British Big Rigs Are About To Go Green

An increasing fact of life over the coming years will be the decarbonisation of our transport networks, for which a variety of competing solutions are being touted. Railways, trucks, cars, and planes will all be affected by this move away from fossil fuels, and while sectors such as passenger cars are making great strides towards electric drive, there remain some technical hurdles elsewhere such as with heavy road freight. To help inform the future of road transport policy in the UK then, the British government are financing a series of trials for transportation modes that don’t use internal combustion. These will include a battery-electric fleet for the National Health Service and a hydrogen-powered fleet in Scotland, as well as a trial of the same overhead-wire system previously given an outing in Germany, that will result in the electrification of a 12.4 mile section of the M180 motorway in Lincolnshire.

We’ve written about the overhead electrification project in Germany in the past and subjected it to a back-of-envelope calculation that suggested the total costs for a country such as the UK might be surprisingly affordable. The M180 is something of a backwater in the UK motorway network though, so it will be interesting to see how they approach the problem of finding real-world loads for their tests that ply such a short and isolated route. We’d expect the final picture to include all three technologies in some form, which can only be a good thing if it increases the available electric and hydrogen infrastructure. We’ll follow this story, though sadly we may not be able to blag a cab ride on the M180 in one of the trucks.

78 thoughts on “British Big Rigs Are About To Go Green

  1. Unpopular opinion but idea of electric vehicle becoming popular is a fallacy that will be massively scaled down in 10-15 years once it becomes apparent that it was a stupid decision in the first place. Impossible? There were plenty of too-big to fail projects that failed miserably and so will this one.

    1. Neither ICE nor electric engines are perfect for all applications. I think the best example of this is diesel electric locomotives. They need an ICE for range, but the electric drives have better traction performance. Both ICE and electric powered vehicles will have niches.

      Obviously the main limitation of electric vehicles is the power density of batteries. There are electric vehicles that don’t use batteries, however, and they are tremendously successful. Subways, electric trams, etc are the highest passenger-mile efficiency vehicles bar none. So a freight truck that emulates that formula seems like a very reasonable idea to me.

      Meanwhile, there are applications where battery density isn’t so big of a deal. Vehicles like mail trucks that take predictable and relatively short routes followed by sitting in a depot overnight are prime candidates. Training aircraft are another example, they often fly for an hour or two at a time and then sit for several hours. That isn’t always the case, but it happens enough that it’s worth putting serious effort into.

      On the other extreme, pure-electric cargo ships aren’t on the table unless we start fitting them with nuclear reactors, or magically invent zero point energy or something. In cases like a container ship, the energy density of fossil fuels plus the cut-throat market means that it’ll be a long time before shipping companies even start looking for alternatives.

      1. Honestly, we do need to start fitting cargo ships with small nuclear reactors because they pollute like crazy by using cheap sludge for fuel. It’s perhaps the easiest of the many challenges for addressing climate change, so it’s baffling that nobody is bothering to do it.

        1. Bunker oil is already banned near ports and in national waters, and stricter sulfur regulations for diesel oils are being phased in. As oil gets scarce, this almost liquid bitumen fuel becomes too expensive to use as well.

          The quickest solution to the problem is to stop importing so much cheap stuff from China.

          1. This sounds good until you drive in a British motorway and realise drivers wouldn’t make use of it since they spend almost as much time on the right hand lane as they do on the left…

            How would these operate to overtake another lorry driving at 1mph less than you?

          2. @Bubu
            I think you’d find they would – with limited range onboard (quite possibly still ICE powered so costing you more money) and a desire to get there to get paid, you are not going to see as much rolling roadblock I’d think.

            Best way i can think of to keep the annoying lorries in the same damn lane – only put the pickups on the slow side.

          3. Ammonia is also being looked at again and while it has a lower energy density, you might be able to pull off haber-bosch or better in tankers that just run around in circles out in blue water.

            But yes, please practice a little moderation with buying stuff.

        2. Why not just require that all cargo ships must run on LNG for the last 200 miles into a US port by 2030. That’ll at least make these companies decide 1) skip the US 2) fit a 400 mile system in future product 3) Devise a system such as diesel/LNG that can make the whole trip.

          1. They do that already, use bunker fuel on the wide open seas, then keep a tank of low sulphur diesel when getting near land to keep the regulators happy.

      2. In the Netherlands, Port-liner is testing with (inland) cargo ships, 110 metre long, having 270 TEU capacity, and they have 4 standard 1TEU containers with batteries onboard, giving 35hr sail time. The idea is that at each port a (small) crane lifts the battery containers off and puts on new containers, basically Tesla’s changable battery idea, except that the battery changing is done in a very short timeframe (think a few tens of minutes), together with the loading of cargo.

        This is not the solution for intercontinental shipping, but there is a lot of inland traffic within 24 hours of a maritime port where this is entirely feasable.

    2. There is no chance of electric vehicles disappearing or getting rarer at least for a while. They are by an enormous margin the cheapest things to run, in use practical enough to see pretty wide spread use and just plain better than burning stuff directly to power locomotion – better air quality, less noise pollution, smooth power delivery with so much torque to spare so less wear on clutches etc.

      Battery Electric might have a shorter time as the dominant electric system, but electric as a power source isn’t going anywhere – its easy and efficiently transportable from the generation sources, and those can be basically infinite and nearly free energy from the renewables… Its just too cheap, efficient and for most users completely sufficient with currently available vehicles, in a few years time as tech continues to improve and the other portable electric storage techs start to pick up there won’t be a use case that can’t be met by an electric vehicle.

      There are just too many good points to an electric vehicle for it to fail – they are obviously not perfect, nothing is, and for some use cases right now its not the best choice, but for a great many users right now its the best thing they could have, just perhaps not something they can actually afford, yet at least.

      Even cargo ships are not out of the question, perhaps even becoming more profitable to loose a little cargo space to make up for the lower energy density if charges on more polluting heavy fuel oil and diesel start coming in.

      1. > or getting rarer at least for a while

        That much is true, seeing they’re less than a percent of the actual vehicle fleet. It’s hard to go down from almost zero.

        >They are by an enormous margin the cheapest things to run

        The cheapest thing to run is a second hand car, which is 70-80% of the market for all vehicles.

        1. The per mile cost is all you can compare fairly as it stands, and EV’s win that.

          The price premium for a new car exists for ICE too and really they are very much of a muchness pricewise with a similar spec/badged new ICE. Where EV’s really are not on the second hand market yet, the refurbishment industry around them is just barely getting started as they are in mass produced practical forms just too new for there to be the supply of old EV to work on.

          The cost for your x years of driving even vs a second hand ICE might well fall on the EV side too – if you can afford that initial cost in buying the new car – as the per mile cost is so much lower. But that is entirely down to how much you use it.

          1. >EV’s really are not on the second hand market yet

            The biggest obstacle is that a battery replacement cost as much as the entire vehicle and more the older a car we’re talking about, so the value of second hand EVs is downright questionable and the second sale window between first owner and the scrap yard will be narrow indeed, which puts a great cost burden on the first owners. Not considering this will give you false impressions about the affordability and cost per mile of EVs new or old.

            Politicians and planners know this. Hence why countries are planning to ban ICEs in order to force the case. Can’t afford an EV – tough titty, buy one or don’t drive.

          2. The vehicle cost really shouldn’t play into the cost per mile, and even if you count it when new similar spec cars no matter the powertrain are all rather similar in price – it becomes entirely about fuel and maintenance costs. Which the EV slaughter ICE at…

            We can’t know how bad an EV will be second hand refurbished – if nobody knew how to efficiency work on an ICE powertrain yet the cost for fiddling it back to life would be enormous… All those minute parts with really precise fits needed to make an ICE work at all, the many layers of electronics and mechanical systems that all have to work perfectly together for it to function – if there was no body of knowledge in dealing with such things it would be stupendous R&D level budgets to rebuild an ICE system.

            The EV on the other hand is relatively simple as far as the mechanic is concerned – one, maybe two motor, one brainbox, one battery unit, all just drop in a new black box of magic on failure, the standard car mechanicals (that are subject to much less wear and tear in an EV – so you get some savings on the maintenance costs there) and finally the HID part to let the fleshbag pilot the device, which will most likely function far beyond the life of the vehicle just fine and only want cosmetic fixes for those that care.

            So the value proposition of a second hand EV might well be rather good, even pre-restoration if the industry starts producing (as is almost inevitable with constant tech improvements) smaller, better batteries and mounting kits to match the various older models. Still going to cost something to repair, replace as needed to get to the refurbished, good for another decade car, but that isn’t any different to ICE – a mechanics time and toolchest costs a fortune.

            Personally I don’t expect the early wave of second hand EV in refurbished conditions to match current second hand ICE in the same condition relative to the price of a new vehicle, but it shouldn’t be massively massively far off – with something like 20% of all new cars being EV here (and continuing to go up) in 5-10 years something approaching that 20% of all cars being refurbished will be them – still with at least another decade of life in the rest of it – a massive proportion of the car market that is clearly going to be profitable to supply, and of a scale to make the tooling costs per unit very low… Project forward another 20 odd years and EV are probably almost all the refurbished cars – the second go round for this current generation, and that ever growing number from the future generations – everything else being refurbished for the road is a ‘classic’ loved for the history not the usefulness, that probably does bugger all miles.

            Also remember the value of a busted car is bugger all, the repair costs for something like a head gasket, timing chain – any of the more awkward bits failure are usually enough to write the car off for the insurance/owner – it is more than the car is worth in running condition. But you local garage/dealer with his army of mechanics will still fix that car unless it is a really wreck more times than not – the boss gets use out of the team he has to pay anyway, even if there is no customer paying for work. Its both a good training exercise for the rookie on the team – no major loss to the company if they do bugger it up, and a reasonable ‘profit’ on the sale when its fixed. Dad actually had that happen to him, headgasket on the old people mover, everything but that was in good shape – for him to pay for the repair would cost more than the car was worth in running condition, but on picking up his ‘new’ – second hand, but barely motor a few weeks later walked past the new owner of his old car, who paid for the car a little less than the repair work would have cost him if memory serves…

          3. >The vehicle cost really shouldn’t play into the cost per mile

            Of course it always does. In the end you pay X dollars and end up driving Y miles for the duration of your vehicle ownership. Not comparing vehicle cost makes the entire comparison just pure bollocks – it’s basically just lying to yourself.

            I see this comparison being made all the time, that a $45k electric vehicle is somehow cheaper per mile because you “have to” compare it to an equally expensive ICE vehicle off of the luxury class – but that’s completely arbitrary. A person who is looking for the cheapest cost per mile would not buy the expensive ICE vehicle either! Working class people drive Hondas and Nissans, not BMWs.

            That’s the problem: people need to drive, and most people can’t afford new cars even off the budget end of the spectrum. Dropping down $25k is a huge investment and often not sensible even if you had the money in hand, because cheaper options are available – at least until the mandate to ban new ICEs kicks into effect and the second hand market stops getting replenished.

          4. >So the value proposition of a second hand EV might well be rather good

            I wouldn’t pay half a wooden nickel for an EV knowing that couple years later it needs an entire battery overhaul that costs me $6-12k or more. It’s only really good for parts, and even the parts won’t sell well because EVs won’t be used to 20-30 years of age.

          5. And on the third point: EVs are actually bad value proposition for people who choose to drive very little in order to save money, because so much of the per-mile cost is “prepaid” with the battery that’s just going to sit there getting old on the parking lot and consuming power for idle supply. The less you drive, the worse the value you get, so you can’t do the thing where you buy a cheap old car and use it on a low duty cycle to make it last.

            So practically everyone who wants to run cheap is ill served by battery electric vehicles and harmed by the ICE bans.

          6. If you choose to by a fancy Tesla you pay that premium for the bells and whistles – its not fair to compare that to something lacking any of them – either you have to pick similar specs (and thus prices) or ignore the price of the vehicle in the cost per mile as your choice for all the gadgets in car x has nothing to do with its fuel economy. It is not a meaningful comparison to take a second hand car already 20 years old to the new EV – its only fair to compare similar models and in that case the price is bugger all different – so things like the Tesla are only comparable to the high end BMW etc – its not at all fair to compare them to a decades old heap that never had any luxury features anyway! Or thought fitting a clock counted…

            By that argument the best car you can have is no car at all – didn’t pay for it at all, and walking everywhere doesn’t cost you much really – might even save Americans money on their health care…

            Also the cost of a new EV isn’t more than a new ICE by a particularly meaningful amount for the spec level – look at the same brand and model even – EV, hybrid or ICE – the costs are not much different for any of these variants… Lots of brands doing it now, I think Mini’s were one of the first to do all the power train options for the ‘same’ model, but there are many many makes doing it now, or at least offering an EV in the same ballpark of price and spec level.

            On the potential repair costs, when you buy an old second hand car do you know the timing chain, fan belt, pistons, valves, clutch etc are all good – you don’t, unless its freshly and fully refurbished and that will cost you more because of it. If its not anything in it can fail for a massive repair bill, heck just getting a clutch replacement often costs a fortune in garage time – EV’s are no different there, if anything they are better as they should mostly fail gracefully getting less and less range before you can’t get a practical range out of them anymore, rather than just going limp home or bang! out of the blue. So when you buy an old EV with worn batteries it will still work – and if you don’t drive many miles great news it will still take you those miles for a long time to come…

            The cost of restoring an EV is also going to crash down – mechanics time is expensive, but the big thing that makes it costly now is how rarely it is being done now, the industry isn’t built up around doing EV’s at all. Once it is the price isn’t going to bad at all as the economies of scale come into it and battery recycling and upgrading becomes more common place so will the cost of doing so. Consider the engine swap (or even just any of the major engine parts), something done relatively commonly in ICE restorations and crash damage repair – that engine or part, if it was bespoke machined rather than mass produced would cost you a fortune – the only reason Battery pack replacements currently cost so much is without the demand being high enough the industry hasn’t tooled up yet! So you are basically paying the one-off prototype premium!

            No denying the more you drive an EV the better the value looks – but even modest mileage doesn’t look bad – at least in parts of the world where fuel isn’t about as cheap as air… The price differential in the UK for a miles worth of electric to mile of ICE fuel is enormous even driving an economy focused ICE – same is true for most if not all of Europe… For myself I rarely travel anywhere not under my own power, so even an ol’ iron American car that thinks doing a whole mile to that gallon is good would be fine for me (though I’d take an old Landy in preference). But most folks go shopping, visit family and friends, go to work, pick the kids up from school – lots and lots of short journey, those little bits here and there add up to a good amount very quickly, and if its stop start town traffic the EV gains even more as its fuel consumption while stationary is basically zero, which can’t be said for an idling ICE…

            Still thinking I’ll get an EV (or more likely do a conversion for the fun of it) at some point – With a modest home solar setup having extra battery capacity in the system will probably pay the cost back pretty fast anyway – we use a good amount of electric. While because it is so cheap to run I’d probably drive more often – why order in sheets of Ply when you can go inspect and select from the timber merchant (etc) – its now cheaper by a good amount to go yourself than pay delivery… And you actually know what you are getting is of the quality you expect and don’t have to hang around waiting for the delivery, that will always end up being later than expected, or before you want to get up in the morning…

          7. “the repair costs for something like a head gasket, timing chain”

            That’s simply not true. Timing chain is an $800 job and you do it anytime you have to replace the water pump, head gasket is a do-it-yourself with a $30 torque wrench.

          8. “On the potential repair costs, when you buy an old second hand car do you know the timing chain, fan belt, pistons, valves, clutch etc are all good – you don’t, unless its freshly and fully refurbished and that will cost you more because of it. If its not anything in it can fail for a massive repair bill”

            A fan belt is a massive repair bill? That’s actually not true. Makes me suspect anything you might say.

          9. If your timing chain, fan belt etc is failing and you don’t know it the repairs when its breaks on the go are often expensive bit, and you don’t know what is about to fail in an old unrestored motor was my point, not that replacing any of those parts in and of itself is a massive part cost – but it could be – you have no way of knowing in a car that hasn’t been fully restored the state of all the hidden bits – and the more hidden and hard to access the more the garage will charge you.

            Remeber when something fails in an ICE it usually has serious consequences for the rest of it, though more modern engine management systems are pretty good at detecting warning signs and saving engines from failure catastrophic failure. Also not talking about doing it yourself – as DIY car repairs are always very very cheap compared to the price if you have somebody else do it. But if you don’t have a car lift handy for many jobs its worth paying somebody else to do it.

            There are also barely any second hand EV’s, because there are barely any EV’s out there – I am not saying they don’t get sold on second hand yet, of course they do – but the thriving turnover of the second hand ICE market – with cars of a vast range of ages and conditions vs having a handful of fairly new EV getting sold is not at all the same thing at all.

          10. It depends massively on usage case
            For me, I do most day-to-day travel, by public transport and cycling, or even walking to a nearby supermarket (in the UK so we have medium-sized supermarkets scattered around, and the infrastructure isn’t set up purely for cars, so you can live somewhere semi-rural that’s a 20-minute walk into a medium-sized town)
            But for the occasional holiday, or trip to somewhere that doesn’t have a train station, or when buying something too big to carry, I use the car – probably only average around 4k miles/year. So most of the cost per mile for me comes from the initial purchase cost.
            Using ultra-efficient biofuel (as in cycling) or public transport, with the occasional use of a small petrol hatchback which gets 70mpg, seems like it’ll emit less overall than using a ~150mpge electric for everything (as once you’ve paid a fortune for an electric, you’re forced to use it for everything to get your money’s worth)

            Also never been sure about the energy/fuel cost being so massively different – a litre of petrol has ~10kWh, so at a typical UK home tarriff of ~15p/kWh, that’s about £1.50/litre-equivalent, so more per unit than the ~£1.30/litre cost of petrol at the moment – so when my tiny/light hatchback gets 70mpg in the real world with my (thermodynamically-aware) driving style (I got a high score of almost 73mpg over a mid-length route when I was really trying), and most electrics seem to be getting around 100mpge real-world, that only works out to a ~20% difference in fuel cost/mile – not enough to payback the upfront cost, unless you’re doing an extreme amount of driving

          11. @alex you are mixing up a fair bit and making it unclear around fuel use.

            It doesn’t matter how much energy a litre of petrol contains if your car is only able to usefully convert a tiny % of it – at the best ICE power units in racing only convert something like 50% of the potential energy in the fuel usefully – on the road engines are worse by a good amount… Where an all electric power train is usually somewhere over 80% of the potential energy input made useful (actually harder to state categorically as regenerative braking also comes into).

            If you want to compare fuel costs you have to ask how many watts of electric or litres of fuel actually got consumed, and what that costs to do that mile in each case – which has nothing to do with each other – that the ICE could have used x has no bearing on what the EV used – only what each actually consumed does.

            With your tiny efficient hatchback the difference to most EV at least won’t be as massive as normally considered – as most EV are much much larger vehicles so tend to get compared to the 30mpg ish of similar sized models, and all that extra weight means even though the efficiency is better there is more work to do.

            However your light economy focused cars are, if at all modern, still pretty damn heavy because of all the mandatory crash safety stuff, so not actually that light compared to a bigger models, and with the efficiencies of an EV power-train to an ICE and the price of fuel vs electric I’d still expect the EV to win hands down, at least anywhere in Europe where fuel isn’t dirt cheap and electric not stupendously expensive (if still far more expensive than it should be compared to natural gas).

          12. @Foldi-One I’m comparing mpge (miles-per-gallon-electric-gasoline-equivalent), which is a measure of how many miles an electric can get from an amount of electrical energy equivalent to the maximum energy in a gallon of gasoline

            yes the difference in efficiency, and ability to have regenerative braking, is why a ~1600kg nissan leaf gets ~100mpge whereas a ~800kg peugeot 108 gets ~70mpg – a gasoline engine might be substantially less than 50% efficient, but the car only weighs half as much (and that’s in comparison to a small-battery EV which couldn’t meet the range requirements of the occasional-long-distance-holiday use that’s my main reason for owning a car, when public transport / cycling is good enough for day-to-day stuff)

            Per unit of mechanical work output electricity is cheaper than petrol (if we assume 80% charger-to-wheel efficiency for an EV, it’d be 15/0.8=18.75p/kWh_wheel; if we assume something like 30% thermal efficiency for a petrol engine, it’d be 130/10/0.3=43.3p/kWh_wheel – I’ll use kWh of work for both rather than mpg/mpge to be less confusing)
            but an EV which is capable of doing the same journey in the same time with the same cargo uses more mechanical work energy per mile (for steady, flat driving at motorway speeds, about half of the energy loss of the vehicle comes from rolling resistance which is proportional to weight. If you’re trying to be efficient at a slight cost to journey time, cruising at a slightly lower speed reduces aero drag by more and makes around 2/3 of the energy go to rolling resistance so weight becomes even more significant, and EVs are (currently) roughly double the weight of petrols)
            So in cost/energy-to-wheel, EVs win by a factor of 2.3, but in cost/mile it’s still only a factor of ~1.2!

            And that’s with home charging at ~15p/kWh, if you use a fast charger it could end up costing more (tesla superchargers in the UK cost 28p/kWh for example, so only a factor of 1.23 better in cost/energy-to-wheel than petrol, and actually higher in cost/mile)

            But aside from that, my main point is that EVs only make sense if you assume that people use cars as their main mode of transport; if you mostly cycle and use public transport, with driving the exception rather than the norm, the initial cost of EVs just doesn’t make sense from an economic (or ecological) standpoint, and with the UK’s upcoming ban on the sale of non-EVs there’s a risk in pushing people off of trains/busses/bikes/etc, because an EV sitting on the drive with the battery degrading is a big motivation to use it

          13. @alex Wasn’t disagreeing at all – just pointing out the way you expressed it was less than clear talking about the energy in a litre of petrol in watts, mpg, mpge – all that jumping around in how you are trying to express the idea made it unclear.

            On the whole I agree with you, which is why I’ve not made any real effort to get an EV myself, upfront cost doesn’t help either…

            Though I would suggest even for more occasional use an EV might end up winning cost and practically wise – its nearly all a solid state system, mechanically so much simpler that the basic maintenance and amount of effort required checking to make sure you don’t run dry and the perishable rubber bits are in good order, changing lots of rubber belts, hoses, plugs etc adds up (do it yourself and its less so as the parts are pretty cheap – but not everyone has the interest, skill or tools). And assuming you can have a home charger – which most folks who rarely use but own a car probably can, you can know its always got a ‘full-tank’ when you need it.

    3. I am all in on protecting the environment, reducing waste, and improving efficiency, but I agree with you.

      What we continue to discover is that in the end, the only thing “green” about green policies is the cash funneled to China, special interest groups, and to the businesses of campaign donors (which may be all or some combinations of the three.) Look at Solyndra, as a 500 million dollar example in an endless list of examples.

      Some of the participants and supporters of these scams may be sincere and well-intended, but that is not sufficient to alter the fundamental character of the enterprise.

      There are hundreds of life-changing and culture-changing technologies (represented by thousands of products) that were readily adopted by consumers—some despite the predictions of “experts” who argued that those ideas were impractical and no more than a “flash in the pan. ”

      But the common thread that ties each of these developments together is that each technology offered demonstable utility and benefit to the consumer at an affordable and justifiable price. Nobody had to be ordered, mandated, or “incentivized” by any bureaocracy to adopt the use of electricity and electric lighting, refrigerators, air conditioning, radio/television, computers, or smart phones. Nobody had to mandate the use of cars over horses.

      There is no greater evidence of a scam than a government agency subsidizing or mandating the use of one technology over the other. Green government policy always smells of a rigged carnival game, where the the outcome is predetermined and the cost to play is always ten times the value of the stuffed bear you hope to win.

      1. There are a lot of existing challenges with EV, including the charging infrastructure, but surely the the most likely people to solve these problems are the friends and relatives of government ministers? They usually know most about these things, which is why they are always most deserving of subsidies. If we can convince government to raise taxes to the point that hard working people can barely afford to live, and then funnel it all into their friends’ companies (and then onwards into their offshore accounts) then maybe they will come to our aid in this time of great need? Knighthoods and damehoods all round. Don’t worry about accountability and all that kind of thing, there simply isn’t time. It’s an emergency! “Build back better, comrades!”.

    4. As somebody who lives in a country where a trip into town for some people is like driving from London to Edinburgh I’d have to agree with you. Carbon based fuels will always have their place, only the source of the fuel will change as synthetic fuels are already a reality. The idea of peak carbon always was a simplistic nonsense, but that is how zealots roll. My wife just got a turbo diesel 4WD SUV with a +750 km range which it is incredibly quiet and clean running, so much so that she can “sneak up on people” in a car park and give them a fright, something that is more typical of electric vehicles. At low revs all you can here is the engine valves opening and closing. It is no wimp either, enough power in it to shock a person who puts their foot down without realising how much torque it has.

      1. yep, in countries like the uk electric cars will be fine as it i not only a tiny country, they also tend not to travel much in it ie I’ve met 70yo old people only living 300km for london who have never been to it.

        My 6cylinder ICE car get 6l/100km out on the open road (actually measured throughput, goes up by .1 if I turn the aircon on), and I do 1000Km a day reasonably often. How am I going to do that with an electric car which is really only good for around town?

        1. The range of battery EV is ever improving and already approaching enough to do your daily needs on one charge, so its not out of the question for future ones to meet it. Certainly rediculus to claim they are all only good around town – there are the short range, little town car style EV’s but that isn’t the whole market.

          So while there is still merit to you having an ICE as you needs are not well met by any EV currently on the market for many people even in the bigger nations with longer distances between everything a current EV might suit best – even if you regularly do more than the range of one charge in a day it will be rare to want to do the entire drive in one go without stopping at all, and as the availability of really quick chargers goes up (I understand they are already pretty common across the US) its not forcing you to take a particularly long stop – maybe a little longer than you would have done anyway to have that cup of tea and stretch, but not all that much longer – and if your stop at the halfway point is also the reason for the trip – you are going shopping or visiting family for instance you were going to be stopped for sufficient time to recharge anyway.

          Also fuel cell powered ones might get enough resources put into them to be the natural drop in replacement for your use soon and that isn’t the only quick charge and greener energy source option on the horizon, just perhaps the greenest and most developed.

          So while I don’t disagree EV as it stands are not ready to meet every need, and they are suitable for a greater percentage of users in the smaller/denser countries, I really can not agree they are only good around town or not suitable for many folks in the larger and sparser countries – not suiting you is not the same as the entire concept being invalid for all your neighbours.

          p.s. Why would you want to go to London?!? -Its a horrible place only worth visiting for a few things like the science museum – if you live somewhere nicer (basically the entire of the UK) and cheaper to live in (same again) why would you want to go out of your way to visit the capitol? Said as somebody who has spent rather more time in London than they would like – but always for reason, like the Formula E was intriguing. I guess if you are local enough there are a few speciality stores so spectacular as to be worth visiting for that alone like Hamleys toyshop – but its not like there are not good toyshop more locally for most…

          1. >already approaching enough to do your daily needs on one charge

            The other question is, whether its sensible to put a 1000 km battery on a car that is most often used for 10 km or so. The embedded cost of the battery will be enormous and consequently, the energy efficiency of the vehicle will be poor.

            A vehicle powered by a consumable fuel will always scale better in this respect.

    5. Agree completely.

      Looking at the state of California having issues supplying enough power for the current electrical grid to support the relatively few EVs on the road now, what’s it going to be like when 80% of the household EV chargers are tapped in the evening.

      What’s going to happen when EV cars run out of power in the middle of an LA traffic jam?

      What’s going to happen when the power grid goes down in the winter for a week at a time?

      What happens when “right to repair” affects EVs?

      What happens when the real studies are done and it turns out there’s a larger environmental/economic impact for EVs when compared to ICEs?

      Someday will recycled EVs sell for $500-$2000 to permit young or economically disadvantaged people to buy them?

      1. With all the magic black box stuff in modern cars of any sort “right to repair” is basically the same for all motors..

        Eventually second hand EV will be cheap, but that will be some time in the future – the really cheap second hand cars are all old with maybe a year or two of driving left in them – EV haven’t been in mass production long enough for that to occur yet. And the good but cheap refurbished second hand stuff with lots of life left are still always older models – so same issue.

        The environmental impact of EV creation and use vs all the various oil exploration and extraction is bugger all. And the waste batteries at the end of their life are great bundles of pre-refined concentrated chemical elements to recycle for new batteries, burnt fuel is just more shit in the atmosphere that will take a great deal of time to filter back into useful, not damaging to the environment stuff… Sure your EV might be powered via fossil fuels – but that is still a massive win environmentally compared to burning them yourself – not only does an ICE vehicle need more energy wasted in transport and refinement of fuel but its a vastly inferior convertor of that chemical potential to electric, far far bigger efficiency lost right there than the electrical power distribution losses and its vastly easier to catch and clean up the exhaust gasses in a large fixed powerstation, so the air quality will be improved too..

        An EV stuck in the middle of the road is no different to any other car stuck in the middle of the road – a massive pain for everyone until recovery can come get it or its pushed into some layby.

        If your power grid is that crap, then that really is a problem – but to more than just EV’s… Charging EV’s shouldn’t be a problem for the grid really – a small amount of smarts in the charger to know when low rate electric is available for a faster charge and a more trickle charge if any at all the rest of the time without manual override means the extra load on the grid isn’t particularly bad – being largely self shifting to off peak and/or low intensity (as when you have just got home you don’t need your car ready to do another 300 miles in 30mins, fast charge) – shouldn’t pose any more of a problem than anything else likely to spike a power demand at similar times – like us Brits and our kettles at the end of particular ‘must watch’ (Reads utter garbage) TV that gets the grid to open up the pumped hydro stations taps to meet that spike in demand…

        As for the economic impact do it right and EV’s shouldn’t have any negative impact at all – if anything it should work out positive – as they are so much cheaper per mile they allow for more mobility at lower cost. Like everything economic its 50% a shared delusion – you believe life is looking good you spend and thus employ your neighbours more freely, with makes the economy look good, so you believe it is good, till something changes, maybe 20-30% actually based on functional ability – the actual real world limitations – how much raw material, skilled worker hours etc, and the rest is ‘experts’ and mathematics applied without reference to reality at all..

      2. “What’s going to happen when EV cars run out of power in the middle of an LA traffic jam?”

        EVs tend to do better than alternatives in traffic jams because they idle at zero RPM.

        This idea that EV batteries are useless in second-hand cars is untrue. They lose capacity and are thus suited to shorter and shorter trips without a charge on the way over time, but with fast chargers at supermarkets, this is hardly an issue for city dwellers.

        EVs might not make sense for people who drive a lot every day, but most people live in cities.

    1. Such originality.

      The M180 isn’t the road to nowhere that used to be; there is considerably more traffic through the port of Immingham and Grimsby is a major hub for the offshore wind industry in the North Sea.

    1. Lots of exceptionally busy railways use the same system, and they manage it just fine – So it shouldn’t be a huge problem.

      But that is part of why you need to test it – road is not rail and the worse surface, less consistent driving, quite possibly less consistent pressure on the wires might cause more issues, and access for these replacements is probably harder on roads.

      In theory it should be the vehicle that takes the bulk of the wear, so I’d be willing to bet you won’t notice any change in road closure rates – always something else requiring roadworks, so change them all long before failure then.

      1. “Fine” is a relative statement. After all, one train with one or two pantographs pulls dozens, up to a hundred cars. If every car was separated and installed with its own set, there would be many times the wear on the wire.

        >In theory it should be the vehicle that takes the bulk of the wear

        The pickup is built with a sacrificial graphite block.

        1. I said in theory because the pickup is supposed to have its sacrificial block – but in a horde of road users there are bound to be those who don’t do the maintenance, and its rather hard to bill them for the repairs or give them criminal charges for being pillocks… Got to actually catch them first.

          If a train company buggers up the overhead wires its trivial in almost all instances to know which train(s) the hows and whys. Plus its not worth the risk to the operators – you wreck the overhead lines as a train company you aren’t making money any more – infact the replacement bus service probably costs you more than than you charged for the journey – as a trucker you probably don’t use the same route that often, and there are many alternatives you can take, so its a rather minor inconvenience not a ruination of your finances to harm the lines.

    1. Depends on how you use it – a train only goes where the track is laid, and putting more of that down is difficult, and expensive. So the idea really can be useful – it lets the HGV go along the much wider (and cheaper to expand and change) road network, largely if not entirely on grid power. Meaning you need vastly less onboard energy storage for that last mile to the destination.

      I can see other problems with such concepts around the practicalities of such low hanging high power cables in the busy and less controlled setting than a railway, but the idea isn’t dumb – as rails can never be everywhere.

      1. The power wire is not a problem – Trolleybuses, trams and even regular trains can coexist with trucks on the same road, this has been demonstrated in many European cities for more than a century. The real challenge here is to have all countries in a continent agree to one standard.

        1. Didn’t say it couldn’t be done – just that when I try to visualise rolling such a thing out wide scale with all the many possible risk points – bridges and other obstructions over the roads, tunnels (though in the UK that is rather rare), that one falling tree, car accident whatever that damages a section – its a much harder thing to really roll out ‘everywhere’ in a way that is robust in a failure, and not prone to failures – which requires a great deal of land management around the overhead wires and such a deal of redundancy that breaks don’t grind everything on that road to halt far short of their destination.

          It is a rather bigger challenge than putting up a few in a city – which is probably devoid of most natural hazards and has traffic so slow even a horrifically poor judgement type accident probably doesn’t do much harm, or along the railways – where its a very select a narrow corridor you need to worry about.

          1. You don’t have to put it everywhere. You use batteries too, to get through areas where the overhead power is down or would be too troublesome to install. But they can be much smaller batteries than if they had to do the whole trip, and they can recharge along the way instead of having to stay parked someplace.

          2. ‘everywhere’ was in quotes – I know it doesn’t have to be every single road – but for it to really do the job its got to be at least most stretches of all the major roads. Make it too infrequent and its a great deal of infrastructure cost that won’t get used enough…

    2. You’re thinking about it wrong – trains need wires 100% of the time to work, an EV truck that doesn’t have to stop to recharge is a very different and more versatile thing.

  2. I don’t understall all the skepticism. Overhead wires have powered the Vancouver city bus system for well over 60 years. Every artery in the city has wires and a bus can ever traverse grid changes by unhooking, using on board batteries for up to a km and reconnecting. Compared to the autonomous subway system they use, it trades efficiency for area coverage. The sad thing is that the suburbs stayed with diesel buses all this time.

    1. But the buses use trolley poles, don’t they? I think this system would be even better. I would like to see something like this put up in Toronto (We already have experience with wires in Toronto, streetcars are as thick as thieves here.)

    1. Seconding that, having recently gone back to a city centre office along a busy road I’m realising how loud cars are all the time. The other thing I’d like to see is reciprocal car horns where the sound is also piped inside the car. Might help some people stop banging the horn like a bongo drum.

    1. I jus love when the hiking bike whatever thing is a wide strip of hard concrete, and separated by too many fences so I can’t take it to work even though it paralells the sidewalk.

      Western WA must think concrete and bikes whizzing past is some kind of meditative hike that anyone would go out of their way to experience… Our actual parks are amazing but the new concreteyard fake parks and trails are horrible.

      I wonder if it has to do with people trying to maintain clear lines of site everywhere for supervising kids, or with the insane level of sexual assault in the world making people not feel safe in a park?

    2. Think first, fud last. They’re already set to go with road trains like at the theme park parking lot. Tires mean you don’t even have to deal with heavy noise backlash. And if you really wanted to do a catenary or cut for a qi line then I guess you could do that, too.

      There’s lots of “buts” but they are set to go minus the train and a few stop lights or something.

  3. How do the world will generate enough power to run a fleet of 90% EV’s without emitting more carbon than the equivalent ICE’s ?

    Green energy has the hue of uranium glass!
    With today’s technology the answer is only one:
    Nuclear Plants.

    The next decades world debates should revolve around nuclear power: Who can develop and commercialize nuke tech? How to protect multitudes of nuke plants from the plague of trrtorism? Who will pay the bill after an eventual nuke disater?

    1. You can use a fleet of EV entirely powered by fossil fuels and it will be vastly better on carbon emission than ICE – ICE vehicle engines are woefully inefficient and need much more refined fuel than your standard fixed installation giant power station – the powerstation is soo much better on efficiency, much easier to clean exhaust gasses from and the transmission of Electric is also more efficient than fuel transfers. Its entirely a win there.

      There is no doubt Nuclear power is a great source of energy, one I would like to see more of. But it is far from required to make vehicles greener – just going EV does that a bit, add in a pile of renewable energy sources to the grid they charge from and that does some more.

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