back to article Who are the biggest electric car liars - the BBC, or Tesla Motors?

In a world-gone-topsy-turvy moment, the BBC has been accused of virulent anti-green bias by advocates of electric motoring, including Kryten from Red Dwarf and - of course - famous battery-car manufacturer Tesla, maker of the iconic Roadster. The Mini-E in action. Credit: Mini Don't try doing an Italian Job in one of these ( …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flame Of The Blogging Week

    If anyone 'unknown' had written that in a blog or a comment, they'd have been disregarded as a crazy ranting fanboy.

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Paris Hilton

      I'm surprised

      I'm surprised ol' Kryten cant charge up an electric car using one of his groin attachments!

      1. Identity

        Isn't that


  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. JasonW

    Cheap electricity for cars? Tcha! Right.

    Anyone deluding themselves that when the gubmint loses the cash cow that is hydrocarbon duty, it won't lash up the price of electricity for transport is deluded. We'll either end up with spy-in-the-sky roadpricing or astronomically priced electricity (or knowing the British government - of all hues past, present and future - both).

    Can't wait for the tales on Watchdog of Mr Smith from Luton who took his electric car to France and discovered he needed an adaptor which costs £500 then went to Belgium and discovered he needed a different one, etc...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I think the BBc deserves more credit . . .

    Yes, the Mini-E may be intended as an about-town runabout but how many mass-market drivers will have one car for round town and another for longer journeys? If they don't have a private drive and charger what are the chances that they keep two vehicles -one for occasional use on long journeys. It is not at all unlikely that, if e-cars grow in poplarity, people will need to use them, maybe only occasionally, for longer journeys. And, without significant improvement sin battery capacity/recharging time, this will still be a concern.

    i like the idea of electric cars for many reasons; comabating local air pollution and noise in towns for example but there needs to be realism too.

    1. Graham Marsden

      So why not just change the bloody batteries...!!

      I had an electric car when I was a kid. I'd run it round and round the carpet and then, when it stopped, instead of plugging it into the mains to charge, I'd just take the old batteries out and put in a new set of HP7's!

      So why this nonsensical assertion that you need to recharge the battery *IN* the car? All that is needed is simple bit of cooperation between the car manufacturers to pick a standard battery format/ layout, drive up to the garage, park in the right place and mechanical systems unplug the old battery (which is taken away for recharging), plug a new charged one in and away you go!

      Charging up your battery "at the pump" makes as much sense as refining petrol at the garage!

      1. Avatar of They
        Thumb Up

        Logic is already there.

        We do it already with calor gas bottles. You buy one expensively at the beginning (like when you buy the car) And then just plug in a new one when needed. You then take the empty one to a local dealer to swap for a full one, the dealer charges a small fee for the gas, with probably some kind of cost attached to handle the empty battery. A truck comes when needed and takes all the empties and drops off a load of filled ones.

        Same logic can be applied to car batteries and forecourts are an easy enough place to do it, decent manufacture and the battery can be plug in as well. (Though weight might be an issue and you might need a couple of blokes or a machine to help if you are a pensioner for example)

        1. sybaric


          like swappable batteries at petrol stations make most of the problems listed in the article go away...

      2. Captain Scarlet
        Thumb Up


        And for the cold weather on the commute keep a spare battery canninster (or whatever they would use or call it) in the car just in case you get stuck in the snow on the motorway for instances, its the only way I can see eletric cars working (Replace the battery at a garage or take them out and charge them up in the house, but do feel they need to be a lot lighter and need to get rid of the guff that are not needed on a daily basis to keep weight down.

      3. Matt Bridge-Wilkinson

        Japan are working on battery changers

        Exactly right, there is no need to charge them in car. Japan I am sure were working on e-cars and mechanisms to change batteries at service stations.

        Much more sensible solution.

      4. L.B
        Thumb Down

        Some reasons why changing batteries will not work...

        ...just imagine you have just spent £23000 on a new e-mini, and after driving your new toy about for fun on the very first day you get it, you have to change that battery.

        The battery your hand in is a lovely new one which allows say 80-100 miles, you get back an old (2-3 years) duffer that as the manufactures admit will have only ~60% the capacity, or even worse is about to fail completly 5 miles down the road.

        Then think of how many batteries a typical station would have to have to guarantee that the next one to go out has been there long enough to be re-charged? Storage space is not cheap and unless every car manufacturer agrees on a standard, there will be many types and sizes.

        But the biggest problem is simply weight; these batteries are not light weight, just think about how much of a typical laptop's weight is the battery and now think of changing something 100-200 times the size or maybe you would rather changing 20-30 separate smaller ones and have all those physical connections to break and fail.

        EV's are just toys, and will remain so until:

        - Batteries can be made to last longer without massive degradation.

        - The charging times can be lowered (although this would still need massive upgrades to the grid)

        - Have a range that covers the typical extended days journey (150+ miles at speeds over 50mph)

        - Are capable of doing the above and carry 3 to 4 people with luggage.

        1. Graham Marsden

          @LB Some reasons why your objections won't work:

          1) Batteries, when being replaced/ recharged can be assessed for charge capacity and any that aren't up to scratch can be returned to a central depot for reconditioning or recycling.

          2) Storage space isn't a problem if you rip out one of the underground petrol storage tanks which hold (according to a quick bit of searching) upwards of 45,000 litres of fuel.

          3) The changing process would be mechanical, you wouldn't have to carry the things around yourself. It would not be difficult to design something with connections sturdy enough to handle being swapped in this way. All it requires is cooperation from the manufacturers.

          4) I'd take a guess that all petrol stations already have three-phase AC connections which would make charging easier and quicker.

          5) With battery swapping you would get a typical extended day's journey, especially if combined with hybrid technology which would carry 3-4 people with luggage (although how many cars actually *do* that in the course of a year?!)

          All of the above can be made to work, people just have to *want* them to work.

        2. N2

          Some reasons why changing batteries will not work

          .... And are not made of the most toxic materials known to man.

        3. vinnie

          Quick Drop

          Nope, you're wrong, it is already a reality. Look-up Better Place and Renault Quick Drop. Battery degradation is not an issue as you'll only use it for one 'charge' before replacing it with another.

          It will be the battery suppliers responsibility to ensure all batteries are at a reasonable level.

          Whilst energy density doesn't compare with petrol, you do get the advantages of a much better traction motor than i.c, as well as greater efficiency. The car construction also doesn't have to take into account the greater weight and vibration inherent in reciprocating engines.

      5. rciafardone

        Another tech limitation

        i think the same way. Instead of charging the batteries they should be swapped. That would render mute the problems or recharging time and battery wear/lifetime. For example when they start performing under 75% of their original specs, they are retired of the cycle and recycled.

        But alas batteries are HUGE right now (most weight well over 100 kg). a mechanical replacement system would be changing a limitation for another. Swapping batteries is a winning strategy only if the user can swap them manually and safely.

        Of course changing the WHOLE battery may not be necessary, or maybe fuel cells may be better for this purpose.

        And of course that will only be meaningful if hydrogen is obtained out of the fossil fuel ecosystem...

        Is a big complex problem.

        1. Jaybus

          Re: Another tech limitation → #

          Until there is a much lighter and more efficient battery technology, fuel cells will remain the only reasonable possibility. Why not obtain the hydrogen with nuclear power?

      6. John Sager

        Batteries ain't calor gas canisters

        19kg Calor gas canisters hold 19kg of propane, when full, however old they are. Batteries don't behave like that, so would you like to swap your discharged battery, especially the new one you got with your car, for something of unknown provenance, age and capacity at a swap station?

        Even if we can solve the battery problem (energy density by weight and volume, and lifetime), we will have a much harder time solving the energy fill rate that petrol & diesel give us. A 50 litre fill of petrol takes about 2 minutes. The energy density of petrol is around 30MJ/l, so assuming a 20% efficiency of an IC engine, that's about 300MJ of useful energy in 2 minutes, i.e. 2.5MJ/sec which is 2.5 Megawatts! I don't see filling stations, or the National Grid, providing that kind of electricity supply infrastructure to recharge electric cars.

      7. vinnie

        Auto Battery Exchange

        This is already under development by Better Place and the Renault-Nissan alliance and is due to be rolled out in Denmark and Israel for initial testing. Battery changing takes 1-2 minutes, is fully automatic and you don't need to get out of your car.

        Batteries will be leased from Renault.

      8. Joel 1

        Change the electrolyte, not the battery

        There has been work done on flow batteries, which work on the basis of electrolyte which becomes discharged through use, and can be replaced from external tanks. You then have two tanks on board, one filled with charged electolyte, which flows to the the discharged tank.

        Then, when you need to recharge, pull into the filling station which replaces your discharged electrolyte with charged electrolyte, and recharges the discharged electrolyte to reuse for later customers.

        At the moment the energy density is not great (comparable with Lead acid batteries), but research into this technology is likely to lead to great improvements - researchers claim to have a prototype which is approaching Lithium Ion capacities:

  5. zebthecat

    I am shocked, SHOCKED!

    Holy Mackeral!

    Lewis Page in anti-green tech article shocker; quelle surprise...

  6. Anonymous Coward


    We all know there are huge limits to EV's. They're not for everyone - agreed. But if the Beeb had done a contrasting "a week commuting in an ev" with a 30 mile/day journey into and out of London every day - it'd be a completely opposite, very positive story rather than the obsurd stunt they pulled.

    You'd take the train/coach if you wanted to do that trip and you had an ev, which is what the gov want us to do anyway. It was totally stupid of the bbc

    1. janimal

      True but....

      It still highlights the fact that the infrastructure for more than a very small percentage of the population to drive e-cars simply doesn't exist and is unlikely to do so.

      The costs just don't scale to the majority of the population using e-cars.

      I'm not a sceptic, I have been interested in climatology since the early 80's, am currently completely convinced by the evidence for man made global warming and have lived a 'green' lifestyle for 23 years.

      1. Iain 14

        ...and where's the demand?

        "It stil highlights the fact that the infrastructure for more than a very small percentage of the population to drive e-cars simply doesn't exist and is unlikely to do so"

        Quite so: and the reason that infrastructure isn't likely to improve soon is because one of the things the BBC reports highlighted most successfully was that a demand for even the current poor infrastructure simply doesn't exist at the moment.

        One of the most telling comments in the BBC reports was that when they pulled up at a charging station, a small crowd would frequently gather. This was because the BBC car was the first e-customer they'd ever seen there...

        1. Charles Manning

          ... and where is the ability to supply any demand?

          Parking a leccy car in the driveway is going to triple or more the average home's leccy use.

          Being able to charge overnight is fine if you're dealing with very small % of the population using e-vehicles.

          Being able to charge, say, 25% of UK cars over night would add considerable load to the electrical supply system. That would need a massive increase in power station building and need new power lines etc. And no, switching to CFL lighting won't be enough.

          New battery technologies that charge in 10 minutes or whatever don't solve the problem. The energy still needs to come from somewhere.

      2. Dave Bell

        A useful stunt?

        There's certainly some excessive hype in this affair, but both journeys tell us something. Perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that Jeremy Clarkson drove a car from London to Edinburgh and back on one tank of diesel. And perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that electric cars, when the infrastructure exists, will potentially reduce pollution within cities.

        I'm reminded of the way that LPG was promoted as a fuel, and I remember how few places there were to get it. Locally, there was an agricultural machinery dealer (who would also convert your vehicle), and the district council transport depot. Ten years later, it's still two places, a different two, as far as I can tell (and the site I checked for that goves a price comparison from Novermber 2009).

        But the ugly reality is that electric cars are going to be for those in well-paid jobs, and the rest of us will, as fuel costs rise, become dependent on public transport. It was Tony Blair who linked his name to the phrase "joined up writing", and failed to deliver on the promise of more-coordinated government. This lot don't even seem to be trying.

        1. Mark 65

          @Dave Bell

          Not sure how the landscape is in the UK these days with regards LPG but you can get it at most places here in Oz. That may have something to do with most local cars having 4+litre engines though thereby making the savings significant.

    2. Liam Johnson


      >>You'd take the train

      Yup, that is execatly what you would do for a weeks commuting.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "We all know there are huge limits to EV's. They're not for everyone - agreed. But if the Beeb had done a contrasting "a week commuting in an ev" with a 30 mile/day journey into and out of London every day - it'd be a completely opposite, very positive story rather than the obsurd stunt they pulled."

      You mean, say, leaving EV's to jobs such as delivering milk door to door or traversing golf courses?

    4. Bob. Hitchen


      I expect my current vehicles to do long or short haul without hassle. These electric cars are still gimmicks rightly shown by the Beeb to be impractical. There is no need for comparison between journeys if the charge won't last long then one snow storm and the electric car is just as bad on a commuter trip.

      1. Puck

        @ Bob, Hitchen

        agreed - impractical. This IS a real-world test.

        I first thought "OK who would do a long journey, the beeb is being naughty".

        The truth is if you own an electric car that's your budget shot for a normal car - unless you're rich.

        @ the person who wrote "[for long journeys]'d take the train/coach", I must challenge: if you have to travel 500 miles, in midwinter, what are the odds of your destination being reasonably and affordably reachable by public transport - and with luggage/tools/gifts? What if it's not in a major city centre? I laugh at the thought of public transport to visit family wintertime in suburban Merseyside, from where I am in Hertfordshire.

        Fact is, I'll go broke, freeze my t*ts off, get flu from my fellow passengers, get robbed, and/or dvt and nerve irritation from staying sitting down, a bad back from lugging my kit and my several meals, it's just not on.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Lewis you've finally done it!

    Most of your articles seem to have a heavy bias towards something or other that means I can't agree with all that you say.

    In this case, you've attained 100% agreement!!!!!

    Send me your address and £10.00 for postage and I'll send you a pint!

  8. GettinSadda

    "conventional 240-volt outlets"

    Just because you don't have them in your home, does not stop these from being conventional 240-volt outlets:

    1. MrCheese

      Well no but...

      Do I really have to point out the fact that Tesla's PR team damn sure worded that to have you believe they meant wall socket?

      Do you want to post a link to quotes from domestic sparkys on the cost of fitting a 32 amp socket at home?

      Can your household electircity supply even cope with the added demand bearing in mind you'll most likely be charging it overnight when everyone's home and using the countless other electrical appliances?

      1. Blofeld's Cat

        Since you ask...

        >Do you want to post a link to quotes from domestic sparkys on the cost of fitting a 32 amp socket at home?

        Wearing my domestic sparky hat...

        I would typically charge GBP 150 to GBP 350 to supply, install, test and do the paperwork for one of these sockets. The price would mainly depend on how far it was from the consumer unit, and what additional switchgear was needed. This is about the same as it would cost to install any dedicated circuit.

        >Can your household electircity supply even cope with the added demand bearing in mind you'll most likely be charging it overnight when everyone's home and using the countless other electrical appliances?

        A single-phase 32 A socket outlet is capable of supplying approximately 8 kW, which is similar to the requirements of a typical electric hob or shower unit. The typical supply to a modern house is 100A and most older property will be get at least 60A. There are ways of switching demand around where the incoming supply is limited anyway.

        1. FrancisKing

          But in reality...

          ... the electric car would be used for a short journey to work, where a slow speed charger would charge the electric car over 8 hours whilst the driver was sat at a desk, before the short return journey. As long as the driver is doing something else, it doesn't matter how long the charging takes.

          Indeed, car journeys are so short that most could be replaced with bicycles on, largely, a one-for-one swap, if we as a nation could be bothered to think rather more about what cyclists want, not just what car drivers want. In the 1960s, The Netherlands had the same attitude towards cars as in the UK, but they deliberately, not accidentally, decided to take a different approach.

          1. peter_dtm

            hills - its those damned hills

            Holland is flat - they think the brow of a bridge is a big hill. As such they are ideally suited to bicycles and good old fashioned human muscle power.

            Try that in Wales; round the Pennines - or even in & out of the London Bowl.

            Different approach because they had different approaches to the hills they had to conquer

            1. Giles Jones Gold badge


              It's why there are gears on bikes. I don't get this problem with hills, people spend lots of money to go to gyms and get a muscle work out but won't ride a bike because of hills?

              Anyway you can get bikes with electric assist for wimps who can't be bothered to get fit.

            2. Allan George Dyer

              I've cycle-commuted in two of those three...

              it isn't the hills that are a problem. It's

              1) The "Sorry mate, I didn't see you" road users with an engine

              2) The filth you get covered in from the same road users.

              Luckily, I survived, and even had a wash since.

              Mine's the highly reflective one.

        2. bob 46

          someone must've thought of this...

          As battery technology develops, we will get batteries that can be charged faster - that doesn't appear to be in doubt. Who says then, that the 60A or 100A of domestic electricity is the bottleneck? If you're going to have a dedicated charging point, surely trickle feeding some kind of rapid discharge device like a big capacitor would be the way round it. Charge the device all day at a few amps, then release it into the car battery in a much shorter time when convenient.

          1. Naughtyhorse

            trickle feeding some kind of rapid discharge device like a big capacitor would be the way round it

            in other words a fucking battery!

        3. Naughtyhorse


          from a domestic consumer standpoint.

          heres another viewpoint.

          I design transmission/distribution networks, we calculate demand to be, typically, 2.5kWh per household - this makes allowance for the fact that we dont all use the same ammount at the same time.

          now 32amps at 240v is 7.6kWh


          now imagine a street where 30% of residents drive milk floats, all on charge, all night


          bunging more and more transformers into substations to get more MVA is not technically possible, levels of fault current become un manageable fairly quickly, in many supergrid sites its a problem already. By the time the protection opens a breaker under fault conditions then some part of the kit has been damaged by the fault current. (no we cant make the breaker open quicker)

          so more and more substations...

          and more and more OHL's or cables to join them all up (suits me just fine :D)

          what was that about cheap leccy?

          Then theres the cost of the batteries, and their ecologically safe disposal.

          Not to mention the tax system currently treats leccy cars as a loss leader, that will be a distant memory by the time the average bloke in the street is in a position to buy one.

          Also by then the cat will be out of the bag as to just how piss-poor all them windmills we have just thrown up are, so generating capacity will be unable to meet even current demand.....

          prolly a good time to buy shares in horses

          1. Keris

            32A x 240v = what?

            I would like to know where 'Naughtyhorse' works, so I can avoid it. He says:

            "I design transmission/distribution networks, we calculate demand to be, typically, 2.5kWh per household - this makes allowance for the fact that we dont all use the same ammount at the same time.

            now 32amps at 240v is 7.6kWh"

            Oh dear -- a kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a unit of Energy, not Power which is measured in kilowatts (kW). 32A at 240V is indeed 7.68kW (leaving aside that the nominal voltage is 230V), so he did the calculation correctly but apparently doesn't know his SI units very well. Not a good advertisement for someone who "designs transmission/distribution networks"...

    2. peter_dtm


      the 50Amp fuse in the mains box stops you dead in your tracks.

      and that is what the existing mains infrastructure is designed to deliver to domestic houses - 50Amps. So don't try changing that there fuse - you would risk turning the house wiring into a poor imitation of electric fire elements - and after the fire brigade puts your house out; you'll find the insurance won't pay out either ......

      1. Mark 65


        Isn't the main fuse in the UK home the canister fuse supplied/maintained by the electricity board which is rated at 100A - I know because one went in a friends how when I was there (dodgey wiring job) and they came out and replaced it.

        Are you referring to some kind of safety switch etc on a RCB switchboard? Maybe new builds have a different supply but a lot of post-wars have the 100A canister.

      2. Bob. Hitchen

        Not major issue

        8KW isn't much different to an electric shower. Would need 10mm wire though from consumer unit.. Mind you that's equivalent to 4 2K electric fires - a lot of electric! The costs are mounting all the time to acquire and run an electric vehicle

  9. Ned Fowden


    I got the impression that the BBC story came across as 'how does the current technology stack up against expectations of what an EV can do'

    Admittedly I didn't catch every piece they showed on TV of this journey but I thought it was quite a fair report.

    It showed performance of what I would expect from something that needs to be plugged in for 4 or more hours to recharge especially considering the availability of electric charging points.

    I think damnation of the BBC report is unfair, Tesla are just unhappy/bitter because Clarkson & co made them look silly

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Clarkson & Co

      Tesla have every right to be bitter about what Clarkson & Co did, that turned out to have been a complete fabrication. I'm not sure why Top Gear making shit up still surprises people these days.

  10. Paul E

    Maybe the next challenge for the BBC

    would be to see if Milligan can do a weeks worth of typical short distance commuting (like 99% of all car journeys) in a petrol car for under fiver?

    1. Alex Walsh

      5 mile round trip a day costs.. nothing since I walk it. Cars? Pffff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        walking still costs you ;)

        More you exercise the more calories you need to consume, so it will cost you something... if you did 20 miles a day I wager your food bills would rise. Your shoes will wear out faster too ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: walking still costs you

          For 10 years I used to walk 20 miles per week as part of my commute. I discovered that I'd wear out Clarks' shoes in 3 months, and one year managed to get 4 consecutive free replacement pairs as "you'd expect a (c.£50) pair of shoes to last more than 3 months"!

          DocMartens on the other hand would take that sort of mileage for at least a year.

          All that walking would probably help the national "obesity crisis". And as for food, potatoes are cheap!

    2. streaky


      They could test a hydrogen car and tell all these e-tards where to get off.

      Lost all respect for Llewellyn, I always thought he had an IQ but clearly I was mistaken.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down either case.

    Would anyone want to drive 400 miles in a vehicle that can only do 100?

    Surely the right car for this journey should be either a Vauxhall Ampera or a Prius Plug in. Use the battery as much as possible then the dual fuel for the rest of the way.

    Electric comuter cars are just that! for comuting.

    1. Kwac

      Would anyone want to drive 400 miles in a vehicle that can only do 100?

      "Would anyone want to drive 400 miles in a vehicle that can only do 100?

      or even 1,000 miles in a car that could only do 250?

      Unless, of course, they could stop and refill the fuel tank

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Unless, of course, they could stop and refill the fuel tank

        If only batteries worked that way, But they don't. Yet! (There is talk of liquid electrolytes) And that really is the point, Batteries are not a fuel tank - you should not expect them to be so either. and neither should the BBC.

        So the only option for long distance and electric comuting is the Plug-in-Hybrid, but where can I buy one? - Oh I can't. (both the Prius and Ampera due for 2012)

        Meanwhile I await with eagerness the BBC's attempt to cross the Pacific (7000miles) in an A320. (3500Miles) - island hopping is probably possible but really why would you? Its really not newsworthy.

        1. Matthew 25

          FCX Clarity anyone?

          "So the only option for long distance and electric comuting is the Plug-in-Hybrid, but where can I buy one? - Oh I can't. (both the Prius and Ampera due for 2012)"

          No. Hydrogen fuel cell cars like the FCX Clarity are EVs that you can just fill up when they run out of juice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hydrogen Fuel Cell

            Yes in an ideal world.. But Hydrogen has problems.

            1) they are only prototypes. no sale versions exist.

            2) you cant get from London to Edinburgh because just like the electric there are no filling stations.

            3) Liquid Hydrogen is only 10MJ /liter whereas petrol is 40MJ/L so you need a tank 4 times as big.

            4) No one is making hydrogen by high pressure electolysis - this is the ONLY way to efficently compress hydrogen into a useable form. (water is easy to pressurise before splitting - compressing Hydrogen from a gas uses stupid amounts of energy.)

            5) Hydrogen is a bugger to store, at present the FCX requires a shutoff valve at the tank as the tank leaks the least. all the pipes bleed hydrogen so the supply must be shut off every time its parked up.

            once these are solved I look forward to hydrogen motoring (hopefully still like the ampera using batteries that I can charge at home only using Hydrogen for long the longer journey. I dont like being dependant on fuel companies.)

    2. david bates

      Missing the point...

      If you only want to commute and wanted to be environmentally friendly whyw would you drive a Bloated Parody, instead of something lighter, nippier and properly Mini?

  12. Arnold Lieberman

    The Solution

    A petrol generator rigged up on the roof.

    1. CaptainHook

      Petrol Trailer

      I've actually suggested this before in places like Slashdot.

      Use the electric for short everyday journeys, then rent a petrol generator trailers for longer journeys, ensure that there is some sort of communications standard so that the generator can turn on and off as needed by the battery, hey presto, range extended electric vehicles, albeit not as effecient as it could be since you now have 6 wheels rolling instead of the 4.

      1. Tim

        You suggested it as a joke, I hope

        In which case, you're a subversive green-parodying genius with a world-class baiting technique and I salute you.

        If not, well, someone else can rip every horrible facet of your brain-dead idea apart. Maybe an engineer will come along to explain just exactly how inefficient... Oh I'll leave it, it really does have to be a joke, surely nobody could be that asinine. But just in case: why not rent a petrol car instead?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          No Joke.

          See the Ampera Hybrid (aka volt) All electirc drive train and high efficency generator running at optimum Revs/conditions. Much better than a big inefficent engine designed for power at a wide range of revs and a big lump of gearbox.

        2. Francis Boyle

          Oddly enough, Tim

          there are "asinine" people who do just that. Not the rental bit, of course, since you're not likely to find one at your local Hertz but a small genset trailer kept in the back or the garage makes a lot of sense.

  13. Ian Ferguson

    Electric cars are useless!!

    I tried to drive one up Mount Everest and it fell straight into a crevice! Electric cars will never compare to 6L 4x4s.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Into a crevice ?

      Just how small was your car?

      1. Fluffykins Silver badge


        How big was your crevice?

  14. Bristol Dave
    Thumb Up


    "It was plainly done from a more critical standpoint than most e-car journalism is - you do have to suspect that Milligan and his biz-section editors are personally a lot more sceptical about e-cars than even the average motoring hack, let alone green cheerleader-reporters like the Beeb's Roger Harrabin."

    Good, frankly. The world of electric car reporting needs a bit of balancing out.

    1. IanPotter

      RE: Bias:

      Did you not see what they did to a Gee Whiz on Top Gear?

      1. Bristol Dave

        Not enough

        I hardly think blowing up a Gee Whiz on a car program (famed for its hatred of electric cars anyway) is enough to balance out the hours and hours of inaccurate ecomentalist guff the BBC usually come out with (unplugging mobile phone chargers when they're not charging phones is a classic example)

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Don't you think that car reporting is hugely biased against electric cars already?

      The world of electric car reporting needs a bit of balancing out - this article doesn't do it.

      Frankly I expect better from The Register!

      1. Bristol Dave


        "Don't you think that car reporting is hugely biased against electric cars already?"


        How is it biased against it? Because it highlights the extraordinarily high cost of electric cars, or maybe the poor range and performance hampered by battery technology?

        Would you prefer these facts were just ignored? Then where would the bias fall?

  15. Risky

    Reality check needed.

    The article rightly points out that the simple mechanics of where you park the car to charge it are serious issues. I don't think running a trailerlead across the pavement is goign to work and driveway/own-garage parking is pretty rare in town where these cars are viable, as opposed to out in the sticks where they are pointless.

    I'm happy to see technology moving on here, driven by the car makers rather than the government, but in the short term most electric cars will be mostly a bit of green tinged showing off for the wealthy. (There's one G-Wiz near where I live parked in the drive next to a huge luxury SUV).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Reality Check

      Sure you wouldn't buy one if you didn't have a driveway.

      Sure you wouldn't buy one if you drive a long way frequently.

      Sure they're not perfect for everyone - however no-one's suggesting they are for everyone.

      However, most people's commutes are well within the range of an iMiev or Nissan Leaf electric car, and probably the mini's, and I would expect people with a driveway would be able to just charge them up overnight

      For me, an electric car would probably suit for all journeys except our summer holidays, for which we could hire a normal car.

      Lots of people say I'm not getting one until it can do everything my normal car can do - perhaps for some people that is valid, but the thing is, they're good enough for a lot of people already.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the batteries

    Nothing wrong with electric cars as such, except for the batteries. They suck.

    Battery technology will need to improve by at least an order of magnitude in every conceivable way before they even come close to the power, speed (of refilling) and simplicity that a tank of combustibles will give you.

    Batteries are the least environmentally friendly devices on the planet. They rinse power at every possible juncture; manufacture, transport, charging, disposal, recycling.

    Storing energy is catastrophically inefficient compared to generating it on tap.

    1. Bonjiman

      errr kinda need to think long term

      this is the main problem.... people think for the here and now.... fossil fuels are finite (your 'taps' well is running dry), of course there are losses and problems with energy storage BUT using electricity from renewable sources completely turns this on its head making for a much more sustainable technology. Its all about the bigger picture!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I can't help but feel

        that this "renewable sources" thing is a neat little mental patch that people use to ignore the problem.

        Such as when people ask "why are we here" and then come to the conclusion that "God did it".

        No problems have been solved, all you've done is create new ones. Renewable sources of energy currently suck harder than a hooker in a hurricane. And they all require massive amounts of fossil fuel to impliment.

        I'm holding out for nuclear fusion. The sun doesn't seem to have run into any problems lately and it "burns" more energy a second than I could hope to imagine. Would you rather get a similar reaction going on earth, or spend loads of money on shitty solar panels that will collect some infinitely small fraction of that power and cost more per unit than a boat load of your favourite Class A?

        Yes, the human race might very well die out before perfecting nuclear fusion, the thing is, I don't care.

        1. Bonjiman

          i disagree

          I studied renewable energy, and while some are still not great and are expensive in small scale projects, others like large scale wind are pretty darn gd, and i have also calculated and researched the imbeded/associated carbon content etc etc and they pay themselves off relatively quickly, both in the fossil content they use to produce and the monetary cost..... big steps are being made. As renewables are used more, the associated carbon of producing more will decrease further, making them even more sustainable x

      2. Bristol Dave

        "Running dry"? Really.

        Yes, of course fossil fuels are finite, but the idea that the well is "running dry" is ludicrous. As it happens, most oil companies propagate the myth because it allows them to bump the oil price up, my mate was working at one of the plants in Saudi where they currently have enough oil reserves to last them for another 80-100 years at current consumption - IF they don't discover any new oil supplies - which they will.

        The concept of your post is correct but the alarmist "running dry" nonsense most certainly is not.

        And renewable sources are a nice idea but don't appear to be particularly viable in terms of cost, value for money (i.e. power generated per £ spent), and reliability.

        1. Bonjiman

          errr i think you misunderstood me

          the idea of running dry if that there is nothing to replenish what you take.... so.... if you are taking a finite resource it will be 'running dry'........ I didnt give any sort of opinion on how long this will take, there are many reports saying different thing, it depends which you chose to believe. As you very well stated that prediction is at current usage..... energy demand is increasing substansially!

          so yeah i wasnt being alarmist its just a turn of phrase.

          Renewable energy is viable, get in touch with a large scale wind company and ask for their finances. The issue is needing up front capital!!!! but once build they will pay back quickly. they are a well established technology and are reliable. you cant use terms like value for money as the comparision is with fossil fuel technologies which have many many associated costs which are never shown..... transport of the fuel etc..... not to mention trying to quantify environmental costs.

  17. Peter Bond
    Thumb Down

    Let me get this right

    The BBC drove an electric car to Edinburgh despite the fact there clearly isn't the charging infrastructure in place and the car was not designed for a trip of that length.


  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a discussion on this already


    The essence seems to be that the lovers love and the haters hate. However there are some interesting points raised (if you can be bothered reading the whole thing).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      almost like any article about

      XBox vs PS3

      Windows vs Linux

      Apple vs Anything

  19. graeme leggett Silver badge

    Didn't Clarkson

    Drive from London to Edinburgh and back in an Audi on a single tank of fuel.

    Sounds more like the future of greener motoring

    1. Alex Walsh

      cars the star

      I think it was a large 4L Jag wasn't it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It was an Audi

        If you believe the film, I didn't have heating either and only just made it back.

        The Jag was a 2.7 Diesel XJ driven from Basel to Blackpool.

      2. MrCheese
        Thumb Up


        The massive 6L turbocharged diesel got him from Basel to Blackpool (circa 800 miles) with 100 miles capacity to spare!

      3. Grease Monkey Silver badge


        Sure it was a big big diesel Audi.

        1. Mark 65

          @Grease Monkey

          Season 4 Episode 4 (according to wikipedia) and it was an Audi A8.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Read the first bit, then blah, blah, blame BBC, blah, outrage, blah.

    Anyway - to my point:

    A weight limit of 195kg for the mini - so 90kg for me (it's the xmas lunch, honest), 90kg for my passenger (he's...errr....8ft 6")...leaves us only 15kg for luggage.

    15kg for luggage? That's tiny! Oh wait this doesn't matter anyway - this particular car doesn't really have a boot to speak of. And you even have to throw out the rears seats in the bargain. Wot - you want to put the ISO FIX in, to take wife and kiddie to Sainsbury's to do the bulk shop? Good luck with that.

    Yet another nail in the practicality coffin that is electric cars. No way would this weight limit or luggage restriction be acceptable in a normal, modern petrol motor. Good effort (and I'd genuinely *really* like to see a proper success - I'm the target buyer of these)....but it's still a fail.

  21. George of the Jungle

    This space for rent

    Llewellyn would have been completely apoplectic if Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear had done that kind of trip in the MINI-E, especially with a Jezza comment like, "This whole thing is rubbish!"

    It would bracket nicely with their coverage of the Tesla a few seasons ago. Ah well, one can dream.

  22. CaptainHook

    Bumper Cars

    I've always wondered if it would be possible to supply electricity to cars moving on the motorways.

    I suspect it would have to be overhead lines like a real bumper car, because a track system in the road would have to be resiliant to cars and trucks running over them but not decrease grip for single track vehicles like motorbikes.

    It would solve the biggest problems with e-cars instantly, allowing cars to travel as far as they need and recharge the batteries on the go for when they go off the motorway near to their destinations. But it would be horrendously expensive capital project.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Bumper Cars

      Bit of a bitch for the bloke hopping between them collecting 50p from each when the whole lot's going at 70mph surely?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or a tram...

      You mean like a tram? :|

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        more like

        a trolley bus. They were great. Why were they scrapped?

        1. Robert E A Harvey

          trolley busses

          part of the whole 1960s 'break with the past' thinking. Nonsense then, nonsense now.

          Go to Munich, Zurich, a hundred other European cities. Loads of trolleybusses. Mate of mine built a van with trollies so the city would pay his fuel costs, got him a year inside for theft and a 5 minute slot on the telly.

    3. Nick G


      maybe the Scalextric route?

    4. Chemist

      "...have to be overhead lines like a real bumper car..."

      Overtaking would be tricky !

  23. Magnus_Pym
    Thumb Down

    Horses for courses

    To test the practicality of the new BMW M3 I drove it across my local swimming baths. The journey from one side to the other was slowed somewhat by the need to repeatedly crane the vehicle out of the water and dry it out. The crane hire and the cost of first removing then replacing the roof of the swimming baths added £250,000 to the journey costs. I could easily swim across the width of the bath in a fraction of the time it took in the BMW and for a much lower cost proving once and for all that BMW M3 is not a practical vehicle.

    Just for the hard of thinking: a hell of a lot of people commute by car and have a drive/garage. A product doesn't have to fulfil all needs of all people to be useful and a niche market is still a market.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Magnus_pym

      However, if you look at the facts, no matter how you slice it electric cars are currently just a big white elephant.

      The only place an electric car would be economical versus an internal combustion engined one is if you travel into the London congestion charge zone every workday and need to do so by personal rather than public transport.

      Conversely Tesla's own website states that the electricity used to charge the cars is only half as environmentally polluting as burning fossil fuels in the car itself - and this is based primarily on US data where their cars are generally far less efficient than ours.

      Now I agree some people will want to buy one of the new electric cars, some may do so in the mistaken belief that they are saving money, others in the belief that they are saving the planet, some because they want to display their green credentials to the world and even some because they want to help the technology advance.

      Bring the cost of a n electric car down to comparable with the equivalent spec IC car, generate electricity through renewables & nuclear and sort out the obvious long term battery problems and then electric cars will be a clear winner - but that is a long time off.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        "and this is based primarily on US data where their cars are generally far less efficient than ours."

        And AFAIK, they burn a lot more coal that we do, making their electricity generation a lot "dirtier" than ours.

        Of course no one's going to buy an electric car until they're the same price as a "normal" car, just the same way that no-one brought a dvd or cd player until they were the same price as VCRs or turntables; the same way that no-one ever brought a motor car because they were far too expensive.

        The price will come down. They will get more efficient. The price of oil/petrol will go up. More people will buy electric cars.

        1. peter_dtm


          if the price of petrol doesn't go up the bldy taxes on them will - just to pay the subsidies necessary to make the e-car affordable.

          Batteries need to reach a power density of approximately three times less than petrol/diesel (as an electric car should use the energy about 3 times more efficiently) before they becoming a viable alternative. That day is many years off; even if battery technology could achieve a Moore's law rate of improvement (its sort of almost linear; in fits & starts). You may be tempted to think batteries are improving rapidly when you look at your laptops & mobile phones - wrong : most of the improvements here are in the electronics becoming lower power rather than the batteries becoming higher power

      2. petegriffiths
        Thumb Up

        Nice post

        Magnus - a nice post summarising the real situation regarding electric cars in general. I believe that they are the future of vehicular transportation - unfortunately the future is not here yet.

        Local travel and short distance commuting - yes no problem. Edinburgh - a media gimmick.

        The Nissan Leaf in particular is a bet on a technological experiment. Put the car out into the hands of real drivers and see what happens - pretty brave on their part.

        Tesla is a slightly different approach and the jury is still out on it - as it is on all the alternative fuels.

  24. Gerry Doyle 1

    Positive Charge

    Perhaps the thing to be doing is to standardise batteries and instead of pulling in to have your batteries charged that you would simply have a charged one inserted instead? You pay your fee the same as if you were buying petrol and leave your almost discharged battery there.

    1. MrCheese
      Thumb Up

      A stroke of genius

      Which will promptly be dismissed by all car manufacturers because their dealerships wouldn't be able to put a massive margin on the most expensive replacable part of the car!

      It is however the most realistic workable system until current battery tech improves

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Errrr no...

        For example the battery pack for the Tesla weighs in at over 400kg !!!

        1. Oninoshiko


          400kg is well withing the range of a fork-lift.... Maybe you have a REAL problem with the idea (as it is the only viable solution I have seen)?

          1. Mark 65


            "400kg is well withing the range of a fork-lift.... Maybe you have a REAL problem with the idea (as it is the only viable solution I have seen)?"

            Doesn't deal with how these garages charge the bastards though does it? 32A times how many packs once more established?

            Anyone seen any articles on how much upgrade would be required to the UK power infrastructure to cope with these if they become really popular? I'm guessing a fair bit for peak draw and that'll go on everyone's bill.

            1. Oninoshiko

              well that atleast is a credible argument.

              presumably there would still have to be infrastructure upgrades involved, and that is a credible complaint with the idea. As long as we are fielding the "noone can change batteries because they are heavy" "argument" we cant move on to the ACTUAL issues.

              I'm not sure if 'leccy cars will ever be really practical, I suspect they might not be, but a "problem" that we have known how to deal with since before we have recorded history is pretty silly to be talking about.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      what about the small nuclear power station the garage would need to install in their multi-acre forecourt to charge all these batteries that need to be ready for passing motorists?

  25. Graham Bartlett

    "Within a day"

    So if I left at 11pm and got to my destination at 1am, it would have taken me 2 days? Give me strength... "Within a day" is a synonym for "less than 24 hours", unless you're living on a different planet to us. You're also assuming (not necessarily with justification) that he took that Google Maps route.

    If it wasn't for the price, this little gadget would be perfect for my wife. The longest drive she'll usually do is to friends on the other side of the city, maybe 30 miles away, and that'd be unusual. For anything else, there's Mastercard at the local rental place.

    That said, charging a leccy car does suck. But it's not exactly news, any more than Top Gear driving bangers to somewhere in Africa and showing how they aren't too reliable and the roads are a bit crap over there is news.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I still haven't seen any realistic proposals on how the government intends to price electricity to make up for the loss of revenue from road fuel taxes and duty. 400 miles of conventional driving will use 40-50l of fuel, at a cost of £50 or so. Half that goes to the exchequer. Neither of the London-Edinburgh drives will have generated anything like that much revenue.

    From either the fiscal or travel time points of view, the best way to get an electric car to Edinburgh is to tow it with a diesel-fuelled family car...

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Taxes

      Actually the best way is RoadRail. Remember that? Short-ranged 'Leccy cars might just be the reason to resurrect the eminently sensible idea of putting both you and your car on a train for the longhaul bit of your journey.

      Also avoids the "what the hell do I do with a big diesel and a trailer now I'm here" problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A very good idea...

        Up until the point you realise trains are massively crap, and the busy lines already have congestion.... I use the Reading to Paddington line daily, and a few times a week we hear that.

        Plus it's the same old argument about the step backwards in the old 'the electric car of the future has to be equal to petrol/diesel' argument.

        Which puts us neatly back to Hydrogen Fuel Cells again.

      2. Dave 15

        Road rail would be a cracking idea

        ITs true, used to work.

        Frankly priced right I'd use it now... in fact I do when I use the channel tunnel. Very relaxing being able to sit and work or sleep while someone else gets me close to my destination so I can make the last hop myself.

        Another alternative would be for the rail company to sell a sensibly priced ticket (that would be a shock for them) that included the hire of a suitably charged electric vehicle at the destination station - now that would work AND save a whole infrastructure change

        1. Steve X
          Thumb Down


          Is still possible in France, but so illogically set up that it's pointless.

          If you want to go from S. France to the channel, you drop your car at the station in, say, Nice, and ride a fast comfy TGV north. A few hours later you're at Calais.

          Meanwhile your car sits in a lot waiting for the car train, which trundles up at freight train speeds, and gets to Calais two or three days later...

          Of course you pay for the car *and* full-price TGV tickets for each passenger. And the hotel while you wait for your car.

          1. Chris Pollard

            Road rail would be a good idea....

            But the trains are already full.

      3. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Road Rail

        It would be great if we had a decent rail network.

  27. Annihilator

    Alternative lecky store

    I'm making the assumption that most long-range electric cars will stall (no pun intended) until we can nail a better way of carrying potential energy, for example hydrogen fuel cells.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Hydrogen is a good fuel source. However, making hydrogen by splitting water uses huge amounts of electricity. The other main source of hydrogen is the petrochemical industry. Have you heard? Oil and gas are running out. They are not renewable.

      I believe a prototype hydrogen fuel cell car cost a million quid to build. You can't buy or rent one.

      You can buy electric cars now.

      There is of course little or no hydrogen refiling infrastructure. Lots of people say that because there is no infrastructure for electric cars, they can't work, so using the same reasoning, hydrogen cars can't work either. What do you mean you can build infrastructure - so you mean you can put in the infrastructure for electric cars too?

      1. Annihilator
        Thumb Down

        re: hydrogen

        Thanks for the sarcasm, yes I've heard that fossil fuels are running out.

        My point being that batteries are not brilliant at holding charge, being recharged over and over, or charging quickly - all the critical success factors a "fuel tank" requires. A far better way of carrying this (let's call it) electricity around is in a different form, i.e. hydrogen. There are a lot of ways to create hydrogen besides electrolysis and the methods are improving in efficiency all the time.

        Finding clean, renewable energy is the root problem regardless of whether you have electric cars or not.

        As for infrastructure, a hydrogen infrastructure is a lot easier to do than build a high power electrical infrastructure. As noted elsewhere, the power demands to charge/refuel in a short amount of time are very prohibitive and insanely dangerous. Hydrogen on the other hand can be transported and stored in much the same way petrol is today.

        Yes it's off in the future, yes there are problems, but let's face it - if there wasn't so much money in oil and gas, and so much of the global economy depending on it, we would have cracked fusion and eventual free energy by now. The problem is that you can't just remove the gas and oil demand overnight without global economic collapse - it's not really scientific blockers, it's political.

        1. Steve Todd

          @Annihilator - Except that you've ignored his points

          Hydrogen (in liquid fuel form) is bl**dy expensive and inefficient to produce (either from hydrocarbons or electrolysis), leaks like mad (it won't hold a charge well either) as hydrogen can escape through even solid metal, needs a HUGELY expensive fuel cell to convert to electricity (uses lots of platinum) and manages only about a 50% conversion efficient at best.

          Put all of those factors together and compare to battery power. Batteries come out ahead by a large margin, and the technical issues over charge time, cycle life and range are solvable by a number of different methods (fast chargers, exchangeable battery packs, improved chemistries, carbon nanotube anode coatings etc) all of which are under development.

  28. jeffo
    Thumb Down


    Why are we constantly being told that electric cars are green? If the electricity they use is generated by a dirty coal-fired power station, they certainly aren't. If everybody switched to them, where would all the extra electricity come from?

    1. The Commenter formally known as Matt

      Two reasons

      Two reasons I often hear:

      1) 1 dirty coal-fired power station are more efficient than thousands/millions of internal combustion engines (I'm not aware of any numbers but this is the oft-quoted argument)

      2) When improvements are made to electricity generation it is easier to update or replace a huge station than loads of privately owned engines.

      (Kinda like recycling paper)

      1. Anonymous Coward


        But transmitting the electricity from the power station to recharging points is very inefficient - which is why CHP (Combined Heat and Power) boilers which generate electricity at home are getting more popular.

        The battery-swap idea looks the most practical - just like gas canisters. But the materials and processing to make batteries are really dirty, use very rare metals - and a huge base of swappable batteries charged up and ready will (a) require at least 3 times as many batteries an (b) use far more electric as they require topping up.

        And as for the comments about 'why use an unsuitable car'... that's the thing with a normal car - even a smart car will get you to edinburgh in a sensible amount of time.

        1. Dave 15

          even a push bike

          Would have got you to Edinburgh in a fraction of the time,.

    2. fandom
      Thumb Down


      Not all of it is generated by dirty coal burning, for example, in France only about 10% of electricity generation involves burning

    3. Dave 15


      We know we could produce the electricity without CO2. We don't yet but that doesn't matter.

      The electric car is truely dead in the water for a far more impressive number of reasons.

  29. Grease Monkey Silver badge


    "Peilow normally works as a satcomms engineer, and as such is not enormously rich and cannot afford to own an £88,000 car like the Roadster Sport "

    So the whole excercise is like going out and buying an £88,000 petrol driven sports car, zipping it up to 180mph and claiming that proves that all petrol driven cars will do 180mph.

    Or actually given the recharging arrangements it's more like buying that £88,000 petrol powered car, bolting on a nitrous oxide injection kit and claiming that this proves all petrol powered cars will do 200mph.

    While the choice of the Min-E might be seen as dubious on the grounds that it isn't actually a production car I'd like the green brigade to suggest an alternative everyday, affordable car that could have done the job. AFAIK you can't actually buy one off the shelf in the UK. Which might explain why they had to make do with the Min-E.

    1. AndrewBissell

      Electric cars available that can do this trip

      Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi iMiev, Citroen C-Zero, Peugeot iOn.

      All available (from March 2011) for around £23,000 net (I.e. After £5,000 government subsidy).

      All capable of 80-100 miles per charge and DC FAST CHARGE of 0- 80% charge in around 30 minutes.

      Nissan dealers all the way across and up Britain will have DC fast chargers. Hopping from one to the next, you could do the journey with about 3 hours charging time plus the driving time. Say 9 hours all in. Not perfect, but at least it answers your question.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


        "All available (from March 2011) for around £23,000 net (I.e. After £5,000 government subsidy)."

        All available from several months after the BBC journalist did the test. Hence they had to borrow one of those BMW's.

        The BBC actually tend to be disturbingly honest when they borrow things for consumer tests. They tend to tell the lender what the test is going to involve. Would any of those manufacturers have been willing to lend them a pre-production prototype for this test?

  30. Ian Yates

    That's some pretty bad reporting

    I love the Beeb, but they should really get some proper tech and science hacks in. That's not to say I disagree with some of their assertions, but this was a sensationalist piece and tech/science tend to get much angrier about these types of things.

    For a start, I agree with Llewllyn that testing a car they know is non-production on a journey with notably few electric recharge points is underhanded. To compare the car against "Stevenson's" [sic] Rocket is odd, since /that/ was a self-powered vehicle (assuming it had a supply of coke); though I'm sure it was reliability and efficiency that the Rocket lacked initially, more than speed.

    Fully electric cars are not mass-production ready, as the Reg article covers. Leaving aside the cost, unless you're travelling ~30 miles within an urban area, the infrastructure isn't ready yet.

    The only true infrastructure solution with current tech would be to standardise the cells used by the cars and be able to switch with fully-charged ones at service stations.

    I'm sure "e-cars" have a future, but the Beeb trying to call it now is daft; it's very early days. I would like to see more hybrids, though; I like the idea of not burning petrol when I'm sitting idle at lights and junctions.

    1. Dave 15

      er so... can you suggest

      A production electric vehicle they should have used that is available here? (I know some cheap Indian ones are but I believe their range is even more limited than the mini's)

      A route of sensible length where there are plenty of recharging points over the whole route? I suspect the BBC chose the ONLY route which could be done... I don't think London to Bristol or London to Glasgow would work at all.

      1. Ian Yates


        Because I don't think it's a worthwhile investigation; it's sensationalism (or "journalism" maybe, there's a fine line).

        Maybe I'm out-of-touch with the unclean masses, but I wasn't aware that anyone thought that electric cars were being touted for distance driving.

        I've only seen two electric charge points, both within the City of London. If I was going to buy an electric car, it'd be for short trips within an urban area.

        As I said, I'm sure this will eventually change, but the market is so young right now, I don't really see why the BBC went through with this "investigation". The headline should actually have been "Wow! You /can/ drive to Edinburgh from London in an electric car!" (no sarcasm).


        * I Obviously Have Too Much Time On My Hands

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        how about

        iMiev, or Nissan leaf. Maybe not available right now, but available very soon. Demo vehicles are available.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC 21:22

          Neither could really be said to be for "distance driving".

          Leaf is apparently 73 miles per charge, iMiev is 75. Probably on a new battery in ideal conditions with heaters and lights off, too.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tesla? Truth?

    "That's a very untruthful press release indeed. If anyone here deserves the words "myths", "bias", "ludicrous" etc it isn't the Beeb. It's Tesla Motors PR - very much not the sort of people one would want to be a shill for, it turns out, even if you do get lent a Roadster for a few days. ®"

    This would be the same Tesla who insisted on sending a support crew with their Roadster when it when to Top Gear for testing. Oh yes and fitting it with some sticky track day tyres for that test instead of the economy tyres it usually comes with.

    Do you suppose that somebody like VW would do the same thing when sending a Golf for a test?

    1. Some Beggar

      "Do you suppose that somebody like VW would do the same thing when sending a Golf for a test?"

      Ummm ... yes.

      They'll all be sent with a support crew and spare parts. Most of them will be sent with an entire spare car. You don't think the car manufacturers just direct the Top Gear producers to the nearest main dealer to borrow their test drive car, do you?

      I suppose you also believe Clarkson and Co set fire to a campsite and crash-landed a caravan airship?

      It's called "television".

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Believe what you want

        Sorry, but having spent some time banging around the motoring press I can tell you that when Clarkson gets sent a VW or anything else to test it gets dropped off by a bloke with a transporter and collected a few days later. No support crew, no spare parts and no spare car.

        Remember that Top Gear have tested and broken any number of cars, quite spectactularly in some cases. In none of those cases have the manufacturers made anything like the fuss that Tesla made when they ran the Tesla out of juice. That alone shows that Tesla don't understand how this sort of thing works. Now I could suggest that Tesla expect special treatment, but I don't think they do. I think Tesla, being American, don't get how consumer journalism works outside the US.

        There are other companies that behave the same way. Remember GM once "barred" Clarkson from testing their products because he gave the Vectra such a bad review. A PR own goal if ever there was one since Clarkson made damn sure that everybody knew what GM had done.

        And it isn't just companies. I recall a US actor was once scheduled to appear on our local news and didn't show. Apparently his PR asked the station for a list of questions in advance and withdrew when they refused to furnish him with one.

        1. Some Beggar

          That's very kind of you.

          I choose to believe that it's a TV entertainment show where 97% of what you see on screen is scripted and contrived for larks. I base this on having participated in some of the contrived larks.

          You choose to believe it's "consumer journalism".

          I choose not to overtly mock you for this quaint belief. I'm nice like that.

        2. back_ache
          Black Helicopters

          you missed the point

          The controversy of the Tesla coverage of top-gear was the car *didn't* run out of power, top-gear just pretended it did.

          Apparently, the Tesla guys drove the car back to London on the remaining charge.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            So another 35 miles (max) on 55... hold the flipping phone!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            Tesla were playing fast an loose with the truth again.

            The car *did* run out of juice on the track test. The cameras were not there when it happened, so the car had already been at least partially recharged when the section of it "running out" and being pushed back into the hangar were filmed. The Tesla people were there when those sequences were shot and didn't complain then. The BBC were quite clear about this. It's pretty common practice in TV, some people think they should only show things as they happen but if something happens when the cameras aren't rolling I think it's perfectly OK to stage it for the cameras later. It would make pretty boring TV if you just had talking heads explaining what had happened off camera.

            Also bear in mind that Tesla would have had fast charging kit with them and that they were in a location with a lovely industrial three phase supply.

            And finally it's interesting that Tesla made all those whinging complaints, but didn't complain about the fact that the car was fitted with non-standard sticky Yokohama track day tyres to give it a good lap time and acceleration times. If they wanted a true picture to be painted in an entirely fair light they should have supplied it fitted with the truly awful tyres it comes with from the factory. They offer bugger all grip and would have added several seconds to the lap time. As well as slowing the 0-60 times.

            Tesla seem only to be interested in presenting their own version of the truth.

            I don't just have it in for Tesla. Motor manufacturers as a whole tend to try to pull some pretty sneaky tricks when presenting cars for testing. Non standard parts and settings are far from uncommon on test samples. One manufacturer being caught out playing this game claimed that the car was a pre production model and that some parts had changed on the production cars. Like the tyres, brakes, ECU, exhaust system and engine are commonly changed between a late "pre-production" sample and the showroom cars? Really?

            Presenting a car with every optional extra available is the norm, while hoping the tester won't notice and present the test car as the £20,000 standard model when it has £14,000 of optional extras.

            I heard tell of one performance car manufacturer trying to impose a rule on their customers that they must not lend their cars to the media for performance testing.

            Car companies commonly try to hoodwink the media into presenting their products in a better light.

        3. Dave 15

          Don't blame GM

          Clarkson automatically labels any Vauxhall as shit - always has done. I've driven plenty of them and they are a whole lot better than many other brands. Interestingly I watched a recent episode where the backup car was an old clapped out Vauxhall Astra - it was the ONLY car that didn't breakdown and need repairing for the whole trip - a factet the avoided mentioning.

  32. Irne Barnard

    Ha ha ha ....

    What a joke! And you thought a "leccy" friendly company like Tesla wouldn't lie? Come on! If journalists can do it, why not PR? They've even got a more direct motive!

    At least this article starts showing some extra considerations not mentioned by the 2 tests, both pro and con. For that I give it a thumbs-up, though to me it's still falling short in some respects.

    The only way I can see leccies doing any form of long distance is if a standard easily swappable battery system is implemented. That way the "filling" station would only need to stock spares, charging them in a bank in a room at the back. Then you'd park your car for just a few minutes while swapping with a newly charged battery - the station owner could then charge for this service over and above the elec-cost ... making it a bit more economical to him. This just "might" also allow for actual recycling of batteries ... hopefully. Though the major stumbling block would be to get vehicle manufacturers to agree on a standard battery ... which I think is going to be a dead-end.

    And for some reason I don't see any fuel-cell vehicles these days. These would make the "filling / charging" times a non-issue. But no, it's either hybrids / full leccies. I wonder what's up with that? Someone got their fingers stuck in a pie somewhere?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Swappable Battery

      A lot of people talk about a swappable battery. But unless you can get the variance in battery quality down, that means you will have no idea how far your vehicle will go. At the moment, at Tesla's own admission, you lose at least 40% of the battery capacity over its life. That means if you "fill-up" by switching battery your car could pretty much lose half its range. That isn't going to make it any more reliable. Until you get a battery that can be charged in about 15 minutes, and doesn't degrade rapidly over time, and doesn't weigh a huge amount, battery cars won't become popular. More likely to succeed will be hydrogen fuel cell technology.

      What people haven't been talking about with EVs as well is the massive upgrade needed to the grid to support these. Assume you are using 30A, 240V power supplies, and taking 3 hours to recharge. Something like a motorway service stations is dealing with about 300 cars in that 3 hour period, meaning it needs 300 charge points to service the same number of cars with electric supplies. That is almost 10000A at 240V or 2.4MVA. A typical urban or suburban substation in the UK is normally rated between a third and 1 MVA. This means large filling stations would need 2-3 large urban substations each. At this sort of level, you start to need wholesale upgrades of the supporting grid as well. Any fast charging doesn't fix this, since fast charging just means the same number of kVA but across a different period of time. So averaging across lots of vehicles means the same requirements. Liquid hydrocarbon fuel is convenient because you pack such a lot of energy into something relatively easy to transfer, especially to rural areas and the like. Why do you think a lot of rural houses get electricity from a diesel generator?

  33. Leigh Smith

    Poor old beeb

    Doesn't matter what the BBC does some licence fee payer with an over-developed sense of entitlement will complain about bias and/or favouritism. The BBC must be pro and anti everything by now.

    I watched this on the BBC and if anything they went out there way to focus on the positives and downplay electric vehicle weaknesses. It was positive and upbeat all the way through. This was more of a 'look what is possible' rather than 'electric cars are shitty'. Highlighting that, despite being designed for short local journeys, electric vehicles can manage a long journey if you have the time. I plan to get an electric vehicle for my commute (just 10 miles each way) but I know I would need to rent a petrol car for the odd occasion I need to go more the 50 miles away from home. Everyone gets that so the BBC were only really telling the truth.

    Compare to Top Gear where they completely fabricated an electric vehicle running out of power in their tests. Just to make a point and not a cynical attempt to pass of electric car as unreliable, obviously. Oh wait that is the BBC too, perhaps the paranoid fanboys are on to something.

  34. John H Woods Silver badge

    Wall socket?

    I'm undecided about electric vehicles, for a whole variety of reasons, but I think it's unfair to quote charge times for a single "wall" socket. Any house with a remotely modern electrical system can supply a 10kW load (e.g. a cooker or shower) so I'm pretty sure 230V x 45A would be a quite reasonable expectation for a domestic charging point.

    Standard 13A UK three-pin sockets would only ever be used for exceptional circumstances - charging up somewhere where there was no vehicle charging point, and in most houses you can plug two 3kW loads onto a modern ring main without it tripping, so with appropriate circuitry you should be able to get at least 25A from two adjacent wall sockets.

    1. Blofeld's Cat

      Don't do it!

      > most houses you can plug two 3kW loads onto a modern ring main without it tripping, so with appropriate circuitry you should be able to get at least 25A from two adjacent wall sockets.

      The key phrase here is "with appropriate circuitry".

      You cannot assume even in a domestic situation that two adjacent sockets will be on the same circuit. In a building with a three-phase supply the adjacent sockets may well be on a different phase, so the solution that works at home may go bang horribly at the office.

      You also run the risk of overloading the ring cables, even without any fault being present.

      I have seen an electric shower connected in exactly way you describe. This worked fine* until one of the two plugs was left out. The whole 9 kW load then went on to a single plug and, as our genius had replaced the plug fuses with something rather more robust, there was a lot of smoke. Trying to deal with the problem the householder put a still wet hand on the live pins of the errant plug and ZAP!

      He survived the experience with just a burned finger and a damaged ego.

      *That's "fine" as in "nobody's actually died yet"

      1. Dave 15

        by the centre

        What an idiot... electric showers should NOT be on plugs at all - wired in properly with the right connector - I've done that, the guy who did this deserved to die a horrible death - people like him are why the last nanny state idiots decided we all need to spend a fortune getting things inspected - even when we are competant.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "In a building with a three-phase supply the adjacent sockets may well be on a different phase, so the solution that works at home may go bang horribly at the office."

        I'm pretty sure that would contravene the IEEE wiring regs, for exactly the reasons you mention.

  35. ShakaZ

    Obvious solution

    The article goes into great lengths to describe the problems associated with charging the batteries for long trips, though not one word about switching batteries which solves the issue.

    Of course manufacturers would have to agree on a standard for this to happen.

    This is not only feasable right now, but already put into application by an Israeli company.

  36. DrXym

    Probably hybrids will be the future

    Prototypes with a reasonable sized battery, an electric motor, a microturbine (for providing power) and some energy reclamation tech have ranges that exceed a combustion engine and nearly 2x the efficiency. I think EVs are probably quite adequate for daily commutes & city life but hybrids look to be the most promising future tech.

    I think the likes of hybrids that use a combustion engine like the Prius and the Chevy Volt are stepping stones to that world. They're still more efficient than petrol engines but all that extra mechanical complexity and weight really bogs down the concept.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not sure Hybrid is the way to go just yet!

      Looking at the figures here the Prius is beaten by 4 ICE'd cars, even the 1st Honda Insight from around 2000 has better MPG than a 2009 Prius. Granted the CO2 is worse and its not as big a car, but the fact that the Prius is only as good as a BlueMotion VW Golf is a joke.


      1. DrXym

        I don't think 1 row of data is sufficient to judge

        I don't know how MPG figures are arrived at, but I do know that it's much harder to ascribe a single MPG value to hybrids or EVs for that matter than petrol.

        Look at the Chevy Volt for example. If you charged it up every night and drove back and forth before the charge ran out, you use 0 gallons. The petrol engine didn't kick in at all so no petrol used. But could Chevy declare you get infinity MPG? Of course not, and there has to be some kind of formula for deciding a night's charge is equivalent to so much fuel. But it gets worse since another person's journey might be longer than a charge and need petrol for 10% of the trip. Another person might be driving almost exclusively on petrol and then the MPG stinks. Temperature, daylight etc., driving patterns, traffic could all affect the power draw. So a single figure on a single site doesn't cover it.

        It is interesting though to see Honda's car get such a high MPG. Perhaps it's simply a lighter vehicle and having two seats means it gets away with a smaller hybrid engine. Perhaps MPG was calculated some different way back then. Newer Insights appear to be regular size saloons so I expect the advantage vs a Prius has largely disappeared.

        I do think hybrids are the future but it's clear from some experimental vehicles that turbines would be the next logical step. Probably powered by petrol too although they don't have to be.

  37. Stephen Moll

    I would like to see:


    (1) A micro-gas turbine generator module that can be installed in the boot for extended range, or a power-trailer.

    (2) Electric motorway lanes, where a pantograph arrangement is available in some lanes on major motorways, like the M1, M6, M8, so a e-car can get onto the motorway under its own power, and then extend a pick up, to draw power for the cruise along the main motorway sections of the journey, and perhaps even recharge as well.

    1. Dave 15

      gas turbine

      Surprisingly expensive - I looked into this for a project I was working on thinking that a turbine would be the most efficient way of driving a rotating generator. I was amazed by just how much money was required for one.

      Of course what is needed is a clever system to ensure you only generate enough 'recharge power' for the rest of the journey. Now if bartcar ( were to have 0,0000001% of the funding the government seem happy to waste on recharge point experiments it would already have a prototype with the control system in place. I know I've written the software, have the computer it will run on, have identified a suitable test bed vehicle (look at MEV's trike) ... only need about 4000 to have it all together....

  38. ratbert

    Charging time

    If only the e-car makers could agree on a standard battery location/dimensions/connectors, then you could just exchange a flat battery for a full one. Stick the battery underneath, then you could just drive on to a 'swapstop' where your flat battery would be automatically removed, and stored for charge, and a fully charged one stuck back into your car.

    OFC, that would presuppose a level of cooperation between businesses that is highly unlikely to ever come to fruition.

    1. Some Beggar

      I dunno.

      They seem to have managed perfectly well with refillable gas bottles.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "refillable gas bottles"

        Gas bottles are a mess and that's before you travel to other countries

  39. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A fairer test of electric cars?

    The last time I was in a Mini was many years ago - 20? 30?

    From memory, they have 4 seats and a quick squint at the photos in the article seem to confirm that the "E" has 4 seats, too. On that basis, the makers are tacitly saying that this puppy could carry 4 people. So it seems to me that if you wanted to test the capabilities of this vehicle, then it should be with a driver and 3 pax - not just some luvvie who wanted to keep his name in the media.

    Although I can't see any possibility that the extra payload would improve the performance of this car, it would given a more informed view about it's real-world capabilities. You never know, with the extra people available you might even be able to extend it's somewhat pathetic range - by pushing it to the next charging point.

  40. Identity

    All that notwithstanding...

    In future, stunts like this will have to become irrelevant. Present tech means the only viable solution is to exchange batteries if one must make a long, electric trip. Next gen batteries may change all that, but really, what's the goal here? Seems to me we all know that oil-powered cars have many drawbacks, especially in terms of expense and the environment (considering drilling, refining and driving). One assist I have proposed to (and been ignored by) the US Government is to offer tax credits to businesses that replace commuters with telecommuters. The many benefits include less pollution, fewer road accidents, less wear-and-tear on the roads (hence less maintenance expense, hence lower taxes), easier travel for those on the roads and people in their neighborhoods able to watch out for crime and other mishaps.

    While this doesn't answer the electric car question, it seems logical to try every mechanism from new personal transport means to public transport to making such transport unnecessary. Not that it is a wholly good thing, but in the US, retailers are closing due to online shopping and the Post Office is struggling due to e-mail. One thing is nearly certain: despite the fervent desires of certain Reg hacks, we cannot continue as we have, world without end.

  41. Steven Jones

    Robert Llewellyn

    I've read Robert Llewellyn ranting on about this rather a lot. He was on TV testing the Nissan Leaf (probably 5th Gear). Whilst he admitted that the CO2 emissions per km traveled with typical UK power generation was only about 20% lower than that of a similar sized moden IC car, he then went on to say that when you take into account drilling for oil, transportation, refining and so on, that the the latter went up to something like 365 gms/km (from memory) implying that more than twice as much CO2 is used in producing petrol/diesel as burining it. That is, of course, complete nonsense - we do not burn the equivalent of more than two-thirds of the crude oil in producing diesel & petrol.

    However, it's an improvement on some of his earlier claims where he was claiming > 80% efficiency for electrical cars without taking into account the approximately 30-35% thermal efficiency of typical UK power generation and distribution.

    For the moment, electric cars are just local run-abouts. The only practical way of dealing with the range issue in the short term is the approach taken by Chrysler with range-extending IC engines. I'm far from convinced there will ever be the equivalent of petrol stations for electric power. Quite simply, dumping 50kWh into a car battery in a couple of minutes requires so much power that there must be serious safety concerns. The equivalent of a petrol station with 8 pumps would be delivering 12MW at that rate. That's simply a huge amount of power - perhaps what you'd deliver to 4,000 houses at some moderately busy times. That's quite a potential explosion if something goes wrong.

    Trickle charging a hybrid car using "green" electricity with intelligent metering systems makes sense as that can absorb peaks in renewables. Building more thermal power stations to allow for peak delivery of power very fast makes none.

    1. Dave 15

      Maynot be as much nonsense as you think...

      Think of the burning gas on the rig - all the gas pumped up is normally just burnt off.

      The pumps to get the oil to the ship are powered by burning oil.

      The ships getting the oil to the refinery powered by burning more.

      The refinery itself uses a heap of power - from burning more.

      Transporting the petrol diesel is another tanker journey - burning more

      Finally its pumped into your car - using more fossil fuel ...

      Could be quite a lot of emissions. Of course most of that is from burning some of the oil the company dig up so they don't really care too much...

      1. Steven Jones

        Still Nonsense

        All those things you list don't come anywhere near a 200% overhead. Firstly gas flaring is vastly reduced as it has a value of its own. Tankers are incredibly energy efficient - they use a tiny, tiny fraction of the equivalent of the cargo. The evidence? Just go compare the size of the fuel tanks on an oil tanker with the cargo tanks. Refineries do, of course, use quite a bit of energy, but a bit of research reveals it's a few percent of the product. Delivering fuel to the petrol station takes energy of course, but again, just look at the size of the tanker's fuel tank and compare that with the main cargo tank. Also that fuel tank will handle many trips from the depot.

        In all, it's a fraction that's used, not a multiple. There are some sources which are particularly inefficient. Oil shales and sands are the worst, but it's still possible to reach almost 90% efficiency in some cases.

        Of course, when doing all these calculations it's important to remember that there are non-fuel products produced. Chemical feedstocks of various sorts, tars and so on. So if you just take the fuel fraction you will get a higher ratio, but properly those overheads belong to the products produced.

  42. Tim


    What you need in order to make electric cars widely useful is the ability to replenish their store of potential energy as quickly and conveniently as you can with a petrol car.

    Rather than faffing around with odd polymers to get to a manageable two hour charge, what about using replaceable batteries built to a common standard? Drive up to the services, remove your depleted battery and swap it for a full one from the giant, high-amperage charging rack.

  43. Alex Willmer

    Some things worth mentioning

    1. Petrol cars are better for long distance driving. Some people drive that far often (BBC journalists for instance), some people don't.

    2. Mini E was a rush job by BMW, it's very far from a good effort. The production cars coming this year (Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi iMiev) will have the same or slightly better range and back seats.

    3. The Leaf and the iMiev can charge faster than 32 A/240 V. The Leaf can be charged to 80% in 30 minutes at a dedicated charger. Still not as good as petrol, but much better than reported here.

    4. The public charging network is indeed _very_ sparse outside London, and particularly up North. That is slowly changing.The dedicated chargers haven't been deployed yet - so the Mini E was representative of that journey today, though I expect not 12 months from now.

    5. Electric car Batteries do degrade with time, not as fast as many fear. Laptops use a Lithium Colbalt chemistry which has high energy density, but lower cycle life (~300 cycles to 80%). The Tesla also uses this chemistry - which is partly how it achieves the 200+ mile range. The Leaf, iMiev and Ford's 2012 Focus use other chemistries (LiFePo4 and Lithium Manganese IIRC) that get 2000-3000 cycles to 80% (but lower energy density). The Leaf's battery is warranted for 8 years or 100,000 miles in the US - longer than most cars are warranted.

    6. If electric cars get as popular as proponents would like then on-road parking/charging will happen - think oyster type card + bollards with sockets. It's not that hard.

    Bottom line:

    - Electric cars are different to petrol cars - worse in some ways, better in others. For now their niche is as a 2nd car and/or for urbanites.

    - They'll get cheaper, and the batteries will get better (i.e. longer range, faster charging.)

    - Petrol and diesel vehicles will be with us for a long time to come - like COBOL.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      Some things are indeed worth mentioning.

      "...battery is warranted for 8 years or 100,000 miles..."

      The important question is how much longer than that it'll really do? Most vehicles last rather longer then their warranty periods, usually at least ten years and often still providing service up to twenty plus.

      The problem here is that when you get into "extended life", the first major failure usually costs more to fix than the car's worth and it's scrap. The residual value of a vehicle is thus dictated by the long term reliability of its major components.The battery pack of a purely 'leccy vehicle is very likely to be in this category. If it ain't good for at least 15 the residual values are going to be shit (as it has to fully depreciate over a far shorter time) which will wipe out any savings in fuel costs quite easily, especially given the high purchase prices compared to their fossil fuelled equivalents.

      Fast charge = important. Long term reliability = critically important. Given that battery longevity is crucial to running costs (depreciation being the largest factor in most, if not all vehicles) and that they're only warranting the pack for 8 years, I'd say they reckon the MTBF is somewhere around 10.

      This is another point that the swappable battery approach scores on over recharge points big time. You can factor the life of the battery and the replacement cost into the exchange price for a "full" one and the purchase of a 'leccy car starts to look like a good idea for the first time.

      1. Alex Willmer

        Why can't the register stick re: something or other here

        I don't recall perfectly, but I think they warrent it will have more than 80% original capacity. Hence range would be 80 miles vs 100 miles when new. Such a battery will still have resale value - for use in those dedicated chargers, or general big-ass UPS applications.

        The car is more likely to depreciate due to newer models with better range (the same as laptops) than to battery wear. Perhaps I should add:

        7. Electric cars will likely be subject to earlier adopter market factors for the next few years.

    2. Dave 15

      charging network sparse

      Even allowing for a 30 minute charge time (if we ever get there) we would still need an electric charging point in EVERY SINGLE car parking space, road side parking space, garage, driveway, workparking space before there would be enough to go around if we replace petrol with electric. The environmental impact of producing and wiring that lot up is incredible.

  44. Alan 6

    This Mini-E is getting used to the drive north

    Autocar magazine took a similar journey last year, probably using the same car, with more or less the same result.

  45. Calaerial1

    Like for like

    Technological changes have to be compared on a like for like basis and i personally welcome this story as an effort to counterbalance the frankly insane bias and hyperbole directed at the green issue from government and hippy lentil-worriers.

    Bottom line, if im going to spend £10,000+ on a vehicle, i expect to be able to take it anywhere, with a moderate degree of comfort and convenience. As i can now with a petrol/diesel car.

    As has been said, if you live in the city you are unlikely to have the infrastructure available to support these vehicles, if you live in the country you are unlikely to have much use for their piddly range.

    Modern diesels are cleaner to run (Electricity production and manufacture of the battery are like ecological plagues by comparison) and more versatile in every concievable way.

    Electric car manufacturers are basically going to have 2 choices in the near future, short of a very rapid advancement of battery technology:

    1: Be honest about the limitations and accept there will never be a mass market for a car that is only going to appeal to green-freaks, but requires a fossil burning alternative to be owned in tandem to take up the flak when your range anxiety hits, thus putting off....greek-freaks.

    2: Continue to do as they are currently and blatantly lie.

  46. Dave Murray

    Only 2 seats?

    But where would all the calculators go?

  47. Thomas Gray

    Another solution - charge on a train.

    Why not run Euro Shuttle-type trains on these long distance runs, modified so that the car can be charged from the same supply that the train is using during the journey? The higher available voltage should reduce the charge time, and the range is ample for getting around the destination for meetings etc., eliminating the need for hiring cars or using taxis. Then drive back on the train and plug in for the return journey. Such a plan would also speed up the electrification of the remaining diesel-only lines, such as the Great Western.

    1. Chemist

      "..eliminating the need for hiring cars or using taxis.."

      So you think that the real cost of hauling a tonne+ of car by train will be cheaper than a taxi ?.

  48. jason 7

    Electric is fine..maybe.... 20+ years time. And you'd have to be insane or very rich to buy one now.

    However, in the meantime I'd be happy to buy an efficient 1100cc petrol car with small efficient turbos giving 85-90hp and 65-70mpg. Doesnt need to be plush. Fiat Panda level will do.

    Anyone let me buy one for a decent price say under £11000? didnt think so.

    C'mon manufacturers, lets get more turbos back and not just for F1.

    1. Dave 15

      It is poor

      My Morris Minor built in 1959 (not the oldest I've owned) turns in around 50mpg... sometimes a bit more.

      My old Opel Manta built in 1987 could - on a run - do much the same if treated with respect

      My current 2003 Vauxhall Zafira will do around 45 if I am very very very kind with it and put up with every other motorist cursing me.

      It appears to me that the car manufacturers aren't making the progress they would like us to believe. There ARE other designs for the internal combustion engine that are FAR more efficient but they are not taken up. One for example notes that the power stroke can be longer than the inlet/compression stroke because if you make the power stroke a lot longer you can extract far more energy from the combustion. All the noise you hear from a petrol engine (and its far noisier than you expect if you take all the silencers off) is the result of not extracting all the available energy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Morris Minors

        Wonderful cars, especially when they're the same age as me :) but there is a reason they do 50MPG. Weighing less than a ton, with an 850 or 1000cc engine, and a top speed of about 75, they're never going to be all that greedy. My 2.2 turbodiesel Mondeo averages 36, but will turn in 40+ if I stay near the speed limit & don't burn off the BMWs at the traffic lights...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Didn't look very hard did you

      Smart ForTwo very nearly fits your spec (is only 999cc not 1100cc), as do probably lots more I can't be bothered to research for you.

      1. jason 7


        Needs to seat 4 and isnt a toy.

        Close but no cigar.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      20 years

      A usable for ordinary people electric car is 20 years away. Always has been, always will be.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      What about a 500 Twin Air?

  49. Dick Emery

    Friends & Relatives

    I'm sure your friends and relatives will love powering up your car for free everytime you visit them.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Unless e cars can charge in minutes

    How many cars are going to be heading home on the back of a low-loader. These days when someone runs out of petrol, the AA man turns up with a can and double the pump charge for a couple of litres of fuel. How will that work in the glorious electric future?

  51. Sean O'Connor 1


    How about use all the electricity we're getting from our new windmills to generate synthetic petrol. Everyone's happy.

  52. Dropper

    I wonder

    In Alaska we have electricity outlets pretty much everywhere. They are used to plug in your car's engine block heater (a device many Alaska cities provide for free to prevent pollution - warm engine starts put out much less emissions in cold weather). However the other issue is certain cities closer to the Arctic circle also use these outlets to plug in battery heaters.. so while it seems we are ready made to run electric cars, the weather might defeat us. I would find them wonderfully ironic in a state like Alaska, where our entire economy is based on the finite resources of oil and gas. I also want to see how far I can make an electric Mini slide.. sort of the ultimate clutching it downhill when driving on fumes.

  53. YumDogfood

    Cars Cars Cars

    We've spent so much on adapting our society to the car that vast amounts of cash and fundamental changes to the way we live are required to wean us off them. The car is not going away unless there is some drastic change (that peak oil thingy or whatever), then things will get 'interesting' for a while.

    The future: Cars, cars and yet more cars.

  54. Pealy Soames

    The fallacy of recharging.

    All this about recharging from a special wall socket, with a high current station, which you will need to buy (if you buy a high end brief) or perhaps set up by the local garages, is utter nonsense and a fallacy.

    Car manufacturers know that very people will make the time or investment in charging their own vehicles, or the fact that the whole electrical infrastructure will need up grading in most western, is going to cost an arm and a leg, were talking £30-50billion in the Uk alone. Simply put, in this age of austerity, it will simply not happen if at all, in the 1 to 2 decades. The result I think it will stymie the new distruptive EV tech will need to happen.

    What will happen, is battery replacement stations. You drive in and a robotic station, unplugs your battery and loads a fresh recharged battery. You pay for the leckie. Not the battery. These types of stations are much easier to configure for much higher input current, needed to charge batteries, coming off the local grid, than wholesale digging up of the country for individual charging stations.

  55. Stu

    All about range!?

    Why does it all have to be about range?

    Of course they are PR stunts but travelling from London to Edinburgh is one of the least likely scenarios for target customers - it always falls down to the demographics.

    I doubt the journey would have been at all practical during the period of the earliest petrol cars either.

    Look at my situation, I live four miles to my work place, which is in the same city as where I live. Now I can imagine an electric vehicle allowing me perhaps two weeks up to a month on a single charge at a miniscule fraction of the cost of my current Diesel expenditure.

    Surely short commuting, shopping, and light travel duty, perhaps to the nearest large city are utterly perfect for the electric vehicle.

    I just don't want to hear about pissant journalists and their London - Edinburgh electric car journeys.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Because ordinary people, if they can afford a car at all, can only afford to have one. Living in a city there are plenty of alternatives to using a car. But want to make a longer trip, or carry an awkward load, or just need to make an unexpected emergency journey? Then you want a proper car. No an expensive toy for people who don't really need a car. Ecobollocks, just another middle-class subsidy.

  56. jamesrhamilton
    Thumb Down


    Disruptive technology? Battery technology is anything but disruptive, unless you're the user.

  57. Dave 15

    I don't know which editor was that stupid...

    There was really no point in the 'experiment' - it is well known and well understood that the electric car is a complete and utter waste of time....

    a) The range is NEVER going to be useful considering a recharge time of 8 or more hours

    b) The number of 'recharge points' required equals the total number of parking spaces, driveway and garage spaces, roadside parking spaces and company parking spaces - clearly an impractical proposition whose impact on the environment in terms of CO2 and materials useage would be worse than another 200 or more years of the current car.

    c) The materials required for the motors and batteries are environmentally damaging in their own right, cause massive environmental damage to extract, are rare and prohibitively expensive - meaning the resulting car can never be cheap enough to be economically feasible. If production were to increase to anything like the current petrol car production prices would soar.

    d) There are other more practical and realistic technologies that allow for greater range, quicker recharge and reuse of existing infrastructure - such as compressed air or fireless steam - the former developed in France and the second an old technology from the UK industrial scene of 100 years ago. Both offer all the advantages of current cars without the polution.

    The BBC proved a point - that my push bike is quicker and more convienient than an electric car, and that a stage coach or horse from 200 years ago was better.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whilst I couldn't actually be bothered to read the whole BBC article...

    I liked the premise. Can a Electric Car what a conventional Car can do? I mean... if we were going for a flat out who can get to Edinburgh fastest, in say a world without limits... what would time time difference be? It'd be much more pronounced... I thought it was a good idea to see you can sack off a normal Car completely, in favour of an Electric one... and seemingly, even in the case of an £88k Supercar, unless you're willing to put in an entire day doing it, that answer is no, and still is massively inconvenient.

    Lets face it, if you really hooned it, you could get up there in under 3 hours quite easily in a normal car (@140mph)

  59. Z80

    @jason 7

    Fiat 500 Pop TwinAir - 85bhp, 68.9mpg (combined), £10,865

    1. Dave 62

      I love you

      Yes, this. The Fiat/Alfa Multiair system is a step in the right direction.

  60. Bobbyllew

    Well, I thought I should show my self important face

    The Twitter tsunami was instant. 'The Register are slagging you off.' I think I should point out now that I am Robert Llewellyn, or as is so quaintly used in the sub heading, 'Kryten' 'cos that might get more hits. Cheap? Surely not.

    You can see what I actually wrote here.

    I read the article above, I wasn't in the least bit surprised. This Mr Lewis chap has clearly got a bee in his bonnet about the story and possibly me. The other unsurprising but much more important point is that as usual he's got completely the wrong end of a one ended stick.

    Just for the record, I do have direct 1st hand experience of electric cars. I drove one pretty much every day for a year, a Mitsubishi iMiev. I drove 9,000 miles in it, at a cost of around £120. I do know what I'm talking about.

    It is as plain as the plug socket you re-charge from that electric cars are presently rubbish at doing long haul travel like the trip attempted by the BBCs universally criticised Mr Milligan. Read the comments under the article, 100's of people questioning the motives of the idea.

    My point is that the ridiculous adventure is the equivalent of driving a tiny diesel econobox hatchback off road around a muddy, deeply rutted forest track and proclaiming it rubbish, and 'not ready for us normal folks who can't afford a Range Rover.'

    It proves nothing, teaches us nothing and is simply bad journalism. This whole caper is not about electric cars, it's about journalism. No back up facts, not comparison with how long it takes to drive in a conventional, internal combustion engine car with it's 25% efficient engine, it's massive waste of fuel, it's noise, smell and cost. But, of course, we are 'used to' such machines. They are normal, and electric cars are weird and scary and we don't want to change, or even think about change so an absurd story like this re-assures us we are right to carry on regardless.

    I don't know what Tesla have said, I do know they've got their work cut out presenting anything like a balanced view in a world top heavy with rabid, 100% male petrol heads who show levels of aggression around their precious steam age tech that I would never have predicted. Now I know, I like to goad by calling ICE engines steam age tech, pistons, crank shafts, valves, flywheels, all developed in the steam age and barely adapted for the 'modern world.'

    Hello internal combustion, it's 2011, can we have our world back please.

    With the size and influence of the BBC, the story will have thrilled people from the Exxon boardroom all the way to... the BP boardroom.

    And yes Mr Lewis, I did change my blog from 'Electric Car Ranting' to 'Electric Car' because I'm not ranting anymore, unlike the Register's Mr Lewis. I am trying to argue a point against a torrent of well funded propaganda.

    I am citing no conspiracy theory, they are quite open about it. They don't want us to stop buying their product, I don't blame them, I'd do the same were I in their oily shoes.

    1. Ben Tasker


      I've seen plenty of marketing for ecars (or more accurately - 'coming soon' type marketing) and yet none of them seem to even hint that you'll need an IC car for longer journeys. If they're marketed as a car then consumers will expect them to be as usable as their IC cars are. Thats where part of the problem lies.

      The issue of charging will probably never get sorted (swappable batteries aside). I don't have a drive or garage, so how do I charge the car overnight?

      A thought also occurred, if charging points become ubiquitous what'll the cost be to the average consumer? Infrastructure costs money so we'll all have to pay for that (through taxes or directly). If Sainsburys (for example) decide to install charging points at their head office, people who shop at Sainsburys will indirectly bear the cost.

      Apart from being an interesting experiment, ecars are dead in my view. There really are just to many problems involved with anything relying on batteries in the way the current crop do. Not that I can suggest anything new or revolutionary, but then I'm not designing cars.

      The BBC experiment reflects the kind of driving I do, I've covered more than 10,000 miles since August. All (unfortunately) essential journeys, if I had to wait while the battery charged it'd take months longer to do my job.

      The ideal situation of us all driving ecars just doesn't add up, the Government would soon find a way to recoup the lost fuel duty and we'd all be spending the same anyway. In fact, given infrastructure costs probably more.

      Final thought: Some sensationalists claim we'll have rolling blackouts in the UK come 2014, so how exactly are we going to provision for a nation of ecars on top of that!

    2. Dave 62

      oh wait

      yes, some of this is true, it is mostly a matter of whether or not you need the range, electric cars are fine for stay-at-home school-run and grocery shopping soccer-moms who mostly drive SUVs, but perhaps what is needed then is an electric MPV, which looks cute and has the same pose potential as a Prius but is also affordable. Good luck with that.

      But I think we can make massive improvements in ICE efficiency and I think doing so would offer an immediate improvement rather than the painful and drawn out process of trying to introduce electric vehicles to a sceptical public until battery tech is viable.

      Apologies for triple post, this thread is already a bit busy :/

    3. Steven Jones

      Real World Electric Car Economics

      In claiming that your Mitsubishi iMiev costs only about 1.3p per mile, a rate only achievable if you have access to off-peak power at 5p per kWh, you have glossed over the little issue of that car's list price which is a princely £23,990 pound, and that's after the government has contributed £5,000.

      Compare that with a Skoda Fabia Greenline II, which lists at £11,445 and has a quoted combined mileage figure of about 83.1mpg of unders 7p per mile. Even at the 1.3p per mile figure, it's going to take 220,000 miles to get payback on fuel alone (and if you are paying 10p per kWh for your power, that becomes over 280,000 miles. Of course you will save on maintenance costs and there are some other government subsidies (like no road tax), but those expensive batteries aren't going to last over 200,000 miles, and I suspect they are a deal more expensive than a reconditioned car engine.

      There is also a point that the electric car only gets it's energy cheap because the tax on electricity is so low. Two-thirds of the pump price is tax, and that an electric car using power largely produced by thermal power stations is only paying reduced rate VAT is a huge subsidy, which is hardly justified by the difference in CO2 emissions. The Skoda is rated 89gm/km whilst the iMiev's works out at about 65gm/km based on typical UK electricity generation (I've used 450gm per kWh, but that's on the generous side).

      OK - that's a saving and doesn't include mining/drilling/fuel transportation, but then the power generation numbers don't either. The point is that it's not hugely better (in the US where coal generation is used more widely, electric cars are worse on CO2 emissions - there's a Scientific American article on this).

      Also, many of us do not have the luxury of being able to afford two vehicles, ones as a local run-around, the other for longer journeys. We don't have the parking space, the power supplies or the finance. This is not to say that electric vehicles don't have a place, but it's a niche at the moment and it simply isn't an option for the great majority of people.

      My personal hope is for plug-in range-extended hybrids as there is a case for smart-charging systems which can make use of inherently peaky renewable power supplies. However, nothing beats the energy density of storage of hydrocarbons (when containment is taken into account), and the future for long distance travel probably involves artificially produced hydrocarbons in tandem with some battery storage. However, pure electric cars are almost certainly never going to replace IC engines.

    4. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

      @Bobbyllew: Internal Combustion Engine Efficiency, Nuclear Cars

      First I have to admit that I do not like at all to be dependent on the politically instable sources of oil. So a nuclear-powered mobility infrastructure would indeed contribute to peace.

      Having said that, coal-powered electric power stations and the "grid" are definitely less efficient than a Diesel engine driving an electric generator and a small battery. MAN Diesels now can reach up to 50% thermodynamic efficiency in the best situation. Diesel-electric-battery propulsion allows the Diesel to run at optimum revolutions/minute as the battery is a power buffer. I guess a Diesel-electric-battery-supercapacitor system could reach 40% efficiency (fuel to wheel).

      The GM Chevrolet Volt concept is very similar to this idea. If GM only could flush out most of their "finance talent" from the topmost suite and have engineering CxOs, they might be able to become great again. I am sure German engineers will take the lead sooner or later, as Diesel-electric locomotives are quite popular on German railway lines. MTU and MAN are world leaders in Diesel technology, which is no wonder as MAN is the inventor of Diesel engine technology. The Leopard 2 tank engine (made by MTU) will run on any kind of fat, Diesel kerosene, Petrol, JP-8, french fries fat, old motor oil and delivers more than 1500 HPs. It is also used in trains.

      To get the oil-controlling tyrants out of the picture America could kick off a huge engineering program:

      A) build 100 or more new 1500MW class nuclear reactors

      B) use said reactors to generate hydrogen via electrolysis

      C) use the said hydrogen to power cars. Technology is ready:

      (BMW-designed Diesel consuming hydrogen)

      D) use Smartphones, the mobile phone network and large server farms to schedule public transport dynamically. No more empty or overcrowded buses. No more inefficiently used taxis. No more empty or overcrowded trains. Simply request your trip by mobile phone one hour in advance and let the server farm schedule taxis, buses, trains and airplanes according to the needs of the users. Replace inefficient fixed scheduling with optimal dynamic schedules. Share cars. Design driverless taxis (also a ready technology). Have U.S. soldiers protect U.S. citizens in U.S. buses, trains and taxis. If a constitutional problem put the soldiers in National Guard uniforms.

      This kind of program could employ every redundant person in Detroit for the next ten years just to build the reactors or mine the Uranium or Thorium. It would reinvigorate U.S. Industry just as the Hoover Dam and the Tennesse Valley authority or the Federal Highway building projects did. But alas, there very few minds in America who posses the technological and political skills necessary to realize this. Too much talent wasted at pointless endeavors in New York, I assume.

    5. Pete 69


      Electric motors and batteries are essentially 19th century tech too y'know. You seem to be under the impression that these two technologies were invented during the last 12 months, which seems odd, since you claim to "know what you're talking about".

    6. John 62

      upvote for contributing

      glad to see Bobbyllew here to respond.

      A FIAT Panda 4x4 might be what you need to go through the forest.

      I think the point of the BBC is more that the vast majority of petrol/diesel cars are extremely versatile and we'd be paying more for a less convenient product if we switched to fully electric anytime soon.

      On the topic of charging, though, if the tech comes through to be able to recharge batteries extremely quickly, fast enough not to be significantly longer than filling up a tank at a petrol station, then we won't need all the charging infrastructure built into people's homes.

  61. Chris 22

    I've just seen avery intersting picture on another forum

    The way this was charged in at least one place:

    2 * 13Amp plugs paralleled into a 32Amp Cee-form. Called a widow maker for a very good reason: unplug one and leave the other in and you will get shocked, hard. A very dodgey, dangerous, bodge indeed. Something I reckon will be increasingly used as electric cars come into being before the charging network. I don't know if they're specifically illegal, but I'd hate to be the electrician who did it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think I can top that one

      A largely homebuilt dimmer unit for stage lighting. Four channels. It was powered by plugging into two 3 pin 240v wall sockets.

      The punch line? The sockets on the dimmer unit for plugging in the other end of the "powerleads" - two more wall sockets.

      I kid you not. - two leads (with 13A fuses) plugged in the wall ending in exposed pins.

    2. ZillaOfManilla
      Paris Hilton

      Where's the widow maker?

      Link not working for me! Interested to see the widow maker though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Non working link

        For those who aren't forum members:

        Image of the bodge:

        and the other end:

        It may well be you have to be logged in to see the forum...

  62. arh14

    oh dear

    "The Mini-E - or anyway its possible production successor - is meant to be a runabout for short commutes, shopping trips, school runs"

    Actually we invented a vehicle that works perfectly well for these kind of trips over a hundred years ago. It's called a bicycle. Or, if you've got a particularly large load of shopping, a cargo bike.

    Alas, that's too sensible for the UK - unlike much of Europe - where we prefer to sit in traffic jams getting fat.

  63. EddieD

    Do a quick search around..

    Plenty of projects working on battery charging - one, using vanadium redox liquid tech* allows a battery to be recharged by pumping fluids into them, and there's little excuse for lazy journalism in not investigating them for an article like this - but see earlier comments.

    The simple fact is that there is not yet enough research into new battery tech - and with stupid stunts like this pulled by the BBC, who really should know better, making it seem like a dead-end idea there's likely to be little impetus to proceed.

    One hundred+ years ago, cars were again limited by fuel capacity, high consumption, and the dearth of filling stations, and no-one thought they'd catch on. This changed over time, as consumptions dropped and the availability of fuel points increased, and fossil fuel motor vehicles became viable.

    *From wikipedia, included as an idea of possible future changes

  64. This post has been deleted by its author

  65. D Peilow

    A little bit jealous Mr Page?

    So as a reader of this site for more than ten years, I finally made it into a story! I never thought it would be on this topic back then, though.

    Mr Page seems to have an issue with the £90k car I just took on the *428.2* miles to Edinburgh (on my route). Like the high price is a reason not to like the technology. I can remember my old man's first PC costing £4000 in 1983 money. Now look at them...

    For the record, this one was a non-Sport basic model Tesla.

    Yes we had to stop for a while at the second location due to the smaller socket that was there (and yes I got 40 winks), but I can tell you it was a damn sight less stressful and I arrived more refreshed than the usual 7 hour trips that I regularly do on that route.

    I have to declare an interest here: My Mrs is from Edinburgh and I'd really like to see this become practical on a regular basis so that we can drive up there by EV. At less than £10 of electricity, what is not to like about that?

    That 70 Amp High Power Charger I charged on at the first stop costs £2k. £2k! The government is spending £30m on charging infrastructure at the moment and all we have to show for it are the silly jumped-up 13 Amp domestic sockets that the BBC man used in a few carparks, which are useful for G-Wiz drivers and not much else. WTF?!? I could use £4k worth of Tesla chargers and get to Edinburgh in under 11 hours. That's maybe 7 hours on the road and 4 to have a couple of decent meals en route. After next year it will be back close to 7 hours when someone (who knows it could be me) does the same trip in a Model S with DC fast charge. For £30m we should be seeing thousands of these chargers - where are they?

    What makes it even more of a joke is that the Mini-E can also fast charge. In the USA, BMW even supplied the same type of fast charger as Tesla uses to trialists. The BBC man never mentioned that, I bet.

    What your story also doesn't say is that I then went on from Edinburgh to Armagh, Northern Ireland for a birthday party, before taking the Tesla back via Dublin (where I saw a DC fast charger, by the way), Wales and down from Stafford to my place on Sunday night. That's right - a real trip to see real family - not PR stunt followed by return trip to London on a trailer like the BBC. We covered nearly 1200 miles in five days, including two rest days.

    On my previous trip I took a boot-full of adapters because I didn't know what I would find or what to expect. That trip gave me the confidence in the car to know that it will go as far as it says it will. This time it was much easier because we just had to get to Edinburgh. And yes, I did install a 32 Amp socket in the garage before. At a total cost of £15 (£8.50 for the socket from Screwfix, £3.50 for a breaker and £3 of cable), there is no excuse for every new house, hotel or pub not to have them.

    As for your jumping to conclusions about whether Tesla's fans can afford the car - I bet you have no idea what a satellite engineer earns and I'm certain you have no idea what my household income is. But that's beside the point because I will be getting a Model S when it hits the showroom. Why? Because being in the right place at the right time three years ago got be a 5 minute spin in a Roadster prototype and the rest is history. I was a committed petrolhead until that date and I still love all sorts of cars, but it showed me what an EV could be and I never looked back. I expect most naysayers have never even sat in one.

    This site was regular reading back in the day, but I must admit that these days a story has to be pretty interesting for me to come here. I think the quality of stories from Lewis Page recently has something to do with that.

    1. Bobbyllew
      Thumb Up

      Well said, the truth is dripping out slowly

      Amid the torrent of misinformed or deliberately misguided tosh that makes up this comment stew, at least you've clarified the actual situation regarding the Tesla. Well done, well responded and let's stick at it. The spume this dreadful pile of mistruth has regurgitated makes for sad reading, the endless balls about diesels being as efficient as electric cars is rank. I need to wipe my poor tired eyes. Thankfully, time will tell, makes me want to keep fit and grow old just so I can go and look at a diesel engine in a museum.

      1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

        @Bobbyllew, "truth"

        Apparently you did not learn on school that freedom is first and foremost "freedom of expression". Different people will bring up different arguments and categorically labeling Diesel advocates' arguments as "tosh" or "mistruth" etc is neither civilized nor rational.

        Maybe you can refute other people's arguments with hard numbers and physics ?=

        Or are you just a "believer" ?

        It appears to me that electric cars would only in France be able to save carbon emissions. Now please refute these arguments. Also, please write a little bit about economics.

        And please be fair. Comparing a dysfunctional two-seater electric car to a family car does not cut it. Both types of cars must have same capabilities to make the comparison fair. Also, please write about the pollution and energy consumption required for making the materials of the electric car and the Diesel car. It might turn out making a battery is quite energy-intensive and bad for the environment.

        But maybe you want only a small battery and overhead power rails ? Put your arguments to the mathematical test and publish. That's rational.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          numbers schnumbers?

          Why don't *you* provide the hard numbers if they are needed for the argument? Saying that the other side "has to" provide the numbers while you on the other hand are free to write "it appears to me" is not being even-handed, or fair.

          1. D Peilow

            Exactly - the people saying we should do the numbers are the ones that should do the numbers

            I'm sick of people saying this crap. France is the only place where electric cars work blah blah.

            If you take the energy use numbers from Tesla (which I have seen in practice), multiply by transmission losses and multiply by *today's* UK grid efficiency it comes out at 103g/km

            A Prius is 104g/km, but any Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, etc is up above 250 or more usually 300g/km. And this does not take into account refinery losses.

            A Nissan LEAF is lower - more like 80g/km, as was the old Toyota RAV4 EV.

            Nissan puts the energy used in refining a UK gallon of petrol at 9kWh. That's enough to drive a Tesla for 48 km alone.

            So I'm affraid all this emissions rubbish that Top Gear et al spout is b*ll*cks. They even often show a picture of a "coal fired power station" that was actually converted to run on cleaner gas.

            1. Steven Jones


              Even if the 9 kWh figure for refining a gallon of petrol is correct (I'd like a reference please) which I assume is the thermal energy and not electricity, then it will not drive the Tesla for 48km. That's because you've made that classic mistake of not allowing for the thermodynamic efficiency of power generation and distribution. On UK power generation, the electricity delivered at the wall socket is about 31% of the original thermal energy. The reference I have is a little old, so it may have gone up a percent or two as some modern gas generated power stations are a bit more thermally efficient.


              That would turn your 48km into 15km. Ten miles is nice, but a small diesel will do well over 100km on a UK gallon. Even my Focus diesel average 90km a gallon. If you are going to use a Nissan Leaf as a comparison point to a diesel car, then we need to choose something modern and comparable. The Skoda Fabia Greenline II 1.2 is rated at 89 gm/km of CO2 and 132km on a UK gallon.

              On CO2 it's not quite up there with the Leaf, but it's only 11% higher and the list price is a lot lower. The electricity costs on the Leaf are only so much lower because there isn't a 200% markup (tripling of the price) due to duty & VAT. The Leaf also gets subsidised in other ways (like £5k of goivernment money on the purchase price). If we had a rational carbon tax, that put tax on in the proportion of CO2 produced, the fuel costs of the small diesel and the electric car would only be a couple of pence per mile different (at least in the UK). It will take a fundamental change to the UK's mix of electricity generation plus "smart charging" systems to change that.

              For the great majority of ordinary people who have mixed motoring requirements, have limited car parking space, and can't afford the luxury of two different cars, the electric cars simply don't cost in when comparing like-for-like practical runabouts when issues like purchase price are factored in.

              Teslas and Corvettes are not in the same league - they are toys for rich folk with spare cash. They are not day-to-day transport for ordinary folk.

              The problem with Robert, is that he's an evangelist and he selectively quotes (like claiming his Mitsubishi costs only 1.33 p per mile). That's rubbish as it neglects things like depreciation and financing costs on the higher list prices. If he wants an informed discussion on energy efficiency and the physics involved and some mathematical modelling, then fine. However, I think he's somewhat outqualified by many here. Personally I prefer the more balanced arguments that you find in the scientific literature that discuss these things more objectively without his characterisation of those with opposing ideas as mindless petrol heads.

              1. Mark Tebbutt

                combined cycle gas turbine

                Electric cars cannot be beaten on tank to wheel (motion) efficiency or more appropriately battery to wheel for an electric vehicle. The Nissan Leaf battery holds about 24 kWh of electrical energy. 1 litre of Petrol holds the equivalent energy to 9.66 kWh and 1 litre of Diesel holds the equivalent energy to 10.72 kWh if combusted in a 100% efficient engine. The average internal combustion engine is around 35% efficient the other 65% is waste heat and noise.

                So the Leaf battery holds the equivalent of 2.5 litres of Petrol or 2.2 litres of Diesel for approximately 100 miles of driving. You would need a Petrol powered car to achieve 181.6 MPG and Diesel powered car to achieve 206.3 MPG to match the Leaf’s Tank to Wheel efficiency. Clearly there aren’t any fossil fuelled cars now or in the near future that come anywhere close to matching the said figures for the same size of vehicle.


                Well to Tank, fossil fuel currently beats electrical power generation and transmission. The most efficient fossil fuelled power station available is a natural gas burning combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant which can achieve efficiencies of around 60%. . So with the transmission losses of around 6.5% only 56.1% of the energy in the natural gas is delivered to the charger. The oil companies quote a figure of around 81.7% for Well to Tank / Pump.

                However the 56.1% efficiency Well to Tank for power generation is more than offset by the 3 times greater Tank to Wheel efficiency of the electric vehicle. As the grid starts to add more renewable and possibly nuclear power the said Well to Tank efficiency will increase making the electric car even more compelling. The electric vehicle is the only vehicle that becomes cleaner / greener with age as over time power generation is cleaned up.

                The last 24 hours of electricity generation in the UK was provided by the following generation type. Data from my UK Energy i-phone app but ultimately from Elexon

                Combined Cycle Gas Turbine 40.4 %

                Coal 37.9 %

                Nuclear 18.1 %

                Wind 0.7 %

                Pumped Storage 0.7 %

                Non Pumped Storage 1.0 %

                French Interconnector 1.1 %

                Tesla motors explains all of the above far better than I have on their website at

                Used electric vehicle batteries can have a second life to help store renewable energy and smooth out the grid. Vehicle 2 Grid might also become a reality in a the future. You could make money charging your car battery on cheap over night electricity and then selling it back to the grid during the day at a higher price. Although the number of charge cycles a battery pack can currenly perform would have to increase greatly to make it worthwhile without having too much of a negative impact on the battery pack lifespan.

                The status quo will be more expensive in the medium to long term.

                “"Britain has been given a second and final written warning by Europe to clean up London's air or be taken to the European court of justice and face fines of up to £300m.

                The warning, sent today by the Environment commissioner Janez Potočni refers to minute airborne particles known as PM10s which are emitted by traffic and factories and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, asthma and lung diseases. According to the Mayor of London's Air Quality Strategy, particle pollution is responsible for over 4,300 premature deaths a year in London at an annual cost of up to £2bn. (The figure is drawn from a report commissioned by the Mayor of London whose full findings were not published.) London's air pollution levels rank as the worst in the UK and also among the worst in Europe."


                "London air pollution 'worst in Europe'Britain faces court cases and unlimited fines after dangerous levels of minute particles breach EU levels"


                London has already been warned to clean up its air quality or face millions in fines from the EU. London has been ranked as having the most polluted air of any city in Europe!”

                Well I for one put a deposit down on Leaf on the 1st of September and will be trading in my Audi TT in when the Leaf goes on sale in March. We have recently installed 3.15 kWp of solar photovoltaic panels on the roof and have subscribed to a green electricity tariff for years. The tariff recently rose from 9.3p to 11.7p per kWh. I know the limitations of the car which I am willing to live with and work around by using the train or borrowing a ICE car for the occasional long distance journey. Living in the Chorley Lancashire area I think I have only driven the 240 odd miles to London a couple of times as the train is faster and far less stressful.

                Billions of pounds worth of research is going into batteries which will double the range within 3 to 5 years. The current electric cars are a little better than the first mobile phones and they too like the early mobiles will advance at a similar rate over the next 10 to 15 years. The price of Petrol and Diesel is only going to increase as all the easy to extract oil has been extracted and as the world recovers from recession all those citizens of India and China will start to drive their first cars. Supply and demand.

                The worlds fossil fuel industry is subsidiesed to the tune of $300 billion a year.

      2. Parax


        The internal combustion engine really is not the problem! the FUEL is the problem. If you are using synthetic hydrocarbon efficently produced from renewable sources ie solar powered cracking of crop or algae derrived hydrocarbons then you end up with a perfectly acceptable fuel, (where incidentally everyone is still beholden to the fuel supplier - you'd have thought the oil companies would have done this sooner.) alternativly you could use a hydrogen IC engine or an alcohol based IC engine.

        What I'd like to see is these other sources being used efficently in a Plug in hybrid like the Ampera or Prius-PIH, whereby 90% of my motoring is Grid powered, but where this is inconvienient (like 30 mins to charge every 90 mins) I'd like a highly efficent generator fuelled by something (anything really!) I can bring along or refil in 10 minutes at most. To be fair I dont care what the technology is whether its fuel Cell, IC, gas turbine or Stirling cycle, as long as it's efficent and convienient. Im not going to blindly rule out a certain technology because it once use peanut oil (The Diesel Engines first fuel!) or 'a.n.other' fuel, that would just be daft.

        What I want is a car I can use like I do today, call me dependant if you want, but there is suitble solution out there, that is more environmentally friendly, than the diesel I drive today, and just as convienient. I really don't want to be dependant on fossil fuels, but whilst that is the only solution available, If I can reduce my dependance down to just 10% of my driving then I will. Roll on 2012.

        As a side note Robert Llewelyn still drives a 100% Petrol Prius, so really needs to be less perfect-preacher, and more leader. Yes he has made a start, and is more efficent than most, but hes still not as optimum as he preaches. Being a little less high and mighty in his postings might win him, and the better technology he promotes, some more friends. And perhaps in 2012 we'll see carpool in a Plug in Prius, It'll be interesting to see how much of his journeys are electric only..

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

            You seem to have included the production of electricity, (were transmission losses included I didn't read your sources.) but omitted the production (extraction shipping and refining) of diesel, you also omitted the transmission losses (trucking the diesel from refinery to pump).

            Please refine your figures before we can discuss further.

            1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

              CO2 Emissions From Diesel Production

              According to


              BP customers generated about 500 Million tons of CO2, and BP generated about 120 Million tons of CO2 (if I interpret the numbers correctly. maybe it is just about 70 million tons by BP).

              So there is an overhead of 13 to 20 % from hydrocarbons of a large, integrated company like BP. So please adjust my numbers by 20%. The result will be that Diesel is still in the same range as electric cars, especially if cars like the VW Lupo are in the competition. 3 liters/100km is hard to beat.

              VW Lupos are still driving around in Germany, but the high cost did not make them a success. I am still waiting to see a Tesla.


              If VW teamed up with the likes of Airbus or Boeing, they could certainly bring down the weight to 300kgs or less by using carbon-fiber materials. Safety would be achieved by electro-optical, millimeter-wave radar and wireless systems which automatically operate the brakes of all vehicles on the road. The technology is certainly ready, all what's lacking is the social will to make it happen. 1 liter Diesel per 100km is possible without reduced safety or comfort.

              The Lupo does not really use high-tech materials, they simply use aluminum, magnesium and unsophisticated plastics. Most other cars are lumps of steel, which makes them heavy gas-guzzlers.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

                Funny how pointing out errors gains down votes. must have been an inconvienient <s>truth</s> error.

                Anyhow, now you have acknowledged the ~20% discrepancy could you update your blog article ( before anyone quotes/relies on your inacurate figures.

                Going on to the BP Figures, thats good research you've done, as you say its hard to interpret and possibly does not include work done by contractors/suppliers but its a good start, keep it up! and you may be able to persued some folks of the validity in your argument. Unfortunatly as for me, I enjoy driving and do not enjoy the lacklustre gutless wonders that are eco varients - yes they have good figures, just no performance. I'm looking forward to getting a 150bhp Electric Ampera, or similar, Ok its not as powerful as the Tesla, but I know that will still have better performance than the Lupo of which you speak.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                More on the cost of gas here..



                Plenty more on teh web.

  66. Jamie Kitson


    The BBC actually did a very positive piece about the Mini-E a little while ago:

    I also remember reading a story in an American online magazine about a hellish experience trying to do a real-life journey in an electric car. Can't find it now.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Totally fair

    I think the BBC article was totally fair. Facts are facts.

    If you are able to afford a standard car for normal journeys and a e powered one for short little trips then fine, but that is not the case for the vast majority.

    The vast majority have a single vehicle and that needs to be able to travel to and from the shops but also to the other side of the country or beyond as and when required. ICE powered vehicles allow that, e powered vehicles currently do not and until such time that fuel stations provide multiple charging points and you can charge such a car in the same time it takes to fill it with liquid fuel then they are never going to become common.

    You need to make the electricity on the move and that means hydrogen (with similar fuel station requirements) unless you're getting it from water, power cells or something else (mini nuke anyone?) That, or battery technology needs to vastly improve.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      Why do so many people believe hydrogen to be the answer?

      Hydrocarbon fuels can be carbon neutral. Look at the work that has been done using solar power and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to manufacture hydrocarbon fuels. It's carbon neutral *and* it allows us to continue using the same cars and most of the same fuel distribution infrastructure.

  68. AdamWill

    Story from The Register, 17th January, 1897

    This 'motor car' is all very well, but what does the travelling gentleman do when it runs out of gasoline? Sending one's driver to the nearest respectable house and asking to use some of theirs is so slow and unreliable. By contrast, the gentleman travelling post can take advantage of the wide network of establishments at which to change horses, and complete his journey in a fraction of the time! Surely such a network could never be established for the supply of such a hazardous material as gasoline, required in such considerable quantities as it is for the purposes of motorized transportation! We confidently predict the 'motor car' will be looked back upon as a mere historical curiosity by our readers a hundred years hence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One day I will have one of these

      The hybrid does 300mpg

      I could pay for one of these in just 4 years in the taxes I wasn't paying to Cameron Clegg Brown through Fuel Duty and VAT as a result of driving it

      Can't see it being allowed in the UK for the above reason

      I may have to move somewhere more enlightened

  69. Anonymous Coward

    A Practicable Future E-Vehicle scenario

    The only practicable solution is removable battery packs that can be undocked and remotely charged off a vehicle. specialised battery centers that have a universal vehicle battery loading ramp are the way forward.

    i seem to remember seeing something like this somewhere online. you drive up, swipe a card (or have RFID on the car, the car is driven in (to something looking like a carwash!) the car is raised and the battery is switched off, unlocked and removed and a fully charged one loaded and switched on. this can be done in less than 4 minutes (much like refueling a petroleum driven car.)

    billing is done automatically (presetup to the cars RFID/swipe card).

    battery management is dealt with by the recharging point, with HGV's delivering spare battery packs on demand from local main storage depots as and when needed.

    the HGV's would be run on larger or multi loaded battery packs to manage the higher weight load required.

    the only issue is getting the car manufactures to standardise the underframe format for the removable battery modules.

    once thats sorted it should be business as usual for everyone, as everyone pays into a central fund for maintaining the upkeep of the battery network across the country. and you pay cheap rate for swapout and recharge by the (former petrol station) outlet.

    management and maintenance of the faulty or damaged battery packs would be taken out of the users hands and recycled under proper safely controlled procedures.

    this solution can work very well, but it does require major political / business shift to switch over to such a system, and would require PAN EU/ASIA/US decision and planning on handling (this is the problem) prices for the consumer would be about the same if not cheaper than current costs.

  70. Red Bren

    News from 1885

    Mr Karl Benz was reportedly furious about a review of his new horseless carriage that compared it unfavourably with the immensly popular horse-drawn carriage. Listed amongst the drawbacks of this new mode of transport were the noise and fumes, the lack of range, no infrastructure to refuel the contraption with the highly explosive and rare petroleum distillate it required.

    Attempting to answer these failings, Mr Benz claimed that advances in technology such as Ethyl Lead would deliver cleaner, quieter, more economical machines. Market forces would provide the incentive to build a worldwide network of refinaries, transporters and vendors to meet the demand for the vital fuel for his vehicle and incidentally provide a much needed boost to the makers of garden furniture, collectable glass tumblers and barbecue charcoal. Everyone looked at him like he was mad.

    1. AdamWill


      Beat you by 20 minutes. =)

      1. Red Bren


        I'll have to downvote you then!

  71. Bonjiman

    article fail!

    you seem to have entirely missed the point mr page and as such have wasted your time writing a pointless article. simple matter is the BBC were testing a piece of technology for a purpose which it was not designed. Its perfectly acceptable for robert llewellyn to complain about this, but you just seem to be making making a fuss about nothing.... i just cant see the point of your article.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      I think it's you who are missing the point. If the EV wants to replace the IC powered car it should do the jobs that the IC powered car already does. Building something that doesn't do the job is pointless.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        re: Really

        "If the EV wants to replace the IC powered car" - Says who?

        Thats like saying a car is not a replacement for a horse drawn cart because it needs petrol instead of oats. This is a case of different things for different purposes. in this day and age why can't a multi car household have one vehicle for local driving and one for longer journeys?

        Anyway if you want an electric car that CAN go as far as a petrol buy a Prius-Plugin or an Ampera.

        The Electric Car is not a complete replacement for an IC car! <- There it's in writing.

        The Electric Car is a replacement for IC cars on short jorneys <- again in writing.

        Now you may continue...

  72. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Top gear has the answer

    Well from the series of scientific experiments conducted by the BBC's very own motoring brains trust.

    I seem to remember if you want to get across London you should run (marathon runner beats car). If you want to go to the south of France you drive rather than fly and if you want to get to the North pole you should take a dog sled. And if you want to get down various mountains then mountain bikes, snow mobiles or parachutes all won.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The dogsled was comprehensively beaten by the pick up. Other than that yes, Top Gear do have a habit of doing races where the car loses.

      Some of them are just too stretched, the the rock climbing geezer - how long did they have to search for a route where the road going distance was so long? However most of them make the point, in an entertaining way, that the car isn't always the answer. The only real blindspot I think they have in these cases is Clarkson's hatred of what it pleases the DoT to call PTWs (powered two wheelers). A pizza boy on a scooter would have easilly beaten the marathon runner.

      Equally their ridiculous long distance races often demonstrate the weeknesses of the car even when the car wins. Driving for hours when dangerously tired and sleeping in the car didn't really prove a car is better than public transport did it? Again using cars with six figure price tags to win these races demonstrates quite neatly that Joe Average sticking to the speed limit in his Mondeo 1.8 would not win. So while they make for TV viewing that some enjoy and show expensive cars in a more interesting light than thrashing them round a track or on some Pennine B road these segments actually do a lot to highlight that the car does have it's limitations. When Clarkson scripts this stuff he is clearly well aware of this, otherwise why show the miserable time he had in that McLaren Merc? However I suspect that 8 year old boys and certain types of nerdy bloke think that they show the superiority of the car over public transport. Or indeed other types of transport.

      Does anybody really think that the Veyron would have beaten the little Cessna had it's pilot been rated to fly at night?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Except...

        "The dogsled was comprehensively beaten by the pick up."

        Except that it wasn't the North Pole despite the Clowns of the Britards from Top Gear saying "North Pole" all the time: it was the Magnetic North Pole, which is a hell of a lot easier to reach than the actual North Pole.

        Of course, this little lie also allowed Clarkson to bray about how there was plenty of ice around the North Pole despite being incorrectly located to make any statement on the matter, and despite almost going through the ice in the particular place on the planet they did happen to be driving on.

        The best bit was the shouty ex-special-forces bloke pushing Clarkson into the icy pond during the survival training, not because it was nasty to Clarkson (and I did actually feel sorry for him), but because for a few moments we weren't subjected to the "I'm best, especially if I raise my voice" bullshit that permeates modern Britard culture.

        (By all accounts, you'd probably have better odds getting to the real North Pole with a dog team, but not by much: the ice cap is not some easy-to-describe-with-a-simple-plane-equation ultra-flat patch of whiteness, but a continually carved up expanse of ice and snow, with fissures, ridges, and yes, the occasional patch of open water. Icelandic tyre tricks - surely a bit familiar to everyone now - won't help the Toyota regardless of how much the Clowns prostrate themselves at its altar.)

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Something I found interesting

    Is tht of all the free to tax cars out there at the moment, the one making the loudest noise is one of the worst for "g/km CO2" & MPG!

    I'd rather have an engine that is built well and with economy in mind than a car that is inefficient due to the weight of the batteries etc.

    Also is the production of these eco vehicles bad for the environment or not? You hear the horror stories in TopGear of the battery production killing thousands of fish.

  74. Dave 62

    good stuff

    fantastic article, every automotive big wig should be forced to read this and they can give up on their ridiculous "look at how green we are" electric models and focus R&D money where it's really needed, efficient ICEs, energy recovery and "hybrids" that work (yes it's possible). Bring on F1 2013, expect energy recovery systems of various types to surface. I can't wait. Really awesome stuff could happen soon and I'm having kittens.

  75. Steve Evans


    Why are you saying the limit of a UK power socket is less than 15 Amps? Why don't you quote the actual rated current of 13 Amps?

    Anyway, the "specialist" high current 30 Amp charging socket is hardly much work to have installed. The house main fuse is generally 60 Amps or more, a 30 Amp connection regularly provided for cookers, so having a 30 Amp spur installed which feeds into the garage with a 30 Amp socket on the end is well within the capabilities of an electrician, they'll even have suitable cable and fuses/trips on the van due to the common cooker usage.

    Just avoid charging when you're cooking dinner!

    As for the super speed three phase, it's not that hard to accomplish if your neighbours also have an electric car. In the UK phases are generally alternated down the road, so every 3rd house has the same phase. This means you and your neighbour have different phases, and 415volts between you. Talk to the neighbour on the other side and you've got all three phases although I doubt the charger actually wants the three phases, just the volts. I'm not sure what an electric meter would make of this, and I know RCCDs will certainly not like it, but that aside, you've got your "juice".

    All that aside, forget electric until they can do 400 miles (including having the lights, heating and radio on) and be charged in a few minutes... Oh, and that the power stations aren't cooking on gas/coal etc!

    Not sure I like the idea of a super speed charger at a petrol station... They're paranoid about a mobile phone causing a spark already, can you imagine the spark a high speed charger must be capable of?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No sparks

      Most battery chargers of the past 10 years or more have been 'smart', no sparks. They don't turn on the charging current until they see a battery voltage at the end of the charge leads. I would be very surprised if the battery/charger on an EV weren't considerably smarter than a traditional lead acid when it comes to charging.

  76. jake Silver badge

    What's with "feeble US ones", Lewis?

    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. Going over the contents of my shop mentally, I think I have the parts to run another couple lines to pretty much anywhere I might need them (GFI breakers, wire, conduit, connectors, wall box, socket). I know my breaker panels have the necessary capability & space. Yes, it'd be legal, and no my insurance rates wouldn't change.

    I also have a separate 440V 3phase 450A service from PG&E (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.

    That said, you couldn't pay me enough to put up with the hassle of an electric car. Something to consider: Have you ever raced radio controlled cars? What's the biggest difference between the electric ones and the gas powered ones?

    1. Rick Brasche
      Thumb Up

      you don't need to buy an EV...

      you can build your own with that hardware!

      (Which, as the kids today say "you suck!" loosely translated means "I'm jealous" or "green with envy!")

      BTW, if you've kept current on RC (both off and on-road) at 1/10th scale the electrics are faster on the track than their slimer counterparts these days. Especially with aircraft brushless and LiPOs.

      Electric powered RC helicopters (and I'm talking the full 3D capable ones with 3 foot or larger rotor discs) are outperforming the gas ones as well.

      Wasn't the case even less than 5 years ago. Why when I first got into the hobby a decade or so ago electric helis were an expensive joke with no flight times worth a damn. Getting an electric on-road to 50MPH at all was front-page news. We had to charge our batteries by sweeping individual electrons in with a dustpan and brush, and we were lucky to have a brush! Kids these days...get off mah track! :)

  77. Man With a Polish Wife

    Man With a Polish Wife

    There is something seriously wrong with Mr Milligan’s account of his exploits as summarised at: . Parts of the story are true, but the errors, inconsistencies and narrative read more like an adventure story, and a badly written one at that.

    The direct journey from London to Edinburgh is but 404 miles. However, Mr Milligan knew in advance that his journey would be 20% longer, 484 miles. And, that apparently is the precise distance he travelled.

    Considering that he incorporated a 38-mile detour at the last minute, to the additional charging point in Berwick, and his published graphic makes no mention of this, then this is indeed a mystery. By adding up point-to-point distances from postcode to postcode, I can account for 474 miles (the originally planned diversions to the charging points equals 436 miles). Presumably, the other 10 miles was achieved by driving around and around a car park in Nottingham.

    However, for Mr Milligan to predict 484 miles and achieve that precisely is simply impossible.

    The errors are significant given the amount of time Mr Milligan had to craft his story. For example, “It's only day two of my electric mini challenge” on his drive from Milton Keynes to Leicester, but this is supposed to be the second leg of his day one itinerary.

    On his arrival in Nottingham on day two he states as he reached the charging point, “We enter the large Victoria Centre car park (well one of them) and drive round for a good half hour trying to spot one of the two likely plug sockets. Across the gloomy car-park this isn't easy. However, we finally find an attendant who can help us out.”

    Mr Milligan then goes on to add, “Car-park attendants from all over central Nottingham are summoned by walkie-talkie to come and admire the spectacle of an electric car plugged in to a socket.”

    Questions for Mr Milligan. Did you really manage to correctly guess the car park, yet trust your luck by driving around and around and around for that long before giving up and asking, and have you exaggerated every so lightly on the efficiency of the integrated Nottingham car park walkie-talkie network and their military commanded attendants.

    However, en route earlier from Leicester we were informed, “At one stage the display says I have 18 miles charge left in the battery, and it's nearly 20 miles to Nottingham.” But, according to the report, the Mini received a full eight hours overnight charge in Leicester and the distance from there to Nottingham is just 28 miles to begin with. Must have been a mighty traffic jam that morning to use up nearly all the juice in just eight miles. He doesn’t mention it though. What he does say is, “But then my little Mini is apt to be a little vague in the mornings. Just when I need precision.” Perhaps there is another reason!

    Could Mr Milligan actually have spent the night in Milton Keynes. He notes, “And there's not a lot to pass the time at Mercedes, other than a rather fine collection of chick lit in the company canteen. Not feeling up to Penny Vincenzi, I check the battery levels again.” If he had found reason to spend the night there during his six-hour wait, then this would account for his day two error mentioned above. Curiouser and curiouser…

    As well as the range readings, the biggest clue to the discrepancies between the ‘story’ and reality are in the distances given for the overnight posts. Night two should have been spent in York at 232 miles, whereas the narrative gives 181 miles, i.e. Sheffield. For day three, the stopover is supposedly at Wark 350 miles, but the narrative gives 285 miles, i.e. Stockton. There are no explanations given as to why.

    Mr Milligan states that he arrived at Edinburgh Castle “late at night”. He had a very long journey to complete on day four: two legs of 68 and 59 miles from Wark to Edinburgh via Berwick. Three of the previous legs had been around 55 miles, and Mr Milligan had repeatedly complained about “range anxiety” with barely enough charge to complete these journeys. However, they were mainly on motorway standard roads with slight inclines. For the last two legs, the car would have had to endure cross country motoring on minor roads with many bends and inclines, as well as more traffic lights, etc. Hardly conclusive to improved performance.

    I find it hard to believe that the Mini completed these two legs under its own steam with just the one top up in Berwick. If Mr Milligan left Wark at 7:00am (on day two he mentions that he is on the M1 at 7:30am) then why did he arrive “late at night”. The driving time for the two legs is given as just over three hours. With an eight-hour charge, the journey should have been possible in 12 hours, however slowly he was driving, meaning that Mr Milligan would have arrived in Edinburgh at 7:00pm. Why did he need at least five hours more – if he arrived at (say) midnight. We need to know what happened – did he get one, or most probably two extra charge ups at willing garages somewhere – after all, all you need is access to a plug.

    And when Mr Milligan arrived in Edinburgh, could the car do the homewards journey under its own steam. No, there aren’t any public charging points in Edinburgh - so why choose that destination in the first place.

    None of the reports on the BBC web site cover Mr Milligan’s interview on the BBC Breakfast show on Friday 14 January at 7:25am. Here he finally acknowledges the costs and inconvenience of the overnight stays through a passing reference to the many comments received on the story, but all he really says is that the electricity would have cost around £10. (Note: It is illegal to charge for an electric charge point for three years from installation according to the regulations governing their installation, which is why they are free at the moment). Does anyone have a transcript of this broadcast or a recording of it, as it would be useful to capture what was actually said?

    On the subject of overnight stays, he makes no mention of how far away from each charging point is his overnight hostelry, and how does he get to them, and absolutely no mention of these costs. Does he walk to each hotel with all his luggage or do the production team give him a lift. He doesn’t include this down time in his calculations, but by my reckoning he travelled for 87 hours (minimum) for the 484 miles, giving 5.5 miles per hour – not the 6 miles per hour given. Why be petty and count travelling and charging time only – his stops were governed by car park opening hours, so he could not just turn up somewhere at three in the morning.

    As the direct route is only 404 miles, then his true average speed is less than five miles per hour, and I can walk that fast (yes, I know I would need to stop, etc.) and these comments are just another means of highlighting the absurdity of the whole experiment.

    So how does Mr Milligan sum up his adventure:

    “A journey which proves that the electric car can now cover long distances which reinforces its claim on the future.”

  78. veti Silver badge

    Why would you charge up your battery en route anyway?

    If electric car makers had more brain cells than Spongebob, they would design cars such that the batteries could be easily hoisted out (with suitable lifting equipment) and exchanged, in five minutes or less.

    Then garages could advertise prices for fully-charged packs of each model of battery. You'd pull in, a guy with a lifting rig would come out, remove your current battery pack, and replace it with a fully charged one. You'd be done and back on the road in less time than it takes to buy a packet of marshmallows.

    The batteries themselves would be clearly marked with an expiry date, or perhaps subject to some kind of six-monthly quality inspection regime. Provided your old battery has an up-to-date quality mark, the garage would only charge you for the power plus an allowance for labour, equipment, storage space used etc.

    In short, it'd be very much like filling up with petrol, but cheaper...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "In short, it'd be very much like filling up with petrol, but cheaper"

      Oh the innocence.... :-)

      Why not just have the car pulled by unicorns?

  79. Nick Galloway

    The Stig!?

    Surely the BBC type who 'staged this stunt' was the Stig of Top Gear. But seriously, the megapriced Tesla averaged at 20 mph. The Mini took 9 hours to recharge. I have never taken 9 hours to refill a petroleum fuelled vehicle, had better average speeds, didn't have to worry about a maximum payload of 195 kg and if the Tesla is expensive, well the modern Mini is not budget vehicle even in its conventional format.

    Electric cars are not going to save the planet as the power for these little machines is generated in either nuclear or coal powered stations. Added to that is batteries do not last forever, so where are all these spent batteries, containing hazardous materials, going to be sent when they no longer hold a charge?

    When battery technology can be replensihed as readily as a petroleum fuelled vehicle, then we have a chance. In the interim these novelty options are just going to put more strain on the exisiting electrical infrastructure, put more pollutants into the environment and will make no significant difference to atmospheric gas emissions, simply deferring them to power stations.

    Right then, now I have that out my system I will get on my bike to the pub!

  80. purewood
    Gates Halo

    Heads out of the sand please...

    Well... if we all had to wait for our petrol to be refined on the spot .. that'd be cool

    Whats all this bs about waiting for a charge? Do we really think we'll be stacked up twelve deep waiting for an 6 hour charge?

    If I were a venture capitalist I'd be waiting for the guys who are laying the groundwork for a nationwide network of battery swapout sites and facilities capable of charging 500 batteries at a crack.

    Someones going to do this up right and come out counting his bucks with a smile.


  81. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Impractical for now

    I'd love an EV, considerably less mechanically complex that a petrol vehicle, driving characteristics set in software etc. lots of geekery available (plenty of info out there on modding the Toyota Pious)

    Problem for me is that the range isn't good enough (I can be required to do a round trip of over 300 miles a day for work), the charge times are too long (I can also be called out day or night so a half charged EV is useless to me) and they cost too damn much at the moment which I can't see dropping any time soon (If they get a foothold the government will tax the living daylights out of them to cover the loss of fuel duty)

    Even then, I don't actually believe that battery cars are the solution, we need to move to hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen IC engines or even hydrogen hybrids...

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bad is good

    "it would remain impossible to charge up one's e-car so fast using home wiring".

    As opposed to filling up your normal car at home using your home petrol pump? Seems to me that the ability to (albeit slowly) refuel your car without having to drive to the nearest garage would be a benefit rather than the problem that the article suggests.

    I also wonder why you would have to install a smart meter at every parking place (work+home) instead of just putting it in the car (and thus halving the number needed).

    1. jake Silver badge

      @jim 35

      "As opposed to filling up your normal car at home using your home petrol pump?"

      Uh ... I have five such "pumps" on this property alone ... Standard "street legal" gasoline (petrol) and diesel, farm-only gasoline and diesel, and 100LL av-gas[1]. They range from 2500 to 250 gallon capacity ... Anyone who has the space and zoning and does NOT purchase and store fuel in bulk when the price is down is wasting large quantities of money ... Especially when you can get the farm subsidy ;-)

      [1] Two of the aircraft use standard gasoline, only the A152 & a couple of the milder[2] "track-only" (wink, wink) cars & bikes use the LL100 ...

      [2] The faster critters run something slightly more expensive ... I seldom have more than a couple dozen gallons of that on hand, though, as it's mixed to order according to air temperature, pressure & humidity, and track conditions ... ain't computers wonderful? ;-)

  83. John 62

    make road tax worthwhile

    'leccy trains either use diesel or overhead lines/third rail, so why not supply electricity under stretches of motorway so the cars can use induction charging, a bit like in F-Zero.

  84. Peter 76

    Peter 76

    Yes a little unfair test of BMWs knee jeck cobbled together design.

    The Tesla is better, but still based on what could be done, when it was first designed. Todays traction batteries are far better.

    The Prius is such old technology its a joke. The most advance electric car at the moment is the GM Volt on so many levels. The battery thermal management is key to range and longlife.

    The transmision is very clever with 2 electric motors that mainly move the car and a petrol IC engine that can drive the small electric motor as a generator or drive through it, to assist in moving the car. Can do 25/50 miles on electric, with full performance to 70mph 0 to 60 mph 8.5 sec on electric only. 4 seats plus a boot. 300 mile range on petrol, 9 usgal tank. Cost about $42000 dollars. GM expects to build 25,000 in 2011, on sale now.

    This is what can really be achieved in a BMW Mini shell.

    Not built by a car company, but a little inovative electric motor manufacture.

    A lot of rubbish written about charging sockets.

    In the UK the sockets are rated at 100% so a 32amp,

    which is a standard ring main rating can deliver this 100% of the time.

    Not a big deal. All UK plugs are rated at 100% duty cycle. US are 80%

    so must be derated when used for long term loads, so example a 20 amp is only 16amp

    40 is 32.

    Also the US has bi phase power on 240 volts, so need double pole ganged breakers similar

    to continental Europe . Also the breakers are there only to protect the wiring not the charger, it should have its on breakers built in.

    What other rubbish has been mentioned.

    Hydrogen, what a dead duck, do the energy audit, 12.5% overall well to wheel.

    Low power density, difficult to store/transport and so much clean water would be needed

    to make it there would be none to make tea with. Very poor way to transport energy about.

    Electrons down a piece of wire is better with low energy losses.

    So what is needed to make electric cars 100% main stream.

    Petrol/Diesel is about 12 kw/kg but ICE is only 20/25% so realy means 3kw/kg.

    So a battery is needed that can store about 2.5 to 3.5kw/kg as

    electric motors are at least 90% efficent.

    Enter the Lithium Air battery at 10kw/kg, achievable 2.5kw/kg.

    This is the holy grail of batteries, low cost fast charge or casset change of Lithium for instant charge. About 15 years away.

    So why do we need to go electric, what would happen if there was no oil tomorrow.

    Everything would come to a stop, people would starve to death, look at the last

    fuel depot blockade that was getting serious at the end.

    Once we are all electric and Lithium is not a rare metal, power can come

    from many sources and with a Europe wide High voltage DC super grid being planned. Electricity could be moved long distances with low losses, so will come from solar stations from around the Med. Iceland will generate from volcanic heat sources and export on under sea cables plus Nuclear from around Europe and we may have cracked nuclear fusion by 2020. See Focused Nuclear Fusion. 2050 will be a whole new world you never dreamed of, but we have to get off oil to do it.

    So its not about MPG its about energy security and being masters of our own future and not being controled or dictated to by the Middle East or Russia.

    1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

      @Peter 76: Meep. Wrong Units. Wrong Numbers.

      The SI Unit kW measures Power, not Energy. The Si Unit Ws or Joule measures Energy. One litre of Diesel is between 30 and 40 Million Joule of Energy, if burned with Oxygen. So 12 kWh/litre seems Ok for Diesel, except for the Units.

      I would dispute your Diesel Engine efficiency numbers, though.

      According to

      "The MAN S80ME-C7 low speed diesel engines use 155 gram fuel per kWh for an overall energy conversion efficiency of 54.4 percent, which is the highest conversion of fuel into power by any internal or external combustion engine."

      Diesel engines do not need to drive the wheels directly but can store energy in a small battery or flywheel and be turned off when the latter is filled. This allows for the most efficient revolutions per minute and also for recovery of energy while braking.

      Also, what is the volumetric energy density of batteries ? (measured in Joule/m^3 ?). Apparently very bad for the Tesla car.

  85. Anonymous Coward

    Replaceable batteries are not the solution

    Suggestions that a simple battery swap is the way to go fail to take into account so many things:

    A standard filling station has tens of 1000s of litres of fuel available, and with 4-8 pumps can easily cope with 500-1000 vehicles per day. Think of the space required to store enough batteries, at perhaps 250kg a time, to meet that demand.

    Changing such a battery wouldn't be a self-service operation, the filling station would resemble a small warehouse with forklifts, and staff to manoeuvre them, with the attendant costs, not to mention the control system to work out which batteries were ready to be installed.

    If it takes a 50/70Amp point to charge your car at home, then what do garages with 500 batteries on charge need? Either major grid upgrade in industrial areas, or a small (diesel?) power station in the forecourt for rural stations, which rather defeats the object.

    In any case, this would only work if all batteries were the same size and type, which would put a major, and possibly unacceptable, constraint on vehicle designers. One battery to fit compact city cars, MPVs and SUVs? No chance. Will we end up with the Apple/Microsoft situation, where you buy a Ford/Toyota/Renault and then have to buy services from the Ford/Toyota/Renault filling stations, at their prices?

    Consider the effect of future changes. 5 years down the line one car maker comes up with a new more efficient battery tech, which allows smaller batteries with different charging needs. Who pays to upgrade all the filling stations? It would make the change to digital TV look like a picnic. Even 50-year-old IC cars can still fill up at a modern petrol station, at worst with the addition of a small bottle of additive to compensate for unleaded fuel. Won't happen for batteries.

    Then what about the environmental aspect of making all the spare batteries and disposing of the worn-out ones? And what do we do with the 5- or 10-old cars which need "old-style" batteries, once the filling stations have switched to the latest model? We can't ship them all to 3rd-world schoolkids like we do with our PCs and mobile phones.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Replaceable batteries are not the solution

      For you and also everyone saying "Gosh, blimey! Here's an idea: why not have battery exchange points?!" stuff like battery exchange is already being done in places like Japan. For example:

      But yes, there's a fair amount of standardisation work and future-proofing required.

    2. phil8192

      It's simpler than that.

      50-year-old internal combustion cars don't even need a bottle of additive. All they need is a rework of their cylinder heads to install hardened valve seats and they're good to go on modern unleaded fuel. My brother makes his living doing that.

  86. Nya

    Ideal Top Gear Challenge!

    When looking at 4 and a bit days to do London to Edinburgh, that's actually getting into push bike territory....why does this sound like a Top Gear like race, heck could also add Capt Slow in on taking busses the same distance. Crap EV polution box v Bike v Bus...I dunno, it would be interesting to see.

    And why the hell do people thing electric cars are green? The batteries and life expectancy of them are so damn awful they make a Hummer look green in comparison.

  87. TRT Silver badge

    Don't be ridiculous

    There are dozens of electric vehicles make the journey from London to Edinburgh every day, and in a lot less time. They're called "trains".

    1. D Peilow


      Exactly, I use them regularly - and I hope they pull their finger out and build HS2.

      But there are times when you just need to carry stuff or take a car up there and for that reason I want to see a few thousand spent on EV fast chargers too.

  88. Robredz

    Eco transport

    Where is Mad Moonbat (Monbiot of the Grauniad) when you need his comments?

    The whole exercise was pointless, as these vehicles were both used outside their design paramaters and failed dismally. the same result would have been acheived if they used a Nissan Leaf imho.. None of these vehicles are Inter city expresses, and the only real option would have been a Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt but both are unavailable I think at present..

    Now if some battery company would like to sponsor me, I have an idea for an Intercity express...........

  89. Criptonite

    Steam Engines

    I only want to make one point. All alternatives to the internal combustion engine can safely be classified as "emerging technology". Most sensible people realise that the vehicles produced are not yet commercially viable alternatives to ICE. The closest we've come so far are Hybrids.

    Just because they are not yet market ready, this doesn't mean we should be slagging them off because they don't compete with a technology that has been perfected and improved upon for over 100 years.

    Currently, EVs and other alternative power source vehicles have done 2 things:

    1) pushed at the boundaries of new technology that, provided funding is put in place, should eventually produce a vehicle that will be become de facto standard in personal transport. That doesn't mean it will be next week, but in the medium term, life will be a little different;

    2) push convention motor vehicles to become more efficient in their use of fossil fuels. I also accept that there are other reasons for this, but whatever your take on "climate change" fuel efficiency is a good thing, not least for your own wallet.

    I am please that Milligan wrote: "I'm sure Stevenson's Rocket didn't go very fast the first time he tried it," because this exactly encapsulates the current position of the technology. Just like the Rocket vs the Flying Scotsman, it's a start, but it isn't the finish article.

  90. SteveK


    Surely the solution is to fit the roads with a pair of metal strips and just feed power to them that way. Then in the event of an accident you could just cut the power to the road and everyone stops... No worries about fitting sockets, or even making potentially hazardous batteries that the cars have to waste power lugging around!

  91. Bilgepipe
    Thumb Down


    "It is, as even Milligan admits, really a bit unfair to the Mini-E to drive it to Edinburgh at midwinter - this says nothing about the car's performance as it was designed and intended to be used"

    Your article says a lot more on the subject than either side of this little spat - specifically that electric cars are completely impractical for the overwhelming majority of people, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

  92. Sam Therapy
    Thumb Down

    Hold on a minute...

    Electric cars use, erm, electricity, right?

    And the electricity is usually generated by, let's see...

    Oh yeah, burning fossil fuels.

    Well, that's knackered that idea, then.

    1. Sam Tana

      re: Hold on a minute...

      There are many ways of generating electricity, only some of which involve burning fossil fuels. And even if you do use that method, burning fossil fuel in a power station to generate electricity is far more efficient than burning it in a car engine to generate movement.

      Electric vehicles are very practical on short (<100 mile) journeys already, and making them practical on longer journeys is a relatively simple, although necessarily expensive, matter of improving infrastructure and the ability to "hot swap" from discharged batteries to a fully charged pack.

      Not beyond the wit of man, surely?

  93. Andy E

    Just visiting - can I plug my car in?

    I have been looking at e-cars to see if they would suit my usual travel requirements. Most of the time I have a daily six mile drive to the train station. Quite often I have to go round the M25 on a round trip of 180 miles to visit a customer. Less often I visit friends and family which did include trips to the Scottish borders - a trip of 340 miles.

    With the longer journeys it would make sense to charge the car while I'm there. It would be nice if the people I'm visiting could pay for the electricity but how much would it cost them? I might not be invited back once they got the electric bill.

    1. D Peilow

      Exactly what I did

      It cost me £4 to fill up. I offered to give my uncle a fiver but he didn't want it.

      1. The Commenter formally known as Matt


        Down our road it is rare to get a parking space outside your house, a 100m cable running down the road would probably be classed as a trip hazard by hse, or class as fair game for the local chavs.

        And if electric cars do take off in any major way the govt will find a way to charge for the loss of fuel duty.

        Other than that, love it!

        (Did anyone else see the guy on the BBC comments who boasted that his 80+ grand tesla was cheap to charge compared to petrol! lol)

  94. Outcast
    Paris Hilton


    So make roads like Scalextric tracks. That'll make sure the buggers are in the correct lane at the correct time and if they aint then they'll wait for the appropriate correction point !!

    Or... Use that electric toothbrush charging idea. iirc Tesla ( Nikolai) discovered a way to send a charge over the airways.

    Where's the electric shock icon ? Ok I'll use Paris instead as she probably uses something rechargable !!

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fast charging

    Some of the information about charging is out of date. Nissan have already announced a fast charge for the LEAF which will take it from flat to 80% charge in less than half an hour.

  96. Anonymous Coward

    Just say NO to battery cars

    It's not ready for prime time. The average person is not going to want to pay the premium for the inconvenience of the battery system and the short life of the batteries. Throw that on top of the short run time (of the more "affordable" mini) and you have a losing proposition on your hands.

    No thanks.

  97. psimon

    Wrong Tech

    UK already has electric vehicles suited to the task - trains. Not sure if that route is electrified, but I remember doing Edinburgh-London in about 4 hours, most of that spent reading or sleeping. Now, if I could have rented an EV at the station, that would have been practical.

  98. VulcanV5

    Cost. Cost. Cost.

    The electric car is no different to any other piece of emergent technology. It hasn't reached the full potential promised on its behalf. It's only purchasable by early adopters who once paid small fortunes for LCD TVs and Personal Computers. Doing "test runs" now involving activities way beyond existing performance parameters is daft. Conclusions:

    1) BBC 'journalism' is, as usual, dumbed down, inept, and amateurish.

    2) Tesla's existing PR operation is much too combustible for the company's own longterm comfort.

    3) HM Government sees the motorist as a cash cow and always will. Loss of tax revenue from conventional fuels in the event of a massive take-up of electrically powered vehicles will be more than compensated for by some kind of tax on electricity, or batteries, or anything else upon which an electric car depends.

    4) The cost of electric cars is going to have to fall a lo-nnn-g way much the same as the things are going to have to be able to travel a lo-nn-g way before they're remotely appealing to the average family motorist. (Into which category, I fall. We switched from a beloved petrol-guzzling Omega V6 auto in 2008 to an 18-month-old Passat turbo diesel with DSG. In town, the Passat gets 36mpg. On an easy rural run, 52mpg. On long-haul French autoroutes at 80+mph, the Passat gets 46mpg. For a full-size powerful automatic saloon -- which isn't Blue Motion or any other kind of Motion -- we don't think that's bad at all. Our purchase price? £13,000.

    I haven't time to work out the true economics of an electric car, but factoring in purchase cost and Gawd knows what else these things seem to need, they don't come within a mile of a secondhand Volkswagen saloon.

    When they do, that'll maybe time for the BBC to do another report. In 2021, perhaps?

    1. Mr Mark V Thomas

      Re: Cost, Cost, Cost...

      I suspect 2013, when the BMW Megacity' electric vehicle is due to be launched. in Europe..

      Unlike the "Proof of Concept" Mini-e, which is a standard Mini which replaces the existing "drive train" with a battery pack & electric drive train, & the Tesla roadster, which is heavily based on the Lotus Exige's design, Megacity is a totally new design, although like Tesla's Roadster, it heavily uses carbonfibre, to reduce it's overall mass...

      I do agree with you, on the running costs issue though...

      So come 2013, will someone be reviewing BMW Megacity, vs new Tesla's Model S....?

      As for Tesla's response to the BBC test, has anyone challenged them to test their Roadster, Vs it's "parent vehicle", the Lotus Exige over the same distance,under realistic operating conditions, or will it be far more likely, that genetically engineered porcine lifeforms with integral scramjets, will achieve Mach 3 flight first...?

      1. Michael 28

        BMW Megacity 1.0

        .....where are the Judge Dredd fans when you need 'em! fpwah!

        (I'll be back!)

        1. Mr Mark V Thomas

          Re: Megacity 1.0

          That's what I thought, when I posted the details of BMW's "Megacity" brand, thought I suspect the owners of 2000 AD, probably will be quietly paid (In a NDA manner, of course), for the use of the word, when the Megacity brand is launched by BMW, sometime in 2013....

          Incidentally, Megacity will never be sold, but will only be available on lease, due to the perceived costs of the vehicle and related battery pack, in addition to reportedly draconian, future European recycling requirements, for motor vehicles, which put the onus of recycling on the manufacturer, not the purchaser...

  99. Fading

    Network of Wardenclyffe Towers anyone?

    So for EVs carrying all the energy is a problem. Filling up is a problem. Why not transmit the energy as you need it?

    Nikola Tesla had the right idea.

  100. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a City Car

    I get very bored of hearing electric cars described in this way.

    I've owned several cars that some would describe as city cars (various real Minis, tiny Daihastus and the like) some of which would better 60mpg. These cars may have been suited to city driving, but they could also maintain 70mph for hours on the motorway when required. I have often covered high mileages in a day in these cars. Leeds to Edinburgh and back in a day on one tank of juice, no problem.

    Most real people living in the real world can't afford a town car and an out of town car. They need a car that will do it all. Before I had a family I chose to use these little cars because they did it all (apart from carrying a wardrobe) from commuting (the longest regular commute being a 140mile round the shortest being about 20 miles) to long motoring holidays. Now I have a family I have a need for a significantly larger carrying capacity, but still don't see the need for a huge engine or a huge car - just the standard sized family car.

    The idea that small cars can't do long journeys is an idea invented and perpetuated by the motoring press.

    So having said all that I have to ask the simple question: If an EV wants to replace the like of the Ford Ka how is it going to get away with such a short range and long refuel time?

    It's not that I think we should continue with petrol and diesel fuelled cars as we are. It's that I don't think battery cars are the answer.

  101. Anonymous Coward

    the biggest threats to the electric car

    are the "green" zealots and most of the EV manufacturers themselves-and the marketing/advertising droids that work for them.

    Selling capability that doesn't exist and making promises for performance, range or price that aren't actually demonstratable will cause nothing but disappointment among many of those who will be the initial adopters of new technology. These well-to-do folks are extremely fickle, vocal and get more attention than normal punters do.

    Which means, you sell a car for a lot of money, and you make sure to lower your estimates and sell the actual performance instead of "potential". If you sell an EV as having a 50 mile range at 50mph constant, and takes 5 hours to charge at a normal wall outlet-but your buyers find they get 5 or 10 miles more and charge in an hour less time-you'll get much more loyal and happy customers.

    Sell them intangibles and a lot of crap that can't be realized, and you generate disappointment from those buyers and allow legitimate criticism (called "hate" when it legitimately can't be refuted) that hurts interest and sales down the road.

    Simply: quit selling EV's based on "green cred". Quit glossing over the very real practical limitations of *today's* offerings. Don't sell an EV today based on promises *tomorrow*. Don't make something that only works with massive government subsidy, or ignores the realities of weather or location. Realize that EV's have significant benefits for some people but are NOT a panacea. They are NOT a religion, movement, or revolution. Realize that there is NOT big money to be made in "alternative" vehicles at this time, and treat all EV sales as an investment towards the future. Sell a hundred now to finance the development of the car that will sell a thousand, and those to finance the one that will sell a million or more.

    And, oh yeah. Quit selling absolute *garbage* at a f'n premuim price! Putting a $50 Chinese forklift motor and controller in a three wheel golf cart frame with some AC Delco batteries from Sears and selling it for over $6K (looking at *you* "ZAP"!) is not going to earn trust for EV's, and isn't going to be a sustainable business once the clueless are drawn away by the next snake-oil salesman.

  102. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

    U.S. Department of Energy Research of Nuclear Hydrogen Generation

    Despite the widespread mockery of wikipedia, it provides references like this:

    Just focusing on a single technology (battery + electric motor) is clearly the wrong way. Hybrids, Synthetic Fuel, Alcohol, Woodchips ("Holzvergaser"), Stirling Engines, Overhead Electric Rails deserve to be studied at least on paper.

    For example:

    (Running a car using wood chips or coal)

    Gasification could actually be a strategy adopted in case of an energy emergency. Instead of invading an oil-rich country, produce gasifiers ("Holzvergaser") which would be operated with wood and/or coal. In addition to a strategy of dramatically increasing public transportation, dynamic vehicle scheduling and teleworking, of course.

    An intelligent energy strategy can simply "sit out" an energy boycott by switching to coal or wood gasification, as coal (or wood) is abundant in many jurisdictions. On the long run, buring wood is not sustainable, though.

    1. phil8192

      Been there, done that.

      Burning wood chips in a reactor with restricted oxygen produces carbon monoxide, which is piped to the internal combustion engine. It runs, but it runs poorly with low power. Germans used this approach just after World War II when their economy was devastated, but quickly switched back to gasoline and Diesel oil when they became available again.

      1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

        @phil8192: Holzvergaser

        Certainly it is easier to burn Petrol and Diesel IF these are cheaply available. But I am quite confident a serious R&D effort could make this technology viable for emergency purposes or as a "last 5 kilometers" technology (electrified Autobahn to home).

        The current state of "Wood-Gas" technology is absolutely primitive. Not much R&D done, no sophisticated sensors, no electronic control systems, wood of uncertain quality.

        To make this happen, serious R&D efforts must be done, which would

        A) develop a gasifier with sophisticated sensor/control system

        B) a standard for wood chips (size, wood type, water percentage etc)

        C) a system for automatically feeding the gasifier with wood chips from a storage trunk.

        Apparently nothing has been done to improve Car-scale gasifier development, so it is a small wonder the technology is currently primitive. When the next "oil crisis" strikes, R&D must be completed to use gasification/electrification as a response to the crisis.

        I am sure Exxon, BP, $hell and Lockheed Martin have a different concept in mind. Involving assassinations, smart weapons (not smart soldiers, though) and stealth bombers. So much more Money in Killing Tech R&D than in Gasification R&D !!

        Petroleum roasting Iraqis.

  103. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can't get there from here

    The article points out some of the most glaring absences of infrastructure to implement recharging; also note the fact that the electricity distribution grid is on the edge of inadequacy on a hot summer day when the air conditioning loads max it out (by design, since any greater capacity would be financially inefficient). Thus, the concept of recharging on a summer day is either impossible, or else would require large upgrades to the grid (unless the ability to generate large quantities of power locally from solar energy or such becomes suddenly widespread). Commuter cars may function with overnight only charging, but it's going to ruin people's vacations if they have to stay overnight every time they need a refill.

    One solution which I haven't seen debated lately, was to go with the gas station model, and rather than recharge the car at the "pump", instead have a standardized, easily removable battery pack, so that the dead batteries would be removed and a freshly charged pack inserted in 15 minutes, and you're back on your way; the station would then recharge the removed packs however, or maybe they'd go back to a centralized facility and fresh packs delivered.

    1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

      Changeable Battery Packs

      I also don't get why manufacturers cannot come up with a changeable battery pack standard. We are in 2010 and each pack would have its own ARM or PowerPC CPU and sensors to manage loading, temperature control and power delivery (unloading).

      The car might request 50 Amperes, but the battery pack would only return 18 Amperes because the current state (temperature, loading/unloading history, voltage levels) would not allow for more in a way that preserves the expected battery lifetime.

      Also, the car and the battery could report any exceptional behaviour to the "battery company" (which could be named Aral, BP, Exxon or Total) so that they can remove this battery from the pool for repair or recycling. The "battery companies" could compete on reliability, amperage, cost and so on.

  104. CISSPSecurityDude

    Battery replacement stations

    The vehicle design is all wrong. Having to charge a vehicle for hours before being able to travel the next leg? Why that's like having to refine your own crude oil into petrol before you can fill your tank. Doesn't make much sense does it? I think not.

    But here is my idea, Battery replacement stations. But how would they work you wonder? First the car design would need to be changed to allow quick replacement of the battery units. How to accomplish this task? Make the undercarriage of the car where the batteries reside in a modular form, in a sealed unit.

    When someone is requiring a "recharge" they simply drive into a "refueling" station and enter into a specialized work bay. In this work bay is a automated system that would come up from below the car and detatch the battery unit. A new fully recharged battery unit would be lifted into place and reattached to the chassis. The driver then turns the vehicle safey switch back on and simply drives off. I figure this task could be accomplished in less than 5 minutes about the same time it takes to fill the average size fuel tank.

    But wait.... you ask how does some one get charged for the replacement battery system? First of all, what does every car have that is unique to itself? A VIN, every car has one, and this is one piece of data that would be used to track the user who is needing a recharge. No credit cards, no cash, all electronic. So, when the discharged battery unit is removed from the vehicle, a load test is applied to the battery unit to guage the amount of charge that was left. Each battery unit also has been made with a control unit that carries a serial number, register of how many times the unit has been charged and discharged, a record of what the VIN's have used the battery and when and where it has been replaced. The amount of charge that remained on the battery unit is deducted from an account registered to the VIN.

    Remember the battery units are only good for so many charges so the control unit in the battery would tell the centralized computer system that handles all the transactions when the battery should be removed from circulation and sent to a reprocessing center to properly dispose of the used materials.

    Now you may be wondering just where do all the battery units go for recharging? To a charging station built below the refueling station. The batteries could be charged properly in a controlled environment.

    So are total EV's here to stay? Hard to say right now due to the initial cost and recharging hassle. But the entire globe is not going to switch to EV's all at the same time. Less we forget, the power used to charge the batteries still needs to be generated some where using some other type of fuel whether fossil or nuclear. So ultimately are EV cars really that much better for the environment? Used batteries from the original Prius cars are now starting to come to end of life, pretty expensive to replace them at around $5-7K USD, ouch!

    I think for the time being, I'll stick with my petrol powered car for getting around on long trips.



    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Having to charge a vehicle for hours before being able to travel the next leg? Why that's like having to refine your own crude oil into petrol before you can fill your tank. Doesn't make much sense does it? I think not"

      That all depends on how you use them and where the technology takes us to be honest.

      For an electric car doing short journeys it is likely that you will need to charge it for 30 minutes every 3-4 days or so. If you can manage to charge it at home (if you have a garage or a drive) then it would actually be less bother than having to take your IC car to a petrol station every 300 miles or so. Otherwise you would just plug it in at your local supermarket whilst doing your shopping.

      For longer journeys it is, I agree, currently impractical to spend 30 minutes charging every 50-80 miles or so. However once better batteries are used (the Tesla battery is good for about 200 miles and they claim that current battery technology would increase that to over 300 miles) you would need to be stopping regularly for coffee/toilet/food breaks anyway.

      As long as you can get 150 miles or so from a fast charge (realistically something like 2-3 hours of driving) you are at the point where you will be taking a break anyway. Especially if you have children. On the much disputed trip from London to Edinburgh this would mean you would only need to take 1 hour of breaks (in 2 goes) over a journey that would take at least 6 hours anyway.

      Electric cars are a good idea, and in time will be all things to everyone* once the sticking points are ironed out. It doesn't help the debate when on one side the ecotards harp on about 1.3p/mile running costs, £12/gallon petrol and gazillions of tons of carbon pumping into the atmosphere and on the other the petrol heads are stating that as an electric car can't yet meet the requirements of a small number of car drivers then the technology s obviously shite and can never work. Ever. Evereverevereverever.

      *except the old skool petrol heads who wouldn't drive anything that doesn't run on ground up polar bears and baby seal tears. And the greens who want us to all live of alfalfa juice, walk everywhere and wear clothes made from ecologically sourced grass.

  105. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

    Here's A Proper Battery (Changing, Not Charging) Concept

    Let's see how it works out. I feel the Diesel is far from dead, though.

  106. Michael 28

    1.21 Gigawatts???? least it might be capable of 88 mph!

  107. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    so an ev doesn't measure up to a petrol model.

    Oh well, lets just forget it then! (Fk me just how fking stupid are the British?)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Given that electric cars at the moment are:

      (1) much more expensive to buy than an IC equivalent

      (2) much more expensive to run than an IC equivalent (including fuel costs, purchase price, resale price etc.)

      (3) not much less polluting than an IC equivalent

      (4) much less practical than an IC equivalent

      I humbly suggest that anyone who buys one now is the fucking stupid one

  108. vinnie

    Renault Quick Drop

    Auto-changing will be with us very soon...

    This is being developed in conjunction with Better Place, mentioned in another comment.

  109. This post has been deleted by its author

  110. Anteaus


    A nuclear car is the answer. Drive around the world one one charge of fuel.. and then some. Zero pollution. No recharging. No fuel tax.

    Plus, enhanced safety, because NOBODY is ever going to risk colliding with me.

  111. Jim Nagel

    even more of a lifetime parked?

    The average car spends 95% of its lifetime parked. Would Richard Branson buy a jumbo jet and leave it cluttering the tarmac for 95% of its lifetime? The population of abandoned cars blighting our urban landscapes (and a parked car is a temporarily abandoned car, an unwanted car, a liability rather than a benefit, to its owner as well as to everybody else) doubles every few years. When are we as a civilization going to grasp the nettle and begin to ask whether we *need* so many cars? Electric or otherwise. Let's have fewer vehicles (and fewer crazy drivers) and let each vehicle serve somebody else when the first user has achieved destination.

  112. Queos lvl42 mage

    Take a shot. (it's ok, I want you to)

    Had a thought and while it would be a long term solution, I think it could be feasible.

    Batteries are the big issue and in a perfect world, we would have Shipstones (ref: Robert Heinlein) , but since we don't (yet), why not embed a wireless energy transfer system into our roadways?

    A battery would still be required for driving 'off-grid' but while on a microwave or electromagnetic system enabled road, the vehicle would use and charge off of it's power receptors built low in the undercarriage. Devil is in the details, but I could see where utilities could charge and (damn bloodsucking) governments could tax by the mile to maintain the systems/roadways. This tech has been around since WWII and has been proven with 'tens of megawatts' transmission (75, 98, and back in '26 by a Japanese researcher named Hidetsugu Yagi.) I picture a much smaller field in linear patterns.

    Yes, there would have to be some safety testing (idea came about after remembering some eco disaster movie in the 80' s concerning those basic electric huge transmission towers - a scene where some dude on the ground under a tower held two fluorescent light tubes over his head and they lit up), but from what I understand up to 750 megawatts is ok. (A human safe power density of 1 mW/cm2 distributed across a 10 km diameter). This also could be alleviated by limiting the field to the roadway, correct?

    Why not take that and use it to power/charge road vehicles? If you're going to change the grid infrastructure to accommodate home/public chargers, why not change it so the use of electric cars becomes more efficient? (no long term battery charging on a trip, more or less continuous, batteries could be smaller, solves tax/road maintenance issues).

    Might be an epic fail, but this could be done, correct? It's not my field but everything I can find says it could be done, thus the entreaty to shoot holes in my balloon.

    Fire away, Gridley!

  113. jbam

    Swapping batteries is not practicable

    Sorry, but while the idea of "just swap batteries at a service station" is nice, it would just not be practicable in real life, i.e. if for example 30-50% of motorists would switch over to electric vehicles. Let's totally ignore that it anyway would only work if all car manufacturers would agree on the same battery format. The problem is the number of batteries needed and how to make sure that a service station has that number of charged batteries available. Look at your standard service station, and at how many motorists show up there per hour to fill up their car. Now think what would happen if, say, half that number shows up to exchange their empty battery for a full one. You would need several hundred charged batteries per service station per day, and those would need to be delivered there from somewhere, because even at only 1-2 hours of charging needed, you could not satisfy the demand simply by charging the empty batteries the motorists leave behind. Also - several hundred fridge-sized batteries are stored where? And what happens if a motorists shows up in the evening, with an empty battery, and no charged one is available anymore? What if development goes on, and newer electric cars need an upgraded "standard battery"? Would all service stations be required to have several hundred new ones and several hundred "old ones" sitting around?

    1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

      @jbam / Loaded Battery Reserves

      I have also thought about this problem, but thankfully I.T. comes to the rescue:

      Fact I: Traffic patterns are predictable. Most people now carry a mobile phone with them. Mine the data for car usage patterns and crunch the data through a server farm. This is already done to predict and detect traffic jams.

      You can even perform near-real-time predictions based on movement patterns during the holidays, for example. As soon as the Autobahn starts to fill up into southern direction, the "Battery Companies" (who were the former "oil companies") can load batteries on trucks and ship them with the "car migration" (so to speak) to the south. Spare batteries would move to southern Europe along the cars which use them, on trucks.

      Fact II: Holiday migration patterns are most often determined by school holidays. Very predictable.

      Fact III: You can simply reserve batteries. As soon as you enter the destination into your navigation system, the latter talks to BP, Total, Aral etc to check for battery availability along the route. The navi and the "battery companies" can even negotiate a route which has enough batteries in case the straightforward route is short of batteries. As a last resort, the Navigation system will warn you of the shortage and suggest to wait for a few hours. As soon as reservations succeed, you get an SMS to your phone.

      Fact IV: Traffic shaping. Your navigation system will warmly suggest to make a break at the next Autobahn drive-in as soon as a shortage is predicted along the route. This allows the Battery Companies' Battery Trucks to "overtake" their customers. People will learn that they better listen to their navi system or wait at a place they do not like.

  114. Anonymous Coward

    Horseshitting Commenters

    Couple of BS posts in here.

    1) 25% of the driving population charging EVs overnight would not require a huge change in infrastructure, demand for electricity drops to low levels overnight, whilst the capability to supply it is just as high as during the day. EV usage will just even things out and prevent wastage.

    2) This idea that regular EVs are either going to be as shit as that Mini are nonsense or far too expensive for anyone to buy are nonsense. Tesla has two new models coming out, the first is a four door fairly expensive saloon, good performance, comparable all round (price, performance, function) to a mid-size executive by BMW/Mercedes/Audi basically. The second is a compact saloon comparable to VW/Ford/Vauxhall etc. and an expected price of about $20,000.

    Before I get accused of being some deluded environmentalist, I drive a V8 Merc and a BMW 3 series (15+ year old ones, I add, I'm not boasting about wealth or anything), don't recycle and have never used public transport.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC RE: $20,000 compact Tesla

      Links please?

      It is not that I don't believe you but the already known facts do call that statement into serious question.

      Much larger manufacturers than Tesla can only get compact cars here in the UK at £23,000 including £5,000 government subsidy. That means the Tesla you speak of would cost somewhere in the region of £9,000.

      Now, £9k for a leccy car is about where they need to be in order to compete with IC, however this would mean a small company could produce electric cars massively cheaper than car companies with billion dollar research budgets. Which seems unlikely.

      However, the existing £89,000 Tesla is basically an electrificated £40,000 Lotus Exige therefore the numbers suggest that electric cars are a lot more expensive to build than IC ones. Or that Tesla are really taking the piss. Either way it seems unlikely they will sell a car that competes with existing £23k ones for £14k less - either they cannot financially do so or they would just want the money.

      It may be that numbers are different outside the UK, but this is a UK based website commenting on taking two UK sourced cars between two UK capital cities, so UK only numbers please.

    2. Mr Mark V Thomas

      Re: Tesla's future plans

      The first mentioned car, the Model S is expected to retail in the U.S for approximately $57,000...

      (I suspect though, that the U.K price for said vehicle, when it goes on sale in the U.K, in

      late 2013 - early 2014, is at least £57,000....) .

      Given the above, it might be possible to compare Tesla's offering cost-wise to it's fossil fuel competitors....

      For example, the current top of the range BMW 5 series, is some £7000 cheaper than the Tesla Model S, and with some haggling at a Mercedes-Benz dealer, it might be possible to get a base model S-Class for the same price as the Tesla....

      Audi will sell me a Audi A7 3.0 Litre Turbodiesel for around £39K....

      So, Tesla's £57, 000+ vehicle, is comparable to it's equivalent fossil fuel rivals...?

      I don't think so somehow....

  115. phil8192

    I'm waiting ...

    From the article it's clear that electric cars aren't here yet, and won't be here for at least another 20-50 years, if ever. The problem is the lack of electrical power distribution and generation infrastructure. It's one thing to provide electricity to residences for lighting and ventilation, but another thing entirely to charge millions of car batteries. With the opposition to construction of new power generation facilities by the environmentalist Luddites and similar idiots who think electric cars are Nirvana, the necessary infrastructure is continuously receding into the future.

  116. devonian


    The BBC's test was totally unrealistic and shows poor editorial judgement.

    There can be little doubt that oil based energy will become a minor player in the fullness of time with electric and hydrogen becoming mainstream.

    How much more realistic a weeks testing in and around commuter London would have been.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ devonian

      With respect, no-one is disputing the practicality of using electric cars for short commuter journeys in [essentially] gridlocked cities.

      A test as you describe would also be poor journalism - better off wasting taxpayers money to see if you can purchase a Big Mac from a McDonalds fast foods emporium, you'd get the same result.

  117. chrisjw37

    On me bike was quicker

    I rode a bike to Edinburgh in less time.

    Just saying is all

  118. Anonymous Coward

    Stuff your leccy dodgy dodgem cars

    Mine's the HUGE V8 running on LPG from shale Gas.

    Out of my way peasants!

  119. Matt Hawkins

    People Are Too Stupid

    I like the idea of swapping batteries ... however, there are plenty of people who are too stupid to select the correct fuel type for their current cars. I wouldn't fancy their chances with mechanically swapping a battery.

    As for cost ... EV cars are never going to be cheap to run. The British people have proved they are happy with a certain level of motoring cost. The Government isn't going to forget that. If the actual cost of motoring drops, tax will compensate.

    It isn't going to get any cheaper. Unless you buy a bike.

  120. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

    @Matt Hawkins: Stupid People Will Love Electric Cars

    ..because by mechanical or electronic means the wrong plug/battery will simply refuse to do anything. Batteries will contain at least as much CPU/memory/sensors power as any modern smartphone, just to assure proper loading/unloading/temperature stress. Safety functions will come as an added bonus for virtually no cost.

    One could upgrade petrol stations the same way, but that would cut into profits....

  121. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

    Electric Overhead Lines For Cars ?

    According to Wikipedia, there are several countries with much longer systems of electrified railways than Germany has Autobahns. This in turn means that Autobahns could be electrified without pushing copper and/or aluminum prices too high.

    The concept would be as follows: Cars either have a Storage System or a Reserve propulsion system. Normally they would be powered electrically from the overhead wires and a pantograph. An electro-optical system would align the pantograph (which would look more like a long stick) with the wire.

    Grounding would be provided by a ground rail integrated into the road. Only were no overhead wires are existent, the Storage System or the Reserve Propulsion System would be used. Most often this would be the five kilometers from the Autobahn to a family's home.

    Storage System: This would be either a battery system, a gimbaled flywheel at 100000 rpms or a high-pressure air tank/compressor/engine (surrounded by water tank to cool/heat the air). The Storage system would provide energy on road sections without overhead electric lines. Autobahns would not need to be fully electrified, but only have sections which are electrified (e.g. electrifying only 1/5 of the Autobahn length).

    Reserve Propulsion System: Either Diesel, Stirling (or another ICE or ECE) burning basically anything which can burn; Hydrogen to wood chips.

  122. irneb

    RE: Electric Power Lines for Cars

    Uhmmm ... I'm not so sure about the "power lines" idea. I just feel it wouldn't be too safe or even practical. Might be wrong though, some design might just remove my concerns. Not to mention, you won't be able to go very far if you're not going to a place where these overhead supplies have been installed.

    But here's an idea: Similar to the true Diesel-Electric (note it's NOT a HYBRID - there's ONLY electrical motors turning the wheels, the diesel only generates electricity), why not use a Sterling engine in this?

    I can see several advantages:

    1) Nearly any heat-generating fuel-source can be used ... nearly, as in 99.999999% of them (and then some).

    2) The "problem" of Sterling engines needing a warm-up time is a non issue since the electricity can come from the batteries (which would be a fraction of those required for EV's). Thus you can start driving while the "generator" is warming up.

    3) The Sterlings are already rated at 40% efficiency, that's not even considering future improvements in materials as has been done to get current Diesels up to 40% (from starting lows of around 20-25%).

    4) A lot less moving parts than a diesel (or any type of ICE), and in some cases less lubricants are necessary.

    5) Can be re-used as the source for heating & cooling in your AC, further adding to efficiency.

    6) Stirlings are a lot more efficient in low ambient temperatures, so for the large majority of "1st world" they would actually work better than in other places.


    1) Materials need high resistance to heat, corrosion and friction.

    2) Lower temperature difference Stirlings are a lot bigger than a similar powered ICE. Which means higher temps are necessary, which makes Problem #1 a bigger issue.

    3) Heat exchanging needs to be more efficient, i.e. larger radiators would probably be necessary than for a similar ICE.

    I really can't see true EV's getting ahead of the other alternatives, not with recharging / battery exchange problems. Hybrid AFAICT is not much more efficient than these new "optimized" diesel engines even in high traffic (e.g. google Volvo's DrivE cars), they may even be less efficient (especially when driving long distances). IMO an electric car with a diesel generator would make a whole lot more sense than any sort of Hybrid if only because it would not need any swich-over apparatus and / or gearbox, but also the diesel would not need to rev up and down each time the car's speed changes - thus much more efficient than even normal diesel.

    Fuel cells may be the answer, but not with Hydrogen (just too explosive while pressurized), in which case it would need to be alcohol based fuel cells - which aren't as efficient and can't be "recharged" through electrolysis. FlyWheel, perhaps if you can get some material at that "possible" 100,000rpm you're alluding to - but then isn't your gearbox going to be one truly "awesome" engineering feat (never mind the pick-up to spin the FW up to that RPM)? Or do you mean to generate electricity from the FlyWheel (perhaps making the FW from some magnetized material) - maybe something like Vycon's VDC (though their smallest weighs +800 kg)?

    Anyone any other ideas? Or also some figures about the life cycles of these alternatives? E.g. it doesn't help just looking at the efficiency when your materials' & fuels' sourcing causes greater pollution than a less efficient alternative.

  123. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

    @irneb: Flywheel, Stirling, Diesel (still rules)

    Re Flywheel: Sorry for not making clear that the flywheel would rotate at 100.000 rpms, weigh ca 50kgs and drive an electric generator/motor. A gearbox would certainly be totally infeasible, for many reasons. You would load energy into the flywheel by sucking power from the overhead lines and spinning it up with (say) 1000kW, depending on the current state of the network. The loading computer would of course communicate with the grid via UMTS or the like to prevent overloading the overhead power lines and the grid in general.

    Material would probably be some sort of composite material (e.g. CFC+Metal), as used in modern Tanks. Steel probably cannot take 100000rpms - it would simply disintegrate.

    The car would be electrically propelled and draw (say) up to 70kW from the flywheel. Hotrod cars could even draw 1000kW in an instant and leave behind any Ferrari.

    Re Vycon: Too slow (just 36000rpms. At 10000rpms, the energy capacity is about nine times higher). Probably because they use steel rotators. I like the concept of magnetic bearings, though.

    Re Stirling: There are evangelists around who praise it. In reality, the weak point of the Stirling is the Stirling Principle: A cylinder must be heated externally to heat an internal gas ! Contrary to that, the Diesel heats an internal gas by injecting the fuel with extreme violence.

    According to wikipedia, Diesels are indeed more efficient than ANY OTHER combustion engine, including the Stirling. An MAN Diesel can achieve 54% efficiency in the optimal case (always same rpm, same temperature, seldom restarts etc).

    The 1500hp Diesel engine from MTU propelling the EuroLeopard can burn lots of liquids that contain hydrocarbons, not just Diesel, Biodiesel and Rapeseed. Currently duking it out with the red army and all you have is a dump of Motor oil intended to grease Petrol engines ? Just pump it into your leos and continue to be mobile.

    That's certainly not the cheapest solution, but it might be the rational decision to make in this situation. Wasting expensive motor oil is on the long run cheaper than detonating a nuke.....

    What you can infer from that is that Diesels can burn any hydrocarbon liquid, including alcohol, if they have been designed and tested with that. Modern electronics, sensors and electronics can perform little wonders, nowadays. The engineers at Bosch, MAN and MTU would have quite a few wet dreams while downsizing the EuroLeopard engine into the VW Golf or Opel Astra. It must be boring to perfect the current state of Diesel engines running only on "proper" fuel.

    Did I mention BMW has a Diesel burning hydrogen ?

    Rudolf's a hero !

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