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Electric Vehicle update: Events affecting EV development and public acceptance

November 20, 2012 by Bob Difley · 18 Comments  
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By Bob Difley

hondafitevchargingAs many of you know I follow the development of the electrical vehicle (EV) and how it will impact RVers as it develops and become viable to the general public–that’s us. Two recent events have given proponents and advocates of EVs encouragement.

First, an EV charging station has been installed at a remote location of Yellowstone NP and in one of the most air-polluted parks, Great Smoky Mountain NP  as reported by Melissa Hincha-Ownby of the Mother Nature Network.

Thanks to the Black Bear Solar Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation and solar energy, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park region is now home to one of the largest concentrations of electric-vehicle charging stations in the nation.

Dubbed the Green Gateway, the region features 24 EV charging stations at strategic locations between major cities in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park gateway community of Townsend, Tenn. A future expansion will add solar canopies, which will provide clean renewable power to the charging stations.

You can read the whole article on theMother Nature Network. As the number and distribution of charging stations continues to expand, and campgrounds and RV resorts add EV charging, the EV my become the dinghy of choice somewhere in the future.

teslamodelsdrivelead01Second, the Tesla Model S, a high line performance luxury sedan from the makers of the impressive Tesla roadster, was named Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine, and more impressively, it was the first EV in their history to be named Car of the Year and it was voted in unanimously. The Model S was also voted the same award by Automobile Magazine.

Read the entire article by USA Today here.  Watch this review video by cars.com for this family sedan that with the largest battery (there are three optional choices) can go zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds and has a range between charges of just under 300 miles. This award will bring more interest to EVs, more sales of not only the Model S, but possibly to all EVs, and may be the biggest push EVs have had.

As EVs continue to gain acceptance, will small RV power plants be far behind? Ford is pushing their small van, the Transit Connect, which could easily be transformed into a Class B RV, and there are several companies producing electric buses. And both Federal Express and UPS are experimenting with electric delivery vans. This experimentation by business and industry will spur further development in more efficient batteries that charge faster and deliver more mileage in less size and weight. And that will be the ultimate game changer.

For RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.

Request from readers: I need some high resolution photos of fifth-wheels and travel trailers in boondocking locations. If you have such photos please email me at: bob difley at gmail.com (without the spaces and using the @ sign). Thanks.

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18 Responses to “Electric Vehicle update: Events affecting EV development and public acceptance”

  1. Joe on November 20th, 2012 3:04 pm

    It’s appropriate that EV interest kicks up again as we enter the holiday season. You’re as likely to see a battery powered RV as you are a fat guy in a red suit on your roof.

    The Tesla Roadster has a base price of $109,000. That’s not a real option for most RVers.

    You have yet to explain how researchers are going to pack enough energy into batteries to drive 10,000 or 20,000, or more lbs down the road. Even with a 10 or 20 fold improvement in battery capacity, we won’t be there yet. The laws of physics just aren’t on your side.

    With the explosion of ‘brown’ jobs in the US and the new-found abundance of Natural Gas right here at home, we have a legitimate place to look for a technology that could replace gas and diesel to power RV’s.

    Natural Gas is not a sexy as free energy from the sun, but it’s clean(er), abundant, domestic, and not a unicorn hunt.

  2. Bob Difley on November 20th, 2012 3:17 pm

    The Tesla Model S sells for $57,000, a price and performance that place it comparatively to a Porche, BMW, or Mercedes. Though, as you state, batteries that are able to drive 10,000 or 20,000 lbs down the road are a ways away, as I stated in the article, for small ere RVs, such as Class B and C models, they will be the first to appear, since UPS has found that their EV delivery vans hauling full loads are able to operate all day on a single charge. Natural Gas, of course, is an additional option, and should be pursued for two reasons: it will get us off imported oil, and it is found in abundance domestically, but it does not solve or reduce the the amount of CO2 emissions that the EV would do further down the road. Pursuing both, NG for the shorter term, and EV for the longer term seems to be the best course. For EVs to make it to the mainstream, it is not a matter of power (such as for pulling 20,000 lbs down the road) but one of size, weight, output, and time to charge. Those issues are on their way to being solved.

  3. Joe on November 20th, 2012 5:13 pm

    I guess I just don’t see how to bridge the missing step.

    The UPS and FedEX vehicles have a 90 mile range and take 8hrs to recharge. They cost north of 100k, bare bones. Even if that range quadruples, and the charging time cuts in 1/4, what kind of RVer will want that? As you so often say, RV’s are about going where you want to, when you want to, not driving from plug-in to plug-in.

    To add to that, RV campground electrical service is notorious for being undersized and borderline dangerous. No way you’re going to be able to plug in and EV there without some major expensive electrical system upgrades.

    Saying ‘The issues are on their way to being solved’ is, I think, wishful thinking. The energy carrying capacity of batteries, per size or unit weight, is just so far away from what is needed to compete with gasoline. CNG at least comes much closer, though size is still an issue.

    Instead of paying attention to what urban delivery trucks are doing, RVers would be better to watch long haul trucks and busses. CNG rules the roost there, and EV is no where to be found…….for good reason.

  4. Lindsay on November 20th, 2012 5:52 pm

    Not sure how this is going to get us off foreign oil. EV’s require electricity. Right now only 2.8% of our electricity comes from wind and solar and it is extremely expensive. An EV just substitutes the smoke stack for the tail pipe. With the new technology of horizontal drilling and fracking, North America has more oil and gas recoverable that all the world has used since we switched over from wood and sperm whale oil. The rest of the world is utilizing cheap energy and if we don’t for strictly political reason, we will be priced out of the market. A much more likely route for commercial trucking and RV’ing will be natural gas. The technology already exist and much of the infrastructure also exists. A lot of work is being done now on commercial trucking (which uses 25% of our transportation fuel now) and RV’ing will quickly follow.

  5. Doug on November 20th, 2012 6:19 pm

    I’ll be happy just to get rid of century-old lead acid technology with its low power density and high internal resistance.

  6. Jim G on November 20th, 2012 6:29 pm

    If I could go back in time I could only guess at the comments that would have been offered if someone had written a newspaper article about a home on wheels, or as we have come to know them our beloved RV. So while the evolution of EV may not be feasible in our lifetime, (assuming that someone reading this is probably between 40-70), I would not at all be surprised that future generations will be driving some form of an EV. Never say never!

  7. GPruett on November 20th, 2012 6:48 pm

    The missing link in putting Electric vehicles into the campgrounds is the short sighted focus on bragging rights for being the first with the fastest. Sounds wonderful to have a sports sedan with zero emisions but who is going to buy and use one? A small footprint like some of the compacts being used over seas that could be flat towed would sell. The market may not be large but it is there. We have found all wheel drive to be needed, not a lot but still needed. Electric small vehicles can use motor in the wheel drive trains. Problem solved! Many of us look at the “sport” model and end up buying something else. Since it is hard to find a poor handling car anymore this is not likely to change. Electric cars will get much better after the user pool finds the missing links in the design. This is to be expected, think of the early Mustang, a real handful on wet pavement, the present model gives away nothing in the safety department due to constant re-thinking. The start up pricing will be high, think of it as prepaying for all the oil changes you will not need.

  8. Rich on November 20th, 2012 7:43 pm

    i’ll accept an EV when i can travel as far on a charge as i can in my fossil fueled vehicles, at current highway speeds and re-charge as quickly as i can when filling the gas tank, etc.

  9. Dan Rambow on November 20th, 2012 8:23 pm

    It isn’t going to happen overnight, but in little steps. Eventually we will get there. In my current trip south for the winter, I go about 150-200 miles and stop for a couple weeks, then move again, and again. Eventually I will get to AZ.

    If I had full electric power, with today’s technology, I would have to cut my day’s trip by half. Unless I used a hybrid, say running my generator to recharge the batteries as we went.

    With industry trying out various models, eventually, we will get several hundred miles range. Perhaps hybrid at first. Natural gas holds promise, as it can be applied to existing engine designs very easily. The nice thing with a large RV is there is the room and weight carrying ability to use a variety of technologies.

    But none of it will happen overnight. And lots unbelievers will stubbornly refuse to accept it, even after it arrives. Remember, a whole lot of unemployment was created when the automobile came into its own, all those horse stables, carriage makers, harness makers, even manure disposal services, were obsolete, in a period of only a few years. But new technologies required new businesses to replace the old. It will happen again.

  10. Chuck Griffiths on November 20th, 2012 8:38 pm

    Nat Gas is the only way to power anything bigger than a Prius! Electric production, battery production and charging pollutes more than.nat gas…but the lobbyists and big oil will continue to thwart nat gas development until the useless Congress gets off the the racial issues and does something for America.

    Look for nat gas in locomotives, class 8 trucks, and rvs in our lifetime. The market will demand it, the private sector will offer it, and eventually Congress will get the word and support it!

  11. Brad on November 20th, 2012 9:03 pm

    EV is not the future of RVing. Natural gas will replace diesel as the fuel of choice for large trucks and mid size trucks capable of pulling trailers down the road. Natural gas fueling stations are now being built on the major arteries of the higway system. We need to clean the air but I don’t think that subsidized electric cars are the way to go.

  12. HJ Lamb on November 20th, 2012 11:43 pm

    It will probably be a little time in coming if at all to the point of affordable, reliable and efficient EV RVs. Meanwhile, the kicker may be to tow an electric car behind your RV. I am looking real hard at a Ford CMax with estimated mileage of 47City and 47 Highway. I know, this is its first year but at under 26000 bucks and an electric motor warranty of 8 years/100,000 miles and a gas engine power train at 5 years and 50000 miles, including many glowing reports, it would possibly be worth looking into. Ford has another plug-in version coming in December as well as a Fusion electric model with the same mileage estimates as the CMax. As A rule, I generally do not jump on a first year model but like to wait and see if any trends develop. Nevertheless, at 25596 with a 1000 rebate, that sure seems like a good price especially with other prices like the Chevy volt hovering at 40 grand. The CMax is also tow able and can go to 60 MPH before the gas engine kicks in. May just have to trade in the old Subaru we can’t tow!

  13. Fred Brandeberry on November 21st, 2012 10:26 am

    Hi Guys & Gals:
    The newest experiments in batteries has given rise to great Lithium batteries for RVer.
    Be sure your charger is compatible however.
    They are expensive but last a long, time no water to deal with

  14. Dave on November 23rd, 2012 12:54 pm

    I had to laugh at Motor Trend voting the Tesla Model S as Car of the Year. Seems to me they voted the Chevy VEGA Car of the Year. Turned out to be a RUST BUCKET in 2 years. I am quite happy I never went for that recommendation.

  15. LEH on November 26th, 2012 11:40 pm

    Thanks for the discussion, Bob. I have wondered about using an EV for a toad, and fitting an oversized alternator that would be strong enough to charge the toad while underway. Would a 2kw inverter be big enough to charge the EV? I am not in the market for a Tesla, but there are several EVs in the $30k price bracket. What do you think?

  16. Bob Difley on November 27th, 2012 9:42 am

    Hi Lynn – A good question and so far without a non-theoretical answer. You would assume that a 2kw inverter would do the job, but there are variables like how long will you be towing, how depleted is the EV battery when you hitch up, etc. I would like to see reports from RVers that are actually using EVs, whether charging stations are becoming more available, is charging while towing effective (would be a big plus for EV toads), and what their on-the-ground experiences are.
    Bob

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