Good Night BONJOUR

Why you’ll be finding few electric cars on the road in winter.

Good Night BONJOUR

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser

The news is about day and night, especially the latter.

BONJOUR, i.e. the company Téo Taxi, a new kind of taxi service in Montreal, Quebec, with the common French term for “Hello” (“Bonjour”), literally meaning “GOOD DAY” on its cars has shut down operation.  Just when demand was rising due the cold temperatures in the city.

When launched in 2015, it was widely viewed as a novel cost-saving alternative to common taxi service operations. The Quebec government and major provincial institutions all jumped on board. The company acquired a fleet of vehicles and paid its (450+) employees fair wages.

Demand for the cab service was good, especially in this cold period of the year. Of course, competition from the other service providers of that kind kept profit margins low. Therefore, it wasn’t exactly a highly profitable enterprise at this time but, as I think, the real problem was a serious and insurmountable issue.

So, what’s the real problem and what caused the company’s failure?

The Problem

Now, its main proponent, entrepreneur Alexandre Taillefer had no choice but to shut down the enterprise. Despite the estimated $30 million of tax dollars plus privately funded capital infusions, estimated at $50+ million (including Taillefer’s personal fortune, estimated at $ 4 million), it couldn’t make it. The competition from other short-haul service companies was just too severe.

At least, that’s what the MSM (main stream media) claim. I have a different view:

The problem was more technical than financial in nature, namely the wrong technology used.

Wrong Technology

BONJOUR’s fleet of a few hundred cars was exclusively “electric cars.”

That (politically correct, hence wrong) “electric idea” was the main cause of its demise.

For brevity, I’ll put it into a bullet form:

  1. Electric vehicles use energy stored in batteries.
  2. Batteries are chemical systems.
  3. By the Laws of Nature, chemical processes are temperature dependent.
  4. Every 10 degrees Celsius (C) in temperature change typical process speeds by a factor of 3.
  5. Hence, between PLUS 25 C (in summer) and MINUS25 C (in winter), reaction speed changes by a factor of roughly 3^5 = 250 or so.
  6. Both speed of charging and discharging of batteries declines with falling at below freezing temperatures.
  7. The charge capacity of Lithium-Ion batteries also declines with lower temperatures.
  8. More frequent recharging needs reduced operating distances and increased overall charging time.
  9. In short, that’s why you’ll be finding few electric cars on the road in winter.

End of story.

Bonne nuit HELLO!


Dr Klaus L E KaiserDr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is a professional scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Technical University, Munich, Germany. He has worked as a research scientist and project chief at Environment Canada‘s Canada Centre for Inland Waters for over 30 years and is currently Director of Research at TerraBase Inc. He is author of nearly 300 publications in scientific journals, government and agency reports, books, computer programs, trade magazines, and newspaper articles.

Dr. Kaiser has been president of the International Association for Great Lakes Research, a peer reviewer of numerous scientific papers for several journals, Editor-in-Chief of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada for nearly a decade, and an adjunct professor. He has contributed to a variety of scientific projects and reports and has made many presentations at national and international conferences.

Dr. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts

Dr. Kaiser can be reached at:

22 thoughts on “Good Night BONJOUR”

  1. Nearly if not all chemical reactions are temperature dependent.

    Not because I’m worried about Carbon or Global warming but because I like to be prepared I have substantial solar panels on my roof to make my electricity at home. I like air conditioning so I have a substantial amount, 12 KW. I make electricity during the day and make a lot more than I could possibly use while making it so I store it in a battery. I also use the utility company as a battery, they hold my extra electricity until I need it. I put the battery (3200 amp hours) in the basement so that if I do need it it will always be warm and charge quickly and get the most possible out of discharging. Even then it takes substantial time and it is a very inefficient process. On a good day while I’m making 60-70 KW only 90% makes it through the large wires I have down to battery controller and then only about 80-85% of that makes it into the inverters. I’m thrilled when I calculate 10KW per hour at the inverters. In the winter I get well over the rated capacity of the cells because they perform well in cold weather but then I have less hours per day.

    I only tell you about my own system so you will understand that I understand something about electricity storage and transmission.

    By using a battery to power a car you have to burn coal, oil or gas unless you have a wind or solar farm AND the wind is blowing or sun shining. When the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining the steam turbines convert carbon based fuel to energy we can use at a rate slightly higher than most modern autos possibly as high as 35%, very large TG sets could theoretically have up to 50%, most don’t approach that. That sounds great but the losses in step up and step down transformers is about 3% while the transmission losses are >10% which make the energy production much more inefficient that modern gasoline and diesel engines. On top of those losses we now have the losses of about 20% to put the power into the battery and more still to get it out. So, 80% of the 87% or nearly 70% of the total power generated makes it into the inefficient electric motors to do work. When it’s all said and done an electric vehicle is lucky to get 10% efficiency out of the carbon based fuels it uses. While we all think that battery operated cars are saving the world in actuality they are big polluters. It’s a fanciful, wasteful boondoggle.

    The businesses that promote these wasteful devices know what they really are but they are in it not to save the world but to get rich. I’m all for getting rich, for that matter I’m all for saving the world, but I think people should know the truth before they go off believing they are saving the world.

  2. Any disabled person who depends on a powered wheelchair for outdoor use could have given them the heads up on this one.

    I suffer from the effects of Cerebral Palsy and require a powered wheelchair which I drive a specially adapted car from, which does reduce the stress on the powered wheelchair. However, this was not always the case.

    Prior to getting my license I had to depend on the powered chair as my sole form of transport outdoors and during the summer I could rely on the chair to do it’s job even in the inclement weather of western Scotland. However, winter was A different story.

    Although at times you didn’t want to venture out, sometimes you had to, and you had to plan your journey carefully as the powered chair’s range was reduced – even drastically reduced – depending on the temperature. On a few occasions I was lucky to get home.

    Any auto electrical engineer worth his salt would have foreseen this issue with electric vehicles. The manufacturers have either been blinkered to this fact, purely focusing on the end goal, or have been silenced by corrupt governments and environmentalists citing pseudo science to push for electric vehicles .

    Whatever has gone on, one thing is for sure: They’ve shot themselves in the foot on this one.

    • The car has additional problems because it is always outside so the battery will be at ambient outdoor temperatures. The electric wheelchairs tend to be inside and go outside on small spurts – so it shouldn’t be as much of a problem since they start their journey at indoor room temperature. But if You are out for a bit – insulating the battery, at least somewhat could be in order. Note just like people who do not need mobile assistance those that so should stay inside as much as possible in this type of weather.

  3. Another great and insightful article. Thank you doctor.

    I think the term Renewable energy should be replaced with “Unreliable Energy” or “Intermittent energy”.

    There is no such thing as wind turbine electricity or solar panel electricity that runs 24/7 365. Not even slightly close.

    If Canada mandated electric vehicles nobody would see driving half of the year.

    Peace from BC

  4. I just had some discussion with some EV owners and all in all – its like running a steam engine: You have to plan your routes, timing charging, cannot really go and explore outside established routes (to work and back) because you are always in danger of “not making it”.

    Even Tesla owners complained about this and called their Tesla “a one time folly” – and I quote: Mercedes and BMW have far superior interior quality, and they will not leave you out in the fields calling a lorry or a backup generator…

    Or in other words: Its not that the EVs are bad, its that gasoline cars are really good!

  5. and how do they cope with added drag of using chains in snow?
    and the grunt required to pash through it as well?
    probably not well at all it appears.
    firesale on the fleet soon?
    oh with teslas record of combined car/crematorium maybe firesale is all too correct?
    whos brand of cars are they??? dont look tesla ish

  6. Thanks for debunking the electric car mythos and explaining why my truck doesn’t like to start in the cold.

  7. Thank you, Doctor Kaiser, for actually explaining something I should have known but never considered – why my lower capacity battery that worked fine all year wouldn’t start my car in Maine’s winters. I always blamed it on the oil being thicker, causing the engine to turn over with greater difficulty.

    Now I realize it was because the battery could not provide the starter with the current it needed because the cold battery couldn’t generate it. You are always a source of useful information, as well as often a source of tongue in cheek humor. Thanks again.

  8. Why didn’t they just charge these “Jetson” cars, over night, with either Solar Panels or Wind Farm electricity?

    With the strong winds during the Snow Storms, it should be really easy to charge these batteries.

    Also, why not use all this Solar and Wind electricity to warm up, (heat up), the batteries? Just make sure there is a heating system where the batteries are kept, or use the Solar and Wind electricity to warm up the garage? I don’t get it? The electricity to keep the batteries warm is free, isn’t it?

    Maybe the problem is Quebec just needs more Solar and Wind farms! Clear cut those useless forests. Nothing is more beautiful, and clean, and greed than a Wind Farm from horizon to horizon.

    Why, a Wind Farm is as GREEN as the Trees that were cut down.

    • i can assure you, in the south shore of the fleuve saint laurent ( st larence river, i think this is how you guys are calling it ) , they had installed MASSIVE amounts of theses giant things, i d k the power they provide, but the landscape of many villages are changing at the rate of one every week.. pure madness..but i guess we will need every watt ( disponible ) * not sure of the correct ” ortograph ”
      of ” availible “… heck, they could build massive solar farms in the south for all i care, ( fight back at the cold, the odds don’t matter anymore ) ..but not the weird arrays of mirrors pointing at the center… i heard thoses where burning birds in mid flight..damn.. we are in for trouble, here, in the north..

  9. I would have thought energy costs for cabin heating would be the issue. The battery cases could be insulated and a heating element added without excessive cost.

  10. I wonder how good the heaters in those cars are when its that cold???

    I know the Prius cars are very cold in the winter.

    • “I know the Prius cars are very cold in the winter.”
      How do you know this? In fact they are not cold, because they have an internal combustion engine, in which they burn fuel specifically to generate heat for the cabin. That fact impressed me with the efficiency of a Prius vs a “standard” ICE more than any other when I got mine 5 years ago. The fuel efficiency drops from my typical 50+ most of the year, to the mid 40s in cold weather, primarily because you are burning fuel for heat, not motion.

      An electric car is an entirely different thing. A recent firmware upgrade to a friend who lives in Minnesota’s Tesla S allows him to warm both the battery and the cabin remotely via the app while the vehicle is still plugged in. Even so, his range is reduced by 40% or more when it is much below freezing.

      Last fall he drove the Tesla the 600 miles to visit us and spent 3 hours or so at chargers. An ICE driver in a hurry would stop to refuel once for about 5 minutes.

      There are now enough Teslas on the road that you are not guaranteed a spot at a charger any longer, and I believe a reservation system may be in the works. If there is someone in front of you at the pump it’s an inconvenience, but at a minimum of half an hour to charge to 80% you better bring some reading material in your electric.
      That is his only car so he will have to deal with whatever happens. I’m not a fan.

  11. I love this blog and I agree with the conclusion of this article, but I need to correct some serious misstatements that have been made about Li-ion battery chemistry, which is the type used in virtually all battery-electric vehicles.

    “2. Batteries are chemical systems.”
    There is an old chemistry joke that goes like this:
    Q: Why can’t you trust molecules?
    A: They make up everything.
    So, yes, Li-ion batteries are chemical systems. Beyond that, there is little similarity between Li-ion batteries and virtually every other battery type in use today. Most batteries use redox (reduction/oxidation) reactions during charge and discharge. Such reactions are subject to the Arrhenius equation (discussed below) and are also very inefficient. Neither of these issues apply to Li-ion batteries since they do not use such chemical reactions as part of the charge and discharge processes.

    In Li-ion batteries, lithium ions merely shuttle back and forth between the cathode and the anode. On the cathode side, they are packed tightly into the complex three-dimensional structure in what is called an intercalation reaction. Intercalation reactions are fundamentally different than redox reactions in that they are almost completely lossless and they are much more reversible.

    “4. Every 10 degrees Celsius (C) in temperature change typical process speeds by a factor of 3.”
    That is known as the Arrhenius equation. For some applications, the factor is 2, but I agree 3 is used for some things. In any case, it does NOT apply to the intercalation reactions used in Li-ion batteries.

    “5. Hence, between PLUS 25 C (in summer) and MINUS25 C (in winter), reaction speed changes by a factor of roughly 3^5 = 250 or so.”
    I’m sorry, but this is just silly. Humans are also “chemical systems.” Do we slow down by a factor of 250 when the temperature drops from 25C to -25C? Of course not! Why not? Because our bodies regulate the temperature of the chemistry to keep things more consistent. Most electric vehicles do something very similar to improve both the performance AND the longevity of the battery system.

    So the obvious question becomes: If Li-ion batteries do not suffer from the ills which befall redox battery systems, why don’t they last forever? Simply put, there are *unwanted* reactions, not related to the charge and discharge processes, which can and do occur in Li-ion batteries. Some unwanted reactions are *directly* affected by the Arrhenius equation and happen much faster in hot climates than in cold ones. That is why many electric vehicles have active systems to cool their batteries.

    But there is one particular unwanted reaction which occurs only at very cold temperatures: elemental Li plates onto the anode during charging. This particular reaction blocks the Li-ions from having access to the anode, and thus rapidly reduces the capacity of the battery. This particular reaction is the reason why charging of Li-ion batteries must be slowed considerably at very low temperatures or even must be stopped completely below a certain temperature.

    The issues which affect the performance and life of Li-ion batteries are being worked on by many researchers around the world. Steady progress is being made to address these issues while also reducing the cost of manufacture considerably.

    But the problem of operating in very cold temperatures will never go away, even if a nearly-perfect battery system is developed. The reason is that the battery and electric drive system is so efficient that there is almost no waste heat. As such, the range of the vehicle will always have to be reduced in order to warm the cabin for the comfort of the occupants.

    • I saw that a human was used as a comparison to a battery. How well do you think a human would work at -25C?? Humans normal temp is 37C (98.6F), what would happen to a human temp dropped to -25C (-13F). It wouldn’t work either.

  12. Doesn’t anyone else find the putting of the latest email at the top of the comment list a little confusing. Or is because I’m in Australia and everything just looks upside down?

  13. From the above debate it would seem to me that transport technology needs to marry up both liquid hydro carbon engines and battery power together, rather than one or the other, hence the Hybrid motor vehicle.
    Both technologies coupled with electric drive train power by both smaller Hydrocarbon engines and light battery storage would use energy far more effectively than either technology on its own.
    In the UK particulates from carbon engines and wood burning is made much of to demonise hydrocarbon vehicular traffic usage, But these climate event have always occurred in the UK during winter High pressure systems which provide a South Easterly/Easterly flow of air over the more populated South East of England and more usually during the meridional jet stream/solar minimum period of the Sun’s cycle. Many of the great London smog’s occurred during similar periods, As they do on the West coast of America.
    Much of European heavy industry is in the coast belt of Europe, within a couple of hundred miles of downwind London and the South East UK

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