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Beth Stackpole
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Round and round
Beth Stackpole   9/16/2011 7:18:10 AM
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Chuck, just following the numbers is enough to make one's head spin. So what's the bottom line here in terms of the argument? A feeling that automakers are using higher numbers to justify higher prices on EVs, while the other side argues that the battery costs aren't that high, thus shouldn't justify higher vehicle costs?

Charles Murray
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Re: Round and round
Charles Murray   9/16/2011 9:14:03 AM
The bottom line is that I believe the experts who say EV batteries are running $800 - $1,000/kWh. Batteries are more than cells and the costs mount up. Sure, no one can say EXACTLY what they cost is. But the 20 or so experts that I depend on have been around the business a long time. They put their names and their companies' names on their estimates. They're not sitting in front of their computers late at night and typing anonymous thoughts under the guise of pseudonyms. And they're not part of a conspiracy that's trying to undermine the electric car market. When Toyota says that the battery costs $500 per additional mile, you can believe it must be expensive.  

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Round and round
Beth Stackpole   9/16/2011 9:27:17 AM
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Well said, Chuck. Thanks for clarifying!

TJ McDermott
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Re: Round and round
TJ McDermott   9/16/2011 11:50:17 AM
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From what you've said, replacing the power storage system in a car would mean replacing the pack, not the cells.  It comes out as a unit, goes in as a unit.  So is there pricing from third-party suppliers of the battery packs yet to prove the $1000 range?

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Round and round
Charles Murray   9/16/2011 2:58:42 PM
TJ: When we last checked, replacement battery costs for the Volt and Leaf were still unavailable. The old Prius battery, which used a nickel-metal hydride chemistry and was rated around 1.5 kWh, cost about $2,500. It's worth mentioning, however, that in 2008, Bob Lutz of GM suggested that the Volt's initial price factors in the cost of battery replacement, which again makes it difficult to figure out what these packs actually cost.

Ivan Kirkpatrick
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Platinum
Energy Storage is the Heart of the EV
Ivan Kirkpatrick   9/16/2011 2:59:17 PM

Correct me if I am w2rong but the real heart of the problem with EV is all about the batteries and the controls.  The rest of the car is pretty much the same so the Energy storage aspects are the real issue.  

Electric motors will get some refinements notably in terms of the electric wheel and traction and braking controls built in to the system.  some other issues with weight and materials come into play as well but for the most part these are the same regardless of the power plant for the car.  But the real issues are related to the battery and the control systems.  

And what we see being discussed is a technology and manufacturing issue, cost.  What will it take to bring down the cost, no matter what it really is now it is too high.  Large scale manufacturing and solid demand will reduce costs.  Improved battery chemistry and manufacturing of the cells will bring down costs.  The control systems once they are commoditized and in good demand will bring down costs.

As demand ramps up for the energy storage and control systems we can expect this to drive down costs.  So expanding the applications for these kinds of distributed power storage units will improve demand.

Taking advantage of "time of use" rates for electricity in commercial buildings and residential applications might help drive demand. Right now, the ROI is insufficient to justify the investment.  Imagine if it became very very attractive to invest in a battery storage system for your home and this could be carried over to the EV space.  

I see increasing demand as one of the best ways to drive down costs.  Am I wrong? 


TJ McDermott
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Re: Energy Storage is the Heart of the EV
TJ McDermott   9/16/2011 3:17:21 PM
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You are not wrong, but it's a Catch-22.  Increased demand will reduce costs, but to increase demand costs must be lower.  "That's some catch, that Catch-22" to quote Yossarian from the movie, and you can't say it any plainer than that.

All that you mentioned (motor refinements, manufacturing & chemistry improvements) are all evolutionary steps to existing technology.  None of them will help break the Catch-22.

To make EVs become solidly popular, a power source with the energy density of gasoline is necessary.  Batteries do not have that.

Maybe a fresh look at the problem is necessary.  What if the electrical power were available in the road-bed (think slot cars on twin tracks at Christmas time).  Then you don't need to carry a large battery around; a small one would be enough to permit crossing from charge track to charge track.  There's no need to plug in to recharge, because the cars are always "plugged in".  The concept bypasses the energy density problem entirely.

 

Charles Murray
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Re: Energy Storage is the Heart of the EV
Charles Murray   9/16/2011 3:20:41 PM
You're definitely correct that economies of scale will drive costs down. So -- brace yourself -- we have to go back to the experts for projections on this. When we talked to Michael Holman, research director at Lux Research two weeks ago, he said: "Through 2020, we see the cost falling to around $400 or $500 per kilowatt-hour. It will bottom out no lower than $400." As is always the case, however, there is no complete argreement on this. In 2009, the National Academy of Engineering projected that lithium-ion battery prices would hit bottom at $500/kWh in 2030. The question is: If your 40-kWh electric car battery costs $20,000, or even $16,000, is that low enough?

Ivan Kirkpatrick
User Rank
Platinum
Fuel cells?
Ivan Kirkpatrick   9/16/2011 3:41:36 PM
Maybe fuel cells can substitute for batteries.  They are a little more efficient I think than an IC engine.    Better in terms of some but not all emissions.  Same problems though in terms of cost.  That would at least allow usage of the new wheel motors and whatever else came along.

As for electrified roadbed, that would take a a lot of infrastructure changes and limit the utility.  I think in similar terms whenever I look at a large NASA rocket.  All that fuel  and mass just to get a pretty small fraction of the total vehicle weight up to orbital speed, 17,500 mph.  An electrified horizontal launcher would not have to carry the fuel in along with the payload. 

The simple matter is, we need better batteries that cost less.  I just don't see a silver bullet here.

melllowfelllow
User Rank
Gold
Re: Round and round
melllowfelllow   9/18/2011 2:15:31 AM
Congratulations Charles! Getting David Swan's input and observations presented what some of us see as a 'real world balance' to the pontifications of inward looking industry experts.

As I sit in front of my computer late at night and type my anonymous thoughts under the guise of a pseudonym, I concur with David Swan's comments. Engineers [and others] are notorious for taking the price of a BOM, or in the battery pack cell case - a subset of the BOM, and declaring that is what the subassembly should cost without any testing, qualifying, handling, labor, support/warranty, or manufacturing cost consideration. I do not see any significant problem with cell prices vs. pack prices.


We live in an age where a large percentage of folks know just enough to be dangerous in their quest for data and projections. Many of us have become spoiled during the last 20 years of technology advances. Although a great many new products have been 'hatched' during that time, we have been able to 'hang our hat' on some future projections [both technology-wise and cost-wise] for the new products by using a certain amount of historical extrapolation. If we go back to the time frame of the Intel 8008 [which ironically was designed under a contract to be the heart of a single board desktop computer], folks did not have the ability to project future microprocessor or memory costs [or future technical capabilities]. IMO, automotive electric power technology [batteries today] is at an equivalent stage of maturity in the vicinity of the 8080/8085/80186. We will need battery power/size/cost advances and packaging/assembly/testing advances to reach a 'generally acceptable price point' - the problem is that some of these require actual R&D.

<warning-rerun>One issue that many folks cannot get their head around is the s-l-o-w EV ramp. If folks are not demanding EVs [you will not see them lined up all night, around the block, and anxiously awaiting the new model EVs]. The slow demand ramp will result in a slow 'price improvement ramp'... <end warning>


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