This shouldn't be a big surprise - we have infrastructure that is not meant for millions of people to charge car batteries. Doesn't anyone think that we need to put that building block into the picture before anything else?
As Auto Makers Seek To Match Tesla Charging Network, Problems Loom
Neil Winton, Contributor · Nov 5, 2017
Tesla Model S
Tesla Inc has a convincing recharging set up in the U.S. and Europe, but the successful development of electric cars generally could be jeopardized by the refuelling speed and density of the network, with the biggest question concerning the availability of enough electricity.
Some critics say the only sensible solution is to concede that battery electric vehicles make sense only in short-range urban driving, while long-distances should be the preserve of plug in hybrid vehicles for the foreseeable future.
Otherwise, long-distance driving will become intolerable as the recharging infrastructure won’t be capable of refuelling electric vehicles at peak or vacation times because of the cost of providing adequate fast chargers, the inadequacy of the technology to dispense the stuff fast enough, not to mention the strain on electric generation this implies.
A Tesla recharges at a charging station in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
I recently drove a Tesla Model S 100D to examine the actual range and the adequacy of the recharging here in Southern England. This was designed by Tesla to show off its claim in the best possible light, but given those limitations, the test was positive.
The recharging network isn’t ubiquitous in this part of southern England, south of London towards the Sussex coast, but there is an increasing number of charging stations across the rest of the country. Tesla claims the range on the 100 Kw Model S 100D is up to 393 miles (NEDC – New European Driving Cycle). But that is frankly ridiculous and only obtainable in the most perfect of circumstances. But the range indicated after it was plugged into a Tesla charging station at the Stoke Park Spa hotel near London’s Heathrow airport for more than 16 hours was 316 miles. (Stoke Park provides electric car charging facilities, including 2 for Teslas. It paid for my overnight stay). These regular chargers can raise range to more than 300 miles in 10 hours. Tesla claims that its Supercharging network will fill 50% of the battery in 20 minutes, 80% in 40 minutes and 100% in 75 minutes.
That’s impressive, but there were some negatives too.
Porsche Mission E will soon be challenging Tesla (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
I found that if, for instance, the range remaining was indicated at 292 miles and the car was driven 50 miles, it would actually subtract 63 miles from the total because perhaps some of the route was over highways and speeds of up to 80 mph were hit. That is 10 mph over the legal speed limit in England, but mirrors the actual speed that most vehicles cruise at. On three separate occasions, the amount of mileage consumed ranged from 20% to 30% more than that indicated by the car as available. Tesla says this wouldn’t be a problem for an owner because the car is designed to build up data on the driver’s habits and would adjust its reading to reflect that.
According to Frost & Sullivan analyst, Paris-based Nicolas Meilhan, when driving on highways at 130 km/h (80 mph), driving range is only 50 to 60% of the official NEDC range. This is a potential problem for Tesla because it is competing against other conventional thoroughbreds from BMW, Mercedes and Audi. It can match them in the performance stakes, but will lag behind in long distance ability.
This problem was underlined in an article in Automotive News Europe magazine. Green Party environment minister in the German state of North Rhein-Westphalia Johannes Remmel wanted to test an electric car for his daily use. Remmel chose a Tesla Model S, but the claimed range of 311 miles was impossible to achieve, according to the magazine. Even 250 miles wasn’t possible which meant in practice he could only travel about 100 miles before turning back. The recharging network was too slow, so he gave the car back.
Meanwhile, other manufacturers are scrambling to build up their own modern, more powerful charging networks. On Friday, BMW, VW and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries, Mercedes parent Daimler, and Ford announced they would create a 400 strong pan-European fast charging network by 2020. Each charging point would have a 350 kW capacity. Last month oil giant Royal Dutch Shell bought one of Europe’s biggest electric vehicle charging companies, Netherlands based NewMotion. NewMotion has 30,000 private home electric charging points, and 50,000 public sites.
Audi e-tron quattro concept electric car (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
Frost & Sullivan’s Meilhan doesn’t think long distance electric car trips will be easy because it will take double or triple the time for them to recharge than it would take a diesel or gasoline vehicle.
“A battery electric car with “fast” electric charge (50 kW) is approximately 25 times slower to fill than a vehicle with conventional fuel. Gasoline or diesel drivers will take 5 minutes to take on board what it will take 2 hours for a battery electric car as they will get 6 times less energy in 20 minutes – the equivalent of 100 kilometers compared with 600 kilometers (65 miles versus 375 miles),” Meilhan said in a report published earlier this year.
“This will be a powerful incentive to buy a plug-in for long distance journeys. Battery electric vehicles are more suited for city and urban driving. These will be small and light specially designed cars,” he said.
Charging time isn’t an issue for daily commutes of around 30 miles, and long distance driving will be better served by plug-in hybrids combining diesel or gasoline engines with electric power, he said.
“In the long term, 150 kW fast charging stations should reduce this charging time to 40 minutes for 600 km (370 miles) However, assuming two 150 kW charge points in each and every service station, charging network availability will still be 40 times less dense than the existing fuel network, which will be a challenge to pass peak demand during week-end and holidays without waiting hours before being able to charge,” Meilhan said in a recent email.
Dr Dave Tuttle, research fellow at The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute, agrees that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) for cities and plug-in hybrids for longer trips is credible, but points out Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly found himself on the right side of the argument.
Musk won’t countenance anything other than a pure electric solution.
“What I’ve observed over the past decade is that Elon Muck and Tesla has “repeatedly redefined the possible”. Tesla is pushing the frontiers of BEV range, price and charging speed/infrastructure to truly enable BEVs as a credible, full function alternative to a conventional vehicle. While all the fronts they are pushing may not be at parity or better now, I would watch the trajectories over the next decade,” Tuttle said in an email response to questions.
Even if there are more chargers, the grid capacity is in doubt.
“An intelligent electricity grid is necessary for EVs or else the grid will fail. If EV penetration continues to increase…. ageing grids will be unable to cope with 1) the extra peak demand and 2) increased demand volatility,” said Berenberg Bank of Germany analyst Asad Farid in a recent report.
Needless to say, the Tesla Model S 100D was a fabulous car to drive. Quiet, amazingly fast, with great quality, and four-wheel drive. There were a couple of nagging criticisms, one trivial, one less so. The screen wipers were noisy and clunky sounding and seemed out of place in a premium car. And more seriously, driving along a local country road, the computer safety control system intervened quite scarily, detecting the need for evasive action when there was none. It yanked the steering hugely but momentarily to the right (we drive on the left here don’t forget) to avert this imagined catastrophe, and for a split second I thought I was doomed to a headline crash with oncoming traffic. Happily, that wasn’t the case.
And it does seem that whatever the problems in the way of the successful development of electric cars, Tesla will sail serenely on, bypassing the massive traffic jams at highway recharging stations as its lucky owners plug in to private superchargers only they can use.