Category Archives: Transportation

Electric Vehicle Efficiency

According to the U.S. government:

Energy efficient. EVs convert over 77% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 12%–30% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.

Source: All-Electric Vehicles

Of course, one must also include the conversion of the original fuel source into electricity but that depends on the original fuel source: oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear power, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind and so on – and can vary widely.

Regardless, gasoline engines are not very energy efficient in terms of turning the energy in the fuel into forward motion, as noted above and also noted here. EVs have a slightly different problem – while they use electricity efficiently, EVs weigh quite a bit more than a similar sized gasoline vehicle.

Transportation: You can’t start a Gig Car Share rental car unless you have cell phone service

A tourist who rented an app-powered car says she was stranded on a rural road along the Northern California coast after she lost cell phone service.

Source: Weekend trip turns into ordeal after app-rental car loses cell service – SFGate

This is what happens when city-based entrepreneurs have never ventured outside big metro areas. They incorrectly assume cellular service is available everywhere. And design a car rental service whose cars won’t re-start if stopped in a place lacking cell service. Face palm moment. (Technically, you can order a separate “GigCard” which will be delivered in up to two weeks and use it to start your car with cell phone service. Hmmmm.)

This is a problem of relying on automation for everything – something Boeing has perhaps discovered with their automated MCAS control system failure.

The FAA, of course, has learned nothing. The FAA has proposed that all drones have a mandatory connection to cell service – and that they be unable to take off if there is no GPS signal (and for many, an Internet connection). This effectively bans flying model aircraft in buildings, homes, exhibit halls, businesses, warehouses, movie sets. It also de facto shuts down flight in numerous parts of the country.

Far too many tech people believe in fantasies that are not ready yet – while automation can do much, it also has failure points that have not been accounted for, leading to killing people (Boeing, Uber’s self driving car experiments).

Transportation: NTSB critical of automatic driving systems

Seems like they must require a “keep alive” (dead man’s switch) to ensure driver’s remain alert.

Among other things, the office wants Tesla to improve its driver engagement monitoring systems. Tesla relies on sensing a driver’s hands on the steering wheel to know if they are attentive enough to the road while using Autopilot features. Other auto makers use cameras to ascertain whether a driver’s eyes are on the road.

Source: NTSB calls out Tesla and Apple for neglecting driver safety

I understand train locomotives require that the engineer make at least one control input every 25 seconds. If that doesn’t happen, the train will begin braking. Seems like pseudo-self driving cars must use a similar approach – if the driver does not manipulate the controls, then alerts must be activated and/or the car needs to get off the highway and stop.

Transportation: Apparently EPA range figures for EVs are useless, suggests Car & Driver

The vast difference in EPA figures didn’t amount to much in the real world.

When the  Porsche Taycan‘s first EPA range figure exposed itself to the public, the outcry was  swift and decisive. Even those not strong in math might realize that a paltry 192-mile rating for the Taycan Turbo S is a huge miss compared with the 326- or 348-mile figures that the  Tesla Model S Performance gets.

Source: In Our Testing, Porsche Taycan Range Nearly Equaled Tesla Model S

But in a real world test, the two vehicles range measure are almost identical. Hmmmm.

Transportation: Tesla deletes car features via software update, after cars are sold, used

Should Tesla be allowed to remove features from a vehicle that’s bought secondhand?

Source: Tesla yanks Autopilot features from used car because ‘they weren’t paid for’ | ZDNet

This is a troubling issue where we rely on software for every feature of consumer products. Software that can be updated to add features can also be downgraded to remove features.

Years ago, Amazon deleted e-book copies of George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Apparently Amazon did not have the distribution rights signed up correctly and customers who had bought the e-book addition discovered Amazon remotely deleted their copy of the book. (Amazon did refund the purchase price). That this was a giant corporation removing, of all things, 1984, was a bit of a shock to many.

Meanwhile, the FAA has proposed a massive, Rube Goldberg-like regulatory scheme for small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS), also known as remote control model aircraft. The FAA envisions a world where all model aircraft regulations are enforced by software, logging their position with government designated Internet databases, once every second during flight – rather than the traditional trust and enforcement mechanisms of all other laws. There are multiple issues with the FAA’s proposal, but one side effect of their attempt to enforce the law via software is they’ve managed to eliminate essentially all indoor flight by model airplanes and quadcopter – because a one-size fits all rule does not work. They’ve also created a monster that would enable automated  drone fleets – and consumer drones – to be enlisted by foreign adversaries in international espionage, permitting – indeed, encouraging – all drones to collect aerial imagery and other data as they fly over our homes and cities.

Transportation: Congress proposing an annual Federal tax on electric vehicles

Source: Congress could make EV drivers pay – POLITICO

My state, Oregon, introduced state fees for fuel efficient vehicles, beginning January 1, 2020. These fees are added to existing annual license fees. Oregon issues vehicle licenses for a 2 year period, not one, so the fee paid when renewing is twice the value shown:

a) For vehicles that have a rating of 0-19 MPG, $18.

(b) For vehicles that have a rating of 20-39 MPG, $23.

(c) For vehicles that have a rating of 40 MPG or greater, $33.

(d) For electric vehicles, $110.

The reason they charge for 2 years is it enables the state to increase the effective rate. On average, people will sell their car with one year of their license remaining. However, when sold, there is no refund. And presumably you buy a new vehicle and pay a new license fee. Same thing if you move out of state – you lose the unused portion of the fee. Now they offer a 4-year pre-paid option – don’t go there!

Oregon has also introduced a “pay per mile” license tax and says that some people may pay less fees under this scheme. When I checked the numbers for my Honda Fit, I would pay more under their pay-per-mile scheme – and I only drive about 7,000 miles per year. Sure, that pay–per-mile fee makes sense – not!

The state increased the regular vehicle license fee by 30% in 2017, and increased the state’s gasoline sales tax, which will increase every other year through 2024. The State also increased the title records fee and added a per-vehicle-sold tax on car dealers, and added a $15 tax on new bicycle purchases.

The proposed Federal tax – amount unknown – would be in addition to State license fees.

Transportation: Congress members introduce bill to establish a government run EV charging network

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Andy Levin (D-Mich.) on Thursday outlined a bill that seeks to establish a nationwide electric vehicle charging network within five years.

Source: Ocasio-Cortez, Levin eye national EV network in five years | TheHill

They admit they have no idea what it would cost taxpayers, where charging stations would be located, and would have the government establish charging standards (versus industry standards) … they have no details on anything because details don’t matter.  They do not even have a reason as to why the government needs to run this – apparently they have not heard of PlugShare.

How did we get by without a government run network of gas stations and restaurants along the Interstates? Boggles the mind. Worse, when the government runs the EV network and decides where EV charging stations will be located – watch out  for graft and corruption as politically favored communities get this infrastructure and less favored communities are cut off.

This bill will go nowhere (pun intended).

Transportation: How EVs are more efficient than ICE vehicles – power on demand and regeneration

ICE vehicle engines, except in hybrids and PHEVs, run all the time.

In an EV, you only consume power when you need power. This makes an EV ideal for city driving. When you stop at a traffic signal, your engine stops.

When you brake in an ICE vehicle, your engine keeps running as your forward momentum is converted into heat by the brakes. This means you consume fuel all the time and the kinetic energy is basically thrown away (by turning it into heat instead of future forward motion).

In an EV, when you brake, you are generating electricity. Essentially all EVs have regenerative braking capabilities. Your kinetic energy is stored for future use.

When you climb a hill or mountain pass in an ICE vehicle, once you get to the top, you can coast downhill, but the engine is still running at idle, at a minimum. Your potential energy is translated, partially (not 100% efficient of course), into kinetic energy of forward motion – but chances are that you’ll either use braking (converting kinetic energy into wasted heat) or engine braking (similar).

In an EV, once you have climbed to the top, your vehicle generates electricity on the downhill side, adding miles back into the battery pack. This converts your potential energy back into future forward miles.

As we note below, EVs weigh much more than ICE vehicles. Consequently it takes more energy to lift them up mountain passes, but with the ability to recover some of that energy on the way back down.

Transportation: The large dead weight of EV batteries

The 2020 Honda Fit (using ICE) and the 2020 Chevy Bolt (EV) are nearly identical in capacity and general specifications – except for one very notable item:

2020 Honda Fit – image from Honda web site

2020 Chevy Bolt EV – image from Chevrolet web site:

The two cars are amazing similar with nearly identical cargo space, with or without the back seats up or down. The Fit includes a spare tire, the Chevy Bolt does not.

The biggest difference – the price and weight of the vehicles.

  • The 2020 Honda Fit starts at about $16,000 and weighs 2,522 to 2,648 pounds depending on options and version.
  • The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV starts at $37,000 and weights 3,563 pounds.
  • A Tesla Model 3 weighs over 4,000 pounds.

The Bolt EV weights almost 1,000 pounds or 38% more than the Honda Fit.

Why? The battery. The energy density of EV batteries is very low relative to gasoline. EV makers have to use large batteries to achieve a range of 200 to 300 or more miles.

When we consider the overall energy efficiency and emissions of the two vehicles, we should note the inefficiency of carrying nearly 40% more weight for a small reduction in lifetime emissions:

Update: I wonder what impact the heavier weight of EVs has on roadway surfaces? Weight has long been considered a major factor in the degradation of roadway surfaces. If we transitioned the entire automotive fleet to vehicles weighing 30-40% more, what effect does that have on roadways and what are the costs associated with those effects?

Continue reading Transportation: The large dead weight of EV batteries