Do scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye realize they are making fools of themselves when they delve into subjects they know little or nothing about?
Take this blog post by Nye on getting NASCAR to convert their race cars to electric power. I’m no gearhead but even I can see Nye’s ignorance when he describes the difference between a NASCAR vehicle using fossil fuels and the Tesla electric car:
Consider the following: a typical NASCAR racecar produces up to 540 ft-lbs (730 Newton-metres) of torque. The Tesla Model-S (sedan), right out of the showroom, produces 713 ft-lbs (970 N-m). A NASCAR vehicle can get up to 850 horsepower (hp) with the car and driver weighing about 3,600 lbs (that’s 630 kilowatts and 1,650 kg). The Tesla produces ‘only’ 532 hp (400 kW), and with a car weighing an extra 1,000 lbs (450 kg). Looking at those last couple of numbers might make you think that the NASCAR vehicle is way more powerful than a high-end electric one. But note well, we are comparing a NASCAR car made to race with a true stock car (one a consumer can buy), albeit an electric one, that has not been refined to compete on racetracks. The gasoline-powered car is a product of a century of development. Just think what an electric carmaker, such as Tesla, could produce given, say, three years.
OK, Bill, let’s say 3 years. The Tesla would be lapped by the pace car before the flag was dropped. What do you suppose the acceleration curve of a Tesla would be compared to a NASCAR vehicle?
There’s more idiocy from Nye:
It’s easy for me to imagine an electric racecar that completely outperforms a gas-powered competitor. Instead of refuelling a gas tank, the electric racecar pit crew would change battery packs. The car would be designed to roll up a ramp. The battery pack would be disconnected and dropped out. Moments later, a fresh battery pack would be lifted into place, and off our electric racer would go with time in the pit comparable to what it takes to refuel and service a conventional gas-powered racecar.
I admit also to being a fan of James Bond movies. In the most recent one, Spectre, our hero gets to drive (and destroy) an Aston Martin DB10. It goes (or went) a claimed 0-to-60 in 3.1 seconds. Well, the stock Tesla Model S goes 0-to-60 in 2.8 seconds. Nose to nose, you would not need a photo to see who finished first. Sorry gas-fired slowpoke. Just think what an electric race would be like. It would be faster, and quiet. You could talk to the person next to you. The drivers could probably hear the roar of the crowd rather than having to imagine it as they do now. And most significant from my point of view, everyone in the crowd, every race fan, would want an electric car! The market for electric cars would go crazy. Manufacturers could not produce them fast enough. We could convert our transportation system to all-electric in less time than it took to go from horse-drawn to horseless carriage, 20 years maybe. I’m tellin’ ya, after you drive an electric car, you don’t want to drive anything else. They’re faster, quieter and cheaper to operate.
It may be easy for Nye to imagine a superior electric car because he’s a fantasist. But the reality is far more prosaic. Any comparison between an electric car and a NASCAR car is stupid. Even if Tesla fulfilled Nye’s wet dream and constructed a vehicle capable of racing, it would take far more than three years to get it to the track. Where NASCAR cars can increase speed by increasing the rate of fuel being burned, the current state of technology for electric cars is limited by the amount of power in the batteries. And no one would watch a race where the cars had to have their batteries changed every few laps.
Why is it important that you would be able to talk to someone sitting next to you in a race car when NASCAR features lone drivers? And drivers are far too intent on trying to keep from spinning out at 200 MPH to even want to listen to the cheering crowd.
NASCAR switching to electric cars would destroy NASCAR, not be a catalyst for an electric car boom. You have to wonder about the IQ of Nye fans if they swallow this hogwash.