Blog Archive

2017-04-14

Batteries Are A Bad Idea For Fueling Vehicles by Rev. J.T. Smith



I am in no way supporting Big Oil with what I'm about to say as petrol as a fuel is an environmental disaster.  There is no denying that at all.

That said, batteries are not the right way to go either for several reasons.

One of which is that batteries all wear out eventually.  Just look to your mobile phone and you'll realize this.  Then again, far too many feel a desperate need to always have the latest and greatest product and update their mobile phone every year or so.  A fact that manufacturers don't only realize but actively count on and encourage this behaviour.  Consumerism at all costs.  Great for the bottom lines of corporations around the world but utter shit for the environment.

Car companies, including Tesla, are counting on this short-sighted behaviour too.  Though of course they won't admit it as that would be bad for sales.

One of the more subtle ways of encouraging this is to place in the instructions that come with the device, including electric cars, the notion that batteries supposedly no longer develop a memory the way nickle-cadmium [Ni-Cad] batteries used to so you should recharge them once they drop to 15% rather than run them flat first before recharging.  They tell you this, not because they really want you to get the most life out of your battery (FYI, there's zero profit in it for corporations for you to not have to replace the batteries sooner!), but because they want to sell you more batteries and/or a new device sooner.

These days, the only thing that's kept around longer than the rechargeable batteries that run them are vibrators.  Then again, a dead vibrator is still a dildo. 

Now, I grant that lithium ion [Li-Ion] batteries don't develop a memory the way that Ni-Cad ones did, they do still develop that memory only over a longer period of time.  Longer enough, the manufacturers figure, that you'll be throwing out your old device and replacing it with a new one before the battery will no longer hold a charge.  But if you really want your rechargeable batteries to actually last as long as they can before they're permanently dead, then you should always run them until they're flat before you recharge them and you should recharge them until they're fully recharged before using them again.

In the meantime there's still the matter of the fact that it still takes hours to fully recharge a battery from flat (the more powerful the batteries, the longer it takes to recharge them); and as noted earlier, if you don't run the battery to flat prior to fully recharging completely you will shorten the total overall life of the battery.  (This is the end result of the aforementioned memory.)  I know this for a fact by taking two identical modern mobile phones (I inadvertently got two identical handsets, one from each of two people, due to my previous mobile phone dying completely after 4 years of service, and I kept the second as a backup) and ran the first one battery to flat every time prior to fully recharging.  That handset started getting a bit worn so I started using the second handset fresh from the box.  Only with the second handset I decided to go against my better judgement and started recharging every day or so regardless of how low the battery was.  The end result was that the battery of the second handset ended up needing to be recharged as often after one year as the first one did after two hours.  Now, neither handset will last 24 hours before going flat. And unlike Top Gear, who would fake things to get their end result, I didn't fake any of it.  That's because batteries typically lose approximately 80% of their capacity after a couple of years.

Regardless, if you do decide to keep your electric vehicle for long enough, you'll have to deal with the battery.  While some companies like Nissan are trying to make it that you would only have to replace a bad cell rather than the entire battery replace the entire battery, it's currently more common and more likely that your dealer won't be the ones to deal with individual cells; so you'll still end up having to replace the battery outright to keep that car going the way petrol fueled vehicles can currently.  At which point you have a piece of trash that still contains components that still can't be recycled; and that, in turn, continues to have a toxic environmental impact.  Yes, more of the components can be recycled, but the cost of lithium is low right now because the relative demand is low currently, but that'll change over time.  And all of this presumes you'll still be able to get a matching replacement battery when the time comes, anyway.

I fully acknowledge the fact that petrol fuel is an environmental disaster, but one of the advantages of a liquid fuel is that as long as the engine/motor still uses that fuel then it doesn't matter what shape the fuel tank takes as long as it fits into the hull of the vehicle.  And replacing a liquid fuel tank is a lot cheaper than replacing the battery on an electric vehicle.  And one of the beautiful things about classic cars is that we can still drive them now, decades after they were manufactured.  If the trend of throwing away battery operated devices, either as soon as or before the batteries will no longer hold a charge, then things like classic car shows will be a thing of the past.  Classic car shows aren't  singing the praises of Big Oil; they're showcases of lasting and durable engineering and works of art created from metals.

Even more troubling than the technical issues, there's still the slave labour and environmental problems inherent in the manufacture of batteries.

We would do far better with a hybrid car consisting of a hydrogen fuel cell backed up with solar panels.  But thanks to irrational fears due to a misunderstanding of just what downed the Hindenburg, it'll be a long time before this is more widely accepted.  And thanks to current economics, it'll be cheaper to replace an entire vehicle than only the battery when the battery can no longer hold a charge.  Batteries are a stopgap measure at best.

by  Rev. J.T. Smith