Saving 20 million barrels a day. The 100mpg hybrid car should be here, now!

This is a guest article by Mark Yates, The Oil Drum member googlepeakoil.


There is an urban legend that goes "car companies are withholding the 100 mpg car". It might not have been true before... and now while not withholding it, the 100mpg is ready - they're just being very very slow to make it and sell it!

For many years the car companies have said the "the batteries aren't ready" (here and here *) and I'm sick of reading it. They are in fact so "ready" that within a few months to a year 3 relativley small automakers (further details below) will be thumbing their noses at the big 4 auto companies as they bring to market electric cars (and a pickup) with 300-700hp electric motors, 100mph+ top speed and 100-200+ mile ranges per charge. Which might lead many to ask, "why are car companies saying the batteries not ready". Meanwhile, several groups of people such as Calcars have been converting various hybrids into Plugin Hybrids capable of in excess of 100mpg (in combined city/highway driving). The technology easily exists for the 100mpg production car. Please, "big auto" just make some yourselves!

* This page at Calcars lists where the various car companies are on PHEVs.

But why do we need the 100mpg car?

Before the Model T Ford became the huge mass production success it was there were apparently more electric cars than hydrocarbon (petrol/diesel) vehicles on the roads (Source). What happened though was improvements in the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) far outpaced battery technology. However, we are at the dawn of a new age of electric and hybrid electric vehicles that should begin reversing this trend. The technology is here, now. We just await the car companies to put it together into a production car that will give us what we and the World needs a 100mpg+, ordinary looking, reasonably priced, car. If it doesn't happen soon we're going to be in serious trouble as Peak Oil catches Joe Public with their pants down, the proud owner of their crossover SUV pulling into a petrol station with a big "No Fuel" sign in their path. If this happens we're going to see catastrophic economic depression. We in the OECD (Europe, Japan, America, etc.) are rich nations and complain about petrol prices. But in other parts of the World biofuels are replacing food crops (or ancient forests); riots are occuring as governments try to pass on costs to the public; poorer people can't afford oil for their cooking stoves and generators run short leading to blackouts. Capitalism and the market are king - this will happen. Time is limited. The 100mpg car will save us around 20million (Source #1 below) of the 85million barrels a day we use and buy us time, precious time to do whatever else we need to find renewables and alternatives for oil.

"Innovations such as the plug-in hybrid should not have been sitting on the shelf for so long"
Rep. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who has proposed a fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2018 - source

Peak Oil will happen. All countries are producing at or near capacity causing price rises this summer to approach past highs when hurricanes devastated US Gulf Coast refining production. Replacing the entire fleet of fuel thirsty cars is going to take 10-20 years (time to build the cars and get sufficient take-up to make a massive difference). An often cited report by Robert Hirsch, requested by the US Department of Energy before being buried has already stated we need to act 10-20 years before Peak Oil to prevent an "unprecedented risk management problem". So I beg you, auto-companies, policy makers, governments, read this and other articles here, and act now!

As many commentators have said before, the only thing inhibiting the plugin-hybrid / electric car has been the battery - and as this article will illustrate - the batteries are indeed ready. Electric motors are, after all, now so powerful they rival gas turbine engines for the same weight (gas turbines are so light and powerful you'll find them used in something where weight is even more important than cars - helicopters). As an example, the Tesla Roadster (a car capable of 0-60mph in under 4 seconds) has a motor the size of a watermelon that weighs only 70 lbs (33kg). Electric motors have only one moving part (unlike a car's Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)) are brushless (so no friction, wear or maintenance), relatively inexpensive, and are greater than 90% efficient (a petrol engine is only about 30% efficient #2 source below, pdf .

Tesla Roadster, available Autumn 2007, has an electric motor no bigger than a watermelon

PHEVs would also not strain the grid despite the large amount of electricity it would take to charge one (aprox 10kWh for 30 miles range) as nightly off-peak demand (when people would most likely charge them) is far less than the afternoon / early evening peak time. It has been cited that as many as 4 million PHEV (Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles) could be charged in California (source #3 below). In fact, instead of worsening grid conditions PHEVs could actually help balance out the load from the grid. See 'Grid Balancing' below.

Batteries are key - the rise of the Electric Car

Experts say, "The battery is key". So, this as I see it is the path to the electric car, they are big flashing signs telling automakers how good batteries have become. The following is a path to the electric car that shows how increasing battery reliability is taking over from the ICE...
1. Fossil fuel powered cars (a single 12V battery is only powerful enough to run the starter motor)
2. Hybrid cars (comparatively weak batteries, powers car at low speeds only). The Prius is already 10 years old
3. Plugin-hybrid cars (battery powers car at greater speeds). ICE only needed at highway speeds. Even then the electric motor and battery still contribute. First Plugin Prius made in 2004 although Felix Kramer of CalCars has been building them for years before that.
4. Charge depleting hybrid - a smal petrol/diesel engine is not used to drive the car, it is only or primarily used to recharge the battery which in turn drives an electric motor. This is the concept behind the Chevy Volt (corporate site).
5. The electric car. The GM EV-1 made a brief appearance in the 90s. It was produced in limited quantities, never sold, only leased, and then destroyed by its creators as oil prices fell to $10 a barrel / petrol to $1 a gallon and a California zero emission vehicle mandate was killed. While not a big issue for many it was capable of a top speed of 80mph and had a range of around 70 miles on lead acid batteries, or 120 miles on NiMH batteries. It was also a relatively compact 2 seater.

However, the electric car is back with a vengeance... There are at least 3 electric cars in production now - The Tesla Roadstar, the British made Lightning and the Phoenix SUT. There's also a clever 3 wheeled plugin hybrid car/motorbike called the VentureOne that looks nifty. There's even an electric car (with EV-1 performance) due in 2009 from a company based in China - for only £15,000 - that might be enough to scare the big 4 into action! Motorbikes are also getting the electric treatment - there's The Enertia from Brammo, The Vectrix and several others. Creators of small, 2 seater "city" electric cars are also beginning to replace standard lead-acid batteries with the "new" better batteries.

So we're already at stage 5 - and where are the plugin-hybrids and electric cars from the big four automakers? Toyota may have one as early as 2008 (but for some unfathomable reason it apparently uses old technology NiMH batteries). Recently Peugeot-Citreon have announced they may have a diesel hybrid by 2010 which will get a claimed 69mpg, greater than the standard Prius ... but it won't be a plugin. GM however have embarked on some serious green washing after their green credentials got dragged through the mud by last years hit documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car". It didn't help that as recently as 2005 their Vice Chairman Bob Lutz had dismissed hybrids (here, here and especially here) with no thought about the fuel saving (Toyota reckons plugins have saved 215million gallons). But GM may now have a "plugin" one in showrooms by 2010 - the so-called Chevrolet Volt which has gained much interest at recent Auto shows. If you do less than 40 miles (and charge it every day) they claim it will never need to be filled up with fuel. GM also claim an incredible 150mpg when driven 60 miles a day. This is pretty revolutionary.

Important note - the Tesla and Lightning electric cars only cost a lot ($92,000+) as they are limited production sports cars - using more batteries than a production electric car would need, and many times more than a plugin hybrid would need. As batteries get cheaper with mass production more batteries could be included in future plugin-hybrids, increasing the range from around 40 miles to 100 miles+ and reducing the ICE to less than 1 litre (the Volt only uses a 1.0 litre 3 cylinder engine to recharge the battery). If you could go 100 miles on an electric charge, and at speeds up to 65mph you would only use the ICE for over-taking / hill climbing, long journeys and on empty motorways.

The "new" lithium batteries... the battery is ready!

Driven by investment in laptops, mobile phones and other portable devices battery technology has accelerated rapidly in the last two decades. It has now reached a point where at least 3 companies have come out with batteries that are ideal to be used in the production of electric and plugin hybrid cars now, yes now!

These batteries are not your standard laptop or ipod lithium batteries! Standard lithium batteries use Cobalt Oxides (LiCoO2). The Cobalt - Oxygen bond is weak, which can lead to thermal runaway (resulting in the inevitable fire or explosion). Special circuits are found in all of these batteries that carefully monitor charge levels. Errors in production have led to the recall of literally millions of units after some serious battery fires left some users with second degree burns. Many site this excuse as a reason why they haven't been used in cars yet they seem to forget cars carry flammable fuels and can catch fire in accidents.

The new battery chemistry uses Lithium, Iron and Phosphate and Oxygen (LiFePO4) as the cathode material. The Fe-P-O is far stronger than in the standard battery - they are also more structually stable (see here for further reading). The batteries go by several names depending on the company; Nano Phosphate, Lithium Iron Phosphate or Lithium Iron. I like the double meaning of LiFe myself (an acronym of the chemical name of Lithium and Iron). This Science News article proves that the technology has been around for over five years now.

The first one of the three companies I actually came across was Valence Technology and their patented "Saphion Lithium Iron" technology. The graph below is taken from their updated tests (which they kindly supplied me with). At 23oC (probably typical Northern Hemisphere temperatures) you can see the capacity is still around 97% after 600 charges and 95% after 1400 charge cycles. You can read more about the vehicle sized cel packs here.

Valence U-Charge battery performance. Source, pdf

The A123 Systems battery can charge to 90% capacity after approximately 2300 charges (86% after 3800) according to this graph.

These numbers are revolutionary. Even if your car has a small battery pack (plugin hybrid with 40 mile range) and you only drive it in town as an electric vehicle your battery is going to last 40x2300 miles (an amazing 86,000 miles on PHEV power alone) and the car will still go to 90% of the distance it could on a charge when new (36 miles instead of 40)! It seems the battery will outlast the life of the typical car on the road today. If your car is an electric car (with more batteries) and you can do 150 miles a charge it will be 90% as good-as-new after an astounding 345,000 miles! 2300 charges at one charge a day is also more than 6 years. The Phoenix SUT uses Altair Nano's battery and is expected to last 250,000 miles / 12+ years.

The Segway company adopted Valence's battery technology and it more than doubled the range to 24 miles of their electric, 2 wheel vehicle while halving the weight and the charge time. Valence's batteries, like the other 3 companies, are also safe. Very safe. You can seriously abuse them (pierce them with a nail, crush them, shoot them, etc) with no risk of fire or explosion! Valence's website has a video on its site demonstrating their batteries alongside standard lithium batteries. The standard ones look like a cross between a fire cracker and a flame thrower when damaged!

Valence has been around 15 years and may be in the lead currently with their batteries in plugin hybrids and electric motorbikes, but its competitors Altair Nano and A123 Systems are snapping at their heels. A123 seems to have serious industry backing and has signed major contracts with GM for the Volt.

Their batteries have the safety and life of Valence's but boast:
a. an incredibly fast recharge times of as little as 1 or 5 minutes to around 90% capacity!
b. a charging/operating temperature range from -30C to 65C (exceeding the -10C to 50C of Valence) - easily good enough for the coldest winters and hottest summers)
c. even greater capacity and current (though Valence has a newer generation in development with twice the power/duration of the original packs).

You won't believe how powerful these batteries are. The Killacycle motorbike using A123 Systems batteries claims the battery pack weighs only 161 lbs but delivers over 350hp from a 1575 amp battery pack with 7.5kWh of storage. There's a nice video on YouTube of it doing the quarter mile from a standing start to 155mph in 8 seconds!

The plugin hybrid - the 100mpg+ car/SUV

The plugin hybrid is a normal looking car which can achieve in excess of 100mpg on a "typical" mixed city/highway journey. People have already modified the standard Prius to prove it and are reporting mpg from 100mpg to as high as 250mpg. 135mpg is quoted at this source. But 100mpg is typical with a typical 20-30mile range battery pack people have been installing.

The plugin hybrid has the advantage that it can be both an electric car (zero emission, quiet, cheap to run, and non-oil dependant) and at the same time, a normal petrol car. If your commute is at non highway speeds and under 20 miles a day then you may hardly ever need to fill up with petrol. The exact speed and distance will only depend on the balance of engine size to battery size. Put in more batteries and you can get a purer electric car. Put in fewer and you might be limited to a 50mph (light acceleration) 20 mile electric range only ... before the petrol engine seamlessly kicks in. If you don't charge it then it would perform the same as a normal hybrid car and only charge itself via regenerative breaking - running the motor backwards to charge the battery when you press the brake lightly (note if you slam on the brake it has normal brakes too!). On the other hand if you charged it daily, ONLY drove short distances at non-highway speeds, didn't floor the accelerator it would be a pure electric car with an almost infinite mpg - comparable to the Chevy Volt!

Note - as well as regenerative breaking, hybrids save gas in two other ways. They turn the engine off when the car is not moving, even when the AC is on. As idling wastes approximately half a gallon an hour (1 gallon for trucks, pdf) this can be significant in long jams. Thousands of cars trying to flee New Orleans in the path of Katrina ran out of gas in stationary traffic! In slow moving traffic / gentle acceleration they also don't need to run the ICE making them "light" EVs.

Plugin Hybrid Stage 1

The Hidden EV Mode
Hybrids such as the Prius and Lexus RX400h can run in all electric mode. The Prius sold in Asia and Europe has a button labelled "EV" which causes the car to run for about 1.5 miles as an electric vehicle without triggering the ICE to come on first (useful for tiny trips, parking, crawling traffic, etc). Now 1.5 miles is pretty rubbish. Some clever folks figured out that all 2004 and later Prius models could do this, you just need to follow this guide.

The low mileage is because the NiMH battery pack is both under-powered (1.3kWh) and deliberately crippled to only use some of its capacity. The reason is not some conspiracy to stop people saving fuel, it's apparently done to ensure battery life (source A and B). So as to guarantee the hybrid synergy drive (including the batteries) for 8 years and 100,000 miles it can only run the battery down to 40% (from only 80% max) capacity before it tells itself too much of this will hurt the longevity of the battery. It's also of course underpowered to save on weight and cost and as it's only really designed to power the car at very low speeds (limited electronically to 34mph max).

Plugin Hybrid Stage 2

28x the range of a Prius battery - same volume, same mass!
Calcars wrote some battery management software, added a charging socket and replaced the standard 1.3kWh NiMH pack with some lead acid batteries (later 9kWh worth of Valence's Saphion® battery) - a battery not much bigger than the NiMH one but obviously more energy dense, and equally lightweight which can use nearly ALL of it's available capacity so called "deep discharge/cycling" or cycling which damages ordinary batteries. New lithium batteries can run from 0-100% DoD (Depth of Discharge) without damage to the battery life/capacity.

The standard NiMH battery cannot deep discharge and only uses 0.3kWh of it's available capacity. So what you get is a factor of 4 gain (the percent used) multiplied by the increased capacity (9 / 1.3 = 7) 4x7 and you get a battery about 28x as powerful. Your 1.5 mile range car now goes 30-40 miles in electric mode!

The electric motor is still the same, with a rating of 67hp / 50kW (kilo-watt) so it is limited to about 35mph in electric mode before the engine kicks in.

Toyota were apparently so impressed when they heard about the work of CalCars on improving their car they borrowed it for a week, flying it to their lab in Japan to test before returning it intact.

After market companies like EnergyCS, AmberJac and others will fit a 9kWh, 230volt, 40Ah battery pack to a standard Prius. This site has a table comparing the different after market companies. Calcars also lists these companies that will enhance your Prius for you... turning it into a full PHEV vehicle!

Toyota - Very good and very stupid

Yes, they are developing a plugin-prius - there are pictures and even some video from Japanese TV on YouTube.

You can read the mixed feedback on this blog - The feedback is mostly bad as although they're doing a PHEV they're still using the now "rubbish" NiMH batteries. In fact, two sets of the same battery pack, just connected in parallel!

They're not using any of the above "wonder batteries" and not surprisingly they're getting poor performance (a rather feeble 8mile range) but a top electric-only drive speed of 62mph (though I suspect this means accelerating very very slowly to prevent the ICE kicking in). Maybe NiMHs are dirt cheap now. I understand the battery company is part of the same parent company. Maybe, as this is just a new model Prius, they don't have the engineering budget to try anything too new, like better batteries. Or maybe being a big corporation, it "turns" like the proverbial oil tanker and they are being too cautious. Hopefully they'll wake up, soon! They seem to have competition from GM coming their way.

Okay, we can give some credit to Toyota for coming out with the Prius, popularising hybrid cars, proving the technology can work, coming out with some remarkable innovation while being very reliable (if it wasn't they wouldn't give a 8 year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery and the hybrid system!). However the car achieves only the same mpg rating as some small sized diesels in Europe (where diesel vehicles make up to 50% of new car sales).

What's interesting is that the Hybrid Synergy drive is now being used besides engines far larger than the Prius one (1.4 litres). It's alongside a 2.4 litre one in the Camry, and a still larger one in Toyota's sister company inside the Lexus RX400h. Instead of improving the battery and shrinking the petrol engine it's now just being used to make even more marginal reductions in fuel economy and to increase horse power. I'd like to see them putting the technology in their smaller cars alongside a diesel engine - otherwise they're going to find themselves overtaken by European rivals.

Fast charging. The "Gas" station does not need to be a relic of the 20th Century...

Due to the low current capabilities of the domestic electric grid, charging a battery as big as a car's in an incredibly fast 5-10 minutes (as the Lightning, and Phoenix both claim on their site) isn't possible at home. You would need to have a circuit capable of 100s of amps and most home circuits in the UK run on 13 amps and upto 45 amps if you have a separate cooker or electric shower circuit. You could trickle charge the car at home overnight and fast charge it at a charging station. I imagine green-field office sites, car parks and petrol stations would be ideal locations, maybe even some motel stations would install one to encourage motorists to stop there.

However, with a pack even as small as the typical PHEV's 9-10kWh charging in 5 minutes would require a massive load of 120kW! That's the same as 1200 100watt light bulbs or 40 kettles all running at once. It's also the average use of about 90 houses (averaging 1.5kW) - and that would be to charge just one car at once! Imagine a filling station with 10 of these and the demands on the local grid might be quite heavy. So I would assume a petrol station located near an electricity sub-station would have an advantage! On the other hand once enough petrol stations and other sites installed quick-charge stations the limited electric range of electric cars quickly vanishes as an issue.

Also a charge time under 5 minutes is about the same as an average person spends fuelling a car and paying for it, which makes forecourt charging of electric cars a real possibility. Other people have suggested that the batteries could be interchangeable at gas stations (take out the flat one, put in a charged one) but personally I could never see this working for everything from warranty reasons to the customised location, shape, make and capacity of batteries.

Grid balancing - is there nothing the electric car can't do?

Given the remarkably high density of energy in the batteries it could be possible to run your household electricity supply off the car during times of brownouts / blackouts. You could also sell electricity back to the grid during peak times and help "load-balance" the grid if you wanted to make money. V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) will become increasingly necessary in the future as electric grids are put under strain from reduced fossil fuel availability.

Some people with solar / wind-power units such as the WindSave have devices installed by the electricity company that enables them to do just that.

Peak electricity demand is met by the most expensive power stations making peak-demand electricity expensive and something grid companies may be happy to buy back.

Nuclear and coal power plants can't increase or decrease their demand quickly and of course these are the ones now being considered in many countries as oil and gas (which can respond quickly to demand) first increase in price then run out. Electric car / plugin-hybrid could both smooth out the troughs in the grid (charge the car during cheap, off-peak times raising demand) and help with the peaks (supply the grid during peak hours), lowering demand. The grid already uses a method of storing capacity and releasing it in the form of 'Pumped Storage' hydroelectric dams. These draw electricity during off-peak time, pumping water uphill into a reservoir - then at peak times they flow normally.

The evolution of batteries

  • Lead Acid - used in 1920's electric vehicles is very old, heavy (due to the lead)
  • Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) - Lighter. Cadmium is classed as a heavy metal (not weight, just toxicity). Has a "memory effect" which means capacity can be reduced if not charged/discharged correctly. Found in cheap portable devices.
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) - Better than NiCad, no heavy metals and a much reduced memory effect problem. Capacity has been increased with each new generation (typical AAs now are rated at 2500mAh, earlier ones were below 1000mAh). Found in the standard Prius.
  • Lithium Ion / Lithium Polymer - Very energy dense and powerful. But highly flammable and explosive if abused. Lithium polymer batteries are small Require a small circuit to control charge. Found in laptops, new mobile phones, ipods, etc.
  • Lithium Iron / Nano Phosphate (aka: LiXxx) - Energy density similar to Lithium Ion, safe when physically abused, light, exceptional life and deep cycle charge capability, large operating temperature range

"Forget hydrogen, forget hydrogen, forget hydrogen"

James Woolsey, former head of the CIA (source)

The reasons for this have been covered in other articles, but to summarise the key points:
1. Hydrogen despite being one of the most abundant elements in the Universe exists nowhere naturally on Earth as pure hydrogen!
2. Hydrogen needs to be stored in a solution or under extreme pressure, around 5000psi (pounds per square inch) to store enough to make it go a comparable distance to a normal car, eg. the Honda FCX concept car.
3. It exists in massive quantities on this planet but not in ways we can get at without expending more energy that might as well be used to fuel vehicles
4. Hydrogen is the smallest element so it is a devil to keep stored and literally leaks out of everything through the tiniest hole. The engineering quality and sealants need to be exceptionally engineered to keep the leaking to even a moderate level! These are the two processes for making hydrogen:
1. from water - which requires electricity.
2. hydrocarbons (fossil fuels).Until we have abundant almost free electricity or abundant fossil fuels (as if) we're not going to see a hydrogen economy! It's that simple. Both processes of producing hydrogen are not very energy efficient (about 50%). Storing electricity in a battery is >90% efficient. However, the reason hydrogen is still mentioned as a possible fuel can be summed up as follows:
1. Oil companies love hydrogen. The main source of hydrogen is natural gas. Oil companies own natural gas fields. Hydrogen could be sold from the typical forecourt filling station the same way as petrol is so they don't lose their business model if hydrogen succeeds.
2. Car companies like hydrogen. The technology needed to overcome so many hurdles to be economically viable means they don't need to consider it seriously.
3. It sounds green. When burned, it combines with oxygen to produce only water!
4. Car companies can reassure current gas guzzler wanting consumers that they're working on it, and "when oil runs out" we'll use hydrogen - but it's 20 years away (ie. at least the length of time you're going to own the 4x4 I'm trying to sell you).
Note - even recently, car companies such as BMW have been touting hydrogen as the future.

FAQ - Answering common questions

Q. What is the cost of electricity compared to filling up at a gas tank?
A. Tesla Motors site the cost of charging their car at a very cheap $0.02 a mile. Pluginpartners quote a per gallon price of about $1.00. So, about 1/3rd the current price per gallon. This is actually the highest estimate I've seen. As the electricity grid is less dependant on imported oil the price differential is not likely to decrease in this author's opinion.

Q. Won't power from the grid (to charge the cars) produce additional emissions?
A. What people call "well-to-wheel" emissions for grid-powered vehicles is far lower than gasoline (source), even for the US grid (which is 42 percent coal). Cars charging off-peak will use power from plants that may not be able to turn off at night. Also many parts of the country get most of their power from cleaner sources like natural gas and hydropower (and arguably nuclear). It's also far easier to improve the emissions of a few centralized power stations than millions of aging cars. Plug-in hybrids recharged from clean energy companies or domestic rooftop photovoltaic / wind systems will be true zero emission vehicles.

Q. What about the weight of the batteries?
A. The batteries will not add much to the weight of a car. Lithium technology batteries are very light. Steel and the engine are the heaviest thing in cars, and the engine and gas tank wouldn't need to be as large in a plugin-hybrid. Also note that 1 litre of fuel weighs about 1kg. 20gallons of "gas" in a gas tank is around 170lbs / 80kg of deadweight. The batteries would weigh about the weight of an average passenger and be low down, increasing stability. The Killacycle motorbike has a 10kWh pack (which would give a 30-40mile EV range in a car at 200-300Wh/mile) and it weighs 161lbs (75kg). A full EV vehicle may have a much larger pack but it dispenses with other heavy components such as the engine, gas tank, gears, starter motor, and other things you'd find under the bonnet of your average car. This page lists the additional weight of various battery packets after-market companies are fitting to the Prius.

Q. But won't two engines and other components increase the cost and weight of the vehicle?
A. This is not necessarily true. There are many things a hybrid / plugin hybrid doesn't need. The Prius does not need a clutch, step gear box, torque control, separate starter motor or alternator. As mentioned earlier, the existing engine and fuel tank would also not need to be as large. Hybrids are currently fitted with smaller engines than their petrol-only equivalents saving weight, space, fuel and cost. In plugins such as the Chevy Volt which have a larger battery pack the engine would be rarely used. Electric vehicles have few moving parts and therefore require almost no maintenance (spark plugs, oil changes, etc) so service costs will be less. The thousands of pounds in fuel savings of a full plugin hybrid are likely to offer a quick payback period.

Q. Why not put solar cells on the roof? Won't they help?
A. You'd need a roof larger than a house to get enough charge to move the car at low speeds. Solar cells are also energy intensive to produce and therefore costly. Solar cells convert only about 15% of the suns energy that falls on them. A whole day in the sun would barely trickle charge the car enough to give you a single mile of additional range. Until efficiency improves and cost falls solar cells are very inefficient with a long payback period.

Q. They're only in sports cars - so the batteries must be expensive!
A. Sports cars cost a lot as they are made by companies producing only a few hundred a year. They have limited "economies of scale" as nothing can be "mass produced", a lot is built by hand. They are also over-powered (being sports cars), using more batteries than a consumer car would need, and far more than a plugin hybrid capable of 100mpg would need. The batteries aren't the main cost in these $100,000 cars.
Mass production (if a big 4 automaker adopted the technology) would help the price fall rapidly. There is, of course, the running cost to consider. While the car may cost more, you would save money every time you drove past a petrol/gas station when you would normally be filling up.

Q. So roughly, how much do the batteries cost?
A. Probably around $5000, £2500. Although that would depend on the electric range you need, and this is before mass-production. Currently companies charge about $12,000 / £7000 to convert a standard Prius to a Plugin-Prius (and make it a 100mpg+ car). But that covers their time and expenses and replacing the old batteries, installing the new batteries, some new battery management equipment and adding a plug-socket.
Remember that while adding a hybrid drivetrain costs money there will be other cost savings (beside the savings at the gas station). The petrol/diesel engine doesn't need to be even half the size and car engines are heavy (electric motors have incredible torque that starts at 0rpm. This helps with fast acceleration and the highly important 0-60 time).

Q. Would an electric heater or AC be too much for the battery?
A. An electric heater rated at "half a bar" 0.5 kW/hour would run down a typical battery of 9kW in 18 hours - but that is far more than would be needed to keep the passengers warm (a car is a very small, insulated room). I also imagine that just like with conventional cars they'll run a heat exchanger around something warm (the electric motor or battery instead of the exhaust) to direct heat to the passengers if required. The Prius can run its AC unit without the engine being on - and that has a tiny battery (40% of 1.3kW usable).

Further Sources

#1. Note - 9.2 million barrels (388 million gallons) a day of America's 21 million barrels a day oil consumption is used for vehicle transport. Source, MSNBC.
America uses 1/4 of the World's 85 million barrels a day. It is therefore logical to assume at least three times that amount is used in total throughout the rest of the World (aprox 30 million barrels+ in vehicle transport). Increasing fuel economy from 20mpg (USA average) and 30mpg Europe/Japan average to 80mpg would save 2/3rds of that 30 million barrels.

Gasoline ICE Efficiency Rule of Thumb: 30% output power, 30% heat loss in exhaust, 30% heat loss to coolant, 10% heat loss to radiation.

Finally, some energy experts and utility analysts contend that millions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could be added to California’s fleet without substantially impacting the state’s current energy grid, since most of the charging for the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could be done during off-peak hours, at night. [29] . It’s estimated that 5,000 plug-in hybrids charging at night would represent less than 0.1 % of peak electrical demand in the state. [30] Moreover, they would also have strong beneficial environmental impact, since a plug-in hybrid vehicle that gets its energy from the grid during off-peak hours is thought to produce one-third the carbon dioxide emissions of an exclusively gas-powered car with a fuel efficiency of 24 mpg.

Note the Tesla uses approx 6800 standard laptop batteries, not batteries from any of the 3 (Altair, Valence, A123) battery companies mentioned. However, it uses various systems to increase the safety so if a single cell failed others wouldn't.

Additional Reading

- Calcars summary of what the various automakers are doing on PHEVs.
- A site listing developments in Electric Vehicles
- A grass-roots campaign site, bringing together companies who want PHEV fleet vehicles
- 'The Guardian' article on the Tesla car.
An article in a UK tabloid recently about the Lightning "The electric car that's faster than a Ferrari".
- BBC article on the revival of the electric car: EV1, Tesla, X1
- Excellent resource about the inner workings of the Prius:
- Brilliant, eye-opening article about the rise of the SUV during the late 1990s when oil prices and fuel economy fell, and how (no joke) cup-holders are essential to perceived safety.
- Google and YouTube - search for things like PHEV, Plugin, Plugin Prius, etc. Google also has news alerts you can subscribe to on any keyword. It will trawl the news sites each day and email you the top stories matching keywords you're interested in. I recomend this for keeping up on new developments.

PS. I do not currently own shares or have any financial interest in any of the companies listed here.

PPS. I don't own a Prius. I own a 10yr old Vauxhall Astra 1.6, it gets about 40mpg
One day I hope to replace it with an affordable 100mpg+ PHEV

Thanks for this very interesting bit of light relief from some of the doom and gloom that lurks here Mark! :o)

Is there light at the end of the personal transport tunnel? I guess one major question that remains to be answered is this:

Q. Can the deployment of new replacement technologies -such as electric vehicles- be done in sufficient quantity to make up for the as yet unknowable decline rate in fossil/liquid fuels? And at a time during which many people will be under accute financial stress? (I just reread Stuarts article "4%, 11%, Who the Hell Cares?" and I care!)

After reading the Calcars technical paper here (especially the timescales on slide 17) it probably can be done and I can see a time coming soon when the lease of this new breed of electric vehicles is a major growth industry as the owners other car (an SUV) rots on the driveway or gets traded in for its scrap value.


The EU metric of liters/km (American spelling :-) is much more appropriate than the US miles per gallon in looking at fleet fuel consumption.

More oil is saved in going from 15 mpg to 30 mpg than from 30 to 100 mpg, a fact reflected in the EU metric.

Two friends recently bought Honda Civic Hybrids (50 mpg city/50 mpg highway). The jump to a Prius (65 mpg city & 50 mpg highway) will just not save that much and the $2,000+ tax credit is still available for the Honda. And they both liked the Civic better.

All mpg from memory and old version of EPA tests.

100 mpg is flashy, but just going to 50 mpg is much more than halfway there. Available at your Honda & Toyota dealers today. 1% of sales are of 50 mpg or better cars ?

Best Hopes for fewer VMT (vehicle miles traveled),


With my low VMT, my 25 y/o 30 to 31 mpg (real world - city) M-B 240D is all the economy I want or need.

Think of the savings of going from 15 to 50 mpg :)
Using rental cars / taxis would be ideal for electric cars as the main taxi rank / collection point thing would also be the charging station. If you bought the 'car' but leased the batteries which where owned by the grid in exchange for using your car as balancing capacity as it was needed it, might help over come the price. Also the large market of used batteries for large scale energy storage is a no brainer :)

The battery technology is ideal for electric bikes and possibly electric boats??
Electrical energy storage and information is key to a low carbon / low fossil fuel economy, balancing the grid using more renewables and demand based on an instantaneous cost would be a tremendous help. Google are you listening? :P

Electrical transport is far more efficient than using ICE which has a MAX efficiency of 30% more like 10-15%
Lightweight, aerodynamic construction is essential for any vehicle and there are some exciting new composites coming out. Check Amory Lovins work on the hyper car and his series of advanced energy efficiency are well worth a look by all.

I'd like to see a lightweight trike that can be pedaled, then a battery pack and motor added to carry some luggage or a passenger. 21 Century Electric bike rickshaws would be so cool, maybe your train ticket would get you a ride on one.

Alan for president !!

I'd like to see a lightweight trike that can be pedaled, then a battery pack and motor added to carry some luggage or a passenger. 21 Century Electric bike rickshaws would be so cool, maybe your train ticket would get you a ride on one.

What I wouldn't like to see is that same trike after it's been in an accident with an Expedition. That's the problem with any motorized bike or mini car solution, unless everyone does it at the same time natural selection will favor those who drive the big vehicles.

Maybe we will see more seperation of lanes based on vehicle size and weight and number of passengers in an attempt to encourage efficient transport. Got to love cycling past cars in traffic jams :) breathing all their exhausts :(

Any one got good information about canal systems in the UK, and its possibility for shipping stuff about?

from what i understand, one of the primary problems with the british canal system is the size of boats it can handle. A maximum of about 30 tonnes per barge is not great, due to the width of the canals, and is in fact one of the primary reasons for the system falling into disuse due to far more economical scaling that was capable with railways.

As a result, the canals have mostly been turned into waterways for pleasure boats, but in the grand scheme of things, at least they're still there; and there's no strong reason why at least at some scale, the highly efficient form of transport that is acheivable with a canal won't be seen again.

This is the main reason why I haven't gone out an bought a quadricycle yet, or even an NEV for that matter. We need to reach that sweet spot where gasoline is high enough to slow down the maniacs, but where the economy is still functioning enough that it is actually possible to buy the things.

Meeh... Expeditions, Suburbans, F150s are on life support. Seen any new Hummer's lately?

To your point... we'll suffer with the baggage for a while. But the worst is over, nobody with 2 neurons thinks gasoline will get cheap again. Nobody with three neurons wants to burn it anyway.

Folks are putting brush-less electric hubs on bikes and trikes now. That lithium-iron battery is perfect for an ultra-light commuter.

"To your point... we'll suffer with the baggage for a while. But the worst is over, nobody with 2 neurons thinks gasoline will get cheap again. Nobody with three neurons wants to burn it anyway."

Unfortunately, Will, we live in a one neuron country.

SubKommander Dred

Yeah, the neighbor just bought one. Or leased one - whatever...

The funny thing is that he was complaining about fuel economy of the previous SUV, and now he goes out and gets this thing??

Once gas hits 5$/gallon in the U.S., these things will disappear...

One solution is dedicated lanes for low speed vehicles. This has already been implemented, for instance in Lincoln, California. Many European cities have separated bicycle lanes.

Look at the vehicle fleet efficiency of Europe or the Asian tigers -- much higher than the U.S. Then look at the per capita traffic fatality rates in those countries -- far lower than the U.S.

Turns out that driver education, enforcement, and advanced roadway engineering standards are much more effective at saving lives than relying on the armor of hulking trucks.

Indeed, you are absolutely correct. And, turns out that eliminating automobiles completely saves even more lives and reduces the cost of road repair.

As in so many cases, the problem isn't the technical solution. It's the human implementation.

[edit note - corrected first sentence of second para to read "isn't" rather than "is]

Re; collisions with SUV's
Start with a 55 mph speed limit. That saved a lot of lives last time around.

When ABS brakes were added to cars on a large scale, the insurance industry whined because there were more deaths in vehicles with ABS. The braking industry looked into it and found that people were driving faster by 1-2 mph average. When the higher speed was added to the ability to steer, it became apparent that people were dying when they AVOIDED hitting the car in front of them, but drove off the road into a ditch, a river, or a tree.

Slowing down is the most important thing to save lives and whaddaya know, it saves energy, too.


"How many dead soldiers are in YOUR gas tank?"

Adult trikes and quadricycles with electric assist are on the market right now, just do a google.

Bion X, electrical bike conversion. Kits can be used to convert different bicycle or tricycle configurations
4 multiplying effort levels: The motor can boost your thrusting power by 25%, 50%, 100%, or 200%,depending on the sssistance level selected,com_virtuemart/Itemid,37/p...

Source of electric bikes by country

24 and 36 volt e-bikes

sources of bikes and reviews

bicycles and trykes (48, 56 volt) up to 42mph


A study of electrical bike adoption in China. 10 million sold in 2006.


Another article on e-bike adoption in China.

Last year, Chinese bought 16 million to 18 million electric bicycles, up from 10 million the year before. Some see sales hitting 25 million to 30 million this year. But so far, the diandong zixingche, as the bike is called here, is a unique Chinese phenomenon, with limited export appeal.

In many major cities, electric bicycles now make up 10 to 20 percent of all two-wheeled vehicles on the roads, a trend that could have an impact on the nation's rising greenhouse-gas emissions and poor air quality.

Many Chinese cities, including Shanghai, with its population of 20 million, have banned motorcycles and motor scooters as dangerous and polluting, giving a huge sales boost to what the bike trade has dubbed e-bikes.

They spend less than 2,000 yuan (about $260) to buy an electric bike, and they don't have to pay for public transportation," Ma said. "Some people pay 10 yuan (about $1.30) a day in public transportation. An e-bike costs just a few cents a day."

Experts say e-bikes can run 30 miles on 5 cents' worth of electricity, a rate of energy consumption that makes them even more efficient than fully occupied buses.

Outside China, sales of electric bicycles remain low. About 100,000 units a year are sold in the United States, and about as many in Europe. But it is China that now leads the world in electric bike production and sales. And many of its 450 million bike riders are increasingly trading up to electric.

In the United States, consumers are also migrating in greater numbers to e-bikes, drawn in part by lighter and more powerful batteries and practical aids like bike lanes and lockers. E- bike sales are forecast to double by 2009 to 200,000 from 100,000 in 2005

Encouraged by the trend, local governments in some regions have started offering incentives to get more people pedaling e-bikes. In Pasadena, California, a rewards program has been developed, with cash handouts for frequent e-bikers and a $500 subsidy.

But India, perhaps, offers the most e-bike promise. Scooter-like e-bikes appeal to penny-pinching hipsters, and an e-bike craze is running fast among India's call center crowd.

The arrival of Ultra Motors, a British electric vehicle upstart which just won recognition from Red Herring, a technology Web site, and from the World Economic Forum, attests to India's e-bike potential.

In only two months, the company has sold 4,000 e-bikes with its strategic partner, Hero, India's biggest bike maker. Ultra is incorporating its more efficient motor, designed by a Russian scientist, into Hero's bikes; it plans the same for scooters and rickshaws, for sales of up to 300,000 vehicles by 2010.


Electric bikes with highspeed trains which charge the bikes, or better an exchange service at all statations. 30 miles each end from a train network can cover a huge area fairly easily, just need enough e-bikes that they are effectivly worthless so no-one needs to nick them. Maybe e-bikes which can run on special rails? these can be elevated above the level of roads to avoid the need for junctions and such.

Maybe this is a better idea?

Small wheel folding electric bikes that are lighter are more easily taken onto public transit. Lightest units are about 30-40 lbs. Some of the small wheel folders are still too big to fit into the trunk of a Civic (I have one which does not fit into my Civic, which makes it tougher for mixed commuting. Need to commute across a bridge and 40 miles each way. Would want to use the bike at the other end during lunch etc...)

More advanced versions could get down to 18-25 lb range.

Bulk production and a lot of cheap e-bikes, e-trikes and segways could be used in large car-excluded areas.


Paris has 10,000 rent-a-bikes (no where in Paris are you more than a few hundred meters form a rental station) with 10,000 more on order. Lyon also has a rental bicycle program plus other EU cities.

No rental e-bikes though. Everyone has to pedal or just sit there straddling the bike, sipping sarcanol.

Best Hopes for low tech solutions :-)


I didn't include in my article that A123 Systems is hoping to bring to market in the next year an odd-on for hybrids to make them plugin hybrids.
"Our Hymotion division aims to bridge the near-term gap between HEVs and PHEVs by offering Battery Range Extender Modules (BREMs)" so this is possible for existing cars too.

To make it more clear, average VMT in US is now around 12k per year.

Gallons of fuel used over that distance:

15mpg: 800 gal
30mpg: 400 gal
100mpg: 120 gal
250mpg: 48 gal

From X-Prize:

Two friends recently bought Honda Civic Hybrids (50 mpg city/50 mpg highway). The jump to a Prius (65 mpg city & 50 mpg highway) will just not save that much and the $2,000+ tax credit is still available for the Honda. And they both liked the Civic better.

All mpg from memory and old version of EPA tests.

Uhhh...I wouldn't count on the EPA milage, which you apparently do. Owners, including Autoweek find the Prius to come in at about 42 MPG.

The Jetta Deisel gets 50 MPG.

Short trips in the wintertime you can get a Prius down to 42 or so, sure. Long highway trips should be better than 50, closer to 55. You have to drive like a *maniac* to get much below 50 highway, though, granted, it seems like most people are maniacs on the road. 60 city is pretty optimistic, 52-56 in the summer is more realistic, and down in the 40s winter when it needs to keep the engine on a lot to keep it (and you) warm.

And next year there will be more options. VW will re-introduce the TDI with a 50-state compliant diesel engine, and the SmartCar will reportedly also be available.

All that being said - for those of us that already have 50mpg, the question is what's next? The electric cars sound good - and could be my next vehicle, but the sportscar isn't for me.

In the meantime, I guess I will just ride my bicycle more. Need the exercise anyways...

Good diesels exist, for example I drive a 130bhp TDI which covers 0-62 in 9.2sec. It returns a combined 55.4 miles per UK gallon and 67.3mpg “extra urban”. My car’s over 3 years old, there are certainly more efficient small diesels around now. It’s sad to think that we could approximately double fleet efficiency in the UK, more than double in the US just by deploying what is already mature technology today. Not forgetting the speed of fleet turnover.

There really isn’t any excuse for manufacturing <30mpg cars. That’s something we could (technically) stop now with dramatic effect on fleet efficiency within a few years.

Yeah, I have one of those too. ~49mpg US. But they are hard to come by in the U.S. - VW had to artificially limit sales because of EPA rules.

VW had to temporarily suspend sales in the U.S. in 2007 because they had to retool to meet new emissions standards, but in 2008 they will be able to sell as many as they like.

There's an interesting story behind VW's suspension of US diesel sales in 2007. The TDI engine couldn't meet the Tier 2 emission standards that came into force with the 2007 model year, despite continuing to meet the EU's requirements. Likewise, imports of the tiny Smart car, sold in Canada as a diesel only, were suspended at the end of the 2006 model year. Canada and the USA share the same emissions standards.

Conspiracy theorists, and I'm almost one of them on this matter, see the hand of lobbyists for the former Big 3 behind this. American manufacturers, who have never been interested in selling small, efficient diesels, didn't want competition from the diesels currently sold in Europe.

The market share of diesels in the light passenger vehicle market in the USA before MY2007 was about 2%, including diesels in light trucks. This compares poorly to Europe, where the market share for diesels in new cars is over 50%.

A 2% market share would not support a business case for developing new diesel engines for North America alone. However, the EU will introduce new emission standards for diesels as part of the Euro5 code, effective with the beginning of the 2010 model year. Whether Americans see any new diesel car sales before that depends solely on the whims of the manufacturers.

I am not an electric engineer. So this question may not be rooted in reality. But, what the hey...

Let's say you have a small PHEV (the overall size of a Geo Metro, Smartcar, etc), but with one big difference. It has an intelligent retractable flexible arm in its underbelly that can reach into a subterranean electric cable to get power while in motion. Sort of like the cable cars in SF, except that the power is electricity, not mechanical pulling, and the attach/detach is done on the fly.

HOV lanes in cities could be fitted with these subterranean power lines. Wireless transponder technology allows the car to sense and attach/detach to the power line on the fly. Each car would meter power usage with time for time-sensitive metering.

Essentially you have an electric "trolley" system with small private trolley cars. Such a system could be incrementally installed in cities like Los Angeles to give PHEV drivers greater and greater range on grid electric power.

Could such a system work? With green electricity?

- How do you keep the grooves free of debris?

- If the debris is conductive (metal, like say a crushed pop can, or liquid as in snow or a heavy rain how do you prevent it from short circuiting, or energizing the wet road surface and killing crossing pedestrians or occupants of incorrectly shielded vehicles?

- If my car is connected to the groove and I rapidly change lanes how will the contact shoe be sure to retract fast enough , as opposed to being stuck in the groove and damaged?

- If there was a piece of debris wedged in a groove, say a rock, and an oncoming cars contact shoe was to hit it at speed whats to stop the shoe from being ripped off the bottom of the car? or at least badly damaged?

These are I think the sorts of reasons that lead electric trollys etc to have at least 1 of the conductors on an overhead wire. Subway cars use a side mounted hot rail, but obviously a subway tunnel is a lot different setup than an open roadway...

My concern was the current density required. But the mechanical problems are severe too, as you point out. I do think they could be solved, though. The connector arm could be kept rigid by fluid pressure, which would drop (in millisecs) when a sensor detected that the car was leaving a safe zone from the groove. For the debris, there could be a cavity beneath the live rail, that is purged as needed using sensors, into a sewage system. The live rail would sort of be on the roof of the cavity.

Such a system would not have to be contiguous. There could be quite big gaps that PHEVs would have to bridge using its own battery/gas.

Regardless of the technology, you're talking hundreds to thousands of dollars of hardware per vehicle (which may be easy to break if there is e.g. debris across the slot or the car skids) and on the order of $1 million/mile to reconstruct the road to accomodate the slot.

Much simpler to go to overhead wires, perhaps in special charging lanes.  If you have some fast-charging energy store, like ultracaps, flywheels or AltairNano's 60-second Li-ion battery, you can reduce the network to short segments of a mile or so every few tens of miles.  The capital cost is much smaller, the contact hardware stays away from road debris, and the pavement requirements are unchanged.
Wireless electric transfer is a possibility?
Inductive coils in the road and in the bottom of the vehicles, though I think they are only about 40% efficient, but you could add large wind turbines with the wireless tech and not have to install any cabling, though really inefficient the energy saving of using electric transport would possibly make up for it.

But prevention is better than cure, it seems more sensible to not have to travel long distances in the first place, but I guess there will always be inlaws to visit. Whats the difference between inlaws and outlaws? Outlaws are wanted

Its not the size of the tank its the size of the tap

You're still talking about tearing up the road (but with more expensive hardware going into it), introducing large magnetic fields (subject of lawsuits, however baseless), and then adding a huge efficiency hit.

If I was going to try something like that, I'd see if I couldn't make a magnetic system built like a rail down the middle of the lane (penetrating only the asphalt layer) and use it for direct traction; the element on the vehicle would be energized with DC and be the armature of a linear synchronous motor.  It would provide uniform speed and guidance as a side-effect and it could be used to run vehicles with very tight spacing for minimum air drag.  Losses could be minimized by only powering the segments where vehicles are running; debris could be pushed out of the way by non-ferrous "cowcatchers" just ahead of the propulsion shoe.

I would comment on one statement made above:
"Electric motors have only one moving part (unlike a car's Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)) are brushless (so no friction, wear or maintenance), relatively inexpensive, and are greater than 90% efficient (a petrol engine is only about 30% efficient #2 source below, pdf ."

While this is true, if one measures efficiency only within the electric car, the fact is that when considered as an energy system, taking coal or oil or natural gas and thermally generating electricity means that 2/3 of the original energy is lost in the generation of the electricity, which is then put in the car and converted with 90% efficiency. This can be found at the the Energy Department:

"Today’s plants convert only a third of coal’s energy potential to electricity"

From a system point of view, then, the electric car is really only 27% efficient, compared with 30% for the horrible internal combustion engine.


Actually ICEs used in our current car fleet are only 20% efficient or less. I don't know where Chris has the 30% figure from; I had mostly seen figures from 15 to 20%.

The biggest advantage of course is not the overall efficiency, which is only slightly better, but the diversity of sources of electricity. Wind, solar, hydro, nuclear - all emission-free (or almost) and with huge potential for ramping up - unlike FFs which are obviously going away.

It was me that wrote the article, not Chris :)
30% is the highest figure I've seen. I think I saw it stated for a Honda Civic. I didn't want to say a figure "under" 30% (and make cars look even worse) if some normal cars can achieve 30%.
Yes, the diversity is the other angle.
Also I didn't add that creating gasoline isn't 100% efficient. It has to be drilled for and the EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) is falling. Some sources like tar-sands are very inefficient - possibly net energy losers. It also has to be "cracked"? at refineries, transported to the petrol station.

Sorry about that, you really did a great job with the article. A nice breath of fresh air after all the gloom & doom around.

I've seen estimates that sans all refining and transportation energy expenses, gasoline contains 90% of the energy of the original oil. This drives the overall efficiency to 18% (if we accept the 20% figure, though it's also probably on the high side). Thus we'd be better off if we burnt oil directly in oil power plants. The same must be even more true for tar sands - I suspect they also can be burnt directly or after some minor processing.

"Today's" coal plants are actually 30 years old or more. Contemporary IGCC coal plants routinely achieve close to 50% efficiency. Natural gas plants are even more efficient. With heat recovery for nearby industrial processes, coal plant efficiency can be raised to the 70-80% level.

In addition, it is far easier to control pollutants from a few smokestacks than from millions of tailpipes.

For overall system efficiency, however, nothing beats bicycles. And here's a term paper that argues that electric bikes are 2-4 times more efficient than regular bikes. Can't vouch for its accuracy, though.

Not to be a downer but in fact we have very few IGCCs in the US, but lots of old 33% efficient single cycle plants.

Also, about

In addition, it is far easier to control pollutants from a few smokestacks than from millions of tailpipes.

That may work for NOx, where vehicles are the primary source. That may in principle work for carbon if we ever get to sequestration, but does not happen in practice. That certainly does not work for sulfur, mercury, uranium, arsenic etc which are either not in or taken out of motor fuels in the refining process. Going to EVs will also require moving away from coal (a good thing in itself anyway)

Somebody asked about the 30% gasoline engine efficiency. That's a peak efficiency (Toyota claims 32%, 37% for the Prius, 43% for their diesel), engines are seldom run at peak, and with parasitic losses (pumps, compressors, transmission losses) typical run time might be more like 15-20% for a standard gasoline engine, depending on load, driving style and pattern, temperature, etc.

Also, current Li-ion batteries have a well known shelf life, and begin to degrade immediately on manufacture. Nanotech cathode construction seems to alleviate this dramatically -- but all we have to verify those claims are press releases. There has been one independent evaluation of new tech batteries (concerning fast charging) which at least verifies claims about that. There have been no independent evaluations of the Tesla (which, BTW, uses the old style batteries). All in all the EV world is very promising, but we are still pretty early in the development game.

You may be interested in this report, Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Admittedly it's by an industry research group, so take it with the appropriate degree of skepticism. A few conclusions about the air quality impacts of a large penetration of PHEVs:

• Researchers created nine scenarios in the electric and transportation sectors over the 2010 to 2050 timeframe of the study. PHEVs have lower GHG emissions in all nine cases than either the conventional or the hybrid vehicles, ranging from a 40% to 65% improvement over the conventional vehicle to a 7% to 46% improvement over the hybrid electric vehicle.

• In most regions, particulate matter concentrations decrease due to significant reductions in VOC and NOx emissions from the transportation sector leading to less secondary particulate matter. In general, increases in particulate matter emissions from the electric sector are more than offset by significant reductions in VOC and NOx emissions from the transportation sector leading to less secondary particulate matter.

• On a population weighted basis, the improvements in ambient air quality for ozone and particulate matter are small but numerically significant for most of the country.

• Changes in power-plant operations and building of new power plants change the sulfate deposition patterns in many parts of the Eastern United States. However, the net impact of PHEVs over the entire continental United States is that of decreased sulfate deposition.

• PHEVs reduce nitrate acid deposition in much of the Eastern United States including the Ohio River valley. Total nitrogen deposition is reduced with PHEVs throughout the Eastern United States and near all major urban areas due to lower mobile source ammonia emissions with PHEVs.

• There are shifts in the patterns of mercury deposition due to PHEVs, with decreases being more widespread. Overall, despite a minor increase associated with EGU mercury emissions, mercury deposition is decreased in the U.S.

• Visibility is improved by PHEVs at Class I areas throughout the United States. The visibility improvements are not substantial in the Northern and Central United States but are considerable in the Eastern United States (e.g., the Appalachians) and California, especially Southern California.

• NRDC supports the introduction of PHEVs accompanied by substantial additional improvements in power plant emission rates. In areas where there are potential adverse impacts from air pollution as a result of PHEV charging, NRDC believes it is not appropriate to promote introduction until the public can be assured that air pollution will not increase.

That's an interesting report. Some of the findings are intuitive, especially wrt nitrogen. Some are strange, such as mercury (but I haven't read it in detail yet). They do note that a coal-fired PHEV will put out more GHGs than a regular car of the same mileage, which is just a statement of the relative carbon contents of gasoline and coal. And it is good to see that they account for secondary PM as well as primary.

How rare is Lithium? If new supplies need to be developed, then what will costs look like?

Has Toyota give a reason for focusing on NiMH.

Jon Freise
Analyze Not Fantasize -D. Meadows

Toyota has indicated production and safety problems on the batteries. If they put out a million Lithium battery cars and have even one percent of the Sony like battery problems the lawsuits and other issues would wreck them. They are targeting 2011.


RE: Safety problems with batteries. IMO at some point of time we are going to have to abandon some of our conveniences in order to reach a higher goal.

Which is of higher value: the ability to sue your car manufacturing factory if your battery catches fire (how often would this happen? once in a billion vehicle-hours?) or for example preventing runaway Global Warming?

For those that will jump on me that a fire can hurt or even kill you, I'll ask: road incidents kill tens of thousands, big cars also kill by the thousands those driving in the smaller cars. Yet we are not taking the mass transit and so far nobody has banned large vehicles. It turns out, we are already making huge trade offs that cost thousands of lives, but we are not ready to one, mostly hypothetical trade off to save the future of our kids. Why?

There is "no" problem with battery fires/explosions withh the batteries from Valence, A123 and Altair Nano. The batteries are inherently safe for chemical reasons. Lithium Cobalt stores oxygen in an unstable "weak bond" form. This is not the case with these LiFEPO.

The point of the article is Toyota and other companies are tarnishing Lithium batteries with the same brush when they say "lithium is not safe".

These companies batteries are stable. The facts and video links are in the article and on the company's site. Car companies can no logner use lithiums short life / safety as an issue. If they're saying the batteries are flammable - well so is plastic, the fake wood fascia and the seat cushion!

Researchers at UC Davis have been at the forefront of the hybrid movement for years and powerful advocates. I spoke with them at an alternative vehicle exhibition last year and they said they did not feel the Lithium batteries had the endurance and cycle life yet to become the mainstay hybrid auto battery under typical conditions of use. They had built vehicles using the Lithium batteries and were hopeful, but they didn't feel the batteries were ready yet for common use. Fine for a wealthy person who could afford to replace them. In the meantime,there are also ongoing improvements in NiMH tech so that they are coming closer to the safe Lithiun technologies.

The race is still on to develop the best battery and I hope we're close. I very much want a plug-in hybrid.

gTrout, Jon
Google Lithium Mining. There's some USGS publications, but they are long PDF's. Its water soluable, there's a lot in the water in El Paso, but commercial mining is done in North Carolina and Nevada The US is the world's biggest producer. Careful though, don't the meth labs use lithium batteries to make meth? Wouldn't want to have your door kicked in because you googled it and forgot to change the kitty litter box Bob Ebersole

Lithium is widely distributed on Earth and is the 33rd most abundant element;[1] however, it does not naturally occur in elemental form due to its high reactivity. Estimates for crustal content range from 20 to 70 ppm by weight.[2] In keeping with its name, lithium forms a minor part of igneous rocks, with the largest concentrations in granites. Granitic pegmatites also provide the greatest abundance of lithium-containing minerals, with spodumene and petalite being the most commercially-viable mineral sources for the element.[2]

Please follow the rules of this forum. Cite your references!

The Trouble With Lithium suggests there is a pretty major global lithium constraint. I haven't looked into it myself, but the report came across as credible on a first reading.

Hi Stuart,

Thanks for the link to William Tahill's article on lithium supplies. We can use it to calculate car-equivalent lithium reserves. He quotes USGS world lithium reserves as 4.2Mt. At 0.3kg lithium per kWh, 20kWh per car, with 90% recycling, we get 7 billion cars.

Mark and Chris,

Thanks for a great, upbeat article.

Its a very good article and well worth a read but I think some of the concerns are a little premature. They do seem to be open enough though, to supply the figures on which they base their concerns so you can judge for yourself. For example they say

To equip the World Automobile Parc (900 million cars) with a 10kWh LiIon battery would consume over 25% of the World's Lithium Carbonate Reserve Base

That hardly looks like a reason not to replace our fleet with such vehicles if it makes sense for other reasons.
Also I think they generate that figure assuming a LiCoO2 battery chemistry whereas LiFePO4 batteries would require only 60% of the Lithium (for the same battery weight).

Here is another company in the biz:

Hybrid Technologies takes existing cars and replaces the engines with their lithium/motor system. I'd take one....put a PV system on the roof of my house....bang zoom. I'm hoping that Hybrid Technologies will hook up with a major car maker and pump up the production level so the price drops enough to make it economical.

Let your views be known:

From some comments that I had late in the "what should we do now?" thread.

There are millions of cars that exist and are being driven now in Europe and Japan count as not being just on paper or in low production volumes.

With ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, diesel cars can come over unmodified in 2010.

A projected boom in diesel and hybrid cars (study by UBS and ricardo). By 2012, 2.7 million (annual sales) diesel and hybrid cars in the USA. 15% of 18 million project car sales in 2012.

There are more high mileage diesel cars than hybrid cars now worldwide and there will likely be more high mileage diesel cars than electric or hybrid cars.

The Xprize cars need to have production and market studies for 10,000 units at a minimum. So pure concepts cars are not allowed.

The EIA tables of efficiency introductions for cars, trucks and freight trucks.

It indicates how efficient the technology is and when it was or is expected to be introduced, the cost and the weight.

The EPA has the Smartways shipping program

It has a lot of info on how to ship freight better. They have financing and guides for getting freight trucks more efficient and also on getting more freight shipped by rail.
More efficient trucks and more rail.

Better driving habits (slower acceleration, not going over 65 mph on the highway, more cruise control usage where possible) can be used to make an immediate impact on mileage when driving.


Loremo, 140mpg non-hybrid:

VW 1 Liter, 230+ mpg non-hybrid:

Mercedes Boxfish, 80mpg non-hybrid:

VW Lupo, 80mpg non-hybrid:

Alan Drake has the plan for Electric Rail and freight.
Bob Ebersole

Chris Vernon,

Thanks for your hard work and great write-up on hybrids and the electric automobile. If this was combined with Alan Drake's electrification of rail, we could be free of the doom that seems to be facing our world.

I think we're all going to have to take personal responsibility to reclaim the world from what seems to be a terrible future. In the US we now import over 2/3rds of the oil we use, and its the biggest threat to our national security imaginable, we're going broke and strangling the world with the pollution.

If we combined a movement to buy hybrids with Alan Drakes electrification of rail we might just avoid a total collapse. But the real problem is population, the world is full of starving uneducated children who are likely to raise world population to 9 billion by mid century.
Bob Ebersole

Thanks goes to Mark Yates who authored the piece.

While it is easy to paint a very bleak picture of the future I think we’ve shown over the last few months that there is, at least from a technical point of view, an alternative. The challenge as I see it is largely political and social. I’m an engineer and used to think if something is technically possible that’s at least half the battle won, these days I’m seeing political and social challenges as far greater than technology.

We should really chat sometime, Chris. I've got to stop waiting for the Descent to happen and start building the things that are necessary (see my other post in this thread for one specific) for the future Plateau which will come after the 'market clears'.

It's depressing to see how much engineering and development time and money goes into CWDN (crap we don't need) just because the social and political environment encourages self-destructive behavior if it makes a spectacle or a buck.

Mark Yates really needs to be congratulated!

The 68% oil we import is ruining our country, but you're right, its an attitude problem here. Somehow, America has abandoned its can-do attitude for some weird NIMBY passive aggressive stance. The real problem is that the rest of the world wants to become prosperous too, and are competing with us for a diminishing resource base, while we are blindly bankrupting ourselves. I guess it makes me somekind of radical, but I'd like to see them prosperous too. It sickens me to see starving child soldiers in Africa, ect.
With 100 MPG vehicles we wouldn't need resource wars, there'd be enough for all. I have no worry that we won't be able to sell every bit of oil that we can produce as the Chinese and Indians want a piece of pie, too.

But, we need to stop wasting it, and we need Americans to have good jobs too. We need alternatives so we can stop global warming and to make the real capital investments that can make the country prosperous, not just a society of bank tellers, hamburger flippers and real estate agents. Yes, its going to require sacrifice and work towards real goals. The oil companies need to realise that the peak oil people aren't their enemies, we know prices in the future are going to be really high, here's our science. But lets get all that capital working towards real alternatives.

We all want a clean world for the future, why can't we agree to rebuild the coal plants and refineries to have CO2 for Tertiary development. What's wrong with American production of alternatives and build solar cells and windmill manufacturers right here. It false economy to haul the stuff across the ocean when we could build it better here and supply the world, and have real jobs paying real taxes to work our way out of the financial hole we are in.
We are all citizens of the world, why can't we just figure out what we want and work together for prosperity and peace. I want every asian, black and brown kid to have enough education to make a responsible choice to have one child. Surely the corn for ethanol explosion has shown us we can feed the world and stay drunk too.(sarcanol)

So there's my rant.Somehow the people in the US have got to take back the country-all the political hacks of every party are numbing our spirit. Can't the auto companies see that getting hybrids for the whole country will make a heck of a lot of money? Can't the people see that if we carpool and ride the bus we'll make new friends and have a much better commuting experience not having to drive? So instead of letting fox news and the giant newspaer companies seperate us, why don't we turn off the TV and learn what we all have in common?

You guys need to come to the ASPO conference in Houston, get a booth and present the stuff. Its time to stop manufacturing silver bb's and put 'em in a shotgun shell for the werewolves of fear. in about 14 months there's going to be an election, and we need a plan to make the politicians answer to us. Both parties need to agree, and we need as many candidates as possible to agree to work towards goals that will actually help the world, like AARP does.

Rant over. i feel better Bob Ebersole

Bob - it's fun to scapegoat FOX and Bush, but their crimes are very typical of the American experience. The "good America" of our memories never actually existed. Wasn't Hearst the FOX of his day?

Our America began with the wholesale slaughter of all large animals on the continent, including all the aboriginal peoples. Shortly later the great plains were destroyed for agriculture, and the old growth forests were destroyed for housing and ships and fuel.

If anything, today we enjoy a temporary reprieve from domestic environmental destruction, because fossil-fuel powered globalization has outsourced the destruction.

Today the Amazon is being destroyed for our sake. The crops they plant in the deforested Amazon are not for locals - they are shipped to markets in America, Japan, and Western Europe.

As the fossil fuels run dry, globalism will shrivel, and a much larger American population will resume exhausting domestic natural resources, with a vengeance. NIMBYism will vanish the moment it is no longer economic to outsource the destruction.

Wasn't Hearst the FOX of his day?

That's one way to look at it. The only thing that got his influence reduced was the Depression. Are you ready for Descent?

We should find a better way to change things than to put up with these crooked nuts until they destroy the infrastructure.

NIMBYism will vanish when there are no longer any back yards.

"If you want Change, keep it in your pocket. You vote for a faux president every four years, but you vote for real corporations thousands of times each month. Your money is your only real vote."


I agree with you, but how are we to change things? Anyone who tries honestly to live sustainably in Appalachia today, for example, contends with a coal mining industry that drops the equivalent of 270 Hiroshima bombs-worth of explosives on West Virginia, every year.

How does any regular person compete with that?


Somehow, America has abandoned its can-do attitude for some weird NIMBY passive aggressive stance.

Doesn't seem that different than the America that sat out the early years of WWII while London was being firebombed. The can-do attitude took a long time to show up in that instance even when the threat was right out in the open.

Nice to hear that electrics are coming along so nicely. Frankly, I don't quite see why we need to move a personal ton and a half of carapace about with us, electric or not. A twenty pound bicycles goes down the road just fine, and a thirty pound mountain version doesn't even need asphalt.

Where are the five hundred pound electric cars? Electric or not, it takes a lot of watts or joules or energy whatevers to move these things, regeneration or not. They still look like electrodinosaurs to me. Any good arguments why they have to be so heavy other than that's what the marketplace is accustomed to?

Kunstler, that irascible cactus on the butt of 'civilization', maybe gets it right when he says we should design without cars. As John Lennon said, 'Imagine...'

I think the problem originates with the idea of the "horseless carriage." We replaced the horse with an engine and found that it was possible to go much faster. Going faster, however, caused the carriage to fall apart. This brought about stronger and heavier carriages which required bigger engines...and so on. Add to this the necessity for a strong frame to resist impact from fellow travellers, and you get all those big SUVs.

I'm sure there are other factors that guided the development of the motorized vehicle down the multi-passenger, heavy-duty line, but I think safety and speed are the biggest.

- Scott
"Try sour grapes; you might like them."

Regarding backpedaling into Scott's horseless carriage framework and the engine speed/bodyframe/weight escalation cycle: How about those Amish horse and buggies? Could they be rigged for EV better than heavier modern cars?

The issue for most Americans choosing SUV's is how to carry around all their stuff: [the kids and their friends, the folding chairs and the sports equipment, the groceries, the dog, and the once-in-a-while jobs like hauling luggage, bikes, even furniture]. A rickshaw or an electric bike or a tesla sportscar won't cut it. Storage capacity is probably more important than speed to the average consumer. So why do car manufacturers market cars that go 200 mph when the speed limits and the actual driving speeds are so much lower?

Happiness is... a peak-nik in his victory garden!

"The issue for most Americans choosing SUV's is how to carry around all their stuff"

It might be even worse than that, because a lot of people buying SUVs cite "safety." As in "I wouldn't want my wife in a little death trap." Then the other biggie being "If feels powerful." Cargo volume, which will rarely be fully utilized seems to be much farther down on the list. Consider that many minivans will haul MUCH more than the normal SUV because it's cargo space isn't compromised by oversize tires (and subsequent huge wheel-wells chewing into interior space) and the four wheel drive components (again requiring clearance with the floor). Minivans are also statistically safer. So, in reality, what you wind up at is styling and status and primal feelings of security. Back in "the old days" there used to be these things called "trailers" which people would attach to their vehicles to temporarily increase their cargo hauling ability.

"The issue for most Americans choosing SUV's is how to carry around all their stuff"

Reminds me of this:

"It might be even worse than that, because a lot of people buying SUVs cite "safety....Minivans are also statistically safer."

You have a point, and in general I agree, but people deserve a little more respect. They have been misinformed by advertising, so in fact they are choosing partially based on safety, not just on image.

I did see a great YouTube clip about carbon fibre in relation to cars. A main stream media video-article had a person comparing a car door made of steel to one made of carbon fibre. The difference was obviously huge. I can't remember the name of the company. Also when he tried to swing a sledgehammer at the carbon fibre door it wouldn't even dent.
I hope that like plastics and carbon fibre are being used in aeroplanes (A3XXX and Boeing Dreamline) that we're going to see more of them used in cars.

Frankly, I don't quite see why we need to move a personal ton and a half of carapace about with us, electric or not.

Exactly. I find the talk of finding the way to continue to live in an urban or suburban infrastructure that presumes 25 or 50 miles of high speed movement daily to be the real gloom and doom talk.

It doesn't have to be that bad! We can actually design communities so that walking and biking are capable of bringing us all the jobs, all the social interactions, all the pleasures that we think today are only possible if we have the option of personal automotive mobility.

This talk of viable electric cars is just more gloom and doom pessimism, that assumes we can't ever really recover from the nightmare of highways and suburbia that the oil age birthed.

I'm much more optimistic than that.

Here is a situation where the market’s price signals are muddying the waters. I have a 3 year car lease coming up. Currently have a Chevy Trailblazer (gotten before I became PO aware) and I get 16.4 average mpg. Due to business/social obligations I would need to stay in the Chevy line and as it’s used for sales calls I can’t go with something cheap-looking like an Aveo. Based on my mix of city/hwy driving, an Equinox should net me about 4.2 mpg more. Here’s the problem: Because GM is giving away the leases on the Trailblazer—even at an average of $5.00/gallon—the net cost (lease plus difference in fuel usage) of the Trailblazer is $2,000 less than the Equinox over 3 years. Even an Impala ranges from just $150 to $680 less than the Trailblazer over 3 years (based on average gasoline costs of $3.50 to $5.00). Of course this doesn’t take into account the externality of carbon emissions, nor the difference in the embedded energy in the manufacture of each vehicle. I’d like to throw these factors into the equation, but quantifying them is the problem.

The figures are different for a 2 year lease, all generally higher, and that brings up another question. I’m really excited by the concept of plug-in autos and appreciate your write up. A good mid-term solution for most households would be to have a plug-in “town car”, and if a longer range is needed an ICE car. Deciding on a 2 or 3 year lease option (even with the “better” mileage Chevys) needs to be considered in the context of when replacement with a very high mileage auto will be almost obligatory: not only when TSHTF but when a good selection of alternatives is available. 2009 or 2010?

(I know even considering a SUV might be considered scandalous here, but the average American is considering a multitude of factors in a car purchase, and is likely not counting on $5.00/gal gasoline over the next couple years.)

I have posted these thoughts before, but it is appropriate to repeat them here.

First, I think that the way to go with any type of electric vehicle is to have easily removable, interchangeable battery packs. For an NEV or PHEV, I would envision a rack with maybe a half dozen or a dozen slots for battery packs. Slide away a retainer, pull each one out, swap it out with a freshly recharged pack in the recharger rack, and you are all done within a couple of minutes. With such a system, the owner could have one set of battery packs recharging at home during the day (powered with a PV panel on the roof) while they are driving around.

Another advantage of the multiple battery packs is that they would be scaleable. Someone only needing to take short trips would just need a few battery packs, while someone needed max range could buy more. This could keep the total vehicle cost down for people that did not need the extra capacity.

A further advantage: should a battery pack short out, that would only be one battery pack -- the car could still operate with the remaining packs. That means less risk of being stranded with a dead car.

People could also carry some extra fully charged battery packs along to change out if they needed to go a little farther than the max range.

The battery packs should be as standardized as propane cylinders or hard disk drives. Instead of the fast recharging stations the author envisions, service stations would have racks of standardized battery packs recharging, all powered from a large PV panel mounted as a canopy over the station. One would swap out battery packs (and pay for the value of the charge) just as one would exchange an empty propane cylinder for a full one. The whole thing would take no longer than what it usually takes to refill a gas tank now.

Hotels might also want to get into the business of charging standardized battery packs off of PVs during the day, and then offering freshly charged replacement battery packs to their customers for an additional fee.

Standardized battery packs could also mean that wrecker services could just carry them along, and swap out dead packs to get stranded cars moving again.

One final point: Employers, retail stores, parking facilities, etc. should have metered recharging stations so that EV owners can recharge their vehicles while parked. PV panels could be erected above parking places, providing some shade as well as producing electricity for the recharge.

You have my full support for this. What you described will allow us to go straight to all-electric vehicles - eliminating all the inefficiencies and complications of the ICE.

Just think about how many of the troublesome and expensive to maintain parts of the car would be eliminated - transmission, cooling system, starter, alternator, exhaust etc. etc. Looking in retrospective ICE looks like a terrible idea compared to all electric car. Only its mass production and decades of evolution has allowed it to become dominant now. And without doubt if we had similar level of battery technology 100 years ago currently we would have been driving all electric.

What is left is that we need to find the way to get from here to there, and my only fear is that we are lacking the political and corporate will to do it. Toyota's lagging behind small start-up companies is quite indicative... Too much interests are invested in the status quo.

I agree, although I'm pretty fond of the heating/cooling system at the various extremes of weather. When it's too hot you can open the windows for some cooling, but bundling up doesn't help much when it's cold, and trying to heat a car with batteries is going to really mess with the range.

- Scott
"Try sour grapes; you might like them."

I meant the cooling system for the car engine - water pump, radiator, fans, pipes. These things break awfully often, actually I just had my thermostat replaced yesterday. A $10 part failure that totaled $200 of expenses to fix.

A small to medium size electrical motor doesn't need an active coolant system because the dissipated heat is an order of magnitude less. But I'm pretty sire it would be enough to comfortably heat the car in winter.

Looking in retrospective ICE looks like a terrible idea compared to all electric car. Only its mass production and decades of evolution has allowed it to become dominant now. And without doubt if we had similar level of battery technology 100 years ago currently we would have been driving all electric.

I just have to mention this so we have some history of what we are dealing with. Henry Ford changed his mind about 100 years ago and decided he should be building electric cars. Thomas Edison was chosen to develop the batteries. The batteries were consistently sabotaged between Edison’s lab and Ford testing facilities; funny business of Edison’s fire proof lab complex burning down; a government order for World War One trucks that went to internal combustion engines; a plan which eliminated over 40 major U.S. metropolitan area rail mass transit systems in the late 30s – 40s. All might of had something to do with current dominance.
See Edwin Black's Internal Combustion

There's also the sabotage of the trams in certain towns in the USA (see the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit - no joke, and Who Killed the Electric Car) by the car companies (bought them, destroyed them).
I would also like to point out the hybrid car is roughly 106 years old!!! Wiki pointed me to the fact that several cars built in 190X had both an electric AND petrol engine. I was pretty gobsmacked when I saw this!

from Wiki:
"In 1901, while employed at Lohner Coach Factory, Ferdinand Porsche designed the "Mixte", a series-hybrid vehicle based off his earlier "System Lohner-Porsche" electric carriage. The Mixte broke several Austrian speed records, and also won the Exelberg Rally in 1901 with Porsche himself driving. The Mixte used a gasoline engine powering a generator, which in turn powered electric hub motors, with a small battery pack for reliability."

Electric cars were fairly common in the early part of the 20th century. They were popular with independently minded women, who would otherwise have had to crank an IC engine from in front of the car to start it. The best known was the Baker electric, which ran on Edison's batteries. You can see a video of the one in Jay Leno's collection here, in which Leno says the original Edison batteries still work.

Well, WNC, I am glad to see that you have made it over the ramparts, littered tho they were with the bodies of the slain- those who tried before and ended up like so many pincushions of arrows, spears, pikes and battle-axes thru the brain-pan.

The first time I suggested this as a solution to the EV range problem, a swap-out battery filling station run by a robot switcher doing the job in seconds- the howling scofffwolves descended on me with execrations , ridicule and specious arguments of great weight and pomposity.

And so also for the others suggesting the same. Maybe you were such an early one.

Now, this suddenly obvious idea seems to have achieved the level of "sure, of course, any idiot would see the merits of that". Ah, well.

But I was warned " There is no limit to what can be achieved if only one can give up any thought of credit".

I shall now sneak back into my cur's hole.

What sort of weights are we talking here though?
If an E.V. needed 100kg of batteries, a lot of people can't easily lift much more than 20kg (44lb) at a change the whole pack over, that's 10 moves of 20kg each. Is that something most people are going to be happy to do on a daily basis?

Googling I managed to find other people suggesting a similar idea, but no actual numbers on likely weight/numbers. This one suggests the process be automated at battery stations, which sounds more feasible:

First of all, not every EV would need as much as 100kg of batteries. The whole idea of multiple battery packs is to give people multiple options. People who only ever use their EV for trips of a few miles to work and shopping would need a lower range, and could get by with fewer battery packs, and thus a lower total cost for vehicle + batteries. Why force people to pay for expensive batteries that they don't need. It is this "one size fits all" approach, with the one size designed to fit the maximum possible range at the maximum cost, which is holding back the widespread changeover to EVs.

Secondly, the whole thing should be designed with people in mind. Each battery pack should be no larger than what even elderly and disabled people can handle. If that means slots in the rack for a dozen battery packs (@ ~8kg/18 lbs each), so be it. Still too much? Then go with a rack for 18 packs (@ ~5kg/11lbs each). With a little bit of ergonomic testing and smart design, the right solution can be worked out.

Thirdly, not everybody would have to do the nightly changeouts. That is just one option available to them. Another option would be to just plug into the grid each night; no need for spare batteries and thus less purchase cost, but having to pay for grid electricity instead of charging with a PV. Again, multiple options instead of "one size fits all".

I like the idea - but as stated in the article I can't see it working.
1. We already have (at least) 3 manufacturers making the batteries. Each with different charecteristics.
2. So many different makes, shapes and models of car might make a standard fit difficult.
2. Car companies tend to seal the batteries lowdown in the middle of the car. In an EV you might have 200kg of batteries (I think the Tesla has more than that - but it is a sports car). They'd have to be swappable like a garage swaps a tyre. So access would need to be easy (like the access panel on a digital camera / laptop)
3. Warranties. Car companies might not like 3rd party batteries and void warranties.

Why would you need one pack charging while the other is used for driving. Why not let it charge while you sleep. Everyone sleeps.
The batteries are going to be an expensive component. Why would somebody want 2 packs?

Why not let it charge while you sleep. Everyone sleeps.

There are several complications around this. How are you going to sell the idea to people living in dense residentials and high rise buildings? All these high power lines sticking out of each and every window... just think about the possible incidents. In addition those are the same people that would be mostly interested in using a small short-range commuter car. What if I visited a hotel or a friend of mine? Do I steal electricity?

And of course the big one - range. You can hardly hope to start selling BEVs if this problem is not solved... I understand that PHEVs are thought of as a "bridge" technology that takes care of that problem, but swappable batteries would allow us to jump one step, save 30-40 years - and billions of barrels of oil for that matter.

This is why multiple options rather than a one size fits all solution is so important. People's situations are different, and thus the more configuration, capacity, and recharging options that can be offered, the more people that will be able to use EVs. It is a matter of speeding up adoption and market penetration rates, because it is urgent that we get as many people as possible driving EVs as quickly as possible.

"Why not let it charge while you sleep?" Because they are trying to solve everything with wind and solar. Can't have a solution that requires high intensity electricity at night because then you might need to have nuclear.

The system I proposed allows the option of the owner to have a PV panel on the roof to use to charge a battery pack while the sun is out. Can't do that at night, you know.

Of course, another option would be to just plug the car in at night to recharge, in which case you don't need spare battery packs.

The advantage of my suggested approach is that it provides people with multiple options, unlike a "one size fits all" approach. Multiple options are good, because it means that people can buy the vehicle + batteries combo that works for them, and this presumably will speed adoption of EVs.

How many manufacturers do we have making propane tanks? How many do we have making computer disk drives? How many automobiles use the same grade of motor oil like 10W30 or 10W40? How many do we have making devices that use D batteries, or C, or AA, or AAA?

How on earth did they ever manage to end up all using the same interchangeable things?

STANDARDS!! That's it.

Most of the standard setting didn't even require government intervention (except to keep the anti-trust regulators out of the way enough to allow industry reps to talk to one another). Given the importance of EVs to national survival, I would think that a mild government mandate would suffice to get a similar. Actually, simply establishing a single government-wide standard for all GSA contracts should be enough to do it; no EV manufacturer will want to be frozen out of the government market by insisting on a proprietary, non-interchangeable battery.

As to access, that's a design problem. Assume interchangeable batteries that are going to be frequently swapped out and design around that. It can be done.

Warranties: As long as you use SAE grades of gasoline and motor oil in your car, you don't void the warranty. Why would using an SAE grade of battery be any different?

As to 2 sets of battery packs, see my other posts above. That is just one of multiple options. Simply plugging in the EV at night to recharge would be another. Multiple options are better than "one size fits all".

So I will repeat my old suggestion
1) several standard battery sizes
2) robot changinging stations all over the place, like present gas stations
3) take your pick of various brands and merits
4) when you are getting low, drive into your favorite brand, and kachunk, the old one is out and the new one is in, and off you go in seconds, minus the charge for the service
5) you don't own any battery, you are buying the service and the energy. the battery is owned, updated, improved and competed with other battery servers, by a company that does that, just like oil companies today.

Result- efficient mobility, fast evolution, vast energy storage pool, and happy planet.

The critics say it would be hard to design. Ha, not so hard by a long shot as for example, an F22 system, the kind of stuff that us engineers do routinely.

I think that the biggest problem is infrastructure. We know that this schema will work, but everyone is afraid to invest in the additional infrastructure... and the reason is that there are several technologies down the line that could render this infrastructure useless.

For example if we start investing in recharging stations, and then fast-charging ultra-capacitor is developed in the next decade, we would end up with billions (trillions?) invested in an obsolete technology. No company or government would be willing to take that risk... what they prefer is to wait for the "free market" to sort out some solution and then (maybe) invest in it. The problem is that without proper support or additional infrastructure the "miracle solution" may never arrive.

It is in the end a risk management problem.

I'm all for standards, but I think the swappable pack idea is fatally flawed.  A standard could improve the PHEV situation in another way, though.  If you had a standard form factor, interface and connection voltage, you could buy a vehicle today with e.g. Firefly Energy carbon-foam cells for 15 miles of EV range and upgrade later to A123Systems to get 50 miles.  You might have two standard form factors:  flat prismatic for mounting under the floor or beneath seats, and round for putting in a spare tire well for additional commuting range.

Capacity could be varied by adding packs.  A Chevy Volt could take 3 5 kWh packs, a Cadillac might take 5.  The spare-tire pack could be removed to get cargo space back on long trips.  Eliminating the overhead of custom battery packs would create benefits for both manufacturers and buyers.

You have to make a bunch of mechanical and styling compromises to make removable battery packs, and it would also make one of the most valuable parts of the car very easy to steal.  I wouldn't buy a car with such battery packs.

Friggin great article, TWO THUMBS WAY UP. This is a solution.

At $3 to the Euro - the Tesla Roadster certainly will be a solution for us on the east coast of the Atlantic Ocean - so long as we don't end up owning too much US sub-prime!

I think a plugin hybrid sounds great but here are the concerns I have
1)Do we really the amount of Li or the other elements of a battery to make hundreds of millions of them?
2)What do we do with batteries that don't take full recharge? How do we dispose of them?
3)Over the life time of the car (creation and destruction) will it produce more or less carbon than say a normal car of its size that its replacing.

Basically all my questions are related to actual sustainability of the concept in reality.

I think having a more electric car could could help in that the electricity is produced in a more central location and so its easier to scrub things there than at millions of cars tail pipes.

Helooooo chrisrob111111

1) On concentrations:

River water Li = 3 ppb; Fe = 40 ppb
Ocean water Li = 0.17 ppm; Fe = 60 ppt
Ocean bottom mud Li = 57 ppm; Fe = 0.65%

Source - memory*

2) On recycling

I'd imagine they will be recyclable

3) On C

Running on nuclear or "renewable electricity" I'd imagine the C footprint will be insignificant compared to an ICE.

* ppm = parts per million; ppb = parts per billion; ppt = parts per trillion
source is actually a book called "The Continental Crust: Its composition and Evolution, authored by Taylor and Mclennan; Blackwell Scientific Publications 1985.

Good link for more on the chemistry / geochemistry of Li. Precipitation of LiCO3 from brine would seem to be a good way of cheaply accessing Li.

Note that webelements is a fantastic web site for data on elements and the periodic table.

I'm not sure about point 1. But I haven't seen a "peak lithium" blog yet ;-)
I think we're going to have more difficulty finding things like oil, copper, lead and especially platinum in the decades to come. These have all skyrocketed in price over the last few years. CNN's commoddities page tracks many of these. There's several other graphs online.
2. The latest version of Valence's graph goes to >90% at 1400 charges (Chris didn't publish the latest version of the article I sent him). Valence have been telling me on email they expect the batteries to last 1000's more charges - they're seeing NO acceleration in charge drop-off. It might take 5000 charges to get down to 70-80%. The line has a very flat slope. I wouldn't throw away my electric car if it could only go 70% of the miles? It could be sold to poorer countries.
3. Given that 100,000 miles at 25mpg (car) vs 50mpg (PHEV) = a saving of 3000gallons. Well, that's an awful lot of gallons/oil/energy. I don't know how much oil it takes to make a set of LiFePO batteries - but there's NO way it's going to be even a fraction of that.

Sorry Mark, I've put the new version in the article above.

The old chart can still be found here.

thanks Chris :)
The contact at Valence had asked me to use their latest so they'll be grateful too :)
Also 1400 cycles is significantly greater than 600 and it shows that the life of the battery is still 90% as good as new (27 miles EV range in a 30mpg PHEV). Most people with different driving conditions would not even notice this change imho.

As always, great work Chris. Just one thing - why only 20mln. bpd? Eventually electricity can replace almost everything currently powered by oil - trucks, farming machinery, mining and construction equipment etc. Transportation accounts for 2/3s of oil usage, or 57mln. bpd. and if we go full electric most of it could be displaced by electricity. In 30-40 years oil and NG should be used only for much essential uses like fertilizers, chemicals, plastics and probably air travel. BTW hydrogen would be stupid to use in cars but would be a great fit for air travel.

20mln out of 85mln is considerable.
I wasn't counting on full EVs - only PHEV's (and that's if you replace all vehicles). So going from 25mpg to 100mpg is still going to use a lot of oil.
Transport oil probably also covers shipping. Tankers, cargo ships, pleasure shipping (cruise liners and small domestic boats) use massive amounts of oil.
I thought I was being optimistic with 20mln :)
Without a dictatorship / government run car companies and 20years we're not going to replace 100% of all cars with PHEVs.

What about all the racing? Drags, F1, Nascar, the sports car circuit, boats, bikes, planes, etc. That's a multi-billion dollar industry. You gonna just kill it off? And all those fun things like jetski's, lawnmowers, snomobiles, weed whackers, etc. I doubt there is enough raw materials on the planet to make batteries (and motors )for everything that currently runs on FF. And let's not forget things like ships, commercial aviation, trains, military, electrical generation plants, and on and on.

It all sounds wonderful (everybody whizzing around in their voltmobile ), but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. Or in the next 100 years. You know why? Because it took us 200 years to build the infrastructure and logistics to support our current energy base and the quality of life that resulted from it. And I'm betting it would take at least that long to dismantle it and replace it with something else. All while the world population continues to explode and demand the current way of life that the US and a few other countries enjoy.

But, good luck anyway.

What about all the racing? Drags, F1, Nascar, the sports car circuit, boats, bikes, planes, etc. That's a multi-billion dollar industry. You gonna just kill it off? And all those fun things like jetski's, lawnmowers, snomobiles, weed whackers, etc. I doubt there is enough raw materials on the planet to make batteries (and motors )for everything that currently runs on FF. And let's not forget things like ships, commercial aviation, trains, military, electrical generation plants, and on and on.

If something isn't sustainable it won't be sustained - instead of focusing on what we might lose we should focus on what we can (and want to) sustain and what new things we can develop. What we know for certain is that things are going to change - just how they are going to change is still up for debate.

My heart is bleeding for all those wonderful dragsters, Nascars and lawnmowers. How could we possibly live without them? And... would we have the resources to mine and process the minerals, project, build, assemble and transport all those electrical vehicles? I told you guys - we are all doomed... if only we could possibly eliminate 90% of humanity we would have a chance, but... the poor bastard just don't want to die. Wait, I have an idea! Why don't we nuke them?

Nah. Nukes are too destructive of property. Bio is much better for mass genocide/suicide. :)

Btw, some of y'all really need to lighten up a bit and not take yourselves quite so seriously. I knew that post would yank a few chains.

So anyway, if we eliminate everything that is "not sustainable" I assume that also means eliminating everything that is also "un-necessary". My question then is; Who gets to decide what is or is not sustainable/necessary? You? Me? Some nutjob in a bunker somewhere? Wall street? Hugo Chavez? The Pope? The Peoples Republic of China? Who?

Who gets to decide what is or is not sustainable/necessary?

You. Once gasoline hits $20 and dragster tickets hit $500 it is going to be you to decide whether you drive an SUV and/or go to those shows.

The whole problem in my view is that gasoline already is $20 and maybe more, it is just that we are not paying the difference from our pockets. It is the 3rd world folks and the future generations that are going to pay the bill... But who cares about them anyway.

Correct. I decide. For me. And everyone else has the same decision to make for themselves and their families. Which is why I stated at the top of this thread that I won't see wholesale change in my lifetime or the next 100 years. As for the 3rd world folks - they care. And they also get a vote on these things, as we rediscover ( usually violently ) every 10 years or so since the dawn of time. Funny thing happened on the way to civilization: The 3rd world became the 1st world, and vice-versa, too many times to count.

What about all the racing? Drags, F1, Nascar, the sports car circuit, boats, bikes, planes, etc. That's a multi-billion dollar industry. You gonna just kill it off? And all those fun things like jetski's, lawnmowers, snomobiles, weed whackers, etc. I doubt there is enough raw materials on the planet to make batteries (and motors )for everything that currently runs on FF. And let's not forget things like ships, commercial aviation, trains, military, electrical generation plants, and on and on.

How are people going to drive to the races to see them? No audience = no races, even if they can still scrounge up fuel for the race cars. "I" am not going to kill them off, the market will do the job.

Cordless electric weed whackers are available now, I've got one. There are cordless lawnmowers, too, and also manual ones. What people will really need to do though is dig up their lawns and plant gardens. For that, rotary cultivators & tillers are needed; there are diesel-powered models, so biodiesel could keep those running.

Jetskis & snowmobiles? What can I say? There will still be gasoline out there available at some price for a long time yet, if someone wants to run one of these things badly enough, there will be fuel available at a price. I suspect that ever fewer people will be willing to pay that price, though.

Ships can run on biodiesel. Commercial aviation is a big question mark. It will probably be expensive and thus a lot less of it. Eventually they are going to need to figure out a way to produce jet fuel from ethanol and/or biodiesel feestock. Trains can and should be electrified. Military equipment, to the extent that we need it (hopefully as little as possible) can be run on biodiesel, except aircraft (see above). Electrical generation plants: solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal.

"Ships can run on biodiesel. " Also on sails and oars. Btw, that might do in the cruise ship industry. I call dibs on the drum job! :) But oar making would be a growth industry. Right up there with buggy whips. And I'm pretty sure the military forces around the world will have a say in who gets what. They do have the biggest guns afterall.

I guess my point in all this is that everyone is making the assumption that everyone on the planet is going to cooperate in these little ventures. Ain't. Gonna. Happen. We will fight for the table scraps.

For the majority of those lawnmowers and weedwhackers, there's an established technology... what is it called...? Oh yes! An extension cord.

As for racing, have you seen the performance of the Killacycle and the Tesla Roadster. What would be the loss to racing to lose the ICEs? No ear-splitting high-decibel engine noise? No gasoline fumes or explosions on collision? Oh, dear. Whatever shall we do?

Ah, ya make me laugh, Gene.

My guess is that they will become the elite...the powerful men in their super fast machines, granted the use of the remaining portion of the Devil's Excrement. We (well, not me personally) will drive our wimpy little voltmobiles to the racetracks to spend a few hours breathing in the fumes and pointing to Dale Earnhardt IV's NASCAR saying "look kids, that thing runs on Gas-o-line. Inside that car is not a battery, but liquid fire, and little tiny explosions !" And the kids will go "Woooooow".

Good. It's been said that laughter is the best medicine. Perhaps all we need is that and love - per John Lennon if memory serves. Right. That and $6 will get you a latte' . Speaking of coffee, I wonder how many folks would be willing to give up their morning cuppa in order to conserve fuel? It's all imported, ya' know. ;) Personally, I need that shot from the low end of the speed spectrum.

One other random thought: I wonder how brightly electric cars will burn? Probably not as well as the gas variety. That's really gonna put a crimp in the soccer match post game fun.

Are you sure you're a peak oil blogger :)
I'm not going to kill it off. It's either going to become ludircrously expensive or people are going to become more "sensitive" to wasting oil in the decades post peak.
What's FF?
I don't know how there's enough resources / factories in the World to make the 200million+ cars on the roads - but we've managed to do this, or to make the 100s of millions of TVs, washing machines, microwaves, childrens toys, the billions of AA batteries.
Why do you think we can't make 100million lithium rechargable battery packs?
As oil prices rise do you not think people are going to take a good look at GM's 160mpg Volt (due out in 2010 or before), or these electric cars that can do 0-60mph in <4 seconds.
The Mirror, a tabloid newspaper in the UK ran a story about "The Lightning" - people in this country, England thought electric cars could only run milk floats or 30mph city-electric cars.
Once people see the performance electric car/100mpg car has arrived things will begin to change (slowly). 10 years maybe, 100 years no way!

FF=Fossil Fuel.

"Once people see the performance electric car/100mpg car has arrived things will begin to change (slowly). 10 years maybe, 100 years no way!"

Which people are you talking about? The ones in Nigeria? Tibet? Borneo? The Russian Steppes? Or just the WASP's in the USA/UK, etc.? At least 3 billion people don't give fig about anything except where their next bowl of rice or cup of water is coming from. Do you think that Russia is joking about claiming the Arctic?, or the PRC is "just kidding " about their military buildup? Or that India is moving into Kazakstan just for the exercise? Or the EU is just a bunch of good ol' boys having fun? Or that the US/Canada/Mexico is getting together for security because we're bored? Or that Iran and Venezuela actually have anything in common besides oil? Every country on the planet is busily figuring out who to hook up with to ensure their own survival. Wake up! Smell the coffee!

This is not about who's got the slickest voltmobile. It's about who's gonna be in charge for the next century or so.

"Once people see the performance electric car/100mpg car has arrived things will begin to change (slowly). 10 years maybe, 100 years no way!"

You wrote:
"Which people are you talking about? The ones in Nigeria? Tibet? Borneo? The Russian Steppes? Or just the WASP's in the USA/UK, etc.?"

The people relevant to this article. The people driving fuel sucking cars instead of fuel sipping PHEVs and EVs. This article has nothing to do with the people that don't drive cars. Though us using fuel less will allow the developing countries / 3rd World to still to be able to afford fuel for essentials. I'd hate to see us price these people off their farmland so we can continue driving 2 tonne behemoths getting 15mpg.

Elon Musk's goal (Chairman / financial backer of Tesla Roadster and inventor of PayPal).

Build sports car.
Use profits from sports car to build affordable electric car.
Use profits from more affordable electric car to build very affordable electric car.

They've taken orders for 400 Tesla's so far (sold out for 6months+).
The $50,000 4 seater Sedan will arrive in 2008 apparantly.

He seems to have his head screwed on.
So while "you" might not be driving one in the next 100 years lots of people will be using something other than liquid fuel in their cars in the near future...

In terms of racing, if you work through the numbers, the amount of fuel used by the fans getting to the track far exceeds anything used during a car race. Thus any type of sporting event that requires lots of people to drive long distances could ultimately be endangered.

The A123 Systems battery can charge to 90% capacity after approximately 2300 charges (86% after 3800) according to this graph.

You might want to read the fine print. The important number of the discharge rate. This graph assumes 1C which is equivalent to little or no acceleration. If you look at their graph for 10C you will get a more realistic idea of performance, namely 1000 cycles. Actual driving is somewhere between 1C and 10C so I would predict A123 batteries get somewhere between 1000 and 3600 cycles, which is equivalent to a life span of between 3 and 10 years. If your $15,000 battery dies in 6 years, your car will be pretty much worthless. Is this battery really ready?

"If your $15,000 battery dies in 6 years, your car will be pretty much worthless. Is this battery really ready?

We are used to replacing tires, mufflers --I had a whole engine replaced-- whats the big deal? A guess: mass production will lower the cost of the replacement battery. Then in six years, if you are right, you might get better batteries, who knows.

The big deal is that none of those things add up to half of the value of a car bought new. $15k does add up to half. Personally, I will run my car until it is simply too expensive to keep running, and that is well past 6 years. I don't have to replace half of it every 6 years though.

- Scott
"Try sour grapes; you might like them."

If you drive 15000 miles/year at $0.10/mile for fuel, 6 years of fuel costs you $9000.  It won't take much of a fuel price increase to make the battery cheaper than the fuel it allows you to forego.

The charts indicate that at that point you'd still have almost 90% battery capacity, and that it would take 7,000 cycles (1C) to get to 80%.

That's not a dead battery...

Did you extrapolate those numbers or does A123 have it somewhere on the web site?

Ok. So 7000 cycles would get you 19 years at the 1C rate. I still maintain that 1C is a very light load. If you use 20hp at highway speeds, that is 15kw or 49A if your supply is 300V. If you have 18 strings of batteries in parallel you will get down to the 1C rate but then you must go over 1C in order to accelerate. I think they are going to have lots of fun explaining battery life to customers. 10C is a much better statistic to use until we have some historical data.

"So 7000 cycles would get you 19 years at the 1C rate."

If you fully discharge it each and every day of the 19 years. The GM Volt is designed to limit Depth of Discharge to about 70%, and still gives more range than the average daily mileage.

"10C is a much better statistic to use until we have some historical data."

Higher discharge rates generally shorten life by creating more heat. In this case, accelerations would be a relatively small % of kwh's discharged &of time of discharge, so I think they're pretty safe assuming a battery life as long as vehicle life.

realist - "The important number of the discharge rate."

Actually it is not, the important number is Depth of Discharge (DOD). This is the quoted cycle life:

"Cycle life at 10C discharge, 100% DOD: over 1,000 cycles"

which means that if you discharge your car battery totally every single day for 3 years then this would be close to the cycle life of this battery. If your electric car had a range of 200km how often would you completely 100% discharge the battery? At 20% average DOD the cycle life would be approx 5 times this and last 15 years. In a PHEV the battery management system rarely lets the battery become totally discharged and can keep it to 50% or so which greatly extends the cycle life.

The AltairNano battery is even better. They have been tested to have a 100% DOD cycle life of 15 000 cycles. Even if in practice the life is half this at 7500 cycles this means that if you drive your car flat every day of the year for 21 years then the battery might be stuffed and need replacing.

If your electric car had a range of 200km...

For $11,000, you get 11kwh with A123 (correct me if I'm wrong here). If your electric car uses 250 watt-hr per mile, then you can drive 47 miles (75 km) at 100% DOD. Since the average US driver drives 32 miles per day (50km) you are at 68% DOD. Perhaps that would buy you more time, but there are many people that drive more than 32 miles per day.

Altairnano is even better...

I will refrain from analysis on Altairnano, until I see more evidence. It seems to be a miracle battery. Why is the stock so low? Perhaps the price of the battery is really high.

Perhaps that would buy you more time, but there are many people that drive more than 32 miles per day.

Realist, you make an important point. I live in Los Angeles where the freeways are filled with people who easily commute 100 or more miles a day. So fully draining the battery would occur on a daily basis for a few million commuters. For practical reasons, hybrids will be a better transitional mode of transportation in vast suburban areas like Los Angeles and Orange Counties. But I emphasize transitional. We'd better pull our heads out and invest in electric mass transit while we still can. Total U.S. debt is approaching $60 trillion (GAO). As it stands we can't afford the $1.5 trillion to maintain our roads and bridges and are looking to public private partnerships to pick up the slack. If the dollar tanks, the average household will be lucky to be able to afford basic necessities much less shiny new EVs.

"Why is the stock so low? Perhaps the price of the battery is really high."

The stock trades for 33 times sales, so it is not "low" by any traditional measure (I own shares).

The battery is selling for about $2/kWhr now (roughly $70,000 per vehicle), but management has stated that with volume production their goal is to bring this down to 50 cents/kWhr. So the battery could eventually cost $17,500 per vehicle. It would save far more than that in fuel costs over its useful life.

I saw a suggestion that you would not buy the batteries but rent them for about $120 a month, what the average person pays for gasoline now. Then when the batteries are worn out you just get a new set and continue to rent them. The car would cost, say, 15k with the $120 a month battery rental instead of the 20k+ it would cost to buy the car with batteries.

To understand what Toyota (or other big mfgs) have done and are doing, one needs to look at this presentation by Bill Reinert of Toyota (from ASPO USA 2006):

It's good thing to keep in mind that Toyota's product cycle is 7 years.

One can't just change everything every two years, regardless how big breakthroughs. One needs to re-engineer the whole company first.

And Toyota _is_ the best, fastest big automaker. They are at the top of their game.

All the others come behind (US makers very far behind).

I wish we could just turn a switch and instantly start producing in mass quantities (cheaply) the cars that are technically now feasible.

However, we don't live in such a dreamworld.

There are constraints and any transition to PHEV/PEV fleet will take a long time, even though it is being planned as we speak.

These companies are not stupid. They are just burdened by real world constraints and a lot of legacy (systems of use, expectations, fueling stations, etc).

Let's hope the small manufacturers can speed up the transformation of the giants.

Otherwise, great article with a lot of good info!

Thanks for listing EVWORLD as a link.

I'll send Bill Moore, the editor a note to link back to here also.


P.S. I have an electrak tractor from the '70's which is used daily on the farm (updated to an electronic controller) and an electric dirt bike conversion.
Some more links for readers: down, this is a solar-powered ergonomically friendly (lay-down) cart for picking vegetables, prototype #1. #2 is in Maryland on a farm) We all have to do our part as we can find the time....

Gawd yes.
Ever since I've had to give up my 1991 Chevy Sprint (1L engine, 52hp, around 4.5L/100km) five years ago we've lamented the lack of any fuel efficient cars that can carry 4 people.
I'd love to see a series hybrid - 5hp IC/turbine/whatever engine which does nothing but heat the cabin in the winter and generate the average amount of power necessary for highway crusing. Then a 50hp electric motor out to be overkill in a basic 4-door car. It should be easily able to cut emissions in half and double the milage of my old Sprint...

The battery back would be minimal - just enough for acceleration and braking regeration storage. Lead acid
batteries would be suitable and not very heavy.

But then nobody would buy that!

Face it - if we brought back the 35hp VW Beetle - would anyone buy it? Nobody wants slow acceleration and a lack of features that comes with a car like this. I question if a 5hp engine could make enough heat to heat the cabin when it's -30C outside! Certainly my Sprint had issues on 5 hour drives at -20C and colder and it was cranking out about 5hp on such a drive (mind you it wasn't efficiently designed to channel that heat into the cabin).

What about the 18 hp Citroen 2CV? Whether they want it is not the point; whether they will prefer driving that to walking or riding a bicycle is. reality doesn't give a shit about your comfort and 'needs' .

I'll suggest that the first thing we solar power is the steel mills and iron mines and car factories. Any organism that can't self replicate isn't around for long.

What? Solar iron mines?

I'll suggest that the first thing we solar power is the steel mills and iron mines

Steel is usually made with metallurgical coke rather than oil, but we once used charcoal.  We could do it again.  Lots of mining equipment already runs on electricity.

Mark - thanks very much for all the work you have put into this excellent post with a huge number of links providing a comprehensive overview of electric cars, bikes and battery technology.

I watched the Kilacycle Utube video - totally amazing power, and imagine the Tesla Roadster will be like driving a Scalextric car.

SamuM makes a good point up the thread about "technology inertia" in the large corporations, and thus Toyota will be unable to adapt current plans to new technology in time - though I imagine they may offer new battery technology as a marketing ploy a year or two after launch. The adevertisers afterall like to promote "the new improved.."

One question. ICE cars have lots of gadgets like sterios, head lights, electric windows, electric roofs and most importantly for ladies living in arctic regions - heated seats and CAR HEATERS that utilise some of the waste heat from the ICE. Any idea in % terms how much power this would draw from the batteries? If its -20C outside and your doing 100 mph (which I anticipate will be the discretionary speed limit for green cars) how will you keep warm?

It's worth noting that at $1.75/gallon, lead-acid batteries (including electricty & battery cost) become cheaper than gasoline in a PHEV.

The newest li-ion are just a bit more convenient - lighter, so easier to design around, and not needing changing during the life of the vehicle.

Batteries are ready.

A week or so ago I talked to the owner of a very rare Bradley GT2 electric at a car show. This is a full PEV built in 1981 by a vanished American sports car builder. The car is running on 16 x 6V lead/acid golf cart batteries. Range is 40-50 miles, battery life is 5-6 years and replacement cost for all the batteries is about $1,800. It still has the original motor.

That's not expensive, it's low tech, and yes, the batteries were ready over 25 years ago.

Mark Yates, very nice job of putting this all together. Thanks to Chris Vernon for posting it as a contribution.

So a reasonable person might guess that not all information is public regarding who is bringing out what. I say 2008-2009 are decisive years across the board.

Oh, this CAN be done in the U.S. but it is what the business schools and economists call "barriers to entry". If it takes $500 million to begin to do a car company, then where are you going to get the money? Tesla had to shuck and jive with some brand name players at just the right time to get a fraction of that just for first round financing.

The scarcity of capital for good projects is going to kill this country. Now with the sub prime mess, even Walmart is having trouble selling bonds. This does not bode well for the future of innovative company wanna bes that are just an idea in some people's minds right now.

I can tell you right now, if you make the capital available you will have an outpouring of energy like you have never seen. The same energy that created Silicon Valley and the integrated circuit will be unleashed to solve the problems troubling societies today. Doing good and doing well can be the clarion call for the 21st century.

Lot of exclamation points in this one. You certainly seem to think technology will solve many of our problems. I'm a believer in electric vehicles, but there are so many barriers to entry. Assuming you are right about the batteries...

The Benz internal combustion engine was demonstrated in 1885. It saw widespread adoption only after Olds started to mass produce them in 1901. Henry Ford improved the process some 13 years later. Perhaps things will happen faster this time ... like tomorrow. Technology diffusion is often a long process unless you're talking about iphones, which you're not.

I will believe all this will help when I finally see one of the these cars driving down my street. Tell me when that's going to happen.

It would all be more believable if there was some skepticism about people's claims in this report — but maybe you're young and you want to believe we're not all screwed.

Look! Up there! It's bird. It's a plane. No, it's a Pie in the sky! :)

Just a little levity this am. :)

What we need is Apple to pick up this baton and produce an iCar that can be plugged into an iPod.

The main point for everyone is that technical fixes for transportation, and protecting all that capital spent on suburbia, exist. The difficulty lies in the transition, where convincing national governments, OECD agencies and large corporations of the need to act is paramount.

The base of that pyriamid must lie in reliable energy forecast models.

I'm in USA. I remember during the Carter
Administration 'energy crisis', that Lawrence
Berkeley Laboratory people were seriously discussing
roadways with electric cables buried in surface.
They proposed inductive coupling to power pickup on
the underside of electric vehicles. Such vehicles
would need batteries only for the few feet from road
to garage at home or in the uncovered corners of
parking areas at shopping/work locations. Of course,
there are 'barriers to deployment', but are they
more difficult to scale than barriers to entry for
a not yet fully existing battery technology? Not
clear to me which is better...

Also, brushless electric motors have been
commercially available for several decades. Brush
friction is truly not a problem.

Note the Chevy Volt stinks like manure!
Those blithering idiots are talking about a TURBO MONSTER engine - just for battery charging!
Get real. A 1L engine does just fine in a 4-door Chevy Sprint/Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift. A massive engine like that has no place in a series hybrid. Start thinking 200cc more like it! Better yet dust off the tubrine engines that Chrysler was last working on. Ok they droped them in the 1980's and they were something like 150hp and 500 ft-lb torque with about 20 mpg. The problem with a turbine is part throttle fuel economy sucks.
Anyways - a good car only needs about 5hp crusing on the highway and so that's all the power that the battery charger has to put out - ok add 20% for losses or something like that.

But then you're looking at a fuel-a-thon type engine - designed to run at one speed and power level; and you optimize it's milage and emissions at that. Considering that it's running in steady state you don't have to minimize mass to deal with the fuel-a-thon cars using engine bursts.

About 10 years ago I ran across a Mech. Eng. magazine basically saying that the EV that everyone is chasing is a pipe dream. They could have been building good hybrids in the 1960's and everyone just keeps chasing the all-electric wonder toy. I think that sums it up perfectly.

Even now we have the insanity of claiming that the battery technology is not there; NiMH isn't good enough, LIoN isn't good enough (there are some good improvements coming down the pipe).... Well we could have done a good series hybrid 50 years ago .... but then who would drive it?

That's why Chevy is shoveling manure with their Volt. They can't image building an engine even as small as 1L without a turbo and they can't image selling anything with sub 200hp.

It makes me wish I had the money and time to toss together a 50 hp elec engine in a Sprint with a 5hp lawnmower charger..

Sometimes you don't even need batteries for a plug-in vehicle -- also scheduled to come out 2008 is a car that stores energy in the form of compressed air. Don't laugh! Actually I laughed too, at first, but they've been at it for a while and the technology seems sound. Go have a look:

The company's called MDI - Moteur Developpement International, and what they've developed is an efficient Compressed Air Technology (CAT). One of the main features is that the cars will be cheap to produce and buy. They have a city car for low speeds, with compressed air as the only energy source, and a hybrid that will switch to a conventional fuel at higher speeds.

The urban vehicle, the MiniCat, weighs 550kg (1213 lb), has a top speed of 110km/h (68mph), and can go 150km (93 miles) on a full air tank. (The hybrids should go around 2000km = 1250 miles on full tanks.) It can be refuelled in under 4 hours using its own internal compressor, hooked up to a regular electric outlet. In the future it could be refuelled in 2 minutes from a high pressure air station.

According to the website, they should start selling these Summer 2008, for a base price of 6860€ ($9230 US) plus tax.

Edited to add:

Oh, by the way -- as an interesting marketing ploy, since the air has to be filtered before stored into the tanks, this vehicle actually has a negative pollution. The exhaust air is slightly cleaner than it was before. :-)

Also interesting; the exhaust air is -15 to 0 degrees Celsius (5 to 32 Fahrenheit), and it is obviously pure, so it can be used to cool the interior of the car.

"People are stupid." /Isaac Asimov

The company's called MDI - Moteur Developpement International, and what they've developed is an efficient Compressed Air Technology (CAT).

Assuming the indicator diagram here is to scale, the efficiency can be computed (by graph integration) as ≈83% of isothermal (energy recovery would be 100% if both compressor and motor were isothermal). If the compressor-mode and motor-mode efficiencies are the same, cycle efficiency is 69%. Aren't bettery electric vehicles getting c. 85%? Even if the comparable efficiency figure were 100%, the air storage system would have only 45% more energy input for the same output. That might well be acceptable given the relatively low cost of the air storage system.

I have realized I am not adjusting for the (always present) difference between indicated work and shaft work. Unfortunately I do not know how to produce a reliable estimate of this, particularly so given the unusual mechanics of MDI's motor.

You could spin up an flywheel connected to a high speed motor alternator and get around town. You do not need batteries nor air, there are other ways to store energy. Technology may not be the answer to everything, but that does not mean that it can not be the answer to anything.

To store a meaningful amount of energy, very high speeds (and magnetic bearings) are required. Not good in a collision !

A safety encasement able to contain the fragments adds significant weight. Private cars do not work, buses are marginal, and railcars seem the most likely application if it every comes to pass.

Good Try, but new tech often has problems !


These guys seem to think that it can be done and Ricardo has been in the automobile equipment business for quite a while and has a recent micro hybrid design for cars.

But, there are always "experts" that know more than the people that actually DO it.

You are right. The previous link had one a year earlier about a flywheel in a hybrid, but they gave up on that idea. The closest I came is:

50 pound wheel at 100,000 rpms for just over 4kwh.

It is not as easy as I thought, but apparently not impossible either.

I recomend this video featuring James Woolsey talking about the danger of US (read also World) dependance on oil.
He is one of the main people publicising PHEVs as a way to ween america off petroleum.
He also rips Hydrogen apart as being completely impractical, incredibly expensive, etc.

He is a fantastic speaker and covers so many bases. He even mentions Peak Oil, Global Warming, rising sea levels, An Inconvenient Truth and Mathew Simmons! He says he owns a Prius and has obviously (if you watch) read about Calcars 100mpg Plugin Prius. I wouldn't be suprised if he's one of the people that' had his converted :)

You have NEVER seen somebody from the CIA speak so candidly about oil and politics. It's even more unbeleivable that somebody from this background is pushing PHEV's IF they aren't a very very good thing.

"Instead of having this trillion dollar investment in hydrogen infrastructure, every family make the investment they need for a plugin, namely they need an extension cord, period. We have some exciting possibilities before us, and not too far in the future." James Woolsey.


As the writer of the original article I also recomend taking a look at some of these sites:

and YouTube searches for the Tesla.
This is a great link:
The car makes such little noise (except when the tires screech) and has 100% torque all the way through it's acceleration... drool.

Thanks Mark for a great post. I've been following BEV and PHEV for a while now but I wasn't sure the sweet spot of Energy Density and number of recharge cycles had been reached yet.

As someone else says, it would be great to see some real world and 3rd party tests of these new batteries.

Every technology company overplays their product. The question is: how much?

I am not sold on the electric vehicle being the future of transportation.
And I have 2 of them

New technology does not mean it will be afordable for most.

A Xebra made in China might have a chance

Several people have commented on the problems with heating an all-electric vehicle. We need to think a little outside the box here. I've heated an entire RV with a tiny catalytic ceramic heater using propane. I little propane goes a long way when it's used to produce heat. Plus, it's fast. The typical gas grill propane tank would heat most commuters' cars all winter. Smaller refillable cylinders could be used to save weight.

Grady C.

Have you read anything on the addition of Phosphoric acid to the normal H2S04 mix in lead acid batteries? I just stumbled upon it (and therefore know little) but the claims for cycle life are promising.

If the Phoenix SUT is guaranteeing their vehicle and claiming a 12 year, 250,000 !!! mile life (for a pure EV) then the batteries from at least one of the companies must be there.

It appears detrimental to run Valence batteries in hot climates (45oC sustained) but otherwise I can't see the batteries suffering too much under a lot of abuse. I think the cost has to come down for it to be "really" successfull "really" quickly - otherwise it's going to be a trickle down technology - with car companies slowly coming round to PHEV's using lithium. I hope articles like this help show the batteries are ready :)

PS. I remember being one of the really early adoptors of the DVD player. Lots of people then were saying "it can't record and LD is just as good. Mpeg compression is noticable, I can't see it catching on. The players cost $600". It was adopted faster than any comparable product in history.
It seems news and buzz (with the help of the internet) spreads very quickly these days.
The buzz around cars such as the Tesla will prove to the public that electric vehicles and batteries are ready imho. It should hopefully drive the big automakers (the ones that can make 100000 products a year into doing something).

I also neglected to mention that Tesla Motors are aiming to produce a 4seater vehicle (a Sedan), with a longer range, and a price point of $50,000 in the near future (2008 it seems).
Code named White Star (though as this is the name of the company that owned the Titanic - I don't think they've picked the best name!)

I agree with your general optimism and Tesla is a big reason for it.

Tesla is extremely impressive. I'm really looking forward to seeing how their first batch of volume production turns out.

I believe the first units should be under construction now.

Electric cars made simple...

I've been hitting the electric car sites pretty hard for a few years now. In order to evaluate performance claims quickly, I try to concentrate on several figures.

watt-hours/mile - This is the electric version of mpg.

watt-hours/pound - This is the energy density of a battery.

cents/watt-hour - This is the cost of energy storage.

Here is a formula I found for a car's rolling resistance, meaning all forms of aerodynamic drag plus the drag from the tires:

R (in pounds) = 0.01t + 0.0001tv + 0.0026ca(v squared)

where t = weight, v = velocity, a = frontal area and c = drag coefficient.

I still haven't gotten comfortable with using this formula yet, because I still don't know how to convert R to the horsepower and wattage figures I'm used to seeing. However, those figures are proportional to R, so a 10% change in R requires a 10% change in power to maintain the same steady speed. This makes it possible to get a feel for the relative importance of weight, aerodynamics and speed on your energy consumption.

What I've noticed about electric car enthusiasts is that they are extremely knowledgeable about batteries, but not that interested in hardcore aerodynamics or weight reduction. Probably because they're stuck modifying modern-day cars, which can't be improved much in either way.

So my first conclusion is:

The lighter and more aerodynamic a car is, the more competitive an electric drivetrain is compared to an ICE or a PHEV.

The reason is that small internal combustion engines aren't really very efficient. As you scale down a piston engine, power goes down faster than weight, unless you can really increase the RPMs the way they do in motorcycle engines. But a motorcycle engine actually burns a lot of fuel proportionate to the mass it's moving, and I don't think they last as long as car engines. Smaller engines have a lot of surface area compared to volume, which means they shed a lot of heat. Usually, to be much cheaper, small gas engines have fewer cylinders, which makes them run rougher.

My example of this is the Volkswagen One-Liter, a monument to German engineering fetishism. To get 250 mpg, this prototype uses every trick in the book short of shedding a wheel. It has two tandem seats, uses exotic magnesium parts, weighs 650 lbs, and is powered by an 8 horsepower one-cylinder turbodiesel. Can you imagine how expensive an engine like that is? And how rough it must be? The result is a top speed of 77 mph, which works out to about 80 watt-hours a mile. You will probably never see that figure beaten at that speed by a 2-seat ICE.

If the same car were an electric, it could use a motor like the Briggs & Stratton ETEK, a favorite of electric motorcycle conversions. That has about the same cruise power, and when it was still in production you could get it for maybe $700. I bet that VW diesel would cost several times that much in production. Now you can kick out the radiator, fuel tank and transmission, and some of your brakes (the ETEK allowed regeneration). You also block off the intakes and shed the exhaust for less drag.

I'm guessing that at 55 mph the car will use a little over half as much power as at 77 mph, because we're expecting Peak Oil measures, right? 40 wh/mile now is pitted against wh/lb and cents/wh in the arena of battery specs. Lithium chemistries seem to vary between 50 and 100 wh/lb and 30 to 100 cents/wh depending on how safe you want to play it - A123 is considered a sure-thing but it's on the low end of wh/lb and the high end of cents/wh. Other companies promise better but have yet to prove it.

So your converted One-Liter requires at least 4000 wh for a decent range, or about 40 to 80 lbs and $1333 to 4000 in batteries.

This is why aerodynamics and weight reduction are so huge for electrics. You're not just trying to save the world's energy, you're trying to reduce the size of the battery pack, and the load on it. Try converting a steel ICE car to electric and see how many batteries it takes to go 100 miles. With a radical rethink of the car's construction, the batteries can put up a fair fight against gasoline. The One-Liter now has a reasonably quiet motor, and it actually weighs less. You then can replace NASA-expensive magnesium parts with normal aluminum parts until you're back to 650 lbs. Note that a 4 wh pack can be charged by your washer-dryer's 220v 30amp line in about an hour.

My second conclusion is:

Until we find a way to make a really lightweight car safe in American traffic, the main goal of the electric car is to keep new Chinese and Indian buyers from burning enough gasoline to destroy this planet or destroy known reserves, whichever comes first.

It's still possible in those countries to force people to buy tiny cars and restrict the use of heavy trucks. Only a brutal rise in the price of gas can bring that about here.

What we can reasonably do in America is try to make a safe 1200 pound electric car. VW's One-Liter was claimed to be crash-test ready. Loremo in Germany (again with the tiny diesels) claims its 1000 lb coupe can pass a crash test. Daihatsu in Japan showed a hybrid 4-seat prototype with about a 0.13 cD that weighed 1300 lbs. I think that one could sell. The Lotus Seven, Elite and Europa all weighed about that much, without any advanced composites.

Increasing the weight of the hypothetical electric would impact its city energy consumption more than highway, but people would pay a lot more for 4 seats. Interestingly, I have a pdf of research done by AC Propulsion way back in 1995 on its electric conversion, a Honda Civic that I surmise had a lot of aerodynamic mods. Despite its lead-acid batteries and 3300 lb curb weight, they eventually refined it to a performance of 126 wh/mile on a city test circuit at posted speeds. If you see an electric car today that's not beating that figure, then it has no excuse.

A lot of this is going to pop up in the X-Prize competition, in some form.

While progress in the electric vehicle realm seems steady and and impressive, there is a huge problems confronting it.

The worldwide energy cost represented by the construction and operation of such vehicles, as a replacement for current cars in the case of the US, and new ones in the case of the developing world, is astronomical. Where will all the electricity required to do this come from?

Renewable energy resources are not being developed fast enough to provide enough electricity to replace even 20% of the vehicles on the road, even if we go to a "standard replacement car" 1200 pound in weight.

The marginal supplier of electricity still is still coal-fired plants and CO2 sequestration is decades away (if ever). If implemented, sequestration will drain away substantially more of the net energy from this source, resulting in a net yield of electricity of 25% or less, possibly much less. Further, as natural gas supplies start drying up, even less electricity will be available, not only a result of shutting down plants, but due to desperate measures people will be forced to take to keep from freezing in their homes.

While some of you may still think that nuclear power is the answer, IMO,you haven't been doing much reading on the subject. Uranium reserves are limited and already the price is skyrocketing. Besides, who is going to loan us the money to build them?

Personally, I would like to see a cure to this "addiction to driving" we have, and countless more on other continents will soon have. If we could proactively reduce the number of cars on the road by 50% or more, within a decade, I would consider that to be significant progress.

While the good news is that the same hybrid technology can be applied to collective transportation systems (buses), we still need to find a renewable energy source and the technology to harvest it, that is widely available to produce the needed electricity much more cheaply than that which can be provided by coal or nuclear.

There is an answer, called the Atmospheric Vortex Engine, but it needs to be developed and needs more people weighing in to support it. A recent discussion of it was carried out at:

To save time, I recommend comments 61-63 be read, which include a comment by the inventor, Louis Michaud, P.E., who has also patented the technology.

As "Peak Oil" arrives, IMO, it is the only technology that can be developed cheaply enough and quickly enough and in sufficient quantities to mitigate what will otherwise be consequences too terrible to contemplate.


As long as we keep driving gas cars, we provide very limited inputs available for those engines (fossil fuel or ethanol/biodiesel).

Electric cars are a hedge against energy instability because electricity is the universal currency (no pun intended) of energy. So by getting off of gas, we can consolidate our energy debt, so to speak, around a form of energy that has the most diverse inputs.

That's not to say we'll just be able to switch to electricity and not change our lifestyle. I think the dream-talk about 300+ mile ranges and exotic body constructions for EVs are the wrong approach. NIMH and lithium batteries are good enough to push around cars of average weight and modest aerodynamics. Look at some of the EVs that were released besides the EV1, a truck (Ford Ranger), an SUV (Toyota Rav4)?

It would be nice to see cars move towards exotic materials and squeeze every ounce of optimization out, but at what cost and what eventual benefit? The world needs a bog standard workhorse, not a supercar like the Tesla, and not glorified golf carts like the GEM. It needs to feel like a solid car that can feel safe on the freeway or in an accident. In the process of using a more traditional frame, they will sacrifice some range, but they don't NEED it to go 200 miles on a chargee. They just WANT it to. If you really do NEED it to go that far, then you've got some important lifestyle changes you need to make. People are going to have to learn to budget their miles in order to take advantage of the plugin methodology. They also need to diversify their mode of transport. Use bikes for short range, public transit for long commutes to work if possible, and rental cars for road-trips.

Hello Super390,

Would you please e-mail me the AC Propulsion's electrified Honda Civic PDF. Send to team 10 tim at yahoo written like my user name. I am interested in converting existing ICE to Electric with swappable batteries. The Honda Civic seemed like a good candidate because it is relatively small and there are so many of them.

Thanks in advance,

You'll probably find it somewhere in here.

That's correct. The PDF is the one titled "Living With an EV". You'll have to check if that link is current because people have had trouble getting it in the past.

The report doesn't say that it's a Civic - I heard from another source that AC had used a Civic for its research. However, google the Solectria Sunrise to see the next phase in that line of development. I suspect the Civic had heavy bodywork mods based on what the article says, the sort most hobbyists could not perform, like a full-length floorpan. Also, AC's motor wasn't cheap. But nowdays we're seeing a lot of work on wheel motors, which offset their costs by eliminating other components.

AC Propulsion had a glitch which duplicated one element of the path spec to their reports; you could get to them fine if you deleted it.  I mailed them about it and they got back to me after they fixed it.  It still looks fixed to me.

R (in pounds) = 0.01t + 0.0001tv + 0.0026ca(v squared)

where t = weight, v = velocity, a = frontal area and c = drag coefficient.

I still haven't gotten comfortable with using this formula yet, because I still don't know how to convert R to the horsepower and wattage figures I'm used to seeing.

You don't have units for the weight or the speed.  The weight can be safely assumed to be in pounds also, but without specifying MPH or ft/sec for the speed you don't even know what numbers to put in.

Thanks, Mark, for the overall excellent presentation on plug-in hybrids' characteristics and benefits. You certainly squeezed lots of information on one is a very small organization and our resources are stretched, so I'm not sure anyone will have a chance to respond or expand at length on many of the issues and subtleties. I do want to correct "for the record" a couple of small overstatements that I see as important:

    * When we say 100+MPG, that's shorthand for "100+MPG of gasoline, plus about a penny a mile of electricity" (depending on your electric rates and other factors, but there's no free lunch!)
    * CalCars did the first Prius conversion on Fall 2004, with lead-acid batteries, using a battery management system from EnergyCS. Since then we've developed our own BMS, done nickel-metal hydride conversions and are currently involved in an "open-source" style project for the "do-it-yourself" market at
    * It's Prof. Andy Frank of the University of California at Davis who is the inventor of the modern plug-in hybrid, who has been building them for decades, and whose car was brought to Japan by a Toyota-connected company.

To stay on top of the latest developments in PHEVs (the situation is literally changing weekly) see our Calcars-News Archive or subscribe to the low-traffic list from our home page at

-- Felix Kramer, Founder, California Cars Initiative

First, let us take a moment to convey the fact that we are genuinely honored
by the post from Felix Kramer, and his presence here. I say this not to be flattering or corny. Felix Kramer's group, and the pioneering work of Prof. Andy Frank have done more to alter the paradigm of the transportation energy debate, and give the modern world a radical and creative way forward than any other group or individual has in at least the post WWII period.

While we talked they built.

Historians of the coming energy revolution are already taking note of the places this revolution began. CalCars is already seen by those in the know as the "Independence Hall" of one of the greatest technical revolutions in transportation/energy we have seen to this point in our time, and it's founding members as the "founding fathers" of a new energy and transportation age. Thanks for your reply and clarifcations, Felix Kramer, and we hope you vist often.

Below is a link to an essay I wrote, by pure irony, exactly two years ago on my small private by invitation energy group. It was a celebration of my groups 50th post as an organized group, and was a review of where I thought the "confluence" of technology and economics were moving. It was the plug hybrid idea that I considered at that time, and still do, in conjuction with solar (either PV or concentrating mirror solar or some combination of the two) combined with advanced nano materials leading to advanced solar and battery cells, as the central path forward into what would be a completely new age of energy production, efficiency and use. (although to take note, my views on solar were not nearly as developed at that time as they are now)

In two years of study since writing the post linked, I have had no reason to change my view, and in fact am now stronger in my convictions than I was even then. I have moved the post to my accessable (but undeveloped) energy group for anyone interested to read. While I am prone to going long on my posts on TOD, it would exceed the bounds of politeness to post what is an almost 6 page essay (including links) here on TOD.

Again, Calcars, Felix Kramer, Andy Frank, and all of your devoted asssistants, technicians and volunteers, thank you for the road forward you have opened to the world.

Roger Conner Jr.
Remember we are only one cubic mile from freedm

Hi Felix. Thanks for the positive feedback on the article.
Apologies to Prof. Andy Frank for not acknowledging him in the article. Please pass my apologies onto him if you're in contact with him. It appears in writing this I merged the two of you into one (his decades of EV experience) and your site/group. I had forgotten he was not part of Calcars. I see on the page here that he is indeed not part of Calcars itself:
There's youtube video conference presentations by him and at least one video featuring your group so I don't know how I got confused :(
Has your group not done a Prius with a Lithium pack? I've seen a photo of several Prius's (taken inside the boot) with the Valence batteries all lined up. If you google image search for "Prius Valence" there appear to be a few out there. Amberjac (here in the UK) seem to be one of a few small companies using Energy CS and Lithium (Valence) batteries.
I think these companies, and eventually the World owe a lot to Andy Frank, and to your teams hard work. Keep up the good work :)

Reading this post, and most of the comments, I get the feeling that we are a long way from envisaging societies and economies that are far removed from the one we inhabit. If the electric or plug-in hybrid could be made sustainably and affordably, would that be the end of our problems? Would we be able to go on as normal, only driving in our super technological personal transport?

It is a given that Suburbia & Exurbia are innately more energy and oil intensive (The Toronto example of a fairly close-in Suburban location required 4x the transportation and 2x the overall energy of a downtown 11 story residential tower; which is not the lowest energy Urban solution).

Compact, walkable Urban areas require significantly less oil & energy to support.

My fear is that too rapid implementation of PHEVs & EVs will create a "problem solved" euphoria (given the short range planning endemic in the body politic) and no efforts towards other oil use reduction strategies.

And that has very negative Global Warming implications as well. EVs will use a large % of total USA electricity production; I think of them as new air conditioners; imposed a significant new load and creating a higher new peak (despite vehicle to grid claims which seem extremely unlikely; who is going to life shorten a $6,000 battery to save a few dollars on their bill ?). The high efficiency of electrified rail (roughly 20 BTUs oil to 1 BTU electricity). bicycles & NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles) has a much more positive impact on GW.

The maximum claim is 20 million out of 85 million b/day worldwide and I doubt that we will see 75% implementation world-wide by 2030#. Add a little population growth and perhaps economic growth and residual and the promise of EVs will only delay a coming crunch.

By contrast, my approach (rebuilding our Urban form, Urban rail, bicycles & NEVs, electrifying & expanding railroads, geothermal heat pumps for heating, bio-sources for some petrochemical inputs) EVEN WITHOUT EVs, could trend towards a US oil demand of 4 or 5 million b/day. With EVs, that number could be reduced some more, closer to 3 million b/day.


”Only specialists in technological history would know what an internal combustion engine is if it were not for petroleum. The only reason such an incredibly inefficient device could be used on such a wide scale is because it is uniquely adapted, like some superspecialized organism in some freaky part of an isolated ecosystem, to the extraordinary energy potential of oil. The internal combustion engine is the brother of the external combustion engine, or as it is better known, the steam engine. The steam engine is long gone, and so, too, should have been the internal combustion engine. The diesel-electric and electric train and the jet are much newer technologies—the airplane is a newer technology. The internal combustion engine was invented before the electricity-generating electric turbine. It is a very old technology, completely unsuited to a post-fossil-fuel world.

People should keep this in mind when they blithely assume that some new technology will pop up from somewhere to save us from the disappearance of fossil fuels, because “we’ve always invented something new”. No we haven’t. Particularly in America, the entire suburban structure of the country is based on a nineteenth century anachronism.”
Singing the nation electric, Part 1 By Jon Rynn

Singing the nation electric, Part 2

"People should keep this in mind when they blithely assume that some new technology will pop up from somewhere to save us from the disappearance of fossil fuels, because “we’ve always invented something new”.

No, we've already invented it. It just wasn't quite as cheap or convenient as gasoline. At $1.75/gallon an EV is cheaper (even accounting for battery cost), and the PHEV form solves the convenience problem.

Alan, I understand why you want to emphasize rail, but what you're really saying is that we need a comprehensive approach. Such an approach should include rail, PHEV/EV's, geothermal heat pumps for heating, bio-sources for some petrochemical inputs (as you note), and other things as well.

To suggest that we should suppress PHEV/EV's for fear of the other components being neglected is misguided. It diminishes your credibility for some, and scares others into thinking the situation is worse than it is.

Now, into specifics:

"It is a given that Suburbia & Exurbia are innately more energy and oil intensive (The Toronto example of a fairly close-in Suburban location required 4x the transportation and 2x the overall energy of a downtown 11 story residential tower; which is not the lowest energy Urban solution)."

Is Suburbia & Exurbia "innately energy and oil intensive"?

No. Urban space will be much harder to electrify, as there's very little space for geothermal exchange. You'll be left with fossil fuels, or resistance heating, which takes 3x the energy.

"Compact, walkable Urban areas require significantly less oil & energy to support."

Even if that were the case they would be much more expensive. Have you compared urban and suburban construction energy & $ costs? Urban construction costs are significantly higher. Land costs are much, much higher.

"My fear is that too rapid implementation of PHEVs & EVs will create a "problem solved" euphoria (given the short range planning endemic in the body politic) and no efforts towards other oil use reduction strategies. "

As I noted above, it makes no sense to discourage something because it works!!!

"EVs will use a large % of total USA electricity production";

Not a problem, if we have more than enough electricity.

"I think of them as new air conditioners; imposed a significant new load and creating a higher new peak "

No. Time of day pricing will prevent that: research has shown that people really do respond to such cues.

"(despite vehicle to grid claims which seem extremely unlikely; who is going to life shorten a $6,000 battery to save a few dollars on their bill ?)."

First, V2G isn't necessary for a long time, just the buffering of scheduled charging. 2nd, the newest batteries have more than enough life for this - See:

"The high efficiency of electrified rail (roughly 20 BTUs oil to 1 BTU electricity). "

PHEV/EV's are 6x as efficient, and the remaining 3x factor depends on forcing most people to make a costly move into high cost, dense urban living (nothing like low-density New Orleans, which has the density of an exurb).

"The maximum claim is 20 million out of 85 million b/day worldwide"

I don't know how that claim was calculated: in the US, transportation is 70% of oil useage, and light vehicle useage is 45%.

"I doubt that we will see 75% implementation world-wide by 2030"

That's a social choice. We could get 75% by 2025 if we chose, relatively easily and at much less cost than depending on rail for everything.

"bicycles & NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles) has a much more positive impact on GW."

PHEV's are NEV's with the simple addition of a backup generator, which could be used just for emergencies, or for longer trips. I don't know why you don't like the idea of that generator to ease the transition - is it just because it would work too well, and support vehicle useage?

"By contrast, my approach (rebuilding our Urban form, Urban rail, bicycles & NEVs, electrifying & expanding railroads, geothermal heat pumps for heating, bio-sources for some petrochemical inputs) EVEN WITHOUT EVs, could trend towards a US oil demand of 4 or 5 million b/day. With EVs, that number could be reduced some more, closer to 3 million b/day."

See my opening comments: we need all approaches.

The funny thing is, we mostly agree. The thing is, if we push rail too hard, and PHEV/EV's not enough, overall it would be much more expensive, and provide much less mobility.

I know you're afraid that emphasizing PHEV/EV's will starve rail. I think you can sell the virtues of rail without "dissing" PHEV/EV's. Ultimately, I think you'll be more effective, and be heard better. I know emphasizing the quality of life of rail is a more complex message, but realistic messages are more effective in the long run.

That reminds me of the wind VS nuclear debate - a very false debate which makes the common problem they target worse, rather than solving it.

In my view we need to rebuild urban living mostly for societal reasons, but in the meantime (next 30-40 years?) we ARE going to need PHEVs. Basically the two projects should coexist with efficient and convenient urban living being the long-term goal. Electrical vehicles will:
1) help us fill the gap from here to there
2) preserve the utility, convenience and quality of life which owning an auto brings. Even with reduced to minimal usage the automobile is a very useful appliance, don't you think Alan?

Hopefully the sheer size and complexity of the two projects will help bring this nation together, and will help achieve part of what Alan fights for...

I see the world as full of nuances and shades of gray. I have clearly stated that I see EVs as part of the solution and that the minimum oil use with EVs is lower than all else but without EVs.

Just as I am not anti-Nuke, I support a build out as fast as can be safely done without straining our limited resources. And I do not underestimate the effort and time required to resurrect a dead industry after almost 3 decades. But others accuse me of being anti-Nuke because I take what I consider to be a reasonable and responsible view of the problems of going any faster.

There is tremendous popular pressure for a new type of car, and next to none for electrified rail (outside of TOD and a few other places).

Thus I see the USA taking an "EV only" solution with everyone jumping on board. And this leading to a dead end a decade or two later as "it is not enough alone". Suburbia is innately energy inefficient, and EVs will use (roughly) 3x the electricity of my proposed solutions.

The bottom line is that we can get along without EVs but we cannot get along without electrified rail. Best is both, but the USA will likely chose EVs and PHEVs and consider "problem solved" until all else falls apart.

The thing is, if we push rail too hard, and PHEV/EV's not enough, overall it would be much more expensive, and provide much less mobility

I cannot see that.

A minimal EV/maximum rail solution would likely have the lowest life cycle costs (EVs will still bang into each other and need replacement, deaths in other than a minimal EV scenario will still be in the 10,000s/year with associated injuries, road repairs will be higher (and more roads required).

You may be looking at first costs without considering the life expectancy and operating costs. Life cycle costs are the appropriate metric IMO and maximum rail has the lowest life cycle costs.

And the KEY is not "more mobility" but less mobility !!

Hopefully, by wanting less (living in walkable neighborhoods in compact cities & towns), but in all cases less mobility. Farmers go to town (hopefully in their PHEV) every Friday or every other Friday.

Less mobility requires less energy (by any mode) and fewer resources.

Best Hopes for fewer VMT.


Well, we may have succeeded in beating this topic to death.

I understand how you feel: I suspect that rail is going to not get nearly the emphasis that it deserves, and I agree that life would be much better with a great deal more rail, and less driving. The sweet spot on the continuum of personal vehicle vs rail, for low cost and livability is much closer to rail than we live with today. I'd love to see much more rail for commuting, and for medium-distance travel between cities. I'd love to see car-sharing (see ) combined with rail and good mass-transit, to make rail more convenient and reduce people's need for car ownership. Rail, car-sharing, small electric vehicles like Segways and electric bikes could make people's lives safer (much safer!), simpler and cheaper.

That said, I gotta say that your emphasis on elimination of suburbia puzzles me. Urban living is more expensive, and not inherently significantly less oil-intensive: see my previous comments (urban spaceheating will require fossil fuels, or 3x more electricity; PHEV/EV's can eliminate 100% of oil usage and 83% of transportation energy usage, and mass movement to dense urban areas would only eliminate another 12% of transportation energy, at much greater marginal costs; etc).

When looking at lifecycle costs, I suspect you're not taking into account two things: personal vehicles can be kept much longer if desired (Jay Leno is still driving a 1907 EV, with the original batteries - EV's have many, many fewer moving parts and are inherently low maintenance, and even ICE's can be kept longer than we currently do, if desired), and discounting for time value really is necessary. Just because rail infrastructure can last 100 years doesn't give it the large edge in lifecycle costs that you assume: this is particularly true these days, when it's clear that energywise our most difficult problem is the next 20 years, where we will be transitioning to wind, solar, and electricity. I agree that good infrastructure is a great legacy for later generations, but a realistic cost analysis takes the time value of money into account.

I agree that it would be great to move urban planning in the direction of greater livability. People need to be educated on the value of this, and a lot of things should be changed to support this, not least sound insulation standards so that townhouses/condos/rental units are more livable (consistent with better insulation, but not the same, as between-unit wall insulation & isolation don't matter for energy, but are essential for livability).

Still, you can't justify the enormous expense of a massive demographic movement & housing reconstruction on energy - it just doesn't make sense. We're going to have plenty of electricity, and at much lower cost.

Finally, I think we should respect people's desires more. I can understand why people would like the suburbs: much cheaper land & overall housing cost, sound isolation from neighbors, much more green space. I prefer urban living, with it's much greater diversity & cultural interest, it's convenience and services, it's rail & closeness to work. But, to talk about forcing people to move into the city and give up mobility smacks of an authoritarian approach. People like mobility so much that they are willing to pay a big premium, (if necessary and generally regardless of the availability of mass transit), to have private vehicles, and that's understandable: mass transit can have much longer travel times. Not only is forcing people to move, and reduce their mobility inherently not good, but talking about it's going to lose some of your audience, when you try to sell rail.

We should simply adjust the accounting, and let people make their own decisions. Build the rail; make vehicles pay for roads (mostly trucks, as they cause 90% of the wear, and only for a portion of the cost of urban streets, as they're used by a lot of other users as well, and really are a basic urban amenity); eliminate rail property taxes for electrified trackage; raise fuel taxes to account for external costs (and rebate the tax on a per-capita basis, to eliminate the regressivity of fuel taxes); create carbon taxes for coal and natural gas; etc, etc. Wind, solar, rail, and PHEV/EV's will all flourish, and the move to exurbia will slow down, and probably reverse slightly.

”Still, you can't justify the enormous expense of a massive demographic movement & housing reconstruction on energy - it just doesn't make sense.”

That’s the thing, housing reconstruction is not part of the end-of-suburbia thing… turning the existing buildings in big cities into big boarding houses is what is assumed, with overcrowding, multiple strangers occupancy, few bathrooms and no privacy. It stinks. So let us hope we get Alan and Nick’s EV and Rail, we won’t like the alternative.

We should simply adjust the accounting, and let people make their own decisions. Build the rail; make vehicles pay for roads (mostly trucks, as they cause 90% of the wear, and only for a portion of the cost of urban streets, as they're used by a lot of other users as well, and really are a basic urban amenity); eliminate rail property taxes for electrified trackage; raise fuel taxes to account for external costs (and rebate the tax on a per-capita basis, to eliminate the regressivity of fuel taxes); create carbon taxes for coal and natural gas; etc, etc. Wind, solar, rail, and PHEV/EV's will all flourish, and the move to exurbia will slow down, and probably reverse slightly Suburbs will shrink significantly and Exurbia, as such, will die

We agree on policy over the carcass of a dead, and brutally beaten horse :=)

And disagree on the analysis and likely result in slight details.

Best Hopes for a constructive dialectic,


This is all very interesting. It seems that cars have at least a solution at sight, it is only required that mass production of these things don't find any other problems like extinction of raw materials, as some people mentioned earlier.

What is lacking in discussion in these forums is aviation discussion. If Jet Fuel is not available, planes are down. There are no easy alternatives, and the consequences are overwhelming:

1. Long Mail Shipments are down, which may render Amazon obsolete, along with many other services;

2. Long trips are down, global tourism hits a big barrier and drives many local populations back to poverty due to the missing industry;

3. Shut down of one amazing industry (aviation) along with tremendous consequences inside it: airports building and maintenance, staff, millions of jobs, etc. All down;

4. business trips take a hit. Global economy takes a hit. Companies flop. Unpredictable;

5. etc.

Now of course, I am conveniently forgetting about a miracle technology that could save aviation: electric-driven propellors. Now I don't know that this even exists. But even if it did, I ask you: how on earth is this going to work in the already built airplanes? Are we going to massively rebuild their wings to make them include batteries inside them? How much money does that take? Will it happen before a global depression in the industry caused by peak oil?

And I spare you the thought of thinking what will happen to global commerce when TSHTF in the industry of FF's driven boats.

Just a little doom-n-gloom switch to give a flavour to your well written essay on car batteries ;), which BTW I fully agree and back you up on that.

While many have seen this as a change to the "doom and gloom" articles. There is a lot of gloom and doom in this article as it points out what cars "should" be on the road now. On my 10 mile commute to work I lose count of the shiny new 4x4s I see with often one small lady purched up inside them.
They might be using diesel and getting 20mpg instead of 15 in them but the waste of resources there is incredible, and America is far worse.
Chavez is worried about Peak Oil but prices there are a few cents a gallon. There's a weird paradox right there! Increasing oil consumption while being a believer in Peak Oil.
Population is exploding in the middle east (50% under 21 I read somewhere) and demand for a Western lifestyle is exploding in India and China. Cars have replaced bicycles in most chinese cities.
I saw a great quote once that said something like "a jet airliner users more energy flying tourists from America to Egypt than the energy it took to actually build the Great Pyramid", or this one...
"In a barrel of oil, there are 6.2 million Btus -- equivalent to over 18000 man-hours, which would cost over $90000 at a (low) wage of $5/hour."
A barrel of oil = about 2 fillups of a 4x4 (117 litres in a barrel).
Future generations are going to look back at us and cry at how we wasted energy. Of course Fox News and the "liberal" media will tell them to blame OPEC for not releasing more oil onto the market, or the Democrats for not opening ANWR, so keeping prices high.
There will then be an advert for the latest 3 litre Dodge Nitro or 4.5 litre Range Rover

PS. May I heartily recomend Dr. Albert Bartlett's brilliant "lecture" on energy here:
Show this to anyone and they will wake-up to Peak Oil...

Albert Bartlett's lecture was an epiphany moment for me.

Trying to solve the personal transport "problem" will not help us. We face a whole host of problems becuase of our profligate lifestyles, the need for economic growth and population increases. It is utterly pointless discussing how people are going to go about their everyday business, if all that is envisaged is a new travel paradigm.

Look how eagerly such discussions are engaged in. It is little wonder that the world faces multiple crisis, and there is little hope for a smooth transition to the next society when so many people, even those "in the know", just can't envisage another kind of society.

I believe while we will drive electric cars. Aviation will continue but use biofuels instead. I believe there are several people already working on bio jet fuels.

Aviation is going to be the most vulnerable form of transport post peak oil, at least in heavier than air vehicles. Electrification is not an option: energy density of Jet-A is about 42-44 MJ/kg, that for Li-ion batteries is between one half and three quarters of a MJ/kg. You can get renewable Jet-A by Fischer-Tropsch of biomass, at a cost yet to be determined.

I disagree that Amazon and the like are out.
In the worst case scenario you mention (which is still unlikely BTW) i.e. no jet fuel whatsoever then mail and product can *still* be shipped by ocean and rail freight.

What will change is *timing*.
Instead of "next day delivery" or 2-3 days international delivery it may revert back to what I remember as a kid in the 70s:

I remember ordering a bunch of superman comics from DC magazines and it said "please allow 4-6 weeks for shipping & handling".

In any event, it's *not* going to get to the point that jet fuel will cease to exist, it will simply become much, much more expensive.

For those that want to take foreign vacations, the options will be more likely based on ocean voyages or trains.

I'm thinking we'll be looking at a wierd hybrid of the 19th century and the 21st century or perhaps more realistically the economy will probably look like that of Mexico with only the rich taking flights and the rest taking a lot of mass transit and bicycles with a very thin middle class with automobiles.

Do you honestly think that, as air travel declines, people and companies will simply switch to other forms of transport and freight? Do you not foresee a dramatic change in society, in parallel with (but not only because of) a decline in air travel?

I don't think it will be a case of just switching to alternative methods, as oil (and gas and coal) based methods become unfeasible.

Shipping can run on biodiesel. I do not believe that biodiesel is THE answer to all of our problems, but it will have its uses, at least as a transition fuel. Unlike corn ethanol, at least it has a positive EROI. We can't produce enough biodiesel to fuel all transport, but we can produce enough to keep the essential things running, including ships. Shipping is just too important to not keep it running, and biodiesel is too easy to produce for it not to come on the market in the quantities necessary to keep shipping running.

Shipping could run on batteries, wind & solar. It might bring back the day of multiple stops at ports for recharging, like the days of stopping to pickup coal, but it would work just fine.

Probably some combination would work best, kind've a flex-fuel PHEV ship.

Shipping is an interesting engineering speculation.

Circa 2050, I could foresee 3.5 classes of ships.

1) Nuclear powered (2 reactors & turbines for redundancy) super "tankers" (some SuezMax, some larger) carrying bulk cargoes in large volumes. Iron ore from Australia & Brazil to ?, Bauxite from S. America to Iceland, refined petrochemicals from the Islamic Republic of Arabia to the major markets, and so forth.

Perhaps several dozen world wide

1B) Nuclear powered Panamax (new post 2014 size) ships (1 nuke + biodiesel backup), some containers, some bulk, a few specialty ships.

Perhaps 80 to 100 ships

2) LNG ships, running off of LNG

No more than a couple of dozen, shipping a "specialty" fuel. Evaporated HG in load, bio-diesel or residual NG on backhaul

3) 5 masted schooners (perhaps 6 masted as well). Sail + battery as ballast. Perhaps 4,000 to 7,000 tons ? Surface coated with PV and small wind turbines "in between sails" for electric drive in calms and in port. Hopefully satellite aids in choosing correct course for max wind and minimum transit times.

Thousands of all types

Best Hopes for International trade,


Remember the N.S. Savannah?

You can reduce power requirements for water transport by 50% by slowing down just 25%.

In the longrun, I'd estimate that PV could power about 25% of the current needs of the typical container ship. Wind, in the form of sails that look a lot like kites, could provide another 30%. The rest could come from batteries and biofuel backup (for the occasional becalming), or they could just slow down a bit.

Given the relative value of water shipping, it will be able to bid for enough fuel for quite a while - efficiencies will go up, wind & PV will start to be used, and fuel needs will go down. By the time fuel costs start to really be significant, PV, wind assistance & power storage will all be greatly improved, and fuel won't be needed.

It’s tough that lightweight PHEVs have to share the road with behemoths like diesel trucks. The option of separate tracks as in cycle paths doesn’t seem feasible. There’s talk in my local area of a lower speed limit to reduce damage from frequent collisions between 40 tonne log trucks and cars. Another option may be that heavy vehicles have extensive crumple zones.

Will Joe the burger flipper who drives an hour to work be able to afford a PHEV?


I live in Austin Texas and there is a company here that is producing a new battery that is known as an "ultra capacitor". The concept has been around a long time, but i think this might be the first implementation of it. The company name is "EEStor", and has no website. They have been ultra-secret about what they are doing, but claim that they are about to go public, and have signed on to provide these "batteries' to a Canadian company.
There is a short entry in Wikipedia, but very little information.
They claim a 5 minute charge will get you 500 miles.

I apolgize up front for having no hard facts or anything to back this up. I post it only to provide a starting point for possible discussion, as i am certain that some of you folks already have knowledge of this company. I would dearly love to hear anything more that could be offered here.

Thanks to all of you for the incredible amount of information that you provide on the oil drum!

Hi, found this titbit here:

"The implications are enormous and, for many, unbelievable. Such a breakthrough has the potential to radically transform a transportation sector already flirting with an electric renaissance, improve the performance of intermittent energy sources such as wind and sun, and increase the efficiency and stability of power grids--all while fulfilling an oil-addicted America's quest for energy security.

The breakthrough could also pose a threat to next-generation lithium-ion makers such as Watertown, MA-based A123Systems, which is working on a plug-in hybrid storage system for General Motors, and Reno, NV-based Altair Nanotechnologies, a supplier to all-electric vehicle maker Phoenix Motorcars.



It is a parallel plate capacitor with barium titanate as the dielectric.
It claims that it can make a battery at half the cost per kilowatt-hour and one-tenth the weight of lead-acid batteries.
As of last year selling price would start at $3,200 and fall to $2,100 in high-volume production
The product weighs 400 pounds and delivers 52 kilowatt-hours.
The batteries fully charge in minutes as opposed to hours.
The EEStor technology has been tested up to a million cycles with no material degradation compared to lead acid batteries that optimistically have 500 to 700 recharge cycles,
Because it's a solid state battery rather than a chemical battery, such being the case for lithium ion technology, there would be no overheating and thus safety concerns with using it in a vehicle.
With volume manufacturing it's expected to be cost-competitive with lead-acid technology.
As of last year, EEStor planned to build its own assembly line to prove the battery can work and then license the technology to manufacturers for volume production
EEStor's technology could be used in more than low-speed electric vehicles. The company envisions using it for full-speed pure electric vehicles, hybrid-electrics (including plug-ins), military applications, backup power and even large-scale utility storage for intermittent renewable power sources such as wind and solar.
They have an exclusive agreement with Feel Good Cars, a Canadian manufacturer of the ZENN, a low speed electric car, to to purchase high-power-density ceramic ultra capacitors called Electrical Storage Units (ESU). FGC's exclusive worldwide right is for all personal transportation uses under 15 KW drive systems (equivalent to 100 peak horse power) and for vehicles with a curb weight of under 1200 kilograms not including batteries.

I go back to my original post though; we have the technologies, how nasty it gets is just going to depend on how fast we can roll them out...


Perhaps this is my thread to be resident curmudgeon. EESTOR's product is not a battery, it is a capacitor. A battery is an electrochemical reactor which contains its reagents and products. A capacitor stores electrical charge. Compared to a battery, caps charge and discharge very quickly, have lower energy densities, and leak energy rapidly. Big fast caps that can store and discharge KV in minutes are useful for regenerative braking energy capture, have not proven useful as a general purpose energy reservoir. EESTOR may change that, but right now it is best known for being incredibly close-mouthed. On the one hand, that's good as they don't continually make ridiculous promises; on the other, there is no way to assess their products.

I think A123, Altair, and EEstor are the 3 phases of electric car belief. If you're a strict empiricist and you're willing to accept certain limitations on what an electric car can do, you embrace A123 as your mantra in all your postings at EVWorld and Autobloggreen. If you're willing to believe that a running prototype endorsed by a giant utility company is probably a safe bet, then you're in the Altair camp and you think that we can have remarkably high performance electric cars. If you really want to go on faith, or you think Americans won't accept any compromise at all, then you pray for EEstor. Because potentially an EEstor car could outperform an ICE car in many ways. Lower center of gravity, maybe even structurally loading the capacitors to form part of the car's strength.

I'm mildly faithful. I think A123 is too conservative to make a breakthrough pure electric car, but that GM deal looks great. Altair is in the Phoenix SUV, which I think could really turn around American attitudes, but I'm skeptical about mass production costs (30 cents/watt-hour or bust for me). I force myself not to think about EEstor, because it just doesn't quite seem possible.

Smaller and lighter car safety issues have been solved. Besides, you haven’t lived till you’ve seen a supposedly safer SUV flip over while moving at 80 miles an hour.

In terms of crash performance, the Revolution relies on a combination of the energy absorbing properties of aluminum and the strength of carbon composites to achieve levels of safety comparable to—and in many crash scenarios, exceeding—those of heavier vehicles. For instance, in front-end collisions, computer analyses indicate that the Revolution would surpass U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for a 48-km/h fixed-barrier collision even at speeds up to 56 km/h. Additionally, the damage from a front-end collision up to 56 km/h would be contained within the aluminum front sub-frame without any damage to the carbon-fiber safety cell, facilitating occupant extrication after a crash and simplifying repair. In a head-on collision with a vehicle up to twice its mass, each traveling up to 48 km/h, the Revolution is designed to meet FMVSS 48-km/h fixed-barrier head-on standards. Thus, the Revolution’s crash structures would successfully absorb the extra kinetic energy transferred to it during a head-on collision due to its lightness relative to its collision partner without compromising passenger safety.
Design and Manufacture of an Affordable Advanced-Composite Automotive Body Structure David R. Cramer, David F. Taggart, Hypercar, Inc., (from RMI, Amory Lovins) pdf warning

Thousands of cars trying to flee New Orleans in the path of Katrina ran out of gas in stationary traffic !

You are thinking of the "false alarm" evacuation of Houston for Rita (over 100 died due to the evacuation, 23 in a bus fire, 15 dead in their cars and more from the after-effects of prolonged heat stress) where thousands of cars were stranded on the side of the road.

By contrast the Katrina contraflow evacuation plan worked to perfection. I evacuated early Sunday morning (with 3 people w/o cars; heeding Mayor Nagin's plea to not evacuate empty seats) and had 8 hours of stop & go traffic. (Roads closed 4 to 5 PM Sunday). I saw one car on the side of the road with steam coming from underneath the hood and no apparent "out of gas" cars.

I noted two gasoline tanker trucks parked at a Slidell Texaco station and another one parked at another station, so someone had planned for extra fuel for the evac. Many stations were out of fuel, but a number were still open along the evacuation route.

Market Acceptance & Speed of Fleet Replacement

The highest mpg automobile sold in the USA (by a major manufacturer), the Honda Insight, went out of production due to poor sales in 2006.

Today, one can buy 50+ mpg cars at Honda & Toyota dealers, yet they represent about 1% of all USA sales (and one could still get a discount off list price on a Honda Civic Hybrid as of 3 months ago). Just 1% in a world of $2.50 to $3 gasoline.

And the author calls Toyota "stupid" and unwilling to change. I see a responsible and innovative company with a deep concern for quality (lacking in start-ups like Telsa no doubt).

Unlike the author, Toyota takes not take company technical sales data at face value and looks at all aspects of operations, such as vibration (always a major issue), operations below -30C, fast drain while operating air conditioners, repeated shallow recharges while braking, and so forth.

The author loses credibility with the speculation that "Maybe, as this is just a new model Prius, they don't have the engineering budget to try anything too new, like better batteries". Toyota and Honda would be the last auto makers to let a budget constraint keep them from a epoch changing lead role ! Toyota has a 100 Year Plan (per reports), so they are going along a path of technology leadership.

I could speculate that the author and Toyota have reviewed the same technology (one in much greater depth than the other) and come to differing conclusions about the readiness of new Li batteries for "mainstream" automotive use.

Significant weight savings (with fuel economy improvements) can be had with replacing the lead-acid battery in today's cars with new tech batteries. Yet none are available AFAIK on new cars or even as aftermarket replacement batteries. (I have ~60 lbs of lead that I would like to replace on my M-B 240D !)

The Toyota representative will be speaking on the same panel as I at the ASPO-Houston conference (first speakers on October 19th) and I will look forward to hearing his speech.

And if Toyota (and Honda) do market a few PHEV models in 2009/2011, how many will they sell ? (One month the Honda Insight sold just 4 cars in the USA). A 3% or 5% market share will have no impact on overall oil use statistics for a number of years. Annual market share rates on 30% and greater will be needed to have any significant mitigation effects. This is more than "first adopters" and committed environmentalists and TODers can support.

Since post-Peak Oil will almost certainly be accompanied by a severe recession and/or depression, overall car sales will plummet.

Will Toyota sell more 40 mpg Yaris or PHEVs in such a scenario ? Yes, the PHEV has better mileage, but the Yaris is 60% of the price ! (My guess) Even at $9/gallon, both will sell in volume. The ratio of sales is unknown.

PHEVs, EVs & NEVs (and segways & bicycles) will be part of the future, but I do not see them as "enough" or even close to enough mitigation.

Best Hopes for Multiple Silver BBs,


I have seen various comments on why the Honda Insight has been cancelled. I read about it a month back and how sales have declined. Is this not true of many brands a car bring out. I think a lot is also down to marketing. I don't remember seeing any advertising for the car myself.

I saw an article where consumers listed "priorities when they buy a car" - a few years number of cup holders was higher up the list than fuel economy.

America has cheap fuel - far cheaper than the rest of the World. I would expect that 1% to increase. There's certain cars such as the Smart Car and clean diesels (many of which achieve 50mpg+ in the UK) that are banned from being sold in the US.

If Toyota were so "responsible" why do they produce SUVs too? Because the market desires it. Is this responsible? A few European companies don't produce them. Citroen, Smart, etc. Tesla has a vision for a clean, C02 free future. I commend this.

Valence sell a "standard format" 12V battery.

...and on that same month Toyota sold 10,000+ Prius no doubt. Toyota say they've sold a million worldwide now. The Prius is synonymous with hybrids - which is why it's the best selling. If people thought "Insight" when they heard hybrid this wouldn't be the case. Selling just 4 could only be explained by lack of availability / promotion.

A 100mpg hybrid would be revolutioanry in Europe I know a lot of my 30something friends would be interested. Toyota is adding the hybrid option to all cars. With the right oil price and the right price point (and some marketing) they could sell them to more than just TODers.

Even the Tesla (using standard lithiums) features regenerative braking. If frequent "small charges" was bad for the batteries these cars wouldn't have this feature!

Tesla states on their site the battery pack will be used to warm itself before it is charged. (if the temperature is below 0oC).
If people are buying a PHEV they may have a garage. Garage temperatures rarely fall below 0oC even when exterior temperatures drop to -5oC. My parents car never got ice on it in their garage.
A123 systems batteries have a range of -30oC to 55oC so some companies are performing better here.
Vibration? Cars have suspension so reducing any sharp G force impacts. With the lack of moving parts and sealed chemistry I don't see this as a problem. I've never heard this mentioned by any company related to Lithium batteries.
I know their our challenges but if Toyota said they can't use lithium batteries because of vibrations they'd be laughed at.
The Tesla website states you could leave the headlights on a month before the battery drained. The Prius as I state in the article can run it's AC off of 40% of a 1.3kW battery. If the Valence batteries can discharge at C2 on a 9kW pack that sounds like enough to run an AC system! If it can charge in 3 hours. 9kw at C2 is discharging over 1.5 hours at 6000watts (60x 100watt light bulbs). That's a LOT more than an AC would use.
No offence, but I think you're thinking of excuses to explain why Toyota is not doing Lithium Iron. I don't see anything you've stated as a limit to these batteries.

There's about 10 aftermarket companies such as AmberJac and EnergyCS taking the risk and adding packs by Valence and A123 and other companies. Lifecycles for all these batteries appear to be 2 to 5x better than any competing technology. The batteries are ready.

Panasonic (parent company) owns it NiMH factory - so prices to them (and given how old NiMH technology is) must be pretty cheap. A Prius with an 8 mile EV range is not going to blow people away. A Volt with 40mile EV range will.
I am sorry for Toyota if they slip behind GM on this. The series plugin is an even greater leap than a PHEV. Kudos to GM for pushing the boundary on this if this aint just green washing. Many like Calcars also believe that GM are really doing something on this.

America has cheap fuel - far cheaper than the rest of the World. I would expect that 1% to increase. There's certain cars such as the Smart Car and clean diesels (many of which achieve 50mpg+ in the UK) that are banned from being sold in the US.

The ban was partial (VW has had diesels for years), and related to emissions. The rules also limited the number of diesel cars that VW could sell.

New stricter emissions standards have taken effect, and a number of manufacturers have figured out how to meet them. Thus there will be new diesels here - probably in 2008.

Smart cars will also arrive in 2008, but I doubt that the diesel will be among them - at least for the first release. I ought to go in and ask though...

See my post upthread on the emissions standards. The 2008 Smart imported to North Amrica will have a gasoline engine. I'll be surprised to see a new diesel car here much before the end of 2008 (the 2009 model year will be the earliest possibility).

Valence sell a "standard format" 12V battery

But not apparently one that I can use for starting my car. All I could find on Google was this:

The U-Charge XP Power Systems are capable of peak power rates of 500 to 1700 continuous watts, depending on the model. Each of the four new models integrate battery monitoring electronics with an communications port and as many as 30 of these battery systems can be connected in series for very high voltage applications, such as pure electric vehicles, series hybrid electric vehicles and power back-up.

To complement the new U-Charge RT and XP Power Systems, Valence Technology will offer battery management systems (U-BMS) and a battery discharge indicator (U-BDI). The U-BMS can be used with 12-volt to 450-volt applications to provide smart battery-to-battery balancing, battery system monitoring, direct control of external disconnects and remote battery system control

So no advanced tech Li batteries for starting an ICE engine ?

If so, this speaks volumes about the status of the technology. A market approaching 1 billion (batteries for starters for ICE engines) and no marketed applications.

Using the stated facts and your opinions of the current status of the technology, I would have expected something to be on the market.

BTW, I am about to install a lighter (~41 lbs from memory) gel cell "Optima" battery. Pure lead (instead of alloy) wrapped in a spiral around an acidic gel seems to be the best tech available to me ATM. Lower internal resistance (ohms), greater vibration resistance, lower discharge rate.

Best Hopes for Improving Technology,


My cars 12v battery is probably around 41lbs I think. But 10 lbs either way (when one battery is concerned) isn't much in a 1.5 ton car.

I don't think the price point is down to £50 a battery yet *(what I think I saw the price was in Halfords last month) so I don't see them competing with the "single leadacid" in cars "yet".

I can't see why the battery could "not" be used to replace a standard 12volt battery in a car.
I'm talking about this specific product of theirs:

But Lead Acids don't deep cycle (100% DOD). The Valence batteries and others can do 100% DOD so are superior to Lead Acids / NiMH in this important area. As stated the NiMH in the Prius only discharge 40% (from 80% to 40%) apparantly - to preserve their life.

"So no advanced tech Li batteries for starting an ICE engine ? If so, this speaks volumes about the status of the technology. A market approaching 1 billion (batteries for starters for ICE engines) and no marketed applications."

No. As the next post states indirectly, li-ion is substantially more expensive per KWH than lead-acid. Li-ion makes sense for PHEV applications, because of it's other advantages: while lead-acid is undesirably heavy for a large battery.

Lead-acid is good enough for a starter battery, so a li-ion application wouldn't make sense.

Lead-acid is good enough for a starter battery, so a li-ion application wouldn't make sense

A very small % of an almost billion unit market makes economic sense.

I am sensitive to the fuel economy of my car (and the suspension wear & tear of added weight, currently trying to reduce the excess weight of the driver :-) #

I have retrofitted LED lights for almost all of the running lights (longer life and MUCH lower wattage and slightly brighter after a few tries). I run synthetic oils in the engine, transmission, differential, power steering fluid, brakes and synthetic grease in the front wheel bearings.

There is "enough" of a market for synthetic lubes and LED bulbs to justify offering them for sake.

My diesel requires an oversized, heavy battery (~60 lbs). I would interested in a lighter battery of equal starting potential.

Off road motorbikes are another weight sensitive application, where some would pay a premium for a couple of lbs saved.

Those teenagers who install massive speaker systems often have to also install a second battery (with associated cabling) to handle the load. A higher power battery that could fit into their existing battery location would find sales.

And trolling motors in bass boats are weight sensitive (and many bass fishermen spend $$$ on gear) so tripling trolling range per lb would find buyers.

Many more as well I am sure.

So there is a missed market.


"So there is a missed market."

Interesting - I think you're right.

A123systems is selling about 10M cells/year, mostly to DeWalt. Hobbyists are going nuts with them, making electric motorcycles, bicycles, model planes & cars, etc.

I think it may take a little while for someone to get to this niche, but it makes sense.

I looked just now at eBay under A123, but they were pretty expensive - OEM's are getting them much, much cheaper.

I suppose you might need fewer watt-hours than lead-acid, as the power is greater...

Before I became obsessed with peak oil over a year and a half ago I would read or hear someone talk about something like bio diesel with the attitude like it was planet saving magic--and what a bunch of ignorant dopes in the world to not put it right to use. I would think, "This sounds too good to be true." Sorry to put you in the same camp as the bio fuel wackos, because the article is well documented, but I cannot help thinking that this article is too good to be true. Stuart Staniford posted a alarming/enlightening link which I read last night that Oil Drummers need to scrutinize: "The Trouble With Lithium suggests there is a pretty major global lithium constraint."
According to Meridian International, and contrary to the article, the new lithium battery may be ready but it will never be ready on the mass scale. We would soon hit peak lithium before mass lithium adoption. So lithium plug in cars will never be a silver bullet and possibly not even a silver BB. If this is true perhaps Toyota knows about this and is why they are not going ahead with lithium powered car production. And when it looks like GM, with the Volt, is finally doing something intelligent it will turn out to be another flop--because the more popular the Volt becomes the more expensive lithium will get.
But before anyone can say electric cars are just people grasping to ensure the easy motoring way of life it looks like there are other alternative silver BBs--and possibly big BBs that oil drummers need to scrutinize:
Meridian International is pushing for plug-in cars with zinc batteries. "Zinc is the only metal which can sustain large battery production in the volumes required by the Global Automotive Industry." (Click the link above.)

Traal posted a link for a company making a cheap car that outperforms any other plug in with compressed air:
This seems too good to be true, but perhaps it works.

Best Hopes for Alan Drake's Rail Plan Implementation & Viable Electric Car Silver BBs

Companies are physcopaths (see the excellent documentary "The Corporation") - they would not care if Peak Lithium is around the corner. They sure don't care Peak Oil is around the corner.

Even if the Volt sold 1000s a month the amount of Lithium they'd use compared to worldwide demand (for all portable devices Laptops, mp3 players, phones, satnav, etc) would still be a fraction. So lithium prices are unlikely be affected by one company imho.
This also proves there must be a lot of Lithium around.
Without precise numbers I am not aware of how much Lithium is in a Lithium LiFEPO4 battery. There could be a lot more Fe and PO in it!
Catalytic converters are still around even though Platinum prices have gone through the roof.

Not to diss compressed air. But anything under pressure can rupture with explosive force. Also, is not a lot of energy wasted in compressing the air? I know a lot of energy is used to compress hydrogen. Batteries are >90% efficient in energy storage so I still like the battery idea :)

Car companies produce 60 million cars a year. Suppose the ICE goes obsolete, and the sooner the better, and 10 or 30 million lithium plug-in cars a year are produced. Wouldn't that use up far more lithium than is now used for Laptops, mp3 players, phones, satnav, etc?

Stuart didn't endorse this article, he just posted it, as you say, for consideration.

As noted in other posts here, lithium is abundant. This guy is talking about existing mining sources. He could possibly have a point about lags in ramping up production, but long term there's plenty of lithium

I didn't endorse the article either. It just seems no is considering, except Stuart, the possibility that there are lithium constraints. That would make mass plug in lithium a pipe dream. So this issue needs to get cleared up first before we jump into pushing lithium plug-ins. If it was demonstrated in other posts that there is plenty of lithium I missed it. If Meridian International is credible than they should get a post here on the Oil Drum and the lithium geologists should duke it out. Then we will know more. If there is ample lithium then let's get lithium ion plug ins rolling. If not, let's hope more people listen to Alan Drake.

" If there is ample lithium then let's get lithium ion plug ins rolling. If not, let's hope more people listen to Alan Drake."

Keep in mind that PHEV/EV's don't depend on lithium. There are plenty of alternatives that are adequate (though not as convenient), including lead-acid, NIMH, and Firefly's next-gen lead-acid.

Read here about Tesla's extensive changes (that have added 100lbs+ weight and also limited the range of the car from 250mile range to >200mile range.
Then you might want to take back your comment:

"...I see a responsible and innovative company with a deep concern for quality (lacking in start-ups like Telsa no doubt)."

If a Tesla blew up with Arnie, the ebay founders, Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, George Clooney (or any of the other owners) in it - I think the World would hear about it! I don't think quality is sacrificed in this car!

Here's the list of improvements...

Range Reality
by Martin Eberhard

SAE shake and vibration testing caused us to stiffen up (and add a fair bit of weight to) several parts inside the Energy Storage System (or battery pack), damping out resonant frequencies.
Durability testing caused us to improve (and add weight to) the mounting system for the modules within the ESS, and to strengthen the brackets that mount the ESS to the chassis.
Durability testing also caused us to increase the strength of one of the front suspension brackets on each side.
We broke the top motor mount on two EP cars doing demonstration “hole shots,” necessitating changing from magnesium to aluminum, and increasing the bracket size as well. (Did any of you notice a funny clunk in the car late in the evening at our launch last July?)
Hard driving convinced us to change the motor end housings from magnesium to aluminum as well - under severe testing, we had trouble with the bearings spinning in their mounts.
Hard driving in the desert caused us to increase the size of the coolant pump. Several heat sinks (both in the PEM and on the motor) got a bit bigger (and heavier) too.
We got very conservative when we redesigned the transmission because we knew we had to get it right the first time - no opportunities to strengthen it later.
Upon strong urging from our new transmission supplier, we also changed to an electro-hydraulic shifting mechanism (instead of a purely-electrical one), because it is far more reliable and durable and because it shifts much more quickly. Needless to say, it is a bit heavier too.
On our first try, the side intrusion test failed, largely because we lowered the door sill height. The redesigned door beam is, naturally, stronger and heavier.
NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) testing caused us to add damping material to solve various noise issues, particularly the sound of the A/C compressor.
Our original electric door latches were simply unreliable. We changed to a much better latch from a different (American!) vendor that is (as you already guessed) heavier.
The original stereo did not sound like it belonged in a sportscar of this caliber (okay, it sounded like heck), so we redesigned it to take a 12-liter subwoofer and higher-end speakers.
Because the car got heavier, we had to increase the strength (and therefore weight) of the suspension and brakes.

Virtually every new car start-up that I am familiar with, Lotus, DeLorean, Bricklin, Tucker, Ferrari. Maserati, (even International Harvester when then went into cars) had quality issues in the first few years of production. It just goes with the territory.

And since standards are higher today (with Toyota as part of the leadership towards better quality) this makes the hill that much steeper for a newbie !

It sounds as if Telsa is trying to go ultra light (magnesium is a difficult metal to machine & cast, if it EVER ignites !) and combining quality/durability with low weight is not easy, even for an experienced manufacturer.

It also sounds as if they are really trying, I will grant them that.

OTOH. the oldest auto maker in the world, has gone downhill since they built the W123 series (the car I own). Most Mercedes mechanics will say that the W123 diesels were the most reliable and dependable cars Daimler Benz ever made, and the 240D (years 1981-1983) with manual transmission was the most dependable W123 made.

So if Mercedes Benz can build a problematic car, so can Telsa.

Best Hopes for Telsa,


I think we should return to the fact that Tesla (and all EV's) are really very simple vehicles.
It has one moving part in it's engine, a car has hundreds.
Electric motors are incredibly reliable.
The gearbox has 2 gears (torque is 100% so it's smooth acceleration all the way).
That it does away with so many things found in a car, exhausts, catalytic converters, seperate starter motors, oil, spark plugs, fuel lines, alternators, the list is huge, flammable liquids...
The only problem I see with an EV is the silence and pedestrians. I think some kind of "forward noise projector" that makes a sound that's "not annoying" but tells people it's coming would be a good idea in urban areas.

I did see a doc. on the DeLorean. How doors didn't close properly. How it had leaky bodywork, etc. I can't see this happening in modern factories / modern standards. The public wouldn't accept this anymore.
The other thing about the Tesla is it is built on a tried and tested light chassis of a proven car, the Lotus Elise.

"The highest mpg automobile sold in the USA (by a major manufacturer), the Honda Insight, went out of production due to poor sales in 2006."

It was a tiny two-seater. At the same time the Prius had a waiting list.

"Today, one can buy 50+ mpg cars at Honda & Toyota dealers, yet they represent about 1% of all USA sales (and one could still get a discount off list price on a Honda Civic Hybrid as of 3 months ago)."

Hybrids are 2.3% of all USA sales - Prius and Civic hybrids are the majority of them - and they're growing 55% per year. 2 years to get to 5%, easily less than 10 to get to 30%. First adopters won't be needed - PHEV's like the Volt will have no compromises, and much lower lifecycle costs.

"Just 1% in a world of $2.50 to $3 gasoline."

But only for the last 2-3 years. PHEV's are only cheaper than ICE's when gas is over $1.75/gallon. It's reasonable to give hybrids/PHEV/EV's a little time to ramp up before judging them.

"And the author calls Toyota "stupid" and unwilling to change. I see a responsible and innovative company with a deep concern for quality (lacking in start-ups like Telsa no doubt)."

The "stupid" comment was over the top, but Toyota did make a mistake. They committed to the wrong battery, a conventional li-ion which requires very precise manufacturing to be safe, and then got nervous, due to recalls on other models and a fear of taking any further risk of hurting their quality reputation, already on thin ice.

"Unlike the author, Toyota takes not take company technical sales data at face value and looks at all aspects of operations, such as vibration (always a major issue), operations below -30C, fast drain while operating air conditioners, repeated shallow recharges while braking, and so forth."

No, it was as I stated above.

"The author loses credibility with the speculation that "Maybe, as this is just a new model Prius, they don't have the engineering budget to try anything too new, like better batteries".

True. They just made a mistake, and will lose very roughly a year in fixing it.

"I could speculate that the author and Toyota have reviewed the same technology (one in much greater depth than the other) and come to differing conclusions about the readiness of new Li batteries for "mainstream" automotive use. "

Yes, you could, but that would be incorrect, as noted above.

"And if Toyota (and Honda) do market a few PHEV models in 2009/2011, how many will they sell ?"

My guess is that they will make the Prius plug-in, and phase PHEV status into their other models, until for Toyota hybrid equals plug-in. IOW, PHEV's will grow as much and grow as quickly as hybrids.

"Since post-Peak Oil will almost certainly be accompanied by a severe recession and/or depression, overall car sales will plummet. "

Sure, if the economy completely crashes mitigation will be more difficult, but we'll have more money for rail?

Yes, the transition will be difficult. Best to get started ASAP...

Note: I am in the USA.

While I think these 100+ MPG cars are certainly better than what we've been using, I see all the excitement over them as just one more glaring example of America's complete and utter failure to get off its ass. It seems clear to me that all this is going to do is extend the time before the inevitable. Want to make a real difference? Ride a bicycle. I find it absolutely deplorable that 99%+ of the transportation I see around me is done in an enormous mass of metal (i.e., car), when bicycles can clearly handle a very large part of that. I know this is true because I do it myself. I ride my bike to work as much as possible and I ride my bike around the city for errands. I'm not any kind of athlete, either. Not only that, I live in SUBURBIA. Is it any wonder we have an obesity epidemic when the extent of exercise for many is the short walks from car to point x and back? The excess energy Americans have stored up alone could get a lot of bike riding done, I imagine.

By the way, I think the whole argument about "electric x is more efficient than riding a bike!!11!11" is horseshit. My bike is powered by me, and I feed myself with food and water - the same things that humans have survived on since our inception. It's SUSTAINABLE. Of course, you may argue that the current food production system is very energy intensive, but it doesn't have to be so much. Let's do more local, organic food production. We can do a large part of that right now in our backyards instead of wasting the land with fertilizer-laden and water-wasting lawns. I plan to start growing a large garden next year. An electric car is largely powered by nonrenewable resources, and I don't see wind or solar making enough of an impact to change that very much.

I have yet to see the US do anything very significant in the way of making a better future. We're still endlessly expanding highways, and it is absolutely idiotic. Instead of hoping for the technology savior, do some more walking and bicycle riding. You'll feel better.

Sure bicycles take energy and resources to build and maintain. But I'm certain that's only a small fraction of that used for cars - electric or not. I don't have any statistics for you, but I don't feel the need to get them either. My quick, rough estimate that I believe is on a conservative side is that a bicycle weighs about 1/100th of a car.

It's high time to start getting away from cars. Thanks to James Howard Kunstler for this startling revelation - one which should have been obvious, but car culture is too ingrained for that to be so.

”I have yet to see the US do anything very significant in the way of making a better future. We're still endlessly expanding highways, and it is absolutely idiotic. Instead of hoping for the technology savior, do some more walking and bicycle riding. You'll feel better.

Sure bicycles take energy and resources to build and maintain. But I'm certain that's only a small fraction of that used for cars - electric or not.”

You will get no argument from me on that. Seldom will your taxes fund alternatives to cars, like light rail. I recall $20 trillion was a figure bandied about as the sum required just fixing America’s road infrastructure and $200 million a day to pay for its war in Iraq. How many bikes would $200 million buy?

Speaking of bicycles, not everyone avoids riding a bicycle because they are obese or lazy. I’ve seen plenty of seniors riding and many who couldn’t possibly. I’ve had the delight of back surgery. It kills me to balance on a bike seat. But I don’t feel so bad, I witnessed my neighbor in a neck brace and one shoulder in a cast ride by on his bicycle; of course I wouldn’t want to be forced to do what he is doing.

I have an old bicycle. I put air in its tires, ride it, the chain comes off and I put it away for another extended period. I don’t like bicycles. I like to walk instead, though it is slower and carrying things gets old rather fast.

carrying things gets old rather fast

A good quality two wheeled hand cart is a great help.


I have an old bicycle. I put air in its tires, ride it, the chain comes off and I put it away for another extended period.

Unless the frame of the bike has actually been bent at some point in the past, say from a really bad crash, a visit to the mechanic at your local bike shop will cure your chain loss problem. Bike chains do wear out and need to be replaced from time to time, (often refered to as chain "stretch") and when this happens chain loss can be one of the results.

There are lots of options out there with comfy seats and no need to balance you might want to consider...

Best of luck!

Excellent article but no mention of another breakthrough battery at Their website lists energy density comparable to the new lithium described above but at a cost about 80% lower (website technical white paper and FAQ pages). The defense department has ordered prototype batteries and Husqvarna has ordered batteries for use in snow blowers and the like due to cold weather performance and low cost versus Lithium batteries. This battery uses lead and carbon (extremely plentiful) so mass production should not run into material shortages. This design significantly reduces the lead content versus traditional lead acid design so it weighs less and has less lead to re-cycle, both benefits.

I expect further breakthroughs in the lithium designs too, so the top end users may continue to gravitate to lithium while the commercial and industrial users may opt for the Firefly Energy cheaper option (that is still way better than the batteries used today). Both will give us energy efficient functional electric vehicles for years to come. The future is bright.

The stuff I've read about Firefly is that it has good power density, but their energy density is still no better than ~20 watt-hours/pound, so not that different than a Trojan T105 lead-acid, which costs only 5 cents per watt-hour. I'm betting the Firefly will be several times as expensive. I don't see a breakthrough with much less than 50 watt-hours/pound.

" their energy density is still no better than ~20 watt-hours/pound

Could you give a link on that? The company claims a better than 50% reduction in weight. They also project a price between 10 and 15 cents per watt-hour, which they say will be more than compensated for by cycle life which will be much higher.

A123systems has about a 2 year lead on Firefly, and that makes all the difference. In several years, though, with good marketing by Firefly and even a small stumble from A123systems, Firefly could surprise.

I would buy the Firefly batteries if I could. I have an existing EV with 16 x 6V Trojan 6220 batteries and they're up for replacement soon. What attracts me to them is that they sound robust and are a drop-in replacement for lead acid, therefore should work in existing equipment (e.g as an SLI battery on Alan's 240D Mercedes-Benz).
Because Firefly are essentially the same chemitstry as existing lead acid batteries, I'd be able to charge them with my existing charger. Other chemistries might need a different charging profile.

Carbon Coventry UK

I got some Feedback from Valence (one of the battery companies) which answers several questions raised by forum comments.

- Our cycling data and A123s are pretty much the same, adding validation to the high cycling capability of the LiFe cathode material.
- If the discharge rate is only for a few seconds, (less than 30), then the energy cell (the one a PHEV would have) can provide pules of up to 6C without any harmful effect.
[Note - I think this would cover anyone doing some harsh acceleration]
- With regard to charging/operating temperature ranges- our range is given as the range the battery would like to see to offer claimed performance and life. Of course our batteries can operate at -30 to +65C, but at a reduced capacity or at the risk of reducing it's cycle life.
[This answers the question about running the car in cold/hot conditions - it seems that the batteries wouldn't be "damaged" by pushing them into this range of temperatures, very good to hear]
- Also in answer to competitors claims of fast charging in 5 minutes... that Valence's batteries could do some incredible things "if" they didn't care about life cycle of the battery. They don't state such fast times in order to ensure the battery lasts 1000s of times to 90%+ capacity.

It is thus important that I (the author) state here that Valence's batterie are capable of these harsher conditions that I "only" attributed to their competitors in the article. Valence appear are being more honest :)

I don't think this detracts at all from any claim that the batteries are now ready for EV, HEV and PHEV use.

- That calender life (the age of the battery) as well as cycling affects performance.
- The 23C reference temperature looks like 230C because of the font in the article!
- We no longer talk about our technology as "Saphion" anymore. The word was derived from Safe Ion, ... it goes by the name of "Valence Lithium Phosphate"

[Regarding a different version of their battery designed for discharging in only 6 minutes... note a PHEV would not be this demanding so the standard, longer-life cell would be better] ... As an example we will discharge our power cell at 10C (discharge all the energy in only 6 minutes!) continuously until completely empty. That is pretty hard on a cell. Under this test regimen you'll still be able to get about 800 cycles to 80% rated capacity. This is pretty amazing compared to traditional lithium cobalt cells offer only around 500 cycles at C/5 (discharge slowly over 5 hours) rate.

Hello TODers,

We should start a venture capital/investment fund for a couple of reasons. Something like "Peak Oil Mutual" or "The Peak Oil Group" a simple name that investors will be able to identify the instant PO hits the MSM.

1) We have the knowledge. Example: see any post on The Oil Drum.

2) It allows us to shape the future to a much greater extent. Example: We could force battery producers to conform to a standard if we control enough of the market. Say we preorder a few thousand EVs to open a dealership in California, but only from EV companies that have a swappable battery conforming to our standard.
Buy stock in a PV company and then open a PV power plant using their cells. If we do this repeatedly then with each iteration the cost per unit goes down and our stock holdings go up. By doing this we are providing the infrastructure the world is going to need and we will make a killing at the increased utility prices that come with PO.

3) We will make out like bandits. Regardless of market success initially, when PO becomes widely recognized everyone will sell off their holdings in "business as Usual Mutual" and "The Unsustainable Group" and sink it into our fund. Then we will have a lot of money to throw around.

We could offer a couple of different portfolios corresponding to different levels of hardship or economic collapse. We could then judge the perception of the average Joe as to how it will all play out by the corresponding levels of investment.

2-Cornicopian lite
3-middle of the road
4-Doomer lite

There seems little point in a Doomer fund as a complete collapse makes any financial investment worthless.


-PS as your adviser I am entitled to 10%


Interesting idea, you might want to just start with an investment group. I own a little Altairnanao, hard to know which horse to bet on with batteries, but learned from this thread. You might consider the following listing of sustainable stocks as a starting point.

been meaning to try and go through it myself. You could have someone research one stock a week and present on it. Doubt Oildrum is the place for this and don't know if it would find much traction here.

I own a bit larger stake in a company called World Water and Power WWAT.ob. This one has an interesting story. Apropos to your posting it has recently had a former hedge fend manager, David Gelbaum, invest some 20-30 million. He now owns some 10-20% of the company as well as similar stakes in maybe a handful of other small sustainable energy companies. OEGY.ob the solar roofer (though I don't one any) is one that comes to mind. So there are some rich investors thinking along your lines, though I would surmise "former Hedge Fund manager" is not the most popular title these days. There is now a whole little cult of investors scanning filings to see what Gelbaum invests in next.

Yes I own it but WWAT really has a fascinating story. The CEO, Quentin Kelly, after visiting Sudan and seeing people dying from lack of water with an aquafer only some 30-40 feet down, came back and started asking Princeton scientists to help him with this problem. This led to a number of patents on using solar cells to power high horsepower pumps for pumping water. After some installations in poorer areas of the world were successful but not profitable, the company shifted emphasis to agricultural and utility applications. There are a number of these midsized 10 -200kw projects successfully completed. More recently they received a contract for a 2 Mw solar installation at Fresno airport, the largest airport solar installation to date. Most recently, they received a less than one million dollar order to deliver 10 MaxPure(tm) self-contained solar water pumping/purifying units to Darfur, Sudan to provide drinking water to displaced refugees. So this sort of brings the story full circle. Each unit has the capacity to pump/purify 30,000 gallons/daily. Kelly was raised in New Orleans and a MaxPure was also provided at company expense to Waveland MS after Hurricane Katrina and provided potable water there for, I believe, some six months. The company recently announced a letter of intent to build a solar farm in Spain of some 130 Megawatts over 5 years. They are also in the process of acquiring Entech a small private supplier of solar cells for NASA space applications. Entech has expertise in concentrating photovoltaic which should further reduce the cost per watt of WWAT projects.

As you can see I like this company and obviously believe in supporting them though I also think they are a great long term investment. Solar and Water: says it all. I will say, and I may be way off base here, but I think the stock price has gotten ahead of itself. The Spain deal is a LOI not a signed contract, and WWAT is taking its own sweet time finalizing the Entech merger. Because of the lumpiness of revenue from working on larger projects, the revenue from the last two quarters looks terrible, but this is forecasted to be over with. Without news, it may trend down for a month or two but if they close Entech and sign the Spain deal I think things continue to look great for this sustainable energy company.

If you're interested in further reading

I'd hasten to add between us we probably also have a lot of skills and abilities which would be very usesful for all sorts of ideas, from local council advice to community makeovers and company direction. Most people are hear because they realise there is likely to be a huge shift needed in the way we do things and the way the world 'works' there is also enough sensible ideas coming out of peoples fingers that there is a real posibility that sensible ideas can be formed with the financial support and ability to carry them out.

Its not the size of the tank its the size of the tap

Thanks Chris I found this very thought-provoking. As you say, it all hinges on whether or not the battery problem has truly been solved. Time will tell whether the Lightnings and Teslas are still running in five years time, and until then I shall remain sceptical.

Many of the comments move on to the diesel vs petrol (gasoline) comparison. I run a Honda with a 2.2 litre turbodiesel that seems to be the perfect compromise - huge torque, decent performance and 55mpg (short vs long trips doesn't seem to make any difference to this), and I too have wondered why anyone would want a petrol engine. Because of their high compression ratios, diesel engines seem to be 20% more efficient than their petrol equivalents when you control for the greater energy density of diesel. However the looming shortage is of oil, not simply of gasoline. If we all drove diesels would we use 20% less oil for transportation, or would we run up against a diesel shortage? Does a barrel of oil yield a fixed proportion of diesel, kerosene, gasoline, wax etc, or can one be transmuted into the other? What can gasoline be used for that diesel can't?

I have followed various links but I can't find answers to these. Does anybody know?


Mission: improve the soil

There are more knowledgeable folk than I here re: refining, but basically it goes like this. Crude oil has a bunch of "fractions" that go by boiling point (basically vapor pressure, which mostly goes as the number of carbons). The very light fractions are gases like ethane (2 carbons, or C2), propane (C3) and butane (C4); a very light liquid fraction from about C5-C10 or C12 called naphtha; a heavier fraction called gasoil, light gasoil, or middle distillate (C12-C20 approx); a heavy fuel oil which won't boil off until 650F; and residual asphalt-like stuff which boils at over 1000F. The light end of middle distillate is kerosene, the rest of it is diesel or heating oil. Gasoline is a mix of mostly C5-C10 or C12 hydrocarbons with a minimum octane rating of 85 or so, depending where you are. The minimum octane is the kicker, because unlike diesel or kerosene there is little if any gasoline in most crudes, and if you want it you have to make it (this is why gasoline has lower EROEI than diesel). The light naphtha fraction has an octane rating of low 70s, too low to use directly but usable as part of the mix. The heavier naphthas are more like mid 50's and can't be used directly, so they are isomerized to form high octane components which get added to the stream (so called "reformate") There are also aromatics (benzene, toluene, naphthalene etc) which come off in the higher boiling point fractions and have very high octane ratings, so they get thrown in the mix. Generally you want even more gasoline, so you crack heavier fractions into naphtha, high octane isomers of naphthas, and aromatics. In the end, you make about 20 gallons of gasoline for every barrel of crude.

You could, of course, crack the heavier fractions into diesel or kerosene instead, but AIUI changing the finished product ratio is very expensive and basically refineries specialize in certain products (also feedstocks -- heavy sour vs light sweet, eg) Also AIUI at least up to recently aromatics were added to diesel because they have good lubricating properties, even though they have terrible cetane numbers. Not sure that's still the case. What is still the case is that we have the lowest cetane number diesel in the developed world.


As you say, it all hinges on whether or not the battery problem has truly been solved. Time will tell whether the Lightnings and Teslas are still running in five years time, and until then I shall remain sceptical.

Well, I'm a bit more hopeful, although I will want to see independent numbers before taking anything too seriously. But I think the Phoenix is much more interesting than the Tesla (or Lightning). Tesla quite understandably started with about the lightest frame they could get, which is not feasible for the Phoenix. Also, whether they're intended for it or not, most uncompromising 2-seat sports cars (and the Lotus Elise is exactly that) end up as pampered garage queens.

"1. Oil companies love hydrogen. The main source of hydrogen is natural gas. Oil companies own natural gas fields. Hydrogen could be sold from the typical forecourt filling station the same way as petrol is so they don't lose their business model if hydrogen succeeds."

This is simplistic and misleading. Separating the H2 from the CH4 is expensive, troublesome, energy-inefficient and leaves the question of what to do with the carbon atom. More importantly, the market for natural gas is large and profitable enough, and natural gas has already a good enough environmental reputation. There is no value added in the minuscule, dubituous and uneconomic hydrogen market, even in the long run : the peak-gas is expected to arrive only some years after peak oil.

The real reasons why oil companies have taken positions in hydrogen are political and image. Like it or not, hydrogen is still seen by average Joe as the fuel of the future. If Exxon announced they believe hydrogen to be useless, what do you think the public reaction would be?

Otherwise, I don't have enough experience of the electric vehicle technology to formulate an educated opinion on the text, but I have been a communter in three continents (including the US), and from my experience :
1- There is no way my wife will accept to change a car's battery at every filling station, no matter how convenient is is engineered.
2- Today there is not much incentive to steal electricity, and therefore most networks are unprotected against theft. If powerful batteries are made portable and fast-charging, what would prevent people from "stealing" the power from, say, the parking lot's lighting system?
3- What about REAL motorcycles? I think the ICE will be really dead the day when Harley-Davison announces the first electric motorbike.

In any case, given the car industry's troublesome financial history, I don't see why companies would conspire against a new product that could potentially boost their volume and price sales. When the Prius made it big, the other companies must have had a "Duh!" moment. Napoleon (I think) said "do not blame on conspiracy that which can be more easily be explained by stupidity"


We have a solution! NO! NO! NO!

Gotta love the way anytime someone on this site proposes something that seems at all promising, everyone jumps on it: It won't work! There's a shortage of [coal, oil, money, lithium, whatever]! It will cause fires! One of the main reasons I rarely visit this site.

Regarding battery safety, Tesla has five layers of protection built into their battery pack. They have performed testing where they heat up a single cell inside the pack until it ignites, and it does not cause adjacent cells to catch fire. The Tesla battery pack has passed crash testing, and all worldwide regulations. They are providing a 4 year warrenty on the battery pack. Don't you think a $100,000 car would use higher quality batteries than a $500 laptop computer? Just read their website before posting baseless assertions.

If you want to be afraid of vehicle fires, consider that ICE vehicles carry large quantities of an extremely flammable liquid; it's called gasoline! Just google "Ford fires".There's a lot more of those than lithium battery fires.

The reason why Toyota can't produce PHEVs using their existing NiMH batteries is that they aren't allowed to. Chevron bought the patent, and sued Toyota to stop them.

I have my order in for the Tesla, and I'm putting solar panels on my roof. A year from now I'll be driving on sunshine, not using a drop of precious oil. So long, OPEC. Bye-bye Exxon. No CO2, no carbon monoxide, no sulfur- dioxide, mercury, or any other pollutant. It's expensive now, but I remember back when VCRs were $2000. The price will come down when it starts to catch on, and economies of scale take over.

All you naysayers who claim it won't work can kiss my ass!

"The reason why Toyota can't produce PHEVs using their existing NiMH batteries is that they aren't allowed to. Chevron bought the patent, and sued Toyota to stop them."

I do not believe in the benign corporation, which inclines me to believe your statement, but where is your evidence?

Google: EV-95 battery
for more on this

PHEVs seem to have so many merits that one wonders why they haven't been commercialised a long time ago, especially if you find out that first ICE/electric hybrids were made in 19th century. A few more things to consider - these can be found on Wikipedia or googled:
- Audi built a hybrid already in 1989 (Audi Duo), but it's electric motor was rated at 12 hp only as far as I can remember, while ICE had over 100 hp. Electric-only mode was likely underpowered even for traffic stop-and-go. That makes it nonsensical by design - and predictably they made only a very limited number, dropping it quickly after some testing in operation,
- Renault built and sold an actual PHEV (Renault Kangoo Elect'road) in 2003, but it's electric motor had 22 kW, while ICE was a 500 cc twin. Top speed was 100 km/h (abt. 60 mph), and the most telling feature is a gas tank volume: 9 liters (less than 3 gals) which limited the overall range to some 150 kms (less than a hundred miles). If this can't be called "stillborn by design" then I don't know what can. There are small ICEs made by Renault which would easily push it to 100 mph, and a gas tank of 50 l (12 gals) should not be a technological obstacle, should it? Quickly discontinued.
- With a pure EV like GM's EV1 the range is going to be severely limited even if half of the car's weight is batteries, especially when they started from lead acid ones. When better NiMh became available, the range increased to abt. 150 miles, but finally they took it back claiming that the the range was too limited for customers. The film "Who killed the electric car" tells the story. But didn't they know the range was going to be limited when they started designing? Hybrids were known at this time thanks to Prof. Andy Frank's work - but somehow they never wanted to try it.
My point is that car manufacturers seem to stay as far away from PHEVs as possible, so they must have a reason to do it. What do they make, after all, cars? They make cars to make money. And there are reasons to believe that this is what would be undercut by PHEVs or any electric car, for that matter:
- maintenance becomes greatly reduced - no fuel/air filters, no radiators, no engine wear, much less structural vibration,
- cars would be much quieter so people would like them more and take longer to part with them, as it might become possible to just replace the battery pack after say 5-10 years, and have a next-to-new car (less vibration would greatly alleviate car aging),
- much less business on lubrication oil,
- there may be other factors beyond our insight.
Business wants always more money not less. We can't expect business to voluntarily reduce revenues and profit. I cheer for bypassers of established business such as Tesla, because in their case there's only new business to make, no old one to lose - and look what this factor enables and how disruptively :)

As hybrids are about 104 years old the only thing I can see holding back the hybrid has been cheap gasoline (blame OPEC and also non-OPEC crashing the price of oil to $10 a barrel when they found new areas in the 60s and 70s) and heavy lead acid batteries. Cars also used to be smaller. I couldn't imagine a mini or many European cars fitting two drivetrains in it. American cars were bigger, but their oil price was so low that until the 70s many vehicles weren't getting much above 10mpg and the owners didn't care! There was certainly no incentive for the american car companies to increase fuel economy.

Green Car Congress showed a story about a small 3 wheeled hybrid that gets 100 mpg and can go 100 mph. It leans into turns and seats two. This could put some fun back into driving and save one heck of a lot of fuel.