back to article 'Hippy' energy kingpin's electric Noddy-car in epic FAIL

An electric concept car commissioned by soi-disant "hippie" energy-trading biz lord Dale Vince specifically to “blow the socks off Jeremy Clarkson and smash the stereotype of electric cars” has unfortunately done neither, as on its first public outing the "Nemesis" abruptly ground to a halt in busy traffic and had to be pushed …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Powered only by renewables

    So the lithium in the batteries is renewable is it?

    Actually I think that (as usual) this idiot has misread or misintepreted Clarkson. The curly headed northerner seems to be all in favour of fuel cell powered vehicles, it's battery power and hybrids that he has it in for. And that's fair enough. All the evidence I've seen seems to show that hybrids in the real world use no less fuel than their IC powered brethren, and since they use the same amount of fuel they produce the same amount of emissions. Battery power might seem like a teriffic idea, but there are major problems with the cars around at the moment. The biggest of which is actually finding somewhere to charge the car, most people don't have a garage these days and I wouldn't fancy trailling a power cable through the letterbox to a car parked on the street. Then there's the fact that a big enough charge to run a car over a reasonable distance takes a long time.* Another problem is the size and weight of the battery pack needed to give a decent range, which is one reason why so many of the flagship cars are two seaters with no luggage space. The fact that this car is a two seater with no luggage space kind of confirms this. If these people want to be taken seriously they need to build a car that's relevant to normal people. Let's see something that can compete on all levels with a Golf, Mondeo or V50 or whatever most people consider to be a normal car.

    * Cue some commentard claiming that you could charge one of these cars in minutes if you had a 500KVA 3 phase supply. Then ask them how they propose building the infrastructure to support this. Or indeed how they propose to pick up the cable and plug required to carry this current. Or how they propose to cool the batteries when they are being cooled at this rate. Or....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem with hydrogen...

      The problem with hydrogen is storage. When you compress hydrogen to a useable (sensibly storable) volume, it uses something in the region of mid 80s% of the energy stored within that hydrogen. Add to that the energy required to obtain the hydrogen in the first place and it makes it stack up much less favourably.

      What we need is for someone to crack the hydrogen storage problem and they'll be far more efficient, but until then it's a tricky one. Personally I'm in favour of plug in extendable range hybrids where the generator is a fixed RPM engine, much like in a modern diesel train. With proper recycling of the batteries.

      1. Kevin Reader
        Paris Hilton

        What we really need...

        What we really need is a way to trap the hydrogen in some more efficient way. Some mechanism where it could be handled fairly easily and in relative safety. Maybe chemistry might have the key....

        Maybe - just maybe - we could create a molecule with a lot of hydrogen in it, using another element with lots of bonds. I don't know - something like carbon or silicon or something. We could call them hydro-silicates or similar.

        That might make it really efficient to recharge the vehicle and give a long range due to the high energy density.... Hmmm - wonder why no-one thought of this before.


        Erm - Paris cos she knows all about getting a good bang for your buck.

        1. M man

          you are being ironic..

          like say....oh i dont know..hydro-carbons?

        2. Chris 22

          You've been beaten to it.

          I was chatting to a phd student a few years ago who was working on fun ways to store hydrogen, which involved a) silica b) me not understanding.

          It's still very much research in progress - fuel cells have a lot of development left yet before they're as good as they're going to get. Obviously no one yet knows for sure if they're going to be actually useful - that is the issue with research: if we know we wouldn't have to do it!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So the lithium in the batteries is renewable is it?"

      No reason why it shouldn't be recycled though

    3. Jeroen Braamhaar


      part of this problem has been solved. There is a common standard plug/cable standard for electric cars -- the name escapes me but I seem to remember it as "Europlug" -- of course, standards being standards, don't expect anyone to conform to it but introduce their own "superior" standard.

      Aside from that, general use electric cars don't remove emissions, they just relocate them from the street to wherever the nearest coal/gas/oil power plant is; and as you correctly identified, it'll take a lot of investment to build the required electrical infrastructure to support home charging for electric cars, provided there's another massive lapse of common sense (otherwise known as "green legislation" or "environmental targets" or equivalent) that somehow makes them more attractive to the general consumer.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Longer tailpipe argument?

        The mistake you make is in assuming that the energy efficiency of an ICE is anywhere near comparable to an electric motor. An ICE is about 10% efficient, losing ~90% of the energy it produces through heat (hence all the cooling systems required to stop these engines from destroying themselves), whereas an electric motor is over 90% efficient with friction being its biggest enemy.

        For the 'longer tailpipe' analogy to be correct you'd have to see ICE-powered vehicles increasing their fuel-efficiency by a good 900 percent.

        Of course it's not as cut and dry as this. The electricity transfer from generating stations to homes to allow charging of an EV means some loss of energy efficiency, but then on the other hand transporting hydrocarbons around in tankers to petrol stations is just as big (if not greater) loss of efficiency.

        Overall though, an EV is much more energy-efficient than an ICE

        1. Heff

          really now?

          are you in all seriousness going to claim a 90% efficiency conversion from battery power into motion for EVs?

          [citation needed]. srsly.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Overall though, an EV is much more energy-efficient than an ICE"

          Not MUCH more - maybe a bit better

          That's a MODERN diesel vs generating electricity by coal

        3. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          60% lostyou mean?

          Modern petrol engines typically are about 30% efficient, which isn't brilliant I'll agree, but is more efficient than the 10% you seem to think, mr AC.

          A bigger problem with electric engines is that they use up a lot of energy dragging around the dead weight of the batteries. The reason petroleum products remain so popular is because, as has been pointed out numerous times before, they have the advantage of an incredible energy density, and they don't leave a huge lump of dead weight in the back of the car when they've been consumed. Batteries can't match either of these and probably never will.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Graham Dawson

            Half that actualy, about 15%.

    4. W. Keith Wingate
      Thumb Up

      Plus ça change

      What pray tell, are the "IC-powered" bretheren? Because here in the colonies, just about any hybrid you can buy will kick the cojones off the alternatives w/ respect to fuel consumption. Are there issues (battery life / disposal / weight ; the safety of nearly silent cars on city streets; cost) with them? Sure. But if minimizing fuel consumption alone were your only goal, you simply can't beat something like a Toyota Prius or first generation Honda Insight.

      I used to think of hybrids as an interim technology, until we get a practical infrastructure for the electrics, but ... while waiting for the power-grid to be restored in our Chicago suburb for three days last summer I began to see the advantage of a plug-in hybrid: you can adjust your choice of energy input to market prices and availability.


      This reminded of a well-known story which took place back in my home town: a rash engineer tried to prove that locomotives would soon make the horse & buggy obsolete, but a mechanical failure proved the "folly" of all that new-fangled technology. ( Today I (and thousands of others in Chicago) take trains (albeit, not steam-driven ones) daily, but I know no-one who commutes by horse, here or anywhere there's an internet connection (which presumably you need to read this. :-) ).

      There's more commonality than you might think; the "new" technology was basically coal-powered (and as other posters have noted, so is much of the electricity in the UK and probably even more on this side of the puddle). So I wouldn't dismiss this "Electric Joule-aid Acid Test" out of hand...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Renewable Hydrocarbons

        It's possible to make hydrocarbons from the hydrogen in water and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There's been a lot of research done on this using solar power, but there's no particular reason why it couldn't be done using other carbon neutral renewables like wind or tide or whatever. The neat trick here is that you would be making petrol from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which would of course mean you were taking as much CO2 out of the atmosphere as you were putting in by burning the petrol. Neat.

        The advantage of this method of energy production is that the infrastructure for storing and distributing the fuel already exists, as do the vehicles that use it.

        The problem with the alternatives be they battery power, hydrogen fuel cells or whatever else is that they will need a massive investment in infratructure and they will require that all the exisiting vehicles are scrapped.

        I'm sure people will tell me that the old cars will be recycled, as is this process doesn't harm the environment. The problem with all this enforced recycling is that it isn't the environmental universal cure that it is pumped up to be. If you consider the four R's reduce, reuse, repair and recycle, it is the last item on the list that is the worst for the environment. Glass recycling being the perfect example. You glass goes to the recycling bank and is smashed up and melted down to make new glass - not exactly carbon neutral. The old way of doing things where the bottles were returned to the bottling plant, checked, sterilized and reused this of course has much less impact on the environment. Nobody has ever done any thorough research on the relative environmental impact of continuing to use and old car against recyclings that car and manufacturing a new one.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Maybe it didn't break down

    > the Nemesis as "powered only by renewables"

    maybe the wind just stopped blowing?

  3. GettinSadda


    Prototype Car Breaks Down

    Not much of a headline really!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It is, really.

      Well it wouldn't be much of a headline had it not been trumpeted as such a big thing in the first place.

  4. Scott van Looy

    Le Sigh.

    Yay! EnviroBashing!!

    1. Jim 40

      Le agree

      ...and by that impressively qualified energy expert Lewis Page as well!

    2. O

      Agree & Disagree

      Agree that Lewis is a rabidly right wing anti-anything-green pseudo journo.

      However, attacking Vince is fair game and I think Lewis is perfectly entitled to do so. He didn't pick up on the biggest scam with regard to the very misleadingly named Ecotricity. Yes all their OWN energy projects are green ..... -BUT- only ~30% of their power requirement is generated from renewables, the rest comes from purchasing credits from the big companies who burn fossil fuels / run nuclear power stations.

      Good Energy is the ONLY green electricity company in the UK - 100% of their energy comes from renewables - and they're a damn site better than the preening shill (Vince).

  5. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge


    If I remember my Greek Mythology correctly, Nemesis used to make sure that people with an inflated opinion of themselves, received divine retribution.

    So possibly the worst choice of name since the British Airship "Mayfly" then.

  6. TeeCee Gold badge

    '...good for "250,000 maintenance-free miles"...'

    Go on, do tell.

    How many did it *actually* get through before it went so comprehensively titsup on them?

    1. Daniel 4

      250,000 maintenance-free miles

      Well, this was always somewhere between a PR statement and a blatant lie anyway. Anyone who knows cars, and has done even light research into electric cars, can call BS on that statement right away.

      Sure, it's entirely possible to make a drive motor, complete with batteries and controller, that should last a quarter of a million miles without maintenance - IF nothing breaks (heh heh heh). Even series wound DC motors, often considered to be about the crudest traction motors out there (but relatively inexpensive and VERY powerful - popular for electric dragsters and home conversions), usually require no more than the equivalent of a change of spark plugs every 75,000 miles (brush replacement, for the curious). No oil or coolant to change, and the bearings can last AGES if not abused. An AC induction motor (which is the standard for commercial electrical vehicles) requires even less maintenance (no brushes - the only moving points in contact with each other are the bearings).

      However, anyone who thinks that they are going to go a quarter of a million miles, in a "performance vehicle," on a single set of modern tires, needs their head examined. Same with brake pads, even with regenerative braking. Likewise, I have serious doubts as to the ability to run the rest of the drivetrain for that distance without proper lube and inspection. Finally, as was so bluntly demonstrated, things break. Even if that car made it into production (including ironing out the bugs), I question just how many could go 250,000 without something breaking.


    2. GrahamT

      If you read the source article...

      It states that the reason it failed was because someone forgot to charge the batteries. So, cock-up rather than abject failure. Being fixed by charging up the batteries hardly counts as it being comprehensively tits-up. I don't think you would get far trying to claim that on the warranty.

      The journalist said that he wouldn't drive it because of "the curse of the Guardian": it seems that sitting in the passenger seat was enough.

      1. david bates

        UI issue or User Error?

        So did the chap driving the car not bother to check his fuel gauge before he set off? Or is his fuel gauge so obtuse that it was'nt obvious he was running on vapour, so to speak?

        Personally even if I ignore the fuel gauge on my car I have a little light that comes on when its getting low. With something as unrefillable as an electric car I'd expect it to be very obvious how much power I had at all times, and a fairly insistent audible warning wthen things got low...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Powered only by Renewables

    As I understand it Vince's company does sell a premium Green only tariff in addition to their Green/Brown tariff. So he could be mainly green.

  8. James Pickett

    Watt's up?

    "Vidal and the subs there plainly don't really know what a Watt actually is."

    Well it is the Grauniad, who wouldn't know a unit of electricity if it zapped them on the leg . Probably why they still think that all that CO2 in the atmosphere (<0.04%) will lead to thermageddon...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course...

      The Graun is also the only newspaper and, to my knowledge, non-science journal with a serious bad science column. Ben Goldacre, the guy who writes it, is only too happy to point out where the Graun (and particularly the sister paper the Obs) cock up or generally get stuff wrong.

      What does the Reg have?


  9. truthmonkey

    Taken for a ride...?

    The Guardian's John Vidal was not the only person to be taken for a ride - albeit an embarrassingly short one. The following is taken verbatim from the Ecotricity website:

    "We take the money our customers spend on their energy bills and use it to build new sources of green energy.

    Because we run on a not-for-dividend model and have no shareholders or investors to keep happy, we’re free to dedicate all our money to our mission: changing the way electricity is made."

    Dale Vince has recently paid £3m for a castle just outside Stroud. He owns an ocean going yacht costing almost £1.5m. The Nemesis cost the best part of £1m.

    ALL your money Dale? Really?? We're not nearly as stupid as you think we are.


  10. back_ache

    Video of Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf) taking the car for a test drive

  11. Rogerborg

    And even if you did plug it into a wind turbine

    The energy will only be "green" once the kestrel-mincer has generated as much energy as it took to mine, refine, construct, install and maintain it up to that point.

    Note very, very carefully: the "payback time" for renewable generators is based on subsidised installation and taxed production. You can only hide the up-front energy cost for as long as fossil plants keep producing it for you. Eventually, the laws of physics will trump your accounting wheezes: the *energy* payback time trends towards infinity, if you include the workforce.

    And if you don't count the energy requirements of keeping the meat parts of your industry alive (which V-tards never do) then you're either dooming them to starve to death in a cold dark cave, or tacitly admitting that your wonder-technology is a massive fucking scam, a horrifyingly inefficient way of greenwashing fossil energy into fairy-farts.

    If we'd spent all the resources wasted on "renewable" scams on fusion power instead, then we'd all be flying around in aero-limousines by now. Aero-limousines that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into kittens.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Transmission losses

    Any car that requires recharging from the UK mains system is immediately 40% inefficient. The reason is thats the average loss between the power station and your electricity meter.

    So in order to make any sort of electric (battery) car efficient requires a more or less totally new national grid.

    You could of course argue that this should be done anyway and I wouldn't disagree with you, but its not going to happen inside the next 2 decades.

    Nor is the likelihood that your "eco friendly" car is powered (recharged) by anything other than fossil fuels, 40% of which you have just pissed away in transmission losses.

    So we have a situation where if we assume 100% efficiency for batteries and motors then the car is STILL only 60% efficient. That's 60% efficient ignoring all the nasty crap in the batteries, disposal costs and what it cost in environmental terms to extract the nasty crap.

    Frankly battery powered cars should be BANNED, not encouraged.

    Fuel cell is a totally different ballgame.

    1. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

      I'll see your 40%

      Actually the grid loses about 8.5%, while your average Internal combustion engine loses about 75% to the flywheel. So I'm not sure you really wanted to bring that point up.

    2. Ellis Pritchard

      Checking your facts

      UK Electricity grid losses are more like 7%:

      DEFRA lists petrol as 0.28455kg CO2e/kWh, whereas electricity is 0.04609kg CO2e/kWh with % transmission and distribution losses as 7.4% (2008 figures); see

      A Li-ion Battery charge/discharge cycle is 80-90% efficient, and EV electric motors >90%. All of which works out that electric cars are around three times more efficient than petrol cars, even when charged using a conventional fossil-fuel heavy power grid.

      Whilst mining and refining the metals in batteries is not environmentally benign, the metals can be recycled at the end of the batteries life, using less energy than mining new material. Extracting and refining oil creates a large number of toxic by-products, and presents a considerable risk to the environment, as BP demonstrated this year.

      Finally, read this article on the efficiency Hydrogen Economy, it's not as rosy as you assume, basically, electric cars win:

      In summary, your 'BAN battery powered cars' call may be a little wide of the mark...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      One thing about all the trumpeting about efficiency is that nobody seems to be considering the efficiency of the process of converting the fossil fuel into electrical energy in the first place.

      You can't simply say "my car runs on electricity generated from renewable sources" because that simply is not possible in the UK at the moment. An awful lot of out electricity comes from fossil fuels, I can see several power stations from here that are burning coal. We burn the fossil fuels to generate heat, the heat boils water to make steam, the steam drives a turbine, the turbine drives a generator. How efficient is that process?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    How many 13A sockets does your house have, Lewis?

    I bet your house has more than one 13A socket.

    Therefore in principle there's (much) more than 3kW available to charge the battery.

    Do any readers have electric showers in their houses?

    Are they (much) more than 3kW?

    But let's not let little details like that spoil Lewis's anti-environmentalist ramblings, eh?

    After all, Lewis clearly knows more about the subject than Professor David Mackay, as seen on TV.

    Doesn't he?

    1. PsychicMonkey


      does you 10(ish) kw shower plug in to the mains? no? that's a shame.

      so you can get a special outlet for the car, but that isn't plugging in to the standard 13A socket that they would like you to believe is possible.

      But let's not let little details like that spoil your anti-Lewis ramblings, eh?

    2. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

      Way to set your house on fire.

      I'm no sparky, but unless you want to rewire your house you're unlikely to have more than 30A on a ring main, which is 6.9kW. I think the main feed into the house is about 200A, which is 46kW, and that assumes you plug the car straight into your consumer unit and have no other load. I hope your wiring is up to scratch...

      I liked McKays book too - bought 3 copies, gave them to friends - but no-one is going to be charging electric cars from flat overnight at home, period. We'll be trickle charging at home and topping up with 3-phase power at dedicated stations, which themselves will be topping up their big bank of batteries from a high-load line to the grid. The math doesn't work for any other setup.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        I feel like such a pedant but

        I think it's 100A not 200. The cut-out fuse is rated at 100 amps.

      2. Kevin Reader

        Errm - much worse than that.

        Actually a lot of houses are only rated at 80A, with older houses often at 60A. A few more recent builds might have 100A. And unless you turn everything else off while the car is charging you cannot divert a huge amount of that to your car, even if its in the garage and has a HUGE F-ing plug on it.

        To cope with more than that would require a new feed to the house. The leccy boards would also need to worry about balancing these very high loads out unless they know EVERYONE had a leccy car and would probably be charging it. So houses might need to be on three phase (even more cabling and expense and upfront energy). And even that might be not enough complication as if a few neighbours had a late night the imbalance might blow the street's substation. So more gear in either the substations or the home to load balance these massive car chargers running at either 0 or 100A+. That would all be a) expensive and b) involve massive upfront costs.

        So leccy cars can only really work if - service stations can do a battery swap while you are paying the bill - so about 3-5 minutes like a fill up now. That way only the service station has to be on a huge power feed AND can balance its own loads. Neato.

        They might also work for specific situations such as Japanese town cars.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How many 13A sockets does your house have?

          Well it has quite a few. However the street outside has precisely none.

    3. GrahamT

      Electric cookers

      My electric cooker (and many electric showers) use a 30 amp (7kw+) circuit, so 6-7 hours for a 36kw battery with charging losses. OK, not a 13 amp socket, but still available in may homes.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge


        Unless you want to have a dedicated special socket for your car this isn't exactly "available" to the average householder. The 30 amp main is usually tucked away somewhere it can't do any damage and is hard-wired into the appliances it serves. There's a good reason for this: it's bloody dangerous. Moreso than a 13 amp fused socket, which will generally blow before you do, though you'll be in a bit of a pickle afterwards. Start mucking with a 30 amp main and you're toast. Or, if you're as lucky as I am with live wires(or unlucky depending on how you look at it), you'll have a great party story. You'll also probably have a toasted car.

    4. Chemist

      Are they (much) more than 3kW?

      They are indeed - although in the UK a ring main is 30A.

      HOWEVER the real point is that there isn't enough generating capacity to charge vast numbers of electric vehicles esp. if people want rapid charging

    5. Ball boy

      Re: How many 13A sockets does your house have

      Hmm.. without getting technical and confusing you, a 13A socket is /The/ standard way to connect portable things to the mains - the shower you mention is hard-wired; betcha can't detach yours from the wall, take it to your mates house and reconnect it, can you? Well, the same problem exists with the car: you can't go around installing specialist outlets in your house, near your office, your parents house and everywhere else you frequent without frighteningly high costs and so the logical thing to do is base your car's recharging ability on this well defined and highly available 13A socket.

      *In theory, you could pull 2 x 13A from a ring main by having TWO plugs on the go - a correctly-wired ring will cope - but you're pushing your luck if you have anything else on the same ring (and most people will have one ring for the entire downstairs floor, knackering that idea) and you also have a small problem of maintaining a balanced load. It's not generally advisable!

    6. Anonymous Coward

      Correct me if I'm wrong

      But I don't think that's how it works. Each device you plug in draws as much electricity as it needs, using multiple sockets wouldn't really be necessary unless you were worried about overheating.

      Of course once you draw more than 32/20 amps (depending on your circuit) the breaker will flip and all your sockets turn off.

      So yes in theory you could draw more from your supply but I think if it ever became popular we'd have to set up a seperate circuit or something to stop it tripping everything else

    7. Heff

      I wrote a title but there was a power cut for some reason ^_^

      how many 13a sockets do you have in your house that you can run at full draw before your main breaker trips?

      I can wait for you to go plug stuff in, if you like.

    8. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: How many 13A sockets

      Had you bothered to read the article, you'd have noticed that Lewis was responding to a specific claim about the ability to recharge from a *single* and *ordinary* socket.

      However, even on your general point I think you'll find that drawing 13A from a dozen sockets in parallel blows your consumer unit into your next door neighbour's garden, and if the entire street plays the same game then you'll blow the local substation away. I quite like the idea of electric cars powered by a nice fleet of nukes and providing CO2-free transport, but I can see that they are going to require some infrastructure investment before they are practical.

  14. raivn

    Use electricity from renewables...

    to set hydrogen fuel cells.

    1. Heff

      Stop. just stop.

      right, use the tiny percentage of 'green' energy* we produce in an energy-costly process to produce a gas you need to compress and cool to store, requiring more energy, and has a pretty shitty energy density/volume compared to say; petrol.

      thats without even getting into how you plan to produce said hydrogen. and if you say Carbon Sequestration Im just going to start laughing. Thermochemical processes as well as having industry-unhelpful biproducts arent really ready for industrial application and we get most of our Hydrogen from steam + methane reforming. anode-based electrolysis hasnt made it out of the lab because you're either constantly swapping out your electrodes due to oxidisation or you're running inert-metal electrodes (usually platinum) which are a) fucking expensive and b; dont solve the other problem of water electrolysis; you need pure water otherwise you're looking at salt deposits, so you have to distill out your water which requires even more energy.

      Hydrogen as a 'green fuel' is decades away.

      *I have my doubts about the production rate of energy from a turbine versus the energy expenditure to mine, smelt, sheet form, engineer, construct, transport, plant the turbine, and lay the line from the turbine to the grid.

  15. peterainbow

    wonder hopw those electric cookers are powered?

    blimey you lot with your 'hate those greens' attitude beggar belief

    btw it's not just about saving energy it's also about reducing pollution in our cities, which for anyone who lives in one will know is terrible

    the anti green attitude on this site really depresses me as it's so so regressive

    1. Thecowking

      I don't think that it's actually anti-green

      I'm pretty sure most people here are very much in favour of reducing energy consumption, pollution and so on. They just don't believe that the current crop of PR based advances actually offer any real advantages.

      "Green" energy is a nice idea, but shockingly hard to implement efficiently. The wind doesn't blow on a schedule, the sun only shines when it feels like it (especially round here), tidal energy seems to be bad for the wildlife, wave power is wind energy by another name and requires transmission over long distances and so on.

      That's not to say that these technologies don't have their place, far from it. I still feel that the solar powered street furniture like the LED lights that illuminate road signs are very cool and exactly how these technologies should be implemented.

      The day there's a story about a commercially viable fusion power station on this site, I'm sure you'll see a lot of love. Tech people love fusion .

    2. Heff

      I dont hate green, I hate stupid.

      I hate green advocates that cant do math, or tell me to use CFTs because encouraging the replacement of tungsten and glass in a landfill with glass and mercury is a fucking great idea; they're the same people that jog to work down the side of the road, sucking down benzine and free radicals from everyone elses exhaust. Good for you. way to think it through. the people who cry about PCBs emitted from circuit board but will cheerfully hotbox themselves in freshly-painted rooms.

      you want to reduce pollution in cities, use something even more energy-efficient than an EV: a GD pushbike, a bus, or the train. its as bad is the greentards in the US that urge me to turn off my lights to save power but crank their AC down to 60' and leave all their doors open inside their homes, or the greentards in the UK that yell abuse at the royals for tooling around in ancient landrovers that do 14mpg rather than buying a brand new all-aluminium POS.

      I dont hate greens. I hate dumb people that cant do comparison math, dont understand the difference between compressors and lights, dont understand the idea of "production debt" in an 'energy efficient' product, dont understand how energy intensive aluminium production is, how environmentally devastating exotic mineral production is.

      Seriously. before anyone should be allowed to be an advocate for "green" _anything_ they should be forced to read up on SAX and get a calculator.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    @transmission losses 40% - <panto> oh no it isn't


    Download the book, read it, nobody should post on energy-related discussions till they have read it. Professor David Mackay of Cambidge University wrote the book and although there is some stuff to disagree with it's mostly very sensible and mostly attributes its authoritative sources.

    Mackay says: transmission losses < 10% between power station and customer premises (in my copy it's chapter 11, page 71).

    Feel free to convince readers why they should believe your 40% (but actually you're just as wrong on this as you were with your rant re Laterooms).

    Or were you talking about the thermal efficiency from power station heat input (coal, gas, oil, nuclear, etc) to power station electricity output? Which might be 40% or so but that didn't seem to be what you were saying.

    Either way, I stopped reading after the ridiculous 40% number. If you had any further points to make, they've not reached anybody who was put off by the 40% number. Which *might* be a shame.

  17. David 80


    Range anxiety? Really?

    I drove a Tesla to Land's End from London and got it down to 0 miles on the display when I plugged in twice on the way there and one more time on the way back. Funny... I didn't get stuck on the side of the A30...

    Seriously, I'm wondering what exactly Tesla did to get Mr Page's back up...

    1. Chemist

      "I drove a Tesla to Land's End from London "

      How much did the hotels cost on the way ?

  18. Martin Usher

    USA 'leccy is actually 230 volts

    US domestic electricity supply is two phase 115 volts, that is 230 volts. Most outlets are 115 volts but if you need any power, say for an electric range, air conditioning or a clothes drier then you'll have a different kind of socket yielding 230volts at 20 or even 50 amps.

    So...if you've got a Tesla in your garage you could plug it into a 115 outlet but you'd be better off using the clothes drier socket (washing machines and clothes driers are normally in or adjacent to the garage in US homes). The Tesla charger is smart enough to use anything you give it.

    (Yes, I do know someone that drives one...)

    The Nissan Leaf is now ready for sale. It doesn't scorch Ferraris like the Tesla but its a practical (if rather expensive) runabout.

  19. JDX Gold badge

    Oh well

    At least it looks pretty. That's the important thing.

    I hope the car bodywork isn't plastic, full of nasty oil? Anyone know?

    1. Francis Boyle

      Plastic -

      the way nature intended oil to be used.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electric cars, not in my lifetime...

    Lets face it, even if they got a full charge time down to an hour, it's just not going to cut the mustard.

    If a fuel based car runs out of juice, you can refuel it in minutes - heck, 15 seconds at the pump will give you another 50 miles on a modern cheap energy efficient car.

    My "noddy" car, fiat Panda 1.1 eco, gets 10 miles to a litre, with ridiculously low emission levels - a yearly tax of £35 is proof of that.

    Sure, it's not exactly going to turn any heads, except in laughter, but it beats the shit out of any electric car in terms of efficiency and "greenness"

    Besides, I want a nuclear car - no, stuff that, We were promised Jet Packs!

    1. Steve Todd

      They are already talking about battery systems

      which can take an 80% charge in 10 minutes (just about enough time to visit the loo and grab a coffee at a service station), or battery exchange systems which will replace your pack with a fully charged one in less time than it takes to fill your tank with petrol. Stop trotting out this excuse and try to think of another.

    2. Steve Todd


      Your Fiat 1.1 ECO is rated at 119g/km. The Tesla roadster, a car with 5 times the power of your tin box, uses 199Wh/km from the plug (i.e. factoring in charging losses). Using official UK government figures as of 2008, including transmission losses NOX and CH4, the average CO2 equivalent production per kWh from electricity generation is 545.22g (see the DEFRA link posted above). That works out as the power needed by the Tesla causing emissions of only 108.5g/km.

      What was that about efficiency and greenness?

  21. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    This car makes me wet

    Many single family US homes have a 6 KW outlet in the garage for an electric clothes dryer. Pick which device is more important.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lots of misconceptions.

    1. US mains is either 120 or 240 volts

    2. A US 15 amp socket can only deliver 12 amps continuosly, called 80 percent diversity which is 1440 watts

    3. A UK 230 volt 13 amp outlet is 100% rated which is 3120watts.

    4. Most ring mains in the UK are 32 amps so a 32 amp supply is easy to do in the UK.

    5. When all the sums are done for hydrogen, it is about 12.5% efficient from well to wheel, ICE is 20 to 25%. So hydrogen is really a dead duck to many problems,limitations and costs.

    Hydrocarbon fuel is about 12kw per kilo but as ICE is say 25% then equals 3kw/kilo so if a battery can be made at around 3kw/kilo then it will beat it and make the electric battery the way to go, with an overall efficiency of 40% well to wheel. This battery is the Lithium Air battery, which can be recharged or the Lithium replaced, for instant charging. 10 years away.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      US 'leccy...

      Actually you'd be hard pressed to find a home in the US that doesn't have a 220V service with a 100A main breaker (at the minimum), split into two phases of 115V outlets that are wired as branch circuits, and some 220V outlets for devices needing more power. It's not as efficient as Europe power--US homes have thicker wiring to cope with the higher amperages needed to give the same amount of juice to power stuff on a 115V outlet as opposed to a 220V---which are primarily used for things like ranges, dryers, electric heat and air conditioning. It's not too uncommon for business (and some homes) to have dedicated 20A-115V outlets---a little better than the 15A mentioned at least, and a few 220V outlets where needed. So at least MOST US homes have the same incoming power available, just not quite as much at every wall socket as UK homes.

      But it's fairly easy to add a branch 220V--30 or 50A circuit to any US home. I did just that for an A/C unit a couple of summers ago---took a couple of hours. Some homes would need an upgraded main panel or service if you did a lot of charging while running the A/C, dryer, etc. at the same time, but since most charging would likely be done overnight while the rest of the house is asleep (and at lower nighttime costs in some areas), you could fairly easily get away with it.

      More worrisome in my opinion would be leaving a device that despite testing is not that far from prototype stage drawing tons of current unattended while everyone sleeps. Continuous high demand on aging house wiring in potentially unknown condition will quickly expose flaws in the wiring--so called "glow faults" where wiring and contact points can heat up enough to 'glow' without drawing enough to trip a breaker or blow a fuse. So I'd be afraid that electrical fires would be much more commonplace if everyone had one of these in their garage with existing infrastructure.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    I want one of those

    Sod the car, the battery pack sounds tremendous. Wonder how long my netbook would keep going on that?

  24. Anonymous Coward

    "kestrel mincer" - get that in Wiktionary, stat.

    "once <whatever> has generated as much energy as it took to mine, refine, construct, install and maintain it up to that point."

    The general term for that is "energy return on energy invested", or EROEI. It's something that the idiots who say "the oil won't run out because we'll start exploiting <xyz> " (where a typical <xyz> would be tar sands or oil shale) mostly seem to conveniently ignore.

    The fact is, the oil won't physically run out all that soon, but *cheap* oil will come to an end before too long, because the EROEI will soon be uninteresting. Which means oil will be unaffordable and irrelevant except for those small (but significant) number of industries that require oil as a raw material rather than an energy source. Like petrochemicals, agribusiness, etc.

    The EROEI impact on the oil industry will be far greater than it will be on the kestrel-mincer industry.

  25. jake Silver badge

    "feeble US ones"?

    I have a double handful of 50A, 240V sockets (NEMA 14–50) here at the ranch ... and I'm in Sonoma, CA, which last time I looked was in the USA.

    I also have a 440V 3phase 450A service (runs some of the old computer hardware, the Bridgeport CNC & my Heidelberg Windmill) ... While it's not exactly normal, it is available to the general public for a price.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Why Lewis is a hater

    Lewis was in the Navy & likes wars & guns & missiles & killing stuff.

    Dale was in the peace convoy & likes trucks & turbines & not killing stuff.

    That is all.

  27. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Electricity supply understanding fail

    > US domestic electricity supply is two phase 115 volts, that is 230 volts.

    By that argument, UK mains is 415v.

    I know of only one domestic property in the UK with a three-phase (415v) supply, but that immediately splits into three single-phase* consumer points for three flats.

    * It's single phase not two phase**. Three phase is three Lives plus Neutral. The alternative is one Live plus Neutral - *single* phase.

    ** Yes, "two phase" does exist - an odd arrangement of two lives plus neutral.

  28. -tim

    Numbers, numbers and more numbers.

    The 90% efficiency for electric cars comes from the high end solar race cars where they take the cases off the inverters and shave them down just to save a few grams. Also the 90% is a target and no one is there yet.

  29. jason 7

    Why do we need 300hp electro vehicles right now?

    Seems a bit pointless. The word 'toys' springs to mind.

    Surely what they need to capture the publics imagination and make any slight dint in the eco arguement is to make a viable, simple A to B commuter vehicle for say three passengers with a top speed of around 80mph and a range of 150 miles.

    It just needs to get folks to work and back without them getting wet or frozen in the winter or cooked in the summer.

    That will do. No need for luxury trappings either, a simple stereo radio with a MP3 input will do.

    In the meantime cars with 1100CC petrol sipping engines with efficient small twin turbos will do for the rest of us getting about.

  30. ChemEng

    Everything's 90%

    Everybody seems to try to apply 90% efficiency to all parts of electric cars, and then to the car itself. So far we've seen this magic figure applied to battery charge / discharge and standard electric motors. It could also be applied to the charge rectifier / control system, especially if very fast charge times are needed. Then there's the drive inverter - variable frequency motor speed control systems aren't easy.

    Ignoring mechanical transmission losses it should be noted that overall efficiency of the electrics (ex AC wall outlet) is now down to 0.9 power 4, or 66%.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Comparing like with like

    Another pioneering car, the Ford Model T, had a range of about 200-250 miles on a full tank. I would imagine that petrol stations back then were somewhat rarer than 13A sockets too.

    Electric cars will improve and probably more rapidly than they did 100 years ago.

    As for suitable power connectors, I'm truly surprised no one has mentioned the IEC 60309.

    1. jake Silver badge

      I don't buy it.

      "Electric cars will improve and probably more rapidly than they did 100 years ago."

      What you are forgetting is that electric cars existed before internal combustion cars did. They already have that 100+ year head start.

      Until portable electric power approaches the energy density of compressed & heated tree ferns, electric cars are nothing more than niche vehicles for the NIMBY enviro-set.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And what you are forgetting

        What you are forgetting (or perhaps choosing to ignore) is that (a) affordable "compressed and heated tree ferns" are soon going to be unaffordable for the mass market (b) there are huge numbers of households and organisations with vehicles that simply don't need fossil fuel energy density. "Need" and "have got used to having" are not the same.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    How many kWh do you need for a 2mile each way school run?

    How many kWh do you need for a 2 mile each way school run or even a 10 mile each way rural supermarket run in a sensible small family car? How long would *that* take to replenish from a typical domestic single phase shower supply ?

    As a starter, for round numbers, let's say a 10kW electric circuit vs say 50kW (70hp) output car engine.

    A lot of the fossil engine input is wasted as heat in the engine, and much of what reaches the wheels ends up as heat in the brakes, whereas the electric motor is not far off 100% efficient in turning electricity into kinetic energy (and you can include regenerative braking rather than heating the brakes if you wish, to recover some of that kinetic energy back to electricity).

    Neither fossil engine nor electric motor are at max power for much of the time; this isn't Formula 1.

    Is it plausible that the average power consumption of the electric motor over the journey might be in the region of 10kW? Even if it's somewhat more than 10kW on average, it can't ever be more than 50kW. So the electric car recharge time probably isn't going to be *that* different from the length of time the car is on the road. An hour or two a day to recharge for the school run, maybe overnight for the daily commute?

    Anyone got any better offers? Is Lewis as good at sums involving energy as he is when the sums involve US and UK military spending?

    Professor Mackay (FRS) is good at sums involving energy, and technology involving energy. Mackay thinks electric vehicles are not just important, they're essential. Who wants to show Mackay where he's wrong?

    1. ChemEng

      whereas the electric motor is not far off 100% efficient

      If this thread achieves nothing else this glib statement must be debunked in the context of electric cars.

      The usual electric motor is static and runs on stabilised mains power. It runs essentially at constant speed under constant known load and can be designed to be extremely efficient.

      The car however must rectify the AC power source then store it. The DC output must then be converted back to a very special form of AC suitable for automotive (speed controlled) use. Only now do we get to the 'electric motor'. This is far from the standard unit described above and must operate under widely varying speed and torque conditions. It might have a 'sweet spot' and, if the design engineers are ever allowed to release the true efficiency of their composite systems, this is what will be quoted. Away from this optimum design region efficiency must fall off rapidly.

      To recap:

      Standard electric motors - very efficient - better than 90%

      Electric cars - complex series of processes running under difficult conditions - probably less than 60% overall.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    "The usual electric motor is..."

    "The usual electric motor is static and runs on stabilised mains power. It runs essentially at constant speed under constant known load and can be designed to be extremely efficient."

    Are you really a chemical engineer?

    Have you been near an industrial variable speed electric drive in the last couple of decades? You don't need to run them at constant speed, nor under constant known load. They have high performance high power solid state electronic controllers. But they still manage to be pretty efficient - far far far more efficient than any Carnot engine (as an engineer, you'd know about Carnot, right?).

    1. ChemEng

      Are you really a chemical engineer?

      Considered using variable speeds once but had to abandon the idea. Safety regulations - the motor casings got too hot!!! (Somebody explain the implications of that to AC please)

      Stop trying to side step the issue. Electric motors can be very efficient. However, the motor is only one part of the total system in an electric car and the overall efficiency is very much lees than 90%. Nearer 60% as stated

      I've probably done more energy / mass balances in the real world than AC can possibly conceive of. A good place to start learning is rule one, which AC is either ignoring or has never learned :-

      First define your system boundaries.

      In this case the boundary is the car, not the electric motor, and the start point is the AC wall outlet as stated earlier in 'Everything's 90%'.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Iirc, in the early days, the reason motor casings got hot was

        because the cooling fans on variable speed motors weren't blowing enough air at lower speeds. So although the motor power usage had decreased, and the waste energy had decreased too, the forced air cooling capacity had decreased proportionately more. Motor designers took a little while to catch on to this but it's now well understood (sorry, no references readily available, it goes back a LONG time). Drawing any conclusion re efficiency of drives and controls from this non-linear-cooling phenomenon might be misleading.

        Don't forget electric cars have regenerative braking too. Motor drives don't have/need that, petrol cars don't have that (except hybrid ones).

        Yes the efficiency from mains socket to road wheels may not be 100% but it's substantially closer to that than a Carnot engine gets from fuel source to road wheels. Even if you start with fossil fuel input to the power station an EV probably still has the capability to beat an ordinary car in energy efficiency terms. Get used to it.

        "I've probably done more energy / mass balances in the real world than AC can possibly conceive of."

        Pleased to hear it. See, I've been around too, I know stuff too, my first work in the energy analysis field was in the late 1970s as a student working in a group working on heat recovery techniques for use with industrial furnaces in massively-energy-intensive industries (yes, 1970s, I'm serious; cheap oil/gas has meant we've wasted thirty years doing almost nothing about energy efficiency apart from stupid light bulb offers). But that's ancient history, not relevant to anything I post here.

        Anyway, most of your points were OK but jeopardised by this one which wasn't. Shall we move on?

        1. ChemEng

          Shall we move on?


          Thanks for the explanation about the early variable speed drives It was some time ago.

          Some of the earlier AC postings read rather like the work of a young disciple, hence my attitude. Now I seem to have roused the master himself.

          I've deliberately refrained from expressing an opinion either side of the IC / electric debate. I don't know enough. However, to paraphrase an earlier post.

          I'm not anti green, I'm anti spin.

          I set out to nail the vaguely inferred >90% overall efficiency figure, and I probably got as close as I'm going to get. IMO people are becoming confused and apathetic about the current mixture of science, hype, spin and FUD they are being deluged with from all sides. It doesn't help the cause when apparent men of science lose credibility in their own community by indulging unnecessarily in the more political arts listed.

          I'll now happily bow out of this as you suggest.

          (Graduated London 1964. First assignments were heat & mass balances on high temperature rotary kilns fired with finely divided coal. I really have been around for a very long time!)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You can waffle on all you like about the relative merits of petrol, diesel and EV's but there is one simple problem to overcome. We are constantly told that our generating capacity is barely enough to meet our needs. We are warned that the distribution infrastructure is hardly up to the jon of delivering the power to the consumer. And there are people who really think that replacing all our IC powered cars is a good idea? Really and how do you propose we charge them? There are something like 30,000,000 IC powered vehicles on the UK roads, if they were all plugged in to charge

    There are even some idiots who think that we could implement charging in a matter of minutes at "filling" stations. Oh really? And how many cars are filling with petrol at any one time around the country right now? Now imagine that amount of energy being drawn from our creaking electrical infrastructure right now.

    OK so the infrastructure could be upgraded, but it will take a long time and it will cost a fortune. Who's going to pay? The only fair solution would be a levy on every EV sold. However the pro EV brigade seem to think that every EV sold should be subsidised. So now not only should the tax payer subsidise the sales of EV's but the tax payer would probably wind up paying for the massive upgrade needed in infrastructure too. And how much will taxes have to be raised by to cover this? I'll bet the average voter would really go for that.

    Why should I with my seven year old car that is all I can afford have to pay more to subsidise those who can afford to buy a new car? Especially knowing that I won't actually see the benefits until there are EVs around that are not only cheap enough for me to buy. A case of the have nots subsidising the haves? That would go down well with the govenment telling us all we have to tighten our belts wouldn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Check facts before posting garbage, please

      There may well be valid arguments against massive adoption of electric vehicles (cars and vans) but lack of generation and distribution capacity is not one of them; your other more valid points are weakened by this one.

      Overnight electricity consumption in the UK typically goes down to about half the daytime peak electricity consumption [1]. There is no shortage of generation or distribution capacity in any realistic scenario involving off-peak charging of a realistic number of EVs (there *is* going to be a shortage of peak-hour generation soon).

      In fact the more reliant on inflexible nuclear we become, the more we *require* electric transport (cars and vans) to recharge overnight to avoid wasting the unswitchable-off nuclear electricity which otherwise would go to waste.


    2. Steve Todd

      EVs could help solve peak power problems

      Overnight there is a surplus of power and EVs can charge without problems. At peak demand their charging stations can be programmed to take BACK up to a certain percentage and feed it into the grid. The owner gets payed at peak rates for this power and makes a profit on however much they chose to sell back. The grid gets a large sink of rapidly available power. Win Win.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Off peak

        "Overnight there is a surplus of power and EVs can charge without problems."

        Except that, as previously discussed, most people don't have anywhere to charge their car overnight. They are, therefore, stuck with charging their cars during the day. Which takes us back to where we began.

        Do try to keep up.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    "most people don't have anywhere to charge their car overnight"

    I'd have been happy if you'd said "many people", because it's bleedin' obvious.

    As you've said "most", would you care to back it up with hard evidence?

    From memory, Mackay (who is good with numbers and evidence) says you get a worthwhile effect if around 1 in 10 of cars are grid connected and feeding in. 1 in 10 doesn't sound that difficult, given five or ten years. 1 in ten is also a lot less than "most".

  36. Peter Mc Aulay

    Powered by renewable energy

    The efficiency flame wars aside, if everyone has one of these the base load on the grid will increase tremendously and so is probably amongst the *least* suitable applications of renewable energy.

    Rather, the load of powering an electric car infrastructure is much better provided by nuclear power. I know some types of reactors can produce their own fuel, but I doubt that's what the hippies mean by "renewable" :)

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "if everyone has one of these"

    1) "Everyone" isn't going to have one in any realistic timescale.

    2) For any realistic number that do have them, the Grid has plenty of overnight capacity free, now and for the foreseeable future, as per National Grid link posted earlier (below)

    3) Before too long, those that do have them will be able to use the stored energy as an electricity source (either for own premises or as a Grid feed-in source **for which they will get paid more than they pay to charge the battery**) when convenient, instead of silly domestic wind turbines and almost as silly domestic PV arrays and storage batteries.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Rust never sleeps

    "leaving a device that despite testing is not that far from prototype stage drawing tons of current unattended while everyone sleeps."

    You should have [1] given Neil Young a copy of that.

    [1] for the under 30s: please read this as "you should of"

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