Death by Car

capitalism's drive to carmageddon: news & comments

Electric Lemon

lemon Tell me, who wouldn’t want to pay triple the price of a Nissan Versa for this driving experience?:

Door to door, my drive to The Globe and Mail’s head office in downtown Toronto is about 35 kilometres each way, which should be fine for the Leaf. Still, I charged it from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. to ease any anxiety. When I left for work, the display in the dashboard reads 185 km of battery power. Confidence set in and I cranked up the heat and radio. But after only 10 kilometres on the highway, the battery capacity dropped to 100 km.

Anxiety set in. I turned off the heat and radio for the rest of the drive. I reached work with 85 km remaining – plenty of juice to get home. But the problem is there’s no place to recharge at work. And the battery range varies depending on the driving conditions, speed, weather, and temperature.

So, after a nine-hour work day with the Leaf sitting in the cold, I returned for the drive home. This time, I played it safe from the get-go – no radio, no seat warmers, no heat – only the wipers working intermittently as it rained. Eyes glued to the dash, the numbers dropped steadily. Relieved, I made it home with 23 km to spare. I was in the red zone, which means recharge as soon as possible. I breathed a sigh of relief and plugged it in immediately. Since the battery was almost fully drained, the display indicated that there was an estimated 21 hours to a 100 per cent charge.

This is the report by Toronto Globe and Mail reporter Petrina Gentile. 70 kilometers, by the way, is 43.5 miles. Gentile barely made that round trip, and had to do so without a heater running in Toronto, Canada in the late fall. As a reward, she lost access to the car for the next 21 hours, meaning, if she’d been an owner rather than a journalistic reviewer, she couldn’t have used the Leaf to go to and from work the next day!

As an illustration of the ideological power of the “electric” car, despite this objectively ridiculous performance, Gentile gives the Leaf a rating of 8.5 out of 10! She also echoes Nissan’s preposterous marketing claims by calling the Leaf “greener than green,” despite the importance of nuclear fission and hydrocarbon combustion in Canada’s electrical generation, despite the Leaf’s heavy reliance on scarce and precious minerals, and and despite the inherent insanity of using a 3,354-pound machine to take a single person to work and back.

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Leaf Blows Smoke, Too

It takes amazing chutzpah to try, in the 21st century, to imprint the word “innovation” on anything having to do with the automobile. So it’s no surprise that the Nissan corporation is also aggressively preying on the public’s enforced energy ignorance. Here is the current form of that effort, an ad being run in heavy rotation during NFL football games:

The Nissan Leaf, of course, is barely selling, given its exorbitant price and pathetic performance. But the haloware effect is, given the otherwise inexplicable existence of this expensive TV ad, obviously of great value to car marketers.

The above ad shows people in various settings dealing with smoke and inconvenience from an imaginary world in which small appliances burn gasoline. “What if everything ran on gas?” intones Robert Downey, Jr., Nissan’s voice-over actor.

“Then again, what if everything didn’t?” Downey smugly concludes, suggesting that the “electric” car isn’t every bit as toxic and stupid as a petrol-powered dentist’s drill would be.

So, okay Robert, what if all cars were electric?

A few images relevant, for rather basic reasons, to that suggested reality:

miner

coal plants

sickness

nukes

Multiply as needed to create a world of a billion+ new “electric” automobiles…

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egg In a previous post, DbC reported that the miles-per-gallon performance of the Nissan Leaf was 38. Turns out this was a major over-estimate, as explained by physicist Tom Murphy.

If one focuses, as the peddlers of the things push and count on us to do, only on the charge-to-wheels aspect of the question, the numbers look very good. Murphy’s explanation:

How do electric cars or other electric/hybrids stack up? In order of performance: the Chevy Volt gets 35 miles from a 16 kWh battery for a consumption of 45 kWh/100-mi; the Nissan Leaf gets 73 miles from its 24 kWh battery for 33 kWh/100-mi; and the pricey Tesla has a 244 mile range using a 53 kWh battery, for 22 kWh/100-mi. The MPG equivalent of these three figures is approximately 80, 110, and 170, respectively. All are much better deals than gasoline cars deliver, primarily because the electrical drive system is far more efficient than the typical 20% gasoline engine.

The reality, though, is that charge-to-wheels is only half the process. What about production-to-charge, or the question of what it takes to put the power into the so-called electric vehicle’s battery? Murphy again:

In order to deliver 30 kWh to your house to fully charge the Leaf’s 24 kWh battery bank, for example—incorporating the charge efficiency this time, the source of electricity becomes a highly relevant factor. Two-thirds of our electricity comes from fossil fuel plants, typically converting 35% of the fossil fuel thermal energy into electricity. Only 90% of this makes it through the transmission system, on average. If your electricity comes from a fossil fuel plant, the 30 kWh delivered to your house took about 95 kWh of fossil fuel energy. The 73 miles the Leaf travels on a full charge now puts it at an energy efficiency of 130 kWh/100-mi. The MPG equivalent number is 28 MPG. From a carbon-dioxide standpoint, you’d be better off burning the fossil fuel directly in your car.

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coal loader Turns out the EPA (hardly a tough skeptic on this crucial capitalist push) says the Nissan Leaf, when brand-new, will have a driving range of 73, not 100, miles.

In other words, in its marketing efforts, Nissan exaggerates this key number by 37 percent.  (Par for the course in our market-totalitarian “up to” culture.)

Of course, even Nissan admits that the Leaf battery, which stores the burnt coal or natural gas or fissioned uranium on which the Leaf ultimately runs, will, like all batteries, decay over time.  Nissan says ordinary decay will take the battery down to 80 percent capacity after five years.

If Nissan is fudging that figure by roughly the same percentage of its range lies, in 5 years, the preening fools who spend the $35,000+ it takes to get a Leaf and a home charger might have a coal-car than can go maybe 50 miles total.  Five years after that?  Who knows?

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Ladies and Gentlemen…

…perhaps the most offensively misleading TV ad in recent memory:

Unconscionable.

P.S. F.Y., Robert Downey, Jr.

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