Unfortunately, the big battery breakthrough still isn't on the horizon. In June, Musk was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying, "There are few industries with more BS than the battery industry. It's really quite remarkable."
That hardly sounds like a vote of confidence in battery technology.
Maybe Musk sees a breakthrough of another sort on the horizon. If there is such a breakthrough, though, it's going to have to happen soon for automakers to reach 50 percent in 15 years. Kevin See, an analyst for Lux Research Inc., told us:
We do expect innovation and there are things that you can't predict. But when it takes six years to develop a new car and get it to the market, it's hard to see how we could get to 50 percent so fast. For that to happen, all of the major automakers would have to dive in wholeheartedly, and they'd have to do it soon.
Forecasts of massive EV success have been frequent since the late 1980s, of course. During the 80s and 90s, battery manufacturers were notorious for saying that we were on the cusp of an EV revolution.
Musk is different, though. He has built electric cars, worked closely with battery makers, is acutely aware of the unfulfilled promises of the past two decades, and has succeeded anyway. He has to be taken seriously.
His prediction could easily be written off as a bit of hype. Or it could simply be interpreted as overstatement during the thrill of the Model S introduction. Then again, there's always the other possibility: Whatever Musk is seeing isn't visible to the rest of the auto industry. It wouldn't be the first time.
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller.
Akwaman, do you know how long the wait is? I would imagine that would make a big difference. I'm not sure how it works with EVs, but a recent L.A. Times story reported that only 25 percent of hybrid owners purchased a hybrid when they bought their next car.
Electric cars are not sold like other cars. You have to order them ahead of time. We are Americans, and we know we want everything NOW. So when someone goes into a dealership, can they drive off with a LEAF or a VOLT? NO. This is the main reason that sales are lackluster in my opinion. If they were in the dealerships, looking pretty and letting people test drive them and take them home, I feel that things would be different. People who have these electric cars love them. If you have one and don't, please post, I have never heard any complaints by owners. Only responses I hear are positive, and they wouldn't give them up for the world.
Kevin, your first point actually answers a question I posed ealier in this discussion: Is the return motion in the pistion cycle actually inefficient? That seems to be the question that Mazda's engine was supposed to answer. Yet, if the return motion of the piston is not inefficient, the rotary engine arguement loses its power (so to speak).
I hope I don't come across as too strident with this input - but you are completely mistaken about the relative benefits of piston and rotary engines vs. efficiency. To be kind, I'm guessing you guys are electrical engineers...not mechanical ? I've studied engines and efficiency and alternative energy my entire life...and I'll just say that there is a lot of mis-information out there on these subjects.
Here's a salient bullet list:
1. There is no efficiency disadvantage to reciprocating motion, contrary to Mazda's (excellent marketing, but technically incorrect) promotion of their rotary engines. The crank / flywheel system stores any energy used to decelerate the piston at the end of a stroke and uses it accelerate it during the next.
2. The main issues regarding engine efficiency or lack thereof have to do with the GAS PROCESSES, HEAT FLOW, FRICTION. In other words - the engine is a device that performs thermodynamic processes on the gasses, and those gasses don't really "care" if the motion is reciprocating, rotary, or even flow-based (like jet turbines).
3. Wankel engines are wonderfully compact for their displacement, but they are fundamentally less efficient than a piston engine for several reasons: the shape of the combustion chamber at TDC is long-and-thin. This creates a high surface area for which the combustion heat escapes. Look at the size of the radiator on a Mazda rotary car - you'll be amazed that it is as large as a V-6 engine, even though the engine is tiny. Also, the continuous rubbing of the apex and side seals of the rotors has higher friction than the equivalent round piston rings. An interesting fact (that even Mazda apparently does not know, or at least did not want to advertise) is how to calculate the "equivalency" between a wankel and a piston engine. An RX8 engine is equivalent to a 3.9 liter V-6, but with a 1.5:1 STEP-UP gear ratio (out of the engine). If you look at the Horsepower/Torque chart, and adjust RPM downward by 1.5X & Torque upward by 1.5X you'll see a characteristic that looks like a very average (perhaps sub-par) naturally aspirated engine of 3.9 liter displacemnt. The legendary high rpm and power of wankels are an illusion, and (as any rotary owner knows...I have owned 2) the MPG is not good. This, plus poor HC emissions (also caused by the combustion chamber shape) is why GM scrapped their $1.5B rotary engine factory, and Mazda only "limps forward" as the only major wankel car.
4. The optimum combustion chamber shape from a perspective of heat loss is hemispherical - which coincidently results from a piston engine! Even better is a dual-opposed piston engine like the OPOC (see: http://www.engineeringtv.com/video/Opposed-Piston-Opposed-Cylinder/ ). Note that the most direct way to higher efficiency is to expand the combustion gasses more fully ...which is what Atkinson engines do. That's why this type of engine is used in the Prius and Camry and new Fusion hybrids.
5. There are other enhancements to efficiency in new piston engines - offset crank to reduce friction, GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) to improve fuel metering and combustion, etc. Of course, engine downsizing (smaller engine, but turbocharged to get required power when needed) help cruising efficiency. Today's best engines are more efficienct than the EV zealots would have you believe - the current Prius engine is 38% efficient and they are working on a 42% version. This is actually as high or higher than the BEST coal-fired power plants.
What else could the CEO of an electric car company possibly say? Expressing any other belief would hurt the stock values and reduce the earnings, and the shareholders would have him out on the street in a few hours.
Remember that the CEO is only responsible to the board and the shareholders, and that whatever else they do will be excused, as long as it boosts share prices. With that in mind, we should also evaluate the assertion in light of the quantity of power needed to replace the fuel consumed by a half of all cars. WE would quickly realize that it is quite a large amount. Next comes the question about where all of this additional electric power will come from, and how it will be distributed to those who need to recgarge their cars.
If we can come up with workable answers to those questions then possibly there could be some validity to his assertion, but if we are not able to come up with good answers, then back to the first paragraph. What else COULD he possibly say?
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