Hmmmmmmmm EV Valets?


Hmmmmmmmm EV Valets?

I have a tendency to focus a jaundiced eye on “new” technology and electric cars are no exception. Before you fire up your computer and call me a capitalist destroyer of our fair planet let me assure you that I like to breath clean air as much as the next guy. I believe in good stewardship, and know that there is not upside for energy companies like BP and Exxon to pollute our planet. And if they do, they should pay….That being said – Is the current love affair with electric cars short lived?

Almost daily I get news releases about this company or that “partnering” with parking facility owners to install charging stations in garages. They are “gearing up” for the time when electric cars are flood our streets and fill our garages. They are being installed today in garages throughout the land. And they are necessary, for the electric vehicle industry to get off the ground.

If a person drives an electric car that gets 40 miles to the charge I suggest it needs to be plugged in at least once a day away from the house. The average soccer mom taking kids to school, delivering cookies to the bake sale, running errands, and meeting friends for that afternoon cuppa, puts on a lot of mileage. OK – the “Leaf” gets twice the range of a “Volt” but remember the famous words “up to.” Up to 40 miles per charge, up to 100 miles per charge, etc. The problem is that if you are running at night it’s less (lights take power). If you are running a radio, air conditioner, heater, or have a heavy foot, the range will be less. So let’s just take it for granted that sometime during our day away from home, we will have to plug in somewhere.

The next question becomes – where and for how long. To fully charge at 110VAC takes about 5 hours, let’s assume a quarter of that at a nuclear driven professional level charger one might find in a parking garage. So our soccer mom will be hooked up to the grid for an hour or so somewhere during the day.

Who is going to play “voltage cop” and ensure that once a car is charged, it is unhooked and moved so another can take its place? That’s assuming that there isn’t a charging station for every parking space. I can hear the conversation between one tough cookie who needs to charge up now so she can make it to band practice and another one who is hooked up and storing electrons and needs to dry her nails before unhooking her Volt and making room. (See Valet below.)

All the posts on the web say that there will be no problem with the electric supply grid since the charging will be done at home during the night when there is plenty of capacity. But under my scenario, if the cars are being driven to work (Average commute 16 miles) won’t there just have to be a lot of charging during the day. If the average commute is 16 miles, a whole heck of a lot of people will drive further than that. And with a 40 mile range, they will have to “top up” at work, during the day, when the grid is nearing capacity, assuming they can find a place to plug in. Oh well, we aren’t supposed to talk about that. I know – they have a lawnmower engine to charge the battery when it gets low but you get the point.

Don’t forget my news releases. Plug in stations are being installed across the fruited plain. However, it will be years before any volume is created. What about all those unused charging stations? Will they be in spaces reserved of EV? If so, what is the value of those unused spaces? How long does a charging station last? What is its useful life? Will they have to be replaced even before they get much use?

This is a “chicken or egg” question. We can’t have EVs unless we have charging stations in place. But how much do we spend on charging stations, and how many spaces do we allocate for EVs? If I have a few spaces always available, then super – I can commit a few to charging. But if I fill up my garage every day, how much will I, as an owner, be willing to invest?

The wags here in the office say that an entirely new industry will spring up – valet charging. You bring you car in, you give it to a valet, and when you return it will be charged and ready to go. Frankly, that’s the only thing that makes sense until the EV car volume reaches a point where there are charging stations on every street corner.


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

5 Responses

  1. Dejavu all over again. I remember ten or so years back, the local utility spent ratepayer’s money to install charging stations all over the county. We even had a few in Class A garages we operated. Yes, in premium spaces. What happened? The electric car was a flop because it couldn’t be driven very far on one charge. A few years later all the fancy and expensive charging stations were junked. After all, OPM (Other Peoples Money) paid for the charging stations. Who cared if they were junked?
    Today, just like ten years ago, we are being sold on the idea of all electric cars. Youngsters, greenies, and those with short memories are smitten with the idea even though the technology and costs just don’t make sense…yet.
    Hybrid cars are a good gap filler while battery technology catches up. But why the push for all-electric cars again when you can only get 40 miles per charge? Yikes, that’s like a cell phone that works for only two hours!
    I don’t want to believe that this all-electric buzz is because of a Wizard of Oz is pulling the PR strings behind the curtain at Government Motors (GM). But when the means of automobile production is owned in-part by the government and OPM is at play, I am suspicious.
    I can’t wait for my local government to demand that I put a charging station at each of my surface parking lots. Right now they demand one tree be planted for every 15 parking spaces and a bike rack…what’s next?

    1. Gasoline Cars:Gasoline powered enengis = 35% efficiency (25% in the 1970s)Refinery production of gasoline = 70 % efficiency (guessing)Overall = 25% efficiency (roughly)Electric Cars:Electric Motors = 90% efficiency (considering the need to do different torques and speeds.)Loss in Battery due to being parked = 90% efficiency (highly variable depending on how much you want to spend to buy and maintain your batteries.)Loss in charging = 95% efficiency (highly variable)loss in grid = 75% efficiency (depends on where you live)Power Station Generator = 95% efficiencyPower Station Turbine = 95% efficiencyPower Station Boiler = 80% efficiencyPower Station Leaks, degassification, and Blowdown = 95% efficiencyHandling coal (as opposed to refining gasoline) = 95% efficiencyEfficiency = (0.95^5)(0.9^2)(0.7)(0.8) = 35% roughlyGoing from 25% to 35% is a 40% savings that could easily be wiped out by some of my assumptions on the type and quality of batteries used, the location on the grid, and the technology being used at the power plant.However, unless you believe:1) Man Made CO2 is the primary source of CO2 in the atmosphere.2) CO2 is the primary cause of Global Warming.3) Global Warming is occuring.4) Global Warming would be a bad thing.this would hardly be a reasonable design consideration. All of the 4 beliefs above are highly controversial. There really are better justifications for electric cars than this nonsense.

  2. Funny you should bring this up as I just had a conversation with my son about electric cars and having to be recharged.
    Somehow the conversation involved a scenario where the girl friend called the boy friend and said, my parents just left for a couple of hours please come over.
    Boyfriend replied, I can’t my electric car is being recharged……the guy was just trying to save the planet …of course boyfriend gets dumped…..ha ha

  3. Even the valet charging scenario is a bit hinky. Limited charging “slots” available; so what to do when 3-4 cars need 4hrs of juice (Monday morning) and there are 6 cars backed up waiting for 45mins of juice?

  4. JIII is correct — this could be a problem in parking facilities where a number of EV’s regularly park. I think RM’s comments on the social issues of charging could be even more of a headache. What if you are charging at 10 PM and pregnant Mom needs a quick trip to the delivery room,,,or worse, needs an injection of pickles and ice cream. We take our ability to “jump in the car and go” for granted. Think about all the times you do it when it might be in the middle of a charge.

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