Considering the twelve PR problems of EV's (according to EVCAST)

reikiman's picture

Last Christmas, the hijinks meisters at the EVCAST released a song detailing the 12 PR problems they see about EV's. With the exciting news this year about electric vehicles of all stripes, it's worth nitpick about and reflect on the issues they listed. (FWIW the song is funny - so take this nitpicking and enjoy it anyway)

1. Pretending that they're carbon free: The common complaint lobbed against electric vehicles is they're coal powered, and with enough handwaving this can sound to be really bad, worse even than gasoline cars. So if electric vehicles have worse total emissions than gasoline cars, then isn't it silly to even get an electric car in the first place?

Sorry Bo and Ryan, but that line of argument is just plain wrong.

First, their carbon, and other emissions, are zero. At the tailpipe. Obviously they're not zero emissions if you consider the system which brings electricity to the car. But, what yardstick are we using to compare electric car cleanliness against other cars?

It's funny how the people who demand a well-to-wheels analysis of the electric car footprint do not also demand a well-to-wheels analysis of gasoline cars. What about the horrendous impacts of the gasoline delivery chain? An egregious example of problems that delivery chain is the recent oil volcano created by BP, but that's really only the tip of the iceberg.

In any case all the studies analyzing the well-to-wheel cleanliness of electric vehicles conclude they're cleaner than gasoline cars. Even when the electricity comes from coal. The reason is that electric motors have very high efficiency (waste very little energy) while gasoline engines have very low efficiency (waste most of their energy as heat). If the electricity comes from coal, then the emissions story is pretty bad but that's because coal is simply a dirty fuel. If there were a switch to cleaner fuels like natural gas then electric cars would be effectively cleaner. Electric cars are as clean as the electric grid which supplies their fuel. Over time the electric grid gets cleaner.

2. Fake press releases: Yup, that's irritating but there's only a few companies who issue truly fake press releases. There are companies outside the EV industry that issue fake press releases. Why should fakery ever be tolerated?

3. Limited market rollouts: Sung over a picture of the Leaf. Nissan plans to deliver 5000 of these in 13 cities later this year. Yup, it's not a nationwide rollout but a limited rollout in a select few cities and a limited quantity. It seems most EV companies start with limited rollouts and the reasons given by Nissan seem pretty rational. Adequate recharging infrastructure is thought to be required for successful EV adoption, and Nissan says the rollout cities were chosen based on local readiness to build out the infrastructure.

Some companies like Aptera or Coda have given other reasons having to do with after-sales service and support. What if the vehicle breaks and the nearest service station is 2,000 miles away? This exact scenario happened with some Vectrix owners in Australia where it took a two weeks just to ship the bike to and from the service center. Remote owners be unhappier than owners with a local service shop.

(See Nissan announces choice of Aerovironment to provide home charging equipment with LEAF sales and The Nissan LEAF is touring America, and first deliveries are expected 1 year from now and Nissan supports electric vehicle & infrastructure deployment project and Renault (and Nissan) aiming to be leaders in electric cars)

4. Concept cars we won't see: Yup, that sure is irritating but the car companies build concept cars all the time, even gasoline powered ones. Why is this issue being slammed against EV's? Perhaps the issue really is that the car makers generally don't proceed from concept electric vehicles to delivering actual electric vehicles.

An example might be Audi's e-Tron (Audi's e-tron concept car expected to come to market in 2012). When first unveiled it had four motors, one for each wheel, and a promised 2012 delivery time. It was a way cool car whose specs spoke "Tesla Roadster Killer". So then why was the e-tron shown a couple months later so different? (Audi demonstrates a different e-tron concept EV at the National Auto Show)

5. Five years away: The story for years has been to promise EV's in a few years. This is especially bad in the fuel cell sub-market where fuel cell cars are always said to be 5-10 years in the future. It would be more honest if the companies made realistic promises ("we're studying the technology and cannot commit to any delivery time frame") than to promote vapor-ware promises. Vapor-ware is not unique to the electric vehicle industry, but is a problem of product marketing in general. Marketers like to make promises they never keep, for some reason, as if unkept promises will never bite them in the ass.

6. Out of business going: This was sung over the picture of a Vectrix. Vectrix went bankrupt as have many companies in the EV industry. Vectrix's bankruptcy was pretty egregious but I'm sure if Bo had bought a Sparrow in 1999, that Sparrow would have been featured in the song in place of the Vectrix. Companies go out of business in every industry all the time. It's sad that Vectrix was so badly run they were never going to become profitable and were doomed to failure. It's not the first time that businessmen created screwed up businesses, and it won't be the last.

Battery maker GP Batteries has bought New Vectrix and the Vectrix assets - while Vectrix did go out of business, they were rescued and a new Vectrix was born.

e.g. More, grim, revelations about the troubles at Aptera Motors Is about yet another electric vehicle company that's facing hard times.

7. Climate change confusing: The only confusion about climate change is the spewage of fake doubt emanating from the so-called conservative blow hards that infest the news media. There is no real doubt about the danger of climate change, there is only faux doubt meant to spread confusion and undermine efforts to reign in the horrid business practices that create the environmental mess we are living with. (The World Energy Outlook report on energy supplies, peak oil and climate change)

8. Deadline back a pushing: It would be way cool if businesses were to keep their promises and deliver what they say the product will be. Unfortunately as noted before, marketers have a habit of lying. Another issue is engineering teams often under-estimate the difficulty of getting a product to work. Experienced engineering managers know they have to double whatever estimate their engineer employee gives them.

To take an example (Roehr Motorcycles introducing a line of electric sport and racing motorcycles) the US motorcycle maker, Roehr, wasn't able to keep their promise made last winter. Oh well. They've promised the motorcycles will be available "soon" and unfortunately it'll be too late for teams wishing to race in the 2010 TTXGP season. Oh well. That's unfortunate. Wasn't the first time a product delivery schedule slipped, won't be the last.

9. Fox news a network: Yup, Fox News has plenty of liars and conservative blow hards infesting their so-called news programs. See the website for more information collated by a staff of Fox Watchers. But what does Fox have to do with electric vehicles? Maybe it's a reference to the propaganda spewed through Fox in 2009 that Al Gore pulled some strings with the Obama administration to help Fisker, a company that Al Gore is supposedly invested in. (Fisker, the vast rightwing conspiracy, and the $528 Mil DOE loan)

10. Crazies tree a hugging: Ah, that is an unfair impugnment of environmentalists. Trees are some of the best people to hug, you should try it some time.

11. Hydrogen a hating: Without hydrogen we wouldn't have sunlight, so I don't see what there is to hate about Hydrogen. Well, the so-called Hydrogen Economy seems to be full of hyped up promises. And there is an antagonism between battery electric vehicle advocates, and hydrogen fuel cell advocates.

The truth is that a fuel cell vehicle is an electric vehicle with an on-board fuel cell used to generate electricity. A better way of describing a fuel cell car is perhaps the "extended range EV" moniker that GM concocted for the Volt. Maybe us battery electric vehicle advocates should give hydrogen fuel cells a break.

On the other hand a lot of money is being poured into the fuel cell vehicle chimera, money which could be spent to develop battery EV's. There's jealousy here. A practical matter is the perennial promise that fuel cell cars will be available in 5-10 years. It doesn't matter what year it is, the promise has always been "5-10 years". When will they ever be ready?

Wait, a fuel cell car was leased earlier this year (Nissan announces first "commercial" lease of their X-Trail fuel cell vehicle) so that means fuel cell cars are ready now, yes? No, that was one vehicle. Later this year there will be thousands of battery electric vehciles delivered to customers. Thousands. Take that fuel cells.

12. Three wheel driving: What's wrong with three wheelers? Just because they're different doesn't make them bad. Every vehicle has its place of proper use, even three wheelers. It is curious that so many of the startup electric vehicle companies are making three wheelers. It wouldn't have to do with DOT regulations saying three wheelers are motorcycles, and that motorcycles have very little safety regulations, hence making it much easier to get the vehicle into production (no crash testing)? That'll be a problem if a typical average family buys a three wheeler, expects it to be as safe as a car because it looks like a car and all cars are crash tested, and then dies in a horrid accident. But there's nothing inherently wrong with three wheeled vehicles.

Like, Aptera, that's such a way cool wonderful looking car. Oh, wait, it's not a car, it's a motorcycle. Oh, wait, maybe Aptera will never make it to market (More, grim, revelations about the troubles at Aptera Motors)?

If Aptera dies there's always the Arcimoto (Arcimoto's Pulse, the electric motorcycle for those who want to drive a space ship) one hopes.


13. A certain organization which pushes false claims about electric vehicles. They sent a speaker to a group where several people had already built their own electric cars, and others had plans to, only to have that speaker jeered. In other words, preaching to the choir, the speaker would have been booed out of the building if the people hadn't been so polite. Making false and misleading statements only makes trouble for all those electric builders who can't cash the checks some psychotic nonprofit wrote with their fool mouths. This speaker didn't like being corrected after saying the Vectrix hadn't had one breakdown. (Waiting for the readers of this board to finish laughing.) Oh, the indignation displayed when she wasn't allowed to live within her delusions. (The most simple definition of psychosis.) Even a room full of people enthusiastic about electric cars don't want to be lied to about them. And I had to ask "So you're a big fan of Joseph Goebbels. . . ?"

As to the problem with 3 wheels cars, there's a few. One is wheel lift. In a 2 front 1 rear arrangement as with the Aptera, you need a wide track (Width between the wheels) so that the leverage helps to keep the wheels on the road. While a normal front engine car might have 53% of the weight on the front wheels, the 3 wheeler then needs over 60%. This makes for some darty, go kart like performance when you turn, but that rear wheel often gives up some traction after you brake and even more weight loads on the front wheels. You know what "Loose" is, right? "Fishtail?" "Spinout?" Throw in a little rain. . . .

So you're thinking you want a wider tire on the back to help with the traction. That friction circle, where the tire meets the road, basically needs to pivot on the single rear. Anything wider than a pretzel will fight the turn. And wear out quickly from the scrubbing.

A single front has no need for Ackerman, but they tend to be "tight," just not turning when you tell them to. I think I'd prefer 2 front.

The Aptera has an additional problem with bad aerodynamics. "Wingless flight?" How appropriate when the car has lift problems, in the back where they already have a design problem that doesn't keep the wheel on the ground. Gee, I looked at a picture of that years ago and figured it would rise up as you got going, expeacially if there was a crosswind. I can imagine that thing going down the road and suddenly cartwheeling over a lane change, or doing a backflip when at 18 wheeler passes it. Aptera Runs Into Handling Trouble In X-Prize Shakedown

One solution to that problem would be ground effects, which would simulate making the car heavier at higher speeds, keeping it from lifting. In 1977 it had been awhile since Lotus had been competitive, then they showed up with ground effects. Over 2 years they won 13 of the 14 races they finished first in. (GP historians know what I'm talking about.) Engine problems kept Mario Andretti from winning the Championship in '77, but he came back in '78 and walked away with the title. In 1980 Johnny Rutherford in the Chapparal walked away with the Indy 500 in a car that was said to generate over 7,000 pounds of downforce. This in a car that weighed around 1 ton. (Don't know weights for that year.) Before long ground effects were banned from racing. Rutherford said he didn't have to lift his foot off the throttle in turns, it was time to go with something else.

So if the Aptera were to add tunnels beneath the car, these could create a suction and greater and greater grip as the car went faster and faster. It would still be light at low speeds when stability is less crucial. Still, that requires some flat space under the car, and that's the biggest design flaw already.

But they won't fix it. Just one more sign of the arrogance of these people.

Yeah, I was close to getting sucked into that ZAP scam.
Hype Machine: Searching for ZAP's Fleet of No-Show Green Cars
The cars aren't nearly so unstable as the companies.

WHo dares, WINS!!!!

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