Future Cars: Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

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mulad
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Re: Future cars

Postby mulad » May 31st, 2013, 7:11 pm

This may be the most appropriate place for me to mention the growth of electric vehicles and charging stations. I made a post on the subject for streets.mn back on May 10th:

https://streets.mn/2013/05/10/the-elect ... -arriving/

There are now more electric charging stations than all other alternative fueling stations combined (including E85, biodiesel, natural gas, etc.). Most of those are 240-volt AC "level 2" chargers, probably capable of pulling 30 amps.

I was surprised today to learn that Tesla Motors is currently planning to route the first transcontinental leg of their Supercharger network through Minnesota, in contrast to their initial plans that were biased toward more southern states. According to the map on their page

http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

...it looks like the first station serving the Twin Cities will be out in the Eau Claire area. I don't quite understand why they don't have one planned in the Twin Cities metro itself, but I guess the idea is that Tesla owners would charge at home, then go out on a day trip (or multi-day trip) and use the Superchargers when they're out of town. The first station planned for Minnesota itself will be down near Albert Lea. In the transcontinental chain, it'd be between a station in/near Sioux Falls, SD (175 miles from Albert Lea) and another apparently near Tomah, WI (162 miles from Albert Lea).

The Supercharger stations use a proprietary charging connector developed by Tesla, and I haven't found an obvious place with information on how much voltage or amperage they pump out, but I would guess they are direct current at somewhere well north of 400 volts in order to keep the amperage from flying totally off the charts (amps are what kill you -- literally). These charge ports can put out 120 kW, well over 10x what the 240-volt chargers can typically do (about 7 kW), but the actual power output apparently varies depending on environmental conditions.

Anyway, the initial routing has surprised me. Minnesota was barely touched in their initial plans, even after two years of deployment:
tesla-supercharger-old.jpg
And here's their current plan for the end of 2013:
tesla-supercharger-new.jpg
A free drink to the first person who catches a Tesla Model S with a "Wall Drug" bumper sticker!
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Re: Future cars

Postby Mdcastle » June 1st, 2013, 8:11 am

I noticed that they 85kw model has a 265 mile range, which would mean you'd only have to stop once on a trip to Chicago. Is that a realistic number, like a real-world situation with heat, radio, luggage in the trunk, hills as opposed to a flat level road with a brand new battery.

I'd assume if you want it to go 200,000 miles you'd need to replace the batteries at least once. The economics vs an equivalent gasoline car over that time get interesting.

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Re: Future cars

Postby mulad » June 1st, 2013, 1:24 pm

I typically cut the range in half when thinking of nightmare scenarios. Being stuck slogging through heavy snow on a cold winter night tends to be what I think of. Whether the Tesla gets impacted as badly as some of the cheaper electrics that preceded it remains an open question in my mind, though. So for Tesla-class vehicles which have range of 200-300 miles, charging stations every 100 miles would be fine.

But there's still the ability to plug into any of the more conventional charging stations that might be along the route (which currently number somewhere around 20,000), or even just a standard outlet (which must number in the billions) if you only need to add a modest amount of range.

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Re: Future cars

Postby Andrew_F » June 3rd, 2013, 7:48 am

I actually just saw a Tesla Model S for the first time just yesterday (no Wall Drug sticker, though :P ).

Oddly, I've seen close to a dozen Volts in Wisconsin (and one in MN) but none in Chicago. Conversely, I've seen 4 Leafs and a lot (probably the same 3 that live at a car-sharing station near me) of Mitsubishi MiEVs in Chicago and zero Leafs (leaves?) or MiEVs anywhere else.

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Re: Future cars

Postby TWA » June 3rd, 2013, 9:13 am

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/tesla ... g-network/

Also of note, to coincide with the Tesla recharge station expansion, they are also planning a new compact vehicle that will sell for "$30k". I put it in quotes because these always end up being more expensive. But I think that a compact, city driving focused car will have better sales- not only because it is actually affordable (versus their other models) but also because there is less to worry about if you are making a number of short trips in the city versus a long haul to Chicago. This just seems like finally they are going for the angle that they should have taken in the first place-

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Re: Future cars

Postby mplsjaromir » June 3rd, 2013, 10:14 am

I think as a company selling consumer products Tesla absolutely did the right thing by starting with a high margin vehicles. The halo effect from the Model S and Roadster will help drive people toward the Model X. I am excited that electric vehicles are becoming more mainstream and aren't the butt of easy jokes.

Elon Musk is a smart guy, he knows what hes doing. Shockingly he hinted at a plan that would move people from LA to SF in 30 minutes! Elon's Hyperloop

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Re: Future cars

Postby mulad » June 21st, 2013, 3:27 pm

Looks like Tesla demonstrated their battery-swapping technology last night (Elon Musk had previously teased a major announcement for about June 20th, so I guess this is it). Sounds like battery-swapping stations will end up being placed at Supercharger installations, though there wasn't much detail on how prevalent that combination will be. Supercharging will remain free, but battery-swapping will apparently come with a cost to it.

It's an interesting concept, though I've always been skeptical of the idea since different cars will have differently-sized battery packs (much like cell phones and other devices). Nonetheless, Tesla showed battery swaps that took a little over 90 seconds each, managing to do two in the time it took to fill up the (large) tank in a pricey Audi sedan (probably in a comparable segment to the Model S, though).



CS Monitor write-up: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/En ... -gas-video

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Re: Future cars

Postby MNdible » June 21st, 2013, 3:46 pm

So, do hyper-efficient cars change things? People often speak to the environmental impacts of cars when explaining why things have to change, but I get the sense that's usually a canard used to cover for a deeper dislike of cars and their social impacts. Somebody (don't remember who) basically came out and said as much -- that small, efficient cars were bad because they allowed people to drive further for less money.

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Re: Future cars

Postby FISHMANPET » June 21st, 2013, 4:00 pm

I think someone here said that, and I'd probably agree.

I view the damage of the car as two fold. First there's the polluting aspect of the internal combustion engine. But the second more insidious side is the built environment the car creates that is by default hostile to all other forms of locomotion. And that built environment isn't very healthy to the natural environment either, and no matter how much you change the car, that won't change.

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Re: Future cars

Postby talindsay » June 21st, 2013, 4:39 pm

So, do hyper-efficient cars change things? People often speak to the environmental impacts of cars when explaining why things have to change, but I get the sense that's usually a canard used to cover for a deeper dislike of cars and their social impacts. Somebody (don't remember who) basically came out and said as much -- that small, efficient cars were bad because they allowed people to drive further for less money.
Remember that construction of massive roadways and congestion isn't made less onerous by more fuel-efficient cars. My 50-mpg VW TDi and my 40+mpg Fiat still require a paved road to operate. That's a big part of the equation.

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Re: Future cars

Postby Nick » June 21st, 2013, 4:41 pm

I've thought for a minute now that even if climate change was a gigantic liberal hoax to take away ur freedoms, there are very few changes we could make to ostensibly fight climate change that wouldn't be a good idea anyway. Driving less is one of them. Which isn't to say we should ban cars, obviously, but there are so many other pieces of the environmental/social/financial puzzle that come together when people are able to live in a way that doesn't require a car.

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Re: Future cars

Postby talindsay » June 21st, 2013, 5:20 pm

I've thought for a minute now that even if climate change was a gigantic liberal hoax to take away ur freedoms, there are very few changes we could make to ostensibly fight climate change that wouldn't be a good idea anyway. Driving less is one of them. Which isn't to say we should ban cars, obviously, but there are so many other pieces of the environmental/social/financial puzzle that come together when people are able to live in a way that doesn't require a car.
Yes, I've come to think that environmentalism isn't really about caring for the planet - it's humanism, looking out for our self-interest and preserving the things that make the planet pleasant for humans. After all, the planet doesn't really care if we go extinct, and there have been many cycles of reduction in biodiversity followed by increase in different types of biodiversity; our "environmentalism" is primarily concerned with keeping the type of biodiversity that's good for humans, who after all have adapted to *this* version of the planet's life cycle. And if we're more careful stewards then it's better for us, but it's also better for just about *all* the fragile parts of our current ecosystem.

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Re: Future cars

Postby mulad » June 21st, 2013, 5:23 pm

Assuming that the goal is averting climate catastrophe, we need an all-in approach (See: Wedge Game). I don't believe that cars are going to go away -- You can make walking, cycling, and transiting more popular, but there will always be folks who will hang onto them for Freedom and The American Way(tm), and others who simply need the flexibility that cars and trucks offer. For instance, the wife of a former coworker of mine works as a dental assistant, and she ends up working at places all across the metro each week. Hopefully employers will stop making people do such strange things as time progresses, but we'll have to wait and see.

So while I don't think cars will ever disappear completely, I do think it's essential that the ones that remain become more efficient. I kind of grew up thinking that electric cars were the future and that they'd save the planet, but it's pretty clear that even if every vehicle had electric powertrains, it wouldn't save us from global warming. Similarly, we can't get everyone to switch to transit and continue to go about their lives the way they do now -- most transit trips I try end up taking 4x as long as driving by car would. Of course, the geographic reach that cars provide often make people go much farther to get to work, buy food, etc., than they really need to. How many grocery stores and corner markets do you drive past to get to the place that sells your favorite brand for 25 cents less than the other guy? To some extent, we have to return to living within our own neighborhoods. The layouts of our transportation networks (curvy suburban streets that only connect to arterials, etc.) also have to change to reflect the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.

Anyway, I do think that electrics help the urban environment a lot by being quieter than their gas- or diesel-powered counterparts. The ever-evolving field of self-driving cars and related technologies also have the potential to reduce the amount of aggressive behavior on the road. Self-driving cars may make it easier to set up remote parking structures, since they could stick themselves in a corner without anyone behind the wheel -- there will be problems of driverless cars going in circles hunting for whoever summoned them from the dark, though.

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Re: Future cars

Postby talindsay » June 21st, 2013, 5:35 pm

Gas cars are powered by gasoline and diesel cars are powered by diesel, a by-product of gasoline production. Electric cars *can* be powered by anything, which eventually will be a win, but for the moment means coal. If a large portion of the population switch to electric cars in the short term, it will mean dramatically more environmental destruction: more destruction of mountains in West Virginia, more air pollution, more of the poisons that coal produces in greater amounts than gasoline.

Since electric cars are still single-passenger vehicles they have the same inherent inefficiencies as gas cars; the environmental harm of coal-powered light rail vehicles is still better than gasoline cars because of the great efficiencies of moving so many people at once. Electric cars don't share this characteristic.

Electric cars will be a better solution than gas cars at some point in the future when we produce electricity from sustainable sources, if that day ever comes. Regardless, no energy source is without drawbacks (including wind, water, nuclear and probably solar, though I don't know enough about it to know its drawbacks) and so reduction in overall energy consumption is a better path than switching out the sources. The fact that electricity can be generated from many different sources is a potential benefit, of course.

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Re: Future cars

Postby mulad » June 21st, 2013, 5:46 pm

I tend not to think that way because I pay Xcel a few extra dollars per month for Windsource.

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Re: Future cars

Postby cowboyjones » June 21st, 2013, 7:07 pm

To some extent, we have to return to living within our own neighborhoods. The layouts of our transportation networks (curvy suburban streets that only connect to arterials, etc.) also have to change to reflect the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.
I've seen a few plans for sustainable housing developments, for example using multi-unit or row housing, and pathways that make walking or biking trips shorter (for example to a light-commercial area or a bus stop), but don't allow cars to use those same pathways to encourage walking. Also I've been thinking of a way to maybe have a few short cul-de-sacs in a neighborhood all leading to a bus stop, so that the only way by car to leave the development is by passing a bus stop, also to encourage bus use.
Gas cars are powered by gasoline and diesel cars are powered by diesel, a by-product of gasoline production. Electric cars *can* be powered by anything, which eventually will be a win, but for the moment means coal. If a large portion of the population switch to electric cars in the short term, it will mean dramatically more environmental destruction: more destruction of mountains in West Virginia, more air pollution, more of the poisons that coal produces in greater amounts than gasoline.
I came across an article recently which said that the average per unit carbon footprint of electricity produced in the US is the lowest it has been for many years, all thanks to the natural gas/ fracking boom out west. http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/ ... atural-gas

On a side note, the Chinese are currently starting to implement a cap-and-trade plan.

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Re: Future cars

Postby David Greene » June 21st, 2013, 8:28 pm

Electric cars will be a better solution than gas cars at some point in the future when we produce electricity from sustainable sources, if that day ever comes.
That day is here if you plan a little. My car is ten years old and my wife's car isn't far behind. We've already decided to get an electric. We're also going to get PV and possibly solar thermal installed at the house in a few years. We've got a crumbling garage and when we rebuild that we'll put PV on top to charge the electric car.

We've already worked out that we can generate enough electricity to cover our current usage. Not sure about the car but I'm hoping we'll at least come close.

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Re: Future cars

Postby UptownSport » June 21st, 2013, 9:24 pm

Electrics are radically more efficient in every way relative an ICE- except efficient storage an weight.

If you did go electrics overnight, you'd have a much healthier planet.

Remember, its not just what comes out of ICE's tailpipe, but heat from radiator, etc.,

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Re: Future cars

Postby Andrew_F » June 24th, 2013, 8:08 am

Of course, the geographic reach that cars provide often make people go much farther to get to work, buy food, etc., than they really need to. How many grocery stores and corner markets do you drive past to get to the place that sells your favorite brand for 25 cents less than the other guy? To some extent, we have to return to living within our own neighborhoods. The layouts of our transportation networks (curvy suburban streets that only connect to arterials, etc.) also have to change to reflect the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.
Thank you for putting this much more straightforward than I ever could have.

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Re: Future cars

Postby UptownSport » July 1st, 2013, 9:09 am



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