August 28, 2009

Could race cars go electric?

From Wikipedia:

"According to NASCAR, about 6,000 U.S. gallons (~22,700 litres) of fuel are consumed during a typical Sprint Cup weekend.[9] For the 2006 season, which includes 36 points races, the total for the season would be 216,000 U.S. gallons (818,000 litres). One environmental critic recently estimated NASCAR's total fuel consumption across all series at 2 million U.S. gallons (7.57 million liters) of gas for one season;[10] however, the methodology used has been a point of dispute."

Electric motors have better torque, so how long before they go electric?

Pretty soon!

Here's a nice description of that electric torque, vs a Porsche:

"Zero-to-60 mph acceleration is less than 4 seconds, which is Ferrari quick. Around a tight, technical racetrack, the Tesla will beat the pants off your garden-variety supercar." LA Times

The Chevy Corvette, with a monster 6.2 liter, eight cylinder, 430 horsepower engine takes 4.6 seconds. The Tesla accelerates faster than the Porsche 911. Faster than the Ferrari Spider....I can say with certainty, now, that if anyone doubts whether all-electric cars can compete: they can. Scientific American

"The all-electric sports car is faster than Porsche 911 or Audi R8 yet is six times as efficient as conventional sports cars." Tesla achieved overall corporate profitability in July, thanks to strong demand for the Roadster.

Here's a 0-60 in 3.5 seconds electric Ford Pinto dragster!

Here's a discussion of low-CO2 Formula One:

Here's a good discussion of EV racing.



August 27, 2009

How quickly can Plug-in hybrids grow?

I was struck by a recent EPRI Projection of 100M PHEVs by 2030. EPRI is the technical arm of the electrical utility industry - clearly they take PHEVs seriously.

Some people wonder if GM is serious about the Volt, and whether it can increase production quickly. Here's a hint: GM is building a dedicated battery assembly plant, with a capacity of about 100,000 battery packs per year, to be finished in time for the planned unveiling in November of 2010.

But won't most people wait until a recession, or some crisis, before they do something like buying an electric vehicle?

I think that the most important way to prepare for Peak Oil is electric transportation. This includes hybrids and plug-in hybrids (including Extended Range EVs like the Chevy Volt and Plug-in Hybrid EVs like a plug-in Prius) of various sorts.

It looks to me like the US and China are doing moderately well in ramping up hybrids and EREVs and PHEVs: the Chevy Volt will be ready for large production volumes in 2011, and a wide range of PHEVs and EVs is coming in the next several years, from almost all of the major car makers. Also, I think enough early-adopters are out there to allow these vehicles to ramp up to pretty large production volumes, putting them only a few years away from being the primary mode. So, I think that when mainstream buyers are ready, the electric vehicles will pretty much be there.

What about an emergency?

Production can be increased very quickly in an emergency. The Classic Example is World War II airplane production, which grew in 4.5 years from 6,000 per year to 9,000 per month!

August 14, 2009

How's wind doing?

Very well.

Wind was 42% of new capacity in 2008, and there's an enormous backlog of projects in the pipeline (about 300GW!). See here.

An interesting note - local grids are handling up to about 16% in wind market penetration without problems. The DOE report says: "Recent wind integration studies continue to show that wind integration costs rise with higher levels of wind penetration, but are below $10/MWh – and often below $5/MWh – for wind capacity penetrations of as much as 30% of the peak load of the system in which the wind power is delivered."

I understand that to mean the following: for a system with 100GW average load, and 150GW peak load (as a wild guess), wind capacity could rise to 45GW and still have low integration costs (well below one cent per KWH). The report indicated that capacity factors were around 35% for recent projects, so that gives us 15.75GW average, or 15.75% market penetration of KWH production.

This study doesn't say we can't get well above 16%. It just says that with current grid engineering, we can achieve at least 16% without a problem.

And that's pretty good. It's consistent with a lot of such studies: none of them found a maximum for renewables. I've seen some that showed that something in the range of 20% was possible just for wind, but weren't testing the hypothesis that more than that could be done. IOW, most of them said it was the minimum that could be done, based on current grid technology. They didn't test such things as expanded long-distance transmission, greatly expanded Demand Side Management, a large fleet of PHEV/EVs providing demand buffering and V2G; greatly expanded storage; etc.

Here's a good example: This modelling study* says that given current tech and some modest assumptions on price change, that 20% wind penetration is likely in 2050. It doesn't say that it's a maximum, and it doesn't take into account the effect of an aggressive policy push toward wind, and new conditions, such as 230M PHEV/EVs.

There's enormous potential out there.

*The study just gives a result of 300GW of wind power, so we have to do some calculations.

The DOE reports that new farms in the last several years are achieving an average of 35% capacity factor. The modelling study doesn't give the total generation in 2050, so we have to guess that it assumes something like DOE projections of 1200 GW system capacity. That gives us 11.6% growth (1200/1075 currently).

If we use 35% and 11.6% growth that gives 20.1%.

August 13, 2009

Can a plug-in hybrid compete on price?


But aren't vehicles like the Volt expected to sell for $40,000 due to a very expensive battery?

Well, first, we should be clear that most of that $40K is not due to the battery.

First, a simple EV, without a battery, should sell for less than a comparable Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle. Electric motors don't cost any more than ICEs, and EV powertrains are simpler than ICE powertrains (no transmission, muffler, catalytic converter, fuel pump, air filter, oil filter, etc, etc). There are basic sedans out there priced for $15K, so a basic EV should be less than $15K.

Second, GM says the ICE backup on the Volt costs about $2k, and their battery supplier says the battery cells cost right now about $5,600 ($350 per KWH x 16 KWH). There is another $2,400 for the power electronics and battery management system - that's a cost that will mostly go away with very large volume production - so let's allocate 500 for that. 25% markup of those additional pieces ($8,100 x %25) would add about $10,250.

So, the basic pricing should be around $25,000. The rest of the Volt 1st-gen pricing is due to R&D, low-volumes and upper-market options.

You've said battery prices will drop. How do we know?

Here's a good discussion for this (and a lot of other Volt battery information):

"From a historical perspective over the past 17-18 years the cost has come down by a factor of 15x. In the next 5-10 years we should be able to come down by an incremental 2-4x and we will have to do that to accelerate the penetration of the technology."


August 10, 2009

How good is the new EV, the Leaf?

Pretty good.

Some sources say that the Nissan Leaf ( ) will cost around $25K-$33K without the battery (you lease the battery, which is supposed to be cheaper than gas). Others that it will be priced in the same range as the Altima. With the battery, it's likely to be about $10K more.

The Leaf has a battery capacity of 24KWH. This is 8KWH larger than the Volt's 16 KWH, and the Volt adds an internal combustion engine. The extra 8KWH of battery capacity likely costs about $4k, while the ICE costs about $2k. So, the Volt should be cheaper.

The Volt's pricing hasn't been announced, but it's executives have talked about something close to $40k. It sure looks like they're going to price it just as high as they can (taking into account the $7,500 tax credit) to capture the early-adopter premium. If the Leaf is very competitive, you can be sure the Volt price will drop.

We're seeing a continuum of capital cost, electrification and operating costs: hybrids like the Prius are cheapest and least electrified; PHEVs like the Volt (40 mile electric range, with gas engine backup) are in the middle; and EV's like the Leaf (70-100 mile range)are most expensive. Which you choose depends largely on your economic situation and in the short-term, how much you're willing to pay to reduce your oil consumption (IOW, your personal pricing of oil's externalities).

When PHEVs and EVs hit very large production volumes, their overall cost will be lower than conventional cars, but not before.

August 7, 2009

Volt battery costs, part 4

A recent study from the University of Michigan suggested that it will take a very long time for PHEVs to gain a significant share of the car market.

"Annual sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in the US could reach 2% – 3% with fleet penetration of around 1% by 2015, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). By 2020, sales could reach around 4% – 5% with fleet penetration a little more than 2%. And in 30 years, they could be around 20% of sales with a fleet penetration of about 16%. " And...these are the high-end estimates!

So, is this correct?

Fortunately, no. The study makes several very, very odd assumptions. First, it assumes that current gasoline prices are $2 per gallon, and that they will never rise above $4 in the next 30 years.

Second, they assume that a PHEV-40 (a plug-in hybrid with a 40 mile electric range) would cost $50,000 both now, and 30 years from now.

Given these assumptions, a PHEV could never pay for itself with gasoline savings. Fortunately, PHEV-40s are likely to be priced below $30,000 in 5 years (and certainly in less than 10), and will pay for themselves quite nicely.