I have a few search terms logged into Google and Twitter, one of them is ‘electric cars,’ it helps me to keep up with developments in the arena however with my cutting edge technical skills and my constant reading of this venerable website I’m still always lagging behind.
One of the stories I was made aware of the other week was, and this is how most bloggers and headline writers presented it ‘Toyota Kills off the Electric Car!’
Killing the EV for web hits
I admit it caught my jaded eye for a beat, then I moved on. Repeat the three-phrase-mantra, link bait - say anything for the hits - it’s about eyeball numbers not facts. Just this morning I had a proper look at the story.
Toyota, it turns out, has decided to withdraw one model they were developing, an electric car they hadn’t launched, the eQ minicar (also known as the iQ EV). One model from essentially the biggest car manufacturer in the world. The story completely ignored the launch of the already successful Prius Plug in which I test drove last month. On a 120 miles journey including urban, rural A roads and a lot of motorway driving delivered a fairly staggering 144 mpg. Yes, you read that correctly,144. I heard from Toyota representatives that even the heavy-footed motoring journalists who’d tested the vehicle on the same route achieved 120 mpg. Obviously yours truly is the Arch Duke of hypermiling.
The story also ignored the launch of the Toyota RAV4 EV in California, an electric version of the petrol RAV4 with a Tesla powertrain and a 150-mile plus range. A Toyota RAV4 EV is currently completing a journey from San Francisco to San Diego where it is only being charged from renewable sources. I was meant to be driving it and the reasons I’m not are complex, dull, frustrating and annoying.
All that aside, Toyota, along with every major motor manufacturer are developing electric and hybrid cars with determination, focus and commitment.
Anyone with half a brain can understand from these developments that the people at the top of these companies, the people who have access to long term global planning strategies, understand that something has to change.
It’s slow and painful, the lobbying groups who are opposed to such change are well funded, aggressive and determined, but I am starting to believe they are losing.
20,000 ways to contradict the doubters
This frail belief was reinforced the other day as I was driving my Nissan Leaf through the charming Cotswold market town of Chipping Norton. As I moved carefully through the busy market square I missed the moment the Leaf’s milometer passed the 20,000 mile mark.
I was disappointed, I wanted to experience the moment. 20,000 miles in an electric car, it’s a first for me. I had to settle for the fact that I was driving through the hometown of someone who does everything in his considerable power to denigrate and belittle electric cars and then I cheered up.
I want to point out that 20,000 miles in a year is only possible if the car is useful, if it serves its function. If I had to stop for 10 hours to recharge it every 40 miles as bloggers and headline writers constantly imply, I would have gone stark raving bonkers and bought an old Range Rover with 15 mpg and loads of mechanical faults.
Happy, efficient (and cheaper) motoring
The Nissan Leaf is very useful, reliable and very cheap to run. However I would argue that it’s not just about the low cost of running the car, more importantly it’s about the actual amount of energy used to cover those miles.
If you break down energy into kilowatt hours as opposed to cost or gallons, the advantages of electric powered vehicles are set in stark relief.
Driving 100 miles in a fossil fuelled car with an internal combustion engine uses around 110 kWh of energy. This is due to the inherent inefficiencies of the system, the enormous amount of wasted heat, the need for complex gearboxes and transmission systems etc. This amount of energy is for a car that is averaging 35-40 miles to the gallon.
To make an electric car travel 100 miles uses around 24 kWh of energy, a massive reduction. The is due to the innate efficiencies of the motor, the fact that an electric car doesn’t need gears, the fact that there is essentially one moving part in an electric motor as opposed to literally 100s in an internal combustion engine.
The concern often expressed that if all the cars in the UK were electric, the National Grid would melt and we’d have to build thousands of nuclear power stations to cope with the demand is simply not true. Millions of electric cars would use millions of kilowatt hours less energy than the millions of fossil burning cars we use now. Nothing to do with climate change or saving polar bears, a huge amount to do with global economics and energy dependence.
I’m feeling more and more confident that not only is my 20,000 miles a small step toward that goal, it’s not the last 20,000 miles for electric cars, this time they are here to stay.
Robert is probably best known for his role as Kryten in the BBC series, Red Dwarf, (new series starting on Dave in October) and for spending ten years on a pile of rubbish in Channel 4�s Scrapheap Challenge. He�s published 11 books, countless newspaper and magazine articles and written 5 stage plays. For the past 5 years Robert has been increasingly interested in electric vehicles and the changes in attitude and awareness they encourage. For the past 2 years he has been driving electric cars, covering a total distance of 30,000 miles without ever running out of battery power. He produces and presents an online series �Fully Charged� which looks at electric vehicles and the future of energy. Robert lives in the Cotswolds with his family and writes in an office festooned with solar panels.
Danny - you're right! the vast majority of EV manufacturers only make "compliance" EVs. The only company making "real" EVs with a good range is Tesla Motors. And guess what - they are also the only company with absolutely no tie-in to Big Oil!Even Toyota have not moved forward in more than a decade since their original RAV4-EV. The new RAV4-EV is actually slightly inferior in performance to the original version. Toyota only specified what they wanted in each case. THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DESIGN AN EV POWER TRAIN!The drive system for the first RAV4-EV was designed by Panasonic and the new car uses a Tesla drive train.Even more importantly, the batteries used in the original RAV4-EV were not the expensive and difficult to control Lithium batteries, they were the much more robust and reliable (if a little heavier) NiMH type originally developed by Stanford Ovshinsky and further improved by Panasonic.Unfortunately these cheaper batteries are now heavily controlled by Chevron Oil (look up COBASYS) and restricted from "certain mobile applications" - read "EVs".That's why EVs are so highly priced. A Lithium battery pack is difficult to control at the high power levels needed in an EV and it requires a very sophisticated Battery Management System. The costs will fall slowly with time and further development, but the best general purpose battery technology (some of the original RAV4-EVs have driven more than 150,000 miles now) has been suppressed for more than a decade.Look for the original Panasonic flyer (about 1998) for their EV-95 battery pack. It compares very favourably with 2013 lithium technology. BUT THIS IS 15 YEAR OLD TECHNOLOGY! Think how far we could have gone if Chevron Oil had not bought all the patent rights!All I can say is good luck to Tesla. I can't afford the Model S but let's see what they do with the Generation 3 car in a couple of years time.
April 13, 2013
Everybody is asking: " Why are there no affordable, long-range electric vehicles? Are certain organizations and industry groups rigging the system to favor their old-fashioned competing products ?"
"The public has spoken with a deafening statement. Almost nobody has purchased the recent batch of "new" electric cars. The customer rejection rate is one of the highest for any automotive product in the history of the industry. Why? Because the public is not being given what they are asking for! Many of these groups knew that their over-priced, low-range, non-innovative vehicles would never sell but they wanted the tax breaks and good PR they would get from announcing their efforts."
October 01, 2012
That's great news about the fast chargers - I wondered if those in Nissan dealers were all that we were going to get in the UK!
September 26, 2012