Stick and Ball Sports

The professional sports leagues have a few things in common.  In baseball, basketball and football, a ball is used.  In hockey, a ball with the top and bottom sliced off, makes a puck.  In baseball and hockey, a bat or stick is used to hit the ball or puck to score.

Baseball and hockey, both stick and ball sports, have different rules.  There are nine players in the field for one team, and one opposing player in baseball.  For hockey, there are two opposing teams made up of six players each.

Hockey has three periods of 20 minutes each.  Baseball functions with up to nine innings.  In baseball, each team takes a turn hitting the ball to score.  In hockey, there is a free-for-all during a period in which to score.

I’m sure you’ve had enough of the sports analogy.  Here’s my point:

An electric powered car is a car.  An internal combustion engine powered car is a car.  They both have four wheels, a steering wheel, two, four or five doors, brakes, front and rear suspensions, often a radio, sometimes a navigation system.  But they have different rules.

Most EVs need to be charged after about 100km of use.  How long does that take?  To paraphrase a Tesla user, about 30 seconds; 15 seconds to plug it in at night and 15 seconds to unplug it in the morning.  The vast majority of EV users charge at home, overnight.

Internal combustion engine (ICE) cars need to be fueled after about 400km, give or take a few kilometers.  Low fuel means it’s time to gas up.  Head over to a gas station, fill-‘er-up, and you’re good to go for another 400km.

How does that 400km break down?  Usually in small, short trips of under 10km each. To and from the grocery store, the school, Johnny’s soccer practice, the office.  Total mileage each day?  40-60 km.  Over a week, that would be about 400km.

The rule for EVs is, plug it in at night, and drive the wheels off it for 100km during the day.  Fill up for about $2.00 for 100km, or $8.00 for 400km.

The rule for ICEs is, drive the wheels off it for 400km, head to the gas station and fill it up for $40-60+.

Yes, you can drive from Toronto to Montreal on less than two tanks of fuel in an ICE car.  No, you cannot practically drive an EV from Toronto to Montreal (Tesla owners excepted).  If you want to drive to Montreal, you can always rent a vehicle, or take a flight or the train.  There are alternatives.

Much has been made about range anxiety; the fear of running out of electrons in an EV.  After driving a Leaf for 18 months, I don’t even think about it anymore.  I know that 95% of my driving will be less than 40km per day.  I know I can drive 120km in the summer on a full charge with lots of reserve, and 80km in the dead of winter with the heat on.  The vast majority of times, I’ll plug the Leaf in to charge with more than 50% of the battery unused.

Yes, EVs cost more than comparative ICE powered vehicles.  When you factor in the total cost of ownership (fuel, maintenance, etc.) and the convenience of ‘filling up’ at home, the EV argument makes a lot of sense.

Imagine if EVs came first, and an Elon Musk-type of person had invented a new kind of engine, one that has a thermal efficiency of 35-40%1 (meaning 60-65% of the energy is given off as waste heat).  This engine’s fuel needs a distribution network of large tank farm storage facilities across the country.  Then, transport this highly volatile fuel by rail and tanker truck to end user stations.  We won’t even get into the argument of what it takes to get the fuel out of the ground in the first place or the greenhouse gas issue.

Do you think for a minute that this new product of Musk-type would be sold?  Would people give up the convenience of ‘filling up’ their vehicles at home from the electrical grid?

Incidentally, the thermal efficiency of an EV is about 80%.2

If you haven’t driven an EV, try it.  Get past the sticker shock, and get behind the wheel.  Enjoy the amazing torque at zero RPM.  Smugly drive past gas stations, as people suffer in the cold for 10 minutes fueling their vehicles.  Watch your credit card bill go down as fuel charges disappear from the statement.

It’s a new game with new rules.  We’ll all be better off when we start playing by them.


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