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Comment Re:The reason is more simple (Score 1) 688 688

It might be the case that you're not a good candidate for an EV. In my case, I was saving about $75/week commuting in the EV versus my STi. So, at that rate I was saving $3750.00 per year on fuel which easily pays for the insurance for the 2nd car. Take out the amount I'm paying on the lease for the EV and I'm still saving money at that rate. (it's not quite as good now with gas no longer costing $4/gallon) - I would have to do some calculating to see if it's still cheaper.

Another thing I haven't done yet but probably will is that in Massachusetts the insurance companies give a discount if you drive a smaller number of miles per year. The RMV claims if you drive less than 7500 miles you can get a discount of up to 50%. That will make my STi pretty inexpensive as a backup car.

It must be nice to have the spare money to keep multiple cars on the road just for different purposes.

Well, that's not really the reason I leased the car - I leased it because my daughter needed a car when my wife and I were at work, so I needed a third car no matter what. It just turned out that the EV worked really well in my situation. Going forward, as I said, it won't be that expensive for me to keep my STi as my backup car and the EV as the primary car. The STi has 200,000 miles on it and if I were to continue to use it as my primary car it probably would only last another year or two before the maintenance started to get expensive (I've already started hitting the part of the maintenance curve where things are needing to be replaced). So, by using the EV whenever I can, I extend the life of the STi and delay having to purchase another car (and still have a really fun gas car to drive when I just want to go out and have fun). Also, where my wife has a gas car (the Rav4) I think that eventually I'll retire the STi and just drive an EV, and on days when I need to do a long trip I'll plan on swapping cars with her (and for the really unusual case where we both need a long trip on the same day, I'll rent).

Renting a vehicle? You'll see I for one would need a real car several times a month, and that is a ginormous pain in the balls. Costly, and logistically really goddamn annoying to return it, get transport back from the rental place to my home, etc.

I've always assumed that I would just drive to the rental place, leave my EV there while I used the rental car for the long trip, and then switch back to my EV on the way home. I haven't had to do it yet, but I don't see the problem with that. When I first got the EV I assumed that there would be several trips per month where I would need the gas car. I was surprised after a few months when I realized there was only about 1 trip a month that I really needed the gas car, and when I look back at those, almost every one of them could have been done with the EV if it had 200 mile range.

The sensible path for anyone who doesn't have money literally dripping out of their asshole to simply pick one vehicle that covers all their common use cases. And that vehicle is going to be a normal gasoline-powered car for the foreseeable future for the majority of people.

Well, you and I probably won't see eye to eye on this. There are others like you - I talked with one guy who has a sales job, so he drives to work and then has to drive to multiple clients and can easily drive several hundred miles per day, and he doesn't know ahead of time which clients he'll be seeing. So, clearly a gas car will work much better for him. And I think that out west, where people may live 50 or 100 miles from town, they probably need a gas car. And people who tow heavy trailers will probably need a gas powered pickup truck for the near future. But in the town I live in, most families are 2 or 3 car families, so the EV + gas combo like my wife and I will probably work for almost all of them, and as EV range hits 200-300 miles my guess is that all EV will be viable for a large percentage of them.

As I mentioned at the end of my last posting, economics and save-the-planet crusading are not the only reason some of us drive EVs. They're actually very pleasant to drive. When I go into Boston at rush hour and I'm in stop and go traffic, it's a much quieter and more enjoyable experience - it's not just the noise, but also that there's absolutely no vibration from the vehicle, and the instant torque whenever you need it is enjoyable. I know 3 people with Tesla model S (one of them is a P85D) and they love their Tesla. I can't afford a $130,000 car, but I can afford a $40,000 car (that's what my STi cost). So, if Tesla makes a model 3 for $40,000 that handles like a BMW 3xx with 200 miles of range, I'm definitely planning on buying one because I think it will be a blast to own and drive!

Comment Re:The reason is more simple (Score 1) 688 688

So, a quick check of shows used Leafs:

161 available from $5,000 to $10,000
881 available from $10,000 to $15,000

I have a Honda Fit EV which is very similar in specs to the Leaf. Yesterday is a good example of how we use the car. I took my daughter to her work (about 10 miles away) and then drove to an airport I had a flight at, and then drove home. Total, about 65 miles, and I used 1/2 charge. Plugged in when I got home, had a bit to eat, and then went out again - by then the charge was up to 75% giving me a range of about 90 miles (of which I used 20).

We're a 3 car family, counting the EV. My wife has a regular Toyota Rav4, I have a Subaru STI, and we have the Honda Fit EV which my daughter tends to drive. However, whenever she doesn't need the car I drive it because of the savings in gas - the STI needs premium fuel so right now gas is running about $3.00 per gallon, but there was a point where it was almost $4.00 per gallon. Yesterday for example I used about $1.60 worth of electricity, whereas the same trip in my STI would have cost me about $15.00. It adds up quick - I figured I was saving about $75/week when I was commuting in the EV.

My daughter will start college next year so I'll be back as the primary driver of the EV. I'll keep my STI as my backup car, but before my daughter was driving the EV I was using the EV as my commuter car and only using the STI when I had a long trip to make. It turned out that I was typically only using the STI once a month because the EV would work for all the other trips I would do. In fact, it can be a problem because the disc brakes on my STI would rust enough during the month that it would sometimes be difficult to get it moving.

I think that for people living close to metropolitan areas the EVs of today work pretty well, and the EVs that are about to start coming out with 200 miles of range will work even for people pretty far from city centers. Certainly the Honda Fit EV gets me to/from Boston (45 miles) without a recharge except in the winter when the range of the EV goes down. It's pretty easy to find a convenient spot to recharge in Boston, but typically I try to plan my trips so that I can make it round trip without having to recharge. DC Fast charging would also help, and I'll be sure to have that on my next EV. With 200 miles of range Boston would be easy trip even in subzero weather.

One thing that a lot of people who haven't driven EVs don't get: They're really nice to drive. Between the instant torque and low noise they're really very nice to drive. When I want to drive fast and make a lot of noise, the Subaru STI is great, but for a lot of trips the Honda Fit EV is really really pleasant to drive and can get up to highway speed quickly for an economy car (it's faster than the gas Honda Fit). The quiet smooth power is a very nice and different experience from a gasoline car.

The Tesla model 3 will almost certainly be my next car, and I won't bother with a backup gasoline car at that point.

Comment Re:Not convinced (Score 1) 408 408

A good point, but there have been studies in the past that show it takes a long time for a pilot who is out of the loop to turn off the automation and hand fly the aircraft. It's probably pretty safe to assume that professional pilots are very attentive during those parts of the flight where it's likely that they may have to take over control of the aircraft from the automation. I'm not sure I trust the average "driver" to do the same. I think that as soon as people start driving in autonomous vehicles they'll be even more guilty than they are today of being distracted by performing other tasks instead of monitoring the vehicle and it's surroundings.

If we allow autonomous vehicles on the road assuming that humans can be trusted to monitor the situation and take over at a moments notice, I believe we're setting ourselves up for lots of accidents. The fact that we can assign blame to the human for not monitoring the autonomous vehicle ignores the fact that they probably would have been paying more attention to the environment if they had been driving by themselves. I think it's reasonable that we require autonomous vehicles to be able to be at least as good as an attentive driver for avoiding accident situations such as a child running out into the street or an unexpected road hazard, before we let them on the road in large numbers.

I'm sure most of you have seen this Google video. It seems like they've given a lot of thought to how to detect other vehicles that need special attention such as bikes and trucks. I'd be curious to hear something authoritative about what they still can't detect autonomously...

Comment Re:Shocked he survived (Score 1) 327 327

Actually gyrocopter rotors and helicopter rotors use exactly the same types of airfoils. The only difference is that a helicopter can use an engine to turn the rotor, while the gyrocopter uses the airflow through the rotor to turn it. Helicopters do exactly the same thing when we glide with the engine shut down/disconnected. There are many different designs, but generally speaking gyrocopter and helicopter rotors are identical except that helicopters may use an engine to power the rotor.

If you want to check out a couple links on my helicopter website that discuss this:

Comment Re:Shocked he survived (Score 1) 327 327

Your blowing it out of proportion. The guy didn't endanger anyone.

So if that gyrocopter developed trouble on his approach, and veered 20 degrees to the left on its way down, which would have put him into a crowd of kids and tourists, no big deal?

Granted, only a few hundred people have died in gyro accidents since they became popular.

Actually I think you're the one blowing it out of proportion. The no fly zone isn't there to protect the kids and tourists, otherwise there would be no fly zones over every major city and populated area. It's there to prevent terrorist attacks which this guy took some reasonable (but not foolproof) steps to make sure nobody thought was what was going on. Yes, if he had aircraft problems he could have endangered people, but that's the case with every airliner flying into every major city. As a helicopter pilot with a couple hours in gyrocopters, I think it's pretty safe to say that he posed a very small and manageable risk to kids and tourists on his approach path.

My only problem with the stunt (I think it was pretty funny/cool mostly) is that the government will no doubt feel they need to further tighten security around D.C. in order to prevent future embarrassment. Luckily I'm in Boston with few requirements to ever fly in that airspace - in general I would avoid it like the plague but this will probably make it even worse.

Comment Re:Reasons? (Score 1) 460 460

As a pilot, I would never fly an aircraft which has a remote capability to take control away from me.

Fair enough, why? What specific objective reason(s) causes you to oppose the idea completely? I'm not for or against the idea but I'd like to hear why it is a good or bad idea. I understand the issue of situational awareness by the remote operator could be an issue. What else?

Because when I'm the Pilot In Command it means exactly that: I'm in command, and I'll pay with my life for the mistakes I make. That won't be true of people on the ground. If you don't want me in command, don't put me in command in the first place. I again refer to United Airlines 232. Why did that crew save 2/3 of the passengers when subsequent attempts in the simulator by other crews failed 100% of the time? One reason was probably motivation. Their lives were on the line. As a passenger I much more likely to trust the crew who's lives on are the line, than some guy on the ground trying to second guess them.

Also, I very much doubt you can construct a safe system which allows you to take control away from the crew. How do you implement that in a way which can't take control erroneously, yet can't be disabled by a suicidal crew? I very much doubt it can be done.

To suddenly decide that we can't trust the crew despite the fantastic safety record aviation has is just ludicrous.

Agreed though that also doesn't mean we shouldn't analyze the situation thoroughly to see if anything can practically be done. I generally share your sentiment that the safety record of aviation is great but it got that way by carefully examining disasters to see if any improvements could be made. Maybe there is an opportunity of some sort here to introduce improvements.

I said that in the original posting - more screening and evaluation of crew is probably needed. And the USA rule of "never one person alone in the cockpit" should be adopted world wide. But trying to take command away from the crew while in flight will cause many more problems then it would ever solve.

Comment Re:Technology can indeed fail (Score 4, Insightful) 460 460

As a pilot, I would never fly an aircraft which has a remote capability to take control away from me. As a passenger, I would never fly in an aircraft in which remote control could be taken away from the crew. I don't even think the "remote copilot" is a good idea. There are a lot of good reasons to fly with a crew of 2... it's not just workload and risk of incapacitation. When things get weird, it's good to have another person to bounce ideas off of. United Airlines Flight 232 is a great example of that, and there are plenty more.

This isn't the first time we've seen suicide by the crew, but it's extremely rare (I can think of maybe 5-6 in 40 years). It sucks to be the people in the back when that happens, but it also sucks when an airplane drops on your house and kills you and your family. I'm as worried about one than the other which is: not very. We can improve the situation some: better screening of crew, USA style "always two people in the cockpit" rules... To suddenly decide that we can't trust the crew despite the fantastic safety record aviation has is just ludicrous.


Comment Re:Cut the vitriol, talk science (Score 1) 330 330

Interesting calculations. I'm going to suggest that they may be weighted worst case for the EV though. I think it's very unlikely that you're going to see 100% of the fleet need battery replacement at 100,000 miles. What nobody knows for sure is what that number will actually be, but my gut tells me it'll probably be somewhere between 150,000 to 300,000 miles typically. But let's ignore that for a minute. The other assumption you used was 20K for the 85 kWh battery pack in the Tesla. But the Tesla is the luxury car of the EVs. I'd like to offer some other numbers (For my Honda Fit EV). Now, my car is a lease only, but I think the Leaf owners can comment that I think the Leaf will be pretty close. The Honda Fit EV has a 19 kWh battery. Let's assume for argument's sake that we prorate the cost of replacement based on the capacity, so $4470 @ 100,000 miles instead of $20,000. I'll still use the 100,000 mile figure even though I think it's way too conservative. I'm also going to work the calculations assuming $0.12/kWh which is what I pay. I've been seeing 100 miles in the summer and 50 miles in the winter, so I'll assume 75 miles from the 19 kWh battery, even though it's probably better than that (winter isn't 6 months, but we'll assume it is).

100,000 miles: electricity==$3040, battery replacement==$4470, total==$7510/100000 or $0.08/mile
150,000 miles: electricity==$4560, battery replacement==$4470, total==$9030/150000 or $0.06/mile

an ICE car assuming 30 mpg @ $3.00/gallon here in the US right now:
100,000 miles: gas==$10,000, oil changes==$1,000 regular 30/60/90 inspections==$1,000 total==$12000 or $0.12/mile

So, assuming the battery pack cost is proportional, a small EV like the Leaf or the Fit EV is cheaper to operate than the ICE car even assuming 100,000 mile battery pack replacement. But it's probably not even that bad, because as someone else pointed out, once EVs are popular there will almost certainly be shops that will replace bad cells in your pack for a nominal fee. If we assume that for half the cost of the battery pack we can get the car to make it to 250,000 miles (which I think it will probably make without pack servicing) then we see numbers more like:

250,000 miles: electricity==$7600, battery servicing==$2235, total==$9835/250000 or $0.04/mile.

I don't think that's overly optimistic, but it's certainly not pessimistic. I think the ICE numbers are overly optimistic - I don't think many ICE cars make 100,000 miles with only $2,000 of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, but even if we go with those numbers, a smaller EV is substantially cheaper to operate than a comparable ICE car. I also think that if you rework your numbers to compare the realistic cost of operating a BMW M5 versus the Tesla, it will be a lot closer than your numbers initially indicate. I'd actually expect the Tesla to be moderately cheaper than the BMW when you figure in all the maintenance costs on the M5...

The thing that still makes EV expensive is the initial cost. Right now the small EVs are probably carrying $10,000 to $15,000 extra cost over the ICE version of the car, so if you add that into the equation for the Fit EV it brings the price up to around $0.18/mile which IS more expensive than the ICE car. If we can see manufacturers get the initial price down to be more in line with the ICE cars, then I think the EV can easily be price competitive.

In closing, I'm glad you worked out some hard numbers instead of the regular hand waving that's so typical on Slashdot, but I hope you'll consider that your equations might have been a bit skewed and that the reality is that even with EVs being brand new on the road, the operating costs are more than competitive with ICE, and hopefully we'll see initial prices drop to make them overall competitive with ICE cars.

BTW, the Honda Fit EV is a great car and I'm sorry that Honda doesn't seem to want to compete in the EV market (hydrogen is dumb, I think). I'm anxiously waiting to see what the Tesla Model 3 ends up looking like: if it's competitive with the BMW 3 series for $45K or so, I'm planning on buying one.

Comment Re:Electric not the answer (Score 4, Informative) 212 212

Do your calculations include the cost of a replacement battery?

No, and this is not well understood yet. When I was a kid cars seldom lasted more than 60,000 miles. Now 200,000 is pretty common. So, a good question is what's the average life of a gasoline car, and how many battery swaps might you expect in an EV over the same mileage?

Another thing to consider is that many people believe the cost of replacement batteries will decrease substantially over time, so how long it takes you to put 100,000 or 200,000 miles on the car may substantially change what you end up paying to replace the battery pack.

According to Wikipedia:

The Fit EV employs Toshiba's SCiB batteries that can be recharged to 80% capacity in 15 minutes and can be recharged up to 4,000 times, more than 2.5 times that of other Li-ion batteries.

So, that could mean up to 400,000 miles if you believe them, but I'm skeptical of hitting numbers like that. But it might suggest that 150,000 to 200,000 miles on a battery pack is a reasonable expectation. Unfortunately, because my Fit is a compliance/lease-only car I'll never get to find out - I'll need to return it long before I can put enough miles on it to see the battery degrade. But I'll get back to you after I put a couple hundred thousand miles on my next EV ;-)

Comment Re:Electric not the answer (Score 5, Informative) 212 212

I think unless batteries get much better in capacity vs weight and someone can figure out how to recharge them a lot faster. We will never see EV's as a viable solution to the masses.

I have an EV (Honda Fit). I think that they're already useful for something like 3/4 of the population. Lots of parts to the equation. Right now they're better as the second car of a two or more car family, but they can be the only car depending on your driving pattern. They're great for someone who has a defined commute, as opposed to someone who drives to work and then drives around as part of their work. They're better when you have a garage or dedicated driveway, probably not so good right now if you have to park curbside. Right now some of them suffer pretty big range loss in cold weather (mine has about 50% range in the dead of winter compared to summer time and that definitely needs to be addressed, but I don't see why it can't be improved substantially).

Charge time is only an issue in rare circumstances; the problem is that people who don't drive an EV tend to think of recharging like going to the gas station; something you do when the tank runs low. That's not how most of us use the EV, though. Typically I use it on trips which I know I can make without recharging. (in warmer months I can drive 100 miles without recharge). The recharge happens at night, or between trips. A typical trip for me is to drive 50-60 miles and get home with 1/2 charge. I plug in to the dryer outlet in my garage and within 90 minutes it's full again. So, I may run some errands, go home and grab lunch, and by the time I'm done with lunch the car is fully charged again, ready for more errands. Or, if I commute to work I get home with 1/2 charge and again, within 90 minutes it's fully charged if I want to go out to dinner etc. Even if I use the full charge (which is very very rare) I typically recharge overnight so by the time I wake up in the morning it's ready to go. My point is that with a few exceptions you don't notice the charge time because it charges while you're doing something else. This means that I almost never have to wait for the car to charge. That said, if I had to do a road trip I could see myself doing it if I had to spend 20 minutes recharging every 200 miles. I'm sure high speed charging will improve, and by the time we hit 10-15 minutes to recharge after 200 miles of driving I think we hit diminishing returns, i.e. it'll be short enough I won't care whether they make it any faster or not.

Similarly, many non-EV people worry about the number of charging stations. Again, my typical use is that I don't have to use a charging station because I plan my trips so that I can make the full trip without recharging, but as an example if I need to drive into Boston (35 miles) I can make it there and back without a recharge, but if I also need to do another stop that's going to require more than another 20 miles of driving, then I'll plan to park in Boston at a charging station. If I've used 35 miles of charge, it only takes 20 minutes to fully recharge, so unless I'm running an especially short errand in Boston the car will be fully charged by the time I get back to it. One way to measure what percentage of my trips are EV friendly is to look at when I use the EV versus the gas car. During the summer, I find I use the gas car about once a month. That's about how often I have a trip to make that the EV doesn't have the range for. My next EV will have at least 200 miles of range and at that point I expect only 1 or 2 trips a YEAR won't fit the profile (and I'll just rent a car for those 2 trips).

All the calculations I've done show that my direct operating costs (i.e. cost to "fill the tank") is about 1/5th of what it costs when I drive a gasoline car. I also save on maintenance - there are no scheduled oil changes or tuneups... just a tire rotation that the dealership did for free. So, it's actually costing me quite a bit less than 1/5th of operating my gasoline car (Subaru Imprezza STi). Right now EVs cost a premium so I wouldn't call them a car for the masses, but as soon as the purchase price is in line with gasoline cars I DO expect them to be a car for the masses. It's hard to argue with the economics for the average person - if you can spend 1/5th the money operating a car, why wouldn't you want to?

Meanwhile I expect battery technology to move forward quickly. As an idea of how much research is being done into battery technology just compare the number of articles in the press today versus 10 years ago. I think that Tesla nailed the perfect range, or even went a little beyond. I predict that the EVs will settle somewhere around 200 miles of range, and beyond that manufacturers will use newer battery technology to reduce weight and increase available storage space.

I realize that I may not exactly fit your model of the "masses", but I'm far from rich, I believe my driving habits are very typical of the population, and the EV works very well for me. I enjoy driving it (even though I'm a sports car kind of guy, and the Fit is definitely not a sports car, but it IS fun to drive). I'm convinced that I will never buy another non-EV in my lifetime.

Comment Re:Are they really that scared? (Score 1) 461 461

If electric cars become a reality, they will need to produce and distribute a lot more electricity to generate the energy currently generated by ICEs in the cars.

Keep in mind that ICE's are at best about 1/3 efficient with the fuel they burn while electric cars are around 90% or better with the electricity they use.

This is an important point. My electric car typically consumes 10kWh per day in the summer for a 50 mile commute. That's equivalent to leaving 4 100 watt lightbulbs on 24 hours a day. Not insignificant, but not huge from the electric company's standpoint. When my daughter uses the car all day just to get around town, she typically uses about 0.4kWh, or the equivalent of leaving a refrigerator light on all day.

Electric cars are very efficient.

I haven't measured it, but I probably use a lot more electricity running the electric dryer than the car (teenage daughters, don'tcha know?).

A slow pup is a lazy dog. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"