Reality Swap

lemon A few weeks ago, the publicly maintained scam artist Elon Musk promised that, on June 20, he’d announce a way his rolling boondoggles could be refueled in the same time frame as a gasoline-burning automobile. At the time, DbC felt it should post a prediction that Musk was once again weaseling with facts. Alas, DbC chickened out. (This may speak to the power of the culture’s sponsored insistence on cars-first transportation’s underlying mythologies, among which the cornucopian assumption that Earth’s resources are unlimited and infinitely malleable is not the least.)

In any event, yesterday was June 20, and, as always, Musk was indeed lying. Physics continues to dictate that charging batteries will always be far slower than spraying liquids into a holding tank.

What Musk announced was not some breakthrough charging solution. It was robotic battery-swapping for “$60-$80”!

One cheerleading “tech” blogger describes the process:

Once a Model S owner parks the car on a designated spot, a platform raises from the ground to disconnect and grab hold of the depleted battery. The platform then descends back into the ground, dumps the battery, retrieves a fresh one, and rises once more to connect it to the car.

Yeah, nothing could go wrong there, could it?

Frenzied drivers will still have to do some work though — they’ll have to drop off the battery on the return leg of their journey and pay an unspecified “transport fee”, though they can also choose to keep the battery and pony up the difference between the price between of the old and new batteries.

Outfitting each of those stations with the ability to quickly replace batteries and get motorists back on the road presents quite a logistics problem. There’s the cost to consider — Tesla expects each battery swap station to cost about $500,000 to build, to say nothing of the maintenance and infrastructure costs that will come now that someone presumably has stop by each station and replace worn-down batteries.

Rube Goldberg was an amateur.

Electric Lemon Update

ev-lemon A couple recent items on the non-progress of the stillborn idea of reviving the 120-year-old technology known as the “electric” automobile:

First, ex-GM bigwig and blabbermouth Bob Lutz admits in his most recent book that the “EV” is indeed a loss-leader designed to burnish the image of the car corporations and thereby delay media attention to the extreme danger and outdatedness of their product. In Lutz’ words, in the GM boardroom, the whole thing was understood to be “an opportunity to change the public’s perception of GM as a reckless producer of gas guzzlers.”

Had he been CEO of GM, Lutz says that “I would have accelerated the creation of hybrid vehicles as well as all-electric prototypes and auto show concept cars. It’s not that there was, or is today, a huge market for the things. lt’s just that the media praise those who make them and smother them in superlatives for their environmental correctness.”

Admissions don’t get much clearer than that.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Nissan is admitting that deterioration of “EV” batteries is normal, rather than a defect. According to Automotive News:

Nissan Motor Co. has agreed to buy back two of the seven Leaf electric cars whose owners in Arizona have publicly raised concerns about aging batteries. The gesture could help mollify a small group of Leaf owners and green-car enthusiasts who have been raising questions about whether the electric car’s battery is too quickly losing its ability to hold an adequate charge.

The small group of Phoenix customers believes that their Leafs are not holding a charge as long as they should be after only a year or two of use. The seven Phoenix owners claim that their batteries are losing capacity after only a couple of years, and have questioned whether the product is flawed.

In response, Nissan took all seven Leafs to undergo tests at its Arizona proving grounds. Engineers found that the cars in question simply had higher-than-normal mileage, Bailo said in her public letter. She said Nissan concluded that the battery performance was in line with the wear and tear on the specific cars. In estimating the Leaf’s battery will hold 80 percent of its original charge after five years, Nissan said it assumed owners would drive, on average, 12,500 miles a year.

“We’re going to give them all of our data to see for themselves. The data shows that the car is performing as it should be. “We’re 100 percent certain that there is no defect,” [said Nissan].

In other words, one promise of pure “EV”s is mountains of dead batteries, and the usual — perhaps even accelerated — planned obsolescence of individual automobiles.

How to Get Free Money

First, be a capitalist.

Second, to raise your chances even further, be a capitalist specializing in schemes to perpetuate the lifeblood of the system, cars-first transportation.

Finally, hold out your hand.

Even if your product is patently stupid, over-complicated, and downright defective, you will collect.

Cue Dire Straits’ old song and witness the Zerobama Adminstration’s latest gift to A123 Systems, maker of broken and exploding batteries for cars that run on electricity made from coal, nuclear, and natural gas:

Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems Inc. has received an extension on its $249.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. A123 received $127 million of the DOE grant by the end of 2011, according to the filing. The grant requires the battery maker to match each dollar used from the grant. The extension is designed to allow A123 to use the funds before they expire.

The filing fell on the same day that an A123 battery was linked to an explosion and fire at a prototype testing lab at General Motor Co.’s Warren Technical Center. GM confirmed that a lithium-ion battery cell leaked chemical gases into the lab, causing an explosion. The battery itself remained intact, according to a statement by the automaker.

The incident comes after a series of setbacks for the battery maker. In March, A123 posted a quarterly loss of $85 million for the fourth quarter of 2011, after Fisker Automotive stopped battery orders resulting from production problems. A123 suffered more bad news after a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports car with an A123 battery failed during a test by Consumer Reports magazine — which led to the announcement of defective batteries. On March 26, A123 reported that five automotive customers received batteries with potentially defective cells manufactured in Livonia. It said it would replace the batteries, which would cost the company $55 million.

A123 is also at the center of a class action lawsuit filed by shareholders.


Daily Dross

magic_hat It’s a bit cruel to pick on people who still think the Democratic Party serves a human purpose, but it’s nonetheless interesting that the Daily Kos is fully on board with the practice of publishing blatantly unfounded promises of impending physical miracles bound to rescue cars-first transportation from its own massive internal contradictions.

The latest example is from Kosnik Keith Pickering, who yesterday ran his piece, “The Edible Battery That’s Too Good for Electric Cars.” Reporting on “aqueous sodium batteries,” Pickering would have his readers join him in thinking that these items could be put into “electric” cars, save for the fact that doing so would be a waste of the batteries’ potential.

Problem? There is no existing sodium-ion battery that could be used in an automobile:

Researchers have looked into sodium-ion batteries in the past, although typically they have used high voltages and organic electrolytes. Using lower voltages reduces the amount of energy the batteries can store–a problem for electric vehicles, where space and weight are limited.

“I hope [the] DOE funds the nonaqueous [potentially usable in cars but presently non-existent] work, too,” [comments an interested professor.]

So, the proper title for Pickering’s article is “The Non-Existent Edible Battery That’s Too Good for Electric Cars.”

Making Coal Car Batteries: The CO2 Impact

ev_co2 A London group with the comically oxymoronic name of Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership has been busy disproving its own sponsored premise. Turns out that manufacturing a battery for a typical “electric” car puts 3.8 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s two-thirds of the carbon emitted in the manufacturing of a complete medium-sized gasoline car.

What additional carbon dioxide would be emitted in the process of scrapping or recycling millions of “electric” car batteries every year? As the LCVP admits, that remains one of our “gaps in understanding.”

The inescapable fact is that no automobile will ever be “low carbon.” Merely making these rolling piles of metal and plastic and lithium is inherently energy- and carbon-intensive.

DbC will say it again: Cars-first transportation was and is a capitalist pipe-dream.