Will the rush to Electric cars - short-circuit?

EV-1 Cutaway, originally uploaded by 85Gripen.

As the price of a gallon of gas has risen dramatically during the summer of 2008 - more and more consumers are looking for alterntaives to the internal combusion engine. Several manufacturers, some new to the car industry and some established players have accelerated their plans to bring the Electric car to the mainstream.

One of the manufacturers getting the most press - is Tesla Motor's Roadster. This is a true electric - which will require a plug-in to recharge. But will run you over $100,000.

Even GM's Chevrolet Volt - while originally touted as an all electric (plug in) vehicle - is actually going to have a small 3-Cylinder engine on board (to recharge the batteries due to the Volt's short range (~ 33 miles) on a charge). An initial estimate (since retracted) was $40,000.

And you know the push for a plug-in Electric car is getting serious when the Electricity Industry has to put out a press release saying that they have enough capacity on the grid to handle Electric car being plugged in at homes across the country.

But - Electric cars still have an achilles heel. The batteries.

I live in Arizona. The Arizona weather (heat) kills batteries. It doesn't matter if you have 3, 4 or 5 year battery. The average life span of a battery in Arizona is 22 months. I will have had my truck for years next month - and it is already on its 3rd battery.

How many batteries need to go into a hybrid or all-electric car?

GM maintenance estimates for their EV-1 all-electric (pictured above) was that the battery pack would have to be replaced every 25-35,000 miles. Reduce that by 50% - and you are starting to look at replacing the battery pack every year - even w/ moderate driving.

Let's figure 15 Die-Hard sized batteries make up a 'pack'. A Die-Hard Gold goes for $80 (list price - prob another $5-10 for the assorted municipal recycling fees). So $90 per times 15 batteries = $1350. That's 3x what I have spent on maintenance for my truck each year.

This is the hidden cost of a hybrid/electric vehicle - which I don't think anyone has realized is part of the cost to be Green.

Until the capacity and cost of the batteries improves (more miles per charge) - an electric vehicle won't be able to replace the internal combustion engine - at least in my garage.

1 comment:

CelticSolar said...

the battery in your truck is lead acid. the batteries in these plug-in cars will be lithium ion, lithium polymer or other exotic materials. they will behave very differently in the heat (and cold) than lead acid. of course extreme heat will not be good for them, but the impact is yet to be proven.

some of the car companies (Renault-Nissan & GM) have been talking about leasing the batteries so you could upgrade/replace them every five years. with the tech being so new, there will be a lot of changes in the next decade. it will be interesting to see the changes in the auto-industry.