FREMONT (CBS SF) – A Tesla electric patrol car by the Fremont Police ran low on electricity in the middle of a pursuit, after the department said someone forgot to plug the vehicle into a charger.

According to officials, the officer was pursuing a vehicle headed down to the South Bay when the car began to run low on battery power.

“Just slowed down to six miles of battery on the Tesla, so I may lose it here in a sec,” the officer said, according to police radio transmissions. “If someone else is able, can they maneuver into the number one spot?”

Fremont Police Tesla Near-Dead Battery Forces Officer Off Pursuit

I know, you also gave a chuckle about the idiocy of having a Tesla doing real vehicular work and police work in particular.  Now, understand that the location of the incident being the San Francisco area, there are politicians that would like to see every government vehicle be a “Zero Emissions” vehicle and if they get their way, it will be a dangerous thing. Imagine an ambulance with your loved one inside on the way to the ER having to pull over and request help because they are running out of juice. It will be Virtue Signaling Madness.

I do believe that cars in the future will be electric. The prospect of having a vehicle with 4 computer-controlled direct drive DC motors delivering power directly to each wheel will be awesome. But we get our power from a set of batteries that are not only limited by a short capacity but add unnecessary weight to the vehicle, the electric car will be nothing more than a political posturing piece of machinery.  We need a cheap, on-demand source of inside-the-car generated electricity to finally take over the internal combustion engine.

One can dream.


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By Miguel.GFZ

Semi-retired like Vito Corleone before the heart attack. Consiglieri to J.Kb and AWA. I lived in a Gun Control Paradise: It sucked and got people killed. I do believe that Freedom scares the political elites.

13 thoughts on “When Electrical Cars meet reality.”
  1. I’d love to see electricity generated inside the car. Short of someone inventing a suitcase-sized fusion generator it’s not going to happen, though.
    This particular story is no different from a conventional car running out of fuel because some fool forget to refill the gas tank.
    I don’t know whether this department was motivated by green BS reasoning, but in my view a Tesla makes a good choice for a patrol car (ignoring the price tag, I suppose). Its range of 250 or so miles seems plenty for a full day of patrol duty. And its quick acceleration and excellent handling would make it hard to beat in a chase. When stationary, it doesn’t need to idle to keep the on-board electrical system going.
    All that’s needed is for its operators to show the same basic competence one expects of any driver of any kind of car.

    1. One caveat, a gasoline or other hydrocarbon powered vehicle can refuel in a couple of minutes. Unless battery swap becomes widely adopted, or until much better batteries are developed, the “refuel” time will be significantly longer for EVs. It’s also much harder to bring along a few tens of MJ to refuel by the side of the road.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong on any point you make, just that there are other factors.

  2. To date it’s been hard to beat the energy storage density and release properties (not too fast, not too slow, etc.) of hydrocarbons.

    1. Absolutely, and that’s the biggest drawback. Fast charging today means about 30 minutes (for full charge — less if it’s a partial recharge) with Tesla, about double that for other electric cars that don’t have the same level of battery expertise. Perfect for recharging during a coffee break, but you’re right, it doesn’t work as quickly as a rapid fillup.

      1. A Jerry can poured into a gas tank will give you another 30 miles. A suitcase battery hooked up to th ed tesla for half an hour will get you maybe 3 miles.

  3. There is a story told in Michigan about a police chase that took place in the late 70’s after they started making cars that got more than 5mpg.

    A state trooper had just gotten on shift when he spotted a never-do-well and gave chase. Said “baddy” headed south into Ohio and headed east. Trooper is following, lights a going and is soon joined by local Ohio cops all having a merry day chasing baddy but not so much of a baddy that they had to do stupids.

    The continue east and cross over into Pennsylvania. Some of the local ohio cops having dropped out of the chase due to running out of gas, but our brave trooper is still strong on the heals of said baddy.

    Baddy does some sort of magic and looses the cops for a period of time, long enough to take on some more fuel before he’s spotted and the chase continues.

    PA troopers, Ohio Cops, and our lone Michigan State Trooper, still tooling along.

    The baddy heads northish towards New York and the chase continues.

    Finally some 5 or 6 hours after the chase began, baddy runs out of gas.

    Our Michgan trooper makes the arrest and starts back to Michigan.

    All on the gas onboard the vehicle when the trooper left his post. The Michigan Troopers had a requirement that they be able to stay on patrol, at highway speed for 12 hours without having to refule.

  4. I’d read a while back about fuel cells using hydrogen cracked from a hydrocarbon fuel as onboard power generation. All the benefits of the direct drive electric axles, and keeps the fast refuel of current vehicles.

    Haven’t seen much about that in a while, though. Probably because it’d pair too well with fracked natural gas, and we can’t give any green credit to that.

    1. Hydrogen fuel cells are a marketing invention with little or no engineering merit.
      They run on hydrogen, which has rather low energy density. Unless you go *very* cold, it has to be compressed to incredibly high pressures (SCUBA levels or higher) to carry a non-trivial amount of fuel. That’s a scary dangerous thing to do, of course, but the other problem is that filling significant size tanks to several thousand PSI takes a lot of time and produces a very large amount of heat.

    2. What pkonig said re hydrogen storage. Fuel cells have been useful for certain application, e.g. space missions where you have liquid H and O around already as rocket fuel.

      Re cracking hydrocarbons for the carbon, that’s not a particularly trivial process; methane cracks at 750 C, and you need to get down to methane from longer chain molecules first.

      Then you need to deal with the carbon and other impurities. Fuel cells are kind of notorious for being sensitive to contamination, for which read “anything other than hydrogen.” If you use atmospheric gas rather than pure O2 for the other side, you have poisoning/contamination concerns on that side also.

      I really do wish someone would come up with an efficient, long-life gasoline (or even pure octane) fuel cell. As far as I know, though, we’re not close.

  5. I keep hearing about “zero emissions” vehicles. No such vehicles are currently in production, although a vehicle with on-board electricity generation might qualify. All current EVs are “emissions-elsewhere” vehicles.

    My favorite “tweak the left” line when I see an EV is, “Oh cool–a coal-powered car!” With fracked natrual gas, it’s less accurate than it used to be, but we still have about a third or so of our stationary electric power generation fired by coal. Somehow, I don’t see moving from liquid hydrocarbons to coal as an environmental positive….


  6. The BMW i3 electric car does have an optional range extender. It’s a BMW scooter engine hooked to a generator, making it a low power hybrid. Clever in some ways, stupid in others.
    The actual incident of running out of battery is operator error no different than going on patrol with a 1/4 tank. They cop should have checked battery charge and visited a Tesla Supercharger.

  7. Chemical fuel > heat > torque > electricity > torque intuitively seems insane, but the efficiency gained by having a fuel powered motor that can be optimized to run at a constant rpm and load can actually make it a good choice, depending on a lot of details. That’s how some VERY big ships work. You’re still going to need batteries though. Generating electricity on demand ain’t gonna happen. Better batteries are a possibility though. Right now, we need to use more fossil fuels, including coal, and more common sense, and leave all blue sky stuff in the lab until it is ready for prime time. The money saved by NOT switching to an immature tech prematurely can pay for a heck of a research program aimed at making SPS, biofuels, and fusion practical.

    1. Actually, I left out some steps. It’s:
      Chemical energy as fuel > heat > torque > electricity > chemical energy in a battery > electricity > torque.
      Sounds nuts, but sometimes Rube Goldberg wins.

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