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March 05, 2006



I own a Reva. There are already over 400 on the road in London, and many see it as a perfect commuting vehicle. This is with a 6 hour charge, a limited 40 mile range and little space in the back. Bring on more advanced lithium ion models such as the Subaru R1e and I would hope and imagine that people will be falling over themselves to buy one.


I was walking down the street when I noticed an SUV pulling out of a parking lot. It made a u-turn into the adjacent parking lot and tooled off. I couldn't stop staring at this otherwise unremakable grey SUV. The traffic in the streets was blaring it's usual obnoxious roar but this car didn't make any noise.

It was a Ford Escape Hybrid.

Yes, I will buy a hybrid or even better any electric with decent range. The whole fleet can be fueled with wind, solar and wave electricity backed up by flow battery or other storage.

Robert McLeod

Even if fuel cell cars are available commercially in 4-6 years (and I don't think they will be) the infrastructure to fuel them won't be. This is the ultimate argument against hydrogen vehicles. They won't be practical until electric hybrids are well established.

I also happen to think that the plateau in peak oil will be much longer than people generally give credit it. The issue of oil price and supply, in my mind, are not so tightly correlated.


Whether I move to electric or not will not be about the cost of fuel but about the range of the vehicle. I have a 110 mile round trip to work four days a week. When that is met I will consider electric.


Honestly? Quite some time.

I live in a dense urban center. People like me would be better served by mass transit solutions. When we need a vehicle to get from here to there, we are unlikely to have a place to plug the vehicle in, at either end of the trip.

So long as I don't live in outer suburbia, the greenest vehicle I'm likely to be able to use would be fuel cell powered, possibly with some sort of solar-assist.

Jim from The Energy Blog

Robert: I thought as you did about fuel cell vehicles until a few weeks ago, and still do to some extent. The Honda FCX is promised for that time period and now has a range of 350 miles. I don't know how many will be produced, I presume a limited number, just like hybrids were and to some extent still are. The cost is another question, I will be surprised if they break $30,000 unless they are going to subsidize them, on the other hand would they offer them for sale if they cost that much.

As far as the fuel infrastructure, it is going to limit the area where they can be used, unless you buy a Honda micro CHP as I posted on earlier this week. Their are also a couple of smaller hydrogen generating stations, for filling stations, that have been announced if you have been following my posts. I question how costly the hydrogen will be. It may be just as much or more costly than gasoline at first. Their will be a limitied infrastructure in California as has been widely publicized.

The ramp up of FCV to high production will probably be slower than it has been for HEVs due to a limited infrastructure.

It looks like FCVs are going to be another example of a technology developed in the US and exploited by the Japanese.

As far of the range of battery powered vehicles, which was the concern of a couple of other comments, the new generation of lithium-ion and lead acid batteries should solve that. The lithium-ion batteries are close to production now and the lead acid ones are only a few years off. The new lead acid batteries offer the promise of be cheaper or less expensive than the current generation while being much smaller and lasting much longer. What it will take is a few years to ramp up production to get the cost down. Plug-in hybrids make a lot more sense in the nearer term.


I totally agree with Robert that oil production will probably plateau for a long time. While most enhanced oil recovery methods do not increase maximum production, they are capable of lifting the tail end, thus sustaining a higher global production.

Therefore, I regret that the Falls Church article speaks of oil as if it were falling of a cliff. Personally, I believe there will be enough gasoline to power existing vehicles to the end of their service life. New vehicles is a totally different matter.

If EVs (more realistically; plug-in-hybrids) were to gain a slowly, but ever incresing market share, demand for oil will decrease automatically.

I used to have doubts as to the capability of market forces to cope with Peak Oil properly. I'm still not convinced, but I must confess this blog has shown me, to my surprise, how much is already going on. But then again, as CEO of BP, Lord Browne, said: "At these sustained energy prices, every existing (including wind and solar) energy technology is feasible." As long as oil prices do not suddenly plummet, I think we will be fine.

I think I will be buying one or two plug-in-hybrids before my first all-electrical car.



Electric cars are the obvious end game. Everything else is either a stop-gap measure or destined for niche applications. The question is when will electric cars be more cost effective than our current oil based transportation system?
We use oil today because 1) we don't have to spend money creating it, 2) it's easy enough to get out of the ground, and 3) we have built an infrastructure over the last 100 years to refine, deliver, and consume it. However, if we had batteries that could power our current cars for 350 miles, that didn't cost a fortune, and could recharge in 15 minutes, we'd all be driving electric cars already. Why? Because over the last 100 years we have also learned to make electricity rather well and have developed an infrastructure to deliver and consume it. Electric cars have failed so far because of their expense and limited range (and indirectly slow recharge time). Importantly, they have NOT failed because of a lack of infrastructure.
Creating mechanical motion by burning a fuel is inherently inefficient (whether it's gas that is burned or hydrogen or anything else). The energy contained in the fuel is mostly wasted in heat and in moving the mass of the drive train (it takes a great deal of energy just to drive the pistons up and down in an ICE, as well as move all of the mass of a conventional drive train in order to deliver the torque to the wheels). Basic electrical systems today are at least 6 times as efficient as mechanical systems (today's electrical systems fail in the three areas mentioned before: cost, range, and recharge time). Very recent electrical motor improvements take this efficiency to 24 times better. All other things being equal, that would mean if your car averages 20 miles to the gallon then a replacement electrically based system in the same car would let it get up to 480 mpg. And that would be without any other improvements.
Given an electric system (battery, ultracapacitor, and motor) in our car that costs near the same as today's gas engine, and given reliability of 150,000 miles or more, and a recharge time that was fast enough to be convenient to recharge at a "gas" station, we'd be switching today.


It's nice to know that Tom Whipple from the predictive center of the universe, Falls Church, has such specific insight regarding our collective energy and transportation future. I'm full of other questions about what's invariably coming, so I'll be watching "all knowing" Tom's writings carefully. It's fine to have an opinion Tom, but just stop short of proclamations disguised as facts.


SwitchgrassMan: Hear, hear!

Nice post. Although your figures of electrical drive trains being 24 times as efficient as mechanical ones, imply that gas-to-motion efficiency is 4% or lower, which is not true. I believe the average is around 11%. A decent gasoline engine has an efficiency of 30-35% in its optimum load point and large diesel truck engines have broken the 40% barrier in long-haul operation (Source: Lecture by a Volvo representative at ASPO 2005). Still, 4-8 times better than gasoline is not bad either.

Otherwise, good insight and nice summation :-)



Electric cars sound great. But, electricity doesn't just grow on trees. It has to be generated somewhere and those generators require fuel to power them. If oil, natural gass/LPG, ethanol, coal are out as a source of fuel where is the power for the generators going to come from? Wind Power? The wind doesn't blow all the time. Solar? The sun doesn't shine at night. Hydro? People already want to breech the dams we do have because of the damage to the fish. I see only nuclear as a viable source of power for the generators.



Thanks for the kind words. I am of course doing what all good analysts do -- speculating wildly. Actually, I am basing the 6 times efficiency on a rule of thumb of electric motors vs. gasoline engines. Of course, the catch is being efficient in the creation of the electricity to start with. However, I have blind faith that all of the various alternate technologies being developed (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and yes nuclear fission and fusion) will do the job efficiently enough without relying on oil. The 24 times as efficient comes from multiplying the 6 times by 4. The 4 times speculation comes from this article on Parallel Path Electromagnetism: http://www.opensourceenergy.org/txtlstvw.aspx?LstID=005f1c72-43ec-4bba-a318-90b4c7a3ef71
PPE sounds interesting and (if it's not a scam) could have a major impact on the efficiency of electrocal motors in the relatively near future. We'll see.

I also just have to comment on your post. Yes, electricity doesn't grow on trees, however, mankind hardly takes advantage of all the energy found in nature. We take the cheap way out right now by using fossle fuels. Fossle fuels are the cheapest in the short run because the Sun already stored tons of energy into the oil for us and nature is naturally set up to recycle oxygen and carbon (it takes little effort on our part to burn something). However, it is far more expensive in the long run, considering the polution, health problems, wars, extinction, etc. Yes, the Sun doesn't shine all the time. That's why we have to store sun generated electricity for reuse when it's dark. Fundamentally, oil is stored energy. Batteries also store energy. Pressure is stored energy. Just because we have to store energy to use it when we want is not a reason to continue to use oil. The question is not what energy source should we develop so that we never have to store energy. The question is how do we best use energy immediately as well as store it for use later?

After all things are said and done, we primarily use electricity as our energy source for everything except transportation. So the end result is the technology that lets us store energy and convert it to electricity most efficiently for transportation will likely be the winner in the long run.


Plug-in Hybrids are the obvious answer to energy storage, and demand management, for wind and solar. The utilities would get storage essentially for free.

Thomas Pedersen

you are absolutely right!

I would just like to add the fact that PIHs and EVs can be rolled out roughly in sync with wind and solar (and other renewable). This can happen over decades, slowly replacing the existing vehicles/powerplants. No need for costly scrapping of functional equipment!

It's funny how you can almost hear these two statements from the same people: 1) Wind and solar is intermittent = unreliable and requires battery storage, which we don't have. 2) EVs require electricity and where's all that extra electricity gonna come from?!?. Answer: put the two together, and you get a perfect symbiosys :-)

I would love to get my hands on a plug-in diesel hybrid! :-)



Q:When will I buy an electric car ?
A:When one is available with descent performance and and price and that has
a support infrastructure ( dealer + mechanics ). I do not consider a NEV as a having sufficient performance (speed) to drive safely on any roads. Also anything
using old style lead acid batteries is
not desirable due to poor durability and
being affected by the cold...

Dr. Kamlander

Gentelman, I had the pleasure of reading all the above comments. I have a PhD in Chemistry and Physics ( University of Vienna,Austria) and usually suffer when I read articles about
energy, energy conversion ( nobody seems to have heard about the Carnot cycle ) etc. So it was a pleasure to read thoughts of concerned people at this high level. Referring to energy storage in Austria. We have large hydropower from our rivers, some wind power and use water-reservoirs in our alps to pump surplus energy a few hundert meters up. For almost imidiate responce to a certain need. Keep up the good ideas !


Simple. When they are available near Tennesse, USA and do not cost $100,000. Also needs to have good not great performance. I am watching for availability every week or so. Here's hoping!!!


You and many others are waiting Beth. At 75 cents per gallon (of gasoline)equivalent of electricity they should sell like hotcakes.

Subaru maybe the first actual car nanufacturing veteran to supply them. The startup compnies all have that high price tag problem.

The actual components for electric cars are not expensive, actually cheaper to manufacture than internal combustion drivetrains. But mass production is the holdup.

Think of the thousands of moving parts in a regular car's transmission and engine, compare that to the few moving parts in an electric motor and battery. With an equal level of production there would be no contest, the much simpler electric drivetrain would easily win on cost.

Any car that is manufactured in small numbers is bound to be expensive until mass production efficiency takes hold. I think conversions are the answer to high cost.

It looks like the effort to provide conversion kits for cars is taking off. But I think mass production ought to be applied. Assembley lines taking used cars, removing the internal combustion parts, and installing the electric car parts.

That might be a way to replace 200 million oil dependent cars in 10 years, that US consumers can afford. Maybe 10k per conversion, of a nice used car worth about 8k? Not bad, especially if the used car is one you already own and is all payed off.

Caroll H

I just watched "Who Killed the Electric Car?" with my son and it had a strong impact on him. The technology exists today for a reasonable EV but as amazingdrx said, “The startup compnies all have that high price tag problem.” That will be the case with anyone only building a few hundred cars. I don’t believe the big car companies want to product a car that won’t wear out like current cars. That could be bad for business. I think EV’s have the potential to be cheaper to build than ICE’s. (Internal Combustion Engine) The current cars already have a small electric motor, the starter and a battery.
The oil companies still want to sell oil so they will fight to the end any technology that will keep them from doing just that. The profits over the next few years for big oil are going to be unlike any in history. Even the most optimistic outlooks say we won’t hit peek oil for 30 years. That is still just a heartbeat when compared to how long we have used the wheel. The ICE will be a brief page in history.


Caroll H. wrote: I just watched "Who Killed the Electric Car?" with my son and it had a strong impact on him.

Please see:

Also, please see the responses #5 and #14.


Wind is a good solution for electric cars, the winds tend to blow harder at night and are more reliable at night, plus with V2G the vehicles will make the grid more stable so that more wind can be used. Switching to electric cars will in the end clean up energy production more then just the energy they use themselves.

Van Sales

I visited this blog first time and found it very interesting and informative.. Keep up the good work thanks..

Eco Eagles

Our vehicle runs partially on electricity. I am apart of Embry Riddle's Eco Eagles club. We are Embry Riddle's branch of the EcoCar challenge. We work to design, build and integrate solutions into an existing production vehicle. Solutions such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell drive train technologies will be explored. For further information visit www.ecoeagles.org

Blog Paling Keren

I always think an electric car would be the answer for global warming.


Our vehicle runs partially on electricity. I am apart of Embry Riddle's Eco Eagles club. We are Embry Riddle's branch of the EcoCar challenge. We work to design, build and integrate solutions into an existing production vehicle. Solutions such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell drive train technologies will be explored. For further information visit www.ecoeagles.org


I think the roar of the engines will soon become a thing of the history...

windshield repair kit

Hybrids are the new technology today, and are preferable to many.

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