Electric cars is range a problem

People often say that the range of electric cars is not big enough. Electric car advocates say "no problem, we can just put in more batteries" - and that's true, but we need to work out what effect the extra batteries have on the energy consumption. The answer depends sensitively on what energy density we assume the batteries deliver: for an energy density of 40 Wh/kg (typical of lead-acid batteries), we'll see that it's hard to push the range beyond 200 or 300 km; but for an energy density of 120Wh/kg (typical of various lithium-based batteries), a range of 500 km is easily achievable.

Let's assume that the mass of the car and occupants is 740 kg, without any batteries. In due course we'll add 100 kg, 200 kg, 500 kg, or perhaps 1000 kg of batteries. Let's assume a typical speed of 50 km/h (30mph); a drag-area of 0.8 m2; a rolling resistance of 0.01; a distance between stops of 500 m; an engine efficiency of 85%; and that during stops and starts, regenerative braking recovers half of the kinetic energy of the car. Charging up the car from the mains is assumed to be 85% efficient. Figure A.14 shows the transport cost of the car versus its range, as we vary the amount of battery on board. The upper curve shows the result for a battery whose energy density is 40Wh/kg (old-style lead-acid batteries). The range is limited by a wall at about 500 km. To get close to this maximum range, we have to take along comically large batteries: for a range of 400 km, for example, 2000 kg of batteries are required, and the transport cost is above 25 kWh per 100 km. If we are content with a range of 180 km, however, we can get by with 500 kg of batteries. Things get much better when we switch to lighter lithium-ion batteries. At an energy density of 120 Wh/kg, electric cars with 500 kg of batteries can easily deliver a range of 500 km. The transport cost is predicted to be about 13 kWh per 100 km.

It thus seems to me that the range problem has been solved by the advent of modern batteries. It would be nice to have even better batteries, but an energy density of 120 Wh per kg is already good enough, as long as we're happy for the batteries in a car to weigh up to 500 kg. In practice I imagine most people would be content to have a range of 300 km, which can be delivered by 250 kg of batteries. If these batteries were divided into ten 25 kg chunks, separately unpluggable, then a car user could keep just four of the ten chunks on board when he's doing regular commuting (100 kg gives a range of 140 km); and collect an extra six chunks from a battery-recharging station when he wants to make longer-range trips. During long-range trips, he would exchange his batteries for a fresh set at a battery-exchange station every 300 km or so.

0 100 200 300 400 500 600 Range (km)

Figure A.14. Theory of electric car range (horizontal axis) and transport cost (vertical axis) as a function of battery mass, for two battery technologies. A car with 500 kg of old batteries, with an energy density of 40 Wh per kg, has a range of 180 km. With the same weight of modern batteries, delivering 120 Wh per kg, an electric car can have a range of more than 500 km. Both cars would have an energy cost of about 13 kWh per 100 km. These numbers allow for a battery charging efficiency of 85%.

Notes and further reading page no.

256 Typical petrol engines are about 25% efficient. Encarta [6by8x] says "The efficiencies of good modern Otto-cycle engines range between 20 and 25%." The petrol engine of a Toyota Prius, famously one of the most efficient car engines, uses the Atkinson cycle instead of the Otto cycle; it has a peak power output of 52 kW and has an efficiency of 34% when delivering 10 kW [348whs]. The most efficient diesel engine in the world is 52%-efficient, but it's not suitable for cars as it weighs 2300 tons: the Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96-C turbocharged diesel engine (figure A.15) is intended for container ships and has a power output of 80 MW.

- Regenerative brakes roughlyhalve the energy lost in braking. Source: E4tech (2007).

257 Electric engines can be about 8 times lighter than petrol engines.

A 4-stroke petrol engine has a power-to-mass ratio of roughly 0.75kW/kg. The best electric motors have an efficiency of 90% and a power-to-mass ratio of 6 kW/kg. So replacing a 75 kW petrol engine with a 75 kW electric motor saves 85 kg in weight. Sadly, the power to weight ratio of batteries is about 1 kW per kg, so what the electric vehicle gained on the motor, it loses on the batteries.

259 The bike's engine uses energy with an efficiency of 0.25. This and the other assumptions about cycling are confirmed by di Prampero et al. (1979). The drag-area of a cyclist in racing posture is Cd A = 0.3 m2. The rolling resistance of a cyclist on a high-quality racing cycle (total weight 73 kg) is 3.2 N.

260 Figure A.12.

Prius data from B. Z. Wilson [home.hiwaay.net/~bzwilson/prius/]. BMW data from Phil C. Stuart [www.randomuseless.info/318ti/economy.html].

Further reading: Gabrielli and von Karman (1950).

Figure A.15. The Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96-C 14-cylinder two-stroke diesel engine. 27 m long and 13.5 m high. www.wartsila.com

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    Is electric car sustainable energy or not?
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