Truly this car is the pits.
-and here’s how..
The engineers seem to have responded with the most short-term planning possible to a demand from the BMW marketing department to make the company look green now that sales of their monster cars are down 40%. Some “ad” bloke has said “clean electricity, that’s the way forward!” in a similar manner to which electricity was sold in the 60’s. The engineers have jumped.
Of course, electricity is wonderful, make no mistake. It’s not for nothing that all the fastest trains in the world are electric-powered. Even diesel locos are electric powered at the wheels. Electric motors, like human muscles, generate their greatest torque (turning power) at low speeds. But that’s not the point.
The point is that this car is made and sold as a replacement for petrol cars. And there lies the problem. The engineers have satisfied a marketing question and have not considered the car as part of the whole environment, that is, the world that we all have to live in.
In fact, economically, it isn’t even a good deal.
- It’s a two seater (not four!). The batteries take up half the car!
- It weighs one and a half tons!
- It’s max payload is only 160kg!
- It takes all night to charge up!
- It only does 150 miles.
- They’ve designed it to accelerate like rocket (it’s a commuter car, apparently….wot? No traffic lights in dreamland?)
- The spec has no mention of a heater!
- The battery weighs at least half a tonne.
- It uses lithium-ion batteries.
- There is only 35 million tonnes of lithium on our world.
- About half the battery is lithium, say 250kg – quarter of a tonne.
So if, and it’s a BIG IF, if we managed to get all the lithium in the world and use it all for car batteries, so that we used none for mobile phones and laptops, we could make only 140 million mini-sized cars, for the whole world! (There are currently 28 million cars in the UK alone!)
This is obviously nonsense and fully explains my comment about the car, and it’s designers, and the mentality behind such a plan – as the pits!
But wait! There’s more!
- The advertising puff is full of the car’s green credentials and even has wind-turbines in the background!…
- The average commercial cost for a wind turbine is about £1m per MW of capacity.
- The mini’s batteries store 35kWh of energy.
- So a 1MW turbine running for an hour would provide the energy for 28 minis! That’s 685 minis a day.
- But 1MW turbines don’t produce 1MW all day. Far from it! A third of a day if they’re lucky! So we need to spend £1m to keep about 200 minis on the road.
But wait! There’s more!
- It’s not just lithium in the batteries….
- Remember, all the laptops catching fire? Same lithium-ion batteries, only smaller.
- Many parts of the batteries are toxic, inflammable or explosive. LiCo Oxide, propylene carbonate, paint-stripper, ether,
- The electrolyte in the batteries is also extremely toxic and destroys your mucus membranes on contact.
- This means, if you have a “normal” crash and the battery leaks, before you can be cut from your car you will be blinded by the fumes and suffer damaged lungs for the rest of your life – and that’s without them catching fire. (see safety video here: battery safety video)
So the batteries are dodgy, especially in the motor vehicle context.
But wait! There’s more!
Apart from the environmental cost (huge mines in Chile etc for Lithium, and Bolivia for the huge extra demand for copper in the massive motors), there’s the real money what you’ll have to pay. How so?
- On both the Mini E website and elsewhere, Li-ion batteries have a lifetime of at most 3 years.
- The metal is of course, recycleable, which is good. It’ll have to be since there’s so little in the Earth’s crust (see above)!!!
- But 3 years is when most UK buyers get a new car, if they are the type of people that can and do so.
- This means that the second purchaser is lumbered with the immediate cost of a new battery!
- And there’s the rub – the cost isn’t mentioned. Anywhere. The only similar cars are from AC Propulsion and are rare sports car types, not mass-production models.
- But I can give you a clue to the cost. Mobile phone battery ~ £8; Laptop battery ~£30; larger ~£3 per Wh. The Mini E has a 35kWh battery therefore it costs ~£105,000. Maybe half that as discount for quantity. This is about right as the old technology (lead, cadmium etc) batteries on cars like the Prius or for normal fork-lift trucks cost tens of thousands of pounds.
So do you want to buy a second-hand car and immediately fork out at least 25 grand for the privelige of driving it for 3 years?
What’s the answer?
For mass transport, we need transport en-masse using old technologies like trams, trains etc (all electric, notice!)
For personal transport, we need the air-powered car or something similar.
- It uses a lightweight alloy engine powered by air, which can be “supercharged” by preheating using external combustion of a small amount of fuel. This heats the vehicle in winter also.
- It consumes ~20p of standard electricity to compress the air!
- It uses 2litres of petrol
- Range is ~130miles
- 3,4,5,6 seats!
- Weighs about half a tonne!
In short, it uses conventional technology and materials in a novel way.
This is totally different to all battery and hydrogen powered cars which use new, untried (and dangerous) techology in a conventional way! (They’re even thinking of liquid sodium…gad.)
So we must totally ignore the blinkered plans from one-dimensional thinkers sat in the design offices of the major car companies. Barack Obama has said as much today. Obama vows aid for car industry. He said;
“As part of our economic recovery package what you will see coming out of my administration right at the centre is a strong set of financial regulations which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks (will) start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly.”
The “folks” he refers to, are the big three car makers, GM, Ford and Chrysler.
Personally I think the big three chiefs who had that embarrassing encounter in congress, should pop straight over to Guy Negre and beg for a licence to make a $100 million factory to make his cars. Remember, they are losing $5billion a month anyway – what have they to lose?
- Motor_Development_International: Wikipedia article
- Electric Mini ‘with 150 mile range’: embarrassing BBC plug for the Mini E
- Mini maker’s fact sheet (pdf)
- AutoExpress Test Drive: like a tank, but what do you expect?
- Green US Car Blog: misses the point although some comments are in accord with my guesstimates above.