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The Race is On

May 19, 2015

The Tesla has received all the publicity, but there is another zero emissions vehicle available, the Toyota FuelCell Vehicle (FCV), the Mirai.

The Mirai has an MRSP of $57,500, which is less than the Tesla’s 70D. (Tesla advertises a price of $57,500 AFTER all government credits and gas savings.)

The MSRP of the Toyota Mirai is unlikely to cover the cost of manufacturing the vehicle, meaning that the Mirai is a loss leader. As a loss leader, it can help Toyota meet California’s requirement for zero emission vehicles, while creating publicity for the brand.

Some comparisons:

Mirai

Tesla 70D

Range

300 miles

240 miles

Fueling time

5 minutes

30 minutes

Fueling locations

Very Few

425 Supercharger

 

Tesla advertises a network of supercharging stations across the country, while there are only 12 public hydrogen fueling stations in the United States.

Map of Tesla Super Charging Stations. From Tesla Web Site

Map of Tesla Super Charging Stations. From Tesla Web Site

Most hydrogen fueling stations are in California, which is logical since zero emission vehicles are supported by California with a mandate for their adoption.

The cost of producing hydrogen and a lack of fueling stations are the Achilles heel of FCVs.

There are approximately 160,000 gasoline stations in the united States.

Assuming that only one-third as many hydrogen fueling stations would be required to cover the country so that FCVs weren’t range restricted, approximately 50,000 hydrogen fueling stations would need to be built across the United States.

At $500,000 per fueling station, it would cost approximately $27 billion.

Just matching Tesla’s 425 supercharger stations would cost over $200 million.

Tesla Charging Stations. Photo by D. Dears

Tesla Charging Stations. Photo by D. Dears

Tesla’s supercharging stations are also less costly to build and can be located in buildings and parking garages, something hydrogen fueling stations wouldn’t be allowed to do.

In addition, hydrogen is expensive to produce. It’s also difficult to transport if it’s produced centrally, such as at refineries where most hydrogen is produced today.

Alternatively, electrolysis can separate hydrogen from water.

Since hydrogen produced at a central location can’t be transported in natural gas pipelines, as it corrodes the pipe, it must be transported by cryogenic truck to the fueling station.

When hydrogen is produced centrally for use in an FCV refueling station, it must be cooled to form a liquid. Refrigerating hydrogen uses approximately 25% of hydrogen’s energy content, which is one of the energy losses incurred with this scenario.

Hydrogen can be produced locally at a refueling station by using reforming or by using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis, however, is expensive.

On balance, it would appear as though the battery electric vehicle (BEV) has the advantage over FCVs when it comes to refueling or recharging the vehicle.

Another disadvantage of the FCV is the cost and space utilized by the fuel tanks needed to store hydrogen.

Hydrogen Fuel Tanks As Shown On Mirai web site

Hydrogen Fuel Tanks As Shown On Mirai web site

These carbon fiber fuel tanks are obviously far more expensive than traditional gasoline fuel tanks.

The fuel cell stack costs far more than a traditional internal combustion engine, and probably two to three times the cost of the battery pack used by Tesla, though Toyota has not revealed the cost of the Mirai’s fuel cell.

On a side by side comparison, the Tesla BEV is probably less costly to manufacture.

While the BEV seems to have a clear advantages over the FCV, both are more costly and have less range than traditional gasoline powered vehicles.

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The Tesla Powerwall is Useless

May 15, 2015

Musk’s favorite phrase when trying to disparage something is to say, “It sucks.”

Should this crude term be applied to the Powerwall?

The Tesla Powerwall battery is to be used in conjunction with PV rooftop solar installations, and not for commercial or utility applications.

The 10 kWh Powerwall costs $3,500. Reportedly, it costs over $7,000 installed.

Can the Powerwall provide the following fundamental benefits?

  • Backup power for grid failures
  • Monetary savings by not using electricity from the grid
  • Demand response for shaving peak load
Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall

To be useful and worth the cost of installation, the Powerwall must be able to do at least one of these functions well.

Let’s examine each function to see whether the Powerwall provides the anticipated benefits.

Grid Backup

Essential household loads include:

  • Refrigerator-Freezer
  • Heating system blowers
  • Air-conditioning
  • Hot water heater (if electric)
  • Microwave oven

These are needed for any household to function at a basic level: The ability to cook meals, to keep food safely in a refrigerator/freezer, to maintain home temperatures that are safe, and to provide hot water and lighting.

These loads will vary by time of year and by whether the activity is provided by electricity.

During the summer the Powerwall can provide backup power for 2 to 3 hours. The air-conditioning load is large, so in the winter the Powerwall might be able to provide backup power for 5 – 6 hours.

Adding television usage would slightly decrease the length of time the Powerwall can provide backup.

While many utility interruptions are fairly short, less than an hour or two, the major outages are caused by ice storms, wind storms and hurricanes.

These outages last for several days, so a Powerwall unit cannot supply backup power for these outages.

If backup is to be provided for lengthy outages, the Generac, or equivalent, costing $4,000 and using natural gas, is a much better investment. It also provides backup for the short nuisance outages.

Objectively, the Powerwall is unsuitable for providing backup power.

Saving Money

Can the Powerwall avoid using electricity from the grid at night, after the sun goes down? If so, this might make a $3,500 investment in a Powerwall unit worthwhile.

Fully recharged, the Powerwall might be able to save $1.10 per day by providing power after dark, with a utility rate of 11 cents per kWh. This amounts to approximately $400 per year in savings, so it would take approximately 9 years to recover the Powerwall $3,500 investment. Or 18 years if the total cost of installation is included.

With a 30% rebate for batteries used in PV rooftop systems, the payback would be closer to 6 years, or 12 years if the $7,000 installed cost is used.

But why degrade the Powerwall battery to save on electricity usage when the owner of a PV rooftop system with net metering can sell the excess electricity from his PV rooftop system to the utility for the retail rate of 11 cents per kWh?

Or, if the utility only pays 5 cents per kWh, the real money saved by using the Powerwall battery to save on using electricity from the grid is actually 6 cents per kWh, not 11 cents. This increases the payback period to 14 years without including installation costs.

There is also some question as to how often the Powerwall battery can be fully discharged and recharged.

A payback period of 9 to 14 years, or 6 years with the 30% rebate, (not including installation costs) is terrible for a product that may only last 10 years.

Clearly, the Powerwall battery is not suited for storing electricity to avoid buying electricity from the grid.

Demand Response

Theoretically, utilities could group a large number of Powerwall batteries from homeowner PV rooftop installations, and install the necessary controls to use electricity from the batteries during peak periods.

This is obviously impractical since the homeowner would stop using solar power and start using power from the grid, offsetting any reduction of load that might be achieved by the utility drawing power from the Powerwall battery. The Powerwall battery can’t simultaneously serve two masters.

This differs from commercial and industrial customers in states where time of day pricing is used. In these situations the price for electricity can be very high during peak periods and commercial and industrial customers can avoid those high prices by using electricity from batteries they own.

Powerwall batteries cannot routinely provide demand response.

In summary:

The Powerwall battery is inadequate for providing backup power, doesn’t save much money and can’t contribute significantly to demand response.

What term does Musk use to describe an inadequate product?

 

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The Fraudulent 97% Consensus

May 12, 2015

The claim is repeated ad nauseam that 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG), and that mankind is the cause. Atmospheric CO2 being the most recognized such gas.

There are two things wrong with the claim.

First, science isn’t decided by a consensus, or a committee. There are numerous instances where the consensus has agreed on a supposed scientific fact, only to have it overturned. Galileo is the most well known instance where one person overturned an existing consensus. More recently in 1983, Australian doctors Warren and Marshall determined that peptic ulcer disease was caused by bacteria, which overturned the prevailing consensus at that time.

The Oregon petition has over 31,000 signatures of engineers and scientists, over 9,000 of whom have Ph.Ds, stating that greenhouse gases, specifically CO2, are not the cause of global warming.

While this is impressive, and turns the 97% claim on its head, it is still not proof that CO2 isn’t causing global warming.

Only the scientific method can make that determination.

Second, the 97% claim itself is bogus.

The claim has at least two points of origin.

One of the papers behind the 97% claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the website Skeptical Science .com.

Here is Cook’s explanation of his paper, “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

The initial problem with his statement is that virtually everyone agrees that the Earth has warmed over the past 150 years, so the statement has no particular importance.

Also, most people involved in the debate agree that greenhouse gases play some role in the warming, but not the main role. Most scientists who disagree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believe the role of greenhouse gases is small.

Cook’s methodology is why the paper is bogus.

He took 12,000 scientific papers and had people categorize them according to how surely the paper’s abstract endorsed the global warming hypothesis.

For starters, this process was based on opinions, with no set formula for assessing how surely the papers conformed with the GHG hypothesis. An abstract is also not necessarily what a paper includes, or concludes.

The process also excluded papers by the same scientist, essentially cherry picking papers included in the sample. This means the sample was not random, an important aspect of any study.

For example, Dr. Richard Tol said, “Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”

Dr. Tol’s papers were rated incorrectly, which, by itself would make the Cook claim invalid.

And Dr. Tol was not alone. Others made the same allegation. For example, Dr.

Nir Shaviv, said, “Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.”

Friends of Science did an analysis of the 12,000 papers, and determined the following:

“The Cook et al study data base has seven categories of rated abstracts. “

  1. 65     explicit endorse, >50% warming caused by man
  2. 934 explicit endorse
  3. 2933 implicit endorse
  4. 8261 no position
  5. 53     implicit reject
  6. 15     explicit reject
  7. 10     explicit reject, <50% warming caused by man

“Papers in the third category which Cook alleges, “implicit endorse,” in reality make no comment on whether humans have caused warming. “

With 8,261 of over 12,000 papers taking no position on the issue, it’s impossible for there to be a 97% consensus.

The Cook 97% claim is invalid, and is largely meaningless anyway since the main area of dispute is the extent that GHG are causing climate change.

Another earlier claim was made by Naomi Oreske’s in Science Magazine: “For the first time, empirical evidence was presented that appeared to show an unanimous, scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of recent global warming.”

Scores of scientists reported that their papers were not included or misinterpreted in Oreske’s 97% conclusion.

Her claim was also debunked, when science writer David Appell put the question to her: “On 15 December 2004, she admitted that there was indeed a serious mistake in her Science essay.”

The constant repetition of the claim that 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) is misleading at best, and, in point of fact, is fraudulent.

Even President Obama has repeated the claim, adding that it’s “manmade and dangerous” … an embellishment on an already fraudulent statement.

The 97% claim is pure propaganda.

Pinocchio. Photo by D. Dears

Pinocchio. Photo by D. Dears

Using the invalid 97% claim to silence opposing views, is morally, and scientifically wrong. Perhaps, Pinocchio can attest to that.

When confronted by the claim, explain that it is fraudulent and has been disproven. Tell the person making the claim that there are over 31,000 engineers and scientists who have signed a petition stating that GHG are not the source of global warming, and while not absolute proof that GHG are not the cause, the petition dispels the idea that there is any consensus supporting the claim that 97% of climate scientists agree that GHG cause climate change.

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The Why and How of Carbon Capture and Sequestration

May 8, 2015

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is becoming newsworthy again as the EPA’s clean power proposal is being contested in the court system.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article this week on CCS, but covered less than half the story. This is typical of the media, but the Wall Street Journal should know better.

CCS is seen as a way to cut CO2 emissions 80% to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Two steps are involved in the CCS process. The first step was not covered by the Wall Street Journal.

  1. CO2 from the burning of coal or natural gas is captured during the burning process or from the waste stream after burning has taken place. Alternatively, it is heated to form a synthetic gas from which the CO2 can be extracted.
  2. Captured CO2 is then compressed into a liquid, transported by pipeline to a geologic formation where the liquid CO2 can be injected into the ground and to the geologic formation where the CO2 can be entrapped.

Capturing CO2

Experiments have been conducted for capturing CO2 before, during and after combustion.

Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants cook the coal to form a synthetic gas from which the CO2 can be extracted, allowing the remaining gases, mostly hydrogen, to be burned in a gas turbine to generate electricity.

The coal industry has touted this process as clean coal. Unfortunately, after three such units have been built in the United States, their cost has been shown to be exorbitant at over $6,000 per KW, or about what it costs to build a new nuclear power plant.

Experiments have been done for capturing CO2 while coal is burned in a coal-fired power plant.

Experiments have also been done to capture CO2 from the waste stream of both coal-fired and natural gas power plants.

These experiments have demonstrated that coal-fired power plants must be derated by approximately 30% due to the parasitic loads required for capturing and liquefying the CO2. This means a coal-fired power plant with a rating of 300 MW is converted into a power plant rated 210 MW. In other words, 30% of the electricity generated by the coal-fired power plant is used to capture and compress the CO2.

Natural gas power plants will need to be derated by more than 30% because the waste steam includes less CO2, making it more difficult to capture CO2.

The end result is that a new power plant needs to be built every time three power plants are equipped to capture CO2, to replace the electricity lost from capturing CO2.

One can conclude that it’s possible to capture CO2 from coal-fired and natural gas power plants, but that the cost will be very high.

Sequestration

The captured CO2 must be disposed of underground. This involves transporting the liquid CO2 under high pressures, approximately 2.000 psi, to where it can be disposed of underground. This also was not covered by the Wall Street Journal article.

Transporting CO2 will involve building a series of 24 inch, or larger, pipelines across the United States to transport the liquid CO2 from approximately 400 coal-fired power plants. Additional pipelines would be required for natural gas power plants. The Pacific National Laboratory published a paper concluding that between 11,000 and 23,000 miles of new pipelines would have to be built.

These maps show where pipelines might be located in the United States and Europe.

USA CO2 Pipelines

USA CO2 Pipelines

 

EU CO2 Pipelines 2050

EU CO2 Pipelines 2050

Once transported to where it might be sequestered, the CO2 must be injected under ground into an appropriate geologic formation.

Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada

Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada

An atlas has been compiled of potential sites for sequestering CO2. While there are a few examples of where CO2 has been sequestered, e.g., the Sleipner gas field in Norway, Salah in Algeria and in Alberta Canada, none have involved the quantities of CO2 that would have to be sequestered if there was a serious effort to use CCS.

Currently, the largest underground sequestration operation is the Sleipner gas field where one million metric tons of CO2 are injected annually into the saline aquifer under the North Sea.

This compares with 1,800,000,000 metric tons, or 1,800 times the amount sequestered in the Sleipner gas field. This is the amount of CO2 that would have to be sequestered every year if 80% of the CO2 from U.S. power plants were to be captured and sequestered.

Not only is the quantity staggering, but there is no certainty that the CO2 would remain underground for the thousands of years needed to prevent a climate catastrophe, if the CO2 hypothesis is correct.

Other unresolved issues include:

  • Ownership of geologic formations
  • Legal liability if CO2 escapes or causes harm
  • Whether injecting liquid CO2 underground would cause earthquakes

The massive costs associated with CCS, and the uncertainty that the CO2 would remain sequestered underground for centuries leads to the conclusion that CCS is unrealistic.

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The Duck Speaks, Part 2

May 5, 2015

The general impact of renewables on the utility industry was discussed in Part 1, using Diagram 2.

Diagram 2, CAISO Duck Curve

Diagram 2, CAISO Duck Curve

While the Duck curve displays the over generation caused by renewables, the effect of renewables can better be seen by examining a load curve. Load curves actually vary by time of year and location, however this generalized load curve depicts the theoretical impact renewables will have on utility revenues … and the vital need for storage.

Load Curve

Load Curve

Conceptually, renewables displace electricity generated by fossil fuels during the day, so the area above the red line is no longer served by fossil fuel generated electricity. It’s displaced by renewables.

The position of the red line depends on the percentage of electricity generated by renewables.

The green vertical line depicts the sudden ramping up of fossil fuel generation assets as the sun sets and renewables no longer provide large amounts of electricity.

Theoretically, storage of electricity would extend the supply of electricity from renewable sources for a period of time, and have the effect of minimizing, or theoretically, eliminating, the sudden ramp up depicted by the green line. While storage solves the need to suddenly ramp up fossil fuel power plants, it also further reduces the electricity sold by the utility from fossil fuel sources.

Except for pumped storage, batteries provide the only realistic technology for large amounts of storage today. Storage by hydrogen, methane, compressed air (CAES) or thermal techniques are, at best, questionable … and probably unlikely in sufficiently large quantities.

Germany’s energiewende policy provides a real world example of what happens when renewables displace electricity that has traditionally been supplied by fossil fuel power plants.

German Load Curve at 60% Renewables

In 2012 only 22% of Germany’s load was supplied by renewables, as shown on this diagram by the areas in gold and blue.

Renewables are already displacing electricity from utilities, which is why E.ON and RWE, two of Germany’s largest utilities, are tying to divest themselves of all their fossil fuel power generation assets.

The red line depicts what could happen if the percentage of renewables increases to 60%, or more, as forecast by Germany’s energiewende policy. The area above the red line represents revenues lost to utilities from their fossil fuel generation assets.

While it’s impossible to predict the future, there appear to be only two possible outcomes in Germany.

Either:

  1. Electricity rates being charged to consumers, which already pay 4 to 5 times as much as do Americans, are increased substantially, perhaps double or triple today’s rates.
  2. The government nationalizes the electric utility industry and the grid, so that tax payer money is used to operate the uneconomic utility industry.

In the United States, California is leading the charge in mandating the use of large quantities of renewables. Elsewhere, 31 states have renewable portfolio standards (RPS) mandating that as much as 25% of electricity be from renewables.

Note in the United States, hydro is not considered to be renewable by most states, including California.

Perhaps it is time to consider why states are mandating the use of renewables?

It can’t be to lower costs to consumers, because wind and solar are both more expensive than generating electricity using natural gas or coal.

The Energy Information Administration predicts that four years from now, in 2019, the cost of electricity from the various renewable sources will still be higher than for natural gas:

  • On-shore wind, 8 cents per kWh
  • Off-shore wind, 20.4 cents per kWh
  • PV solar, 13 cents per kWh
  • Thermal solar, 24 cents per kWh

While electricity produced by natural gas will be 6.4 cents per kWh.

Note that the cost of wind and all forms of solar today are significantly higher than the costs predicted for 2019.

In other words, renewables are, and will remain, more costly than electricity generated by fossil fuels, even without adding the cost of backup generation for when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining, or the cost of transmitting wind generated electricity long distances.

Lower costs for consumers and industry are, therefore, not the answer.

The reason renewables are being forced onto the system is because they don’t emit CO2.

Even Musk, in his introduction to Tesla energy batteries, said that batteries and the sun would prevent catastrophic climate change by reducing CO2 emissions.

In other words, the utility industry is being threatened, and costs to consumers are being increased because of the government’s efforts to cut CO2 emissions.

The Duck curve, together with Germany’s real world experience, prove that renewables are not necessarily beneficial.

Renewables have the potential to destroy the utility industry and cause consumers and industry to pay much more for electricity, thereby depriving the economy of the benefits of additional consumer spending and investment by industry.

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The Duck Speaks

April 30, 2015

The term that’s currently de rigueur, is “over-generation”.

It’s supposed to indicate that power generation, using fossil fuels, is being done in excess.

What over-generation really means is the “over-generation” of expensive and unreliable electricity by wind and solar.

The Duck tells all.

Diagram 1, CAISO Duck Curve

Diagram 1, CAISO Duck Curve

The Duck curve was created by the California ISO (CAISO) because California is confronted with too much electricity being generated by wind and solar, leaving traditional power generation under utilized. The curve is for a single day in March, but curves for the rest of the year are similar.

The year 2020, represents 33% penetration by renewables.

The very top curve depicts when virtually all of the electricity was generated by traditional sources in 2012. Traditional sources being fossil fuels. In succeeding years, 2015 through 2020, the belly of the Duck depicts the electricity generated by renewables, primarily wind and solar.

The heavy dark lines in Diagram 1 & 2 depict the electricity supplied by traditional sources.

The difference between the topmost curve and the bottom curve, the shaded area in diagram 2, represents the supposed over-generation from traditional sources, but which more accurately depicts the over-generation by expensive and unreliable renewables.

Diagram 2, CAISO Duck Curve

Diagram 2, CAISO Duck Curve

And the belly of the Duck becomes extended in the years beyond 2020, and absolutely bloated by 2030, when California expects renewables to achieve 50% penetration.

Imagine the bloated belly of the Duck extending far below the x axis, perhaps to zero.

The Duck makes abundantly clear the impossible plight of utilities that supply electricity from traditional sources, while also showing why California can’t survive without electricity from fossil fuels.

Until early morning a certain amount of electricity is supplied to the system from traditional fossil fuels. But during the day only about half of the available capacity of traditional sources is used in 2020, with perhaps only one-quarter, or less, of the capacity being used in the years after 2020.

And then there is the sudden shock in the evening when the system must suddenly ramp up within three hours to its highest capacity utilization, at around 25,000 MW, which places a terrible strain on the system.

The stresses incurred are actually worse, because there is additional ramping up and down of traditional power plants due to the sudden loss of electricity when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining during the day.

Sudden ramping up and down causes severe thermal and other stresses on the system, including equipment damage due to differences in thermal expansion between the materials used in boilers, gas turbines and other equipment.

Germany is already rapidly approaching the situation in which California will find itself in 2020. In Germany, the penetration in 2012 of wind and solar was 22%, and increasing rapidly.

In Germany the utilities are trying to dispose of all their traditional methods of power generation, because they can’t survive with the bloated belly of the Duck.

Germans are already paying four to five times as much for electricity as do Americans.

If the belly of the Duck is distended far below the x axis, the utilities in California won’t be able to survive when they can only generate 1/4, or less, of the electricity for which they have built capacity.

If utilities have invested in, and built, 25,000 MW of capacity, but can only generate enough electricity to cover 1/4 of their investment, one of two things must happen.

Either:

  1. The utilities must charge rates triple or quadruple their current rates, or,
  2. The government must take over, i.e., expropriate, the utilities, and use tax payer money to subsidize the generation of electricity from fossil fuels, using, what will then be, power plants and grid owned by the government.

The end result is that people and companies will be paying:

  1. For expensive and unreliable electricity generated by wind and solar,
  2. While also paying much higher rates, either directly to the utilities to cover their underutilized investments, or through higher taxes for electricity generated by government owned utilities using traditional fossil fuels.

The California government hopes that storage can minimize the Duck’s negative effects. But, except for pumped storage, which can’t be built because it requires dams that extreme environmentalists oppose, the prospects for sufficient storage to offset the negative aspects of the duck are not promising. Especially if we include the entire country.

Thirty or more states have renewable portfolio standards (RPS) mandating the use of renewables.

But, even if storage is developed, it is more expensive than building natural gas power plants, so the consumer will still be paying much more for a less reliable system.

The Duck tells all, and his message isn’t good for America if the current infatuation with renewables continues.

Over-generation is caused by inefficient, expensive and unreliable renewables.

This isn’t the AFLAC Duck paying money to people who have been injured.

This is the opposite, where the California Duck causes people to pay a great deal more for their electricity, and for a system that is less reliable.

The next article has the Duck explaining higher electricity prices and why storage is critical.

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Is There a Future for Battery Powered Vehicles?

April 28, 2015

Many people expect the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to disappear over the next decade, and be replaced with battery powered vehicles (BEVs).

But could the opposite be true?

Perhaps BEVs will disappear.

Table 1 shows the basic estimated cost information at the heart of BEVs.

Table 1

Cost per battery based on kWh capacity

Battery cost

Size in kWh >>

85

70

60

$260

/kWh

$22,100

$18,200

$15,600

$200

/kWh

$17,000

$14,000

$12,000

$125

/kWh

$10,625

$8,750

$7,500

The current Tesla battery cost is estimated at $260/kWh.

The probable cost after completion of the Gigafactory in 2018 is around $200/kWh.

The battery cost the Department of Energy (DOE) has established for BEVs to be competitive with ICE vehicles is $125/kWh.

The cost of an ICE engine is around $5,000, and this would be avoided in a BEV. When the savings in fuel costs are added, the DOE estimate seems reasonable for small BEVs.

However, the only technology on the horizon that might be able to achieve the DOE requirement is the solid state Lithium battery, which is not likely to be available before the mid 2020s. It’s currently in the laboratory stage and may never achieve the $125/kWh goal.

This means a competitive BEV won’t be available for at least a decade, if then.

Tesla Being Charged. Photo by D. Dears

Tesla Being Charged. Photo by D. Dears

The Tesla model 70D is priced at around $83,000, using the 85 kWh battery.

With completion of the Gigafactory in 2018, the cost of the battery should be reduced to $200/kWh, and the price of the 70D lowered to the mid $70,000.

This is still a car for the rich and famous.

Tesla proposes to produce a Model 3 for $35,000, with a range of 200+ miles. This will likely require a 70 kWh battery, with a cost of around $14,000, based on future Gigafactory costs. See Table 1.

This will still result in a price premium, over an ICE vehicle, of around $7,000.
For the next decade, buyers will have to be willing to pay a $7,000 premium to buy a Model 3 type BEV.

BEV offerings from other manufacturers are likely to be similar.

Of course, this higher cost can be offset by government subsidies. But why continue to use taxpayer money to subsidize BEVs?

In the meantime, the ICE engine will be improved, which will improve gasoline mileage, lower the weight of the engine, and result in a smaller price tag for the engine. Improvements can be achieved by using plastic materials, special steels for pistons and liners, and new ceramic materials, similar to those being used in jet engines.

As a result, the ICE engine is likely to get better and be less costly, which could increase the BEV price premium.

While these are merely estimates, they reflect an objective look at the likely cost of batteries during the next decade.

BEVs are going to cost several thousand dollars more than comparable family sized vehicles. The rich and famous will continue to buy the luxury versions and take advantage of taxpayers who will subsidize their cars.

But initial cost is only part of the equation.

Buyers of BEVs will also have to contend with having to replace batteries, at a cost of around $14,000. If initial owners sell their BEV, there will be additional depreciation due to the high cost of replacement batteries.

An ICE vehicle will continue to be able to go 400 miles between fuelings, while owners of BEVs will still need to contend with range anxiety.

And why are we spending multiple billions of dollars in subsidies, all of which comes from the income of ordinary Americans, to pursue the adoption of an expensive product that most people may not be willing to buy?

It’s not to have the United States become energy independent, because, with fracking, the United States is already becoming energy independent.

It’s to cut CO2 emissions.

But this is a bogus objective, because 66% of the electricity used to charge batteries comes form power plants that emit CO2. There is little likelihood that the percentage of electricity coming from power plants using fossil fuels will be significantly reduced, especially as nuclear power plants begin to be shut down in the mid 2030s. See, U.S. Nuclear Demise Amid Increases Elsewhere

Using BEVs will not lower CO2 emissions.

Led by California, several states are perpetuating this bogus objective by mandating that 15% of vehicles sold in their states be zero-emission vehicles by 2025. In 2014 BEVs represented 0.7 percent of cars sold in the United States, which is less than one percent.

It’s unlikely that solid state Lithium batteries will change the financial equation before the mid 2020s, if ever. If they do, the Gigafactory will be a white elephant unless its output can be sold elsewhere. See, Is Tesla Gigafactory a Bad Investment? 

In a twist of fate, the ICE could be powering vehicles for many decades, while the BEV faces near extinction and becomes a mere toy for the rich and famous.

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