"Some day, there could be a shiny new battery-powered car in your garage, ready to tote the family hundreds of miles before needing a high-voltage recharge. Or maybe not."
I will go with the, 'maybe not'. Unless the cost of the battery replacement is in line with the replacement cost of a crate motor, no way! I can keep putting motors and transmissions in my 1968 Pontiac long before I could ever afford one replacement battery of an electric vehicle.
Naperlou, the quote is an insurance quote as a customer needed the price of the battery to get insurance on the car. Based on Tesla's financial data, they have a pretty sizeable gross profit. Remember, Tesla cuts down costs by using more energy dense cells, using 18650 form factor and making large orders.(18650 cell production in 2012 it seems was 660 million. Assuming 7000 cells per car, Tesla would use around 150 million cells in 2013, that is 1/4th the world production). On top of that, panasonic is an invester in Tesla.
Tesla has been reaching their strategic objective just fine actually. The only delays so far they had was release of the roadster and release of the Model X. Though production of Model S is ahead of schedule.
Also, about us all paying a subsidy for it is a myth. While subsidies to exist, the subsidies are in form of non-refundable and non-deferable tax credits, not a rebate. That just means people who buy the car pay less taxes, but it doesn't mean that tax payers pay anything. Though at end of the day, everything from gas, cars, food and etc is subsidized in 1 way or another.
Reaching low prices is not going to be an issue in my opinion. At current rate, batteries are dropping in price around 7% a year and energy density is improving at a rate of around 8% a year. To reach a 200 mile 35k EV in 2016/2017 is fairly simple. So let us do a breakdown:
Now factor in that you need only 60kwh for 200 miles:
2017 - 24k for 60kwh
Now then a Tesla Model S is a full sized sedan, the Model E will be BMW3 size:
BMW3 - 730,582in^3 Tesla Model S - 855,583in^3
Which means the Model E can be 15% smaller. Thus require less batteries to achieve 200 miles. So a 51kwh battery would be more than enough for 200 miles (roadster was 53kwh).
In 2017 a 51kwh battery would cost 20k.
Now factor in that Tesla is making 25% gross margins. The cost to Tesla would be around $297/kwh so 51kwh would mean a 15k battery. Giving Tesla 20k to build the glider.
So essensially, the first year or so Tesla will probably break even on the Model E. And as battery prices continue to drop, Tesla's profit margins will appear.
This is all without any breakthroughs. And I am not even factoring in that newer batteries would be more energy dense, so they will be lighter.
Also, as far as the gigafactory goes. Tesla plans to build the factory with a partner. Auto companies owning a piece of their suppliers is nothing new. Tesla actually already build their own batteries, Panasonic just provides the cells. Building the batteries locally cuts down on logistic costs and is actually quite common.
As far as Moore's Law goes, it was not turned into a law by the press. Moore was the CEO of Intel and pretty much set the pace for his company in a form of Moore's Law. Since then Intel and other tech giants have set Moore's Law as a benchmark. Intel even has a dedicated page on their site to Moore's Law because to them it symbolizes vision and pride. One of the biggest things that leads innovation is vision. Moore's Law set that vision.
weapon, I am surprised at the $45K quote on a Tesla S with the 85kwh battery. The list is twice that and they aren't discounting, as far as I can tell. Is that a used vehicle? If that is the price now, Tesla is probably loosing money. If it is, then they have met their original aim of a BMW 5 Series competitor at half the price of the roadster.
On the other hand, I doubt the price. Tesla has not met their own strategic objective, and electric cars are really just playthings for the rich for which we are all paying a subsidy. I really would not put too much stock in Musk's ability to develop a car at a low price with reasonable range. Perhaps he will prove me wrong.
What is interesting is the whole debate over batteries. There is no breakthrough technology that will make electrics what they need to be in the timeframe under discussion. The national labs have been working on this for some time. I am skeptical. Musk has been talking about building his own batteries, taking in raw materials and producing finished batteries. This harkens back to the early days of the automobile when Henry Ford's factories took in raw iron ore, rubber and other materials to produce autos.
As for Moore's Law, it is in fact a conjecture. There is no physical reason for it. It has been turned into a "law" by the press, mostly. The industry works to improve the devices becuase that is what makes sense. It is not some great industry effort as you seem to suggest.
True, Moore's Law has become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy for the semiconductor industry. When developing new technology with so many unknowns it's helpful to have a model to rely upon to solve at least a few of the variables. Battery technology seems to be off to a slow start, hopefully the industry will find an applicable model.
There is no consensus among anyone that 200wh/kg is the limit. People just misunderstand a lot of information. One of the biggest thing that gets confused is battery energy density and battery cell energy density.
The nissan leaf battery system weights 300kg and has a 24kwh battery. That is an energy density of 80wh/kg. 140wh/kg is most likely the energy density of the battery cells.
For reference, the energy density of Tesla Model S battery system is 156wh/kg. But the battery cells have an energy density of 250wh/kg.
So what exactly is this 200wh/kg limit? is this a limit on NMC chemistry(Nissan Leaf)? Is it a limit on the battery system? Is that the limit on standard LCO cells found in most laptops? The whole thing about there being a mythical limit of 200wh/kg is vague. If someone says conventional Lithium Ion batteries, that would be LCO. If you are talking about 200wh/kg being the limit of LCO (Spoiler: 200wh/kg is the limit of LCO), not a big deal as the only car that used it would be the Tesla Roadster. All other cars use different chemistry, Tesla uses NCA chemsistry in the Tesla Model S.
Moral of the story, the 200wh/kg limit has 0 relevance to cars as they don't use LCO in cars. And has more of a relevance to cellphones and laptops.
I will also disagree with the cost of the battery. A person got a quote from Tesla for an 85kwh battery and it costs $45,037.02. (This cost is factoring in Tesla making a profit I am assuming but puts the cost to consumer in perspective, this is also prior to the deal renegotation with panasonic so more than likely it went down). Either way, that would place it at $529/kwh. That is quite less than $600/kwh. Tesla is projecting to be making 25% gross profit in Q4(excluding zev credits). If that is the case, the cost to Tesla would be around $400/kwh. Now one would wonder how much cheaper Tesla is getting their cells from panasonic after the renegotiation. Since now panasonic has newer 3.4ah and 4.0ah silicon anode based batteries.
Overall though, I think electrification is going to happen much quicker than people think. This is why every year they have to make adjustments to projections. The biggest push has been consumer's hunger for electronics and portable devices. This has jumpstarted R&D into battery technology and is bringing prices of batteries down with economies of scale.
Moore's law is a perfect example. We did not achieve Moore's Law by itself, more accurately, the industry set Moore's Law as a benchmark and spent lots of money into R&D to make Moore's Law happen. As more and more investment money flows into batteries, the better and cheaper they become. Lithium Ion batteries contain no rare earth metals and mostly common materials, most of the cost is manufacturing and scale. As scale goes up, prices will continue to fall.
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