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Early in the nineteenth century substantial money could be made shipping Tea from China to England. The East India Companies' Monopoly on the trade had recently ended and at the time a high demand (and price) was placed on the first tea of the season. Fast light ships called clippers were developed in order to beat the bigger slower ships back to England with the first fruits of the tea harvest. Competition grew and an annual race developed. The boats were refined and redesigned; every few years a newer faster ship would come and take the line honours. This culminated in the Great Tea Race of 1866. These refined sailing boats were the best of the best. Yet within a relatively short period of time these boats had been replaced by the steam boat, and the transition between the two may shed some light on the future of the electric car...

Clipper.jpg

The steamboats disadvantage was range; the inefficient engines required a lot of coal, so much that there was little room for cargo if they were to make the long trip round the tip of Africa. They did offer amazing reliability and manoeuvrability compared to the sail ships but the range problem relegated them to ferrying loads up and down rivers. Ships were developed with both sails and steam-engines; the sails allowed them to traverse across the globe while the steam kicked in for the short range low speed navigation at the ports at either end. Steam ships grew in efficiency and range but still couldn't compete financially with sail until the Suez canal opened the floodgates and provided the steamship with the level playing field they needed to take over.

Suez%20canal.jpg

Do you see the parallels yet? I saw a documentary about it and couldn't help seeing the development of the electric car. First there were low range, low tech neighbourhood EVs relegated to the 'rivers' while the open ocean was left to the status quo 'sail ships'. Then as the technology grew hybrids sprung up that could use both forms of propulsion allowing the advantages of electric with the range of the ICE. The improving technology allowed the steamboat to begin to compete until a sudden Suez canal moment. With electric cars we are definitely at the developing technology stage. We've had hybrids and the technology is is getting to the stage where it can just about compete with the ICE. They are awaiting a Suez canal moment to even the playing field.

I'm not sure what the Suez Canal moment is going to be for the electric car- perhaps a new battery chemistry, perhaps an oil crisis, maybe climate change. I'm not saying that steamships prove electric cars will succeed. All I know is, history has a tendency to repeat.

Photo Credits:
http://en.wikipedia.org/
www.navis.gr
 

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Early in the nineteenth century substantial money could be made shipping Tea from China to England. The East India Companies' Monopoly on the trade had recently ended and at the time a high demand (and price) was placed on the first tea of the season. Fast light ships called clippers were developed in order to beat the bigger slower ships back to England with the first fruits of the tea harvest. Competition grew and an annual race developed. The boats were refined and redesigned; every few years a newer faster ship would come and take the line honours. This culminated in the Great Tea Race of 1866. These refined sailing boats were the best of the best. Yet within a relatively short period of time these boats had been replaced by the steam boat, and the transition between the two may shed some light on the future of the electric car...



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Hi folks, I'm new here.

This is a fascinating and insightful comparison. I wonder what the "Suez Canal" moment will be as well, and would be interested in people's opinions about it. That is, what change would be necessary for the EV to finally hit mainstream.

Will it be:

  • Improved battery technology (hmm, like Chinese milk?)
  • Improved recharging infrastructure (I don't think so, I don't believe charging people for fill-ups is the sexy new experience people would respond to)
  • EV endorsement by the major manufacturers
  • Standardized batt-packs that can be switched out at the charging station
  • Autonomous recharging (regenerative braking, solar, wind...?)
  • Reduced top-end tech pricing (yeah I won't hold my breath)
  • More public acceptance of smaller vehicles
  • Redesign of cities towards New Urbanism (everything in walking distance)
Any other ideas? Is it possible, or does it depend on nothing more than changing driving habits?
 

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Standardizing battery chemistry ratings for non-technical consumers would be my addition.

EV endorsement by MFGs would do little if anything. Consumers will wait until someone they know owns one or gas spikes at the same time the cars are on the market. Look GM built the EV-1 and while they did a good job under-marketing it many celebrities make a good show of having one. That was ok but regular people would want to know that the higher cost is really worth the environmental impact, cheep electric vs gas cost and low servicing cost. If a major manufacturer makes them at a higher cost but advertises lower maintenance costs who would believe them? The exaust system in my mothers old GM was built from 4 different kinds of metal and oxidized out every 3 years.

Reducing cost will only truely come down with what is called "economy of scale". To lower the price you have to increase the scale of the business. The joke example people use is selling atom smashers. You will likely only find a market for a few and after those sales because all potential customers will have bought one. You could make a new model but how well do people need atoms smashed? Now for cars the solution for an encore is obvious better range or safety. Now competition drives down costs but that can only happen when the market is big enough to support more than one company considering most people are so unsure about the technology. It is an infinite loop like structure. I don't think that it is unbreakable though.

You want to get early adopters in the public raise the gas tax and offer a subsidy on EVs.

Standardized battery packs is a waste because changing packs to recharge a car is silly. Changing something that big at a gas station reliably would be physically hard and unreliable. Making power connections like that work is hard enough but changing out something that ways 1000lbs and up is not practical.

Autonomous recharging past regenerative breaking for better range is not going to work. Solar is the best bet in this area and it can only power a small air conditioner as yet.

Improved battery tech is always coming but in order to make it I think we need antitrust law to stop oil companies (ex. chevron) from withholding it.

Public acceptance of smaller vehicles is relative. Right now they are all used to SUV's which makes even the EV-1 seem small. That said it was a regular sized car. Now smaller would be better but I think people need to get used to electric first.

Redesign of city growth patterns is a good idea but around where I live (Massachusetts), a very blue state, the democrats barely mention this idea. The green party makes good plans. Sadly while their candidates are gaining ground it will take time before they can bargain with the same kind of juice that got us the Big Dig.

Improved recharging would make a big difference. We need a national standard for the plug on the car. Even if it was just national adoption of the one California uses it would help. I know when they did a way with inductive charging a new standard for conductive charging was made but I don't recall what the socket was. If people could get charging that was rated at say 480V for when faster charging batteries are invented would be good. The counter argument raised in the government on the adoption of new tech is that newer tech will come along and money will be wasted upgrading or changing completely. We should anticipate the change. All EV charging systems should support 120V, 220V and 480V even if they don't need the power. Being able to charge in more locations would be a big leap too. Consumers would accept lower range if they could charge at more of their destinations besides just at home.

I would include a rework on the power grid to increase the effectiveness of distributed generation. That way more of the grids power can come from renewable sources like solar or wind from people's homes.
 

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I think the major Tipping Point will be when we have enough EV experts in the Yellow pages to serve the customers-very few consumers these days even change their own oil, and the ICE designs have been deliberately made too obtuse for the average man. Imagine how popular ICE vehicles would be if you had to work on them yourself! A Garage in every garage, complete with diagnostic OBD monitors, thousands of dollars of specialized tools and a Hotline to a Parts manufacturer!

That's where EV is right now. I can't just save my pennies and buy a decent Entry-level EV, a Chilton's Guide and friendly EV Specialist 20 miles down the road. Nooooo, I have to learn this Tech stuff inside and out and piece one together from Charnel Houses and whatever bits of Medical Waste I can sneak out of the Hospital Dumpsters, and it's NEVER fresh enou-

Er, wrong Hobby, never mind. :D

You get my point though. The majority of EVs are coming from a DIY culture-so in order for EVs to flourish either the major automotive companies need to jump on the bandwagon, or a Self-reliance Revolution takes place in the USA and makes them irrelevant-you know, I rather prefer the second option, it would take care of a LOT of our current problems...
 

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order99 - I miss the days when the manufactures of seemingly everything included the diagrams, schematics and etc, for repair. Now they intentionally hide the OBD codes. Congress should have stopped them.

Dumpster diving is one thing but in hospitals?!! They are supposed to separate their medical waste from the regular crap. If they don't you could report them to the authorities.

I share your dream of a more self-reliant public. If the economy gets worse it will likely happen but not the way I want.
 

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Standardization would be a great thing, unfortunately how it usually happens is a big company, (who ever gets the most market share), uses a certain configuration and everyone else is stuck with it. It also stifles inovation in that particular area. I.E. the RS232 standard, it took years before USB replaced it. But it did serve its purpose I could buy any computer peripheral and with a few jumpers and config changes get it to work on any computer except Apple. The market punished them and eventually they also folded and started making computers that were more compatible with the rest of the world. An engineering team like IEEE to produce Electric car standards would be great and would not need to wait for the BIG 3 auto to catch up. We could start up a thread here to flesh out a set of proposed standards and when finished publish it. If it gains widespread acceptance there will be pressure on anyone who markets an Ev to comply.
 

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big company, (who ever gets the most market share), uses a certain configuration and everyone else is stuck with it
absolutly the classic example is the mobility scooter design.
THEY still have tiller steering (it went out in 1904 with cars.)

a bib in front with adjustable steering collumn is so much better and convieniet and leave a huge space in front for luggage area instead of the present piddly basket.
one scooter i had to repair had the same kingpin design as my 1924 vintage car and no means of lubrication:mad:

in my city every 7th vehicle is a 4wd and we are just a few inches away from a desert rain fall. and no mud for 100 miles
 

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The tipping point will be a super battery or capacitor at a low price. Only takes one.

Home charging? Don't need special lines, just another super battery and charge controller set to draw power in the wee hours of the night.

Infrastructure? Almost irrelevant - for long trips, the larger truck stations along interstates will no doubt install huge charging stations first; most local gas stations will simply disappear slowly as the transition from gas to electric occurs.

Edit: I believe it was Smith-Corona which suffered conviction as a monopolist in the typewriter industry. By the time the conviction came, they were nearly bankrupt and the combination of Word Processors and small computers had essentially replaced the typewriter - so the conviction was totally irrelevant.
 

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back in 1976 a friend and I projected what would be in 50 years time.
we thought that most advanced cities would have constantly circulating cheap commuting transport and malls or parking lots in convienient places where any one with an electric car could commute to the nearest depot and charge their car while they commuted to any where they wanted .
many cities are going that way Christchurch New Zealand has a circualating inner city bus and an outer circulating orbiter and many malls in its route.
so from the ground up we designed the 1976 'coNZept'.
it had 2 seats and gull wing doors that enabled a person to actually walk into the tiny car.
here are some of the 40 innovations

1 steering column folds out of the way to allow ease of entry and exit
2 steering column also acts as hand brake and power disconnect for the batteries.
3controlls and indicating lights are on the steering wheel.
4 steering wheel has rose colored mirror for the ladies
5 dash board is of soft alloy to adsorb energy in case of crash
6 when the gull wing door is open it acts as shelter in case of rain.
7 high and low speed control as well as an accelerator
8 regenerative braking that charges the battery when slowing down.
9 two motors to eliminate the differential

even a system we were trying out of pendulum front suspention.

so 33 years later it seems still 18 years too soon for public mass use.

we went on in 1980 to make the NEEV electric truck instead

and 8 of the nine trucks we made were sold to some one that wanted a 2 seater electric car:)

http://http://www.storydad.com/forum/index.php?topic=529.0

the story of the coNZept

and all trucks would be confined to local transport of containers from the local electric rail these would be special container movers that had their own loading unloading systems.

we are getting there but s l o w l y
 

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Hi everyone,

Sorry to bump up a 4 year old thread. I'm new here, so I decided to read the wiki and all the old articles first. Wich is why I came across this one.

Could Dynamic charging or Road embedded recharging, like the KAIST OLEV
system be the Suez Canal moment for the EV?

It would surely solve a lot, if not all, dissadvantages over current ICE vehicles.
With potentially unlimited range, smaller and therfore cheaper batteries, no need for public charging stations...

In The Netherlands, wich is near where I live, were plans to build an Induction priority lane in every highway starting mid 2013.
This would be a huge insentive for people to switch to EV. Imagin EV's passing ICE vehicles on a dedicated lane during traffic congestion, whilst recharging. No beter way to convince people of the superiority of EV's.

I haven't heard of any progress thow, nor of any commercially available vehicle or charging system for that matter.
 
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