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Why electric vehicles will win.

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 

I just read this great article at the speculist that pretty much sums up why electric vehicles will win out over every liquid fuel.

 

The answer is economics of course.

 

Any thoughts? Disagree?

post #2 of 44

I made a similar argument in the fuel costs section of my Electric Vehicles wiki.

 

I entirely agree that electrics will 'win' in terms of future transportation.  They're simply the most efficient option.  The only thing holding them back is the battery technology (range and recharge time), which is advancing rapidly.  We've already got the Triac able to go 100 miles per charge and capable of highway speeds, at a cost of just $20k, for example.  And refueling an electric car costs less than one-third what it costs to refuel a Prius, and about one-sixth the average American car.  And rapid recharge stations can solve the recharge time issue.

 

Plus because it's manufactured domestically, electric rates are much more stable than gas prices.  There's no reliance on foreign oil, no need to transport fuels long distances, and with renewables, no worry that we're going to run out of sunlight or wind.

 

Then of course there's the environmental benefit (lower greenhouse gas emissions even when most power comes from coal).  This will become even more important if a price is placed on carbon emissions.

 

I think algae biodiesel could become competetive with EVs, depending on how much it costs to produce.  But no doubt EVs are going to be hard to compete with.


Edited by dana1981 - Mon, 14 Jul 2008 21:28:05 UTC
post #3 of 44

Although I do agree that EVs can be better, unless the electric car is dominated by newcomers outside of the traditional auto industry, I don't see it taking over.

 

Here's my reasoning: Most cars on the road today are based on gasoline combustion (non-diesel) engines. The best alternative fuel for them is ethanol. With corn ethanol already discredited, we're going to see more and more bio-engineering approaches (algae or bacteria producing cellulosic ethanol). If these technologies succeed before the EV achieves critical mass, then guess what. The auto industry will just switch to ethanol because it's a sustaining innovation (it keeps the value chain mostly intact). If the EV comes from the outside and achieves critical mass before a viable alternative to gasoline is in place, then the game is over indeed.

 

 

post #4 of 44

I don't think biofuels are a big threat.

 

Only a small percentage of cars currently on the road are flex-fuel.  While most cars can use E85, it's risky and not recommended.  In fact, any damage caused will probably void the warranty.  And of course there aren't many diesels around.

 

So then it boils down to which technology becomes common in new cars.  The Chevy Volt is receiving a ton of attention.  Virtually every major auto manufacturer is working on a plug-in hybrid, fully electric vehicle, or both, and most are shooting for a 2010 release date.

 

Meanwhile the most promising biofuel - algae oil - is probably about a decade away from any kind of large scale production.  Ethanol is still dominated by corn, which has received a lot of bad press (and rightfully so).  In fact, I think corn-based ethanol has probably done some damage to the biofuel industry.  It provides lower fuel efficiency than gasoline, and studies have shown it may be worse in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

So I think the stage is set for an EV revolution.

post #5 of 44

I basically agree with dana1981... the stage is set for PHEV and BEV vehicles. 

 

One comment about the E85 flex-fuel vehicles.  There may have been over 5 million of these vehicles sold, but a huge number of them were sold in states like California where you basically have to do an internet search to try to find a seller of E85... is very difficult to find out here - so, they are typically driven with normal fuel... many of the owners not even thinking about the option.

post #6 of 44

Can today's gas stations become charging stations?

post #7 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterA650:

Can today's gas stations become charging stations?


 

If there is money to be made doing so, I'm sure they'll find a way.

 

What we need is faster charging batteries, super capacitors look like they may have potential in that area. In the mean time, perhaps an exchange system, like what they do with propane tanks now...

post #8 of 44

I'm thinking that parking garages might be better recharging stations than gas retailers. They don't need hazardous gasoline tanks and cars stay in there long enough ...

post #9 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterA650:

Can today's gas stations become charging stations?



 

Yeah sure.  The great thing about EVs is that anywhere can become a charging station.  The company making batteries for Phoenix (Altair, I believe) is supposed to have batteries capable of a 5 minute recharge at a high voltage rapid recharge station.  You can set these up anywhere connected to the power grid - gas stations, parking garages, parking lots, your house - wherever.  I recall reading that they cost something like $8,000 apiece.  EEStor's ultracapacitor batteries are also supposed to have something like a 5 minute recharge time too, assuming the technology works.

 

And the other nice aspect is that you don't need a rapid recharge station - you also have the option of an overnight recharge at a standard power outlet.

post #10 of 44

I agree, EVs are the way to go. They are just more efficent then a combostion engine. It would be foolish to go down any other path. For example, T-Boone Pickens in his plan calls for natural gas to fuel our cars, what do you think about that?

post #11 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by gogreensolar:

I agree, EVs are the way to go. They are just more efficent then a combostion engine. It would be foolish to go down any other path. For example, T-Boone Pickens in his plan calls for natural gas to fuel our cars, what do you think about that?


 

That was discussed a bit in the Pickens plan topic.  I don't think it's a good idea.  Natural gas can work well for buses where they only require one central refueling station, but creating widespread infrastructure is a problem just like with hydrogen.  At least with natural gas you can hook up a refueling system to your line at home, but that's an added cost to a vehicle that's already more expensive than hybrids, and no more environmentally friendly.  After all, natural gas is still a fossil fuel.  And one which we don't have large quantities of.

post #12 of 44

 

I want a pure battery electric car, but I don’t think we will see one built by the car companies we grew up with.

Who does not want EV’s in our driveways:

-Legacy Automakers, because they, and their dealer networks do not earn enough revenue by selling cars. A look at how large their service departments are (and our out-of-wallet experience with them) shows what’s at stake revenue-wise because EV’s never need service beyond tire changes. EV’s don’t even need brake jobs due to electronic regenerative braking that does most of the work. Their ordinary friction brake pads and rotors thus last the life of the car (as shown on the Toyota electric Rav4).
The large established car companies depend on their service department, like printer companies depend on sales of ink cartridges. So why did Toyota sell the Rav4 instead of leasing and crushing as GM did with the EV1? It’s a mystery, but I came across a blog that mentioned that a Toyota exec at a public speech mistakenly said that the cars would be sold, and so to save face, Toyota reluctantly sold the Rav4. Buyers, however, now post on blogs that they actually had difficulty in getting the Toyota dealer to sell them an electric Rav4 and that they were highly pressured to instead buy a Gas Toyota or a Prius.

-Oil companies, for obvious reasons. Note they are also major stockholders in auto companies and thus probably have influence over their board of directors.

Business firms exist to make profits, but profits are going to be reduced if EV’s replace the ICE car. Much of our economy is based on the automobile, and its upkeep. Almost every business is related in some way to the car. What will happen to employment if the need to service a car is practically eliminated?

What happens to Midas, Pepboys, Kragen’s, smog check, AMCO, gas stations, Jiffylube, general service repair centers, the manufacturing plants that fabricate repair parts, the UPS people that deliver the parts, the corner deli or Taco Bells frequented by those firm’s workers at lunchtime? What about government agencies that depend on collecting all manner of tax revenue from the above interlinked economy?

If people understand this scenario, then they will understand why they can’t yet buy an EV from the legacy business infrastructure. Only recently can one sniff the scent of a potential EV from start-up EV manufacturers like Tesla (too costly for mass production partly because they hand-solder a battery pack of 6000 Lithium AA sized cells together in series-parallel groups), Aptera, and even the tiny BugE, etc., because a startup company does not need to address the risk that a service-free vehicle will parasitically affect revenue from other parts of its company.

Curiously, Nissan’s CEO has advocated a pure EV but I have a hard time believing he really will build one and that the announcement is mostly PR “greenwashing” in nature. After all, Nissan has service centers, too.

post #13 of 44

 

One interesting emerging EV contender is the Chinese and their unstoppable manufacturing base. Google the “Miles EV” and “Thunder Sky”  Lithium battery (which can replace the suppressed NiMH battery. Google “95 AH Large Format NiMH battery” to see that a 30 million dollar lawsuit dismantled the Panasonic plant that built these batteries that gave the Toyota Rav4 EV more than 100 miles of highway speed range- 10 years ago). The Chinese don’t have any obligations to any western business or oil cartel. Although they are importing oil at increasing rates, I think they are taking steps to limit dependency on oil by mass producing EVs. A $4000 Lithium powered highway speed scooter motorcycle just appeared from China: the “XM-3500Li” You can buy it now online.


Edited by deej - Thu, 21 Aug 2008 17:47:45 GMT
post #14 of 44

The EV is not entirely disruptive to the value chain like you hinted. Sure, it cuts down on moving parts and several subsystems (fuel, engine cooling, emission control), but it still needs a body, interior, drivetrain (CV joints? axles?), electrical (lights, power steering?, AC?), and -of course- batteries, which may or may not last the life of the vehicle. So the EV is partially disruptive and partially sustaining innovation to use Christensen's lingo. Also, automakers don't really do business with Midas or Pepboys; these chains buy from aftermarket part makers and mostly service cars that are older, often many years past warranty. These companies will consolidate and eventually die. Body shops, on the other hand have nothing to fear: EVs will still crash ;)

 

Now, the real issue at hand is that because EVs don't offer the revenue opportunities from parts and service that today's vehicles do, their price will have to be much higher to keep the (big) manufacturers afloat. Here's where small startups, designed from the ground up around a lean business model can do damage.

 

 



Edited by petera650 - Mon, 18 Aug 2008 17:11:54 GMT
post #15 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Puppyjump:

 

I want a pure battery electric car, but I don’t think we will see one built by the car companies we grew up with.


 

I'm going to have to disagree.  As you noted, Nissan is one example of an established automaker working on EVs.  Mitsubishi's i MiEV is going to be one of the first affordable highway speed EVs to market.  A couple of other examples are Subaru and Mercedes, as well as all the major auto companies working on plug-in hybrids, as discussed at the end of the electric vehicles wiki.

 

I'm sure they're not happy about it, but the major auto companies see the writing on the wall.  The only way to be competetive in the future is to switch to EV technology.

post #16 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Puppyjump:

 

Who does not want EV’s in our driveways:

-Oil companies, for obvious reasons. Note they are also major stockholders in auto companies and thus probably have influence over their board of directors.

 

What happens to Midas, Pepboys, Kragen’s, smog check, AMCO, gas stations, Jiffylube, general service repair centers, the manufacturing plants that fabricate repair parts, the UPS people that deliver the parts, the corner deli or Taco Bells frequented by those firm’s workers at lunchtime? What about government agencies that depend on collecting all manner of tax revenue from the above interlinked economy?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

 

I'm sure they're not happy about it, but the major auto companies see the writing on the wall. 

 

I guess I just don't understand the sentiment that any of these large companies are actively resisting the movement to EVs.  They are all companies that exist to turn a profit...and I hate to break it to you, but that will be the goal of any new auto company as well.  Tesla, for example, isn't a non-profit, they're trying to make a buck.  All of the existing auto companies are actively developing these technologies (and their alternatives) and will be producing EVs as soon as there is adequate demand, the technology has matured and the necessary profit margin is available.

 

Also, I agree with PeterA650, I think it's a bit optimistic to think that EVs will be virtually maintenance-free.  Anything that is mechanical and has that many moving parts will require tons of maintenance.  Especially when the market forces manufacturers to deliver cheaper and cheaper versions of the cars, they'll cut corners on quality (as they do with so many vehicles now).

 

I think EVs will end up being a huge part of the car business, people just need to have realistic expectations.

post #17 of 44

Certainly EVs will require some maintenance, but they will also require far less maintenance than gas cars.  They just have a lot fewer moving parts that can break.  Just on oil changes alone the auto industry will lose out on some pretty big bucks.  Certainly there will be profits in producing EVs, but the maintenance profits will be lower.

 

That's not the only cause for resistance though.  The big automakers have spent decades producing cars centered around the internal combustion engine.  That's where their expertise lies.  Now suddenly they're forced to switch to a new technology where they're on equal footing with all these startups, or even behind them in the case of some like Tesla.  That would be a tough change to swallow.

post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

 

The big automakers have spent decades producing cars centered around the internal combustion engine.  That's where their expertise lies.  Now suddenly they're forced to switch to a new technology where they're on equal footing with all these startups, or even behind them in the case of some like Tesla.  That would be a tough change to swallow.

 

While the powertrain is a huge part of the automobile, the existing manufacturers have expertise in all the other areas.  Everything from body, chassis, suspension, electrical sub-systems, bearings, drivetrain (the list goes on and on) to, much more importantly, manufacturing.  The startups are hardly on equal footing.

 

With that said, I'm rooting for companies like Tesla more than just about anyone.  I'm ready for some new companies with groundbreaking vehicles, I just think they're going to be in one hell of a fight.

post #19 of 44

I'm ready for some new companies with groundbreaking vehicles, I just think they're going to be in one hell of a fight....Teej #18

 

Yes, a start-up will have a hell of a fight, and for reasons that are not necessarily fair.

 

Recent oil profits have given our friendly "cartel" more money than God has. What will they do with it? How about buying emerging technology? Buy the whole (privately held) company. Give them an "offer they can't refuse". If the company is public, buying only 6% of the outstanding shares means they have to let you onto their board, where you can raise hell. Activist Investors are presently doing this right now to all manner of companies. Usually they break them up and sell the entities, leaving with profits and a trail of devastation.  They call this a "value recovery plan", and it's likely happening at a company near you. In any event, a firm with oil interests in mind could stop a small company in its tracks, for reasons other than "value recovery".

 

I worry when I see recent ads by an oil company on Public TV ads indicating interest in Lithium Batteries for "Hybrid Electric Vehicles" (not, of course, battery electric vehicles). What else do they intend to buy?

 

Which is why I think the Chinese is the best hope for EVs. They've got scillions of people who will soon climb into the middle class, and they need cars. Those cars are going to be electric in many cases because, starting from scratch, China will not lock themselves to petroleum like we have. I plan to buy the Chinese made highway speed Vespa style scooter, the XM-3500Li that is for sale right now in America. Google it. I may also buy the Miles Highway Speed Sedan EV, (which looks like a real car! Google it and see!) if it shows up for sale here. The Chinese are also making their own LiFePO4 Lithium large format batteries: Thunder Sky brand. Perfect for EVs. And Chevron can't stop them like they did with the 95 AH Large Format NiMH battery that Panasonic briefly built,  batteries still powering RAV4 EVs 10 years and 100,000 plus miles later as an embarrassment and Myth Buster to the deniers of the EV who keep spouting misinformation "battery research required". I don't think any Western Business, manufacturing based or petroleum based, no matter how large, will be able to stop China. China is independent. And as unpatriotic as it sounds, I sadly cheer on China....at least for EV's and batteries....because America won't sell them to me.

 

 

post #20 of 44

"I'm going to have to disagree.  As you noted, Nissan is one example of an established automaker working on EVs.  Mitsubishi's i MiEV is going to be one of the first affordable highway speed EVs to market. dana #15

 

Dana, I hope (hope springs eternal?) that you are right.  Unfortunately, I still think all the EV announcements from our familiar car companies is simply green-washing vaporware. EVs that run on press releases. Nissan showed a perfectly functional EV concept car back in 2003. Where is it now? A few EVs seem to trickle into "fleet use" for "more research" but never into our driveways.

People are upset at $4 gas, and the green-washing press release is a tool to deflect our demands for action. One revenue model proposed (by Smart?) is that they will sell an EV, but lease (read "rent") the battery pack for about $300 a month. No way, Jose.

post #21 of 44

Back in the late '90s early '00s all the automakers were making EVs, but only because they were forced to.  The California Air Resources Board (CARB) required it.  So GM made the EV1, Toyota made the electric RAV4, etc.  But as soon as they were allowed, they all scrapped the programs.

 

The difference now is that EV development is not being driven by legislative requirements, it's being driven by consumer demand.  Back when gas was $1/gallon, there wasn't a lot of demand.  That's no longer the case.  If consumers weren't demanding it, GM would not be building the Volt, and Nissan wouldn't even be talking about EVs.  That's why I'm optimistic.  Even if the big automakers fail to deliver, the startups like Tesla, Green Vehicles, ZAP, ZENN, etc. are already succeeding.

post #22 of 44

I agree that China has a better chance at innovation than the US overall. Being authoritarian does have some benefits.You can dictate long-term strategies and execute on them without deviation, unlike us who waste an enormous amount of money and energy every four years on bull**** issues like abortion. (Don't even get me started ...)

 

The Chinese political system is superior to western democracy when it comes to long-term economic and technological development. It simply can't be beat. Did you notice that China pissed on the DVD in favor of their own video standard? Why pay US and Japanese interests billions in royalties for something that they can do much better and cheaper? Just one example of them asserting their independence. US and International Patents? Who cares? Everyone knows that the moment you send something for manufacturing in China, you can kiss your intellectual property goodbye. WTO? It's over. It's going to sink just like GATT.

 

The balance of power has changed. The US is going to take the place of Britain, as a former power, a has-been.

 

So yeah, I don't think the Chinese would think twice about implementing NiMH batteries, much to the dismay of Chevron/Texaco who owns the patent. Sure, the Oil Industry will pay Congress to ban the import of such vehicles in the US. Our loss.



Edited by petera650 - Wed, 20 Aug 2008 15:58:15 GMT


Edited by stins - Wed, 20 Aug 2008 16:56:37 GMT
post #23 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Puppyjump

Recent oil profits have given our friendly "cartel" more money than God has. What will they do with it? How about buying emerging technology? Buy the whole (privately held) company. Give them an "offer they can't refuse". If the company is public, buying only 6% of the outstanding shares means they have to let you onto their board, where you can raise hell. Activist Investors are presently doing this right now to all manner of companies. Usually they break them up and sell the entities, leaving with profits and a trail of devastation.  They call this a "value recovery plan", and it's likely happening at a company near you. In any event, a firm with oil interests in mind could stop a small company in its tracks, for reasons other than "value recovery".


Puppyjump - could you provide us an example of a company where something like this happened?

post #24 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterA650:

The Chinese political system is superior to western democracy when it comes to long-term economic and technological development. It simply can't be beat. Did you notice that China pissed on the DVD in favor of their own video standard? Why pay US and Japanese interests billions in royalties for something that they can do much better and cheaper? Just one example of them asserting their independence. US and International Patents? Who cares? Everyone knows that the moment you send something for manufacturing in China, you can kiss your intellectual property goodbye. WTO? It's over. It's going to sink just like GATT.

 

The balance of power has changed. The US is going to take the place of Britain, as a former power, a has-been.

 

So yeah, I don't think the Chinese would think twice about implementing NiMH batteries, much to the dismay of Chevron/Texaco who owns the patent. Sure, the Oil Industry will pay Congress to ban the import of such vehicles in the US. Our loss.
 

 

Holy doom and gloom Batman!

 

For starters, keep in mind that not a single US studio has agreed to publish a single film on the CB-DVD standard.  Without their support, it doesn't matter if they don't want to pay the royalties, they won't have anything to sell on the format (they'll continue to pirate obviously).  That type of strategy will do them no good.

 

As far as China turning the US into a has-been, let's look at a few facts.  China's GDP is less than 1/4 of the US with over 4.25 times the population (source)!  Even with their incredible growth, they have an unbelievably long way to go.  Many economists think they'll never get there.  John Berry's column is a pretty good example: article.  I hope they do well, the US has always done best when it's competing and we've been without a decent economic competitor for a long time.

 

And PeterA650, I'll ask you a similar question.  Could you point us to an example of a product that is banned from being imported due to a payoff from the oil industry?  I'm sure that as long as any Chinese car meets all the required safety and emissions standards, and goes through our standard approval process, it will be allowed to be imported.

 

And I'm sorry that I'm contributing to getting so off topic on this thread.  I just can't help from responding to some of the previous posts.

post #25 of 44

Forget what economists are saying. They only see a small part of the picture. They don't know how the Chinese think. Ask me. I was married to one ;)

 

So back on topic:

 

China will do what benefits China. The Chinese are resolute, united, fierce nationalists with an underdog mentality. They feel that foreigners have been exploiting them and putting them down for centuries and now it's their moment to shine. They also don't play by anyone else's rules because they regard those rules as vehicles of foreign dominance. (Some old communist values still hold well in that regard).

 

(As a side note, you may or may not have noticed that the number of PhD's awarded to Chinese students in the US is on the decline, while the equivalent number in Chinese universities is rising. China seems to be putting a plug on the brain drain. Pretty soon, they will start inventing as well, instead of simply fulfilling orders for western-owned IP).

 

When the Party decides that EVs are a better bet for China, they won't have to worry about special interests torpedoing legislation or buying patents to get products off the market. They'll have the authority, the resources, the brainpower and the resolve to see it through.

 

Over here, if oil companies get their hands on any viable EV intellectual property like another poster suggested, they'll simply burry it just like they did with the NiMH battery. There's a trillion dollars to be made off oil still. A trillion dollars buys a lot of people and a lot of institutions, especially in a republic like ours.

 


Edited by petera650 - Wed, 20 Aug 2008 23:25:26 GMT
post #26 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:
At least with natural gas you can hook up a refueling system to your line at home, but that's an added cost to a vehicle that's already more expensive than hybrids, and no more environmentally friendly.  After all, natural gas is still a fossil fuel.  And one which we don't have large quantities of.

 

I liked Pickens' plan until I found out he has a very large stake in the natural gas market. Also the US has (literally) tons of natural gas, the EIA estimates that the US has 1,190.62 Trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas (source).

 

I still think EVs will win in the end. check out this month's (Sept 08) issue of Wired, there's a feature article about a start up called Better Place that's working to build an infrastructure of EV recharging stations and battery exchange stations. It's a sort of subscription plan, power your car for $1000 a year? Sounds good to me. Gas is costing most people over $3k/year now.

post #27 of 44

Yeah Project Better Place is an interesting concept.  Only thing is that you have to have uniform batteries/charging systems in all EVs to make it work.  The charging isn't too hard, except you have to be able to do 110 and 220V outlets, and the potential for rapid recharing becomes an issue.

 

Battery swapping is a whole different story, because every company uses their own batteries.  Not sure how they're planning on pulling that off.

post #28 of 44
Thread Starter 

If they can set a standard and already have the infrastructure in place new comers will be more likely to stick with the existing standard so they can take advantage of the infrastructure. No one will want to buy a car that they can't refuel.

 

We'll see what happens. Infrastructure is the major hurdle for EVs to overcome.

post #29 of 44

I'm just concerned with the constant innovation that's occurring in battery technologies.  I'd hate for the industry to standardize on an inferior solution.

 

I'd much prefer a rapid recharge technology to be developed that would be able to work with various types of batteries.

 

Here's a link to the Wired article that I think mattress is talking about.  Interesting stuff.

post #30 of 44
Thread Starter 

yes that's the article, I didn't realize it was online already, why do I subscribe to the magazine if it's free online? I must be crazy.

 

Anyway, I think with a battery exchange system it wouldn't be difficult to upgrade batteries as new technology becomes available especially when the service owns all the batteries. When someone comes in for a battery exchange they swap out the old tech and install the new one. The connection would have to be the same, I can't imagine that'd be an issue though.

 

It sounds like Better Place is working on both exchange and rapid recharge solutions. They mentioned a five minute recharge and exchange for the impatient folks, or something like that. 5 minutes is not that long, you can go to the bathroom and clean your windshield.

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