The Electric Car’s Same Old Problem: Page 2 of 2

OP-ED: Automakers are struggling to make money off mainstream electric cars. But many consumers won’t buy in until they’re given an incentive to accept less.

Also, fast-charge is coming; lower cost is coming.

But “coming” doesn’t cut it for now. A large percentage of mainstream car buyers still have their exceptional needs. Gasoline has bequeathed long range and fast, simple refills to them. And they aren’t going to let anyone pry those features out of their fingers until they’re given a financial reason to let go.

That will happen someday. Maybe, as Volkswagen has said, it will begin in 2030.  

Not now, though. You can’t ask consumers to give up a feature they already have, and then tell them they have to pay more for it.

Unless, of course, you want to lose money. 

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.


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I think electric air planes or air flying machines make much more sense because the cost of fuel is high and many of the enthusiasts fly local. I see a much better market because the craft could be made less expensive than a standard gasoline driven unit and it would be easier to control. All in all looking at flying is expensive and there are few inexpensive alternatives to flight. As far as large planes they should be run by some sort of atomic generation as they pollute more.

Joe, That won't work. Even hobby pilots take occasional long trips. An automobile user might commute to work and make local shopping trips most of the year, but take two long vacation trips--and a pilot will do the same thing. For what it's worth, when I was actively flying, much of my flying was done in southern Minnesota, but I regularly courted my fiancee, 500 miles away in central Illinois, via Cessna 150.

Fuel is a small part of the cost of operating an airplane. Aircraft have very stringent requirements and regulations before anything is put onto an aircraft. If the engine dies, tire goes flat, or any number of things happen in a car, you typically end up safely coming to stop along side the road. In a plane, it's an emergency and you're options for pulling over are pretty limited. Result being, lots of testing and regs. which equals: every thing on a plane is expensive.

Also weight is one of the biggest factors in airplane design and performance and batteries aren't light. It comes back to energy density. Same problem for atomic aircraft. Getting a reactor, shielding, and method of heat transfer that doesn't dump radioactive particles into the air stream is extremely heavy.

I'm really glad to see an article describing gasoline as an energy storage entity. Like a battery. It is a very efficient one, but a dirty one. Many people fail to grasp that oil is not an energy source. It is a battery that is storing energy that was produced by the sun a very long time ago.

There might be two solutions here. First is that a 2-car family would have a gas car for long trips and an electric for short trips, and the electric could get by with limited speed and range. Another approach is battery exchange stations. This would eliminate charging time problems, and the station could exploit intermittent renewable electricity. Clearly this would require industry standard batteries.

A problem with battery pack swapping is that a pack's viability depends a lot upon its age and how well it was cared for. When you swap you don't know what you're getting, and a warranty won't make up for a premature failure that leaves you stranded.

I purchased a brand new Volkswagen that left me and my family stranded at the side of the highway 6 times over the course of its warrantee period. Being ICE does not proof you against that. Being electric is a lot simpler, so less likely to strand you prematurely.

There is nothing simpler about a current electric vehicle system. In addition to having a very complex proprietary control scheme it has a high voltage electrical system that is far more dangerous to service than a gasoline powered engine. So even a skilledengineer will not be able to do any road-side repairs on an EV.

What they mean about "simpler" is comparing the number of moving and wearable parts in an EV vs. an ICE. I agree that the high voltage is dangerous, but few people today can do road-side repairs on a modern ICE vehicle too.


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