By on March 11, 2010

In typical Carlos Ghosn style, the father of the Nissan EV throws down the gauntlet. gm-volt.com quotes him from a talk with reporters:

“Frankly, I mean so far there is no competition. Let’s be serious. It’s not because someone is coming with a prototype and one car that this is competition. The question is how much capacity are you building. What I am sure is that in 2011, I am going to be the only one on the market”.

In that regard, Ghosn has put production capacity where his mouth is with Nissan planning on 500k in global sales by 2012: “The numbers are big,” Ghosn said. As a frame of reference, GM has indicated production of 8k Volts in 2011, and an ability to ramp up to about 50k annually thereafter. Did GM bet on the wrong horse with its smaller battery but range-extending generator equipped Volt? GM NA Prez suggests that might well turn out to be the case.

gm-volt.com founder Lyle Dennis asked Reuss whether BEVs (battery only EV, like Leaf) or EREVs (electric range extending vehicle, like the Volt) would turn out to be more popular:

“Long term demand (for) BEV could be higher…As the technology flows down to BEV in what will be smaller cars to carry smaller packs, that may be the higher volume play over a longer time.”

Deutsche Bank projects that Li-ion battery prices will be dropping faster than previously projected. Automakers are already seeing bids for $400/kwh for large volume EV battery pack contracts. And DB Projects that they will drop by some 25% to 50% over the next 5/10 years, and that performance (power density, etc.) will double in the next seven years. These steeper price declines strongly suggest a more rapid potential for EV market penetration.

It’s looking like the odds for Carlos’ big EV gamble are improving by the day.

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28 Comments on “EV News – Ghosn: I have No Competition; GM’s Reuss: Volt Will Give Way To BEVs; DBank: Battery Prices To Plummet...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I don’t think this is an either/or scenario. The Volt isn’t a EREV, it’s a hybrid.** You can mince words however GM likes, but the Volt is very much like the Prius, just with better electric range and more compromises in terms of performance and space.

    You’ll want hybrids (sorry, EREVs) as long as charge time remains an issue and battery energy density remains poor versus fossil fuels. Full EVs make sense in situations where this isn’t a limitation, and that’s a wider scope than in the past due to battery improvements.

    The Leaf will probably sell well in urban markets, especially in Asia or Europe. Hybrids will sell in North America and in rural spaces. Pick the right tool for the right job.

    ** I’m not sure who started this EREV/EV/PHEV/WTF nonsense. A vehicle is either fully electric or not. Acronymization is going to be a real problem, in terms of public perception, for the nascent electric-car industry

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      psar; sorry, but I’m going to disagree with you here. A hybrid implies that it has access to two sources of power (at any time) and can utilize them in the most advantageous way depending on the momentary circumstances.
      That does not describe the Volt or an EREV like Fisker Karma at all. They operate purely as an EV until the battery gives out, some 40 miles or so. Then the generator supplies electricity to the battery pack to keep the electric motor supplied. Very different indeed.
      It may seem like semantics, but it confuses the understanding of how a hybrid like the Prius works to lump it in with an EREV.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Sorry Paul, have to agree with psar.

      The Volt is a serial plug-in hybrid. The Prius is a parallel hybrid.

      Both vehicles use electricity primarily generated but regenerative braking and/or the ICE, while the Volt has the added benefit of topping off its battery while parked through plugging in.

      Neither the Prius nor the Volt are full EVs (battery electric or grid electric vehicles), nor are they conventional internal combustion vehicles. They are “hybrids” of both forms of propulsion.

    • 0 avatar
      Dutchchris

      GM has certainly complicated semantics by introducing “EREV”to describe it’s Volt, but psarhjinian is in fact right: the Volt is a hybrid, a serial hybrid in fact rather than parallel hybrid like the Prius. The wheels are always powered by an electric motor which in turn is powered by either electricity from the grid or from it’s on board ICE generator. Does this make it an EV? When your talking new energy vehicles the only sensible way to categorize vehicles is by their primary power source within the system of the vehicle. For the first 40 miles this power comes from the grid charged electricity in it’s batteries, making the Volt an EV. After that the energy comes from it’s gas tank making it a gas powered vehicle like any other gas ICE vehicle. Don’t let the fact that it is an electric motor that turns the wheels confuse you. That electric motor is only substituting a transmission for an otherwise gas powered car in range extended mode.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Fair point, but I still think “hybrid” as a word accurately describes any vehicle that uses multiple sources of power generation.

      What it does with those generators is where the terminology distinction** comes from:
      * Parallel hybrid systems like the Prius
      * Belt- or crank-assist hybrid systems like BAS or IMA
      * Serial hybrid systems like the Volt, which you could further split into systems that can use both generators in concert as needed or depending on reserves

      I think consumers will make the same distinction: if they have to fill a tank, they’ll lump it all into the same category. Given there’s a sizable number of people who think you need to plug the Prius in, the distinction between hybrid, PHEV, BEV and EREV is too fine.

      ** And no one says it has to be gas/electric, either: you could have diesel/electric, gas/hydraulic, electric/foot pedal, lightning bolt/nuclear fusion, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      As I said above: it’s an issue of semantics. Yes, technically “serial hybrid” is not incorrect, but it is confusing to most folks, very few of whom understand how a serial hybrid works, never mind a parallel hybrid.
      If the Volt were a straight serial hybrid, without the ability to function as an EV in the majority of its driving cycle, I would agree with you and refer to it as a serial hybrid.
      But because it will be primarily functioning as an EV, I think its more descriptive to refer to it as such.
      Keep in mind that “serial hybrid” does not imply having plug-in or extended EV mode per se. One more thing: nobody in modern times has built or proposed a true (non-plug in) serial hybrid. That’s because it’s not efficient, and has become an irrelevant concept.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      EREV/EV/PHEV/BEV… all I care about is the automakers TCB!

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      Come to California home of the ULEV (Ultralow Emissions Vehicle) and PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) vehicle designations. WTF is “partial zero emissions mean? I know the regulatory definition, but really do words have actual meaning anymore?

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Isn’t the Honda FCX Clarity a true (non-plugin) serial hybrid

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      charly; Kaching! You’re right. It’s all to easy to forget about fuel cells, but that is the way to go with them. The efficiency losses with an ICE serial hybrid don’t pan out.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      “The efficiency losses with an ICE serial hybrid don’t pan out.”

      I think the future lies with diesel generator serial hybrids. Put in a free-piston generator, like Pempek’s FP3 prototype, and in-wheel or near-wheel motors on all four wheels. You can get well over 100 miles per gallon.

      Yes, these cars need a lot more development work. But they will be on the road long before a fuel cell electric car.

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    I wonder will make a profit first: BEV or EREV.

    • 0 avatar
      Dutchchris

      Look at the production numbers in the article: Leaf starts out at 50K units and ramps up to 500K units. It’s price is rumoured to be about $30K. Volt will start at $40K and GM seems fairly realistic about the numbers that come with that price point: start at 8K, ramping up to 50K. The reason the Volt starts $10K higher than the Leaf is that the Volt has in fact all of the components of the Leaf (minus 1/3 of it’s battery pack)ánd an ICE generator unit. More components= more costs=less competitive=less profitable= dead end technology.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The true answer: it depends on subsidies

      The wishful answer: probably BEVs. They’re inherently much less expensive to make and maintain. I suspect the real entry into North America by Chinese marques will be BEVs. They already rule the electric bike segment and it’s only a small step from there to here.

  • avatar

    Dutchchris
    “…the Volt has in fact all of the components of the Leaf (minus 1/3 of it’s battery pack)and an ICE generator unit.”

    Basically the definition of EREV, thanks for clearing that up.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    500k units of this car will require a significant jump in hybrid/EV sales by 2012. Just like many people aren’t sure they want to pay 40k for a Volt, I am not sure how many want to pay 30k for a Leaf. More reasonably priced battery packs are critical for either ones survival.

    I also agree that BEV’s will be more successful over the long term, but I am not sure that BEV’s are going to take off in the short term. Till range can be what a normal cars range is, BEV’s will have limited sales.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    While I think Ghosn’s claim of being the only one standing in 2011 is ridiculous, I am much more drawn to the Leaf than the Volt for two reasons: a)simplicity, b)first cost.

    While I would not enjoy paying $30k for a Leaf, I’ll never pay $40k for the dual-fuel Volt. I really don’t think consumers will want to be owned by their cars, having to always consider their status on two fuels. Repairs would be a nightmare. The Volt’s economy claims disappear if you cheat and don’t plug it in every day. The Leaf’s economy claims don’t require any juggling, simply a switch from gasoline to electric.

    But as psarhjinian says, choose the right tool for the job.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The Leaf doesn’t go if you don’t plug it in everyday. The comparison doesn’t make much sense. Also, the duel fuel adds little complexity for repairs. The Volt adds a generator, which isn’t exactly earth shattering technology.

      But I agree, they won’t be the only player in 2011. GM could probably easily make an purely EV volt and remove the motor. I don’t know if they would get to 100 miles on EV. But other car companies shouldn’t have too much trouble taking small cars and making them electric if they have been studying batteries, or buy some off the shelf. I don’t think he will be the only one in 2011, and I don’t think the 500k number in 2012 is achievable either.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    I don’t think Deutsche Bank has a very clear crystal ball into the future of the battery industry. Look back 10 years, or even 2 years, to their predictions for the car industry. Way off.

    Lithium-ion batteries had not been used much in cars until the Tesla Roadster. I’m very interested in how well those first Roadsters that went to buyers are doing. Batteries still lasting well? I’d love to hear.

    • 0 avatar
      2009Refugee

      There are consultancies running around projecting all sorts of amazing things with battery pack pricing. Some came to visit us. They asked (paraphrasing) “Why are you working on anything but electrics since they now have less than a 3 year payback?” Curious, we asked for some models, along with some assumptions. And there is was – $xxx/kwH in 2012 service. We asked our battery folks what they thought,and we all had a good laugh. Here’s why – if their predictions were accurate, we’d have been seeing that kind of pricing in the quotes we were soliciting. Rest assured, we weren’t. Yeah, the price will keep coming down, but there’s always going to be money paid to people who know how to stay one step ahead of reality. The trick is to play on people’s inherent optimism, but throw in just enough technical reasoning so you don’t sound like a Pollyanna.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I am betting against all of them.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “GM has certainly complicated semantics by introducing “EREV”to describe it’s Volt, but psarhjinian is in fact right: the Volt is a hybrid, a serial hybrid in fact rather than parallel hybrid like the Prius.”

    Wrong! The Volt and Prius are TWO completely different cars. The Volt is without a doubt an EREV, it is not a series hybrid. I’m not sure what is so hard to understand about that.

    Fuel cell cars are nothing more than electrics that use hydrogen gas(generated with electricity by the way) in conjunction with a fuel cell, instead of batteries. Maybe the future someday but right now electrics like the Volt and Leaf make much more sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      What you call the Volt depends on what you use for your taxonomy. I’d call it a series hybrid car. It’s not a battery-electric car, because it has an on-board gasoline generator. It’s not a parallel hybrid, because only electric motors ever power its wheels.

      From an engineering and architecture viewpoint, therefore, I think series hybrid fits the Volt best. The term “extended range electric vehicle” is just a marketing gimmick. In engineering terms, it has little meaning.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    GM’s intent is that the gas engine is never used in the Volt. That’s why they have software to automatically run the IC engine when it hasn’t been used in months. Even when it runs it only supplies enough juice to get you home and is not used to recharge the batteries. I’m sure they would have loved to build a pure EV but recognized that it would be much more marketable/appealing with the range extender. Trust me they are already working on a Volt without that.

  • avatar
    mcs

    If companies like Bloom Energy and Panasonic are successful in bringing down the costs of fuel cells, lithium will be an interim technology.

    There are also glimmers of hope on the bleeding edge of research with technologies like thermopower waves.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      Great idea but where would we get the hydrogen from?

      Perhaps we could fill our cars with water, then use a Perpetual motion generator to extract the hydrogen as needed and reform water across the fuel cell?

      I know you can generate hydrogen via electrolysis but it’s very inefficient and they you have the issue of storing the stuff – thousands of Hindenburg driving on our streets could make for interesting crash scenarios!

  • avatar
    virages

    I like this. It takes a bit of audacity to make a bet like this. Whether the technology is good or not, we will now be able to see. This is better than just making marketing buzz (it is in some part). Making a gamble is good, someone has to go first.

  • avatar
    Some Guy

    Hold on, the Leaf is a serial hybrid as well because it can be recharged from power from coal-fueled power plants.

    What I’m getting at here, is that most electricity comes from some sort of fossil fuel.

    At least the Volt won’t leave you stranded if you get unexpectedly stuck in traffic in severe weather (i.e. really hot or really cold) or try to run a few errands on the way home from work.

    Volt E-REV is the way to go for now… but long term? Pure battery. But long term as in 10, 20, 30, or more years when you can go 500 miles on a battery charge that costs $500 to build and have less-than-30 minute charging stations within a 10 minute drive of anywhere.

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