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Could Tesla 'Gigafactory' Bring EVs to the Masses?

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TJ McDermott
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The first step
TJ McDermott   2/27/2014 10:05:59 AM
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This is the first step, and it is a good one.  There are several other steps to make EVs work though.

His plan to do battery swaps at public stations (and the timed demonstrations against filling a gas tank the regular way) are another important step.

Put these two together, and he's most of the way to easy acceptance of EVs.

 

Jim5437532
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battery swap thing
Jim5437532   2/28/2014 3:09:19 AM
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@ TJ McDermott

I am skeptical of the battery swap thing for many reasons.

I think it's best chance to get a good start, would be a fleet environment. Like maybe a taxicab fleet.

Unfortunately Tesla doesn't seem to be targeting that environment. Instead Tesla seems to be selling it to the general public.

Some suggest it is a front for a carbon credit scam. That's it is a lot of hype and likely only a token effort will be made.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/12/21/the-tesla-battery-swap-is-the-hoax-of-the-year/

The giga battery factory could be boon or bust. I think there is a big potential. If it proves successful, it could make Tesla a household name.

 

William K.
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Re: battery swap thing
William K.   2/28/2014 9:34:00 AM
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I certainly agree that the battery swap plan has a whole lot of potentially serious defects. Where it could work would be in a battery leasing mode where people only leased a battery service. Then all of the ownership would be in the lease company hands, and fraud options would be reduced. That would be good for the users but one huge capital outlay for the business. And worst, it would do a lot to reduce advances in the battery field, because of the large investment in inventory.

OR, it could indeed be the initial phase of a setup to pull off some really huge scam. That sort of thing has happened before. Just because I don't see how just yet does not mean that it is not possible.

jaydhall
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Re: The first step
jaydhall   2/28/2014 9:53:25 AM
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Well, other sites are saying that the plant will cost around 5 Billion. This article says:

"Panasonic Corp., which now serves as a supplier to Tesla, is reported to be considering an investment of $979 billion in the new plant."

Now, understand I am just an engineer. No MBA to my name. I really do not understand business cases well. But even I can see that this business case looks quite good! 

Go for it Tesla! :)

rtuhro
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Re: The first step
rtuhro   2/28/2014 11:45:10 AM
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So what is wrong with all the battery plants the taxpayers have already built in Michigan?  Did they not survive because there wasn't a market, or they were intended to spend tax money and not make batteries?

ChasChas
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Re: The first step
ChasChas   2/28/2014 12:12:21 PM
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rtuhro

The government can't make money at anything.

Lwt's hope it stays out of the management of any for profit endeavor.

William K.
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Re: The first step
William K.   2/28/2014 5:19:31 PM
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rtuhro, You have a very good point about the battery plants in Michigan. Why not purchase one of them? But I suspect that those plants were built primarily to take advantage of incentives being offered, and possibly for that reason only. My faith in the "natural goodness" of a lot of people was been gone for many years, and I see way to many willing and eager to rip off anybody that they can, which includes our state leaders here in Michigan. I live just south of "automation alley", so I get to see a lot of it up close. Remember DCT? That one did hurt me, personally, right in the wallet.

bbix
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Re: The first step
bbix   3/5/2014 11:37:36 AM
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I'm not sure about all the plants but the one Dow built in Midland is still operating under new ownership.  I think they don't have much demand and are running maybe one shift.  Plants take a long time to build and several companies all thought that if they could get theirs built first, and as the demand developed, they would capture it.  They also all have somewhat different technology and of course each company thinks theirs is the best.  Given the rapid rate of technical development in this field though, it is very easy for your state of the art tech to be superseded by something better / cheaper, before you can get yours online and capturing market share.

Charles Murray
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Re: The first step
Charles Murray   3/11/2014 6:28:50 PM
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Good points, bbix. It's interesting that of all the press this announcement has received, virtually no one has raised the question of whether you can build a $5 billion "gigafactory" in under two years, which I think is the stated goal.

tekochip
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Breaking Away
tekochip   2/27/2014 1:34:13 PM
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They really need to break away from the 18650 case, how much extra weight is included in building packs from such small cells?


Charles Murray
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Re: Breaking Away
Charles Murray   2/27/2014 5:13:01 PM
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It's hard to say how much extra weight, if any, is involved, tekochip. No one else makes a battery the size of their's, so it's hard to say. But since they don't have a liquid cooling system, I can only assume that they compensate for any extra weight that would otherwise be associated with the 18650s.  

Nancy Golden
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Re: Breaking Away
Nancy Golden   2/27/2014 9:34:10 PM
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26650 cells might make better sense - you would have roughly half as many cells.

Jim5437532
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Re: Breaking Away
Jim5437532   2/28/2014 2:47:56 AM
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@ Charles Murray

"But since they don't have a liquid cooling system"

I'm lost. Not sure what you're trying to say. Tesla batteries or the cells themselves?

If I recall correctly, I think you said similar things before that confused me.

If I understand correctly.
Tesla traction batteries do have a cooling system. Standard automotive coolant like glycol is used to cool the batteries. The battery coolant glycol is further cooled by a Freon system.

http://www.google.com/patents/US20100025006?pg=PA1&dq=20100025006&hl=en&sa=X&ei=EPZoUcqMJeqjiQLLqIGoBw&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA

Charles Murray
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Re: Breaking Away
Charles Murray   2/28/2014 6:45:05 PM
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You are absolutrely correct, Jim5437532. My error -- Tesla's Model S' batteries are liquid cooled.

a.saji
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Silver
Re: Breaking Away
a.saji   2/28/2014 2:55:09 AM
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@Charles: There are 2 sides of it. Weight can be a problem in some cases where as once you get used to it then it will not be such an issue. So it depends on what your requirement is and how well you are going to adapt towards it.

Nancy Golden
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Should They?
Nancy Golden   2/27/2014 9:37:16 PM
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I think this is the defining point:

"If you're going to talk about building the biggest battery factory in the world, you first need to have a product that appeals to the mass market."

The public does not have a confidence in EVs yet and the price tag cut in half mentioned in the article is still beyond the reach of the average consumer (if I'm average)...

 

a2
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Re: Should They?
a2   2/28/2014 6:11:26 AM
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@Nancy: This may sound not ethical but there are certain things where you have to go beyond the public hearing. There are businesses where you do need to take action even though the environment policy is being not matched but must make sure that the damage is minimal.                

Nancy Golden
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Re: Should They?
Nancy Golden   2/28/2014 11:47:36 AM
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@a2, While my post "Should They" was more directed towards the idea that if there is not a market that can afford it, is their wisdom in proceeding with such asn expensive venture?, I do feel a need to address your statement. I completely disagree - if a company cannot operate with integrity (and I am not talking about trade secrets or company confidentiality) but find that they must be secretive and operate on the fringes of ethical behavior, they do not need to be in business. This damage that you mentioned smacks of bean counting which is dehumanizing and in my opinion, inappropriate.

Nancy Golden
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Platinum
Re: Should They?
Nancy Golden   2/28/2014 11:55:00 AM
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a2, this article in Forbes puts my point about bean counting well:

Bean Counting

William K.
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Re: Should They?
William K.   2/28/2014 9:42:19 AM
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Nancy, I agree that building a huge battery plant to compoete with a lot of others is a huge leap. I hope that they have made all of their assumptions correctly, because otherwise it could be thye end of the Tesla company, because it is possible to die under debt if things go really wrong. It might be better to work out a deal to lease capacity at some of the other plants.

BUT it is possible that they understand the cell manufacturing process very well and know how to take out lots of cost, in which case they could be the game changer by not only producing what they need but selling battery packs to other companies. And there may be markets available outside of the auto area. How many of us wouold buy a really good replacement battery pack for our poratble computer, if the price was reasonable. But for that to happen we wouod need some very stiff laws about allowing a computer to accept other than an OEM battery pack. I am aware about all of the bleating about enforcing quality, but it looks a lot more like price gouging from where I stand. 

Nancy Golden
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Re: Should They?
Nancy Golden   2/28/2014 12:13:17 PM
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@ William K. regarding, " It might be better to work out a deal to lease capacity at some of the other plants." I tend to think that your statement makes more sense until a firm consumer market is established and proven. The percentages mentioned in the article were not promising...


William K.
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Re: Should They?
William K.   2/28/2014 5:26:57 PM
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Nancy, you are right. That theory, "If you build it, they will come" only works in cartoons and other imaginary settings. Reality can be quite a different story. And "trial by marketplace" is often very brutal. 

What would be quite interesting is to see if the new battery plant could possibly be financed exclusively by investors, without any government money. Because although investors will take reasonable risks, most of them whomuse their own money are not willing to be stupid. Unlike those who have no hesitation about spending other people's money on things not adequately thought out.

Nancy Golden
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Re: Should They?
Nancy Golden   2/28/2014 5:41:11 PM
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Good point, William. Margaret Thatcher once said that "The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." I think that holds true in other endeavors as well...make it personal with your own money and you are going to think a lot harder about how you spend it.
Margaret Thatcher once said that "The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/thatcher.asp#KDICh7dAxup6RvrO.99
Margaret Thatcher once said that "The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/thatcher.asp#KDICh7dAxup6RvrO.99


William K.
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Re: Should They?
William K.   2/28/2014 5:45:11 PM
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Nancy, I could not have put it any better than our friend M.T. That lady certainly had a good grip on the reality of the situation.

ChriSharek
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Gold
Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swapping?
ChriSharek   2/28/2014 9:25:12 AM
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Why would Tesla deploy the supercharging network across the nation if they were then going to use battery swapping?  That doesn't make sense.

Non-beliEVers:  EVs are here for good.  The sooner you get on board, the sooner you can reap the benefits of driving electric! 

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swapping?
William K.   2/28/2014 9:49:53 AM
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If an EV were to be my only vehicle then it would have to be a hybrid, since the need to find and pay somebodies price for recharging is simply not acceptable as I see it. Of course I know that a lot of folks don't care if they are robbed blind, but I am not one of them.

And the very worst assertion that I have ever come across is that I should jump in just because everybody else is doing something. I have seen a lot of people get fooled because of believing that something was a good idea just because others were doing it. I choose to consider the results of my actions rather than just follow the sheep. Engineers are supposed to consider the secondary effects of what they do, both in designs and in everyday life. But probably that is only those who are engineers, as opposed to those who simply do engineering as a job.

aurizon
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Iron
Re: Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swapping?
aurizon   2/28/2014 9:57:08 AM
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Well, we could use one of these batteries fixed at home to charge via solar or off-peak power or other source, and when the vehicle returns, it draws first from the home battery, and later when the off-peak rate kicks in they can fill the car and then the home cell.

Of course, in time the peak will shift to defeat this as the powerco greed and avarice circuits are activated.

It makes sense for Musk to buy this company now.

William K.
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Re: Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swapping?
William K.   2/28/2014 10:18:44 AM
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The concept of chyarging things in the off-peak times will fail as soon as everybody starts doing it. That will be quite independant of anything that the utilities do. In fact, the whole concept of peak demand times will probably change as battery storage matures.

aurizon
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Iron
Re: Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swapping?
aurizon   2/28/2014 10:23:16 AM
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A small diesel, say 5-10 Hp, running on natural gas to charge the home bank, which powers the house and charges the car etc, with one of these batteries, who would need the grid at all.

I think these can be bought now, and we will have cheap gas for a while

ChriSharek
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Re: Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swapping?
ChriSharek   2/28/2014 11:00:41 AM
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This is not true at all - according to all my discussion with our electricity provider, Florida Power & Light.  They have modeled the impact of off-peak charging and it is no where near the peak they are currently seeing just after work (5-7 pm).

Further, they are feverishly installing "smart meters" in Florida to ready the system to bill for WHEN they are charging instead of just how much total juice (cumulative ) was pulled from the grid.

ChriSharek
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Re: Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swapping?
ChriSharek   2/28/2014 11:07:45 AM
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@William K - You are absolutely right. During the Order of the Engineer Ceremony, I pledged to "serve humanity my making the best use of the Earth's precious wealth."  Driving electric has proven (in almost 3 years of ownership) to be more cost effective and makes much better use of the fossil fuels that remain on this earth.  Our obligation as an engineer should be to lead the public as well once technologies have been proven.  Walk the walk not just talk the talk.     

LetoAtreidesII
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A move to get more grants, loans and kickback
LetoAtreidesII   2/28/2014 1:17:19 PM
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The whole Telsa program is a joke.  The company looses money on the actual cars but makes it money off if the goverment grants and Green credits it gets to sell. 

Don't believe me read from LA times

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/05/business/la-fi-electric-cars-20130506

If they move ahead with this Telsa will get fawning grants and loans fron CA, and Feds and who know who else.  So it is not like they are risking much.  Even when they have gotten in trouble before they have always been able to get extra grants to keep them afloat.  Odd for a company that caters to the hated 1%.

 

Constitution_man
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Easy Acceptance just won't happen...
Constitution_man   2/28/2014 1:46:18 PM
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It is WAY too late for any hope of "easy" acceptance on EV's, plug-ins, or hybrids in a good share of the good ol' U.S.A..  Too many mistakes have been made.  Costs out of control, The Leaf with its miserable non-cooled battery, Prius with failed batteries before 100K, Tesla's yet-to-show-a-profit operation, The Volt with its giant federal subsidy that STILL is a loss...  Nothing personal here, but I have to tell  you that I am one of a huge crowd of justified skeptics that just cannot afford to use my checkbook to make a political / environmental statement.  I must travel in the most cost-effective means available to me where I live and drive.  PERIOD.  As much as I love spotted owls and Al Gore, I still have to look out for my own ability to afford to live.


 At a recent dinner meeting I sat with a GM executive who was bragging up his VOLT and how cheap it is to own...  after grilling him on costs he FINALLY admitted that he lived in a part of Detroit where the electric meter on his car's charger is subsidized by a municipal program.  Without that cheap, fixed-cost-per-month meter [regardless of KWH consumed], his calculations fell apart.  He's a smart man... travelling in the most cost-effective means available to him where he lives and drives... maybe.  Now that D-town is officially broke, we'll see how long the program lasts.  These cars have taught us some lessons whether they live on in their current form or not.  Lighter materials to name one...

There's a riddle going around...

Question: "In a room full of people, how can you tell which one drives the EV?"

Answer: "Don't worry, she'll tell you."

KenM-Eng
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Iron
Shaking my head.
KenM-Eng   2/28/2014 6:02:24 PM
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@ChriSharek You said "the Order of the Engineer Ceremony, I pledged to "serve humanity my making the best use of the Earth's precious wealth." 

This is the reason I shake my head in wonder as presumably competant engineers jump on this lunatic bandwagon of windmills, solar cells, and EVs at any cost.

Ethics (so rare in this world) prevent me from EVER endorsing this technology on a mass scale. It is utter lunacy from so many perspectives.

Companies like tesla are technical ponzie schemes that WILL collapse the same day the massive injections of other peoples (government) money stops. This makes it unethical.

As a practising (technical, not managagement) Engineer of over 35 years I am well aquainted with marketting hype, ponzi schemes, and government waste at all levels. I understand the long term consequences of ignoring lifecycle cost.

"Our obligation as an engineer should be to lead the public as well once technologies have been proven."

And what does "proven" mean to you? To me it means that people will want to buy "WITHOUT" using other peoples money.

 

CharlesM
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Silver
Re: Shaking my head.
CharlesM   3/3/2014 10:30:42 AM
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KenM-Eng and others: Tesla's zero emission credits have phased out and other credits are also quickly zeroing out. Yet demand continues to rise and margins have surpassed 23%.  

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markrogowsky/2014/02/20/bear-clawed-how-tesla-keeps-crushing-the-naysayers/

Almost one year ago Tesla paid off its federal loan 9 years early with interest.

http://www.teslamotors.com/about/press/releases/tesla-repays-department-energy-loan-nine-years-early

I don't believe Tesla has interest in federal loans for its new battery factory, which is expected to employ 6500 people.

Charles Murray
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Re: Shaking my head.
Charles Murray   3/3/2014 6:14:34 PM
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Automakers that don't meet the California ZEV mandate must still buy ZEV credits from automakers who deliver EVs. That system remains in place. But you are absolutely right, CharlesM, that Tesla earned $0 in ZEV credits in the fourth quarter of 2013, yet earned $46 million in net income.

Thinking_J
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Platinum
if it were only that simple....
Thinking_J   2/28/2014 7:40:09 PM
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Very little in our lives is not influenced by Government incentives.

- incentives for oil companies (exploration, tranport, refineries, etc.) impacting any comparisons with EVs. Why is the cost of gas in Venezuela only 4 cents /gallon and in Turkey it is $9.55/gallon? It isn't a technical reason.

- incentives for farmers (specific crops.. fuel production? instead of cheaper food?)

- incentives from local governments for job creation (manufacturing costs) at the expense of their neighbor in the next state.

the list goes on .....

Making real comparisons (ICE vs ELEC)- with unrefutable "facts" - nearly impossible.

And those that think they have researched ALL the data to reach any conclusion....are only fooling themselves.. it will be obsolete within days of it's completion. Because the "facts" are in a constant state of flux. (new mining of lithium in Cal , a war in Africa impacting available current lithium prices, new technology that the public isn't aware of... .and all impacting the comparisons between internal combusion engines and electric motors).

If Elon can make sense of creating EVs with the rules and markets of the day.. more power to him. I find no moral issue with it.

I wish I could say that the "big three" never did anything morally questionable. (GM's killing of LA's public transit system in the fiftys? the most recent bailout?)

You won't have to look very far to find nearly anything humans doing - without some questionable moral aspect.

gomnessta
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Silver
re: why use such small cells?
gomnessta   3/4/2014 4:56:53 PM
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There are a good number of reasons why the Tesla model for a Lithium Ion battery pack is as it is. I'd have just provided a link to the info, but I cannot seem to find the source I originally read. Tesla's battery design seems to be VERY well thought out, and arguably better than any other for the purpose of EV's, regardless size or type (cylindrical/prismatic) of cell. Telsa uses multiple, paralleled, series-strings of batteries and is DESIGNED for the eventuality of cell failure. So that the vehicle will continue to operate, with only somewhat reduced capacity because failed string(s) are designed to be isolated from the rest of the pack. These small cells are the most ubiquitous form of this chemistry in the industry, and there is a LOT of experience around their manufacture. They ARE small, for other reasons too... if a cell should fail, it's far more likely that it's thermal effects are going to be inherently quenched by the liquid cooling system, before any adjacent cells are overheated. And as absolutely stunning as the Model S is, it's in this battery pack that true beauty lies. Boeing could have learned a thing or two from Elon Musk & company - when you've got volatile chemistry involved, you have to design for failure. Boeing did not do that at all, initially, and their "solution" now is to keep the rest of the aircraft from making an ash of itself... admirable goal, but if the entire battery is so easily dispensed with, why bother putting it in the plane in the first place? BTW - battery pack swaps are possible to be made VERY fast, because it's designed that way. The model for swaps is that you would pay a charge for the use of a fully charged "loaner" battery, and your own pack (by then, fully charged) is put back into your vehicle when making your return trip. "Supercharger" stations are being added as I write this, but they already span both US coasts and stretch entirely across East-West - their use is FREE for Tesla owners (including the KWhrs)... battery swaps are for those folks with far less patience than money, perhaps, like Elon himself.

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