consider "long trips", and quite reasonables ones, too.

Obviously a 400-km-range car is plenty for most people, but we can't pretend it doesn't limit our options or force us to find alternative transportation for some trips that would otherwise not be a problem with a gas-powered car.

I assume you at least partly financed the Roadster with income you earned through Braid, by the way. If so, good for you, and I was glad to contribute! :-)


It won't get you from SF to LA either, but that's why Tesla are building those 30 minute charging stations.

My guess is that Tesla license the technology out, and road stops on common long-distance corridors start offering the charging stations in their parking lots to dominate the competition, you stop at their place for lunch, and then others will have to install too to compete. Job done: superchargers everywhere.

It looks like this is already happening in San Francisco (albeit with the city bootstrapping it): there are parking garages with EV spots and those without. Given a higher EV usage, those garages are going to do better, and the others will need to install in order to win that custom.


Köln to Berlin and Paris to Lyon are train journeys, not car trips.


Indeed. Much quicker, more comfortable and energy-efficient.

Why'd you wanna go there at anything less than 250km/h (160mph)? ;-)


Typical European - keep rubbing it in... the fact that your non-car infrastructure doesn't suck.


Aren't EVs totally unusable if you live in an apartment? That was my impression when I looked into them. Like, how would I charge a car in my parking stall?


It is definitely less convenient if you don't have a garage. But as mentioned, this is starting to be addressed. Also, the Supercharger-style charging station becomes a lot like a gas station would be for a normal car.

I do think that "I don't have a garage / dedicated place to park my car" is in fact the only current anti-EV argument that has any basis in reality. But it's addressable.


Really? The only argument? How about my family lives 575 miles away from me, and even with the ideal 250 mile range of a $100k Model S I would still need to add at least an hour and a half to my already 10 hour one-way trip when I visit them a few times per year? Meanwhile my $5,000, 14-year-old Toyota might only get 20mpg, but the tank holds 350 miles of fuel and I only need to refill once (rather than thrice) during the trip, costing me literally minutes of time.

Finding a place to recharge overnight is a problem. But let's not pretend it's the only real problem. I already have enough problems charging my phone every night when I'm staying over at someone's house. Asking them to install an outlet so I can charge my car is asking a bit more than many people will stand.


Congratulations - you are the 1% who this model fails for. The rest of us will be just fine, since 99% of us don't travel more than 250 miles a day.

And for the couple times a year we need to take road trips, we can rent a luxury sedan with the money we've saved on fuel costs.


>And for the couple times a year we need to take road trips, we can rent a luxury sedan with the money we've saved on fuel costs.

False.

See another discussion I'm involved in. To give you the gist: I drive a 14 year old gas guzzling truck. Let's say it broke down and I wanted to save money, so I bought an electric car. Here's the breakdown in costs-

Buying another 14 year old gas guzzling Toyota truck: $19,000 over 5 years. ($1400/yr in gas, 32 mile round trip to work, plus a one-time cost of $5000)

Renting a minivan for vacation trips: $110/day plus gas (20mpg).

High-end Model S: $108,680 over 5 years. ($100,000 plus 5 years of renting a minivan for one week)

Base Model S: $66,080 over 5 years. ($57,400 plus 5 years of renting a minivan for one week)

Nissan Leaf: $42,500 over 5 years ($35,000 plus plus electricity costs plus 5 years of minivan rental)

The fact is, if you want to save money, you can do it more efficiently with an ancient gas guzzler than you can buying a new electric car. Yeah you're saving money on fuel costs, but you're spending a lot of money on the car itself. The Leaf is built on the same platform as the Cube and the Micra, yet costs $20,000 more MSRP. Even comparing it to the truck, it would take 14 years to save enough on fuel to pay off that $20,000 you could have saved by buying the Cube or the Micra.

I highly doubt that only 1% of the population needs to drive more than 250 miles at some point once a year. We have salesmen at work where some of them drive that far every day. My mother was a home care nurse who drove that far one day a week. If the car works for you, I'm glad. It's a nice car. But don't fool yourself into trading in your old car for promises of saved money. The numbers just don't work out, even for the average American driver they're targeting.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4730973


> Even comparing it to the truck, it would take 14 years to save enough on fuel to pay off that $20,000 you could have saved by buying the Cube or the Micra.

So, given that gas prices are much more expensive in Europe (about $8.50/gallon, here in NL right now), as well as not considering 250 miles an unexceptional car distance, we might break even a lot sooner? :) :)


That was REALLY lazy math and it shows. Run the numbers for real or don't even try. I'll even give you an accurate spreadsheet.

http://www1.extension.umn.edu/environment/energy/vehicle/


Although it might not invalidate your argument, you have ignored the residual value of having a 5-year old Model S / Nissan Leaf.

We don't know what that will be, yet, but it will probably be higher than the residual value of a 14 year old gas guzzling Toyota truck.


If you're doing prudent financial planning, you have to assume close to zero. The technology is moving very, very quickly, and there's no telling what it will look like in five years and if your present-day car can be retro-fitted to fit into it.


It's not unlikely that breakthroughs in battery technology could be retrofitted into present-day electric car. I can totally imagine that 5 years from now you take your Model S to the shop, and replace your battery with a new and improved with 3x the range. It wouldn't be cheap, but cheaper than a brand new car.


Sure, I'm not claiming that it's impossible. But what if the technological breakthrough is a sustainable way to mass produce bio-fuel?


Isn't the 250 miles a max range, assuming ideal driving conditions? Also, as the car ages, will the battery range erode significantly? If its similar to consumer rechargeable battery technology, should we expect that the 250 mile range will be closer to 150 miles with "typical" driving behavior and after the car has been driven for 50K miles?


It entirely depends upon the chemistry of the automotive lithium battery, which typically use different catalysts than laptop batteries. For Lithium Manganese Oxide batteries, the prediction is 70% after eight years. That would be 175 miles range at 120,000 miles driving. There are new and better chemistries coming out like lithium NMC arriving this year that store 75% more energy per lb at a similar price. http://insideevs.com/nissan-ceo-carlos-ghosn-second-generati...


Thanks. If you read the comments on the page that you linked to, you will see a couple of Leaf customers complaining that their battery capacity is already down 15%. Hopefully the new batteries technology addresses this.


That is a problem in the hottest regions of the country and the world. Our recent climate change-related heat wave made the problem even worse. There is no active heat management in the current Nissan Leaf battery except a battery warmer for cold temperatures.

Since I live in Minnesota, I don't expect I'll venture to the Arizona or SoCal desert with my Leaf, where most of the damaged Leafs are. I also limit my charge to 80% max during the summer to lengthen the battery life. So far, I haven't had any noticeable capacity loss.


> when I visit them a few times per year

Easy, leave the EV at home and rent a gasoline car a few times a year.


Peugeot has already a very simple response for that with the mu program: lease your electric car, and you get a bigger/gas-powered car when you need it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/jul/10/peugeot-car-club...


You are correct it is difficult. There is a strong push on now for new underground parking to be constructed with 240V electrical service roughed in to many of the spaces, to accommodate future charging stations.


There are places in the world where these are common:

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

Getting electricity out to a parking spot is not a problem, and hasn't been a problem for the last 40 years or so that people have had block heaters.


My (new) apartment building has power hookups for EVs. I have seen two or three using them.


New apartment buildings under construction that want to game the LEED system are always looking for ways to get points. Adding a charging station or two to their underground parking garage is an easy way. The trouble is, investing in an electric car you're going to keep for 4-5 years starts making less sense when it means you might be locked into your apartment for just as long.


Forget the parking stall, what about the big cities (like SF) where a sizable chunk of all cars are parked on the street.


How does the Model S solve the longer trips issue? On a road-trip I might drive 500 miles in a day. The priciest Model S gets 300 miles at 55 miles an hour. And with climate control on that is likely to be less in reality. If this trip were in cold weather (ski trips and such) the range would be SIGNIFICANTLY less.

As a comparison, my gasoline-hybrid can squeeze out over 500 miles on a tank at 55 miles an hour. And I never worry about being 'stranded' as I might with a fully-electric car.

Another issue I have with battery-based solutions is the potential lifespan of the batteries - they are warrantied only for 8-years. A new pack costs ~30k (pulled this unofficial figure from discussions in the Tesla forums).


So how about you RENT A CAR once a year, for your 8000 mile trip across multiple state lines. Your daily commute is how far?


So let's do some math. I drive a Toyota truck that goes anywhere and does everything. It gets 20mpg average (I have a ScanGauge for monitoring this). It's 14 years old, and it cost me $5000 when I bought it. So at an average daily commute for Americans of 16 miles [1] (my commute is 5 miles one direction), that would give me an average of 400 bidirectional gallons used per year (16 miles one direction times 250 working days divided by the mpg) for work use. At $3.50 for a gallon of gas, that's $1400/yr, plus a one-time cost of $5000. Once per year, I take an 8000 mile journey, assuming that's bidirectional. That's another $1400 in gas. We're now looking at $7800 the first year, and $2800 every year after that. If I have the truck for 5 years, I'm out $19,000 in total.

Now instead, I buy a Tesla Model S. It costs $100k, but electricity is free at their chargers. Now I want to make my cross country journey, so I rent a minivan at 8000 miles, I'll be gone a week to fully enjoy the resort with the wife and kids. A minivan from Enterprise is $110/day plus gas. Looking at the fuel economy of a minivan [2], looks like I can expect 20mpg. I might get more, but that's what I'll budget for. Same as my Toyota truck, I'm spending $1400 in gas once per year, plus the $770 to rent the van for a week. Which means, in total, I'm spending $100k the first year, and $2170 every year after that. So unless you can spot an error in my math, in terms of fuel cost per year the poster boy electric car only saves me ~$700/yr.

Here's the results:

Toyota truck: $19,000 over 5 years.

Electric car plus a rental one week: $108,680 over 5 years.

Maybe you want to be more reasonable and go for the base Model S: $66,080 over 5 years.

Which one makes more economic sense?

[1] http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Traffic/story?id=485098&...

[2] http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/byclass/minivan2012.shtml


Wait, now you are comparing a luxury car to a Toyota truck. That doesn't make any sense at all, so your question "Which one makes more economic sense?" doesn't make sense.

By your logic, everyone who buys a BMW M3 or a Porsche Boxster ... or whatever ... is dumb because they should have bought a Toyota truck because it is only $19,000 over 5 years.


If I compared it to a Leaf, it still wouldn't make sense. A Leaf is $35,000 MSRP. The Leaf is built on the same platform as a Nissan Cube ($14,000) and the Nissan Micra ($17,000). I could run the same comparison between the Leaf and the Cube and come up with the same results.

Except, if I did that, it might even be worse. See, I picked the Tesla Model S for a few reasons. One being that it's the subject of the debate here on HN, and second is because the Leaf gets 100 miles in range. The Model S gets 250. The Model S is also capable of being mostly recharged in 30 minutes (for free), and while the Leaf can also be recharged in 30 minutes at one of Nissan's charging points, they are not free. You would end up paying a fuel cost for a Leaf, no matter how marginal.

I was using a Toyota truck as an example, but also noted that the rented minivan in the example cost just as much in gas. Minivans secondhand are also generally cheaper than trucks in my experience. The difference between a Model S and a Porsche is simple in my opinion: if you don't like the Porsche, the BMW is a comparable option. The Ferrari is nice at that price point as well. But you can't swap out the Model S with a comparable option. Like I noted in the first and second paragraph, the cheap competition isn't much cheaper at all, and in all honesty is a much worse value for the money.

If you're buying an electric car, it doesn't make sense to not go with the Model S. And if you can't swing the extra $30,000 for the Model S, just realize that the Leaf is ($35,000 + $100/yr in electricity + $1400/yr to rent a car) $42,500 for 5 years compared to $66,000 for the base Model S compared to $19,000 for the gas-guzzling 4x4. The cheap mainstream competition still doesn't beat a 5,000lb, 14 year old truck with a V6 engine. How many years would it take to break even on that investment? Trading in your old car for a new electric car isn't going to save you money. It just isn't. Especially if you're renting another car as well.


Okay, but ... did anyone ever say that it would save you money? I don't see that in the thread anywhere.

I certainly wouldn't make that argument for cars of today. But I see how rapidly the price is coming down, and I see what price targets Tesla is aiming for, and that is pretty interesting.

(And if you really want to compare price, it's probably a good idea to try to account for externalities. It's hard to estimate those for gas cars because so much is kept secret, but they are substantial.)


Actually, I own a Leaf and it does save me money against buying a comparable compact car like a new Sentra. His math fails to account for the full range of costs associated with a gas-powered vehicle including oil changes and engine maintenance. Also, I drive considerably more than my 17 mile one way commute, so it makes a lot of sense for me.

Here's a great spreadsheet to get the real costs: http://www1.extension.umn.edu/environment/energy/vehicle/


Congratulations on your 3,50$ per gallon. Where I live -Europe- it's about 8 us$. With these prices, the comparison between two luxury sedans -tesla S against BMW 535 or Mercedes E 320- is not that much skewed. Gas isnt getting cheaper and battery tech is better every year, so, even on financial terms, it makes some sense. You can't compare a toyota pickup and a model S in any criteria but overall length. Acceleration, top speed, comfort... Apples and oranges.


Have a look at a ten year history for gas prices. See if you think your $3.50/gallon is going to hold. Car leases are usually between 10k and 15k miles per year for a reason. Run the numbers with 12k miles per year, $5.50 gas over 5 years. Comparison to a Tesla is, of course, ridiculous (but you knew that). Consider separating the fixed costs from the variable costs.


Oh I definitely can agree with the notion of renting a car for the edge case. Others have also suggested that families could have two cars, one electric for daily use and the other gasoline-powered for road trips or tasks that require more utility perhaps.

But my point simply was that purely electric technologies cannot satisfy all needs (yet?) and that the range capabilities of electric vehicles is not on part with fossil-fuel vehicles (which is what was seemingly claimed by the parent post). And yes, this might mean that fossil-fuel vehicles don't disappear entirely, but simply play a smaller role in our future society.


The Model S solves the issue via the ability to charge at Tesla's "supercharger" stations (much faster recharge than any other EV), and via the supercharger network that Tesla is currently building (some stations in California are currently open, and they recently presented their expansion plan for this network).


Running the air conditioning compressor creates more work for the engine, but not so with the heater--essentially it circulates the already-hot water+coolant through an additional small radiator.


So to get an electric car that affords me as much freedom as a fossil burner I /only/ need to drop $102k? Sign me up! /s Electric cars will have won when normal people can afford them. I hope that'll be soon, but it's definitely not the case right now.


You can -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf.

It'll take a few more years for mainstream adoption - but it'll hit. Tesla Model S is like the Apple I - only rich smart people own them.

The Apple II is when things get really crazy - that's when middle-class smart people own them.

See plan here: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/secret-tesla-motors-master-p...


Actually, you can go cheaper than the Leaf, but it's not quite as nice. Mitsubishi makes the I, which costs $22,000 after rebate.


The leaf has an EPA-rated range of 73mi.


Uh huh. How much did you spend on your Roadster, and how much is it going to cost to replace the battery pack when it wears out after only ten years or so?


The Roadster is definitely expensive, but now the Model S, just a few years later, is 1/2 to 2/3 the price, and is a superior car. Thus, the price is declining rapidly, and this is obvious to anyone who cares to look at actual facts.


How long do people realistically own cars? Only 60% of people keep their cars more than four years...I'd suspect 10 is closer to 5%.

source: http://www.autoweek.com/article/20090714/carnews/907149994


The average car on the road is eleven years old, so even if you only keep your car for four years when you sell it some cheap bastard (like me) is going to buy it used and drive it for awhile longer. My guess is EVs are going to have quite a bit steeper depreciation curves than standard vehicles. A ten year old Leaf on its original battery pack will be essentially worthless, and you can probably work the curve backward from there.


>How much did you spend on your Roadster, and how much is it going to cost to replace the battery pack when it wears out after only ten years or so?

Is this a fact, expensive battery replacements after 10 years and all?

I really have no idea, but I took a few minutes to try and look it up.

At a glance, it looks likes replacing a Prius battery today runs about half a much today as it did 10 years ago. Folks on the Tesla forums claim that you can pre-pay for a an eventual replacement to the tune of about $12K or 11% of the price of a new Roadster. That's a bit less half of of the current Tesla battery replacement cost I've seen thrown around and in line observed reduction in price of Prius batteries.

Spending 11% of a car's new price on a such a major repair, 10 years down the road is not bad at all. In fact, in my experience that's right in line with a basic import and cheap for anything could be considering sporting or luxury.

Unless I'm way off, this doesn't seem like a big issue at all.


Folks on the Tesla forums claim that you can pre-pay for a an eventual replacement to the tune of about $12K or 11% of the price of a new Roadster.

Right. The Roadster costs so much it makes sense to replace the battery. But if you paid $30k for a car and the battery costs $12k, it's a different story. Normal people are not going to spend $100k on a car.


Sure.

When I consider the $12K number is from 2010 and folks are estimating a new Model S battery could run as little as $14K...A $30K Tesla sporting a battery that will cost $3K to replace 10 years down the road doesn't seem that far off.


If those numbers are real then it works. But I don't see how the battery could possibly be $3k. Battery costs are primarily driven by materials - unless there's some breakthrough that allows the use of something cheaper than lithium, batteries for a car with a reasonable range are going to retail at a minimum of $10k.


Did your electric bill increased significantly? Have you measure how many Miles/dollar,or some other similar metric, you get?


My electric bill has increased by about $15 a month, depending on how much I drive. It is way cheaper than gas. (But the car is so expensive that you won't break even via cheaper fuel!)


The Volt, for example, is about 12kWh to charge. For that, you get 40 miles.

I am signed up for PG&E's variable time-of-day rate plan, so between 9PM-9AM, my power is 9.8 cents/kWh. So the Volt costs roughly $1.10/40 miles.


I'm somewhat astonished that members of a community dedicated to building products to disrupt incumbent industries upvoted this comment to the top slot.

One way to think about this is that electric vehicles (EVs) are at the iPhone 1 stage, with the Tesla S being the first to demonstrate to a lot of people that it can all be put together in a compelling, yet expensive and not quite perfect package.

As with the first iPhone, the prescient community can see vast potential, but recognise that there are still a few issues to deal with.

Those issues are summed up as "battery energy density". Once we have battery energy density that allows us to power cars at road speeds for 10-15 hours, then we will have completely solved the riddle of the recharging station. We can still charge at work an home for shorter trips, and can charge at carparks and paid accommodation for longer ones. Luckily battery energy density is continually getting better - and is the main reason that we are seeing the emergence of the EVs we have today.

As an aside, we can probably forget about developing recharging stations as the ranges will be too long and the logistics of journey interruption poor. Let's think instead about developing products to help hotels, car-parks, businesses and households set up their own (pay accepting) charging stations. Obviously these will all use the existing electricity grid, with capacity freed up by general electricity efficiency efforts and smarter grid technology.

It's clear that the next generation of EVs will create major and overdue auto-industry disruption. It's almost as clear that the current auto manufacturers, perhaps Toyota aside, are incapable of rapid enough change.

So yes, with the Tesla S it's not clear that EVs will win. Bring it on.


> One way to think about this is that electric vehicles (EVs) are at the iPhone 1 stage, with the Tesla S being the first to demonstrate to a lot of people that it can all be put together in a compelling, yet expensive and not quite perfect package.

I think it is more accurate to compare electric vehicles to the Motorola DynaTAC phones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_DynaTAC). They are expensive, and are extremely limited in their functionality. They are only viable for people who can throw massive amounts of money at them and have limited demands.

Like the cell phone, electric vehicles may continue to develop to the point where they can adequately replace a landline. In cell phone terms, that would be the early Nokia candybar phones.

[The iPhone is a fairly poor phone, but a great mobile internet device. If you gave me an iPhone instead of a Nokia candybar phone a decade ago, I wouldn't have cancelled my landline. Now that people use email and instant messaging for most communication, a poor quality phone isn't such a big deal.]


That's a little unfair I feel (comparing the Tesla S to the original brick mobile phones). However the point remains though that we are seeing the future, and only the wealthy can afford it for now.


How, specifically, is it unfair?

The brick phones were revolutionary, but they were far from capable of displacing landlines. There were special cases where the early mobile phones were superior, just like the Teslas are superior in some ways to IC engine cars (insane acceleration, for example).

That said, the current crop of electric cars is not suitable for replacing the average daily driver. They are more expensive. No one but the manufacturer can service them. Charging stations are few and far between. The power grid is far from capable of supporting any more than a tiny population of electric vehicles.

I do hope that electric cars will become a practical replacement for petroleum cars at some time in the future. That time is not today.


Yep, and cell phones were originally only affordable by the rich as well.


It's hard for me to even enumerate how many ways this is wrong. But I'll try.

Batteries are still too heavy

Changing. Rapidly.

take too long to charge

Improving, rapidly. Much more rapidly than, say, gas mileage.

(batteries) are too expensive

Sorry to be a broken record, but this too is improving rapidly.

require materials that in widespread use will probably become far more of a problem than fossil fuels in terms of scarcity

This assumes that battery tech will remain static, and use the same materials, forever. Bad assumption, there.

Or the amount of infrastructure retro-fitting that needs to happen (power to parking garages being just one).

This is already starting to happen and will only accelerate. I'm working on a gigantic office building project which will have hundreds of charging stations in its parking area. This will be the norm, very soon. And perhaps you forgot, but building tens of thousands of gas stations all over the place wasn't easy, either...nor is maintaining them. We already have a beefy electrical infrastructure; we just have to keep working on that.

Or ignoring issues or range and recharge times.

Tesla's range is already over 250 miles; this is getting very close to that of many gas guzzlers. And again, this is rapidly improving, even though we're not working very hard on it as a society. Imagine what would happen if we tried!

Power is not free. An electric vehicle still needs to get power from somewhere and that power requires all the normal transmission infrastructure.

Yeah, and we already have that infrastructure. By the way, gas isn't free, either. Nor is it nearly as efficient as electric power can be.

Someone brought up what's happening in NJ but if you had an electric car you'd be even more screwed. At least now you can transport gas to people.

Uh, you can transport electricity to people, too. We have power lines for that.

Seriously, out of cost, weight, range and charging time all of them need to get an order of magnitude better to even be on par with fuel-driven vehicles.

Er, no. Do you know what an order of magnitude IS? Cost: we're within a factor of 2-3 of this being affordable, even if you use the very expensive Tesla as your test case. Weight: Already at parity with many cars. Range: Already discussed above; near parity with many gas vehicles. Charging time: This doesn't have to get much better at all; you can recharge at night.


> Changing. Rapidly.

That doesn't negate my point.

> And perhaps you forgot, but building tens of thousands of gas stations all over the place wasn't easy

You're not the only one to bring this up and it confuses me why. The gas infrastructure has already been built. It's a sunk cost. EV infrastructure most certainly is not.

> Tesla's range is already over 250 miles; this is getting very close to that of many gas guzzlers.

For significantly higher capital cost, with (probably) much lower shelf life. And when the "gas guzzler" hits its range, what does it do? Spends a few minutes filling up and does it again (as opposed to recharging for 8 hours).

> Uh, you can transport electricity to people, too. We have power lines for that.

Yes, that was my point. Look at all the people in NJ/NY/CT without power.

> Er, no. Do you know what an order of magnitude IS?

Yes, but we're talking about the battery tech and the batteries are only some portion of the total cost of a vehicle.

> you can recharge at night.

Given a fairly narrow use case, sure.


Fair enough. You say that batteries are "too heavy"; I pointed out that they are getting steadily lighter, which is true. It's also true that they are plenty light, right now, to make the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla. To me, it's self-evident that batteries are therefore not "too heavy" to make a viable product.

Part of EV infrastructure is already built, too, and you know this. Yes, we do have to build 9 megashitloads of charging stations, over time. But we may see a model where lots of that charging occurs at home, and the consumer upgrades their own infrastructure, or the power companies offer a free or cheap charging station in return for selling lots more electricity to the customer. I don't see this as an insurmountable issue at all.

Yes, the cost is currently higher, but the obvious point is that it's coming down rapidly per unit of vehicle range. Shelf life of the Prius batteries has proven very very good so far, although that's a hybrid and not a pure electric.

Yes, power is down to an extent not seen since the 19th century. But gas deliveries are affected in a major way, too. Anecdotally, I have tons of friends telling me how hard it is to find gas.

The use case for charging at night already encompasses most drivers in most situations. And with a range of 250-300mi with one-hour recharge at free Tesla stations for longer trips...the use case is getting broader all the time.

What's the deal? Did you buy $1M of Hummer stock and lose your Charles Schwab password? This tech is clearly valid right now and getting more attractive by the year.


>The gas infrastructure has already been built.

And it works very well: for gasoline. Hydrogen cannot be contained in a rubber hose. Ammonia will eat away copper pipes (see http://encyclopedia.airliquide.com/Encyclopedia.asp?GasID=2#... ). CNG works fine, under pressure, which requires retrofitting everything, but natural gas is a fossil fuel. Biofuels come with a whole host of other problems.

The simple fact is, whatever we use, we're going to have to rebuild stuff. There's no way to reuse the gas infrastructure for any fuel that isn't a non-oxidizing hydrophobic liquid, which rules out approximately everything. Hydrogen fueling stations aren't retrofitted gas stations: they're a totally new thing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_fuel_station#Hydrogen_...

>However, this does not begin to replace the existing extensive gasoline fuel station infrastructure, which would cost a half trillion U.S. dollars in the United States alone.

This is not cheap.


> You're not the only one to bring this up and it confuses me why. The gas infrastructure has already been built. It's a sunk cost. EV infrastructure most certainly is not.

Back in the day countries had a huge infrastructure for horse-based transport (stables, travellers inns, places to buy food). That was also a sunk cost.

Just a thought.


I think gas and electric are not mutually exclusive.

It's clear that today's EVs have drawbacks, but many of those drawbacks are non-issues for a lot of consumers out there already. As the technology and infrastructure improve, people will switch.

Subconsciously, most of us feel electric is the way to go. There's just something right about it, maybe because all top consumer technology in the 21st century has a battery inside. Or simply because electricity has been the force driving change in society the last 150 years.

For a long time to come we'll depend on fuel, for hybrids and traditional cars, be it a jeep in the middle of the Amazon or John Doe's, who loves the sound of his V8 Mustang in the morning.


> as opposed to recharging for 8 hours

Fast charging is faster than that, you just need special power feed, but that can even be included in every home, which is not the case for a gas station.

> Yes, that was my point. Look at all the people in NJ/NY/CT without power.

The actual problem is that the US infrastructure is in bad shape. Also by looking at the news, the places which have issues with electric power seem to also have oil delivery problems as well.


> You're not the only one to bring this up and it confuses me why. The gas infrastructure has already been built. It's a sunk cost. EV infrastructure most certainly is not.

EV infrastructure, unlike gasoline, can be piggy backed onto existing facilities - service stations, restaurants, hotels... It is much simpler to deploy and maintain - no tanks to install, no gas to deliver, no hazmat, etc. - just a connection to existing electrical infrastructure at those facilites. Adding EV charging to existing businesses also has potential to increase sales as drivers shop, eat and purchase goods etc during the wait. As EV marketshare increases, this will provide motivation to existing businesses to add EV charging capabilities on their own dime and thus stimulate the build out of such infrastructure. Tesla has finally built a practical EV that people want, which can kick start this whole process.


>> Changing. Rapidly. > That doesn't negate my point.

Actually it does, and all of your arguments sound like:

> The gas infrastructure has already been built. [...] EV infrastructure most certainly is not.

which misses the point you're trying to make, which is (emphasis mine):

> I still don't see electric cars as being the future.

Of course things are not ready, because now is not the future.

This kind of things doesn't happen overnight. It's not like Carnot and Otto woke up a morning and everyone sold their horses and were suddenly busy building infrastructure for cars that didn't even exist.

> Given a fairly narrow use case, sure.

Here in France, more than 90% of (non-truck) traffic drives less than 2x10km per day. It is ludicrous to have people drive 160kph+-able 1'000km-ranged seven-seaters alone in a ICE car and spend 30min to drive 5km at 10kph mean. Yes I acknowledge that there exist people who do need longer range vehicles, but numbers demonstrate that many simply don't. (they could statistically almost drive a plug-in Prius in full electric all year round). (The situation is actually even more ludicrous as they're talked into buying mostly diesel cars, whose engines by design constraints completely hate being driven short distances, being started and stopped endlessly, and highly varying rpms, which results in higher fuel consumption, pollution, running costs, and failure rates).

The "running-out-of-energy" argument is for most, a classic case of psychologically biased risk assessment (similar to how people assess the terrorism risk, or planes crashing, while at the same time they smoke, drive recklessly and dry their hair in the bathtub). And you fell for it right there:

> Yes, that was my point. Look at all the people in NJ/NY/CT without power.

Seriously, how often does that happen? I live in comparatively small cities (500k, and 300k before that) and the grid went down on me like three times in twenty years, the longer being a few hours. Also, I don't know how fuel pumps work but I bet they're electric with no fallback so you could very well be unable to refuel a gas car either. And then, what? tomorrow may bring in different habits, and as the dependency on electricity grows the grid will be made more reliable in a way or another (including possible fallbacks like generators in buildings, especially those who already burn some form of fuel to heat water).

The irony is that they could actually have power were their car electric, as some electric cars are designed to be able to power demanding external devices, or even a whole house from the battery (not exactly relevant here, since we're talking about whole buildings).

So, why do they buy such cars around here? Because once a year they go on vacation to the beach for a week or three with family, luggage, dog and cat. They completely overestimate the exceptional need. And contrary to the enthusiast minority, they don't even care what car they own (the logo being a domestic one is often the main - yet untold - argument), so they might as well rent a bigger, longer ranged car for the vacation duration and run on the cheaper car otherwise. Even smarter, take the train and rent the car on arrival. And when they go at Ikea they get delivered or rent a van.

My own brother bought a huge station wagon so that he can lug around bed and fridge when he moves in. Which happens once in ten years (at best). Which is basically the lifetime of the car, or the fridge. Seriously when you move in, you just rent a damn van(which has the advantage of even being able to fit everything at once instead of going back and forth filling the comparatively small SW).

As for energy consumption, it's not even like people will be charging from empty to full every single day, at once (remember 20km per day). And it's not like every single people will move to electric cars at once. So the current network will be able to grow as people slowly migrate to other sources of energy, and we might just even be able to analyse growth and identify the better way to enhance the infrastructure.

Again, we're talking, as you mentioned, about the future. Ten years ago the Internet in your pocket was for the nerdiest of nerds, xDSL was emerging and FTTH was unthinkable. All of that came in gradually, and EV infrastructure will certainly come the same way, just not the same rate.


If we accept that battery technology is rapidly improving and will be an order of magnitude better in the future, then those points of cletus' argument are indeed invalidated - the root comment is arguing that electric cars will not be the future because (e.g.) batteries are too heavy and take too long to charge.

For internal consistency, the argument should have read "batteries will continue to be too heavy and take too long to charge".


> Batteries are still too heavy

> Changing. Rapidly.

It doesn't matter how rapidly they are changing; the original comment was saying that they are too heavy now. You can hypothesize about where they will be in 5 years, but that's uncertain and doesn't apply to cars that are available now.

>take too long to charge

> Improving, rapidly. Much more rapidly than, say, gas mileage.

Again, rate of improvement doesn't have much to do with what's available now. And even if it is improving now, where will it top out? I can fill my tank in a minute and a half at the pump; will I ever be able to fully charge a car in that amount of time?

> Sorry to be a broken record, but this too is improving rapidly.

And again, it doesn't matter how fast it's improving; what matters is whether in the end, it will wind up such that it's cheaper than fuel-powered cars.

> Tesla's range is already over 250 miles; this is getting very close to that of many gas guzzlers. And again, this is rapidly improving, even though we're not working very hard on it as a society. Imagine what would happen if we tried!

This doesn't matter to me if I need to take a 500 mile trip. Then, instead of just filling up for a minute or two at the pump, I have to wait for hours for a charge every couple hundred miles.

> Uh, you can transport electricity to people, too. We have power lines for that.

It's a lot easier to clear a road to get trucks past than it is to repair a full power grid.

> Charging time: This doesn't have to get much better at all; you can recharge at night.

No, I can't. I don't have a parking space where I live. I have to park on the street, and can't rely on being able to park in front of my house. Unless we get recharge stations installed at every parking space, an electric car will never be practical for me.


What does "the batteries are too heavy" even mean? Too heavy for what?

Tesla just released a really big car with a heavy battery that goes 265 miles on a charge (under the very strict new EPA rating; at older methods of measuring range this number would be much higher). So I ask the batteries are too heavy for what exactly?

Also, if you are paying attention, you know that Tesla has just opened to the public a number of Supercharger stations that will charge the Model S battery 50% of the way in about 20 minutes. So your complaint of "wait hours for a charge" is already solved, today, in 2012, at least if you live in California (and Tesla plans to expand the Supercharger network rapidly).

There have been anti-EV arguments for years, but the arguments keep changing, which is how you know that EVs have won. The main argument used to be that EVs would never go far enough, that people would have too much range anxiety. That has been solved. Then the argument was that the cars are too expensive. That is in the process of being solved right now, as you see from Roadster->Model S. There are other problems but they are much smaller. "I park on the street so I don't have a place to charge my car" is not very hard to solve: it is obviously just a matter of will.


Not only do the Supercharger stations charge the batteries rapidly, they charge them for FREE and the electricity is from the SUN, not coal..


Just imagine if people in 80's had a similar attitude about internet, where would we be now?

If we were to wait for things to get perfectly ready. 90% of the things in this world would never get ready at all.


However, part of the perception that EV cars are almost here is caused by people having gotten used to the blistering pace of innovation in IT. Batteries to heavy? Mwah, "wait a few years and it will be good enough".

In reality, if you look at the weight/power density curve of batteries it has been improving at a pace that 10 times slower than what happened in IT. So it may take decades more to get where we need to be. Just trying to be realistic here.


Note that no one had to be given a $5000 tax credit to buy a PC, a modem, and an AOL account.


No, but most of the early infrastructure for the internet was publicly-funded (between government labs and universities).


> the original comment was saying that they are too heavy now.

I beg to differ:

> The Tesla Model S is a great-looking car but, unlike some, I still don't see electric cars as being the future.

The comment is arguing that electric cars are not the future because batteries and energy delivery and what not is not ready now. Guess what, now is not the future. It would be like arguing that ICE cars were not the future in the 19th century.


The important thing is that those who believe that electric cars are viable be able to finance the enterprise. The sooner the taxpayer is no longer forced to subsidize them, the better.


When do I get to opt out of subsidizing ICE cars and the infrastructure needed to keep them on the road?


Hopefully soon. Its wrong to subsidy the automobile, whether it is electric or ICE powered.

Yes, we do pay gas taxes, put I doubt they are enough. And even if they were, it makes no sense to charge the same regardless of when one travels.

Most of the road building is to accommodate rush hour traffic. It makes sense to more at that time, just as hotels charge more when demand is high.

The way roads are currently paid for winds up wasting enormous amounts of time at rush hour. Charging a price that reduces the traffic to the level that the roads can efficiently handle will save everybody a lot of time.

Of course, that issue has nothing to do with how cars are powered.


Isn't much of the subsidizing of infrastructure (roads) via fuel taxes? How should EVs be taxed?


Good point. If fuel taxes pay for roads, how will electric car owners pay for their share of the wear and tear?


Internal combustion engines are not at all simple. Sleek animations might make it seem like that, but when you are blowing stuff up, that tends to complicate things.

In comparison, electrical motors are extremely simple and maintenance-free. All while being on a level of efficiency that just can't be reached with a combustion engine.


Burning coal to make electricity, then transmitting that electricity all over the country, wasting some of it along the way... Then using that to charge a battery, then using that to power a motor.

I'm not sure it sounds particularly efficient unless you completely ignore all the work that goes into making the electricity :/


It's more efficient than blowing it up in your engine.

ICE engines are ~15% efficient at converting energy to movement. You must also include the cost of transporting, refining and drilling for the oil (coal is cheaper to get). This should push it down to ~10% burn to road.

Main stream coal power plants are ~30-39% efficient, electric transmission lines are ~95% efficient, battery charging is ~88% efficient and electric engines are ~92% efficient. That's burn to road of ~20-30%. Even without taking into account the extra costs of doing stuff with the oil to put it into your car, and having that priced with electric - electric is still better. There's a reason we electrified our trains, and a reason that diesel trains actually use their diesel engines to run electric motors.

Here are Tesla's calculations:

http://www.teslamotors.com/goelectric/efficiency (look at the final well-to-wheel efficiency - you'll notice it's a little more than double ICE engines).

We're also ignoring the cost of pollution that ICE vehicles bring (it's a lot more than power plants - which because they are centralized, can economically mitigate the release of pollution). If you price that into ICE, they lose pretty badly - because pollution is not, and never should have been free.

It's a resource you use and abuse to the detriment of everyone else.

Fundamentally you must understand this and this only:

Electric vehicles are 2x as efficient as ICE vehicles and cost less on a total cost of ownership basis.

They have won so badly that only willful ignorance can stop one from avoiding such an obvious conclusion (Innovator's dilemma).


Also, sizable portions of electric energy worldwide are generated from renewables (hydro, nuclear), so the efficiency is even higher.


This also presumes that you have access to a reliable power grid which is not the case in places like central and subcontinental Asia, or in the aftermath of a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy.

(despite that i totally think we should go electric. just that we should figure out ways to setup better infrastructure and disaster mitigation)


If you're on the moon, combustion based engines wouldn't work, so there is that... A freak natural disaster isn't a great reason to stay away owning an electric car. Of course there are going to be places around the world where the adoption of EVs isn't a good idea, but there are places where owning a boat is more useful than owning a car. It's about the needs of the consumer and the ability of local infrastructure to support it.


You don't have access to cheap/easy oil in those disaster situations either.

Furthermore subcontinental Asia is driving the adoption of tiny electric vehicles - China has over 130 million electric scooters (and that's from a few years ago - the numbers are going insane).


However, that's where hybrids shine - the slightly increased complexity of my Prius still makes it 2x as gas-efficient as a non-hybrid gas car.

I remeber a slashdot post a few years ago about a Prius onwer who mentioned how the evacuation of Houston during Hurricane Rita was an absolute nightmare for most car owners - the roads were packed and everyone was doing 1-2mph for 8+ hours. Many SUVs were simply abandoned on the side of the road. He ended up getting 55mpg for the week.

If I didn't own a hybrid already, a Volt would be an awesome car to get - can be electric for it's full range, but like modern diesel trains - it simply uses the gas engine as a powerplant to run it's electric motor.


Burning coal / electricity / oil to explore, drill, transport, refine, and re-transport oil ... Then using that to fill your car, so you can blow it up inside an engine.

Sounds a little less efficient than the electricity thing when you look at the full sequence. And this is even in the case where electricity comes from dirty sources; some states, like California, have an energy mix where electricity comes mostly from renewables. (And this is something that can be improved as time goes on).


Difference is though, with an internal combustion engine, the "turning fuel into power" happens inside the car.

Whereas with electric cars, it happens at a power plant... then gets sent to the car via electricity, with lots of it wasted along the way.

Personally, I don't see electric cars as solving anything. We should be looking at generating the power in the car, from things that are plentiful - water, dirt, garbage, sewage etc.


No, Gasoline is highly refined compared to oil. Diesel isn't as much. So "Turning fuel into energy" is really "Turning Oil into Fuel using chemicals and energy which in turn can be turned into energy" You still need a refinery and a very large distribution network consisting or trains, trucks, and pipelines. Your assumption of transmission energy loss is silly when you compare the required energy of transporting things like oil and water around.


If cars were really as efficient as you seem to think, then we should be replacing all of our coal burning power plants with massive stacks of car engines.

Of course power plants are much more efficient.


My understanding is that power loss through transmission averages at 6-7% for electricity (don't know if the Wikipedia article includes all losses happening: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission#Los...), which is really not that bad. I am not an engineer, but converting oil to gasoline/diesel, distributing it and burning it at an inefficient RPM in a car might be just as bad or worse.


Your average car engine is dramatically less efficient than a power plant.


Here in Seattle, we don't burn coal. Ok I lied, 0.52% of our energy does actually come from coal. But 96% of it is hydro and wind: http://www.seattle.gov/light/fuelmix/


That's a fuel mix to be very proud of. Unfortunately even here, most people in the metro area live outside Seattle city limits, and right across Lake Washington in the burbs the fuel mix is 32% coal, 16% natural gas http://pse.com/aboutpse/EnergySupply/Pages/Electric-Supply.a...


That mix, combined with the fact that grid power is more efficient than ICE anyway, is still very good.


yes, that's one of the things people forget about battery power - it decouples the generation of the energy from the storage. This means that you can switch from burning coal to solar, hydro or wind as an energy source with no changes at all to the car


It's actually quite a bit more efficient than an internal combustion engine, even with power line and battery losses. That's why EVs have the advantage in per-mile fuel costs. Power plants are quite a bit more efficient than the engine in your car. I don't have the numbers on hand but it's something like 40% vs 25%.


>What will change is the source of that fuel. It may be some kind of hydrogen-rich fuel (methane or ammonia) or it may be making the necessary hydrocarbons from the air and/or seawater.

There isn't any such fuel. Hydrogen is dangerous and corrosive, ammonia is hygoroscopic, hydrazine is super-toxic, boranes destroy everything, and that's the end of the story. Synthesizing hydrocarbons is highly inefficient, ditto for biofuels.

The range of hydrogen vehicles is not particularly impressive:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazda_RX-8_Hydrogen_RE

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_7

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

If you're willing to spend more, you break even with electric cars:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_FCX_Clarity#Specification...

Electricity works because it's cheap, and only getting cheaper: powering my house already costs me less than fueling my car. The correct answer to your three-line conversation is yes, you can use it in an apartment. You need a plug in your parking garage, maybe, but that's remarkably easy: a drill and a long copper rod can deliver energy through a solid concrete wall (just an example).

Batteries aren't too heavy; ~500# is counterbalanced by the simpler engine. 300-mile range has been demonstrated with lithium-ion batteries and longer is possible with lithium-sulfur. We're not going to run out of lithium, either:

http://gas2.org/2008/10/13/lithium-counterpoint-no-shortage-...

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been my bet for a while. They're light and they could be commercialized in less than a decade. Plus, the specific power is huge, which means way faster charging times.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/7382272v1u32m381/


You didn't mention methane. I hear there is lots of that stuff and some places find transportation of it so simple that they have pipes that deliver it right to people's homes... ;-)


also, best of both worlds, methane fuel cells have excellent efficienty. (at 600 Celsius... but that's a different problem)


How the heck did this ignorant post reach the top? It's as if YC readers are tied to the horse and buggy whip and refuse to do any actual reading about the state of electric cars today. I personally kicked gas over six months ago and haven't looked back.

The 600lb battery on my 2012 Nissan Leaf will weigh 350lbs and store 25% more energy in the 2013 Leaf using the new lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide cathode (NMC) battery chemistry. Not only does it weigh less than most automotive engines, but it also costs much less when the total cost of ownership is considered, including replacement at eight years. They already ARE an order of magnitude better than the car I bought and I'm not dissatisfied with my car today.

http://insideevs.com/nissan-ceo-carlos-ghosn-second-generati...

For the record, I cannot imagine a case where the 280 mile range of the Model S would not be enough. Your car does not need to go 1000 miles without stopping for awhile. If it does, catch a flight or rent a car. As I pointed out, I could afford a limo for road trips for the amount I'm saving on gas.

Also, I heard the major disaster and blackout excuse even before the hurricane happened. The problem everyone fails to consider is that it takes electricity to pump gasoline. The pumps are not siphons and they do not continue to operate without power. Electricity infrastructure is a superset of gasoline infrastructure.


You have literally no idea what you are talking about but that's OK because technology doesn't care about what you think - it just happens (cf. computer adoption, robotic automation, AI automation, cars, trains, trucks, looms, engines, planes, ships).

ICE vehicles are relatively complex and not actually cheap going forwards. We're past peak oil and emissions are now being priced (CO2 pollution is no longer free). That means the only way prices are going for ICE vehicles is up.

Electric cars on the other hand don't care what fuel source powers them, are riding the battery-cost curve down, are highly efficient, are relatively simple in operation/maintenance, cheap to run and have no emissions that need to be priced.

Hydrogen vehicles are just plain stupid from an efficiency stand point - where are you going to get the hydrogen exactly? Purifying it is too expensive - and since it's lighter than air - there is no economical source of hydrogen on earth. It'd be cheaper to fuel your car with coal.

Warren Buffett has a famous saying: Don't make statements outside your field of competence - lest you look accidentally foolish.


I agree with your post and general outlook on electric vehicles - they are definitely the future.

However, I do not agree with Mr. Buffett's statement - if it were the case, no one would ever make a single statement.


> no one would ever make a single statement

Maybe that would be a good thing. Most people don't know jack about economics, physics, finance, engineering, artificial intelligence, the future, technology or pretty much anything outside of their day to day job.

You'll notice that whenever someone like that does open their mouth in your field without knowing jack about it - you immediately understand that he has no idea what he is talking about.

The real problem comes when he's talking about an industry you don't know - because for all intents and purposes you won't know either.

> You can bullshit all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot bullshit all the people all the time.

This is how MBAs (or Master Bullshit Artists) can exist. If you don't know much about tech, he can say pretty much whatever he wants and you will have no idea as to whether he is telling the truth unless you yourself have knowledge of the relevant area.

> Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.

-- Tao Te Ching

Remember that the next time you are listening to a discussion of a complex field - where none of the participants have degrees, industry experience or in depth on the ground knowledge of said fields. Bullshit is everywhere.


I have my own philosophy for information processing. After thinking about it, it boils down to these 5 steps.

  1. Consume liberally.
  2. Process rigorously.
  3. Store cautiously.
  4. Modify frequently.
  5. Express freely.
Step 5 feeds back into Step 1, and is the step that puts me at odds with Buffett's statement. I think it is an important one though, even if the expressed ideas are incorrect or incomplete, because it keeps the information cycle flowing. Bullshit of some form will always exist until everyone is an omniscient deity and all truth in the Universe is known.

To me, the much more worrisome issue is the lack of emphasis on Steps 2, 3, 4: asking questions, questioning answers, answering questions. Encouraging people to try Steps 2, 3, and 4 is a more widely beneficial solution than telling them to just avoid Step 5 unless they are God.


"Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know."

...

Remember that the next time you are listening to a discussion of complex field - where none of the participants have degrees, industry experience or in depth on the ground knowledge of said fields.

If those who know do not speak, how could we ever listen to any other type of discussion?


It's a heuristic not a law. Use it to protect yourself from the adverse selection of stated data in complex fields from highly incentivised agents (including me).

Follow it, or don't at your own peril/gain.


I get it. And like most cute little sayings designed to make the speaker sound like they're dispensing sage advice, it's almost worthless as a heuristic. It tells you virtually nothing about the credibility of the person speaking, or the strength of their position.


> Hydrogen vehicles are just plain stupid from an efficiency stand point - where are you going to get the hydrogen exactly? Purifying it is too expensive - and since it's lighter than air - there is no economical source of hydrogen on earth. It'd be cheaper to fuel your car with coal.

No, it is expensive _today_. Which is different from saying it would be expensive at scale.


Oh for the love of all that is Science!

> According to former U.S. Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, "A hydrogen car is one of the least efficient, most expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gases." Asked when hydrogen cars will be broadly available, Romm replied: "Not in our lifetime, and very possibly never." The Los Angeles Times wrote, in February 2009, "Hydrogen fuel-cell technology won't work in cars. ... Any way you look at it, hydrogen is a lousy way to move cars." A 2007 article in Technology Review stated, "In the context of the overall energy economy, a car like the BMW Hydrogen 7 would probably produce far more carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline-powered cars available today. And changing this calculation would take multiple breakthroughs – which study after study has predicted will take decades, if they arrive at all. In fact, the Hydrogen 7 and its hydrogen-fuel-cell cousins are, in many ways, simply flashy distractions produced by automakers who should be taking stronger immediate action to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions of their cars."

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2008 that "Top executives from General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. Tuesday expressed doubts about the viability of hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term and suggested their companies are now betting that electric cars will prove to be a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale." The Economist magazine, in September 2008, quoted Robert Zubrin, the author of Energy Victory, as saying: "Hydrogen is 'just about the worst possible vehicle fuel'". The magazine noted the withdrawal of California from earlier goals: "In March [2008] the California Air Resources Board, an agency of California's state government and a bellwether for state governments across America, changed its requirement for the number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to be built and sold in California between 2012 and 2014. The revised mandate allows manufacturers to comply with the rules by building more battery-electric cars instead of fuel-cell vehicles." The magazine also noted that most hydrogen is produced through steam reformation, which creates at least as much emission of carbon per mile as some of today's gasoline cars. On the other hand, if the hydrogen could be produced using renewable energy, "it would surely be easier simply to use this energy to charge the batteries of all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles."

The Washington Post asked in November 2009, "But why would you want to store energy in the form of hydrogen and then use that hydrogen to produce electricity for a motor, when electrical energy is already waiting to be sucked out of sockets all over America and stored in auto batteries"? The paper concluded that commercializing hydrogen cars is "stupendously difficult and probably pointless. That's why, for the foreseeable future, the hydrogen car will remain a tailpipe dream". A December 2009 study at UC Davis, published in the Journal of Power Sources, found that, over their lifetimes, hydrogen vehicles will emit more carbon than gasoline vehicles. In July 2011, the Chairman and CEO of General Motors, Daniel Akerson, stated that while the cost of hydrogen fuel cell cars is decreasing: "The car is still too expensive and probably won't be practical until the 2020-plus period, I don't know." GM's Vauxhall Motors spokesman Bill Parfitt expects the HydroGen4 in 2016.

The Obama Administration sought to reduce funding for the development of fuel cell vehicles, concluding that other vehicle technologies will lead to quicker reduction in emissions in a shorter time. Steven Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, stated in 2009 that hydrogen vehicles "will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years". In 2012, however, Chu stated that he sees fuel cell cars as more economically feasible as natural gas prices have fallen and hydrogen reforming technologies have improved.

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_vehicle#Criticism

Boom headshot. Hydrogen/fuel cells were and are DOA.


I'm glad you are skilled at being snarky and rude, but it has no place here on Hacker News (or really anywhere).

Now onto your post: Writing off something as DOA because of current technologies is not a good argument at all. People made similar arguments about electric cars just a few years back (as shown in 'Who Killed the Electric Car'). A long time ago, no one ever thought computing would be cheap enough to be inside consumers' homes. There is always the possibility of a break-through technology, of a reduction in cost, increase in efficiency, etc.

The quote above cherry-picks some statements in 2008 regarding GM and Toyota's views at the time on fuel-cell vehicles. However, there is a long list of companies who have publicly talked about their investment (and upcoming production vehicles as well) in the fuel-cell space just this year (2012!). A quick search through fuel-cell news this year brought up the following: Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz aka Daimler, Audi aka VW, Toyota, GM, BMW. There are probably others as well, but that already covers the vast majority of vehicle manufacturers.

Secretary of Energy and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu reversed his view on fuel-cell cars and noted recently (mentioned towards the end of your quoted text as well) that there may be a higher feasibility for fuel-cell-based vehicles now.

There is ample proof that fuel-cells deserve more attention and research before closing the discussion. It is worth investigating this space if only to have alternatives - electric vehicles have some issues (range, cold weather performance, environmental impact of producing batteries) that perhaps other technologies could address.


Cars in production for immediate sale/reservation to the mass market:

> Nissan Leaf: Thousands.

> Mitsubishi i-MiEV: Thousands.

> Toyota RAV 4 EV: Thousands in production.

> Volt: Thousands.

> Model S: 20,000 in production.

> Toyota Prius: Millions.

> Electric scooters: Hundreds of millions.

> Hydro/Fuel Cells: A big, fat - wait for it - 0.

Sources:

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hybrid_vehicles

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_modern_production_plug-...

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_production_battery_elec...

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fuel_cell_vehicles

I call that complete and utter domination.

And to be clear, I'm not being rude, I'm merely stating the facts.

I would do the same if you were racist or sexist - so don't feel too special. Truth is not snark unless it disagrees with your view of the world - it's merely fact vs. fiction.

I don't deal in fiction - facts alone are wanted in life.


> Portable fuel supplies are just too convenient. The relative simplicity of the internal combustion engine (or some derivation thereof) is just too advantageous compared to even optimistic long-term alternatives.

We've spent way too long ignoring the externalities of our fossil-fuel energy supplies. Besides, moving to electric is a great common platform for future energy sources. It makes a whole lot of sense, for example, separating the power plant (ie, gas engine vs. remote nuke plant charging your batteries) from the propulsion mechanism (motors).


Couldn't disagree more. What's more portable than a solar-powered charging station? Solar energy is getting better and better - i.e. producing more KwH per unit of time of sunlight. That will likely continue - as most technologies tend to do.

Let's assume for a minute that Tesla survives the next few months and is able to ramp up production and deliver vehicles to it's 13,000 clients that it has received deposits for, it is mind-boggling how significant that impact will be on costs of everything.

The costs of production of each car, each battery used in each car, each car part, etc. will all fall. The cost of production of solar panels used at the Tesla Superchargers around the country, will fall.

I wouldn't be surprised if Tesla starts selling franchises on the superchargers - say 7/11, etc.

At some point in the next decade, just from Tesla alone - again, assuming they survive and continue on the current trajectory - you can reasonably assume that you will be able to travel much cheaper (if not free) than current gasoline. Not to mention that they will likely start selling Solar powered kits for home charging.

The question about an electric car performing in a flood/water is similar to the question of a combustion engine performing in a flood/water. They both will likely have trouble - although, I would be more willing to bet that the Tesla design could handle it better.

Everything you are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just the model T of EVs. With the Model S, the EV is finally coming of age. The future looks bright, and I am excited.

If anyone can bring that future forward, I would stack my chips on Elon Musk.


I would disagree. I think the personal commuter vehicle will move to an electric power system if Tesla (or their competition) manages to scale down price and ramp up production. I think heavy work and utility vehicles, however, will remain fuel powered.

I, for one, am happy that we finally have a choice other than gasoline or diesel. Given enough money I'd love for my family to have both an electric and gasoline (or diesel) vehicle.


I think heavy vehicles are actually more likely to switch - the torque characteristics of electric motors are generally a lot better. I may be missing something important there, though.


> Power is not free. An electric vehicle still needs to get power from somewhere and that power requires all the normal transmission infrastructure.

My understanding is that Tesla's new SuperCharger stations are solar based, charging a a local battery that's used to supply customer Teslas, then feeding any excess back into the grid, making it a "negative carbon footprint" source.


>It may be some kind of hydrogen-rich fuel (methane or ammonia)...

Unlikely to be ammonia. Ammonia is dangerous in the kind of concentrations that would make it useful for fuel. When ammonia was used in refrigeration whole families would occasionally die when their refrigerator sprang a leak.


... and on the battery chemistry issue, Teslas use Lithium-Ion batteries, just like we have been using in laptops for forever. They are not exotic.


You mean the ones that typically only last a year or 2?


My Segway LiFeMgPO4 (mfg by Valence) batteries are five years old with 7700 miles. They provide about 90% of the range they did when new. Your "year or 2" is well taken, but suggests cheaper (e.g. some Chinese knock-offs) cells or systems that aren't very smart about preserving battery efficacy. Long life is possible with appropriate care.


Tesla's EV batteries already in common use last a lot longer than that (7-10 years), so I am not sure what your point is.


There's a lot of clever engineering that can be done when your battery doesn't need to be small enough to fit inside a phone or a laptop.


When I'm driving 600 miles, I usually stop for lunch.

In the UK, all you would need to immediately make most long distance journeys viable is charging bays at about 5 or 6 existing strategically chosen service stations on trunk routes[1]. Remember, you can recharge fully in less than an hour.

Supplying power to charging points is not going to be a big deal. 85kWh battery charging in 1 hour will draw 1.4kW, less than half the maximum for a standard UK domestic plug, in fact less than a plug-in electric heater[2]. So I can also fully recharge in an hour at anyones house, just by running an extension lead out the window at a push. And, it's only going to cost me in the order of £10 to recharge at day rate electricity prices (about £5 on night rate). My current car does about 650 miles on a full tank of diesel driving at 70mph but this costs about £80 and it's much less efficient for city driving due to engine idling and no regenerative braking.

OK so the tesla costs about £46k($70k) and I can't afford that, but that's around what you'd pay for mid to high range BMW estate car. There are enough of these around to make me think there is a seriously large market for this car in Europe, easily enough to jump start the economies of scale in manufacturing needed to drive down the price for lower end models.

[1] Say, M6 Cumbria, M1 Warwickshire, A1 Northumbria, M90 Perthshire, M5 Somerset, M20 Kent

[2] e.g. http://www.johnlewis.com/230843376/Product.aspx


EV's certainly haven't already won, but I do think there are many cases where they're (almost) perfect.

For the person/business who doesn't drive far and can plug it in at home/work, they've now saved a detour to the petrol station. I'd love that. I suspect many businesses that have delivery cars within a city could make that work, assuming all the other costs lined up.

I think making batteries portable is very possible, but it'll take a generation or three to get that right, assuming the above market segments are saturated and Tesla sales are limited by this issue.

What remains a problem for me are the lifetime of batteries, and the need to drive outside of coverage areas. I like to drive cars for a while rather than replace them often, so don't like the idea of replacing a large part of the cost. And I don't want to worry about charging stations when going on holiday. But again, for a city-based business that replaces cars more quickly than the batteries would last, those issues might not be relevant.

One strong driver for innovation is that battery technology would become important to (at least) both the IT and auto industries. Research and innovation would accelerate and be useful to both industries via cross-pollination.


With some reasonably cost effective (compared to the cost of a car) installation, electric, fuel cell, and CNG vehicles can have their "fuel" delivered right to your home in a very cost effective manner, allowing you to refuel overnight. This is a distinct advantage over gasoline & diesel that goes a long way to mitigating, and for some people completely obliterating, the disadvantage of slow "refueling" times.


As EVs become more popular and the batteries become smaller and lighter, I can see a market for a 'battery exhange' which could be located in existing gas stations ... this would negate the problems with range and recharge ... as usual it would only appear when they become more popular.


I agree with the statement that electric cars are not the future, but for a slightly different set of reasons.

My MSc thesis / project was studying future engines and fuels - long story short:

- IC engines have efficiencies of anywhere from 70% to 5%; depending on a huge range of factors and types (rotax at 3000rpm on diesel vs v12 carb at 8000rpm on 98-ron, outside temp and pressure etc).

- Over 100 years of research has gone in to them.

- Almost the same time has been spent on building up our infrastructure around the production of fuel for IC engines.

- They can run on anything from ethanol to vegetable oil to human waste (after a certain amount of refining of course).

- Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Not to mention the lightest. It just so happens to be incredibly flammable/volatile too.

My solution? Replace petrol with Hydrogen for internal combustion - much alike the conversions we already do for LPG.

I spent roughly half a year on the theory behind it, and then another couple of months actually in the lab with an old FI 500cc motorcycle parallel twin engine (they're tough as hell). I converted it to LPG, replaced all the tubings, modified the injectors and started pumping in various blends of fuel (5% ethanol, 80% 91-Ron, 10% LPG, 5% Hydrogen etc). On some blends it ran smoother, on others there was horrible knocking, one some it just kept cutting out.

Unfortunately I was only allocated a year and never got a chance to finish - the amount of trial and error involved day in day out was gruelling. Not to mention at least once a week I'd have to rebuild the whole engine.

The future for me isn't electric cars, not at all. They'll hit the same constraints of raw materials that you mention, and it's wether they hit that constraint just as the technology is getting to a point where mass adaption is possible. Not to mention the charge time, the life cycle of a battery etc etc. It is hydrogen powered cars - wether that would be fuel cells or IC engines I don't know, but I'm leaning towards IC engines.


A plastic bucket of gas contains more hydrogen than a bucket of liquid hydrogen, and if you put a lid on it the gas will happily stay in the bucket, whereas for the hydrogen you need a pressurized corrosive-resistant container.

Hydrogen is not the future, because it's incredibly difficult to handle, we don't have the infrastructure for it (unlike gas and electricity), and the energy density of hydrogen is really bad compared to gas and batteries.

The engine is a part of the puzzle, but infrastructure is a much larger piece that has to be solved in a reasonable way.


Actually - Hydrogen storage isn't that much of a step above the precautions already needed for LPG; which is now incredibly popular in developing countries. Shanghai, if I remember correctly, made it illegal in 2000 or 2001 to sell petrol scooters in the city - they all run on LPG.

Regarding energy density - definitely agree, my own research showed me a 2 fold increase in consumption compared to LPG, which in turn increases consumption by 15% over regular petrol (note that these were estimates based on my data).

The lab had a "Hydrogen maker" - obviously it ran off electricity and in about 6 hours provided roughly 500 milliliters of compressed hydrogen (kept at 350 bar if I remember correctly) literally from air.

My concept was to be able to have a clean water tank (pure H2O) and electrolysis providing the Hydrogen to run the engine, and continue on in a closed loop; literally a car running on water. Obviously energy transfer, efficiencies etc make this almost impossible - but one can dream.


> literally a car running on water.

No, your car would run on electricity.

But why would you want a car that takes electricity and charges up an internal hydrogen fuel tank, then uses that to fuel a combustion engine, when you might as well have an electric car where you fill up the battery, then use that to power an electric engine.

The fundamentals of a car don't change. You need to store energy in the car somehow, and you need to convert that energy into movement somehow.

The benefits of a regular car is that the "store energy in car" part is very easy. You just fill it up at the gas station. The benefits of an electric car is that "convert to movement" is very easy, because electrical engines are very simple.

I completely understand that if you have a fueled up hydrogen-powered vehice, it's awesome - it runs on water!!! - but what do you need to do to get there? And how much energy is lost in conversions along the way? It simply doesn't solve any problems in a better way.


Where'd you find an 'old' FI 500cc motorcycle engine? Motorcycles didn't get FI until the late 90s, and some STILL have carbs!

Or did you convert a Suzuki EX500 to FI?


I was given a 2001/2002 Honda CB500 twin (I believe it had over 80,000 miles on it - really worn piston and chamber; hence "old" to me). The carb was removed but the top had LPG injectors on the side and I was feeding it oxygen rich air (this was one of the controls set on 30% oxygen at 300 kelvins).


How's gasoline working out now in New Jersey? Not well.

There is currently a massive amount of land and a massive amount of infrastructure (thousands and thousands of tankers, for one) devoted to making gasoline available on every corner, nearly worldwide. If a similar amount of land and infrastructure were devoted to, say, swappable electric batteries, electric cars would have no problems in the "long trip" department.

How can we get there from here? One easy way would be for the government to mandate every gasoline station to include one alternative refueling station - station owner's choice what that might be, but you have to have one. Bootstrap using the current gasoline network.


What an unfortunate comment/comparison by you.

http://updates.jalopnik.com/post/34669789863/more-than-a-doz...


And then you have to sell the public on why you raised gas prices to help push forward your liberal agenda.


IMHO electric cars will survive batteries and move toward other storage mechanisms e.g. supercapacitors


But electric cars are not just about batteries, they need a whole new kind of electric and mechanism. Although it is not so convent to recharge today, when other kind batteries get mature(like Fuel Cell Battery), nearly all Tesla develop today can be used.


There's no way a car running on a new, alternative fuel source (e.g. methane or ammonia) is anywhere remotely closer to commercial, viable reality than electric cars. It's a hard problem to crack, but we're close. Anything else is 20 years out at least.


You forget that horses are still cheaper than cars and yet...


Good one!




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