January 11, 2011
Car Companies Announce Electric Vehicle Plans

The recent Detroit Auto Show and Consumer Electronics Show provided the settings for a number of auto company announcements about future electric car plans. First off, General Motors announced it plans to offer pluggable hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) for every GM brand. Note that GM calls these extended range electric vehicles. So if you see GM talking about extended range EVs they are really talking about hybrids that can run purely off of electricity, switch to gasoline when the battery gets low, and get recharged when you get home. GM is also going to bring out pure EVs.

Ford announced hybrid and PHEV versions of both the Focus and the C-Max (from Europe) models as well as a pure EV Focus by the end of 2011. Ford's home electric recharging station will cost $1499 from BestBuy and will operate at 240V for a 3-4 hour recharge time.

Chinese car company BYD, noted for having Warren Buffett as an investor, will start selling its e6 electric car in the United States in 1Q 2012. Quality? Complete unknown.

Toyota expects its alliance with Tesla to produce a battery at one third the cost of those used by its major competitors. Speaking of Tesla, the Tesla Model S electric sports sedan will start shipping 1Q 2012 as well. That's a beautiful-looking car. Check out the pictures at that link. Meanwhile, Toyota is coming out with more Prius variants including a PHEV version by mid-2012.

Most consumers are not willing to pay big for EVs. So why all these announcements for pricey EVs? One of the biggest drivers of the big wave of EVs: the need to achieve government mandated fuel economy goals.

Building an all-electric car provides extraordinary fuel economy credits for automakers looking to comply with nationally mandated fuel efficiency standards, as well as boosting a progressive, green-minded company image. Skeptics suggest the electric Focus is more about satisfying those requirements than making money.

"There wouldn't be any automaker making electric cars if not for fuel economy regulations," said Aaron Bragman senior analyst for IHS Global Insight. "They're not a moneymaker."

The question in my mind: Will the rising US fuel efficiency requirements drive so much volume of hybrid, PHEV, and EV sales that these sales will provide sufficient incentives for the development of far cheaper EVs? Will we end up with highly competitive EVs in 5 to 10 years time so that the demand for gasoline will plummet?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 January 11 09:33 PM  Energy Electric Cars

Nick G said at January 12, 2011 11:31 AM:

Battery costs, like the cost of any manufactured item, depends heavily on volumes.

We see that in the article about Tesla and Toyota linked above:

""If (Tesla's battery structure) works, we won't have to wait for a breakthrough in battery technology to develop a relatively cheap electric vehicle," Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada, who heads Toyota's research and development, told Reuters in an interview at the Detroit auto show on Tuesday.

"It could be as low as one-third of the cost of batteries being developed by car makers, because (laptop) batteries are produced in massive volumes." Source

That 67% cost reduction includes a sophisticated liquid cooling and battery management system, and extensive internal thermal isolation, which should be at least as expensive as the Volt's battery systems, and rather more expensive than those of the Leaf.

Of course, the batteries being developed for vehicles should cost less than laptop batteries fairly soon, because it's much less expensive to manufacture larger batteries than the equivalent in the form of hundreds of tiny laptop batteries. EV volumes will grow to the point of economies of scale very quickly: if an EV like the Leaf uses the equivalent of 3,400 laptop batteries, it only takes 50,000 EVs to equal the volume of 170,000,000 laptops...

Fat Man said at January 12, 2011 11:49 AM:

If the only reason to sell EVs is CAFE compliance, future EVs will be cheaper. Ultimately, anyone who wants to buy a new Taurus will be required to buy an EV Focus at the same time to balance the books. The way to make this semi-tolerable will be to make the EV as cheaply as possible. No Air-conditioning, no entertainment system, no leather upholstery, no power seats, no power windows (sliding plastic wind screens like 1950 British Sports cars). One Color -- Black. The dealer will buy the EV back after the sale and send it to a wrecker to be parted out. In the final stages, the manufacturers will buy the parts back from the wreckers with VINs removed and will use them to assemble new EVs.

There will be a few real EVs around for Hollywood celebrities to drive to the Oscars, but most of the rest of the 5 million or so sold each year will be recycled immediately. It will add a couple of thousand dollars to the price of a new Taurus, but it will be cheaper than trying to build them out of titanium and carbon fiber.

Nick G said at January 12, 2011 4:01 PM:

Fat Man,

If you can build a road legal EV for a couple of thousand dollars, more power to you!

th said at January 12, 2011 4:34 PM:

"If (Tesla's battery structure) works," Sounds like toyota isn't doing the heavy lifting on lithium ion. If they work? It looks like the big sales pitch will be to curb CO2, kinda like windmills, for suckers only. Secretary chu warned ya didn't he?

Bruce said at January 12, 2011 5:01 PM:

"Sounds like toyota isn't doing the heavy lifting on lithium ion"

The Prius uses NiMH batteries.

"Will we end up with highly competitive EVs in 5 to 10 years time so that the demand for gasoline will plummet?"


th said at January 12, 2011 5:02 PM:

randall, why would huffingtonpost single out Ford when bankruptcy obviously slowed any development at GM. Has GM suddenly shifted all its profitability to the volt from all those SUV's and trucks they used to rely on? Or could it be the community agitators are just pissed Ford didn't take obama bailout money?


"Analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley say GM's lineup is older and inferior to rivals such as Ford Motor Co. GM lacks enough new cars and will replace them at a slower rate in the near term, the analysts said."

th said at January 12, 2011 5:07 PM:

The Prius uses NiMH batteries. Yeah, I know, if these clowns were serious about gasoline consumption they'd buy us all a free prius, all 135 million cars would only cost about 3 trillion, hell they spend that much on hansen's annual global warming research.

th said at January 12, 2011 5:25 PM:

I read somewhere that for the tesla to be competitive with gasoline, gas would have to be over $9, must be that 3500 lb battery it lugs around, thats right, just the battery alone weighs as much as 2 full grown angus cows, grass fed ones by the way are better for you.

Fat Man said at January 12, 2011 5:39 PM:

Nick G: The cost is net of the sale of the EV to a wrecker. The EV will be sold and parted out. The parts, including the batteries and motors will be recycled. The net is just labor, interest, and breakage.

Nick G said at January 12, 2011 10:17 PM:

Fat Man,

Really, I just assumed you were joking.

anonyq said at January 13, 2011 3:57 AM:

Tesla, the sport car?

Since when are sport cars cheap to run? The words competitive and sport car only make sense when you are talking about motor sport.

th said at January 14, 2011 3:11 PM:

A day at the road track with this one would last about an hour, not very competitive, an entry into the quarter mile railroad track coal car haul might be a winner, it's tractive effort gets better with every addition to its range.

Lobo Solo said at January 15, 2011 1:39 AM:

Will these guys get together and have a standard "home recharging station" connection? Or will I need to unplug the Ford cable, hang it up; then plug in the Toyota cable?

Bruce said at January 15, 2011 9:59 AM:

EVs will be too expensive in Califronia.

" California’s tiered electricity pricing system means Californians will pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country to recharge plug-in hybrid vehicles."

"Adding a plug-in hybrid would increase the average use of electricity nearly 60 percent per household, according to the findings. In California, most of that increase would be charged at the highest rate."

"Tyner said to make the Volt more economical than either the Prius or the Cobalt, oil prices would have to rise to between $171 and $254 per barrel, depending on which electricity pricing system is being used."


Nick G said at January 15, 2011 3:27 PM:


That study assumes California doesn't have time-of-day pricing. I thought it did.

Bruce said at January 15, 2011 4:39 PM:

Nick, California also has 5 tiered pricing. If you go into the next higher tier of usage, rates go up. Also, the time of use is flexible depending on what demand the power company sees.

If its a hot evening and you plug you car in too soon then you might be paying a higher rate. If an EV kicks your usage into the next tier, you are screwed.

Your baseline tier is geographic too. http://www.pge.com/myhome/customerservice/financialassistance/medicalbaseline/understand/

And they are seasonal too.

If you hit 131% of your baseline, you rate can jumpt from 12c to 28c per kwH.


Randall Parker said at January 16, 2011 12:48 PM:

Bruce is correct: California's tiered pricing is an incentive against electric car usage. Kinda dumb. But there it is.

Bruce, you are making good points.

That tiered pricing is also an incentive for residential PV installs, especially on large houses in desert areas where the sun usually shines. Especially on a big house the solar PV electric power really competes against upper tier pricing of utility electric power, not lower tier pricing.

The peak electric power rate depends on where you live within California and varies quite a bit. As I understand this document from PG&E if you use 300% of baseline your marginal cost of electric power is probably about 34 cents/kwh. Big ouch.

I live in a SoCalEdison area. Their baseline rates vary by region, summer/winter, and whether your house is all electric. Their regions 13, 14, 15 are especially expensive even at base rates. I happen to live in one of SoCalEd's cheaper regions.

So incentives depend very heavily on where you live. If you live in San Bernardino County in a big house then you'd better install lots of solar panels and buy a diesel or HEV, not an EV or PHEV.

Also, the incentive is to get recharged at work, rather than at home. Employers probably are paying much lower electric power rates. But of course that works against recharging at night when electric power rates could be lower. This makes EVs more appealing for businesses (which can recharge the fleet at night at low night industrial rates) and less appealing for the masses.

Cal's PUC could revamp all this and offer lower rates at night for residential users. But when will they do that?

Engineer-Poet said at January 16, 2011 1:51 PM:

California EV drivers will get special rates for off-peak charging.  Bet your life on it.

I talked to a guy who works for Ford in the prototype department.  He drives a Beretta 55 miles round-trip to work.  At 21 MPG average, he's burning 13 gallons/week plus side trips; call it 60 gallons/month.  At current pump prices a Focus EV would save him on the order of $180/month in gas (plus oil changes and such) while costing about $38/month in electricity (assuming Ford didn't provide free chargers at work, which seems likely); if his car dies and he picks up something with a payment, he'd be well-advised to go electric.  The EV is a no-brainer for many people at today's prices, and for many millions at $4 and $5.

Engineer-Poet said at January 16, 2011 1:51 PM:

Also, I'm told there is a Fusion/MKZ plug-in hybird in the works.

Bruce said at January 16, 2011 2:33 PM:

How much off-peak capacity does California have to give away cheaply?

"The California ISO is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that acts as an impartial
link between power plants and utilities, managing the flow of electricity for about
80 percent of the state."



" Plug it [a leaf] into a 110 and you’re looking at a glacial 14 to 15 hours to the get the job done. It takes a long time to “fill” a 24 kilowatt-hour battery."

If 1,000,000 Leafs were charging on 110, it would be 15 hours at 1.5kw per hour = 1500MW.

3,000,000 Leafs would take California's system back up to full capacity for yesterday.

There are 32,000,000 cars in California.

I doubt that there will or can be a 15 hour TOU window in California looking at the above graphs.

As it is, California is importing 10,000MW of its 25,000MW managed by CISO.

Engineer-Poet said at January 16, 2011 5:16 PM:

The more predictable and manageable the demand, the cheaper it is to supply.  EVs have the potential to be not merely predictable, but schedulable; plug in and the ISO could read the SOC and tell cars when to charge and how fast to match the generators ramping up and down.

Steadier demand means generators can use CCGT's at 60% efficiency instead of SCGT's at ~40% efficiency, and run them right at their optimum point more of the time.

As for the Cal ISO system status, it shows about a 9.5 GW gap between immediate demand and available resource.  That's enough for about 6 million Leafs at 110 VAC (opportunity charging).  Say, weren't you just saying that we'd be lucky to see 20,000 electrics a year?  Why, yes, you were.  It's funny to watch you talk out of both sides of your mouth.

Last, there's no such thing as a "kw per hour".  Everyone with a science education is now laughing at you.

Bruce said at January 17, 2011 1:01 PM:

EP: "It's funny to watch you talk out of both sides of your mouth."

Moron. There is a difference between a predicted outcome -- 20,000 -- and seeing what happens if some other set of numbers occurs. Asshat.

Engineer-Poet said at January 18, 2011 6:24 AM:

Of course, in the time it takes to go from 50k EVs per year sold in the state to 500k, there's plenty of opportunity to upgrade simple-cycle gas turbine plants to combined-cycle and add new ones.

"Moron."  "Asshat."  Nice to see you scrape the bottom of your tactics; shutting up can't be long now.

th said at January 18, 2011 4:33 PM:

quoteth nevermore, Any $20,000 sedan that gets 30MPG starts out $13,000 less than the leaf, throw in the $9000 battery cost every 7 years and you've got $3000 a year extra to spend on gas, or $250 a month and under your scenario, the leaf will cost $108 more each month over the gasoline model. That's assuming the battery is only $9000, which I doubt, and that power rates will never go over 11.5 cents despite millions of little green men and women plugging in their 5 to 8 hr chargers every night, which you obviously don't doubt.

Engineer-Poet said at January 18, 2011 10:17 PM:

Now throw in $8/gallon gas.

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