Interesting post, Chuck. As you well note, there is thread of consistency here: Auto makers looking to appeal to the mass market (i.e., want lower cost) go for the smaller, less expensive batteries while the higher-end models go for the gusto with big, albeit, very pricey batteries to support their all-electric designs.
I'm wondering, though, if those companies opting for the smaller, less expensive batteries will ultimately jeopardize their offerings because consumers won't see the value as a whole in what they're expecting from an EV, even a hybrid EV. If battery size is inevitably going to go up and the prices accordingly, isn't this strategy just prolonging the inevitable and setting the wrong expectation?
I realize that automakers are investing in battery technology, but with numbers like $26,000 for a 40kWh battery it seems that this is where the bulk of R&D money needs to be spent.
What are the major cost drivers? The battery technology, MFG technology or volume?
I like to think I can be objective in my purchasing decisions making conscious environmental choices. But I am not likely to buy an electic car when I can buy a fairly nice second car for what the battery of the first costs.
To 3D_Eng: Most of the experts that we've talked to suggest that the battery technology and materials make up the largest part of the cost. Secondarily, cooling systems and electronics add at least $100/kWh to the equation. As Dave Hurst of Pike Research suggests, manufacturing volume can bring down the cost somewhat, but the cost could still end up being more than $600/kWh, even when the lithium-ion plants go on line. There's one possible ace in the hole that we didn't mention in this article: glut. If electric cars don't sell as planned, there could be a battery glut in five years, which would drive prices down.
Beth, regarding your question about whether the small batteries set the wrong expectation: Those who are using smaller batteries, such as GM (for the Volt) and especially Toyota (for the plug-in Prius), have the advantage of having a gasoline-burning engine on board. The pure electrics are using the bigger batteries because they have no extended-range backup. If the trend keeps going this way, we'll have two distinct classes: lower-cost plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries and high-cost pure electrics with big, pricey batteries.
Both of which mean that as a consumer, if you really want to do your part and purchase an alternative vehicle, you're likely going to have to incur the high cost of the big battery, all-electric model to really help with any kind of environmental impact.
As for battery prices going down if the EV models don't sell and there's a glut, well, that's also a kind of downer way to look at the market and its potential. Given all the technical challenges around batteries, are you feeling down on the promise of all-EV vehicles?
In response to an earlier post. Assuming the 700 per Kwh is a ood price and a 40 Kwh battey give a 40 mile range (Volt). The cost is 26K to drive at infinite MPG 40 miles a day (or so). Assuming a car is built for 300K mile (as the interior or good cars tend to get pretty ratty by then and the suspension and other components get worn....) then say at perfect fitting of 40 mile tripping the owner is in effect paying 26K for fuel storage NOT the fuel. Assume the electricity is relatively inexpensive...say 40% of hydrocarbon fuel...then comparing a car like the Volt to a similar sized and performance vehile would be fair. A Chevy Cuze is a similar car . THe cruze gets 36 mpg combined. From the Chevy website the fuel cost of the Volt is 1.50 per day all electric which with the overnight recharge I take as 1.50 for 40 miles. Fair I think. Or about 33% of hydrocarbon fuel. The Cruze should consume about 8000 gallons of fuel for 300K miles. The Volt (All electric) would consume by Cevys own estimates. ..3.5 c per mile or $10,500 of Electricity. The est gas cost of the cruze is $24 K over the same time period.
So with the cruze you pay $36,500 for Fuel and tank premium vs. $24K or a12.5 K premium to run eleticity.Note using the range exteneding engie increases the cost of the Volt...
As for the glut of batteries predicted..glut lower price NOT cost and are temporary in nature.
2. Some pure electric time (which correlates with low running cost) - I would say 30 to 40 miles would be nice
3. Low 'range anxiety' - i.e. I do NOT want to worry about running out of power during a trip.
4. A pleasant car to drive - enough space, quiet, nice 'creature features'
Notice my list doesn't care how big the battery is! Battery size - who cares. I want my features! I suspect that most people feel that way and that, of course, is what the auto people are struggling with - keeping the customer happy.
Probably satisfying my list requires a hybrid which I guess is another way of saying it should be a 'multi-fuel' vehicle. Interesting times!
What we need to use in the USA is GAS. Fracking has generated a 200 year supply and the Bloom Energy system could recharge batteries using natural gas either on the car or in the garage. A relatively small unit could be used to charge the battery and provide a reasonlable backupp power source without the need to have an IC engine in every vehicle. Moreover, natural gas vehicles such and the Honda GX provide a very cost-effective solution to our near term automobile use. We just need the government to facilitate NaturalGas refill stations.
You're right on Bob. I especially like your point about low anxiety. With my "gas" car, if something happens (unforeseen long trip, caught in traffic, running the air conditioner all day....). I simply lose mpg and I can fill it up in a couple of minutes just about everywhere. Not the same with the EV's. Even worse, is the calculation of "miles" can fluctuate substantially...especially in the frozen north.
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