I drive an 80mph, 166mpg SUV

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Dan takes the EV to emissions testing OK, after reading the headline, you’re probably now looking for “the catch”. There isn’t one. I drive a 2002 Toyota RAV4 EV. It costs about $1.80 to go 100 miles, and I commute daily at about 75 miles per hour without any problems. And if you think I baby it, I don’t. Ask the bureaucracy over at the emission place when they made me bring it in, despite my explanations over the phone. They have an electric-vehicle burnout to show for it. (They loved it)

(Picture of the RAV4EV at right, in line at the Emissions Testing Facility. The funny parts were when they tried to pressure-test the gas cap (it doesn’t have one), and when the computer wouldn’t read the engine’s RPM sensor (no engine, no RPM’s)…eventually they just had me sign a form and I was on my way with an audience of 10 emissions-testing personnel)

Now that we have that out of the way…

OK, so maybe there is one catch after all. It doesn’t use gas. At all. It’s not a hybrid, it’s an electric vehicle. The ‘mpg’ I’m listing here (166) is how far I can go on $3 of electricity, so it is a “mpg-cost-equivalent. You’ve probably never heard of this car, because there is a long list of people who don’t want you to have one, including the manufacturers and oil cartels. In fact, these same people were successful in getting rid of the RAV4 EV back in 2003, via their lobbyists and marketing departments.

  • The manufacturer’s excuse? No-one wants a usable car that requires little, if any maintenance, and gets the cost equivalent of 166mpg. Of course, the “lack of demand” was no surprise, considering the car was never advertised too strongly.
  • The oil cartel’s excuse? Well, you can imagine.

I’ve worked pretty hard on the Wikipedia entry for the RAV4EV , along with other RAV4 EV owners and fans, so check it out. I’m not the most knowledgeable person about electric vehicles, but I tried to post everything I could personally verify. The RAV4 EV community filled in the rest, and they’ve been doing a great job! (as most uninhibited collaborative communities do).

I had planned on writing more about the RAV4 EV here, but the wikipedia article does such a great job, I decided to let you read it for yourselves… Go ahead and read it a second, then come back, I’m not done yet…

Now that you’re back, you probably want to know what you can do to get an Electric Vehicle, since they’re easy on you wallet and the earth (including your own health!). We all need you to voice our opinion about the blocking of the electric vehicle in the United States. As we’ve seen time and time again, companies who have their own sales channels usually try to stifle progress and force people into adopting their business model (*cough*RIAA*cough*) Not only does this end up being unsuccessful in the end (*cough*bittorrent*cough*), but it’s also not fair to all of those Geeks out there trying to use technology for the betterment of everyone, instead of the profit of a few. In this case, the manufacturers even went to the extreme of buying the cars back, just to crush them out of existence.

RAV4 EV - jungleGiven our present involvement in the oil-rich middle east, it seems to make sense get our resource dependence out of there. We can see every night what our money is doing to our own soldiers. I have a hard time dealing with the feeling that every tank of gas might be funding a clip-full of AK47 7.62mm bullets, or maybe a rocket-propelled grenade. Despite this, oil lobbyists seem do anything possible to preserve their current fuel delivery channels and revenue, choosing instead to work on profits for the right-now, instead of planning for the near future.

You might be saying ‘whatever, I don’t know anything about the oil companies of the world, so who cares.’ To illustrate this point to a Geek, this makes about as much sense as if AMD/Intel would block the development of any processor over 1Ghz, in order to keep a grid computing business alive. Except that people don’t die from slow processors… Well, it doesn’t make any sense in that hypothetical situation, and it doesn’t make any sense in the real world.

The car companies claim that there is no demand for these vehicles. You can find them selling used on eBay for $20,000 more than they originally sold for. That sounds like demand to me.

Geeks, we need to create the demand. Your wallet and earth will be better off for it.

In addition, if any of you want to know anything/want pictures/want youtube videos, let me know. I think I’m one of, if not the only electric car in Chicago (they were generally sold in southern California), so if anyone is in Chicago and wants to check the car out for yourselves, let me know.

Here are some other resources:

Check out these groups who have been fighting tirelessly on your behalf get you the technology you deserve, and most likely want. These are the EFF’s of the electric vehicle world:



Think electric cars are too nerdy for you? Image how dumb the driver of a $440,000 Porsche feels after being beat 0-60 and in the quarter-mile by a new $100,000 electric roadster.

The X1

Some more detail on the RAV4 EV and Electric Vehicles in general:

Seattle EV Association

What is an EV?

Think I’m some crackpot? Sorry, the coverup is real news. In fact, there’s a movie coming out this summer about it. Your local theater will get it for you if you ask. Lucky you – you can say ‘I already heard about that 2 months ago at GeekLimit.com…’ to your friends. So Geeky…

Feature coming June 28: Who Killed The Electric Car

And the next X-Prize is coing to be based on a high-efficiency vehicle ! (Maybe I should show up in a stock RAV4EV…)

Want to complain to someone who can make a difference? You can’t match the money “donated to them”, but you can write your congressman/woman and be very noisy. Maybe a newspaper or two will notice… :-) (One of them might write back, mine did – Henry Hyde is my new penpal… OK, not really, but cool anyway…)

Oh, and I’m not the only one who is a fan of the RAV4 EV. See if you recognize this guy:

Famous EV driver
(jungle and famous image from dontcrush)

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172 thoughts on “I drive an 80mph, 166mpg SUV”

  1. Not trying to be mean, but I did the math.. over 5 years it’s cheaper to drive a gas car, even with the ridiculous gas prices that we have right now. I’d definitely be interested in this if the battery price wasn’t so high (i.e. it’s almost cheaper to just buy a new car instead of replacing the batteries) and if I could go farther than 100 miles without having to stop and charge it.

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  3. the math on the current state of EV’s is correct – it’s expensive. If the EV infrastructure hadn’t been wiped out, it wouldn’t be. That was a point I tried to make. In addition, future EV infrastructures based on new battery design will be even moreso more economically feasable than they were on a NiMH-based system

    The distance is an issue for long driving, that’s true. But like I described, this is the perfect commuter car. Most people don’t commute farther than 80-120 miles round-trip. In fact, I have the farthest commute out of 70 of my co-workers, and do it just fine in the RAV4EV.

    For longer distances, a diesel vehicle can’t be beat right now, according to real-world testing, not EPA numbers. Ideally, a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) with a diesel engine is the best of both of these worlds, and with widespread acceptace, yould be economically intelligent, as well as all of the other reasons, like pollution, etc.

    A two-car family wouldn’t be able to beat an EV + Diesel-PHEV combo, when the EV is in enough of a demand to prompt mass production and support.

  4. How much SMUG does this vehicle produce? Reading the article it appears to be a lot.

  5. Excuses abound, but if you had a significant portion of the population pulling 6000-watts every night from a wall socket, you’d have more than “rolling blackouts” — particularly in the areas where these vehicles would be most highly marketed (Cali, etc.).

    My uncle worked for over ten years on the electic vehicle for a US company and the key issue was never the car, it was always the grid being unable to handle the current draw to recharge the cars every night. So he went to work for the grid instead to find more efficient way to deliver power — one problem at a time I guess.

  6. im doing a thing for my geography exam about citizenship/consumers and where power lies. Buying power is more powerful than citizenship and civic and political action. If everyone were to go out and buy electric cars this would surely illuminate the theory that the dollar has more power than the vote. But the oil cartel’s and big business dont want you to know about this.

  7. How much SMUG does this vehicle produce? That South Park BS argument has no concept of priorities. I’d rather have to deal with SMUG people than SMOG pollution or acid rain or oil spills or any of the other devastating consequences of an oil-dependent infrastructure.

  8. in response to the 6000 watt a night thing– most people probably wouldn’t drain their battery enough to have to charge it every night duh

  9. A) Most power is generated from coal. Coal pollutes more than burning oil in your car. In order to meet a sharp increase in demand generated by an influx of plug-in vehicles, electricity providers would more than likely look to the quickest and cheapest solution…burn more coal. B) 120 miles is a fairly limited range. It would be more than enough to cover my daily commute, but not the 800-900 mile trips (round-trip) I need to take once or twice a month. This would necessitate another vehicle, or mass transit (grayhound sucks waaaay too much for that). C) Smug people are annoying as all hell.

  10. To draw on a comment over at Digg, as a species, we can also safely ignore anyone that depends on South Park for their rationale…

    In additon, if I come off as smug, feel free to take it that way, but it wasn’t intentional. If I were being smug, I would just talk about my own dollar savings instead of what I actually did, which was to give everyone many links to environmental and other resources, and even offer my own time to promote the technology to anyone in the area.

    My goal here is to increase awareness so you can put an EV in your garage someday soon, nothing further.

  11. From the Toyota website: “In addition to overall customer acceptance, technical issues tied to electric vehicles remain a major hurdle. Industry practice regards batteries to be at the end of their useful life when capacity decreases to 80% of original capacity. A battery’s capacity is the amount of charge that it holds, and is commonly measured by the range of the vehicle. It is cost-prohibitive to replace an EV battery. The cost to replace the battery is more than the value of the vehicle.”


  12. olgewan has the right thought pattern here with A. It’s wonderful you get great mileage for $3, but what’s the real cost to this planet? I’m no environmental nutjob, but the point here is to create less pollution, not more. The amount of fossil fuel (coal) burned would be devastating if everyone drove EV. And what about the batteries when they’re used up? Similar to the hybrids, this is a landfill nightmare waiting to happen.

    If you really want to help further all gains (your wallet, your planet, etc.) then the answers lie in non-fossil fuelsources like biodiesel (B100) and hydrogen, amongst others. The whole EV thing doesn’t do our grandkids-grandkids any good, folks.

  13. Listen, your math is nice to make you feel all smug, but you have to realize a few points:

    1) Your energy doesn’t magically come out of your wall. Temporary costs savings? Yes Pollution savings? Not really

    2) While it works for you, alot of people simply don’t want to put up with a 50 mile tether on their driving.

    3) I can ‘recharge’ my car in under 3 minutes. Even if your massive energy-military-industrial-illuminati-einsenhower-war complex decided to make ‘electric gas stations’, how annoying and damaging environmentally would that be? They would need space for literally dozens of cars to sit around for hours.

  14. Driving this vehicle is just as stupid as driving a hybrid. You won’t save money and you won’t even help the environment. The total load on the environment (INCL production of it AND disposal of it) is actualyl higher than a conventional gasoline engine.
    What’s wrong with driving a 40+ mpg toyota corolla or a TDI ? Idiots brainswashed by the media.

  15. I think the practical solution here is a hybrid vehicle which has the ability to be plugged in and to also operate in a pure electric mode. People are hacking the current generation Prius to do this and are reporting up to 250 “mpg” (I put that in quotes because technically they’re plug recharging at night so you have to factor in mpg-equivalent metrics.)

    There hasn’t been much released on it, but I believe this is the strategy that’ll be employed in the upcoming 2007 Prius. I mean, why not use a high charge density LIon battery with enough juice to operate the car in pure electric mode for, say maybe, 100 miles, and then have it switch over into hybrid mode when the battery gets low enough. Give the option of recharging the battery via plug-in at night and you have the best of both worlds.

    1. OMG just seeing this. I need to use this aporpach for my classified adsEvery single car on my classified listing is under 10k hence the name wheels under 10k dot com

  16. ron: those cars don’t actually get the mileage they’re listed at, in the real world that is. There was a great article on digg about this yesterday.

    gmc’s new energy storage mechanism (a hydraulic cylinder) won’t wear out nearly as fast as a battery, is lighter than a battery, and is not full of toxic chemicals. Not to mention doesn’t cost as much. The downside is that it’s maximum charge is nowhere near what a battery can hold… the theoretical max is better, something like carbon nanotubes might increase this capacity, but probably not as fast as battery technology.

    We need to stop thinking that electricity is clean, it’s just clean to you. All the smoke is still in the atmosphere. Fuel cells need to come down in price. In the mean time, how about something that’s carbon neutral: biodiesel.

  17. troy and olegewan are right but hydrogen is no help either because it needs to be produced so the energy would again come from coal. The best bet (I think) is going to be hydrogen or electric with the energy being derived from fission or fusion (eventually).

  18. Lots of strong opinions about this matter, I’m quite suprised from the geeks who have their 700W PCs turned on 24/7.

    I’m not as suprised at the americans tho, they could never give up their petrol cars.

    And what about nuclear power? It seems that most people are forgetting this source of power, which happens to be much better for the enviroment.

  19. What part of the country do you live in? I assume you do not have A/C for summer use, but do you have a heater and defroster for cold weather use? How would keeping warm in the winter affect range and “MPG”?

  20. I’ve read the objections about the electical grid not being able to handle rechargeables and have two points to make, but have to point out that they are completely valid points for technology as it is right NOW. However there are things on the horizon that will tilt the scales a little:

    -Toshiba has recently invented a battery that will charge 90ish percent of its charge in 10 minutes, and supply power 10 times as long. That is a significant improvement that I think our power-grid would be fine with. If you think the battery will go nowhere, Toshiba is using it to make batteries for power tools. They should be on the market this year. I am sure that they are working on it for car applications as well.
    -Solar power is becoming more widespread. Many new tract home companies now offer it as an optional upgrade for their homes. Solar shingles are now available as well. A nation composed mainly of homes with solar shingles is one that consumes FAR less power than they do now. I can see this coming into play in the next 10 years.


  21. Here in New Zealand, natural gas cars were common for about 16 or 17 years before the oil companies got their way, and we took a massive backward step back into petrol. Diesel is yet to catch up here because of the premium you have to pay for a diesel car, which doesn’t offset itself over three or four years. Oil companies 1, New Zealand citizens 0. So I know exactly what it’s like to see governments cover up the superiority of one fuel over another …

  22. Good for you. You can drive two hours before running out of your 166mpg gasoline … but will AAA deliver you electricity?

  23. To the fud artists above equating commuter pollution to coal-fired electrical plants, please stop. Coal plants are ten times lower in emissions than cars, including ones that are current on their emissions testing. I would far and away prefer that all the pollution produced was at one location anyway, it makes it easier to deal with.

  24. An electric car would be cleaner than our current gas burning cars. Power can be supplied by renewable energy sources which is not an option for a gas burner. Clean-air technology is cheaper to implement at the power generation source rather than at the end-user (each car) level.

  25. Here’s something to consider for all the folks complaining that the energy must still be generated by burning coal, thus not removing the polution problem. Solar Cell technology has come a long way in recent years, with new designs resulting in more power generated with less light. Take a homeowner that has mounted solar cells on the roof to generate power, and then plug your electric car into your home, and you’d end up with a much cleaner place.

    Of course the solar cells won’t generate power at night, which is when your electric car will most likely be charging. But, it will reduce the grid power your home uses greatly, which, even with the added grid power needed to charge the car, leaves your home better off. Everyone’s heard the stories about people generating so much power that they have leftover power they sell back to the grid. IMHO, it’s very doable, and solar power pays for itself over time.

  26. atariboy: I don’t think you have the right audience here, most of my geek friends all use laptops now (including myself), drawring 75-90w and we let them suspend or hibernate. Most of the gamer people are probably not taking part in this discussion. :)

    chris: there’s no FUD in the fact that coal is still burned (let’s exclude windpower and hydroelectric for now) in order to create the electricity, even if it’s lower than a car. I think the real arguement is in favour of biodiesel. I for one am all for it (B100 style).

  27. Solar power won’t come *near* to generating the type of wattage that this baby would pull. Even the most modern, power-efficient panels wouldn’t touch it.

    Besides, the primary charging time is… at night! So either you have to store your charge in home cells (more batteries, more toxic landfill, etc.) or you just draw from the grid.

    I think that the blanket claim that electric power is “cleaner” or more environmentally friendly than gas power is unfounded. It’s cleaner at the tailpipe and maybe cheaper at the “pump,” but without some careful studies (and how can we get ones that aren’t biased by the various interests in oil and, yes, electric vehicles — face it, environmentalism is Big Business these days) we simply don’t know. We could be exchanging one nightmare for another.

    We need studies indicating whether this would actually be better for the environment. Until then all the bickering and self-satisfied smugness on both sides is unwarranted.

  28. Also, it’s important to realize that one of the primary inefficiencies in electric power isn’t the generation, it’s the *transmission* of power. So unless you’re all willing to put a portable fission reactor in your basement, I have to reiterate my last post: when it comes to whether this vehicle is “cleaner” than gas vehicles, the true answer, for now, has to be simply “we don’t know.”

    Let’s do the research, and then make choices — instead of making choices without any science behind them. That’s how we got INTO this mess to begin with.

  29. I converted my car from using gas to using stem cells. My commute to and from work can be satisfied by 10 aborted fetuses or 25 afterbirths, whichever the planned parenthood clinic has a surplus of that day.

  30. I’m a twenty-four year old with a lead foot. I drive a ’04 Jetta TDI and I get great mileage! EPA says I should be getting about 42 mpg. What a joke…I get on average 47.6 mpg! What I want to know is when in the hell will I be running my diesel-hybrid on B100!?!

  31. A few rebuttles to the comments about coal generation. there are some legitemate advantages to centralized generation. Power plants can burn fuel much more efficiently than combustion engines, creating more power with less pollution. The pollution can also be more easily managed when its all in one place rather than all over every road in the country. You can’t put a scrubber on every tail pipe, but its comparitively easy to install one at a power plant.

    Also, the extra draw on the power grid would be at least partially mitigated by the fact that most EV owners would be charging up at night, when overall draw is low. In some areas you can actually get power cheaper when you use it during off peak hours.

  32. If its the thought that counts, then you’ve done well, but if you are serious about looking after the planet and its inhabitants, then this type of electric vehicle has major drawbacks:

    – It is still a SUV which is an inappropriate design for city commuting. It uses much more natural resources to build than is necessary, and it uses more energy than necessary dragging all those wasted resources around to deliver such a small payload (ie, you).
    – Moving the polution from the tailpipe to the power station doesn’t help much (unless you get all your power from a non-polluting source). Even in the unlikely event that you do use renewable, non-polluting energy, that means you are forcing someone else to use non-renewable/polluting energy instead.
    – the process of turning an energy source into electricity, transmiting it to your car, and then charging your batteries is horrifically inefficient. Power stations get some scale advantages but they are wiped out by the other losses.
    – the batteries have quite short lifespans, and are difficult to recycle.

    I dont mean to bum you out. Its worth it to explore these new technologies, and perhaps they can be intergrated with other technologies to make it more efficient.

    Micro-natural-gas home electricity generation coupled with grid-connected solar cells would have with the power transmission problems a lot. The biggest gain in efficiency would come from making the vehicle lighter and smaller. First, work out how to use less energy, then work out how to get that energy the most efficient and least destructive way.

  33. I remember how excited I was in 2000 when I heard about the RavEV – I could not wait to get my hands on one. I bought a Toyota Celica since the RavEV wasnt available yet.

    Last year I started looking for them again – and thats when I found out about the crushed EV1 and that Toyota canceled their EV project.

    Man – it was a nasty shock.

    I had no clue all this was going on – now I cant wait for who killed the electric car to come out.

    Check out the trailer – its out on bittorrent.

    Bush is jumping all over the “plug in hybrid” for one simple reason – it still uses gas.

    Solar panels cant charge it eh?

    Check out:



    And finally – the ones brainwashed by the media are the nay sayers who have bought into all the hype about electric cars being inefficient, impractical, or a drain on the grid. The car companies said all that because they never wanted to build a EV but california forced them into it. Gas cars are way more profitable for them.

    The reality is that electric motors are 92-94% efficient, gas engines – 20%, the drain on the grid is minimal, electric cars require less maintenance, the batteries would be cheaper if the electric cars were in mass production, the batteries are 90% recyclable and its a lot easier and cheaper to control pollution from the power generated if its centralized into power plants.


    You know – all of this really dosent matter. At some point some geek is going to design and build an electric car and its going to be done totally outside of the auto industry.

    They are not going to be constrained by the oil company, the government, or special interest groups. They are going to build the car the same way Apple builds ipods and they are going to bury the traditional car companies.

    whos game? =-)

  34. Atariboy, do you live in the states? Have you ever visited the states? Especially the western states, you can’t get around WITHOUT a car, electric or otherwise. It’s just not possible, and we’re too spread out to have any means of public transportation worth a damn. Trust me, I’d love to give up petrol for a better alternative, but until we can find one reliable enough, I can’t see it happening.

    Agreed, geeks leaving their PCs on 24/7 (not serving anything, of course, that’s a different use) and then turning around and complaining about waste is stupid. Also agree on using nuclear, especially types like pebble bed reactors that can lose coolant completely and not melt down. We need to investigate more of these options, because like many other posters have stated here, eliminating your need for petrol doesn’t eliminate pollution, and may increase it.

    Just my quarter byte’s worth…

  35. i drove an electric car 35 yrs ago…almost rolled it;-)

    battery tech still hasn’t approached the energy density of gasoline: ~700lbs of batteries contain the same energy as oh, a gallon of gas…

  36. what about giving these electric cars,
    some sort of rail line to draw power from? how about every car doing that?
    how much do we spend in iraq per month? why not spend it here? what the hell, its already a free for all concerning the budget.
    i hate how the transport corp have us literally, over the barrel.

  37. Wow, what a bunch of haters.

    Reading the comments, I noticed the same argument over and over: the car saves on gas, but doesn’t save on pollution, since you have to plug it in to recharge, and most electricity comes from coal-burning plants. If this is where the argument ended, it might have a valid point. However, we all have choices.

    1. If you want to make a difference, get off the grid. Is this feasible for everyone? No, not even for me. I’m in Suburbia, I need electricity to run my toys, and I don’t have enough space or money for a solar array or wind turbines. It is, however, in my future plans, as I do hope to make a difference in the world, not just tell everyone else why it’s impossible or infeasible.

    2. Who says you have to get power from a power company that uses coal burning? In my area, there’s an electric company that is completely green. They create energy from wind turbines, and sell it to both consumers and other electric companies. It’s said that they’re cheaper than the coal burners, but I don’t care.

    The point here is this: do some research. Think. If you’ve already made up your mind that it’s impossible to help the environment, fine. Screw you and your lazy, uncaring ass. All it takes is a little effort, and we can make a big difference. It’s all the lazy haters that are continuing to screw the world up for the rest of us. Are you going to continue your path of laziness and destruction, or do you care enough about your own kids and the next generations to spend a few minutes and a couple of extra bucks to help out? In the case of this SUV, it looks like a good deal. Don’t be such a jerk.

    To the blogger: thanks. we need more of this. BTW, i’m a thirty-nothing gen Xer who eats cereal and cookies for every meal. i didn’t care one whit about the planet, the ozone layer, or even my own health until all those loudmouth hippies kept bugging me, and i finally got up off my own lazy ass to do my own research. it turns out oil is bad, the way we harvest meat is bad (visit a cow factory sometime), and we could all use a change of life. anyway, i just want you to know that stuff like this reaches people, and you *are* making a difference, even to a country full of self-centered idiots. keep it up.

  38. My plan is to get a plug-in hybrid/electric vehicle (PHEV), and a set of enough rooftop solar photovoltaic panels to power my home as well as my car, about 3.3 Kw total. These will generate the most power when it’s most needed:sunny afternoons (when people turn on their air conditioners). Then I’ll recharge my car batteries overnight, in effect using the grid as my storage system. I won’t need a full charge every night, and mostly will use the gas (or diesel) engine as a backup. RAV4s are fairly light, as SUVs go, but of course lighter is better. The standard lead-acid batteries most often used for EVs now are one of the most recycled, and recycleable commodities out there. Most batteries you buy now are using materials recycled from other batteries. I believe battery prices will come down in time, reducing the overall cost of ownership and operation of my PHEV. By the time I need to replace it, I suspect the technology will be much better, cheaper and embody far less energy, carbon, and pollutants in its manufacture than cars today. Taking it one step at a time, we can incrementally improve, and prove these technologies.

  39. If a person is really serious about reducing their reliance on fossil fuel then they should reduce the length of their commute by moving closer to work. Perhaps this will make walking, riding a bike or mass transit viable options.

    We’re suffering because of our poorly designed cities. I hope we never experience European fuel prices.

  40. First off, Wikipedia has a good article on relative efficiencies of battery-electric vehicles and comparable fossil-fueled models: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_Electric_Vehicles

    If the average person would commute is 20 miles roundtrip each day in a RAV4 EV, that would be about 5kWh over, say 5 hours of charging or an average power of 1kW per commuter in the off-peak (overnight) hours. Multiply that by, say, 100 million commuters, and you get 100 gigawatts of extra electricity consumption, which is about 10% of current consumption (2004: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epa_sum.html). Note that because it’s largely off-peak, it would most likely not require any additional generating capacity.

    All that electricity would replace about 28 billion gallons of gasoline per year. Enough gasoline to drown a football field 50 miles deep.

  41. If you pay close attention to the South Park episode, the resulting message is that, although hybrids, electricts, etc. may make some people ‘smug’, it’s better to use them and attempt to avoid smugness than it is to not use them. I love people who get up in arms about South Park without truly paying attention — hell I love people get up in arms about a freakin’ off-the-wall cartoon in the first place.

    O, and I know the economical argument (still cheaper to drive a gas car) is the fail-safe, but how do you quantify helping the environment and sticking it to the oil companies? What is that worth?

    If I needed a car right now, plain gas-powered would not be the route I would choose.

  42. I think everybody is caught up on how these batteries are heavy and contain all the bad chemicals, and do not last long ect, but you need to realise that the electric cars of the near future will not contain the batteries you know today. They’ll be super capacitors, storing electricity the good old fashioned way, the same way you and I store it after walking on the carpet with our socks on. Someone earlier in this blog mentioned nano carbon tubes, (I dont think he knew what he was talking about) but its an insulation advancement that the good boys at MIT helped out with that allows more juice to be stored in less space/weight. These super capacitors will out last the vehicles their put in. So drop the battery this, and battery that arguments. Batteries are old technology, soon to be forgotten. SUPER CAPACITORS!!

    As for the increase in demand of electricity, yes the obvious thing that must occur regardless of whos putting what in their fuel tank, we need to USE less electricity, and PRODUCE more of it from the renuables. Its not feesable that we all create our own power but as a hobbie of mine, I hope to one day we off the grid. Maybe use hydrogen to store my energy.

    Watch for Supercapacitors in 2007. A T.O. company already has the rights to vehicles under 1200 kg (or somthing).

  43. Ummm… minor point about the coal burning issue?

    While not representing the MAJORITY of power generation, I have yet to see any other method that makes a hydro-electric dam power my car. They’re pretty clean aren’t they? And currently functional on a large scale? Of course there’s also wind, which is being implemented in lots of places.

    No… they couldn’t handle the MASSIVE IMPACT of power consumption that these cars would create on their own, but that’s not my point. Currently, fossil fuels allow a 100% ratio of pollution to power, while the entire grid, right now, has SOME percentages that are absolutely clean, and even the “dirtiest” (like coal) are regulated and kept cleaner than the current damage from cars. So theoretically, even if coal was AS dirty as my car (which it’s not), the impact would STILL be less because some minor percentage of my car’s power would come from absolutely clean sources like hydro and wind.

    As for capacity — ha! I own a SMALL colocation facility (4,000 sq. ft.) that pulls a regular 250kVA load and is one of 5 like it in one building. Compare that to the raw square MILEAGE of colocation space in this country and you’ll see demand can be met. This country has increased its power demand by huge amounts since the arrival of the home PC.

    The worst case would be exactly what DID happen during the deregulation of California coupled with the rapid buildout of computer facility capacity. Rolling brown-outs and consumer dis-satisfaction.

    So what did the Electric Companies do at that time? You’re right, they wrung their hands and cried that they couldn’t generate the capacity and that’s why we all sit in the dark now, wishing we had high-speed Internet and 10 different devices in our homes that never power down (your fridge, your 2 tvs, your wireless phone, your computer if you leave it on, or your laptop charger, your heatpump if you have one, and usually at least 1 or two lights in a standard home (e.g. externals, the bathroom nightlight, etc.), your DVD player, your CD player, your AV Receiver, your VCR, your TiVo, your alarm system … and even your power meter itself.)

    Did they just let us starve?

    No, stupid. They generated more capacity to meet demand.

    Oh — btw — the clean air regulations on that new capacity are a lot easier to enforce than the guy driving down the road with oil spewing out his tailpipe.

  44. lame. I was born in ’79, how am I a yuppie? And the last time I looked, hippies/yuppies didn’t grill out three times a week and play FPS’s for fun…

  45. The us is spending how many billions in iraq? Is it trillions yet? Electric cars would come down in price with higher volume. Yeah there are problems such as not being able to drive long distances at one time BUT cars have problems too like smog and dependance on oil. To those that dont think of these as a problem look at your taxes and the deaths in iraq. Go to phoenix or LA and look at the city from the distance. Breath the air in the “country” and then the city and tell me those arent problems.

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  47. I’d be curious to know the ecological cost of those batteries versus the burning of gas or diesel.

    Zach said:
    “in response to the 6000 watt a night thing– most people probably wouldn’t drain their battery enough to have to charge it every night duh”

    That “duh” helped convince me.

  48. Well, the comment I made about needing to burn coal sparked something. I guess that’s good. One of the best things about our capitalist system is that consumers can choose what they want, and industry will follow. The problem with this vehicle is that they only sold about 300 per year. The company won’t make money off of a product like that. They are, however, making tons of money off of hybrids, and they’re set to make those even more efficient http://www.leftlanenews.com/2006/04/10/next-prius-to-offer-113-mpg/. There is no conspiracy here, it’s just difficult to make Americans give up their lifestyles. In ten years, I think you’ll see a marked improvement in how we, as a nation, are dealing with CO2 output. Give the free market a chance. I know for a fact that our system has a much better chance at producing a clean vehicle and clean power production than a system like that of China. Who wants to bet that China and India will do it first or better? They’re the problem of the future, not the US.

  49. I agree with letting the best solution come to market.

    Also, it’s important to note that those mileage numbers are the EPA estimates, which are normally off compared to real-word results. Also, some magazine just did an article that shows that the hybrids are way off in epa vs. real-world. Something along the lines of the Prius getting 27 mpg.

    In the real world, you can’t beat a diesel like VW’s TDI. Unfortunately, these engines have their own issues, being based on non-renewable fuels (until B100 is standardized) and having issues with particulates, especially when many small trips are made (soot apparently chokes off the internals…).

  50. Why is it that whenever something that a very few people like is dropped or canceled there is always some kind of conspiracy behind it? Toyota will make any car they think they can sell and my guess is that the only people that would find this vehicle attractive are the enviromentalist geeks out there and how many of them are there? So I think its more likely that they stopped selling this vehicle because they weren’t selling enough of them to make it worthwhile. When it came out gas wasn’t $3 a gallon. Now it might sell much better.

    Do the oil companies lobby against this sort of thing? Sure, if were up to them we would have gas powered toilets but to suggest there is some kind of grand conspiracy between every automaker and the oil companies is ridiculous. This car has obvious drawbacks the main one being lack of range.

  51. well of course the enviromentalists will buy it first, and there aren’t as many of them as there are the ‘over consume, bigger is better, pride filled gas gusuling typical American jerk’ but eventualy, they and even you will smarten up. Also, as you said the car was not as good all around as whats out there now, but thats the way it always is at first, but if you dont make it then, than your not going to produce the next generation electric car as soon, and will post pone the wide spread use of EV’s. So what this article is saying, is that the gas tycoons with the help of their government friends, imposed themselves on this car manufacturere, to not be the one to produce this first generation, less profiable, vehicle any time soon. Thus screwing the world over for another few years, and the masses didn’t hear about it, cars were bought back hence… CONSPIRACY.

  52. Matthew, I have a couple of issues with your conspiracy theory. First, what kind of leverage would an oil company have over an autombile manufacturer? “Ditch the EV or we’ll…” what? Also, the federal tax credit for an electric vehicle is $4,000, which is twice that of hybrids. Remember, this tax credit is offered by Bush, a “Big Oil” man. Toyota didn’t think that Americans would spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle that is teathered to their home. In other words, it was a risky investment. This is why it was sold in limited markets and not advertised widely. They wanted to spend their advertising dollars where they had a greater potential for return. On a side note, throwing around government conspiracy theories doesn’t help you win over the average American, in my opinion. In fact, I think that it alienates the vast majority of the people you are trying to convince. The same goes for your “over consume, bigger is better, … America jerk” comment. Try to stick more to the factual, market oriented arguments. Continuing in your current vein of argument will only delay and hamper the very actions you are advocating.

  53. EV is more effecient polution wise than gas. Whenever you COAST or STOP you are using ZERO POWER (and in fact gain some if you have regenerative braking)

    Gas Cars polute 100% of the time they are running. so YES power plant polution will go up but CAR POLUTION will go down by a much larger amount than PP polution will go up.

    ALSO not all areas use Dino power for there PP’s which tilts the scale even farther in favor toward EV

    the one thing I am unsure of is how much polution is created in the PRODUCTION of these battery packs. I am better its lower than the polution create in making all the “parts” in a gas powered car. but a gas car will also last a lot longer so its a toss up I just dont know.

    I do know this. “smog” as nasty as it is is needed. we need to increase “polutant” or particulate polution and decrease green hpouse polution. you see we are warming the planet with global warming (green house gases) and also COOLING the planet with Global DImming (Particulate polution emissions diesel ejecta etc.. etc.. ie soot and crap)

    alas soot is much worse for people “directly” (health) than green house gasses are.

    we need to increase “soot” basically to cool the planet until we have Green House gases under control and THEN worry about soot clean up.

    sad but neccessary truth.

    for my daily cummute 5 days a week an EV would be perfect! I could go about 12 days before I had to recharge !! (6 miles each way) for my other job I drive my 76 300D of which I hope to soon play around with biodiesel.

    Basically I would plug it in to recharge every other sunday and I would be set as long as I only used it for my 5 day daily commute (the other 2 days at my second job its 54 miles each way but a 100mile range car would work fine for this too since I could recharge at my work)

    also the load is only high if you 220 charge them if they enable the slower lower load 120 charge it will not be much of a drain on the grid at all !! most people can easily afford t let it charge overnight without worry of not having enough go juice.

    Chris Taylor

  54. Yeah, everybody wants a car that you have to spend 5 hours to recharge every 140 miles…
    I could like go on one small trip and barely make it back. I guess it’s fine for city driving.

    Give it a range of 500 miles or make it so it can be recharged in 10 minutes.. and yeah.. everyone will want one.

    Once batteries get compact enough that they can go for 300 miles and charge in 6 minutes… essentially acting like a gas car.. then people will want them. However, on a bright note, once hyrbids become more common the economy of scales may make electric motors and batteries more effective and less expensive.

  55. Right, as has been said before, the ideal situation for a 2-car family is to use a vehicle like this as the primary commuting vehicle and a diesel-electric hybrid for the longer distances, utilizing the existing infrastructure.

  56. We have been building plug in hybrids at UCD for over 20 years, some with electric ranges off over 80 miles, and hybrid operation as high as 70 mpg. Many of these vehicles have been conversions of exsisting vehicles such as mercury sables, and even an EV1. They all have performance that is better than their stock counter parts. The total emissions from the electrical power plant to the road are less than half of that of gasoline, and so is the cost per mile.

    We are the only research team in the country doing this kind of work. We compete in national vechicle design competetion every year. We are the only team entering PHEV vehicles, and we are also one of a hand full of teams who does not get direct support from a major american auto manufacturer. Finally the manufacturers make it a point to hire on as many of our leaders as possible and assign them positions where they can be happily paid doing work that does not involve HEV, or PHEVs. I think that is the best indicator that PHEVs work.


  57. cool stuff, thanks for pushing PHEV's.  They're definitely the next step!

    Check out the Electrocharger (google it) too… the company seems to be sitting on it and doing nothing…I offered to buy a diesel Jetta and be a test candidate, but they weren't interested.  Time to fire up Sketchup and design my own diesel-electric hybrid, I think…

  58. The A123 batteries are supposed to have a power density of > 3000W/kg per their web site:

    Also here’s a chart which shows gasoline at 13200 W-hr/kg.

    If these two ratings are comparable, and electric motors are 96% efficient compared to 20% for gasoline engines (as mentioned earlier in this thread), this is what I get:

    3000 x 0.96 = 2880 usable (electric)

    13200 x 0.20 = 2640 usable (gasoline)

  59. Oops that chart was POWER (Watts) not ENERGY. (Watt-hours). Anyone know how the energy density compares between NiMH and the A123 batteries?

  60. I wonder about an EV that is a microturbine spinning a genny through a reduction transmission with big capacitors as current buffers.
    I’ve searched and found few mentions of this.
    As for our current situation, I hear that we have more fossil fuel in the ground and under the sea in North America than what’s in the Middle East. It would seem logical for us to completely cut off our consumption of M.E. oil, get the F out, and let the Shias and Sunnis kill each other off.

  61. I think all of you are forgetting that photovoltaics and wind turbines can provide a clean power source for ev vehicles! Why not combine the two? If you are going to spend the money anyway on an ev car, then spend some more on the off-grid system to fuel the car and your home. Don’t depend on coal to recharge the vehicle. I promise you it is cleaner than just staying on the grid with an ev vehicle. EV’s are great if you could power them in this manner. There is some pollution generated manufacturing the PV’s, and some in the batteries for both systems, but please, if even 50% of the homes in America did this, we could be off foreign oil permanently!

  62. Thanks for posting Susie. You bring up a good point. What’s becoming more and more obvious is that we need to get used to being open to new ideas, and understand that ‘just because that’s how it is/has been’ isn’t a valid excuse anymore, due to the wide array of technology and knowledge available to us!

  63. what you guys dont realise there are struntion batteries that power sattelites and the northern weather stations that have been in production for over 20 years and will last 20 years without a charge

  64. Sounds interesting, I’d be interested in seeing how powerful those are though – they might be optimized for low-power, long-duration use, instead of high-power, shorter-duration… In any case, there definitely is way more battery technology out there than most people realize, and we most likely could be using it for much more than we currently do.

  65. It goes beyond merely the power put into the batteries.

    First of all consider the costs of mining and generally obtaining the exotic chemicals and stuff the batteries are made of, then transporting it etc etc. They don’t just plop into the battery maker’s hands.

    Then add the cost of actually creating the batteries themselves – again by no means emission-free.

    Next consider the emission costs of recycling said batteries.

    Add the costs and landfill problems of disposing of the remaining toxic sludge.

    Now consider these costs over the average life-time of the car. A good petrol engine car will go for around 150,000 miles or so, much more sometimes – how often would you need to recycle the batteries for that?

    Once you’ve figured THOSE elements in then you can start comparing the pollution and energy costs.

    Done on a large scale we’re going to have tankers full of toxic stuff to create batteries. Heaven help us if that runs aground.

    I often see the figure thrown around of petrol engines only being “20% efficent” but that’s highly misleading.

    It’s actually a lot more efficent to refine the fossil fuel and put it straight into the vehicle than it may at first sound!

    I should also point out that cars DO have batteries – and improvements in batteries would help MPG as the engine wouldn’t need to keep charging the thing so much?

    I have no objection to electric cars per se – they don’t have the same kind of power curve issues and can accelerate rapidly, don’t sit there throbbing in traffic etc. Give me one as speedy and easy to drive as my petrol car that I can “top up” once a week like I do my current car, at the same price (car and fuel) and I’d be happy to switch.

    Likewise I have nothing against a good conspiracy theory but don’t really see one here. If Toyota coulda, they woulda – if they weren’t interested in exploring electric engines they wouldn’t have produced the thing in the first place. Evidently experience has shown it is not a feasible vehicle at this time.

    Might be great for the owner but you have to consider everything else that goes into it.

    Put it this way – ever seen an electrically-powered gas tanker? Well there’s a reason for that…

  66. I can’t believe how many people are misinformed about electric cars.

    Where do you read this crap that coal-powered electricity emits more greenhouse gas than gasoline powered cars? You make these claims without doing any research, so where the heck did you hear it? Centralized-coal-plants produce less greenhouse than gas-powered cars, and it will only get cleaner as we change the grid:

    Where do you read the crap that the electrical grid can’t support millions of cars charging at night without building new energy plants? Once again no legitimate sources of research, just bold claims. From what I’ve read, according to MIT Technology Review, over 180 million electric cars can be charged per night (over half the pop of the US) with no infrastructure change:

    Where do you hear that the cost of manufacturing and making batteries and recycling them (used in millions of computers everywhere) is so damaging to the environment? What about the cost of extracting oil, completely destroying habitats, transferring that oil by the barrels from remote regions of the earth under regimes that support terrorism, only to make more greenhouse gas when the oil is refined, and then again transported to gas stations, which you have to drive to (making more greenhouse gas)… is that better than buying a battery every 5-10 years and plugging it in from home, using local power?

    Anyone who says local generated power isn’t better to use in transportation is either a PR rep for Exxon/Mobil or really good friends with “the terrorists”.

    I hope in the next five years this FUD gets exposed for what it is, but considering Exxon/Mobil and others have an army of PR managers attacking EVs, I think it will just get worse. The future is very uncertain.

  67. Okay, here’s the big thing that I always noticed never gets mentioned in all discussions about electric cars I have seen, that I feel it is my duty to post about.

    As mentioned here by many, the electric car, even at best, doesn’t solve all the pollution, dependence on foreign oil, etc., etc., etc. problems. Furthermore there is more wrong with the car dominated culture than just those sorts of things. Ideally we should if not totally getting rid of private car use, cut it way, way, way back. Ideally I would really prefer using trains for long distance travel and human power for short distance travel. At the same time as having an energy use problem we have a terrible obesity problem. If we at least tried to use private cars as little as possible we could make progress to solving both of these problems, and create a better general quality of life as well. The problem is, for most it is impractical to totally do without private cars, so without radical measures that we are probably unprepared to use, there will be cars on the road.

    The problem with petrol cars, though, is there’s no such thing as a small number of them on the road, because they breed themselves. Who wants to walk or bike next to an exhaust pipe? The great thing I see about the electric car is that it is capable of breaking the car use chain. Even *if* the pollution problem were merely transferred to the power station, that tranference *would* be a good thing, because people can walk and bike next to an electric car. In other words, the biggest advantage I see to an electric car is that it is pedestrian compatible. Where I live there is a post office about a half mile away, but there’s no way to get to it without using a major highway. I walk there, when I go there, but it’s not pleasant, and it takes a good amount of dicipline not to be tempted to drive the short distance. Now that I have an electric car, at least if I do succumb to that temptation, I will not be contributing to the problem, because if all those cars out there were electric, I and probably many others would be far more likely to make the trip on foot. Similarly, I would have to take that same road, the A49, to get to the center of town if I wanted to go by bike. It’s only 3 miles, so a bike trip that many could be encouraged to make if all those cars on it were electric. And the more bikes feel comfortable on the road, the less cars will be on the road, and the less cars are the road the more bikes will be on the road, etc., etc..

    As to the problem about limited range. They are really a blessing in disguise, because we shouldn’t really be using private cars for long distance travel anyway. We should be using trains. My electric car is nowhere near as good as a Toyota RAV4 EV. It has a maximum speed of 42 mph and a maximum range of 40 miles. But with the right infrastructure (inexspensive rental cars like it available at all train stations, and charging facilities in every major parking lot) I’d get rid of my petrol car in an instant.

  68. I love your enthusiasm. It is definately ashamed there are no more choices for electrical vehicles than their are. The Jetta TDI has been an alternative I have used and appreciated. Miss this car!! The public is getting pissed off. EV’s are on their way with companies like ZAP and Tesla.

  69. Jumping in way late bu I hoght I would mention that allo he arguements abouthaving to use coal for to produce elitricity for charging is not intirely crrect. The East coast gets most of its coal burning but the West coast is nearly all hydo electric.
    Next is the idea oftotal black ut if everyone had electric cars all charging at night, or in th non-premium hours. Here is he deal, the hydro plans n the coal plants run 24/7 andactually have a surplus in the wee hours of morning. They do not shut the gens down when power demand drops — that just ain’t practical. So, this over production of power funneled to recharge the car. You wuld think the poweer cmpanies would love thisas it wold be far more effiecent way of using the power they produce but cannot store. Blackouts? The blackouts that have occured are almost always equipment malfunction due to human error and other :0 acts of god, like storms.
    My suggestion is for the western sie of the USA to go all eltric vehicls as soon as possible as hydro power is clean and get the east coast to all start using communter trains, ride bicycles or walk, like most NY city people do already. Yeah, I know, no easy answers

  70. I can see the day where there will be many Electric Vehicles or Hybrid vehicles. Several now are claiming to be able to get 150mpg or EEStor and Zenn’s car that gets 250 miles per charge. This website has some information on the technology that is being used for energy storeage: http://www.ultracapacitors.org

    You wrote a great article here. caught my attention. Thanks. JJ

  71. It’s Earth Day 2008 in Japan. I’m looking to build an eco-friendly house next year over here and upon researching some “green” websites, I found the RAV4EV on a Japanese website from 2002 that talked about how it received the highest award that year in Japan for an eco-friendly new product. I then got on the internet this morning to see where I could get me one of those and happened upon this website…among others. Now, after reading over all the comments for the last hour, I’m curious on what IS the best option out there right now? I am personally hoping to set up a PV system here to create my own electricity from the sun. Ultimately, I’m thinking a biodiesel hybrid plug in (with PV plates on my roof providing the electricity) is the best option. Is this feasable yet? If not, what would be the best option right now for a halfgeek who just wants to do what’s right!!

    Happy Earth Day!

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