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Earth Power Transportation

Mercedes To Phase Out Gasoline By 2015 908

Posted by kdawson
from the what-no-flying-monkeys dept.
arbitraryaardvark sends in a story a couple of weeks back in Yahoo's Ecogeek blog, reporting that Mercedes will phase out petroleum-powered cars by 2015 (mirror), and notes: "Story is unconfirmed but well sourced." "In less than 7 years, Mercedes-Benz plans to ditch petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup. Focusing on electric, fuel cell, and biofuels, the company is revving up research in alternative fuel sources and efficiency."
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Mercedes To Phase Out Gasoline By 2015

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  • Thank god! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RabidMoose (746680) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @03:57PM (#24105849) Homepage
    Maybe this precedent (if true) will prompt the other automakers to follow?
    • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitrev (989335) <digitrev@hotmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:04PM (#24105975) Homepage
      Only if the technologies aren't locked up and hidden away by patents. The fact is, we either need a better infrastructure (so electric cars are possible), or a reasonable and standard selection of fuels. If the average consumer has to think too hard about which fuel his car uses, he won't be getting that car. Of course, the real solution is to get urban centers off of a car based infrastructure, and go to a different system, such as good subway or bus system, coupled with a public taxi type system, as in Hominids [wikipedia.org] , by Robert J. Sawyer.
      • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eln (21727) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:11PM (#24106091) Homepage

        If electric cars can be made to charge from ordinary outlets, isn't the infrastructure already there? I suppose the trick would be to get the cars to charge fast enough and/or to last long enough on one charge that you don't have to stop every 4 hours to charge the car for 12 hours at a time, but assuming we can solve that, replacing all those gas pumps at fuel stations with extra outlets shouldn't be that big of a deal.

        Basically, I think electric cars are the only real way to handle this stuff long term, but battery technology has to get better. Today's batteries are too heavy and don't last long enough.

        I think better public transit is a good step, but I don't think you can put the private vehicle genie back in the bottle at this stage. People are accustomed to private transport, and the more efficient and environmentally friendly we can make that private transport the better.

        • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Informative)

          by wattrlz (1162603) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:29PM (#24106385)

          Most electric outlets have a 15 or 20 amp breaker. That means on the best of days you're only going to be able to get 1.8 to 2.4 kw or about 2.4 to 3.2 horsepower out of it. Unless your car uses less than an average of 3hp while it's running you're going to have to charge it, or at least your spare battery pack, for a pretty long time to get any range out of it.

          • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Informative)

            by Rei (128717) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:45PM (#24107595) Homepage

            Okay, well, first let's look at some common outlets in the US. Your standard NEMA 5-15R has a 15A breaker and, while there's a nominal delivery voltage of 120V, you'll probably get 117V or so out of it. That's 1.755kW. Kitchen outlets generally have a 20A breaker, so 2.34kW. The NEMA TT-30R, the standard low-power RV outlet, is also a nominal 120V, so assuming 117V still, that's 3.51kW. Dryer outlets are split-phase, either NEMA 10-30R or 14-30R (the 14-30 ones are properly grounded; the 10-30s are grounded through the neutral). They're able to feed a nominal 240V (we'll say 234V) at 30A. That's 7.02kW The higher power equivalents, the 10-50R and 14-50R, are the standards for range outlets. The 14-50R is also the standard high-power RV socket. This is 11.7kW.

            Okay, so these are the outlets found all across the country. The RV ones are especially interesting, since RV parks can often be found in even the most remote places, and I'm sure your average RV park owner would love a new revenue stream, what with RV travel down due to high gas prices. Now, let's take an upcoming EV like the Aptera Typ-1e -- 2+1 seating, 120 miles@55mph, 70 miles@80mph, 90mph top speed, 0-60 in Oahu. They use 60kW PosiCharge fast chargers by Aerovironment. Aerovironment already makes them as big as 250kW.

            To get an idea of what sort of driving distances you can get in a given length of time and how those compare to gasoline, there's always this convenient spreadsheet [daughtersoftiresias.org]. Adjust the EV pararmeters to those of the EV of your liking. Explanations of the formulae and parameters are at the bottom.

            Oh, and as for Mercedes? Who wants to bet that they'll make one or two EV/PHEVs, one fuel cell vehicle, and do the cheap/lazy thing and simply make all of the rest of their vehicles flex-fuel capable?

            • Post messed up (Score:4, Informative)

              by Rei (128717) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:51PM (#24107659) Homepage

              Ack, the post got messed up... I should have previewed. Replace that second paragraph with:

              Okay, so these are the outlets found all across the country. The RV ones are especially interesting, since RV parks can often be found in even the most remote places, and I'm sure your average RV park owner would love a new revenue stream, what with RV travel down due to high gas prices. Now, let's take an upcoming EV like the Aptera Typ-1e -- 2+1 seating, 120 miles@55mph, 70 miles@80mph, 90mph top speed, 0-60 in under 10 sec, 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space, etc for $27k. It has a 10kWh battery pack. Charger efficiency isn't known, but 93% or so is standard for slow charging (i.e., charging in more than half an hour or so). Li-ion batteries range from 96% (fast charging) to 99.9% (trickle charging) efficiency. Let's say 99%. Let's ignore the slowdown at the end, since that's more significant with .

              For ~2 hours worth of moderate speed driving or ~1 hour of high-speed driving, and assuming an appropriate onboard charger, you get the following charge times:
              NEMA 5-15R (15A): 6.2h
              NEMA 5-15R (20A): 4.6h
              NEMA TT-30R: 3.1h
              NEMA 10-30R or 14-30R: 1.5h
              NEMA 10-50R or 14-50R: 0.92h

              Now, these are with standard outlets that you can already find across the country. Thanks to modern batteries and chargers, fast charging is not only possible, but already available in places, such as Oahu [dailykos.com]. They use 60kW PosiCharge fast chargers by Aerovironment. Aerovironment already makes them as big as 250kW.

        • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by lgw (121541) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:30PM (#24106389) Journal

          If electric cars can be made to charge from ordinary outlets, isn't the infrastructure already there?

          Absolutely not. At least in the US, electrical power distribution networks are already are at capacity, and are not even *close* to what they'd need to be:

          * Total electrical power consumed in the US - about 12 Exajoules (for more is generated, but most power is lost in generation and distribution).

          * Total petroleum power used for transportation in the US - about 28 Exajoules.

          The way these numbers are measured, electric cars are significantly more efficient, but still we'd need to distribute *triple* the electrical power distributed in order to stop using gas for transport. That's significantly harder than replacing the tanks and pumps at every gas station.

          • Re:Thank god! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by bonehead (6382) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:55PM (#24106821)

            Don't forget that when I'm on a long trip and my tank is running low, it's currently about a 5 minute process to refill it, then I'm on my way.

            How long does it take to charge batteries?

            This alone will severely hamper the adoption of purely electric vehicles until the charging technology improves.

            Picture yourself on the way home from grandma's house after visiting the family for Christmas. It's 1:30 AM. It's snowing and the wind is whipping. Everyone's tired and your wife is bitching up a storm because your mom put her in a bad mood. Your batteries are running low and you're still 200 miles from home. And it's going to take 4 hours to charge them.

            Fuck that. I'll pay $50/gallon for gas before I buy a car that puts me in that situation.

            • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:21PM (#24107225) Journal
              I've seen it proposed many times, here's the solution:

              You pull into a gas station and they swap out your battery for a completely charged one.

              You drive away and they recharge the battery.

              Problem solved.

              Of course, there are a few issues to be worked out, like standardization of batteries (or being dependent on a single chain for swaps), liability for defective/damaged batteries, etc.
          • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Informative)

            by Rei (128717) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:58PM (#24107761) Homepage

            Error in your logic: Electricity has already undergone Carnot losses. Gasoline hasn't. The average ICE is only about 20% efficient. The average li-ion EV is about 80% efficient when fed already-generated electricity.

            Don't take my word for it. Take the word of a peer-reviewed study from PNL conducted for the DOE [pnl.gov]. We already have enough electric infrastructure for 84% of our existing vehicle fleet to switch. Of course, not as though it's somehow *harder* to build electric infrastructure than develop new oil fields and pipelines. Just the opposite, actually -- that's largely why electricity is so much cheaper per joule.

      • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:18PM (#24106217)

        Never going to happen. Nothing will ever beat the private car for convenience. Its right there, whenever you want it. Its fast, it can be used by almost anyone, regardless of physical health. No wait times to use it, no sharing it with the smelly unbathed guy, the psycho homeless person, or the screaming infant. No stops along the way. And it can be used for trips of any length, to any location, without being forced to walk a mile from a bus stop to the destination. And depending on where you're driving, it can be quite pleasant- driving in the mountains with the top down is *fun*. I've never had a fun bus ride.

        On top of that- cars, to a large portion of the population, are freedom. Freedom to go where you want, when you want. Freedom to live where you want. Freedom to just say "fuck it" one day and go on a road trip. Freedom from the clock- I don't have to leave the bar with my friends to make that last 10:30 pm bus, I can stay til closing time (assume I'm sober for this one). There is no substitute for this.

        The people will never give up their cars. Don't bother trying to make us- we won't. We'll use every last drop of gasoline first. Find a better way to power them instead, they will never go away.

        • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by digitrev (989335) <digitrev@hotmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:29PM (#24106387) Homepage
          You missed the key point of my post. I said for urban centers. I was aiming for a system like that for just intracity travel. For intercity, some suburban, and rural transportation, cars are obviously the best option. I just thought that getting people in cities to be less dependent on them (while in the city, when they want to leave, go for it) would save huge amounts of money. I've heard an apocryphal story that New York City has more cars than parking spots.

          To summarize:
          • If you live in a city, such as Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Buffalo, etc... - take a bus, take a subway, take a taxi-like system.
          • If you live near a city, such as a suburb - have park-and-rides to get into the city, make it cost money to get into the city, or have the taxi-like system come out to get you.
          • If you live in a rural area - keep your car.

          My point is not to get rid of cars, I understand that. My point is to give people better alternatives for urban transportation.

          • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:38PM (#24106523)

            Wish I had some mod points. The car offers too much freedom to be done away with entirely. But we can design better cities and public transportation to make it so you don't need or want to use it as much.

            The town I live in is made up almost entirely of 4 lane roads (or it feels like it) -- I'd never bike there for fear of getting squish (just like grape), everything is 2 miles away from anything else, etc. I'd trade my two car garage and 1000 sq foot back yard for a decent apartment with a view if I could walk to the local wine, cheese, and bread stores, to the large park with rowboats and bike trails...heck, even throw in a movie theatre in the apartment building.

            The American Dream, last I checked, isn't suburban hell...it's raising a family in a secure, healthy environment. Planned right, even smaller towns can avoid the sprawl. But it takes planning, and buy-in from developers of corporations as well as condos.

        • Re:Thank god! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:29PM (#24107343)

          Never going to happen. Nothing will ever beat the private car for convenience.

          No? How about walking out of your house and to the nearest subway station (for me, 4 minutes), waiting for the next train (3-8 minutes, depending on the time of day) and being taken to your destination, or within a five-minute walk of it. There's no need to buy fuel, no need to have a car serviced, freedom to do what I want while I travel (read, use a phone, sleep, be drunk), much greater safety.

          The car is only convenient if the place you live has been shaped around its use.

          Its right there, whenever you want it.

          So is a good transportation network. Your car isn't available if you've drunk alcohol, or if you're really tired.

          Its fast, it can be used by almost anyone, regardless of physical health. No wait times to use it,

          Traffic lights, junctions, traffic jams, filling with petrol, servicing, cleaning it.

          no sharing it with the smelly unbathed guy, the psycho homeless person, or the screaming infant.

          Hardly ever a problem round here.

          No stops along the way.

          Do you have traffic lights?

          And it can be used for trips of any length, to any location, without being forced to walk a mile from a bus stop to the destination.

          Unless the place you want to go to is on a road which forbids cars (quite common in Europe in the centre of towns and cities). And in any case, that just means there aren't enough bus routes.

          And depending on where you're driving, it can be quite pleasant- driving in the mountains with the top down is *fun*. I've never had a fun bus ride.

          Bus rides are usually commutes to work, done out of need rather than for pleasure. Driving in the mountains with the top down is different, that's for pleasure. I've never had a fun commute to work in a car (though I used to like my commute by train, the scenery was nice).

          On top of that- cars, to a large portion of the population, are freedom. Freedom to go where you want, when you want. Freedom to live where you want. Freedom to just say "fuck it" one day and go on a road trip. Freedom from the clock- I don't have to leave the bar with my friends to make that last 10:30 pm bus, I can stay til closing time (assume I'm sober for this one). There is no substitute for this.

          A decent transportation system is an excellent substitute. If the buses run all night you can stay as late as you like (and drink as much as you like).

          The people will never give up their cars. Don't bother trying to make us- we won't. We'll use every last drop of gasoline first. Find a better way to power them instead, they will never go away.

          The distance driven in Britain is falling, the distance travelled by rail is increasing. I read that the yearly distance driven by Americans didn't increase for the first time for years too.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @03:58PM (#24105865)

    GM failed to appreciate the coming change.

    Good for Mercedes to be acting ahead of the curve. That is how you build technology and establish markets and presence.

    Nobody killed the electric car. They killed their own opportunity. [wikipedia.org]

    • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:08PM (#24106031) Homepage

      Don't get too excited. It will be difficult to make a "biofuel" engine that won't run just fine on petroleum. And they won't try. As soon as they have biofuel capability across their product lines they will declare themselves "green" regardless of what the customers are actually putting in the tanks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer (890720)
        And what is the problem with that?

        Then it will be up to economics (with a "graceful" nudge from subsidies and taxes) to determine what consumers put in their tanks... the point is that petrofuels will not be required.

        Seriously, I fail to see what the problem is... what exactly would you want Mercedes to do instead? Make power trains that will get all borked up if someone tries to use petrol? That's a great way to make sure no one buys their product.

        I think that fuel flexibility is one of the answers.
    • by reidconti (219106) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:40PM (#24106557)

      That's right, all of the "buy American" dolts destroyed the American auto industry. That is, the American-based carmakers, I'm not talking about foreign companies that build cars in the US like Honda and Toyota and BMW and Mercedes and.. well, probably just about everyone. For what it's worth, my BMW was built in South Carolina, and the quality is identical to the previous one built at the Motorsport factory in Germany, which is to say pretty damn good.

      My car's in the (body) shop and I ended up with a Ford Taurus rental. 2 miles down the road and I concluded that every person involved in the Taurus should be immediately fired. The car sucked so much that I took it back the next day and ended up with a Mazda 6 instead (which I know from previous rentals to be a decent car).

      The Taurus is a wholly incompetent car. I shudder to think that it was built in 2007. It droves like a 1984 Lincoln. Wallows all over the place, can't turn, can't brake, slow as hell, doesn't track straight, hard to see out of, big enough to require its own zip code, and ugly as sin, inside and out.

      So, thanks for continuing to "buy American", thereby allowing our auto industry to maintain sales despite utterly worthless products.

      Though I admit the Focus is a pretty decent car, that's actually what I had hoped to get in exchange for the Taurus.

  • I'll wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fishybell (516991) <fishybell@hotmaCOLAil.com minus caffeine> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @03:59PM (#24105889) Homepage Journal
    As this isn't an official announcement, I'm not holding my breath. Sure Mercedes have been at the forefront of vehicle technology for quite some time, but do you really see their entire truck line going non-petroleum in 7 years? Maybe the passenger cars, but not the trucks.
  • unconfirmed (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @03:59PM (#24105901) Homepage

    Well if a blog says it's "well sourced," that's good enough for me!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:00PM (#24105911)

    are still left in the 70's building 5 litre v8 guzzlers with solid rear axles

    though looking at GM and Fords financial statements they wont be building much of anything if they dont change, fast.

    • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:21PM (#24106271)
      We can have them going out of business, now can we? Congress will just have the US tax payers keep them floating like we do the airlines.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:01PM (#24105933) Homepage

    > Focusing on ... biofuels, the company is revving up research in
    > alternative fuel sources and efficiency.

    Haven't they heard? Biofuels are now officially evil.

  • by holden caufield (111364) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:09PM (#24106047)

    Since this isn't an official announcement coming from MB themselves, I'm going to guess that "phasing out gasoline" and "focusing on biofuels" still means that they will still be running on diesel for their internal combustion engines. Not knowing much about automobile engines, or diesel in particular, I'm going to guess that they'll focus on the lower-sulfur diesel fuel that Europe has mandated (I believe, again, too lazy to look this stuff up), but it doesn't mean "no petroleum products ever"

    Not to mention, there's still going to be plenty of oil in that engine, not to mention plenty of petroleum products in the rest of the car.

  • Biodiesel FTW (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:09PM (#24106049)

    tremendous energy density, easy to transport, not even hazardous when spilled, near-identical performance to diesel /50 mpg in my VW

  • Gasoline (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:11PM (#24106089)

    No matter how we choose to generate power in the future, we have very few options for switching to anything other than gasoline for transporting that power.

    Gasoline has a fantastic energy density. A 14 gallon tank of the stuff contains 491.2 kilowatt-hours of energy ($68 in electricity at New York rates [michaelbluejay.com]), and the gasoline itself only weighs 81 pounds. If you fill up the tank in five minutes, you're transferring power at 7.368 megawatts. Can you imagine what kind of electrical infrastructure you would need to transfer the same power over mere wires?

    About the only alternative I can imagine that would be comparable would be to hot-swap whole huge batteries at gas stations.

    No, I think we'll be using gasoline, or at least a similar liquid fuel, for quite a while.

    • Incorrect Conversion (Score:5, Informative)

      by sampson7 (536545) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:52PM (#24106765)

      Wrong on several levels.

      First, the math:

      491 kilowatt-hours = 0.491 megawatt-hours.

      0.491 MWh over 5 minutes = 5.892 MWs of energy.

      Second, you are ignoring efficiency:

      5.8 MWs of energy is far more than it takes to move a car. Gasoline engines are remarkably ineffecient at converting all that energy into actual power.

      Third, and most importantly:

      "If it were possible for human beings to digest gasoline, a gallon would contain about 31,000 food calories -- the energy in a gallon of gasoline is equivalent to the energy in about 110 McDonalds hamburgers!"

      Soure: http://science.howstuffworks.com/gasoline1.htm [howstuffworks.com]

      (Okay, so maybe not most importantly, but it's the coolest.)

    • Re:Gasoline (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:09PM (#24107035)

      You're forgetting the relative efficiency of the motors.

      Gasoline engines are only about 25% efficient once drivetrain loss is taken into consideration. A 250hp electric motor is close to 95% efficient. With no drivetrain loss if you use lightweight electric motors inside each wheel. So you don't need to store as much energy on the vehicle in the first place.

      ie: Of the 491.2kW/h energy you fuel up with, you only make use of 122.8kW/h in a gasoline car.

      That lower number should be the storage target for an electric vehicle with comparable performance (and cost $17 using your rates). And you get other efficiency boosters almost for free: regenerative braking; freedom to change the shape of the car for efficiency because you don't have to worry about placing the engine above the wheels.

      So you're overestimating the magnitude of the problem - and of the design freedoms that come with a switch to electric operation. It is a problem that will be solved within our lifetimes.

  • Seems fitting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lucas123 (935744) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:13PM (#24106113) Homepage
    Mercedes invented the modern automobile, now they're leading in innovation again. Now if only American automakers would muster up the grit to do the same. Electric motors have been around since 1881 for Pete's sake. Howabout it folks?
  • by vorlich (972710) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:23PM (#24106293) Homepage Journal
    flying pigs.
  • EV1 revisited (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nonillion (266505) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:32PM (#24106427)

    You know, GM really stepped on it's dick when it decided to crush the EV1. Here they had the chance to become the biggest auto manufacture on the planet, design a fully electric car, nearly maintenance free. Nickel metal hydride batteries that would outlast the life of the car, a motor good for a 1,000,000+ miles, regenerative breaking, would go 130+ miles between charges (NiMH), 300+ with L-ion.

    If I had the chance I would buy a fully electric car, my commute is 60 miles round trip. However, not using gas would get me labeled as a thief by the state and federal governments since I wouldn't be paying the gas tax that never seems to go towards it's intended purpose (and never goes down when said road project is finished).

  • by Budenny (888916) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:35PM (#24106487)

    As usual, people assume that the problem is the fuel. Its not. Its the lifestyle. People are right to say that nothing can replace gasoline for the lifestyle we currently live. That is why the lifestyle is going to change, because there is not going to be affordable gasoline enough to live like that, and there are going to be no substitutes.

    Folks, the 20th century is over. It was great while it lasted, suburbs, drive ins, shopping malls, long distance commutes. But its over. What is going to replace it will not be different fuels, electric cars, whatever. What will replace it is commuting by mass transit, living closer to where you work, moving into high density cities, walking to shops. Biking to work in some places. It will be a lot like Europe in the fifties. The suburbs will vanish.

    And you won't like it.

    • by PRMan (959735) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:13PM (#24107105)

      People don't want to change their lifestyle and if somebody comes up with a plan where they don't have to, they'll jump on it.

    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @01:43AM (#24112883)
      Meanwhile, beyond the borders of False Dichotomy Land, some of us will work out solutions that are even better. Have fun in Defeatistville, though. I hear the shuffleboard is great.
  • by Burning1 (204959) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @06:13PM (#24107991) Homepage

    As an interesting note, an engine designed with ethanol in mind will actually produce more power than a gasoline vehicle of similar displacement. This is because, while ethanol has a lower energy density per volume of fuel, it has a much higher octane rating and a higher synchromatic reatio (you can burn more fuel for a particular volume of air.) So, you can design an engine to run at a much higher compression for better efficiency (more power from the same amount of fuel,) or you can design a turbo engine to run with more boost (useful in a flex fuel design.)

    A great example of this is the Koenigsegg CCXR [wikipedia.org]

    There are other issues with Ethanol, however. Some countries with a primarily agricultural economy are converting much of their production to produce bio-fuel. This is exasperating some of the world starvation issues.

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