December 31, 2017

"Electric cars struggling to cross the ‘valley of death’ in Colorado."

The Denver Post reports, explaining the term "valley of death." It's not a geographical place, like Death Valley. It's the predicament where "new technologies to struggle to win public acceptance, especially if different trends need to come together at the same time."

I'd never seen that term, and for once, when I find myself in that situation,* there isn't already a page for it at Wikipedia. Wikipedia's "Valley of Death" page refers only to "any of the numerous landforms named Death Valley" (perhaps because of "the valley of the shadow of death" in Psalm 23), a Nazi mass grave in Poland, the place of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Gettysburg Battlefield landform of Plum Run, the nickname for a very polluted city in Brazil, the title of a book about Dien Bien Phu, the title of an influential 1970 article about Vietnam, and an alternate title for a horror movie you don't need to watch.

_________________

* It isn't uncommon to hear of something for the first time and to go to Wikipedia and to see that there is already a page for it. There's even a name for it — the antechamber of enlightenment.

40 comments:

Jupiter said...

Seems to be an article about the fact that even with massive government subsidies, there just aren't enough really stupid people with enough money to buy one of these pointless wastes of resources.

Jupiter said...

“Charging should be cheaper than gasoline,” he said, “and it should be sustainable.”

Unfortunately, unicorns don't come with that particular attachment affixed to their asses. It's an expensive aftermarket accessory.

cubanbob said...

The amount of money to be pissed away on this if implemented nationwide would make Obama's Administration look like misers.

rehajm said...

Like most journalism today the story is lacking in factual nutrition to say the least. That said the evidence that EVs and battery technology is approaching the disruptive stage is mounting.

Here's a compelling case for an electric car future

Let the virtue signalers worry about death valleys. If/when the tech becomes too compelling to ignore the preference cascade will begin...

MountainMan said...

A columnist at one of the car magazines - Road and Track or Car and Driver, I don't remember - did a test drive a couple of years ago from Cleveland to Washington, DC, in a Tesla Model S. What is normally about a 6.5 hour trip took over 14 hours. As I recall, he had to re-charge multiple times and ran into all kinds of problems. It was fairly quick to get to 80%, but took much longer to get completely charged, so he only took the 80% and then left. Then, he immediately had to start worrying about the next charge. The Tesla GPS is supposed to direct you to the next station but in at least one instance it had the wrong coordinates and he nearly went dead before using his phone to find the right location. At some of the charging stations there was a line waiting to charge, so he was stuck until one became available. For over the road driving this technology is not ready for prime time. I think the only good use of an electric is for short local trips, re-charging overnight in your own garage, when time is not a factor. A Tesla is also very expensive, not sure how the cost can be justified, even with the subsidy (which should be eliminated). I'll stick with proven technology until something is available that is superior.

Sean Gleeson said...

“There's even a name for it — the antechamber of enlightenment.”

Then how come a Google search for that phrase turns up no results at all, except for this blog post by you?

Jupiter said...

Compelling it may be, concise it is not. Since he can't or won't cut to the chase, I will. Electric cars are expensive because they use resources. That's where costs come from. If a tech chain could be devised, in which solar energy charged cheap, light batteries to power cars that were cheap, that could replace gasoline. Meanwhile, Elon Musk is monetizing the gullibility of government regulators.

tcrosse said...

“Charging should be cheaper than gasoline,” he said, “and it should be sustainable.”

Eventually governments will figure out how to tax electricity for vehicular use in order to fund roads, or whatever else they feel like.

MadisonMan said...

'Valley of Death' is a common phrase in Research to Operations work. Researchers create a new technique. People in Operations are reluctant to implement it because of the time commitment involved in changing workflow.

Expat(ish) said...

I drove by the mall today in my lovely new Golf Sportwagen and there were, I dunno, about 20 Tesla's waiting to charge at one of the dozen superchargers scattered in the far end of parking lot.

I may not know much, but I know a long line when I see it.

I also know that that is going to be a hot as hell place to wait in the summer here in the SWF.

-XC

Bruce Hayden said...

You also hear about the Valley of Death in VC funding, and this may be the connection there.

Stayed last week at a Holiday Inn Express, in Golden, CO, and they had almost no parking. Part of the problem was that on the north side of the building, there were 4 electric charging stations, and the other maybe 4 slots were for carpool parking. One of the stupidest cases of virtue signaling I have seen recently. Sure, they might get one Woke customer every couple of weeks looking to charge his (or maybe more likely, her) electric vehicle. But for the 2 nights a month that would happen, they would be giving up almost 300 customer nights of parking with those 4 dedicated charging stations. And how many people car pool to their hotels? But then, my doctor, located a couple miles away is in small building that also has 4 charging places - as many as it has handicapped spaces (couldn’t find any handicapped parking places at the hotel). Plus, of course, the required carpool slots. Everyone else parks out beyond that.

I am a CO native (my father, who died last year, was an immigrant from NY with 93 years as a Coloradoan to his name). Place has gone absolutely bonkers in the last couple years, in their progressive virtue signaling. Got out officially only last year (so that my vote for Congress would matter, instead of voting against the first married gay Congressman (Jered Pollack) in his gerrymandered House seat with 3 major universities and a half dozen ski areas). Not a minute too soon.

In any case, I parked in one of the carpool slots at the hotel, figuring that we had the 2+ that qualified us for HOV lane driving, and that was close enough to car pooling that even my Boulder resident kid wouldn’t whine too much. Besides, what were they going to do - tow my car away from the hotel I was staying in? They got a 3/5 rating for the parking plus their insistence on CNN (5% positive, 95% negative for Trump this last year). Would have given them the minimum 1/5, and asked for my money back if I had been towed. Or worse.

David said...

rehajm said...

"Here's a compelling case for an electric car future,"

By a Stanford futurist!!!! How can we possibly think that Stanford Futurist might be as full of shit as most of the other futurists. Because elites!

FullMoon said...

Eventually governments will figure out how to tax electricity for vehicular use in order to fund roads, or whatever else they feel like

Yep. With newer cars getting better mileage and electric cars, Ca just raised gas tax 0.12cents a gallon.

rehajm said...

By a Stanford futurist!!!! How can we possibly think that Stanford Futurist might be as full of shit as most of the other futurists. Because elites!

Yah, I get that he's fruity, too. Still, he's making a case that batteries follow a Moore's Law trajectory the way computers and flat screen TVs did. Rare Earth metals aren't rare so it's largely an economies of scale story for the battery and the battery doesn't only impact the cost to transportation but the cost of energy generation and storage capacity at the grid level. A 30% drop in the cost of electricity generation is disruptive to the gasoline model.

Mike said...

Technology that solves real problems is adopted at lightning speed. The smart phone is only ten years old.

Yancey Ward said...

I stand by my prediction I made 5 years ago- in 2040, at least 90% of new cars sold in the US will be internal combustion powered. I think it will be at least 95% in 2030.

Roy Lofquist said...

“If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

― W.C. Fields

It's no wonder that it's hard to find a good steak these days. All the bulls have been drafted to help sell electric cars. It's time to get out the shovels and clear away the nasty stuff. Electric cars will always cost more to run than gas cars.

Here's the basics: energy used = weight of vehicle times distance traveled (MPG). To compare the cost of electricity to the cost of gasoline we consult a table of Gasoline Gallon Equivalents (GGE). Here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_gallon_equivalent) we find that the average cost of electricity in the US (12 cents per KWH) is the equivalent of $4.00 per gallon of gasoline. In days of yore, when electricity was 8 cents per KWH, the equivalent was $2.67 a gallon, or about the current price.

Enter the elephant, or the gorilla, or maybe the bull. Batteries are HEAVY. The engine and running gear of a Chevy Bolt sized gas powered car is about 400 pounds. The battery in the Bolt weighs 960 pounds. You start out, in your driveway, with an extra four adults in your trunk. Cost = weight times distance. Any claims to the contrary are bare faced lies.

Original Mike said...

"It's the predicament where "new technologies to struggle to win public acceptance, especially if different trends need to come together at the same time."

Yeah, like being able to use the car's air conditioner. "Valley of death" is apt.

buwaya said...

Elon Musk has firewalled his SpaceX venture from his automobile/battery businesses, I think very wisely. SpaceX looks like it has a solid future in launch contracts, to a great degree as a government contractor, but thats no different from any other aerospace outfit.

If worst comes to worst I think he could easily find a buyer for it when the industry consolidates.

His cars are in fact a much bigger gamble than outer space.

SteveM said...

If a substantial percentage of car owners switched from gas-powered vehicles to electric, new power plants would have to be built to meet the recharging demand. That’s not going to happen.

Ficta said...



1. If you're charging your electric car at a public location, something unusual is going on. The vast majority of the time, you charge it at home and don't think about it. It's a car for commuting in.

2.My Chevy Bolt gets around 300 miles for 60 kwh->5 miles per kwh -> at 12 cents per kwh, you get 166 miles for $4.00. I'm not quite sure what Roy Loftquist is calculating, so I'm not sure what to say about his numbers, but something's off.

3. Electrics are a lot of fun to drive, you never have to go to the gas station, there's not a lot engineering wise to go wrong with an electric motor, and, until they start adding road taxes to them (in most states, the gas prices contain a lot of tax) they're more economical than a gasoline car by quite a bit.

So, if you need a second car, your commute is less than 200 miles a day, and you're willing to spend the price of a loaded Camry, I'd recommend a Bolt to you any day.

Ficta said...

@SteveM I'm not convinced that's an issue. Our electric car adds maybe 10% to our monthly energy bill. With a ten year phase in, and the fact the EVs can be set up to charge when demand is low, I'm not sure the potential increase in electrical demand is really that challenging, at least it's not obvious to me.

rehajm said...

new power plants would have to be built to meet the recharging demand

Batteries supplant not only the need to build new power plants but also allow to retire existing ones. Nearly one third of ConEd's generating capacity is used less than 5% of the time because power must be consumed the instant it's generated. Introduce the battery at the grid level and now you can store power generated in low demand periods, like when everyone's asleep. You not only won't have to add capacity to recharge cars since they'll be recharged overnight you can reduce the number of power plants that are currently kept idle for use on the hottest afternoons in July.

southcentralpa said...

@SteveM You have a point about the second car, but EVs typically don't charge during utility peak hours, so expanded electric grid capacity is not an issue.

I'm a CNG man, my myself.

Dave Begley said...

Just drove 1200 miles. Saw exactly one Tesla, but Tesla has a higher market cap than Ford. CAGW is a scam.

Jupiter said...

Ficta said...

"2.My Chevy Bolt gets around 300 miles for 60 kwh->5 miles per kwh -> at 12 cents per kwh, you get 166 miles for $4.00. I'm not quite sure what Roy Loftquist is calculating, so I'm not sure what to say about his numbers, but something's off."

33 kWh is the energy equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline, so I'm guessing that what is "off" is your mileage figure of 5 miles per kWh. Or maybe those are downhill miles?

n.n said...

The second generation (2016) Volt has an 18.4 kWh battery that has an upper limit of 53 miles. At 0.12/kWh, driving 53 mi would cost 2.21. Compared to a Corolla, at 2.09/gal, driving 53 mi with an average 36 mi/gal, would cost 3.08. This is 47% higher. There's a potential for immediate cost saving with the Volt in the short-term.

Ficta said...

Okay, just checked the lifetime average miles per kwh for my car so far, and this includes all sorts of not very hilly driving and it's 3.4, okay, that's smaller than my back of the envelope numbers, but still the energy equivalent of 109 mpg.

traditionalguy said...

Visiting the son at Lake Oconee today, we made a run to Publix and took his wife's new car.it was a 2018 Toyoda Camry hybrid that has great pick up, idles silently and gets 49 mpg. It had a Lexus like interior package and sold for $30,000. That model is perfected now.

She is a Regional distributor for McKesson, who supplies hurt car. They asked if we had seen the attack done on McKesson by 60 Minutes over opiod distribution. Apparently the manufacturers are innocent and the prescribing MDs are innocent but the middle man delivery system is criminal.

But McKesson is a very powerful company. They distribute only to the Hospitals Pharmacies.

Larry J said...

"Blogger buwaya said...
Elon Musk has firewalled his SpaceX venture from his automobile/battery businesses, I think very wisely. SpaceX looks like it has a solid future in launch contracts, to a great degree as a government contractor, but thats no different from any other aerospace outfit. "

SpaceX did 18 launches in 2017, more than any other launch provider on Earth. Of those, six launches were for the US government. The company has won a great deal of the world's launch contracts. This is in sharp contrast to the previous monopoly US provider, ULA, which was so expensive that there only customer was the US government.

Perhaps in January, 2018, SpaceX will attempt launching their mega booster, the Falcon Heavy. Since this is a risky test launch, they aren't going to risk a real payload. Instead, they're going to launch Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla Roadster. If the launch is successful, the car will be in orbit around the sun (with apohelion out as far as Mars) for about a billion years.

Tim at large said...

I guess blaming a “valley of death” is a fancy way of saying “Seems tantalizingly feasible, but alas, no.”

Tim at large said...

fact the EVs can be set up to charge when demand is low, I’m not sure the potential increase in electrical demand is really that challenging, at least it's not obvious to me.

I am sure that a solution to allow them to be charged only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing is coming along any minute now!

Tim at large said...

Base load power is coal or nuclear. So it is kind of ironic that the people pushing electric cars as green are proffering the argument that charging is basically free to the system when they are the same people trying to remove base load power for environmental reasons. I guess we could frack for natural gas!

Here’s the basics: energy used = weight of vehicle times distance traveled (MPG).

Unless you live in a very cold climate where heating and defrosting are needed and can be accomplished from waste heat on an internal combustion engine, or with an air conditioner in a very hot climate. I have commuted in South Florida with a car with no AC when I went back to school for a career change. I can tell you it’s not for the faint of heart. But at least Florida is flat. Unless you have invented some kind of perpetual motion machine, in a hilly area, you are going to lose energy too, since you can’t really reclaim all of the energy you spent climbing a hill driving down the other side.

Right now, a Tesla is a really nice golf cart, and there are some small parts of the country where they are practical. I don’t think that 98% of the land area of Colorado included any such place.

The barriers seem small, but really they aren’t. Maybe one day when we have a Delorian with a fusion reactor in the back you can run on a banana peel, the rest of the country can join in!

John Lynch said...

We don't need to subsidize the affluent.

Darkisland said...

All electric cars make no sense at all.

Hybrids, combining engine and battery, might.

Another use of death valley is the time between starting a business, with both initial investments and ongoing rent, payroll etc and getting paid for sales.

You need a lot of cash to get to the other side

John Henry

Darkisland said...

The selling point of electric cars is solar energy

See www.darkislandpr.blogspot.com for a satellite picture of a 454mw coal plant and a 4mw solar plant on the same site.

The coal plant takes up about 1 acre plus another dozen or so for coal piles and waste treatment.

The solar plant takes up about 20 acres.

I also included a pic of a 4mw diesel that can fit on astandard semi trailer

John Henry

Darkisland said...

100,000 electric cars charging at 20 amps (@5kw) would require a 500mw power plant. About the size of a typical nuke plant.

John Henry

Bad Lieutenant said...

Also, if California, to take one example, would forget the high-speed choo choo trains and build out some additional water management infrastructure, this could be used for power generation plus pumped storage.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I drove a Fiat 500e for 3 years, mostly around Santa Clara valley and the SF peninsula. Got a reliable 100 miles range out of its 24 kwh battery. It was very suitable for around town, and even my Costco runs.
I'm now leasing a Bolt (60kwh battery), and am getting about 3.8 miles per kwh, according to the car.
I do almost all my charging at home, off-peak, from a measly 110 volt outlet. In this area i rarely have trouble finding a charge station if I need one.
But I still keep a Corolla and an A6 wagon for long trips.

Caligula said...

""2.My Chevy Bolt gets around 300 miles for 60 kwh->5 miles per kwh -> at 12 cents per kwh, you get 166 miles for $4.00. I'm not quite sure what Roy Loftquist is calculating, so I'm not sure what to say about his numbers, but something's off."

33 kWh is the energy equivalent of 1 gallon of gas."


According to EPA, a Chev. Bolt uses 28kwh per 100 miles, which translates into 3.57 miles per kwh. So, the 5 miles per kwh is optimistic, but not outrageously so- it just appears so due to the relatively low efficiency of an internal combustion engine.

BUT, electric efficiency will be affected far more by low outdoor temperatures, and it'll take significant battery power if you use the heater (whereas heat is essentially free with a gas engine). And since the electric motor is far more efficient, the percentage of energy used for things like air conditioning will be a larger percentage of the total.

https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=38187