13Jan/18

Car Types Women Want

Just think about what women want in a car (and don’t be misled by the location of this article below ‘Batteries’ in the navigation bar). Women are an obvious market for electric cars (who else would find some of the current daft designs ‘cute’), but how do we make sure they know the relevant facts about them? There’s so much lazy journalism out there knocking EVs while women’s mags and websites hardly touch the subject of cars.

It’s estimated that about 80% of new car purchases are influenced by women and – no surprise here – we do have different values when we’re shopping for a car. According to a 2004 study WASS (‘What Women Want’ Automotive Satisfaction Study), safety is ahead of styling for 77.8% of women and only 65.3% of men. I guess that one’s hard-wired into us with the nurturing bit.

But how about this? 92.6% of women put vehicle performance as important compared to only 91.3% of men. Now I’m assuming that my sisters were voting for acceleration and handling rather than ease of operating the seat adjustment and cup holder, so that’s quite a surprising result.

It bodes well for any ladies who test drive an electric car. The instant torque will make them very happy, believe me.

Car for women

While most women do not go in for overtly fast driving, we do like a nippy pulling away from the lights or the tail-gating pest behind us in the ChavMobile. If your top speed is pegged at 45mph, so what. Most of the town driving we do we’re lucky to get up to 30mph anyway.

As for how our cars affect the environment, 82% of women think that environmentally friendly vehicles are ‘extremely important’ or ‘somewhat important’ compared to 72.3% of men. We’re starting to look like an even more obvious market for EVs.

But I’m back to the issue of educating women about cars. I was mortified to read on Edmonds.com that 37% of women admit that they don’t do any research before going to a car dealership. When I think how much research we’ll put into buying the right lipstick or shoes, that statistic really scares me.

That means a huge chunk of the potential EV market hasn’t got a chance of ending up with the purchase of an electric car unless all the dealerships start stocking them and the salesmen start plugging them. Fat chance of that happening.

I’m convinced (and I know I’m not alone in this) that women are going to be crucially important in the successful expansion of the electric vehicle market, so this is the start of my quest to educate the sisterhood about electric cars. That means I’m going to have to focus on the cute/touchy/feely aspects that the guys are mostly embarrassed about. But it might just make me a heroine with a few car companies.

The fair sex just hates reading about anything technical (though we’re very good at RTM – reading the manual), so the best way to get the message over is probably through live events.

I’m thinking of EV demos in supermarket carparks, or by the school gate where the kids can see the car and good old television coverage. But first I need a car, and it better tick all the boxes for what women want.

13Jan/18

Beginner’s Guide to Electric Car Batteries

For ages, I’ve been trying to find a simple introduction to batteries for EVs. Perhaps there is one out there, but I haven’t come across it.

I don’t want something so technical that I can build my own car battery in my garage. What I do want is something which explains to me in fairly simple terms how batteries work and, more importantly, what the shortcomings are that prevent all modern cars from being electric.

So, what I’ve decided to do is post something and ask for contributions. If I’m wrong to let me know. If I’ve over-simplified to the point of inaccuracy post an addition.

Maybe at the end of it, I’ll then be able to explain what the situation is when people say to me: “Electric cars? Nice idea, but the battery technology isn’t going to be available for years.” They don’t really know, but neither do I.

I’ve decided to write this in a question and answer format. Feel free to add to it using the comments section at the bottom of the article.

What do people mean by a “car battery”?

Almost always this is a lead-acid battery. It contains plates of lead and lead oxide. These plates are submerged in a solution of 35% sulphuric acid and 65% water. The process causes a chemical reaction releasing electrons that flow through conductors producing electricity.

Interesting fact: What is thought to be the world’s oldest battery comes from near Baghdad. It was discovered in 1938 and is between 1,500 and 2,250 years old. Nobody is sure, but it seems to have been used for electroplating rather than powering an electric chariot.

Why can’t you use a load of ordinary car batteries to power an electric vehicle (EV)?

Although lead-acid batteries all work in roughly the same way, there are variations. The plates vary in thickness and how porous they are. They also use a variety of alloys including calcium, cadmium or strontium.

The main breakdown is between the starter batteries used by petrol-engined vehicles to give a quick burst of power to start the internal combustion engine and “deep cycle batteries” which are designed to provide sustained power over a longer period. The latter is used for EVs such as golf carts and also to store energy from devices such as wind turbines and solar panels.

So ordinary car batteries would work in an EV wouldn’t last very long both in terms of daily mileage and before they had to be replaced.

What are the shortcomings of lead-acid batteries for electric cars and other EVs?

The main problem is the energy to weight ratio. Anything powered by lead-acid batteries has to pull along what are essentially boxes filled with lead and liquid as well as the weight of the vehicle itself. It’s not likely to be very efficient.

Additionally, lead-acid batteries don’t last for ever. A good quality ICE car battery will last for an average of about five years. A deep discharge battery in a golf cart can expect about the same lifespan. All types of lead-acid battery are affected by factors such as poor maintenance and extremes of heat and cold.

One sure way to reduce the life of a lead-acid battery is to charge it too fast. That’s why most electric cars need an overnight charge.

So why do most EVs still use lead-acid batteries?

The first point is it’s a tried-and-tested technology which has changed little in the last half-century. The batteries are more efficient and easier to maintain, but there haven’t been any revolutionary developments. That also means prices are relatively low.

Lead-acid batteries are also fairly efficient compared with some of their competitors. They give out around 75-85% of the energy that’s put in. There are, however, substantial differences according to the state of charge of the batteries.