Ouch

Our Interweb access has been playing up. Despite an upgrade to our service it was still running like a heavily sedated slug. The modem worked, the Router was fine but Internet searches and suchlike were just slow and running at least 35-40Mbps slower than the service we’re paying for. Any old road up, we made a call and the cable guy brought us a new and faster modem. We had a little informed chat since we speak the same language about signal and network interference, the upshot being that a new Router was required. And one of the local stores was having a Router and wi-fi sale. Aaaaand what’s that Sooty? Allo, Bill’s got a new Router? Channelling Alexi Sayle in his manic heyday. (See below)

We didn’t put on the optional go faster stripes as they would have clashed with the decor, but it’s still bloody quick. What we now have is a dual band Gigabit which is blisteringly fast compared with what we had. As an adjunct, I upped our security as well to prevent anyone logging on and piggybacking our service. No guest accounts for one. Might add two later on the 2.4Ghz band, but otherwise not.

Oh yes, and I also went out and bought a motorcycle, a 2002 BMW R1150RT, delivery next week. Hey, it’s a little old and cheap, but then so am I. Posting may become even more sparse as I spend more time on the road and less at my desk. A little rearrangement of the garage may be in order. Next years travel plans also include a biking road trip down the coast to Califor-ni-a and back. Just because.

On the topic of vehicles, one of the problems I hadn’t thought about pertaining to Vehicles part or wholly powered by electrickery was the weight of their battery packs and the various problems this induces. Tesla’s for example seem to be particularly prone to suspension failures because the weight of their battery packs adds inertia to the vehicle, so that when the ball joints are subject to the additional stresses of hard (Some reports indicate merely gentle) cornering or braking, or even in one case a (reported) minor kerb bump, the risk of losing a wheel or suspension due to mechanical failure is magnified many times.

In comparatively small production runs the number of fires and failures reported for this class of vehicle seem disproportionate to say the least when compared to the more mature technology of the Internal Combustion Engine. Yes, yes, we know about development cycles, but over a hundred years to get this far? Especially with the government subsidies thrown at them since the 1970’s.

We should also not need reminding that GM recalled all its Electric Vehicles back in 2003 and had them all crushed. That was over ten years ago. Also that the most recalled Electric Vehicle is the Ford Focus EV (Also for suspension and transmission related issues) with the Fiat 500 currently a close second. Not sure what the figures are for the Toyota Prius.

While the recorded high rate of suspension failures can be tied to the extra weight of an electric vehicle’s battery pack and insufficiently robust suspension design, the fire problem mainly boils down to Lithium-Ion batteries. It’s well known that high capacity Lithium-Ion can be a fire risk, even when not in use if a manufacturing fault or wear has, like with the notorious Galaxy Tab 7, left the batteries prone to overheating, and like we have seen in many instances, can catch fire and burn spectacularly. The reason behind this is found in a peculiarity of Lithium-Ion batteries when they are charged.

Normally the rate at which Lithium-Ion batteries charge is carefully limited so that the Lithium within each cell doesn’t move too quickly – which, incidentally, is why batteries take time to charge. If charging is too fast, lithium ‘plates’ the anode, creating a potential short circuit which can generate heat. That heat, if allowed to build up, will go into thermal runaway and ignite the flammable electrolyte, and hey presto! – a very hard to extinguish fire and headache for the local fire department. Also if the battery pack gets too hot for any other reason, the Lithium cobalt oxide releases oxygen at high temperatures and the resulting highly-exothermic reaction with organic compounds in the cell proceeds at high speed and can result in thermal run-away, and yes, the local fire department have to be called. Now amplify that with the many high capacity battery cells in an Electric Vehicles battery pack. Any collision that ruptures a cell or cells in the battery pack can also do this in very short order. The casing of the battery does not even have to be breached.

Then factor in the known degradation of Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Manganese (Which aren’t so prone to catching fire but have lower capacity and limited range) batteries over multiple fast recharge / discharge cycles. We’re all used to laptop, phone and tablet batteries ‘wearing out’ in 2-5 years of even moderate use. Now factor that known degradation rate into the hundreds of cells making up the battery pack of an Electric Vehicle. The cost of replacement still hovering around USD$15,000 for the Tesla, a little less for Lithium-Manganese (Currently over GBP£11,500 or CAD$19,000 for L-Ion). Every five years. Eight maybe, for a very lightly used vehicle. Maybe.

For an honest comparison, I’ve just totted up the service costs on our little 6 year old mid range SUV over the first 5 years of its life which came to a gnats under CAD$5,600 (About USD$4,400 or GBP£3,400 at the time of writing). Total mileage slightly under 110,000km or about 68,3500. This cost includes two replacement tyres and two brake discs, pads and piston assemblies. Two tyres because of a blowout deep in the heart of Texas and the brakes discs the year before because we left it too long between services and dust seized the braking pistons in the calipers. Virtuously we are now ahead of the maintenance schedule – just. Add in the replacement cost of one OEM windscreen at CAD$700 (All right, GBP£420 or USD$550) which our insurance company paid over a half of and we still haven’t come anywhere close to half the predicted on-cost of an Electric Vehicle. Never mind that an EV won’t make even a third of the mileage we’ve put on our little SUV within the same time frame.

Incidentally, Tesla’s are known to go through a set of tyres in as little as 12,000 miles (A shade under 20km) while we have two that are still in good order at 110,000km or 68,000 miles. As are other Electric Vehicles and Hybrids. So being kind, let the average life of an EV’s tyres be 30,000km (Around 19,000 miles). Now look at the tyre life 110,000km plus of a mid range SUV like ours and the replacement cost for two full sets of around CAD$1350 (inc tax) each. That’s another CAD$2700 on top of any other maintenance costs like routine brake inspections etc. The like for like expenses just don’t stack up.

No matter how often I look at them, Electric vehicles appear a fine idea with all the subsidies (All that taxpayer dollar to discount the purchase price – yummy) the problem lies within the execution of the concept. Batteries as a primary power supply create more problems than they solve because of the volatility issues, recharge times, lifespan and overall weight so there has to be an alternative power source before any arbitrary ban on ICE vehicles is imposed. Even when you’re only dealing with UK distances.

As for EV on-costs, ouch, that’s gonna hurt.

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