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Nissan Enters the Electric Arena

I am feeling more and more optimistic that we are going to soon have a decent choice of viable plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Nissan has now announced that they will have an offering in the U.S. and Japan by 2010:

Nissan plans electric car in U.S. and Japan by 2010

Nissan Motor plans to sell an electric car in the United States and Japan by 2010, raising the stakes in the race to develop environmentally friendly vehicles.

The commitment – announced Tuesday by Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn – will be the first by a major automaker to bring a zero-emission vehicle to the American market. Nissan also expects to sell a lineup of electric vehicles globally by 2012.

In an interview Monday, Ghosn said Nissan decided to accelerate development of battery-powered vehicles because of high gasoline prices and environmental concerns, not just because of the need to meet stricter fuel-economy standards.

“What we are seeing is that the shifts coming from the markets are more powerful than what regulators are doing,” he said.

This marks a dramatic about-face for Ghosn, who had downplayed the idea just a few years ago:

In a 2005 speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association, he called gas-electric hybrids “niche products” useful only to meet strict fuel-economy and emission standards in states like California.

“It wasn’t long ago that Carlos Ghosn was a big naysayer about the role of electric vehicles,” said John O’Dell, senior editor at the auto Web site GreenCarAdvisor.com. “Obviously, something has opened his eyes.”

They have their sights set high:

Nissan, which a decade ago was on the brink of bankruptcy, is the first manufacturer to say it will sell mass-market all-electric vehicles worldwide. The zero emissions refers to those from the car’s tailpipe and not those from the production of electricity used to power the car.

Still, O’Dell said: “Nissan is upping the ante tremendously. They are the first to put it on the line and say we’re going to have an all-electric vehicle for a certain market by a certain date.”

Good stuff. Keep ‘em coming. For my next calculation, I need to see how much power I could generate by putting a solar panel on the roof of my electric car and letting it recharge all day…

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May 14, 2008 - Posted by | electric cars, Nissan, phev

53 Comments

  1. I’ve tried to calculate that before. Let’s say you drive 20 miles each day and it takes .25 kwh per mile. That’s 5kwh per day. Divide that by your average insolation (about 4.75 for TX). Then divide that number by .8 to account for various inefficiencies and you get a total of 1.32. So you’d need a 1.32 kw panel array. So, around 8 or 10 panels depending on the size of each.

    That’s a quick and dirty calculation of course. And using the average insolation gives you more power than you need in the summer, but less than you need in the winter. If you sized it based on winter insolation, you’d need about a 2.5 kw array. That’s a lot just to power the car. I think I’d rather live closer to work and ride a bike. Too bad that’s not more practical.

    Comment by Brad | May 14, 2008

  2. The PHEV, if it can be made robust and consumer-friendly, is the magic bullet. We know we can generate electricty from a wide variety of sources, be it nukes, wind, solar, geothermal, or old-fashioned coal and gas plants.
    Roughly 70 percent of oil consumption is for transportation. With PHEVs, we can expect radical declines in oil demand, perhaps a halving in 15 years, and down from there with each passing year.
    The brilliant RR will have to find another topic about which to issue his dark missives.
    Really, it is hard to see a downside to commercialized PHEVs. The air will be cleaner, the cities quieter, we will have greater energy security.
    The fly in the ointment is oi prices may collapse first. By the way, I think Maury has pointed oit China may beat everybody to the punch with a PHEV.

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 14, 2008

  3. So you’d need a 1.32 kw panel array.

    Call it 8×15 feet, a little large for a car roof. Not bad for a covered parking space, though.

    I wish Nissan well but I wonder how much success they’ll have with an EV-80 in the USA.

    Comment by doggydogworld | May 14, 2008

  4. doggydog-

    If you are right, it makes tons of sense to cover a bus rooftop with a solar panel….is a freznel lens useful in this application?

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 14, 2008

  5. BP makes a solar panel that is 60″ x 26″ that puts out 125 W of power. I thought about 3 of them mounted on the back of the KingofKaty hybrid. At 4 hours x 125 x 3 you get 1.5 kWh.

    That’s only enough power to go 5 or 6 miles. It might be enough to power a mild hybrid running all the electrical systems though.

    Comment by KingofKaty | May 14, 2008

  6. Brad might be a bit optimistic on the Wh/mi (I might have used 270), but let’s use his numbers. To his calculation let’s guess that the PV is $9/Watt ($4/Watt for modules, $1/Watt for inverter, $4/Watt for installation), so $11,880 for the system. (No rebates in TX?) Let’s say you used a 30-year home equity loan to purchase the system at 6.5%. Your monthly payment would be $79.05. Let’s compare that to gasoline. 20 miles per day at the current CAFE of 27 MPG is 22.5 gallons per month. Over the 30 years, let’s guess the average price is $8/gallon, or $180/month. You could also finance the system over 15 years at $103.49 per month, but then I would guess gasoline would average only $6/gallon during that time. Then you’re gas bill would be $135/month. After after 15 years, you would have free fuel.

    However, you also have to factor in the extra price of the vehicle. Until the Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Tesla sedan, Aptera, Phoenix, etc. vehicles are in the market competing, we won’t really know the price.

    Comment by eak | May 14, 2008

  7. brad said
    So you’d need a 1.32 kw panel array…. gives you more power than you need in the summer, but less than you need in the winter. If you sized it based on winter insolation, you’d need about a 2.5 kw array. That’s a lot just to power the car.

    But then 2.5kW wouldn’t be just to power your car. You’ll have excess electricity in the summer, so you can run your airconditioner and other home electrics with it and reduce your power bill.

    Comment by clee | May 14, 2008

  8. Robert. when you get a chance I wish you’d do a post on the state of play in battery technology. I wonder to what extent the planned PHEVs are based on batteries for which they have actual supplier contracts, vs to what extent they are based on cutting leadtimes by designing the rest of the vehicle in the hope that an appropriate battery will show up…

    Comment by David | May 14, 2008

  9. I think panels on a car roof would be appealing for the simple reason that they would give people a feeling they were getting something “free”. It would be pretty cool to take your car to work, and 8 hours later you had collected an extra 5 miles worth of energy without paying anyone.
    Also, it would be nice to have even limited mobility in case of a tremendous natural or man made disaster that took out the grid and the fueling infrastructure for a long period of time.

    Comment by Peter | May 14, 2008

  10. Peak Demand Cole said: “Really, it is hard to see a downside to commercialized PHEVs.”

    The downside is where will all that lithium to make hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of Li-ion batteries come from?

    Most lithium now comes from South America — primarily Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.

    A huge demand for Li-ion batteries will cause the commodity price of lithium to soar, and if that happens, only the rich will be able to afford runabouts with Li-ion batteries. (I’m sure Al Gore and Jay Leno will have them, but perhaps not you and me.)

    There is stress now on lithium supplies because of all the power tools, laptop computers, cell phones, and other consumer electronics that use them. Imagine how demand (and price) will increase if world automakers plan to put hundreds of thousands of battery-powered cars on the road, each with an Li-ion battery that might weight as much as 400-700 pounds.

    It’s likely “Peak Lithium” could smack us alongside the head just as hard as “Peak Oil.”

    The real problem with the commodity crunch (from oil to water to grain to lithium) is too many people chasing too few resources.

    Best,

    Gary Dikkers

    Comment by Gary Dikkers | May 14, 2008

  11. . when you get a chance I wish you’d do a post on the state of play in battery technology.

    You are reading my mind, David. Been thinking about this for a couple of days. It will take some time, though, as I will have to do some research.

    Cheers, RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | May 14, 2008

  12. “The real problem with the commodity crunch (from oil to water to grain to lithium) is too many people chasing too few resources.”

    You hit the nail on the head. For every drop of efficiency we can squeeze out of our current uses for petroleum and electricity, we seem to more than counter with new uses, and increased demand from developing nations.

    I’m convinced that the major change in the next generation will be greatly increased energy prices triggering greatly reduced consumption. Government policy will be too slow to respond. It won’t be doomsday, but it will be different. We’ll drive a lot less, and eventually we’ll figure out that we want to live closer to where we work and shop. In houses designed for passive heating and cooling.

    The question we all need to ask ourselves is, what am I doing now, to adjust to the new reality? Hoping for magic bullets will make for a lot of disappointment. I went into solar thinking clean energy was going to fix things. I no longer see that happening in my lifetime, although it will make a difference as time goes on. Of course there may be some great technological breakthrough to come, but I haven’t seen one yet that doesn’t primarily shift the resource consumption burdens.

    Comment by iftheshoefits | May 14, 2008

  13. Why would you put the panel on the car, when you can put it on the roof of a building?

    For one thing, buildings don’t move themselves into underground carparks. For another, you don’t use energy moving a solar panel on the roof around. For another, you can align the solar panel on the building roof optimally. For another, if the system is grid-connected, you will never “fill the battery”.

    As a trivial example of the tiny contribution an on-roof solar panel could make, consider this one, which is roughly four feet by nearly two feet in size, and puts out 85 watts peak. At most, you’d get two, maybe three if you’re really, really lucky, on a car.

    Generously, at four hours of sunlight a day, that’s around .68 kwh. Enough to get you a bit under 3 miles.

    Comment by robert merkel | May 15, 2008

  14. When the cost of screen printing solar on car roofs is such that they essentially become the roof finish at no additional cost, well… every little bit helps. Vehicle-integrated PV (VIPV)? There, a new term.

    It does mean that to have the most effect though, people would want to NOT park their cars in garages or under carport roofs on sunny days.

    If and when EVs do take off, maybe businesses can turn their parking lots into large solar carports, and offer solar EV charging as a perk. The effective return value of that perk in employee morale and retention might be more than the value of the electricity sold back to the grid, at least until utilities in the US start paying big premiums for solar-generated electricity.

    Comment by iftheshoefits | May 15, 2008

  15. The real problem with the commodity crunch (from oil to water to grain to lithium) is too many people chasing too few resources.
    With all due respect, Gary, I think you are completely wrong on that one.

    Technology is one positive byproduct you get from more people. It works from both ends: you need better technology to support all those people, and the extra people allows you to develop the technology you need.

    There is no resourse that can’t be used more efficiently. Water can be recycled (quicker) from one user to the next. Foods will be fine once we stop diverting so much of it to fuel production. Lithium should be fairly simple to recycle, and will be once the price for the raw material is high enough to justify that.

    We need to replace oil with energy dense waste products. Of course, we need to conserve too. At these oil prices, it is just a matter of time.

    For every drop of efficiency we can squeeze out of our current uses for petroleum and electricity, we seem to more than counter with new uses, and increased demand from developing nations.
    Nope, new uses that meets that criterion (such as corn ethanol), will automatically be weeded out by production cost, as is happening to corn ethanol.

    Getting developing nations to a decent standard of living will help to get them contributing to solutions.

    Malthus has been wrong for anout 180 years. I expect to see him keep that streak going, indefinitely.

    Comment by Optimist | May 15, 2008

  16. A solar-electric car? I’ve been waiting for years for Venturi to get their Astrolab past the concept stage, but it looks like they just revealed a second generation concept car.
    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/04/01/venturi-astrolab-in-monaco/

    Comment by clee | May 15, 2008

  17. Gary Dikkers-
    There may be shortages of this or that commodity…but the long histoy of commodities is that price booms lead to gluts. This time different?
    Maybe. But, on the other hand, the world’s pop. has grown rapidly in last 100 years, and we have plenty of commodities around. Better today than almost ever in history. Wood might be an exception.
    I share the general concern that the world pop should be curtailed over time. Oddly enough, higher living standards seems to lead to less pop. growth.
    Lithium will be recycled, and there are nickel and other type batteries. A PHEV need only get 16 miles w/o a charge (average one-way commute). You could charge it up at work too.
    If — maybe a big if — the PHEV can be made consumer-friendly, we have whipped Peak Oil, and secured a higher and cleaner standard of living for succeeding generations.
    Sure, there are problems in the world, there always have been. Famines, wars, depressions, human cruelty. I would say our prospects are brighter than almost any other time.

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 15, 2008

  18. In addition to the status of battery development, I would appreciate it if you could include information on the comparison between actual batteries and the best theoretical performance of batteries using that chemistry.

    Comment by Fat Man | May 15, 2008

  19. World demography is undergoing a revolution these days. In many countries such has Morocco and Iran, woman used to have 6-7 children each less than 20 years ago, on average. Now these countries no longer have enough births to maintain population levels.

    Young women are now getting educated, getting married much later in life, are working and therefore much less dependent on husbands for survival. All this contribute to much fewer kids (and at a later age, which also plays a role).

    Watch the stupid journalists: in 10 years the hysteria will be about how we’re heading for exctinction and we need many more children.

    Anyway, people who see the world as overpopulated should start with themselves. Otherwise what you’re doing is wishing other people to “no longer be there” if you see what I mean, and that’s wrong.

    Comment by Nick de Cusa | May 15, 2008

  20. Robert Merkel said: “Why would you put the panel on the car, when you can put it on the roof of a building?”

    That is a sound idea Robert, although most people will be using their cars during the day while the Sun is out. You would need some kind of storage device in the building to hold the electrical energy until the car is back in the garage; at which point one could transfer the energy saved up during the day into the car’s battery.

    It would also work if the batteries were modular and easy to swap. Keep one battery in your garage charging during the day from a rooftop solar panel, and when you get home, swap batteries.

    Of course, then each car would need two Li-ion batteries, doubling the demand on lithium as a commodity. ;-)

    Best,

    Gary Dikkers

    Comment by Gary Dikkers | May 15, 2008

  21. Benny said: “Lithium will be recycled, and there are nickel and other type batteries.”

    Yup, lithium is recyclable. But before you can recycle any of it, you would first need enough of it to equip hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of cars with Li-ion batteries weighting several hundred pounds.

    A million cars each carrying an Li-ion battery weighing 500 pounds would use up roughly 250,000 tons of the world’s lithium supply.

    In 2005 there were 247,421,120 cars in the U.S. I’m exaggerating of course, but if all of them were PHEVs equipped with Li-ion batteries, they would use 6.1 x 10^13 tons of lithium. (And that’s car batteries only, ignoring the millions of Li-ion batteries used in consumer electronics.)

    Once you had equipped all the cars in the U.S. with Li-ion batteries, then you could start recycling that lithium.

    The lesson here might be to buy stock in the lithium extraction industry.

    Best,

    Gary Dikkers

    Comment by Gary Dikkers | May 15, 2008

  22. Oops, that should be 6.1 x 10^7 tons.

    But you get my point. It’ still a lot of lithium — and that’s just in the U.S.

    Comment by Gary Dikkers | May 15, 2008

  23. The 250 watt hours per mile may be optimistic, I don’t know. I saw that figure somewhere for an aftermarket plugin Prius, so that’s what I tend to use. I’ve even seen figures as low as 150 watt hours per mile. I think 250 is a good number for back of the envelope calculations. I would expect at electric only car designed for efficiency to be more efficient than a modified Prius though. Unless GM designs it ;-)

    The battery discussion is important. Are there enough raw materials to make all these batteries? I’ve never seen any hard numbers so I just don’t know. That’s another reason I like bicycles. We won’t be hitting peak bicycles any time soon.

    Comment by Brad | May 15, 2008

  24. If anyone is reading a veiled message of “overpopulation problems” into my posts, I can assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. I tend to be skeptical of crisis-mongering in general, often to the point of mockery.

    I’m simply making the observation that, given the inexorable march of technology-driven progress (which I think is a good thing), overall net demand for energy will continue to rise. The most advanced countries will start using somewhat less, emerging countries will use much more.

    EV’s if they are successful, will hopefully reduce some of the inefficiencies of vehicle energy usage. They will tend to alleviate the demand for petroleum, at least as far as driving them is concerned, and the pollution that results. (Don’t know about energy demands of battery manufacture.) EV’s will greatly increase the demand for electricity, which will greatly increase the demand for burning coal, at least for the next 20-30 years until suitable alternatives are deployed in sufficient scale. Electicity prices will rise, and coal-plant pollution will increase significantly.

    The solutions being proposed (solar, battery-powered vehicles, ethanol) all have environmental impacts and resource burdens of their own. Scaling them up to a large enough degree to make a difference, will insure that costs stay high for probably close to a generation. Unless we come up technological solutions with far less resource needs than those at present.

    Gary makes the point quite well for lithium. Solar PV panel prices, after coming down from the peaks two years ago, maintain at levels roughly 10-15% higher than in 2003. Availability this year has once again become an issue. I keep hearing about the impending glut in module supply, but it hasn’t been realized yet.

    That’s why I believe that we’re in for a prolonged period of higher energy prices. Prices will increase until demand finally does soften, and we’ll learn to use energy much more wisely, without government coercion. This is a good thing albeit difficult, and IMO is where most of the “solutions” to our energy problems will come from, in the near future.

    Comment by iftheshoefits | May 15, 2008

  25. There is a misnomer that keeps popping up. That is that our grid has to be boosted to handle PHEVs. We can guess that most PHEVs will charge up at night, when demand on the grid is less. Certainly, time-metered electrical rates would all but guarantee this. Remember, our electrical grid has been constructed to handle peak demands, generally hot afternoons in summer. Except for rare brown-outs, the grids works.
    There will be some additional electrical demand from PHEVs. Wind, geothermal and nukes could easily additional the addtional demand — if necessary.
    By chance, I happen to be working with architects in the last six months. The improvement in lighting and other energy-using aspects of “built space” are truly inspiring. We can expect that overall electrical demand will go down in future years. If electrical rates rise, certainly so.
    The price mechanism: It is amazing, and will turn almost any commodity shortage into a glut. Just give it time.
    I read te Iranians are storing oil in seagoing tankers kept dockside, as they have no place to put the stuff awaiting sale. First signal?
    Maybe, just maybe.

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 15, 2008

  26. A million cars each carrying an Li-ion battery weighing 500 pounds would use up roughly 250,000 tons of the world’s lithium supply.

    Ummm, you do realize lithium batteries are made of more than just lithium. Right?

    I believe the Chevy Volt battery pack has something like 2 kg of metallic lithium, but I can’t find the source right now. Anyway, the lithium shortage is more hype than fact.

    Comment by doggydogworld | May 15, 2008

  27. The Tesla has a 50kWh battery which is good for 200miles at .25 kWh/mile.
    Li batteries are around .4 kg of lithium per kWh depends on the manufacturer but they are all pretty close. So 13kg per Tesla. We build 60 million cars a years so say they are all Teslas, that’s 780,000 tons of lithium per year. Current demand for lithium is 21 million tons per year.

    Comment by robert | May 15, 2008

  28. Robert-
    Does worldwide demand for lithium include all the pills my mother takes?
    Seriously, great post. Looks like the lithium “shortage” is bogus.
    Bring on the PHEVs! A cleaner, more prosperous world, more energy security. I still see no downsides to the commercializtion of PHEVs.

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 15, 2008

  29. There’s no misnomer on my part. I fully understand the concept of existing grid capacity and off-hours utilitization. I sell solar PV systems for a living, and time-of-use crediting is a major factor in determining the rate of growth of the solar market.

    If we consume more electricity, the supply of available generating sources consumed or harvested must increase by the same amount. Ideally, those increases would come from solar, wind, geothermal, etc, etc. But those sources aren’t forecasted to even fully close the existing projected gaps, not taking new EV loading into account. My hunch is that the price points for clean energy sources won’t drop enough to make those happen on the scale that is hoped, not with the current tight supplies everywhere.

    So that means more coal and nuke to make up the gaps. I’m not against nuke, but in the next 20-30 years bringing more nuke on line will be slow. For the rest of my lifetime, then, EVs mean a lot more coal-based pollution. This is all the more true if we rely on existing generating capacity running harder at nighttime, because that existing excess capacity is primarly coal as I understand it. Existing hydro has no more to give, more flow at night means less during the day. I would love to be wrong, but I just don’t see how it could wind up any different.

    So to me, EV’s mean dirtier air to come where I live. Now if there were an initiative to really ratchet up the existing level of pollution scrubbing on existing coal capacity (I don’t even know if that’s feasible), then I would be less worried.

    EVs are a great concept, like biofuels. Like biofuels, getting them to scale enough to get past the noise level in their overall impact will continue to be a tremendous challenge.

    Comment by iftheshoefits | May 15, 2008

  30. The Chevy volt has a 16kWh battery with a 40 mile all electric range. I can’t find a lithium content either. If my .4 kg per kWh holds, that would suggest 6.4kg of lithium per battery. The battery vendor is A123. Their lithium phosphate batteries don’t have the specific energy of the lithium ion laptop batteries Tesla uses, but they don’t catch fire in your lap either.

    How much electricty do we use that we have to use? If there were blackouts and/or electricity was expensive we could cut our electric usage 20% with no decrease in standard of living. I was a Californian so I been there done that. We use what half our electricity for lighting with incandescent bulbs. Replace with CFLs or LEDs and that like puts 40% of our electric generators out of business. 10% of the electric load is vampires. Wall warts that we plug in the wall and suck power even when they are off. Then there’s the fridge in the garage that is keeping two sixpacks of beer cold. In the long run, we’ll have all the solar power we want.
    In the short run, we may see spot shortages and adjustments.

    Just like oil isn’t running out but only light sweet crude is, it’s dime electricity that’s an endangered species. Not electricity in general. In 5-10 years, solar electricity will reach grid parity in most of the country.

    Comment by robert | May 15, 2008

  31. Doggy said: “Ummm, you do realize lithium batteries are made of more than just lithium. Right?”

    Yes, of course. I was just doing a quick back of the envelope computation to get order of magnitude. In a 500 pound Li-ion battery, a large percentage of that weight would be the case. A Li-ion car battery would need a very robust case capable of withstanding high-speed crashes.

    Two Chevy Volts running into each other at 65 mph would scatter lithium all over the countryside if the cases burst open, and whatever fire department responded to the crash site wouldn’t be too happy to find themselves facing a lithium fire.

    Trucks hauling lithium batteries must be placarded as carrying hazardous cargo. Do you think GM and Nissan will have to placard their cars with Li-ion batteries to warn fire fighters and first responders?

    “I believe the Chevy Volt battery pack has something like 2 kg of metallic lithium, but I can’t find the source right now. Anyway, the lithium shortage is more hype than fact.”

    I’d better a dollar to a donut the Volt battery pack will have more than two kg of lithium, but would like to know for sure. If you find the reference, please post.

    Thank you for this link: Lithium shortage

    It is helpful.

    Best,

    Gary Dikkers

    Comment by Gary Dikkers | May 15, 2008

  32. Iftheshoe:
    Texas is installing enough windmills in just two projects (one is the Pickens fandango)to power almost 2 million homes, or roughly one percent of the US pop….look what Germany is doing…
    true, due to regs, nuking up will be slow…but maybe we can design one plant, and replicate it quickly….something like the French….
    I don’t follow your reasoning on elec. consumption…if it is spread out more evenly in the 24-hour cycle, then installed capacity might be enough..it if spikes, then maybe not….PHEVs don’t promise a daytime spike, and existing demand will actually start falling due to more-efficient lighting….
    by the way….the California brownouts were an Enron thing, not a real thing….
    Bring on the PHEVs!

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 15, 2008

  33. I know the California brownouts were engineered by Enron. I’m just saying we reduced electricity demand 10% by turning off the lights when we weren’t using them. Without spending a dime.

    Comment by robert | May 15, 2008

  34. Gary Dikkers said, “Yes, of course. I was just doing a quick back of the envelope computation to get order of magnitude.

    Unfortunately your “order of magnitude” calculation is off by 1.5 orders of magnitude. There is no pure lithium metal in a LiIon battery.

    The anode of a conventional Li-ion cell is made from carbon, the cathode is a metal oxide, and the electrolyte is a lithium salt in an organic solvent.

    One of the common cells uses LiCoO2 cathode. Consult the periodic table. Li has mass 3, Co 27, O 16, so the cathode molecule has mass 62, of which Li is 4.8%. This is just the cathode.

    The lithium salt might be LiPF6. P has mass 15, F has mass 9. Molecule mass is thus 72. Li is 4.2%, and that doesn’t count the organic solvent.

    The carbon anode has no lithium.

    When you add in the other components, I would guess the Li content of cell is under 3%.

    Comment by eak | May 15, 2008

  35. iftheshoefits said, “You hit the nail on the head. For every drop of efficiency we can squeeze out of our current uses for petroleum and electricity, we seem to more than counter with new uses, and increased demand from developing nations.

    FYI, California has kept per capita electricity usage constant since the 1970s (when it started trying to promote efficiency with the Warren-Alquist Act). Consumption in the both California and the rest of the US around 7,000 kWh per person. California kept its usage flat for 35 years while the rest of the US increased by 80% or so. The usage countries such as Japan and Germany is similar to California.

    If the Feds were to adopt California’s policies, and US kWh per capita usage fell back to 7,000 kWh over the 35 years it took for it to bloat in the first place, this increase in efficiency would more than compensate for the increase in the US population, which is expected to be 392 million in 2040. In 2005 the US used 3660 TWh. 392 million times 7,000 kWh is 2744 TWh. Thus we could reduce generation by 25% despite the increase in population.

    The part of your comment about developing nations is however an issue.

    Comment by eak | May 15, 2008

  36. robert said, “The Tesla has a 50kWh battery which is good for 200miles at .25 kWh/mile.

    None of your numbers above are not correct. You can find the correct data here.
    Try 53, 245, and 0.310 instead.

    Comment by eak | May 15, 2008

  37. Friends: This if from DOE. The grid is up to it.

    A new report authored by US DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratories or PNNL now seems to have laid that argument to rest. The study assumed that “current batteries for these cars can easily store the energy for driving the national average commute – about 33 miles round trip a day…” States the report:

    If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. A new study for the Department of Energy finds that “off-peak” electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84 percent of the country’s 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

    So, the grid can handle it. On lithium, it seems China is goig to start producing. Meanwhile, the dollars being discusses re miniscule. Something like $15 million to start up a new lithium recovery plant….
    Crush OPEC and thug states, bring on the PHEVs!

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 15, 2008

  38. eak,

    If the tesla can do 245 miles at .31kwh/miles, isn’t that 76kWh.

    Whether the tesla battery pack holds 50kWh, 53kWh, or 56kWh, depends on how you charge it, how you discharge it, and a million other things. I’ve seen all three numbers in print.

    Tesla has a range of 245 miles on a treadmill. YMMV. It won’t do that on a level road at posted highway speeds.

    Comment by robert | May 16, 2008

  39. eak,

    I don’t disagree at all about California’s policies leading to more efficient consumption. Whatever the legislative or other reasons have been, California’s current rates, as I understand them, are in the range of $.16-$.24 cents/kwh in most places, with some TOU rates going into the 30’s. I pay $.06 here in UT, $.09-.12 seems pretty typical in most places. Rates go up, per capita consumption comes down. Rates will have to go up across the board to accommodate substanital EV demand, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. But it will happen.

    Benny,
    I’m not sure what’s so confusing about what I’m saying. A coal-fired plant (or any other generating plant, for that matter) that is emitting pollution during the day, emits much less at night while it’s sitting idle or at lower power levels. Take that idle time away, with better utilization to charge EVs, and it emits pollution a lot greater percentage of the time. Looking at the whole picture across the board, having EV’s shift the pollution burden may be a good net pollution tradeoff to make. I’m not convinced, but that might end up being the case.

    In any event it’s not without its negative impacts. And it continues the trend of pushing detrimental environmental impacts of energy consumption “somewhere else” which is most definitely not a good thing IMO. I’m being a stickler here but I think the EV proponents need to acknowledge this a bit more readily than what I see.

    Comment by iftheshoefits | May 16, 2008

  40. This fresh from Wired’s website:

    “General Motors says it’s nailed the lithium-ion battery technology at the heart of the Chevrolet Volt and is consistently achieving a range of 40 miles in road tests, thereby clearing a big hurdle to getting the car built by 2010.”

    40 miles makes it a commuter car that rarely uses gasoline.

    OPEC is dead.

    Iftheshoe:

    Yes, but we can use increased wind/solar/geothermal in daytime, subbing for coal plants.

    Most studies conclude having a few big pollution sources is better than milions of little ones. Easier to clean up. And we can hope nukes to most of the night-job someday.

    Comment by benny "peak demand" cole | May 16, 2008

  41. “General Motors says it’s nailed the lithium-ion battery technology at the heart of the Chevrolet Volt and is consistently achieving a range of 40 miles in road tests, thereby clearing a big hurdle to getting the car built by 2010.”

    Put a gas-powered generator from Home Depot in the trunk of a Tesla,and you’ve got a PHEV with a 200 mi. electric range. What’s taking the big boys so long?

    Comment by Maury | May 16, 2008

  42. Is anyone else a little worried about the flop solar cycle 24 seems to be? Cycle 25 was supposed to be the weak one. If we don’t get some sunspots soon,we’ll have a lot more worries than the price of oil. Like how to feed 6 billion people with the prime farmland under a mile of ice….

    Comment by Maury | May 16, 2008

  43. Current demand for lithium is 21 million tons per year.

    Thousand, not million.

    Consult the periodic table. Li has mass 3, Co 27, O 16, so the cathode molecule has mass 62,…

    Actually Li is about 7, Co 59 (atomic number != atomic weight). Your methodology holds, LiCoO2 cells are about 4% lithium. The Volt will use LiFePO4 or LiMn2O4, which have lower lithium ratios. My 2 kg lithium per Volt is low though, based on this math it looks more like 4-5 kg.

    Beware: lithium reserves and consumption are sometimes expressed in terms of tons of lithium carbonate (Li2CO3), which is only about 19% lithium.

    “The Tesla has a 50kWh battery which is good for 200miles at .25 kWh/mile.

    As Eak noted, Tesla range tests show 310 Wh/mile. But as you note this implies a 76 kWh charge vs. their stated 53 kWh battery capacity. I never got them to explain this, but it seems their charger was only 70% efficient (76 kWh at the wall plug = 53 kWh in the battery). Official range tests for EV-1 showed even lower efficiencies, but NiMH is notoriously inefficient whereas lithium usually specs out much better. AC Propulsion, which originally developed the Tesla system, measured 95% efficiency at a Michelen Bibendium competition (and Tesla uses 95% in their marketing materials). I don’t know if the 95% is bogus, if Telsa broke something in the design or if they simply used a really bad charger for their range tests. It’s a bit of a mystery.

    Comment by doggydogworld | May 16, 2008

  44. http://www.thestar.com/Business/article/175800

    Oops thousands. Thanks. We have enough proven reserves for half a billion cars. And we haven’t really looked for lithium since it was cheap and nobody wanted it. People have scoured the globe looking for oil and we can see discoveries peaked in the 50s whenever it was. At some weight penalty, we can substitute sodium ions for lithium ions and there is no shortage of sodium. We’ll always be able to make a battery.

    Comment by robert | May 16, 2008

  45. If we consume more electricity, the supply of available generating sources consumed or harvested must increase by the same amount.

    Sounds logical, but consider this. In 2006 388 GW of US natural gas powerplants used 6.87 Tcf of natural gas to generate 813 TWh of electricity (EIA data). This is only 24% duty cycle and 8450 heat rate because we use so many single-cycle peakers to handle demand variations. If we used smart-charging PHEVs to flatten the demand curve we could use 5800 heat rate combined-cycle plants instead and get 46% more kWhs out of each Tcf of natural gas. That’s 370 TWh of extra electricity, enough for 1.5 trillion vehicle miles! That’s more than half our total vehicle miles without burning any extra NG!

    More to the point, smart charging PHEVs are a great match for variable resources such as wind. If all new cars were PHEVs we’d need 16 GW of new wind each year to fuel them. We did 5.1 GW last year, a number which grows 30%/year. At this growth rate we install more than 16 GW in 2012, long before PHEVs reach 100% market share.

    Everyone talks about PHEVs being coal-burners but no one ever does the math.

    Comment by doggydogworld | May 16, 2008

  46. “If we used smart-charging PHEVs to flatten the demand curve we could use 5800 heat rate combined-cycle plants instead and get 46% more kWhs out of each Tcf of natural gas.”

    Assuming for the sake of argument that all of the preceding claims are correct, perhaps we could use these 5800 plants, but would we? It will depend mostly on natural gas fuel costs relative to coal. My understanding is that coal wins out by a wide margin. moreso if petroleum costs continue to rise. The whole rationale presented to me is that PHEV’s en masse provide a nice steady predictable baseline load. Well that’s what the large coal and nuke plants are for. Use the least expensive generating capcity wherever you can. We could do all sorts of things, my argument is that we’ll go with least cost coal and push the pollution “out there”.

    And do the 5800 cycle plants exist, can other less efficient plants be converted, or do we have to build new? Remember, the argument is that PHEV’s utilize existing capacity, little or no new capacity is needed.

    Comment by iftheshoefits | May 16, 2008

  47. I’m having problems getting past all the hopeful talk on batteries. I sell battery-based solar power systems, both off-grid and grid tie. I much prefer battery-based systems to batteryless, as with the current state of things batteryless systems are useless when utility power is down.

    But, batteries are a hard sell to customers. They were difficult when average costs were in the $2-3 K range, and at 3.5-5K it isn’t getting any easier. I could probably increase my sales of residential power systems 4-5x in a single years time, EVs or no EVs, if we just had decent batteries. As it is, lead-acid deep cycle batteries have now doubled in price in the last 4-5 years due to lead shortages. It’s a 100 year old technology with about 75-80% overall charge efficiency, and is a mess to deal with, but it basically works for those who need it.

    Amortized replacement costs for lead-acid are roughly equivalent to the cost of paying the utility each month. Battery-based solar is great, but it ain’t cheap to buy or maintain.

    One would think with these types of price increases, we’d be hearing about the new technologies ready to come on line. Nada. I want to see it just as much as the rest of you, but this stuff is vaporware until we see it on the shelves and the showrooms. I think it’s cool stuff but I give it at least 10-15 years before it even begins to make any serious dent in demand. What are we going to do between now and then?

    Sorry to rain on the parade, but we’ve heard promise of new batteries and cheap thin film solar as long as I’ve been in the business. When next-generation bulk storage cells actually hit the market at a reasonable price, I guarantee you it will be the biggest development in the solar industry since grid tied inverters. I’m all ears…

    Comment by iftheshoefits | May 16, 2008

  48. Lithium batteries are way more expensive than the lead acid batteries you sell your solar customers. Car batteries don’t have to be cheaper than gridtie electricity. They compete against an internal combustion engine and the cost of gasoline.

    Sometime I get into a discussion with someone touting specs for a battery that doesn’t exist. But someone wrote it on the internet so it have to be true. Irritating. Electric cars still have lots of challenges to overcome. Otherwise we’d all be driving one now.

    Comment by robert | May 16, 2008

  49. perhaps we could use these 5800 plants, but would we?

    I don’t actually care that much, my first priority is to stop spending $600 billion/year plus military costs on oil imports. PHEVs, whether fueled by natgas, wind, nuke or coal, can achieve that.

    PHEVs are the only economical approach which gives us the option to fuel cars with wind — our cheapest and cleanest resource. If we build PHEVs I think we’ll make the obvious fuel choice. But of course there’s no guarantee.

    Comment by doggydogworld | May 16, 2008

  50. iftheshoefits said, “I don’t disagree at all about California’s policies leading to more efficient consumption. Whatever the legislative or other reasons have been, California’s current rates, as I understand them, are in the range of $.16-$.24 cents/kwh in most places, with some TOU rates going into the 30’s. I pay $.06 here in UT, $.09-.12 seems pretty typical in most places. Rates go up, per capita consumption comes down. Rates will have to go up across the board to accommodate substantial EV demand, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. But it will happen.

    Why post speculation when you can look up the answer if a few seconds?

    The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

    If one takes the EIA’s data for California’s residential rates (14.35 cents) and multiply by 7,032 kWh, you get $1009. If you take the US rate of 10.31 cents and multiply by 12,347 kWh you get $1273. (I apologize for mixing data from 2005 and 2007.) Apparently California’s policies save homeowners money.

    You also made a comment about TOU rates, but you miss the point of TOU rates; quoting the peak rate from TOU without the off-peak is inappropriate. Take PG&E’s E-9B rate (for EVs with a separate meter). California has rate tiers (big users pay more), and I’m not going to type in the whole table (look it up if you want the full story). Summer baseline is 28.413 peak, 10.118 part-peak, and 5.662 off-peak. Winter baseline is 10.152 part-peak, 6.438 off-peak. EVs charging is often started by a timer to get off-peak rates, so drivers see essentially 6 cents per kWh.

    Please justify your suggestion that EVs will raise electricity rates. That does not follow.

    You might find the graph titled “Using Off-Peak Power” on page 16 (PDF page 18) of the Fall 2005 EPRI Journal.

    Let me add that California has the ninth highest GDP per capita and the lowest kWh per capita. Efficiency does not seem incompatible with economic performance. Also, the industrial cost of electricity is higher in twelve other states.

    Comment by eak | May 17, 2008

  51. Maury said, “Put a gas-powered generator from Home Depot in the trunk of a Tesla,and you’ve got a PHEV with a 200 mi. electric range. What’s taking the big boys so long?

    Why waste the trunk? Use AC Propulsion’s Long Ranger instead (several were built and are still in use today):

    Comment by eak | May 17, 2008

  52. doggydogworld said, “Actually Li is about 7, Co 59 (atomic number != atomic weight).“.

    Thank you for the correction. I’ll think twice about posting at 12:55am next time.

    Comment by eak | May 17, 2008

  53. But where are the neodymium magnets used in the hybrid engine going to come from? Or what substitute will be found?

    Everyone in California is buying a Prius, which is great, except that we haven’t talked about where the raw materials will come from. The mothballed rare earth element mine at Mountain Pass, California has been called California’s largest polluter by the EPA. So for now, we get it all from mines in China.

    Given our history of jumping on trends and then condemning them (MTBE, ethanol, biodiesel), it will be interesting how we will get around the fact that hybrids currently produce radioactive waste (from the mining process)!

    http://www.greatbasinminewatch.org/mambo/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=101&Itemid=115

    If we are going to solve our energy and environmental problems, we need to get out of this cycle of embracing trends without considering the problems & risks involved.

    Comment by Jim Coombes | May 19, 2008


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