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Electric Cars a Passing Fad

Expensive hybrid electric cars will never replace internal combustion engines
Expensive hybrid electric cars will never replace internal combustion engines
John Casti

The future is dim for electric vehicles, a scientist at Texas A&M University will tell the crowd attending renewable energy conference in April

DALLAS (March 10, 2014) – Electric vehicles will never replace the internal combustions engine says Mehrdad (Mark) Ehsani, a director with the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station. Professor Ehsani will be a keynote speaker at the sixth annual IEEE Greentech conference when it convenes in Corpus Christi, Texas, this coming April 3-4 at the Omni Bayfront hotel. The public is urged to attend by registering at www.ieeegreentech.org.

A fascinating speaker, Ehsani is director of the Sustainable Energy and Vehicle engineering Program at A&M, leading the Power Electronics & Motor Drives Laboratory. When asked about the reported success of new electric vehicles such as the Tesla, Ehsani replied “Tesla will have a fine niche in the market as long as you don’t get carried away with the claims the manufacturer or the excitable media say about it.”

Ehsani blames reporter’s zeal for Tesla’s surge in popularity. “Here we are dealing with media sensationalism,” says Ehsani. “The primary purpose would be to excite, to get attention regardless of technical, scientific, or for that matter, even commercial foundations of the claim.” Ehsani says reporters are often derelict “because they’re not really responsible five years from now for what they’ve said about (electric cars), or how strongly or enthusiastic they may have said it. As long is that day is exciting the purpose of the media is done.”

Ehsani says the problem with electric vehicles goes back to the fundamental laws of physics and how an electric vehicle has to store all its energy in an electro-chemical battery in a small size. He said to compare that to a tank of gasoline or diesel fuel is fundamentally impossible. With the tank of fuel we are only carrying half of what we need, “the other half is the oxygen which happens to be mixing in,” says Ehsani, “and it’s available everywhere … whereas in a battery you’re carrying both the fuel and the oxidant in the box, and then all the materials in between to actually oxidize the fuel and then produce electricity from it.”

Ehsani also spoke of range anxiety. “Imagine if this car was going to be driven in Alaska or Minnesota or Nebraska in the winter,” he said, “the chemical battery becomes much more sluggish and it forgets a significant percentage of its charge when it experiences 20 below (zero).

Then Ehsani points to the laws of nature. “Everything that moves on this planet, including earthworms and dogs and cats and humans, we all have an an internal combustion engine,” says Ehsani. And it is because the way this planet is formed with plentiful oxygen. “All you have to carry is the hydrocarbons,” says Ehsani, “in our case it’s sugar in our blood. In the case of a vehicle it’s the hydrocarbon fuel in the gasoline. We have to be realistic about these things.”

Ehsani spoke by phone from his office in College Station, Texas, on the ScienceNews Radio Network program, the Promise of Tomorrow, with co-host Jack Bishop, www.PromiseOfTomorrow.biz. The program originates in Dallas and can now be heard Webcast and archived for its world audience.