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Goldilocks and the Three Electric Vehicles

Toyota RAV4 EV - the "Just Right" Electric Vehicle?
Toyota RAV4 EV – the “Just Right” Electric Vehicle?

Forty miles might not seem like much, if you’re considering your daily commute or weekend getaway. On the other hand, when considering electric vehicle, could it mean the difference between a comfortable drive or white-knuckle range-jitters?

Psychologically-speaking, those forty miles make a huge difference in how electric vehicle drivers feel about their range. Take, for example, the Nissan Leaf and Toyota RAV4 EV, which have about a forty-mile range difference. The Nissan Leaf’s 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack gives the car about 80 miles of range, while the Toyota RAV4 EV’s 40 kWh battery pack, after accounting for dimensional and mass differences, 120 miles. Apparently, Toyota RAV4 EV drivers are far more comfortable, with the same kind of driving habits, than the Nissan Leaf drivers, that is, the RAV4 EV drivers don’t experience range jitters.

I would love to see a similar study conducted between the Toyota RAV4 EV and perhaps the Chevy Volt V2.0 or Tesla Model E, expected to have 200 miles range, and perhaps the Tesla Model S 85 kWh, with 300 miles range. I’m betting that range anxiety is the furthest thing from these drivers minds, with that kind of range to play with. On the other hand, how much do we really need? Considering that the Tesla Model S 85 kWh range tops out at 300 miles, and the Nissan Leaf ranges is about 80 miles, what is a good middle-ground for the electric vehicle that will appeal to the American driver?

According to a recent survey, conducted by UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists), some 45 million Americans could switch to an electric vehicle, “with little or no change in driving habits,” but what would they drive? Interestingly, Tesla Motors and General Motors are pinning their efforts on the 200-mile range electric vehicle, somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000. Is it overkill? Might a somewhat shorter range and smaller price be just as effective at eliminating range jitters? Goldilocks, what’s just right?

Image © Toyota Motor Corporation

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  1. LoneWolffe beepee  I think that, in a sense, you’re right.  But I don’t really suggest using the existing power grid to conventionally recharge typical EV batteries.  In fact, when and/or if, the power grid is used, it will be very, very sparingly.  The on-board TDI Diesel Generator, will be designed to produce enough electricity to push the AD/DC motor, and alternately recharge whatever on-board batteries that might exist.  Given that the EV “fuel” is completely organic and will incorporate essentially a more “natural” refinery process, the post-production lifecycle looks very good.  I concede that the lifecycle cost of manufacturing for both conventional and EV’s is roughly the same, with the production of the lithium ion battery being a disadvantage, but in the production of either petroleum fuels, or fuels and either electric grid, they both pale in comparison to the lifecycle of low to ultra-low emission veggie fuels particularly when those source veggie plants will naturally regenerate themselves through replanting (simply a basic agricultural process), borrowing Weyerhaeuser’s approach.

    With the exception of, whatever emissions are generated from a Diesel engine running on veggie oil at the proper viscosity, I’m hopping for a zero  emissions vehicle (i.e. the Tesla with the on-board diesel generator), and ultimately less direct and in-direct lifecycle impact in crude oil production and in the mass disposal of lithium batteries.

  2. beepee  I can understand the concern over disposal, which I’m hoping will mean intensive recycling programs. On the other hand, electric vehicle makers have consistently found lifecycle emissions of electric vehicles to be no worse than conventional vehicles. We haven’t gotten to mass production yet, so I wonder if perhaps we’ve bitten off more than we can chew when these get to the end of their lifecycles.

  3. In reply to LoneWolffe   –    Well actually the benefits of an electric vehicle is diminished by the environmental impact of raw materials needed for production of the lithium ion batteries and the subsequent disposal of those materials.  Right now the impact is not so severe, but if and when electric vehicles are “mass” produced, the world will feel an even worse environmental detriment than we will see with continued crude oil production.

    The diesel engine was invented to run on peanut oil and converted to run on (then cheap) fossil fuel.  It was actually an oily by-product of the gasoline refinery process.  But even at that, petroleum based diesel is a mere 40 octane (which has to emit less harmful exhaust then 80+ octane gasoline).

    By definition, an internal combustion ENGINE “creates” energy, whereas an electric MOTOR “uses” energy.  With the new technology in electric motors and the convergence of AC/DC technologies, electric vehicle “motors” are now creating energy.  By using lithium batteries, the point of diminishing returns will certainly follow, as these batteries represen future disposal problems.

    When we incorporate the technology of the new AC/DC motors into the new AC/DC “generators”, with the exception of the fuel, we can realistically approach “perpetual motion” on a large scale.  Since the fuel is veggie based and can literally replenish itself overall environmental impact will be 100% more beneficial to the future.  

    Total elimination of the battery pack is not the intent, nor is halting the extraction of millions of barrels of crude oil per day.  But if the increasing need for these batteries can cause future problems, then lets move forward  –  no R&D, no mysteries, let’s just do it.

    As I said, don’t have the $$$ to set up manufacturing, but I’ll buy a Tesla, convert it with an on-board TDI Diesel Generator running on veggies.  If we can put a man on the moon. . . . .  . etc, etc, etc.

  4. beepee  biofuels make sense, and are least carbon neutral, but how efficient is a biodiesel generator coupled with electric motors, as opposed to a conventional setup? really can’t see the point of an electric vehicle without the battery pack.

  5. The ultimate “disposal” of millions of lithium ion (or other) batteries is environmental suicide.  The Cadillac ELR (40 miles on an initial charge) incorporates an “on-board” gas powered “generator”, which based on it’s gas tank, extends the range to about 400 miles.  

    Since I have more common sense than money, I will purchase the Tesla and incorporate a (design/build) on-board “TDI DIESEL, 100% VEGGIE-FUELED ‘BACK-UP’ GENERATOR” with an oversized fuel tank.  I will then grow and refine agricultural crops dedicated to fuel production and refinement, leaving zero waste (residuals are seeds for replanting, compost, and food).

    Because of the TDI Diesel’s relatively low compression, reliability, and huge fuel tank, the result should yield an electric vehicle with a range easily in excess of 1,000 miles.  If GM is the least aggressive environmentally friendly car manufacturer in the world, yet they have grasped the concept of the on-board generator, that can provide the electricity to drive motors, that run the vehicle, then why not move to the “ON-BOARD, TDI DIESEL GENERATOR”, but ONLY if it’s fueled by 100% veggie fuel.  New concept, new efficiency, new industry and new jobs.

    The question remains:  Can lithium ion batteries, in electric cars, eventually be eliminated (as a bonus)?


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