Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Defining the Parameters

It is important, when one talks about things with generic concepts like affordable to understand just what is meant by the term.  Just what does affordable mean when it comes to an electric car?  Although it's hard to put an exact figure on the maximum value that an affordable electric car should cost, one can compile a list of reasonable requirements and performance criteria and judge the ideal price based on different sets of attributes.  In other words, the maximum price for a car that can go 100 mi (161 km) would clearly not be the same as a car with a range of 50 mi (80 km).  For me, only the former car is affordable in so far as I don't expect to charge my car at work, and I have a work commute of about 37 mi (60 km) and thus round trip of a bit under 80 mi (129 km).  Thus, a car with only 60 mi (97 km) range, as proposed for the Chevy Volt would just not cut it for me if I want to go all electric.  With that in mind, I propose the following list of requirements.

  • 80 mi (129 km) range at 80% charge [100 mi (161 km) preferred]
  • 8 hours charge time for 80% charge [6 hours preferred]
  • Regenerative Breaking [preferably using Ultra Capacitors]
  • Safety features such as air bags, ABS, vehicle stability and traction control
  • Ideally, 4-wheel independent motors, similar to the Eliica design so that power is not lost running a drive train
  • Ideally, carbon-fibre frame and body to make the car both light-weight and structurally sound
  • Ideally, mountable electrovoltaic solar panels to charge the car when at rest as well as turn some of the solar heat into thermal energy to keep the car cool in the summer
  • Batteries that don't break the bank, either by mass-production of much cheaper Lithium-Ion batteries, or a different battery type, such as Sodium-Ion, that would be one-time use and recyclable at a service station1

Of all of these attributes, the most noisome is by far the current cost of Lithium-Ion batteries.  Li-ion batteries represent a full third of the retail cost of the Tesla roadster, about $33,000.  And that, in my oh, so humble opinion, is the reason we are still waiting for that mythical affordable electric car.  When you can buy a car with all the attributes I've listed, including the batteries, for $33,000, we may finally have that dream car I long for.  Until then, I repeat my mantra:

Affordable Electric Car NOW

1The Sodium-Ion battery though would not be ideal as part of the joy of not having to go to a service station every week to fill up the tank would only be replaced by doing the same perhaps daily replacing the Sodium-Ion battery.  Maybe if the batteries could be removed and charged in the home with multiple battery packs on reserved so that one can be used while the others are charging would be the appropriate solution here.