Car Lust presents “In Defense of the Electric Car.” Thoughts:

1>  “Unsprung weight” is a critical issue. You will NOT see motor-per-wheel; electric motors are just too heavy, and the resulting vehicle would ride like a truck. Note that the changes over my lifetime have been to lighter wheels and tires, and that has to continue.

2> turbines are NOT more efficient than IC. Efficiency is a matter of relative temperatures. The temperature in the cylinder when the mixture explodes is very high, and the exhaust is relatively cool. That works because the explosions only come occasionally, and the mass of the engine absorbs the waste heat. A turbine has to have its working parts continually at the highest possible temperature, and materials aren’t up to it. Turbines are useful when you need max power in the smallest, lightest package possible, airplanes and portable “peak leveler” generators, and can afford to take the efficiency hit.

If you want efficiency in your hybrid, put a constant-speed Diesel in it. Diesels are less flexible than spark-ignition IC, and the compromises necessary to make them flexible reduce their efficiency — that’s why semis have so many gears. A constant-speed Diesel doesn’t have those compromises and can run at maximum efficiency.

3> batteries are never going to be up to it; get somebody knowledgeable about the “electromotive series” to explain why. Supercapacitors are actually a better bet, but even so they don’t and won’t ever have the energy density of liquid fuel — and if they do, or even get to useful levels of energy density, they’re bombs looking for an excuse to go off. It may seem overdone, scifi, Back-to-the-Future hyperbole, but in a supercapacitor you really are storing energy by warping spacetime, and it wants to get back to normal. Cars crash, and will continue to do so, and emergency workers have to come rescue the occupants, and that means armored cases and even more weight and complexity, plus the occasional EMT getting limbs blown off anyway.

4> I’m sorry you don’t like to hear about the grid, but it’s inescapable. What you’re talking about is taking the energy delivered in the form of liquid fuel away, and delivering roughly the same amount of energy via the electric infrastructure in addition to what it delivers now. The USDOE has a web site that compares that sort of thing. You have no reason to trust me, so look it up yourself, and you’ll see why electric cars make the electric utility companies nervous.

5> What I would like to see is a “third rail” on the Interstate. It would have to be combined with an autopilot, but that would be all to the good. Electrics and hybrids could be used in the city, where they make all kinds of sense, and they could sip energy from the third rail on intercity trips. Just leave enough of the liquid fuel system in place for us country folks to survive, would you please?

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