September 27, 2012
German Government Backs Away From 2020 Electric Car Goal
It is all about the cost of batteries.
The German government is going to scrap its goal of having one million electric cars on the roads by 2020, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported Saturday, citing a report from the country's Ministry for Education and Research.
As Nissan Leaf electric car sales drop sharply Nissan has cut lease costs to try to get more buyers.
Nissan Motor Co. sold only 4,228 Leafs this year through August, almost a third fewer than a year ago.
Nissan also introduced discounts for buyers of over $3k. If you happen to have a long commute and the ability to recharge while working the discounted Leaf might make economic sense for you. But conventional hybrids offer a better value proposition for the vast majority of drivers. The Toyota Prius and Ford's greatly improved Fusion hybrid seem most compelling.
In the run-up to the point where world oil production goes into permanent decline what matters is how soon the decline comes, how steep is the decline, and how many technologies we have in hand to compensate for it once the decline comes. The bumpy plateau of world oil production has lasted longer than some pessimists predicted. But advances in car battery technology have come slower than some optimists predicted. These two developments have effectively canceled out each other.
The longer lasting bumpy plateau of world oil production has been beneficial because it has caused the higher oil prices needed as incentives for development of alternatives. But the development of alternatives has been slow so far. Will that continue to be the case? A lot rides on the answer.
Now they need to back away from shutting down their nuclear power plants.
The trouble is that there has not been a massive government-backed research project for batteries. We need such a mobilization that is 10 times bigger than the Manhattan Project.
Certainly the $1 trillion that we lost during the last 10 years in Middle Eastern wars has been good for oil companies, since this money was taken away from battery research. Half of that $1 trillion that we lost in wars, would have yielded some viable new discoveries in battery research. It is still not too late. The annual government deficit spending is close to $1 trillion per year. Surely we can invest $250 billion per year of additional money only for battery research for the next 5 years. It is not so difficult to find that kind of money if EU, China and Japan also participate.
Fuel economy/substitution efforts in the USA had the double whammy of the Bush cancellation of PNGV in 2001, and the Cobasys (Chevron) conspiracy to buy up the rights to large-format NiMH cells and prevent them from being used for road vehicles. That set things back by at least 5 years, maybe 10.
The Cobasys affair shows that the oilco's are aggressive protectors of their territory and don't care how much money they have to throw around to do it. $1 trillion doesn't matter to them, as long as their revenue stream is protected. Best of all, their work prevented the creation of a substantial market in traction batteries, preventing the experience-driven growth of R&D which would make advances self-sustaining. (We could have had that in the 1980's.)
You conspiracy buffs are hilarious!
1. Even if every car from this day forth ran off batteries, there would still be a mickle market for oil. The lack of an ICE engine for cars would not end the need for oil. Your batteries aren't strong enuff for hevy work like trucking, shipping, jet fuel; there are plastics; lubricants, asf.
2. Throwing money at a problem won't solve it. Throwing another trillion dollars at it doesn't mean that a super battery will be found. Think about how much as been spent to date and still no super battery.
3. You naively believe that money not spent in Afghanistan (which, BTW, is not an oil producer so that has nothing to do with oil) would be spent on your pet project be that a super battery, maglev, or a Mars colony ... ain't gonna happen. Money not spent there will go to some social program ... that's where the votes are and the politicos will feed the pigs at that trough first.
4. The US isn't the only country capable of doing research. It would behoove the Chinese to get off oil and they gewiss hav the money and would steal any patents they needed or wanted anyway. Or do you thing that "Big Oil" has the Chinese under its thumb as well? The Europeans, the Japanese, and the Koreans hav the money and the knowledge to do the research as well. So notwithstanding whatever conspiracy you think is happening in the US, they haven't stoppt the research nor can they adwesh the information.
I'm still a little optomistic about Primove from Bombardier. The technology allows electrical power to be wrelessly coupled to vehicles while they are driven. Ideally the only time the battery is discharged is when the vehicle is backing out of the drievway...
Funny thing about "Big Oil": The way the term is defined excludes the biggest and most powerful big oil, the governments that are the largest suppliers of oil. Saudi Arabia was three of the four largest oil producing "companies" in the world a few years back when I stumbled over this gem.
Electric cars can be blocked so many ways. Require heavy "safety features", block power outlets for charging the batteries, find environmental excuses to keep the batteries out of production, etc. All can be done behind the scenes by politicians on the take, and all plausible (and very difficult to prove). No need to buy patents (stupid stunt, if that happened).
Personally? I don't care what powers my transportation. I do care about "renewable energy" being made competitive by increasing the cost of conventional energy.
The greater fraction of long trips by car in Europe (with transit or foot travel being used more for in-town jaunts) may be what's driving the relatively high popularity of the Opel Ampera (the Opel-badged Chevy Volt) compared to EVs like the Leaf. Without limitations related to range or recharging time, it allows petroleum to be replaced by electricity for more people's needs.
What I was saying is that instead of subsidizing currently expensive electric or hybrid cars like Chevy Volt, that is unlike Solyndra loans that were for Keynesian manufacturing, it is much better to trow the big money ($1 trillion) into pure academic research to get the batteries right. Then the private sector will be happy to manufacture it once it is competitive. The government loans for purely Keynesian Solyndra type manufacturing was not what we needed, but subsidizing pure academic research will pay off if we persevere. Already the dramatic improvements in lithium-ion batteries were mostly from academic or pure R & D efforts, but the money used there was rather limited, not even in the billions per year, maybe less than a few hundred million dollars in the US and EU combined.
I see an electric Smart FourTwo is supposed to go on sale in the US next year for $25,000 before subsidy and has a 17.6 kilowatt-hour battery. That seems like a pretty good deal comparted to the current Leaf. Mind you, it only has two seats.