Here’s the counterpoint to the article last week. It’s not as in-depth, more surface, but hits as many issues.
Perhaps you’all can fill in the missing info?
There are many reasons to be encouraged that the electrification of transportation has a bright future.
This round up of 10 broad reasons however is in case anyone has any doubt after we gave a sober look at what yet gives critics breathing space to poke at the effort to rely on batteries instead of gasoline.
If you missed that, it observed – among several issues – that hybrid vehicle market share has paralleled a growing U.S. passenger car market since 2010 at about 2.5-3.1 percent, and plug-in hybrids and electric cars are yet a trickle comprising 0.4 percent each.
Electrification proponents think that’s too bad given viable solutions exist now and U.S. transportation accounts for 70 percent of all oil consumption and 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
But there’s hope. Lots of it, and this won’t be hype, but facts, in brief. Following are positive drivers to the global effort to increase the number of electrified vehicles against the sea of gasoline vehicles that 95 percent of U.S. consumers yet buy.
We won’t rank these by importance because they all contribute to the synergy. Some of the following points are aspects of other points but deserve their own focus. And, some do have more influence than others. So, here we go …
Global Emissions and MPG Regulations
If automakers want to stay in business they will have to significantly clean up their fleets, and electrification, they know, is an ideal way to do that.
When it gets to be crunch time later this decade and next, they will have to introduce more hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars.
The less gasoline they use, the easier it is to spike their fleet average mpg score.
How’s that for a motivator? Pressure will be on for “bridge” technologies like hybrids. Plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles boost the ability even higher to meet government mandates.
Laws with teeth include U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations and California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle rules calling for one-in-seven ZEVs by 2025. Beyond that the Europeans are clamping down with more focus on CO2 emissions, which are the other side of the mpg equation – increasing mpg usually reduces CO2, or reducing CO2 increases mpg.
Also driving this is Japanese rules, and China keeps upping the incentives for EVs and several global automakers are working like busy bees with their state-mandated joint venture partners in China.
Globally, rules are getting tighter.
Electricity Is Cleaner
Automakers can try to squeak out more efficiency from internal combustion engines, if they want. They can roll out all the 8- 9- or 10-speed transmissions, diesels, gasoline diesels, direct-injected, downsized, turbocharged, you-name-it tech they want.
Nothing beats zero emissions from an electric motor. This would also apply to fuel cell electric vehicles, but battery electric vehicles and other plug-in and regular hybrid vehicles are super effective.
What’s not to like about cleaner air? Battery powered cars can also benefit from a grid that itself is regulated, and mandated to become cleaner. Renewable sources such as solar, geothermal, wind, and hydro will play a greater part to one degree or another. The world is pushing for it, and electrified vehicles will make more sense as time goes on.
Electric Motors Are More Efficient
Electric motors convert their energy supply to usable propulsion force with efficiency in the high 80s to 95 percent or so. Gasoline engines may be in the upper 20-percent range, and the pending new Prius engine and some by Honda, such as in the Accord Hybrid, may push to high 30s to 40 percent thermal efficiency.
The best gasoline engines are relative energy hogs and fossil fuels produce more heat than usable work energy. The only thing holding back electrified vehicles – or, alternately the only thing justifying them – is electric motors work efficiently with limited energy storage – batteries.
At this stage, electric motors make sense enough for the industry to have begun, and a tipping point could come as soon as someone improves the technological equation.
For those of you old enough to remember, did you think 25 years ago the Internet would be what it is? Did you envision that connected devices and smartphones and flat screen TVs with life-like picture would be so extremelty common and affordable?
Electric motors are also quiet, offer instant torque from zero rpm, and need very little maintenance with fewer moving parts.
Battery Improvements Are Coming
Today the lithium-ion battery is the energy storage medium of choice. These come in various chemical cocktails and the highest-range EV today is the 85-kwh Tesla Model S as Tesla says a 400-mile battery could be retrofitted soon to its original 2008-2012 Roadster.
Numerous automakers, as well as universities, and other concerns are improving energy storage. It’s been reported the next-generation EVs, such as Nissan’s Leaf, could have range upwards of 180 miles, which may come from a new chemistry.
Higher ranges are demanded by many consumers, and Tesla is dead set on building a 200-mile range EV priced near where the Leaf is now.
Beyond this, other energy storage tech, including supercapacitors which could play a role, are nearing commercial readiness. Promising research is underway for lithium-air, solid state batteries, and aluminum air and advanced military and aerospace concerns are already using these as the work to cost-effectively increase energy density to several times li-ion continues.
One potential example is by Israel-based Phinergy. This startup has demonstrated its aluminum-air battery ideal for range extending a convention li-ion BEV. The company has partnered with Fortune 500 giant Alcoa and if that’s not a huge vote of confidence that this is not vaporware, we don’t know what is. Today its technology exists for cost-effective EVs that can go 1,000-2,500 miles if someone wants to build it.
This and other hopeful signs are out there. The brightest minds are working on it, and many scientists would like to have their name attached to a world-changing breakthrough.
Infrastructure Is Ready
Fuel cells use electric motors but the “feed stock” to produce hydrogen is natural gas meaning Big Oil will stay in business. Plus, you can almost count the number of hydrogen stations with the fingers of two hands, and the build out will take hundreds of millions of dollars just to see if the cost can be driven down.
Battery-electrified vehicles on the other hand are a tad more convenient to recharge. Do you know where the nearest refueling station is for a plug-in car? It could be only feet away from you – the nearest electric outlet will do. Home charging with 120 or 240-volt equipment is convenient, can be done overnight when rates tend to be lower.
While fence sitters yet abound, all it has taken to turn some consumers into supporters of the plug-in lifestyle is seeing that worries were overblown, and it can work.
Production Costs Are Declining
Costs per kilowatt-hour for li-ion are declining. Tesla aims to improve this with its massive gigafactory and other automakers are working away as well.
Other components such as motors and controllers and other electrified vehicle specific parts, while still costly, are also coming down.
The watchword is “economies of scale.” While hybrids and plug-ins are a relative minority, costs do work against them making the value of cheaper and more efficient electricity less clear cut for some. But as more are sold, production costs will improve which can be passed to the consumer.
Competitiveness among makers bringing new vehicles to market will eventually improve the cost equation as well. Admittedly, some electrified vehicles are pretty bloated, but as they say, this is not a sprint, but a marathon – and others like a leased Leaf, say those who’ve taken the plunge, do make fantastic sense now.
If you’ve not noticed, green is in. Fence sitters are for now are held back by perceived costs or lack of full knowledge about alternative choices, not so much because they hate the idea.
Sadly, auto company marketers have struggled to be as effective as they could. Also dealers are not always incentivized to show how hybrids or plug-ins can make sense. But today more people could benefit from a hybrid or plug-in car who so far haven’t bought, and this will increase as the word gets out against an entrenched paradigm.
With next-generation offerings, the value proposition will improve. As other synergies come into play, people who are already prepped will jump in.
Some today also are standing back from plug-ins merely because they are new, and don’t buy first gen products on principle.
Marketers know there will be waves of buyers for whom the light bulb all of a sudden turns on. Not everyone bought a flat screen TV for $12,000 when they were new, but as price-for-performance got cheaper toward commodity item status, these products were snapped up as consumers felt comfortable.
Horses Out Of The Stable
The documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” illustrated GM’s PR nightmare of its leased EV1 which was later taken back, and many were crushed in Arizona.
Today many different plug-in hybrids and electric cars have been purchased, so no automaker can kill these off entirely.
Moreover, the commitment to create next-generation products – such as Chevrolet with its Volt – is definite.
Although the electrified fleet is relatively small against millions of internal combustion cars, the electric horses are now out of the stable, and there is no putting them back.
Reports of potentially massive U.S. oil and natural gas reserves may weaken the argument about electricity’s contribution to energy security, but do not nullify it.
As mentioned above electricity is cleaner, more efficient, and as long as we are importing petroleum to the U.S. the battle cry of plug-in advocates holds true:
You will never see a tanker arriving from the Middle East loaded with electricity.
The notion of pursuing energy security – aka national security – is otherwise valid. Wars have been fought, and untold billions spent, and lives lost and bodies maimed so the first world can have its petroleum.
For all the costs that critics observe against efforts to jump start plug-in vehicles, or hybrids before them, they’re a drop in an oil barrel compared to America’s “addiction.”
The U.S. Department of Defense is also pushing toward battery power in numerous applications. It recognizes the value and the defense industry itself is another driver to furtherance of electrified technologies.
The military industrial complex does what it wants. The elected officials you put in office make it so. They too are a driver pushing against the petroleum tide.
The California start-up gets its own entry even if confusion yet exists. Just yesterday we were talking to a banker who said Model S is a “toy for the rich,” and he’d not want to travel from Pennsylvania to Florida and have to stop over for “6 or 7 hours” to recharge.
Make no mistake, there is an information battle out there and some of the information watering troughs are ladling out spin from half truths. We informed the gentleman about the existence of 20-30-minute Superchargers, and Tesla’s plan to build less expensive cars. He was far from convinced, but others get it.
The truth is: a truly high-volume selling electrified “game changer” has not arrived yet but that doesn’t mean the entire electrification effort is illegitimate, and Tesla aims to prove that.
Tesla is offering free charging to all its customers who buy Supercharger compatible cars, has freed its patents, and is building a gigafactory, but there is one fact more important: The fact that Tesla even exists.
The company is pushing 200,000-employee giants like General Motors to assign a team to monitor Tesla, and BMW and reportedly Audi too are responding to a company selling the “toys for the rich” in volumes higher than Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and so on.
Tesla will have its hands full expanding from niche player to mass marketer with Model 3 and beyond, but it is a goad proving defiantly what can be done today when you’re in it to win it with no vested ties to petroleum energy.
Assuming it succeeds in opening a mass market, it will force others to follow. They will want some of the fun too.
Much more could be said about the provocation to global automakers by the yet-small company that refuses to burn gas. The jury for Tesla is still ultimately out, but 10 years into it, it’s been so far, so good.