Reader Question: Electric Appliance Shortcomings?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Michael asks: In my area, I am able to take the (empty) propane tank from my grill to various locations and trade it and a few ever-increasing dollars for a full tank.Color me ignorant, but …

Why is it that Tesla or these other electric appliance manufacturers do not contract with existing gas stations (or create their own) to provide a facility/equipment whereby the electric appliance driver drives over and parks at a pit (lined up with buzzers and beeps). After being instructed not to move under any circumstances until the procedure has concluded, four electric impact wrenches quickly detach the battery unit from the bottom of the appliance. The battery drops down and is filed into a charging system before a fully charged battery is pulled and promptly wrenched back into place. Five minutes? *Poof* the electric appliance driver is back on the road. I mean come on this isn’t rocket science. How quickly does that solve/resolve the lengthy charge dilemma?

Something about this entire electric movement doesn’t smell right.

My reply: The idea sounds fine in concept but there are several problems. Here are the big ones –

First, the battery packs would need to be standardized, both in terms of physical fitment and connections as well as capacity; i.e., an 85 Kilowatt-hour battery could not be swapped out for a 50 Kilowatt-hour battery. But each electric car make/model has a different battery pack. This means either a “universal” (and one size fits all) battery or an inventory of different battery pack types. Either way, this gets very involved, if only in terms of housing a large number of these very large/heavy battery packs. If they had to be sorted for type and size, it would add another massive – probably insuperably difficult/costly – element that would obviate the whole thing as a practical way to reduce “charging” times by just swapping battery packs.

Second, there would need to be some way to assure that a “bad” (old, tired; no longer able to hold a full charge) battery was not offloaded in exchange for a good one. I suppose some automated means could be conjured to do this, but – once again – the equipment needed gets into money. Who will pay for all of this?

Three, the stored batteries would need to be kept at the optimum temperature to prevent “bricking” – and also kept on a trickle charger of some kind, to prevent them losing charge. Another layer of infrastructure complexity.

It’s all kind of demented when you reflect how simple and inexpensive it is to pump 10 or 15 gallons of gas into a non-electric car. It reminds me of the saying about going around the block to cross the street!

. . .

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