Saturday, February 2, 2019

A fact about electric cars I didn't know

Eric Peters warns of a drawback to electric cars in colder climes.

Electric heaters cost a lot to run – in energy and so dollars. Anyone who has ever run one for any length of time knows this, or comes to know it – after receiving that month’s electric bill.

It is no different in an electric car, which is heated electrically – except that the heater draws power from a battery rather than a grid.

Your mileage – your range – begins to vary.

It would be interesting to know exactly the effect on EV range of keeping the interior of an EV warm – not survivable, but comfortably warm – on a minus 10 degree day. How much range does one lose? How much time will one have to spend shivering at an outdoor recharger – assuming it’s not blocked by the snow and assuming your EV has a built-in system to keep the battery warm, so that it can be charged.

Bet you didn’t know about that, either.

Electric car batteries can’t be recharged if the ambient air temperature is below freezing – it’s a function of battery chemistry – which means that the EV must also heat its battery during the winter months, which will cost energy (battery drain) and further reduce the range.

The EV’s defroster uses heat, too – obviously.

But also the AC, not so obviously. Many people don’t know that, either. The AC doesn’t just cool the car’s interior in the summertime; it also dehumidifies the air, without which the defroster doesn’t work very well.

In which case, you can’t see very well.

So, another drain on the battery; a big one. AC compressors are energy hogs. It takes a lot to power one, whether mechanically (as in a non-EV) or electrically (as in an EV). The difference is that the non-EV can just fill up when the tank runs low – no matter how cold it is outside. But the EV’s got the double-pronged problem of reduced range – because of the power draw of accessories such as heat and AC, as well as lights and everything else that is electrically powered, which is everything in an EV – and having to find a place to recharge in time.

When it is minus 10 degrees outside, waiting can be more than merely inconvenient. It could be fatal. A discharged EV is a cold EV. No heat, until the battery recharges. Imagine sitting in a dark – and very cold – EV for the 30-45 minutes it takes to recover a partial charge at a “fast” charger . . . assuming one’s available.

. . .

EVs are being sold as if they were just like other cars – but they aren’t. EVs have functional characteristics – and deficits – that are unique to them but which are largely unknown to the general public because they’re purposely not being told about them.

There's more at the link.

I wasn't aware that one can't charge an electric vehicle in sub-freezing temperatures (unless the battery is heated).  If the battery gets too flat to keep itself heated, what then?  I can see that being a real danger to life and limb in northern states.  I wonder if the manufacturers of such vehicles point out that drawback to potential buyers before they sign on the dotted line, and hand over their money?  If they don't, it would make an interesting court case if a disappointed buyer were to sue on the grounds that the seller had deliberately concealed a potentially life-threatening problem.  I'm sure the manufacturer would claim that the issue had been mentioned in the owner's manual . . . but if the buyer hadn't been given the manual before buying the car, to read it for himself, how would he know?

Food for thought.



MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

We have been conditioned to say "electric car good Internal combustion car baaad" by the people that say that they are "our betters". Car companies know this that is why they make them. Even GM who loses money making electric cars but the profits of the trucks offset the loss....funny how that works out. Also another part of the electric car that most people don't realize that, sure " they" ain't belching carbons into the air, but the power grid that charges that car does...

Wayne said...

Karl Denninger at has posted about this as well.

kurt9 said...

Its fairly well-known to some of us that batteries in general can't take really cold weather.

With regards to the liability issue, there are lots of hungry lawyers out there who can take the case.

Richard said...

Batteries have a whole slew of problems that make them inappropiate for general purpose transportation use. Chemistry is what it is and advances in batteries have come from pushing the technology to its ragged edge. This is why more and more stories are coming out of cell phones exploding and catching on fire, Teslas going up, you name it. Bottom line (and this has not changed since one of my first projects out of college where we were using Ni-MH batteries for a system) is that batteries have uses that are essential, but they are not suitable for general purpose over the road transportation.

LindaG said...

Batteries discharge more quckly in cold weather.

Spent 4 years in Alaska. Battery blankets. Block heaters and dipstick heaters are all electric and keep your vehicle going in cold weather.

Beans said...

What goes for cars goes for off-grid power systems too. How many preppers have taken into account the needs of their battery bank to stay warm and dry? Which is easier in a fixed, non-moving system, to a point.

Just read about Joel's continuing adventures with off-grid power on (warning, grumpy desert hermit who's highly opinionated) will pretty much stop most people who think off-grid power solutions are the bees' knees.

Well, as to warming, the batteries do a really good job at that, when they catch fire....

paladin3001 said...

Years ago (about 3 I think), was talking with a bunch of acquaintances who were photographers and they were discussing electric cars. I piped up and said I would buy one when I could get the same range as a gas powered vehicle in the middle of winter (currently my gas powered vehicle gets me 600 km on a tank of gas).
Eyebrows were raised and they all thought about how long batteries in digital cameras lasted in the winter, i.e. not long. Other then Tesla most EV's ranges were under 200 km which is what the companies were stating. So I was thinking at least half that in the winter.

Cederq said...

Beans, did you type out the URL for joesgulch correctly? My browser can't find it... thanks, Kevin

SiGraybeard said...

Even GM who loses money making electric cars but the profits of the trucks offset the loss....funny how that works out.

Nobody makes a profit on their electric cars. When GM exec Mark Reuss told reporters that his company wants to be the first to produce “electric cars that people can afford at a profit,” he meant the first anywhere.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, in a 2014 interview about his company’s all-electric Fiat 500e, said, “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000.”

Volkswagen says that small, battery-driven EVs won't be cost competitive until 2030. Is that rather disappointing prediction right? I don't know.

Nobody is making a profit on electric cars. It's all virtue signaling. The tax money of the world going to try to lower the price on these cars despite all the evidence they're a bad solution.

tweell said...

That's, typo.

Unknown said...

This is just one of the problems with electric vehicles. A full list
could fill a book, but here are just the major ones:

Even with subsidies, they are too expensive.
They use flammable electrolytes.
Extremely limited range.
Intolerably long charging durations.
The electricity to charge them comes from coal and natural gas.
More energy is used to manufacture them than is saved.
The break-even period can run from 10-12 years and by that time you
will have to replace the most expensive component, the battery.
Lack of places to recharge the car on the road.

Electric vehicles are the pet rocks of the 20th century for Yuppies
and wealthy individuals who use them as props for moral preening (now
called virtue signaling.) Nobody who needs a reliable car with a range
over a few hundred miles buys EV's

The best example I could site was a long-range race between a Tesla
and a Ford Model T. Even a Tesla engineer predicted that Ford would
win. The Tesla had the advantage of freeway speeds, while the Ford
had to stick to surface streets and old highway systems. The Tesla
won only because the Ford suffered a breakdown that ate up a couple of

bruce said...

IT was interesting finding out how dependant batteries are to temperature. IT is a known fact to automakers. Some batteries are heated and cooled, but as you can imagine the extremes are not covered.
I own a Tesla 3, not because I believe in AGW (I don't) I tried one and found it an incredibly pleasant experience. Also, I enjoy thinking I am involved in developing a new endeavor.
The car is awesome, and I really like it. I can live with the reduced range, but then I have a garage, don't live in a particularly cold region and don't have long commutes.
I think some of the ideas people have about electric vehicles are unwarranted. IT isn't a right or wrong, a moral or anything else issue, its a matter of what works for a person's needs.

Beans said...

Yup, I boo-boo-ed. Dig back in the early years and you'll find someone truly struggling with off-the-grid living. It's almost a cautionary tale for the yuppie-prepper people.

Nuke Warrior said...

Imagine getting stuck in traffic or stuck in a snow drift in near zero temperature. Not unknown in the upper midwest in winter. With a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle, judicious operation of the engine can keep you warm enough, long enough for someone to rescue you. If you're in an EV good luck, you'll need it.

Old NFO said...

And good luck paying for those new batteries, and the disposal fee on the old batteries.

Jerry said...

When I was a new brake engineer at Wagner Electric, we commonly ran trucks on various mountain road tests. You can find various venues here;

I'd like to see a similar test on electric vehicles. Fully charge the vehicle at the top of the test then start down the mountain. No I won't personally drive one. The numbers say the battery pack overcharges and what? Goes boom?

Will said...

You have to realize there is an unstated intent driving this electric vehicle agenda. Progressives HATE cars. The fact that it allows people to be much more independent than they would be without them drives them crazy. The electric vehicle is a step in the direction of people control. Reduced range, and being tied to the grid for replenishment. They are moving to a grid system that will be able to monitor and control individual appliances.

They want cars to go away. Electric ones are merely a stepping stone on the way to mass transit only.

bruce said...

I believe the Teslas can stop regen when necessary. In one case I know of is when driving on slippery surfaces.
Also as you may know one usually never charges to 100%, it's too hard on the batteries. Same for full discharge. The net of it is you subtract 10 or 20 % off the top and another 10% off the bottom. You can charge to 100 if needed for long trips as long as you start driving right away.
So, in my case, the car has an advertised range of 310 miles. I subtract a lot more than 10% off that to keep from full discharge and don't charge more than 80%, a realistic range of 220 miles. Thankfully charging the low part of the battery goes much quicker than the top end.

Aesop said...

EVs are a great Idea if you drive short trips, live in the Sun Belt, and charge them off of solar panels more often than not.

So Santa Monica and Miami and Houston, maybe.

If you want to go more than 50 mi. regularly,in snow or freezing temperatures, where it's cloudy 200+ days a year, not so much.

And if you're in Minneapolis, Chicago, or Buffalo, one day they're going to die, and then so will you.

Stupidity has a continuum ranging all the way to Ultimate Terminal, where it becomes known as Darwinism in action.

This a feature, not a bug.

If my current landlord would let me put solar panels on the roof, I'd drive an EV now, most days, for the economy of zero gas bills.
I seldom travel 100 mi. in a day, and I work nights, so it would recharge while I slept.

But until one can get from here to Vegas or Phoenix in one go, any month out of 12, it wouldn't be the only vehicle I owned, and if I lived 1000 mi. further north, or above the snow line, I wouldn't take one if they were free, unless it was for summer chore trips around the homestead, like a golf cart on a ranch.

They are a curiosity, not a transportation system.

Brighter folks get that, which is why few buy them, even now, except for hauling their clubs around the links. In Phoenix, or Palm Springs.

Barry Needham said...

The Tesla is one of the most popular cars in Norway... Just saying.

The problems are well understood and covered in depth in the Tesla technical information and on the forums.

William Tansill said...

For years and years we were told that we were in imminent danger because we relied on fossil fuels, most of which were produced by regimes that were unsteady "allies" at best (Saudi Arabia), or outright enemies (Russia, Iran, and others). Through steady technological advances, we are now capable of being net EXPORTERS of energy.

So now we must ditch this, and go to electric vehicles, having all the disadvantages cited above. Here are a few more:

1) I've read horror stories (unverified by me, I'll admit) of child slavery in the mining of lithium used in these batteries.
2) I've also read (I'm not an engineer) that, in order to get a strong enough magnetic field to make the motors sufficiently powerful in the requisite small form factor, one must make magnets using significant quantities of rare-earth metals. Who controls better than 85-90% of all known rare earth deposits? China. This is an improvement?

I've also recently read that, long-term, this last may be less of an issue in that Japan has discovered significant deposits of these metals within its territorial waters. Any guesses on how log it will take to industrialize the extraction process of an underwater source? We're not talking oil where you drill a hole an pump liquid, which is daunting enough. We're talking extraction of solid ore which to my mind seems to be a more difficult process. Again, however, I am NOT an engineer.

Peter B said...

Jalopnik cites a Freakanomics podcast describing how Norway is massively subsidizing the Teslas:

Well, for starters, Norway is fond of electric vehicles generally. It has a higher share of them than any other country in the world; it's easily the biggest European market for electric vehicles. This has to do with both demand and supply. On the demand side: Norwegians are affluent and see themselves as proudly green; the country plans to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 30 percent by 2020. And, on the supply side: Norway gets virtually all of its electricity from hydropower, which is both cheap and clean.

But valuing the environment isn't enough to fund the purchase of all those pricey Teslas. The other part of the equation is that it Norway gives ENORMOUS subsidies to people who buy electric cars, all funded by its absolutely monumental sovereign wealth fund:

... if you buy one, the annual registration fee is waived, as are tolls, and you get access to less-congested traffic lanes. If you drive for a living in Norway, an electric car gets you an income-tax deduction. And – here's the biggest difference – the Norwegian government makes electric cars, including the Tesla, exempt from some very, very hefty sales taxes. So when you add all this up…

The difference between the price of a Tesla and the price of a similar gasoline-driven car is huge in Norway compared to other countries. And so in relative terms, the Tesla is a lot cheaper than other cars.

Consumers are also incentivized to get a Tesla now, rather than later, as a lot of the subsidies will end once the country has 50,000 cars. And all that is swell and good.

Except this whole plan has one deep, dark, dirty little secret – all of those little extras are funded by the country's aforementioned sovereign wealth fund. A sovereign wealth fund which is largely made up of oil money.

Vakkotaur said...

I looked at EV's and hybrids and figured gasoline at $5/gallon or more. Even then, the Corolla made more sense than the Prius. And being in MN... well, during Winter there is NO SUCH THING as "waste heat." Oh, sure, it's above freezing *today*. Tomorrow night? Below zero, F. EV's & Prius might be fine big city runabouts. But out in the boonies? Gasoline or diesel. The gasoline automobile won in the early 20th century for damn good reason. Battery chemistry is better now, but not enough better to bet life on.

Aesop said...

Point of order:
Norway has a total population of 5.4M, less than any of the Top 22 U.S. states, and less than a quarter of the population of Los Angeles County, and while it's about the size of New Mexico, it's as uninhabited in most of that territory as Alaska (and for the same reasons), so what Norway thinks or does about anything is about as irrelevant to this country as the price of tea in China.
I drive past more people on the freeway on my way to work than live in that entire country. And when it's frozen, they generally have sense enough not to drive anywhere at all.

Just saying.

Larry said...

For a daily commuter, especially if your employer supplies chargers, EVs can be the cat's meow. I'd consider one as a second car, but never as a primary vehicle.

Larry said...

When that recent hurricane was supposed to be heading up the length of the Florida peninsula, I was thinking what those massive traffic jams headed north would've looked like if everyone drove EVs. Halfway between Miami and Tampa Bay or Daytona Beach, they'd all be lining up to recharge for extended periods at a limited number of charging stations. No thank you. As a metropolitan area roundabout 2nd or 3rd car, sure. The very definition of a luxury item.

Mikko Nahkola said...

Really waiting for proper electric/chemical-fuel hybrids to show up.

I mean, since diesel-electric locomotives have been around for decades and similar kinds of boats are reasonable by now too...

A proper constant-speed combustion-powered engine driving a generator should be able to be designed for an optimized efficiency and emission curve a lot better than a variable-power one. And if the electric power storage side of things was big enough, you might not have to run the generator all that often anyway...

Really there's no way to have a reasonable range in winter with a pure electric system as of yet, that would require some rather significant advances in energy storage technology...

Oh well, one of the business categories that would really benefit from electric vehicles is highway rest stops. Since charging an electric takes a lot longer than filling a fuel tank...

Kamas Kirian said...

I guess this explains why most of the electric and hybrid cars disappear in the winter in ND.

William Tansill said...

Mikki - after reading about the massive efficiencies of the diesel-electric train I, like you, have wondered why no one has thought to transfer that sort of power train to automobiles. However, one more time, I am not an engineer, and for all I know downsizing the technology to the lesser scale of an autmobile/van/light truck platform may be infeasible.

Richard said...

Diesel Electric trains are basically hybrids. Hybrids are the only EVs that every made much technical sense to me. Another approach that is being pushed right now that is semi sensible are hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity for EVs.

Of course the elephant in the room for all of these schemes, totally ignoring 'minor' issues like economics, etc. etc. is where the primary energy source is coming from and how it is to be converted into electricity and delivered. Where is the electricity generated and how? Coal?, natural gas, fuel oil???? Nukes make the most sense, but those are persona non grata, but you still need juice to run the hydrolysis plants to generate the hydrogen even for fuel cells. Not to ignore that if a zillion electric cars are expected to plug into a grid that is already on the verge of collapse after decades of nimbyism....

Ugh. I have been professionally involved in energy projects my whole career and the sheer stupid around all these issues makes my head hurt....

CDH said...

The problem with gas+electric hybrids is that the combustion engine is still not significantly more efficient than a straight gas engine. Same technology, just smaller as it is sized for base loading (cruise speeds), and not full power/acceleration/etc. Getting extra efficiency into the gas engine is the problem. Micro turbines are great but lose efficiency as they get smaller. Diesels are nice but have high NOx emissions. High compression gas engines (Ford Ecoboost) are great but not quite there in refinement...and still not terribly better than standard gas engines.

None of that addresses the added cost of dual drivetrains. The hybrid reduces the battery immensely and replaces it with a combustion engine. For a locomotive the weight and size is not an issue. For a commuter car, totally different. I look to tractor-trailer rigs first to see if it can make inroads. When I see it there I figure trucks will be next. This is a technology that works best BIG and is being forced to scale down too much.

Better waste heat recovery is also very interesting. Thermoelectric generators are still expensive but show great promise. This directly boosts efficiency a LOT. Think of cogeneration power plants...huge increase in power output (or steam to refineries here) over straight gas turbines.

capt fast said...

from my experience with industrial electric powered and controlled vehicles, I can come to several conclusions.
! EV marketing is a scam.
2 EV tax incentives is a scam. If your state offers a tax rebate for an EV, you are being screwed as a tax payer even if you do or do not have an EV.
3 An EV that uses batteries as the primary energy source is poor engineering driven by politics and greed. see item two.
4. A Hybrid makes sense. it has range, good fuel economy, usable subsystems that will function at low temperature and best of all it has the range the customer wants. one could go for an electrical power adder system like the porche 818 or and IC power generation system like the Honda accord of a few years ago. politicians would be better off pushing hybrids than battery only EVs.
5. national infrastructure to support massive EV use in not available now or in the near future. Investors won't spring for new cable now and EPA won't allow new power plants now so what you gonna do?
6. If you hate the IC engine, try fuel reformer fuel cell tech. it works ok with existing technology. if tax incentives were available of fuel cells, who knows what would happen. just watch california in ten years if you want to see a transportation apocalypse.
7. just you wait until the excise tax on your power bill shows up from your local department of separate-you-from-your-money-for nefarious-reasons in you monthly bills. or the mandatory fee for you to support EV charging stations infrastructure on your power bill even if you don't own one.

I could go on, but that would be making the point the hard way...