• Dec 26, 2009
As we were discussing the Chevy Volt with some colleagues the other day, a potentially serious problem for EVs came up during the conversation. For the foreseeable future, the primary market for plug-ins and EVs will be urban areas where the range limitations of battery-powered cars figure to be less of an issue. However, if you look at the older residential areas in many cities, you'll find that many homes don't have garages, and people have to park on the street.
As we know, street parking carries along its own unique set of risks. Break-ins and thefts are not uncommon, as is vandalism like dragging keys along the paint. Now, imagine the type of miscreant who would commit such an act when he's faced with a fun new target: several blocks and dozens of cars plugged into curbside chargers. Such an individual would likely be inclined to simply unplug all the cars as they walk by. Or worse.

You can put a locking fuel cap on an conventionally-powered prevent gas from being siphoned out, but the proposed locking mechanisms on some charging couplers don't totally eliminate the possibility of someone simply disconnecting the cord. We're not sure what the solution is, but if this sort of thing were to happen on a wide scale, it's just another potential impediment to getting drivers to consider plug-in vehicles.


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  • 61 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Solution is simple. There are battery boost packs without needing another car to jump start your car. So they should invent a portable pack you can charge at home and then plug in, into an outlet inside the car (like cigarrette lighter slot) that would charge the car.

      Have an outside and inside charge stations. Done

      I guess thats something for 2015 hybrid cars
        • 5 Years Ago
        That type of system works for ICE vehicles because the amount of power needed is relatively small. Just enough to give the starter enough power to start the ICE then it's no longer needed. An EV, on the other hand, would require a lot more power to be able to drive even a few miles and then you'd be dead on the side of the road again.

        There's a reason why EV's have several hundred pounds of batteries and why ICE vehicles can get by with one battery that weighs siginifcantly less, would be even less if virtually all ICE vehicles didn't have low-tech lead-acid batteries.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Please show me some links to these hybrids you speak of.

        My guess is that you're thinking of something like the M-B S400 Hybrid which is a mild hybrid that uses a 20hp electric motor to help the 275hp gas engine. It's not a hybrid that can move under electric power alone. In fact, this helpful link I found states that the S400 battery couldn't even likely move the car to even 2 or 3mph.

        quote - "A 15-kW electric motor between the 275-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and the 7-speed automatic transmission contributes torque under heavy engine loads, restarts the engine, and provides a small amount of electric energy to move the car away from stop—though “not even to 2 or 3 miles per hour,” said Christian Mordieck, the Mercedes-Benz engineer who led battery development for the car." -
        http://www.hybridcars.com/vehicle/mercedes-benz-s400-hybrid.html

        However, you are correct, it does contain the batteries under the hood due to being a Li-ion battery which is fairly energy dense compared to other current technologies. But, due to the low power of the motor and the small capacity of the battery, it is not a candidate for something like you are thinking of. Once again, as I stated above, a battery of that size would be lucky to power a PHEV or EV more than a mile or two before petering out, probably even less considering the link I posted.

        These curbside chargers are made for plug-in hybrids or full-on electric cars, not for mild hybrids such as this S400 Hybrid or even cars like the Prius. I think you are dramatically underestimating the energy levels you are asking for here.

        The Volt, for instance, utilizes a 16KwH battery pack in order to give it it's 40mile full electric range. Utilizing Li-ion batteries, just like those that the S400 uses, the battery pack for the Volt still weighs in around 400lbs according to current estimates. It also will surely not fit under the hood either like the similar, but much lower capacity version housed under the S400's hood. The battery under the S400's hood is actually a 0.7KwH battery that is the size of a standard lead-acid car battery (found in the link above).

        Since both use Li-ion technology, let's compare them directly. The 0.7KwH battery in the S400 Hybrid has 1/23rd the capacity as the battery pack array used for the Volt. So, using current technology, you'd need something of similar size in order to charge the battery as you are suggesting. Try carrying that up and down flights of stairs in your apartment every night. I'm not even going to go into a comparison for the battery of a full-on EV such as the Tesla. The Tesla uses a 53kWh battery back which has 3.3 times the capacity of even the Volt's battery pack array.

        This also brings up another item that you seem to have overlooked, or at least failed to consider. If you want to plug in such a battery pack into an outlet such as the cigarette lighter, you have to make sure it's capable of handling the current necessary to charge such a large capacity battery in a reasonable timeframe. Using normal household current, the Volt is said to take about 8hrs to charge. That's at a current much higher than the 12V plug on an average car could ever hope to handle. If you want to achieve anything close to that charge level, a dedicated plug will have to be built into the interior of the car.

        Basically, my main question to you is this. If the technology were available to have a battery pack recharger small enough to contain the energy needed to fully charge the battery for a plug-in, EREV, or EV and could be built such that it could be carried easily by an average person, why wouldn't they use that technology for the battery itself? Do you honestly believe that they have the ability to build 15KwH battery packs that weigh 20lbs but instead stick with 400lb packs just for the heck of it?

        Not only that, but with the current cost of an Li-ion battery pack, how much do you think a much, much smaller and lighter weight pack of similar capacity would cost? Currently, it's estimated that the cost for a battery pack as large as the Volt's will be about $16k. That's using a disputed factor of about $1K/KwH, but that's the easiest figure to find in a web search. So, newer, more dense technology is bound to be more expensive as well. Would you be willing to pay $10k+ simply for a charger for your vehicle so that you can charge the car from the inside? There are an awful lot of unanswered questions in your simple assertation that such technology exists.

        To sum up, of course battery technology is ever-evolving, but I don't think you'll be getting what you want by 2015 as you state. In my opinion, I think you'll be lucky if such technology is available
        • 5 Years Ago
        montoym they invented a hybrid system small enough to fit somewhere under the good. They can invent what i'm proposing somehow with the capabilities to charge the hybrid battery to full.

        Otherwse ft hybrids are useles for long distance driving and for people who don't have garages (more than 60 percent in most towns).



        • 5 Years Ago
        taylor have your ever seen a battery boost pack before? They are small and portable .
        What makes you think that they can't invent this for a hybrid batery pack also?

        They need this innovation or progression because its one thing for people who don't have garages but also how about people driving long distances?

        • 5 Years Ago
        I was thinking something like that for all-electric cars when they run out of juice.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Electrify the charging system handle. And design it so that it doesn't deactivate until the owner approaches with the key. Problem solved.

      Now, to deal with the potential lawsuits...
        • 5 Years Ago
        @UCJR
        Nice one...

        In all seriousness.... I'd make the charging station be what takes the hit. Meaning, make the wire come from the charge station instead of from the car. That way, the consumer has nothing to worry about and the technology / safety / security / updating is under the realm of the power supplier.

        Or just use a freakin solar panel! They're cheap enough! For God's sake.....
        • 5 Years Ago
        LOL
      • 5 Years Ago
      really autoblog? really? You really believe someone who can afford a 40k car can't also afford a garage to store it in?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Come up to the northeast. There's plenty of cities with 40k cars that are street parked. Heck I've seen R8s, Porsches, Bimmers, and Mercs parked on the streets.

      • 5 Years Ago
      why not deploy systems similar to the cordless phone chargers ???
      stupid old people....
      • 5 Years Ago
      ".........it's just another potential impediment to getting drivers to consider plug-in vehicles.........."
      what is this article based on? nothing, that is what. It is alarmism and sensationalism at its worst - there arent even any free access charging stations out there, much less completely designed yet.
      Also, it assumes that the people that may be designing said stations are stupid.
      Shame on you Sam Abuelsamid, this is just an "article" backed by baseless speculation. For the point of stirring up comments.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There are areas that people plug in their cars currently to keep their oil warm and their vehicle able to start like Fairbanks, Alaska. This will be a negligible concern. There are always bad apples, but I don't see this happening as the norm.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Geez, they may smash your window and steal your stereo and CDs, flatten your tires, siphon your fuel nowadays and now AB is fear-mongering about what else vandals may do in the future?

        Like walking around and messing with 220V plugs is what the kidz are doing these days?

        At first, most of the folks who can afford a $45,000 electrified sister of the Cruze will have a garage, even in Nob Hill or Uptown Manhattan.

        Then, the engineering brains at the car companies and security/lock manufacturers have plenty of solutions that will roll out as this conversion happens. This is America, folks, where we always find a way to stay a few steps ahead of the meth heads!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree that this won't be an issue. Lets assume they do unplug the car? So what? It still has an engine that can charge the car while driving for your trip to work. As a rebellious kid who is just looking to wreak havoc and misery to someone else's life; whats the satisfaction if they can still drive it away later?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @OC_cars

        Well you never would have thought that just because you bought a smart car your car would end up in the lake, but it has happened to many smart car owners just because people don’t like them. Don’t blame autoblog for posting their thoughts on a slow news Saturday.

        - I was thinking more along the lines of people plugging into your system when you are sleeping or not at home stealing your electricity or something. But vandalizing the station itself or something as easy as just unplugging the charger would wreak havoc on electric car owners…
        • 5 Years Ago
        @audi_arena

        You assume that the car has an engine. Plug-in hybrids, sure, but what about fully electric vehicles? Those owners would be screwed if their car wasn't charged in the morning - it would take a few hours to charge back up to remedy the situation. That could put a serious dent in someone's appearance at work - especially if it happens a few times.
        -Taylor
        • 5 Years Ago
        I knew that this was going to be an issue from the get go, so i think automakers need to concentrate on people with their own homes and garages, sure many urban areas will be excluded but there should be enough demand from suburban crowd. I can see how in very luxurious building a landlord may be pressed to open a charger inside a garage, but in any other apartment building this is nothing but a pipe dream. To expect apartment building owners to install a charger in the garage is naive, these people will fight you to the end not to install a new shower head. As we speak suburbs are really the target demographic.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Mike, the statistical probability of automotive shenanigans is a little different in places like Hyde Park and Brooklyn than in Fairbanks, Alaska. Plus, when temperatures are down to the point where you need a block heater just to get started in the morning, people are less apt to just wander the streets looking to pull pranks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        People buying a 40k car(not sure why you added $5000 to the speculated price) are not the extremely wealthy and it certainly doesn't qualify you as being rich enough to have your own garage in Manhattan.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mike, are you seriously comparing streetside vandalism in Fairbanks, AK to that in New York, NY? Come now...

        OC_Cars, by your logic, one would never see a Cadillac CTS parked on the curb? $45K is a pretty easy sum to pay for a new car today, and I'll bet there are plenty of people without a garage who can easily afford one. Never mind that the Volt is expected to go in the low $30's after the Federal tax rebate, which puts it only a bit above the average new car selling price of a few years ago.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm honestly not trying to be some anti-environmental naysayer, but there is absolutely no way that this kind of thing isn't going to happen - and happen quite often. Just one more reason why pure EVs are a bit absurd as a final solution. I can see a Volt in the suburban garage doing commuter-duty and grocery getting, but there will be a lot of sad tree huggers if people start charging up curb-side.
        • 5 Years Ago
        wow you're dumb.
        • 5 Years Ago
        He is not that dumb. There will plenty of overly self import urbanites in the first wave of Volt buyers. They have likely pissed off some of the local kids who will find unpluging their car a laugh. Hopefully they stop there and don't take a hammer to the charging port or cord. I also can't wait to see the neighbour on night shift who drops by for a couple of hours while you are at work to recharge. Our generation though it was funny to stuff snow in peoples exhausts to cause them to backfire. Rude and mean people got sugar in the gas tank or glue in the door lock. Today's kids smash windows and slash tires. I don' think the next generation are going to be angels who are going to leave curbside chargers alone.
      • 5 Years Ago
      camera the country the country like the U.K.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh no, I just heard that people can siphon gas! This is why the ICE is not a viable solution! Now to sell my car!

      Oh wait, the filler has a lock on it! Ah well, problem solved!

      Shame you can't do the same with an electric cable, I mean locking it is clearly too costly and high tech a solution for this clearly impossible to resolve problem! I guess we'll just have to keep the pollution and the war...

      The oil lobby imbeciles are trying to hard folks, don't fall for obvious propaganda. Go electric, the only way is up.
      • 5 Years Ago
      slow news day indeed
      • 5 Years Ago
      I know how I'm powering my grow op.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What about the legal and logistical issues of leaving an extension cord across a sidewalk? If anyone trips, you are liable. And when the sidewalk snowplow comes by . . .

      The irony is, for the uber urban progressives who would buy these things, many of them live in uber urban places where they can't lay an extension down from their home to the car. This doesn't even begin to mention the same uber urban progressives who live in condos and apartment buildings which have no charging facilities at all in the parking areas.

      Progressiveness is always hoisted by its own petard.
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