Thursday, 13 January 2011

Battery Technology Buffoons Bite Back

It seems the proponents of of battery-powered electric cars are as uspet as I am at Brian Milligan's electric road trip up the UK.

They seem not to like Mr Milligan's apparent bias in not promoting electric vehicles and have challenged him to a race.

Yes, the nice chaps at Tesla have decided that they'll show Brian that you can drive their car from London to Edinburgh in one day. Hurrah! The world is saved, battery-powered electric vehicles are back on track and the saviour of the world again... Well... Not quite. You see, Brian Milligan is driving North in an electric Mini, the sort of car normal people can afford, whereas a Tesla is the best part of 100K. So not an even race then. Do I sense bias from the EV people too?

Not only does the Tesla cost a LOT of money, listen to the video on at the link above and you hear talk of fast charging points. Well, fast they may be, but they're at or beyond the limit of household mains supplies. A single phase 240v domestic mains supply is rated at 100 Amps max: thats the maximum the feed from the grid to your house is rated at. So when someone glibly talks about a 70 Amp fast charger, hopefully you understand how unlikely a normal house would be to have one. Especially when you realise when you come home from work of an evening, plug in your Tesla for charging, turn on your TV, put the kettle on for a brew and the electric cooker on for a bit of tea you risk blowing the 100 Amp safety cut-out fuse the electricity company put in the supply to your house.

Usually that sort of current drain is reserved for 3-phase industrial/business supplies, so not only is the Tesla beyond average wallets, so the charging rate they're using to fast charge is beyond most households.

I'm still convinced battery power is a dead end. How do people in terraced housing charge their cars: run a lead across the pavement for people to trip over? Maybe you have an unsightly gantry running over the pavement (I'm sure council planners would hate that) which allows the charging lead to drop to your car: but there's no guarantee with on-street parking that you can park up outside your house every night. What do you do if you can't? You could have charging points for every car in the street, at huge expense.

Don't get me wrong, I want electric vehicles to succeed, but I also don't want to be catapulted back a century. I want a vehicle that can take me on the short range journeys to work, but at a moment's notice can take me on as long a trip as I need, without having to factor in recharging times along the way.

Nope, hydrogen is the future and no-one can persuade me otherwise.


  1. Both the Mini and Tesla are prototypes. I know the Tesla is in production but it was/is essentially a proof of concept and geared to a racing/elite market to show that EV cars could be fun and fast - not practical.

    Check out the upcoming Ford Focus EV for a more realistic family EV car.

    Also your love affair with hydrogen is a little bizarre to say the least.

    As you yourself hint at in previous posts - it is in effect an energy storage system NOT a source of energy which we can just extract as we do with oil/petrol.

    And so if you claim 'green' hydrogen could be made using clean electricity to split water. So surely this same electricity could be used to charge batteries?

    Regardless of how the electricity is made (it's not the fault of either technology we still use fossil fuels) we are much better of using any source of electricity AS electricity. Converting it into something else is just less efficient by default - ie energy is lost during ANY energy conversion process.

    The current issue you have is with battery technology NOT electric cars.

    If battery technology was available that could enable a 300 mile range and 5/10 minute fast charge there are no problems.

    Well we've seen some great improvements over the last few years (mobile phones for instance) and so it will come - in time.

    In the meantime as you say electric cars won't be for everyone. Some may need more range, others not handy charging point. But that is ok. It's a free market and they find their place.

    Other than for extreme temperate use - the only benefit in hydrogen is for the oil/petrol companies who as you say can re-invent their massively inefficient (compared to electricity) production and distribution methods.

    And with the current EV vehicles appearing it seems not even pressure from the oil companies on car manufacturers has been enough to convince them hydrogen is the way forward.

  2. You're right: I have an issue with battery powered EVs. The problem I have with battery technology is practicality: where exactly do you charge all of these thousands of battery powered cars?

    Terraced house owners, flatdwellers if fact anyone without a permanent fixed parking space will be disenfranchised because of their inability to use a charging point. So no EV for them then, but thats ok, those with enough money to buy a house with a drive, or a permanent parking space and can afford the charging infrastructure will be ok.

    Of course, government (national or local) can come to the rescue and install chargers in every street in the land: hopefully wireless charging technology so as to reduce the amount of street furniture cluttering up the place. Oh, there's another disenfranchised group: those people living in planning conservation areas.

    But before government starts to install all this charging gubbins all over the land, who picks up the bill? Its a bit unfair for EV owners to expect a free lunch and for everyone else to pay for it, so really, EVs should be taxed in order to recoup the cost.

    Once you factor all of the additional cost of chargers, the fact a proportion of the population can't use them, I don't see a rosy future for battery power in the long term. Unless we all become two-car owners, but hey thats ok as long as you have the money to run two cars.

    Yes, everthing has its place, but why beat the fossil-fuel-using proportion of the population (that can't ever practically own a battery powered car) with a big stick whilst giving freebies to those fortunate enough to afford one?

    My obsession with Hydrogen is the ease of which it can be incorporated into our existing driving style, thus avoiding the need to catapult us back into the days of driving being an elitist activity. But of course green lobbyists don't like hydrogen because its currently produced by the big, evil earth-raping oil/chemical companies. But then again raping the earth to extract lithium and the industrial processes to make batteries isn't exactly environmentally friendly either, but lets not cloud the issue, battery powered cars really are green aren't they?

    But no worry, I'll tug my forelock to you as you drive past in your EV. I know my place.

  3. LOL! Wow rant alert!

    You can potentially charge your car in a number of places. In fact potentially a great deal more places than you can currently fill up your petrol car - and all much more convenient too.

    We already have a nationwide electricity grid, it only requires local fitting of charge points to create access EVERYWHERE ie

    1. For those with drives/home access charging at home means they have it really easy - as you say!

    2. Work parking, industrial estates, business parks etc can install charing points for employees/visitors.

    3. Any car parks ie supermarkets, shopping centres, town centres, swimming pools, gyms, hotels, motorway services and mmotels etc

    4. Petrol stations can be duel-fitted with fast charge outlets AND battery swap technology for those who can't access any of the above during their week.

    5. And finally street/public charging points. (Any new infrastructure can include this.. ie all new curbside street lampposts in residential areas could easily have charging points built-in)

    As most people will have access to at least a couple of these places ONCE a week (either charge at home/work or when you park up to do the family shopping etc) as long as the charge/range is 300 miles this is more than enough for the average 15k miles a year owner/family.

    YES at present the charging time and battery capacity isn't enough for a lot of drivers.
    But this will improve. And the beauty of batteries over hydrogen is they potentially offer a MUCH higher range than anything else possible.

    I don't think it's beyond the realms of science or engineering for us to have a nationwide charging infrastructure like the above and electric cars with a range of 500 miles in 10 years time.

    Hydrogen range (as a liquid) like petrol is limited to the size of fuel tank and this will never improve. I think even the biggest BMW example was around 160 miles which is already beaten by EV cars.

    Essentially we already have a nationwide infrastructure for electricity, it's a clean, efficient, effective and nigh on instantaneous delivery. Why the hell would you want to go backwards in shipping around fuel to where you need it in big tankers?

  4. I see you've deftly avoided mentioning who'll pay for all this wonderful new charging infrastructure. Glibly saying it "only" takes the installation infrastructure glosses over a huge amount of expenditure, time and work.

    Yes, electricity is readily available all over the place, but the problem is that final step: getting it from the mains to the car. Do you really envision a charging point for every car on the street? Because otherwise, you'd have to have charging leads running several feet along the street. Hardly safe or practical.

    Wireless charging technology is being developed, but that would mean regimented parking/charging places so the power transfer works efficiently. I'm not convinced the real-world efficiency of wireless charging is up to the claimed specs. Plus you're back to cost: one wireless point per vehicle is a lot of money.

    Yes, you could turn things about face and instead of charging at home, charge at the supermarket or whatever. The problem with that is the short amount of time to charge a battery pack while shopping means huge amperages going down the charging lead and into the battery. If there's any issue with the battery, lead or charger, there's a serious risk of fire.

    Bigger battery capacities means higher charge currents to fill up in the same time, again pushing amperages into serious territory. In that instance, reasonable charging times from empty to full charge could increase beyond the rating of domestic mains supplies and into three-phase industrial ratings. Some of todays rapid chargers require three-phase mains.

    Of course charging could be removed from the vehicle by doing a battery pack swap. Issues with that include damage to the battery pack of the vehicle while changing a heavy battery pack, damage to the vehicle's systems from a dodgy battery (and who and how one gets compensated if problems occur).

  5. I would envisage installation to eventually be a purely commercial venture.

    However as EV are non existant at present it needs a central government push to get things going.

    But we don't pay for Electricity operators to install cabling or Water companies to lay pipes so I don't see why it would be any different. (Apart from the classic non-commercially viable rural area's anyway!)

    The costs of charging points is really nothing in the grand scheme of things.. £500-5000 each depending on model etc. Installers, operators and land owners will very quickly recoup costs.

    And yes I would envisage eventually that all public parking spaces provided will have a portion of EV charging spaces.

    I live in a permit only parking area and see non reason why a special 'EV' parking permits couldn't be issued and say 10% of the spaces (or whatever % of EV cards there are) can then be dedicated for EV use only etc.

    Installing a charging points is essentially like installing an expensive bollard.

    Your issues with battery technology, charging safety etc have all been answered on other sites in far more detail - they're no more dangerous (ie safer!) than petrol.

    But I know I'd *MUCH* rather have a battery next to me that a hydrogen tank at 5000psi!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.