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Transportation Earth Power

GM, Utilities Partner To Advance Plug-In Hybrids 582

Posted by kdawson
from the quart-of-oil-and-ten-kilowatts-please dept.
chareverie writes "General Motors is forming a team with utility companies nationwide to create a charging infrastructure for electric cars. Their goal is to improve the design of charging stations — making them weatherproof and child-proof, for example — in locations such as public garages, meters, and parking lots. They're also working on ways to avoid overwhelming the utilities during peak hours. Their goal is to have these improved charging stations implemented by 2010, when the Chevy Volt is introduced. Everyone recognizes however that a national car-charging infrastructure would be far from complete at that time."
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GM, Utilities Partner To Advance Plug-In Hybrids

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  • We do. (Score:5, Funny)

    by pheared (446683) <kevin@phea[ ].net ['red' in gap]> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:08PM (#24293293) Homepage

    Who holds back the electric car?
    Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:08PM (#24293311) Homepage Journal

    The volt will come out just in time for Oil to hit $45 a barrel.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gormanw (1321203)
      No kidding, with GM's luck. Things might work better if they used ultra capacitors. Even better, use hydraulic hybrids instead of these expensive batteries that are a bear to recycle. One last point, won't charging a bunch of cars require all of the coal plants to go into overdrive? I read a great article about this at http://www.economicefficiency.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
      • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:36PM (#24293777)

        Even better, use hydraulic hybrids instead of these expensive batteries that are a bear to recycle.

        I thought that GM tried and gave up on hydraulic hybrids?

        One last point, won't charging a bunch of cars require all of the coal plants to go into overdrive?

        Yes, but coal doesn't come from the Middle East, is a more efficient way to produce energy than burning gas in an internal combustion engine, is centralized and easier to scrub the emissions, and can be replaced by a different source in the future.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kokuyo (549451)

          Too bad it's dirty as hell and releases more radioactive material than any nuclear reactor ever could. But beside that, yes, coal is just the greatest thing since sliced bread.

          • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by darthdavid (835069) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:04PM (#24295271) Homepage Journal
            Which is where the last point comes in. I too support nuclear but I recognize that with our current political climate nuclear will be a hard sell to make. His points about coal are valid though and I guess it will have to do until A)The reality of the energy situation forces us to a fission powered grid with solar, hydro and wind supplements or B)Western civilization collapses and it all becomes irrelevant. Boy will B be a fun one to live through...
          • Mythbusting (Score:5, Informative)

            by Rei (128717) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @11:43PM (#24298935) Homepage

            As is usual whenever electric cars comes up, it's time for some mythbusting.

            No, they don't increase pollution and overload the grid; precisely the opposite [pnl.gov] (more specifically, the only pollutant that goes up is particulate matter, and it's displaced away from population centers. NOx and SOx remain the same, CO2 drops, and CO and VOCs are nearly eliminated; the grid gets to make use of its surplus off-peak capacity and, with smart charging, can eliminate the supply/demand fluctuations that are currently so troublesome).

            Yes, they are far more energy efficient [sciencedirect.com] than their alternatives.

            No, modern batteries don't take forever to charge. The phosphates [maxamps.com], titanates [pluginamerica.org], modern spinels [greencarcongress.com], and others [gizmag.com] can all charge in 5-20 minutes, given sufficient power.

            Yes, fast chargers exist. The SAE J1772 [ihs.com] standard covers Level 3 charging at hundreds of kilowatts. Yes, chargers as strong as 250kW [cleantech.com] exist. Yes, there's already a network of 60kW Level 3 chargers in place around Oahu [htdc.org]. Install one yourself [pge.com].

            No, the batteries are not toxic. Current li-ions are only mildly toxic, and this only because of their cobalt-based cathode. The phosphates and spinels eliminate this cathode in favor of nontoxic elements.

            No, lithium is not running out [daughtersoftiresias.org].

            Yes, the batteries last a long time. The phosphates last 7000+ [xconomy.com] gentle cycles, having only 20% capacity loss after 1000 abusive cycles [rcgroups.com]. The titanates? 20,000 cycles [autobloggreen.com]. Accelerated aging tests suggest LG Chem's packs will last 40+ years [slashdot.org] in typical use.

            Yes, both rapid charging stations [daughtersoftiresias.org] and EVs [daughtersoftiresias.org] make financial sense.

            Hmm, did I miss any?

      • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:39PM (#24293829)

        For your last point, my understanding is that you need to think about it in terms of point-source pollution. It's easier to mitigate 1000 pounds of pollution from one source than it is to mitigate 1 pound of pollution from 1000 sources.

      • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:40PM (#24293845) Homepage Journal

        They are going to use LI/ION so they are not a bear to recycle.
        Most of the charging hopefully will be done at nite and not at peak. A lot power is wasted while base load plants are just idling.

        Finally even if they are using coal there should still be a savings. Modern coal plants pollute less than a car per unit of energy.
        Of course if you are on a nuke or hydro then you are even better off.

        That being said I am not a big fan of hybrids but they are not as bad as you might think.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smilindog2000 (907665)

          Agreed. The article is about charging stations, but the Volt and competitors will charge just fine on 220V in your garage overnight. Given the number of cars GM is talking about - up to hundreds of thousands, no grid upgrades are needed, especially since charging will likely be mostly at night.

          I am a fan of the coming plug-in hybrids, since new battery technology [a123systems.com] can help them be cost-effective while reducing CO2 emissions and foreign oil imports. However, in the near-term, switching to natural gas cars

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by toby34a (944439)
            How does switching to natural gas help more then the plug in hybrid? It's still a nonrenewable resource. The tech isn't at assembly-line level (like the Volt is). There is still no infrastructure set up for CNG cars (only main bus lines in big cities). The easiest (and most forward-looking) strategy is getting the cars like the Volt on the roads. The Volt can take a charge or be filled up to be charged from the gasoline generator. As a better (or different) fuel source comes around, swap out the gener
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Dan Ost (415913)

              You can make natural gas out of biogas, so there's no reason that natural gas
              should be considered nonrenewable.

              Also, I get natural gas piped straight to my house. If I had an inline
              compressor, I could bottle it up and use it in a hypothetical natural gas
              powered car. How convenient would that be?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ncc74656 (45571) *

            Agreed. The article is about charging stations, but the Volt and competitors will charge just fine on 220V in your garage overnight.

            Except for things like water heaters and HVAC equipment (which are hardwired), most people's garages don't have 240V available; you'd need to call an electrician out to run a 240V circuit.

            That said, the Volt is intended to charge from a standard 120V 15A outlet (the standard wall outlet) in somewhere around 6-8 hours. Higher voltage and/or current would enable faster charg

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by profplump (309017)

            Agreed. The article is about charging stations, but the Volt and competitors will charge just fine on 220V in your garage overnight. Given the number of cars GM is talking about - up to hundreds of thousands, no grid upgrades are needed, especially since charging will likely be mostly at night.

            Which is great if you live someplace where you've got or could get 220V service near your parking space. But for anyone who lives in a apartment having suitable electric service installed at their parking space seems

      • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mweather (1089505) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:56PM (#24294071)
        A bear to recycle? Compared to what? Surely not more of a bear than collecting and recycling everything a gasoline engine spits out over it's lifetime.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by MindStalker (22827)

          Dude, have you ever tried to recycle a bear? I promise you they will tell you to take it back! //Anyone want a bear?

      • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Informative)

        by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:12PM (#24294365) Journal
        A problem with ultra capacitors, however, is that they don't store nearly as much energy (Whr) for the same weight (Whr/kg) or volume (Whr/L) compared to batteries. Compared to Li-Ion batteries, the difference in energy density [wikipedia.org] is an order of magnitude with current technology. There will undoubtedly be advances that could even that out, but nothing that you could use to design a production vehicle for today.

        Ultracaps do have advantages, like almost unlimited cycle lives, very low resistance, and much higher power ratings compared to chemical batteries. However, unless you want to drive a 2-door compact hauling a trailer's worth of ultra capacitors, you are not going to be able to produce a plug-in hybrid with an acceptable electric range.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by EMeta (860558)
          The trick is to have mostly batteries, but 5% (or something) in capacitance to pick up the electricity that would otherwise be brought in too fast for battery charging. It also would get used first, so for much city/traffic driving the actual amount of change the battery sees is much less. You don't need to run the entire driving range on the capacitors to receive most of their benefits.
        • Ultracaps (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bussdriver (620565)
          Caps are perfect for regenerative braking and bursts of acceleration.

          GM Volt: ha! I'll believe it when I see it. GM isn't about bad luck, its about bad decisions and so much clout that they survive when they do not deserve it.
    • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln (21727) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:13PM (#24293379) Homepage

      If the Volt is everything it is rumored to be, I would buy it even if gas were back down at 50 cents a gallon. The reasons are simple: not only is it better for the environment, but it requires far less (maybe even none depending on how you drive) of a non-renewable resource like oil. So long as oil remains a non-renewable resource, any dips in price will be strictly temporary.

      I would hope that at least some of us have learned our lesson from this most recent fuel crisis: oil is simply not a sustainable way to get our energy over the long term.

      • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Baddas (243852) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:28PM (#24293629) Homepage

        ... The reasons are simple: not only is it better for the environment, but it requires far less (maybe even none depending on how you drive) of a non-renewable resource like oil.

        Neither of those is a decent reason in the face of hydrocarbon alternatives. Here's a good reason even with them:

        Electric cars are simpler and more reliable than internal combustion cars, and will cost less for the same utility.

      • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stewbacca (1033764) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:50PM (#24293979)

        I would hope that at least some of us have learned our lesson from this most recent fuel crisis: oil is simply not a sustainable way to get our energy over the long term.

        The only thing I've learned is that the price of oil has NOTHING to do with the actual supply or sustainability as a natural resource and is artificially set by non-sequitur geo-political issues. Unless you assume that there has been less oil pumped over the past year than previous years, or that we consume more oil than can be pumped (hint: both of these assumptions are false).

        The other thing I've learned is that "crisis" is hyperbole. In the US, we've enjoyed cheaper-than-should-be fuel for decades. People still drive to work and still drive to the store, regardless if gas costs $4/gallon or $2.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by HardCase (14757)

          The only thing I've learned is that the price of oil has NOTHING to do with the actual supply or sustainability as a natural resource and is artificially set by non-sequitur geo-political issues. Unless you assume that there has been less oil pumped over the past year than previous years, or that we consume more oil than can be pumped (hint: both of these assumptions are false).

          It's hard to say that anything is cheaper than it should be unless it's being artificially subsidized. In the case of gas, it's re

          • Re:With GMs luck. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:31PM (#24295647) Journal

            In the case of gas, it's really more expensive than it should be because of various taxes.

            I'm not so sure about -- what about the billions we have spent, and continue to spend, to defend the interests of the oil companies? There are many indirect subsidies (such as tax incentives to refineries, for example) that often get missed.

            I'd also add that pollution and resource depletion are externialities, so if they were factored in, I'd say that the cost of gas, in the US at least, is _FAR_ lower than it should be.

        • by bl968 (190792) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:43PM (#24294907) Journal

          The price of Gas in Dubai is 25 cents a gallon, Iran 42 cents, Qatar 83 cents, Saudi Arabia is 45 cents per gallon, Venezuela 11 cents. That is the real cost. What we in the western countries are paying is designed to generate huge profit margins for oil companies. They are fucking over the consumers, and yet you stand here saying, "Please sir can I have another!"

  • Home outlet? (Score:4, Informative)

    by maillemaker (924053) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:13PM (#24293381)

    I believe we are approaching the era of the "commuter car". Things like this:

    http://www.greenvehicles.com/specs/triac.html [greenvehicles.com]

    80 MPH, 100 mile range. This will suit the majority of people's daily driving needs. We'll all still have our gas-burning minivan or SUV for weekend trips to granny's or the lake or whatever, but most of the time we'll be driving our electric covered motorcycle to work and back.

    All you need for this is an electrical outlet at home.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GooberToo (74388)

      The problem with those is they need a lot more development to become reality. They are so small they need excellent front, rear, and side impact protection; likely far exceeding anything in current production vehicles. The fact of the matter is, SUVs, trucks, and semis are still on the road. The problem with these vehicles is most are nothing but glorified go carts whereby one becomes a future organ donor the second they accept their key. Let's face it, most of the current generation electric cars are able

      • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:05PM (#24294247)

        You're focusing on passive safety rather than active safety, which is primarily a North American way of thinking.

        Here, read this. [gladwell.com]

        Most of us think that S.U.V.s are much safer than sports cars. If you asked the young parents of America whether they would rather strap their infant child in the back seat of the TrailBlazer or the passenger seat of the Boxster, they would choose the TrailBlazer. We feel that way because in the TrailBlazer our chances of surviving a collision with a hypothetical tractor-trailer in the other lane are greater than they are in the Porsche. What we forget, though, is that in the TrailBlazer you're also much more likely to hit the tractor-trailer because you can't get out of the way in time. In the parlance of the automobile world, the TrailBlazer is better at "passive safety. " The Boxster is better when it comes to "active safety," which is every bit as important.

        The safest cars are the ones that can dodge an accident, rather than plow through some obstacle and hope to survive due to sheer mass.

        • by GooberToo (74388) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:32PM (#24294701)

          The safest cars are the ones that can dodge an accident, rather than plow through some obstacle and hope to survive due to sheer mass.

          Which is very a very flawed way of thinking. In the US, most drivers are already distracted. The number one type of accident in the US is rear ending. You seem to advocate that a driver in front must evade the driver to his rear, but they must now constantly watch a 360' view, while distracted. Not realistic in the least.

          In reality, passive protection is the only form of protection which reliably works. As a counter point, motorcycle accidents are frequent here and all studies cite smaller vehicles are more difficult for other drivers to estimate distance. This is one of the classic causes of vehicle-motorcycle accidents in the US. That is, the vehicle pulls out, cutting off the motorcycle rider. This normally results in two types of collisions; one, the cycle t-bones the car, two, the rider slides and/or falls off the bike, sometimes resulting in a nasty bike-rider mess which comes to a sudden stop against the vehicle. Either way, it's bad results for the rider.

          Perhaps once riders get used to seeing small vehicles and cycles on the roads this will change, until then, passive protection is far and away the best protection drivers have today in the US.

          • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:56PM (#24295143)

            I would counter that your line of reasoning seems to have a flaw. Namely:

            In the US, most drivers are already distracted. The number one type of accident in the US is rear ending.

            From the article I posted, which you may not have read:

            The S.U.V. boom represents, then, a shift in how we conceive of safetyâ"from active to passive. It's what happens when a larger number of drivers conclude, consciously or otherwise, that the extra thirty feet that the TrailBlazer takes to come to a stop don't really matter, that the tractor-trailer will hit them anyway, and that they are better off treating accidents as inevitable rather than avoidable.

            If you're distracted and look up and suddenly notice you need to stop in a hurry - if you stomp on the brake the SUV will take another 30 feet to stop. That's almost the entire length of a box trailer behind a semi, FYI.

            Perhaps the rear-end phenomenon you are referring to is caused by gigantic SUVs rather than in spite of them.

          • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:08PM (#24295319)

            In reality, passive protection is the only form of protection which reliably works.

            Passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate by type of car [dot.gov] (PDF warning)

            Fatalities per 100,000 registered vehicles:
            17.76 Compact Cars
            16.87 Compact Pickups
            16.85 Subcompact Cars
            16.16 Midsize SUVs
            13.87 Standard Pickups
            12.34 Full-size SUVs
            12.16 Full-size Cars
            11.49 Midsize Cars
            11.09 Minivans
            9.34 Large Vans

            SUVs are not safer than mid- and full-sized cars. If you read the PDF, you'll see this is primarily due to lack of maneuverability and penchant to roll over, and a higher fatality rate in rollovers. Those increased risk factors more than swamp out any benefit of "passive safety." Yes compact and subcompact cars do worse, but I would argue anyone who could afford an SUV would be buying a mid- or full-size sedan, not a compact or subcompact.

    • Re:Home outlet? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jfruhlinger (470035) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:43PM (#24293899) Homepage

      All you need for this is an electrical outlet at home.

      This to me is one of the biggest obstacles to our plug-in future. Those of you who live in the 'burbs where everybody has their own two-car garage may be shocked to hear this, but millions of us live in urban areas where we park our cars on the street, can't be gauranteed to find a spot in front of our houses, and wouldn't be able to run an extension cord across the sidewalk even if we could.

      • Re:Home outlet? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pluther (647209) <pluther.usa@net> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:29PM (#24294665) Homepage

        This to me is one of the biggest obstacles to our plug-in future. Those of you who live in the 'burbs where everybody has their own two-car garage may be shocked to hear this, but millions of us live in urban areas where we park our cars on the street, can't be gauranteed to find a spot in front of our houses, and wouldn't be able to run an extension cord across the sidewalk even if we could.

        Cities could put charging stations right up to the curb.

        San Francisco already does this in some places, where an outlet is built into many parking meters.

        And several businesses and parking garages around the Bay Area have "electric car only" spaces next to the handicap spots that have charging stations there.

        And that was all built just to support the EV-1, which doesn't even exist anymore. This kind of infrastructure is relatively cheap and easy to do. This isn't some kind of pie-in-the-sky pipe dream.

  • Remember Kids: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flitty (981864) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:14PM (#24293387)
    You'll need a GM Certified "Super VOLT-adapter" for just $499.99 for any non-VOLT electric car to use this grid. (Licensing and Taxes may apply, adapter not sold in California or Alaska).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Sponge Bath (413667)

      I'm sure Monster Cables will pay the license fee and sell a certified version for $2499.
      It will have a special filter to make the electrons more pure so as not to cause deposits in the electric motors.

  • Super Capacitors. (Score:5, Informative)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:15PM (#24293413)

    The biggest barrier to pure electrics right now is the time it takes to charge a vehicle.

    Super Capacitors are supposed to change that by allowing charge times equivalent or less than the time spent at the petrol pump.

    Last time I heard about them was early this year as they were seeking to scale them to the industrial level.

    That technology is what will make electric cars "feasible"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GooberToo (74388)

      Super Capacitors are supposed to change that by allowing charge times equivalent or less than the time spent at the petrol pump.

      They will not become feasible until a charging infrastructure becomes available. Most homes can't charge one of these things, at "pump speeds", even while taking the power feed directly into the home. Now imagine a whole neighborhood trying to charge their vehicles. It's impossible unless billions and billions are spent creating a entirely new electrical infrastructure.

      If these do

  • by 99luftballon (838486) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:15PM (#24293415)
    Just as Eisenhower signed off on the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act to kickstart the roads system in the US so too should the government act to fund this.

    We have to go electric in the future, gas power isn't a viable long term solution and oil is going to be too valuable in the future to waste on driving around. But the 'free market' isn't going to fund the kind of network we need in the short term. Sure, they'll build the cars but infrastructure costs are beyond them.

    Without a national infrastructure program the move towards electric transportation will be slow and patchy. This really is a case of if we build it they will come.
    • by praksys (246544) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:02PM (#24294195) Homepage

      Time for government to step in...

      Sure, that way we could a poorly considered proprietary solution that has never faced any actual competition or real world use. Then we could deploy it everywhere and be stuck with it forever.

      Roads and highways had been around for a really long time, and were a mature technology before the interstate system was built. Here we are talking about technology that is in its infancy - they haven't even figured out how to make it safe and weatherproof yet! This is absolutely *not* the right time for the government to pick a system and inflict it on everyone.

  • by OglinTatas (710589) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:19PM (#24293475)

    I just read an article about the Lightning electric vehicle on elReg

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/22/lightning_fast_charge_supercar/ [theregister.co.uk]

    This may make electric cars practical.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7081 [newscientist.com]
    Imagine: 200 miles/charge and a 10 minute "fill up" at a commercial charging station (overnight at your house with 50 amp service)

    I'd much prefer this over the "hydrogen economy" that people tout as the future. Also, it would be easier to build out a high voltage charging infrastructure than a hydrogen dispensing infrastructure. The only problem I see is everyone charging their vehicles during peak usage instead of at night causing even greater peaks, but there is no reason people (with garages) can't trickle-charge the car at night.

    I may even give up my venerable diesel if I can drive coast to coast in the same time frame and same expense on batteries as on diesel.
    (only slightly off topic because I was talking electric vehicles instead of hybrid)

  • by stretchpuppy (1304751) <`stretchpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:21PM (#24293519)

    Is making GM cars not TEH SUCK.

    Just imagine, a Electric Cavalier, sweet!!!

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:22PM (#24293545) Homepage Journal

    If it leads to a proprietary method which other automakers and utilities must license with fees then I am hoping someone else comes along and whacks them.

    I still think while we are doing our typical over reaction; c'mon Europeans put up with prices higher than this; at least this over reaction is leading somewhere good. Granted it may mean life with even more SUVs as the technology will make their mileage acceptable. Since the majority of SUV/CUV don't do any heavy towing it can easily be adapted to their increased carrying capacities.

    I guess giving up the "frivolous" luxuries was too much to ask

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by compro01 (777531)

      Aside from the fact that the entire design of our cities/towns/suburbs/etc. is built around the concept of practically everyone owning at least one car, and don't even get me started on the lack of sensible car designs here. Walking, biking, and public transit are generally not feasible means of getting around.

  • by silicon dad (778893) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:29PM (#24293639)

    GM's finally seeing the light, I want a Volt. But PG&E's regulated rate structure will put me at 400% of baseline and US$0.35 / KWh to charge it. $5.00/gallon gas is still cheaper(!)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222)

      A decent AC-motor powered electric car will probably get you better than 0.3 kWh / mile, which at $0.35 is going to cost you $0.105 / mile. That's high for an electric car, but at $4 per gallon that's equivalent to a 38 MPG car, which isn't half bad.

      Also, note that the AC-motor systems get a lot more efficient than that - I went way conservative.

  • vandalism? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by weszz (710261) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:39PM (#24293835)
    So in many of the pictures I've seen, there is a cord running from the car to the plug, normally in public areas since it's so wonderful to plug in and just leave your car to go shopping or to work.

    What happens with some thug snips your power cord?

    Will the cord be coming from your car, or from the outlet, and how easy and cheap is it to swap out cords?

    • by actionbastard (1206160) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:45PM (#24294971)
      "What happens with some thug snips your power cord?"

      First there will be a short, loud, buzzing sound. That will be simultaneous with a bright, blue-white, flash of light. Which will be followed by a shower of red-hot molten metal of several types. This will be followed by screams of pain as the vandal's flesh is seared by the molten metal droplets, hopefully they will mostly strike that person in the face, leaving an easily identifiable burn pattern. After that, there will be no more vandalism of 'car plugs'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by objekt (232270)

      What happens when some thug keys your car or drops a match in your gas tank?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by budgenator (254554)

      What happens with some thug snips your power cord?
      you get a broom and sweep up the ashes!

  • friction (Score:4, Funny)

    by bugs2squash (1132591) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:49PM (#24293967)
    When I was a kid we had these 'friction' cars, you pushed them along the floor a few times while they "revved" up and then let them go.

    That's the technology I want, with a big robot to "re-rev" them at every intersection.

    The best cars made sparks too.
  • by SmoothTom (455688) <Tomas@TiJiL.org> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:12PM (#24294361) Homepage

    I would think that a vehicle that could plug into any 50-60Hz, 90-260VAC source would make the absolute most sense.

    Thinking of that, at a motel I recently stayed at in Montana, each parking spot had a regular AC outlet mounted about 7 feet high on the wall in front of the parking spot.

    That kept it out of casual contact from kids, pretty much ensured that any water on the cord would run down-hill away from the outlet, and each outlet had a spring-loaded weather-proof cover for when they were not in use.

    (Those were primarily for winter use: Block heaters to keep oil and fuel from gelling.)

    With the addition of some way to simply meter the load on each outlet, and providing a key-switch so one could only use the outlet one is assigned, something like that could be an inexpensive, nearly universally available, simple to install and maintain charging grid for plug-in vehicle charging. (I've seen very similar things on parking meter posts, and they could even be coin/bill/credit card operated, just like modern parking meters...)

    Still, though, my biggest problem with plug-in rechargeable vehicles is the length of time it takes to recharge and the very limited mileage between charges.

    Driving from home to destination on that recent trip required about 600 miles/day, and is not something that any currently-being-discussed plug-ins can accomplish.

    When electric vehicles were first being energetically discussed, one of the promising ideas was removable battery trays/packs that were "leased" with a full charge and rolled into the vehicle.

    Instead of parking and charging to "refuel," each electric car service station would have a batch of charged batteries available on carts to be swapped in no longer than it takes to refuel a petroleum powered vehicle.

    The discharged batteries would be charged overnight at off-peak times and be ready for the next day's needs.

    That would also cover the cost of replacement batteries, as the lease or rental fees would cover not only the cost to charge and change the battery packs, but the cost of replacing them when they were no longer up to required minimum power retention levels.

    At least doing it that way, stopping every 200 miles or so to swap batteries, would be better than stopping every 200 miles for several hours to recharge non-swappable batteries.

    (It would also allow for some much needed standardization in battery packs and such...)

    What bothers me is that idea is from reading magazines like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science in the '50's and '60's... We don't seem to have come very far since then, eh?

    --Tomas

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:26PM (#24294599) Journal
    Tinkering with the means of propulsion is putting a bigger bucket under the leaking roof instead of fixing the leak. Why do North Americans have to make such an abnormally high number of car journeys in the first place?

    The answer is single-use-zoning and suburban sprawl.

    Daily needs are separated from each other so that you have to drive between home, work, shopping and entertainment. It's flat out illegal to build a corner store in a residential neighbourhood or build a building with apartments above retail stores, and developers are forced to set them back off the road behind enormous parking lagoons, just to make sure the cars are happy and pedestrians are prohibited.

    This is a monumentally wasteful pattern of settlement. It's like building a 'house' with the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom all miles apart but connected by roads.

    Bring back mixed-use mixed-income development. Bring back the humble 'street' that has served humanity so well for millennia ever since we started living in cities. This isn't the industrial revolution age anymore, the days are gone when every workplace spewed soot into the air and it made some sense to partition it off where people didn't live. An office in the same building as your apartment isn't going to hurt you, nor will a corner store that you can walk to. Write to your congressman and tell him to back the New Urbanist movement.

    But before you do that, you have to get mad! I want you to go out to your window, lean out, and yell, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!!"

  • More info (Score:3, Informative)

    by shawn42 (1089245) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:59PM (#24295183)
    Some more info on the Volt: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=126606 [edmunds.com]
    I am excited to see these type of advance to pull us away from our dependency on oil.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:01PM (#24295213) Homepage

    Sure, charging stations are needed for rechargable cars. Only, there are a few little problems. The biggest one is that we aren't building power plants any longer. We are running on coal-fired plants from the 1950s and hydroelectric plants from the 1930s. Nobody is going to build a new high-efficency coal-fired power plant today. Where, exactly would they put it? How long would it take to get through the environmental impact studies? What community group would come out and say they need it, vs. all the groups saying it will kill children and ruin the landscape?

    Nuclear? Sure, maybe a couple of plants might get fast-tracked in the next few years. But the electric boom is pretty much over.

    Plan on more brown-outs. Supply exceeding demand? I don't think so, not in any future that I can foresee. Will there be more wind and solar generation? Absolutely. Will it keep up with growth in demand from cities? Today, right now, we could use a few hundred megawatts additional for every city in the US. It isn't going to happen.

    Yes, they are going to build a huge wind farm in Texas. Only problem is, the transmission lines aren't up to carrying any massive increases, so a huge part of the project will be to increase transmission capacity. And this is happening in a small part of Texas. What about the rest of the states?

    Reduce, reuse and recycle. Mostly, for electricity it is reduce. California and Florida both have home controls to turn off your electric consumption during peak demand periods. It is coming to other states as well. There simply isn't enough electricity to go around today in the US. We are not building power plants. We are not increasing transmission capacity.

    Do you really think there is enough power to charge up hundreds of cars in a city of any size today?

  • Inductive "paddles" (Score:4, Informative)

    by iroll (717924) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:08PM (#24295317) Homepage

    GM's other electric car (EV1, the one that they killed because it worked too well) had a waterproof, childproof, and in fact idiot-proof charger. It looked kind of like a ping pong paddle, except the handle was gripped parallel to the paddle instead of perpendicular. The paddle had a cord that was reeled (coiled? been a while) up on a box that was bolted to a wall, or on a free-standing pedestal in front of a parking spot. You pushed the paddle part into a slot on the nose of the car, and induction was used to pump some juice into your batteries.

    There weren't many EV1's on the road, but if you lived in CA or AZ and knew where to look, you could find charging stations for them, so clearly building the infrastructure isn't THAT hard: all you do is bolt down some charger boxes and plug them in to ordinary wall sockets. Generally you'd see them in parking garages near places that engineers worked :p Anyways, the charger boxes themselves are dead simple to build; it's a friggin' transformer and some heavy gauge wire. All of the fancy charge monitoring computers are already built into the car. If GM's smart, they'd license the design for a song, and use it as a marketing coup.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:56PM (#24295965) Homepage Journal

    Natural gas pipelines feed many, perhaps most of the homes in US48, about 6m^3 per hour max. The energy in 6m^3 natural gas [wikipedia.org] is about 6*39Mj = 234Mj:h, or 65 kilowatts. NG fuelcells already get at least 40% efficiency into electricity, so that would be 26KW peak. Which means that the average home at 2KW average continuous needs only 0.08% of maximum duty (the typical 5KW peak demand would be 0.2% duty).

    Big SUVs have about 80KW max output engines. If a 40% efficient fuelcell drove a 90% efficient NEMA-B motor [wikipedia.org], 80KW kinetic would consume about 225KW in NG, which would still consume only 84% of the home's incoming flow. So overnight "charging" even a big SUV could still drive that SUV for as many hours as it spent charging. Since most people don't drive SUVs at full motor power all the time, even an hour charging is probably enough to refuel after a day's driving.

    In April 2008, NG cost about $7:Gj, while direct electricity cost in February, 2008 [doe.gov] about $0.09:KWh, which is about $25:Gj. Even at 40% efficiency converting NG to electricity, that's only $17.5 per Gj.

    Another advantage of NG powering homes and cars is that very little energy is consumed/lost in the NG distribution, compared to double-digit (up to 50%) losses in electric distribution. Compared with gasoline powering cars, the distribution of gasoline is very wasteful, with not only tankers driving around to filling stations, but cars driving to (and lining up at) filling stations for every refill. While NG can refill along the car's normal route, at home. Meanwhile, any kind of energy storage at home, whether electric in batteries, or tanks of NG, or raising water to roof tanks, or heating water even into steam, all can let the home user buy more energy input only when prices are lowest, which also takes pressure off the distribution systems.

    A NG home charger that is also a fuelcell for a 2-5KW (or more) home should cost under $10,000. That's about as much as a good new water heater that's part of a home (air) heating system, which the fuelcell can also supply to bring its efficiency closer to 100% total. In fact such a fuelcell should really cost $3-5K. Which that $7+ savings per Gj would repay in 9 years or less.

    And as efficiencies go up, that 9 years could go down to 2-5 years pretty rapidly.

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." -- Albert Einstein

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