Thursday, April 21, 2011

Biggest Barrier to Electric Vehicles?

I saw a post on an EV battery forum, asking: "What is the biggest barrier to EVs."

My opinion may not be popular, however, I believe that it's founded on excellent logic.

I believe the biggest barrier for EVs is usefulness. When EVs are better than gasoline cars in enough ways to benefit the person paying the bill for them, they will outsell them. Some scenarios are that lithium battery cost mile drops by 75%, or gasoline cost quadruples, then the range and recharge time will be overshadowed by pure cost incentive despite the inconvenience. People choose a mode of transportation primarily based on:
1. Speed from point to point.
2. Convenience to schedule, and
3. Convenience to carry goods and to keep them secure when not on one's person.
4. If using a car or motorcycle, then ease of parking becomes an issue
A major investment in a car, except in extremely dense cities like New York, meets these objectives best. However, when making such a large investment, it goes without saying that one would want to be able to use it, at least occasionally, for long-distance trips. This one item is a huge deterrent for pure electric vehicles. Companies that are promoting pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids seem to ignore, that as far as we can tell, battery replacement and electricity combined cost at least as much as gasoline on a cost per mile basis.

However, there is an immediate solution. It's the Tango. As 90% of all trips fall within its range, the Tango is the only car in the world, to my knowledge, that does a better job for commuters and errand goers than any other car in history, despite the fact that it's pure electric. It is the only car that can lanesplit and park like a motorcycle, giving 200% to 300% speed advantage in heavy traffic in California, Europe, and Asia, where lanesplitting is legal. When there are enough of them, along with motorcycles, they can increase lane capacity from 2,000 vehicles per hour to 4,400 vehicles per hour, according to a UC Berkeley/Booz-Allen-Hamilton study. Using a full sized car for commuting is like using a sledge hammer to drive finish nails. It's the wrong tool for the job, yet, 106-million single-occupant drivers out of the 140-million workers in the U.S. do just that. By the same token, a long haul electric semi truck would be like using a claw hammer to drive railroad spikes—also the wrong tool for the job.

Just as transistors could not possibly have replaced vacuum tubes in TVs in the 50s, batteries cannot replace gasoline and diesel now. However, just as transistors did the job perfectly in transistor radios and hearing aids in the 50s, so batteries do the job perfectly in a Tango today. People didn't buy transistor radios in the 50s because they had transistors in them. They bought them because of the job that the radio did. Today, the mass market will not buy cars because they are electric, but rather for the job that they can do. The Tango is faster, safer, more convenient, and more fun to drive in any urban situation, where most driver's have the most frustration. If a manufacturer really wants to sell a lot of EVs over the next 30 years, they should be talking to me, as I have world-wide patents on the only practical mass-market-appealing EV in existence—in my humble opinion of course. :^)


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10 comments:

Jose said...

I definitely believe there are many issues impacting an "all-electric" car. In its current state it is impractical with is short range and long charge time. This will be an issue of just the evolution of battery technology to resolve it. The issue of no widespread "charging station" infrastructure yet developed. Not everyone has the luxury of having a charging station inside their garage in a secure neighborhood.
Then there is cost - current electric cars are too expensive (the Tango is no exception - in fact - its price is outrageous) for such a limiting vehicle. Currently the electric car is a novelty niche vehicle until the technology catches up, infrastructure is developed and costs decrease. I am hopeful for this technology to develop rather quickly and then the "gas engine" will literally become part of history!

Tango Electric Cars said...

I definitely believe there are many issues impacting an "all-electric" car. In its current state it is impractical with is short range and long charge time.

Impractical for what job? The average distance, round trip, of 106-million commuters is only 20 miles according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. A full-sized car is extremely impractical for a single occupant driving to work in heavy traffic.

. . . The issue of no widespread "charging station" infrastructure yet developed. Not everyone has the luxury of having a charging station inside their garage in a secure neighborhood.

There is no car that solves everyone's needs. To say that all cars have to do everything is like saying that all hammers must be good at pounding in railroad spikes as well as finish nails. I'd feel as sorry for all of the carpenters and roofers using sledge hammers as I do for all of the people stuck in traffic with full-sized cars by themselves, taking up a whole lane when they could be in a Tango lanesplitting, or eventually driving in a half-lane at 70 mph rather than stuck in a full-sized lane at 10 to 20 mph, stop an go.

Then there is cost - current electric cars are too expensive (the Tango is no exception - in fact - its price is outrageous) for such a limiting vehicle.

First, the Tango is not expensive in relation to its level of production. In fact, for a run of 10 cars it's less than 1/10 of typical. The bill of materials compares favorably with other cars. The Tango in the same level of production fares well with other cars. The electric motors are less expensive than engines. Other parts are basically the same except for batteries. Batteries are a consumable, just like gasoline. Battery cost must be amortized over their life, as a cost per mile. Batteries and electricity combined are roughly equivalent to the cost of gasoline today.

The comment "for such a limiting vehicle" shows lack of consideration of the job to be done. For example, a car is limited because it cannot carry a load of dirt, but a pickup truck may be limited because it may not carry enough people.

The Tango is limited because it cannot carry more than 2 people, however all other cars and trucks are limited because they cannot lanesplit or park like a motorcycle. Since 106-million commuters in the US drive by themselves, and about half of them in heavy traffic, they are the ones limited by their vehicles, as they cannot get where they want to be in a reasonable amount of time.


Currently the electric car is a novelty niche vehicle until the technology catches up,

Technology is 100% for the Tango at today's pricing. It only needs to be built in volume. At a $50M investment, 2,500 Tangos per year could be sold for $44k. That's roughly equivalent to a Lotus Elise or any other car built in that low volume of production. With $150m investment, 15,000 Tangos per year could be sold for $29k which is still low volume. If the typical $1.5-billion were invested, 100,000 Tangos per year could be sold for $10k to $20k, depending on amenities.

infrastructure is developed and costs decrease.

No infrastructure is need for the Tango, as long as one has a place to plug in at night or at work, as the job to be done is commuting and running errands, never long-distant trips.

I am hopeful for this technology to develop rather quickly and then the "gas engine" will literally become part of history!

That will take a long time, because batteries don't do long distance well. They do exactly what's needed for a commuter vehicle though, as long as the commuter vehicle has something to offer that other cars don't.

I challenge anyone to name another vehicle that offers substantially more speed, convenience, practicality, safety, or is more fun to drive in the dense traffic that plagues every large city in the world.

Mickey Simple said...

Jose,

Here's a follow-up question for you: what's the "practicality" of continuing to use roads, highways and bridges in their current very inefficient manner? At least 80% of all of the seats that are transported are empty.

If someone proposed building a car that is twice as wide as the current wide cars that are built right now, no person in their right mind would want it built. With the invention of the Tango and other ultra-narrow cars, that is exactly the kinds of cars that are on the roads right now - impractical cars that are twice as wide as is reasonable for passing.

Great design always floats to the top, or in this case, lane splits down the center of the highway while other people are stopped in their tracks.

Go Tango go. It's the practical answer for right now.

Anonymous said...

A simple lap around the Nurburgring would prove most naysayers wrong and would do wonders to increase mass-market appeal.

In today's information-driven world, video sells and is more universal than having to read about the Tango's prowess. People may "want" efficiency and environmentalism but they also "want" burnouts and donuts. As time is of the essence, seeing is believing and can be done much faster than reading about it.

Until the world gets to see the Tango taking a hot lap at Laguna Seca, the Nurburgring, or some place used to benchmark automotive performance, I'm not sure the Tango will breach it's current stage of hand-built exclusivity.

I keep hearing the Tango is as fast as a Corvette in the 1/4 mile but after 10 years, I have yet to see that challenge manifest itself.

Your words will be lost to your competitors who show videos of their cars' performance attributes.

The Tango needs to be a threat to the competition but when people keep heaving doubt on it and the challenge is not met (except with words), how will the Tango rise above the criticism? If the rebuttal is always, "here, read this" the Tango's road will surely meet a dead end.

There is a value to effective design and marketing. Unfortunately, it's not the Tango's strongest suit.

Mickey Simple said...

Anonymous -

To me, a car that can drive through congestion and deliver me to my job twice as fast as a wide car in a place where lane splitting is legal is a value added like no other. I don't need to see it driving around a track to understand its superiority - it's plainly apparent that its narrow width would allow it to go places no wide car can drive.

The Tango owner videos on youtube and the interviews of the owners of Tangos on the Chinese news story give me the most pertinent video information I need.

Also, I think the Tango did very well in demonstrating its viability in video during the Automotive X Prize tests.

Anonymous said...

I'd buy this car in a heartbeat if it weren't for the initial cost. That is probably the greatest limiting factor that prevents more sales of the Tango. That there are not electric car dealerships popping up selling cars like this one is extremely disappointing. Blame it on effective anti-electric car propaganda or corrupt interference at the state level--more of these should be on the road.

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Cici Stacy said...

I believe the biggest barrier for EVs is usefulness. When EVs are better than gasoline cars in enough ways to benefit the person paying the bill for them, they will outsell them. Some scenarios are that lithium battery cost mile drops by 75%, or gasoline cost quadruples, then the range and recharge time will be overshadowed by pure cost incentive despite the inconvenience.
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