Electric Vehicles: The End Of Australian Manufacturing ?

Alan Kohler had an interesting column in The Business Spectator recently ("The cars that ate Australia") warning that as our car fleet transitions from the internal combustion to electric vehicles, local car manufacturers need to start looking to manufacture EV's or they (and all their suppliers) will end up shutting down.

Yesterday’s announcement of an electric car trial by the WA government means that at least some politicians in Australia are at last taking seriously what is shaping up as the next great industrial revolution.

But unless something changes on the east coast, electric cars will be a disaster for Australian manufacturing. At this stage it looks like no electric cars will be made here – Ford, GM, Toyota and Mitsubishi are all gearing up rapidly to make them somewhere else.

Yesterday the man in charge of the Perth trial, Professor Thomas Brauni, said: “It’s quite likely that you have a significant percentage of all cars being electric in 10-20 years time”.

If he’s only half right, Australia has a big problem. Manufacturing industry rests on the car industry and is already in trouble because China’s demand for raw materials is pushing the currency higher. If Australia doesn’t make electric cars, and there is a big switch from petrol to electricity over the next decade or two, manufacturing in this country will shut down.

While Australian manufacturing might not completely disappear along with the car industry (even if globalisation has made much of it vanish already) there wouldn't be much left in South Australia and Victoria - so those states may well decide to try and tempt the multinationals into upgrading their plants to produce EV's once they start to gain significant market share.

Kohler also points out that there will be accompanying booms in clean energy generation and both lithium and copper production - which provides a number of opportunities for local companies.

Kohler had an article in a similar vein at The Eureka Report ("Wheels of fortune") recently, looking at both clean energy companies linked to Better Place and lithium producers that could benefit from the electric vehicle revolution, like Talison Minerals, Galaxy resources and Haddington (another Australian miner - Greenland Minerals And Energy - is hoping to develop a uranium / lithium deposit in Greenland).

It would be quite pointless to generate the electricity for the new era of transportation with brown coal, or even black coal. The emissions would still be lower than petrol exhausts, but the gains from using renewable energy instead would be enormous. In fact, electric cars can underpin the development of viable renewable energy industries in most countries.

Better Place plans to buy only renewables and expects to become Australia’s largest buyer of wind power. This is likely to a boon for Origin, AGL and Infigen from about 2013.

Seventy percent of the world’s mineral lithium comes from the Greenbushes mine in Western Australia, owned by a Canadian company called Talison Minerals. The company announced in November last year that it planned to list in both Canada and Australia during 2010 but nothing has happened yet.

Another local producer is Galaxy Resources, an ASX listed company that owns a lithium/tantalum deposit near Ravensthorpe in WA. Galaxy is currently at $1.18 and market cap of $178.4 million. The stock was 25¢ a year ago and peaked at $2.21 in September last year because of a flurry of interest in lithium batteries around the time that A123 Systems Inc listed on Nasdaq, becoming the hottest new listing in 2009.

Australian lithium mines aren't the only ones looking to increase production - The New York Times recently had an article on the surge of interest worldwide in the metal ("The Lithium Chase").

Toyota Tsusho, the material supplier for the big Japanese automaker, announced a joint venture in January with the Australian miner Orocobre to develop a $100 million lithium project in Argentina. That deal came only days after Magna International, the Canadian car parts company that is helping develop a battery-powered version of the Ford Focus, announced that it was investing $10 million in a small Canadian lithium firm that also has projects in Argentina. ...

About 60 mining companies have begun feasibility studies in Argentina, Serbia and Nevada that could lead to more than $1 billion in new lithium projects in the next several years, while dozens of smaller projects are being proposed in China, Finland, Mexico and Canada. ...

In the meantime the four biggest current producers, which mine and otherwise gather lithium in Chile, Argentina and Australia, say they are planning to expand long-running projects as future demand warrants.

In Bolivia, which has almost half of the world’s reserves, the leftist government is building a pilot production plant and is drilling exploratory holes. That Bolivia is a remote, unstable country often hostile to foreign investment has helped spur interest in producing lithium in neighboring Argentina and Chile, in Australia, and in the United States. Several Canadian and American companies are making claims about future production prospects in Nevada, though few analysts foresee large-scale production from that state.

While most experts are skeptical that meaningful amounts of lithium can be produced domestically, they maintain that adequate supplies will be available from sources outside of Bolivia for many years to come and note that the biggest producer, Chile, is a dependable American ally.

While the NYT is dubious about increased lithium production within the US, one american company which has garnered attention for its potential to is Simbol Mining, which is looking to extract lithium from the water flowing through geothermal power plants.

Most of the attention for large scale future production of lithium tends to focus on Bolivia, which has the world's largest lithium resource soaked into the coating on the world's largest salt flat, the Salar De Uyuni.

The subject of Peak lithium has been raised from time to time (with recent commentary at Seeking Alpha and The Oil Drum) with Jack Lifton (author of the Seeking Alpha article) arguing that lithium supplies will be insufficient to meet our needs while Keith Evans argues there is more than enough resources available.

Cross posted from Peak Energy.

I would be surprised if PHEVs make significant inroads to the new car market within a decade. Australians seem to want lo tech cars with room and grunt. Urban 4WD owners are not going to change to prissy Priuses. That's why I think natural gas or NG/petrol dual fuel cars will take off. If NG car fuel stays low taxed the number of filling stations will increase. In that transition period motorists can get anywhere with readily available petrol although the cost to fill the liquids tank may skyrocket.

Conceivably there could be a PHEV/NGV vehicle which might have to be van shaped to accommodate both a battery pack and a gas cylinder. In South Korea I believe there is a non plug-in Hyundai hybrid LPG vehicle but in this case we are talking about home battery charging and garage supplied CNG methane not LPG propane.

If this hunch is right then by 2020 Australia could manufacture a CNG/petrol Holden Commodore and a CNG/petrol Ford Falcon. We could also have a dual fuel Camry and Lancer. The trouble is that most people believe like Kohler that electric is the inevitable way forward. Time will tell.

I doubt CNG will ever make much sense for cars, especially with the rest of the world going electric.

Trucks perhaps - and this seems to be happening already :


Why down on the CNG, Gav? Chicken and egg infrastructure hurdle? Some Canadian was grousing about lack of E85; there are two stations that have it in Ontario and something like 444k FFVs...sad.

Like Boof I'm waiting for some earthshaking sales volumes before hitting the snooze button. Ford, for instance, are making noises about being 10-15% electrified by 2020. Sounds great until you realize their American sales for 2009 were a bit over 1.6 million; 160k hybrids per year isn't that earthshaking. Admittedly that was one crappy year for car sales, but just like the peaks in energy demand I documented in my new TOD article, US auto sales peaked in the late 70s and didn't top that peak for good until almost 2 decades later; if sales stay in the crapper for a while it's up in the air whether they'll have their eye on luxury vehicle exports much, and then you have peak oil, shipping costs wrecking all kinds of deals in the process when oil heads north of $100/bbl.

So, I'd forget about Ford, Government Motors. Maybe a Tato? Or Build Your Dream.

Big Gav,

Do you have any further updates on the MDI Air Car?

Do you know if anything has happened to the Melbourne manufacturing facility that was being talked about in 2008?

Hi Ian,

I actually had an email from MDI about their strategy going forward this week - I haven't read it yet though - but I don't think anything has happened with the Melbourne plant.

Will get back to you with more details once I've had a chance to review the docs...


I say electric cars will not be economically viable, and therefore unsustainable.

I have 2 EV's

I would have to agree with your asessment. First, the materials required to build them require enourmous POL resources. Second, the power to fuel them (electricity) requires enermous POL resources. In America, our electrical grid is already overstressed and during periods of stress (heatwaves) rolling blackouts become necessary to ensure that the power grid does not collapse. THINK PEOPLE! If we don't have enough electrical power (currently) to sustain "Peak Demands" in Summer, how will it support the additional burden of electrical vehicles?

Within this thinking there is a disconnect, I believe we have been so disconnected from the natural world that we can imagine nothing else.

The FUTURE shall be the way of the Native American populations that once inhabited the World, being simple small scale hunter-gatherers, living in harmony with the natural world, and subject to Her whims. Life will be uncertain and such unnatural thoughts of "life insurance" shall disappear. Death is a natural part of the world, "Retirement" (life without work) is an artifical concept which shall fall on its face. Security is not guaranteed. Prepare to meet your fate!

The stress on the electric grid is summer daytime - EVs will charge mainly at night.

There more than enough grid capacity to charge EVs;

There was a post here a couple of years ago which argued pretty well that electricity generation would have to be increased by about a third (if I recall correctly) to support an electric fleet. And that is if people charged only at night. I think that's a big IF, especially in some accommodations, multiple car household, etc. It would also require unlikely discipline for those who could do it, unless it was automatic, somehow.

But our societies aren't yet on a no-growth model. With growth, the numbers keep going up all the time.

As an aside, has anyone mentioned electric planes and ships yet, or will those be powered by a new miracle power source?

Trans-continental electric trains would seem to suffice...


In any case, biofuels combined with the residual slow drip of fossil fuels (especially if CTL is supplying them) would probably be sufficient to keep a decent sized plane fleet aloft for some time.

And some ideas for making shipping fuel efficient have ben floated too :-)


Trans-continental electric trains would seem to suffice...

Only if tunnels or bridges are built across seas and oceans. 320kph is pretty fast but not as fast as a plane. Is this going to replace air and sea freight, for those places that can get it? Is it sustainable?

And some ideas for making shipping fuel efficient have been floated too :-)

That's an ambition to cut down on fossil fuels, not eliminate them.

I think there is an assumption amount the EV solution advocates, that trans-oceanic travel and freight will be handled by something someone will invent, in the future.

It won't be as fast as air travel - so what ?

Last time I checked we knew how to build bridges and tunnels for trains, so that doesn't appear to be a problem either.

Liquid fuels won't disappear entirely for a century or two - I'm confident that air and sea travel will remain common for the rest of my lifetime...

We know how to build bridges across oceans?

I don't think so.

These things will only remain common, if society holds it together. That will require all of the assumptions about smooth transitions to hold.

And how about your kids' lifetimes?

How many do you need to build ? One across the straits of Gibraltar, one across the Bering Strait (maybe) ? Or you can do tunnels.

In my kids lifetimes they may find intercontinental travel is difficult if we can't come up with a way of fuelling our air fleets, but that isn't an existential threat, so so what ?

Last time I heard about the Bering Strait rail tunnel former Gov. Hickel was singing its praises at some future dreams conference. That was maybe four or five years ago. There is still a wee bit of a gap between the end of Canada rail and the strait and a wee bigger gap on the Siberian side. All told a couple/few thousand miles of permafrost, rivers and mountains. Alaska's rail is pretty much a north south affair at the moment. Now of course the rail could be built. I mean it was barely over a hundred years ago when a riverboat carrying supplies to a red hot future rail station site ran out of water on its way up the Tanana and the town Fairbanks got its birth. No rails through that red hot site yet, but then it has only been a little over a century. Professor Metz and others have been working on the proposed Canadian/Alaskan rail link more recently.

Friday I was watching a presentation by UAF's Prof. Metz to our (Alaska) legislature's resource committee. It was the grand plan for tying a proposed in state natural gas line to a coal liquefaction plant or some such. CO2 generated from some part of the operation (power generation?) would then be piped back to the north slope and used to pressurize the oil fields, replacing the methane that is doing the job now. When the oil fields no longer needed the CO2 it could be rerouted to a 'planned' hydro project and somehow be used in hydrogen production. Keeping the air cargo trade alive with the liquefied coal fuel was part of the big dream. Of course when asked about how much CO2 could be economically captured the answer was a big question mark. Well as Antarctic adventurer Norman Vaughan said 'Dream big and dare to fail.' When a place has 56 foot thick coal seams lying around people are bound to think about them.

Yeah, a lot simpler just to use batteries, wind, PV...

See http://energyfaq.blogspot.com/2008/09/can-shipping-survive-peak-oil.html

I don't know. When it comes to big shipping batteries don't seem a likely solution for propulsion. We have a 27 megawatt battery in our town. It can supply that power for all of 15 minutes but then it is NiCad and only weighs 1500 tons.

The grand plan Metz was referring to was for: maximizing value added to the resources we are extracting in state, finding a way to use enough of the natural gas thats stranded up north to make it worth piping which will then make it available to a lot of the rest of us poor suckers as well and finding a sort of clean way to bring some of our coal to market. Like KSA we make a lot or our living up here selling compact energy sources. Diesel (jet fuel is essentially #1 diesel, the stuff I wantonly burn in the Monitor stove that heats my house) will be awful hard to beat for a lot of mobile industrial applications at least for the next generation or two. For example, it is likely construction sites will not have the power hookups needed (its tough enough to try and run power tools on a multi acre site) to charge heavy equipment even if smaller much more powerful batteries do appear in a decade or two. I've worked with those fine electric lift trucks on nice smooth paved surfaces, moving dirt is a whole different game. Its just awful hard to beat a barrel of diesel for convenient, compact, portable POWER.

Still the more light transport and rail that can be moved to grid power the better. We can find cleaner ways to power the grid.

When it comes to big shipping batteries don't seem a likely solution

Did you look at my calculations? Batteries can compete cost-wise and weight-wise with $3 diesel in ships.

even if smaller much more powerful batteries do appear

They're here. Have you used li-ion power tools?

I've worked with those fine electric lift trucks on nice smooth paved surfaces, moving dirt is a whole different game. Its just awful hard to beat a barrel of diesel for convenient, compact, portable POWER.

Electric motors are very powerful. They're used in diesel subs and freight trains, US tanks, and coal mining, etc, etc. They can beat diesel motors for torque quite nicely.

Like I said that 27 megawatt battery can deliver that power for fifteen minutes and its 1500 tons. How big would it have to be to produce half that power for four days, and what sort of back up would be required? At steady cruising of 12-14 knots, the speeds you are suggesting, it took the Japanese over a week to reach Hawaii in 1941. Making huge batteries seems like a very poor way to utilize resources. You think the costs of the resources in those batteries just might jump a few/many fold if all the shipping was going to power up with them? That doesn't even deal with cost of electricity in places like Hawaii. No quick fix on that one just yet. That battery charging infrastructure would not be available in many third world ports served by ship anytime soon. There are a whole lot of fish we need to fry before we start worrying about removing the diesels from ships.

Lithium ion power tools are fine until the battery runs dead, which is always at an inopportune time. They are all over the job sites with banks and banks of battery chargers competing with miles of extension cords running the heavier duty tools all over the place. I've yet to see Li ion battery powered pipe theader, welder, heavy duty chop or table saw and on and on. When the jobs get crewed up with all the trades banging away at once the battle for power access can get ugly. And of course diesel generators provide electricity sometimes for months before grid power is even available.

It would take whole lot of battery to power a D-9 any length of time and a heck of temp power hookup to charge the batteries for all the cranes loaders, dozers and lifts etc. on a medium sized construction site. Of course electric motors are powerful, its hard to beat a big diesel electric for a lot applications. Its that batteries that will have to come a long way before they can displace diesel for the big mobile stuff. A couple generations isn't that long, new heavy equipment out there is expected to last a quarter to half that time. I stand by my guess, and despite the beating of the drum of doom here--not on Big Gav's spot, Drum of Doom I thought would be a good title for Gail's posts ?-) there will be diesel available for applications where it is most effective for that amount of time. Cost of course is the big question, but that can be a lot higher for those applications than people realize. Where do you think the power is going to come from as new remote resource sites get developed--sites needed to produce the resources for all the batteries and electric motors? Drums of oil. Generation capacity in remote areas will need drums of oil to get it built for some time to come. Like I said before we have plenty of coal to make that diesel if need be.

that 27 megawatt battery can deliver that power for fifteen minutes and its 1500 tons. How big would it have to be to produce half that power for four days

That battery is ni-cad (which is much less energy dense than li-ion), the installation was designed 10 years ago. A better comparison is the Tesla battery pack, which is 900 lb and 53 KWH, or 17 lbs/KWH. An equivalent capacity would be only 57 tons. And, there are batteries with higher energy density.

A couple generations isn't that long, new heavy equipment out there is expected to last a quarter to half that time.... there will be diesel available for applications where it is most effective for that amount of time

I agree. For most applications, batteries beat $4 diesel, but not all. For some things, $4 diesel works just fine. It's very unlikely that oil prices will rise by 100% in a sustained fashion. First, oil prices above $150 would slow down economic growth (if not stop it entirely). 2nd, all of the major uses for oil have substitutes that are cheaper when oil rises above, well, about where it is now. If oil prices went to $150 and stayed there for any length of time, consumers would move to carpoooling, mass transit, hybrids, EREVs, EVs, rail, heat pumps, etc, etc, very very quickly. Both of these effects would keep prices from rising further, and probably reduce them from that peak.

So, where $4 diesel works just fine, and batteries don't, diesel will be around for a while.

With $60.00-100.00 dollar an hour help (full cost) running $250,000-1,000,000+++ plus pieces of equipment, $8.00-$10.00 a gallon diesel isn't as big a factor as might be expected, though it certainly would have some influence on the way in which what gets built. That wouldn't be all bad. A billion dollar semi-submersible drill rig probably can afford to pay a fairly high price for oil, when all the costs are averaged out.

Can the economy handle oil that high? Not yet, but as more of which does not need to run off oil no longer does the important applications remaining will be able to pay a lot more for oil, which they will have to as some of the economies of scale in the delivery system disappear along with the cheap oil sources. That is all best case. If the transitions aren't pushed ahead quickly things could go quite a bit south.

By the time we really have to pull diesels out of the big ships relatively simple nuclear 'batteries' could be commonplace...if all goes well. Likely long life would be important in any very heavy duty battery applications and thus far high density, light weight has generally meant a lot fewer charge cycles. Possibly inland European barge traffic would pick up on workable battery powered systems first. US river barge systems could have full barge swappable battery components if it worked out. Those shipping outfits are cost conscious so I'd bet that is on someone's drawing board, but the sunk costs in current equipment and infrastructure considerations might indicate diesel use at prices a bit higher than you may have worked into your calculations.

Transcontinental means 'across' a continent, not 'between continents'. The bridge that crosses an ocean IS shipping, and is already capable of beating even railroads for efficient movement of tonnage.

What needs to be invented? We know how to make electric vehicles, big sails and electrified railroads. This isn't hanging on new tech.

No, but it hangs on reduces scales. People don't appear to take kindly to that view.

US electrical generation now averages about 450GW.

To power all the whole US 230M light vehicles fleet electrically would require only a 19% increase in generation: 230M x 13k miles/vehicle / 4 miles/KWH /8760 hours per year /450GW.

For shipping, see: http://energyfaq.blogspot.com/2008/09/can-shipping-survive-peak-oil.html

That's not a 30% increase but still a hefty increase (around a fifth). Presumably that's if everyone plays nice and only charges at night and if the number of vehicle miles travelled doesn't increase?

Shipping on PV? What is the likely capacity, rather than the peak capacity, that you use for calculations?

I'm not saying any of this isn't possible but it seems like more wishful thinking to me.

if everyone plays nice and only charges at night

No, that's overall. If everyone charges at night, it would be much easier, as little new generation would have to be built.

if the number of vehicle miles travelled doesn't increase?

Even before this recession VMT was growing quite slowly.

PV...What is the likely capacity?

Perhaps 20% of total KWH consumption. That's ok - PV wouldn't have to supply everything. Batteries, wind, fuel cells and synthetic liquid fuels could provide the rest.

It's all doable - no wishful thinking at all - we just haven't needed to do it before, that's all.

It remains wishful thinking until it's done.

As for electrical capacity for EVs; as I've mentioned a calculation posted here a couple of years ago showed that a 30% increase would be needed, if everyone played nice. Now, I hear a variety of opinions, from 0% to 100%. Obviously, not everyone can be right; I'd like to see a good independent investigation of the needed additional capacity, bot for night only charging and for a mix of charging times. If it turns out to be 50%, or even 30%, would the EV proponents be so certain that it's all doable (in practice, rather than theory)?

It remains wishful thinking until it's done.

By that standard, my having dinner tonight is wishful thinking. Some things are simple matters of doing it.

As for electrical capacity for EVs, that's a simple matter of doing the math: 230M x 13k miles/vehicle / 4 miles/KWH /8760 hours per year /450GW equals 19%.

And yes, even if it were 50%, it would still be doable. We have lots of wind power, and it fits synergistically with EV's, which will charge mostly at night, and have some flexibility in their scheduling that can buffer wind variance.

"that it's all doable"

And again, --ALL-- is the key word you hang your arguments on. All what?

It's infinitely proportional.. you, like Bandits the other day, demanding a precise outline of what's to come.. which is really just an impossible demand.. just to be appropriately impossible.

There will be charging, some daytime, some nighttime, there may be more Mass Transit, there may be less commuting overall, there MAY be more 'shared car services' and less private car ownership.. Some EV or Ebike owners will have Solar, or Wind or MicroHydro to help cover charging..

and as we've heard from actual EV owners, clearly these wishes have some standing in reality. How much? Well, it depends, it varies .. and that doesn't make it any less real, or any MORE of a silver bullet, which it isn't and it isn't being called that.

You're starting to sound like X and his incessant complaint against EROIE..

You point at other people's "Wishful thinking", but have been shown that it has some meat behind it.

What is behind your "Doubtful Thinking" ?

PHEV's do not require as much electricity as all electric vehicles. I do not know of any serious efforts to make semitrailer trucks run off electricity. Due to weight and space constraints, aircraft will have to continue using liquid fuel with a high energy density. Once bunker fuel, natural gas and coal are no longer viable, ships can unfurl sails, fire up nuclear reactors, energize fuel cells or use biofuels. The greatest reduction will probably be in the number of personal cars.

As for charging cars, most vehicles are driven during the day and parked at night. A timer can easily be installed on a charger allowing it to charge a battery only at night. If the battery is discharged, a PHEV will run using liquid fuel. The ability of the electric grid to supply the power is unlikely to be a significant issue.

Once bunker fuel, natural gas and coal are no longer viable, ships can unfurl sails, fire up nuclear reactors, energize fuel cells or use biofuels.

Don't forget batteries and PV:

Solar: The first question is: is it cost effective? Sure - it's just straightforward calculations: PV can generate power for the equivalent of diesel at $3/gallon (40KWH per gallon @40% efficiency = 16 KWH/gallon; $3/16KWH = about $.20/KWH, or $4/Wp, which large I/C installations have already surpassed.

Let's look at the Emma Mærsk . With a length of 397 metres, and beam of 56 metres, it has a surface area of 22,400 sq m. At 20% efficiency we get about 4.5MW on the ship's deck at peak power. Now, as best I can tell it probably uses about 10MW at 12 knots (very roughly a minimum speed), 20MW at 15 knots, and 65MW (80% of engine rated power) at 25.5 knots (roughly a maximum). So, at minimum speed it could get about 45% of it's power for something close to 20% of the time, for a net of 9%. Now, if we want to increase that we'll need either higher efficiency PV, or more surface area from outriggers or something towed, perhaps using flexible PV.

Here' a fun example of a boat that's 100% PV powered, and here's another.

Batteries: Large batteries could provide most of the remaining power needed, to be recharged at frequent port stops, as used to be done with coal (just as they picked up coal 60 years ago - that's why the US wanted the Philippines military bases, and why they're not needed in the oil era). Let's analyze li-ion batteries: assume 20MW engine power at a cruising speed a speed of 15 knots (17.25 mph) or 20MW auxiliary assistance to a higher speed, and a needed port-to-port range of 2,000 miles (a range that was considered extremely good in the era of coal ships - the average length of a full trip is about 4,500 miles (see chart 8 ). That's 116 hours of travel, and 2,310 MW hours needed. At 200whrs per kg, that's 11,594 metric tons. The Emma Maersk has a capacity of 172,990 metric tons, so we'd need about 7% of it's capacity (by weight) to add batteries.

So, li-ion would do. Now it would be more expensive than many alternatives that would be practical in a "captive" fleet like this - many high energy density, much less expensive batteries exist whose charging is very inconvenient, but could be swapped out in an application like this. These include Zinc-air, and others. It should be noted that research continues on batteries with much higher density still, as we see here and here, but existing batteries would suffice.

Problem with putting PV on the Emma Maersk would be that the deck is usually covered with containers.

You're out on the open sea, though. There's plenty of space to put out panels.. doesn't have to fit onto ships designed from yesterday's needs.

As Jokuhl says, we should be a bit creative.

You could add a roof, or you could incentivize 10% of the containers to be roofed with PV - they could power ships, inter-modal rail, inter-modal trucks...


When has the US ever had "rolling blackouts" other than the artificial crisis drummed up by energy traders in California 10 years ago?

I agree that grid over saturation is a problem with the electrification of our transportation needs, but hyperbole doesn't help the case for improvements.

Um, Colorado Springs is about to have, quite literally, 'rolling blackouts':


Yeah, but you can't base this on the Grid's past, either.
What's coming has no precedent, at least in the volumes of raw energy involved, OR energy per capita.

I tend to be very much in favor of having a significant number of EV's Ebikes Etrucks Ebuses in the mix, while I don't see them as the 'Stepford Car' .. they have a flex-fuel Ethanol couldn't begin to dream of..

BUT, with a 'massive' EV fleet, all hanging on a grid that looks like today's, that does become a LOT of eggs in one basket, and we just don't know what will be affecting the stability of it as we lean that much more heavily on this network.

It's not just 'how stable is it?' , but 'what do we lose if and when it falls?' ..'How much is now at stake?'

Transportation is already dependent on the grid - gas won't pump without it. So, moving to plug-ins makes things more resilient, not less, by removing the existing dependency on oil imports. further, as you note, a plugin is flex-fuel - if either electricity or the grid are short, you can go to the other...

I'll go ya one better.

If the used car market doesn't exist because gas is too expensive that 'the masses' can't afford a car then the political will to expend money on roads so the rich can drive them won't be there.

No well taken care of roads - less reason for a car.

Watch the airlines as the bellweather.....

I know lots of poor people without cars. Every single one of them would be really sad (and soon dead) if the roads shut down tomorrow.

I think it's safe to say that no one is going to vote the transportation system down unless something better comes along.

As a matter of common sense and fairness ,it's way past time for aviation fuel to be taxed.

"I say electric cars will not be economically viable, and therefore unsustainable."

I have a small electric motorcycle. This will be my third year riding. It already seems quite economically viable. $30 in electricity pays for my transportation needs from March to November.

Is that your point? Cars no... small light motorcycles yes?

small light motorcycles ??

maybe for a while .....


I prefer a 3 wheel reverse motorcycle ...


The zero motorcycle is a nice start, but I think smaller, lighter, more efficient electric motor bikes are the real future.

I took a look at your 2004 Canondale E Z Rider...if well built, the effiency of that bike should be pretty good.

Take a bike like your 2004 Canondale E Z Rider, add some batteries, raise the voltage for more speed and add a streamlined fairing to reduce drag...that's what I see in the future.

I zip around on a modified electric scooter/motor bike and use a backpack for groceries. I have been doing this for three years so the lifestyle does work for me.

If you could add streamlined full fairing to my bike you would have something pretty good. You could even intergrate storage for goceries, etc. into the faring.

Craig Vetter has been doing some work in this area. Someday I hope to see a retail electric motocycle that looks like this:


A mere 1000 watt or 1500 watt motor might move that bike quite well.

The bike now has the new lithium batteries ... 48 volt 20Ahr

the legal speed limit is 20 mph and it will do 27 mph ... plenty fast for a bicycle


nice thing about an electric bike is no license , registration , insurance etc as long as you are under 1000 watts , and no more than 3 wheels

Working on this for a human electric EV ...


for the newest experiments go to ...


Cars no, bikes yes, telecommuting and online-knowledge-work yes, buses and trains yes. Grow-your-own-veg yes. Life with less "stuff" yes.

Yogi sez perdictin' is hard, specially the future.

I have my own doubts about the ability of electric cars to compete in the near future; but who knows what our politicians might do?

We might wind up with laws that limit our petrol or diesel purchases rather severely but allow us to buy as much electricity as we like for recharging.

The likely result of such a law would be that prosperous folks would buy and drive an electric as often as possible in order to save thier gasoline/diesel ration for longer trips or days when they have to be on the road locally for several hours and don't have time to wait for a recharge.
I have had some experience with propane fueled engines ,and they are quite as good as a gasoline fueled engine in nearly every respect except for the refueling problem.In some ways they are better;they seem to last longer, the fuel system hardly ever needs repairs, and they burn clean.

If somebody can figure out a way to lower the price of the high pressure tanks needed to run cng in cars, there is no fundamental reason why cng cars should not take off.There are already a few fueling stations around,and I don't see any reason why there can't be enough more built in major urban areas to fill commercial trucks as well as light trucks and cars-assuming ng stays cheap of course-or even if it is as expensive as gasoline, if political considerations foreclose the possibility of continueing to burn large amounts of gasoline and diesel.

Building a dual fuel car is no longer a big deal-if the savings in fuel are there to justify the expense.I would gueess that most such cars for the first deade or so would also include an ordinary gasoline tank and the components necessary to run on either fuel.

I'm no engineer but it seems rather likely that it will be easier to solve the fuel tank problem than the battery problem, and that the cost of a cng car is likely to be a lot less than that of an electric car, everything else equal.

Another thing that will come into play is battery failure-so far it hasn't been much of a problem, mostly because there aren't many hybrids and electrics out there-Toyota, despite the recent problems,are VERY well made cars and there is not much else to out there to use as a benchmark.

I hear about plenty of four and five thousand dollar teransmission failures in lots of conventional cars-when the hybrids and plugins hit the roads, there are going to be horrror stories, or I will, as they say around here , give you an hour to attract a crowd and then kiss your axx.

There will be few or no aftermarket parts available, and even the mechanics at the dealers will be up the creek with no paddle-reduced to making repairs by following a decision tree diagram on an an analyzer screen-a propietary screen that belongs to the manufacturer. I know a lot of mechanics, and I can assure everybody that damned few of them are electronics experts.Most of them could not get thru a two year electronics program at a community college in a decade as they can't do any algebra and lack critical reading skills.In the auto mechanics programs they learn how to read diagnostic codes, test a few components with a few meters, and that's about it as far as electrical theory goes.I speak from experience as a mechanic, a former educator(not a mechanics instructor), and a student at three different community colleges, all of which are well thought of and fully accredited.

The instructors were actually pretty good-the problem is that the students they get mostly aren't.

I found it well worth my while to sign up for classes for what I could learn, which was a hell of a lot, plus the fact that I could use the shop equipment free of charge and pull up all the diagnostics and drawings I wanted from the Mitchell's Online and All data sites. At thirty or forty dollars a pop for a few minutes work in the afternoon you can pay back a few hundred in tuition pdq.And I have saved the price of several new vehicles by driving older ones I could buy for nearly nothing.

I have my doubts whether anyone who can work on electric cars nearly ready for the scrap heap will be willing to do so for the savings involved-I believe that it would take me at least two years to learn how,at considerable expense of money and an enormous amount of time-the average backyarder is going to be completely lost.Once they start giving a few problems, electrics may fall off in resale almost overnight.

Otoh,cng is quite simple and will be easy to repair;even a dual fuel system is fairly simple in terms of working on it.

If somebody can figure out a way to lower the price of the high pressure tanks needed to run cng in cars


Thanks Boof. Good reading.

It's also possible the existing car fleet could be coverted to NG if the storage costs become viable. An ASX listed Perth-based company Advanced Engine Components Limited ( http://www.advancedengine.com ) (amongst others) has technology according to their web-site "which enables engines to be adapted (on the production line or in retro-fit) to use natural gas." From what I've heard AEC's system is the most efficient available, but the company runs on the smell of an oily rag (and I'd better put in my disclaimer : I've got a small holding of ACE shares)

Do Electric Vehicles cost less to maintain?

Car manufacturers and dealers think so:

"Car dealers are nervous a shift from gas to electric cars will mean that they don't see their customers as often as they currently do.

The design of the electric car is really simple. There's not a lot of parts, so there won't be much need for maintenance says Mark Perry, Nissan (NSANY) Americas' head of Product Planning. When he said that, was speaking to a group of dealers at an event in New York to show off Nissan's upcoming electric. (We stood outside the circle of dealers and listened in.) "

I've heard a contention that transmissions are the most important cause of car scrappage (" you can call any wrecking yard sales clerk and ask him why most of the cars in his yard are there ,if not because of an accident that rendered them undriveable,and he will tell you the same thing. The used mechanical component that is most often sold out is the automatic transmission. Among lower class working people who drive older cars this is accepted as a given as certain as death and taxes").

What about transmissions?

Well, EVs (and Extended range EVs like the Volt) don't have transmissions.

Regenerative braking greatly reduces brake wear. Brake maintenance is a significant cost. Even Prius brake wear is greatly reduced, and it only has partial regenerative braking. Taxi drivers with Priuses are very happy about that cost reduction.

EV's have no transmissions, mufflers, tuneups (plugs, points, air filters), timing or other belts, carburetor, fuel pumps, engine coolant, valves, air filter, oil & oil filters, exhaust pipes or muffler, catalytic converter. The engine has only one moving part, almost no internal friction, and is likely to last forever. Brake costs are greatly reduced.

Wouldn't all of this likely reduce maintenance costs by 50%?

Jay Leno has a 1909 Detroit Electric model that's still working just fine - it's even still using the original battery.

To be technically correct, EV's do have transmissions to alter the ratio between engine rpm and wheel revs per kilometre. However, it's not the multi-speed affair with a torque converter and one or more clutches that drive conventional vehicles, and so your point about reliability is likely to be right on.

Wouldn't you call that a reduction gear, rather than a transmission?

It doesn't have to be a single speed. I think the Tesla roadster came onto the market with a two-speed gearbox. In effect, the single ratio box is a reduction gear but the industry is still calling it a transmission.

I say electric cars will not be economically viable, and therefore unsustainable.

jmygann, I agree 100%. Donkeys however have proven to be viable. Continue to prove that. Of all the domestic beasts of burden, I would venture to say that the donkey is the one that has persisted the most in modern times. In the third and second worlds they are ahead of us in using old vehicle carcasses to make great donkey carts - this is the future, NOT Electric cars.


I see even Nissan don't expect full EVs like their Leaf to capture more than 10% of the market within a decade. Many people need load carrying long range vehicles. Others don't really need them but want them anyway. Even though the price of oil has been stable for a year or so I expect a spike within the next five years. That's when the Big Car people will come out of the closet and insist on full sized cars and I think only NGVs will meet their needs. So instead of a PHEV like the Volt GM should tool up for a car like the Opel Zafira turbo petrol/CNG van.

The big question is the price of NG. In the Australian market I think gas for transport could add 50% more demand than domestic non-transport needs and LNG exports. This is happening the same time that carbon taxes (if ever) drive electrical generation away from coal toward gas fired. NG will have to get more expensive even with low fuel taxes, but still cheaper than petro fuels like petrol, diesel and aviation kerosene. I suggest by 2020 or so most road vehicles will be on CNG/petro dual fuel and aircraft will be on GTL.

PS I've been driving on 80% biodiesel for 5 years and I think biofuels are a dead end.

biofuels are a dead end.

I believe that is a big message of TOD - that rock oil (that comes from long dead organic matter) is a dead end path.

At some point we will be back to daily Photosynthesis instead of ancient photosynthesis.

Along the way we will play with "alternative" toys.

My EV's ...


Maybe something like this with an electric assist... for a short while ....then just pedals .....then just walk


jmygann, like the EV, good job...not bad on range for the lead acid batteries, more than enough for most daily driving I assume. Someone upstring said people "need" bigger load carrying vehicles. I assume though that they don't need them everyday...something like a small EV on day to day commute and rent a bigger towing vehicle when you need it seems to be viable to me...


Large companies become bureaucratic.
They suffer from group think.

Place yourself in the shoes of the head of a modern airline.
Would you tell your next board meeting that that you are going to go into sub-orbitals, high speed rail or solar powered airships?

Ditto Ford, Gm, Electric utilities etc.

You will only try something new when all else has failed, and you are forced to change. There is nothing pro-active in your abilities.
You live in the moment.
The Great Now.
And so you end up playing Whack a Mole.

If we can survive it will be because we will have developed lower discount rates.

Lower discount rates can be artificially augmented by reading histories, especially of the future.

In essence I am arguing for evolution by design and not the random walk that has been so slow, brutal and successful to date.

A few thoughts from the third world/tropics. While Natural Gas will be fine as an alternative fuel for folks in the US, Australia and anywhere else that has their own domestic supplies of it, things are going to get really tricky for those of us in countries that are neither wealthy or blessed with FF resources.

I'm looking for some options for electrically driven transport but, right now options are severely limited. This is not to say they will remain so. One option is to build your own like jmygann has done but, the fact is that most of the available components are modified from motors and controllers that were not designed specifically for the application. Even so the quantities are minuscule compared to the amount of Infernal Combustion Engines being produced. I am looking forward to seeing what emerges from the electric motor manufacturers if/when they explore mass production of motors designed specifically to propel cars and trucks.

As for batteries, just last week (march 17) Firefly Energy, makers of a promising new lead acid battery technology filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Apparently they could not compete with lithium ion batteries. Go figure! I guess that's progress. I expect that technology will improve and costs will come down. I agree that EVs with ranges over 40 miles may never be economically viable but if one were to restrict the size, weight and cost of the battery pack to one that could provide a range of 20-40 miles, affordable somewhat useful vehicles could be produced. Imagine what the Chevy Volt could cost without the range extender and the associated added complexity and weight. Then there's always the possibility that EEstor might be real.

As I have said before, there are many applications for commercial vehicles that are well suited to short range EVs and it seems there may be a fair amount of activity going on behind the scenes along those lines. Note that Fords first pure EV is going to be a commercial vehicle and not a car. Not soon enough for me. I want a short range affordable electric van now and this one's too small while this one's too big (and expensive).

I suppose in my neck of the woods, it's going to end up something like ethanol from sugar cane, coconut/palm/jatropha oil for biodiesel, biogas from landfill waste, some electrics, lots of bicycles and donkeys.

Alan from the islands

I think you are right. Poor countries are not going to be able to afford $40,000 electric cars.

I am afraid when all is said and done, they will be $50,000 or $60,000 electric cars. They may work for some commercial transactions, with short distances and many trips, but most real-world people won't be able to buy them. The costs will be just too great for governments to subsidize enough.

Poor countries might not be able to afford them but, I'm sure as long as the owners of the amazing assortment of Cadillac Escalades, BMW X5/X6s, Range Rovers, luxury European sedans and even the occasional Hummer, that I see from time to time in my city, can continue to make money from whatever it is they do, they'll afford them. For the moment, my guess is that most of these well to do folks don't even own a single solar PV panel. We live in interesting times!

Alan from the islands

islandboy, your observation is very astute. Has anyone here been in the garages of even the upper middle class? They have two or three cars/trucks, off road vehicles, a riding lawn mower that has more power than farm tractors had only a few years ago, a golf cart, usually at least one motorcycle, in some parts of the country (I am referring to the U.S.) a snowmobile...it is the most incredible collection of various vehicles you will see...and usually there is a boat at some lake or river besides! Some friends of mine are even in a time share for private aircraft!

I agree with islandboy, I don't know what many of these folks do that earns them enough to pay for all this stuff, but they seem to have no problem buying it...some will buy hybrids just for bragging rights.


Are you sure they didn't take out an adjustable rate mortgage to pay for the toys?

For an economical EV, the Zap Xebra Electric Sedan is available MSRP: $11,700. Want cheaper? Electric bike or just POB (plain old bike). Or use the bus.

I disagree.

The cost of an electric car is mostly the cost of the battery. Just 3 years ago Li ion batteries cost $1000/kWh. Now the cost has already dropped to $500/kWh. The cost is expected to drop 4 fold in the next 10 years. When the cost drops to around $100/kWh, an electric car becomes more affordable than a gasoline car.

See this:

The luddites and doomers will hate this and they are free to ride donkeys or bicycles or whatever they feel like. The rest of us will be glad to be finally able to get rid of our stinky, noisy, maintenance intensive gasoline cars.

And after the transition is made we'll all be a fair bit happier and healthier...

The volt and the tesla are not useful harbingers of the future of EV's, even if the Big Three still seem to have the Gravitas to define the game.

Look at the cheap HD flipcams out there.. going for $150. An EV is a very simple device, and one will not have to pay for MoTown's marketing blitz and a lot of sexy bling to be able to get a workable set of wheels..

Tata, Ecooper and Th!nk might go belly up, and several dozen close imitators along with them, but that's timing and luck, it's not an unworkable concept. There is going to be a lot of demand for short-range vehicles, the second people start thinking gasoline has become too erratic or expensive to fret over any more..

Case in point. Are we ever going to see headlines like the following but, for a plant to make electric traction motors?

Chrysler kicks off production of Pentastar V6 engine, touts fuel efficiency improvements

This family of engines represent a $730 million investment, and the 822,000-square-foot Trenton facility will be able to produce more than 400,000 engines per year.

Alan from the islands

Yesterday’s announcement of an electric car trial by the WA government means that at least some politicians in Australia are at last taking seriously what is shaping up as the next great industrial revolution.

Surely you are joking?!

The absolute last thing the world needs is another great industrial revolution to produce personal transport vehicles for the rich at the expense of both the commons and the poor.

We don't need no more stinkin industrial revolutions to shore up BAU and I can't think of an image that to me signifies every thing that is more wrong with the current way of thinking than the one of that Porsche. If that's what Australians or anyone else envisions as the future, they need a serious reality check. Perhaps a good whack with a boomerang to the back of the head might knock some sense into them...What we need is a great "Walkabout"!

The absolute last thing the world needs is another great industrial revolution to produce personal transport vehicles for the rich at the expense of both the commons and the poor

Exactly FMagyar. The place to start is BAU. Is it good? Who and what is it good for? BAU has to end either by us giving it up or us being forced to give it up. What needs to be sustainable is not human lifestyle but human life and that involves keepint the planet in balance. Right now it is severly out of balance. Proposing high tech solutions that prolong BAU is insane.

The millions of folks that do not live in the cities and will not live in the cities will need some sort of motorized transportation. I biked hundreds of miles a week at one point in my life but that is not an option now. I have to have enclosed, motorized transportation sometimes. If it turns out to be a golfcart on steroids charged by my solar arrays, that's fine with me. There are millions of folks like me. If you guys think they are all going to move to the city and grow their food in cracks in the sidewalk, that's insane. If you expect a total collapse then the discussion is moot. You'll likely starve and the food I produce will be consumed here. I would still prefer to hop in my golfcart, for my monthly trip to town, to hitching up the team. I'm all for trains and mass transportation, but I doubt they'll bring the rail lines up to my place (or back to my town for that matter).

One of these would work fine:

A pickup version of this would be perfect for getting my produce to town (so you city boys can eat):
There's nothing BAU about electric utility vehicles. They're tools for efficiently accomplishing tasks like bringing food to market or granny to the doctor.

"The millions of folks that do not live in the cities and will not live in the cities will need some sort of motorized transportation."

Not necessarily so. Folks have been born and died without "motorized vehicles".

"Folks have been born and died without "motorized vehicles".

Yeah they did,,,, but there weren't 6.8 billion people to feed, and they died trying to get to a "doctor", and infant mortality was many times what it is today, etc. Like I said, if we collapse to the point where we use livestock to farm and horses to move people, it'll be a moot point and we're going to have far fewer humans. Any volunteers?

Who do I volunteer to ? Its everyone for themselves from here on out. IMHO

yeah, and people have been born and died without ever hearing Mozart or Beethoven too...but that don't mean I would want to.


There's nothing BAU about electric utility vehicles. They're tools for efficiently accomplishing tasks like bringing food to market or granny to the doctor.

I can agree with that statement and see your golf cart on steroids charged by PV arrays with the occasional 20-30 mile trip as tenable.

My objection is to the creation of an industry selling and equating powerful electric vehicles with status and power. That is the BAU that I'm 100% against!

The people behind the Porsche in the picture posted are in my opinion enemies of the people and should be held accountable for their actions and the consequences of those actions.

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I'll love you
Beep beep'm beep beep yeah
Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I'll love you

Drive my Car by The Beatles

I'll sing to my PV array:

"Baby you can charge my car
Energy straight from a star
Baby you can charge my car
And baby I'll love you
Beep beep, beep beep......Yeah!"

Electric cars and electric motorcycles all over the world in 2020. Thank God I’ll be dead by then. Give me the 1950s with cheap gas and high performance engines. Chevys with 400 horsepower and Mustangs with four in the floor. My favorite car was a 1959 Desoto that I bought from the Sheriff’s department that was running liquor. It got 9mpg. A 413 with push button drive, that would leap into passing gear at 90mph. What a car! Electric, ugh. Thank God I’ll be dead.

Sorry, I must be having a flash back from the LSD I took in the 1960s.

lineman, do not underestimate the sheer excitement the new generation of vehicles will provide, it is off the charts IF you can afford it...

This is the youtube presentation of the technology in the Porsche 918 Spyder concept, the Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid, and the Porsche Ceyanne Hybrid...if these don't wake up your hot rod spirit nothing will...the sheer beauty of the engineering is worth watching if only as a spectator!


"Sorry, I must be having a flash back from the LSD I took in the 1960s."

It could just be all of the dinosaur juice you've consumed ;-)

I expect plug-in hybrids to be the car of choice for years to come. The Chevy Volt comes out later this year in the U.S. It does not appear to compare favorably in cost and features to the Ford Fusion Hybrid. The volt still has a gas engine to recharge the batteries. If there's going to be a pertrol engine it should drive the wheels directly.
I expect some companies to keep hybrids by dding a plug-in option. When people get down to detailed analysis a car like the Volt won't be as exciting.
No reason in OZ and the U.S. a car couldn't be a CNG hybrid too.
Looking at power density don't expect a battery powered car with a 300 mile range for many, many years.
Newer diesels look promising for people in more rural areas.

The Chevy Volt is a series hybrid, not a parallel hybrid. The 4 cylinder generator does not recharge the battery. It provides average power to the vehicle when the battery gets to 30% charge. If the driver floors the accelerator when the generator is operating, power will come from both the battery and the generator to give the car a push for passing another car. If you apply the breaks, the battery will recharge some. A generator running an electric motor is more energy efficient than an ICE running the wheels through a transmission. The high price of the Volt is due to the expensive battery (price may decrease in the future), overloading it with options, U.S. safety regulations and GM's overpaid executives and union workers. One gets a distorted vision of the future when viewing it from the perspective of a bankrupt company using a failed business model saved by government.

The high price of the Volt

Is due to high initial R&D, and low volume. It will fall below $30K with large volume.

You're right that the Volt is a series hybrid but you haven't understood how it works. I've driven a Volt and I've spoken with its project manager. The car runs in electric-only mode regardless of how far the throttle is pushed until the battery reaches 50% capacity. At that point the ICE, a 1.4-litre gasoline engine, kicks in but does not drive the wheels; it recharges the battery only. GM's battery management strategy is to run the battery between 50% and 80% of capacity. Neither the ICE nor the supplied mains charging system will charge the battery over 80%. In this way GM hopes to give the battery a 10-year life.

Price is another issue. Everyone knows the battery will be expensive. That has little or nothing to do with GM's internal costs, which are now considerably lower than they used to be. Boston Consulting, one of the automotive industry's major consultants, wrote a couple of months ago that the cost of a Li-ion automotive battery was then $1,000 per kWh capacity. The Volt has a 16 kWh battery. Lower costs are floating around on the internet but they don't have Boston Consulting's credibility. GM's spokesman told me last month he was confident the battery could be brought in for less than $1,000 per kWh but he wouldn't say how much less.

Lower costs are floating around on the internet but they don't have Boston Consulting's credibility.

I don't find BCG's study credible at all. LG/CPI says their cells cost $350/KWH, and the battery pack costs $500/KWH. Who knows better than the manufacturer?? A recent Deutche Bank study agrees.

BCG agrees that li-ion cells are generally available for about $400/KWH, but claims that li-ion for automotive applications will cost 2.5x as much. That makes no sense at all: cells for automotive applications will be much larger, and produced in very large volume.

Australia can do what it wants, but the best thing to do is make cities denser and develop real mass transportation like mainland Europe.

We need trains, subways and walkable cities!!!

Mass transit won't do a thing when Europe is just as reliant upon oil imports when you take a look at imports per capita. Meanwhile, the sovereign debt problems continue to unfold in Europe so who knows how long those trains will keep running. The last place you'll want to be is a big city.

I understand US automakers have parking lots full of unsold SUVs. These could be retrofitted to CNG. A way to free up a lot of gas would be to prohibit its use for electrical generation in open (gas turbine) and combined cycle (gas and steam turbine) plant. The quick start open cycle gas plant is particularly useful to cut in when intermittent power sources wimp out. However a portfolio generation requirement for less than say 100 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour would favour nuclear and hydro. Wind and solar could not rely on gas backup. That would free up a huge amount of gas for transport.

I doubt the current stable oil price can last. It must either jump again or become volatile. At the same time I believe EVs and PHEVs will disappoint in load space, price and all-electric range. I think the appearance of charging stations will creep out a lot of people. It will be a statement that motoring as freedom is in the past. That's when I think people will suddenly clamour for NGVs.

"I understand US automakers have parking lots full of unsold SUVs"

As do most people, you seem to assume the reason for the above is because fuel is too high. I have seen no evidence of that either in surveying or in the experience of friends and coworkers.

SUV sales are suffering from other obstacles: (a)the recession has made buyers afraid of any big purchase (b) getting financing is more difficult (c) the demographic change created by households with no children. One of the primary reasons people wanted SUV's was to haul kids around...to school, to camp, to activities, etc. The children of the baby boomers are for the great majority now grown, and do not yet have children of their own (many of them will never have children, or perhaps one or two at the most...below replacement value of their parents with the exception of immigrant families, where the great majority of child bearing is now occuring...if you look at the birthrate of native born U.S. citizens, we are actually in population retreat...)

Fuel price is a factor in SUV sales, but not as big a one as is sometimes believed...a friend of mine was cursing the fuel price back when it was over 4 dollars U.S. He was driving a three quarter ton club cab pickup truck with duel rear wheels, used to tow a camper...he said in an angry voice "Do you know how much more it is costing me with gas this high?" He bagan to count on his fingers...and counted...and counted...and then broke into a smile..."well, okay, not that much more really, but it still pisses me off..." :-)


What evidence is there to suggest we'll actually move away from internal combustion engines? From what I can tell EV's have tried and failed to engage the car-buying public any number of times, and what signs are there that the limitations encountered previously are soon to be overcome? Limited range, long charging times, high costs, inconvenience associated with lack of recharging infrastructure, the overarching requirement of building a renewable and efficient grid in the first place and the issue of putting the cart before the horse...are these factors not all just as relevant as they were in, say, 1970?

I am not sure how one could look at the current automobile market and conclude that manufacturers will "Go EV or die." There are plenty big markets still for efficient diesel and hybrid-electric automobiles too, as well as for NGV's, at least in the heavy duty markets. The grid mix of fuels is hardly the only "alternative" on the table today.

are these factors not all just as relevant as they were in, say, 1970?


Do you seriously think a Tesla Roadster or Nissan Leaf or GM Volt is really equivalent to what was available in the 1970's ?

Another key difference is that automakers are actively following this trend now,rather than resisting its imposition by regulators.

The fuel mix available in 30 years time will be vastly different to what is available today - and once we reach a tipping point for EV adoption ICE's will simply become legacy technology...

ICE's will simply become legacy technology
Yup, sooner or later that will happen. I suspect, though, that in the context of Australia's manufacturing industry it will be later rather than sooner. Two reasons:
The short one is that EV adoption will spread gradually.
The longer one is that pure EV's are unlikely to have the range needed to displace ICEs for long distance travel. Once the battery in an EV like the Leaf runs out, for example, the driver has to call a tow truck. In a PHEV like the Volt, the driver can keep going all day but, after about 60 km, the car will effectively be powered by an ICE. This will mean a split in the market between pure electrics and plug-in hybrids. Holden may no longer offer V8s, but someone like Magna will happily supply them with a hybrid power train and may even build it in Australia.

If Australia's auto industry dies, it will be because it can't compete with Asia. EV's won't have much to do with that.

Why a tow truck ?

Nissan / Renault are partnering with Better Place to provide battery swap services at service stations - presumably you could get a call out battery delivered in the same way someone brings you petrol if your car runs out of it.

You wouldn't call a tow truck in either situation...

Yes Gav, that's technically true but the infrastructure hasn't yet been built. The Leaf will be on sale later this year, I believe, which means that most of the early adopters will have to get home to recharge or call a tow truck.

In other countries, China and Japan for instance, utilities have started to install a network of fast-charging stations so that the example Leaf driver will be able to charge up while having a meal break or doing something else. Battery swapping could be a far from trivial activity. The battery is typically placed low in the vehicle to keep the centre of gravity down and it will be too heavy to lift without mechanical assistance. I don't know the details of a battery swap procedure for the Leaf but I imagine it will be something like pulling your regular car into a service station for an oil change. A network of fast charging stations seems a better alternative.

While it's easy for me to envisage a network of charging stations and/or battery swap points in Australia's major cities, eventually extending onto the major highways, I have less confidence that it will reach into the more remote parts of the continent. The prime niche for a pure EV is short distance travel. The hassle of trying to drive one beyond its initial range is going to be serious enough to make most folk consider some other alternative for longer trips, either a conventional ICE or a PHEV like the Volt. I can't foresee the changes coming in EV and battery technology, but today's picture clearly shows me that a pure EV might fill most of my driving needs but it wouldn't fill all of them. That means I'd need to own either a pure electric plus another vehicle or a single PHEV. This is the PHEV's lever in the marketplace.

Let's remember that GM owns Holden, which means that Holden should have access to GM's EV technology, whatever that turns out to be.

What evidence?
What about every chart that gets posted here?

Assuming (and I do) that petrol is likely to thin out very soon, we'd better have some robust tools available and in place to do some work without gas and diesel, shouldn't we?

You're not going to see much proof during the height of Crude production to convince you that we'll need something to supplant it. Choosing an EV has been like paying for warm tapwater when there's supercheap Coke at the coolers.. BUT, the people who owned EV1's and Rav4 EV's REALLY wanted to keep them, didn't they? Wonder why?

You have to choose to imagine what the scene would start to look like if the pumps started getting bags over them again. For the moment, with demand down, that image has again faded from most minds.

@WastedEnergy, have you seen the evidence that Saudi Arabia has as much oil as they say they have? You have bee posting here for less than 4 weeks. I have been posting here for 10 weeks short of 2 years with a couple months lurking before that. From Wikipedia this website is about 5 years old. The longer you stay, the more likely it is that you will come the believe that Middle East oil reserves are overstated. The more you will come to realize that oil production decline can catch you off guard, think the US lower 48, North Sea, Mexico and Indonesia. The more you will wonder how long SA and the rest of the Middle East have before they too start to decline.

I envy your optimism but, I believe that there is a very real and significant risk that Middle East net oil exports could experience a fairly steep decline in the next few years (thanks westexas). There is also a the risk that Russian production and net exports could decline. If you add that to already declining production in the 60 or so producing regions that are definitely past peak, there is a significant risk of supply/price volatility in the not too distant future. You can obviously choose to ignore that risk if you want to.

It is the possibility of this sudden and unexpected (by some) decline in available oil supplies that more seasoned posters at this site refer to as TS Hitting TF or TEOTWAWKI. If this happens the "Limited range, long charging times, high costs, inconvenience associated with lack of recharging infrastructure," of EVs may end up looking good compared to limited supplies, long queues at gas stations, unpredictable costs, inconvenience associated with lack of reliable supplies for ICE powered vehicles.

Do not underestimate the scale of the problem in coping with a 1 or 2 percent decline in world oil production much less a 5 or 6 percent or worse decline.

Alan from the islands

Right on, Alan. And to believe that these volatile areas of the world will hold together politically is a naive BAU pipedream.

I'd like to add a bit of real world experience in EV driving.

My wife and I have been driving our electric car conversion for about 15 months now, I think around 12,000 electric km. The electricity it uses (about 6 kWh/day) is covered by our grid connect PV, which makes about 8 kWh/day. We drive for free, no servicing is required, it's very reliable and I can fix and maintain it myself. The conversion and the PV system that powers it cost less than a medium size new petrol car.

Sorry, but all the usual usual problems people trot out like range, charge time, expense just aren't problems for real world EV use, at least in the average metro city. Our range is plenty for our daily driving, and we just plug in and walk away at night. I bet I spend less time refuelling than any petrol car driver.

Embarrassingly (for an EV driver), the battery in our petrol car keeps going flat as no one wants to use it! The last time we had to refuel the petrol car we had forgotten which side the filler cap was on and nearly fell over from the stink of the petrol station fumes.

We are at the point of selling our petrol car and using other alternatives for the occasional long distance trip, like part ownership of a petrol car with our extended family, or hiring.

The message here is that society has learned many bad habits with petrol cars. Curiously, we now take these bad habits as gospel. We think cars must refuel in 5 minutes at special places, have a 500km range and a 200kW motor. There is no other way, and unless electric vehicles match these features point for point they must be unviable. Right? Nope.

It's really quite easy to adapt to electric and there are many pleasant things about electric driving, for example absolute silence when stopped at lights and near-zero driving costs. It's really, really hard to go back to a petrol car after you have driven electric.

A small electric car could be made for less than an equivalent petrol car in the same volume, it's just that no one has decided to do it yet.

Thanks for that - its nice to someone with real experience debunking a lot of the nonsense that gets trotted out...

"A small electric car could be made for less than an equivalent petrol car"

In a post a few weeks ago we did the math on the "Moose" van, pictured above. For about the cost of the average car in the US today (actually slightly higher), you can have the van and the PV array to charge it (I included batteries and charge contoller).

As for it being "equivalent" to an ICE vehicle, I hesitate to make the comparison. But to have a vehicle that costs nothing to fuel and would provide 90% of my transportation needs..... I wish I had the money to do it now. No brainer!

I wonder how this would scale up. Can enough petrol car drivers afford the conversion, the PV, have a place to plug in, be disciplined enough to plug in overnight, and so on, to make a real difference in just one of the problems our societies are facing? EVs will not save us, though they might delay collapse a bit longer if scaled up quickly enough (which is a big question).

In a civilization that is living unsustainably, will driving electric cars really be a big enough game changer to make a difference?

The car fleet turns over every 20 years or so - that seems to be plenty of time (especially if people adopt other techniques for reducing their fuel consumption / transportation needs).

Cars less than 6 years old account for 50% of Vehicle Miles Traveled.

So, without a forced purchase of EVs, from now, EVs won't become a significant share for, what? 20-30 years? Car manufactures will still offer way more ICE cars for the foreseeable future.

Will society hold together long enough for EVs to make an impact in that one problem area (out of many), personal transportation? If so, what will the electricity generating capacity need to be, both to cope with increasing populations/increasing prosperity and electric vehicles (especially, if a large proportion of owners don't/can't charge only at night?

There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking with electric cars.

If peak oil hits hard (or even semi hard - like $1.80/litre petrol) we wont have to wait 20 years for EVs. I like the WW2 analogy - The US retooled their car industry to making sophisticated armaments in weeks, and was out producing the world in 12 months. Retooling for EVs or EV conversions, enough to keep a minimum of mobility, can happen very quickly.

EVs (either factory or conversions) are not a panacea, but part of the mix. Even with scare, expensive fuel, and an economy under stress we will still need cars. EV conversions are something that can be done fast and cheap and with a modest amount of locally available raw materials. So I figure they will be part of the mix.

One nice thing about our EV conversion is that we recycled an old internal combustion car, bypassing the resource and carbon issues around manufacturing a new car.

The best thing about our EV - the fuel is "made" right here in Australia - on my roof! Localised fuel. So our transport is decoupled from many Peak Oil issues like foreign supply. Many of the components are still imported, but none of them are that special - all could be made locally.

The WW2 analogy was a forced re-tooling, since the sale of new cars was banned, to get all the war machines and armaments made. Are you expecting governments to ban the sale of non-electric cars? That's what would need to happen to make significant inroads into the car market, unless oil starts to decline now, but even that will be seen as a temporary blip by the oil companies, CERA and governments.

What do you mean by "the mix". Do you really see our predicament as a set of problems that can be solved to keep our happy consumer society going?

An EV conversion is cheap? Didn't someone post a comment, from experience, that it may not need a mortgage but it's not exactly cheap. Only those convinced that the petrol price spikes are a permanent feature would fork out the money, since payback would probably take quite a while.

"All could be made locally". Whilst it may be true, it's wishful thinking to expect that to happen in short order, if at all.

Look up thread, Sophistek.

DROWE covered this with real experience, not conjecture.

"The conversion and the PV system that powers it cost less than a medium size new petrol car."

I see conversion reports around $10-12k on a regular basis, often including the cost of finding a donor vehicle to convert... a very substantial discount from the $40k that Gail often uses.

The mechanical requirements have been shown again and again to be within the skills of many ordinary people, so ramping up the speed of converting great numbers of existing gas cars is not at all a pie in the sky proposal. Naturally, it presupposes that a much greater number of people were with us in the idea that we've got a serious problem, and these are useful, durable tools to meet some of it with.

$10K-$12K is cheap? I don't think so. I think we'd have to be well past peak for most people to consider that. Gasoline would have to get beyond $5 per gallon and be seen to stay above that indefinitely for people to contemplate that kind of layout. Don't expect everyone to do a detailed analysis of oil constraints and estimate prices over the long term.

Within the skills of many ordinary people? Maybe but that doesn't mean even those who could would think they could and would even try. No doubt there'd be a booming business doing the work, probably at double what you could do it for yourself. Assuming that there are enough parts and batteries when everyone is trying to get this done.

Presupposing that more people "were with us" is a big assumption, until we're at a point that there is no denying it. I wonder what society would look like at that point.

These so-called solutions always need a smooth take up with society still ticking along more or less as normal. I don't think either of those are a given.

I see conversion reports around $10-12k on a regular basis, often including the cost of finding a donor vehicle to convert... a very substantial discount from the $40k that Gail often uses.

And dropping fast. The price of Lithium batteries has halved in the 2 years I have been involved in EVs. Last year we performed a "community conversion" in just 3 days that used a low cost Chinese kit of parts - about USD$2000 excluding batteries.

In even modest volume (Qty 100), we could get complete conversions down to $6,000. If people can do Qty 1 home conversions for $12k, just image how little they would cost if part of a regular car production line.

I see good opportunity for EV conversions business like LPG conversion businesses. Drive in petrol, drive out electric a few days later.

Good deal..
Have you thought about getting vanity plates that say "WSHFL THNKG" ?
(Kidding, kidding..)

I agree. I don't doubt that you could set up a shop to make these changeovers really efficiently.. maybe have some stock parts for certain car models that are generally available..

Probably time for my obligatory disclaimer, though, in case other readers forget that I'm also very pro bicycle, Kayak, XC Skiiing and even walking! I am, I really am. I do not like Green Eggs and BAU, I do not like it in a box I do no like it with a Fox ..

But electric motors and wheels are a very good combination.

Well here is my Vanity plate :-)

Yeah I tend to agree with the biking meme. To be honest I spend more time on my pushy than driving the EV (my wife does most of the eletro-driving). I recently drove an electric-assisted recumbent, very nice. A tiny amount of power and expense (compared to my EV) gets anyone up to 30 km/hr all day long in comfort.

If I had to bet on a Post-PO future, I would guess electric bikes are the future. Low cost, low tech, low power and lets anyone handle most commuting needs for a few $100.

a low cost Chinese kit of parts - about USD$2000 excluding batteries.

Do you have a source/website that you could share with us??

Sure, http://www.goombi.4t.com/, and some info (including videos) on the 3 day conversion http://rowetel.com/ev.html

I see that you used 8 110 AH batteries - I assume 12V. What brand, from where, and how much did they cost?

"will driving electric cars really be a big enough game changer to make a difference?"

I clean-up my garden one weed at a time.

I clean-up my garden one weed at a time.

I tried that, the only problem was the weeds seemed to grow about back at a rate of about a hundred at a time ;-)

Work faster, Fred! Or order one of these:


Warning! Billy Mays still lives!

Why do you think plugging the car in is a matter of discipline? It's not like cleaning the leaves out of the gutter or taking out the recycling.. if you don't plug in, the car doesn't go. Very simple cause/effect. You'd see the light very quickly and figure out a routine.

'Will it make a difference to the world?' This question plays to me like the Impala thinking he has to outrun the Lion.. not just one other impala. This is a BB.. cars overall will probably have to evolve into a different role than they now play. I would expect far fewer of them, and probably more as service, rented and shared vehicles, than the 2-car family of today.

Of course it's a matter of discipline. You're right, if it doesn't get plugged in, it doesn't go. So what will those who forget to plug in do? Everyone will plug in immediately they remember. For some, that might be enough to get them to where they can plug in again, for a significant charge to get back, for others, they'll have to wait or use other forms of transportation (while their car is charging during the day). Many will charge at work, during the day, if they can. Those who don't have garages, or can't get in them, will have to find chargining points, or have extension cords (that they might have to secure).

For those who don't work (most of the population?), it might not be a big deal forgetting to charge at night and they will chare whenever they remember.

Sure it'll take discipline to get to the point of being a habit or until some tehcno-whizz kid invents some automatic charging device that connects as you pull in.

It'll also take a lot of new infrastructure, for those without home charging points, those travelling, and so on.

Of course many would figure out a routine but that will take time and it probably won't account for a large proportion of EV users. If it would take a 30% increase in generating capacity (as argued here a couple of years ago), if all EV owners were disciplined and had the infrastructure, that figure goes up (50% maybe?); has that been factored in?

Seems like a lot of wishful thinking is going on here.

You're making some strange extrapolations.

As you say, 'it'll take some time' .. it's not like we're going to see 30% of the Auto fleet turn into EV's overnight, and 50million people are going to have to remember this change like it's daylight savings time and they have to change their clocks. I mean, going to the gas station should also be seen as a discipline then, right?

Someone who is looking to get an EV will already be saying to themselves over and over.. 'OK, how do I charge at home? How do I charge at work? Let's see if our town has any Park'n'Charge spaces set up yet, and failing that, who do I know on the west and north sides of town so I can plug in in a pinch?' Because the people adopting it now are not in an 'EV culture', and they know they'll have to solve their own problems, to a large extent.

By the time there's 2% of the cars as EV's, if that happens, there will be all sorts of solutions in place.. because at that point, there's also a growing market in place.

You say 30 to 50% .. as our energy situation will be changing on many fronts, it's really impossible to say where Electric Supply and Distribution will stand in 15 years, 20 years. But with the clear advantages of Home PV for both homepower and then for EV charging, it's not hard to guess that people will add 2 and 2 on that score.. while many, of course will not be able to plop down cash on the nail for it, and many won't be able to do it at all..

That's why it's a BB. A good one, but NOT a Silver Bullet.. maybe it's just sounding Silverbullety because that's the topic of this post..

Going to the gas station is completely different, since they are quite common and there will be one on your journey, even if you have to make a slight detour, for you to fill up in minutes to continue your journey. It's not a discipline, because you don't have to do it at the same time, every day, or remember to do it the night before a journey (assuming you don't have unplanned journeys). No, 30% won't happen overnight, so the infrastructure for charging those cars that aren't garaged won't happen quickly. How long do you think 30% will take (as opposed to how long it could take if all the signals were right or legislation forced it)?

Park'n'Charge spaces? So you now anticipate charging during the day, meaning even more electricity generation is needed than the theoretical minimum increase that is needed anyway.

The "all sorts of solutions" argument involves wishful thinking. Most or all so-called "solutions" that try to keep BAU going require wishful thinking. Like home PV on every rooftop. Why haven't people added 2 and 2 regarding solar water heating? Why should they do that for charging there car, especially if payback for EV is many years.

EVs sound silver bulletry in these kinds of articles, and comments, because so many people are desparately trying to convince themselves that there is a solution to our predicament that doesn't involve radical lifestyle changes. I wish there was, but that would be ... wishful thinking.

That's the beauty of an EREV like the Volt - reduces fuel consumption by 90% over BAU, but gives flexibility.

Anticipate Charging during the day? When the sun is up? When people's cars are sitting at work? Yes, of course I do.. in large part because they already do.

It's easy to ridicule all suggestions when you turn each one into an extreme. I didn't say PV on EVERY roof, I don't propose that EVERYONE has an EV and that they ALL plug them in all day.

The reason Solar Hot Water isn't already a resounding success? You know the answer to that already, or did you conveniently forget that we've just lived through the crest of the greatest amount of cheap energy that the human race has ever accessed?

You can challenge BAU all day.. but if you think that YOU'll be able to avoid being associated with cars and other vehicles 10, 20 years from now, I'd say you're really kidding yourself. It has to be revised heavily.. but we're not getting rid of the wheel or the motor, and using 'some' of them to get people and things from town to town.

Solar water heating has been cost effective for a long time, with payback within a couple of years. Still it doesn't get done and, yes, probably for the reason you state but I see no reason to doubt that most people will assume that someone with think of something and there will be no need to do anything too drastic, just yet.

I'm not sure what you mean by challenging BAU, I'm merely looking at the finite planet we live on and conclude that BAU can't continue. There will be a new BAU, guaranteed. Switching to EVs and improving shipping efficiency by 10% isn't going to stop that.

10, 20 years from now? Who knows? Certainly not you. If we actually get economic recovery in most of the world, and that quickly meets another oil shock, then another, we could be in a downward spiral well before 10 years and how that will impact society is not known to you, nor me. Yes, we may have a vastly scaled down car use in 10-20 years, if things hold together, but that is definitely not BAU.

Better Place plans to buy only renewables and expects to become Australia’s largest buyer of wind power. This is likely to a boon for Origin, AGL and Infigen from about 2013.

These renewables must first REPLACE our existing coal fired power plants. And very soon:

"Australia doesn't agree now that they got to stop their coal, but they are going to agree. I can guarantee you that within a decade or so because the climate change will become so strongly apparent that's going to become imperative"

Our problem will be food shortages when diesel shortages arrive. That will happen when the truth comes out about OPEC's paper barrels:

OPEC reserves revisited

Then confidence in all oil reserves will disappear, oil hoarding will start and global oil markets will freeze like credit markets.

End of car culture in coming decade

Forget electric cars.

Timetable of events in next 10 years and 10 point program in this slide show (PDF file)

Emergency Planning after peak oil 2005-2008 3rd and final oil crisis:

I recommend to buy a bike before they are sold out when the bolt hits from the blue sky.

"Forget electric cars."

Why? If you are waiting for the system/govt to respond to these problems, sure, forget it. If you are looking at a new car in the next few years consider an EV charged by PV (PVEV, sounds good, huh?)

One thing OZ has plenty of is sunlight. Use what you have, and do it as individuals because the "system" clearly isn't going to do it for you.

If you are looking at a new car in the next few years then you are stuck in the BAU rut. If you are simply looking to change to an electric vehicle in the least resource intensive way you can, then at least you're trying, bless you.

Most people are stuck in the BAU rut. Some folks are doomers and severe declinists and are making preparations for collapse. Many here know that BAU with oil is on borrowed time but are planning for BAU Lite, a powerdown, and a PVEV would provide them enough mobility (during whatever transition they may face) to continue business of some sort. Moving millions of people to cities or within walking distance of public transportation seems less doable, and for many, riding a bike isn't an option. When ICE fuel gets hard to find, rationed, or really expensive, the value of such a vehicle will soar, even in a collapse senario. A vehicle that could provide 100-200 miles of mobility per week with no fuel inputs or external electrical inputs (other than PV), to me, would have huge value now. My next big project, perhaps. Just the technical knowledge/expertise of such vehicles will have value in a collapse situation.

Maybe. But I doubt it.

Matt I read your PDF:

5. Global warming, unpredictable climate change events and weird weather will physically force us
to abandon coal much earlier than naively thought

I just can't see any government shutting down any coal fired electricity stations for any long term issues like Global warming. If the antarctic ice melts I just can't see Canberra putting Victorias coal-fired lights out. There would need to be a demonstrated, immediate physical danger before Canberra or any government does anything but pay lip service to GW.

6. Demand for power to drive electric cars will increase household consumption by 30%.

Two years ago our house consumed 30kWh/day. Some simple energy reduction steps got us down to about 15kWh/day. Our EV uses 6kWh/day. We use less overall electricity, our house is more comfortable and we enjoy our EV much more that our petrol car. These are real world numbers, not speculation. People can adapt, it's really not that hard.

So just do a conversion on whatever vehicle you need.

Car .. truck .. motorcycle ... bicycle

I say ...... pedal electric road and rail vehicles ..


but it has to be soon before resources are not available

I just can't see any government shutting down any coal fired electricity stations for any long term issues like Global warming

Global warming is not a long term issue. We see regularly weird weather events where people say "we have never seen this before". These events will become so frequent that they will continuously disrupt air traffic, wash away bridges, cause high insurance bills, crop failures etc. It will really cost money and many lives.

James Hansen: Storms of My Grandchildren

And this is the scary thing, that our pollies will not do anything until it really gets bad. It's the same thing with peak oil. They will take action only when the shortages are there. The disappearance of the Arctic summer sea ice will have a world wide impact.

Re 30% increase of power consumption by EVs:

The calculation is on page 24 of a PDF file downloadable here:

Too late for Sydney Metro Tunnels

I took real world data from Canberra households.

EVs require super efficient electric motors that today depend on a guaranteed supply of rare earth materials.

The largest supplier of these materials is the People's Republic of China which is looking at restricting exports in order to force companies to manufacture in China.

It would be strategically economically highly dangerous to allow this to happen.

No they don't (some may but not all - Tesla Motors for example).

China isn't the only source of rare earths (which aren't all that rare in reality) in any case - it just happens to be the largest producer currently.

Oh ... well can you provide a list of where else in the world rare earth materials are available?