Realizing Vehicle to Grid economically and quickly

Stephen Kerr | Jun 08, 2010

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While the electric vehicle has captured the consumer's imagination and touched an eco-sensitive nerve, it comes with some tough questions that need to be answered. Electric vehicles are being marketed as a green solution to an increasingly environmentally-sensitive market that can achieve the equivalent of 100+ miles per gallon but, there are concerns as to whether the electric grid, in its current form and future iterations, will be able to meet the added demand of that electric vehicles will bring.

Most electricity distribution systems are not designed for the increase in load that results from the use of electric vehicles. To give a sense of scale:

  • a single recharge of a modern vehicle uses approximately doubles the daily energy consumption of a typical US household

  • if consumers could recharge an electric vehicle in three minutes, similar to the average amount of time needed to refuel a conventional vehicle, it would only takes approximately one million vehicles recharging at that speed to exceed the total 2008 capacity of the US grid
  • Uncontrolled, the increased energy consumption from millions of electric vehicles on the grid could drive up the cost of electricity and result in an outcome that is opposite to that desired: the possibility of increased demand, emissions, cost and outages.

    Significant investment is needed in our electrical infrastructure if we are to avoid the potential negative outcomes of increased Vehicle to Grid (V2G) consumption. In theory, this could mean years before V2G is realized on a wide scale due to the massive capital programs needed to increase the overall capacity and distribution infrastructure.

    Or does it? Could V2G be achieved quickly and cheaply?

    Maximizing speed and scale can be resolved almost entirely within a vehicle by combining smart batteries with energy and location-aware services. Existing solutions can be adapted so that they manage the vehicle's load through direct connectivity between the vehicle and the grid. Vehicles can be made sensitive to the state of the electrical grid they are connected to by reading dynamic price signals directly for that location that can even increase the flexibility and capacity of the grid. The smart battery controls the vehicles charge and discharge unit in response to that information and also through user-configured preferences that:

    • Charge only when it is most economically feasible

  • Stop charging when load shedding or blackouts are threatened
  • Potentially generates revenue for the vehicle owner when the grid is under stress conditions and electricity price more than offsets battery discharge costs
  • Maximize the battery life by optimizing the charging profile
  • Electric vehicles equipped with smart batteries on a large scale are capable of changing the balance of the grid equation so that many of the goals of smart grid are achieved and the result is a more reliable grid. Location, time, price, current charging status and usage are the dynamic properties needed in every electric vehicle that facilitate:

    • Location and time-based capabilities through GPS so that local charging options and tariffs can be determined

  • Optimized charging stops for price and battery life when on long journeys
  • Customer identity for billing and settlement purposes
  • Cellular telecom access to a central Smart Pricing system
  • Control over the vehicle's charge and discharge unit
  • Metered consumption and generation readings
  • Configuration rules that automatically enable and disable the charge/ discharge unit depending on the vehicles internal power state, next drive time, charging outlet capacity and electricity price
  • On the grid side, a smart dynamic pricing system is needed in each geographic region of the grid that accepts and rejects charge or discharge requests from vehicles and sets the charge or discharge price depending on current prices and load conditions. No utilities have yet set up such a system but the components are all available and can be readily adapted. The cost of such a program would be insignificant compared to capital programs for upgrading the generation, transmission or distribution system.

    There are significant drivers for Vehicle to Grid, much more so than even several years ago. Major auto manufacturers are investing in electric vehicles; Nissan's Leaf, Chevrolet's Volt and upcoming releases from Daimler, Ford, Mitsubishi, and Volvo. But those investments might be reduced without a coordinated solution that integrates vehicles and the electric grid. Smart solutions are capable of providing the necessary control that will allow the electric grid capacity and capability to increase in an orderly fashion to meet the new demands created by the emerging and powerful electric vehicle market.

    The author would like to recognize Edmond Cunningham, Birgit Seeger, and Steve Watts for their contributions to this article.

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    Comments

    Stephen, Good article. Here is the problem. You used one million vehicles being charged to use all the power of the US grid in 2008. In 2006 there were about two hundred and fifty million passenger vehicles in the USA. If electric vehicle make even a modest 5% inroad into that number you are looking at charging 12.5 million vehicles. There is no way on earth that you are going to be able to supply that many vehicles without massive (and I mean trillions of dollars) investment in the grid. Remember this is the same clanky bunch of ageing generating stations and wires that has been busting at the seams trying to meet everyone basic electricity demands. No amount of smart grid technology or "dynamic pricing" can meet the needs of 12.5 million vehicles. There just is not enough grid capacity to go around. Most local distribution networks will be overloaded rapidly and transformers and lines will trip off on overload so you get up in the morning to get into your uncharged car and can go nowhere.

    THAT is why electric cars are going to be difficult to integrate. We have put the cart before the horse. The GRID is what needs to be upgraded BEFORE electric cars are introduced in anything but tiny numbers.

    Malcolm

    Malcolm,

    Your comments are right on, many politicians and average consumers are oblivious to the impact on grid power demand that millions of charging vehicles would have. Consider if 12.5 million electric vehicles were on the road and only say 10% were always charging at any given time given how long it takes to fully recharge, there will / could potentially be 1 million or so vehicles always charging off the grid. No Time-Of-Use billing, or dynamic pricing scheme, or load shifting management scheme can deal with these numbers.

    What I predict will happen is as more electric vehicles are commercialized, we will see draconian rate hikes to pay for massive generation and transmission expansions all around the country. And since these cannot be completed overnight but rather over years, we will see more frequent critical peak demand crisis resulting in rotating blackouts in some places, with as a result many electric vehicle owners UNABLE to drive because they cannot get on the grid to recharge.

    If we are lucky there won't be millions of electric vehicles on the roads for a long time yet, but if oil skyrockets in price like it did in the summer of 2008, and if governments and auto manufacturers continue to push them into the marketplace, we unfortunately will see millions within a much shorter time.

    Save your pennies Malcolm, we will all need them.

    I disagree with most of the assumptions of this article. If the vehicles are PHEVs, then the typical charge would be about 10-12 kW-hr, not 48 kW-hr. No need to have them charge up in 3 minutes either, as PHEVs have no range problems (they just use fuel sometimes).

    I also don't think the "to" part of V2G is likely to be economical anytime soon. Best use of PHEVs are as opportunistic loads to level renewable energy (solar,wind) inputs.

    A better metric might be the daily or annual input needed by a PHEV. If this is 10 kW-hr/day, then 100 Million vehicles means an extra draw of 1 Billion kW-hr per day. How much is that? Output of about 40 1000 MW power plants. A lot, but consider the spare capacity available at night. Very doable, especially considering all the oil that would be displaced.

    "Vehicles can be made sensitive to the state of the electrical grid they are connected to by reading dynamic price signals directly for that location that can even increase the flexibility and capacity of the grid." -- Exactly.

    I agree with Jim, Malcolm's fears are unfouinded.

    Green Car Congress - North American Grid Operators Study Concludes 1M Plug-in Electric Vehicles May Be On the Road by 2020 - 23 March 2010

    "Of the one million PEVs that may be deployed over the next 10 years, more than 684,000 are projected by the study to be located in regions of the United States served by ISOs and RTOs. The PEVs plugging into the grid in US ISO/RTO regions could add electric load of 3,785 megawatts (MW) if every PEV charged simultaneously. In contrast, electric load would increase by about one-fifth that total (819 MW) if charging were staggered over an eight-hour period and less than 546 MW over a 12-hour period." - So, adding 1/2 a GW to the grid in the 12 off-peak hours is a disaster??? Get a grip guys.

    "The New York City metropolitan area, with a forecasted 54,000 PEVs by 2019, could see added electric load of 299 MW if every PEV charged simultaneously. Electric load would increase by 33 MW if charging were staggered over an eight-hour period and 22 MW over a 12-hour period. Projections of PEV growth and additional electric load for other ISO and RTO regions are available in the report." Adding 22 MW of nighttime load to the NY City grid doesn't sound anywhere like a problem at all.

    Put another way. 1999 US electricity useage was 10 billion kwh / day. Present total petroleum use 21 million bbl / day = 34.8 billion kwh raw potential energy. Assuming a 94% effic. delivery grid, 85% effic. charger, 85% effic. drive electronics and 85% effic. motor and drive train, a generated electrical kwh is 3.5 times more useful than a petroleum potential kwh burned in a 20% effic. engine which idles 3% of time and drives an 85% efficient transmission and drivetrain.

    So the grid would need to approx. double its output to entirely replace ALL petroleum use in the USA. Easily 33% of that is available from off-peak load levelling and use of a smart grid system, though obviously many inefficient peakers should then be replaced with efficient baseload units, while the remaining requirement should be met with locally-installed if possible renewables.

    FINALLY, someone who speaks sense about where the intelligence should be placed in any electric vehicle. I'd like my royalties in cash, please.

    I agree with Len and Jim about the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of this approach. There's plenty of infrastructure available if most charging takes place off-peak, which could easily be accomplished with dynamic pricing that reflects system conditions and distributed intelligence.

    I also agree that it is highly unlikely vehicle batteries will supply services to the grid in significant numbers, because most consumers won't allow it. If they do, the price of those services will be driven to zero (classical economics).

    Realistically it will be decades, if at all, before electric vehicles dominate transportation. It's more likely a mix of electric, natural gas and biofuels will compete for a period of time before a clear winner emerges. That provides plenty of time to gradually upgrade electric infrastructure when and where it is needed. Who knows, by that time the electric industry could have a radically different structure from the one that exists today.

    EIA - Summary Statistics for the United States

    US net Summer Generating Capacity (megawatts) = 1,010,171 = 1 billion kw

    Generating capacity required to provide the 10 billion kwh / day required to totally replace liquid petroleum use in the US in 12 hrs / day = 850 million kw

    So theoretically no new generation or transmission should be required. Obviously however, it will be wise to a) replace a lot of peakers with more efficient baseload units. b) strengthen the grid somewhat to provide for safe margins. c) discount any wind and solar and peaking-only hydro in those numbers. d) beef up either coal rail transport and electrify it or implement "coal-by-wire" transportation.

    Still, given the benefits of eliminating imported petroleum, any relatively minor costs would be insignificant reference balance-of-payments economics, improved tax base etc. etc.

    Wow you guys really do live in cloud cuckoo land.

    Gents you are making a VERY big assumption that charging will occur off peak because it will be cheaper then - why do you think that will happen? All the evidence suggests price is NOT a factor when refueling a vehicle - having it available is much more important to people. Here is a more realistic scenario.

    Dad comes home from work at 5.30 pm after a 30km journey in his all electric vehicle. The battery is nearly done. Do you REALLY think he is going to wait until midnight to plug it in and charge it or let the car ecide when it needs charging based on the grid needs. Of course that is not going to happen. Electric vehicles will be refueled when the tank is empty just as vehicles are now. And if you really think price is going to deter people from charging now rather than later (or not have the car available) see how many people stopped driving when the price of gas doubled. Almost none. They did not wait until the price of gas came down did they. Why would you expect humans to behave differently with electricity consumption. My guess is they will behave exactly the same as they do now.

    What would be the difference in cost between off peak and peak charging - two or three dollars _ don't know but it is not likely to be a show stopper for most people. The price of a burger or two maybe? Do you really honestly think that Dad is going to leave his car uncharged and unavailable while he waits until midnight to plug it in....for two or three bucks - no way.

    I think you are living in utopia. The real word is not like that and real people are not like that.

    Most cars will be plugged in when the battery is almost flat irrespective of price differentials. Also remember that the cost of charging is less than the cost of a fill of gasoline so the electric vehicle owner is already saving money at least on the fuel charge bit.

    What you have said up above is almost to the point of laughable. What people WILL do is exactly what they do now. When I see people filling up with 40 - 50 - 60 dollars of gas for their tanks at any time of the day what will rule vehicle refueling is the empty tank. If the tanks happens to be an electron tank people will plug it in to fill it up when it is empty.

    Dynamic pricing will not make any difference. None.

    PHEV's are a different story - and much more likely to be successfully integrated into the grid. All electric vehicles are going to present a massive problem - if they become popular which I don't think they will. Here's why.

    The TESLA vehicle costs about $1700 a month to lease. For that kind of money you can lease a Maserati. So tell me again why people are going to drive these things. There will be the enthusiasts of course but for most people the bottom line is what matters. They want the best most functional vehicle they can afford and that is not a vehicle whose $5000 battery needs to be replaced every 3-5 years or one they cannot use because the battery is flat. People will not care if the grid system is overloaded or they have a nice flat demand curve and the price differential would have to be staggering to make them change habits. You could charge a higher price for electricity going into cars as opposed to electric lights I guess but that kinda defeats the whole object.

    Technology may make them cheaper and better but there is a long long way to go yet. But that will give us time to build lots of nukes.

    Malcolm

    Malcolm,

    If events unfold as you suggest, all the more reason to have dynamic pricing. It will make electric vehicle economics a lot more compelling for me as I fill up in the middle of the night for next to nothing. Free fuel will pay for the batteries.

    You may in fact be correct about people's habits, unless we're talking about my wife and me.

    The Tesla roadster is not a valid point of comparison for electric vehicles, though at this point a $40k price tag is not unrealistic.

    My guess is electric vehicles or PHEVs will become quite popular as the economy recovers and the price of gasoline rises accordingly.

    "consider the spare capacity available at night. Very doable, especially considering all the oil that would be displaced."

    I challenge the assumption most PHEVs will be recharged only at night when lots of grid capacity is available. Consumers are accustomed to refilling their vehicles on demand at any time, and the public will fight to keep this convenience. The public would need very large electricity price differences between night and day to force the majority of PEV owners to recharge only at night. And a very large price difference between day and night would have other dire consequences for businesses who have no choice but operate during the day.

    "The New York City metropolitan area, with a forecasted 54,000 PEVs by 2019... " This is another huge assumption that I personally wouldn't put much faith in being 9 years into the future, when you consider there are many millions of drivers in NY City alone. Don't get me wrong, I hope it's an accurate prediction, but PEV take-up by consumers will be influenced by future oil prices in combination with sometimes rapidly evolving technology and government market tinkering, so these sorts of predictions that far out into the future have a habit of being very nebulous at best, typically like throwing darts across a football field.

    If say instead the PEVs in NY grew to 500,000, which is still probably less than 10% of drivers in NY, we would instead be talking about 3GW of extra grid load, the equivalent of a large central nuclear station with multiple reactors, and this just in just NY City alone.

    "Electric vehicles will be refueled when the tank is empty just as vehicles are now."

    Malcolm is right again. Dad will insist on recharging at dinner time when his battery is empty. Heaven forbid he might not be able to go to work the next morning if he lets the grid or the car to decide when to start recharging and it begins at 3am, and then isn't finished charging the next morning at 7am when he NEEDS it to be finished.

    Another scenario - Dad's on the freeway at 5:30pm and his PEV battery is nearly empty, so he must get off the freeway to a refilling station to either swap batteries with a charged one, or get a fast partial charge just to get home. If a battery swap facility is not available nearby, or his PEV doesn’t have swappable batteries, a fast charge up is his only option. Does anyone really think the public will allow the grid or the car to decide to potentially strand drivers like Dad? Not a chance.

    Most of what Malcolm said he then himself negated by pointing out that PHEVs have none of these problems.

    It should be mentioned that even the RAV-4 EVs (built almost 10 years ago, some are still running today) had a built-in timer that would start the 5 hour charging process at midnight should the owner desire it. Not such a big deal.

    Compared with PHEVs, I don't think the economics of EVs make sense, at least not now. Given the future price of oil, I don't think ignoring electrification of the small vehicle fleet makes sense either.

    FWIW, I think the biggest problem with EVs or PHEVs is the plugging in. What if people don't have garages or simply forget? Not a big issue with PHEVs, but a problem with EVs. A problem with PHEVs could be gasoline going stale (GM worried about this for the Chevy Volt). Note that CNG fuel does not go stale....

    So Malcolm and Bob doubt that drivers will largely wait for cheap off-peak prices to re-charge. So be it. Then the question becomes "Why do you expect everyone else to subsidize your charging habits with a flat rate price structure?"

    Len,

    All of our electricity use habits are currently subsidized with flat rate price structures, even Time-Of-Use billing which is a form of flat-rate prices during each rate period. So it's not only re-charging of vehicles that get subsidized since consumers still have the luxury of using as much electricity as they want on demand for any purpose. If you want to use an energy-hungry electric stove in the kitchen at 4:00pm every day, everyone expects to pay the same price to run it as the neighbor pays running his air conditioner at the same time.

    To encourage many consumers to re-charge PEVs only at off-peak hours, you would need very large price differences between on-peak and night prices. The savings at night must overcome the value of on-demand re-charging during the daytime, and to many consumers that convenience is worth more than we first realize. Remember the convenience factor is so valuable to consumers, it has resulted in our entire urban life to be design-centered around the consumer-owned automobile as our primary transportation system.

    Now, if consumers had the ability to "shop" for best electricity prices ON DEMAND, like we do now for groceries and gasoline etc., using some sort of electricity market price system like your IMEUC proposals detailed on this website, then I would agree most consumers would prefer charging at lower off-peak prices. As it is now without something like IMEUC, consumers will oppose being dictated to if their EVs are forced by technology to re-charge only at night at a price they have no choice over to begin with.

    "It should be mentioned that even the RAV-4 EVs .... had a built-in timer that would start the 5 hour charging process at midnight should the owner desire it. Not such a big deal."

    Jim, this is true being no big deal for the consumer, but such timers could / would become a big deal for the grid. If most or all consumers set their timers to start vehicle charging at midnight so that they're ready for driving at 5:00am, it would create a large "artificial peak" in demand right at midnight. What the grid would prefer is widely staggered start times across large numbers of customers, and that is only technically possible if the grid and the cars control the start times. The latter is precisely what I'm saying will be unpalatable with consumers.

    Jim, here in Ontario where we have widespread TOU billing rolling out, grid operators are monitoring closely the demand curves at the TOU rate-period boundaries. They are indeed expecting at least some consumers will be trying to save some money by setting their laundry and dishwasher timers, and air conditioning programmable thermostats, to come on right at 10:00pm when off-peak rates kick in every night. They will be looking for any artificial peaks created by TOU billing, and if the peaks get too large at 10:00pm for the grid's comfort, regulators have the flexibility to modify the TOU rate-period boundary times to reduce any peaks, potentially by assigning different rate boundary times to different geographical areas in the future, and then rotating them around on the calendar so that no given area is stuck with less convenient boundary times.

    In a nutshell, summarizing my above comments, as long as consumers are forced to use electricity at regulated prices, including fixed TOU billing prices, consumers will insist on keeping their freedom of choice of using as much energy as they choose for any purpose on demand. Any regulation or technology that denies this freedom will be vigorously opposed by the public unless it is traded for freedom to shop for variable prices on demand.

    Imagine for moment the public rage if say gasoline were rationed and its price regulated, where you as a consumer were told you can only fill your car’s gasoline tank up at specific times of the night (or day), and only at some specified refilling locations, and must pay a fixed price for it set by regulators. The American people would call this akin to communism in the extreme.

    "Imagine for moment the public rage if say gasoline were rationed and its price regulated, where you as a consumer were told you can only fill your car’s gasoline tank up at specific times of the night (or day), and only at some specified refilling locations, and must pay a fixed price for it set by regulators. The American people would call this akin to communism in the extreme. "

    Imagine nothing. When we had gasoline rationing and regulated prices back in the 1970s, there were long lines. When government stopped rationing, the price went up a bit and the lines disappeared.

    I see no reason consumers should be denied flat prices, but they should have to pay a premium. I also see no reason why consumers should be denied an opportunity to adjust their use of electricity in response to match system conditions and be rewarded accordingly. Dynamic prices accomplish the latter better than any other method available. Consumer electronics companies and appliance manufacturers stand ready to provide appliances and gadgets that will work well with dynamic prices.

    Clearly many consumers will not accept anything other than flat prices, but I'd be interested in hearing the reasons why optional dynamic prices should not be offered.

    Jim, Of course PHEV's ARE a different story and it supporst not negates all I said about electric cars.

    With a PHEV you don't HAVE to charge your battery. The engine will start and do it for you while you are on the highway. What I said applies to all electric vehicles where there is no alternative but to plug it in somewhere. I maintain that is going to be a very very large problem for the grid. In fact I predict it will entirely undo all the load leveling that is trying to be accomplished at present by many utilities.

    The only way you would accomplish what Len and the guys above think is going to happen is by politically forcing people to charge their cars at night. They call that communism. Maybe in China but forget it in North America. Price just is not going to cut it. The real issue here is the price difference between a fill up of electrons and a fill up of gas to go the same distance. I don't have any numbers for that but I suspect that electrical fill up is much less than the has fill up. Now if you crank up the price of electricity to its gas-equivalent cost you have just committed political suicide.

    What you could do is charge a different rate for charging your car as opposed to doing something else with the electrons. Since governments are going to lose billions in gas revenue I can see that as VERY likely. So that charging your car with electrons is taxed while running your washing machine with them is not.

    There was a great documentary here in Canada on who killed the electric car. It was the California Government of course. They suddenly realized that these things could become really popular and they would lose all the gas tax revenue.

    When government loses revenue streams funny things happen.

    You also must understand that electric cars will completely wreck the North American economy. The reason is plain to see. They need no oil, no oil filters, no air filters,no exhaust system, no oil changes,no catalytic converters, no alternator, no spark plugs, no fuel injectors, no complex automatic gearboxes,no fuel systems,no gas tanks,no fuel pumps,no spark plug wires,no pistons, no piston rings, no cylinder head gaskets,no valves, no camshafts,no radiator, no antifreeze, no rubber hoses, no hose clips. That my dear electric car enthusiasts will wipe out thousands of factories and millions of jobs.
    You are intelligent people so think about it. Imagine every single lub shop in the country closed. Imagine every single exhaust change shop in the country closed. Every repair shop closed. The only thing left wouild be brake shops and topping up yor washer bottle. Imagine every single gas station in the country closed. Sure this may not happen fast but if you think the USA has got an unemployment problem now - just wait until electric car utopia hits. Unemployment will hit 30%.

    North American economies are BUILT on the gasoline driven car. Take it away and you have sliced off a massive chunk of the economy.

    Electrically driven vehicles are nearly maintenance free. But that means you don't need maintainers or parts shops. UAP gone. Take a look at your home town and count up the number of retail outlets dedicated to cars. Imagine them all closed and all the people that support them out of work. All the guys that make gas pumps - fired. All the guys that service gas pumps - gone.

    If you don't think the entire economy will be crippled by a wholesale shift to electric cars you really are living in a Utopian Dream.

    Be very careful what you wish for folks. You may not like it much.

    Malcolm

    Oh and I forgot to add the obvious. If you don't need gas you don't need oil refineries, or tanker truck drivers to deliver the stuff, or pipeline operators, or gas station attendants, you don't need people to run the refineries, or maintain them. Since about 50% of all the oil consumed goes into vehicles most of them the ones the likes of you and I drive there are going to be an awful lot of people who no longer have jobs. People that don't have jobs don't pay taxes and if there are no taxes well there we go again. The governments lose their revenue stream and that is not going to happen.
    Strange things happen when governments lose their revenue streams. I predict that GM will make lots of Electras and after a few years deem them to be a failure. I can see the engineers now working away at GM trying to make reliable electric motors unreliable so that they will keep breaking down and GM will stop making them and say I told you so. This script is already written.

    Years ago an old professor of mine developed an engine that required no lubricants. It used solid lubrication (molybdenum disulphide). An oil company bought the patent. Ever see any on the road?

    As I said. Electric cars in anything but very small numbers will wreck the North American and likely the world economies. The last thing the auto industry wants is a car with no maintenance and few parts. Cars are designed to wear out - on purpose. It is no coincidence that all the parts start to fail at the same time so you go out and buy another one. It is meticulously planned that way. Car dealers make their money on REPAIRING your vehicle NOT selling it to you. Without all those lucrative repair jobs that just keep on rolling in the bay doors like clockwork every dealership would go broke.

    Oh and I forgot a few items. No oil sumps needed, no oil pumps required, no sump gaskets, no oil drain plugs , no radiator pressure caps, no crankshafts, no water pumps, no water pump gaskets,no timing belts, no timing wheels, no timing chains,no connecting rods,no pulleys, no drive belts (well maybe one or two) ...... just a battery, an electric motor and a rheostat for your accelerator pedal. All of those parts are made in a factory somewhere that will close and all the people working in them will be laid off.

    I think GM is feverishly trying to figure out how to make the most reliable device ever made (the electric motor) unreliable. I am sure they will achieve that - far too much at stake don't you think.

    I am not anti-electric car - but I think I have a better understanding of how this economy really works.... and it's not a pretty sight. Why do you think the big car companies bought into Ballard...not to make it successful...to make it fail. And that is exactly what they did. There will be no fuel cell electric cars GM Chrysler, Toyota and Ford have seen to that.

    Malcolm

    And one last thing before I finish. Have you ever wondered why the alternator on your car costs 3 three or four hundred dollars - some of them even more than that when you can get a washing machine motor with about the same level of manufacturing in it for about 60 bucks or less. Car parts mean massive profits for auto manufacturers. Or take another example some cheapo plastic moulding on your car that costs a buck to make they sell for a couple of hundred? That is where they make the money. It is not in making cars. It IS making and selling car parts at through the nose prices.

    Electric cars need far far less parts than a gasoline driven vehicle...that is why they will be made to fail.

    OK I am done now. I hope you see the point. Electric cars cannot be allowed to succeed.

    Malcolm

    Interesting article and fantastic comments. I plan to read those comments many times. But even so I wonder about your statement Malcolm that "electric cars cannot be allowed to succeed". I think you mean that they must not be allowed to succeed in the near future, but in the distant future - when the price of oil and and maybe gas goes into orbit - we may not have a choice.

    So Len, There is another large problem with what you think is going to occur. Shifting the energy use from gasoline to electricity (apart from the host of issues noted above) will increase base load demand. I think we agree on that. So first we are going to need to build a large number of new base load generators to cope with the increase. Coal burners which form the main peaking load generators on the grid will now run all night instead of being closed down as they are now. Unfortunately it is in these nighttime periods that maintenance takes place so now you can't do any maintenance without taking them off line for weeks. You do not understand that power plants are complex machines that need constant and on going maintenance. We use the off peak period to do that work. If they are required to operate then you need many more plants so that you can take some off line for inspection and repair. You're telling me that those off peaks will no longer be available.

    You also lose sight of the fact that we have not built a new nuclear plant in the US since TMI.....and now you need dozens constructed to replace coal, dozens more to allow for maintenance and of course the ones that run the system now are 40 years old. They do not last forever so they will need to be replaced also. To meet your needs I estimate we will need 200 new nuclear plants. We haven't even started building one yet. You need 10 a year for the next 20 years.

    As I said before the existing grid infrastructure is old and creaking at the seams. Much of it was built in the 50's and 60's and now you propose to add million upon million of electric vehicles to it. It IS gonna fail. And it is not just the 500kV/230kV network that is the problem. All the local 11kV network is also old. All the local transformers are going to be heavily loaded all the time no let up.

    The grid will need trillions of dollars of investment. Building 200 new nuclear plants at 10 billion a pop is 2 trillion right there. That is without all the new grid lines required to get the power from them. Since the nukes are not likely to be where the coal burners are they will need about twice the power lines than the currently operating 100 require. Add a few more trillion to do that.

    US printing presses better start now to print all that money. Since there will be no auto sector jobs left with unemployment running at 30% - who is going to pay.

    Malcolm

    Thanks Fred, I think the much more likely scenario is not electric cars but natural gas driven cars. The infrastructure is already there. It will not have the same devastating economic effects (mostly the same type of engines) and there is a lot of gas in North America with the discovery of gas shales. So no I do not think the electric car will be allowed to succeed. Too many people with all the right connections will go broke. You and I know that will not happen.

    With natural gas cars, oil companies are happy, car makers are happy, lube shops are happy maybe a few gasoline station operators will feel the pinch but everything runs much the same as before.

    So electric cars will suddenly become really unreliable and the car companies will switch to a greener fuel with lots of supply. A much more likely occurrence I think.

    I agree with the timing. Natural gas will take us forward after peak oil and that might last until we have fixed he grid so we can actually supply all these vehicles. But we haven't even started that yet so I think electric car utopia is 40 years off at least. Not because that is what I want but that is how it must be to wean us off gas engines and the large part of our economy they represent.

    Malcolm

    Jack, to reiterate,
    "consumers will insist on keeping their freedom of choice of using as much energy as they choose for any purpose on demand. Any regulation or technology that denies this freedom will be vigorously opposed by the public unless it is traded for freedom to shop for variable prices on demand."

    In other words variable electricity prices will appeal to many consumers particularly if they have the ability to shop for them from competing sources as in Len's IMEUC. If however we cannot shop for them from competing sources as is the case now, then any implementation of variable prices must be communicated to all consumers in real time so that consumers can manage their time-of-use in some automated fashion. Hence my long-standing case for real-time energy displays for all consumers.

    I guess we can simply agree to disagree, Malcolm, as none of your points, being simply opinion, are refutable.

    Gee, I think I see in Malcolm a person even more paranoid than I, especially w.r.t. electric vehicles. :) I think I pondered many of his concerns a few years ago. A few comments.

    First, all-electric vehicles are very unlikely to be economically viable anytime soon, if ever. So it's not really an issue of being allowed to succeed. By the same token, personal jet aircraft have not been "allowed to succeed" either. It might be good to know why this is the case for EVs.

    The problem is the batteries, particularly the size of the battery pack. The cost of the battery pack is linear (proportional) to its capacity, but the range needs of a vehicle are not. (Most of the time you take short trips, but every once in a while you need to drive several hundred miles in a day.) This dichotomy of technical capability and consumer need forces the battery pack to be larger than is economical practical, at least with today's technology. It's true that batteries could get cheaper, but that's not likely to happen enough to change this reality. (On the other hand, never say never....) EV advocates try to play down the need for range and dismiss the long charge time, but the reality is that these are both major issues for consumers raised with ordinary gasoline or disel vehicles.

    It's benn noted that PHEVs do not have these range problems, yet reap most of the benefits of EVs, especially in the area of displacing oil use with electricity use. A HUGE benefit, given the approach of peak oil. Critics say that since the PHEV needs both a IC engine AND a battery system, they are overall too complicated, heavy, and expensive. I think the truth is that they will always be a bit more expensive than ordinary IC vehicles, and always less expensive than pure EVs, at least those that have acceptable range.

    Much of Malcolm's posts were to be dismissive of all-electric vehicles, and then he got into how the grid couldn't support them and how the automakers need their spare parts businesses. I guess I don't really agree with too much of that either.

    I think PHEVs will be introduced slow enough that we can accommodate them. As for the automakers concerns, well, I think the camel's nose has already sneaked under the tent, at least as far as PHEVs go. If the automakers DON'T pursue them, then 3rd party conversion companies will. If the economics hold out, PHEVs are a done deal.

    If you want to be paranoid, in terms of the automakers "killing" the electric car in 2001, then the outcome of that murder was the PHEV. After CARB killed the ZEV initiative (in favor of fuel cells), Panasonic was sued by Chevron for making large format NiMH cells, which Toyota had used with great success in the RAV-4 EV. As a result of the patent dispute, no one could build NiMH cells larger than 10-13 amp-hours for vehicle use (except for Chevron, which for some reason, they didn't do too much of....). Because of this, Toyota determined the only thing they could do with these smaller cells was to assist an IC engine. The Prius hybrid was born.

    And then based on the success of the Prius, and some innovative tinkerers (like CalCars) people began doing their own retrofits to make their own PHEVs out of Priuses and other hybrid vehicles. The cause to the PHEV was taken up by others such as Joe Romm and James Woolsey and the PHEV movement got legs. It still has them.

    The economics of PHEVs remain to be seen, but if viable, they will be on the market. The notion is too widely known to be shut out at this time. GM is even producing a PRODUCTION PHEV in the Chevy Volt. Actually ahead of Toyota!
    The automakers can't kill them even if they wanted to (new auto companies would form to make them) and the grid concerns are scaremongering for something that will impact it slow enough to get it time to react.

    Being a pilot (in my spare time), I can assure you personal jets will remain a niche form of transportation. They take great care, exceptional judgment and very deep pockets to fly safely.

    Malcolm makes an excellent point about the time required to transition away from fossil-fueled autos. At least ten years to perfect electric vehicles, and at least another 10-20 years before the existing stock is completely turned over. Unless, of course, there are more oil shocks. In that case, all bets are off. I'm not quite so enamored of natural gas-powered autos, in part because I am not convinced reserves of shale gas are as large as the claims suggest. Everyone knows there are large reservoirs but no one really knows how much gas they contain.

    I also think governments are not going to stand by this time if an oil company or a group of oil companies tries to block alternatives. 15 years ago it was a matter of economics. Today the imperative that should be driving development of alternatives to gasoline is national security. Most of those who have oil are either not our friends or do not share our national interests. Politicians understand why oil imports have to be reduced. Now they need to explain it to the public and put the right kinds of policies in place to make it happen. Not necessarily all at once, but over a reasonably short period of time.

    To Malcolm's point about off-peak charging, he may be right and then again he may not. Many people fill their tanks without worrying about the price. My wife and I do not fit into that category. We do worry about the price and we know where and how to buy in order to save a few bucks, which starts to add up over a year. I suspect there are many others just like us. So long as there are a reasonable number of people who do care about price, let's make sure they have the opportunity to act on that interest. Maybe they'll convince others to come along for the ride.

    Len, you are a very smart man but I fear a little short on common sense. I do hope I do not misjudge you but the issue of electric cars goes way beyond technology.

    The points I make are rock solid. That is why you are not able to refute them.It is not opinion that exhaust systems are not required for electric cars that is a fact. From that fact one can quickly deduce that all the people that currently make, distribute, install and repair exhaust systems will find their businesses and livelihoods disappear as that piece of the automotive supply chain will be gone or become uneconomic in a few years as these vehicles gain in popularity. Len that is a lot of people and they are not going to be re-employed making batteries. Note also that catalytic converters (also no longer needed) use Platinum and Rhodium so the mines in South Africa and Russia that produce those rare metals will close since catalytic converters are the major user of their product. Perhaps that is not a bad thing - unless you are a South African miner that no longer has a job.
    I am not against electric cars from a theoretical point of view. I could even be persuaded that they could be used as storage for the grid at some point in the future. But if you think this is just a matter of making a few millions of these plug in vehicles and that there will not be very large repercussions for this Society in which we live you are really in a theoretical dream world.

    You cannot surely refute the fact that the advent of electric cars will wipe out very large chunks of the present automotive industry. There are many people with a great deal of money who are much more influential that you or I who will pull the strings on electric cars. Do you really think that Magna and all the other major auto supply industries are going to see the auto parts business fold up without some kind of fight.

    Here is a case in point that I did not mention earlier and it will completely wreck the electric car idea however much the politicos like them. It is called Gasoline Tax. Please follow this logic.

    Electric cars do not use gasoline (a fact). The tax on electricity is 5% in the jurisdiction where I live - soon to increase to 13%. Gasoline is taxed at much higher levels than that. 48% is a number I was quoted and appears on some gas pumps in the form of a pie chart. So how does the government make up the difference. They either tax the cars at a higher rate or they tax the electricity at a higher rate. They WILL choose the latter. That means electricity rates will be dramatically increased to make the operation of an electric car the same as the operation of a gas car. The government is NOT going to lose one cent of revenue.
    So applying logic, your argument about dynamic pricing flies right out the window when the government steps in and skews the whole picture.
    You have to understand that the greatest beneficiaries of our consumption of oil is not the oil companies. It is the tax man. And if I am any judge of the tax mans character he will not want less tax from us he will want more.

    Like I said earlier this is utopian vision of electric cars really needs to be brought into the real world where most of us live.

    After I wrote the piece above regarding 30% unemployment I talked to an economist friend of mine (not Fred but please weigh in when you have time) who said that 30% unemployment was an underestimate of people who are directly of indirectly associated with the auto and oil industries in North America. His estimate was 40 to 50%. Looking around my town I think he is very likely more accurate than I. There are 10 gas stations and associated convenience stores that would all close. About 6 auto parts stores. 8 repair shops. 8 car dealerships, 4 lube oil quick change shops plus a host of service business that support all those places.

    What would they be replaced with - automatic battery charging stations that employ no-one?

    Of course the politicians like Obama talk a good talk but the reality is that in North America, oil and vehicles that use it are the lifeblood of the economy. A wholesale change to electric vehicles however environmentally friendly would devastate employment. There is one thing politicians dislike more than being considered "ungreen" and that is hoards of their voters on the dole queue.

    Those aren't opinions Len...those are cold hard and very unpleasant facts.

    Malcolm

    Jack, Unfortunately I am not convinced that oil companies are the only ones wanting to slow down electric cars. It is the Government - whatever they gab to the contrary in public.

    Many years ago I recall a very intelligent and extremely well spoken man by the name of Sheikh Yamani (yes that was his name) I think he was the spokesman for OPEC at the time - making the case for increasing the price of oil OPEC was charging the world. All the Western Governments were bleating like sheep and crying foul that the evil OPEC would do such a thing. Then by beautifully argued logic he pointed out that the recipients of most of the consumers money at the gas pump was not OPEC at all or the oil companies but the tax collectors who were raking off massive tax revenues from the product. Guess what Jack. Those are the same people making all the money today. Governments are addicted to oil revenues. They cannot afford electric cars until they have found a way to tax us on them - thus all the talk of shopping for the cheapest electricity is irrelevant.

    Here is how this will play out. Governments will see they are now between a rock and a hard place. Support electric cars and watch tax revenue disappear. Or not support them and get kicked for not doing something about the laugh-a-minute global warming fiasco.

    So here is what they will do. Knowing that Governments have the power to tax anything they like (and they do) they will slowly move over to electric cars increasing gasoline taxes to compensate for the lost revenue as they go. THEN once we are all sold and have vested interests (because we bought them at high prices and still are making payments) they will jack up the price of electricity.

    Elelctric cars will then cost the same as a gas car to operate and voila Government revenue still intact and what we thought was a cheap means of transport is not any more.

    People are sensitive to gas prices Jack, I realise that and it has been proven over and over that you only have to make your gas 0.1 to 0.2 cents cheaper than the guy next door and you will get all the trade. But people will still want the gas when their tank is empty. If you are the only gas station open at 4 am and your gas is 10 cents higher than anyone else people will still buy it. They criteria is they want their tank full - price is secondary. I prefer to save gas by employing hypermiling methods. It is far more productive. I have a Chrysler and I can routinely get well over 50 mpg from it. If I really put my mind to it I can get 60mpg but I have to pay attention and time the traffic lights so I don't waste gas idling.

    It's hard for me to believe that people are really that worried about gas prices when I see gigantic 5.7 litre duellies and hummers at the gas station pumping over a hundred bucks a pop. Their best option would be to get a smaller car - but they don't do they.

    Malcolm

    "Those aren't opinions Len...those are cold hard and very unpleasant facts. " -- I think in that statement you err, Malcolm. 1) It is only your opinion that re-structuring the auto aftermarket parts industry is impossible over the (relatively long) timeframe during which electric power will replace it. 2) It is only your opinion that governments will not be able to replace the present fuel taxes. With a metering system such as I propose, the means are so obvious (as I pointed out above) that it needs no further discussion.

    Malcolm,

    The government hasn't been able to save the newspaper industry (or the library system, for that matter) given the internet. Stuff changes.

    The easiest way for automakers to recoup some of their losses would be to play an active role in the battery recycling business. Assuming the batteries last about 10 years, then they may play a role as grid storage for another 10 or so, and then recycled to produce a new battery. The batteries will be a very expensive component to EVs and PHEVs, more than the spark plugs and oil filters they provide for ordinary ICEs. (Biggest cost service product for vehicles is oil, which automakers do not even benefit from.)

    As for gas taxes, that's a valid point, but also solvable. Toll roads or a tire tax are possible routes. They may try to tax electricity going through chargers, but people will try to get around this (like dyed diesel fuel). This is another aspect that is going to escape from them. The government is NOT all-powerful, no matter what you believe.

    A solar panel producing electricity at the high rate of 10 cents per kW-hr would provide a GGE (gallon-gas-equivalent) of energy to an EV for about 70-100 cents. This does not account for the battery cost, of course, but still a compelling story. If the gov't taxes electricity too much, then people will harvest their own.

    Seems to me that electric vehicles and solar energy share a common trait - way too expensive. Economics make the technologies simply impractical for the common man to afford.

    The hybrid vehicle (e.g. Prius) is already affordable and becoming more widespread in direct response to higher fuel prices. That trend will continue.

    If the plug-in hybrid variant is reasonably cost effective to buy, then that technology will begin to take root.

    If the Volt (at +$40,000 per vehicle) portends the future, then the electric vehicle will not succeed because the average citizen can not make the payments.

    My crystal ball suggests a future where technology continues to increase the efficiency of vehicles because fuel prices continue a steady march upward, with affordable and very efficient hybrids as well as advanced internal combustion engine vehicles becoming more widespread.

    If common sense prevails (and I believe it will), the greenhouse gas panic will subside with the recognition that fuel price driven efficiency improvements inherently solve the real or imagined problem (i.e. AWG).

    Michael,

    I and most others I think would agree with your last comments as predictions, but only based on present conditions.

    "Seems to me that electric vehicles and solar energy share a common trait - way too expensive. Economics make the technologies simply impractical for the common man to afford."

    Like Jim responded to a Malcolm post, "Stuff changes". There are many efforts going on in university research labs and in industry today to change the economics of electric vehicles and solar energy production to lower their costs. Loads of R&D money is being thrown at them, paying the wages of many bright and creative engineers and scientists, so I wouldn't count them out totally because some, if only a small fraction, have a reasonably good chance at developing or discovering breakthrough technologies, considering the shear numbers of those working in these areas today.

    Don't believe me? Just ask Ontario's Ministry of Research and Innovation just how many automotive and solar technology projects they have pumped money into over the last few years, and that's just in Ontario alone.

    The Chevy Volt may list at +$40k now, but so do half of all the other ICE cars and trucks and SUVs on the market when you load them up with every option they can be bought with. And loads of consumers are still buying them usually loaded with most of the options, going into massive debts to do so, paying them off over many years. If we have oil price shocks down the road, and I'll bet we will, those ICE cars will get awfully expensive to operate making those +$40k Volt cars more attractive and affordable in consumers' minds.

    Practically all consumer products that are introduced come out at relatively high prices to start with, and sell regardless to some segments of the population who have lots of money or credit. Over time as more similar competition emerges, prices often come down or worst stay flat as inflation makes them more affordable. Any unpredictable oil price shocks will fuel bitterly tough inflation pressures over short periods of time in the economy to boot.

    It is a fact that electric cars do not use exhaust systems. It is not my opinion. It is a fact that there is not one single electric car that has an exhaust pipe. Am I right there or is that an opinion?

    Therefore in an all electric car society you do not need people to make distribute or install exhaust pipes. Is that a fact or an opinion?

    How do you consider these facts as my opinion. You logic is anything but logical.

    Malcolm

    Jim, A good point made. The Government cannot save any industry and it singularly failed to save the newsprint industry - at least in some locations. However I am told it is alive well and thriving in China. Not sure I agree with the library system. Our local library is a thriving centre for learning and it uses books and electronic media as well as other methods. They have embraced all learning media of which books are a key component and the internet is another. I think the library system was an excellent example not to use.

    But here is where we differ. Neither the Government nor the newspaper industry was in control of the internet. They had no stake in or control over Google or all the other (now very large) players in the industry. What is causing the demise of the newspaper industry (as well as radio and TV media I might add) is loss of advertising revenue caused by companies like e-Bay. People don't buy small ads any more they put their stuff up on kijiji and craigs list and e-bay. Big advertisers go where the masses are and that is the internet.

    Now lets turn to the auto industry so you can see the difference and hopefully see my view that electric cars are about much more than energy type and use.

    The big auto manufacturers are in TOTAL control of the technology of electric cars. They are not threatened from the outside. There are small outfits like TESLA but at $1700 a month to lease they pose not threat to GM or Ford. If a big threat comes from a publicly traded or other private company they will be bought out. It is a fact (despite Len's protestations that they are opinions) most car companies make their money on the sale of spare parts for the cars they make. I have close connections with several car dealerships and the two money spinners are

    1. The Parts Department
    2. The Repair bays

    If you take both of those revenue streams away (as an electric car does in a very significant way) then you have created a major problem for your industry. I will state yet again the FACT that electric cars have very few components. Electric motors are more reliable that engines of any description...and electric motors do not need exhaust pipes. A wholesale introduction of electric cars will be done in such a way as to ensure that parts revenue streams stay the same or increase. You folks here really need to take some courses in business. Corporations exist for one purpose and one purpose ONLY and that is to make money for their investors.

    If you think for one second that they are interested in wiping out their parts business for the sake of bringing out electric cars please forget that idea now. They will only introduce electric cars when the overall profit from them is equal to or exceeds what they make now.

    What GM and Ford and Chrysler are doing (and I would do the same if I were in their shoes) is to ensure that the new technology produces the same revenue streams (or better) than the ones they will lose. I suspect they will use the 4-5 year battery replacement as the key component of that strategy since you will need to purchase a new battery every few years at about half the cost of a new car. LiH batteries do not last forever.

    This is all about the survival of the North American auto industry nothing to do with energy.

    So once again take a look at the things you no longer need each one with a nindustry that makes and distributes the parts.

    NO MUFFLER
    NO EXHAUST PIPE
    NO ENGINE OIL
    NO ENGINE OIL FILTER
    NO AIR FILTER
    NO FUEL FILTER
    NO RADIATOR
    NO ANTIFREEZE
    NO AUTOMATIC GEARBOX
    NO TRANSMISSION FLUID
    NO PISTONS
    NO PISTON RINGS
    NO CYLINDER HEAD
    NO CYLINDER HEAD GASKETS
    NO EXHAUST MANIFOLD
    NO EXHAUST GASKETS
    NO OXYGEN SENSORS
    NO FUEL GAUGE
    NO FUEL TANK
    NO FUEL LINES
    NO FUEL FILLER CAP
    NO OIL FILLER CAP
    NO ROCKER BOX COVER GASKET
    NO ROCKER BOX COVER
    NO CRANKSHAFT
    NO SPARK PLUGS
    NO IGNITION SYSTM
    NO RADIATOR HOSES
    NO OIL SUMP
    NO FUEL INJECTORS
    NO EXHAUST CONTROL SYSTEM

    Just an electric motor, brakes, a battery and steering.

    If you do not think the above list represents a massive change for North American Society and that both Governments AND the auto makers want to survive you will see why electric cars will be very very slow to be introduced.

    Unfortunately it has nothing to do with energy and nothing to do with oil. The auto industry has no intention of going the way of the newsprint industry. They are in control.

    Malcolm

    Bob, The auto industry already knows how to make inexpensive electric vehicles. The price of $40k has nothing whatever to do with the cost of making the car. It has everything to do with making enough profit to cover the cost of all the parts business they will lose from each vehicle.

    This has nothing to do with technology and nothing to do with energy.

    Why do you think Toyota introduced the Prius.It is not that much better than a small sized gas driven car but it HAS got lots of high end VERY expensive parts. When they go wrong (as they will) ask a Prius owner how cheap the bits were to replace. I would hate to be the guy telling you you need a new transmission in one of those.

    Lots of parts - lots of profits

    No parts = no profits

    No profits = investors dump your stock

    Investors dump your stock = You go broke = CEO gets fired

    Do you know ANY CEO that wants to go down that road? That is what electric cars mean.

    Unfortunately it is not just the car companies that live well off this system. Huge parts of the North American economy are hooked on it too.

    So the smart kid in the University Lab somewhere that invents the battery that lasts forever will be an instant millionaire because the idea will be snapped up never to see the light of day by GM or Toyota. That is the real world Bob.

    Malcolm

    Malcolm wrote, "So the smart kid in the University Lab somewhere that invents the battery that lasts forever will be an instant millionaire because the idea will be snapped up never to see the light of day by GM or Toyota. That is the real world Bob."

    I think this is must be a version of the original conspiracy story with its roots in Genesis.

    I can't speak for the time of Genesis but I can remember many versions of this story from the 1930's on. One year it would be a revolutionary carburetor, the next year a power pill so you could burn water, a tire that would last ten times as long, and almost every part on a car you can think off. Fuel/air mixers, magnets that doubled mileage, etc. etc. Every few years later the magic carburetor would reappear, all together many times until fuel injection.

    But the bad people of Ethyl Corp. or Du Pont, or General Motors or Ford, or Goodyear, would never let the new inventions get used. The poor inventor was either bought off or mysteriously disappeared.

    Not once did any of these conspiracies hold up to examination.

    As to dependence on automotive replacement parts: I have a 21' 1997 Winnebago Realta built on a VW engine/chassis, a 2002 Chev Tracker, a 2003 Chev Venture van. The automotive parts for the VW/Winnebago have been one set of plugs and leads, for the Tracker one fuse and one half the cost of an oxygen sensor, and for the chev van nothing. (Actually I hit a deer with the Tracker which required grill parts, for the Tracker, not the deer, and the van was hit by a truck tire tread missile that required front end body parts. Even including these, not much over about 29 vehicle-years.)

    As to storage batteries: The battery we find in virtually every vehicle on or off the road, on lawn mowers and boats, the lead/acid battery was invented before the automobile. It was the battery used in electric cars (with no electronics) of over a 100 years ago - they had a range of about 40 miles Sound familiar?

    So with over a hundred years of research by generations of talented people including the most sophisticated modern science and lots of money there has never been a great leap forward.

    It is a mystery to me why so many people persist in thinking that because there is a problem there is a solution. We have not found unicorns. Maybe because we have not looked effectively. Or, just maybe they don't exist.

    Malcolm. If Gm or Toyota don't do it, Tata (India) or Cherry (China) will. Perhaps not in N. America, if GMFordChrysler can maintain large govt. "interests" (lol), but that'll simply mean that again N American mfgrs will become obsolete in another industry. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.

    "So the smart kid in the University Lab somewhere that invents the battery that lasts forever will be an instant millionaire because the idea will be snapped up never to see the light of day by GM or Toyota. That is the real world Bob."

    I will be the first to admit Malcolm there are always vested interests who never want to see technology breakthroughs commercialized. It tends to be very disruptive to their sales and profit bottom lines. Consider though that if the smart kid in the University Lab made his discovery using government handouts (public money), you can bet the government will want to make the results of that work publicized. And if Toyota or GM don't use it, Len is right, the fierce competition in the auto industry will force them to or they will pay the piper someday. And our governments know this, in fact they are counting on our domestic auto industries to be the first to adopt breakthroughs to get a step ahead of foreign competitors.

    The government's other strategy is that new battery the kid discovers in the University Lab is also a prime candidate to foster a new product for a domestic battery manufacturer to create more spin-off jobs or even whole new industries. Witness the massive deals Ontario has already signed just to get Samsung and others to set up shop in Ontario to manufacture solar and wind farm equipment. It's all about creating new jobs, and if you have a business or technology breakthrough that can create new business, Ontario, as well as other provinces and states, have open arms and big incentives to lure you to their turf.

    I largely agree with Don.

    One version of that conspiracy is the lawsuit by Chevron which caused Panasonic to stop making its large format (95 amp hour) 12V NiMH cells. Some of them are still working today. They lasted FAR longer than expected. On the other hand, no one knows exactly how much they cost to make. It's likely true that in quantity (large production) they'd probably be reasonable. But it's also true that the range on both the EV-1 and the RAV-4 EV (about 80-100 miles) is pretty anemic and definitely not a vehicle for the masses.

    I think, in retrospect, it was a huge mistake for the automakers to drop batteries for fuel cells, but it was most likely a business decision in that carrying forward with fuel cells would be much cheaper than fielding hundreds of expensive EVs. I don't think it was any more or less than that.

    Bob,
    It does not follow that throwing tons of money at a problem yields a solution. The basic laws of economics and science can be short-circuited by the government and wishful thinking.

    History is replete with legions of government inspired massive wastes of money.
    Ontario's showering of huge subsidies on the renewable energy industry is a perfect example of dopey policy. The money is better spent on the achievable - concentrate on judiciously increasing the efficiency of energy production and consumption through tax rebates. The majority of renewable energy projects are very poor “bang-for-the-buck” investments, in my opinion.

    Michael,

    Throwing money, tons of it or otherwise, never guarantees a solution to a problem. But I have spent my whole working life in Engineering design work, and there is a definite relationship between how much money is thrown at R&D and the probability of finding practical solutions. It is often like playing lotteries - if you don't play i.e. don't spend money on tickets, you are guaranteed to never win.

    I also believe the Ontario government already knows that renewable energy projects are CURRENTLY very poor "bang-for-the-buck" investments. Indeed they have told the public to be prepared for higher electricity rates down the road to pay for the tidal wave of renewable source generation projects on their way to Ontario.

    You see Michael "stuff changes", especially when tons of money is being thrown at R&D projects all over the place to achieve bigger bangs for the renewable source dollars being spent. It's no guarantee of course, and I admit it's a big gamble, just like anyone who invests money into R&D of a new product development and later its commercialization that somehow advances the state-of-the-art.

    The reason government spends massive amounts of money on these things, and not just in Ontario, is that industry won't do enough of it to get at least some positive results, especially for the energy industries which are highly regulated. Governments fully expect many R&D projects they bankroll to fail, but some are expected to become commercial successes. And if any commercial successes lead to significant job creation on your home turf, then your government spending has done its job in spades, at least in the minds of our government leaders.

    Furthermore, in "showering huge subsidies on the renewable energy industry", Ontario is attracting businesses to set up new manufacturing plants of EXISTING renewable source generation technology, by making it a condition for the new generation equipment to have at least 50% made-in-Ontario content to be awarded the subsidies. That spells almost immediate new job creation in Ontario even without any technology breakthroughs from R&D.

    This sort of pork barreling, if that's what you wish to think of it as, has been going on for decades in the US let alone Ontario. There are untold numbers of factories and retail outlets in many US states that set up shop after being lured by huge tax breaks or other financial incentives by the prevailing state government at the time. Why? - local job creation and potential new tax revenues from a new local business.

    I'll concede that should such a battery discovery be made there will be other contenders who will want to use it. But I think you underestimate the power and influence of the combined colossus of the auto and oil industries.

    A number I was quoted recently was that the value at present day prices of all the oil thought to still be in the ground is 100 trillion dollars (sorry Len but don't have data to back up the exact number). Perhaps Fred Banks has a better number. But suffice to say a great deal of money.

    About 50% of that oil goes to vehicle fuels mostly gasoline. Since electric cars do not use gasoline their potential is to wipe out 50 trillion dollars worth of future wealth. I cannot see the oil companies standing idly by watching their future profits disappear can you?

    As for conspiracy theories I would prefer them to be called unexplained phenomena of the business world. Here are two for you to chew on.

    1. Why did the Electra - by all accounts a very popular, good looking functional electric vehicle disappear from California Roads all destined for the metal shredder so there was not one left to copy?They obviously worked, the people that leased them loved them and wanted to buy - High demand - great car - vanished. Why?

    2. Ballard Power Systems. The fuel cell darling making leaps and bounds in the fuel cell business until invested in by a number of large car companies. After millions and millions of dollars still no commercial fuel cell. Why?

    Don I agree with you that some people who take care of their vehicles can generally get by quite well with few repairs I do too. I am very careful with my cars and they last a long long time. I got 550,000 Km from a Chrysler Mini Van and my Sebring just clocked over 350,000km. So yes indeed tender loving care does work - but most people simply do not do what you and I do. We are most definitely not the average car owner and most car parts are not designed to last more than a few years. My son is an auto mechanic and a very good one too and would definitely not agree with you. The price of these parts is excessive because the auto industry knows they have got you and it is not an exaggeration that for most auto dealers and manufacturers the parts and repair shop are their biggest money spinners.

    My point is neither the oil industry nor the auto industry is going to reaily give this up. Sure they will play the game and look like they are doing something but the large scale introduction os electric cars is years and years away. It will occur when they can make as much money flogging you parts for an electric car as they can flogging you parts for a gas car....and the oil industry is placated in some way.

    Malcolm

    Len, I don't disagree in principle that Chine or India would go for the battery invention - if they could find it that is. But I don't have any clue as to why they would do that. Here is my thinking. They would either want battery driven vehicles for their populous or they would want to make them for another market - lets say North America. Making them for their own people would be a bit counterproductive since they are already having major problems developing their electricity grid. A thousand MW plant every 2 weeks and they still can't keep up. Add electric cars to that and you just made a bad problem worse. They might do it perhaps to stop the choking smog in their cities but since they are burning raw coal as fast as they can dig it out the ground I doubt that will make much difference.

    So that leaves making them for North America. Yes that could be quite lucrative but that would mean the US would not have to buy much oil from overseas. So China would be assisting the US to get off oil. Hmmmm now THAT is a possibility. Getting the US off oil will drop the price of a barrel so making it cheaper for the Chinese. Now I can buy that argument. GM Chrysler and Ford would go broke of course as well as all the auto parts suppliers and distributors so big impact on the overall economy by Obumma would be considered the greenest pres. ever.

    Malcolm

    Just for the hellofit let's do some simple arithmetic for the efficiency of the electric car and CO2 emissions..

    Fuel to electricity in a conventional Rankine Cycle plant, 34%

    0.34 x .95 x .90 x .95 x .90 = .249% (efficiencies of transmission/transformers, battery charging, motor, battery residual.

    Using the numbers above we get a fuel to use efficiency of 25%. That's what I would have expected from the existing mix of gasoline powered cars on the road today. If the electricity was generated by coal electric cars would produce more CO2 than gasoline powered cars. If the electricity was generated by natural gas and nuclear plants electric cars would contribute less CO2 than gasoline burning cars.

    As the fastest growing car population is in China and India where electricity will be largely from coal for many decades to come, electric cars will increase CO2 emissions.

    Note: I have no special access to information. Tell me if you think I am grossly in error in any of the numbers I use.

    Malcolm: Throughout the eight years of W. Bush's presidency, I always tried to remember the job he was assigned to do and supposed to do, and tried to maintain respect at least for that and for all US citizens (eg. only called him the "shrub" a few times ;<) And empirically, there is simply no way that Obama is anywhere even close to as bad, even your pre-dispositions aside. Not even in the same ballpark. He could start trying his best to do evil for the next six years and still not do as much evil as Bush with Iraq war and attacks on US individual freedoms.

    Don,

    I'm not sure that's the way to look at it. A better might be to ask: "Can you use a crummy, expensive, intermittent energy source (wind, solar) to displace oil use?" The answer is a qualified yes.

    If we assume wind/solar costs $0.20 per kW-hr (high estimate!) then that means about 10 kW-hr ($2.00) would displace a gallon-equivalent of gasoline (G-G-E). Only about 7 kW-hr needs to actually make it to the electric motor to equal the net energy out of an IC engine for a G-G-E, so I'm being somewhat conservative with charge efficiencies as well.

    Note that this analysis does not include the cost of the battery, which needs to be replaced at some point in time. If we can assume a battery pack costs $500 per kW-hr and is good for 3000 cycles, then each charge has a prorated cost of about 16 cents. So that might mean it would cost $2.16 per GGE to refuel an electric car with wind/solar. (Even cheaper if you used a coal-fired plant, obviously, but that would mean more CO2 emissions.)

    Right on Jim. My only concern is will we ba able to deploy battery-electric transport rapidly enough to keep up with the drop rate of oil imports available once "post-peak depletion" and "export land model" (the effect of export shortages and thus rapidly rising oil prices, on the economies of exporting nations eg. rapidly rising local prosperity = rapidly rising local oil consumption = doubly rapid drop in export qty available ) kick in hard?

    Jim, alas, electricity for the foreseeable future in China and India (namely) will be from coal. 80% now and likely to grow to more than 80%. (This business about Europe going carbon free by 2050 while perhaps admirable fails to acknowledge being on the same planet as are China and India, We are. And there is no assurance that our civilization will get to 2050.)

    I used to say what Denmark does really doesn't matter. That Mexico City is far more important than all of Scandinavia. Now I am edging close to the segue that now Europe doesn't really matter.

    Those countries that do not have base load capacity are not going to invest substantially in wind and solar until they do. It will take decades. Until then they will build the least costly plants with the highest capacity factors that they can. Their press releases will continue to mention only wind, solar and nuclear. They are not stupid.

    Excellent discussion all !! You are all generally right and only off in matter of degree. We did not get where we are overnight and will not get where we are going overnight either. Change that happens overnight is devistating change to any established system. (Think earthquakes, hurricanes, and the "new math" you had as a kid.) So.......then... what happened to all the black smiths that shoed horses? And tack shops that make horse related elements?? They still exist and will continue in a lesser emphasied form. So will the ITC engine
    The only problems are if someone big makes a bad choice and (if u forgive the choice of words) bets the farm for the rest of us. The same applies to each of us little folk. A good time to choose carefully. And that is essentually what the discussion actually is. Are the wrong choices being/about to be made and are we all about to be dragged into it and and have to live with it the balance of our lives?

    Plain EV's don't and won't have useful range anytime soon. Nuke plants are on the up swing and should cover EV's bythe time the batteries are ready. Also by then the Fuel Cells should be feasable. So the peak grid argument is not completely
    valid and in the process of being revamped anyway.
    Refineries will still be needed but will just change character to metamorphosize the availible hydrocarbons from one dominant supply to another more needed configuration. That is happening (cracking) and will continue to evolve as it has been for some time. And lubricants will still be needed.
    One of the continuing uses for Refineries will be gassification or liquids for powering fuel cells.
    Depending on who you want to believe, agricultural producedAlcohol power is a zero sum game in large quantities, but still has advantages in small quantities in fuel cells. Certaintypes of alcohols are even by products of certain refinery steps.
    "May you live in interesting times." Dave.

    Excellent inputs on achieving vehicle to grid. Growing number of EVs is a challenge for most utilities. Please read my blog on how utilities can address some of these challenges using SAP based solutions at this link:

    http://www.infosysblogs.com/sap/2011/11/how_utilities_can_address_the.html

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