Armen Hareyan's picture

When These 2 Challenges are Fixed, More LEAFs and Teslas Will Be Sold

When we talk about Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S and their widespread adoption, one of the first things that comes to mind is the range anxiety. But there are two infrastructure related issues that are more important than the range-related issues.

Thomas Crummett comments on the subject under our discussion at the SF Bay Area Nissan LEAF Owners group on Facebook.

The big thing to me is the infrastructure. Count the number of public EV stations where you can recharge. Now, count the number of gas stations. Roughly estimating, I'd say there's anywhere between 100 and 1000 gas stations for every public EV station.

The next biggest problem is charging time. Even the questionable 2C rates mean a 30 minute charge for a significant range boost. I can drive 600 miles in my Accord (not even a hybrid!), but it only takes me 5 minutes to go from 0 to full. Liquid energy transport is undeniably difficult to match, but that doesn't mean it's not a critical problem.

Sure, increased range is great. But even a 500-mile range would be met with public disapproval without fixing those two issues. The Model S comes with a 60- or 85-kWh battery, but is nowhere close to the volume of sales of the Leaf. I'm sure price is a factor in this too, but even at prices comparable to a Model S, there are probably ~10 ICE vehicles sold (this is likely way off, sales volumes are hard to find).

BEVs have a lot of issues, and range is just one of them. I would love a higher range Leaf, but not so I could drive further, but so I could recharge less. This is mostly due to being unable to reasonable recharge on my way to work. There's a Leafer that had a long range (100+mi?) round trip, and relied on DCQC halfway to finish the trip. What if that DCQC broke (as we know happens all too frequently)? With ICE, you just pull to the next pump, or worse, drive across the street to the competing station.

Tesla set the foundation with their supercharger network. We need a similar investment from Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, etc. to get EV stations everywhere. Car manufacturers can only do so much. Relying on ChargePoint, NRG, or others to fix the infrastructure problem is like asking Gilbarco (gas pump manufacturer) to create a gas station closer to my house.

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It is impressive that you can drive 600 miles without getting hungry or tired.
Hat off, sir.

Just had this discussion with a friend. The argument is a fallacy for the majority of drivers. How often do people take extended trips? The answer is rarely.

The number of gas stations are high because people can't fill their tanks at home. But my tesla is full every morning so I can drive 265 miles prior to returning to home.

On the rare occasions I need to drive further, there are suoerchargers and blink and others charging stations. But again that is rare for me and probably 99.99% of the driving on the road today.

I have driven my tesla from Fremont to LA and made it in three stops. Once my wife went shopping while it charged.. One we ate lunch... And once we grabbed coffee and took a bio break. Didn't really even notice the charging time.

There was a recent coast to coast record set for least time. It might be pointed out that the Tesla superchargers are free to tesla owners. So that coast to coast drive cost nothing on fuel.

Is this for a high school paper or something?

1. If it costs $60+ to fill a gas tank for 10 minutes, or takes 30 (or even 40) minutes to charge for free, I can hang for the extra 20 minutes.

2. 500 mile range. How much do you plan to drive in one day? I don't think I have exceeded 500 miles in a day but maybe a handful of times since graduating college (where I would do a 20+ hour trek from NYC to Florida at times)

3. How many gas stations would you need if you used the ONLY for road trips, and NEVER used them any other time. Thinks - what if gas station within a 25 mile radius of your house were useless for you? How many times a year do you buy gas when more than 25 miles from your home?

4. Numbers are not that hard to find. Google how many gas stations there are in the USA, how many charging stations there are in the USA, how many of each vehicle type are sold at what price. Those statistics are out there but you did ZERO research to find them and just said "Roughly estimating, I'd say there's anywhere between 100 and 1000 gas stations for every public EV station."
That doesn't even qualify as roughly estimating. That is just pulling numbers out of your a$$.

If I was your professor/teacher, I would make you re-write this.

Well said, Ducifer. I would add two more glaring errors. Consumer demand for the Model S exceeds supply. The production rate is what is holding back sales of the Model S not charging infastructure. In the case of the Chevy Volt it doesn't make sense to blame the lack of charging infrastructure because the Volt is a PHEV.

Ditto Drucifer. The "paper" is full of exactly the sort of light uncritical thinking which prevails as "journalism" these days.

A 5 minute gas stop? Having done this many times it takes 15-25 minutes to execute a pit stop from the time one pulls off at the exit until one is back at highway speeds. Is highly frowned upon and illegal in most places to pump fuel unattended. But common practice to charge EV while eating. shopping, etc.

A Tesla Model S 85 kWh charges at peak rate of 120 kW on a Supercharger which is 1.4C. At about half charge the rate drops to about 1C. As an engineer reading about battery technology I suspect it would be hard to measure the additional wear Supercharging imposes on Tesla's battery. I suspect there is much more wear discharging the battery near empty and/or charging to absolutely full no matter the charge rate used.

I make 2-3 1000 mile trips per year, and about 6000 miles around town during the year so I'm at least 30% 500+ mile days. That has not prevented me from purchasing a Tesla Model S no matter there is only just now one Supercharger in range. Have made round trips to Birmingham and Nashville on a single charge. Looking forward to Superchargers on I-65 that I would no longer have to drive my 700 mile range ICE. Yes, 25 gallon tank at an honest 28 MPG. Sadly it was only driven 3500 miles last year.

Oh, and the range of my Tesla is greater than the range of my BMW motorcycle. Plentiful gas stations help.

Consumer demand for the Tesla Model S exceeds production, presently. The production rate is what is limiting the sales of Model S, not a lack of public charging infrastructure. The lack charging infrastructure would also not affect the sales of the Chevy Volt because it's a plugin hybrid.

When I drive down the Florida turnpike there are gas stations every 50 miles or so and nobody seems to have a problem with that. We just need to standardize the super charger so that all cars use the same hardware and the problem will solve itself.

Just imagine gas stations near freeways with for fee super chargers charging .50 a kwh. $.35x50 = $17.50 profit per fill up.

The author is good points, and they fold together, because while there are a great many charge points these days, a very small minority of them are DC quick charge points, and many EVs cannot use the ones we do have. SHEETZ gas stations in PA are putting in CHAdeMO DCQC, as are Cracker Barrel restaurants in TN, and we can only hope that will catch on. The ultimate rate of charging also needs work. Ideally a chemistry will be found that is uncompromised by charging at higher rates. If we can raise it 400 kW, that would be about 1200 miles per hour, which is closely approaching the transfer rate of fossil energy.

There are still gaps in the charging network, and this really is a big challenge.

I'd like to point out Erie, Pennsylvania. Without it you can't go from Toronto south, and you can't go from upstate NY west to Ohio. And it's got nothing with a decent charge rate, nothing.

But I trust that Tesla will fill in these gaps in the next couple of years.