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Why the Electric Car Is Doomed to Fail

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/why-electric-car-doomed-fail...

Opinions? Main arguments besides the frequest culprits is Fix the Resale Market and Create a Smart Grid

The guys opinion is that he thinks electric cars will succeed just not the way we traditionally think of car sales. At least that's how I heard the interview. It is just titled in such a way for him to push his book and capitalize on the hype.

He even admits that if battery swapping comes about it decouples the battery from the car and suddenly used EVs are a good buy. He is also pushing Better Place. He claims he's not invested in Better Place but admits he loves their idea.

I don't see a need to plug in when I get to work. I'll have a car that goes 160 to 230 miles and my round trips is less than 16 miles. For others I doubt their round trip is over 100 miles. It's the usual range anxiety. That kills the whole infrastructure problem. Most cars will charge at night when power is usually more available. After driving 10-40 miles to work if you plug in the car will be charged about the time the day time power demands start increasing.

When battery tech catches up prices drop dramatically. Think BMW 5 series type EV for 35K to 60K, sounds very reasonable. New batteries will cost less than half what the gas would have cost. Not to mention deals like paying $10K-$12K now and get a free new battery in 5-8 years (or some such deal). Now you are selling your used EV with a brand new battery. Totally ruins his argument.

i never understood this opposition that automatically arises with new technology. let's imagine it's 1901 and we're discussing the viability of the automobile: doesn't sound like a good idea. there's too many obstacles. for this automobile contraption to be more than a novelty you would have to pave over all of the horse paths with tar. think of the cost. never mind the man hours involved. it would take years. and it runs on liquid petroleum. that costs a lot of money to refine from crude oil. america doesn't have that kind of infrastructure. and how will we refuel these automobiles? you would have to design a distribution network that would be capable of transporting the refined fuel to all parts of the country. i don't see how we could do that. as john lennon said, "there are no problems, only solutions." there are no obstacles, only opportunity for more innovation......

What resale market? I think he missed the part where an electric car doesn't need as big of a resale market as an ICE does thanks to it's durability and the lack of maintenance that an EV needs by comparison to the ICE.

Lets put it this way: why do people sell their cars? Because they believe the car is going to break down after they've driven it for so long, and they don't want to shell out money on revamping their current car. An EV doesn't have the same problem. It's battery will loose range over a long period of time, but the rest of the car is still fine. Is replacing the battery expensive? At the moment, yes, but as mass market moves forward, that replacement cost is going to come down. We saw it happen with cell phones, smart phones, big screen TVs, etc.

Then too, the batteries have other possibilities after their life in the cars are done: they can be reused in a less stressful environment as power grid supplements, and local UPSs. They won't be charged/discharged as often, so their remaining lifespans will be longer than they were in the EVs. What we need is a buyback industry for used batteries that gives discounts on replacement battery packs. If the replacement pack doesn't cost as much as people think, it's a lot more attractive than buying another new car.

I've noticed an underlying, unstated assumption in a number of these threads that replacement battery packs will continually be available for Model S in the future. I have been sincerely wondering about this assumption and how it relates to the value of any EV held for a long time. I would be interested in other's comments.

It would seem that at some point battery technology will have advanced to such a degree that it will not make economic sense for an EV manufacturer to build replacement batteries that fit their older cars.

Many enthusiasts will undoubtedly jump all over me for making this statement and say no chance, there will always be someone building replacement batteries for our cars. Yet looking at electronic technology of the past I really wonder if that will always be so. Perhaps a special order might always be possible from a specialty shop but that could be cost prohibitive.

At some point technology will surely make current EV battery packs obsolete. As the ones in our older cars degrade over time, if there are no reasonably priced replacements for them, the cars themselves may retain little residual value when their batteries finally wear out.

EVs have an extraordinarily bright future and this reflection in no way supports an argument that they doomed to fail. But at some point technology may make successively older individual EV models obsolete by virtue of being unable to find replacement battery packs for them.

Hopefully it will be a very, very long time before Tesla stops making battery packs that fit the Model S coming off the line this year. But at some point in the future the economics might justify it. I am curious what others think about how many years before this occurs.

Then spend $12,000 now and get a replacement battery.

I believe that auto manufacturers must stock parts for their cars for at least ten years (government requirement). Lithium-ion batteries never die but they slowly degrade with time. The solution is to buy the biggest battery pack that one can afford.

@stephen.kamichi: Thank you kindly. Your comment corroborates my tentative conclusion--buy a bigger battery pack than you need if you plan to keep the car a long time. This is not because you need the mileage right now, but 10 or 15 years from now after battery degradation you might need what is left at that time plus the car might also retain value for a longer time if it is difficult to get replacement batteries due to improved battery technology and obsolescence of the battery pack in your car. So even though a person may not ever drive over 160 miles between charges it might be the most logical thing to buy the 230 mile battery if he/she plans to keep the car over 10 years and can swing the extra cost. I appreciate your comment very much. It would be interesting if others think this is logical or whether there is a fault in the reasoning.

ddruz, Your unsupported battery scenario is of course possible. Here's why I am guessing it is not a high probability. The cell form factor has been around for a while and is quite a convenient shape and size for many purposes. My guess is that although chemistries will come and go, the form factor will still be available for a long time. This should make it possible for someone, if not Tesla, to rebuild the battery pack. There might need to be some PEM modifications as well but as more people earn their living from EVs. The expertise for this sort of thing will become as common as taking your ICE to a speedshop is today.

The computer or cell phone will never take off since it depreciates too much....whatever.

This all comes down to supply and demand in a capitalistic market and worldwide market overtime (~10 years for 10M cars).

And what I like about this forum that I'm convinced, after much intelligent debate with educated people who have expertise in their given fields, that the EV, at least the TM EV, is doomed to succeed.

Will the price of batteries cause my Model S to depreciate? Of course. Will the price of my 5 year old Model S be less than a similar BMW, Merc, Audi or Lexus? Remains to be seen but I doubt it as maintenance costs are high, for the latter, as well as reduction in performance overtime. Not to mention the labor it will take to give my aging Model S a new power source compared to an ICE or the price of energy in 5 years.

And I don't buy the grid argument at all. Let's assume that the EV industry took off next year and sold 100K cars with an average battery size of 30kWh's (that not going to happen but let's say worst case scenario). And let's say 50K are in San Fran (where the grid is already strained) and all of them drove to work and plugged in. Would this be a problem? Not even a fraction of a problem. So how many EV's would need to be plugged in at work or at home (pulling charge immediately) for the grid to notice in San Fran? 100K, 200K, 300K? With 7M plus people in San Fran it would take more than 25% of them to affect peak loads, even in the summer, in 5 years. And how long will it take to get that many EV's into the hands of people who will drive them to work? Well, as long as it takes there are several ways to ensure there is enough grid capacity. These are all in the pipeline and will be green lit if sales take off.

And as long as the 18650 cells are manufactured (with possibly a firmware update), the current packs could be rebuilt.

My reason for buying the performance model is because I expect to replace the battery pack with a 1000 mile version within 15 years and I don't want the car infrastructure unable to handle the load. So I get the biggest infrastructure I can and enjoy the ride.

Maybe at the end of those 15 years I can get a better car, but other than the battery what will depreciate? The flatscreen. The rest of the car is still going to be fast, sexy (in a 2012 fashion) and convenient.

I expect Tesla to continue with the platform and make battery packs on the platform to a long while.

We are interesting creatures when it comes to the motives around a making purchase decisions. Is it a logical/economic decision where we rationalize like on teslarumors that the car is essentially free when all is said and done? Or conversely, those who buy on the bleeding edge of technology will get bit when that technology advances? Is it a social/status decision where one envisions themselves cooler among their peers for owning the latest and greatest socially responsible etc etc? Or a more individualistic hedonistic/emotional decision "I just have to have it" type of decision. Or a spiritual leap of faith/intuitive I just know this is the right decision? Maybe its the ethical/geo political rational of preferring to connect to the implications of an electrical grid verses of one dependent on oil. Or from some drive towards perfectionism of just plain wanting to own the best. Most likely it is a mix of many of the above and a bunch of other motives not mentioned. The point is buying a car brings out that complexity and buying this car in particular brings that complexity on a whole new scale. I find myself laughing when analysts try and boil our decisions wearing a single lens.

It's an interesting opinion... With that said, I think it's the only viable future transportation option.

1) Hydrogen: Too volatile right now, and unless they can figure out a way for the vehicle to make its own fuel safely, the infrastructure to re-fuel will take decades to create, at an extremely high cost. I do see it as a possible option in the next 50 years.

2) Natural Gas: It’s cheaper than gasoline, but not cheap enough to get off the ground to replace it.

3) Electric: The energy is extremely cheap, home charge infrastructure already exist, public charge infrastructure is easy and cheap to build, and improve. Battery technology is getting better every year, and has unlimited resources for thousands of years to come. Solar charge stations could help to reduce the strain on the local power grid.

With that said, I don’t foresee the EV market skyrocketing quickly. Like anything new, it’s going to take time. The few who are lucky enough to afford an EV will have to be the pioneers, and lose some money in the beginning to help push the technology to the masses.

I personally don’t see the Tesla Model S or X as being a windfall of a personal investment, but rather a ‘moral’ investment in our future. Sure the perks will be great, and it will be a nice feeling knowing that I am part of the ‘solution’, rather than the ‘problem’. However, BIG OIL will continue to play ‘cat and mouse’ with the masses for many more years to come, so I don’t expect the ICE vehicles to disappear anytime soon (they are still cheaper and for the most part, better looking than just about everything else out there that is available).

I think Tesla will have a great opportunity to be a TRUE pioneer of this eventual change, and I suspect they will do very well over time, and make the ICE car companies take more notice, just as Apple did with its iPad…(i.e. now everyone makes a tablet computer).

When you hear people talk about how the electric system will need huge upgrades, remind people that we've absorbed the widespread adoption of large-screen TVs, air conditioning, and other massive power hogs in our homes. These devices typically run on-peak, too, while EVs can charge in the middle of the night.

Did you ever read a news story about a street burning out its distribution transformers because everyone was watching plasma TVs in air-conditioned splendor? I haven't.

I generally concur with all the above comments.

As I see it, electricity is the most energy-efficient manner to do work (in the physics sense: move, spin, operate things). Unsurprisingly, it is also the most cost-effective and the least polluting (or totally clean, depending on the source of the electricity). Cars, trains (even diesel locomotives only drive a turbine that generates electricity to traction motors embedded in the trucks), subways, buses, taxis, etc.

Long-distance may be an issue, such as in trucking and desolate stretches of railway, but there are other solutions for those, anywhere from natural gas or ethanol combustion to fuel cells.

Even with the well-to-wheel argument in favor of EVs, there's also this: depending on a variety of details, a US refinery draws about 5 to 6 kWh of electricity per gallon of refined regular gas (87 octane). Using the current US average, the "typical" vehicle can go anywhere from about 20 to 25 miles on that gallon of gas. Well, not really, depending on how much is left after evaporative losses between the refinery and the moment of combustion (I have no idea how much that is, but as it so easily evaporates, the loss has to be substantial).

A Model S (85kWh), at 55mph, can travel 19.4 miles on that 5.5kWh (average) of electricity gobbled up by the refinery. Since it is reasonable to assume that, in both instances, the electricity was transmitted from somewhere, I consider the transmission losses between these two examples to cancel out, for all practical intents and purposes.

So, why not just charge up your car directly and skip the global petroleum pimps and staggering levels of pollution and habitat destruction? Now that we have the supporting technology already developed (microprocessors, sensors of all kinds), and now that the mobile storage tech is moving along, the answer to that question is a resounding "Of course!!"

The focus of transportation solutions boils down to two fields: how to generate, and store, the electricity in sustainable and efficient manners. Yes, that's a mouthful, but there's lots of promise, development and commercial success on several fronts, as has been discussed elsewhere.

To be clear, it takes ~6kWh of energy to refine a gallon of gas. Only about 1kWh of that is from electricity; most is process heat from burning natural gas or other fuels. This doesn't undercut your point, Tom A, but we shouldn't overstate the case.

A friend of mine was in town for his 40th b-day. He used to be a car salesman and is actually looking to get back into it. I asked him his opinion of the EV industry because I knew he does not know much about it since he is into ICE.

He by far has no anomosity towards EV but I found his talking points to be exactly what I hear from these so called analysts.

This is the false information the analysts push.

EV's use too many rare elements to sell in mass.

EV's have no charging infrustructure.

No one wants an EV because no one wanted the Chevy Volt in the small market Chevy sold them in.

The batteries use lead and other tocix materials.

EV's have poor heating and cooling systems in the passenger compartments.

You must have a special charger installed in your garage for each EV you purchase. Regular outlets do not work (120 or 240 volt).

When the batteriers are at the end of their cycle they and the toxic materials will go into land fills.

EV charging will cause blackouts if the masses owned them.

EV's have extremely limited range as proven by Nissan rushing the Leaf to market.

EV's are not practical otherwise all the big car manufacturers would be making them.

I could go on but we have heard it all before. Sadily there is no way to combat the rumors until Tesla gets a car on the road.

Robert.Boston: I think I have - what about those mandatory brown-outs that LA has done in the past? I think I may have heard of some rural areas that can lose power if an old transformer overheats or something to that effect. I could be mistaken.

On the battery replacement deal, is it safe to assume that Telsa will have these things set up by the time Model S batteries start wearing out? What do they do with Roadsters? They must have some sort of plan, because they offered the Roadster with that sweet $12k battery replacement warranty.

Do they package a set of laptop batteries like the original, or since the form factor is the same, do they simply rebuild the pack with the cells used in the Model S and upgrade/replace the firmware and/or software?

I wonder how many bought the replacement warranty? If TM continues that service for the Model S and future models, then I'll definitely be buying whatever battery replacement warranty they provide, regardless of model.

From a customer service standpoint, customer loyalty, total cost of ownership, etc., I think TM will simply have to have a plan in place to replace packs with the current tech at the time (not the original for the platform, since 8 years, on average, is a long time for tech to evolve), and have the other upgrades/updates ready for the control systems when that time comes. That way, the car would last a really long time, additionally considering the aluminum body and frame (no rust) and my presumed robustness of the electric motors and inverter electronics.

Now, could they make that cost-effective? I don't know. Until they have both platforms up and running, every penny earned is already spent. Of course, 8 years from now will be the time that they will have both platforms up and running with multiple models being developed very cost-effectively and updating old models even easier (we hope).

Robert.Boston: that's news to me. I'm pretty sure the articles I've read on green blogs and in the press stated that that was just the electricity, not the total energy.

If you're right, then you're right, and I have no problem with that. I'm just surprised, that's all.

I think Hydrogen might be applied more effectively to long-haul truckers. The infrastructure doesn't need to be nearly as large and current EV technology would be inappropriate.

I just read that gm is shutting down production of the volt for the next 5 weeks. Sorry can't find the link anymore. I've drank the kool aid like the rest of you, but gm not being able to sell 10k of these a year isn't a good sign. I have a reservation for a model s and I plan to keep it, but we have to be honest with ourselves. It's going to be a long while before evs take over. I agree tesla is great and people will stretch their budget to buy one. But until these can be produced and sold for the exact same upfront price as a ice, their will be a limited market for them. Maybe that's ok. But even a bluestar at 35 to 40k isn't going to set the world on fire....

@harryjsommer: I just read that gm is shutting down production of the volt for the next 5 weeks. Sorry can't find the link anymore

This one?

http://green.autoblog.com/2012/03/02/gm-shutting-down-chevy-volt-product...

@timo. Yep that's it. Thanx

The Volt was just a little wrong. It wasn't an quite an EV like the Leaf and it wasn't quite a hybrid. The Leaf also hasn't sold all that well in the US, but is only now going nationwide. Limited sales because of limited availability for the Leaf.

I'd considered a Volt but with all the pieces to make it work... just seemed like I'd be better off buying a straight hybrid.

For a while I think electrics will be less widely adopted. Gas prices and battery tech will determine the speed of adoption more than any current advantage an EV has.

@Vawlkus and @ddruz, I agree that with EVs a battery replacement in the future will more easily extend the life than required for an ICE vehicle. May also need new suspension bushings, and possibly motor cleaning and at most rewinding. It is highly possible that the battery packs will not be available from the manufacturer though due to advancements that allow smaller packs, and improved form factors. That could just open up an opportunity for aftermarket battery suppliers though.

I suspect that by 2020 (8 years), the replacement battery for the Model S will be lighter, and have longer range options. By then, the shortest range they might offer as a replacement could be 250mi. The longest range might be 500 mi. The battery cost per mile of range, could be half of what it is today (plus labor to install).

However, I suspect I will just get a new Tesla after 6 or 7 years.

Personally, I still think the ONE KEY FACTOR that has dissuaded folks the almost all on EV’s and hybrids’ is... UGLY!!!!

I have said it thousands of times in my life, and I will say it again...

Even the poorest of the poor want to look good, and will spend their last dime to do so. The fashion industry is a MULTI-BILLION dollar industry! I have seen folks forgo living in safe neighborhoods, just so they could afford to drive a hot looking car. I have seen people willing to go to prison over an average set of chrome-plated 'spinner' wheels! I have seen children starve, so their mom could walk around with a Louis Vuitton purse.

Let’s face it folks, besides Tesla and Fisker, what looks good?...

-Chevy Volt: Great looking car, IF you want to be seen driving around in what looks like a 1990 Honda Civic. I mean SERIOUSLY??? We bail out this waste of an auto-company, and the best they can do is the Volt (vomit)????

-Nissan Leaf: Words cannot describe how completely lame and butt ugly this car looks! I would rather been seen driving around in a Smart.

-Toyota Prius: Without the HOV access stickers, you basically look like a high-school teacher driving this car. Trust me; if you are a man driving this car, you look like Walter White, minus his secret life. If you are an women, you look like the typical single librarian, with ten pet cats.

Lexus CT Hybrid: You are the envy of all the local high-school fan-boys. Most are looking for your 6” exhaust pipe, with a big question-mark on their faces why you car is SO quiet.

Like Fernando Lamas once said… “It’s better to look good than to feel good!”

IMO, the "gross" (external) form factor should be relatively easy to replicate, even with totally new internals and chemistry. Remember that there will be at the very least several years of the current form on the road before any drastic advance in tech occurs, so the market and requirement will be there, also.

If TM is smart, it will keep those factors compatible for a long time to come; imagine, then, being able to "pop in" a 700-1000 mi. battery at warranty end. Possibly the contemporary Model Ses will have a modified form factor by that time, but that's not an impediment.

Tikiman,

" Toyota Prius: if you are a man driving this car, you look like Walter White, minus his secret life."

Ouch! I must admit that you're correct. I've considered buying a pair of "truck nuts" to
hang from my rear bumper to compensate.

+1 for tikiman

I really wanted to buy a leaf of the new Mitsubishi. Anything to get off of oil. But you take one look at them, and well.... They are really ugly.


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