By on March 23, 2018

electrify-america-ev-charging-station, Electrify America

While fuel-cell technology is progressing in places like California and Japan, the rest of the world shrugged it off after the initial hype subsided. Since then, practically every automaker in existence has invested in battery technology and electrification. However, according to a recent survey, most auto executives secretly do not believe batteries will be the real breakthrough in electric mobility. Dealers feel the same way, but they’ve been less cagey on the matter.

Uh, what? Then why is everyone and their mother talking up plug-in cars and sweeping the fuel cell under the carpet?

Well, in addition to hydrogen having an abysmal fueling infrastructure almost everywhere, governments simply aren’t pushing it like battery power. Incentivizing plug-in cars has gone a long way to bolster the segment’s popularity and, with China mandating that a growing portion of all auto sales be battery-related, companies have to lean into what they already have. That said, many executives still seem to feel that hydrogen-powered cars have more to give the industry.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Its time to talk about why auto dealers are so unhappy about the electric revolution. 

In a recent interview with Automotive News, Sonic Automotive CEO Scott Smith said dealerships were getting mighty worried over automakers claiming they’ll soon electrify a large portion of their fleet. In addition to EVs not yet gaining widespread market approval, there is also a cost factor nobody seems to be addressing.

“I don’t know if anybody’s paid any attention to what’s happened to the price of lithium over the past two years. It’s about tripled,” Smith said. “So nobody is going to be able to afford these cars because the batteries will be too doggone expensive, unless our tax dollars are subsidizing every electric vehicle that’s sold instead of going to schools, first responders and people who really need the money.”

Personal politics aide, many wonder if plug-in cars will continue to sell after the federal tax credits run out. But even if the government grants another round, a sudden uptick in MSRP stemming from skyrocketing lithium and cobalt costs would have to be offset. “We’re paying wealthy people, giving them a tax break, to drive expensive cars,” Smith elaborated. “It makes no sense to me.”

Current chair of the National Automobile Dealers Association Wes Lutz also said dealers aren’t so hot on autonomy right now. Lutz admits that customers like the idea of safety features and assisted highway cruising, but most aren’t interested in a car that can drive itself all of the time. “I just think we’re jumping the gun on this thing,” he said. “Why don’t we ask the consumer if that’s what they want to do?”

“We just want to make sure we don’t price autonomous vehicles out of the range of consumers because all these things are going to cost something. If the government makes them mandatory and the price of the car goes up, all people are going to do is hold onto their older car longer,” Lutz continued, estimating that Level-4 self-driving hardware would increase the price of an average car by around $5,000.

Yet automakers continue to push both plug-in vehicles and autonomous tech harder than just about anything else right now. There are a myriad of reasons for this. In addition to governments championing both as away to improve safety and minimize pollution, running with these concepts makes a company more appealing to investors. These days, a company’s share price is about as important as its profitability and Wall Street does not reward the status quo.

However, automotive executives aren’t entirely sold on battery technology themselves. A 2017 survey from KPMG (shared by Bloomberg) showed motoring executives overwhelmingly thought hydrogen fuel cell tech would be the breakthrough hero for electric mobility — not batteries. But estimates of its success places it on a much longer timeline and not without significant financial investment. A lot of this has to do with inefficiencies in production and transport. Electrolysis (used to extract hydrogen from water) is great if the energy used is comes from renewable sources, but natural gas reforming is currently the most efficient and popular means of production. It still isn’t ideal, though: supply logistics have to be worked out and new means of production are currently being developed. Meanwhile, electricity is already pretty easy to produce via conventional means and even easier to move around on the grid — at least until it becomes overwhelmed by millions of people plugging in their car every evening.

BEV vs FCEV global exec survey

“It almost feels like a Betamax versus VHS moment,” said Justin Benson, KPMG’s U.K. head of automotive, referring to the format wars of the 1970s. “It’s not beyond the wits of man to move to hydrogen relatively quickly, if organizations wanted to do it.”

It’s an apt analogy. Despite producing inferior quality video, VHS beat Betamax because the hardware was cheaper and it ended up being adopted by the rental market and porno industry. VHS also provided for longer running times out of the gate. Betamax certainly could have adapted to solve these problems while continuing to offer superior fidelity. But nobody wanted to make the investment and the format never regained relevance. So why would it be any different for hydrogen?

It might not be. But plenty of auto companies are placing the technology on the back burner in case the change comes. “We’ll keep the fuel-cell technology in development so that we have this technology option should there be a shift in the market,” said Ola Kaellenius, head of development at Daimler AG. Toyota and Honda are also actively interested in hydrogen and intend to improve Japan’s storage network for it. Hyundai’s in the game, too.

However, let’s not forget that, while this survey makes it seem like automakers are holding out hope for a fuel-cell resurgence, there are plenty of executives who have spoken out against the technology. Elon Musk has has raked hydrogen over the coals repeatedly and Jaguar’s technical design director called it a disaster in practical efficiency. This is largely true; efficiencies are nowhere near where they need to be to make hydrogen a sustainable energy source right now. But the same case could theoretically be made against BEVs, depending on how you parse out the data.

We suppose the lesson here is that, while everyone talks endlessly about the future, no one has a firm grasp on what it looks like.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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76 Comments on “Auto Executives Secretly Believe Battery-electric Cars Aren’t the Future...”


  • avatar
    Gail Bloxham

    Well that was insightful. . .

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Didn’t think anyone still wore Nantucket red…

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Only the cool kids drive EVs…

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Their daddies have multi-car garages and can pay the electric bill. Check your electric bill. If you’re paying more than 8 cents per kWh, gasoline is cheaper, and light oil from fracking is ideal for making gasoline. As for hydrogen, it takes lots of electricity to dissociate it from water, and only a nuclear powerplant can do it cheaply enough.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @lorenzo: “Check your electric bill. If you’re paying more than 8 cents per kWh, gasoline is cheaper”

          Let’s take a look at the cost of a 100 mile trip. In the ICE car I once used for commuting, I was lucky to get 30 miles to the gallon in heavy traffic (actually maybe 25, but I’ll stick with 30 for now). That’s 3.33 gallons or $8.50 for 100 miles with $2.55 per gallon gas.

          My EV gets around 4.2 miles per kWh so that’s 23.8 kWh per 100 miles. I pay maybe $.16 per kWh so it’s $3.80 for 100 miles. that’s $4.70 less per 100 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I have a pair of Nantucket Red shorts and a white GTI – that could be me! If I was a whole lot paler and if it wasn’t an eGolf.

  • avatar
    arach

    I don’t understand this at all.

    FCEVs are EVs… they share essentially a complete EV drivetrain but swap out lithium ion cells for refillable hydrogen cells? other than that I see FCEVs as more of battery technology evolution as opposed to a different type of vehicle.

    Standard EVs are a very reasonable stepping stone. Development in EV tech directly translates to FCEVs. Its still a relatively significant shift in drivetrains from gas to EVs/FCEVs, but EVs to FCEVs is a minor shift in battery tech.

    Therefore I think this is kind of misleading…

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I have been saying this for a while. If someone comes up with a useable fuel cell, it won’t be rocket science to replace a lithium ion battery pack with one.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      FCEV — it takes traditional energy (oil, coal) to make H2 (electrolysis). It takes traditional energy to deliver H2; trucks are needed because H2 atoms are so small, they leak out of pipelines.

      BEV — many ways to make electricity, some clean (natural gas, solar panels, wind), and some dirty (coal) but there is a choice. Electricity can be delivered over the grid.

      Now follow the money. Oil companies will support FCEV because they are still involved in the manufacturing and delivery loop. Not so much with BEV. Which explains some of the antagonism toward Tesla.

      • 0 avatar
        ZEV CleanAir

        “it takes traditional energy (oil, coal) to make H2 (electrolysis).” No it does not. You can absolutely produce hydrogen via electrolysis with renewable energy. This can be done onsite or delivered in fuel cell trucks using renewable hydrogen fuel. Pipelines will follow. Hydrogen pipelines exist today, all over the world. The Shell hydrogen station in Torrance, CA is fed by pipeline.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Fuel cell cars are not EVs – their power source is a hydrogen tank. The means of energy conversion within the vehicle is irrelevant.

      • 0 avatar

        Eh ? Not EVs ? I think you’ll be in a small minority by saying that.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell_vehicle

        “A fuel cell vehicle (FCV) or fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is a type of electric vehicle …”

        The hydrogen tank is the means of energy storage and is used to produce electrical energy in an electro-chemical reaction, just like a lead-acid or Lithium-ion battery is an electro-chemical reaction.

        Maybe you’re confusing it with ICE engines which burn hydrogen directly;

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_internal_combustion_engine_vehicle

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Nonsense. I’ll believe a FCV is an EV when I can plug it in.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            A large chunk of the downstream driveline, is at least conceptually compatible between the two.

            Not sure about the “upgradeability” of an existing BEV, as I can’t fathom why the Gigafactory would build batteries in the shape of a cartoon bomb, nor why Toyota would want to store H2 in small, individual packets the size of cell phone batteries. But conceptually, the motors et al is “the same.”

            And even a primarily H2 car, will likely have batteries to store regen energy, since the payoff from having so, is so obvious when the rest of the driveline is already electric. Not far from that, to providing a plug to allow topping up the regen tank overnight, if utility rates are lower than their H2 equivalent in some market.

          • 0 avatar

            You could always put an electrolysis unit in the trunk and plug in to the house mains and a garden hose. Not sure it would be very efficient, or would refill the H2 tank before you died of old age, but at least it would satisfy your definition of an EV.

          • 0 avatar
            ZEV CleanAir

            Well you won’t have to wait long.
            Mercedes GLC F-CELL in preproduction: Excited to see this hybrid hydrogen fuel cell EV youtu.be/qBm1XSS8kkU

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            If the H is stored in a metal instead of as compressed gas the form constraints are simpler to overcome. I read somewhere about some new material films that could aid in both cracking water and fuel cell eficiency, but it was “years of development” away…..

        • 0 avatar
          Peter Gazis

          Both EVs but

          FCEVs need
          -Fuel Tank 2 to 3 times the size of a gasoline tank
          -Fuel Cells – convert hydrogen to electricity
          -a pipe conecting the 2
          -someplace for the water to go

          BEVs Need

          Bateries

          • 0 avatar
            arach

            Batteries have a finite lifespan of only about 8-10 years. They lose a lot of their capacity over time as well.

            This to me is the thing that scares the heck out of me about BEVs. Will battery tech ever get cheap enough to keep the cars around more than 1-2 generations?

            Secondly, I view Fuel Cells as simply “refillable batteries”.

            there’s three core hurdles for hydrogen:
            -Manufacturing
            -Storage
            -Infrastructure

            However, on the vehicle side, besides the fuel tank, the rest of the design is 100% EV. Therefore any EV improvements or cost reductions besides battery tech- electric motors, and any other vehicle tech- directly rolls over to FCEVs.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Mr. Salmon Pants is back.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The sentiment that Autonomous EVs are right around the corner to displace current mass market cars is media hype and the industry trying to convince people that their manufacturer is progressive and relevant in a Google world.

    If you want the real industry take on the matter, listen to Sergio Marchionne.

    That being said, mass hybridization IS coming due to regulatory compliance.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    There seems to be an attitude that battery tech and fuel cell tech are antagonists. In fact, I think that they could be complimentary, with each helping to overcome the shortcomings of the other, starting with fleet vehicles that travel fixed routes. A fuel cell can make sure that the battery capacity is never left wanting and help make up for long recharge times, while the battery allows the vehicle to recover energy lost to stop and go traffic. It would make sense for fleets due to the lack of hydrogen fueling stations, the vehicles would refuel and recharge when the returned to base. As hydrogen refueling expanded past fleet home bases and as recharging ports become more widely available, personal use vehicles could become viable as well.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “There seems to be an attitude that battery tech and fuel cell tech are antagonists. In fact, I think that they could be complimentary”

      Hey, nice shirt!

      Thanks! Say, did you do something different with your hair? Man, it looks good!

      Or maybe you meant “complementary”.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Wouldn’t this work better by just using the cost/weight/space on more batteries?

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        I won’t buy an EV until I can do at least 1000 miles in a day.

        I feel like FCEVs have a better chance of making that realistic in an affordable package.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    You can’t pop-start an EV.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    A few comments:

    – Fully-autonomous vehicles aren’t a consumer technology (especially at anywhere near the current costs of the tech.) Their most-obvious use-case is to outfit a fleet of cars for a ridesharing company. A consumer may have no desire to purchase one outright, but I imagine there’d be quite a few consumers who would choose to forgo at least one car in exchange for the ability to summon one of these things at will. I’m pretty sure I would.

    – Agree on all the points on 100% electrification. Battery costs will only go up, the power grid is insufficient, and there’s nothing on the horizon to fix either of those things to the point where they will be cost-competitive with ICE in the consumer market.

    – I also don’t understand why anybody would spend any time on Fuel Cells. In a world where electricity generation is essentially free, it’s vaguely plausible. Otherwise it’s little (no?) better than CNG.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      In theory, and it entirely possible to do it, hydrogen produced by renewable electricity is a non carbon cycle (or carbon neutral, whatever).

    • 0 avatar
      DAC17

      Agreed with this post. Sometimes, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I’ve been waiting for someone to address the elephant in the room of cost. All this R&D has to get paid for by someone, or the auto companies (and their shareholders) will eat it.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    “Meanwhile, electricity is already pretty easy to produce via conventional means and even easier to move around on the grid — at least until it becomes overwhelmed by millions of people plugging in their car every evening.”

    The grid being overwhelmed is not a foregone conclusion. Australia is discovering electric cars act as storage mediums, thereby smoothing out the power supply and saving the grid.

    http://theconversation.com/how-electric-cars-can-help-save-the-grid-73914

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      This can be true, to a point, but 100% electrification? The electricity required to move America’s car fleet would quickly overwhelm US generation and transmission capacity. And building up to that point, a lot of currently uneconomical and horribly-polluting generation sources (e.g. coal) would be spun up to meet the electrical demand, which kind of defeats the purpose of electrifying to begin with.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        The electrical grid here in NYS is so antiquated it’s pathetic, several other areas in the northeast aren’t much better. There was a massive blackout about 15 years ago, then Senator Clinton vowed to address the infrastructure and, well, you know how that goes. A couple million cars plugged into it will lead to serious issues.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        I remember hearing about wind power stations idled for lack of demand and transmission capability. More distributed load, storage and generation can help, but eventually you need enough wires.

    • 0 avatar
      AtoB

      “Meanwhile, electricity is already pretty easy to produce via conventional means and even easier to move around on the grid — at least until it becomes overwhelmed by millions of people plugging in their car every evening”

      There will also be the people who plug in at work for free or employer subsidized rates. That’s a daytime load which is going to be a strain on the grid.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    It seems I remember BMW running cars on hydrogen by burning it in good old fashioned reciprocating engines.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Fuel cells could help shrink batteries, if rare-earth supply is really an issue (I’m not totally convinced it is).

    But whether the EV of the future has a fuel cell or not, EVs’ viability as a method of reducing carbon emissions and pollution really depends on what we do with the grid. If we can bring a lot of clean capacity online, EVs will be a major improvement, regardless of whether we’re using the electricity to generate hydrogen or to charge batteries. But instead the current administration is putting its head in the sand and saying that America should resemble Los Angeles circa 1969.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This article conflate so many issues it’s hard to know where to begin.

    1. “Executives” and “dealers” are different people with different agendas.

    2. “We’re paying wealthy people, giving them a tax break, to drive expensive cars…”
    Yes, that’s always been a criticism, but the idea behind it was to clean up the air. The rich guy’s car pollutes just as much as a poor guy’s car, and a rich guy is more likely to afford the already-higher price of an EV. But everyone forgets that the Leaf was typically purchased by upper-middle class folks, not ‘wealthy people’.

    3. Autonomous vehicles – very few people want them. This should have nothing to do with EVs.

    4. Dealers don’t want EVs because EVs don’t generate much maintenance revenue.

    5. Hydrogen is DOA. Unless someone installs a Supercharger-like infrastructure on their own dime, forget it. Besides,
    a) the per-mile cost of operating a FCV is like driving a Hellcat – no joke.
    b) the safety issues are huge. How comfortable are *you* handling a 10,000 psi nozzle of hydrogen, let alone your mother?
    c) hydrogen stations have notoriously unreliable filling – sometimes only going halfway, sometime full, sometimes freezing up.

    6. The power grid won’t be hit with millions of EVs at once. It has always expanded according to demand.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Batteries don’t solve anything. Even if the energy density is improved and the charge times reduced, we still have to find an energy source to replace 143 billion gallons of gasoline and 40B gallons of diesel.

      Spending billions on batteries is like re-inventing the fuel tank.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The statement about cobalt and lithium prices driving up the price of batteries is wrong. For one thing, increased demand is causing new sources in North America to open up. New battery technology is just now entering mass production which drastically reduces the amount of cobalt needed. NMC 811 cells. Battery packs, not just the cells, are going to break the $100 per kWh barrier.

      Then there’s this:

      https://insideevs.com/j-d-power-survey-says-enthusiasm-for-electric-cars-grows-rapidly-in-china/

      So, what China wants is what we’ll probably get. They’re going to drive the market.

      • 0 avatar
        ZEV CleanAir

        Cobalt prices have tripled in the last two years. The world’s reserves are not enough to meet demand for cars. Let’s not even get into trucks, buses, powerwalls, etc.

        Hype Meets Reality as Electric Car Dreams Run Into Metal Crunch bloom.bg/2D7T8wP “If each of the world’s billion cars were replaced today with a Tesla Model X, 14M tonnes of cobalt would be needed—twice global reserves.”

        Apple is in a race to secure supplies of rare metals to fuel your iPhone obsession: https://mashable.com/2018/03/11/apple-iphone-cobalt-batteries-electric-vehicles/#eLyw8D2qIiqO

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Truth is treason in the kingdom of lies.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Hydrogen is 200 times as energy dense as lithium ion batteries. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen is more or less the energy that powers this planet because photosynthesis is basically just splitting water molecules with sunlight and then combining hydrogen with carbon from CO2.

    Imagine the trillions that will be necessary to get lithium ion or any affordable battery on par with nature’s most abundant element. Even if we get that far, we will still need to produce enough electricity to charge all of these batteries.

    The Japanese already put in the hard yards. The best use for electrification is as a supplementary energy recapture device. Hydrogen has a long way to go, but it’s still the future of propulsion. Safety is the big issue. Infrastructure concerns will be much less when volumetric efficiency is addressed (Mirai can only put 5kg (gallons) of hydrogen into a 32 gallon volume).

    Regarding self-driving cars, it’s a technological arms race because he who can autonomously pilot his own vehicles can control his own economy and the economy of anyone dumb enough to license the technology. Therefore, our government feels compelled to make it happen, and there is no telling how much they are funneling into the technology via backchannel means. Hopefully, people will not be stupid enough to trade their own autonomy to watch Game of Thrones during their morning commute. . . .humanity is pretty much doomed, isn’t it? This is one of the few times that activist attorneys might help us sue self-driving vehicles out of existence.

    • 0 avatar
      AtoB

      “Hydrogen is 200 times as energy dense as lithium ion batteries”

      “Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe.”

      “Hydrogen is more or less the energy that powers this planet because photosynthesis is basically just splitting water molecules with sunlight and then combining hydrogen with carbon from CO2.”

      Ugh! More hydrogen fanboi talking points!

      Hydrogen proponents keep focusing on hydrogen’s energy to weight ratio because that’s where it excels. But weight is not anywhere NEAR as important as energy to VOLUME. As far as that goes, well a Mirai gets 300 miles on tank of 32 gallons of 10,000 psi hydrogen, the FEV Clarity 366 miles on 40 gallons of the same. Tanks can only get so big.

      As for the “most abundant element” and “powers everything” talking points those facts are irrelevant unless your talking about hydrogen powered spaceship fusion reactors.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        The volumetric inefficiency is related to compressibility issues that will be addressed in time.

        Auto executives are not fanbois. They understand that batteries do not replace 170B gallons of gasoline in diesel. Even after fuel tanks are converted to $6,000 battery packs, consumers must find an energy source to generate the electricity they need. Hydrogen is an energy source. Hydrogen is the natural complement to solar power via photosynthesis. Hydrogen is flexible b/c it can be used in fuel cells, burned in internal combustion, or fed to plant organism that grow hydrocarbon fuel.

        The technology we need has already been worked out by nature. There is no need to buy 60kw fuel tanks for the amusement of Elon Musk and other battery suppliers. To eliminate carbon emissions, the fuel source needs to be modified, not the energy storage device.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    There is a problem with EVs and the other related “green” tech like solar, wind and recycling pig sh!t as an energy source.

    It’s called Big Business. Not one Big Business wants to see anyone become independent in energy, or does the governments. Energy is a huge money spinner and is what currently keeps many countries afloat with taxes and even justification for large militaries.

    I read an article (I read a lot) regarding the fight energy retailers and generators had with the Australian government regarding society becoming independent of them.

    I do know in Australia for $20 000 I can buy panels and a battery to provide for myself, almost. This is expensive, as it will need replacing in roughly 10 years or so.

    The energy companies are hugely influential on how policy and regulation controlling the use, distribution and sale of energy is formulated.

    They don’t want anyone to be independent in energy.

    So, what’s happening in Australia with the use of solar panels. Well, every quarter I have to pay the energy retailer over $100 for infrastructure fees and like my last electricity bill of $232 for the quarter nearly half paid for poor infrastructure.

    I do believe this is a case where most nations get together and create a global approach in energy.

    Like most I could easily warm up to the idea of energy independence, but this will come at a cost of reliability, but with current expensive infrastructure in decline I do believe people will eventually tell Big Energy to fnck off.

    I believe governments have an ass up approach in managing our energy future. EVs are a waste right now. We should be concentrating on fixed plant and equipment for green energy. All that wasted money on EVs across the world, when we still have so many coal powerplants and gas is far better than coal, why not put the money into gas.

    Green energy with all it’s fluffiness is not viable yet in any mobile device other than low consuming and easily charged phones and cordless drills.

    • 0 avatar
      AtoB

      “I do know in Australia for $20 000 I can buy panels and a battery to provide for myself, almost. This is expensive, as it will need replacing in roughly 10 years or so.”

      Panel longevity is much better than it used to be. As for the battery perhaps using scrapped EV batteries might be an option?

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        AtoB,
        Yeah, panels are good for around 20 years. Batteries are at 80% after 10.

        One thing that is big in Australia is solar heating for water, it’s been like that since the 70s. The US could of put money into solar water to heat homes instead of cars. This would of been an advantage to all in the community and not just a few rich enough to buy a heavily subsidised car.

        I think we need to start looking at who is gaining from this new tech. A simple approach would be the greater the capture of society the better.

        • 0 avatar
          AtoB

          “Yeah, panels are good for around 20 years.”

          As always YMMV. Some can go 25-30 years. Of course that only helps if their price isnt significantly greater than the chrap panels.

          Batteries are at 80% after 10.

          In 10 years you might be able to get a 15 year battery, then a 20. One nice thing about batteries for home use is they dont need to conform to the size and weight restrictions of automotive ones. Home only batteries can be designed for greater lifetime (better thermal managment, greater capacity etc) than car batteries potentially yielding longer lifetimes.

          “One thing that is big in Australia is solar heating for water, it’s been like that since the 70s. The US could of put money into solar water to heat homes instead of cars. This would of been an advantage to all in the community and not just a few rich enough to buy a heavily subsidised car.”

          No reason that I can think of to not do both! PV panels only suck up 20% of the light energy and I’d guess the other 80% heat up the black panel a lot. A water jacket would help keep the panel cooler and yield warm if not hot water too.

        • 0 avatar
          AtoB

          “Yeah, panels are good for around 20 years.”

          As always YMMV. Some can go 25-30 years. Of course that only helps if their price isnt significantly greater than the chrap panels.

          Batteries are at 80% after 10.

          In 10 years you might be able to get a 15 year battery, then a 20. One nice thing about batteries for home use is they dont need to conform to the size and weight restrictions of automotive ones. Home only batteries can be designed for greater lifetime (better thermal managment, greater capacity etc) than car batteries potentially yielding longer lifetimes.

          “One thing that is big in Australia is solar heating for water, it’s been like that since the 70s. The US could of put money into solar water to heat homes instead of cars. This would of been an advantage to all in the community and not just a few rich enough to buy a heavily subsidised car.”

          No reason that I can think of to not do both! PV panels only suck up 20% of the light energy and I’d guess the other 80% heat up the black panel a lot. A water jacket would help keep the panel cooler and yield warm if not hot water too.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    The prices of lithium and cobalt are not going to limit adoption of ev’s.

    First, it’s not like they are fabulously expensive, like gold. Cobalt is like $15-$30 per pound. Lithium carbonate is far cheaper. They are typically priced by the tonne.

    Second, ev batteries use very little lithium and cobalt.

    Third, they are 100% recyclable, so you only need so much. Unlike oil which is 0% recyclable.

    Fourth, increased demand will spur exploration and development, which will limit price increases. That’s just the way markets work.

    Fifth, Canada actually happens to be a major source for cobalt. Nice, democratic and child-friendly Canada. So are Canadians going to lose sleep if cobalt prices rise? Ironically, the toxic goop leftovers from tarsands operations are being found to be excellent sources of cobalt.

    Lithium is everywhere and half of it comes from brine.

    Bottom line is that the angst about lithium and cobalt supplies for ev’s is an urban myth.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Thank you for cleaning up some of the bull poop floating in this pool.

    • 0 avatar
      jonnyanalog

      The big issue as I see it is producing the batteries themselves. If every OEM says 25% of their fleet will be electric by 2025 who is going to make all these batteries? There are very few plans in place to develop facilities to produce batteries. VW thinks it will need 40 gigafactories to meet just their needs. The demand will outpace production which will drive up the price and hinder growth of the EV market.

      https://electrek.co/2017/07/10/vw-gigafacrory-size-battery-factories-evs/ for reference.

      Real information:
      https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/zm3d9x/lithium-ion-battery-demand-supply-chain-tesla

      No, Canada is NOT a major source of cobalt.

    • 0 avatar
      ZEV CleanAir

      You really think cobalt supply concerns are a myth?

      Hype Meets Reality as Electric Car Dreams Run Into Metal Crunch bloom.bg/2D7T8wP – “If each of the world’s billion cars were replaced today with a Tesla Model X, 14M tonnes of cobalt would be needed—twice global reserves.”

      Apple is in a race to secure supplies of rare metals to fuel your iPhone obsession:
      https://mashable.com/2018/03/11/apple-iphone-cobalt-batteries-electric-vehicles/#eLyw8D2qIiqO

  • avatar

    The revolution starts with skirmishes so we have a 2014 BMW i3-REx and 2017 Prius Prime, plugins:

    1) Both run on batteries around town for half the cost of gasoline per mile. About 1/3d of those electric miles are free from local merchants while shopping or dinner.

    2) Both run on gasoline if the remote charger is down or busy. Both have gone on trips over 1,000 miles on gas and the BMW i3-REx continued on battery when we had an engine problem last summer to return home and the dealer on EV.

    3) Both have dynamic cruise control and automatic collision braking. The 2014 version is optically based so weather and light can kick it out. The 2017 is both optical and radar based and has not kicked out.

    There is an old saying, never let perfect become the enemy of good enough. Neither is fully EV and neither is fully self driving. But our 90% City driving is as cheap as an EV and dynamic cruise control is mandatory for us.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Full BEVfication will happen if, only if, and only in markets where most high draw (fast, far) driving is done on electrified (live) highways. A very fundamental measure of efficiency of anything charged with moving valuable goods (like passengers), is the ratio of the weight of the valuable to be moved, to the weight of the vehicle needed to move it. Even BEV hypester above all BEV hypesters, has futzed around enough with space launches to be very much aware of than one.

    Electric motors, and the rest of the drivetrain, can be made very light. Live highways can direct traffic in such a manner that by far most high speed miles are traveled safely. With no need for tonnes of steel to sustain 80mph head on crashes. Slower, local travel is efficient (little air resistance at slow speeds, EVs don’t consume energy idling, low rolling resistance tires and a light body all that’s needed for low speeds, distance short from nearest live highway, batteries always topped up when exiting highway…), and fairly short range. Hence can be done with a small, light battery pack and a light vehicle. Resulting in a good payload to vehicle weight ratio. Meaning efficient.

    As opposed to dragging around and accelerating/deceleration Cummins diesels worth of battery weight to go to the store. With half of it being literal dead weight for most of the duration of longer trips. And the rest of the vehicle being insanely overbuilt for local, short hop travel, solely to make it sorta-kinda appropriate for an anarchic Autobahn.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    I always look forward to the stock photo: “guy in salmon pants by a VW” for the EV stories.

  • avatar

    Fossil fuels vs battery power is also a matter of costs to fill up. In Europe gasoline and diesel are two and a half to three times more costly than in the U.S. Do the math. Have your own garage or car port (like all suburbanites have), then you simply recharge your EV at night with solar energy generated by your own solar panels which is stored in the large Tesla battery. The savings can be massive. In perhaps three to four years a new generation of batteries may appear on the market, cheaper (not using lithium as a base ingredient) with much better energy density. It is hydrogen I simply see not happening.

    • 0 avatar

      Fully autonomous drive may be way more difficult to implement than techies portray. Interestingly, ‘auto-piloting’ is easier to realize in flying cars. No pedestrians and cyclists up there.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Decades ago, the Soviets invented a tiny electrical generator than ran on radioactive materials. They used a variant in much of their space program and long-distance space exploration. It could run for 10,000 years (half life).

      The US always claimed that it was unsafe yet the Ruskies kept using it in the satellites and they eventually came down, crashing on land and in the sea. One such crash occurred in Canada and a mad scarmble was on to clean up the radioactive debris/mess. There was very little. It was well contained, by design.

      My point is that such a tiny lightweight generator existed and could be adapted for road use in vehicles giving new meaning to battery-powered EVs.

      If a B-52 can lose active nuclear warheads over Spain and still avert catastrophe we should be able to harness the tiny radioactive quanitity for on-road vehicle use.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Nissan has an ethanol fuel cell in testing. I was really expecting to see it as a range extender for the Leaf, but it hasn’t happened yet. Most of the work is being done by Nissan Brazil.

        Here’s a link:

        https://fuelcellsworks.com/news/nissan-completes-first-phase-of-testing-on-its-bio-ethanol-fuel-cell-vehicle-in-brazil

      • 0 avatar
        AtoB

        “Decades ago, the Soviets invented a tiny electrical generator than ran on radioactive materials. They used a variant in much of their space program and long-distance space exploration. It could run for 10,000 years (half life).”

        The US uses those too:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_battery

        The problem is generators are only about 0.5-6% efficent. They also don’t put out a whole lot of power, at most a kW or two. But yes they ARE safe as evidenced by their use as pacemaker power sources, at least when theyre used as directed.

        If they’re not, well they’d make quite the dirty bomb.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          AtoB, they put out enough power over time to keep the battery charged.

          And power could be supplemented with a 30-amp/30-amp 240V plug-in external charger for a quicker charge.

          My understanding is that the US version is not as safe as the barium/sodium Russian version.

          But yes, the US has been using their own nuclear generators in satellites as well, though mostly satellites sent away into space.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        From the people who brought you Chernobyl, the all new for 1961, Atomic Battery!

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      But that fuel cost in Europe is mostly taxes. Once fossil fuel consumption begins to wane they’ll go after the EV drivers for those taxes.

      Good deal for EV drivers at the moment though.

  • avatar
    Booick

    In no way is hydrogen the future. Battery electric is already here, nearly cost competitive, and viable. The national charging grid is being built as we speak. All major OEMs have multiple battery electric products in the 5 year window. 10 years from now, the automotive landscape is going to be radically different, but hydrogen will be dead. The reliability of battery electric will greatly reduce the need for buying new vehicles and also trips to dealerships. The dealership model should be the real “death watch”

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    If you loved the Segway then you’l loooooove electric cars!!

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Electric cars are the future, they are faster, more reliable, etc the problem is the battery.

    Lithium batteries aren’t the future, ask Dyson, Jaguar and VW to name but a few who are working on solid state batteries.

    There is another twist here. A university in the U.K. now has a Diesel engine working that emits almost zero emissions. Car makers are allegedly queuing up to buy the tech and my understanding is that its simple and cheap to implement as it essentially uses ad blue adative to capture nox particles in a new way. So now imagine a small almost zero emission diesel generator charging a battery that drives electric motors….

    The electric car will win out one way or another.

    • 0 avatar
      AtoB

      “There is another twist here. A university in the U.K. now has a Diesel engine working that emits almost zero emissions. Car makers are allegedly queuing up to buy the tech and my understanding is that its simple and cheap to implement as it essentially uses ad blue adative to capture nox particles in a new way. So now imagine a small almost zero emission diesel generator charging a battery that drives electric motors….”

      Given Mazda, Toyota and Hyundai have gasoline engines with 40% thermal efficency or better the diesel motor may not be needed.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I expect to see Mr. Fusion powering cars before hydrogen becomes practical and economically feasible.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    FWIW, people smarter than me expect lithium prices to collapse fairly quickly as production ramps up: https://www.ft.com/content/66012fe2-1ae1-11e8-aaca-4574d7dabfb6


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