When a horseless carriage is not a horseless carriage

I recently had the occasion to attend a family function in D.C. and was thinking of driving from my home south of Boston.  I know from experience that it takes about ten hours to make the trip; traffic, food, rest, and one fill-up.  Then I thought, what if I drove an electric vehicle (E.V.) — how long would it take?  Without stops, the approximate drive time is eight hours with a distance of about 400 miles.  My car could do that on one tank of gas. I'd most assuredly be running of fumes by the time Lincoln came into view but, in theory, it could be done.

So, the search engines began.  How many miles will the average E.V. go?  Answer...well...it depends.  Are you talking Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) miles or EPA miles or the ambient temperature you're driving in, cabin temperature (primarily running the heat vs. A/C)?  Is there regenerative braking?  How old is the battery?

Don't get me wrong,  I have nothing against EVs.  They do run cleaner and quieter and have fewer moving parts, but I can look at my dash now and see I have 247 miles left in my tank no matter if I'm running Shell with Platformate or "Mobile detergent gasoline that treats dirt like dirt."  This question seemed to put new meaning to the old familiar line: your results may vary.  The best I could generalize from this morass of wattage and kWh was 150 to 250 miles, and for the sake of this question, I am settling on 200 miles, half of what my car gets.

Next search: How long does it take to charge an E.V. battery?  Oh, boy, did I ask the wrong question.  You know you're in trouble when you get a question for an answer, but how about five of them?  What's the battery size?  How much of a charge does the battery have?  What is the E.V.'s charging rate?  What is the power of the charging station?  Even, what is the weather like?  It takes two hours to fully charge my 80v lawnmower battery.  I found out that a 120v home charging station will take 10 hours for 50 miles.  Imagine living in a modern world where nobody travels more than 50 miles from home,  New York to Boston will be about a four-day journey again; motels and campgrounds will pop up all over and come with charging stations.  So much for the horseless carriage.

What's the solution (besides don't bother with all that math)?  What works now that we can transition to EVs to provide reliability and mobility and bring back that family Sunday drive in the station wagon?  Standardization and the local fill-up station.  Standardize battery sizes and power outputs to perhaps three sizes just like regular, super, and super-duper gas.  Have those batteries stored and charged at your local fill-up station, and automate a process whereby you pull up to the charger, out goes your old battery, and in goes a new one fully charged.  You pay the difference between the power left in the old and the power in the new battery.  Bing, bang, boom — you are on your way in 10 minutes, ain't life grand? 

As an added bonus, the filling station can generate its own electricity using clean-burning natural gas or propane, which would get power in remote areas, relieve the pressure on the electric grid, and contribute power in a time of need.  The landscape would not have to change; you can still fill up and get a mocha latte ya ya at the local convenience store or "trust your car to the man who wears the star."

It's all seems doable.  Do some enterprising electrical, automotive, mechanical engineering business-type people need to get going on this?  The infrastructure is there, but it needs updating.  Battery condition, life, and age could be controlled; new and improved batteries with longer-range Platformate could be introduced.  Jobs would be retained.  An entirely new industry would arise based on the horseless carriage again!  A tax base saved!  There is something there for everyone!  Americana preserved!

Here's a question I couldn't search.  Has anyone ever looked at something like this?  I cannot believe that it is technically impossible.  We have standardization everywhere, and cars can be designed around the sizes of batteries.  One of my poker buddies has been an electrician for over 25 years.  He's worked on everything — high voltage, low voltage, and solar projects — and he told me it would never happen.  I was expecting some technical issues such as ohms or watts as to the reason why.  Nope — all he said was "it makes sense."

By the way, we flew and had a wonderful time.

Image: Steve Jurvetson.

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