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Nissan Leaf gets 99 MPG with no gas tank
Giving a vehicle that uses no gas a MPG rating is less confusing?

EVs are big news today and there are two high-profile vehicles that use electricity coming to the market in the U.S. very soon. The Nissan Leaf is a pure EV with no emissions and no tail pipe. The Chevy Volt is a more confusing animal with a gasoline engine that charges the battery pack in the car when the electric motor can no longer run alone.

The Leaf has been granted its EPA fuel efficiency label and that's where things get confusing. The EPA was looking for a way to allow consumers to compare EVs to traditional vehicles that use the miles per gallon rating so they concocted a formula that applies a MPG rating to vehicles like the Leaf that use no gasoline.

The EPA figures that 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity is equal to a gallon of gasoline and bases their formula off that number. The official EPA number for the Leaf is 99 miles to a gallon. That number is reached by combining the 106 MPG rating in city driving with the 92 MPG on the highway rating. That is impressive and may be perfect for some drivers. However, many drivers will be concerned about the low driving range for the vehicle. Nissan has long touted that the Leaf will go for 100 miles on a single charge. The EPA put the Leaf through five different tests to simulate different driving situations to arrive at its driving range.

The EPA pegs the Leaf for 73 miles on a fully charged battery. Many factors could change that driving distance though from temperature to how much the AC and other accessories are used. To confuse things even more, on the window of the Leaf the FTC will have a sticker that displays the driving range of the car at 96 to 110 miles on a full charge. 

That means that the Leaf will wear stickers that show an EPA rating for 99 MPG despite the fact it has no fuel, an FTC sticker showing 96 to 110 miles per charge, Nissan's long-touted 100-mile driving range, and the EPA 73 miles per charge number. Oddly, all of these stickers claim the common goal of making it easier for EV shoppers to tell how they equate to other EVs and traditional vehicles as well as hybrids. The EPA figures the Leaf will cost about $561 in electricity yearly.

"We're pleased the label clearly demonstrates the Nissan LEAF to be a best-in-class option, reflecting that it's a pure electric vehicle, uses no gas, has no tailpipe and has zero emissions," said Scott Becker, senior vice president, Finance and Administration, Nissan Americas. "The label provides consumers with a tool to compare alternative-fuel vehicles to those with a traditional internal combustion engine and allows them to make an informed purchase decision."



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RE: And...
By TheBaker on 11/23/2010 10:53:32 AM , Rating: 3
I'm pretty sure that's his point. Purely electric vehicles will only ever be viable for an extremely small segment of the populace. The vast majority of us don't want to pay through the nose for a grocery-getter. Most of us would rather have an old-fashioned internal combustion engine that leaves you with the option of long-distance travel if you choose. If all you need is a short-range vehicle, the internal combustion vehicle will do that too.

Electric vehicles are for people who don't mind severely limiting their options and paying a premium in order to use less gas. The average American doesn't see that as a good trade.


RE: And...
By superPC on 11/23/2010 10:59:17 AM , Rating: 2
until we have a battery replacement station that can exchange our depleted battery with a fully charge one in less than 5 minutes.

we won't have battery replacement station without an electric car on the road. it's the old chicken or the egg problem.


RE: And...
By Nutzo on 11/23/2010 11:17:14 AM , Rating: 3
Sure, take out my 1 month old battery that holds a 100% charge, and replace it with a 7 year old battery that is down to 70%. And let me pay extra to have the battery swapped. Sounds like a good deal to me :(


RE: And...
By mead drinker on 11/23/2010 1:40:20 PM , Rating: 3
Sure. Battery exchange is a very feasible concept and one that could be the answer for issues regarding range. Quite simple model really.

Electric stations could purchase lots of batteries and amortize their cost against the expected life expectancy of them and include this with the cost of the energy being delivered in them. Currently, Toyota claims that the current gen. Prius battery has a life expectancy of 150,000 miles with a replacement cost of around 5-6k so about 4 cents per mile + energy.

Manufacturers would not sell vehicles with batteries and so the issue of ownership and comparable exchange is answered. The stations own the batteries and therefore the responsibility of service and liability resides with them, albeit at a cost to be forwarded to the consumer. If a battery is faulty well then you exchange for a new one and voila, operable battery. Batteries could be used in circuits with each cell removable and therefore not all batteries have to be swapped during a fill up. Those that have not been used before remain and the depleted ones are replaced.

The real issue is that of standardization and regulation. A gov. body would have to require inspection of the batteries to ensure that the consumer is not being provided with batteries that do not discharge properly and efficiently against standard metrics. Batteries that do not adhere to this criteria are disposed of. Battery packs would have to be a standard model. etc. etc. etc.

The point is we do pretty much the same thing with our current gas infrastructure, meter regulation, octane standardization, etc. The only problem is we don't have an energy distribution infrastructure to feed the stations with.


RE: And...
By Spuke on 11/23/2010 4:01:36 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Manufacturers would not sell vehicles with batteries and so the issue of ownership and comparable exchange is answered.
Which creates a problem with getting the cars off the lots. No one's going to go with not being able to take their new car home with them when purchased. Also, this removes liability from the dealership on whether or not the car is functional when it's sold. A dealer would almost have to partner with a third party, and I don't know about you, but if I was selling cars, the last thing I want is someone else muddying up the waters with my sale. Manufacturers should make, and be responsible for, the entire vehicle. Standardized batteries are an idea but there poses the problem with packaging. Not everyone wants a car shaped like the Leaf. Safety regulations are bad enough, designers would also be hampered by battery size and design.


RE: And...
By dani31 on 11/23/2010 11:36:46 AM , Rating: 2
I challenge the battery replacement stations concept. In a station you get a commodity and batteries are far from being that.

I would even go and assimilate, form the engineering challenges point of view:
- the electricity with the gasoline
- the battery with the combustion engine
- the electric motor(s) with the gearbox

Batteries will be a key area of development and the diferentiation factor. The commodity that we'll get in the stations will be the electricity (probably of the 250 amps variety).

What we need is a leap in battery tech and energy recovery.


RE: And...
By foolsgambit11 on 11/23/2010 3:58:38 PM , Rating: 3
I would equate:
- the electricity with the gasoline
- the battery with the gas tank
- the electric motor with the internal combustion engine
- the gearbox with the gearbox.

The gearbox on electric vehicles is often only a single gear, but it is there. Either way, though, batteries are the place where the most improvement is required to make EVs viable for the majority of people. The two main problems are capacity and recharge rate. The rest of the system is pretty efficient - the Tesla Roadster is probably somewhere between 70% and 85% efficient (wall to wheels, not just battery to wheels), depending on the driving done, while an ICE vehicle averages around 15% efficiency.

I agree, in principle, with another poster in this thread who said that battery packs could be swappable if you didn't purchase them with the car, but were essentially rented from the gas station. The big problems I see with this system is that you are essentially locked to one gas station franchise (are you going to return batteries to a different company? What if they aren't as valuable as the ones you get in exchange?) and the fact that packing a sufficient number of batteries into a car frequently requires placing them in out of the way places, which complicates swapping. The former problem might be solved by business agreements between fill-up stations, and the latter may one day be solved if energy densities in batteries can increase several-fold. At the moment and in the near future, though, battery exchange doesn't seem viable.


RE: And...
By serkol on 11/23/2010 1:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
A battery replacement station is impossible with the current technology. Current batteries are too large and too heavy. Car manufacturers put them under seats and in other locations, to spread the weight. You just cannot swap them.

Could super-capacitors be used here? I envision something like this:
- a car has lots of batteries in unaccessible places (like now), but it also has an easily accessible compartment for a swappable super-capacitor
- a charging station swaps the super-capacitor
- the super-capacitor immediately starts charging the batteries, and the car can leave the station right away
- it takes the same 3 hours or so to fully transfer the charge from the super-capacitor to the batteries, but who cares now, the car is moving

This is just my uneducated guess...


RE: And...
By YerMomma on 11/23/2010 4:35:31 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely not true, in California the gov already bought a fleet of cars with "swappable" batteries.

The car simply drives up to the "pump" and a machine simply pulls out the current battery pack from underneath and pops in a new one. The driver never even gets out of the car. Similar to an automated car wash.

Takes about the same amount of time as filling your tank with fuel, now imagine for a second that the gov subsidized these battery swapping stations and they were everywhere gas stations are... what would you ever need a gasoline car for again? Overnight electric cars would be the norm.

Altho I think I'd rather see Hydrogen stations for cars like the Honda FXC subsidized everywhere, that way we wouldn't have all these harmful chemicals from batteries polluting our environment in 10 years when they get thrown out.


RE: And...
By 91TTZ on 11/23/2010 5:19:00 PM , Rating: 3
You speak a lot of subsidies as if it's a good thing. Really that's just another way of saying that the government needs to artificially pump money into that system to make it competitive.

It's the same thing with the Chevy Volt. It's a $40,000 car that's competing with a $23,000 car (Prius), so it needs government subsidies to remain competitive. While some people may think that's a good thing, why should I pay more taxes so that someone can buy a non-competitive car?


RE: And...
By Etsp on 11/23/2010 7:39:09 PM , Rating: 2
In this case its more like the government needs to pump money into it to get it off the ground, to combat the chicken/egg scenario.

Perhaps something to be considered 5-10 years from now, but not at the present time. Everything is too bleeding edge at the moment.


RE: And...
By Kurz on 11/24/2010 12:04:56 AM , Rating: 3
So what happened when we had the same situation all those years ago with Gasoline cars?

It managed and out competed the horse.
If Electric cars can't beat in either cost or utility its not worth it!!!


RE: And...
By SunTzu on 11/24/2010 5:05:04 AM , Rating: 2
You really dont think the US government has subsidized cars? Who do you think built all those nice, paved roads you drive on? Changing batteries is just another cost, just like bridges, roads and tunnels are. Theres an inherent value in reducing the need for importing vast amounts of oil, that of national safety. If you government can subsidize farming (and LOTS of it, which the republicans love) so that the country cant be cut off from the foodsupply, why cant they make sure that the country can run without (as much) oil?


RE: And...
By 91TTZ on 11/24/2010 9:22:15 AM , Rating: 2
No, changing batteries would be like subsidizing the cost of gasoline so consumers can get it for $1 a gallon. And the bridges, roads, and tunnels are not subsidized for gasoline cars since diesel vehicles, electric vehicles, and other vehicles are able to use those same bridges, roads, and tunnels. Subsidizing batteries would be yet another subsidy that's not needed.


RE: And...
By Ichinisan on 12/12/2010 7:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
I accidentally downrated this post so I'm replying to have it automatically removed. :)


RE: And...
By lolmuly on 11/23/2010 11:58:12 PM , Rating: 2
people have rehashed this argument a thousand times, gas stations were subsidized too.... should we assume that all forms of infrastructure need no help at all? How about we just stop subsidizing roads too... how about electricity and water? infrastructure is infrastructure plain and simple. Nobody says you have to buy water, or internet, but the rest of us like it so we are going to continue subsidizing it. Try thinking like a utilitarian for once and get with the program.


RE: And...
By 91TTZ on 11/24/2010 9:23:57 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Try thinking like a socialist for once and get with the program.

Fixed.


RE: And...
By mindless1 on 11/23/2010 11:03:34 PM , Rating: 2
It's not current tech that is the limitation, it is design philosophy. Battery packs could indeed be on rails under the car, a bit like a cassette tape arrangement but they are not designed that way because there is no infrastructure to make it worthwhile to build.

It need not be smaller or lighter, it would be a trivial thing to build a hydraulic lift-'n-swap machine that could do it.

Super capacitors do not have the energy density per volume to accomplish this and they are very costly per storage capacity compared even to the high expense of EV battery packs.

Even if the idea would work to recharge the batteries from a supercap that is beyond our capability there would be no point to transfer the energy to the battery pack, the car could just run from the supercapacitor.

What we really need is simpler. Electric rails in roads as the new power grid. Not every road, just the larger ones where pedestrians aren't allowed (for safety factors) so we can greatly reduce the size of the battery pack and have it recharging instead of powering the car most of the time the car is being driven.

That wouldn't handle all possible scenarios but neither do EVs right now.


RE: And...
By lolmuly on 11/23/2010 11:48:06 PM , Rating: 2
We might as well dump all of the money an electrified highway would cost into researching wireless energy transfer and achieve the same goal plus added benefits.


RE: And...
By mindless1 on 11/24/2010 4:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
Ridiculous, electrified highways we can have now using existing tech while wireless energy transfer enough to drive all vehicles on the road is NOT SOMETHING YOU COULD EVER HOPE TO SEE IN YOUR LIFETIME IF IT IS EVEN PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE.

Remember the difference between scientists showing some demo and what is possible at any meaningful scale.

For example, I could demonstrate that I can thread macaroni on a string, but that is no evidence I could do so at a rate or quantity to build a space ship out of macaroni that would transport you to the magical land where what you imagine is possible, really is.


RE: And...
By monkeyman1140 on 11/24/2010 10:42:24 AM , Rating: 2
Its just cheaper for private industry to wire up a charging station in the parking lot. They don't WANT you to leave, they want you to stay and shop, have coffee, eat, hang out in there store.

A charging station just makes better economic sense. Give it a few years, those things will sprout up like weeds everywhere, and will be as ubiquitous as cellphone towers.


RE: And...
By lolmuly on 11/23/2010 11:43:54 PM , Rating: 3
Let's keep this simple

Assume the following:
1. gallon stays at $3.00
2. kWh stays at $0.15
3. both the $15,000 commuter and the $23,000 leaf last exactly 100,000 miles
4. repair costs are the same on both

And lets say the commuter car gets 25 mpg and the leaf gets 3 mpkWh

25 mpg * 100,000 miles = 12,000
+ vehicle cost = 27,000

3 mpkWh * 100,000 miles = 5,000
+ vehicle cost = 28,000

now that's assuming a lot since we don't really know if these things are going to break down after 10k miles or not, or if there will be insurance premiums on these. The fact is we don't have all the info yet, and this is really crude guesstimate math, but if the government keeps funding battery research, and the cost goes down while the range goes up, I am confident this will be a viable choice for many families considering a second car, or a grocery-getter as you call them.


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