Environmental issues, energy and electric cars
Before I bought an electric car, I knew it would be different and I was ready for it. Even so, here is my list of 17 things that I didn't quite expect, that I only realized after driving one for a while.
See the list at my Forbes site article Top 17 surprises from the first year of a Tesla
If you read stories that California just put in new regulations that will change all the per-minute chargers and Tesla superchargers, don't worry, the changes are not that big and don't apply to chargers for some time. But it is worth examining how the regulations, such as they are, exhibit 20th century "gasoline thinking" by imagining that the same rules that apply to gas pumps should apply to electric charging stations. See about it in my Forbes site article:
Often when you attempt to install an EV charging station in an older home, you find that the old 100 amp service on your panel is not enough, and the electrician may quote a very large price to replace the panel and upgrade the service.
There are ways to avoid paying thousands of dollars by putting in a modestly smaller circuit, and you may find it charges you just fine. Here is a guide to how to get away with less than a 50 amp plug and save many thousands.
I was thinking about all the different variants of battery powered and hybrid cars, and thinking about the BMW i3 REX, which is a medium range PHEV that uses a small, cheap motorcycle engine to drive a generator. I think there might be two new types of semi-hybrid cars with this approach, so I wrote up a summary of all the types, and where the new modes fit it, particularly a plan to make cars with a receiver in which a temporary generator module can be placed.
If the world switches to mostly electric cars, how will they handle the charging on peak travel days like Thanksgiving? I wrote an article on some thoughts for that, and on evacuations as well.
Read about it at Can An Electric Car World Handle Thanksgiving Travel?
Here are two recent articles on the economics of electric vehicles.
On Nov 1, PG&E, probably the most common power company for electric vehicle owners, raised the cost of their EV off-peak rate by about 25% in exchange for making the off-peak period last longer. Nobody even noticed, even though a 25% rise in gas prices would be a major calamity in the eyes of many. I look into that math and why nobody cared in:
Two articles this week from 3 conferences I attended.
First look at How Cities are Stuck in the "last mile" and other observations from a conferences on cities and new mobility. I examine how scooter companies are working with cities, and how self-driving car tech is mapping cities by keeping the infrastructure dumb.
Lots of folks were forwarding a story about a battery lab at Penn State that has shown a battery that can be recharged in 10 minutes. This is good (and many other labs and companies have demonstrated other ways to do that. But my key reaction is that those who think it's a huge deal are still thinking of electric cars like gasoline cars that you fill up at filing stations. They aren't. With a recent EV, not on a road trip, you charge only at home while you sleep, which takes zero time. Fast charging is not of value there. An article about this can be found in
Tesla's "battery guru" from Halifax, NS released a paper on some new battery cells they have been testing in his lab and getting 6,000 cycles from 0 to 100% on. That's a lot better than today's cells which offer 2000 cycles from 20% to 80% if you are lucky. This could be very big for electric cars, grid storage and it is suggested even robotaxis -- but their needs turn out to be more straightforward than originally thought. But it does bring down the cost.
A big question for most EV buyers is how much range they need. It depends on your commute, your driving area and how much you want to take long road trips, and where you want to take them, but most people will be pretty happy with the 200-250 mile range cars that are starting to come out. But do you want to pay extra for more than 300 miles of range and get that long range Tesla?
Here's an article where I outline how to make that decision:
Hyundai has put a solar panel on an electric car. Turns out that's "false green" and may end up using a lot of the solar energy to cool down the car after you park it in the sun. What do the economics on solar panels in cars look like?
Another Tesla car crash, allegedly on autopilot, teaches us something about how well (or not well) Tesla is doing with its claimed ability to use its fleet of cars to quickly learn to identify unusual obstacles and situations. Here, a Tesla on autopilot crashes into a tow truck sticking out into the right lane (injuring the Tesla driver.) The driver says it was on Autopilot but that he was distracted for a few seconds.
Tesla advertised that the Model 3 is the safest car ever based on NHTSA's tests. NHTSA wrote them a letter saying, "stop saying that, you can't compare these scores across different weight classes."
Here's some analysis of who is right and why Tesla wins in the end at NHTSA and Tesla spar over safety claims
RV parks already have the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles on road trips. They just need somewhere decent for the road trippers to sleep and they can exploit a whole new market. Some already rent little cabins. If they add glamping tents they can serve customers at a low cost and could quickly fill out the many gaps in the EV trip network. In my new Forbes site article, I outline the things they could do, and give some advice to drivers too.