Do Fanboys Dream of Electric Boxsters?

Posted: February 18, 2011 in Rants
Tags: ,

First – I am writing this blog under the assumption that you, my dear reader, understand the basic concepts of weight and how it impacts vehicle dynamics such as top speed, acceleration, and handling.  If this is something you don’t understand then I would research it to have a general level of familiarity – I’m not going into rocket science here – probably because I’m not a rocket scientist.  Actually, I can’t even do calculus.  Don’t hate.  Procreate.

This article has been inspired by the recent announcement from Porsche that they have created the Boxster E.

If we drink the Kool-Aid, we will be led to believe that

“The Boxster E is powered by a 29kWh battery pack and a pair of electric motors with a combined power output of 241bhp.  Porsche says performance is comparable to a Boxster S. That car is good for 0-62mph in 5.3sec and a top speed of 170mph.”

It also makes 69 more horsepower and weighs a mere 2,978 pounds. And therein lies the interesting bit.  How heavy is a Boxster E going to be?  Since the car isn’t confirmed for production, so its nothing more than a test mule fantasy at the moment, lets do some wild speculation of our own and figure that out!

The best place we can start is with the Tesla Roadster – a machine built entirely on hype from a company that perpetually loses money by the fistful.  The Tesla Roadster originally started life out as Lotus Elise.  This is a car that tips the scales at a mere 1,896 lbs and adheres to the founder’s principle “Simplify, then add lightness” – which essentially strives to increase a car’s performance through light weight as opposed to more power and electrowizardry (of course, Lotus has all but abandoned that philosophy, officially).

So, after starting with probably one of the most pure sports cars of all time, Tesla adds a battery pack that weighs 900 pounds and ends up with a car weighing in at 2723 lbs – a weight increase of 827 lbs – credit that less than 900 lbs gain to the fact that the car no longer has to lug around all that stuff normally associated with an internal combustion engine.

The result, as one could imagine, is not a sports car.  Yes, the Tesla will accelerate remarkably, due to the fact that it produces peak torque at any given RPM (even 0) – but its hamstrung by the fact that it has a pathetic gearbox and a boatload of weight – so its top speed and handling are less than stellar.  The Elise, on the other hand, has amazing handling and a far higher top speed simply due to the fact that it has a traditional 6-speed Toyota gearbox.

Here’s the final kicker – the Tesla costs twice as much.  It has half the travelling range, a good 40 mph lower top speed and an extra 827 lbs to toss around.

Now lets see what would happen if we were to do this to the Boxster. For this, I would assume that Porsche would get its shit together and attempt to keep the weight down – but how could they?  This isn’t a hybrid we’re building here, that merely needs a battery pack for start-stop, accelerating from a stop light or low speed all-electric cruising.  This is a full electric car that will never be able to rely on a gas engine at high speed on the highway or for assistance accelerating to top speed – so, the car will still have to lug around a huge, heavy battery pack.  Keep in mind as well, the Tesla battery pack is high tech lithium stuff.  Imagine how much it would weigh if it were traditional nickel?

We would thus assume that Porsche would only add about 500 lbs of weight to the car, bringing the Porker up to a rough 3500 lbs.  That’s with 241 horsepower.  I’m sorry folks, but its going to kill the car.  Our power to weight ratio just hit the shitter, so kiss rapid acceleration goodbye.  Our top speed is down because we’re most likely going to be using primitive one or two gear ratio gearboxes like the majority of all electric cars are using.  Our handling will suffer due to all that extra mass.  And, on top of that, the price will most likely double.

Who the hell is going to buy this car?

Hippies  – that’s who.  People who think they’re going to change the game, man.  Save the earth, man.  Well, I have a newsflash for you hippies. THIS is where your batteries come from:

Charming, isn’t it?  Nickel mining is both an ecologically and socially devastating process of commodity extraction.  But wait, it gets better – you say, no way, man, like, I’m totally going off the gasoline, man, gonna get my power like, from the grid.  This is where the power for your electric car comes from:

And this is how the coal for your power plant is extracted:

So, I guess your zero-emissions vehicles aren’t very emissions friendly after all, are they?  The majority of the power generated in the United States comes from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.  Therein lies the dirty little secret behind plug-in electric vehicles.  People think they’re driving a guilt-free, zero emissions vehicle, but the reality is that they’ve just shifted the fossil fuel from gasoline to another filthy, dirty power source.  Until the U.S. pulls up its pants and makes the full switch to Nuclear, supplemented by hydro and wind, electric cars are going to be as bad, if not worse, as a gasoline car – not to mention the drain on the infrastructure from everyone charging their cars overnight – and as a result of increased demand the price of electricity will probably rise to match that of traditional gasoline anyways – so there will be no cost savings.

With that said, the reality is that nobody will buy this car or any electric sports car.  Just like with the Honda CR-Z or Accord V6 Hybrid (dismal sales figures), which are expensive and underperforming – or the Tesla, which is just prohibitively expensive.  People who want a sporty car don’t want to make the compromises to performance that come with a hybrid or electric vehicle (weight, wimpy fuel sipping gasoline engine).  People who want a fuel efficient car don’t want the sacrifice to fuel economy that comes with a sporty car – they want MPG bragging rights (for some, sick reason that I haven’t figured out).

And so, hopefully, this new Electric Boxster will be stillborn, or at least aborted before it can unleash itself upon the world.

  1. Rachel says:

    Cars powered by dirty cooking oil FTW!

    Is coal really still extracted by shirtless dudes with shovels? They haven’t created a fossil-fuel-burning machine to do that?

    There’s a lot I wish I knew before I bought my hybrid. Had I realized they were shipping it to the States FROM JAPAN, I might have taken the ecological impact of that into account.

    • Chris says:

      Cooking oil, while recycled and ‘free’, is really not very clean to burn, and incredibly inefficient in the power per gallons dept.

      Underground coal mining machines are generally electric powered to reduce the risk of fire and exhaust poisoning the workers. And they wear safety gear. In other countries tho, shirtless dudes with shovels are still the way to go.

      Pretty much.

  2. Primeaardvark88 says:

    Do Electric Sheep dream about Replicants driving cars that are there to make themselves feel better? Well, they,the cars that are there to make people feel better about themselves, do get better gas mileage, in some cases. And couldn’t copper or some other metal be used to make the batteries?

    • Chris says:

      Copper is a conductor, hence it makes awful batteries. The next gen of batteries will be even more toxic than lithium. It takes specialized elements that can ionize to both positive and negative, and have a very peculiar deionization property.

  3. […] of sporting inclinations and focus on efficient, reliable vehicles such as brand new EVs (although I’ve already discussed how electric vehicles are just a shell game that shifts the carbon emissions from the vehicle […]

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