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?
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?
Beth: I've never been very bullish on the short term prospects of battery electric vehicles (long term could be another matter). But vehicles like the Prius Plug-In offer a really strong alternative today because some owners will be able to drive it without using gasoline for weeks at a time. The bottom line is: relatively low cost; short recharge time; and more electrified miles. High volume production and sales of this vehicle translates to more gasoline offset than low-volume production of pure electrics.
Another factor in the determination of an ideal battery size is the infrastructure required to recharge it. If done at home, most users would not want to wait more than 10 hours before using the car again. This means the battery size cannot be larger than what a typical residential wiring system could deliver in that amount of time. If the battery is intended to be quickly charged at a commercial charge stations, much like today's gas station. Then that charger must be capable of deliver the necessary in only 5 or 10 minutes, otherwise the wait becomes too long for most ordinary people. This means the commercial charging station has to operate at extreme voltage and current, which introduces safety issues that have to be addressed. All of this adds complexity and cost which would have to be considered when determining the ideal battery size.
In my opinion I believe GM has struck a good balance in sizing the battery for the Volt. It has sufficient range for about 80% of most drives and yet can be recharged from ordinary 120 volt outlets.
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.
To Charles: Those numbers make me question if pure electric cars are ready for prime time. When the cooling system of an electric vehicle exceeds the total replacement cost of an existing drivetrain then the vehicle can't be cost competitive for most consumers. I believe the challenge will be for automakers to keep the public's interest until the required technologies mature enough for costs to come in line. How do you see this shaping up especially in this period of economic uncertainty on a global scale?
To 3D_Eng: I believe the plug-in hybrids with the smaller batteries will sell, possibly in big numbers if they can keep the vehicle costs down to $25K to $30K. Bear in mind, though, that the battery in the Prius plug-in is one-third the capacity of the Volt battery, one-fourth the capacity of the Leaf battery and less than one-tenth that of the Tesla Roadster. As for the battery-powered electrics: Nissan is hoping for big numbers for its Leaf, but I believe they will sell better in Asia than here in the U.S. The pure electrics might get an initial surge from the hardcore environmentalists here, but I doubt it will be a big mainstream vehicle. As for the EVs with the really big batteries: Its hard to believe that a vehicle with a $25,000 battery can sustain a big mainstream market.
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.
The battery prices in this article are way too high as one can buy them for under $250kwhr now in the small cell like Tesla, Panasonic do. This puts materials around $175/kwhr. I doubt OEM's are paying more.
I can buy a A123 battery pack with electronics like used for the Killacycle Drag bike to fit 7.8sec 1/4 mile at 172 mph, for just $700/kwhr retail.
The future won't be such big packs because future EV's will be much smaller, lighter with 60-120 mile ranges and optional small generator of about 7kw/1000lbs of EV can give unlimited range.
If the Prius pack weighs what is said, whomever designed it should be fired. It shouldn't weigh more than 25lb/kwhr.
My Harley size EV trike gets 600mpge and my 2 seat sportscar gets 250mpg and with gas prices going to $10/gal in the next 5 yrs, many others are going to go my way.
Mike you have some facts wrong. The Volt has a 16kwhr battery pack, not 40, but only uses about 12kwhrs to give it long life.
Next while I disagree a Cruze is similar, your calcs on it's fuel costs are way off. Since now gas costs about $3.60/gal so minimum $.10/mile. YMMV. But over those yrs to get 300k gas prices will at least triple while a 2kw PV panel set can charge the Volt for 30 yrs. I get panels for $1/wt retail now at many places and first quality for under $1.50/wt. So for grins let's call it $5k for E fuel.
But the Cruze will average about $6/gal at least so $.20/mile x's 300k equals $60k in fuel costs. So if one uses something close to real numbers, the Volt smokes the Cruze by being 50% or more cheaper.
More reasonable would be over 100k miles though but even there the Volt still wins and the Leaf kicks posteriors on lifetime costs.
And you compare the Volt, Leaf with economy cars when they should be compared to other high tech cars like they are, with BMW's, Audi's etc which in many cases cost more.
Clarifying on the coming battery glut I don't mean a lot of EV's won't get built causing it but the industry capacity is way more than even very fast EV production ramp up can absorb. Don't forget in a couple yrs both Ford and GM will be making their own batteries they have stated several times, leaving LG, A123 out in the cold too.
In lithium battery's case, a glut will lead to batteries becoming a commodity, thus low cost will be magnified.
The numbers of EV's that get built depends mostly on the price of gas. I expect 50k next yr and doubling every yr for a while until they make up about 50% of the transport vehicles.
And oil over the next 5 yrs will likely hit $10/gal as another 3 billion new people want their share of the world's oil.
For those of you bad mouthing lead batteries all mine use them and my costs are just $.01/mile for them. With electric fuel and battery cost just $.015/mile. I just shake my head at people paying $40-80/tank for gas while I don't ntice the electric cost on my $35/mo electric bill.
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!
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.
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.
I'm surprised that no one has come up with a viable system design for a pure hybrid electric vehicle. With the current state of the technology it should be possible to design an economical car using a pair of induction motors (or four) to drive the wheels with a computerized speed comtol. An internal combustion engine (preferrably a multi-fuel shaft turbine) driving an electrical generator only, would provide charging power to batteries sized to allow a reasonable driving range (approx 100 to 200 miles), which can otherwise be charged from an electrical outlet source. On trips exceeding the milage capability of the batteries the engine/generator system should be sized to be able to both charge the batteries (at a slow rate) plus be able to power the drive motors similar to the way a diesel-electric locomotive operates. Having the on-board IC engine would also help with temperature management in colder climates.
Wow! Finally somone is looking askew at the reciprocating engine. Ford/Jaguar has a turbine driving a four-wheel sports car that goes way too fast. Seems like a battery pack that would carry 10 - 15 miles could be used to drive the vehicle and the turbine could cycle to re-charge and drive the vehicle for longer distances. Let's get real creative. Let's put the turbine in a truck tractor for over the road use. With the proper tankage, a small computer, and a little creative thought, the truckers could purchase the least expensive fuel available and really make a living. Sorry to all, just ranting a little.
In the 1970's I designed ship control systems that were from time to time diesel-electric and gas-turbine electric. (Back in WWII we built lots of steam-electric ships because we could not make the main reduction gears - 'bull gears' - fast enough). Fast-foreward to 1980 and I proposed a simple hybrid vehicle. We were NOT in the auto biz, so this was only a paper exercise.
Take a basic Audi or Subaru 4WD & strip it down to just front & rear differential. Put two 25 HP (19 Kw) motor/alternators - one on each axel. Use a 20 KWH battery. Add a small, 1 liter or so, generator set with fuel of choice. Optimize the engine for constant speed and maximum efficiency so engine will need far fewer controls. A fast charger will allow 120/240 volt fast charging, where available. With a motor/alternator on each axel there will be regenerative braking.
An alternative & simpler design is to use only rear-wheel drive. One motor/alternator with regen braking designed to use rear first & then other brakes as needed. I base this on the early (pre 1960) VW Beatles, my 1955 Triumph TR-2, MGA, Austin Healy Sprite, Corvair, and others.
Of course we are not allowed to design 'real' cars anymore. Today's cars are chunks of metal, surrounded by Government Bureaucrats, into which you Pour Money!!!
One thing not mentioned very often is that lead acid batteries are usually recycled so the environmental impact of the lead is somewhat reduced. I would expect the same to be true for the newer lithium battery packs as well. I don't think they will outlast the life of the vehicle.
Recent articles on fracking gas in the east (PA) and oil in the west (ND) seem to indicate that hydrocarbon fuel sources will be readily available for a long time to come. This does not bode well for electric vehicles.
I suspect there is some crossover point at which higher hydrocarbon fuel costs make battery powered electric drive more attractive but I am starting to wonder if this will really happen. It seems we have in the USA a lot of oil and natural gas that will be available for many years at "fairly reasonable" prices.
The high cost of these batteries compared to readily available alternative fuels means the electric car revolution will be a slow process if it happens at all.
So how much of the attractiveness of electric vehicles is driven by a desire to reduce CO2 emissions as it relates to climate change? If, and this is just an if, CO2 is eventually deemed to be insignificant in terms of climate change, then what is the impetus for shifting from hydrocarbon fueled vehicles to electrics? I like a clean environment and fuel efficient cars, but that can be accomplished with either type of drive train.
8,000 cells, 1,200 lbs? Exactly what other consumer device has 8,000 parts? How about the reliability of >100 or so serial electrical connections plus the added factor of all the paralled blocks, plus single battery open/short failures, heat removal issues, mechanical stress, safety issues, environmental impacts and finally, plain old life cycle cost to own. And we cannot ignore the fact that the battery pack is NOT the system! There are costs/impacts to produce, dispose of and most importantly to generate the kWhrs of energy (factoring in process efficiency) to charge these devices. Care to lay out the numbers next to say, the life cycle/systems cost of a diesel fuel tank? And I have not yet seen the case that with this approach, lithium supplies can outlast oil reserves. I believe that any half way detailed analysis would quickly show that non-tethered pure EV systems are a non-starter (well, OK maybe next week we will have the cold fusion generator perfected). Can we for just one microsecond remind ourselves that instead of choosing battery powered homes and businesses we actually developed a solution to bring wired electricity into every dwelling in the country? Battery powered personal vehicles are currently a band-aid solution to a social problem, not an engineered solution to replacing a non-renewable energy dependancy.
How about offering additional battery packs for those that want them? You have a 12 mile drive to work you buy 1 battery, you have 24 mile to go, get 2 and stay all electric. (Using the 13 mile car in the article.)
To George: Good idea, but you would need to design the vehicles from scratch so that they can use different battery sizes. Toyota engineers had trouble squeezing their little 5.2-kWh battery into the Prius and ended up raising the floor a few inches to make it fit.
In all the article of EVs and how they reduce CO2 emission, I would like to see the real net CO2 produced by the EV and compared to a comparable gas IC engine and diesel engine powered car. Electric cars, while they do not directly produce CO2, cause CO2 to be produced if the car is plugged into the electrical system that is drawing power from a power plant which uses coal, natural gas, or petroleum products. By comparison, I mean vehicles with an economical gasoline or diesel engine, not cars with large high horsepower engines.
Wouldn't it be cool to be able to pull into the gas station and replace the existing battery with a fully charged replacement at the gas station. Leaving your battery there to be charged for the next consumer. I think in order to get past this range vs. economically feasible battery issue I think we will have to come to that kind of situation. And that will have to be driven by governement subsidies and such. However, as we talk about governement subsidies, we see how the market is reacting to the current government subsidizing of ethenol.
Quite often we as a society do not want our tax dollars to support unprofitable renewable resources, and yet, we won't pay extra for the technology and in the end we are not supporting and are voting with our dollars, that we don't want this type of renewable technology.
The hybrid is not an electric vehicle but rather an optomized IC vehicle (when used as a Prias in the gas only mode).
Acceleration eats gas or drains batteries or both. Cruise power is greatly below peak needed for acceleration. Beaking - stopping or slowing is an available energy source and the hybrid transfers slowing or stopping energy and stores it for use on the next acceleration.
The hybrid IC engine can be sized smaller than desired by using electric in parallel to accomodate peak loads.
Oversizing the battery for a given system reduces gas millage. Once the battery is fully charged, there is no place to further store regeneration. Driving carefully can also reduce millage.
A driving cycle should never deplete or fully charge the battery - Its capacity is there only to even out the peak and minimum loads of the IC engine.
The Prias is what a gas vehicle should be.
Electric is a good idea when our expectation of a car is greatly reduced. Millage, speed, size, weight and cost are impacted. It is in a nitch market by design.
The Prius plug-in hybrid seems to be nearly a "perfect" balance for a practical commuter car, building on the very good existing Prius. Of course...Toyota was the first to commercialize a mass-market hybrid, and has sold many more than anyone, so you expect them to "get it right". For short trips, it has all the advantages of a pure EV, but can do long trips too and be extremely efficient on gas. Zero recharge time or range worries. Decent cost vs. large-battery EV's. Nearly perfect balance, IMO (at least for the state of today's technologies).
The VOLT is not far off this mark too...but is a bit on the spendy side IMO, and its MPG while burning gas is not great. Chevy should make the battery SMALLER, reduce weight, reduce cost and make the gas engine more efficient (or go turbo-diesel)....to catch up with what the Prius has already done.
A relevant question for bigger batteries in EV's is "what is big enough" ? Of course, there is no perfect answer, but the analogy of "what is enough horsepower?" is similar. When I'm buying a car, I want enough horsepower to meet my driving style needs, for minimum cost. My mid-life-crisis neighbor wants a Corvette ZR1, while I'm happy with a turbo 1.8 liter VW....but my neighbor will pay dearly for his choice (environmental travesty aside). Sure, from a strictly performance measure - "bigger is better"....but practicality and prudence beg to differ for most people.
Regarding pure EV's....IMO, sadly, they are a fad that will die as soon as the government stops the incentives to buy them. They are a niche product at best, too expensive, too many trade-offs..and I think there are much better ways long-term to get off of oil (and ultimately all fossil fuels, which EV's don't help much with today anyway). I have researched the details - and it is a fact that today's Prius burns LESS fossil fuel (as oil) than the equivalent amount of COAL that would be burned to power an EV the same distance (in most states). Biofuels / Solar synthesized fuels and possibly even hydrogen (I add with reservations) make much better long-term automotive fuels than electrons out of batteries. Note that I'm PRO-Solar, PRO-Wind Power, PRO-alternative energy, PRO-smart grid...but I just don't see how EV's are a practical mass-market solution to transportation no matter how much the zealots hope it to be true.
I don't have a single website with that detail, but I can provide an overview that will lead to this, and also will hopefully enlighten folks to the huge distortions that are being tossed around about EV's. In my whole (technical) life I've never seen so much distortion and misinformation than what the government is providing for EV's!
By comparison, the avg coal-powered plant is ~33% efficient and avg. natural gas powered plants are ~42%. The latest technologies (not deployed much yet) are ~40% and 60% respectively. Power plant efficiencies are published in a strange way - they don't talk about "efficiency", they use "heat rate". Efficiency = 3412 / HEATRATE, where HEATRATE is in BTU/KWh. See: www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat5p3.html
So...you can see that the Prius is already MORE efficient than the avg coal plant (48% share of grid power) and just a little less than the avg NG plant (~18% of grid). It doesn't make much difference, but in case you were wondering, the avg transmission loss for power is ~7%. Technically, the plant efficiencies should be derated by a factor of 0.93 to account for distribution. www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2007/07/energy-efficiency-in-the-power-grid-49238
Now....a fair statement is "what if all power came from renewable sources?". That would be wonderful...but we are very far from this today. So...if you are driving your EV in Seattle where 90% of your power is from hydro - this is wonderful! If you charge your EV from your own solar panels - great! My comments are based on USA avg, which of course is most relevant to "mass market cars".
So, to be most complete - if one takes the LL Labs chart and does some creative calculations, subtracting out the "zero fossil fuel sources" (Solar, Nuke, Hydro, Wind, Geothermal), and setting them to be "100% efficient", and then see how much fraction of fossil fuel heat (Coal + NG) would be used to charge the average EV, the net "efficiency of fossil fuel usage" (too involved to show math) would be ~38%. Good...but only about the SAME as a PRIUS!!!
So...when you hear of the 99 MPGe of the Nissan LEAF - you should DIVIDE by a factor of ~2.6 to 3.0 to get a truly fair equivalent fossil fuel usage using USA avg data. This is 33 - 38 MPG equiv. So, you see....EV's do not really make any difference in fossil fuel usage vs. an efficient conventional car (many are 40 MPG now)...and the PRIUS (at ~50MPG+) actually burns LESS fossil fuel per mile than a LEAF!!! The main thing you can say for EV's is that they are converting the use of OIL to COAL + NATURAL GAS, at about the same net energy efficiency. Oil is politically more problematic....Coal is much dirtier (but people are working on cleaning it up some). Natural Gas is the most efficient and cleanest mid-term solution...but eventually all fossil fuels will go away.
Sorry if this is verbose, but it is not a simple subject and is clouded with many layers of information (and mis-information). As the grid is increasingly fed with renewable sources, the favor will swing more towards EV's....but that will sadly take many decades at best. In the mean time - I think our $$$ is better spent on more efficient vehicles, alternate fuels, and greening the grid - and EV's are a huge distraction in this endeavor, and do little to advance us in this direction.
Great info, Kevin. Obviously, there are reasons to go electric other than efficiency (the need to find an alternative to oil, for example), but this seems to shoot holes in one of the arguments for pure EVs.
I'm convinced pure EV's currently make no sense today. Maybe in 50+ years. I'm a little perplexed why the government / EPA is fraudulently distorting their benefits so much. I think that it is for these reasons:
1. The Power companies, Coal and NG lobbies are influential. Wouldn't you want this huge amount of new business if you were them? 2. We would reduce the trade imbalance because we would not be paying out as much for foreign oil. 3. Worldwide oil supply is unstable and may be closer to running low than most people know. 4. They think that having a zillion EV's out there can allow the "smart grid" to use those batteries for energy storage, which is necessary to make a high-percentage of the grid solar or wind powered. I'm skeptical that this idea would work out well.
#2 & #3 are pretty good reasons. However, I think it would be much better to directly create a substitute fuel (biofuels / solar-synthesized fuels, possibly even liquid or gas synfuel from coal) than to tap the power grid and put up with all the trade-offs of pure EV's. Also, as mentioned before - Natural Gas is the cleanest / most efficient power plant fossil fuel - why not just burn it directly in the vehicles? We can cut out the "middleman" of the power plants. CNG is rapidly becoming a world automotive fuel.
An idea for a vehicle solution would be a very efficient plug-in hybrid with a relatively small battery (~15-20 mile range), with a tri-fuel capability of gasoline, ethanol, and CNG. There are already many bi-fuel vehicles in the world with gas-ethanol and others with gas-CNG, so this is not a big leap to 3 types. This would allow fantastic fuel flexibility to future-proof it:
1. electric = short trips, uses domestic coal and NG, other renewable grid sources as they grow 2. gas = legacy / available everywhere 3. ethanol = cleaner, domestic and hopefully produced via non-corn renewable sources soon 4. CNG = cleanest, domestic and plentiful (as long as fracking continues) also may be supplanted by biogas / syngas eventually.
Note that in my prior comments & analysis that show that EV's do not (with today's power grid) significantly reduce energy or fossil fuel usage, I was actually being "kind" to the EV's.
I did not even include the losses from the power plug to the wheels: charging loss, battery loss, motor controller loss, electric motor loss. While each of these are all pretty efficient, they net about an additional ~15%-20% loss on top of the 7% electric power distribution loss, for a total of >20% losses from power plant to wheel.
This is why, after open-mindedly studying this issue extensively - I believe a more practical approach to get us off oil and fossil fuels is making car engines more efficient (via hybrid and other technologies) and creating a renewable replacement fuel for gasoline.
Although we should indeed work on improving power plant efficiencies and maximizing renewble grid power sources, it just does not seem to make economic or environmental sense to run our cars off of the grid, not to mention the big tradeoffs with EV usage profiles.
Fifty-six-year-old Pasquale Russo has been doing metalwork for more than 30 years in a tiny southern Italy village. Many craftsmen like him brought with them fabrication skills when they came from the Old World to America.
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