Tesla Motors blog opened my eyes to EVs
The Tesla Motors Blog is an interesting read. Among other interesting posts, “The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan” has a table of energy-efficiency that spells out what I hadn’t put together. Electric cars are a net pollution/efficiency win because our electricity generation technology is much more efficient than internal combustion engines. I knew power generation was more efficient than internal combustion engines but for some reason never put it together with electric cars being thus much better than cars that involve gas engines. Now I understand why the electric vehicle enthusiasts regard hybrid gas/electric cars with such contempt. Hybrids use the low-efficiency gas engines to produce the power and thus will never represent the kind of win that a purely electric car is.
Electric cars are also appealing because the wall outlet is an interface to a variety of power generation mechanisms. It abstracts the problem of generating the power away from having to be carried around by the car. Increasing the efficiency and cleanliness of the power generation can be regarded as a separate problem from making cars go — and can require technology that wouldn’t meet the design constraints of a car.
Now we just need the energy storage technology to yield electric cars with a 500-mile range.
I had ruled out electric cars as being a serious long-term win because instead of thinking about the potential I looked at the lackluster performance and low range that most of the EVs that exist now have. In fact, there seems to be only one serious technical problem between EVs and suitability for mass adoption — enough energy storage to have a long enough range in a big enough vehicle. The other “alternative fuel” options all suffer from one or more much more serious problems: the need to create a distribution network for fuel, low efficiency, expensive fuel, not actually reducing dependence on oil, relatively high pollution at either drive or fuel creation/transport points, or inefficient use of arable land.