Dude, Where's My 50 Miles Per Gallon Gasoline Car?

According to Lee Schipper, “a battery supplying the 40-mile range of the GM Volt is said to cost $20,000.” Photo by EuroTraveler.

Lee Schipper, senior fellow at EMBARQ and senior research engineer at the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center of Stanford University, makes the case for more fuel-efficient gasoline cars in the short-term, even though electric cars are more valuable and use less resources.

The main problem with battery electric vehicles, Schipper points out, is a matter of cost.

Excerpted from his letter to the New York Times:

Each mile of range from an electric-car battery costs $200 to $500. A battery supplying the 40-mile range of the GM Volt is said to cost $20,000.

Society will need to tax the electricity to pay for roads. If an electric vehicle goes 5 miles on a kilowatt-hour, then at California’s average fuel tax of 64 cents/gallon and M.P.G. of 21, we need to pay almost 15 cents/kilowatt-hour to make up for lost revenue.

From an energy-efficiency standpoint, electric cars are more valuable because they use fewer overall resources. Why can’t we just move to equivalent, existing gasoline cars that get 50 M.P.G. first, then decide if the jump to electricity is worthwhile? At the cost of electric vehicles, small Fords and Hondas are a bargain.

Schipper’s letter was written in response to an article, “Batteries Not Included,” about Better Place, a clean-energy company run by Israeli-American entrepreneur Shai Agassi.

Agassi’s grand plan is to kick-start the global adoption of electric cars by minimizing one of the biggest frustrations with the technology: the need for slow and frequent recharges. The robot is the key to his solution. Unlike most electric-car technologies, which generally require you to plug your car into a power source and recharge an onboard battery for hours, the Better Place robot is designed to reach under the chassis of an electric car, pluck its battery out and replace it with a new one, much the same way you’d put new batteries in a child’s toy.

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