Archive for EV

EVs: I’ve changed my mind

Posted in Alt-Fuel with tags , , , , , , on 21/09/2014 by Alexander

If you’ve never read this blog and wonder if it’s a supercar-loving petrolhead writing this, I’ll boil down my view on cars: I love fuel-efficient, good-looking, comfortable cars. I’m especially fascinated by alternative fuels, as well as cheap and clean ways to make cars move.

In that vein, I’ve written on this very blog in bold letters that electric vehicles aren’t the future. I was eating my words a post or two on and it seems I’ll keep eating them. Electric cars are pretty cool and definitely will catch on. They’ll get cheaper and better and we’ll see more and more of them. I wrote a post call “The Evils of Electric“, and I stand by a lot of what I said, though since I’ve written it I’ve learnt a lot more about EVs and all the pros and cons surrounding them, especially concerning what it’s actually like to live with them every day.

This enlightenment can be attributed to Red Dwarf‘s Kryten, or Robert Llewellyn as I have no doubt he prefers to be RobertLlewellyncalled. His YouTube show Fully Charged is a very informative and balanced way of looking at electric vehicles, as well as some other alt-fuel technologies out there. What I like most is that he also loves cars, loves petrol engines and performance and respects everyone else who does, and just wants to say “getting around on petrol is fine, but it’s flawed and we should start looking at other solutions.”

For me, what really clinched Mr. Llewellyn’s status as an authority on these matters is how he doesn’t have his head up is arse or is out of touch with reality, and knows that someone like me who lives in a flat and doesn’t earn much money can’t really realistically run an EV in this day and age. But what he’s doing aims to make EVs widespread enough to become accessible, both in the price it costs to buy one, and the infrastructure necessary to keep them going. If you want to know more about Robert and his fantastic, entertaining and clever style of showing people how this EV malarkey simply makes so much sense, have a listen to a talk he gave in Liverpool last year called Electric Cars Are Rubbish. Aren’t They? I promise you’ll love it.

The Model S

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Desirable machines, General opinions with tags , , , , on 26/12/2012 by Alexander

Electric cars. Ah, the debate they inspire, whether it’s fuming outrage or bleating fanboy-ism, will be ongoing for years to come. Personally, I never bought the whole current electric car malarkey, for reasons I’ll note down once again in a minute, but first I’d like to speak a little about the current poster-child for the all-electric automobile. It’s not the Mitsubishi i-Miev, not the Renault Fluance Z.E. or the Twizy, nor even the Nissan Leaf. The epitome of electric motoring is without doubt the Tesla Model S.

Tesla Model SI’m starting off with something that’s indisputable here: it just looks the part, doesn’t it? Beautiful, striking lines that make it look as contemporary and as gorgeous as the best of current conventionally-propelled offerings with a little je-ne-sais-quoi hinting its futuristic character. The more I read and find out about the Model S, the more backward, redundant, obsolete and plain silly regular ICE’s look and feel. The absence of maintenance costs, the low running costs, the quietness, the smoothness, the performance and the space! With the battery pack doubling as the floor and thus, offering more rigidity to the chassis, it also frees up stowage space that allows for the two extra seats in the back.Tesla S Interior The rear boot, though huge, can be done without with because there’s another one up front. It just sounds so obvious and clever. This also allows for a completely flat floor in the front and rear, and a very spacious-feeling cabin.

The Tesla also has astonishing performance figures, with a sub-six second acceleration and the range of 300+ miles, that beats everything else electric out there by far. I have no doubt in saying that if you’re going electric, this is what to go for. Unless of course, you live outside the US and it isn’t available and is also as expensive as hell.

And that’s one of the downsides of the car. I do understand its price tag, but damn, that stings. Another problem is how long will the batteries last and how much it’ll cost to replace them. It’s all very well having little to no maintenance costs for five or so years, but then having to shell out a big ton of cash after that time for a car that cost a six-figure amount can be quite a slap in the face.

Another downside, which I’m sorry to insist on, is still the range and charging time. 300 miles is fine for daily commuting but it’s utter crap for a road trip. And the hefty buying tag and charging conditions (i.e., you have to have your own mains socket next to the car, ergo, you have to own your own house that has to have its own garage) means this will be a toy for the well-off, who will buy this as a guilt-ridding tool so they don’t feel so bad about their other car, a V8 or V12 that gets a single-figure mpg count. And don’t forget, charging away from home will be difficult and lengthy.

To finalise, there’s that stupid touchscreen centre console. It’s pathetic. Everything is controlled from there, whether it’s the AC, the sunroof or the radio, and I bet it’s invisible in sunlight, clunky at best since you’ll probably have to navigate through a plethora of sub-menus to get where you want, and downright f**king dangerous since this demands a lot of eyes-off-the-road time for this. Utter bilge.

But these downsides are niggles that have to be brought into the real world for there to be a concerted effort for development (except for the touchscreen, that’s just s**t). The current model for electric car ownership is crap (it requires ownership of a second ICE car), and as I’ve said before, it’ll fail if it stays the way it is. But infrastructures for charging away from home will pop up eventually if there’s a demand for it. Charging times, battery life and costs will definitely go down over time, and there have been all sorts of news of battery packs that are cheaper, lighter and more efficient, and are just waiting some more R&D and testing to be made commercially available.

So thumbs up for the Model S. Let’s root for it’s success.


Posted in News, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/02/2012 by Alexander

The BMW i8, which started life as the tongue-twisting Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car (which I like a lot), has been promised as a production car, and has been spotted in the wild during the usual winter tests for cars under development. Looks pretty cool.

Opel/Vauxhall is in the s**t again. After having gone through some hard times thanks to the incompetence of its parent company, General Motors, more trouble looms on the horizon in the shape of more cost-cutting measures. This just goes to show how much I understand the car industry. Let me illustrate.
SEAT are an awful brand, who make ugly Golf-based hatchbacks and cheap Audi A4 rip-offs. A couple of years ago VW, who owns them, mulled over the hypothesis of ditching the brand due to dismal sales. Unfortunately, they’re going strength to strength, even though there’s nothing tangible to justify this. Opel, on the other hand, have been making better and better cars. The Corsa and Astra make top 10 sales lists all the time, the Insignia has been a top-selling sedan in Europe (400,000 units sold up to 2011), won European Car Of The Year and another German award for “Car with the least flaws“. I’ve already raved about the Insignia and Astra’s brilliant interiors, and there’s still great Opels to look forward too: the four-door Astra and the amazing-looking Mokka (and I hate SUVs). I’d have thought Opel would be a lifeline for GM but I’m spectacularly wrong by the looks of it.

Gordon Murray has his T25 and T27 city cars nearly ready to go into production, all he needs is some ink on paper to render the whole thing official. His cars had better be bloody good because there’s been a lot of hype surrounding them. The iStream manufacturing looks pretty solid, though. But if I were Mr. Murray, I’d expect a lawsuit from Apple in the near future for calling his brainchild “i-(something)”.

Studebaker is planning a comeback. The legendary American brand that stopped manufacturing cars in 1966 has a new concept in the works and is betting on advanced, clean technology, with diesel-hybrid propulsion inside a compact five-door. Everyone, a warm welcome back to the Studebaker Lark.

An intellectually dishonest take on the cost of running an EV versus a petrol car. Doesn’t include the hefty cost of having to replace a battery every few years and/or its hefty rental cost. Doesn’t take into account the taxes petrol pays, and that EV’s will have to pay road tax eventually too (do you think governments will pass up this opportunity to go for what’s in our pockets?) Uses a 20mpg figure for the car (11.8 litres/100km)!

Cyclone engine

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16/01/2012 by Alexander

I’ve covered gas-turbine engines before, and they still live on in my mind as one of the best alternatives to ICE’s. Not as a direct substitute, mind you, but as a compliment to EVs as range extending technology. It’s a rather elegant solution, since it allows for regular, fossil-fuel consuming folk to adjust more easily due to the fact that they still have to pump in fuel, while at the same time it’s a cleaner, more eco-friendly electric vehicle. Everyone’s happy.

Perhaps their greatest advantage is that they can run on nearly anything that burns. Petrol, diesel, kerosene, whiskey, perfume, basically anything that’s liquid and combustible. And that includes all sorts of lovely biofuels that hopefully will be produced just as cleanly as they burn. However, this application of gas turbines to automotive propulsion is only being pursued by a consortium (that includes Jaguar), apparently.

It even crossed my mind to do something I’ve dreamt about for years: to get myself an old car, rip out the engine and turn it into an alternatively propelled vehicle (just as these guys turned a classic Toyota 2000GT into a solar-powered EV). In this case, a gas turbine electric hybrid. And I thought to myself, how hard can it be?! You just remove the ICE and strap in a gas turbine, batteries and some electric motors behind each wheel hub. But I’m absolutely certain that in reality things would be much more complicated than it sounds. The most elementary components that have a clear place in a conventionally-powered vehicle could become a nightmare. How many gears would it have, if it even had gears at all? What would power the brake servo, the air-con, or the rest of the HVAC system? Would it be the turbine or the batteries? How would someone who wasn’t a very clever engineer even begin to rig the readouts as to how much juice you have left on the batteries, what shuts down or comes to life when the turbine kicks in, etc., etc.? That’s complicated s**t.

I’m still curious as to how gas turbines compare with regular engines. I can’t seem to find any sort of specifications as to what mileage you could get from a gas turbine electric hybrid car or what’s their emission-per-km figure. After all, it’s a very nice technology in principle, but not really worth it if takes a gallon of fuel to keep the car fully operational for a mile. The Jaguar C-X75 concept has “an estimated fuel economy of 41.1 mpg, 778 horsepower, 0 to 62mph in 3.4 seconds, and a top speed of 205 mph”, which is very nice for a concept car, but that doesn’t mean it can to it in the real world. While trying to find some proper numbers, I stumbled across yet another type of engine I wasn’t aware of, called the Cyclone Engine. Its working principle is (if I’m not very much mistaken) a modern take on the steam engine, and has many real world applications, not just powering cars. And like the gas turbine idea (and unlike the split cycle engine and, from what I can tell, the shockwave motion generator), it can burn virtually anything in order to function. The website boasts a lot of advantages over conventional internal combustion engines, just like the split cycle and shockwave engines, from efficiency to number of components, which makes me wonder why these sorts of things aren’t being pursued more aggressively by more mainstream car manufacturers. If any one of these technologies (or hopefully, all of them) take hold, they’ll be tripping over themselves to play catch-up.

Is going electric as green as we think?

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , , on 08/02/2010 by Alexander

The march toward all-electric vehicles continues with some good ideas, like Volvo’s power-storing bodywork, and less good ideas, like the stupid-looking and stupidly-named Protoscar Lampo2. I’ve mentioned the pros and cons of EV’s before, and the bottom line is that unless recharging a car is as fast as filling it up with fuel, and that it’ll go a long way before having to stop again, the future of motor transport lies with another fuel or mode of propulsion. I suspect car manufacturers insist on EV’s because they’re easier to build and something more easily understood by the public, because even a corporate accountant can see the inevitable downsides of betting on electricity as the petrol of the future. Apart from its practicality issues, there’s an even bigger issue that EV’s have to deal with, one that attacks the very cornerstone of their existence: their carbon footprint.

An interesting article in the Portuguese website AutoPortal speaks of how a Dutch company, CE Delft, has uncovered an aspect of European law that, while an incentive for making EV’s, is at the same time an excuse for less environmentally-friendly behaviour. Loosely translated:

The study indicates that the European legislation that regulates car emissions presents “serious loopholes”, by allowing car manufacturers to ‘compensate’ the sale of electric vehicles with the sale of more polluting vehicles, which go beyond the emission limits set by legislation.

It’s an interesting point and one which isn’t easily visible, unlike the other disadvantages which are the realm of common sense and simple inferences. An overtaxed power grid, consuming lots of fossil fuel to produce the juice needed to recharge EV’s, and the junking of old cars are the main contentious and valid points, and they’re simply not being addressed.

Nissan Leaf

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Crap cars, Green Tech, News with tags , , , on 03/08/2009 by Alexander

Nissan have unveiled their all-electric vehicle (EV), called the Leaf, and it’s let some journalists drive it. What’s special about the Leaf is that it’s the first mass-market EV. There’s the Tesla Roadster, but that’s a rich man’s toy, and the Mitsubishi iMiev, but that’s only available in Japan. The Popular Science article has all the normal bits you’d find in a review, but I found one of the comments, by someone signing as skillet, far more interesting.

If they really want electric cars to take off they should stop making them look like turdwagons. The environmentalists should really take offense to this. The car manufacturers are stereotyping you into a bunch of hatch-back loving nerds.

My thoughts exactly.

Alt Fuel #2 – Plug-In Electric Vehicles

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , on 19/07/2009 by Alexander

The very stuff of science-fiction, since when I was seven I believed that in twenty years either cars would fly or whizz around to the hum of electricity. Today, fully electric vehicles are a reality, such as the Tesla Roadster, electric scooters or the upcoming Chevy Volt.

– They don’t pollute (zero emissions).
– Very powerful and torquey.
– If cellphones are anything to go by, battery performance has improved drastically in recent years and will continue to do so.

– Still very new and unproven technologically, which leads to all sorts of reliability and efficiency issues.
– Low autonomy (Tesla Roadster: 393km between charges – very crap)
– Long battery-charging times (though I don’t doubt this problem will be solved over time).
– The energy crisis will shift its focus. Will power grids be able to support everyone charging their EV at the same time?
– Your house has to have to have a garage with a plug (perhaps even a special, non-conventional one). I have a garage space beneath the block of flats where I live, but I don’t have my own private electricity source. So people like me and people who park their car on the street are automatically excluded from owning an electric car. This is one of the most hindering aspects that will make EVs very hard to catch on.
– You don’t have trouble finding petrol, diesel, and to a lesser extent, LPG. Try finding somewhere to recharge your EV when you’re far from home. Good luck with that.

Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids
Plug-In Electric Vehicles
Biodiesel, bioethanol and such
Carbon-neutral Algae-based fuels
Hydrogen fuel cells
Hybrid Retrofitting


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