Fat Girl in a Bikini . . .

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You may have read that GM killed the electric car. This isn’t true.electric car lead

The government did.

The practical electric car, at any rate.

By imposing car design edicts that have made it impossible (so far) to build an economical electric car.

An economical electric car would have to be, above all, a very light car. Under 2,000 pounds, at least.

Ideally, under 1,500 pounds.

A 2016 Tesla S electric sedan weighs in at 4,647 lbs. – which is about 600 pounds more than a current full-sized pick-up truck like the Ford F-150 (4,049 lbs.).

A 2016 Nissan Leaf electric sedan – which is only slightly larger overall than a 1970 VW Beetle – weighs about twice as much as the old Beetle: 3,243 lbs. vs. about 1,600 lbs.

Because they are so heavy, electric cars are not very economical. They cost a lot money.

And they can’t travel very far, either.Tesla battery pack

Which makes them not very practical.

Impractical – and expensive. Now you know why it is necessary to heavily subsidize their manufacture – and pass laws requiring manufacturers to build them, even if they can’t sell them.

It’s crazy – and it’s a shame.

Also, unnecessary.

Electric cars – electric batteries – are very sensitive to weight. The heavier the car, the greater the load on the battery; it depletes faster. A heavy EV requires a larger – heavier – battery pack. A Tesla S model’s battery pack alone weighs 1,200 lbs. – only about 400 pounds less than the weight of an entire 1970 VW Beetle.

More weight, less range.leaf pic

The motor must also be more powerful, in order to get the heavier car rolling. The more powerful motor is usually larger – and so, heavier.

Less range, again.

You see the problem.

Unfortunately, the government does not.

Or, it just doesn’t care.

Cars generally (not just EVs) are heavier today than they have ever been, notwithstanding the now-widespread use of aluminum for engine blocks and plastic/composite body panels – in order to meet the government’s numerous “safety” requirements dictating the impact forces a vehicle must be able to withstand in a crash, including in particular its ability to roll onto its roof without the roof crushing.

The only cost-viable way to accomplish this is by adding structure (steel) to the vehicle. Which makes it heavier. Which makes it less efficient – whether electric or gas (or diesel) powered.

Its a Catch 22.fat car

You can have “safety” (as defined by the government) … or you can have efficiency.

It is hard to get both together.

Particularly in an electric car.

Getting 1,200 pounds of batteries rolling makes that challenging.

But a 1,500 pound electric car would not need 1,200 pounds of batteries. It could probably get by with a pack that weighed half that. It would also not need a heavy motor (the Tesla’s weighs almost 400 pounds, about the same as an aluminum V8 engine) because less torque would be needed to get a light-weight car going.

Imagine an electric car that weighed about what a 1970 VW Beetle weighed. Imagine how far it could go in between recharges. Imagine how inexpensive it would probably be.

But such cars do not exist because of the government fatwas that do exist.Tesla and Porsche

So, instead of very light-weight, simple and inexpensive electric cars designed for maximum efficiency and maximum economy, we get hugely heavy and hugely expensive electric cars laden with electronic features and creature comforts to make the buyer feel better about their economic insensibility.

It’s their luxury and “tech” – and in some cases, like the Tesla, their performance – that is touted. 

In which case, what’s the point?

If an electric car costs more (much more) to buy and operate than a non-electric car, there’s no economic case to be made for the thing.

It’s like admiring the beautiful singing voice of an obese girl competing for Miss Universe.  

Because they are very expensive – the “cheapest” of them being the $30k Nissan Leaf – it’s more than slightly ridiculous to talk up how much money you’ll “save” by purchasing one. Generally, people in a position to spend $30k-plus for a car can do basic math.

And the math doesn’t add up.weighty waddlers

Hence, the need to sell electric cars on the basis of things other than their economy. 

Elon Musk’s Tesla Model S is quicker than many exotic high-performance sports cars. It has a beautiful body and a sumptuous interior with all the bells and whistles, plus the box they came in.

It also starts at $70k. 

In part because it has a panorama sunroof (150 pounds) and four (front and rear) leather-covered, heated and powered (draws electricity) electric seats (200 pounds) plus 400 pounds of “safety control units” and air bags. See here.

As economic proposition, it’s like the obese girl in the Miss Universe pageant.

No one but the blind guy in the back row is wolf-whistling for her.  

Well, and perhaps Uncle.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Electric cars make perfect sense – when you leave the battery out. They were called streetcars and they worked really well. What drives me nuts is there already have to be wires everywhere roads go – if you were going to commit to electric cars why would you not just install power feeds in the roads?

    • Hi Louis,

      Exactly. Electric drive works (functionally) and makes sense economically when it is used for modes of transport such as you’ve described. Fixed routes, ready (constant) access to a power source. Street cars, diesel-electric (and pure electric) locomotives.

      It’s a bad idea for cars, assuming individual usage patterns (which vary widely) are allowed for. It amazes me that EV defenders seem to really believe that most people – not them, not a small group of extreme EV partisans – will accept even occasionally having to wait 30-45 minutes to recover a partial charge before they can travel again. Let alone regularly. Or put up with the additional hassle of plugging in whenever they get home, instead of just parking and going about their business. Then having to unplug before they can head out again. How is more waiting – and more hassle – an improvement over IC?

      This is a country full of people who hate waiting for anything. It’s preposterous to imagine they’ll accept waiting 30-45 minutes to charge up when they can fuel up in 5 minutes or less. And for $15,000-$20,000 less (average) than the cost to buy an otherwise comparable IC car.

      Also, EVs as mass market vehicles presume convenient access to a place to plug in. Not everyone has a garage. What about people living in apartments and townhouses? Are they going to run extension cords out a window, down to the street? Aren’t all those cords a saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety hazard?

      The whole thing makes my teeth ache.

  2. “But a 1,500 pound electric car would not need 1,200 pounds of batteries. It could probably get by with a pack that weighed half that.”

    I’m not sure of this. The original Tesla Roadster was pretty much a Lotus Elise. The ’09 Lotus Elise weighed 1984 lbs. The ’09 Tesla weighed 2877 lbs – nearly 900 lbs more. Since the electric motor only weighed 70 lbs and I’d guess the transmission weighed no more than the Toyota transmission in the Lotus, batteries may have even cracked the half-ton mark. And the range was still sub-300 miles per the latest EPA methods.

    Newer batteries would be more efficient, but still…

  3. Electric cars today make ZERO economic sense, it’s pure ego “oh,oh look at me”. And this is from someone who loves the idea of electric and has helped build one as well.

    It’s simply a case of energy density, current batteries don’t have enough.
    Heck even hybrids don’t make economic sense when all life cycle costs and opportunity cost are included. A perfect example is the Prius City vs the Yaris. Do the math.

  4. For EVs, the key lies in brake power interestingly, not horsepower (although it’s the same thing, just in reverse). If you can manage to have a car with a motor to handle ALL of the car’s braking by recovering the energy of momentum and direct it into charging a bank of supercapacitors (light weight, high peak power, infinite cycles), and then buffer/charge the capacitor pack with a battery pack to compensate for rolling losses, you could multiple range by 8-9 times easily. Reason being is because electric cars still use conventional friction brakes, which turn momentum into heat, rather than potential energy (electricity in this case). Sure electric cars have a regen feature, but it’s barely good for 5-10% recovery because it’s directly charging the battery pack, which can only handle a certain peak charge rate. That’s the reason they are so wasteful.

    So to fix this, it’s really a simple solution actually, use a high powered motor (500-600 horsepower), limit it to 150-200 peak propulsion horsepower, but have it regenerate at a rate of 500-600 horsepower (the amount of “horsepower” brakes typically need). Since 500 horsepower (sufficient braking power for a small car) isn’t hard to get out of a few hundred pound motor (speed control and inverters are negligible for weight), and a supercapacitor bank is also very light as well, you can fit this kind of a setup easily into a sub 2,000 lb car. Then if you coupled it to a series electric single cylinder diesel drivetrain (no more than 150 lb), range anxiety solved.

    But that would be cheap, solve range issues, and make economical sense, and we can’t have that now can we?

    • It’d be interesting to couple a supercap bank and perhaps a large resistor on the roof to burn off any overflow as heat. Think about that as an advantage:
      With an EV, one could do away with brakes, one could do away with the liquid cooling system if properly designed, one could make AWD through adding a motor rather than a linkage which would experience losses through heat/friction. No transmission is needed, either. There’s an aluminum air battery that would be able to power a car for 600+ miles and would not be possible to charge at an outlet, one would just eject it and replace it with another. The core would go back to be reman’d. That might work for some kinds of long-distance travel for EVs.

      http://newatlas.com/aluminium-air-battery-could-extend-ev-range-by-1000-km/32454/

    • At this point in time, electric car range is limited mostly be aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance. Both go up with speed, the drag as the cube of the speed (takes 8x the power to go 2x as fast). This is why heavy electric cars, and even things like the prius, have great mileage at slow city driving despite all the stop-start. The regen works pretty well already, since a 600HP braking input is basically a full-brake panic stop. Most people brake in a cloverishly slow way.

      That 1200lb pack in the tesla contains as much energy as a couple of gallons of gas, and yet the car can still do ~300 miles at 60mph (or much more at 35 mph).

      In my opinion, light weight helps electrics be affordable, but it won’t help much with range due to drag.

  5. The only end run is as a motorcycle, and Uncle probably has greasy thoughts around that soon, which will also harm Elio.

    http://corbin.com/motors/

    It has been around for over a decade in small numbers, but Corbin has gone bankrupt at least once if I recall trying to get this off the ground. It is electric, and it has three wheels.

  6. Saw a Tesla on the highway this am. Could not make out the model, but it was NOT a small one. Then again, I work right outside Mordor, and money often seems not to be a consideration.
    Efficiency, low emissions, and saaaaafety. Pick any one, no problem. Pick any 2, and it’s difficult, but probably doable. All 3? Fuhgeddaboutit!

  7. Generally, people in a position to spend $30k-plus for a car can do basic math.

    Ah, but eric, you forgot about the Virtue Signaling Quotient. It brings the net cost right down!

    • It appears that many of them can’t do basic math! My calculations tell me that no money down, $24k a year job, 2 kids, 1500 dollar a month rent, plus insurance, taxes, food, etc. etc. equals you can’t afford that thirty thousand dollar car! And yet, you all know as well as I how many idiots go out and buy it anyway.

  8. I get your point about weighty automobiles, but in the case of the Tesla, a more apt comparison would be to admire a Hollywood starlet for her housekeeping and cooking skills.

  9. “In which case, what’s the point?”

    It is in the interest of the politicians, bureaucrats and cronies. When you benefit from corruption, then corruption is the point.

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