By on November 17, 2009

Battery electric vehicles are widely seen as the most promising long-term automotive greentech, but they’re also hardly poised to take over the industry. A host of issues are keeping EVs out of mainstream acceptance, ranging from battery capacity issues to the lack of a charging infrastructure.  For a group of electric transportation-sector businesses though (including Nissan, which is heavily hyping its Leaf EV), it’s nothing $124b in government support won’t fix. A press release on the Electrification Coalition’s “Roadmap” explains:

The Electrification Roadmap presents a bold and specific vision: By 2040, 75 percent of light-duty vehicle miles traveled in the United States should be electric miles. As a result, oil consumption in the light-duty fleet would be reduced by more than 75 percent, and U.S. crude oil imports could effectively be reduced to zero… “It is absolutely crucial that all of the key elements of an electrified transportation system are introduced in a highly coordinated fashion and in a way that is effective, affordable, and appealing to actual American consumers,” [David Crane, President of NRG Energy] said. “Introducing all of the separate elements, from cars to infrastructure, simultaneously in select communities across the country will move electrification beyond the early adopters; policymakers will witness the national benefit derived from a new kind of transportation system while consumers will benefit firsthand from a new kind of driving experience.”

Reuters reprints a Gas 2.0 gusher on the announcement, featuring the breathless lede of the day:

A remarkable new study predicts that at least 14 million electric cars will be zooming around the US by 2020, and reckons that EVs could account for a startling 75 percent of all light-duty miles driven by 2040.

Yes, well, the Electrification Coalition isn’t getting together to volunteer to foot the bill. Permanent consumer tax credits of $7,500 per EV purchased are on the table, as well as 50 percent credits for infrastructure construction, test pilots, and more. According to the WaPo, the total bill would come out to $124b in taxpayer support, including $13.5b on infrastructure and $75b on consumer credits. No wonder Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn is featured heavily, breathing such alluring lines as “we are not a maker of electric cars. We are a maker of affordable electric cars. That is the most important thing from the beginning.” Of course he also goes on to admit that without such tax credits this would not be strictly true. Nissan was the only major automaker to sign on to the Roadmap, which is a little strange considering GM’s Volt is supposed to debut late next year, not long after the Leaf. On the other hand, as a government-owned firm, it’s probably appropriate that GM not cheer too loudly for $124b in more taxpayer-funded business plan support.

Download a PDF of the Roadmap from the EC here.

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21 Comments on “Roadmap To Electrification: Please Have Toll Ready...”


  • avatar
    turbobeetle

    I’m all about new technology, but one thing about these electric cars that bothers the hell out of me is the probable degradation of the battery life. I know someone has to of mentioned this before, but I will again anyways.
    I just ordered a new battery for my cell phone today, it is 6 months old and cannot go longer than 2 days with out a charge. Original performance was 120 min. talk, and like 6 days standby. I have taken decent care of this phone, and I know having bluetooth enabled is a huge culprit for the shorted life but my goodness… If the Volt is rated 40 miles range in the same way that my cell phone was rated at 6 days standby mode then I’d say a used volt will get you to the end of your street before requiring the still unknown MPG ext. range mode. Have the a/c blowing and stereo bumpin’ and you might not even get that…
    I for sure won’t be the first in line to try out this new piece of automotive histroy.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      There’s some important differences between EVs and phones or laptops:

      Cell phones have a pretty dumb battery management system: they basically run until dry and charge and drain without a whole lot of thought to battery longevity.  Cars (well, the Prius) do a far better job of managing the battery in such a way that its useful life is maximized (temperature control, not letting the battery discharge too far or too quickly, etc)
      Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries aren’t as sensitive to capacity loss as the lithium-based batteries in phones and laptops.  The Prius uses NiMH; Tesla (and the Volt) use LiIon.  I don’t know what the Leaf is supposed to use.

      One point in favour of EVs is that, while the battery will lose capacity, the powertrain is much simpler to maintain.  The transmission isn’t the gear/valve/solenoid bonanza that an AT is, and there’s no need for a complex timing, ignition or emissions control system: it’s a simple transmission (a CVT or two-speed) and an electric motor.  Easy-peasy.

      • 0 avatar
        Aqua225

        That laptops and cellphones do not closely manage how the batteries are charged is not a accurate statement in 2009.
        Blackberry, iPhone, and many of the newer laptops use very advanced charging models to keep their batteries in tip top shape. And yet, lasting time is still not predictable. One could even say that a cellphone or laptop is *more* competent at managing the end of a charge in a battery, since software will kick in to reduce overall device performance to conserve the last little bit of charge. People won’t accept that kind of output from a car. They want it to run the same till it can no longer move.
        While a gas gauge can’t tell you exactly when you are going to run out of fuel, it’s still a lot more accurate than the current state-of-the-art in battery charge indicators.
        The reason is simple: the battery wear model. Batteries do not appear to wear linearly like a ICE wears nearly linearly for most of its service life. Also, just between two batteries coming off of a production line that for all intents and purposes should be identical, those two batteries can wear differently, in a drastic manner.
        Current battery technology is much more sensitive to its running environment, than a current ICE.
        Also, to point out two other problems: NiMH is nowhere near the energy density needed to be considered for a “real” EV (that has no on board generation capability). Lithium Ion is the only battery technology in wide development and use that has even near the power density that is useful for moving a car around a reasonable distance. Neither of these technologies allow rapid recharge, either, which will also take away from the life of the battery, drastically, at every single recharge.

      • 0 avatar
        Aqua225

        One other argument here — there is a not-so-easy part of the electric vehicle equation other than predictable battery performance: the motor/braking control system.
        Even the heaviest built controller will experience faults. In a gasoline engine, a fault is usually simple: you replace the part. In electrics, a fault has the potential to melt every bit of the high power wiring in the car, and completely toast the motor controller. It comes with the territory of moving lots of electrons around. A dead fault in a system can pull thousands of amps, and even for a 30th of a second, can do serious damage throughout the system before even the best circuit breakers can take the power offline.
        This limitation *will* be overcome, just like the battery technology will eventually improve to the point of being much more predictable, but until they do — I don’t think I want to be a early adopter :) (unless its a golf cart!)

        • 0 avatar
          dean

          I’m not worried about short-circuit failure modes.  Properly sizing fuses to interrupt short-circuit currents is not rocket science.  If your power wiring is rated for 100A continuous, then a 100A slow- or fast-acting fuse will open before a dead short can harm the wire.  If you properly design your circuit you can avoid damaging downstream components.

          But I’ve got some experience with AC variable frequency, vector and servo drives, and the damn things crap out for no apparent reason all the time (in stationary applications!).  And you don’t fix them, you replace them.  That is what scares me about electric cars and their motor/charge controllers.   The first few generations of these controllers will be uber expensive.

        • 0 avatar
          Aqua225

          Hi Dean,
          I’ve seen systems that are electronically managed (fault wise) for much higher current than the wiring is designed for, be taking out by freak faults that melt the wiring before the interrupter can step (fuse, circuit breaker, etc.).
          These systems were where extremely short transients were expected where the smaller wire size would hold up (to reduce weight & cost, much like you’d expect in a car :)).
          Then that awful fault comes along that exceeds the transient response of the interrupt AND melts all the wiring. I am not sure that if you have a car system where we may see very short transients of over 1000 Amps, it is practical to put power cabling in for 1000 Amps (I am just pulling these numbers out of the sky, for example). In these cases, you can end up with corner cases that result in total melt down.
          Additionally, I have heard of very similar stories to yours concerning variable frequency inverter drives for induction motors. I think that industry will have to become much more adept at corner case detection if they want happy customers and build a controller at a reasonable price (not overbuild to the point where it becomes way too expensive).

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      This is why the idea of leasing the batteries makes sense. Nissan/Renault and Better Place both have figured out that keeping ownership of the batteries removes this risk for buyers.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    LOL, don’t expect to be on the planet in 2040 and if by chance I am it’s highly unlikely I’ll still be driving.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    So, what the United States lose in oil dependence, they’ll gain in Nuclear dependence. Nuclear power is the cheapest, cleanest and most efficient source of power at this moment in time. With 62 million cars in the United States (according to the US Department of Transpotation Statistical Records Office) 75% of that will be 46.5 million cars. That’s 46.5 million cars which will need electricity to run. Now the most prolific country in nuclear power is France. Which means France will do their utmost to get in on this expansion of the United States’ electricity grid. Electricie de France already owns stakes in energy companies in the United States already and will certainly relish making them work for them. Not only will France enjoy this, but so will countries like Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan, Niger, Russia and Namibia as these are the main miners of Uranium, the element needed for nuclear electricity generation.

    No matter what the fuel of the future, be it LPG, Hybrid cars, Hydrogen, Electricity etc. A country will always be dependent on something for the system to work.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Actually, the cheapest power source is coal and natural gas. Nuclear is about two to three times depending on the infrastructure.

      • 0 avatar
        Aqua225

        Isn’t this based on the current US model of turning every reactor project into a major fiasco? (decades of environmental studies, standing steadfast in the face of hundreds of local lawsuits, lawsuits from the environmental clubs, lawsuits from the government, lawsuits from the energy company investors, lawsuits lawsuits lawsuits) Combine that with most of our designs here have been “one off”, which means no economies of scale improvement in base cost of the equipment…
        I wonder if we had some sort of regulation of lawsuits applicable to new reactors, and if we had some standard reactor designs, if it would be all that much more expensive?

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Are you trying to frighten us with the threat of French electric technology? Because that might work.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Not only will France enjoy this, but so will countries like Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan, Niger, Russia and Namibia as these are the main miners of Uranium, the element needed for nuclear electricity generation.

    If there is ever any significant increase in demand for uranium, or some huge disruption in supply from the world’s two largets producers (Australia and Canada), then we will resume mining here in the US.
    Add up the entire 20th century production of Uranium. The US was the top producer.
    Like lots of things, the price to extract in other countries where there are few/no safety standards, and little/no regulation makes US product too expensive.

    Unlike oil/natural gas, we really can be self-sufficient regarding Uranium. Just too cheap to get it elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      Yeah, and, if push came to shove, we could start re-processing waste like they do in France. Nuclear waste in the U.S. still has 90%(!) of the fuel’s original useful energy. Unfortunately, the expense of getting at it through re-processing is currently much greater than buying fresh new fuel.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Like lots of things, the price to extract in other countries where there are few/no safety standards, and little/no regulation makes US product too expensive.
     
    Canada and Australia are hardly banana republics.  Uranium isn’t mined in the US because the American nuclear industry was wandering in the wasteland for years, beset by a lack of a leadership and the politics of fear.

  • avatar
    dejal

    Nukes in the US?  Are you all for real?
    It’s hard enough to get wind generators built.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    Why do people give so much credence to predictions? Predictions are worthless. Look back to what people were predicting 31 years ago, in 1978. I’ll bet none of their predictions about the year 2010 were accurate in any meaningful way.

    No one knows what will happen in 2040. Yet we spend a lot of money on predictions. Fortune tellers. Stock pickers. Investment advisors. Weathermen. Global warming alarmists. Global warming deniers. Prophets. Seers. Revelators.

    It’s all wasted money. We should plan for the future. Try to build the future we want. But not try to predict the future. We can’t.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Canada and Australia are hardly banana republics. 

    But both still more friendly climate than USA. 
    Producers numbers 3-20ish are varying degrees of banana republic.

    Of course you’re correct on the meta – the US nuke industry is wandering in the wilderness.  Which I’m just fine with. Too many other ways to make electricty that are cheaper and environmentally responsible.

         

  • avatar

    I’d be happy to LEASE a Leaf or other EV if my cost per mile is low enough.   It has the potential to be a superb commuter car; cheap to run, needs minimal maintenance and can be fueled in your own garage at night.
    Until there is a decade plus of experience I would not want to end up buying a betamax or have the battery bank go mel gibson on me.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    So nobody has discussed this tax credit in comments…is it for “EVs” or electric cars?  Can I have the good ole US of A taxpayer subsidize 3/4 the purchase price of my first 2 electric bikes? (Yep you can get them under $10k…)

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Blackberry, iPhone, and many of the newer laptops use very advanced charging models to keep their batteries in tip top shape. And yet, lasting time is still not predictable.

    Technology and “battery models” can’t overcome ignorance.  Most people I know are not well educated about their batteries.  They run their cell phones, laptops, or blackberrys down dry.  Continually.  And then they complain that their batteries won’t last more than six months.

    One friend of mine is always and forever saying “I can’t talk long, my battery is about to die.”  Meanwhile, my laptop is a year old, my cell phone is 2 years old, my iPod is about 5 years old.  All are still going strong. 

    She won’t listen to me, so I’ve given up.

    One could even say that a cellphone or laptop is *more* competent at managing the end of a charge in a battery, since software will kick in to reduce overall device performance to conserve the last little bit of charge.
    I think my cell phone won’t allow any calls to be made when the battery is under 20% SOC.  Except for a 911 call.  But I don’t let it get that low.  I try to charge it when it’s down to 40%-50%.
    People won’t accept that kind of output from a car. They want it to run the same till it can no longer move.

    It doesn’t matter what people will or will not accept.  At some point, we are all governed by physics, regardless of who we “think” is in charge.

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