Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A challenge to Battery Powered Vehicle Proponents

Okay, it seems that my views are at odds with battery powered vehicle proponents and that some of their comments on this blog have me confused.

So, lets make things very simple:

I bought my car for £650. Show me a battery powered car of similar value.

Its an estate car, so I need a car of similar carrying capacity. Show me a battery powered car of similar carrying capacity of similar value.

I live in a rented house, so installing charging infrastructure isn't an option. So, someone show me how I'm supposed to charge the battery powered car of similar carrying capacity and similar price.

My parents live in Manchester and I'm in Portsmouth. I can get there and back (if I can manage 8-9 hours driving) in a day. Show me a similar battery powered car of similar value with similar range. Just to clarify, its 250 miles each way.

My car is 12 years old. How many battery packs would a battery powered equivalent have gone through in that time and at what cost?  Show me a battery powered car that is as cheap to maintain (I deliberately didn't say run: this is pure maintenance costs) as my fossil fueled one. I'd be surprised if maintenance cost any more than £1000 over its 12 year lifespan.

So, that's the challenge: prove to me that I can switch to battery power. When I bought my car it was 12 years old, so I'll accept a 12 year time span. However, if I have to wait 12 years, then you have to convince me that punitive taxation of my current fossil fueled car for the next 12 years is fair given I have no other alternative.


  1. You questions above are obviously loaded and looking for the answer you want - but how would the answers for either Battery or Hydrogen cars be any different from each other?

    Anyway I'll take a shot at the questions!

    £650 for a car - well no 'NEW' car is going to be that cheap is it? Including Petrol and diesel. So that isn't an argument about technology but rather the cost of buying a new car.

    Your question is also loaded as no alternative technology has been in mass production for 12 years - never mind 100+ like the ICE. I would guess however EV cars will depreciate just like any other car.

    With regards to 250miles I think the Tesla can do 250. You could also fast charge for 15mins while you stopped for a coffee half way just to make sure. I'm pretty sure a Chinese manufacturer is planning a car for the US market with a 400 mile range option.

    You can charge from a normal 240v socket so you don't need to install any 'charging infrastructure' unless you wish - well an external socket perhaps!

    Lifespan - battery packs are currently guaranteed for 100,000 miles.. there are EV battery packs that are used for taxi's in Japan that have been running for 300,000 miles and are still going.

    Since there are almost no moving parts in an EV vehicle maintenance is going to be very low once they're mass market. Lotus (Tesla) engineers have gone on record saying all they do for a 'service' is top up the window washer water. Also if you've only spent £80 per year on your 12 year old car I think you've been pretty damn lucky and that's not most people's experience! I've spent £700+ on repairs in the last two years on my car - and all for 'things' that EV cars don't need!

    I wasn't trying to get you to 'switch' to battery, my comment was questioning why you think Hydrogen is any better a solution for a non-oil based transport system.

    The only Hydrogen cars around at present cost around £400,000 EACH and Honda have gone on record saying they are at least 20 years away from been able to produce them at a realistic price point (if EVER) - so why do you see Hydrogen as an answer?

    Also taxation on fuel isn't going to be the medium or long-term problem. Oil barrel prices are going to rise and rise as emerging markets in China, India & Asia use more & more.

    Essentially oil is a useful commodity that we need for other uses - fertiliser, plastics, pharmaceutical - burning the stuff is crazy.

  2. Delphious your post is disingenuous at best - and I'm sure you know it.

    All your previous posts take an anti-battery and pro-hydrogen as an alternative fuel source stance.

    All of the arguments you raise here are regarding costs which apply to hydrogen fuel cells ten-fold over battery technology.

    Baring in mind the hydrogen fuel cell cars currently cost £500,000 and the fuel cells need expensive servicing every 4000 miles how do you arguments stack up?

    Just because something is the cheapest option is no reason to keep it. Child labour and slavery are extremely cheap - should we have kept them too?

  3. Its not a loaded question. Okay, there are no electric (battery or hydrogen)vehicles at present in my price range. So why should I be taxed at an extortionate rate to "persuade" me to go green when I have no viable green alternative? Is that fair? I don't happen to think so.

    If, as we both agree that the price of oil is going to be the dominating factor in fuel prices in future, is it fair the government still insist on adding a premium in duty onto the retail price in the name of environmentalism?

    This Chinese car with the 400 mile range: what Ampere hour capacity is the battery I wonder? Pretty large I'd guess. Just how long do you think it would take to charge that battery up from a standard 13A socket? Several hours I bet.
    You can add a dedicated rapid charger, but the usual maximum domestic spur rating is 32 Amps, as installed for cookers or showers. Teslas rapid charger runs at 70 Amps, but the maximum rating of the supply to a house is 100 Amps. Do you really want to start turning household items off so you can charge that car and not blow the fuse in your house's electricity supply?

    Also with battery packs, they do wear out. But even if they partially lose capacity, it can be an issue. As new battery technology comes to market, its still not clear to buyers how much battery capacity will be lost over how much time. For instance, that Chinese car with 400 mile range; if its battery reduces to 80 percent capacity, that's a 60 mile reduction in range. Nothing you can do about it other than buy a new, very expensive battery. The issue is, how long or how many charge cycles will it take to lose that sort of capacity. Would the majority of people be happy with a technology that reduces its range over time?

    I'm aware that electric driven vehicles of all types have their drawbacks and the technology needs more development. I'm just sick of people beating me over the head for driving a fossil fueled vehicle when I have no other option.

  4. I agree - I don't think anyone realistically at present has any other option. Personally however I see a switch to battery EV's as the easiest and best option we have. It win win on co2 emissions, high oil prices AND high government taxation on fuel in one easy swoop.

    And I'd agree the governments taxing on fuel for 'environmental' reasons with fuels prices so high are a scam at best.

    The best option is to fix fuel prices at a certain level for x amount of years.

    This would not only gives stability to the UK market but it also mean competing fuel technologies have a good chance to take hold as they can't be undercut by OPEC and Oil companies artificially slashing costs and manipulating prices to reduce take up of emerging tech, stifle innovation and generally and keep us tied to oil.

    One of the reasons I love battery EV is that the government would find it very hard (impossible?) to tax electricity specifically used for car usage but you just know as soon as its viable hydrogen would be taxed at the pump just the same as petrol is now.

    You correct battery packs are around 80% after 100,000 miles.. It's an issue - one of the best idea's though is the leasing of the batteries rather than buying outright. It keeps the costs low too. Renault are selling their cars without batteries for under $20k - you then lease them on a per mile basis - inc use of battery swap bays (swaps in under 60secs) etc.

    Lease costs per mile are said to be still way way under equivalent petrol costs.

  5. The easiest option would be to install hydrogen infrastructure then you can gradually convert internal combustion vehicles to run on it (with almost no emissions) and eventually use fuel cell vehicles once the price comes down. Converting existing vehicles to hydrogen also avoids the fossil-fueled, energy-expensive production of a brand new vehicle.

    That way, there's no huge price to change. Yes, you'd have to pay for conversion, you'd need a big tank in your car because that's what hydrogen needs, the range wouldn't be as great as with petrol. BUT, you'd be able to refuel within minutes like you can now, therefore range wouldn't be an option allowing more acceptance socially of cleaner technology.

    Instead of government paying shedloads to clutter up the streets with chargers, the money could go into grants for vehicle conversions and tax breaks for installing hydrogen refuelling stations.

    Okay, the current main source of hydrogen is natural gas, but eventually there should come a time when hydrogen mainly gets produced from electrolysis.

    Of course then the problem is the production of enough electricity using zero emissions technology. Wind doesn't always blow, our larger waves can rip charging stations to shreds and conservationists don't like tidal. That's an entirely separate debate.

    Yes, it'd be hard to tax electricity being used for transport, but then its not hard to tax the transport itself. On a per-mile basis if necessary, as the existing toll technology exists. So battery technology doesn't necessarily mean a free lunch in tax-free road use, fuel delivery and charging infrastructure.

    I agree with Jason in that a stable petrol price would allow each technology to compete on its own merits. If battery power eventually overcomes what I see as major hurdles to its acceptance then fine, it would win out.

    But I see no sense in punitively taxing fossil fuels when there isn't a viable alternative and I don't see the sense in investing heavily in battery technology because its limitations will inhibit social acceptance.

    I do see the sense in investing in hydrogen as a fuel for the future, which will allow current cars to run cleanly, which will eventually power unlimited range fuel cell vehicles, which will eventually be produced using zero-emissions technology.

    I still feel that if we invest heavily in battery power, it'll be like investing in betamax, or video 2000, or HD DVD.


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