SAN JOSE, Calif.—Slow, steady improvement in battery technology over the past several decades as brought the world to the cusp of a tipping point that will lead to greater adoption of electric vehicles (EV) that could help curb civilization's reliance on fossil fuels, according to JB Straubel, chief technology and co-founder of Tesla Motors Inc.
Delivering a keynote address at the DESIGN West event here Wednesday (March 28), Straubel said that while critics often point out that there is no equivalent to Moore's Law in terms of battery technology improvement, battery technology has slowly improved over many decades, resulting in an average of 7 to 8 percent per year improvement in energy density.
Straubel said battery technology has improved to the point that EVs can offer a driving range of 200 miles or more under normal driving conditions on a full charge. Batteries will continue to improve to offer higher ranges, better performance and potentially lower costs, he said. "Cost is still the most important challenge for batteries," Straubel said.
Tesla was founded in 2003 with a mission to help drive the world toward sustainable transportation, Straubel said. He said that transportation is currently driven almost entirely by fossil fuels. In the U.S., he said, 96 percent of all transportation is drive by petroleum.
"We cannot keep doing that for decades to come," Straubel said. "Certainly not centuries."
Straubel said future generations are likely to wonder why so much of the world's finite supply of petroleum was squandered on relatively short car rides, which he said could relatively easily be replaced with using electric vehicles. In the U.S., he said, about half of petroleum use comes from people who commute 20 to 50 miles per day. While such commuting is easily within the range of EVs from Tesla and others, replacing the petroleum used for longer trips and especially for things like airplane flights is still far beyond current technology's capabilities, Straubel said.
When Tesla got started, there were no active EV programs at any major car companies, Straubel said. Many have since come around and are developing and marketing EVs. Straubel said he finds it ironic that when Tesla was launched, the founders were often asked why if EVs were such a good idea no one else was building them, but that, now that other automakers are offering EVs, Tesla is often asked if it can succeed when so many are working on EVs.
Straubel said Tesla applauds the fact that major automakers have come around. Making a real dent in fossil fuel consumption requires that all automakers offer EVs, he said.
"If we'd launched out to sea and no one followed, if the whole industry sort of stood on the shor and watched, that would have been a really difficult place," Straubel said.
Straubel noted that Tesla has been putting the capability it has developed for making EV components to use for other automakers, including a 2011 deal with Toyota Motor Corp. to supply EV power train systems for use in electric versions of Toyota's Rav4, expected to be available later this year.
It is really a very stringent requirement of the present day that automotive batteries as will get some form of Moor's Law. Straubel's quote of 7 to 8 percent increase in the battery performance every year is not sufficient for usage of batteries for automotive purpose for longer run.
Moore's law is predicated on having the processing techniques being the limiting factor rather than the materials properties being the limiting factor. Batteries have been at the materials limit for a while. Making a significant breakthrough in battery capacity and cycle life would required developing new materials. This would be akin to developing a new class of semiconductors.
$20,000 sounds better than $30,000, but it sounds like around $30,000 is hope for the low price for the third-generation models. And yes, I am sure for the low-end model the range won't be 300 miles per charge. Even the pricing on the Model S covers quite a broad range, starting at $50,000 but going all the way up to about $90,000, I believe. And the biggest factor in the price differention is battery packs and range.
We are no where near a tipping point! Lithium batteries lose 25% of their capacity per year. That's 300, 225, 150, 75, 0 miles range after 4 years and the car is not worth putting a new battery in. As lovely a dream as EVs are, they are far, far from a practical option. They are a Marie Antoinette solution. If people have no bread to eat, let them eat cake!
Is the capacity loss year really that high? I've never heard 25% per year. Looking around on the web, the numbers I see are lower than that. Still, your point about capacity loss being an issue, even if it's not 25%, is relevant I think.
25%/year is far, far higher than Tesla Roadster drivers have experienced. Automotive-grade Li batteries, in the highly pampered environment that the cars enforce, are seeing annual degradation rates of about 25% cumulatively over six years of regular use.
EV is not exactly taking off, despite mass-market offerings and large subsidies:
The article's author is a clear supporter of EV, but the numbers defy the optimism. It is a niche market, and likely will remain that way without some fundamental change in technology.
As to the suggestions of using large banks of improved lead-acid batteries in EV, that seems like an entirely predictable environmental catastrophe, especially in second and third world countries.
Great, I've got a new EV that doesn't use fossil fuels. Wait a minute, where am I getting the E for my new EV? OOHHH! from fossil fuels! Without clean E, EV's are a waste of time and a mirage to the ever existing fossil fuel problem.
Are we all that stupid that we can't see the whole picture instead of just one tiny piece of it?
Cars are not the problem. Clean and safe energy generation is the problem. Without clean and safe energy generation we are all fooling ourselves that EV's are going to save the world.
A gas-fired car will always have a bad emissions profile. An EVs' indirect emissions will get better as the power sector gets better. With EVs, therefore, you automatically amplify the benefits of adding clean generation. Moreover, even on today's first-world grids, EVs result in far fewer emissions--you can add advanced pollution control devices to power plants, but not to 300 million cars.
Yes. In my state, Tennessee, 53% of electrical power comes from coal, 3% from natural gas, 33% from nuclear, and 11% from "renewables". Since for all practical purposes nuclear can be considered a zero emission renewable, driving an EV here has a 44% advantage over an ICE vehicle in terms of fossil fuel usage.
That said, it is also mountainous in my area. We get no where near the advertised mileage, with any vehicle, but the resulting reduction in range of EVs here is unacceptable. Until the battery technology is greatly improved, an EV here is really just not practical.
That depends a lot on where one lives. Many in Southern Cal have SCE as their utility. SCE currently has 44% zero carbon sources and 37% from natural gas. The zero carbon is increasing rapidly. Some is listed as "unknown" so it is not assured that the rest is all coal, but I'll assume worst case it is. With that mix, an electric car would have FAR lower carbon footprint than ICE.
EV's make a lot of sense here where we have carbon friendly power and a density/geography problem that causes smog. We are also a big market for hybrids/EV's because of those reasons and that the state gives stickers that allow people to use the carpool lanes as single drivers.
So cover the building where you work with solar panels so you (and others) can recharge it there without using fossil fuel E. Yes, it's expensive, but a govenment subsidy would help. With battery and solar technology getting better all the time we should be able to get nearer to zero emissions as time goes on.
General availability: I want to buy an EV - they are just not available across the US yet (the Volt is a Hybrid, not an EV).
Where do you get the "E"? I agree that clean and safe generation is an issue. Lowering our consumption of energy would also be advantageous. I just installed a solar voltaic array on my house for the eventual support of an EV. So while I await actual availability of vehicles, I will just be lowering the amount of electricity I get from our local significantly-hydro-generated power grid.
As long as you insist on carrying around your own oxidizer, you'll always lose on energy density. I favor a standard format aluminum-air primary battery or a fuel cell, which in either case uses "free" reagent for half of the reaction.
A prismatic Al-air battery set could take seconds to swap (not hours to charge), you could carry a spare to ease "charge jitters", nobody has to handle high voltage high current charging at the consumer end. The battery station is also a zero-consumer-effort head end for recycling the material in a closed loop. Standard tractor-
trailer delivery just like gasoline.
A tank-fed fuel cell would have a relatively high comfort factor, pumping is pumping more or less, and ought to be on an energy density par with (or better than) fuel alcohol / E85, which our government sees fit to subsidize so it must be great and suitably performing stuff. Methanol could be totally infrastructure compatible at the
consumer outlet end. Fuel cells compatible with longer chain hydrocarbons, I haven't heard much about but a feedstock-agnostic reformer that yielded free hydrogen and carbon powder, would fix your greenhouse problem right up.
You guys have got EVs all wrong.
The Volt and Tesla are "statement" vehicles - like an H3 or corvette. Not what the future of EVs will eventually be.
The real EV market is for a sub $10000 car, with rubber floor mats and two seats. A dock for your cell phone, speedometer, and charge gauge, that's it. No heater, just heated seats. Ultra basic, ultra reliable, no maintanence except for the battery. Underpowered. New battery every 3 years.
Your second car, you drive to work. Or your kids drive it to school. Or your kids drive it at college.
Will the current car companies make this? No way. They want to sell $40k cars. A car like this will come from a company that has no market share at all - like Volkswagen did with the bug. Compare the bug to the cars of the 50s. It is ridiculous how cramped and underpowered it was, but people loved them as a second car. Cause they were cheap and reliable (in their own way).
So picture a car that you get a Costco or Walmart - that is about as complex as a washing machine.
Exactly - today the subcompacts cost as much as the big cars (and their mpg isn't all that great either). How cheaply could a single model car be built that complied with USA regulations (safety, pollution)? An Indian Nano made in the US for the US market perhaps. The French 2CV was a great hit in France for years.
@@d_kmuller: right on! A major percentage of the automobile usage is some one commuting to work, more than 90% of the time alone! That use case fits what you propose perfectly. And that use case is also a major contributor to the pollution.
Multiphasic energy scavenging is the only viable solution to reducing fossil fuel consumption. The problem was described by another poster...."where does the 'E' come from"? Unless it's hydroelectric, most likely it's either from burning fossil fuels or far worse - nuclear fission. Harvesting energy and converting it to E and ME from all conceivable aspects, i.e light, kinetic, wind (the turbulent eddies behind the vehicle), vibration, heat, etc. is necessary. One might have to drive a little slower or lighten the load at night though...
Let's assume that the combustion engine has just been invented and that all the vehicles on the road were electric. Re-charging batteries at charge points for a number of hours, we're even used to having trailing connecting cables. Along comes the combustion engine and a network of petrol stations is suggested to allow you to fill your fuel tank in a matter of minutes, sending you quickly on your way. The life of the car is dependent on how you you treat it - maybe even 20 years. I think we'd all take that.
For Evs to cross the tipping point the focus should be to put them in all kind public transportation where the daily routes , mileage between stops , etc is predictable and the recharging patterns can match exactly the usage pattern and maximum mileage can be retrieved during the lifespan of the bateeries.
The “environmental” justification for the EV is reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, carbon dioxide emissions from a natural gas hybrid (CNG-hybrid) are less than that of an EV. Of course, we are talking about a hypothetical CNG-hybrid, since we know of none on the market. We assume such a hybrid would have the same fuel efficiency as the average hybrid (31%), and 50% of the electricity for an equivalent EV is generated from coal-fired plants, and 20% from natural gas. In which case, carbon dioxide emissions for an EV are 124% that of an equivalent CNG-hybrid. The cost premium for a hybrid is considerably less than that of an EV. For example, the Toyota Prius (MSRP of $24,000 and fuel efficiency of 37%) sells for about $4,000 more than an equivalent gasoline vehicle. In addition, this vehicle already meets the 2025 CAFE standards. Compare this to the Volt with an MSRP of $39,000. We assume a CNG-hybrid, where the gasoline engine is replaced with a CNG internal combustion engine, would sell for roughly the same as the gasoline equivalent. In any case, we would bet on the auto industry’s ability to reduce the cost of a CNG-hybrid over reducing the cost of an electric vehicle. With the abundance of natural gas in the U.S., it seems that the auto industry is going in the wrong direction. If the industry moved to natural gas vehicles, they could kill two birds with one stone—get off of oil, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, even below that of an EV.
I think we should be very thankful that EV adoption is so slow. We have no-where near the capacity in our electricity generation or grid to handle any sort of mass switchover from fossil fuels to electric. Currently, the total electic consumption of our energy profile amounts to only 3% of our total energy consumption (North America). The majority of the remaining 97% is fossil fuel consumption for passenger cars. Our grid would collapse if there was a major switchover. Certainly it will lead to much higher electricity rates in the future and that will compete with domestic and industral use.
So go slow, we need to build up the infrastructure... lots more power plants.
So true! With the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant, there are once again concerns about rolling blackouts this summer in southern California.
The grid can barely sustain our existing electric power usage, and today there are a negligible number of EVs being plugged into it for recharging.
As you said, we need lots more power plants, otherwise rolling blackouts and much higher electricity rates will become routine as EVs reach the "tipping point" of mass market adoption.
If people want to drive more eco-friendly vehicles, they should buy hybrids, not EVs.
Yes, that is PRECISELY the artithmetic that the battery electrics people like to ignore.
And it's not just a matter of how the electricity is generated for the grid. It is also a matter of how much more grid capacity would be required, even if we assume that everyone will dutifully only charge their EVs between the hours of 11 PM and 6 AM.
Solar power and EVs are the ideal combination. Solar is only available some of the time which makes it useless for base load. Yet a lot of vehicles are unused for almost exactly the time that solar power is peaking. So put the two together. Its the ideal way of evening out the peaks and troughs in solar availability.
I think people should be wary of sloganeering from politicians. What is this "carbon-free" source of power in California? Is it the carbon-free that instead creates nuclear waste that no one has yet figured out how to dispose of?
We have to manage this problem, no use politically-minded slogans to wish it away.
My bet is on "hybrids" run by fuel cells. They can create H2 from any number of hydrocarbon fuels, and they should create about half of the CO2 that ICEs create, for a given amount of power.
Nuclear, hydro, solar, geothermal and wind is all in the "carbon-free" mix of CA. Of course that does ignore carbon emissions from manufacturing and construction. Consider it like "fat-free" on a label... if it's less than half a gram, they get to round down to zero.
As for nuclear, I would certainly not agree with the notion that no one has yet figured out how to dispose of the waste. Reprocessing reduces the amount significantly, and what little would remain can be put underground and monitored. If you want to worry about nuclear, worry about the real problems of mismanagement within the industry such as led to Chernobyl and Fukishima rather than the outlandishly small risk that society falls apart and our waste repositories cannot be properly maintained. As with many issues, dealing with the waste is a political problem, not a technical one.
I'm an engineer, so I disregard sloganeering and spin whether from a politician or elsewhere.
My house uses 80 kWh/day in the summer. Adding another 32 kWh/day for cars (two cars @ 50 miles/day @ 16 kWh/50 miles) isn't a huge increase, and it happens during off-peak time. So my neighborhood infrastructure can handle it. Or they are charged by solar panels in the parking lot during the day.
Aside from personal anecdotal data, would adding the energy use of transportation to the electric grid be a big impact or not?
Then look at two key tables:
Table 2.1 shows that energy used for transportation in the US was 27.5 quadrillion BTUs, in 2010. Whereas energy used for homes was 22.2 quadrillion BTUs. So in fact, that's more energy for transportation. But is that fair? What about transportation that isn't related to privately owned vehicles?
So then you look at table 2.12, and you'll discover that the vast majority of energy used in transportation, in the US, is in fact privately owned vehicles (cars, SUVs, etc.)
Whether more than doubling energy demands from the electric grid consitutes something negligible or not is perhaps up for debate. Ditto for whether all this extra demand can be assumed to come during non-peak hours.
I believe you are failing to consider the vast difference in energy efficiency of electricity to wheel verses gasoline to wheel. It would not take nearly 27.5 quadrillion BTUs of electricity to replace that many BTUs of gasoline, as most of the energy in gasoline is wasted as heat.
"I believe you are failing to consider the vast difference in energy efficiency of electricity to wheel verses gasoline to wheel"
You mean, efficiency of electricity to the wheels after that electricity has already left the battery in the car and is on its way to the motors? Or you mean, BTUs overall, required to generate, transport through the grid, and then store that electricity in the battery, and keep it there until it is actually needed to run the motors, and finally used? In many states, the bulk of electricity comes from coal, don't forget.
Another thing is, if a significant proportion of vehicles are to be EVs, that will mean that not just subcompact cars with super hard and skinny tires will be EVs, as they tend to be now.
I think there are a lot of assumptions made here, to conclude that battery electrics are the next big thing. And not to forget all those people who do not have a garage at home, with that convenient 230 VAC outlet.
My bet for EVs is to generate the electricity on board, from fuels that have high energy content and an existing distribution system.
Electric vehicles would not use 22.7 QD BTU. Gasoline vehicles are about 20% efficient, and electric vehicles 90% efficient. Therefore, electric energy needed is (0.2/0.9)22.7 = 5 QD BTU. Nevertheless, a 1GW power plant is needed for about every 2 million autos. Since there are about 220M auto and light trucks, about 100 additional large (1GW) power plants would be needed to power an all-electric fleet.
Actually, the improvement in lighting efficiency from the use of CFLs, LEDs and perhaps OLEDs will free up enough grid capacity to charge the most optimistic number of EVs on US roads for the next ten years or so.
Lighting accounts for 18% of the US annual electricity usage of 4 trillion kWh, 1% of which equals 40 billion kWh. At a conservative 3 miles per kWh for an EV, this translates to 120 billion miles annually, or 10 million EVs at 12,000 miles per year.
By then solar kicks in.
Flies in the ointment: many people do not like the light from a CFL, and people resist paying more for bulb, or anything, even if it saves them a bundle.
"Whether more than doubling energy demands from the electric grid consitutes something negligible or not is perhaps up for debate."
To be more accurate, that's more than doubling the energy that the grid has to distribute to homes, not overall.
Did any of you gentlemen commenting ever consider using many of the non-fossil based energies other than solar (sun- light or heat)to DIRRECTLY power EVs?
We have and I am sure others have. Grid power is only useful as a standard source of energy during the development of EVs. As a world of new energies hits the market drastic changes will take place including the demise of the grid in favor of newer more cost efficient localized use of Green energy products presently well tested and being production designed. Quantum Phys WILL prevail!
For powering EVs, yes, I concur. That's why I suggested, recently but also on other occasions:
"My bet for EVs is to generate the electricity on board, from fuels that have high energy content and an existing distribution system."
I think that engineering solutions are always transitional. No answer is ever truly THE final one. So in the matter of EVs, I just don't see batteries, as the main energy storage solution, being viable for truly mass usage of EVs in the next few decades. Battery storage will confine EVs to second class citizenship, IMO.
Although I'm not so sure about the demise of the power grid, in favor of everyone going back to, essentially, the way homes were run in colonial times.
Based on battery manufacturer's claims, EVs are on the cusp of being economically viable in NA compared to conventionial vehicles.
In Europe, with $7 per gallon gas, they are economically viable on paper.
Indeed, we will have crossed a major threshold when EVs can generate their required electricity on board.
What we need is Dr. Emmett Brown's futuristic DeLorean that was powered by a "Mr. Fusion" reactor that ran on banana peels and other organic matter :)
It's not such a futuristic concept, though. You can separate out the H2 from a hydrocarbon fuel, like gasoline or E85 or whatever, on board. And then you feed that H2 to a fuel cell on board, and the electricity to electric motors.
You can do an online search and see that people are working on just this sort of scheme.
Since fuel cells have a hatd time with generating high current bursts of energy, a hybrid-sized battery is probably needed too.
I still don't think battery (Li-ion or any kind) be a good solution to power up EV. Even with 30min fast charge time is still too long for recharging and I bet it more or less hurt the battery run time (life) with today's battery chemistry. I hope some day we can have better energy storage technology to really boost the performance. Of course, some gentlemen above mentioned that at the end the energy has to be self-generated onboard. Wind, Solar or ??? I just don't know what will happen but surely something great must happen before we can claim cars to be free from fossil fuel.
I agree with Bert. Batteries blow, and will always blow for any realistic solution to replace gas. Synthetic fuel converted from natural gas with a fisher-tropsch type process, or generated from renewables in a similar fashion could use the existing infrastructure and offer something closer to the energy density we're accustomed to.
As we continue to deplete the supply of fossils fuels they will become ever more expensive. Few of us will even be able to afford the gas for a 100 mpg fossil fuel vehicle. Certainly in the next 20-30 years we will experience this. We will dramatically change our transportation requirements - live closer to work, live in smaller self contained communities etc. Between now and then EVs will become a major part of our transportation infrastructure. I believe we see a combination of incremental improvements along with some quantum leaps forward in energy storage systems. I won't call them batteries because they won't resemble anything like the battery we have today.
Really? Look back 10 years, 20 years, 50 years...the reserves of fossil fuels keep getting bigger as we discover new reserves and the "known" reserves keep expanding even though we are consuming more. Natural gas has expanded into known reserves of hundreds of years with the discovery of shale gas...with the mild winter in the US, there is talk of near term negative pricing (that's right... suppliers paying some customer to TAKE gas) in the WSJ. Seems unlikely, but the bottom line is that fossil fuel energy is not running out in our lifetimes nor is it going to be priced away...the invisible hand has a way of finding new reserves when the pricing mechanism pushes it.
Take a look at the inflation adjusted price of electricity in the US over the last 50 years...it has hardly budged from a small band. It is not in an inexorable state of growth by any measure, unless you live in CA where the legally forced mix of renewable energy is causing pricing to rise artificially. Drop the regs and the prices will drop rapidly.
We aren't going to dramatically change the way we live, and move to happy 800 sq ft apartments next to our workplace. Guess what? They do that already in China. It's called Foxconn, and I'm sure their workers are efficient consumers of energy, but it doesn't sound like it's all unicorns and rainbows in that world. I prefer my big house in the suburb and am ok with my commute, as are most Americans.
Gasoline has recently gotten expensive because of speculation about the Iran political situation, and because we have turned down building a pipeline to the massive reserves in Canada. The supply of oil is vast, and gets bigger as the price per barrel goes up. It's not running out in our lifetime.
And I'm always curious about where all of these EV gurus and enthusiast like JB Straubel think and believe the electrical power is coming from and how it is generated. Blue sky or all of it solar and wind? I doubt. More fossil fuel (coal, natural gas and oil) fired power generating plants will be needed to support the demand. How about addressing the efficiency/energy loss from the energy generating source all the way to the 'plug'?
Everyone is talking about EVs and HEVs, but Stop-Start vehicles provide a good interim means to save fuel and reduce emissions. We at CAP-XX agree that Stop-Start vehicles – with potentially more than 100 starts per day – could quickly kill a standard lead-acid battery in less than 18 months. Supercapacitors can support vehicle batteries by supplying the peak current (300A plus) for each engine start, enabling longer battery life. Check our site for tests we ran on batteries supported by supercapacitors vs batteries alone: Slides 3 – 9: http://www.cap-xx.com/resources/docs/CAP-XX%20-%20Supercapacitors%20for%20Automotive%20Applications%20%28website%29.pdf
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.