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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Electric Car News

Electric Ford Focus

This article originally appeared at Consumer Energy Report.

Some test drive reports for the electric Ford Focus are out--fake radiator grill, optional leather seats, looks like a regular car, blah, blah, blah. Other than superficial appearances, it's almost indistinguishable from a Leaf in performance, costs a few grand more. One was used as the pace car at the NASCAR Sprint Car Series race last week in Richmond so at least they are marketing the thing and the Leaf really could use some competition. Then again, I also thought the Prius would have met some stiff competition from American hybrids by now. The latest episode of the sitcom 30 Rock was about an American engineered couch that was so uncomfortable the government bought them to torture terrorists ...I think I have one of those couches.

If you are looking for another made-in-America electric car, this may fit your bill, although I honestly don't know how much of it is made in America. Nissan has a factory in Tennessee that will be able to produce 150,000 Leafs a year.

The Society of Automotive Engineers recently declared that:
Barring an unforeseen breakthrough that significantly drops the cost of automotive batteries, fully electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles are likely to remain confined to a niche of under 10% of the market through 2025 and beyond.
Visionaries, these guys are not. The article also mentions that:
A conventional, gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine and transmission make up about 10% of the cost of a $30,000 car, or about $3,000
That's right. Today's almost unimaginably complex assemblies known as engines and transmissions, consisting of thousands of precision machined metal parts, presently cost four times less than the bags of powder that constitute the Leaf's batteries. That's the power of the economy of scale. It's only a matter of time before the price of batteries plummet as well. Automotive engineers are not soothsayers, and don't seem to like electric drive systems--too simple, elegant, little to tinker with, fix, or improve.

Honda just announced that they are building a recycling plant to process nickel-metal hydride batteries collected from hybrid cars. These are not the same technology used in electric cars but similar recycling will eventually exist for lithium ion batteries as well. The critique that there will not be enough rare earth metals for electric car batteries has just been dealt its death blow.

The Union of Concerned Scientists and Citizens (UCS&C) recently released a study that came to the same conclusion as the first half-dozen studies on the same subject that proceeded their version; the carbon emissions associated with your electric car depend on your source of electricity. However, they also created a very easy to understand graphic to explain the concept to a public that does not know a kilo-watt from a tuna sandwich.

Another point of interest that came from that study is that nuclear power produces less GHG emissions than solar.

Nuclear GHG

On the other hand, their press release made no mention of nuclear energy, which is the main reason electric cars have such low emissions.

My Leaf continues to hum along flawlessly. I ruined a tire in a pot hole last week. Called the number in my owner's manual and got a free tow to a local dealer. The tire wasn't cheap but the dealer also didn't offer me any deals on oil changes or engine tune ups while they had me at their mercy. The intermittent problems with my charger have been fixed with a free upgrade as well.


  1. " Tokyo (AFP) May 5, 2012 - Japan switched off its last working nuclear reactor Saturday, leaving the country without atomic-generated electricity just over a year after the world's worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century. As technicians closed down the No. 3 unit at Tomari in Hokkaido at 11:03 pm (1403 GMT), the debate over whether Japan needs nuclear power has been reignited "

    Meanwhile,my home solar PV panels continue to motionless and silently produce their juice when the sun is shining, and at night I cook electrically, using grid delivered electricity 100% generated by the energy captured from wind, biogas, biomass and run-of-river hydro power plants.

    Have a nice day, hope your yellow cake tastes well.

  2. Hey Alain,

    Another reader tells me the correct grammar is "Hope your yellow cake tastes good." But he's British ;)

    I'm a big fan of solar. Unfortunately, renewables can't do the job alone.

    Japan has tripled its use of petroleum as a result of the temporary shut down. I suspect their electric bills are going ballistic as well.


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