Electric Cars

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Devil's Advocate

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My concern with electric vehicles is that, once the use of them is widespread, when many people plug in to recharge at one time, would the power grid be able to handle the load without constant brownouts?
Personal electric vehicles barely use any energy compared a common industrial plant. Even the fastest superchargers only operate at maximum capacity for a few minutes per vehicle. These peak loads can be mitigated with commercial batteries. If we get to the point where vast fleets of heavy commercial vehicles become fully electrified then upgrades will be required between the commercial charging systems and associated substations, but building those fleets will take time and such upgrades should not be disruptive enough to cause serious problems to an otherwise functional power grid.

This seems to be standard practice for most "extended warranties" which are really another way for salespersons and companies to increase their profit!
I personally think everyone should take a job as a salesperson early in their working life. Not because it's a great job but because it teaches you important lessons on how to avoid being taken for a ride.
 
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sttom

Lead Service Attendant
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Jan 23, 2019
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489
My concern with electric vehicles is that, once the use of them is widespread, when many people plug in to recharge at one time, would the power grid be able to handle the load without constant brownouts?
My main concern with the batteries would be the mining of materials to make the battery, the manufacture of the batteries and the disposal of the batteries more than the charging of the batteries. Cobalt and lithium mining aren't environmentally friendly and they are relatively rare metals to begin with. The recycling of lithium ion batteries is also in its infancy so having millions of them get made for cars every year will mean millions of battery packs that we may or may not be able to reuse or recycle after the car has reached the end of its life cycle. Which is going to be a massive problem in the not to distant future.

Dealing with the spikes in energy demand are far easier to deal with than recycling or reusing an item that aren't currently designed to be recycled. Power demand tends to increase slowly overtime, we can factor in extra demand if we plan for it. Which is a big if in the US, but its not impossible to factor in. Also, reducing energy demand of other industries could also be factored in. It takes a lot of energy (and pollution) to create petroleum products. If we need less of them, we will be using less energy.
 

Exvalley

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Jul 7, 2020
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My level 2 charger was free from my local electrical utility. But there is a catch. They can regulate the power usage during periods of peak demand. Since we charge the car overnight it's really not a big deal. I would be shocked if they ever actually intervene. The charger was $600 so it was a fair trade.
 

Devil's Advocate

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May 24, 2010
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Cobalt and lithium mining aren't environmentally friendly and they are relatively rare metals to begin with. The recycling of lithium ion batteries is also in its infancy so having millions of them get made for cars every year will mean millions of battery packs that we may or may not be able to reuse or recycle after the car has reached the end of its life cycle. Which is going to be a massive problem in the not to distant future.
Many of the problems people associate with electric cars can also be attributed to more conventional products. For instance cobalt is consumed in far greater amounts when refining fossil fuels for use with combustion engines and lithium batteries are used in millions of other products that suffer no meaningful criticism. Unlike the entrenched combustion engine industry electric vehicle manufacturers are working toward cobalt-free designs in future models. Modern electric vehicle batteries are designed to last around a decade with a 20% total power loss and be recycled en masse thereafter while most other lithium batteries degrade much faster and are quietly tossed in the trash without so much as a peep.
 
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PVD

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Battery tech companies and research labs are very busy at work looking at advances in battery chemistry, to increase energy density, lower (think hard to put out fire) risks, and to use materials that are more favorable environmentally, at both ends of the lifecycle. Another topic discussed at the last battery conference I attended (guess I won't see one of those except online for a while) was sourcing materials that are not only better environmentally, but socially, because of the labor and working conditions as well as concerns about government stability in some areas. Lots going on in the labs....
 

daybeers

OBS Chief
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Jan 6, 2016
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Re AGM.12's concern about recharging EVs causing massive brownouts:

Today's power grid is a marvel of monitoring and control. Load sharing, distribution and management systems take care of the constantly varying demand caused by weather, even sporting events.
The solar power industry is progressing with new technology and efficiency, and many folks take advantage of this where they can, to charge their vehicles with no impact upon the public grid. Solar power is saved in battery banks for use on demand - usually at night when many folks do their nightly recharge.
There are Tesla Superchargers which use massive solar arrays on the roof to reduce load on "the Grid".
The "EV caused brownout" is more FUD postulated by the EV haters.
There is always a tradeoff. Less fuel dispensers, pumps, lighting at filling stations, and so forth offset by chargers. Each little increment contributes.
How about huge long arrays of solar panels on the railroad rights of way? Maybe even atop the passenger cars to shed a little HEP power load?
I doubt there will ever be a battery powered railroad engine, but getting catenary rilroad power from hydro has been a fact for years.
Things tend to even out over time.
There is actually a solar-powered train in Australia: Byron Bay Train
"The train operates on energy from the sun. 73% of the energy generated from solar panels on the train and train storage shed is fed into the grid. The remainder is used to operate the train."
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
489
Many of the problems people associate with electric cars can also be attributed to more conventional products. For instance cobalt is consumed in far greater amounts when refining fossil fuels for use with combustion engines and lithium batteries are used in millions of other products that suffer no meaningful criticism. Unlike the entrenched combustion engine industry electric vehicle manufacturers are working toward cobalt-free designs in future models. Modern electric vehicle batteries are designed to last around a decade with a 20% total power loss and be recycled en masse thereafter while most other lithium batteries degrade much faster and are quietly tossed in the trash without so much as a peep.
We don't criticize the general use of lithium ion batteries more from an "out of sight, out of mind" perspective. The sad truth is we don't recycle rechargable batteries at scale, so they aren't designed to be recycled as well as they should be. Companies in the last few years have started thinking about what to do with all the all the batteries, but that's no guarantee there won't be multiple methods of designing and recycling batteries that are functionally the same, but slightly different just to cause problems. And this as a problem runs up against our inability to think about things in the long term.
 

anumberone

Conductor
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Aug 8, 2015
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I can see (or would that be hear) your point of view. However, would you agree that electric cars need to make more noise so people with a hearing impairment know they are there?
It's not only people with a hearing impairment that may have a problem, the blind also use crosswalks and have a dependency on hearing a vehicle.
 

Qapla

OBS Chief
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Jul 15, 2019
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In most of the articles I read - the people who complained the most were not the impaired ... it was those with electronic devices
 

me_little_me

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Jul 16, 2010
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A friend of mine had the regular 12 Volt Battery die in her 2017 Prius,.

The Service Manager @ the Toyota Dealer where she bought it, told her under no circumstances try to "jump" start the car.

It had to be towed to the dealer ( covered by AAA)and a New 84 Month " Prius 12 Volt Battery" ( her Warranty didn't cover this) plus reprogramming her Smart Key cost her $389!!!

Sounds excessive to me, does anyone with a Prius have any info on this???
Pure garbage from the dealer! The 12V battery is simply an AGM one that even the AAA will "jump" for you. The difference is, you don't jumpstart the car, you give the battery enough of a charge to turn on the computer which then brings up the 250V battery which starts the car and recharges the 12V battery fully.

I have "jumpstarted" both my hybrids multiple times when they ran down because I left something on (12V battery powers lights, other electrical stuff) and 250V battery said it had to protect itself so it would no longer keep charging a battery that, until the issue was fixed, would keep draining.

I haven't checked the Prius charging but the Camry Hybrid can be encouraged to give the 12V battery enough of a charge from the 250V one in most cases by following a technique described in the manual.

When my 12 y/o Camry 12V battery died in May (had a dead cell), it was 12 years old. The 8/yo Prius is still going strong.

In no case (even when changing the Camry battery) did I have to reprogram the keys.

While the dealers charge a lot of money for their 12V batteries for the hybrids, they are still not cheap. A good AGM battery (I used Optima, considered top of the line) is $150+ and one with a vent tube (needed if battery is in enclosed place like trunk or passenger compartment) is at the high end. AGMs are sealed and can't spill acid but if overcharged, need a vent to avoid exploding. By the way, the charged battery was shipped to me via Priority Mail and was in every imaginable position in shipment, I am sure. It was on its side when dropped off at my front door.

Most times, even when "discharged", the system has enough oomph to keep the critical things alive such as key programming. And if the system is put on a temporary (very small one needed) 12V battery to keep up that life while changing the regular battery out, there should be less of a problem. I didn't bother as I didn't have a battery to plug into the cigarette lighter port (the typical way to keep 12V alive) and had no problem. I didn't even have to "reprogram" the tire pressure monitors. Everything came up fine.

It is really important for hybrid car owners to read their owner's manual closely as the car, having a 250V battery in addition to the 12V one, often has techniques to recover from a "dead" 12V battery or fob battery. More important is to read the forums which have outstanding information about their car even if one never plans to to do the work themselves. I rarely do things myself. However, when I found out in a forum a few years after buying it that my old Camry could be retrofitted with an "intergrated" (in existing NAV system) backup camera, I ordered the camera, downloaded the detailed (with color pictures) 12 page guide to installing it and took it to a local guy who did stereo installs. He said it was the easiest, best guide he'd seen and his charge was a lot less than if he had to start from ground zero.

And when I bought the Camry battery online in May, it came with a detailed instruction including removing and re-attaching both the vent tube as well as the battery temperature sensor which prevents the overcharging issue if the charging system goes wild which was provided by a company that sells only that battery and only for the Camry Hybrid. I installed it myself but could have taken it to my mechanic so he would have known what special things to do - and at a lot lower price than the dealer.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,169
My main concern with the batteries would be the mining of materials to make the battery, the manufacture of the batteries and the disposal of the batteries more than the charging of the batteries. Cobalt and lithium mining aren't environmentally friendly and they are relatively rare metals to begin with. The recycling of lithium ion batteries is also in its infancy so having millions of them get made for cars every year will mean millions of battery packs that we may or may not be able to reuse or recycle after the car has reached the end of its life cycle. Which is going to be a massive problem in the not to distant future.
A few comments:

When the hybrids first came out and they had a battery failure, the whole battery was replaced. That was very expensive and gave somewhat of a black eye to hybrid costs. That was one of the reasons why the hybrid systems were given 10 year/100K mile warranties.

Now, they just change out individual cells.

However, for hybrids and electrics, their biggest problem is that they ban slowly lose their ability to be charged as fully and won't get as many electric miles. But there are other uses found for those weakened batteries including storage for solar panels or windmills. I've always been a proponent of "You make it. You take it back" for plastics, batteries, CFL bulbs, etc. If manufacturers were forced to take back the dead products they once produced, they would have a big incentive to better make them or to figure out an economical way to reuse them. A lot of old computers which, in the days of wooden ships and iron men, contained gold plated connections and in poor countries they were well worth recycling years later because, while the amount of gold (and silver and other metals) was small, $2K/ounce of gold was a high price to get even for small amounts. I have an early 1973 HP45 calculator that while worth nothing as an electronics item and little except to a specialty collector, is worth a lot more just for the gold in it.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,946
Pure garbage from the dealer! The 12V battery is simply an AGM one that even the AAA will "jump" for you. The difference is, you don't jumpstart the car, you give the battery enough of a charge to turn on the computer which then brings up the 250V battery which starts the car and recharges the 12V battery fully.

I have "jumpstarted" both my hybrids multiple times when they ran down because I left something on (12V battery powers lights, other electrical stuff) and 250V battery said it had to protect itself so it would no longer keep charging a battery that, until the issue was fixed, would keep draining.

I haven't checked the Prius charging but the Camry Hybrid can be encouraged to give the 12V battery enough of a charge from the 250V one in most cases by following a technique described in the manual.

When my 12 y/o Camry 12V battery died in May (had a dead cell), it was 12 years old. The 8/yo Prius is still going strong.

In no case (even when changing the Camry battery) did I have to reprogram the keys.

While the dealers charge a lot of money for their 12V batteries for the hybrids, they are still not cheap. A good AGM battery (I used Optima, considered top of the line) is $150+ and one with a vent tube (needed if battery is in enclosed place like trunk or passenger compartment) is at the high end. AGMs are sealed and can't spill acid but if overcharged, need a vent to avoid exploding. By the way, the charged battery was shipped to me via Priority Mail and was in every imaginable position in shipment, I am sure. It was on its side when dropped off at my front door.

Most times, even when "discharged", the system has enough oomph to keep the critical things alive such as key programming. And if the system is put on a temporary (very small one needed) 12V battery to keep up that life while changing the regular battery out, there should be less of a problem. I didn't bother as I didn't have a battery to plug into the cigarette lighter port (the typical way to keep 12V alive) and had no problem. I didn't even have to "reprogram" the tire pressure monitors. Everything came up fine.

It is really important for hybrid car owners to read their owner's manual closely as the car, having a 250V battery in addition to the 12V one, often has techniques to recover from a "dead" 12V battery or fob battery. More important is to read the forums which have outstanding information about their car even if one never plans to to do the work themselves. I rarely do things myself. However, when I found out in a forum a few years after buying it that my old Camry could be retrofitted with an "intergrated" (in existing NAV system) backup camera, I ordered the camera, downloaded the detailed (with color pictures) 12 page guide to installing it and took it to a local guy who did stereo installs. He said it was the easiest, best guide he'd seen and his charge was a lot less than if he had to start from ground zero.

And when I bought the Camry battery online in May, it came with a detailed instruction including removing and re-attaching both the vent tube as well as the battery temperature sensor which prevents the overcharging issue if the charging system goes wild which was provided by a company that sells only that battery and only for the Camry Hybrid. I installed it myself but could have taken it to my mechanic so he would have known what special things to do - and at a lot lower price than the dealer.
Interesting info...
I had two occasion's that my 12v battery died thru the years, and I didn't find any way in the manual, to tap energy from the traction battery to 'jump' the 12 v battery. I asked on the Prius Chat forum if any one knew a workaround, and no one came up with one. I just keep one of those portable jumper packs down in the lower storage area, just in case...
So now there is a way?
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,169
Interesting info...
I had two occasion's that my 12v battery died thru the years, and I didn't find any way in the manual, to tap energy from the traction battery to 'jump' the 12 v battery. I asked on the Prius Chat forum if any one knew a workaround, and no one came up with one. I just keep one of those portable jumper packs down in the lower storage area, just in case...
So now there is a way?
You don't "Jump" it - it's not like you connect cables. This is a summary of what my Camry Hybrid manual said (and I used it successfully when the 12V battery had run down).
Set Parking Brake. Shift to Park. Turn Power Switch to Accessory. Press and hold Power switch for 15 seconds while depressing brake. In actuality
what I did was to press button w/o brake to put it in Accesory mode (orange light) then then release then hold the button in for 15 seconds with brake depressed. Normally, a momentary press starts the system (green light) when foot is on brake initially. In this case light went orange for some seconds then turned green. Apparently, the instructions were written before buttons were used in lieu of turning key.

Note that it actually started up the system but the engine didn't start. Because it was raining and had only, a few minutes before been knocked down in a crosswalk by a driver who did not stop (I was unhurt), I momentarily forgot that the engine only starts went needed. So I thought it failed. Turned off the Power and tried again. Same thing happened so I turned it off. Then it hit me that I had been successful and so tried it again. This time it would not start but by then AAA had shown up and jump-started my 12V battery with a portable battery unit. Note, they knew exactly how to handle a hybrid.

Also note, it is best not to "jump" a 12V hybrid car battery from another car. Just use a separate battery or use a charger set to 10A (for ten minutes) to give your 12V enough juice the wake up the computer that engages the hybrid battery. The hybrid battery will recharge the 12V one if you run the car for a bit. Unlike a regular car, there is no high current starter motor used so no high power cables are needed. I'm sure even one of those batteries that you plug into the cigarette lighter ( aka Accessory port) that claim to start your car would work fine as the current needed is not high.
 
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